Archive for June, 2004

my sign on the Times

Today, a day that will live in infamy: on this day, my hair made the front page of the New York Times. (Below the fold.)

No, I am not kidding, even a little bit.



It’s down there on the lower right. What’s that you say, you can’t see anything but the lovely and her dashing ? Let’s zoom in a little bit:


Yes, that purple smudge in the back is who you think it is. The orange smudge is .

The moral of this story: when asks you to carry her train, do it.

my commute sucks (less than yours)

When I moved to Inwood (the far northern tip of Manhattan) a year ago, one of the many things I wasn’t sure of was whether I was going to be able to continue my habit of bicycling to work. I needn’t have worried: it turns out that just recently, the city finished work on the Greenway: a (nearly) continuous bicycle and rollerblade path circumnavigating the entire island of Manhattan.

So I present to you: a few scenes from my daily commute. I can get on the Purple Pavement Eater at 204th Street, and ride all the way down to Canal Street in the mornings: no stop lights, no cars, no local trains, no waiting. It’s just about exactly twelve miles, door to door. Then at night, I turn around and ride all the way back.

It’s wonderful.

commuteWe begin at the beginning: an on-ramp to the Henry Hudson Freeway. Clearly visible: a white sign reading “Passenger cars only.” Not visible at all: a little green sign saying “Manhattan Greenway Path.”

commuteAnd indeed, when you round the bend, there is a stairwell leading up…
commute…to the northern terminus of the bike path.
commute…which you roll down, the Henry Hudson on your left, and the river on your right.
commute…past the little-used pavilion near 190th St
commute…past houses in Washington Heights, hanging out over the highway.
commuteA quick turn to the right drops you nearly straight down.
commute…to a little wooded path underneath the George Washington Bridge.
commute…which is very large indeed.
commuteThe Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge: famous childrens’ book to some, morning landmark to others.
commuteFrom here on out, the path proceeds almost entirely along the Hudson river.
commuteIn the mornings, it’s largely deserted, except for me and a few fishermen.
commuteAt 140th St., Hudson River Park technically ends, and the path takes a quick detour around a water treatment plant.
commuteThe path continues for a few blocks on a service road behind the plant; this is the only truly sketchy bit.
commuteJust above 135th St. and the Harlem Fairway supermarket, the path makes its only (and brief) detour onto surface roads, underneath the elevated highway.
commutePast the Fairway, you jog back to the river, where the dedicated path picks up.
commuteThis portion of the path is called the “Cherry Walk”, and is in fact lined with cherry trees that, in early spring, carpet the path with blossoms.
commuteYou can see the tower of Columbia’s seminary in the distance.
commuteThe path is usually feet from the water.
commuteNot quite to 96th St.
commuteThe view across the river.
commuteNear 102nd St, the path becomes part of the pedestrian promenade near the boat basin.
commuteAround 99th, the path briefly heads uphill and merges into the park walkway.
commute…then dips back down to the riverside as you approach the boat basin…
commute…where, shockingly enough, there are boats.
commute…and more boats.
commuteEntrance to the marina at 96th.
commuteThe remainder of the promenade.
commuteNear 86th St., the path moves behind the park, underneath the highway…
commute…and then takes a quick detour around some construction…
commute…to emerge beside West Street near 60th.
commuteAlmost visible in the background here: an enormous cruise ship. (Really.)
commuteDown West Street, past the docks; traffic on the path picks up a lot here, especially when ships are docked. (Mind the drunken sailors during fleet week!)
commuteMmmmmm…bagels. Note that in most cases you are moving faster than this traffic.
commuteNear 55th St., the USS Intrepid naval museum.
commutePassing under the Intrepid.
commuteNear 42nd Street, passing the famous CIRCLE LINE tour boat. (You have to type it in boldface, `cause the boat operators always say it that way.)
commutePast the most-watched building in Manhattan: the Chinese Embassy.
commuteStreet on the left, path in the middle, stuff and pedestrians on the right.
commutePassing the Javits convention center near 30th.
commuteNear 22nd, the path gets all swoopy to avoid the Chelsea Piers.
commuteAn accurate description of (a) West Chelsea’s daytime businesses or (b) West Chelsea’s evening nightclubs? Well, both really.
commuteEvery once in a while, special bicycle traffic lights flash red. Not that anyone pays attention.
commuteA bit past Chelsea now, into the sparkling new riverside park.
commuteNot too much by way of exciting landmarks now, just a (pretty) slog through the last mile and a half.
commuteMore parkland.
commuteNew Jersey attempts to have a little skyline of its own. We are Not Fooled.
commuteAt last, our destination in sight.
commuteThe final stretch.
commuteAir exchanger for the Holland Tunnel.
commuteAnd finally: Canal Street!
commuteA quick glance back up at the way we came before heading into the office.

As a postscript, a somewhat less exhaustive set of photos from the evening ride home:

commuteThe way back: an early twilight gathers over the Hudson.
commuteExchange Place, viewed from across the river.
commuteLooking back downtown.
commuteAn in-motion photo of one of my few fellow riders.
commuteThe helipad near 26th St.
commuteThe Chrysler Building winks at us.
commuteSailboats on the Hudson.
commuteBack on the pedestrian mall near 100th.
commuteA closer view of the sailboats from the Promenade.
commuteA look up the Promenade that will eventually become the Cherry Walk; our destination is on the far side of the bridge in the distance.
commuteAnd finally, a small New York Moment: underneath the highway, next to the Harlem Fairway, a movie is being shot.

city of angles

L.A. by the numbers, so far:

Number of minutes elapsed between leaving the LAX baggage and being approached by my first cultist:Two
Number of cultists to approach me, total, while on the grounds of LAX:Three (two ISKCON, one Transcendental Meditationalist)
Number of people to tell me that I need to eat at “the Japanese restaurant on the top of the hill”:Three
Number of people who can remember the name of the Japanese restaurant on the top of the hill:Zero
Number of blocks from the Bradbury Building (3rd and Broadway) and the Disney Concert Hall:Six
Number of minutes necessary to walk those six blocks:15
Number of homeless men who tried to block my path at the corner of Los Angeles and Fourth:Six
Average temperature:74 degrees farenheit
Seconds elapsed between parking my car on Sunset, realizing that I had no change, running into a Mrs. Fields Cookies to break a $1 bill, and returning to the car to find a meter maid already writing me a ticket:60, tops
Length in seconds of the lecture the meter maid gave me on the importance of keeping a ready pocketful of change:90, minimum
Number of photos taken (so far):62

Quick impression so far: a candy-colored outer shell wrapped around a core that’s rotted straight through. Which is not to say that I’m not having a good time here (quite the opposite) or that it’s not often beautiful (exquisitely so) but it’s just hard to avoid noticing that L.A.’s suburban parts work, and its urban ones don’t, full stop. Old Downtown, the only area that really registers to me as a “city” as I understand the concept, resembles nothing so much as Bridgeport, CT or Camden, NJ (…or Siem Reap, Cambodia): the money went elsewhere decades ago, and it’s never, ever coming back.

…which is not, honestly, intended as hostile criticism, or at least mostly not: cities live and cities die, and I don’t pretend to have the background to cogently address how it happened. Mostly it’s just a little dislocating (and occasionally fun) to have my normal expectations about how to approach a place (e.g. anything in a roadside mall is skippable; look to the center for the cool stuff) turned nearly perfectly around.

More later.

a hero to most

As a nearly content-free followup to my last post: I finally ran across a Reagan obit that satisfied both my sense of outrage and my need for style. Ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not: Tom Carson.

speaking ill of the dead

Hunter S. Thompson was, I believe, born to write Richard Nixon’s obituary.

I’m not sure if any journalist alive or dead can be said to have the same dibs on Ronald Reagan: frankly, most of the American media spent the 80s in a cocaine- and alcohol-fueled haze, and there’s not a one of them who escaped untouched by shame.

But when a genuinely monstrous man passes, and the official media is dutifully reciting its pre-approved script of amnesiac twaddle, someone needs to step up to the plate. Ladies and gentlemen, Mister Greg Palast:

For my own part, I will say only this:

When I was a much younger lad in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my family played a (very) small part in helping shelter a family of refugees from El Salvador. The kids were my own age: we played together, hung out, did normal kid stuff. I had lost my father to cancer. They had lost their uncle to paramilitary death squads who yanked him out of his house at 3am in front of his family, never to be heard from again. The sound of footsteps in the hallway would wake them, screaming, out of a sound sleep. It put my issues in perspective then. It still does now.

The thugs who ended their childhood were armed and paid for by my government, by direct and conscious policy of Ronald Reagan and his administration. What happened to them was not only normal for the time and place, it was mild compared to what some suffered. They say we should only speak good of the dead. Well then: Ronald Reagan is dead. Good.

on a wing

With tomorrow being the last day of my old job, and the new gig not starting until the 21st, it’s time for my semiannual tour of the west coast: this time, with twice as much Californication! Two, two, two cities for the price of one!

June 10th (Thursday), 2:25pm PDT: Arrive SFO
June 13th (Sunday) 3:10pm PDT: Arrive LAX
June 17th (Thursday), 9:45pm EDT: Arrive JKF

The date of the SF->LA transfer may wobble a bit depending on everyone’s schedules. (Bless you, Southwest Airlines.)

If you wanna hang, drop a line to, or call me on my cell.