Archive: see nyc

Aug 28 11: Hey, Look!

It’s the hockey players from last night! Current best theory is that they’re in town for the 2011 World Police and Fire Games.

Thanks to Croft for the link.

Aug 27 11: Hockey in the Moustache of the Storm

Greetings from the last couple of hours before Hurricane Irene hits NYC.

I just walked back to Don’s after finishing a shift at the Gray Lady. The weather right now is mostly OMG Rain as opposed to Aieeee Hurricanocalypse. Lots of rain but very little wind; not so much the teeth of the storm as the moustache of it. Passing through Times Square I discovered a bunch of Canadian guys playing a shirts-vs-skins hockey game in the pedestrian mall. Their laughter echoed through the square; they were almost the only people around, beyond a few random folks standing around watching them play and taking pictures.

Judging by the matching outfits I’d say they’re a team visiting from Vancouver (it said “Vancouver” on their jerseys, which were black with red flames) who are staying in one of the nearby hotels. Or possibly more than one team: a few women played on the shirts side, in jerseys of their own, equally official looking but different from the men’s. I stood and watched for a few minutes — hey, shirtless guys in the rain, how could I not — and as the runoff got deeper on the blue-painted surface of 7th Avenue the athletes fell down more often and the bright orange ball started to kick up an impressive fantail as it scudded along. Everyone seemed to be having a grand time.

Were I more used to thinking like a journalist I’d have figured out a way to use my phone as a recording device without shorting it out in the rain, and then I’d have interviewed them. Who were they? What brought them to New York? Had they been stranded by the closing of the airports this afternoon? How bad did the weather have to get before they’d pack it in and go somewhere dry?

But I wasn’t, and I didn’t, and so eventually I just got tired of how my boots were filling with rainwater. I walked on, the hockey players’ shouts and laughter ringing out through Times Square over the sound of the downpour. They kept calling each other seagulls, but I never found out why. That was okay.

Yup, still love it here.

(EDITED: Video footage in the follow-up post.)

Mar 13 11: High Wire Act

Let’s begin with an open letter.

Dear Julie Taymor:

I get it. I totally get what you’re doing with Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Don’t let the haters get you down.

Yours, &c. —

I was skeptical when I showed up at the theater today, I’ll admit it. It’s hard to avoid the tales of mayhem and creative rudderlessness that follow this show. But here’s the thing: there’s a lot of really smart stuff happening in the new Spider-Man musical, and this idea propagated by the Lords of Broadway Reviews that this is the worst musical evar is total hogwash.

The show, particularly in its first act, tackles some a big idea of perpetual interest to Taymor — the nature of myth, and the role it plays in human culture — through a spandex-tinted lens. She quite rightly pegs the iconic, archetypal figures that parade through the comics world as descendants of the figures who have triumphed and suffered and struggled and been punished since we first started telling one another stories of heroes around the fire. Her framing device — a “geek chorus” quartet of kids working on their own homegrown Spider-Man comic — is brilliant, linking the old oral tradition to a fundamental act of modern comics fandom in which participants mix canonical themes with new characters as it pleases them.

There are some amazing moments of Taymor stagecraft in this show, mask work and puppetry and transformative costumery that have to be seen to be appreciated. I loved seeing the horrible Lizard make the Hyde-out-of-Jekyll leap from the body of Dr. Kurt Connors, and the golden weaving constructed as the story of Arachne is retold at the top of the show marries a crazy technical achievement to a moment of beauty and simplicity that I won’t spoil here. From beginning to end, the sets tilt and flip and generally repurpose themselves over and over to create moments of outsize, stylized invention that serve the graphic roots of the story well. And, of course, there’s the extensive wire work, which is dazzling. The catch there, though, is that by now we all know about the times the system has failed, injuring actors or stopping the show cold while some poor soul is left dangling forty feet above the eighteenth row. I wish I could have blotted out that foreknowledge, the little voice saying please don’t fall, please don’t fall, please don’t fall every time a man in the red-and-blue uniform swung through the house, and just enjoyed what I was seeing for what it was. I couldn’t, though.

Regardless, I suggest that you give it a go, if you’ve got the scratch. It’s true, the music and the pacing are uneven. It’s not a perfect show. But it’s for sure not a bad show, and there’s some juicy stuff to savor in there. (Comics fans will enjoy any number of little shout-outs through dialogue and allusive imagery. The names of the scientists who worked for Norman Osborn, for example. Good stuff.) And it’s being closed down for a month soon for “improvements.” I can’t imagine that they could remove Taymor’s analytical understructure from it even if they wanted to, but I’m very glad I’ve seen it before the revamp.

Sep 26 10: Well, That Was A New One

All downtown traffic on the downtown E/F was halted for several very long minutes this afternoon because (the conductor eventually explained) “the control-tower guy locked himself out of the tower.”


Sep 25 10: While I Were Out

Right! Blog! Where were we — June? Yes. Summer was lovely, thanks. I’ve begun working on that novel I’ve been yammering on about for years now and we’ll see how that goes. I dunno how much I’ll talk about it here, at least until I’m through the first draft, but now you know. Light a candle for me. As a plan-obsessed control-freak sort of writer, thundering through a draft where it’s not only acceptable but also expected to have a paragraph end with something like THIS IS WHERE YOU’LL NEED A TRANSITION BEFORE YOUR HERO AND THE BODHISATTVA WALK OFF TO GET FALAFEL has been both liberating and terrifying. Lots of work to do on that ms today; I skipped town a little while back to turn 40 in Minnesota on a lake with my relations and then to go to Burning Man, and my momentum took a big hit and needs to be rebuilt. So today is a Get Your Groove On sort of day, much as I’d rather be at the Maker Faire.

But first! Let me tell you about last night, spent hanging out in piano bars with Velma, because she’s a bad influence. There was Old School Theatre Queen Action at Marie’s Crisis, where I had not set foot since my first week in NYC, back in 1993. And thence to the Duplex, which has somehow fit a baby grand piano into the downstairs space. And then V and I invented the next big filksinging genre: Lovecraftian R&B. That would be Rugose and Batrachian, obviously.

The first greatest-hits collection will contain:

  • “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (To Be Eaten First)”
  • “Ain’t No Mountain Mad Enough”
  • “I Say A Little Prayer to You”
  • “Respect (For the Old Ones)”
  • “Not Just My Imagination”

I welcome any reminders of songs we’ve left off the list.

May 21 10: Things You Can Do With the Internet

  1. Play lots and lots of Echo Bazaar, an online RPG set in Victorian-London-that-has-been-dragged-into-a-cavern-beneath-the-Earth.
  2. Enlist your friends’ help to prevent two visiting Russian women from becoming victims of human trafficking in New York City.

The first option is absolutely engrossing, if it’s the sort of thing you find engrossing, and can be done solo. The second option is… well, just read the link. A member of the MetaFilter message board posts a cry for help; over the next 24 hours, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers rally to keep two women from vanishing into god-knows-what. Astonishing, inspiring reading, and I only found out about it after the dust settled. I can’t imagine what it must have been like as a MeFi reader caught up in events as they unfolded. It makes you wonder how many stories end differently right here in New York every week because the victims don’t have a squad of internet people looking out for them.

Apr 14 10: Books/Baked Goods/Memewrangling

So I went to Books of Wonder, the best kids’ bookstore in NYC or anywhere else in the universe, so far as I can tell, the other day. My niece is turning 7 shortly, and I had duties to perform. (She recently saw Coraline, and expressed a desire to read the book. How can I say no? She’s also getting the fabulous Clan Apis. Science!)

Anyway, you can’t go to BoW without stopping at the cupcake counter. Or I can’t, anyway: it’s run by the fabulous Cupcake Cafe people. You can keep Magnolia Bakery’s vapid and oversweet efforts — the only reason people eat them, far as I can tell, is because they saw them on Sex and the City. For my money, CC’s dense cake and heavenly buttercream frosting whomp MB’s efforts into next week. And that’s without mentioning how totally beautiful their creations are to look at. Almost a shame to eat them, almost.

I told a friend about my visit — okay, I gloated about it — and he asked, “Did you take a picture for that website?”

“What website?”

Dudes with beards eating cupcakes.”

No, I didn’t, for the record. Maybe next time. But I was pleased to note it as an addition to an emerging internet meme: blogs entirely devoted to juxtapositions of three things. The other two sites I’ve seen are Selleck/Waterfall/Sandwich and Bea Arthur/Mountains/Pizza, which offer endless collections of weird surrealist landscapes. Dudes/Beards/Cupcakes doesn’t have the others’ zen-bouquet quality; instead it feels more like somebody’s personal fetish run amok. It’s noteworthy, I think, that they’re all tumblr blogs, but whether that tells us something about tumblr or the state of web culture in general I’m not sure. As to the inevitable why? In the words of Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing, “Because INTERNET.” And that’s the best explanation we’re likely to get.

Apr 11 10: Wheels on Fire

So. Last night Hugh and Randall and Jim and Bill and I went to the opening night of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby. Last night’s card: the Wall Street Traitors vs. the Queen City [Buffalo] Furies, then the Gotham Girls All-Stars vs. the Charm City [Baltimore] All-Stars. It’s tremendous fun and we’re going back in a month or so.

On the one hand, it’s a spectator sport, in which a bunch of women who, in many cases, have only been playing the game for a year or two, go like hell and take no prisoners. Imply that this is some sort of silly cheesecake thing and they will fuck your shit up. And there’s real strategy going on beyond the body-checks, and it only takes a few minutes to appreciate the rules enough to start seeing that. But on another hand, it’s also a spectator sport with a tremendous sense of humor — I mean, how can you not love a game where players are expected to make up awesome skater names? How can you not cheer and scream yourself raw for Ginger Snap, and Carmen Monoxide, and Donna Matrix? And Joy Collision? And Beyonsláy? (For my part, my heart belongs to Em Dash. As her entry in the 2010 souvenir program states, “There’s a new serif in town.” Word.) And we ate hot dogs, and the people-watching in the stands was superlative, and the jeerleaders (yes) were great.

Consider joining us at the May 22 event, at which the Queens of Pain take on the Manhattan Mayhem.

Nov 19 09: So What? I’m a Rock Star.

Okay, I’ll shut up about this soon, I swear.

Things I learned about appearing at the Ed Sullivan Theatre last night:

  1. The studio is tiny. I guess it would have to be, to fit into your television.
  2. It is cold in there. I mean, you hear that sometimes from the guests or whatever. But they don’t mention that it’s chilly enough for the air coming out of the ventilation system to turn into fog that gently drifts down from above.
  3. You can try to be blasé about these things, but eventually the realization that you, a random choir geek, are singing rock and roll on television for an audience of about 20 million people hits you, and at that point what D describes as “my big shit-eating grin” becomes inevitable. Despite the fact that you cannot hear yourself sing at all over the sound of the band and you’re just taking it on faith that you’re hitting your marks.

Man, what a gas. Although at that temperature, it nearly condensed into a liquid.

Nov 18 09: I’m Gonna Live Forever

So, um, I’m going to be on Letterman tonight, part of the chorus backing up Ray Davies and doing Kinks songs. Set your DVRs, or check it out on the Letterman show website when it goes up tomorrow. The performance is to support his current tour, which has two nights’ performances at Town Hall on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be in those too. (Tickets still available!)

Still can’t quite believe this is happening.

Aug 20 09: People’s Parties

So another couple of months pass, and it’s August in NYC. It’s muggy and hot; it rains every now and then; we go to the beach when we are able. When you go to swim practice you don’t have to wedge eighty-leven pounds of overcoat boots hats gloves sweater flannel-lined trousers into the locker, rumpling your work shirt beyond redemption.

Life here is good. The job proceeds apace, and there are even suggestions that I might get my contract extended by a couple of months to work on another project. We go to the beach when we are able, and find ways to amuse ourselves when we are not. I have been taking in more theater and crazy performance stuff than is typical, too — a side effect of hanging out with the charming D.

Take a recent evening, for instance. D and I went to go see John Kelly perform the entirety of Joni Mitchell’s album “Court and Spark” down in the open-air performance space of Castle Clinton in Battery Park. Kelly, for those of you at home, has had a long and varied career as an artist, but has found a weird sort of fame performing as Joni Mitchell. The hair, the clothes, the mannerisms. Or what I’m assured are the mannerisms. Before this summer my file on Joni Mitchell was mighty thin. Actually, lacking familiarity with the template does make your mind go looking for some other something to compare it with on first exposure. I ended up at a cross between Janice from the Muppet show1 and Hedwig, which was totally wrong and made me laugh inappropriately. But that’s the mindblowing thing about his performance: it’s not camp, it’s not drag, it’s not parody. Even if you wouldn’t know Joni Mitchel if she asked you for directions on 63rd Street, you can tell after about 30 seconds that Kelly is totally committed to what he’s doing. There’s nothing arch or ironic about it. Which makes it a whole ‘nother flavor of awesome.2 And the crowd plugs right into it.

In fact, it was the strength of that commitment that made the next thing that happened such a stunning moment of theatre. We sat in the VIP section, which had a great side-on view of the stage, and everybody’s grooving right along and we’ve hit the album’s fifth track, “Down to You.” And everyone’s having a fine time, and Kelly’s band is crazy tight, and one of the backup singers, who’s decked out like she’s been a dedicated flower child since back in the day, keeps looking over toward someone in the VIP section with this smile on her face like it’s the craziest gig she’s ever done, or the best, or possibly both. And we hit the long instrumental part that makes up most of the second half of the song and Kelly starts to pick his way back through the band toward the back of the stage, and crouches down to root through a duffel bag. He’s vanished from the view of the audience, except for some of us in the VIP section.

He drops the shawl he’s been wearing, folds it up. He slips the velvety green dress from over his head: there’s a black one beneath it. Hey, costume change! But after a moment’s thought he pulls that one off as well, and the silvery one that had been beneath that. And then the wig. He takes a cloth from the bag and wipes off his makeup as best he can. He stands, slowly, returning to view: he faces the back of the stage and the walkway running behind it and turns his face to the sky, a 49-year-old guy in a pair of black Calvin Klein underwear. He stretches, breathes deep. He returns to the bag, pulls on jeans and a T-shirt, and goes back to the mic. The band has been playing the whole time, and the song reaches the end, and they go into “Just Like This Train,” the sixth track. And he looks like Alan Cumming, but drained of that faint undercurrent of malice; he looks a little like Terrence Stamp. And the music goes on.

Not a new thing, the transformation. It has been done in any number of other acts. But for some reason, in this instance, it is profound. It hits you like a delivery van. D is crying. But there’s no time to linger, because Kelly doesn’t need the wig to sing the hell out of the material. There’s a woman in the second row: flowered pants, coral-to-pink-grapefruit blouse, curly dark hair, big sunglassess; someone’s Jewish grandmother from Staten Island. She’s been rocking out from the start, she knows all the words, and the exultant smile on her face stays exactly where it has been and like everyone else in the audience she stays right with Kelly and the band right through to the end of the show, having a fine time as the sun sets over the harbor and gleams off the silver towers of the Financial District. And I think: I fucking love this town.

1 Janice’s main claim to fame, of course, is that she delivered the single greatest line in film ever.

2 This summer has also been the Summer of Awesome. I have no idea why this word is suddenly my favorite adjective, and I’m not sure I’m happy about it, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do but wait for it to clear up on its own.

Apr 30 09: Julie & Julia (& Nora) (& You)

I was going to post something about the Weimar cabaret orchestra that’s doing drop-dead fabulous covers of New Wave tunes, but this is even better.

Julia Child started cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in the late 1940s. She published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, her first, revolutionary cookbook, in 1961, and began her equally revolutionary television program not long thereafter. In 2002, a woman in Brooklyn named Julie Powell started a blog, The Julie/Julia Project, in which she cooked a different meal from MAFC every night in her teeny tiny NYC-style kitchen in a neighborhood with no decent grocery store, gradually working her way through the entire book. In 2004, Julia died; I found Julie’s blog through the lovely essay she wrote reflecting upon the yearlong experience and how Julia had transformed both Julie’s life and her own. In 2005 the blog became a book, as they were wont to do at the time. In August 2009 the cookbook that became a blog that became a book will become a movie, staring Amy Adams as Julie and Meryl freaking Streep as Julia Child. Written and directed by Nora Ephron, of course, because who else could it have been?

Come on, how can you not see this? With a group of dear friends who like to eat. And then you go out for a fabulous meal afterwards. Or — even better! — cook one together.

That’s all for tonight. For my part, I have completed the laundry and am going to bed.

Apr 28 09: Culture time!

I’m presently singing with the Dessoff Symphonic Choir, which is the giant economy-size version of the Dessoff Choirs, a long-running NYC amateur chorus. We’re preparing for a pretty spectacular series of June performances with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center.

First, Britten’sWar Requiem,” his spectacular antiwar piece from 1962. Composed for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral in England (destroyed in a World War II bombing raid), the piece sets two soloists singing English-language poems by Wilfred Owen about the experiences of soldiers during World War I in juxtaposition to a massive choral performance of the traditional Latin Mass for the dead. It is harrowing and fabulous, sometimes angry, sometimes achingly sad, sometimes transcendently gorgeous. June 11, 12, 13.

Then, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, which will feature about a skillion singers and instrumentalists packed so densely on the stage that frame-dragging phenomena will be measurable in local spacetime. Big, bombastic, wonderful. Probably the more listener-friendly to those arriving unfamiliar with the music. June 24, 25, 26, 27.

For tickets to either performance — going fast! — or more details, see the Dessoff website. (You may need to scroll down to get to the actual text; there’s something wonky in their stylesheet.)

Mar 4 09: Fun With Cimicidae

And today, on Things You Didn’t Know You Should Be Freaked Out About: Bedbugs!

Oh, but I hear you say it: we are New Yorkers, and we already know about the whole Bedbug Thing. In the 20th century, bedbugs went from rather common to almost unheard of in much of the industrialized world. But over the last few years, a combination of increased international travel, the disuse of DDT, and increased resistance to the weaker insecticides used instead has led to their global resurgence. They hide in folds of fabric, they hide in suitcases (and the baggage-return conveyor belts at airports), they hide in the upholstery of the furniture you find on the sidewalk, and then they move into your house. Getting them out again is a massive undertaking. And then there’s the itching and the scratching and the welts and the oh my god they’re sucking my blood while I sleep and suddenly we’re all losing our minds. They’re running amok in Park Slope.1 We are already freaking out about bedbugs. Those of us who are prone to (a) worry, (b) hypochondria, or (c) itching are just about out of our heads.

Ah, but did you know this? They’re hiding in the crevices of the wooden benches on the subway platforms.

So don’t sit down, folks. And for god’s sake, stop scratching. You’re fine. Maybe.

(Thanks [I think] to Sari, for bringing this to my attention.)

1 The bugs, not the Brooklynites.

Sep 25 08: the fanboy loses his tongue

Tonight I shirked my responsibilities and delayed my dinner in order to hear John Crowley read at the 92nd St Y. Crowley — opening diphthong as in cow, not as in crow — is one of my most favorite writers in the world, and unquestionably a big influence on my own writing. I discovered his most famous novel, Little, Big, upon the lending shelves of my high-school Shakespeare teacher’s classroom,1 and I was never the same. The 1986 trade-paperback edition I bought not long thereafter is one of my few treasured books not currently in storage; I reread it every year or two in full, and bits of it when the mood strikes, and needed it to be close at hand. Someday the rereadings and the carting-around will cause it to fall to bits, a victim of its own power. A while back, feeling flush, I ordered a copy of the 25th-anniversary edition to take on some of its burdens, and it should arrive around Christmas. But the battered old book is one of my Talismanic Objects, and I took it to be signed.

Crowley read a selection from his upcoming novel Four Freedoms, which is slated for publication in June of 2009. It’s one of his historicals: not a work of fantasy or speculative whatever, but something more firmly rooted in the real history of America in the 20th century. The selection was great, of course, articulate and touching and smart and funny and full of moments of lapidary detail. Unexpectedly, it was also full of sex, telling along the way with sensitivity, humor, insight, and enthusiasm the story of a young man’s maturing awareness of adult sexuality and the loss of his virginity to an older woman.

There weren’t many people in Crowley’s book-signing line after the reading. Most of the crowd seemed to be there for Marilynne Robinson, whose stuff I’ve never read but whose reading was equally enthralling. If much more chaste. I would have liked to make trenchant comments, ask insightful questions, done the cool chitchat thing, but the squeeing fanboy and the semi-intelligent reader and writer of fiction got locked in some sort of deathmatch in my head, so that was right out. It saved me, I guess, from having to blurt out that I’d been using the name of a minor character from Little, Big as an online handle for 15 years — hell, had commented on Crowley’s own LiveJournal under that name. But it also kept me from talking about experiencing New York for the first time as someone who had only known it previously through its strange and fantastic depiction in Little, Big; and from asking the question I was dying to ask, which was whether anyone had told him going into the reading, or if indeed he had noticed as he read, that a huge mob of high-school English students was in the back of the auditorium, their eyes widening, the faces of their teachers turning ever more scarlet.

1 I bless your memory, Barbara Abbott.

Sep 24 08: a creeping certainty of impending doom

I am kind of underemployed right now — in fact I’m really underemployed, and if anybody needs a freelance editorial guy with smarts and the ability to learn quick, please contact me; résumé and enthusiastic references available on request — but up until today I was not worried.

Today, however, I realize that in fact I am probably going to starve to death.

RIP BurritoVille (1992-2008).

Aug 30 08: drag names I have considered

Not that drag is my thing at all. But sometimes you stay up much too late and find yourself inventing alternate personae as you brush your teeth. You know?

  • Semolina Pilchard Surrealist; not hostile, but certainly fierce. Like a warmer, fuzzier version of Strykermeyer, maybe. Assuming that can be done.
  • Miss Partridge Peartree Edwardian hostess. Only seen at Christmastime.
  • Alison Wonderland An innocent; a broad.
  • Bananas Foster Hostess with the mostess.

How about you? Who are you when your brain puts on heels?

On a somewhat related note, I finally saw the episode of Project Runway from a couple of weeks back from when they made outfits for drag queens. They got some big names to serve as models, too: Varla Jean Merman, Hedda Lettuce, Sherry Vine. Or at least they were familiar to me, which must mean they’re big, right? Regardless, was fun. And surprising — here in NYC, you pass men on the sidewalk every now and then and your brain immediately say, “Off-duty drag queen.” But at one point in this episode we saw the dragistes out of character and the vast majority of them looked like jus’ random guys. Sometimes with no eyebrows, but still. I mean, heck, Mr. Varla Jean is hot. Who knew? The best analysis of the episode, if you’re interested, will be found at Project Rungay.

Am in Ogunquit, Maine, for the weekend, with a bunch of my old a cappella cohort. Fun is being had. Hydration is key. Hope those of you celebrating Labor Day this weekend are having a good time.

May 28 08: ny moment #47,365

I have had quite a few moments of fabulous metropolitan culture in the last ten days or so: dancing until 3 at Habibi, the monthly bash for NYC’s gay Arab community (yes, really; the dance music, from Egypt Lebanon Syria et al, is fabulous, and the partygoers handsome); seeing Boeing Boeing on Broadway; Fleet Week. Oh, and the new Indiana Jones movie.

But none of them came close to seeing Greg play at the Duplex tonight. The crowd was tiny — me and Velma and Fred, a handful of drunken British tourists — so Greg got to make some calls that he might not have attempted for a fuller house. Including a whole lotta Kate Bush. He did “Wuthering Heights”; he did “Hounds of Love”; he did “Cloudbusting.” And then he went straight into “And Dream of Sheep,” which made me happy; and then he went straight from there into “Under Ice,” and we realized he was making some kinda banzai run through The Ninth Wave, and we didn’t know whether to fall out of our chairs from the shock or just howl with joy and laugh and wave our arms. Because Greg is a Kate Bush geek who plays a mean piano and has a lovely clear tenor voice and was fully capable of pulling something like this off. He did a quick here-are-the-highlights of “Waking the Witch,” he did “Watching You Without Me.” He went straight on into “Jig of Life.”

The other Kate fans in the room were in awe (and did all we could to throw in the umpty-leven other vocal bits). Those too young to know The Ninth Wave — which, because I’m sure my father is wondering, is the astonishing song cycle on the B side of her towering 1985 work Hounds of Love — had no effing idea what was going on or why we were losing our minds. Who the hell tries to perform The Ninth Wave on an upright in a West Village piano bar?

Anyway, just to be cheeky, he went about eighteen bars into “Jig of Life” and then segued gently into some Elton John tune that the Brits had requested. We hyperventilated quietly in the back; I ordered another ginger ale.

It rocked. Sure, I’m hopped up on ginger ale and it’s 3 in the morning, but I wouldn’ta missed that for nothing.

Dec 13 07: ny moment #44,201

Good evening, intrepid NYC eaters-of-food! Tonight’s cooking-at-home question: if you’re jonesing hard for Tater Tots1, but all your grocery store carries is Kineret Mini Potato Latkes2, are you bound for glory or disappointment? Stay tuned, because we’re going to find out!

UPDATED: Oh yes. Glory, my friends. Glory.

1 I love it that Tater Tots have a Wikipedia entry. But how could they not?

2 I’d really love to call these latkitos, because they’re, y’know, mini. But perhaps that’s getting a little too great-American-melting-pot-y. I dunno. I may just do so inside my own head.

Sep 5 07: ny moment #43,165

Okay, so, um, local grocery store? On the way home tonight? Buying ice cream? And there’s this sign over the little refrigerated sushi case? And it says:



Jun 2 07: fun-having

It has been a loooong week. A long few weeks, actually, which is why I haven’t posted a damn thing in nearly a month; but this week has been particularly bonkers.

Got out of the office at 9:30 tonight (although don’t get me wrong; the job is still incredibly fun) with a desperate need to blow off some steam. God bless Randy, my fellow swimmer and dear friend, who has been living an eerily parallel life to my own. He was just as ready to rage as I was. So we started at some ‘mo bar or another in Hell’s Kitchen. After a couple of drinks we got a text message from Booty, who had gone to Pyramid for the Cyndi Lauper spectacular at 1984, their Friday night retro dance extravaganza. Booty, aka Peter, is a hardcore Cyndi fan, despite the fact that her first big single came out when he was… 3, I think. Bring everyone, his note said. Am all alone.

We danced our asses off, although we felt so terribly, terribly old. Before long, the room filled up, and a good time was had by all. “You realize we were about the only people there who actually remember 1984?” asked Randy, much later in the cab uptown. “When those songs were new, most of the people in that room were still breast-feeding. If that.”

He was surely right. Good thing the young’uns had us there to show them how it’s done, then.

Bed now. Long day tomorrow, too.

May 3 07: from the culture desk

Apparently I’ve got a planet in the house of musicals right now. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to see two (2) different big Broadway shows. The first was “Legally Blonde,” which I saw in previews and you should have, too, because I’m not sure it’s worth the full ticket price. It’s pink, it’s intermittently funny, the cast is talented and really really enthusiastic. But the show itself is kind of forgettable. By the next morning I couldn’t remember a single bar of music. Perhaps it would have helped if I’d seen the movie — but Different Bob had, and as much as he adores the film he wasn’t that so crazy about the show either.

Now, “Spring Awakening,” on the other hand. There is a show worth full ticket price. I laughed, I cried, I looked on in amazement at how much the lead actor spits as he enunciates. No, really, I did all three of those things. Somehow my buddy Rich and I ended up in the front row, dead center; in most cases this would be a liability but the staging of the show made these the best seats in the house. What an incredibly talented bunch of kids; and the music (by Duncan Sheik) is great; and the book (a more-or-less verbatim adaptation of the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind), which must have been hugely transgressive in the late 19th century, still contains recognizable human teenagers. Go see that.

But if you are looking for a cheaper ticket — Hey! Twenty bucks! — or something more scientifictional, allow me to make a recommendation. My buddy Manoel Felciano (Tony nominee for his performance as Toby in Sweeney Todd) is producing a one-hour semistaged version of “The Hidden Sky” on May 14 at Joe’s Pub. And you should go see that, too.

“The Hidden Sky” is a musical version of the Ursula K. LeGuin story “The Masters,” from her collection The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. The world is old, and changed: some catastrophe in the distant past has veiled the sky in clouds. The theocracy that emerged to salvage some form of civilization has responded to the destruction by banning all scientific thought, all machinery beyond its most simple forms, even all mathematics beyond the most basic operations. But a young woman cannot help but think, and ask: What makes the ball fall? Can the motion of a body in space be predicted? What are the numerical patterns behind the swirling of clouds, the whirling of water?

“The Hidden Sky” is a show that deserves your attention. I first saw it in a similar showcase at Ars Nova last fall. Peter Foley wrote it (with a book by Kate Chisholm), and the music is fabulous. Manoel will be one of the leads, opposite Marya Grandy, who is superfunny and so very talented. Here’s a flyer, to give to friends; but you should buy your ticket today from Joe’s Pub while you can. This show pushes every happy-button I have, and I am more than pleased to evangelize on its behalf. I mean, it has a song in which revelation on the nature of God is accompanied by a chorus singing the Fibonacci sequence. How can you not go?

May 2 07: subway report

Has anybody else seen the shiny new trains running on the N line? They’re, like, the 2.0 version of the trains they introduced a couple years back on the 1/2/3 and 4/5/6 lines, with these supercool dynamic LED route readouts. I rode in one today for perhaps the second time. It has the familiar automated announcements and the wheels sing the pseudo-Somewhere triad of minor sevenths as it pulls out of the station. The new model is called the R-160, and because the internet was created for people who like to talk about obscure topics, it already has an entire page of fan-made expository video footage. Apparently the first tests began last summer; there will be 660 new R-160 cars on the N and Q lines by the end of this year.

New trains are cool.

Mar 29 07: ny moment #41,842

Ah, New York.

I just got a phone call from someone who has at last found an apartment that she and her husband are excited about renting. Great location, the whole thing. They even bargained a couple hundred off the monthly rent.

Was she thrilled? No. She was guilt-ridden, bewailing the damage she’d done to her immortal soul, her karma, and her good name. Because taking the apartment meant a bad break-up with her broker, who had not helped them find the place. She sent the broker ‘a nice gift’ after breaking the news—and no, I don’t know what it was—but the awful feeling persists.

What this town does to rational people sometimes, I swear.

Mar 4 07: ooh

Weekend of glorious hedonism. Am completely knackered. Going to bed very soon.

However, it would be unfair of me not to briefly discuss the Scissor Sisters show last night at the Madison Square Garden Theater, at least in a few easy-to-digest bullet points. Ergo:

  • I wore the gayest t-shirt I own, because, well, how could one not?
  • We got there in the middle of the first opening band’s set. I never got their name: it was two guys, a keyboard, and a couple of mics. Plus several bottles of beer. The guy at the keyboard didn’t have much to do: he would punch a button every now and then to tell the preprogrammed music to change from Riff A to Riff B, and such. Beyond that he just sort of danced. They were… um…
    You know what? Words fail me here. I mean, there are phrases that could be used—incoherent, drunk, inappropriate lycra bodysuit, bad hair, flail—but they don’t come close to describing the overall effect of being present for the set. In a way, it was like the Sisters were presenting a gift to the crowd. Did you forget your drugs? Here, let us alter your brain chemistry before the show really gets moving.
  • Second opening band: Wigs on Sticks. They were great, and unquestionably superior to the first bunch, but should have trimmed their set by maybe two songs. When they get a website of their own (apparently coming soon) I’ll point ‘em out.
  • Third opening band: DJ Sammy Jo, who made me really really miss Black Rock City. He rocked.
  • The Sisters were great. Full stop. Just as fun as I always knew they’d be.
  • We finally learned the answer to the burning question “What does Ana Matronic do?” It’s not like she does much of the singing on the albums, and she doesn’t play instruments beyond the tambourine or the maracas or the shooka-shooka egg thingy, which don’t count.1 But onstage she handles secondary voice parts that Jake multitracked on the albums. And she is also the—what, hostess? Den mother? Mistress of Ceremonies? Mouthpiece, maybe, providing wry commentary and general foul-mouthed fabulousness. In a short silver lamé dress that made her look, in her words, “like a big ol’ drag queen,” in the best possible way.
  • Although the show attracted an unexpectedly diverse crowd, this was definitely an Event for the NYC homorati. Sitting within six seats of us: Fred Schneider of the B-52’s2 and Justin Bond, better known as Miss Kiki DuRayne.
  • Jake Shears really can go in and out of that kick-ass falsetto for an entire show. (Although I felt that he often needed to be mic’d better than he was during his higher passages. My one complaint about the concert was that the sound was sometimes muddy.) I hope he has a really good voice coach backing him up. He must. Surely he must.
  • Man, was that fun. Oh my god. And Different Bob was, as ever, excellent company.

1 Just ask Jennifer Kimball.

2 [sic]. That apostrophe causes me physical pain every time, but there it is.

Feb 21 07: the smudge

Ash Wednesday is not a holiday that has any real significance for me personally. But I do enjoy how it changes the feel of the busy city sidewalks, just for a day: the usual crowds of scowling stockbrokers secretaries dentists editors gemologists security guards museum curators et cetera are all going about their business, but every now and then you see one of them with the Smudge. The one that says I took a moment today to think about matters spiritual. Any sign that any of us has carved out a moment from our day for meditation is a good one, I think.

Plus you get to study the various artistic techniques of the city’s clergy. Sometimes the Smudge is crisp and cruciform; other times it just looks like the banker in question was cleaning out the flue on his lunch break. I’m standing in the lobby at Juilliard at the moment, tapping this out on a public terminal as I wait for rehearsal to begin, and on my way here I saw a guy who was doing a spectacular impersonation of the Ace of Clubs.

Which makes one wonder what his particular meditations were about. Atlantic City, maybe. Whatever it was, I hope it brought him a little peace.

Feb 16 07: deliquescence

The snow is melting. We were excited when we heard it was on its way, because the City has been frozen solid for weeks with nary a flake of nothin’. But when it first started to fall on Wednesday it was already disappointing: hard and granular and not flaky or fluffy in the least. Like having somebody flick the contents of an unflavored sno-cone on your face, very fast, for the whole time you were outside. Still, it piled up on the cars and the newspaper boxes prettily enough, and even if it made lousy snowballs the kids in my building all seemed delighted.

Unfortunately the honeymoon phase never lasts. The boots and trucks and taxis and Chinese-food delivery bicycles rapidly get the whole entropy thing underway, and soon the sidewalks are shin-deep in grey-brown slish. By Wednesday night the intersection of 96th and Broadway was a vast and nauseating lake of Scuzz Margarita.

We watch it go with mixed emotions. End of today, or tomorrow morning at the latest, it’ll be gone again, and we’ll be back in the same stultifying, sinus-cracking deep freeze we had before. (A science moment: when the weather drops below a certain point, iPod headphone cables lose their flexibility. Turn your head too fast and they pop out of your ears, twanging back and forth in mid-air, unable to keep up with you. Re-seating them requires taking your hands out of your pockets, though, so do it quick.)

By night I dream of the beach.

Feb 7 07: on loving humanity

Most of the time the tabloid papers in this town drive me to despair for the future of the human race. But every now and then I realize that they also make me proud to be a New Yorker. To wit: today’s headlines regarding the crazy astronaut lady and her plan to kidnap (and murder?) a romantic rival.

The New York Post:

Astro-Nut Faces Slay-Bid Rap

The New York Daily News:

Astro-Nut’s Murder Plot is Out of This World

Priceless. The folks at the tabs have got to be on their knees weeping with gratitude over this story. I mean, it’s got everything. Sex! Murder! Bad wigs! Diapers! Unflattering mugshots! Astronauts! Whoo. It’s Christmas in February!

Meanwhile, the debate Just How Icky Are Queers, Anyway? rages on. Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court defended the “reasonable state interest” in restricting the right to marry to those couples capable of producing children. In the interest of protecting this laudable desire from further frivolous legal challenge, the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance has drafted a modest proposal: a ballot initiative that I think any reasonable-minded Washingtonian can get behind.

If passed by Washington voters, the Defense of Marriage Initiative would:

  • add the phrase, “who are capable of having children with one another” to the legal definition of marriage;
  • require that couples married in Washington file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage automatically annulled;
  • require that couples married out of state file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage classed as “unrecognized;”
  • establish a process for filing proof of procreation; and
  • make it a criminal act for people in an unrecognized marriage to receive marriage benefits.

If I lived in Seattle, I’d be printing out reams of blank petitions on company time right now. Alas, all I can do is make a plea on the behalf of poor defenseless marriages everywhere. Washingtonians, to the barricades! You have nothing to lose but Western Civilization.

JUST TO BE CLEAR: The people behind the ballot measure recognize that the idea is completely insane. They know that it is not what you would call a Good Idea. But it certainly gets their point across, doesn’t it?

Jan 20 07: collecting and winning

So tonight I achieved a weird milestone I didn’t even realize I was tracking: I have now sung onstage at each of the major performance spaces in Lincoln Center1. I certainly never thought it would happen. But last week a seriously cool gig fell out of the sky and into the laps of a small group from the Juilliard Choral Union, and tonight it came to pass: I sang onstage at the Metropolitan Opera House, backing up Kristin Chenoweth.

I’m gonna say that again: I sang at the Met. At Kristin Chenoweth’s big recital. Packed house, tickets that cost the moon and stars. She was amazing—as a number of people whose opinions I respect said this evening, “She is the real deal.” Operetta, Broadway, even a Styx tune: she sang the hell outta all of it. And she’s funny, and she’s beautiful, and she seems very nice and very real.

Her encores were “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide, which in her hands was both hilarious and pyrotechnic; and “What Makes Me Love Him?” from The Apple Tree, the show she’s doing right now at Studio 54. I had no interest in seeing The Apple Tree. I’m broke as all hell right now. But that song was so… so sweet, so romantic, so touching, so perfect that I think I’m going to try to land a cheap ticket somehow, just to hear her sing it again.

And best of all? If she was aware that I was one of those black-hearted folks who sent her to the bottom of the ocean back in July, she showed no grudge. Thanks, KC.

Singing at the Met was a fabulous thing. The huge hall, the cavernous backstage, the biiig curtains—all awesome. The experience was a lot like singing at Carnegie that way: I’d be in my blasé ‘ho hum, it’s another gig with the chorus’ headspace, and then I’d snap to and realize where I was and why. The JCU can be a lot of work, and it sometimes takes up a huge chunk of my personal time. But damned if it hasn’t presented me with a lot of amazing experiences in return. Thanks, Juilliard!

1 That would be, from south to north: the New York State Theater, the Metropolitan Opera House, and Avery Fisher Hall. For those of you not in New York. I’ve also performed in a few of its minor spaces—Rose Hall (Jazz at Lincoln Center), and Alice Tully Hall and the Juilliard Theater, which are part of the Juilliard School.

Oct 6 06: ny moment #41,215

I had a famous-person sighting on the sidewalk today as I was off to grab some lunch: Gilbert Gottfried. I am pleased to report that I maintained the cool detachment that befits a New Yorker, and thereby did not give him the smacking he so richly deserves.

Nov 17 05: ny moment #39,987

So a friend has posted her personal experience of one of those New York stories. It’s not a new story, nor is it unique to NYC, but it’s a mournful one nonetheless. It’s the one about how there’s the smell that nobody in the building could quite agree on what it was, until the ambulances and the cops show up and you discover that the nice guy in the basement apartment, the one who used to play his music too loud, passed away peacefully in his Lay-Z-Boy about a week ago.

I feel the sympathy for the neighbors who have lost a friend. I feel the sorrow at the untimely death of the man in the recliner, at the way it took a week for somebody to feel his absence enough to come looking for him. I feel the chill at the smell of death that hasn’t yet left the front entryway. I feel all of these things.

But—and this is the part of which I am somewhat ashamed—I also found myself thinking, “I wonder what the apartment’s like? Does it have garden access?”

Nov 8 05: ny moment #38,215

Why do I love this city?

Because it’s the sort of town where you can go to your polling place, half a block from your apartment, and find three volunteers at the table for your precinct. Two of them will be checking your name against the list of voters, getting you to sign the book, that kind of thing. The third will be a grizzled, portly man in his early sixties, maybe. He’ll be having a conversation on a cell phone tucked between shoulder and ear: You remember her, right?… That’s ridiculous…. She’s rich, she can buy her own goddamn groceries…

Only then you realize that he has no cell phone. He’s just chatting with the voices in his head. You make eye contact with the other two volunteers; one of them looks at you and says Mmm-hmmm, and the other just rolls his eyes in a way that plainly says Buddy, don’t get me started. You go into the booth and pull the Big Red Lever, and outside the curtain you can hear all the poll workers talking about him: How the hell did he get this gig? Do you think we should maybe call the Board of Elections?

And then you vote and you go home and your partner has scored a mess of Girl Scout cookies at the office, some for eating soonish and some for archiving in the freezer until you forget about them and then discover them accidentally at some point in the future.

That’s why I love this city.

(Texas, on the other hand, can go to hell.)

Jan 15 05: metropolitan

Tom and Genevieve are in town from Ithaca for the long weekend. As such, we got to have the sort of Manhattan day today that we locals only seem to get when we’ve got somebody visiting from out of town.

After being stood up by the superintendent for the umpty-skillionth time (he’s supposed to install a carbon-monoxide detector, and to stabilize the doorknob on the front door), we went out into the cold morning air. We took the subway up to 96th Street and then walked through Central Park to see the Aztec show at the Guggenheim. I know that it’s bad anthropology to say stuff like this, but: what a seriously weird bunch of people they were. The show wasn’t completely satisfying as an art exhibition or as a cultural overview, but it was still interesting. Lots of gold; lots of stern and carnivorous gods; lots of death. (If you’re ever invited to participate in a Xipe Totec festival, decline.) Also a graceful pumpkin of green stone, and a two-foot grashopper carved from carnelian.

Next, chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches at some random diner on Lexington Avenue. About which what more could I say? The air was getting colder, the light already fading, and we needed a little something to get us all the way to dinner. It was perfect. And then we wandered a while, and ambled through the racks at Kinokuniya, and then we went home for a bit and put up our feet.

Dinner was Korean barbeque at Dae Dong on 32nd Street, in vast quantities, spicy and garlicky and savory, with fifty little bowls of companion foods crisp and smoky and fresh and pickled. Wrap it all up with a lettuce leaf—shake the water off it first, preferably on one of your dining companions when he’s not looking—and don’t worry about getting the juice all over your fingers.

After that, a dash down to the Village on the subway, and a quick stroll, for dessert at Chocolate Bar. The brownies and truffles are very good, sure; the chocolate-covered patties of peanut butter or homemade-marshmallow-and-banana are quite fine, it’s true; but the spicy hot chocolate is The Thing. Creamy as anything, made with ground chocolate (not cocoa powder) and allspice and cinnamon and ancho chiles and smoked chipotles. Oh my god. I finished the last sip at least an hour ago, and I still feel like I’m radiating a languid sort of joy.

This is a good city, you know? And I am fortunate indeed to be able to partake of its bounty.

Jan 3 05: attack of the 50-foot floozy

I was thrilled out of my mind when I saw the Trimspa billboard coming down last week. That Anna Nicole Whoozis doing some sort of low-rent Marilyn Monroe thing, looming over Times Square and pitching diet pills? She put me off my protein shake in the morning.

So imagine my delight as I came up out of the subway this morning, fresh from the gym, on my way to grab some food and then off to the office, sailing along sidewalks now blessedly free of the mindbending mobs of tourists. And then I came out of the Jamba Juice, bucket-sized Blue Banana Blast in hand, and there she was. Anna. In a new, even trashier billboard.

Anna honey, let’s talk for a minute. This Trimspa thing was only going to burnish your image so much. I mean, your claim to fame was that you were an exotic dancer who inherited a serious pile of cash from a wizened husband, had a brief fling with a modeling career, and then starred in what is said to have been the nadir of reality TV. (I never watched it, but word gets around.) And now?

Now you’re making faces over 7th Avenue. Please, for the love of god, stop. I mean, queen-of-the-porn-stars Jenna Jameson has her own, bigger billboard half a block away, but you the one who look like a skanky-ass ho.

Aug 6 04: famous neighbors

Huh. I found out something today that made my geekly little heart go all fluttery. Apparently I used to live right next-door to one of my big heroes—somebody who has captured my imagination since I was, oh, nine or ten—and I never had the slightest idea.

Yup. It was when John and I were living in our first NYC apartment, that long, slumlord-benighted year at 177 Bleecker Street. It turns out that right next door at 177A, shrouded from the naked eye by forces shadowy and mystical, was the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, Sorceror Supreme, Master of the Mystic Arts. He would have made an excellent neighbor, too: he could have banished our harridan of a landlady to the Nightmare Dimension and made all our lives soooo much more bearable. Or he could have bound her with the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak. Or sent her beyond the Purple Veil. Or something.

Until today, all I had to go on were a few fragments of fanboy trivia and fond (if vague) memories. My sweet tooth for the character dates back a long way. He may have been my first real exposure to the comics medium: as a kid I read the covers off an old pocket reprint edition of the early 1960s Lee-Ditko classics. Even now, a Dr. Strange action figure keeps watch over my office. All I remembered about the house, though, was the part that got mentioned all the time—that it was on Bleecker Street. I had no idea that a house number had ever come up. I sometimes kept a lookout for real-world analogs to his crazy-ass brownstone on my earliest wanderings through the Village. I never found it: double-width corner houses with fabulous circular skylights are few and far between these days. So if not for today’s random encounter with New York Songlines, I’d never have known. Actually, knowing the address only underscores the building’s occult nature: you can tell it was extra-magical because it had the number 177A. See, it was always pictured on a corner lot—MacDougal, as it turns out—which should have put it at number 171. Ooooh. Spooky.

Anyway, you learn something new every day.

(New York Songlines is an ingenious piece of work, and really cool besides. Virtual walking tours of various bits of the City. Worth exploring.)

Apr 1 04: yet another NY moment

Oh, and just now a parade of Mitzvah Tanks went up Sixth Avenue and made a right at the park. At least fifty white Winnebagos in an unbroken single file ten blocks long, with police escorts and sirens and everything.

You know, I’m beginning to suspect that the Rebbe may not be coming back. Do you think this is starting to occur to the Lubavitchers? And if so, what do they do now?

something good happens

So I just got off the phone with the Assistant DA who handled the attempted-rape incident that happened beneath my window a while back.

The perp pled guilty. Two years in the state pen, followed by ten years as a registered sex offender. End of story.

Although I guess it isn’t the end of the story. The perp’s story will go on, and in what way I can’t imagine although I hope that it ultimately involves him putting something good back into the universe. The victim’s story is mysterious. What little the ADA could tell me about her was that she’s local to my neighborhood, and that she still has no memory of the event, and that she has no telephone and has chosen to have little to do with the case and would prefer to move on as if it never happened. If she doesn’t remember it happening…well, I guess it’s worth a shot, and more power to her.

Feb 24 04: something bad happens

While I was writing that last entry, Something Bad started to happen across the street. At first I thought it was some small child throwing a tantrum. Why on earth do so many people drag their kids around NYC at all hours of the night? And then it stopped sounding like a small child throwing a tantrum, and started sounding more and more like an adult screaming in fear, or in pain. I went to the window and couldn’t see where it was coming from, but now it really sounded like something that you called the cops about. I got the phone, dialed 911, and rushed back to the window. Somebody—a man in a green jacket—crossed the street. He looked down into the darkness beneath the stoop of an old brownstone, down where the garbage cans live by the door to the basement apartment. I saw him go into the darkness, duck down, and then get back up. Somebody very large stood up as well. The large man arranged his black coat and his grey cap and started to saunter away. Green Jacket followed him. Large Man picked up his pace; others, also drawn by the sound, were zeroing in on this guy, and soon all of them were running west towards Tenth. I was on 911 trying to give a play-by-play, probably sounding a little frantic as things escalated from “I hear screaming” to “They’ve turned north on Tenth; they’re running, please hurry.” And then they were gone from my field of vision, and the street was quiet again. My 911 call ended. A man in a red jacket, walking his golden retriever, had stopped by the stoop, was looking down into the darkness. Another person stood up. A woman? Black coat? Was her face bloody? She didn’t look steady: was she hurt, or just freaked out? I could see cop cars pulling up along the avenue. I heard shouting. Green Jacket returned for a moment, which made me think that Large Man was under wraps somewhere. The woman, the man in red, the dog, wobbled off towards Tenth.

…And now here I am, back at my desk, and it’s three hours later. Our neighbors Alex and Molly had made a 911 call as well, and we all went down to the street to give statements to the police. Green Jacket and a friend of his were there too; they’d tackled the guy in the middle of Tenth Avenue and held him there until the cops showed. Eventually—finally—the people who live in the brownstone whose basement entry had been the setting for all this came to their door. At the cops’ request Alex and Molly and Green Jacket and his friend and I went up to the precinct.

Things I learned on my trip to the precinct:

  • Squad cars are like taxis inside, only much less comfortable.
  • Cops don’t get enough sleep.
  • The guys from the Special Victims Unit dress like they’ve wandered in off the set of Law & Order. Nice grey wool overcoats.
  • The arresting officer was 24. He was seven minutes away from the end of his shift when he got the call. He’ll be doing paperwork until at least 4AM.
  • Police officers have computers, but they still use typewriters for much of their paperwork.
  • Midtown North’s Precinct Room has a podium that makes you think immediately of Hill Street Blues.

I also found out little bit more about what happened. It was an attempted rape. Large Man seems more than a little nuts: when initially confronted by Green Jacket, his response was “This is none of your business,” but (after he was pulled off his victim and chased down the street) he was aware enough that what he had done was wrong to try to convince the cops that Green Jacket and his friend were trying to rob him and that’s why they were pinning him down in the middle of Tenth Avenue. The man with the dog convinced the victim to talk to the police—apparently she wanted to just go home—but he didn’t stick around to make a statement.

How much more do I want to know? I’m not sure. I’m angry at the big crazy man who decided to hurt somebody: angry for what he did to that woman, another human being; angry for how he has shaken up the neighborhood; angry for all the sleep I’ve lost by now. I’m relieved because the detective I spoke with was quite sure that they’d get a conviction on this case, although he also expected that questioning the perp would be a long and challenging process. I’m frustrated to have seen that the lights had been turned on above that basement entrance when we got back onto the block: if they had been turned on at dusk, this might never have happened. I’m relieved and proud to see that so many people in the neighborhood were willing to sound the alarm—hell, and to get in there and tackle a big crazy person—when it became necessary. I’m sick at heart for the victim. Wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope that eventually—that soon—you’ll be okay.

Now I need to go to bed.

Aug 5 03: NY moment #25,318

So I was on the R train headed downtown earlier this afternoon. I was very near the end of Wodehouse’s Something Fresh, which I have enjoyed very much, and which is why my sentences all keep running to lengths like this these days; and the plot was all resolving itself neatly, if rather abruptly, and with the continued good humor that has made Wodehouse such a pleasure to finally explore. Looking up from the book for a moment, I saw a young Latina girl of seven or eight swinging idly around one of the steel poles intended to steady wobbly commuters. She wore a blue denim skirt and had long curly brown hair and liquid brown eyes that looked out upon the train with that self-possessed air that only seven- or eight-year-old girls can really pull off without seeming rude. Round and round the pole she went; eventually I made out what was on her navy blue t-shirt. It was a traffic sign, an inverted equilateral triangle with a red border. In prim, curly letters it said

to the

And it was just such a sublime moment that I laughed my ass off right there on the subway.

No, actually, that’s not quite how it happened: I wanted to laugh my ass off. I got as far as the first bark thereof, and was immediately speared with a steel-edged look of disdain by the tattooed grungette next to me, who, although she was closer to the Princess than I was, clearly did not appreciate the zen perfection of the moment in which she found herself. She was probably a rock journalist, or perhaps a freelance costumers’ assistant for cable television shows. Something like that. Out of respect for her existential angst, I kept my laughter to myself, smiling into the pages of my book and not reading them at all. The Princess spun on. The next stop was mine, and I disembarked; for all I know, she is spinning still.

Jul 24 03: NY moment #25,317

On my way to this evening’s mob I saw a sign in a dry-cleaner’s window.

Your clothes can be tested for SHATNES

Huh? SHATNES? I figured it was either (a) some kind of Jewish thing—in these parts, frequently a good bet in moments-of-unfamiliar-vocabulary—or (b) it was a toxic chemical, like PERC. Those all-caps seemed suspicious to me. Or maybe it was (c) some kind of Star Trek reference: Do your clothes make you look like a polyester starship captain with a bad rug and diction issues? Our laboratory can find out.

Anyway, this is why I love the internet: it took me mere moments to find out that the answer was (a). Kosher clothing! I knew about the ‘no mixed-fiber fabrics’ rule, because it comes up in the same abominations-unto-god list as ‘no queers.’ (Thank you, Leviticus.) If you, like me, have wondered if there was anybody who gave both rules the equal gravity that god apparently intended…wonder no longer.

Jun 21 03: there and back again

Okay, it’s really really late but here’s the short version: yes, I pretty much had to go. So I did. And stood in a line half an avenue-block long with hundreds of other New Yorkers—moms and dads and kids and random geeks in bunny slippers or pointed hats or Griffindor scarves—until 2:30 in the morning. Clusters of club kids and other nocturnals drifted past the line: “Dude, you’re doing this for Harry Potter?” Inside the store were a couple of beautiful owls from a local nature center. Their handlers looked amused. Actually, so did we all: good humor was the order of the evening. What were we doing there? We were having a fabulous time. I love this town.

Jeez, this thing is a doorstop.