For a while now, I’ve been talking about moving to Manhattan. At this point, it’s more a question of when than whether. Bay Ridge is pleasant enough, but it’s far away, and I like to have a home that people actually visit. Plus, I’m tired of the long commute, and of feeling like once I’ve gone out for the day, popping back home is simply too far to go if I want to go out again. And then there’s school: if I go back to school, living as far away as I do now will make things all the harder.

So I’d like to move to Manhattan, preferably somewhere very close to my office, in Chelsea or the West Village. Most of my life happens around here anyway: Korean dance in K-town, swing dance near Penn Station or Times Square, work in Chelsea, socializing in the Village or the East Village, shopping in Union Square.
As for the timing, well, I guess my life is pretty full. I’m just not going to get it together by the end of January, and anyway January is a rotten time to be going around, looking at apartments. Also, I have jury duty. So that rules out February 1. March 1 would be feasible, but I’m leaving for India on March 5, and that double stress is more than I need, nor do I want to come home to the chaos of a new apartment when I’m all jet-lagged. There’s pretty much no way, coming back from India on March 21, than I’ll find an apartment and get packed in that final week of the month. And so it looks like May 1 is the next really good date.
May 1.
I have until then to clean out my junk drawers, give away my old clothes, and generally scale down the stuff. That’s plenty of time, but also plenty of time to worry over it.

[visiting my congressman]

This morning I went to Representative Michael McMahon’s Brooklyn office to present my support for health care reform in person. I met a young, friendly staffer who’s on the same side as me, but made it clear to me that McMahon sees himself in a tough spot on this issue.

McMahon is the Representative for NY-13, a district that until the last election was held by Republican Vito Fossella. Fossella was caught in a scandal and declined to run for reelection. Then the favored Republican candidate, Francis Powers, died of a heart attack. In the end, McMahon took 61 percent of the vote in a district Obama lost.
According to the staffer I met, the people coming to McMahon’s office to talk to him on health care have been about 80 percent against, and this has got McMahon worried. He also said that they’d decided not to hold any town halls because of concerns that they would be unproductive shouting matches. I reminded the staffer that shouters are not the same thing as polls or surveys, and that the last time we had a major poll, back in November, we elected McMahon on a Democratic platform that included health care reform.
But I think there are two important points here. The first is that a Democratic Congressional Representative is saying that his position on health care is being swayed by the overwhelming number of people coming into his office to speak against health care reform. We need to get out there and talk to our Reps to make sure they do the right thing!
The second point, which I hope our Representatives will grasp, is that the shouters and doubters on health care were never going to vote for them in the first place. Does McMahon truly believe that if he caves on health care, these nuts will come around to the Democratic side in 2010?
If health care reform passes, the Democrats will look strong. They’ll have a record of achievement. And they’ll get shouted at by loonies during the next election cycle. If health care reform doesn’t pass, the Democrats will look weak. They’ll come into the next election cycle facing accusations of incompetence. And they’ll still get shouted at by loonies.
I hope the Democrats in Congress realize that voting down health care reform is not a winning proposition.

[mafia laundry]

Here’s a fun fact: Paulie Walnuts does his laundry at my laundromat here in Bay Ridge.

Okay, actually it’s Tony Sirico — I saw him sign his laundry slip. He drives a black Cadillac convertible, and not one of those new Caddies, either. And he really does have those white wings in his hair.

[vito’s coming back]

I live in a peculiar pocket of New York City, politically speaking. New York’s 13th Congressional District is the only one in the city that has a Republican Representative, disgraced two-family man Vito Fossella.

Vito dropped a reelection bid when it came out that he’d been driving drunk in Virginia while visiting his mistress and their child. Now, though, he wants to come back into the race — as a Conservative, opposing not just Democrat Mike McMahon, a long-serving city council member representing Staten Island, but also the Republican candidate, Bob Straniere, a former state assemblyman.

Good luck to Vito! I hope he enjoys splitting the Republican vote while McMahon coasts to victory!

[minor updates on a minor life]

I have been kind of busy and overwhelmed of late — mostly in a good way — but this has meant a dearth of blog posts. Dearth! Dearth dearth dearth ….
Ahem. Excuse me.

So, tidbits:

  • On Saturday I joined New York Sports Clubs, which has gyms near my work and near my home. I have so far worked out twice. This is good: it’s been nearly a year since I’ve regularly exercised.
  • My attempts to cut out caffeine went nowhere. I have, however, cut back to half-caff in the morning, and this has helped my stomach considerably.
  • At work, I was having a conversation with Ken about a document I’m updating, and he pointed out a section that he didn’t like because it was full of redundancies and repeated phrases. “Yeah,” I agreed, “It reads like Chinese philosophy.” Ken reminded me that he does not regularly read Chinese philosophy. Oh, right.
  • In another conversation with Ken, I made the comment that while much at DoubleClick was the same as it had been, that it was no longer the nineties, with everyone zipping around on Razor scooters. He turned around and pointed to the Razor leaning against an office door. Okay, so in DoubleClick it is still 1999. Wanna go see The Blair Witch Project?
  • Is Bay Ridge going hip? The Chipshop has moved in, purveying the finest in British cuisine: fish and chips, Scotch eggs, and of course those decadent deep-fried candy bars. The food makes perfect sense around here, but the punk aesthetic and heavy whiff of irony are innovations. I expect it’ll do fabulously well here, but is it a vanguard or an outlier?

Okay, that’s all for the moment. I’ll try to update a little more often now that I’m settling into new-jobness.

[living in interesting times]

Last week, on Monday night, I went to sign the divorce papers. It was devastating. It was a freezing night with bitter winds, which seemed to fit. I went separately from Jenny, but on my way out I stopped in at a McDonald’s for a suitably grim dinner, and Jenny bumped into me afterwards on the subway platform. We were both very sad, and there was little to say.

It didn’t help matters that I had a cold. On Tuesday I dragged myself to a job interview with a very nice company that isn’t hiring. This did not lift my spirits. Exhausted, I took Wednesday off. It was my first time being sick while on my own — ever, really, except for one bout of serious illness in India — and it scared me. Afterward, I made sure to talk to a couple of new friends in the neighborhood, who said that of course they would help if I needed it. Learning to ask for help is good.

Saturday I went to a dance concert at Juilliard, then a much more ramshackle dance concert put on by a composer friend of a composer friend. Afterward, we all went back to the organizer’s apartment in Brooklyn for a party, at which I discussed Korean and Finnish folklore with a Finnish folklorist. I left just before the microtonal orchestral music began. I’d been suffering from my arrhythmia all evening, and I almost couldn’t walk the three blocks from the subway to my apartment. I had taken too many of the beta-blocker pills that are supposed to fix the arrhythmia, and I ended up staggering to the curb and throwing up in the gutter. I realized that to anyone passing by, I must have looked like a drunk, which was funny because I hadn’t had a drink in nine months to the day.

On Tuesday night, as I was heading to a 12-step meeting, I saw a pickup truck start backing up just as a small Hispanic man darted into the street looking the other way. I shouted — “Yo, yo, YO!” and the truck stopped inches from the pedestrian, who never noticed any of it. I then made an incomprehensible gesture at the driver and walked on.

Yesterday morning I went for a job interview and was kept waiting in the lobby for 40 minutes because of a miscommunication. But at least they’re hiring.

Last night, after a very interesting evening out, I was walking home from the subway and heard a rustling in the bushes in front of an apartment building. I turned around, expecting a cat or something, and was startled to see the wide-eyed face of a young woman who was lying there, bundled in a coat and mittens. I turned around and kept walking.

Today at lunch, the diner on 49th and First was shaken by an explosion up the block. A manhole cover had been blown off, smoke and steam billowing into the street. A few minutes later, the fire department showed up and taped off the street. As we left, we saw the shards of the manhole cover lying a few feet away from the hole. Fortunately no one was hurt.

I feel today as though I’ve somehow stepped into a Murakami novel, where the world is off-kilter in a way that may or may not be ominous, and my role is simply to live in it as normally as possible.

I’m tired.

[are suburbs the new bohemia?]

The New York Times reported recently on the decline of gay enclaves. Places like San Francisco’s Castro District, New York’s West Village, West Hollywood and Key West are gentrifying. High real estate prices and a changing ethos are transforming these neighborhoods from bastions of wild nightlife to comfortable places to raise kids, and there is attendant hand-wringing over the disappearance of a vibrant culture, along with soul-searching about whether there’s even a reason for gay neighborhoods anymore.

There is a long discussion to be had about the mainstreaming of homosexuality in America, the consequent coming out of a more diverse group of gay men and women, and the ongoing debate over gay assimilationism. But I’d rather talk about hipsters and real estate.

To understand what’s happening to America’s gay neighborhoods, it helps to look at how they were formed. America’s gay community more or less began with the Stonewall riots and their aftermath. Though usually not presented as such, these events were part of the larger 1960s embrace of counterculture and individual freedoms. It’s no accident that both hippies and gays were into free love, drugs, leftist politics and bikers (though the fascination with bikers remains something of a mystery). Like the hippies, the founders of America’s gay communities tended to be white middle-class baby boomers, and they colonized many of the same neighborhoods (the Castro is just blocks from Haight-Ashbury).

The changes in America’s gay enclaves mirror the changes in formerly bohemian neighborhoods that are not specifically associated with gay life: it’s not just the Castro and Greenwich Village that have seen skyrocketing housing prices, but also the East Village, SoHo, the Mission District, SoMa, and pretty much every other patch of once-hip ground in America’s major cities. For the first time in memory, there is no bohemian frontier in Manhattan.

This connects with another recent Times story, this one noting the discovery by bohemian types of Staten Island’s North Shore. I’ve long believed that the best way to tell what’s going to be incredibly fashionable in three to five years is to look for whatever is most egregiously unhip now (which means, among other things, that you should be preparing to grow your hair out and unmothball your flannels) , and it’s hard to think of anything less cool than the suburbs.

But will hipsters who are priced out of the city really start moving to little houses in Jersey and Staten Island? Hard to say at this point, though I will raise the possibility that a generation raised on Facebook and Craigslist may feel less compelled to form hipster neighborhoods than their forbears. What made the suburbs so awful was isolation, and the Internet provides a way to overcome that isolation without spending $1300 a month to live with rats and roaches. And there is much ironic fun to be had in a lifestyle that embraces garden gnomes.

I now live in a perfectly nice neighborhood that has yet to be discovered by hipsters. Down in Bay Ridge, we have trees, houses, lower rents and safer streets than in Bushwick, and I can still get on the subway and go to Manhattan. Am I part of a vanguard, or just out in left field? Time will tell.

[the fighting 13th]

I posted recently about the upcoming Congressional race in my district, NY-13, and got a comment from the author of NY13 Blog, who gave me a nice shout-out.

I’ll be keeping my eye on this blog as we move closer to campaign season. Oh, and here’s the comment, in case you missed it:

Hi! Found your post after searching for news on Fossella. Recchia has formed an exploratory committee and has some big backing (Rep. Jerry Nadler and even McMahon). Cusick and McMahon are not going to jump into this race unless there is some massive scandal and the DCCC comes throwing money at one of them to take out Fossella. So expect to see a Harrison v. Recchia primary race although I am not sure both will stay in through September.

Good stuff.

[don’t forget congress]

There’s a lot of attention already being paid to the 2008 presidential election, but let’s not forget about Congress!

In 2006, I campaigned in New York’s 13th Congressional District to support Steve Harrison’s scrappy but unsuccessful bid to unseat Conservative Republican Vito Fossella.

Now that I actually live in the district, I’m even more anxious to see Fossella taken down. Steve Harrison has announced he’ll run again, but the New York Times mentions three other potential candidates: City Council members Michael E. McMahon of Staten Island and Domenic M. Recchia Jr. of Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick of Staten Island.

I know next to nothing about any of these guys, but in the coming weeks and months, maybe one or more of them will declare, and it’ll be time to do some research.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine is backing a friend of his, one Tom Perriello, in a campaign to unseat Virgil Goode in Virginia’s 5th CD.

Goode is a former Democrat who voted for three out of four articles of impeachment against Clinton, then became a Republican in 2002, becoming the first Republican to serve in the district since Reconstruction. He came to national prominence by loudly criticizing Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison’s to be sworn into Congress over a Koran rather than a Bible. (In a delicious irony, the Korean Ellison used was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, whose Monticello home is in Goode’s district.)

I don’t know much about Perriello yet, but I’m going to a fundraising party tomorrow to find out more. What I do know comes from his Res Publica profile:

Before co-founding Res Publica, Tom served as Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a United Nations tribunal, and as a Yale Law School/OSI Teaching Fellow in West Africa. He has worked for the US State Department, the International Centre for Transitional Justice and others on human rights and legal reform efforts in Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo, Argentina, Chile, India, and the United States. Prior to law school, he worked as Assistant Director of the Center for a Sustainable Economy (now part of Redefining Progress) and as a consultant on youth and environemental campaigns … Tom is also a founder of the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good. He holds a BA in Humanities from Yale College and a J.D. from Yale Law School and is a member of the New York State Bar.

It’s all good stuff, but not exactly the kind of good stuff that’s going to wow Virginia voters. Hopefully there’s another side to his story. I’ll keep you posted.