Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday's Things New Yorkers Say - Steak and Trains


Here are a few things I’ve heard throughout the last couple days. First up, Steak Man. And keep reading to hear about Crazy Train… what a week it’s been.

On the corner of Prince and Broadway in Soho:

“Yeah, I know… it’s been rough recently,” I said on the phone to a friend from work. “So anyways, one computer’s broken. And the sale racks are a mess…” Then I catch this man stop and look at me.

“Yeah… okay, well… I gotta go… But I’ll talk to you soon.” The guy is still sitting there. Staring. I pretend he doesn’t exist and hang up the phone. “Wait!” he says. Nooo… I was so close to the subway.

“Yes?” I am the face of unawareness.

“Wanna grab a steak with me at Raouls?” the 35-40 year-old inquires.

Well that’s not what I was expecting.

Whoa! Did I just find a sugar daddy? Is that how it works in this city? You just stand on the street, look a little pathetic, and voila! Dinner arrives at your feet. Too bad I wasn’t interested. Nor do I particularly enjoy steak.

“Uh… ha no. No, but thank you!”

“Are you sure? Do you have somewhere your going? It would only be a steak.”

Yeah right buddy, a steak and a side of me! I know where this is going. I’ve watched both Funny Girl and Law and Order enough times to know our meeting could end two ways: you asking for my number or you trying to kill me.

Oh and...

You're old.

On the Manhattan-bound N train coming from Queens.

So two homeless people are on the train with about 6-7 trash bags. There are also two twenty-somethings who don't appear homeless, but have fallen asleep on top of each other. Not particularly anything out of the ordinary as isolated events, but all together it’s a bit much to walk into on the subway at 10am.

Next an extremely tall man boards the train at Lexington. He is talking to himself, and then about 3 minutes later begins to sing something in a low, soulful voice.

Alright. I’m now pulling out my headphones. But not soon enough! Because suddenly a man with a guitar hops onto our train and begins singing something in a different language.

Our car has become officially ridiculous. It’s apparent that out of the eight people in my section, me and one other person are simply trying to get to work. But instead, we are sitting in trash bags, and being serenaded by two different singers. Whatever. It’s not a problem. Until…

We finally reach Crazy Train status.

Seven trash bags, two sleeping twenty-somethings, one soulful singer, one guitar player – and then a mariachi band joins us! And if you’ve ever visited me in NYC, you know the mariachi band is my least favorite subway performance because that accordion gets all up in my grill.

Every time.

I mean really, it was like singing the 12 Days of Christmas trying to recount all the people surrounding me. I could have kissed that dirty ol’ subway ground by the time I reached Times Square.

But then again, I kind of loved it.

********

My mom and sister were visiting for a school trip this weekend, so I got to reap all the touristy benefits, which included: Seeing Memphis on Broadway (amazing!), doing a behind-the-sceens Radio City Music Hall Tour, and going on Top of The Rock - basically everything I could never afford to do.

Mid-town Manhattan is not my favorite place to be, particularly on the weekend. But this was quite enjoyable.

Radio City near Rockefeller Plaza

Inside the music hall

My sister, Grace, sitting in the awesome 1930s "lady's lounge."

Powder Room

The city skyline from Top of The Rock

Cold, but beautiful.

Sweet elevator that takes you up. And I totally pretended I was a tour guide.. hehe.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Astoria Fire - Flo Cafe Up In Smoke

I stood in front of the charred skeleton of a building.

Every window was busted and black, with shards of triangle-shaped glass shining menacingly in the streetlights, like the teeth of a monster. The police had taped off the sidewalk, and were still directing traffic at 10pm. But the smell of fire didn’t linger in the air – it only smelt like a cold winter’s night.

Astoria had changed while I’d been gone.

This morning I rushed frantically to work and, because of construction, walked to a different subway station. With my route change I missed the burning restaurant and apartment building, leaving me quite dumbfounded upon my return to Astoria.

I sat there staring at the mess of blacked boards and brick. This was the second fire I’d witnessed in a week, leading my overactive imagination to wonder… were they connected? What had occurred earlier this morning? How long did the fire burn and was anyone injured?

Explanation came in the form of an over-weight middle-aged woman with an accent.

She walked over to the scene with a man trailing closely behind her. “Jesus Chri…Yeah, this had to be what they were talking about this morning.” The man nodded, “Yep. 1000 percent.”

I glanced at the woman, then back at the building. She leaned slightly towards me. I knew I wouldn’t even have to ask about the fire because the answers were about to fall from her lips.

“Happened this morning,” she said with a distinctive boroughs accent. I’m not sure why people always begin talking to me, but I don’t mind. Usually I’m curious about what they have to say, and today was the epitome of that situation.

“Really?” I replied. “How did I miss this whole…” and then suddenly I trailed off, remembering my rush to the other subway station.

“Started burning ‘round 7:30 this morning” Explanation stated, lighting a cigarette. “Yep, right around 7:30.” “Oh my gosh,” I said looking at her and then back at the old corner café, now unrecognizable.

“They say it started in the kitchen. And you know what they say about fires that start in a kitchen…” Explanation takes a heavy drag.

Actually, I don’t know what they say about fires that start in a kitchen, or any other fire for that matter.

She reads my blank face.

‘You know that’s when they’re trying to collect insurance,” she half-whispers. Then Explanation exhaled a halo of cigarette smoke, dropping her voice even lower. “I’m not saying that’s what they’re doing, you know? I hope it’s not what they’re doing… I really hope it’s not.”

“Yeah… me too. Thanks,” I say. Explanation continues her walk down the street.

I stand a little longer, taking in the winter breeze. When it gets too cold, I move from my rooted position and walk up the block, unsure of my emotions. Sad for the families displaced, curious about the situation, and regretful for future summer nights that will never be spent in that café. For me – for anyone. I say a silent prayer for the families and head home, making a mental note to look into renter’s insurance.

Maybe that semi-numb, semi-sick feeling is actually one I recognize: It’s the sting of sudden and unwarranted change that bites ruthlessly like the glass teeth of a charred, broken building.

*******

(Editor’s Note: I looked up a few more facts about the fire and there is no mention or facts that prove insurance fraud. The opinions expressed by Explanation are not “The Why’s” own opinions. For the news version of the story, click the link below.)

Local news source available here.



Video Courtesy of byronpm on YouTube.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday's Things New Yorkers Say - Stand Clear

It was a busy week, and honestly I'm sure there were hundreds of quotable comments from St. Patrick's Day. But quite unfortunately, I didn't have my notebook on me during that little city-wide celebration, so this story is going to have to do.

On the N train, stuck at Queensboro Plaza

“This is a Astoria-Ditmars bound N local train. The next stop is 39th Avenue,” says the pre-recorded woman’s voice I hear everyday. Then the man’s voice comes through the speaker and says, “Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” Ding Dong.

No Movement from the train, or the doors for that matter. About a minute passes.

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” Sigh. Nothing happens. Not even a few minutes pass before we hear this mind numbing phrase SIX more times.

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” Ding-Ding Dong. Ding Dong. Then we passengers got a little remix for the next several seconds. Keep in mind; we’ve now been waiting for over 10 minutes to leave the station.

“Stan-St-Stan-S-S-St-Stand clear, S St-Stand clear of the closing, Stand, Stand Stand, St-st-Stand clear of the closing door, please.” Ding Dong. Ding-Ding-Ding Dong.

Enough! Did they have the pre-recorded man on repeat for some kind of cruel Povlov-like experiment! Gah this was horrible!

Somewhere between the second ding and the first dong a woman standing near me said through gritted teeth, “They. Are. Trying. To. Make. Us. CRAZY! Crazz-zzy!”

Ding Dong.

The doors finally begin to close. I start to laugh because I think I might actually be going crazy.

Then the unthinkable happens. Some nincompoop who had obviously not been listening to the same symphony of ding-dongs our N train had been enjoying for the last several minutes decides he must make this train and sticks his arm in the door, prompting them to whoosh open.

“Boo!!” I shout. “Oh my gosh!” the woman across from me screams. “What the hell, man!” the guy beside me says. I don’t even think Nincompoop knew we were talking about him. And we weren’t upset this man had delayed the train - we were already late! No, all our angry minds were focused the impending statement that had to be repeated to shut the doors… again.

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” Ding Dong. There was an audible groan.

And then I had two realizations. First, I had participated in Thursday’s Things New Yorker’s Say and second, Nincompoop might possibly have been some daemon sent from ding-dongy hell.


What I hear 4 times a day, at minimum.


What the train sounded like that night - minus the cute kids.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Bold Statement

May, June, July.
I was organizing binders for the new editor in chief of the magazine. After photocopying 1500 sheets of paper, 200 needed to be individually separated into sheet protectors. The top of every page read a corresponding month, and they needed to follow the pattern, “May… June… July.”
May… June… July
Soon enough I was on autopilot. My hands nimbly moved the pages, sticking them into sheet protectors, but my mind had long vacated any menial task and drifted wistfully into a land of its own.
The smallest part of my attention span was fixated on making sure the pages were in order.
May… June… July.
How many times had I said my mantra? “Hum… well let’s see,” I thought with the distracted portion of my brain. “There are 1500 pages, and three months, so that means… I’ll repeat this phrase 500 times in my head.”
Oh.
Then my mind really tumbled into Never Land, Wonderland, Whatever You Want To Call It. I didn’t want to do this! Not forever at least. Sure, sure everyone needs to have the crappy jobs and be the intern and photocopy thousands of pages. It’s good for you… and it’s humbling.
But if I knew this wasn’t a permanent setup, then what exactly did I want to do next? Literary agencies are cutthroat and under a lot of pressure to succeed with a failing book market. Publishers are struggling to adjust to the new e-technology and have long since given up as the romanticized 1960s novel-hunters we know and love. Business has beat out creativity and marketing can be more important than the actual book itself.
And then it struck me. Now, maybe you already know what I’m going to say or maybe you’ve already guessed where I’d end up. Maybe you don’t care, but you accidently read this post and now you kind of want to know that…
I want to write.
Zing! That realization hit me like a ton of 1500-page binders.
Yes, I want to write. I want to dive into worlds, true or imaginary, that you can picture and taste and breathe in like a real ocean’s breeze or warm city night. I want to take you through the streets of Newark and show you what it looks like to be addicted to crack. I want to grab you by the hand and drag you though the subways and supermarkets of New York. I want to document personalities and human character. I want to give you the world, my world, and analyze its every fiber to present you with the truest sense of an experience – to present you with an adventure.
And I want you right there with me.
May, June, July.
No, this realization doesn’t make things any easier! Maybe it makes things more difficult. But I know this: I don’t want to edit the books; I want to write them. I don’t want to find the authors; I want to be them. I don’t want to research the stories; I want to live them. And that is a bold statement my friends.
May, July, June.
Ha. How ironic.
The last three pages were out of order.

**********
Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated topic, it was Spring Break, St. Patrick's Day, and Sam's birthday this week! Here are some pictures from around town:

Crazy St. Patricks day. Notice the guy's shirt in front. Ah, one of the many dumb shirts for the day.


All of the avenues were crawling with people in green.


Had to have one of these.


A "plastic paddy!"


We spent most the night in Queens pubs because 1) there were real Irish people and 2) Manhattan was getting ridiculous


Sam's birthday!


She hosted her party at Brooklyn Bowl...


...which happens to have amazing food. We were all grossly full by the end of the night.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday's Things New Yorkers Say - The Laundromat

“So… do I like, sign up, or something?”

Flashback. Yep the idiot we are observing is me and I’m sweating in New York’s summer heat. My hair is pulled back is some frizzy ponytail, and I’m wearing my favorite tie-dye with a stupid grin on my face. It’s my first laundry day in the city.

An older, Italian gentleman comes from behind the counter. “You have been here before, no?’

I snake my head. Guess we don’t have to sign up.

“Come with me,” he shuffles toward an open washer.

“So you have quarters, yes? Okay good. They go one… two… three…” he says pushing $1.75 into the slot, counting out loud the entire time. Thank goodness the place is deserted – how embarrassing. “Six… Seven… Now. The detergent goes in here, see? Yes. Good.”

He smiles at me probably thinking I have the mental capacity of a four-year-old. Never the less, I am grateful for his demonstration and now understand that you, in fact, do not have to “sign up” for anything at the Laundromat.

Coin jar that Kelley gave me for laundry money.

Flash-forward. It’s been seven months (and you really don’t want to know the few amounts of times I’ve been in this place – why else has it taken me so long to write about it?!). I’m patiently waiting for my wash to finish when I see him coming. “Code Blue!” I think to myself… but it’s too late. Eye contact was made. He’s talking! I can’t avoid him… Now I must unwillingly converse with a dude who thinks I might be his soul mate!

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain:

New Yorkers have always had an infatuation with serendipitous encounters. Meeting your husband in line at the grocery store, running into your next best friend on the train, striking up conversation with your soul mate…yes, you guessed it… at the Laundromat.

Thus, I have labeled the Laundromat Talkers. Here are 3 scenarios you can expect to see… because I’ve seen them.

1) The Gossip:

“So he was taking the kids… and I was like no, you know dinner is about to be ready! And the kids are all we wanna do this… we wanna do that… you know?”

“Oh I SO know. That isn’t fair. You have any kids?” The woman randomly turns and asks me like she knew I was listening. I say no.

“Just wait!” Her northern accent still rings in my ears.

I sure as HECK better not me doing me AND my children’s laundry here. Kill… me… slowly…

2) The Guy You Really Don’t Want To Talk To (aka Code Blue):

I catch someone looking at me. “Are you using that washer again?” He has another load to do, with Blue Boxers sitting on the top of his pile. There’s an open washer two machines down, but apparently he wants mine.

No. Do you see any other clothes? Still, I guess it’s polite to ask.

I just shake my head and give a half-smile. A moment or so passes.

“So… do you come here often?” Blue Boxers asks with a silly grin.

Probably not as often as I should. But what kind of question is that anyways? Yes I come here on the occasion. Do you really want to talk right now? I look gross and you can currently see my unmentionables in the spin cycle.

“Yeah, uh…when I need to, you know.

He laughs too hard at my stupid comment. “Yeah, yeah... Is it always this crowded on Sunday?”

In and out Blue Boxers. That’s all I’m trying to do. Get in. Then get out.

“I’m not sure… I don’t usually come on Sundays…” (Never let 'em know your schedule!). Beep. My clothes are finished and I plan my escape, as he talks about detergent.

“Well hey, bet I’ll see you around, you know. At the Laundromat!”

“Sure, yeah” I smile and leave. Blue Boxers, maybe if you could have talked about anything else besides laundry, it would have been different. But alas, your last words to me were “at the Laundromat” better known as “my definition of hell.” Therefore your Blue Boxers created the term Code Blue.

And finally…

3) The Guy You Wish You’d Talked To

I’m reading.

Suddenly, a tall blonde with hair Justin Bieber would have been jealous of walks in. On an off chance, I look up from my novel and see this extremely good-looking guy, doing his own laundry (love that).

He finds his quarters. I’m staring. He puts in the soap. I’m still staring. He adds in his clothes. I’m totally still staring, though I know I should look away soon but – bam! He caught me, oh oh… I’m so caught. Eyes in book, EYES IN BOOK idiot! Okay, okay were safe.

No wait. We’re not. Because he smiled at me.

He smiled at me!! Oh my gosh – best day ever! Except, where is he going? Hot boy, wait - where are you going? No… no! He’s gone.

But it’s probably better we never spoke. He would have say something about dryer sheets and I would have said something snarky and then the whole moment would have been ruined. Now, he'll always get to be the guy I wish I'd talked to...

And sometimes that's better ;)

My Laundromat courtesy of Yelp.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

The Laundromat

For me, there is no great joy in doing laundry.

I’ve always hated it. At home, in college, in New York – doesn’t really matter where; I just despise the entire process.

But, man was I spoiled when there was a washer and dryer in my house! Add the annoying commute to the Laundromat and the “pay per cycle” system that cities live by, and you’ve got an even less appealing activity. Of course you are speaking to the girl who would rather just buy new clothes than wash her old ones… nevertheless I assure you it’s hardly a fun chore.

“Three… four… five…”

I count out my quarters. It cost between 11-12 of these valuable coins to rinse and dry one pile of my neglected clothing. For all you math-deficient readers out there who are at my level of arithmetic, that’s about $3. The cost of a bagel and coffee! I’m just saying…

So the journey begins. Pick up clothes from floor. Select clothes that look the dirtiest. Ignore jeans that have only been worn twice. Smash as much as possible into hamper. Find detergent. Grab key, quarters, and phone. Walk down two flights of stairs. Carry heavy hamper down street, turn right and go a block.

Then you fight for a washer, go home for 20 minutes, walk back and fight for a dryer, go home for another 30 minutes, walk back one more time, and finally exit quickly with clothing in hand, hoping to avoid the establishment for at least a few weeks.

It’s not too bad when the weather’s nice. In fact in can be an excuse to just sit outside and soak up the sun. But in the snow? Nope, slipping around and hoping your underwear doesn’t fall into a pile of slush is my definition of hell.

Maybe I’m over exaggerating by comparing laundry to the fiery pits of despair, but I think it’s such an inefficient waste of time with very little reward. For goodness sake, in 15 days or so you’ll be back with 12 quarters and 75 some minutes of your life wasted.

Needless to say, I’m certainly not a known presence at the Laundromat. Some people come in with loads upon loads of clothing and stay for hours, or sit, talk, and use this chore as a social outlet. I pity the poor mother with 4 children. Ugh! Hell I tell you! I am not the extrovert I claim in be in other aspects of my life when doing laundry– I simply try and get in and get out with minimal sock-lossage.

So it’s always amusing when a "Laundromat Talker" tries to conjure up conversation with this unenthusiastic clothes washer. Hence the next Thursday’s Things New Yorkers Say will give you a glimpse into the world of detergent and dryer sheets. I've even labeled my Laundromat usuals... so stay tuned peeps ;)


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Friday, March 11, 2011

"Your Booty" in Three Syllables

I know.

You don’t have to tell me.

It’s not Thursday. But I’m still going to give you “Thursday’s Things New Yorkers Say,” simply because today I have time and yesterday I did not!

I'll be better next week. Promise.

Ladies and gents, without further ado, here is the chitchat from around the city:

Waiting for the E train at Times Square to get to Martha:

A man in a Yellow Jacket is kind of circling around the platform with his headphones on, occasionally mumbling a song lyric. I think nothing of it.

“This is my song for reeeal, no doubt, See the DJ’s makin’ me feel thugged out.”

Oh great. And we’ve got a singer! These people have always annoyed me. Why do they assume we all want to hear them sing? Never the less, I’ve heard worse and louder. But I do silently curse the fact that my Ipod’s battery is dead.

“As I walk you to the dance floor, we begin to dance slow. You put your arms around me, I’m feelin’ on yo booty.”

Um. Seriously? First, he kept singing…why? Second, feeling-on-yo-booty? Are we really going to sing that right now? Uh, sir, isn’t it awful early in the morning for a booty song?

“And yo hair weave’s lookin’ kinda puuuuurty, the way you back it up on me, baby, Lord have meeeercy.”

Oh – oh no. I’m laughing… out loud. Straight up laughing. Sure, I look like an idiot too – but Yellow Jacket is now bending, dancing, and singing LOUDLY about a purty girl’s weave, while waving his hands around. Other people are beginning to stare at him. Is this Candid Camera? A joke? Please, please be a joke.

“Playaz wanna play, ballaz wanna ball, Rollaz wanna roll but I’m takin’ all, after I dance.”

Boo. Come on Yellow Jacket. That didn’t even rhyme. If you are going to MAKE me unwillingly listen to your music you sure as heck better perform up to standard.

And then is happens.

“Yo boo-o-ty.” Imagine. Booty becomes a three-syllable word. He starts off by saying it low and with a deep voice.

“Yo boo-ew-ty. Yo boo-ew-ty.” Getting louder.

Yo boo-EW-ty. Yo boo-EW-ty!” Louder and higher pitch.

“Yo boo-EW-TY. YOO BOO-O-TY!” Too loud! Too high pitch!

“YO-BOO-EWWW – EHHH….”

Yep. He cracked. His voice cracked big time. No more booty for him. The platform echoed that shameful note and I simply starred at him with a slight (vindictive?) grin. All the things that came to my mind – all the things I could have said!

Instead I just shook my head. Yellow Jacket may have had the booty blues for a few minutes, but don’t you worry about him. He was singing again before the next train arrived.

And while he annoyed me, and while I thought about yanking his earphones from his head, and then shouting “WE DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOU SING,” I refrained.

Because Yellow Jacket is a part of what makes New York exactly what it is and exactly what it’s supposed to be.

********

Pics of the Week

How's this for hobo-chic living? Our roof begins to leak...

...a lot.

Then the wind was so bad it blew over my picture frame and opened my AC unit. I was sitting in my bed and then BAM. Mother Nature invaded my room. Craziness.

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