Monday, June 30, 2003

NY Journal # 7

NY Journal # 7 (now with photographically picturical photo album!!)
My lawyers tell me that contractually, I need to say this:"So it's been a long time since I've written and a lot of things have happened." Too much has happened, so much that I ... well... don't really want to talk about it. So I'm writing about it to tell you that I'm not going to write about it. Not really. I'll summarize: Elizabeth and I separated, she moved back to SF, I'm staying here. My longtime friend from SF, Matt moved up from Florida and took the office/bedroom. I lost my almost 7 year job with MCI and am not breaking my back looking for a new one. I am getting a "wicked-awesome" tan from a lot of reading in Washington Square Park. I have taken up yoga since E and I split, going to 3-4 classes per week. Am loving all aspects of it minus a few teachers' love of "fire breathing" (more on that later). My mom is doing really well after her 3rd surgery, cancer free again and sounding great. My parents moved again: 33 times in 35 years. My brother is buying a house in San Diego, or looking at least... Yes, that Does make me feel old, thank you for asking.

I've started an album of pictures I've taken w/ my camera phone:

All of the pics are currently in one folder, making it a slight pain to navigate through. I'll soon be migrating them to separate named folders and then going forward put new photos in dated folders.
Soooooo - let's see, some recent happenings:
- classical music in Washington Square Park every Tuesday at 8, for the next many weeks. A thermos of wine, people watching and fireflies, it doesn't get anymore 'summer' than this.
- Opera in central park: same as above but way, way more people.
- took a bus to Atlantic City. good god what a hellhole. 90% slots, 99% depressing. no offense to Atlantic City lovers.
- Went to the Queens Museum of Art (see picture album). Amazing.
- Turkish food in Queens: friends of Matt visited who knew the cook at the place... a decadent spread of deliciousness. MmMmMmMmmm...
- Saw Letterman last month (Antonio Banderas/Alanis Morisette)
- scheduled tickets for the Daily Show, Conan O'Brien and soon, Saturday Night Live (fingers crossed).
- Am hoping to open or collaborate with investors on The Bionic Bar idea: basically, my six million dollar man/bionic woman collection, in a bar setting. If anyone knows of potential investors or bar owners, let me know...
- fighting off & on summer heat (and rain). heat is ok, humidity suuuuuucks. when will it snow again? not soon enough.
- finished my tattooing. basically, took the design on my right arm over to my left arm, minus what existed on my left arm. not so strangely, I actually -feel- more balanced. a sense of completion, I reckon.
- we had an Amazing fireworks show, seen from our roof, a week before the 4th of July. yep, a week before. t'was gay pride weekend. They were firing off from New Jersey about a mile & a half away - stunning. on the 4th, we saw half of two different sets of fireworks from the East River side - not so spectacular.
- star sightings: geneane garaffolo (I know I butchered the spelling of her name) on 7th Ave. Scarlett Johanson (thrice) filming a movie ("Synergy") at NYU. Mario Batali (Mario Eats Italy, Ciao America w/ Mario Batali, etc)

So, on a more serious note... When are you visiting? Ya, I'm talkin' to you. all of you.
Seriously. No really... come.
it's fun. ask anyone.

Friday, June 20, 2003

NY Journal # 3 (4-6 missing)

NY JOURNALS 4-6 ......... missing.
so sad. so very f'n sad.

NY Journal # 3 - ... a shorter update
NY is still treating us ... well.
We, are sore, but well, as well.
We moved out of our sublet and into our permanent place this extended weekend (we took tues & wednesday off to help w/ the move) ... The past two days has been a Tetris-like game of trying to move boxes around & around to get things out of the way so we can put a small handful of things away to make room for other things which will free up space for more things. In addition to organization & re-organization, we had to deal w/ the process of movers (3 crazy russians with superhuman strength), the phone guy, the cable & internet guy, delivery guys for a bed & the plasma/flatscreen (yes, an admittedly extravagant purchase, ... but space saving and.. ..ok, fine, there's little justification for the purchase... namely: 1) I've wanted one for years and the price was finally right 2) we no longer have my old video projector for movie watching 3) it really Does save space (5" deep, in our NY-small living room) 4) that's all you get... trust me, I'm still experiencing guilt and self-doubt over the purchase)... the tv, so far at least, is gloriously beautimus... We haven't put it up on the wall yet, we'll be doing that tonight most likely. last night, I had found some very long screws that I'd had in my toolbox from the loft bed I used to have.. I was going to use those to support the tv which Sounded like a great idea... except... I quickly realized that if we used them... the tips of the screws would probably end up in our next door neighbor's appt (maybe not, I'm not sure how thick the walls are, but I could just see it... getting a knock on the door.. "uhhh excuse me but...") Hmmm, what else... we've painted - - the kitchen a red ... or technically "Dressage"... the living room a happy yellow... or.. "mango gold"... the bedroom will be a nice lavender or "enchanted" if you really prefer the formal names - yes, it's a lot of color, but this is for people who've lived w/ white walls their whole lives.... oh and rounding out the technicolor rainbow; the comically small bathroom will be transformed into a tropical micro-retreat, with exposed pipes hidden beneath bamboo, the walls colored in "tequila lime".
As if work and moving wasn't enough, Elizabeth continues w/ classes as Univ of Phoenix and I study Farsi (Persian language) at NYU. As of today... we're mostly just dreading unpacking the boxes upon boxes of who-knows-what that might or might not be damaged from the move... luckily, we've only seen a few things broken so far (that we've seen yet) At this point, it could all go in the trash and we probably wouldn't miss even a quarter of it... and probably not remember owning another quarter of it. In hindsight, we really could have moved here with half a closet full of clothes, 2 pairs of shoes and our toothbrushes. It's pretty amazing how much stuff you can unconsciously amass when you live in a large place (in SF) and have endless room for 'stuff'.

other than that... well, currently, there IS nothing other than that. just moving in, set up, all that good stuff.

NY itself, the city, it's people, being here, is still all too exhilarating... in all aspects that I could describe... it's awe inspiring in it's magnitude, breathtaking for it's scenery and history, and yet, when I write these Journals, I often feel like I'm being overly dramatic... that I'm somehow discounting the experience by over describing how amazing it is here. "yeah, yeah, you think it's amazing, We Get It" is what I sometimes feel people might think reading these things I write.. Yesterday we had to go to a paint store for rollers. Affixed to the side of the paint store (as with many bldgs in NY) was a NY historical plaque, this one saying basically "within this building, George Washington set up temporary headquarters for the US Govt after the revolutionary war .... later Alexander Hamilton used the building ... later, Aaron Burr used it, etc" - ... So how do I explain the feeling of walking around in a building that Washington worked in..? I mean "worked in", every day - for a little under a year's time, his shadow passed over the same ground I was walking on. It's those kinds of things that make me feel at a loss for words. To me, a thesaurus open to every word that implied 'exciting' and 'inspiring' would better describe being here... It's not for lack of effort or interest, it's truly because words cant ever accurately describe feelings ...or even a sense of place. You'll have to pardon the catharsis here.. I'm not sure where I'm going with these Journals... I'm not sure if I'm fulfilling what I'm intending to accomplish or meeting your expectations of what you want to know about or if anyone makes it past the first two paragraphs before work call them back to their duties.
Sooooo.... let me know... if there's something you want to know about. I obviously know how to talk at length, so give me a topic. : ) I apologize that you're bcc:'d on this Journal, there's honestly not all that many people on it, but in the interest of your own security and fears of spam, etc, I kept everyone private. I guess what I'm saying is, don't let that keep ya from responding, I'd love to hear from all'y'all....

I... and we... miss y'all....
shoot me/us an email when you get a chance...

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

NY Journal # 2


but before we begin, I should say that many topics below could and maybe should belong in other topical sections below, I may misspell words and I certainly admit to making up words. I am also prone to exaggerations ranging from wild to mild. Sometimes I outright lie for no reason other than it amuses me... At other times, I may actually be jeopardizing National Security by disclosing the classified whereabouts of undercover operatives...but unless I'm going to be graded or arrested, and unless those grades (or lawsuits) translate into fabulous vacations or cash prizes, I'm not going to sweat it. Also... all things expressed below are my subjective opinions and observations. I don't speak on behalf of New York or it's peoples, I am one out of 8 million fish in a very busy sea. (yes, just kidding about the lying and national security issues. Everything else you will read is true. Names have not been changed to protect anyone)

PRELUDE: They're going to be shooting Spiderman II in our neighborhood starting this weekend. Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing if Spidey will be flying from rooftop to rooftop or if Peter Parker will be entering and exiting a Leroy Street apartment. Either way, I'll get myself into a shot, watch for me when it comes out. I'll wear my Raider beanie. The other night, they were shooting some other movie on 7th Ave in front of our place, "Raising Helen" or some other movie name-ish movie name... The entire street was lined with production trucks, the sidewalks packed with people and lights and cameras and food tables and wardrobes and somewhere in that mess, I found out later, was Heather Graham. They had completely restylized the exterior of a restaurant to make it look like a hip-happening bar named "Random" - I know... ALSO very movie name-ish, isn't it..? The best part of the whole event was that by midnight, everything and everyone had vanished like it had never happened. The city has very strict rules about when film crews have to be out of a neighborhood.
THE CITY (itself): It's big. A big sea of a city. We've seen only the smallest fraction of the relatively small area of Manhattan below the park, it's kind of ridiculous how little we've seen, actually. Not that we haven't been trying... Every days it seems like we're both coming just short of blisters, leg cramps, outright muscle fatigue, the whole nine yards. You'd think we were avoiding subways and walking everywhere. Judging distance is part of the problem: avenues here are 900 feet long, streets are 100 feet long. To walk from the NY Public Library to the Empire State building for example (42nd St to 34th St), takes roughly the same amount of time as getting from one avenue to the next. It would be a cruel trick to tell people "I'm just the next block over" when you mean "avenue".
THE BUILDINGS (upon buildings, etc): As I flew in to JFK airport four years ago for my first visit here, I likened the look of Manhattan to 60 or more downtown San Francisco's, stacked back to back. I think that still holds. From the ground, (depending on the neighborhood) the effect is not much different. It is a concrete forest, the 'flora' seem as varied as a real forest, the sky is always visible, and there's certainly a lot of shade to be found. Because we're still in tourist-mode, we still look up a lot. New Yorkers we've talked to say they still do that, I'm not sure that ever changes. So long as you're not looking up when you step off a curb, or ONLY looking up,'s ok to look up.
THE SUBWAY: Ohhhhh, the subway. There's volumes that could be said about the subway system here. To summarize: it is incredibly efficient, incredibly old, incredibly complicated (until you understand the basics), incredibly bouncy in almost frightening way, incredibly diverse, and incredibly fascinating in how much it is taken for granted. Or maybe it's not taken for granted.... I don't know, I haven't asked everyone here yet, .... I guess until people start shouting "this subway system is AMAZING!" or start looking at everything with the same info-hungry eyes that I have for everything here, I'll assume people are taking it for granted. Maybe it's just in comparison to SF's transit system that I find it so amazing. SF being a city in which public transit is supposed to be a beacon unto... well, the West Coast at least
THE SNOW/weather: Any discussion of the weather should start with mention of the fact that it went from furiously snowing, to small flurries, to rain, to mist, to..... summertime heat... in the span of no more than 4 or 5 days. Yesterday it was 83, today it is 40 degrees cooler. That being said, the snow [ - and people who do not LIKE snow should keep in mind the fact that I have not lived in snow since I was 8 years old] .... was absolutely glorious, transcendently yearned for, like being reunited with a childhood friend after decades of separation. There is a term some people use... I believe it is "sh!t eating grin". Yeah... I had one of those. Uh-huh, a big one. Yeah, the whole time it snowed. Unfortunately... it only actively snowed for one day, three days later it was completely gone from the streets. I have to admit that some of the romance wore off the first time I had to side step yellow snow. Warm weather on the other hand, cause many interesting things to happen. This happens in all cities of course, but in NY it seems they happen quite spontaneously, before you've even left your house. The best part of this weather metamorphosis, or.. "weathermorphosis" as I like to call it (ok, so it probably wont catch on), is that restaurants become 'convertible', their entire street facing facades accordion open as tables and chairs are rolled out and before you know it, entire sidewalks are chattering away with a typical weekend restaurant buzz. This happens in Europe, you say..? Sure... true. NY is a lot closer to you. Decent weather also more accurately shows you just how many people there really are in this city. It is really almost indescribable how many people appear out of nowhere. And yet I will try [see THE MASSES section] Everyone springs into summer clothes, with the emphasis on "shorter" and "less of", which is mostly a good thing. Lord knows, there are droves of beautiful people here, with more perfect skin, bone structure and bodies than you'd find in a glossy fashion magazine. It can however, quickly becomes unpleasant when... hmmm... how does one say this delicately..? certain unsavory and/or unshapely characters display a level of unintentional exhibitionism that causes rapid eye-aversion and in extreme cases, nightmares and the loss of appetite. This unpleasantness is not, like in other cities, limited to parks, the beach or ones backyard. No, this happens on the streets, on subways and in stores. Call it a 'refreshing lack of self-consciousness'. I guess I'm still mildly traumatized by one particular person we saw.
THE MASSES: You may not have heard this, but there are a lot of people here. 8 million is a lot, in my opinion. It seems like a lot, sometimes it feels like a lot... and yet it never really seems to reach "too much". Everyone knows the "street fair" effect with the sideways walking, constant bumping of shoulders, wall to wall people.. At it's very worst, New York seems just short of that, like it would only take another 1/3rd of the people around you in any given area to make you feel somewhat claustrophobic and/or agoraphobic. At it's best, you have whole blocks to yourself. At it's average... well... there's just a lot of people out. This city, I'm sure, weeds out people who cant take it, people who find a steady stream of people uncomfortable, people who feel intimidated by a stranger bumping into them. Walking in the masses, I am always aware of how this Could 'get' to people, and yet I am always detached enough to know that it does not bother me, personally. There is something strangely comforting in being enveloped by a city's people.
THE PEOPLE: Not to insult the people of other cities, but the people here are without question, the nicest people I have ever met. Conversely, there are also thee most charming displays of finely crafted rudeness you will ever see. A dozen or more strangers have started up conversations with us, out of the blue, in the two weeks we've been here. And conversely again, we've also seen a lady curse the smirk off of an escalator slowpoke, followed immediately by seeing an office worker shoulder-bump a lady almost to the ground and keep on going like it didn't happen. Many people confuse the NY no-nonsense, determined, directioned, me-bother-me attitude for rudeness or disinterest in helping people, etc. I've heard it described, or thought of it, a lot of different ways recently... here's a few of my favorites: #1) people will not look you in the eye, they will shove past you for a train without a second thought, they will steal your cab... but ask them directions or to recommend a good restaurant and you will receive more animated, helpful information than you could have ever hoped for. #2) bodies in motion tend to stay in motion: nothing annoys New Yorkers more than people who get in their way while they are walking somewhere. It is a sense of "don't disrupt my life and I wont disrupt yours" that translates to many levels of life here, not just street walking. #3) Everyone's level of not-taking-conflict-personally and not-holding-on-to-momentary-anger is set for a casually restrained, professional functionality that seems almost comical. It is the opposite of road rage.. or perhaps, it's merely a quick verbal venting to deal with the emotions and move on. It may be that people visiting NY see a lot of these moments of 'anger purging' but don't notice that the person has moved on. Again, this is probably a wild generalization, but I think has a lot of truth to it.
PIZZA: There are two types of food in NY. Pizza, and the other crap people eat occasionally. The analogy of 'pizza is to NY what burritos is to SF' is not quite accurate. More accurate is 'pizza is to New Yorkers, what drinking water is to human survival'. If anyone can locate the actual number of pizza places in NY, I will.... ... I'll give you a piece of pizza. Seriously, it's only a matter of time before it becomes currency.
NON-PIZZA FOODS: Coincidentally, there are two types of non-pizza food in NY. Ridiculously expensive and ridiculously cheap. $9.25 for a sandwich is not unheard of. A "poor boy" sandwich, I kid you not, was $6.75 in the dining concourse of Grand Central Station. Conversely, budget choices are available, hot dogs and such, if you eat that sort of thing, which I haven't (yet). Soups, salads, bagels, breakfast places.... all cheap. My favorite so far is Mahmoun's $2 falafels on MacDougal @ Bleeker and of course.... ever present pizza.
HERCULES: Our closest neighborhood liquor store is called Hercules Fancy Groceries. It's owned & operated by (again) a slightly portly man of maybe 50-55... this time Greek (as you may have been able to infer from a name like Hercules). He has one glass eye, has the same gift of gab as Walter, and plays a bouzouki, an instrument that, upon some quick research, I found that both Greeks and Irish play.... go figure. Hercules' store has many many many beers. Almost exclusively beer, in fact. He doesn't carry anything other than beer in fact because it seems that in NY, stores can only get a beer license, hard alcohol license, or wine license, but rarely a combination (if it's even legal to have a combo, I'm not sure). Hercules' history with beer is such: he found a book about beer in the trash outside his store one day. He read it. He began importing beers from around the world (he's credited with importing the first Belgian beer into the US in 1960something) and to this day, "has paid for no advertising", instead reaping the rewards of newspaper articles and reviews written about him and his store. Let's get back to his gift for gab, though. It is truly unbelievable how skillful he is (Walter as well) with weaving different topics together into a finely formed net from which you cannot escape. There are no pauses where you might say "well, ok... we'll see you around then" or even "hey, I've gotta run, talk to you later" ... without seeming rude. Literally, the moments of pause are impossibly brief and through some unknown superpower yet to be properly tapped for the forces of good, they always appear to be right in the middle of making a point.. Truly though, they are very good people with very interesting stories .... upon stories .... upon stories.THE
WORK ENVIRONMENT: We work in the MetLife building, directly behind Grand Central Station (see GRAND CENTRAL STATION section). The 'corporate dress code' is a lot more valued here than in SF, which brings me a fairly consistent level of mild frustration. Cube space is a lot more dense, handfuls of different conversations can be heard all at once, about 2/3rds of them are not work related. The office has a few characters of it's own; there is the lady near me who sounds like she's always on the verge of crying and has conversations about the renovations she's doing to her house which is probably more of a mansion than a house from the sounds of it. There is the guy who sits next to our workmate Fortune, who on Monday and Tuesday, makes calls to friends, gabbing about his weekend, on Wednesday he's fairly silent & then on Thursday and Friday, he's making plans for the upcoming weekend. Then there are the sports fans. Much to my baseball-hating-dismay, I am surrounded by baseball fans who find no end of excuses to gather in one person's cube for a rousing 30 minute conversation about so&so's style of hitting or catching or .... well, at the 2 minute mark, I am bored straight into a coma so I'm not sure what they talk about after that. Then there are the Giants & Jets fans, of which I am looking forward to many spirited conversations involving the phrases "no, [YOUR team] sucks!" or "soooo, how'bout [your team] losing so bad on Sunday????" - (this last phrase, by it's very nature of course, doesn't even HAVE the potential of involving the Raiders, so... well... there you have it.. : ) ((We have yet to get a permanent cubicles, so I haven't been able to display my various Raider related items - I KNOW, how can I pit the whole office against me until I do that?!?! I'm working on it...))
GRAND CENTRAL STATION: Look up the words "massive" and "beautiful" in a thesaurus. Then branch out to each of their related words. Take it five generations out. Gather all the words together and read them. That will begin to do justice to Grand Central Station. People upon people upon shops upon restaurants upon bars upon... oh, right... trains. I sometimes forget that it IS a train station. We walk through the station to work, to lunch and to home. I absolutely can not think of a better ingredient to a daily commute. It awes and humbles me, Every Single Day,.... how lucky we are.
AND SO ENDS Episode 1 - PART 2.... Future episodes will be a lot shorter, I'm sure. Episode 1 had a lot to cover, a lot of initial observations that attempted to cover the entire spectrum of our experience here so far. I'm sure I cheated some sections and overemphasized others. I probably complete forgot to cover certain things which I'll only remember once I hit SEND. Such is life and the nature of journals. I am actually very much looking forward to rereading some of this a year or two from now, to see what ideas have changed and to recapture a bit of the feeling of slack jawed awe we are still feeling so early into our move here. All of our experiences seem to have an intense weight to them, they seem more 'real', concentrated, more in-the-moment... That feeling will surely subside over time, I'm sure. It's incredibly exciting to be living it now though.