Archive for February, 2004

cry the beloved city

One of the subtle joys of being a relative newcomer to New York is that once your immigrant status has been ascertained, you are immediately made a subject for the inevitable “New York used to be so much better back when…” rants by your native or older-immigrant friends. Of course, nostalgia for the past is hardly a unique attribute to this city, but what is a little eyebrow-raising for the recent arrival is that the locals here often reminisce fondly about how much worse things used to be.

To hear many of my friends say it, New York in the Giuliani-and-after era has had all its rough edges filed off and has been sanitized for our convenience, like some pale shadow of Seattle or Boston only with bigger buildings. The Gap and Starbucks have crushed the life out of the city, Times Square is an abomination, and you call those hookers? Kid, in my day, you couldn’t get off the train at 42nd Street without a pack of armed trannies blowing you at gunpoint…

I tend to take this all with a small grain of salt: there’s a certain ritualized formalism about the complaints that makes you suspect that they’re as much an eternal feature of life in the city as the occasional waterbug in the kitchen sink: probably 90 years ago Manhattan’s hipsters were lamenting the loss of the real, vibrant, dangerous New York of the Tammany Hall era. I’m frankly a little dubious that anyone actually was that fond of the pre-Disney Times Square, the sex workers and clients very much included. And frankly, anyone who thinks that Manhattan (never mind the other boroughs) has become a sea of faceless corporate consumerism really needs to take a small vacation in, say, Ypsilanti, Michigan for a quick shot of perspective. Plus, not to put too fine a point on it, but my social cohort is, on the whole, running headlong into out mid-30s: the city seems less hip and vibrant because we’re getting old.

Which is not to say that Giuliani wasn’t a thug, or that the current bar and nightclub regulations aren’t moderately to largely insane, it’s just that those are at best somewhat orthogonally related issues to the grand tradition of ritual kvetching about how much better things were in the bad old days.

But that all said, I have to confess that I was brought up short by the news headlines this morning. Because it seems that the Mayor of New Paltz, NY, has decided to begin issuing marriage certificates to gay couples.


(For those not from anywhere near the area: New Paltz is a tiny town in midstate New York that primarily exists as an appendage to one of the larger branches of the State University of New York.)

Okay, I could accept that San Francisco was going to beat us to the punch on this one. It’s been a long time since Stonewall, and Sodom-on-the-Bay has pretty much been the Batman to our Robin for the last 20 years and there’s nothing to be done about that. I can also accept — barely — that Massachusetts was also going to beat us as well: legally, marriage is really a state question, and Mass, being a smaller state, has a much more consistently liberal judiciary. And I’m going to completely ignore the New Mexico thing because it’s a fluke and it ruins the flow of my rant.

But New Paltz?! Has it really come to this? Have we really been shown up on the sodomy and decadence front by the pipsqueak Mayor of a town that most of us couldn’t find on a map? Have we fallen so far?

For shame!

We are going to have to take drastic action if we are to preserve our hard-earned, centuries-old reputation as a pit of sin and depravity. Mandatory gay marriage now! If we can’t force Mike Bloomberg to tongue-kiss Ed Koch on national television within a week, the terrorists will truly have won.

memery is the sincerest form of memery

(The rules: has asked me 5 questions. I’m answering them. Respond below and I’ll try to ask you five questions. [edit] Aieee! Okay, stop! No more! It’s gonna take me a day or ten to come up with the necessary number of questions as it stands right now…)

1.You get to take over the world for a day. Any changes you make during that time will stick after your gone, but you only get to do five things. What are they?

Damn the law of unintended consequences, full arbitrary steam ahead! (Note: this list completely off the top of my head. Ask me again tomorrow and get a different list.)

— Open immigration everywhere. If capital can jump from country to country in order to arbitrage labor costs, it should be perfectly legal for people to pick up and move to wherever the jobs happen to be.
— Tax exemptions for religions? Kiss `em goodbye. If you can afford to build a gilded temple (or, ahem, buy up half the real estate in lower Manhattan), you can kick over 15% to Caesar just like everyone else, and you can be just as audit-able as the next guy.
— Term of copyright: 15 years. Term of patent grant: 10. No patents on business methods, computational algorithms, or mathematical formulae (for the love of god, people).
— 90-year ban on members of the Bush family holding political office anywhere. They’ll just have to be Unspeakably Rich for a while.
— I’d make the official dress uniform of the U.S. armed forces Levis blue jeans, white t-shirts and black bomber jackets.

2. You and occasionally are my providers of fantasy for when I wish I lived in New York. The way you write about the city captures it perfectly to me, so much so that I’m both envious and completely undesirous of living there. Is there any place else that you could live and be so satisfied?

As much as I love love love NYC, I do sorta suspect that any city of a similar size in a first-world country with reasonably non-xenophobic immigration laws would probably provide me with a similar level of enjoyment. London and Paris, certainly, are in the same rank as far as being culture generators and social particle accelerators. Rome, Amsterdam and Berlin would all be “maybes.”

That said, there are lots of places where I would love to be able to live for, say, a year or two, even though I don’t doubt that they’d drive me bugfuck if I stayed any longer: Tokyo, Rio, Buenes Aires, Saigon, Bangkok, San Francisco, Seattle, Singapore, Shanghai, Madrid and Jerusalem would all fall into that category.

But I’d have to learn to make my own bagels and smoke my own salmon.

3. In a week-long period, you are able to eat at seven restaurants anywhere in the world. What are they, and why?

Oooh. I’m salivating at the thought… but I’m afraid that other than the French Laundry in California, I’m not sure I can come up with seven names off the top of my head: I’d have to actually sit down and do some research.

Well, okay, I do know what I’d start with:

— Where is Joel Robuchon currently cooking?
— Where is Alain Ducasse currently working?
— What was Tony Bourdain’s favorite restaurant in Vietnam?

That’s four restaurants in three countries already… I’d probably try to throw Moscow and Tokyo onto the list somehow, even though I haven’t the faintest idea of where I’d begin…

…and I’d probably try to track down the little wonton soup stand in Shanghai where Miranda and I had The Best Soup Ever a few years back.

4. Who do you think you are?

Just another bozo on this bus.

…I think we’re all bozos on this bus!

5. (Bonus question) Why don’t you come up and see me sometime? ;)

<Mae_West>You know how to whistle, don’t you?</Mae_West>

the road to nowhere

Here we go again: six months worth of photos dumped all at once. My housewarming, and ‘s wedding, Arisia 2004 and a buncha other stuff. And…a story:


This shot, believe it or not, is of uptown Manhattan. It’s a little hard to say for certain, but I’d guess that it’s somewhere around 189th Street and 12th Avenue…inasfar as it’s close to anything.

No, seriously.

See, back in September, when I’d just moved my ass from Brooklyn to Inwood, one of my first priorities (after unpacking the mountains and mountains of cardboard boxes) was to figure out a way to continue my habit of bicycling to work. The commute promised to be a little longer than it had been — roughly 12 miles from Inwood to TriBeCa compared to 6 from Park Slope — but I’d heard rumors that the long-under-construction NYC Greenway had finally been finished, so in theory the ride, while longer, would be down almost entirely flat ground along the edge of the Hudson River.

But as a wise man once said, there’s a difference between knowing the path and riding the path. Or something like that. It turns out that the difference is this: first, you have to find the path. That ended up being a little harder than I’d anticipated. Miranda’s ex-roomate claimed to have done it once, but her instructions were a little vague: take a right on Dyckman and then go up a flight of stairs to the actual path…and expect it to be a little rough in patches.

So on a lovely fall morning, I got up much earlier than usual, allowing myself a good two hours of getting-lost time. I took a right on Dyckman and followed it to the end, which is a little marina on the water. There weren’t any steps in evidence, but there was, in fact, a somewhat rough-looking path heading due south along the waterline. Not having any better ideas, I followed it. And followed it. And followed it.

I bet you didn’t know that there were fishing shacks along the Hudson River! The old Dominican guys in it seemed a little nonplussed to see a yuppie bicyclist pass behind them, but no matter, I pressed on… and on… It was certainly peaceful enough: all I could hear was the river, all I could see was… well, you can see it above. No cars, no people, no nothing.

After about a mile, the trail started to get narrower and narrower. Eventually, there was barely a visible trail at all, and the surrounding greenery was rubbing against my legs. I pushed on because I knew damn well that I’d been told that there would be rough trail and then stairs to the proper path…and surely there would be stairs somewhere.

Well, no: the trail took a small jog to the left and terminated at a crushed section of fence leading into the white pebbles of a Conrail rail bed. The George Washington Bridge was looming above at that point, and from above and to the left I could hear the sounds of cars on the West Side Highway. Sadly, between annoyance and nervousness, I didn’t stop to take any pictures at that point — I’ll go back and do so this Spring.

It took another 20 minutes to backtrack all the way to Dyckman Avenue and find the actual stairs to the actual bike path, which I’m pleased to report is a very enjoyable ride.

a heartbreaking tale of staggering missing the goddamn point already



Dear Idiots at The Onion®,

1. Forgotten which medium made you bigtime, have we? Let me gently remind you: those offices in Manhattan? Those retirement funds? Those adoring write-ups in Newsweek? They didn’t happen because samizdat copies of your rinky-dink college weekly paper were photocopied and handed around the country. It was your website. W-E-B-S-I-T-E. Ask your IT guy to remind you how it works.

2. I can order the print back-issue online? Great! Now, how precisely am I supposed to order the print issue offline when your search engine won’t tell me which edition the article I’m looking for is in? The whole point of search engines is that they’re supposed to find things. I know, I know, it’s confusing, they should have called them “find engines.” As long as you’re calling in a meeting with your IT staff, you can have them explain this one again too.

3. You would like me to pay money to have you physically ship me 0.2 ounces of old newsprint? In order to read four paragraphs of text that were originally published on your website? Here’s a thought: stop huffing glue.

4. Your cunning plan completely failed to prevent me from finding the actual article I was looking for, but it certainly did succeed in preventing you from realizing any advertising revenue based on it!

Thank you for your prompt consideration in this matter,


p.s. Stacey Nightmare is funnier than anyone on your staff this year.

got a hello kitty, worth about fiddy

From the “I cannot make this up” department (or “depaa-to” in this case):

bling bling kitty
A platinum Hello Kitty doll is displayed at Japan’s top bullion house in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Thirty limited edition dolls encrusted with 131 diamonds were created to mark Hello Kitty’s upcoming 30th birthday. (REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao)