Monday, October 29, 2007

Perfect strangers

The mystery friend

You know that person from elementary school, whose name you can't remember and really in fact you don't remember knowing them at all, but you seem to run into them every now and again?

Today I ran into that person. This has been going on since 7th grade. I see this girl and she totally remembers me and I guess we used to be really good friends in like 1st grade. She identifies all my correct likes from when we were 5, remembers my parents' and siblings' names but for the life of me I do not have even the faintest idea who she is. I saw her again as a freshman in high school. I'd since moved into another school system but we saw each other at the hometown drug store. Again she asks me about everything; tells me what she's up to; again no clue who she is except that she ran into me in 7th grade.

I feel kind of bad that I have no clue. Someone who seemed to be so close to me and not even one memory. And I'm usually really good at remembering these things! I can remember my 3 best friends from nursery school, my teachers from all 12 years of grade school, but I can't figure out who this chick is. It's like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or something. The last time I saw her, which was about 2 years ago, I made myself promise to remember her name.

I spoke to my parents last weekend, and they had run into this girl. And now I know I'm losing it because they remember her, and told me the update -- she's married, still lives in our town, works as a graphic designer, blah blah blah. They had also given her my number. She was coming into the city and when she found out I lived here wanted to see if I wanted to hang out. Oh man. The pressure.

I figured she wouldn't call me because people don't follow through on vague promises like that, but sure enough when I got home from work there was a message from this girl, E. And much to my own shock, I called her back. I certainly don't want to be rude. We chatted for a couple minutes about our lives, then made plans to meet for lunch on Thursday. I'm kinda excited about it. It'll be like meeting a friend all over again.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This ticket scalping stuff is crap

I know I'm late to the party here, but man trying to buy World Series tickets for the games in Denver was quite the mess. My sister and I consulted by phone -- the deal was that if I could get tickets she would help me find a flight out there.

On Monday, my friend J called and asked if I would help him too. His thinking was that since I'm in New York I'd be hitting a different server than everyone in Denver. I have no idea if this is true or not but I told him I'd buy four and sell two to him at face value. Not like it mattered. Thanks to some idiot (my guess: a ticket scalping vendor) everyone got locked out. Tuesday went no better for me. I was never able to even get into the site.

I think in their reporting on the ticket sale, every media outlet missed the real story: not that the MLB's ticket system got hit by an attack, but that only 20,000 tickets were being made available to the general public for each World Series game. Coors Field seats 50,445. So where did the other 30,445 seats go? Some went to charitable organizations I'm sure. Others went to players of both teams to distribute. Still others went to local politicos (lame). Fox probably got some so they can tout whatever crappy show they want to on-camera by showing their stars in the crowd (really lame).

And the rest? Did they give them away? (yeah right) Were they all used in contests? Did the Rockies hold some back to resell on StubHub?

Yes, resell. This season the MLB struck a deal with StubHub to resell tickets through the online vendor. That's right -- rather than trying to stop scalpers, the MLB decided it too would profit from reselling tickets at artificially high and illegal prices. And the government didn't even blink!

Many states have laws specifically making it illegal to resell tickets at more than 5% above face value. You can use eBay's ticket selling tool to look up the laws in your state. But the laws are a joke. They're rarely enforced.

It's not just sporting events where this is an issue. Earlier this month CNN ran a story about Hannah Montana tickets being scalped for ridiculous prices. Now they're hurting the children! I myself got my first scalping smackdown in college. I'd waited outside the Foley's in the Fort Collins (Colo.) mall for 5 hours in order to buy tickets to U2's Elevation tour in 2001. I was third in line and really wanted floor tickets. I was in the first group let in at 9 AM sharp and it was my turn within minutes, but floor tickets for the show had already sold out. I was incredulous. I ended up buying a pair off eBay for double face value. What's next scalpers? Opera? Broadway? The saddest thing is that some seats at shows end up going empty because at some poing scalpers finally charge more than people are willing to pay, so those tickets go un-resold.

Complicit in this is Ticketmaster. They track every ticket that is sold. They have these credit card numbers. If they put a little bit of elbow grease into it by starting a task force, they could find out who these companies are and block them from buying the tickets. But the crazy demand created in part by scalpers helps Ticketmaster jack up their already ridiculous fees, so they mostly plead ignorance. They finally took one scalper company to court this year. I'd guess they want a huge pat on the back for that one. Remember back in the 90s when Pearl Jam tried to stand up to them? Ticketmaster has such a huge web controlling sales for most US venues that it's impossible for just one band, or one organization to stand up to them and make them do something.

So it comes down to the government. Until our politicians decide to make scalping illegal, or compel Ticketmaster to get off their cash-stashed asses, or make it illegal for major league teams to resell their tickets, this will continue. And it sure ain't gonna get any better.

A turn of the weather makes me sick

I've been lazier than usual this week, and it's because I'm sick. The weather finally turned a bit colder and it's been raining steadily since Thursday. I started feeling like crap on Tuesday and now I have the cough that won't go away. I don't smoke but this sore throat makes me sound like Patty and Selma.

I'm not the only one. It's been a chorus of coughing on my walks to and from the subway and work has blazed through the recent tissue order. New York City is one big germfest right now. Early in the week I kept asking myself how I could be sick when it was 75 degrees outside. But then it cooled down, and then it warmed up again, and then it cooled down again, and the cold I had almost shaken settled into my lungs for an extended stay.

On Thursday morning I happened to have an appointment with my allergist so I asked if he had any idea what I had. Probably just a virus, he guessed and suggested soup and some over-the-counter cough suppressants. I went to work and coughed the entire time. My podmate T jokingly asked me to crank it down. Or maybe he wasn't joking. I used to hate that person -- the same one who would cough constantly during tests in high school. They'd kind of go in a rhythm for awhile, and just when you start to pin the timing down they'd try to hold it in for an extra two beats until they finally erupted into a 45-second uncontrollable fit.

The gelcaps weren't really working out, so I decided to try another tactic. Tea is out -- I can't stand it. I'm not a big fan of soup either but Wichcraft makes this awesome potato watercress soup with bacon that has really kept me going. Plus it comes with two awesome breadsticks. And lots of sleeping. I feel like I was asleep more than I was awake this week.

As a result I missed some cool shit (again). On Tuesday a few of my friends went to see Stephen Colbert at the 92nd St. Y. I've watched "The Daily Show" for pretty much it's whole run and I enjoy the "Colbert Report" too. But I didn't really start liking Colbert until I saw his now infamous speech from the White House Correspondents' Dinner last year. I think his idea to join the South Carolina primary is pretty damn funny. And if it inspires a few more people to vote, so be it.

Political tirades aside, this weekend was the Breeders' Cup right next door in Jersey. And I was so looking forward to hitting it. My favorite race besides the Classic is the Distaff, followed by the Filly & Mare turf, followed by...heck, I love them all. Instead I watched the races today from home.

Tonight brings the Rockies and Red Sox in Game 3 -- go Rockies! Win one at least. Please. Speaking of things making me sick, MLB games on Fox are best watched on mute. The only good thing about the Joe Buck/Tim McCarver train wreck is that at least Buck can't commentate on NFL games on the same day as baseball games.

Friday, October 26, 2007

So that's why the subway was so crowded

It turns out yesterday's delays on the 4/5/6 line were because a robber jumped into the tunnels after robbing a streetcart on 116th St. So the the line was shut down from there to 125th St. The guy got away (the story says there are three levels of tunnels down there. Wow.). Maybe it was all just a weird promotion for the DVD release of Spider-man 3.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sardines in a tin (aka riding the subway)

I don't feel like New York City is overcrowded. But the subways sure are.

This morning the violin guy at my 6 station played "My Country Tis of Thee." I don't know why, but it sounds very forlorn when he plays it...this lonely violin that occasionally doesn't hit the right notes but sounds beautiful and tortured nonetheless.

I had plenty of time to enjoy the song over and over, because as usual the 6 train was packed. I've tried many different techniques: going to work before 8:30 AM. Waiting until 9:15 AM. The only strategy that consistently works is calling in sick.

It's not inherently a given that the subways will be crowded. Sometimes I get lucky and the train is practically empty. But all it takes is one police investigation or one stalled train or "an earlier incident" as the disembodied announcer sometimes says and the whole system gets thrown off.

When I walk into a packed station, I usually wait against the wall for all the super aggressive riders to get their trains and then step forward myself. Admittedly I sometimes I am that aggressive rider -- I force my way through the crowd; anything to make sure I get on the next train. It sucks when you're running on a tight schedule and the subways are crowded.

But I'm not the worst person. I try to put it in perspective -- I used to be this crowded for an hour on the Metro North trains when there was a problem. In comparison, this is nothing. The people that really kill me are:

  1. The ones standing outside who ask people on the train to move in a little bit. Yeah sure. because there's plenty of room in here! Oh, you mean that huge gap in the middle? We should move there??!? Hold on -- nope, there is no goddamn gap! These people are most likely at 33rd St, 59th St, or some other middle station that gets screwed. I feel for you. Now shut the eff up and wait for the next train.
  2. The ones who squeeze on the train where there really is no room. You know who you are. I really try not to do this. There is nothing worse than some hot, smelly, sweaty dude pressing into your back for a 7-stop ride. Throw in bad breath, and you've got a police investigation in the making.
  3. The ones standing by the door who do not let people off at stations. Yeah, ok, the train is crowded. And yes there are a ton of people waiting to get on. But if you are standing right in front of the door that is opening at a station, you need to get out and let the people off the train!
  4. The ones having the obnoxious loud conversation. I realize this is a personal OCD thing of mine. There certainly is no rule saying that the subway has to be silent. But I hate it when two guys start talking about who they're going to bang tonight or two chicks start talking about their gawd awful friend so and so who is always trying to make everything about her blah blah please just shut up! I don't mean to be rude, but if my MP3 player is up loud enough for other people to hear and I can still hear you, you need to shut up. Speaking of which...
  5. The ones playing their music really loud. Some of them play their music so loud it hurts my ears, and I'm not even the one playing it. There is no excuse. They're like the burbanites who have extremely loud bass systems. I don't get it.
In the summer when there are tons of tourists, I think residents do a great job of being much more patient about this kind of stuff. You can always tell who the tourists are -- they have wide eyes as they are being squished ever closer together. But come fall all bets are off and you will get packed closer and closer and closer until you become one glob that only a spoon could pry out.

Sounds yummy, right? At least in the winter, it keeps me warm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The kindness of strangers

New Yorkers have a reputation as being rude, heartless and cold. And some of it is well-deserved, I suppose. But I think New Yorkers are sweethearts when it really counts. Look at what happened during the 2003 blackout. Or after September 11th. Yeah, we're tough cookies here, but we have hearts of gold.

Yesterday I met up with an old work colleague for lunch. We chowed at Bread Bar and then decided to walk around Flatiron a bit to catch up. There was chilling in Madison Square Park. There was wandering up and down 6th Ave. After an hour W had to head back to work, so I walked him to the subway station. As we said our goodbyes, he reached for his wallet to grab his MetroCard.

Only it wasn't there. His wallet was gone. Initially we figured he left it at Tabla. But we went back and they did not have it. The maitre d' gave W a card, but when he went to put it into his pocket it fell right through. That's when we realized someone had slashed his back pocket. It wasn't totally obvious -- they'd slashed just the bottom and not a very big hole.

"Didn't you feel it when they grabbed your wallet?" I asked him. "Not at all," W replied, face in hands. Not only were his license and credit cards gone, but he'd just taken $500 cash out of the bank to put down a deposit on a guitar. I asked if maybe his jeans just had a hole but they were pretty new so he doubted it. We had bumped into a few people walking but nothing out of the ordinary. So many streets had been crossed. We retraced some of our steps but there was no sign of his wallet. Not that we really expected to just find it laying on the sidewalk. But in New York you never know.

W put on the brave face, but I was seething. Suddenly that cold-heartless reputation seemed to fit. I bought him a $20 MetroCard and lent him some cash to buy groceries. Back at work, he cancelled his credit cards and called his bank to let them know what happened. W kept things in perspective -- it was mostly the cash that was bothering him.

Then today, he got a call at work. It was the police. Someone had turned in his wallet the day before. He called me from the station. They made him identify his wallet (I asked if there was a lineup and he joked yes, he couldn't decide between 2 and 5) and once he was able to he got it back. He quickly checked inside and was flooded with relief as he found that all of his cash was still in there.

The police told him that another guy caught the crook slashing his pocket. The almost-victim grabbed the thief and started yelling at him, but he managed to wriggle free and escape...directly into the clutches of two NYPD officers who witnessed the scuffle. Ha! The guy had something like five wallets on him. W offered some of the cash back to the police, but they wouldn't accept and the almost-victim hadn't left his name.

"All of which proves my theory that New Yorkers are the best people in the world!" Native W said to me.
"Except for the guy who slashed and stole," I said.
"Nah, he was obviously a transplant."

On finding a Rockies bar in NYC

There is a sports bar for every NFL team in NYC. I only know this because friends from college who are Broncos fans (and even Raiders fans) found bars that cater to them. It's unbelievable. Seems like every NBA team has a home base too. But the MLB? Not so much.

Sure, the older teams have their fanbase in the city with a chosen bar. I have a small gaggle that wants to watch the World Series, and about half of us absolutely refuse to go to any pro-Red Sox bars. The Riviera and Hairy Monk were out. Neutral territory would be easy to find but we started wondering if there was such a thing as a Rockies bar in NYC.

We pondered for awhile over lunch. DU has a large alumni chapter, as does CU. Even my alma mater CSU has a respectable clump. And without a doubt all of us took in games from the Rock Pile or better seats at Coors at one point or another. In fact, one of my friends in college ran the JumboTron for Coors. It's a rush to be on, let me tell you. But the Rockies don't have that national appeal of the Cubs or the Red Sox or my poor sweet Yankees.

A search on the goog didn't reveal much. I asked every Colorado transplant I know. Since I don't really know any Rockies fans my email was met with mostly sarcastic responses. My gaggle didn't have any better luck. In Denver the obvious answers are Jackson's or Sports Column. I think it would be hysterical to find a large group of Rockies fans here in New York though. I am determined to find them in the city!

Receiving packages in NYC sucks!

In college, I always looked forward to getting my care packages. They always were filled with things that were bad for me like candy; things that were good for me like supplies; and things that were really good for me like generic gift certificates (aka cash).

So packages make me excited, Pavlovian style. A circle of three friends and I send each other care packages every month -- just something to make the day a little better. We usually fill them with the basic girly stuff: the latest chick lit novel, smelly candles, bath beads, and a funny movie. Nothing too serious. I've also been ordering a lot of home accessories online as I settle in.

In Connecticut we had a box on our front porch where UPS, USPS or Fedex would put our packages. The boxes that were too big would sit on the porch. No big deal. But now in the city receiving packages has become more of a hassle than I ever imagined. Since I have no doorman, I feel like I come home to the "sorry we missed you" slips once a week. The slips aren't a problem when they're from USPS, as I can just run down to the Post Office on 70th St to pick them up before work. But when they're from the UPS-Fedex-DHL trifecta, they become a pain in the ass.

For example, I ordered my space saver from Linens N Things online but when it came it was missing two support pieces. I was able to call the manufacturer directly and order the pieces. I arranged for them to be delivered at my apartment.

I don't know why I assumed that DHL would have a key for my building's front door, but I did. I figured we had double doors so like the mailman they could get into that first area and leave the package. But I was wrong. The delivery guy called me to ask if I could let him into the building. I was at work though. I asked if he could redeliver it after 6:30 PM but he could not. I ended up having to get DHL customer service to change my delivery address to work which was quite a hassle.

Since then, I've had similar dramas with UPS and Fedex. UPS was the nicest about changing my delivery address to work, but then the delivery guy delivered it to the wrong office and I had to go searching for my package. Which was really fun, let me tell you!

With these fun times in mind, I asked my chica trifecta if they could always mail my care packages through USPS so I could just pick it up at the post office. One of my pals is an environmental engineer and she's currently doing a study in rural Kansas. They get mail delivered once a week, so getting to the Post Office is kind of a pain for her. But UPS will drive out to her to pick up boxes (which is admittedly pretty damn cool of them). So this month it was her turn to send to me and she completely forgot the USPS deal. Sure enough, Friday night I came home to a slip. I called UPS and asked them to deliver to my work instead.

They did indeed change my address, but for some reason they tried delivering there over the weekend. Come Monday when I checked the tracking information, there was a note saying I'd have to pick up the package from UPS's delivery center. No biggie, I figured, until I called UPS and found out the delivery center was in middle-0f-nowhere Brooklyn. Not near any bus line. Not near any subway. Not going to work.

Now I've spent the last two days arguing with UPS about please delivering to my office when it is actually open. Yesterday I spent 4 hours on hold or getting shuffled around different customer service areas with them. I think I finally convinced them to just deliver the damn package. But all positive feelings associated with packages are now gone. In fact, I'm thinking of opening a store that just receives packages and holds them for people. I'll call it just gimme my goddamn package!

UPDATE 10/25: UPS delivered my package today and the driver actually took the time to apologize to me for the error. Then, about 20 minutes later, someone from the UPS center called to do the same. Awwww. That was really nice. They handled it right: they fessed up, and they apologized. Any hard feelings are erased that quickly.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Translating apartmend ad terms

Two of my friends are considering moving to the city. My friend D, who currently lives about an hour outside of Chicago, seems a bit overwhelmed. He emails me at least two questions a day (which I am happy to answer) and calls every other night.

Right now, his major difficulty is understanding what different terms mean. With him in mind, I created a list of terms I didn't know or understand until I started looking for an apartment:

Alcove studio - This is a studio that is either 1) L-shaped or 2) has a partial indent on one wall big enough for you to stand in. Alcove studios are great because they can help define areas in an otherwise small apartment. Sometimes the alcove is big enough for your bed. Sometimes it's only big enough to hold built-in shelves.

An example of an alcove studio.
The alcove is where the bed is.

Jr. 1 bedroom - Though legally a studio, this apartment enough of a division between the living space and a second area to have a 'separate' bedroom. If the alcove studio pictured above had french doors leading to the alcove, it would become a Jr. 1 BR. Oftentimes the living area and bedroom are divided by french doors. Sometimes a 3/4 wall (a wall that does not go all the way up to the ceiling) divides the areas. Other times there is a doorway with no door. Beware of brokers or landlords trying to charge you 1 BR rates for this type of apartment.

Loft - This means one of two things. A loft layout means the apartment is one big open space. No walls. You define the areas. A sleeping loft means the ceilings are high enough in the apartment that the landlord put in a raised nook. You use a ladder to get up there. Almost always used for a bed or storage. You can almost never stand up all the way in the loft.

A sleeping loft.

Convertible - example: 2 BR convertible. No, not the car silly. This means there is enough space in one area of the apartment to make two separate living areas. A 500 sq. foot studio that is one long room is a great example. You can use divider screens to make that 'separate' bedroom you've been dreaming of. The past tense is converted. Another buyer beware - if an apartment is listed as a 3 BR converted, that means one of the walls is not a legal wall. Be careful hanging anything from that wall, and prepare for a severe lack of soundproofing.

Galley kitchen - The good news is your kitchen is a separate room from the living area. The bad news is it's probably tight. The term comes from kitchens on ships. It's a long narrow room, usually with the walking area in the middle with cabinets/appliances on either side. In my apartment, only one side has this. The other side is a wall. An open kitchen means the kitchen is in the living area and usually eating up valuable square footage.


If only my galley kitchen were
this big.

Garden level apartment - This apartment is either on the ground floor or in between the ground floor and the basement. The good news is these apartments usually have a backyard. The bad news is these apartments almost always have critters and/or mice (if only I'd known...). Sometimes these are maisonettes, which means they have a separate entrance from the rest of the building.

Parquet floors - a wood floor pattern that resembles a checkerboard in some ways. Really popular in the 1980s, these are coming back into style.

Parquet floors.

King size or Queen size apartment - Real estate slang for bigger than normal. Often an exaggeration.

Pre-war - An apartment in a building built before World War II. These are the buildings that tend to have the high ceilings, the ornate details, etc. Mostly on the East side of the city. Post-war buildings are known for amenities like storage basements, gyms, and laundry rooms.

Oblique views - This means that if you crane your neck, you can see something cool (like the Empire State building) out the apartment windows.

Terrace - The difference between a terrace and a balcony is that a terrace is part of the roof (common in higher buildings with multiple roof levels) and a balcony is a living area on the side of a building.

Walk-up - There is no elevator in the building. I have friends who live on the 5th floor of a walk-up. Needless to say, they don't get many visitors and they're in great shape.

En suite bathroom - To access this bathroom, you must walk through a bedroom. A good number of NYC 1 BR apartments have a powder room (a bathroom with no shower) in the living area and an en suite bathroom off the bedroom.

Pied a terre - A second home. Rich bastards like to rent these out as short term rentals while they are at home numero uno. If you can find one of these, you can usually rent it for a steal as long as you are responsible and lucky.

Sublet - In a sublet, the lease holder is renting out the apartment for part or all of their lease. This means your name never actually appears on the lease. Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to this. Make sure the building/landlord/management company where you sublet allows this or you may find yourself kicked to the curb.

Sleeping the weekend away

Man, what a waste this past weekend was. My plans were so aspirational! Dance class Saturday morning; a city photography trip on Saturday afternoon/night; a date Saturday late night; gym Sunday morning; Giants game Sunday afternoon; work prep Sunday night. How many of those things did I get done? Barely any.

Friday night started off with promise. After work I went to Borough Food & Drink for dinner with 2 friends. We had been there once before for lunch with a large group from work. Everyone else had gotten the Borough BLT and I was dying to try it, so I was disappointed when it wasn't on the menu. I'm not sure if it's just a lunch item, though the waiter mentioned they'd retooled the menu. Instead, I got a $16 hamburger...it was yummy.

Their thing is that every dish is inspired by one of the 5 boroughs, and their drinks are locally brewed. I had the Crop Circle beer, which was pretty good. My friend T got the beer sampler and D tried the IPA. Boys. The Reuben got great reviews from both of them. My favorite part of the place is the decor. Our service was OK, but I'll give our man props for leaving us along for about an hour after we'd been served. We didn't feel rushed, which was nice. There is outside seating but it was too humid.

After dinner we planned on heading to Slate to shoot some pool, but we ended up at some dive on 21st St in between Broadway and 5th instead. I was OK with that. We drank a bunch and I somehow got better the more drunk I got. A fourth friend joined in and we played stripes/solids for awhile. When we were too buzzed to shoot straight, we left.

We were really close to work, and we decided to go back there to play foosball (yes, we have a table at work). I am terrible at foos because the boys are so damn competitive and I never really practice. But me and my partner A completely trounced T and D...OK, we barely won, but we still took 2 out of 3. By that time I was done. It had been a long week. The three boys went out to Earth and then hit 230 5th, another one of my favorite spots because of the rooftop garden.

I, on the other hand, went home and slept. And slept. And slept. I woke up briefly at 9:30 on Saturday morning to eat breakfast, but otherwise I pretty much wasted Saturday away in bed. That night I had a date, but instead of going out we just played Halo. I had resisted playing the game for years, but with all the Halo 3 hype I'm now finally getting around to playing it. I kind of dig it, too.

Sunday was no better. I watched as much NFL as I could take before running out to get groceries. It was probably one of my lamer weekends. I really could have used a 7-day weekend. Do they have those anymore?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Union Square is the place to be

When I first took my current job, we were located on the Northeast corner of Union Square. We were right across the street from the W hotel. God how I miss that location. It's the epitome of the city -- always buzzing, a glorious cacophony of skateboarders, libertarians, students and professionals all milling around for purposes of seeing or being seen. You have Whole Foods, DSW, American Eagle, Puma, 2 Starbucks, 7 eateries and Barnes & Noble all living around the park. Only in New York, baby.

Union Square in the 1860s...

You get the NYC-style brushes with fame. In my first month of work, I managed to twice accidentally walk through a shot of Anthony Bourdain's crew filming for No Reservations, not to be confused with the movie from last summer. It wasn't intentional, I'm just in my own head when I walk and it was just Bourdain, one camera and one assistant. Oops. The first time his crew were bastards, yelling at me. The second time we all just kind of laughed. Another time we heard a woman screaming bloody murder, so we opened our office windows in preparation to help. Turns out they were just filming some MTV promo down in the park. My co-worker and I got to cheer on Jack Black while he filmed something, and our office manager tried to keep the office dog from biting Jimmy Fallon (among others). At my old job, the closest I ever came to a brush was when 5th Ave was closed from 30th down to Madison Square Park while they filmed I Am Legend, which stars Will Smith and I believe opens next summer.

You get the outdoor markets. Without a doubt my favorite part of Union Square is the Green Market. Farmers, florists, artists and purveyors of goods from around the Northeast gather under linen tents to peddle their wares. It's a great place to unwind during lunch. My favorite tent is Vera's, where I buy potted herbs. The vendors are tough cookies and will stick it out even during all but the coldest days of the winter. The prices are not too bad and I've gotten delicious produce and bread from there.

...and Union Square today.
That's the George Washington statue
in the middle.

You get the cool events. Last winter they set up a halfpipe on our end of the square and had star X-Gamers doing tricks and stunts at night. It was pretty damn sweet, although the part that sticks out the most to me was that they had to truck in snow in February because last season was incredibly warm. This past fall there was a huge welcome festival and concert for NYU students that I of course crashed as NYC living newbie. Any time someone asked, I told them my major was 'malfunction.' Got a few chuckles. Back when I worked there, I would always look forward to the NYPD Scooter meetups on Fridays.

You get the shopping. Besides the aforementioned DSW, Puma and American Eagle, there's also a Forever 21, Filene's Basement and a Strawberry. Just west on 14th St. is a Shoemania. Really, you have no excuse for leaving the area without a new pair of shoes. You can look for whatever it is that the Virgin Megastore is selling these days, hit up Circuit City for your new LCD TV to watch the NFL on...oh wait, that's just my dream...

The place is just always hopping. I guess this is a relatively recent development (last 10 years or so) as my Aunt who lived in the city said Union Square wasn't always such a great place. But now it's one of my favorite spots. The Union Square Partnership site details upcoming events and has some nice photos. I had to run to work earlier, and I walked down to the Square en route to Whole Foods. I couldn't believe how crowded it was. People sitting on the steps at the southern end of the park, tons of people at the Green Market, skateboarders trying tricks...it was great! I bought a sandwich at Toasties and chowed in the park. Now that tourist season is dying down the whole city has kind of taken on this chill vibe.

I wish I had brought my camera, I'll have to run down this weekend and snap some crowd photos.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shopping becomes a cover event?

Lucky wasn't quite the word
I was thinking of...

I love shopping as much as the next gal. I'm cool with spending my weekends window shopping when I don't have cash just to get a fix -- to see the styles, trends and what my shopinistas are wearing. Before I lived here my galpals and I would plan shopping trips into the city during school breaks.

But there are those who take shopping to an entirely new level. Cue Lucky Magazine. Full disclosure: I actually really enjoy Lucky. They don't pretend to be some highbrow women's magazine. Their cover says it all: the magazine about shopping. Ladies, you are about to purchase 200 pages of ads sandwiched between 150 of content that are really also ads. Sign me up! Most of their clothing is too expensive for me but I enjoy picking out the styles I like and then recreating them for less. Also, they host some pretty cool events in major cities around the country. A couple of years ago I went to an Aveda/Lucky co-sponsored event and walked out with some excellent beauty products.

So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the mag created an event called Lucky Shops. It's a two-day event right here in New York City where you can shop designer clothing really cheap blah blah admission price.

Whoa...back up? Admission price? Really? Isn't this event basically a dressed up version of what Century 21 already does delivered on a shorter timetable? Isn't this a bunch of sample sales thrown together? Isn't this the rich ladies' T.J. Maxx??!? Wait, no, there is a difference! At Lucky Shops you get a gift bag! Filled with...Tic Tacs...and...Nexus...and a candle...and...something in a Chinese food takeout container. And if you're a VIP you get a nicer bag with more crap. Except the tickets page offers no info on how you become a VIP.

I kind of waffled as I cruised the site. My cynicism gave way to disregard for a moment -- maybe the admission price didn't matter. The idea of the event is cool. But then my snark returned. I would have to pay just to get in to see what's there? Lame!

How much does the honor of shopping Lucky Shops cost you? $75 in advance to shop the 'First Dibs Friday' ($85 at the door) or $40 in advance for Saturday. Nice cover charges. And what happens if you go in but don't find anything? What if they don't carry your size? Wouldn't you feel kinda dirty, like you got taken advantage of somehow?

I looked at the pictures from 2006. They showed very few of the actual items for sale, just smiling faces of the women there. The media page boasted that last year's event attracted people from 37 states. Really? I can't justify driving from across the Mississippi just for this. Maybe I'm missing something here. I just can't see the appeal.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another one bites the dust

It's demo time at CBGB...sigh.

More proof that nothing lasts forever - demolition has begun on the interior of CBGB. The place has been closed for a year but it still hurts. Love the name of the realty company - rebel rebel? Kind of leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, no?

A final remnant on the wall.


I'd seen around 10 shows there. The venue was truly nasty inside, I have to admit. Years and years of punk juice, cigarettes and who knows what else on the walls and stained into the floor. The bathrooms were disgusting. But there was something undeniably cool about the place too.

Really, the more I think about it I realize there is no nice medium-sized venue in the city. Irving Plaza is pretty tiny, Hammerstein is old, Roseland is nice but has weird columns that block some views from the back. In Denver the Fillmore was always my favorite - plenty of places to sit, a lowered middle pit and an upstairs bleacher-style venue. We need something like that in the city.

Designing conundrum

Man, it is hard making 250 sq. feet work. My captain's bed has worked out very well, but admittedly it's been the only stroke of (borrowed) genius I've had. I really want to take advantage of my high ceilings with some shelves. But you're supposed to screw those babies into studs, right? Do NYC apartments even have studs? I'm scared I'll buy the shelves, put them up and then watch as they come crashing down.

I don't really have any floor space left for furniture unless I get rid of my current pieces. I suppose that's an option, but not really one I want to explore too deeply. I like my furniture. I just want some pieces that are taller while I live in my current apartment. Work had stalled me from worrying about my lack of storage. But this week the Home issue of Time Out New York is out and of course I grabbed a copy. It contained a good amount of sound advice.

The designer suggestions for a small living space amused me though. Or maybe they bemused me? Sure, put up shelving in my alcove...what alcove? Use an iPod as your only piece of audio visual equipment? You have to be kidding. Float your furniture? Good luck maneuvering around it. I'm not sure these designers understood the concept of 'small' in New York City. The stackable chairs suggestion and double a desk as your dining room table were good thoughts.

As one of the Ikea converted, I'm currently in love with one of the workspaces they present in the catalog:

This whole area is 50 sq. feet.
Too bad that's still about 1/4 of my apartment's
total size.

Of particular interest is the Expedit bookcase on the left with the drawer and door inserts. Very cool! I like the black and white contrast, the height of the unit and...ohmigod, I completely sound like the yuppy The Narrator despises so. But I have to admit, for city living on a budget Ikea is very hard to beat.

That's not to say there are no other pieces that have caught my eye. I love this light from Design Within Reach (table lamp too) and it would make a great accent piece for behind or next to my TV unit. I'm also loving this lantern by notNeutral -- it would be perfect for my backyard. Furniture-wise, I think the Windham bookcases from Crate & Barrel are gorgeous (the desk isn't too bad either), and Pottery Barn's Graham Desk (a steal at only $1,000 plus delivery!) or Cynthia Wardrobe (cool mirror on the outside) or Chiffonier would look gorgeous.

Pier 1 was my main furniture shopping destination in Connecticut, but I have no idea what happened to their website. They went from having their full catalog online with an e-commerce component to some products online in a website that is so 1998. It went backwards in time from a pretty cool site to a pretty cheesy one. Their in-store selection has also changed for the worse, IMHO.

This weekend I'm planning to hit some of the thrift stores here on the UES. I've heard you can find some sweet pieces around here, and I don't doubt it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Say it ain't so, Joe!

'I'm thinking...meh...nah.'

When the Yankees didn't fire Joe Torre right after their first round loss, I knew they would try and keep him. When they hadn't made an offer by Monday, I was worried they were gonna make a crappy offer. At 4 PM today, I was pretty much inconsolable.

How could the Yankees do this? How can a team with a $200 million payroll insult their best manager in years by asking him to take a paycut because he had dared not to win a World Series? Does anyone in the Yankee brass realize how ridiculous that sounds to every other baseball fan? This is why people hate the Yankees.
"Well, Joe, ya done real good, but you only get us to the first round of the playoffs every year now...sooo basically we're gonna go ahead and lop $2.5 mil off your salary for that. Oh, but don't worry, if you win us a World Series you'll actually make more than you did this year! Yeah, it's our new incentives program...A-Rod'll be in it too. Every regular season home run is worth $1.75 mil, but come the postseason they're each worth $7 million. We really think this new program will help motivate the team. Oh, one more thing. We're only gonna give you a 1-year deal because we really want to go through this whole ordeal again next year. That's cool, right Joe? Joe? Where are you going...?"
I mean, holy crap! What kind of wacky weed were they smoking in Tampa? I can't imagine how they came up with a $5 million, 1-year deal with $3 million in elevator incentives and thought that would keep Mr. Torre in pinstripes. Please.

I guess the Yankees could come around, realize they're being very stupid and offer Torre $8 million a year for 2 years, apologize, hug and laugh it off as a joke-gone-horribly-wrong at the news conference as Mr. Torre grits his teeth and calls them sonsofbitches under his breath en route to wielding a 120-win revenge/please the fans season in 2008. But I think this may be it. The Torre era is over in the Bronx. I feel like my favorite teddy bear got destroyed in the washing machine. Something I'd leaned on for so long has come to a slightly traumatic end, and while there'll be other teddy bears, there will never be one just like this one. Even if Mr. Torre changes his mind it'd be like if the teddy bear went through surgical repair. The same and yet different, and not quite as comfy. Not that I would refuse it. But it's unlikely anyway.

Now Donnie Baseball becomes candidate No. 1 to step in as Yankees manager. I pity him. Not only does he have huge shoes to fill but he must also deal with the woulda-shoulda-couldas and 'If Joe were still managing' second guessing that the FAN, ESPN and YES network trifecta are probably already happily wringing their hands about. May as well just hire some hack for a year, let the Yankees suck wind through one season and when we're begging for someone else, then bring in Mattingly.

And if the Yankees don't make the postseason next year? Look out Yankees, look out...

Metapost: Google helps you search for useful blog content

While the well-known news services are great for things like, you know, facts, sometimes I want advice from the real world. Someone that has lived through the same things as me rather than reporting from behind the curtain. In other words, I want to read blog posts!

So lucky for me Google has made a blog search tool -- it's probably been around forever and I am just finding it now, but it's already come in pretty handy for finding useful apartment decorating tips and NYC shopping tips.

I really think there needs to be an official term for searching blogs - bloggle? Blunking? Blunder? Surely the Goog can come up with something.

CMJ - where indie music dreams come alive

When I was in high school, I knew of two amazing music conferences - SWSW in Austin and CMJ in NYC. Austin was a bit far at the time but in my senior year of high school three friends and I made it our goal to sneak into as many CMJ shows as possible.

The CMJ Music Marathon is a festival masquerading as a conference where indie labels and radio station music directors meet, schmooze and booze. There are panels, yes, but everyone is really there to see the shows. You pay for a badge that gets you into the conference by day and hopefully into the shows by night. Since every show is first come first served, if the venue is full even badge-holders are SOL.

Questions like can I make it from midtown to alphabet city in 10 minutes gain importance as the schedule is pretty unforgiving and the crowds make speed important. The more popular indie bands (or is that an oxymoron?) require a mix of early arrival and finesse to even get into the small venues. But if you don't mind waiting in line to gain access or waiting through bands you aren't as interested in, it pays in catching future stars in an intimate setting.

They've gotten pretty stringent about checking badges the last few years but in the 90s you could work your way into shows with a the right mix of flirting, carefully planned clothing and a smile. I didn't develop my musical elitism until college so it wasn't important to me who I was seeing, just that I was there. I believe we caught Skunk Anansie, Filter and Mos Def. My friends and I just found some radio staffers who were overly friendly and gained admission with them, even though we had no badges. It was awesome. Being in a band, I was sure I would play CMJ during college.

That didn't happen, but surprisingly I never made it to CMJ as a radio staffer either. My senior year I was station manager of my university's station, but I chose SXSW over CMJ. I'd already been to Austin my junior year for the festival and had a great time. Plus, SXSW was during Spring Break while CMJ ran over my classes. Most of the shows were scattered up and down 6th street, a much smaller radius then CMJ.

I saw over a hundred bands between my two years at SXSW and I cherish some of my fondest college memories from there - Taking Back Sunday spilling their drinks on me and my friend A by accident, offering to buy us new ones and then laughing when they discovered that we had free drink wristbands and asking us to get them drinks instead; Gavin DeGraw winking at my friend J from onstage and then crowd-diving to us at the end of his set at Antone's; late-night cruising with Copeland; and becoming makeshift roadies for Minus the Bear.

Still, with the CMJ conference happening now in the city, I kinda feel like I'm missing out. I thought that I would always be the music connoisseur I was in college but once I'd graduated I completely fell out of the inner circle. I could not even tell you who CMJ's top 10 is anymore. I caught some festival attendees walking by me the other day, with their badges flapping in the wind. I could only smile - it's one of the best experiences a college student could have. I think the music you love in high school and college stays with you forever. Long live the soundtracks of our lives.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An end to subway exit confusion

Compass decals. Collect all 128.


Upon exiting the NYC subway system, it's quite common to splat into a small mass of people trying to get their bearings. I went to 28th and Park every morning for a year and a half, and I'd still occasionally walk the wrong way on 28th upon exit.

The city is throwing us a bone, though. Right now it is running an experiment in midtown with featuring compasses on the ground that name all cross streets, so you can actually figure out which way you're supposed to go. The bad news? The compasses are in the ground, meaning more people will stop and not look where they're going.

Personally, I'm still looking forward to Google Maps becoming a GPS system that I can use on my cellphone. Turn by turn directions in walking speed? I am so there.

Moonlight bowling and the afterparty

Even though I'm only 25, I'm already pretty embittered with working in the corporate world. My last job was pretty much corporate bureaucratic hell. Before that, I worked for a wonderful group of people owned by a terrible conglomerate. So my current job has been like a little slice of heaven. I work for a small Internet boutique owned by two brilliant guys who just broke 30. When I'm not busy being envious of their brilliance and success, I'm thanking my lucky stars that I work for a company that actually gives a damn about its employees.

Not to say that my job is perfect - it's stressful and I work long hours with no overtime. I have no dental insurance. But overall I am pretty friggin happy. My coworkers are decent people! Our company is NOT constantly driven by the bottom line! We make cool websites! Our clients are pretty neat too! Sick, isn't it?

Lately work has been stretching us all pretty thin due to deadlines and the upcoming holiday season and such. The higher ups picked up on this and scheduled a fun company outing for this week. We went moonlight bowling at Bowlmor. There was typical bowling alley food (pizza, mozzarella sticks, burritos, etc.) and typical bowling beer. The lanes were lit up in electric blue and the pins ranged from yellow to orange to neon pink.

Aside from the lanes giving no curve to our shots, it was pretty sweet. There were 6 teams and I was selected as a captain. Embarrassingly, I opened with 3 straight frames of 0's. But the second game was better - I scored 122. Our team kicked some ass -- we had the highest score in two out of three games. The only weak moment came when the alley shut our games off at exactly 8:30 PM, even though 4 of the teams were in the middle of our games. Lame. The alley's excuse was that another party was coming in.

Three of us broke 100 - I'm DB.

The party broke up a little too early for some, so many of us headed to Stand after for burgers and more drinks. I have to compliment their pleasant service. I was in charge of getting us tables, and I started by asking for seating for 8, which quickly ballooned to 15. They took it all in stride, though we ended up having to split our group between two tables. After some good (though frickin' expensive) pick-me-ups a posse of 10 hopped into some cabs and rode down to Horu's Cafe for hookahs.

Horu's was in a killer location - right across from Tompkins Square Park. I'd never been there before three in our group had. They took care of ordering - an Egyptian Pharaoh hookah and a Sex on the Beach hookah. I had never smoked one before, and neither had the other two girls in the group. The waitress gave us plastic inserts to put inside the hookah stem so we weren't sharing germs. We immediately rechristened them hookah condoms.

Horu's.

I was nervous about my first time, but it was painless. Just inhale deeply, and then slowly exhale the smoke through either your nose or your mouth. The novelty of it was very cool. We sat outside until midnight, when they asked us to move inside -- we were kind of causing a ruckus. Once inside though the smoke really started getting to me, and by 2 AM I was done. J and I live close to each other, so we split a cab home. The boys stayed out until after 5 AM. Our office is half empty today but everyone seems very relaxed. It was just what we needed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The rush that is a taxi ride

Before I moved to the city, I would take a cab from wherever I was to Grand Central no problem. But since I've moved down a taxi ride has become an expensive treat.

I dream of taxis during morning rush hour on the 6 train, when the guy behind me is inexplicably bumping into my back every 2 seconds while that lady next to me keeps putting her spiky heels ever closer to my unprotected tootsies. I daydream about a cab ride when I'm carrying groceries from Whole Foods in Union Square back up to the UES or when I've made a bulky purchase in midtown that I now have to finagle through the subway entrance.

Taxis are like a roller coaster ride crossed with a go kart experienced from the gunner seat. You get in, and before you can even get your bearings you're off in a sudden acceleration whoosh. Each ride is an adrenaline-laced mix of slamming on the breaks to avoid hitting any unfortunate vehicle or pedestrian that crosses your path and the rush of flooring it to make a light.

The ride is 10 times better at night. Last night I went out to dinner and when M suggested said she was treating herself to a taxi ride, I was immediately in as well. We had gone to the Outback Steakhouse on 23rd St. Yes, it's a chain, but we had steaks, 22 oz. beers and salads for $70. Anyway, we decided we were happily buzzed and needed to avoid the subway. We flagged a cab, jumped in, and we were off!

I love taking in the sights anytime, but it's especially fun at night. We screamed past the Flatiron building, also seeing killer views of the Empire State Building lit up (though I'm spoiled because I get the same view from work) over Madison Square Park. We also saw 1 Madison Ave., a clock tower which was lit up in orange last night and looked super cool. I was tempted to ask the taxi driver to stop so I could take a picture, but by the time my brain and mouth connected we were already at Lexington.

1 Madison Ave by day...

...and by night.

Then the taxi skipped over 3rd Ave, which was bad news. Certain streets in NYC are "cross-town" streets, regardless of whether you're going uptown, downtown or cross-town. These streets have traffic light patterns designed not to let taxi drivers kill your wallet. 3rd Ave is not a cross-street to my apartment, it's also the nearest cross-town street.

So we asked the taxi driver why he hadn't taken 3rd, and he replied that he thought we'd said 1st. Oh. No problem, he said, and suddenly wheeled a U-turn on 23rd Street! M and I just looked at each other and laughed.

The best part is cruising through midtown. Tall buildings on either side really add to thrill ride experience, and the skyscrapers you blaze by that are lit up almost seem to blend together into a nouveau City of Lights art installation. It's quite amazing, and you feel as though you are going 75 MPH even when you're probably hitting 35 tops. Then all of a sudden lights turn and you're slammed forward as the taxi stops at a red.

When we arrived at my stop I was kind of disappointed. I grudgingly gave M money for half the ride, got out and watched jealously as she sped away for more. I walked into my building, opened my apartment and collapsed on my bed, my head still spinning from the fun ride. Yes, I'm easily amused, but what a thrill!

How 'bout dem Rockies!!!

I'm still pissed that the Yankees are out, but I cannot deny the wonderful story that is the Colorado Rockies. A few posts ago I said I'd never met a Rockies fan, but maybe I'll become a bandwagon-hopper! I am so mad at MLB for starting this game at 10 PM EST, but I stayed up anyway. I'll be dead to the world tomorrow, but it was totally worth it.

These games have been tons of exciting and it's wonderfully satisfying that they took out the hated Diamondbacks in the LCS. (Yes, I'm still bitter about 2001. That was the Yankees' year above all others.) Even better, it's still an Indian summer as the Tribe spanked the BoSox earlier tonight. Indians-Rockies World Series? The ratings would potentially suck but I would love it!

Actually, I hope the ratings don't suck. Because the Rockies deserve it. They had only made the playoffs one other time (1995) when they ran into the Braves train, and now here they are going to a World Series. Yes, they are an expansion team but they have to start building history some time.

I'm so tempted to by a plane ticket, find a way into the Rockpile, and watch a World Series game with my college buds -- 1 mile high. Suddenly I kind of miss Denver.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A little conservation goes a long way

I went back up to Connecticut for the weekend. My God, you can tell three boys live in that house now. Most of the furniture was mine, so the house looked pretty docile while I lived there, but now when you walk in you see a hulking entertainment center and the hulking "man table" (coffee table). And there is art all over the place that I can only describe as...appealing to male senses. Ahem.

I can't complain though because they let me do my laundry. I packed my biggest suitcase full of hamper, took the bus to Grand Central and hogged a two-bench for myself. Once I got to E-No, I walked to the house. Nice workout to say the least. P was upset that I didn't call him for a ride from the train station.

Last time I was up, I had made fun of P for having a window A/C unit. He and I argued over their effectiveness vs. central air (which the house has) until I accused him of being wasteful. He'd refused to concede at the time but I must have made a dent. Though the window unit was still in (P is firm that it saves energy...) I noticed the house's light bulbs had been changed to CFLs and they'd finally replaced the old thermostat with a modern, timed unit.

That wasn't it, either. The house plays host to a lot of parties on our awesome deck, so the boys had installed new lights like these that stored solar energy from the day to work at night. That was pretty impressive and now I want a set for my backyard. When I started my laundry I was happy to see that they'd started cleaning the lint trap more often and P said they'd switched to cold water.

In NYC another conservation-killer are the window A/C units. A lot of people are switching to Energy Star units, which is a great start. I also keep my A/C set at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It's a little less cool but it saves 18% more energy than setting it at 72 degrees, and up to 32% more than setting it at 70. I also use a fan to move the air around, and I kind of wish I had a ceiling fan to help my cause. In college I lived in a house with ceiling fans and learned that turning the fans on counterclockwise can actually push the air back down into a room, helping heating bills in the winter.

It adds up - last winter when I was in the house our heating bills were ridiculous. B and I figured out that our drafty windows were the culprit. The entire front of the house is lined with them and we were losing tons of heat. So we'd sealed them with a $4 kit. That started pushing us into conservation mode. In the bathroom, B had even unplugged his shaver. I was so proud of my boys!

It started making me feel a bit wasteful. Sometimes at night the blue glow from my laptop's power plug illuminates my whole studio. I should probably unplug it. At my last job I helped research a column about how much power technology wastes and learned some crazy stats.

For instance, you know your DVD player that is always on standby? It can push up your energy bill by as much as 8%! Same deal with your TV, your cable box, your window air conditioning unit -- pretty much anything that you can use a remote to turn on. And while it may not make practical sense to unplug these items on a daily basis, if you're going on vacation or even away for the weekend, it helps to unplug them while you're gone.

Then there are things like your cellphone charger, your electric shaver, your hairdryer or your toaster. Even though you may not be using them, if you leave them plugged in they are drawing power; costing you and the energy company money. I try to unplug these things when they aren't in use. The biggest household offender these days are the rechargeable battery, um, chargers. Rechargeable batteries are great, but when you leave the charging unit plugged in that baby continues to suck power from the outlet even if have no batteries in it. It negates the advantage.

All this technological goodness can add 35% to your energy bill over the course of the year. And it adds up - it can add $315 to the average American household bill of $900/year. It's effects roll to everything - the brownouts during the summer, rising gas costs, etc. Even tiny studio dwellers like me can make a difference.

Con-Ed has some great energy-saving tips for city dwellers. Even though summer tends to draw the highest electricity usage, winter brings its own draws from natural gas and oil. At the very least, I turn the lights off when I leave for the day and turn off my A/C. A little goes a long way.

In support of Blog Action Day.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mourning Mexx

When I was a kid, we went to Cape Cod every summer for two weeks. We always stayed at the same hotel - the Riviera Beach Motor Inn in South Yarmouth and had traditions like shopping in Chatham, eating at Arnold's, mini golf at Pirate's Cove and going to the National Seashore. I always had french toast with a side of toast for breakfast. My dad played golf at Bass River. My mom lived and died in the Christmas Tree Shops. But my favorite tradition was hitting all the dollhouse stores in Dennis, Dennisport and the area. I think this is totally a New England thing but I loved it.

We stopped going regularly when I was 14 or so, but went back one last time when I was 19. In 5 short years the place had changed so much. Our hotel had been bought out by a different chain and didn't feel the same. Our favorite restaurant in Yarmouth had closed. All of my dollhouse stores were closing or closed - I felt like I'd been robbed of some childlike wonder.

My point is things don't last forever. Especially stores. When I was in high school I used to hit a sample shop in Soho for funky clothes. I came home during Thanksgiving break my freshman year of college to find the place was gone. Friends in college asked for dinner recommendations, then came back to Colorado and told me my favorite cafe had closed. I had a favorite breakfast place at my old job. I walked by four months after I left the job and the place was gone. How do New Yorkers do it? I feel like every place I like goes away!

My favorite clothing store is no different, as I discovered. Mexx had all of two stores in the U.S. - one on 5th Ave. and one in Soho. They were kind of a bit nicer H&M, and the 5th Ave. store was located right next to H&M. I liked the European cuts and patterns, which were a bit more rockstar. They were a bit expensive but still completely affordable. My favorite winter hat is from there. I'd always squeal happily when I recognized it on "What Not to Wear." It wasn't like I lived or died for Mexx; I just liked the place.

Over the summer I tried hitting the Soho store, only to find that it had closed. I was a bit nervous - I knew Liz Claiborne (Mexx U.S.'s corporate parent) was shedding some brands but I hoped Mexx wasn't among them.

I last hit the Mexx on 5th Ave. over Labor Day weekend and I was completely weirded out by the stock. Cheap-looking tee shirts, bland cut dresses, nothing like what they usually carried. And everything was 70% off. Disappointed, I figured they were just clearing out for fall. I checked back two weeks later but the store was newspapered up. I figured I'd hit them on inventory weekend. But when two weeks later the store was still papered up, I realized something was up.

Some Internet research revealed that the store had in fact closed. I was completely bummed! No more Mexx in the U.S.? Where would I get my rockstar cuts now? The only other cuts I liked as much come from Barbara Bui and her clothes are far above my current price range. It's hard to build brand loyalty here. If only Mexx had an online store...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Do what you have to Yankees, but don't fire Joe

I feel like this has happened before...

The Yankees' 2007 season came to an unceremonious end last night with a 6-4 loss to the Indians that wasn't as close as it sounds. The Stadium was stunned into silence early and often, and two 9th inning homers turned out to be too little, too late.

I'm sure all the Yankee-haters are writhing in glee right now - I got vindictive emails from two of them last night - but Yankee fans are far more concerned with the future of one Joe Torre. With a win-or-yur-outta-heah ultimatum from the Boss earlier this week the sports media is already predicting his ouster. These are of course the same pundits who thought the Yankees wouldn't make the playoffs this year. Or last year. Or the year before. And the same pundits who predicted Torre would be a goner last year. And the year before. But I believe that if the Boss has any sane bones left in his body and if Brian Cashman has any say in the matter, they ask Mr. Torre to stay.

The Yankees are finally getting back to being a Torre kind of team, and now you want to oust him? You must be insane! Real quick, let's review the formula that worked for the Yankees in the 90s:
  • No me-first plays-hard-only-in-contract year jerks
  • Stocked farm system with talented position players and pitchers
  • A nurturing manager who showed his players respect even while making tough decisions and protected said players from the Boss
  • A team mentality that started at the top and permeated down to the bat boy
  • Players near or in their prime mixed with minimal veterans to provide leadership
  • TALENT
Now let's look at the Yankees from 2000-2006:
  • Rotating door of me-first players with huge contracts (some of whom are unfortunately still on the team)
  • Depleted farm system traded away for big-name players who proceeded to do stoogatz
  • A nurturing manager who showed his players respect even while making tough decisions and protected said players from the Boss
  • A team mentality poisoned by ring-chasing ninnies
  • Players at the end of or past their prime with as many leadership skills as my pet rock
  • Talent, though that only gets you so far
And finally this season things were starting to turn around. Goodbye, Mr. Pavsheffclemunitloftnelswells! Welcome back, Yankees farm system. Welcome back, talented youngins with names like Mr. Cano, Mr. Cabrera, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Chamberlain. This is a Torre team - minimal distractions and plenty of talent. The only thing missing is pitching. Mr. Torre has been accused of burning through arms the last few years...wouldn't you if you had his pitching staff? Even the players I love like Andy Pettitte suffered through injuries, leaving Torre with few dependable options. Do I really have to run through his pitching staffs from the last 7 years? One telltale sign is that over 70% of those pitchers now pitch somewhere else or are no longer in the major leagues.

Look, I understand that the Yankees and their fans expect no less than a World Series title every year. We fans are in the fortunate position to have some degree of reality attached to that expectation. But let's not dismiss 13 consecutive postseason appearances by the Yankees (the first managed by Buck Showalter). I believe only the Braves have had a longer streak. And in his tenure, Torre has lead the Yankees to 6 World Series appearances and 4 titles. That averages to a World Series appearance every other year of Torre's tenure. No one else in the wild card era - nevermind the modern era - even comes close.

And need I even mention that players actually like playing for Torre? With all due respect to some of the names being dropped as possible replacements, no one handles New York fans as well as he does. Sure, it would be funny to watch Sweet Lou throw 3rd base or Bobby V. wear one of his brilliant disguises after being tossed to secretly return. And yes, it would be nice to give Donnie Baseball (my all-time favorite player) or Joe Girardi a chance to run the Bronx Bombers.

But not yet. There is no way I'd let Mr. Torre leave like this, with lame ALDS exits to the Angels, Tigers and Indians. He deserves better and he's earned another chance. Any Yankees player who doesn't want him back is an idiot, and any player who doesn't want the opportunity to come back to the Yankees next season is an even bigger idiot that is probably managed by Scott Boras. If Mr. Torre decides to leave of his own accord, so be it, though it'd be a sad day for the Yankees and their fans.

Don't push Joe out (or Cashman, for that matter). Continue to fix the formula - dump the crappy pitching; trust in and build your farm system; resist the temptation to trade for the Gagne's at the trading deadline or sign them over the winter and for God sakes play like a team having fun! You play for the damn Yankees! And keep Joe Torre. Because a team is only as good as its manager, and he is one of the best.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Open House New York

I have to admit something - even though I used to work at a newspaper, I don't really read the print versions anymore. I politely refuse the AMNYs and whatever other free paper is outstretched towards me at the subway entrance. I do read The New York Times on a daily basis but only the online version.

An unintended consequence is that I miss the events section a lot, and thus I hear about events too late sometimes. So on Friday when F asked me which Open House New York spots I was hitting, my reply was 'what the heck is Open House New York'? I thought it was something like the Garden Conservancy's Open Days program where the rich open their ridiculously huge and beautiful gardens to the public for 2-3 days per year. And as cool as it would be to see how the rich live in NYC, I think a mix of contempt and jealousy would get the best of me.

It turns out Open House New York is the weekend when buildings or areas of buildings that are not usually open to the public are revealed. This has to be one of the coolest ideas ever - I'd always wondered what the inside of the Chrysler Building is like, and how the heck you get to the walkways on the windows of Grand Central. There are events in all five boroughs and many don't require reservations although it is first come first serve. Some places had accompanying tours or podcasts - I was quite surprised by the sophistication of the program. I shouldn't have been though; this is New York City.

There had been a brochure in one of last week's New York Times, so I was late to the party as usual. It took me several clicks to actually find the programs themselves on the website and I was bummed to see that many of the tours were already booked. There were still plenty of events to go to though, so I made a short list of places I wanted to hit.

I really wanted to do the Chrysler Building tour because I love deco architecture. No one else in my group was interested, but we all wanted to see The Encampment on Roosevelt island. We decided to do our own thing for the afternoon and then meet up at the Roosevelt island tram.

I made it down in time for the 11 AM tour but it was full. So I spent some time bumming around the area and lined up early for the 2 PM tour. It was pretty interesting. The tourguide was Robert Klara and he had tons of good information about the building and the area. I still can't believe the building was built during the 1920s.

Later, I met back up with my posse at the Roosevelt Island tram. The exhibit opened at 7 so we grabbed some food and then rode over. I learned something new - even though the Queensboro bridge goes over Roosevelt Island, you can't access the island from the bridge. Weird.

It was a short walk to the exhibit. There were already some people walking around when we got there, including a group of idiot teens trying to scare people. Lame. With Halloween so close there was a bit of an eerie feeling and G said it reminded him of Lord of the Rings. Each tent had a different installation meant to reflect the people of the island and patients brought to the Smallpox hospital there.

Read the NYT article or see the slideshow

There were lots of kids running around too, which I thought was kind of funny. It helped lighten the mood a bit though. Plus, the city skyline was amazing. It never gets old. And with the recent humidity, the clouds added to the spookiness. Well worth the trip.

After the trip we went back to G's apartment and watched the Rockies/Phillies game. It was a mix of Mets and Yankees fans and we were all rooting for the Rockies. I used to live in Colorado and I have yet to meet an actual Rockies fan, but maybe their convincing sweep will help establish some. Coors Field used to sell out every season but when I lived there from 2000-2004 the field was usually about half full. Last night once again it was packed to the brim - cool sight. The stadium is really nice with great amenities - I almost wished I was there. And what a game! Now if only the Yankees could get their offense kickstarted...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Of kitchens and cooking

In weightloss, they say the last 10 lbs. are the hardest to lose. I feel like this metaphor could also apply to my kitchen - the last three things are the hardest to get done.

I attempted to cook an actual meal there last weekend with pretty disastrous results. My microwave is still precariously placed on my stool. So every time I opened my fridge I would hit the microwave with my butt, almost tipping it over. Then I had to slide past it, and every time I pulled a pot off the stove my left elbow and the microwave were on a collision course. My arm has been sore all week. I've given up on the thought of cooking an actual meal until the microwave is properly installed.

Last week I ran into my non-Super who told me the new shorter cabinet for above my stove was in. I was excited - would I actually have a finished apartment soon? The contractor was supposed to show a week ago Wednesday but didn't. What a jerk.

So I was thrilled when on Thursday night the real Super told me that the contractor was coming Friday to finish my kitchen. Finally! It was girls' night out so I didn't make it home until pretty late. I was half-expecting to walk in and see no difference. When I walked in my microwave was still on my stool, and I figured the contractor was a no-show again. Drunk and suddenly grumpy, I just went to bed.

This morning I actually looked in the kitchen, and there has been some progress. The shorter cabinet is installed over my stove but the microwave is not. Instead, there is a HUGE gaping hole in the wall. The Super had stuck some steel wool in there which was nice of him. He knows how scared I am of the mouse (who by the way, maybe dead somewhere in my apartment. That'll make for a fun search in about two weeks). I hope they're coming back to plaster the hole and put up the microwave - and soon.

The new hole.

Also, my middle cabinet now had glass doors instead of the wood doors. All I can say is yuck. First of all, the glass is see-through, instead of a diffused look I was expecting. My friend J liked the look a lot but it's not my taste. Secondly, the old wood doors had been flush with my other cabinets but these doors are not quite. Since it looks like the contractor is halfway done, I'm hoping this will be fixed. I'm really hoping he doesn't think he's done because I had a nice surprise in my backyard - trash, my old over-the stove cabinet and some pipes sitting outside on my chairs. Argh. They better be coming back!

The clear glass doors.

There was also some good news. My Super had been over two nights before to help me set up mouse traps. I told him about the light in my backyard not working, and this morning I noticed he had installed a new light! That made me very happy. I can finally chill outside at night. It wasn't all a loss. In the meantime, I'm planning a small project on the other side of the kitchen galley - a homemade extra counter top with narrow cabinets. If I can pull it off, it's going to look very cool. I have to practice my jigsaw skills first.

The poor microwave - still sitting
on my stool 7 weeks after moving in.

I was hungry, so I decided to warm up some oatmeal in the microwave. As you can see in the photo it wasn't plugged in. I opened the door and the tray had been messed with - I think maybe they tried to install it? But the news got worse - I plugged it in and nothing happened. It didn't come on, nothing. Shit. Did they break my microwave?!? There aren't even words.

Logic set in, and tried another outlet. No dice. Finally I realized the circuit breaker switch must have flipped. Sure enough, it just needed to be reset. What a relief - no microwave would have been a true apartment disaster.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Renting in New York City update

Update: the average studio now rents for just under $2000/mo in NYC. Unfuckingbelievable. Oh by the way, it's still really hard to find an apartment here.

Visiting Julio

Zippy.

After Sunday's debacle at Enterprise, I've been feeling pretty bummed all week. I'm in the middle of submitting a passionate complaint to the Better Business Bureau but in the meantime my crap for storage has been sitting around my apartment eating up valuable space. Worse, on Sunday the mouse made an appearance, peeking out from below the boxes stacked in front of my closet. Oy. I felt like I couldn't catch a break.

On Sunday night I applied to join ZipCar. The application was pretty straightforward - they asked for my name, address, some basic license information and asked if I'd ever been in an accident, etc. Still, I was surprised when on Tuesday I was already approved! I'd chosen to pick my card up at their office since it was less than 5 blocks away from work. I went to the office, got my card and asked "Is that it?" with a touch of shock in my voice. "That's it," they replied. "Now go Zip!" (OK, I made that last part up.) No stupid deposits in the hundreds of dollars. No embarrassing bureaucratic red tape. Just a background check on my driving record, and voila, I was in. They even waived the application fee since I was already a Zip member through work.

I had chosen the pay-as-you-go plan since I doubted I could justify the cost of the monthly plan. To book a car, you go to ZipCar.com, find the nearest depot and choose from the available cars. There is a depot 3 blocks away from me at 79th b/t 1st and York. Nice. I decided to book a car for a few hours on Wednesday. Since it was Tuesday evening, the availability was a bit slim but there were still multiple cars for me to choose from. I was disappointed but not really surprised that no Minis were free. Instead, I booked a Scion.

Wednesday after work I headed over to the garage and picked up my car. Really cool feature - I just had to hold my ZipCard up to a sensor on the windshield to unlock the car and confirm my pickup time. This would be very handy if you lock the keys in the car...unless your purse with the ZipCard also happens to be in the car. I was not excited about the Scion until I saw it. The older versions were very masculine - boxy and kind of fugly. But this was a brand new one with more roundness up front and it was actually kind of cute. Scion is actually a subset of Toyota and this Scion looked like a mini Rav4. It had some pep too.

My biggest fear was finding parking on my street to load up my crap, but as luck would have it there was a parking spot open two buildings away. The car was small so it easily fit in the tight spot although it had a blind spot in the worst possible place for parallel parking. I was happy to find that there was enough room behind the car to open the hatch, another fear.

R and T were back to help me load up. I also learned a new game in NYC - "Are you leavin'?" aka "You pullin' out" aka let me just slide my car up right next to yours. I felt bad since parking is so tight as I told each person in succession that it would be awhile. At least everyone was very polite about it. I thought one of the drivers would curse me out, but no one did.

After we loaded up we scarfed pizza for energy. I had planned to drive the boys to the unit but the Scion was packed to the brim. So they hoped in a taxi and followed me across town to the Manhattan Mini Storage up near Columbia. I drove through Central Park - what a kick! I'd always wanted to do that.

I backed into the dock and called M. She lived a block away and wanted to come say hi. The boys started unloading my stuff onto carts provided (thanks guys!) while M and I oohed and aahed over the ZipCar. We took the shot at the top of this post in the loading dock.

"Look!" she said. "This car has a name just like Hunk did." Sure enough, the car was named Dakota. Seemed appropriate given my penchant for naming inanimate objects. We decided that the storage unit needed a name too. M had received a welcome letter from the manager of the storage complex. I read the letter and joked it was like it came from the unit itself. And that settled it - we named the unit after the manager. We were going to see our unit, Julio.

With three sets of hands to help, unloading took less than 10 minutes. After a brief rest, I drove the guys back to their apartments - it was the least I could do. Then I dropped the car off back at the 79th St garage. Easy peasy. I tapped my ZipCard on the windshield sensor again to confirm my dropoff time, and just like that I was done.

I still think the ZipCar is a bit expensive, but not having to worry paying for about gas or making sure it's at the exact same level as when I picked up the car (or tolls if I had needed to pay one) is a nice touch. Maybe next time I go up to CT to do my laundry, I'll take a ZipCar. Hmmm....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

October in New York - must be playoff time!

I'm coming right out and saying it - I'm a Yankees fan. Boo and hiss all you want. I feel bad for Willie Randolph right now - initially since he used to be 3rd base coach for the Bronx Bombers, but also because back in May everyone was thinking the Mets were a shoo-in for the playoffs while the Yankees languished 8 games below .500.

Oh, how the Yanks are underestimated every year. My opinion for the last few years has been 'I don't care if we miss the playoffs, because maybe then they'll realize that depleting their farm system and signing a bunch of me-first players isn't such a great plan!'. Luckily, Cashman stood up for himself, stocked his farm system back up and we are now reaping the benefits after only a few subpar seasons. I say good riddance to the Sheffields, Giambinos and Damons that invade the team. I'll take the Melkys, Jobas and Robbies any day.

I have to admit that I am kinda turning the corner on A-Rod a bit. Not nearly all the way though. It is a contract year after all. Hopefully this will be the cornerstone of success for the Yankees. But I hope they don't overpay to keep him in the Bronx. He deserves the MVP this year and I'm glad he doesn't get booed at home any more. He is amazing, but he's still no Derek Jeter.

Monday begins true fall in NYC - the leaves in the parks are turning, it gets dark earlier each night, and there's a chill in the air...or not. What the heck is with this Indian summer?
Will this be another year like last, where we still had 60 degree days in December? I didn't even wear a winter coat to last year's Rockefeller Tree lighting ceremony. At least I won't freeze at any playoff games I manage to get tickets for.

I got an email about the Yankees presale but it totally slipped my mind come purchase time. I was doubly disappointed to find out that they sold both ALDS and ALCS tix at the same time, meaning I'm screwed. I love how Stub Hub has suddenly become a partner with MLB. They've acquiesced to the scalpers. Lame. Sometimes the team even holds tickets back to sell at the above market value. And this is legal how?

If the Yanks make the World Series, I'm camping out at Yankee Stadium. Starting right after they clinch the pennant.