Monday, November 19, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Checkpoint Charlie

I came across this strange police checkpoint on Broadway and 28th today. Two police cars parked at an angle across Broadway so that all cars had to funnel through the one lane of space between them. The police were talking to people in each car. The strangest thing about it is that there was no checkpoint at any other street nor was there anything to stop anyone from turning off onto a side street.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sadness On the Subway

Click on the pictures to read them:

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thou Dost Protest Too Much

Down the street from work there is a group of hotel workers protesting for better workers rights. They are striking and most likely with damn good reason. They’ve been out there for weeks without fail. More power to them and I hope they get whatever it is they want.

Here’s the problem.

I find it all somewhat amusing some times.

You see they have the big inflatable rat behind them. I get the rat thing… but to me it looks as if it’s rearing back to attack.

Then you have their chants… because you see, these workers don’t have the best English skills. Also some I don’t think are effective or appropriate chants.

The most common being “No justice, no peace.”

That’s all well and good but at least in this town it’s really associated more with racial protests and Al Sharpton. If you want something done, Rev. Al is probably the last person you want people thinking of.

Then there was the protest I heard last night. A white union rep kinda guy walked up and started to lead them in a chant of “No more shenanigans!”

I have to say it’s a pretty lame chant, too many syllables. Also… SHENANAGINS? Plus making people with poor English chant it? Bad choice.

So I walked by them yesterday as they started to chant, “NO MORE SCHENANAGINS!” with a giant rat rearing up behind them looking as if it was pouncing on them as their dinner.

With that sight… it’s hard not to chuckle.

But like I said… I hope they get what they want, just with catchier slogans that are more ESL friendly.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Last year around this time… maybe it was actually in August, it was a HOT night is all I remember. My lady and I went to get some ice cream from the now defunct Emack & Bolio’s that was on 7th Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets.

We waited in line and picked our selections and as we exited, we saw the strangest site I’ve ever seen in Manhattan. No it wasn’t a homeless person doing #2 in a planter talking to a cop, though that’s up there and I’ve seen it. It was… a telescope, of all things.

Now living in this city there is one thing you do not get to see.


Every time I leave the city and am in a place that is not as built up and the skies aren’t so full of light pollution from NYC, I get to see the stars and I always make the time to stop and enjoy the sight of them. Even when I go to my parent’s house 45 miles outside of the city, you still see many stars, but the glow of NYC is still on the horizon obscuring many of them.

There only one time I remember seeing stars in this city… and that was the night of 9/11. That’s because the buildings all turned off their lights and it didn’t matter because no planes were flying. The only lights I could see that night from the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights was from the glow of the rubble burning and the flashing of the emergency vehicles.

I know I didn’t do any sort of 9/11 post but I haven’t been feeling 9/11y. Honestly the politicians have used it up already and I no longer want to hear or think about it, which is sad considering the things that I saw and experienced that day.

So imagine our surprise to see a man with a telescope pointed up into the glowy, blurry luminescence of the NYC sky.

“Can you actually see anything?” I asked the man.
“I’m looking at Saturn right now. Want to take a look?” he replied.

I didn’t expect to see much. He warned me to peer in and not touch anything lest the telescope move and we lose sight of it. As I went to look in I thought briefly of my old college room-mate John who volunteered at the University Observatory to refurbish the old telescope there and try to see distant things in the night. I thought of when I was little and visiting my Uncle in Washington D.C. with my Mom and my brother Matthew. It was one of the only nights of the year that it was open to the public and it was on the grounds of the Vice-Presidents Mansion as well, making it bigger and so very impressive to a young boy. I remember looking through the massive telescope that night and seeing the surface of the Moon as big and bright as if I was looking out my window at the building across the street. We could supposedly see sights of the various moon landings but had no idea what I was looking for and was too in awe to notice anyway.
When my eye reached the lens on this muggy NYC night I expected to see a mere pinpoint of light…

But there was so much more.

I could see the rings of Saturn. I could practically count them. I could see and count at least 4 moons in orbit around the huge planet. I could see colors and distance and another world I could never dream of touching.

There are moments that make you feel small in a good way. They remind you of your place in the world and how your worries about petty things are in fact just minor worries about petty things. In the cosmic scale they don’t even exist. These moments snap many things in your life back into perspective about what is good and right and worth caring about in life and this world.

I stepped away after only looking at it for a couple seconds but lifted my eye from that lens feeling different.

I let my Lady look next and as she was looking in, others came up and asked if there was anything to see and if they could look. A line soon formed and I was reminded of how much I love this city.

I used to look for that guy and his telescope every night that I would walk by that spot after that. I never saw him again but will always appreciate this man who, with a mere telescope, reminded me that even when we don’t think we will be able to see things, they are often there if you just bother to take the chance to look.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Watch Your Step

I was walking through Tompkins Square Park the other day and as I passed by the playground I heard a little boy of no more than 4 yell to another to watch out for the lava and not to step in it.

Something occurred to me then that never had before.

Children are obsessed with lava and the fact that it could suddenly spout up in a pool anywhere at any moment.

All children. Ask any kid what they are afraid of stepping in when they are in the playground... 9 times out of 10 they are going to come back with lava.

I was terrified of it as a kid. Lava and the occasional pool of acid were underneath almost every piece of playground equipment.

Who is it that teaches us about lava at such a young age? I don't remember who taught me... but it must have been quite a frightening lesson to make me so fearful of it. I don't think it was the Bernstein Bears that taught me about it... but it may have been Richard Scary.

Murder, kidnapping, abuse, torture are nothing to little kids. But watch your step... you might not break your Momma's back but you could be melting in lava.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

MP3 Experiment

You can go to the ImprovEverywhere site and check out video and stories and other photos from the event that I participated in last weekend.

Click me.

This Is Never Good

Monday, August 20, 2007

Freeze Frame

This past weekend I did something that I've wanted to do forever. I participated in an Improv Everywhere event. Improv Everywhere is a flash mob/practical joke/performance art whathaveyou that have done some really cool experiments in the past. My favorites include having 50 people check their bags with their cell phones in them and then 50 more called them at different times to create a cell phone symphony of sorts, or when they had a ton of people enter Best Buy dressed like people who work there and just shop and hang out which caused mass confusion. What I took place in was called MP3 Experiment 4.

I got an email about it last week and the instructions were quite simple:
1. Download an MP3 from their site.
2. Don't listen to it.
3. Show up at a certain location World Financial Center before 4pm on Saturday and have a seat.
4. Wear a Red, Green, Blue, or Yellow Shirt.
5. Bring a camera or camera phone.
6. Don't pay any attention to anyone else wearing the specified shirts.
7. At precisely 4pm, press play on the file in your MP3 Player and follow the directions.

Simple instructions really.

I left from my ladies house a good half hour before 4 and figured I had plenty of time since the subway was a mere half block from me. Of course I forgot that it was the weekend and every line was messed up badly. I spent 20 minutes on the platform at West 4th Street checking out the people on the platform, trying to figure out who was going to this event and who wasn’t. I could pick out quite a few which amused me, because you could tell they were doing the exact same thing. At 3:50 I was freaking out a bit, no subways. I then saw a girl go up to 3 other people in red, yellow, and green shirts and chat them up. They suddenly left and I followed, figuring it was time to give up on the subway and hit a taxi.

I emerged from the subway and saw them getting in the nearest one. I ran and luckily found a spare cab and told him where to go. Construction abounded and I was getting frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to get there in time to see it start. We got closer and closer and I just figured I’d have to start without being there.

At 4pm exactly I hit play on the file on my iPod. After about 2 minutes of music a voice identified as “Steve” that is sitting on a cloud up above started to speak to me. He told me to stand up (I couldn’t in a cab but could see in my head all the people standing at the same time) and point to various things, such as the ugliest cloud, Nicaragua and others. My cab reached the destination just as Steve told me look for the “Lost German Tourist” and skip over to him. I ran out toward the park and could just see people streaming in, including those people that I’d seen hop a cab at from the subway platform.

After we all gathered in one place, a couple hundred people it seemed, Steve had us shake hands with one another and then take notice of the different colored checkered tiles under our feet. We then played a massive game of “Twister”. Imagine what it looked like, a couple hundred people in 4 different colored shirts, silently pointing, greeting, and then playing “Twister” without saying a word. Creepy and amazing.

We then told to follow the German Tourist again. We walked north for about 5 minutes to a grass field near Battery Park City. Again, an amazing site, as far as you could see in front or behind you it was a solid mass of people following directions. We were told along the way to give passers-by a “thumbs up” and later “hi-fives” and smiles. Some were obviously taken aback, but there were far more that were more than eager to slap hands and thumbs-up back, from a small child to some elderly people.

When I reached the grass we were told to take our imaginary dogs for a walk. People were still streaming into the park behind me walking their imaginary dogs, some stopped and pet their pups, others were enforcing basic obedience training, while still others managed to get their leashes tangled. It was hilarious mime chaos. We were then told to pretend to roller blade about the grass.

After a period of blading, most people had caught up and it was time for everyone to take out their cameras and take various pictures as ordered by Steve. We then formed a massive dartboard with the various colored shirts forming the rings, like so:

Then came Freeze Tag. Different colored shirts would be “it” and chase the others, then Steve would tell us who was “it”. We were then told to lie down and Steve’s brother Mark took over and led us through a relaxation exercise and after 36 minutes, it was over. People stood and dispersed or hung out and chatted and made friends and went to drinks with each other.

You can check out 2 flickr pages of photos, one from ground level and the other from a building top to see what it looked like… you can even see me in some.

There are going to be tons of videos and there are many flickr photosets that you can find along with others experiences at the experiment at:

It was amusing on the grass to watch the reactions of some of the people. There was a blanket of girls in their mid-20’s laying out who were too cool for school and tried their best to ignore the fact that they were surrounded by this sudden and crazy event. Some of the others started to participate though they had no idea was going on, but most just watched in amazement and amusement.

It’s amazing reading some of the stories. There were people of all ages there, families of dads and sons, people pushing strollers with their kids in different colored shirts. There were some people in their 60’s as well. Some traveled up to 5 hours just to get here from New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, all to participate in a mostly silent, color, coded game of Follow the Leader. It turned out to be a gorgeous day for it weather wise and just felt like it was the perfect thing to do on that day. It was amazing to be walking and see this army of people ahead, then twist and see more than you could imagine following right behind. It turns out 826 people showed up to participate and I don’t think a single one had a negative experience, it was hard to not grin from ear to ear while being a part of something this big.

Improv Everywhere is going to post some videos and stories later this week which I’ll link to.

I look forward to trying to participate an any events I can this next year, and I'll definitely be joining in next years MP3 Experiment, I just hope it lasts longer than the 36 minutes this years did because it was so much damn fun.

You can sign up to participate in their events at their website:

Friday, August 3, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Let's Play Fireman

I'm walking down Clinton Street and see 2 guys holding up a 20ft. tall pole that has fallen over onto a car. Then 4 fire trucks and 2 police cars come. They shut down the street. Rather than just holding the pole up, getting the cars out of the way and then letting the pole fall where it wanted to fall... they had to play with their toys for the next hour. They tied the pole into place on the ground and then (after blocking the road and allowing no foot traffic even 30 feet away from the pole) got out their crane and proceeded sent a guy to the roof. Using some rope they tied a rope from the roof to the top of the pole and then some other ropes to people on the ground so they could safely and slowly guide the pole down. Had they just let it drop where it was supposed to go and would have anyway... estimated time of 5 minutes to hold traffic, clear the car, drop the pole, get said pole out of the street and depart. Instead, 20 guys watched 4 guys tie ropes for an hour. It's like they were practicing how to save a very tall man from falling. I'm surprised no Jaws of Life were used.

Good times.

This is not Sparta... but similar to the Greeks in a way.

Manhattan is a small island. It measures a mere 13 miles long and 2.3 miles wide at the very widest part. Yet when you live here it feels massive and fractured. This borough is easily divided with its own looks and feels to each area. I feel it isn’t a cohesive city at all but a collection of City-States.

Where one might feel totally comfortable on the Upper West Side, they might not feel comfortable at all in the West Village.

This often happens to me. Most of my life in this city has taken place below 23rd Street and above Canal Street. That’s just how it is. Most of the places I like to go and the activities I like to partake in as well as people I know (that live on the island) fall within these parameters.

When I venture out of them I feel less sure of myself and less like I fit in because they are not “my” parts of town.

Years and years ago I went to a birthday party for my friend Emily. It took place at a bar on the Upper East Side, an area I never go to that was and I believe still is very “Frat boy”. I arrived at the bar and as I handed my ID to the behemoth at the door he growled at me, “Tuck in that shirt.”

“Excuse me?”

“Tuck in that shirt if you want to come in. No untucked shirts.”

I wondered why that could possibly be important when the bar was so crowded inside that you couldn’t seen below anyones belly-button height anyhow. Could it be so they could see if you had any weapons tucked into your waistband? I know gangsta rap is big with the frat boys, but that’s a little extreme to think of them whacking each other at an UES bar.

I grumpily complied because it was Emily’s birthday.

“Tuck in that wallet chain.”


“No wallets with chains on them here.”

“You are kidding me.”

“Take it off or don’t come in.”

I sighed and undid the chain from my belt and tucked the whole thing into my front pocket. With those 2 demands at the door to the bar for some reason I felt more fish out of water and unwelcome than at any other time in this city at that point.

After finally being allowed into the bar I gave Emily a hug and a “Happy Birthday” and told her that I kind of wanted to leave because I just knew I didn’t fit in. I didn’t at this bar. I had UES camouflage on (Banana Republic button down shirt) and though it was somewhat correct, I had the wrong pattern on. Every man in the bar had a plaid Banana shirt on. I wore a solid. I know it sounds petty but it is strange to look around and see everyone in the EXACT same clothes and yours are similar, but just enough that you still stand out and are visually dismissed.

I ended up staying and talking to Emily and one or 2 others I knew and watching a boxing match on the TVs at the bar.

I left that night with some sympathy though for the UES and UWS people who put on their “black” or “Downtown” outfit and hit the bars in my area. You can just feel that they aren’t from your area though they mostly look like they do.

Most people don’t end up straying from their “area” or only visit similar areas unless they need to work or shop, or visit someone there. You will find cross-over between Chelsea, LES, East Village, Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens, Greenpoint, and a few other Brooklynn nabes. Upper West Side and Upper East Side may visit each other as well as go down and spend time in TriBeCa and SoHo. In a city with such diversity you find most (myself included) stay to their own.

It’s a strange thing the NYC City-States.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sidewalks Are Not Meant To Be Eaten Off Of

Sidewalk dining is all over the city, and I’ve found it to be an ok experience so long as you aren’t in the East Village. Granted the tables are tiny and most often rickety to the point where you don’t need a shim under them to keep them level but rather a shoe, but on a pleasant day it can be nice. Drinks are the best thing to have outside; food is touchier, if only for the exhaust, mystery drips of water hopefully from a/c units, and other environmental hazards.

The worst hazard in this neighborhood though is the people. I used to enjoy sitting outside at Café Pick Me Up on Avenue A and 9th Street and reading. The best thing about it was if you got bored reading or just wanted to take a break from your book for a few minutes there is always someone interesting walking by or something happening on the street. I’ve seen a woman chase down a purse snatcher, grab her purse back, slap the guy and then walk away. I’ve seen fistfights, crazy dressers, drunks that are amusing and sad to see, you name it, and now I prefer to sit just inside and look out. One guy used to be such a regular that the café would chase him away at first sighting.

Sure the chairs are more uncomfortable outside than in, but that’s not the reason.

I learned quickly; back when I smoked, to never put your pack of cigarettes on the table while you sit outside because everyone will ask you for one. It’s mostly the homeless or drunks who hassle you for them but also the random passers-by. Annoying.

Now it doesn’t matter if you smoke or not. If you are sitting outside, chances are good that someone will interrupt you. A grubby hand might shake a cup in your face or ask you for cash. Or, someone might just come up and gibber at you nonsensically. Sometimes they’ll work the line of people outside other times they seem to just pick one person that is their new favorite person in the world.

It’s not that I don’t feel for many of the people that come up, it’s the cigarette problem. As I’ve said, if I put a pack of cigarettes on the table, I’d get asked for them incessantly. It is the same problem that I have when I give a dollar to someone when I’m sitting outside, suddenly all the people who see that the doling of a dollar come over wanting one as well. It’s tough to deal with sometimes and though your skin gets thick it doesn’t get that much easier over time.

I’ve noticed less people sitting outside some restaurants and cafes now. These are more the places that don’t police their outsides as well and help their customers to have a nice hassle free dining experience. I think others have come to the same conclusion that I have, if you aren’t sitting outside in a courtyard, it’s just not worth it anymore. This isn’t Paris or Rome, its NYC and as Disneyfied as it maybe, it’s still not Main Street USA.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wax On, Wax Off

This is the sign in front of a new nail salon down the street from me:

Monday, July 2, 2007

Park Life

In the summer of 2002, no one thought that anyone cared about the World Cup. Of soccer or footie if you prefer. I myself cared about it deeply and have always been a huge fan. Screw baseball, basketball, hockey…pretty much every other sport. The World Series shouldn’t be called the World Series if they don’t play teams from around the world. The World Cup is the largest sports event in the world, larger than the Olympics. When you consider a country like Ghana cut production at their gold mines in half by the government so that there would be enough electricity to power the nation's television sets to watch Ghana in the World Cup. Think that happens during the Olympics? Not hardly.

The World Cup in 2002 happened to be in South Korea which is fantastic, but the time zone difference made it difficult at best to watch it here in NYC, yet it seemed everyone was into it. I found myself, like others I knew, taking “World Cup Naps” between 7-11 at night and waking in order to head over to the many, and by many I mean every, bar that was staying open all night and serving beer illegally past the 4am cut off for the games. Games started at midnight, 3 am, 5 am, and 9 am I believe. Needless to say it was an interesting month.

I was in Nevada Smiths with a bunch of Brits that I am friends with getting ready to watch England play Argentina. There was a lot of tension in the bar and the Argentines and Brits were not mixing all that well even though there were 3-1 Brit fans for every Argentine. Karaoke was going on, as it does some nights at that bar and the first game had yet to begin. The last performer of the night got up to sing about 5 minutes before the game began. He was a big bloke, probably a bit of hooligan in his native country. Then he began to sing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” and I feared that ugliness would ensue. All the Brits joined in and the Argentines just kept quiet realizing how outnumbered they were. They then lost to England and it was a fantastic night.

My best night started out at an English pub in my neighborhood when England played Brazil. They were the first game of the night; the US was the last with their game scheduled at 9 am. We are settling in at the pub at midnight when we notice a tiny famous man in the bar with us wearing an extremely loud Hawaiian shirt and hitting on all the Brazilian ladies. Matt Dillon. When the England fans noticed him they changed their chant from “England” to “Dillon” and shook beer all over him. He quickly grabbed two ladies and exited quickly. England lost that game but we stayed late and had an amazing time. Later we were debating how to spend the time between the games. We decided to grab some beer and head to my place to play some Xbox to keep ourselves awake for the the couple hour interval.

We found ourselves somehow scoring a 12 pack of cheap canned beer and then heading up the street to my place. The sun was rising and everything was nice and blue with that wonderful early morning light. As we came upon Tompkins Square Park we heard some noise where there shouldn’t be any. We looked over and in the park (which was closed from midnight or so until about 7 am) there were a bunch of guys playing soccer. We watched a moment and then the 5 of us hopped the fence and went over and asked if we could play. Before you knew it my shirt and was off and we were divided evenly among the teams playing good old Shirts v. Skins.

As we started to play (illegally) in the park you could see grins creeping up and pasting themselves on everyone’s faces. Here we were, a bunch of guys in their late 20’s to mid-30’s suddenly playing a pick up game of soccer at 5-6 am in the sunrise. It was as if we were all suddenly 12 again playing a pick up game, running and almost skinning our knees on the pavement. There was a score but no one knew what it was.

Soon a police car rolled up and we paused for a second wondering what to do.

Then we knew.

We kept playing.

The cops just watched, either enjoying the game or entertained by the sight of a bunch of guys playing soccer and sweating out their beer from the night before.

Eventually a ball went astray and ended up wedging itself under the cop car. I ran up to retrieve it, figuring they hadn’t bugged us yet so what’s going to happen?

I got the ball and the smiled at the cops and they smiled back. I guess since we were obviously not doing anything wrong, why bust us for anything?

We ended up playing as the sun rose and until the park opened. Then we all headed out and when we got to my place, most people opened a beer and passed out. I stayed awake and watched the US win.

It remains one of my happiest most free feeling moments in this city. In the middle of a drunken night of fun, coming across a random game and playing and losing yourself in the moment, so swept up in the fever of the World Cup and the love of the game and the memories of it as a child.

When I think of my happiest moments in this city, that moment of walking by the game and discovering the game and then joining and playing is in the top 5. There is just something so pure about the game and our discovery and playing. I mean the circumstances we came from weren’t, but the outcome was. I think it was the randomness of it all and the ineffable feeling of playing a game that you love deeply, but also of playing the game, as if you are the child you once were.

Overheard Tourists in Times Square

Tourist Guy 1: Is that the New York State Flag?
Tourist Guy 2: Uhhh no. That's the Italian Flag.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I have noticed something interesting about my neighborhood... Alphabet City/Lower East Side. The longer the war in Iraq goes on, the more Middle Eastern techno/hooka bars pop up. They are everywhere now and there was perhaps 1-2 5 years ago. Just an observation.

Nemesis 2: Electric Boogaloo

My other Nemesis and I played a game against each other for years. A game of will power… and it was a fight to the death from which I have recently realized that I have emerged victorious. My Nemesis was a guy who stood on St. Marks and flicked a flier at me.

Not just any flier though, this one was for a sketchy tattoo/piercing place called Andromeda and their flier was a crudely rendered and printed 3x5 piece of paper with drawings of the various piercings available and what they looked like on various parts of the body. I had seen them on the ground and they were so crudely done that it was quite difficult to figure out what part was what part. I was once walking by a group of about 12 year old girls who had gotten fliered by this man and I will never forget their conversation:

Girl 1: This ones your ears and that’s your bellybutton.
Girl 2: That’s nose and ewww… penis!
Girl 3: What’s that one?
Girl 1: That’s your p*ssy dumbass!

From the mouths of babes.

For years, every day I would walk this stretch of St. Marks, sometimes multiple times a day and a tattooed/heavily pierced guy outside of Andromeda on the sidewalk would flick the flier at me with an audible “Flick!”. I would ignore him and move on.

No matter how many times a day I walked by…”FLICK!” in front of me.

I came to loath this man, for surely after years of walking by he recognized me as from the neighborhood as I recognized him.

Thus began the battle of wills. Would I ever take the flier? Would he ever stop offering it to me? Would we ever say a word? How much longer would it take him to realize I would never take the flier?

Even if I were to get another tattoo or get a piercing, this became the last place on earth I would ever get it from, just for my desire to never give in to this man.

It is a petty Nemesis but it is a battle that managed to rage on in my heart and mind for 9 years.

9 long years of walking by this person multiple times a day and every time a “FLICK!”

I got to the point of where I would enter the block and spot him and a mantra would repeat in my head, “Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.”

I walked by today with hopes of getting a photo of my nemesis only to discover him not out there. Perhaps they have stopped and he no longer torments with his crappy fliers of smudgy piercing drawings. I can only hope, for now I fear that this is another Nemesis that I have vanquished, and I am now Nemesis free.

For now.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


I was just walking by a bodega on Ave. B and past a group of 50ish Latino men when I had the chance to overhear this bit of a conversation about that poor 15 year old girl found after a year in Hartford:

Man 1: Yeah man, they found her after a year!
Man 2: She alright?
Man 3: Yeah... she alright, but she tired as fuck.

I love this city.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Silent But Deadly

It was this past Sunday evening, a perfect night for sleeping. It was rainy and cool, just after midnight. My lady and I got into bed at her place and settled in for a good sleep. The pup snuggled on one side, my lady on the other, it was about as comfortable as could be.

Then the Beep started.

It was super high-pitched and piercing then silent. A minute later another chirp that demanded we don’t ignore it.

We got up and found that one of the 2 carbon monoxide detectors in the apartment was beeping at us. I say only one of the two because the other had its batteries permanently removed due to the fact that it went off constantly… much the same as most fire detectors in the apartments of those who cook in this city. It’s often much easier to take the batteries out of the detectors than to have to constantly deal with the noise that a malfunction or smoky cooking experience causes.

We first ripped the batteries out of the thing then took it off the wall. According to the instructions on the back the beep we heard was from the batteries dying. No problem.

After rustling up some batteries we put them into the detector expecting silence. No dice.

It now was beeping at us with 4 quick beeps in short succession. According to the back of the detector, 4 beeps means vacate the premises, you’ve got a problem. The other detector gave the same result when batteries were placed in it.

I grabbed my ladies laptop and started reading up on carbon monoxide because we don’t know anything about it other than the fact we’re required to have the detectors and, well, it can kill you. According to what I read it’s dangerous in places without any ventilation. We had 3 windows open and a cross breeze. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Then my lady mentioned she was getting a headache. I stood up and felt a bit wobbly. Fuzzy headed. We thought it silly to think that there would be a problem. No one else in the building’s detectors were going off and we were in a well ventilated place so there was no problem.

Then why did we both feel “off” and wobbly? Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, nausea, confusion, and dizziness. We had 2-3 of these symptoms.

I decided at this point we were getting out fast. We were sure it was nothing but there is no reason to tempt fate. We both grabbed our things and the dog in about 5 minutes and were in the elevator headed out.

When the elevator door opened in the foyer we discovered an ass that lives in her building passed out asleep and snoring on the floor in front of the elevator door. We stepped over him and hopped into a cab and fled to my place like refugees getting out of a dangerous country.

We felt freaked and concerned. What if we left and didn’t alert anyone and someone else in the building died of carbon monoxide poisoning. My lady called 311 in the cab and was transferred around and told not to worry about it by the fire department, that her neighbors had detectors that would alert them of a problem.

When we got to my place we couldn’t sleep for a while or very well at all. Freaked out by this mystery unseen or smelled danger. What could have caused it? What was going on? Were we affected? Were our nausea, dizziness, and headaches caused by our imagination?

The next day the detectors found nothing and all is clear.

It’s just strange to think that it’s something so small and minor that could get you. If it was a fire I’d understand it and know better how to deal with the situation (Stop, Drop, and Roll then Look, Listen, Feel) because I’ve seen all the PSA’s and read enough to know what to do. Earthquake, hurricane, tornado, lightning strikes, termites, I got it, I’m covered. Carbon monoxide poisoning is too new a threat in the home for me to know or understand it other than what I’ve seen on CSI, but it’s time to learn something new.

Friday, June 1, 2007


At various times in our lives we seem to have a Nemesis. Whether it’s a co-worker, friend, or a stranger that keeps popping up in our lives, there is always someone who becomes you Nemesis.

I’ve had 2 in this city. One has been a constant and the other was just around for a couple months… but battle against each other was mighty. Or maybe it just was in my mind.

Nemesis #2 ( The Lesser)

I feel like #2 is the right place to start. There was a time when 2 friends and I were regulars at a pub quiz at a tiny bar called Fish Bar in my neighborhood. It was a simple questionnaire of 20 questions that, if you won, netted you $20 in free drinks. These drinks were usually spread about the bar afterwards and my friend Christopher and I were quite good at their quiz and won often. One night Elijah Wood was there with a friend and we helped him out on some questions… though not too much, we still wanted to beat the Hobbit.

It was at this bar that I met Nemesis #2. He was a large man that would come and do the quiz with minimum of 5 friends. He was one of those guys that was harmless but regardless seemed to rub you the wrong way. He was loud, obnoxious, and always thought his jokes (usually the same one over and over) was hilarious. Like that annoying guy that thinks that Monty Python references are still funny 30+ years later and when heard for the 7 gajillionth time. We also disliked him because he would cheat. He would text people and call people at home on their computers for answers where we abided the rules and competed with our own knowledge of useless information, attempting to use it for good and not evil.

I’ve never understood doing a quiz for $20 in free drinks with 5+ people because if you win, you won’t have won enough for a round of drinks. The amount of people and price of drinks just isn’t in your favor for a large group.

For some reason Christopher and I named him as our Nemesis and decided that we didn’t care anymore if we won the quiz… we just wanted to beat him. It was around this time that he started to make jokes at Christopher’s expense and though some snappy comebacks were exchanged (Christopher is excellent at them) that is all that became of that one. He could try to sneak and cheat and it would only harden our resolve to beat him. We did smite him often and regularly. Eventually he stopped attending the quiz and with our challenge gone… we soon did as well. Actually we stopped in order to start doing our own quiz elsewhere, stories for a later date.

Nemesis #1 coming soon… hopefully with a photo.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blow In The Wind (Adventures In Dog Walking Part III)

Two weekends ago on Saturday night at about 10 pm I decided to take the dog out. I wasn’t at my apartment, but rather the apartment of my lady, who was due to return home a bit later in the evening from a trip across the big water.

As the pup and I are exiting the elevator we notice a well dressed man crouched in the foyer moving his hands about frantically.

“Lost a contact” I thought.

It was then I could see him shoveling a white powdered substance from the floor into a tiny vial. The powder was all over the tile in the foyer and as we got closer and opened the door he stood and spun quickly, vial in his right hand.

“Thanks for opening the door,” he said, trying to play it off.

“Not a problem.”

I made sure to keep the dog clearly to the side away from the, what I can only surmise was the gentleman’s cocaine.

As I walked the dog I thought about it and figured he must have gone for his keys and out popped his drugs which then spilled all over the place. Then he decided to try to salvage as much as he could… dirty floor be damned. Hell the stuff already probably had enough chemicals in it that a little filthy NYC floor wouldn’t harm it.

Then I got to worry a bit. Harmless enough fellow, but there are a lot of dogs in the building and I started to think about what would happen if a curious dog, like Jack, the little man I was walking, was curious and sniffed it. Not good. Not good at all.

I finished the walk and got the dog safely away. I then wet some paper towels and went down and mopped it all up and threw the paper towels down the garbage shoot. I got really angry thinking about the carelessness of some people.

Then it made me think what would have been the Miss Manners protocol. Should I have said, “Pardon me, sir. I don’t mean to be rude but you seem to have misplaced your illegal substance. Would you mind disposing of it properly?” or “Yo, clean up yer coke. I don’t want any dead dogs around here.” I wish I had… but instead at first I was as embarrassed as he was in a way, running into a neighbor in an awkward situation of their own devising.

Next time I’m not going to be nice and polite the way I was raised. Next time I am in a situation like that I’m going to turn on the New York that has been built in me the past decade and make the other person feel the fool and clean their own mess.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

No Blood On These Tracks

In early February I’d had a typically great lunch with my father. It consisted of the best Lobster Roll to be found in this city (Mary’s Fish Camp) then I accompanied him to a tailor that specializes in fixing torn leather in the Murray Hill area. We even saw Samantha Bee from the Daily Show who came to pick up an item there. My Pops, being as gregarious as he is and acting as he does, joked with everyone in the place.

We said our goodbyes and I headed to the 28th St. subway stop for the 6 train downtown. I walked down the platform a bit, stopped near the entrance and leaned on a pillar and cracked my biography of Houdini that I was reading at the time.

I never stand near the edge of subway platforms. I lean. For some reason it makes me think it would be harder to be pushed onto the tracks if I lean on something. I think it has to do with my fear of ledges. I have no problem with heights so long as I can touch three points of contact. Feet down and hand just touching some other contact point… it doesn’t even need to be holding onto it. When I’ve looked at the video of when I bungee jumped 440 feet, I’m standing on the little jump gangplank suspended over a huge chasm and I have one arm extended and the tips of 2 fingers barely touching the platform behind me. I don’t know why but the tripod of touch keeps the fear away.

I was engrossed in reading about Houdini’s handcuff escapes when I hear someone cry, “Help Me!”

I look up from my book and across the tracks and could see a woman who had fallen off the platform and onto the tracks.

You could feel everyone freeze for a moment, suspended in their bewilderment of what was happening in front of them. I found myself wondering for a moment why she wasn’t standing up to climb out of the tracks as she continued to yell for help.

It was then that I noticed her wheelchair beside her on the tracks.

When she cried out again in a more plaintive wail it broke the spell that everyone had been under. About 10 men from her side and 5 from mine jumped down and started running across 4 sets of tracks and 3rd rails to help her out.

I ran over to the useless MTA worker in the token booth on our side.

“There is a lady on the tracks!” I yelled.


“There is woman in a wheelchair that fell on the tracks and is in trouble!”


This continued for a moment and by the time I got her to understand what was happening on the other side of the tracks and to even start to comprehend that maybe, just maybe doing something about it was in her job description, the men on the other side of the tracks had been able to help the woman and her wheelchair up and onto the platform.

She was hysterical and people from her side of the station tried to help her and calm her. Some wiped the dirt from her face, one man held her in a hug as huge wracking sobs came from her. Someone from our side yelled across that an ambulance had been called and should be there soon.

It was then that my train came and I got on to go home.

I thought about it later… and even looked for any accounts on the news. I half expected to see it on the local news at 5 because this was a few weeks after Wesley Autrey, “The Subway Hero” did his thing and jumped onto the tracks to save a man’s life. I found myself happy that it didn’t.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kitty Genovese, 35 Years Later.

The year was 1999. I was walking with my friend Wilson on my way to go see the movie “Dogma”. It was opening night and we were quite excited because up to this point we’d always enjoyed Kevin Smith movies. “Dogma” would change that.

Wilson and I had enjoyed a pre-movie drink and were walking acriss 14th Street between 4th Avenue and Broadway, very close to the theater. We passed the Virgin Megastore on our left as we went chatted away and then we heard it.

There was suddenly a screech of tires followed not by the crunching, rending of metal, but the solid “thump” that you know has to be either a deer or a person. Not many deer in Union Square.

Everything in Union Square went silent at that moment.

Everyone around us froze.

I looked back and could see a taxi halfway through the light at 4th avenue and 14th stopped in the middle of the intersection.

I reached for my cell phone and froze.

It was then that a thought went through my head that I’ve been ashamed of for the past 8 years.

“If I call 911 will I miss or be late for the movie?” went through my head.

I did a quick scan and saw about 15 people already on their phones and figured my call wouldn’t make EMS come any faster and we continued on our way.

Wilson told me he had seen it happen. A taxi blew a red light and took out a guy crossing the street; he’d seen the guy go under the cab. We laughed in bit in our shame because he’d had a similar reaction to calling 911.

It’s one of those things that I think about to this day and feel horrible about. I know it wouldn’t have hurt if I’d done the right thing and called 911.

It is something called the Bystander Effect. It’s a psychological phenomenon where persons are less likely to intervene in an emergency situation when others are present than when they are alone. It was coined here in NYC after the death of Kitty Genovese in 1964. She was killed by a serial rapist and murderer in the courtyard of her apartment complex over the course of 30 minutes during which at least 38 people who lived in the complex alleged to have seen it occur and failed to help the victim or call the police. No one called because they figured someone else was doing it.

I’m ashamed of the fact that my thought was of the movie and not someone else’s life. That I could be so callous and selfish horrifies me.

Never again will I fail to act and live with feeling that I could have done one tiny thing that could have made a difference in someone's life.

Years later I got to redeem myself in small part. But that is for tomorrow.

Ninja Detection 101 (Adventures in Dog Walking pt. 2)

Last fall there was a beautiful Saturday. There was a few but this one was spectacular. It was like one day of summer transplanted to the beginning of October. A sunny day, mid to high 70’s, gentle breeze off the river. The kind of day where everyone in this city forgets their problems and goes outside and just walks and grins, knowing that soon enough the cold will be here and they’d best enjoy this reminder of the way every day would be if they lived in California while they can. That is live in California with all the kick-assitude of New York City, but that is a story for another day.

My lady, myself, and Jack, our West Highland White Terrier and I had taken a stroll from her place on the west side to the park that they have built along the Hudson in recent years. It is a fantastic spot that people from all over come and walk, bike, roller blade, sun themselves, people watch, and relax. The walkways by the river were jammed and people were smiling at strangers as they walked by… and especially at Jack, who always gets a lion’s share of attention.

We had strolled him down to the dog park on Leroy Street where we had spent 45 minutes watching him run, bark, and steer well clear of the kiddie pool at that dog park for the dogs to use and were on our way back. It is a bit of a walk for the little pup especially after the play session, just over a mile in each direction in fact. He gets along pretty well on those short legs, but I tend to let him overdo it and end up carrying him about halfway home.

He was enjoying the weather though and seemed as happy as everyone else as we headed home. We were chatting and then I noticed a black form on the horizon.

“Look,” was all I could manage to get out.

We stopped and stared as the huge black V-shape of a B-2 Stealth Bomber flew low straight at us.

After being here through 9/11 any time I see jets flying over this city I stop and think. Seeing a Stealth Bomber fly low is not a sight that instills any sense of comfort. But it was such an awesomely huge and dead silent sight.

It was flying so low and we stopped, mouths agape as it proceeded to fly straight over us and south towards the ocean.

There was a couple behind us who stopped and stared too and looked at us and all started kind of laughing because it was such a strange thing to see and in person an absolutely incredible sight. It seemed so alien in this environment, so alien.

As we looked around I realized something. Other than us and this other couple, no one else reacted. Hundreds of people around us and it seemed that NO ONE had noticed it.

We stood there for a minute then moved on, strangely moved and giddy after witnessing it. Even Jack got a tad more pep in his step.

It turns out that it had just come from a flyover of Yankee Stadium and nothing sinister was happening to ruin the perfect day.

Looking up in this city is deemed to be a tourist thing to do. People who live here don’t do it enough, but they really should. I do it all the time because I’m constantly amazed by the level of detail in the old construction and stonework on many of the buildings here. I notice new things every day, gargoyles on one building, or even some of the houses that are built on top of buildings. Yes, tiny houses built on the roofs of buildings here which I would kill to live in.

“Come over to my house.”

“Your apartment you mean.”

“No, my House.” I would say with a smile in my fantasy.

Telling about spotting the stealth bomber isn’t to tell you about my awesome stealth detection abilities that would have made me ultra-popular and rich in feudal Japan. They could have used me as a Ninja detector. It’s that there is much to see when you look up.

There is history in up. You never know just what you might see.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Rudy the Robot

Friday night at about midnight I was out walking the dog. I don’t much like going out to bars and whatnot on Fridays in my neighborhood, it’s too crowded with non-regulars and you can never get a seat. One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older, if I can’t get a seat I’ll find another bar… I’m not going to stand for three hours just for the honor of giving you $5-$6 a beer.

It’s a beautiful night, pleasant temperature and the pup is even actually walking for once instead of trying to sniff every surface ever created. As we stop for one of the rare sniffs this walk I spot a group of five African-American gentlemen who are probably 40-50 years old hanging out on a stoop across the street from myself and the pup.

I hear one fo them whistle and immediately know the song.

The theme to “My Three Sons” followed by one of the guys shouting out the name of the song.

We cross to their side of the street and the next thing I hear is one saying, “Remember this?” and he begins to whistle the theme to “The Munsters” at which point all the others join in and finish the song with a laugh.

As we sniffed and worked our way closer they seemed to be trying to remember the name of the robot from “Lost in Space” and one decided it must have been named Rudy.

“Robby the Robot” I piped up.

“Oh yeah!” says one guy who then rips off the names of the rest of the flight crew/family from that old show.

One then started riffing on “Space 1999” and “Buck Rogers”. Another started to try to remember the name of the old sci-fi show with the evil Asian guy. I had already passed them but looked back and joined in with a “Flash Gordon. It was Ming the Merciless. Queen did an amazing theme song for that show.”

They laughed and as I got further from them I could hear them start to talk about how in the old cliffhanger sci-fi shows you could see the strings holding up the ships and then they started in on a favorite of mine, old Ray Harryhausen animated movies such as “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.”

One of the things I love about this city is that you run up against people and situations that strip away any preconceived stereotypes. If I had run across those guys in a movie or TV they would have been sitting, drinking 40 oz. bottles of Colt .45 and been generally threatening, as they were hanging out on a stoop at midnight on a weekend night. I love that you come across the exact opposite, some guys talking and laughing about classic TV and movies that they enjoyed as a kid to this day. I love that they were people, doing what people do and enjoying the night.

Not a bad way to spend a midnight on a Friday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Reverse Mug

A few years ago I was Mugged in Reverse... call it the Anti-Mugging. I was strolling home at about 2:30-3am with a happy drunk on from yet another evening out with some friends. It was beautiful end of June late-night/early-evening and I was listening to my iPod on my way home (not smart late at night and drunken to shut off your sense of hearing from potential ruffians) looking quite forward to the feel of my pillow upon my face.

I had just rounded the corner to my street when a cute girl of about 25 came out of a building on my street and sat down on the buildings stoop... looking a tad distressed or really drunk, it was hard to tell which, primarily because I was in my own inebriated state.

She stopped me as I walked by and asked what I was listening to. I told her that it just happened to be a bit of Jamiroquai which she then told me she liked. We talked for another awkward minute my mind racing the whole time. People don’t stop strangers on their way home at 3 in the morning in this city. It’s just not done.

This strange girl then said that she wanted to give me something. I didn’t know what to say and she shoved into my hands what I thought was maybe 3-5 $1bills crumpled together. I gave them back to her and told her I couldn’t take them. I was now very confused. She then said to me that I seemed like a good guy and that I should take it.

At this point I noticed that at the top of the stoop looming in the doorway was a man who was just watching the entire exchange and kind of smirking. To say I was unsettled by him would be an understatement. Was he orchestrating this? Was I on a hidden camera show? HBO’s Stoop Confessions?

I asked her if she was ok. She said she was… but this girl had such an air of melancholy about her that I couldn’t take her response at face value. I stole a glance at the man in the doorway and asked her if she needs to talk or anything. She said “No” and wouldn’t stop trying to force the money on me. She seemed desperate and eventually begged me to please take the money.

Eventually I relent and the half a block home. Had I not been into the cups I might have sat down and chatted with her more about what’s going on or flat out refused or at the very least checked how much she was giving me. I figured when going home that if it was just a few bucks then it’s ok, it’ll take care of breakfast or lunch for me.
I finally relent and head home. It was only when I got home and unfolded the crumpled bills that I realized what I’d been handed.

Sure, there were singles… but there were only 3 $1 bills wrapped around 4 $20s and a $10.

A random distressed girl hands you $93 at 3 am. What do you do?

I immediately ran back out to try to give her the money back because it was just way too much money to randomly accept… but she was gone. A paltry 2-3 minutes had passed and she was vapor.

It made me start to think… what did the unsettling Smirker in the door have to do with things? Was the cash counterfeit? Did I look so indigent at the time that I needed the money? Was the guy making her give away her drug money? What the hell had happened?

It was found money in a sense and didn’t belong to me so it would have been terrible karma to be selfish with it. I took that money and vowed one thing; I would not spend a penny of it on myself. Two days later I found myself in Coney Island with a group of friends and treated them as long as the money lasted. We rode the Cyclone, ate some food, rode a vintage carousel and later one of my friends and I went to a movie and out to drinks… all courtesy of this sad/drunken/mystery girl.

I guess I'll never know... but I was been Anti-Mugged... and in a way it felt stranger than if someone mugged me. At least if you are mugged you know the rules. Shut up, hand over your wallet and whatever else they ask for, and wait for them to leave, call the cops if you are so inclined. But there are no rules for the reverse mug.

I still, almost 3 years later look for her and the Smirker in the doorway, wanting to ask them what had happened and if she was ok.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Perspective Check

The evening my pretty lady and I went to the theater. Granted it wasn't Broadway, in fact it was quite far from Broadway on the Lower East Side in a Community Theater/Center that I believe at one time may have been a Church. We went to attend Point Break Live, that is an Off-Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway show that recreates the clasic Keanu/Swayze film pairing with almost no sets and a lower budget. The kick is that a new Keanu is chosen for each show from the audience, which I'm sure some nights doesn't work so well, but for us it did. The nights Keanu then performs the part through the use of cue-cards and it ends up being a quite rigorous hour and a half for them. They idea being anyone could act as well if not better than Keanu, not a stretch by anyones imagination. The skydiving scenes alone were worth the cost of admission. Quality theater, much more economical and entertaining than any of the shows that cost $80 bucks a ticket uptown.

As my lady and I exited the theater laughing and commenting on the show and what the Keanu had had to endure we notice a young thug/gangsta in front of us. He seems to be adjusting the pants of his powder blue sweatsuit outfit and is crinkling for some odd reason.

We continue our conversation as if nothing strange is going on because that is what you do in this city... pretend everything is status quo and continue on your merry way so you do make it home. It was about then as he hiked his sweatsuit top up a last time that I noticed something black tucked into the middle back of his sweatpants.

I suddenly recognized it as the grip of a pistol.

He tucked his top down over it and glanced back at us because he could hear us chatting. We continued as if we hadn't seen a thing but my heart sped up a bit and he slowed down a step to allow us to pass him as we got to the corner.

It was then that I noticed a cab pull up and someone getting out of it. I hustled us over to it and opened the door for my lady and rushed around to the opposite side and jumped in. We sped off homeward bound.

My lady didn't see the gun, she thought it was what had been crinkling so she wasn't as concerned as I was... but I know the grip of a gun when I see one. I believe the crinkling was coming from whatever was in his other pockets. It could have been drugs, penny candy wrappers, or whatever, but he was definitely packing.

I forget sometimes about this city. I forget that the areas I live in and pretty much don't leave are areas I probably wouldn't have set foot in about 15 years ago. I used to only walk left out of my apartment building because to head right was to head into a scary un-gentrified zone. I forget that a couple years ago a girl younger than myself and my lady was killed not far from where we saw the play because she got mugged and refused to give her money over.

You forget that just because the bars and hipsters and hot restaurants move in that it can still be a pretty rough neighborhood. You forget that you still have to watch yourself and watch out for the ones you love.

Strange as it seems, it's good that I saw that gun in the waistband, it really snapped things into perspective.

When I saw that gun all I wanted to do was get my lady safe.

And she is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Lovely Day

I was walking through Tompkins Square Park today looking for a park bench in one of the two spots I enjoy sitting and reading at. It was a beautiful sunny day, low 70's and perfect for just breathing the air, feeling the breeze and perhaps... delving into a good book by a favorite author. Having just had lunch with some friends I decided that I would indeed spend an hour sitting, reading, breathing and enjoying.

I noticed some musicians in the park and I usually avoid them like the plague infested rats I imagine come out at night and skitter through the bushes. Daytime is for squirrels... the bushy tailed rat, nighttime is for their pale tail bretheren. I digress. These musicians were different... they weren't the usual 3 guys with bongos and drums that sit and drum a tattoo into your brain all day, rather a guy with a single snare and some brushes, another guy on an amplified acoustic guitar, and a portly lady. They messed around playing some jazz that was easy to tune out for a bit and I was one of the only people in their area.

After sitting for about 10 minutes I realize I know the song they are playing now... it's Bill Withers song "Lovely Day" and the woman's voice is sublime. Powerful, earthy, jazzy, yet still with enough Motown in it to make you smile. They then play some Stevie Wonder, some Marvin Gaye... and I look up and notice more people sitting near me now. The people just 15 feet away sunning themselves in the grass start tapping their feet and nodding their heads. The punk rockers pause walking by, the hipsters pull their iPod earphones out, the mothers pushing strollers stop so they and their small children can enjoy the music. One child about 8 and his mother park their bikes near me and the child leans back against his mom and they smile and listen to the music.

The woman singing is smiling, eyes closed, swaying as she sings the songs in almost quiet but forceful voice... not belting, not trying to draw attention, just hitting everything perfect in her own breezy style. The drummer sways a bit with a silly smile on his face, keeping his own beat but it's true enough to each song that you know exactly what beat is coming next. The guitarist taps his foot and bobs his head, smiling at a stranger who stops in front of them and sings harmony with the lady for a few songs.

People suddenly start applauding after each and every song and I feel it too... they realize that not only is it a perfect day and fantastic music from skilled musicians but it's more than that. It's a perfect moment and way to celebrate the end of winter, the spring weather, and the soon to come summer. We are outside again, we are breathing the air, we are feeling the sun warm our pale gray NYC skin, we are feeling the wind take away the suns burn, and we are living and happy and alive.