Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Walk Across the River

Yesterday my husband and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn. It's a beautiful jaunt either way, and impossible not to be awed by the structure itself. Which reminds me, once we watched an incredible series by Ric Burns called New York: A Documentary. There was a breathtaking look into how the Brooklyn Bridge was built... absolutely terrifying and wonderful, all at the same time. I highly recommend it. Anyway, here's a photo I took.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tinfoil Yalmukas

I wish, wish, wish with my happy heart that I had thought to pull out my camera when this happened...

Myself and my better half were walking past the park, headed to the subway, when ahead of us I see a young couple walking their two dogs. One was a Weimeriner, and the other was just sort if scrappy and small. And they both had some sort of tinfoil hats tied with yarn to their furry heads.

As we stopped to pet the dogs, I asked "Are they wearing yalmukas?" thinking that this is New York where anything can happen and quite often does, and perhaps these people and their Jewish dogs were celebrating a late High Holy Day with tinfoil yalmukas. Could happen, right?

But no. They said, "Actually it's helmets to keep the aliens from hearing their thoughts."


Then I remembered that stupid Mel Gibson movie with the Aliens and the tinfoil and we had a good laugh. Turns out the couple was actually looking around the neighborhood for a dress-up dog parade which was to be starting soon. I wish I had known about the parade, I could have dressed Jack up. It probably would have pissed her off some, but I would have had a good laugh.

We left the couple on the corner and headed to the subway. When I looked back, both tinfoil yalmukas had fallen off and the dogs looked much happier. But now their unprotected doggie brains were just sending out messages to space...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Just a *little* off.

I do not enjoy the Busy Bee Food Exchange. They operate a noisy business and are not friendly, and it smells bad inside. It is a family-run store. I'm sure it's some Polish family who has been in the area for generations and therefore are somewhat discouraged that their neigborhood is being taken over by the likes of me and my kind. "My kind" being the kind who swoop in from somewhere else, say Chicago, and proclaim instant Brooklyn Resident Status when really, I've only been here for 5 minutes and they've been here for 80 years. (Never mind that I, too, have a lot of Eastern Eurpoean blood in my veins... does that count for anything? Probably not.)

That being said, I think it's pretty funny that this is the clip art that the Busy Bee Food Exchange uses for all of their posters. Somehow, I can't imagine the Polish ladies behind the counter choosing this image for it's irony and kitch value. But I laugh every time I walk by. I wonder what Matt Groening would think.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Score! !

My loving parents passed on to me a gene that makes it impossible for me to resist cool pieces of junk, miscellaneous nifty items on the side of the road, or any old something that looks like it has a story behind it.
That being said, I could not pass up this wonderful item that was laying near some trashy cans down the street. I think that it might have been a roof hole-cover. That's my guess. It's heavy as sin, and me and Jack had a pretty good time dragging it home. I mean, it took me a while to decide to actually take it. I made sure it was not within the "area" (that's the little fenced in spot in front of your house). Yep, it was definitely out of the area. But who would throw this away? This was collage gold! Art waiting to happen! I called Nicole to get a second opinion on helping myself to it, but she didn't answer. Finally, I just sucked it up and took off with it, hoping that no one would run after me screaming "Hey! That's my hipster art project in the making!" At which point I just would have yelled "Attack, Jack, Attack!" But then Jack would have just looked confused, because she has never been commanded to attack. But I think she might, if it were for the sake of art. But no one stopped us.
Anyway, it's a thick wooden frame with a wooden back piece, which I assume was once the "top", if it was indeed a cover to something. It's covered with a layer of metal that is beautifully rusted and degraded. Finding this cool art object makes up for having to pass on the two huge, green Japanese vases that someone left out for the taking the other day. I couldn't even lift one of those, much less two. Oh, Brooklyn city streets, what gold you yield!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Totally Effortless Day in The City

President Bush was in town today. La dee da, that doesn't mean much when you've lived in Washington DC and have had to deal with motorcade after motorcade pushing you aside on some crowed street.

Today I navigated my journey exactly right and it put me in such a good mood it was all I could do not to sing out loud as I walked jauntily down 53rd Street. (I was listening to The Greatest Hits of Simon and Garfunkel and "Mrs. Robinson" always makes me want to sing.) My destination was the American Museum of Folk Arts, and it was delightful. I had to pay, though... I forgot that not all museums are free like they are in Washington! I was terribly inspired by all that I saw and took lots of notes so I can find out more about some of the artists I'd never heard of. There was lots of Henry Darger, who I find to be a bit creepy but fascinating nonetheless. I was so inspired that I came home and finished a painting. I would have gone to the MOMA, but the DaDa exhibit is still there, and I saw that like 3 times in DC.

I wandered up 5th Avenue, past 30 Rockefeller Center to H&M. For those who don't have an H&M in their town, let me explain... it is a mecca of cheap, hip clothing and it takes a dedicated person to weed through the crap to find a few trustworthy items. Today I won the H&M treasure hunt and got myself a classic black raincoat. It's really a timeless item and it makes me look like every other person in New York, but I've never had one before and it makes me feel very East Coasty. I also picked up a very structured, very 1960's winter white cocktail dress. Then when I got home and tried it on for Rick, I realized that my bravery did not translate beyond the dressing room, and the 1960's white cocktail dress was just a little too much. I will be returning the cocktail dress. This is why shopping alone is tricky.

Okay, so this was kind of a boring post. But it was kind of a boring day. Except every once in a while, I looked up at some amazing, incredible work of architecture and was reminded that there is no place like this in the entire world.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mexican Cow Painting

A few blogs ago, I mentioned that I was sitting at my kitchen table painting a Mexican folk-art inspired cow. (See blog "Smell-o-rama and Aural Collage," from September 10th.) Anyway, here's the finished product. It really has nothing to do with New York, other than having been painted in New York.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Yesterday's Lament

Yesterday as we came up out of the stinking subway on to the soaking, noisy, littered, windy streets of our neigborhood, Nicole said "A bad day in New York is like the worst day ever anywhere else."

Ain't it the truth.

This is not an easy city to live in. I can't imagine packing up and moving here with nothing, like zillions of people do every year. Yesterday was one of the days when New York City just pissed me off, from the time that I got out of bed until I finally made it home to collapse onto the couch.

See, part of the madness stems from the apartment that we are subletting. You guys, this place is a shithole. I'm not joking. If you saw this place in Fresno, you'd either laugh out loud or ask where the crack dealers were hiding. It is huge by NYC standards, I'll give it that. But it's shitty. I'm talking floorboards-haven't-been-cleaned-in-8-years kind of dirt around here... The bathroom (which is in the kitchen, about 3 feet away from the table) has this door that might as well be attached with masking tape, and it doesn't close all the way. The lights flicker, and I always suspect that a fire is going to break out in the walls at any moment. I guess the worst part (other than the dirt and danger and exposed bathroom) is the "subletting" aspect of it all. When we got here, there was stuff everywhere. Bad art on the walls, food in the cabinets, books and jewelry and clothes and stuff, all of which was not mine, laying everywhere. I know that subletting means taking over someone else's space. I know that. But if I am going to pay you that astronomical rent that you are asking --and for several months, you'd better fucking move your shit out of the way so I can bring mine in. Is that too much to ask? So I have been shovling all this random stuff into cabinets and drawers and just trying to get it out of my way, so for the next month or so I can at least pretend that we live here.

The living situations here, they blow my mind. I have always thought of home as a nest, a retreat... somewhere you want to go. But people here, they compromise that so that they can live here in this city. Why should a landlord bother cleaning and repainting and repairing his apartment when he knows that there's someone out there who will take it as-is? And for ten times what it's really worth? I know there's great places here in New York. I have seen them, they exist. And we can afford some of them. I just have to get one. Which is not easy! GOAL: To be out of this place by Halloween at best, Thanksgiving at the latest.

So anyway, yesterday's crappy day involved going into Manhattan to try and meet Nicole after her audition and of course getting lost, and of course it was raining and windy and generally it felt like the city was taunting me. (Let me just say that I thank the gods above that my eventual move to this city was not to be an actor. I always thought it would be the reason I came here, and it is very freeing to not worry about headshots and auditions. I will live vicariously through Nicole's acting career. That's enough for me.) So the morning was crappy and no one seemed to care when I was standing in front of Starbucks in midtown screaming and kicking the wall as hard as I could (while Nicole, ever my friend, stood sliently by and understood my need to kick the wall.) Not to mention that I have successfully navigated subway systems all over the world (Chicago, London, Washington DC) and my inablity to get from point A to point B on the NY Metro frustrates me greatly. It shouldn't be this hard! I have a feeling I am making it more difficult somehow...

Eventually we met up with yet another Fresno State theatre alum who lives here and together we three ate Mexican food and drank margaritas like any good Californians should on a cold, rainy day in New York. And once we got back to Brooklyn, I retrived Jack from doggy daycare and we had to make the long, wet trek home. I changed out of my soaking clothes, dried off the dog and passed out on the couch, exhausted from having accomplished absolutely nothing.

But I'm not angry at New York this morning, as the clouds have cleared and I know in my heartest of hearts which subway stop I am supposed to get off at for my errand downtown. But I can see easily why people get tired of living in the "big city." Sometimes, all you wanna do is hop in your car and drive to Target for a cheap, suburban thrill. And that is not an option here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Happy Ending

When I moved to Greenpoint 2 weeks ago, these lost cat posters were plastered on every corner of the neighborhood. I felt so sad for Gizmo the Cat's family. But this morning, when I went out to walk Jack, this is what I saw! On every poster that we passed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

September 12th Reflections

I have written and rewritten this blog about 4 times since yesterday, trying to figure out how to say what I wanted to say about 9.11. (And in the interest of blogging integrity, I must say that I first published this blog this morning on another of my sites. I have made few changes.)

One of the prevailing thoughts that I have is that I haven't really a right to stand and weep in the streets of New York over the loss of life and change in the world that came about on that day. I wasn't a New Yorker; I wan't here on 9.11. I was asleep in my bed 3,000 miles away, in California. About as far removed from it as you could possibly be. I was spared the live images, the noise, the smell and the white-hot fear of not knowing if I was going to make it through the day. My husband, whom I did not yet know, has exactly the opposite position: he was in lower Manhattan when the shit hit the fan. My memories of that day involved an attack on America; his memories recall an attack on his home. Where he lived; where he worked. Our experiences couldn't have been more polarized.

Which is not to say that we who were not present in New York that day do not deserve to grieve for the families of the victims. We totally have that right. God knows I cried enough that first week over missing persons posters, dust-covered images, and tired rescue dogs with burnt paws. I even made those red, white and blue ribbons cause I didn't know what the hell else to do. We had every right to mourn.

But I think it's time to stop ripping open this wound at every opportunity. I realize that yes, a 5-year anniversary is a milestone that marks a lot of things and calls for reflection and remembrance. And people have every right to respect a somber date and pay tribute in ways that they see fit. But yesterday in New York City, most people weren't pausing their lives to mourn afresh and lament over our unsafe, terrorist-rich world. They were shopping and working and taking pictures with the Naked Cowboy in Times Square. I saw them. Everyone knew it was 9.11, no one was hiding that fact. But instead of bloody broken limbs, September 11th has become a bright red scar. It can't be ignored and it still aches when it rains. But people wear their scars proudly, and New York City knows it.

My observations as a "new" New Yorker are this: this is not the 9.11 of your coffee table memorial books and stupid George W. Bush speeches. This is a different animal altogether, and now I live in a city where those who were here on that terrible day have such strong ties to each other and to the simple geography of the place that I will never fully comprehend it. But I think that's okay. I have my memories of that day, they have theirs.

In closing I will say this: keep your wits about you. Do not be swayed and emotionally manipulated by the inevitable evocations of 9.11 bravery paraded through upcoming political ads and campaigns. We are smarter than that, and the victims and their families deserve better.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Smell-o-rama and Aural Collage

So you may have heard that New York City stinks. It does. It smells like garbage, especially when you are near some... garbage. (Duh.) But the stink also just sort of floats along randomly, waiting to assault you unxpectedly. It's pretty offensive. I mean, I've lived in big cities before. Chicago isn't exactly little. But Chicago is far less offensive than New York City when it comes to odor. I guess what do you expect with a gazillion people all living in tight quarters? But since I don't want to insult My New City, here are some things in New York that do not smell bad at all:

-My dog (who has always been sweet-smelling for a dog)
-The Laundromat (good smells abound)
-Cafe Grumpy (a coffee shop that smells like coffee)
-The Polish Bakery (which smells deee-lite-ful, as you could imagine)

Less offensive than the smells is the ambient noise that comes with living on top of other people. Well, some noise I could do without (garbage trucks, motorcycles, drunk people at 4am outside my window yelling at eachother.) But I actually quite enjoy hearing Brooklyn neighborhood sounds drift in through my open windows. Today, I sat at the kithen table and painted a small, Mexican Folk-art-inspired cow while listening to the following:

-classical piano sonatas from radio somewhere below
-kids playing next door
-occasional dog barks
-birds in the tree outside my window (Disney-esque, but true)
-someone clumsily strumming a guitar on their fire escape
-loud, Brooklyn-dialect heavy conversations between neighbors (was far enough away so as to not be annoying)

Tomorrow I am putting Jack in doggy daycare and going into the city to wander. I'll have a full report for your reading pleasure. I'm sure there will be something to note, because it is the 5th anniversary of 9.11. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Empire State Building Lighting Schedule

Thanks to Alison (friend and former New Yorker) who reminded me that there exists a schedule online that spells out the lights on the Empire State building.

Check it out:

I heard that the Chrysler Building is the "feminine" answer to the masculine lines of the Empire State building. I actually like the Chrysler building better, but they do compliment each other nicely.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Random Photo Montage for Your Pleasure

Location, location, location.

That saying exists in the real estate world for a reason.

So the next time you are apartment shopping/house hunting, remember that adage. Think twice about that space just steps around the corner from a bustling street. Because while it may be charming to stumble across the way to fetch some milk and a paper in the morning, it is not charming when the huge rumbly delivery trucks begin to make their riotously loud commute down your narrow street at 6am. It is even less charming when a semi truck nearly demolishes and then wedges itself neatly (and rather inexplicably) between your car and the sidealk loading dock. (I'm sure you can imagine, this was not a quiet affair. Many of the neighbors were quite upset. Our street is very narrow. After you park cars on either side, it doesn't leave room for an SUV, much less a semi tractor trailer. Add the fact that it was 6:30 in the morning, and you've got a situation brewing.)

Ce' la vie. Such is New York, I suppose.

Today I saw a plane skywriting, although I have absolutely no idea what it wrote.

They have those amazingly bright lights lit up at Ground Zero that project two beams of light into the night sky. It's sad and beautiful and not enough.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Wash & Fold" and Other Miscellany

Across the street from my apartment is a laundromat. There are actually many, many laundromats in our neighborhood because when you live in Ye Olde Row House, you probably don't have a washer dryer in your teensy living space. I used a laundromat frequently when I lived in Chicago, and I actually really liked it. Maybe that's cause I'm a nutter, or maybe it's just another one of those environments where all kinds of people are forced to mix and face the fact that no matter who you are, you will eventually have to wash your clothes.

But hark... I spied a sign on the local laudromat that said "Wash & Fold Services." My husband told me that he used to always use Wash&Fold when he lived in Manhattan, and I thought the idea of someone else washing and folding your dirty underwear was kind of skangy. But being a New New Yorker who feels compelled to immerse herself in new things, I decided to give it a try. I dropped off two big laundry bags to the lady who ran the place. My bags weighed 12 pounds each, and for her to Wash&Fold them would be at total of $16. She said they would be ready later in the day. I have to admit, I was afraid something would go missing or come back ruined. Or that I would be judged on my dirty clothes or something.

But guess what? When Rick brought the clean laundry home, any resistance I might have had melted clean away into the piles of perfectly folded, sweet-smelling, fresh-from-the-dryer clothes. Oh, this was the good life! It was like when you wake up on Monday morning as a kid, and your mom had done all the laundry the night before. Utterly divine. I am forever sold on the Wash&Fold.

Now if they only offered dishwashing services...

Other things:

* I can see the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building from my neighborhood. Where we are in Brooklyn is right across the river from their homes in Manhattan. They look so cool lit up at night! The lights on the Empire State Building change depending on the holiday or season. Right now it's red, white and blue. I'm not sure if this is the default setting or if it's cause the 5th anniversary of 9.11 is next week.

* Last night we witnessed a group of adults running desperately after a softee-serve ice cream truck yelling "Ice Cream Man!!! ICE CREAM MAN!!! COME BACK! Waaaiiiit!!" It was pretty funny. We caught up with him later in the evening, and promptly spoiled our dinner with choco cones.

* This is not really a New York thing, but I need to say something about it anyway. I am really sad that Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, is gone. Maybe that's silly to some, but I think my bosom friend Nicole said it best when she said that we rarely get to see someone so joyfully performing the exact job that they were put on this Earth to do. And if you ever saw Steve Irwin on Amimal Planet doing his "job," you understand. We should all be so lucky as to immerse ourselves in an occupation and lifestyle that makes us as happy as it makes those around us. Well played, Steve Irwin.

Mission for today: find the nearest mailbox and the DMV.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Serek Truskawkowy (homogenizowany)

I'll be you didn't know that says "Strawberry Soft Cheese (homogenized)".

Let me tell you a little about my new neighborhood, Greenpoint. It's a largely Polish community. When my dear college friend and fellow Greenpoint resident Nicole forewarned me of this, I thought "How charming. I can buy good sausages." What I did not expect were entire stores -nay, entire blocks- of solidly Polish-speaking New Yorkers.

It's this kind of situation: You go into a local store, and everyone there is not only speaking Polish, most of the signage is written in Polish. So you fumble your way through the dairy produts trying to find a suitable spread for your breakfast bagels. You end up with Serek Truskawkowy. At least it has a picture of a strawberry on the package. This seems safe enough. Remembering you still need a shower curtain, you venture up to the register to ask if they have any. The clerk looks pained when you open your mouth and English comes out, and no. They don't have any shower curtains. Rejected and desperate for a hot shower, you opt instead for a plastic party table cloth. You are a smart girl; you'll figure out a way to make it into a temporary fix.

I hear Greenpoint is on the fast track to becoming gentrified. Which is to say that in ten years, there probably won't be as many Real Polish People. There probably won't be a "PoleMart." (Yes, really. There really is a store called PoleMart.) Anyway, I think that's kind of sad because it's neighborhoods like these that make big cities fun and diverse places to be. So, in the meantime, I will learn a few Polish greetings and maybe I can say hi to the old man next door who peeks his head out every time Jack and I walk by.

And as for the Serek Truskawkowy, it's kind of like a cross between Strawberry yogurt and cream cheese. Next time, I'll try the blueberry.

Friday, September 01, 2006

In the clearing stands a boxer...

Paul Simon is from Brooklyn. But I haven't seen him yet. Welcome to my new blog about being a New New Yorker. A Virgin New Yorker. Eyes wide open.

In other words, scared shitless.

In my first three hours as a New New Yorker, I have been unsuccessful at the following:

* getting keys duplicated

* finding/buying a shower curtain

* eliminating the gas smell in my sublet

* speaking Polish to the ladies at the corner market

* getting my traumatized doggy to eat her dinner

Daily "Only in New York" moment: Opening the fridge in my sublet to find that the landlord had left two six packs of beer for me. Sweet.