July 19, 2007

Seen and noted this morning: An old man wearing a ratty Mets t-shirt. Not unusual.

A white shirt reading, “Let’s Go Mets!” in orange across the top.

The Mets round logo centered beneath the text.

The interesting detail: A line of orange Hebrew text beneath the logo.

I have no idea what it said, but that’s what I call faith.

Human, Zombie or Cyborg?

July 18, 2007

In the not too distant future, (such as today), there will be three kinds of homo sapiens: humans, zombies and cyborgs.

And for the convenience of you dear reader, I will define each of them now:

Human: Basic off the shelf model. Probably has never broken a bone. Less likely to have a tattoo. Any piercings are strictly limited to the ear lobes and singular in quantity.

Zombie: Basic model upgraded with new parts from a cadaver (i.e., the dead). Bones, organs, blood, whatever works better. Parts can be upgraded due to injury or sheer vanity.

Cyborg: Basic model upgraded with synthetic materials. Rods, pins, screws, patches, plates, anything manufactured. Again, parts can be upgraded due to injury or sheer vanity.

Now of course, overlap will occur. You will find cases of Zombie Cyborgs. And Cyborg Zombies.

Me? I’m a zombie. I walk with the dead. In some sense, I am the walking dead. That’s right, step off mofo or I’ll kill you for your dead ass parts. I’ve been trying to get early admission to the transplant list for a while now. No luck.

Seriously, become an organ donor. Someone you love may need them.

(Or it just may be me.)


July 17, 2007

I’m beginning to think that it is my plight in life to carry heavy objects up great distances. I’ve been known to wonder aloud if I was a sherpa in a previous life.

It’s an interesting demographic that poor people live in flat areas and that as one’s monetary wealth increases, one moves up into the hills. Real estate being the way it is, a room with a view simply costs more.

And naturally, I have been living this demographic reality for most of my life.

In San Francisco, renowned for it’s hills, my first apartment was in a nice flat valley and was, in no coincidence, a poor immigrant neighborhood. (Okay, it was the ghetto. My neighbors were drug dealers and hookers.) As I established myself in the city, I found my apartments gradually climbing up various hills in the city. By the time I left SF 12 years later, my apartment was a Swiss chalet atop a stupendous hill that ruined the legs of many a bike rider and the knees of anyone foolish enough to run down it. I actually saw people training for mountain climbing by carrying their backpacks up and down the hill outside my door.

So as I climbed the real estate demographic ladder, I went from living above the corner market and carrying my groceries up a single flight of stairs to living in the San Francisco equivelent of a quiet suburb and trudging up a massive mountain with only the smallest of items weighing my down. A six pack of beer often weighed as much as a keg as I dragged it up that hill.

Now in New York City, I have found the same demographics but with a distinctly Big Apple spin. Instead of the valleys and flat areas of San Francisco, there are the pre-war buildings and 5 story walk ups. Instead of the house on the hill, there are the doorman buildings and tony elevator high rises.

And so I find myself back at the bottom of the real estate demographic ladder living in a five story walk up. Not the first time, I’ve switched ladders and had to start over climbing from the bottom. It won’t be the last either.

This time around though, I have myself a little 20 pound monkey on my back. A monkey named Archie who is too lazy to walk up the five flights and too scared to walk down them. (Fierce guard dog, that Archie.)

Couple that with a bag or two of groceries, a messenger bag full of papers and a laptop and I find myself considering a career change — to Sherpa.

Obviously, I have experience and although no formal training, I did have several summer jobs moving furniture which taught me the value of taking ones time and lifting with your legs. With a little dedication and oh, I don’t know, an actual exercise plan, I think I’m on my way.

Uh, but if we’re hitting Everest, Archie, you’ve got to walk.

(PS: The San Francisco hills kick ass over the NYC walk ups. I’ve been back several times and I’m completely out of shape by the standards of a pedestrian in SF.)

(PPS: I should note that Archie has recently learned to vault up the stairs two at a time and while he is still stubbornly reluctant to climb them, when does go for it, he’s a snorting, wheezing blur of action.)

If You Can’t Fix It With A Screwdriver…

June 25, 2007

…Try A Hammer.

I’ve been saying this trusty phrase for years to express my frustration with inanimate objects as well as my lack of skill in generally fixing anything. I seem to lack not only skill but the patience to focus on the job, the steps, the necessary equipment, etc.

I generally believe a good old whack can often solve a simple problem.

And last night, my beloved wife, in a fit of absolute frustration and desperation, proved this maxim to be quite true.

Here’s the scene: Her iPod (her SECOND iPod, the first one died and was replaced by Apple — always buy the AppleCare warranty people) died unexpectedly. As she attempted to revive it through the various methods outlined on the Apple web site, she naturally grew more and more irate with the iPod’s unresponsiveness.

I should digress at this point to note that she is notoriously unlucky with electronic equipment of any sort. At this point, we’re almost convinced that she gives off dangerous EMF levels that tend to fry electronic circuits. So when her second iPod died, it did not send me into a rage. I took it as par for the course and figured we’ve move on to iPod number three.

But back to the story: As she grew angry at the stupid MP3 player, Apple, the internet and subsequently me (calmly petting Archie and sipping scotch in ambivalence), she began to take drastic measures.

First up, shaking the iPod furiously. No effect. It was still dead.

She returned to the web for advice, unplugged, plugged, restarted, on, off, etc. No luck at all.

It was at this point that she broke and resorted to banging the iPod against the wall — fairly hard — about 10 times.

And lo and behold, the iPod came back to life! Like electronic CPR, she had restarted it’s little heart through violent concussion.

Now, I’m still betting on us getting her a third iPod, but for the time being, I have a happy wife with a working iPod.

And proof of the old saying I’ve been repeating for years: “If you can’t fix it with a screwdriver, try a hammer.”

Summer in the City

June 22, 2007

So yesterday was the official start of summer and while the calendar may be scientifically correct, I tend to notice the arrival of summer by two other events.

The first way to know it’s summertime in NYC is that the subway platforms escalate to unbearably high temperatures. Combine the blistering temperature with the dank underground humidity of the seeping drainage water and you find yourself sweating while standing perfect still. For a person who read way too many fantasy and science fiction novels as a child (such as myself), the summertime subway becomes the stuff of myth. A dark, putrid cave whose heat and humidity are obviously caused by the demonic lava that flows beneath the tracks fueling the trains as we orc-wage-slaves shuffle and push towards another scrap of food in our daily toil to please an unforgiving Over Lord.

In many parts of the world, the subway platforms are air conditioned. Now, I’m not crazy enough to call for that kind of humanity. After all, the NYC subway is over 100 years old. An industrial sized fan is all we really need. Please.

The second event which signifies the arrival of summer in New York for me is a small change in my routine as I climb up the five flights of stairs to my apartment. Instead of just toiling up the stairs as usual at the end of the day, I find myself stripping off my clothes piece by piece, floor by floor as I head up with the rising heat. By the time I reach my apartment on the top floor, I’m half naked and it’s all I can do to unlock the door and prostrate myself in front of the air conditioner and it’s cooling goodness.

In many parts of the city, building common areas are air conditioned. Now, I’m not crazy enough to think that I’ll ever be able to afford to live in one of those buildings, but heck, who knows? I play the lottery. After all, if my landlord has the gall to leave trash in the hall outside my apartment — from the previous tenant — for two years and then to send me a note asking for me to remove it, I’m not thinking their concerned about the health and well being of their tenants.

Train Story #65408

March 21, 2007

Just about every aspect of New York life that goes on above ground also takes place underground in the subway system. And when you cram that many people into a confined area, you’re bound to create opportunities. Musicians find listeners. Sellers find buyers. Sinners find redemption. On and on it goes.

And sometimes, lovers find each other.

Now I’m not talking about teens cause everyone knows they’ve got nowhere else to go (or anywhere to be for that matter). They can’t make out with each other in their homes and they can’t get a hotel, so there only option is the PDA. Given their transient nature, the subway is often a favorite haunt.

And I’m not referring to the nice old couple who sneaks a kiss on the train after a night at the opera. While it’s cute and all, it’s also respectable. It’s descent. Seniors generally don’t get dirty in public (unlike the teens).

What I’m talking about is the covert rendezvous. The stolen kiss. The forbidden encounter planned down to the second and geared to occur amongst the crowds to raise no suspicions.

Sometimes if you’re lucky and observant you catch this moment and if they’re good, it takes you a second to realize what just happened.

Times Square underground during the morning rush hour. A man waits at the top of the stairs leading down to the N, Q and R lines heading downtown. A woman walks from the across the open space from the downtown 1, 2, and 3 lines. She heads towards him. There is no recognition at all. Travelers of the world swarm in all directions, each focused on their own destination. Musicians set up their instruments for the first show of the morning. The mans stands dead still. The woman approaches fast with a crowd from the 1, 2, and 3 lines at her heel. She approaches him and in a flash kisses him. They do not speak. Only their lips touch. The kiss is brief but no accident, no sentimental gesture, no hello, no goodbye.

And she is past him heading towards the Queens bound N, Q, R lines.

And he is down the stairs and headed in the opposite direction.

One brief moment. One brief kiss to hold all that emotion. To communicate all that meaning.

I smile as recognition sets in. Spring must be around the corner. At least the sun is shining underground.

Bad Day?

February 27, 2007

Today’s installment in a never-ending series of NYC subway moments, I ran across a man with the right attitude.

To set the scene, Archie and I squashed our way onto the subway (the #1 local heading downtown from 79th Street for the straphangers out there) during the morning rush hour to go to work.

As is often the case, Archie attracts attention for no other reason than people aren’t used to seeing dogs on the subway and especially ones who are so bored with the whole experience that they can barely stay awake.

A woman notices Archie and begins a conversation with me (or him?) saying something to the effect that Archie had it made and that she wished she could travel that way, i.e., carried.

I responded with one of my general, all-purpose, stock responses, “He’s got to go to work like everyone else and earn his keep.”

(As a side note, this was one of those moments when you find yourself the only one on the whole train car talking. Eerie silence fills the entire car as it roars and 500 or so people are in various stages of early morning stupor. You almost become self-conscious of your voice interrupting the silence.)

The train reaches the next stop, the doors open behind this woman and her husband, people cram out, people start cramming in. In one of those brilliant moves, an express train pulls in across the platform and all those passengers who stayed on the local, but really wanted the express, now tried to force their way off the local train to run across the platform — all while passengers from the express (and the platform) are trying to mash their way onto the local.

(For those people who are not good in crowds or freak out at their personal space being violated, please do not come to NYC and definitely do not ride the subway.)

And this is where the story gets interesting. A woman tries pushing her way onto our train and in an irritated voice asks the couple I was talking with to move further into the train. They responded that a. they were getting off at the next stop and b. there was really no more room further into the train car.

The woman pushing her way onto the train responds with a stream of what my fiancee politely refers to as, “F-bombs” which naturally generates a similar response from the people she’s pushing and asking to move.

Fast forward a few stops and I find myself in a relatively empty car talking with the husband of the woman who had been verbally accosted by the pushy rider.

And this is the heart of the matter we discussed — with so much going on in the world, how could someone think that their minor discomfort should ruin their day. The bigger picture in terms of being grateful for your health and your family should always take presence.

Running late does not constitute a bad day.

The fact that the train was crowded does not constitute a bad day.

(Gee, I’m sorry — it’s the NYC subway at rush hour. Are you really surprised it’s crowded?)

And the fact that everyone on the subway is not catering to your wishes does not constitute a bad day.

Nor does it justify verbally accosting people who are already dealing (quite well) with a cramped and uncomfortable situation.

If you’re really that self-absorbed, please take a taxi and stay away from anywhere people gather.

Next time you think you’re having a bad day, take a deep breath and think again. What actually has occurred and is it really so bad? What actually would ruin your day, your year, your life?