28 posts categorized "New Fucking York"

A New York Moment

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If you're a European in a partying mood, go east.  Jet lag will keep you up 'til all hours, and help you sleep through that tedious bit of the day known as work.  On the other hand, if you find yourself travelling west, then you'll be punching zeds before the cocktail hour kicks in. 

Early to bed, the saying goes, means early to rise.  Which is how I found myself wandering Soho at 5 am on a Sunday morning.

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Frank Loesser wrote about the small hours in Manhattan.

My time of day
is the dark time
A couple of deals before dawn
When the street belongs to the cop
And the janitor with the mop
And the grocery clerks are all gone.
When the smell of the rain-washed pavement
Comes up clean, and fresh, and cold
And the street-lamp's light
Fills the gutters with gold.
 

Yes, there is something beautiful about this time of day in the city.  There's a peace that lets you see things.   One begins to notice the built environment. 

You can see how much of this town was built in the first decades of the twentieth century, just when America (and this part of New York, in particular) began to understand its own energy and importance.

When I lived in New York, it wasn't around here.  I took an apartment in Turtle Bay.  The name suggests, accurately, a slow backwater—not interesting enough to be Murray Hill, and not posh enough to be Sutton Place.  "If you must live in midtown, Husband," scoffed one expat-Brit hipster, "you could at least go to Hells bloody Kitchen."   Nope, my neighbourhood was NYC in vanilla.

In Soho, you can glimpse the Damon Runyon side of the city; a Gotham of small-time gamblers and hopeful starlets; of bootleggers and greengrocers; of Luckies smoked on fire escapes; of families who rolled up their rugs in the summer.  This neighbourhood was once the thick of it.

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Now, the gentry has conquered Soho.  Condos.  Microbrews.  The Apple Store.

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The kind of place where your Vespa matches your house.  The kind of place where designer moms with expensive prams need to be warned against bumps.

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Cracks in the sidewalk?  Who knew?

That's why this sign caught my attention.  A last hold-out against middle-class order.  A playground for defacers, each wanting his three-square inches of fame. 

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The photo doesn't reveal a certain gentleman standing beneath.  He sucked a Camel, fast and desperate.   Curse those those new-fangled smoke-free bars!

"You a photographer?" he asked, testily.  (Ah, the new camera seems to have made a good impression.)

"No, I'm just an amateur," I replied.

He barked a string of paranoid demands. "You're not gonna publish that picture, are you?  What's your name?  Show me some ID.  If you publish that picture, I'll sue the  shit out of you.  I'm an attoyney."

This made me smile. Not because a half-drunk stranger was threatening to take away my house.  But rather because he actually said "attoyney".

Usually, the first time one hears a New York accent, someone plays it for laughs—especially if you're my age.  Bugs Bunny makes a lasting impression.

When I lived in New York, I had trouble taking anyone seriously.  The whole city sounded like a Stooge.  I expected people on the street to poke my eyes out.  I feel sure they wanted to, sometimes.

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"Here's my detail,." I said, cheerfully, as I reached in my pocket and handed him a Drinking Card.  For those of you who don't hang out in bars, a Drinking Card is kind of like a business card, except without information that makes you stalkable—in my case, an anodyne gmail address and a mobile number.  Gay gentlemen of my acquaintance sometimes call this a Trick Card, for reasons irrelevant to this discussion.

My suitor (is that not what you call someone threatening you with a lawsuit?) took out his Blackberry Curve (Coyve?) and angrily tapped a message.  It arrived on my phone a moment later.

DESIST FROM USING ANY OR ALL PICTURES TAKEN, read the title line. 

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"I will desist, with pleasure.  Since you asked so nicely."   With a tap of a button, his image disappeared from the camera display.  Of course, I hadn't actually deleted it, but he didn't know that.  I didn't know that either, since I hadn't read the camera instructions.  Real men are above such things.

My hand reached out for his.   "You know my name, but I don't believe I caught yours   May I have the pleasure?"  This was a lie, since he had just sent me an email, but hey.

Niceness caught him off guard.  "Look, y'know.  Sorry.  Caught me at a bad time."

Apology accepted.  If one leans against a signpost at dawn, half-drunk, in depserate need of a cigarette, one can't expect to sparkle.

But just in case New York's collective mood hasn't improved, please enjoy these entirely people-free photos of the Bowery and its environs on that summer morning, not long ago.

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By happy co-incidence, photos of buildings suit this week's PhotoFriday theme rather well: Architecture.

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Flocking Hell! ImprovEverywhere comes to Munich.

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The Urbanauts are a collective, active at Munich's Ludwig Maximillian University.  They emerged from the School of Architecture, with a mission to redefine how public spaces are seen and used.  

ImprovEverywhere will be working with the Urbanauts in Munich.  For those of you who don't know the IE, they were responsible for the famous Grand Central Station Freeze in New York.

The links lead to web pages which tell you how to participate.  The first activity is TODAY, November 3, so hurry.  Sadly, I'm abroad, so I'll miss it. 

I believe the ultimate goal is to create a public performance which mimics a flock of starlings.  The video below comes from their website, and is meant to give you an idea of the concept.  I can hardly wait.


A Highly Successful Plane Crash

The more you fly, the more you fear flying, they say. Yours Truly, whose frequent flyer cards drip with gold, diamonds, plantinum and emeralds, is such a flyer. Sheer mathematics convince anyone with a nervous disposition that his number must come up, sooner or later.

That's why I got in the habit of (don't laugh) counting the rows to my nearest exit, which, for those of you who weren't paying attention, may be behind you. If you fly Qantas, the sultry-voiced Angela Catterns scolds blasé frequent flyers to listen up; you may think you've heard the safety drill before, but every aircraft is subtly different.

Nonetheless, even the biggest scaredy-cat browses the in-flight magazine during the life-jacket bit. Nice in theory, but no pilot has ever successfully ditched in water. One wing generally touches the surface first, and flips the plane. Or the whole kit-and-caboodle is so busy dropping out of the sky that your seat cushion-cum-floatation device may be too little, too late.

Until yesterday.

Much has been written about USAirways #1549. About the skill, heroism and modesty of the pilot. About the speed with which NY Waterways craft were able to rescue the passengers. And a lot about divine intervention, prayer, grace, or sheer good fortune. FlyerTalk, and the Australian Frequent Flyer Community, both discuss the matter at length.

My first thought on reading the news, though, was this. Aviation seems to be getting safer.

Before you scoff at my bad taste, hear me out. Time was, not long ago, that any catastrophic system failure was a death sentence for passengers and crew.

Ironically, I was sitting in the USAirways lounge at LaGuardia in 2005 when an Air France plane skidded off the runway in Toronto. As news helicopters circled the flaming aircraft, broadcasters solemnly mouthed pity on the travellers inside, unable to imagine that anyone could survive the flames. Yet, everyone escaped alive, thanks to an incredibly alert and well-trained crew.

Last year, I was actually booked on the British Airways flight from Beijing that crashed-landed at Heathrow. It may seem odd to write that it "crash-landed successfully", but no other phrase seems more appropriate. Everyone lived.

Those in the know, credit the pilot's skill. "He deserves a medal as big as a frying pan," they said. Let's hope he got one.

(An aside. At the last minute, accountants at my firm switched the ticket to Air China, on cost grounds. They take this incident as a moral lesson in the virtues of pennypinching.)

And now, USAirways 1549.

Yesterday, benevolent forces controlled the universe. Or, just as important, even in an atmosphere of absurd cost-cutting and near bankruptcy, the behaviour of the pilot and crew suggests that airlines seem not to have skimped on human factors in aviation safety. Perhaps, they took lessons from safety breaches, and trained crews for many more contingencies. Perhaps they recognise the human element as the most important factor in air safety.

I never thought I would say this. Goodonya, aviation industry. And--no, hear me out-- congratulations to USAirways. They may cancel flights and lose luggage, but they appear to have put real effort into improving their safety record. EDIT: Spoke too soon, perhaps?

Personally, I am grateful. Munich and Pittsburgh, for obvious reasons, are two airports I use a lot, and USAirways maintains a significant presence in both.

It seems that the pilot of the stricken plane was, in fact, one of the key movers responsible for crew training standards. His LinkedIn profile shows two recommendations. When he gets to work on Monday, I would be surprised if there were not, at the very least, 155 more. 

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The photo credit is a triumph for the citizen journalist. It is Janis Krum's first Twitter photograph of the plane in the Hudson, sourced through (ironically enough) a website named Boing Boing.