Can I be the first one to have coined this term?
- My trip to Budapest and Vienna.
- My trip to Ann Arbor. And Ypsilanti.
- All the churches in Brooklyn Heights: visit each, learn about it, attend a service, blog it.
- My life as a Korean dancer.
- My theory of Tom Tom Club vs. David Byrne.
- My trip to Ghana.
- Being sick abroad.
- Toilets of the world (this one’s more of a photo essay).
- My trip to Mexico. (Noting a theme?)
- My trip to Paris.
- An open letter to the mayor demanding seasonal weather changes. (This will be funnier when actually written, I hope.)
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.
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.
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!
I’m just back from having purchased a bike. I rode it home, five miles, from the Atlantic Avenue Target back to Bay Ridge, following 4th Avenue as it goes from Mexican to Puerto Rican to Chinese to Arabic.
Buying a bike in New York City is harder than you might think. Well, that’s assuming you don’t want some kind of titanium, high-tech, stealth-technology-enhanced super-bike that costs more than most Americans’ cars. If you’re up for spending giant sums of money, there are scads of boutique shops to cater to your needs. And most of these boutiques will even cater to folks who want to spend a mere $400 or so on a bike, though the salesperson will probably look at you with a mixture of pity and disdain. Apparently one is supposed to enter these temples of bikeitude with either an extensive knowledge of alloys or the humility of a religious seeker. The reaction I get when I ask for the cheapest bike is what I imagine I’d get if I went to Bergdorf’s around Christmas and said, “Show me your cheapest handbag, please.”
What makes this state of affairs particularly baffling is that one so rarely sees fancy bikes actually being ridden around New York. Is there some kind of delivery-guy underground I’m just missing? Where do their thousands of lightweight, perfectly functional, obviously cheap bicycles come from? And who wants a thousand dollar bike in the city anyway? My Schwinn came from Target already broken — it won’t change gears properly — and I assume this is a clever anti-theft system provided by the store for my benefit. Still, I’m semi-resigned to the thought that one day I will go looking for my bike where I left it, and it won’t be there. That’s what happens to bikes in the city, and I’d rather it happened to a bike that costs less than my phone.
Once you drop below about $400, you get into the realm of bikes that cannot be purchased at bike shops. These lowly vehicles must be sought out at toy stores, sporting goods stores, or big-box generalists like Target. And at Target, it’s actually remarkably hard to buy a bike. I had to wander across the store in search of someone who could get on a walkie-talkie and find out how much the bike I wanted actually cost. And forget about getting it adjusted. I guess that’s what you pay the fancy places for. The bike is sold as-is, and you just have to hope it does what it’s supposed to.
Mine does, more or less. No, you can’t change the gears very well, and I’m not convinced the handlebars are completely straight, and the rear break is a joke. But the bike cost a mere $178, and it got me from there to here.
As for the getting, it was harder than I’d like to admit. Today was muggy but not excessively hot, and 4th Ave. is not exactly mountain terrain. Still, as I came up the rise from 30th to 50th Street, my heart was pounding and I felt myself overheating. I pulled off the street, locked my bike to a subway entrance railing, undid my new helmet and staggered into a bodega to buy a bottle of Gatorade.
I remember overheating like this as a kid sometimes, especially as I hit the top of the hill on Las Gallinas, back in Terra Linda, on the way to the mall. There, I would just keel over on the side of the road and wait for it to pass, hearing the pounding of blood in my head as I lay on the sidewalk. It was a private experience, an internal crisis that I could experience alone. Riding a bike in the city is a different experience, a public activity that involves engagement with others at every moment. It’s fun, though, and I hope to do much more of it. I just need to get in better shape!
For those who have somehow missed it (like me, until today), Vito Fossella, my beloved Republican Representative, has been caught in a bit of a scandal: he got busted for a DWI in Virginia, where he was driving to the home of his mistress with whom he has a three-year-old daughter.
It looks like he may run anyway, but jeez! This seems like the moment to take back the 13th District.
Eats, Learns and Scratches
Last Wednesday I attended Discover DoubleClick, a day-long orgy of corporate catering and team-building exercises, occasionally interrupted with bursts of useful information: lots of detail on all the training opportunities available to us (my boss later declared, “What’s cool about all that stuff here is that it’s actually real,” which is different from, say, STV, where we had a tuition reimbursement program we weren’t allowed to use), an overview of the business, a history of DoubleClick that included a reference to Mahir (the discovery of viral marketing on the web) and described 2002 simply as “Grown men cry.”
But so the food. We arrived to find breakfast burritos in steam trays, and on our tables were piles of mini-candies. Then, at a mere 11:45, we headed downstairs to the Google cafeteria for the monthly DoubleClick lunch they’ve been letting us have (at which we do not mix with the Google people). The cafeteria lived up to its reputation. It is not the best food I’ve ever had, but it is by far the best free institutional food I’ve ever had. There was seared tuna and marinated steak and fried chicken and tacos, not to mention a raw bar, a vegan bar and chipotle chocolate mousse. Then it was back to more Discovering DoubleClick, with the soft pretzels and the cookie trays arriving by 3.
DoubleClick is interested in enhancing not just our skills, but our skillz: after work, we Discoverers were taken out to Scratch DJ Academy, founded by Jam Master Jay, for a one-hour lesson in scratching, which was seriously fun. I now know the baby scratch and the scribble. I asked the head of my department about using the tuition reimbursement for more DJ lessons, but I accept her judgment that perhaps DJing is not entirely applicable to my job as technical writer.
I am not, it must be admitted, a wrestling aficionado, Mexican or otherwise. But when my friend Leah invited me to her Lucha Libre-themed birthday, I felt this was an occasion not to be missed. And when, after dinner with a friend earlier in the evening, I found myself trying on an absurdly apropos (and reasonably priced) hat/mask at Search & Destroy on St. Mark’s, it seemed fate was on the side of my inner luchador.
What I didn’t realize was just how serious Leah was about the wrestling. In her tiny apartment near Union Square, she and her friends got into some pretty serious pitched battles (tons of pics here). I didn’t join in, but pledged to dress more appropriately for battle next time. (And yes, that is a unicorn behind me in that picture.)
It may not surprise you to learn that a number of these people are Burners, or that I ran into one of them the following night when I went to see a friend perform at the España-Streb Trapeze Academy in Williamsburg.
The performance — an impressive show of aerobatic skill set to a campy nautical theme — was quite impressive, but it gave me the familiar heebee-jeebees I get around the hippie sports (for lack of a better term). I have a hard time putting my finger on what freaks me out about it, but it seems to pull together a number of threads of childhood alienation: my own physical awkwardness, the sense that hippies should but don’t embrace me, the feeling that I’m in a subculture that devalues my own particular gifts (verbal acuity, encyclopedic knowledge, trivia, intellectual rigor), the fear that I am going to be chastised over some poorly thought out moral stance I dare to disagree with (“Really? You use anti-bacterial soap?”).
I’m glad I stuck around and sat with those fears instead of letting them ruin my night. After the show, my friend invited me out with a number of the performers to a vast German beer hall (I hoisted my stein of die seltzer vasser), and they were really cool people. I had a lovely chat with one woman who is not just an acrobat, but also an opera singer and a former ESL teacher.
Then I took a cab home, which is something I can now actually afford. That too was exciting.
So life is good right now, and I’m doing my best to enjoy what’s good in it.
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.
- 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.