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A King Among Kings

14 Dec

Live like a king, die like a man – that’s what I say!

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Out of Order

13 Dec

It’s been a whole year but it’s finally happened. I have a cold.

Last year, if you recall, I was laid up for a whole three days while battling my first run-in with the flu. That’s right, I’d never had the flu until I moved to New York City. I credit my mother’s breast milk for this accomplishment (Thanks, Mom!)

Honestly, my first year in the City was by far the roughest. I puked, I coughed, I flued, I sprained, and swelled but you know what? I am now the pinnacle of super immunity. Well, almost.

Thankfully, I’m not bed-ridden but I probably shouldn’t be roaming these city streets like a bobble headed pilgrim in search of Christmas presents (and my way back home). At any rate, I’m on the up and up – though utterly humbled by this scratchy feeling in the back of my throat.

Damn those subway hands!

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The Brooklyn Anti-Semite Strikes Again?

2 Dec

Maybe it was an act of drunken idiocy or perhaps even some attempt at comedy –  any way you look at it, drawing swastikas on public property is not only wrong but also anti-Semitic.

Brooklyn has been hit with a string of public anti-Semitic crimes lately, from horrifying graffiti in Sheepshead Bay to the more recent vandalism inside a Williamsburg settlement.  I found the swastikas below at the Lorimer stop  on my way to work this morning.

Appalling.

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Blast From the Past

18 Nov

Either this girl is off to her choreography class or she’s en route to 1992.
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Broken Glass Everywhere

8 Nov

A light bulb? Milk glass? Crack cocaine?

What ever it is, it’s kind of beautiful.

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Live Free Or Die

5 Oct

I’ve recently and quite suddenly become really bored with my morning commute. To me, it’s slowly transformed into a lot of the same : same rotating cast of figures – the Ecuadorian crooner singing “Stand By Me” in broken English, the over-styled young professional carrying a man-purse, that one guy on the lap steel – same packed subway car, same cattle call at Union Square, same AM New York guy, same same same.

This morning, as I was getting ready to head to work, I began thinking about permanently changing my morning commute. You know, just to mix it up. It was a passing thought really because my regular commute is the most efficient route and any other option would lob on another 10 to 15 minutes, which appeared to be a preposterous option despite my boredom. So when it eventually came to me walking out the door (15 minutes “late,” mind you) I chose my tried and true (and boring) route instead.
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When I landed on my old  worn-out subway platform, I found that the next train was due to arrive in 12 minutes. That feels like an eternity when you’re running late. Then it dawned on me: This was the perfect opportunity to test out a new commute. Even if it tacked on an extra 10 minutes, it would still be better than hearing the botched lyrics of “Stand By Me” for the umpteenth time.
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This little light bulb moment got me thinking about serendipity and how, I believe, the Universe always supplies us with the tools to achieve exactly what we need. It’s just a matter of paying attention; seeing the opportunity in every situation; seizing the moment – even down to the smallest or most insignificant circumstance.
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I think so many people don’t even realize these instances and just spin away, content to live with boredom or sadness or even misery. Never knowing – er, never noticing – that we have been holding the key to our own happiness the entire time.
imagePlease don’t stalk this person.

Zippedy Do-Da

8 Sep

In an evolved contemporary society in which the rights of men and woman continue to equalize; in a world where powerful women are increasingly visible,  it is really quite astonishing to see advertisements that so openly and playfully demonize the female sex.

This observation began as so many others: on the subway. I spotted an ad for Zip Car in which a woman had apparently kicked her boyfriend out of their apartment and destroyed most of his material possessions. The copy read: “Sometimes you just need a car,” scrolled atop the mess of this man’s life. A mess, might I add, that his girlfriend created.

What did he ever do?

If you look at him (and his broken things) it appears that he enjoys music, watching TV and playing golf. Judging by the garment bag splayed over the stoop, he probably works a job that necessitates a suit. He likes vinyl records and douchey clothing. He seems like an okay guy.

What do we know about her?

She is pissed, just look at her. He must have done something really bad, that guy. Maybe he cheated on her? Maybe he said she looked fat in that new dress? I bet she’s on her period. What ever the case, he’s perplexed, desperate and pleading with her not to destroy his things. C’mon, baby! She’s irrational and won’t stand to hear any of it. Look at her face, she’s sadistic. She’s enjoying every second of this temper tantrum. It appears as if she’s even deriving some pleasure out of completely destroying and humiliating him. “Him” or should I say “that poor guy.”

In all seriousness though, hasn’t the female image suffered enough in popular culture? Not only are women consistently portrayed as objects of desire but our sexuality is often trivialized (lesbians are frequently depicted as criminals or predators), along with shows of confidence or power.

The woman below is not portrayed in a positive light. She looks like a kook; a crazy, psycho girlfriend in a story that only tells one side. A story that I happen to find really annoying and even a bit offensive.  

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Gas-X in the City

8 Aug

“WHO EVER KEEP FARTIN’ NEEDTA QUIT.”

The sound of her thick Brooklyn accent cracked through my brain. I looked around the train to spot her. Who was that? Where is she? It was her: the fat one in the tight “This Bitch Bites Back” shirt. She looked like a sausage un-linked, bursting from the casing of her clothing, and expanding at every seam. Don’t make eye contact. She rolled her eyes to the ceiling and clicked her tongue .  

“YOU NASTY.”

She was talking to everyone and no one; the air; the smell. The train was silent before she shouted, save the sound of one woman’s faint gagging. Someone very obviously farted – or should I say kept farting - repeatedly so. The smell surpassed a simple doo-doo fart (the kind that yields real results), it was rancid and pointed to something rotten on the inside. Surely if I could have gotten past the stench of pure death, I would have had genuine concern for the health of the mysterious farter. It was really that bad.

When the young woman smashed the silence and placed the smell on a scaffold for all of the train to see, she was clearly reacting to what the rest of us too often ignore: relationships.  

The trillions of day-to-day interactions that take place on our sidewalks, in our offices, and subways are what make this megalopolis tick. The way we respond; the way we remove; how we choose to treat one another. New York is all about relationships – intimately so; existentially, even. What we do or choose not to do affects others.

Sadly, this morning’s subway fart was just a very stinky example of such.

Hey, Moon

3 Aug

On my morning commute I got stuck underground for 30 minutes.

As any New Yorker knows, these things happen. The older guy across from me, however, was not so understanding. He didn’t have an iPod or a Kindle or even one of those real books. All he had was naked time and time alone, so he shook his head and jiggled his leg and clicked his tongue a few hundred times.

There’s nothing more annoying than being trapped on a train with someone who is agitated. Just deal with it, dude. But in New York City, in the morning, during a delayed rush hour commute, there is no such thing as “just dealing with it.”

So how did I choose to spend my morning stay on the prison train? Well, aside from observing the suit across from me incessantly jiggle his leg, I listened to John Maus‘ “Hey, Moon,” on repeat. That album is really good at helping one achieve a zen-like state in less than ideal circumstances.

Have a listen: 

Hot Town, Summer In the City

22 Jul

As temperatures in New York City soar to an unbelievable 103 degrees Farenheit (112 with the heat index), I am reminded of Porter Wagoner.    

Specifically, the cover of his 1968 album “The Carroll County Accident,” on which the country music legend is drips with sweat. Wagoner is so sweaty, in fact, that my friend mistook his perspiration for tears. Maybe his pompadour is crying.

Today, in this heat, my pompadour is definitely crying. 

Boss Beaches

17 Jul

On Saturday, Valerie, Sara and I hopped on our respective mass transit chariots and booked it to Rockaway Beach.

It was a scorcher – even by my jaded Southern perceptions of heat – and, by the end of the day, I was totally baked. Yes Mom, I slathered myself in SPF 30 but even still my back was fried. I’m sure it didn’t help that Valerie, despite my objections, insisted on squirting me with her banana boat bacon grease oil. So my poor back baked like a giant sheet cake. I was so well done by the end of the day that when I got home, I completely passed out. It was as though the sun had totally siezed my powers; wheezed my juice, if you will.

The Marcy stop, awaiting my silver chariot.

Valerie shows Sara her eyes on the platform for the A.

The A train to Rockaway.

Sara’s flowery arm.

Chicken scratch on the train window.

Abandoned vacation homes.“I’m a photographer!”“Show my monogram”Somehow, I don’t think these are professional blueprints.

Rations. The beach, finally.

Boardwalk/Boredwalk.

…And they called themselves “drowned rats.”Long  journey home.

Metsy Weather

23 Jun

Yesterday marked my first Mets game ever and, true to form, those underdogs were defeated not only by the rain but also by the pesky Oakland A’s.

Of course, I adore baseball – what am I a Communist? However, no patriotic love is great enough to weather the conditions of a 45-minute subway commute to Queens alongside tens of stinky, cranky New  Yorkers. That was basically the closest thing I’ve come to experiencing hell on Earth. The Mets game? Much better.

Even though it was pouring for the first hour we were at Citi Field, the rain let up just in time for Adam, Sara, Dre, and myself to eat some junk food, yell at the megatron (Steve Guttenberg was present!), and for me to photo-bomb some poor couple’s pic.

Good, old-fashioned American FUN.

imageHell on Earth.
imageMessy, messy, Metsy.
imageSara waited in the rain for a Shake Shack burger and fries.
imageWhen the rain let up, it wasn’t so bad.
imageThis is after we saw Steve Guttenberg.
imageDre and Adam pigging out.PHOTO-BOMB!

New Kid On The Train

14 Jun

When I boarded the Uptown 6 train to Grand Central this afternoon, I found myself checking out the kid across from me.  

Little did I realize that “kid” was none other that the “(New) Kid” himself, Joey McIntyre. The ten-year-old me almost crapped my pants! I mean, I had New Kids on the Block pillow cases, posters, fanny packs, t-shirts, and dolls. Have you ever sat across from someone of whom you have a doll in their likeness? It was a first for me.

If I’m gonna be honest though, I was more of a Jordan Knight fan. Joey had that weird hat with no top. I didn’t like that.

Some guy even asked him for directions and, when I took my headphones out of my ears to hear his response, he had the thickest Boston accent. It was totally him! AND it makes sense because New Kids are currently on tour and just played East Rutherford, New Jersey, last Sunday.

imageJoey on the train.Joey celebrity.

Subway Friends

9 May

After work yesterday I visited McCarren Park to take in what was left of a beautiful spring day.

Amid watching teens practice their swing, Polish mothers yell to their children, and the far-off cheers of a hipster softball game, I noticed that my favorite subway performer was practicing just down the path from me. 

I’ve blogged about this guy several times before and even ran into him a couple times outside of the Lorimer L stop. The first time, I stood next to him on the train at Union Square. It was 6:30pm and I remember him smelling like whiskey. The second time, he sat next to me at Daddy’s at which time I finally broke the ice. Our conversation was brief and awkward but I told him that he’s a star on my blog – and I don’t think that I was lying. He’s totally up there with “the one-legged Prince,” in terms of my favorite neighborhood people.

At any rate, it was a pleasant surprise to catch him at the park. We were even joined by a schizophrenic old-timer who kept shouting out requests for songs I’ve never heard of: “Do you know ‘Turkey on Straw Mountain?'”

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Get Me Out Of Here!

4 May

Shamefully, it’s been since before New Year’s that I’ve stepped foot outside of New York City. And no, Secaucus, New Jersey, doesn’t count.

I’m talking about a legit trip where the spire of the Empire State Building is nowhere to be seen; where the stench of human excrement and week-old garbage is replaced with lapping waves and budding flowers; where the sounds of screeching train brakes and honking horns are silenced – A magical place with trees and nature and more sky than skyscrapers.

It all begins this weekend with a short trip to Connecticut to visit Alissa and, in a month, a real vacation to visit my dad in Florida. That is, if Judgment Day doesn’t foil my plans. These people are nuts but I’m even crazier for not getting out of the City more often.

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Dancing On the Ceiling

19 Apr

Was Lionel Richie a closeted cokehead? Is the phrase “dancing on the ceiling” just a euphemism for rampant drug use? Does this explain all the hyperactive “white girls” in the video?

These are just a few of the questions I ask myself after examining the lyrics to “Dancing On the Ceiling” while on my morning commute. Things to think about… 

 

 

Wisdom From A Stone

15 Apr

As the panflutist on the Union Square platform reminded me this morning, through an inspired rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, ” you can’t always get what you want.

I didn’t recognize the song at first, though it seemed familiar. The soft hollow sounds were a distant dispatch over the white noise of rush hour; against the squealing of the trains and grinding metal, it was difficult to make out. I hummed it to myself as I shuffled along with the human cattle and soon the lyrics trickled in. First a drip: “…I saw her there in the reception…cherry red…” And then a stream: “but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

I never knew the Stones were so popular in Peru.

imageI sat on these stairs for about an hour last night. No, those are not my Cobras.

Attitude of Gratitude

22 Mar
How strange it is that one can do essentially the same things every morning with very little variation – shower, iPod, coffee, subway, work – though still manage to happen upon tiny revelations.
 
It is in these seldom-changing daily events that I encounter some of my best thinking. Maybe it’s the solitude of a crowded train ride; the prolonged moments of silence in which everyone must simply stop and wait; an imposed time to reflect on what ever one will and then venture to where ever one is going. There is a Zen beauty to it, really.
 
This morning, on my sojourn from South Williamsburg to Midtown East, while listening to random selections from my iPod, I was struck by a sudden sense of gratitude. As a rule, I try to remind myself to think about thanking. Doing such, I believe, opens us to more positive interactions and thus puts us in a better position to receive the outcomes we desire. Usually these gratitudes are obvious, especially considering the recent events in Japan: I am thankful for the breath in my lungs; I am thankful for the roof over my head; I am thankful for my job, etc.
 
Sometimes, however, it’s the more overlooked areas of our lives –  the things we use and see every day – that we often take for granted. This morning, I realized that I’m really grateful for music. So grateful in fact that I felt the strong urge to write a thank you note to every musician that has ever made me feel, like really feel. Then I realized what a tall order that would be. Using that reasoning, I’d be writing thank you notes to everyone from Mike Nesmith to Geddy Lee to the ghost of Biggie and ‘Pac. So I’ve decided to choose ten instead – not necessarily my top ten - as an exercise in gratitude and maybe a good scrapbook art project, to boot
 
imageI am grateful for my new horse portraiture.

Little Lightbulbs

9 Mar

First things first: big thanks to whoever got me the subscription to Smithsonian magazine – it rules.

Moving on, I’ve been reading Smithsonian a lot lately. Between fragmented and often very distracted sessions on the subway, then later before bed, I’ve been slowly and painstakingly plowing through the March 2011 issue. Although I generally remember something about every story that I read, some stay with me longer than others. For example, I’ve spent days thinking about the feature on dying newspapers (perhaps because I once worked at a daily) and can barely recall the details “This Month In History.” Apparently, today was the 170th anniversary of the Amistad verdict.

At any rate, it was this recent contemplation that compelled a slight, albeit conflicted, epiphany this morning. Every day I come up from the subway at 42nd Street and there is man at the top of the stairs passing out copies of AM New York. Every day I avoid this man and think to myself how it could be possible to pass out thousands of free newspapers daily and still stay in business. Clearly, it’s advertising but it got me thinking.

The newspaper world is a sinking ship – everyone knows that. There are some among us, however, who value the old timey ways of the daily; who love the smell of newsprint; who don’t mind it when their thumb and forefingers are covered in ink; some among us who think about what we, as individuals, can do to save newspapers. Or at least one newspaper.

In the case of AM New York, I think it’s just a matter of paying attention to the paperman. Just take the friggin’ paper.

In the case of the rest of the country, including my ex-coworkers at the Austin American-Statesman? I really haven’t the slightest clue.

The newsroom of the Journal American, an evening paper that disappeared when evening news became televised.

Photo courtesy of Smitsonian magazine.

Train Tracks

5 Mar

When MTA shuts down one side of the L, find an “emon” and make some lemonade.

Runaway Dorothy — a band name that unfortunately does not match their sound — did just that on a subway platform in Union Square.

I was waiting for the train back to Brooklyn when I heard the plucking of a banjo. Then I saw some young girls dancing off-beat. Then I got drawn into the music.

According to the Runaway Dorothy website, Adam Duritz is also a fan. Does that mean that I’m in good company??

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Good Day, Sunshine

19 Feb

Tonight I may be working late but today, as in this morning and early afternoon, I had the pleasure of being home to enjoy the first 60+ degree weather that New York City has seen since last Fall.

I even got to take my “gimpy” roommate Leah out for a wee stroll, as she’s been stuck inside the apartment for the last week due to foot surgery. She was so cute when she breached the threshold of our front door onto the street and found that all the snow had melted. It was funny to think that she had been trapped inside a sort of time capsule over the past few days. I had a similar experience on the subway the other day.

I was taking the M train into Manhattan when I overheard a man mention that he had recently completed a 23-year prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Aside from the obvious points that may picque one’s interest, I was especially struck by his apparent enthusiasm about everything. Even in recollecting the time he spent locked up; the monotanous work in the prison laundry mat; how to budget in the prison commissary; how to cook rice just like his mom, he jumped around spitting half-chewed pieces of the churro he’d just bought. What was most interesting to me, however, were his observations about the changes in the outside world. Most of these notes were a bit exaggerated. For example, he insisted that artificial intelligence runs most of the City nowadays and that even the train we were riding on was completely operated by computers. “What about the conductor?” his travelmate asked. “Naw, dude, he’s juss fer show.” 

Wow, 23 years behind bars. I can barely even imagine one week. Poor Leah!

imageLeah on the street after her “prison-break.”

This is me popping the lid on our apartment for the first time this year. It feels good to be a gangsta.

Photo courtesy of Miss Leah.

Pregnant With Curiosity

6 Dec

This morning, on my daily commute to midtown, I stood next to a woman in labor.

When I relayed this story to my co-worker, his first question was how I could be certain that she was in labor. Well, for starters, she was pregnant. Secondly, she and her male companion (Probably her baby-daddy, although possibly her Rupert Everett) got off at the First Avenue stop which is where Beth Israel Hospital is located. Oh, and she was huffing and wincing in pain. Child birth supposedly hurts, right?

Funny, I never gave much thought to what going into labor would actually entail in New York City. At 9AM, the last place you want to be is stuck in traffic so a crowded subway car is actually the best option. Then you wind up having contractions next to commuters having their coffee and people like myself who stare on peripherally, utterly fascinated.

Madonna and Rupert Everett in The Next Best Thing

Bushwick Blues

1 Dec

The last day of November was definitely a strange one. It started with a dumpster dive at the Lorimer L stop and ended with a call to the police.

When I got to the subway that morning, I accidentally threw away my unlimited-ride MetroCard. That sucks, right? What’s worse is that I just bought it the day before. Those things are dear – $89 – and I wasn’t hip to the Balance Protection Program yet. So I went for a swim in the garbage at 9AM. Sure, I was a little self-conscious about the whole trash-digging thing but what really added insult to injury was the looks people flashed me. No, not those of disgust but rather discomfort and fear. They gave the same kind of squirrelly side-looks that I give hobo trash-diggers. The look that says “You are probably unpredictable and I might be afraid of you.”

Fast forward to 9PM. After I’d finished helping Sara move into her new apartment, I was waiting with the U-Haul van outside. Just up the block, I saw this low-life totally beating on his girlfriend. Not just roughing her up, either – I’m talking legit beating. To make matters worse, there were three other men watching within the vicinity and doing nothing. No one even wanted to call the cops – so I did. Cowards like the man who was hitting his girlfriend need to be punished in the worse way. I won’t mention the types of medieval torture I would like to inflict on people like that. I know it’s not right but it’s honest.

Funny, I went from digging through the trash and eventually reaching some resolution (MTA is refunding my lost card) to witnessing real-life, walking trash and reaching no resolution (I’m pretty sure that his girlfriend chose to not press charges).

What a day.

imageAcross from Sara’s new apartment.

That Party Last Night…

30 Oct

…was awfully crazy. On second thought, it was just awful. In the best, most awesome sense of the word.

Let’s start with the facts: A party promoter paid the tenants of Sara’s Bushwick building to throw a two-day Halloween party and over 1,500 people showed up. To be honest, it was less of a party and more of a rave. A freaking rave in 2010!! There were half-naked people dry-humping, fist-pumping and glow-sticking, a French guy rolled up in an Oriental carpet on the floor, lewd acts on the sofa, vomit in the hallway, dogs and cats living together — mass hysteria!

And I was the MetroCard “swiping” in and out of these crazy situations. It was definitely a once every five years type of thing. Maybe even once a decade or once in a lifetime, depending on who you ask. Regardless, I’m not doing any of the awesome and terrible like for a very long time to come.

Halloween '10Outside the party in Bushwick. Photo courtesy of Ernst.

The Fiddler on the Subway

19 Oct

 How post-modern of you, subway sister.

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