Monday, September 11, 2006

911


Five years later.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Summer in NY

Ahhh... what could be better than enjoying a nice, cold beer on a hot, humid summer's day in NYC? Could it be hearing a live, free concert from the VIP section of Central Park's summerstage while skipping the entire line? Could it be the free Brazilian barbecue? Might it be the bottomless cups of Brahma beer? No. Nope, 'fraid not. As AMEX wouldn't describe it:

concert... free
food and alcohol... free
attending concert with one of only two new friends in entire city of New York, who aggressively thinks you should be more, even though you couldn't be less interested?... see price list.

But... at least the music didn't suck--




Of course, that was yesterday. Today was a whole new hot, humid day, so the setup begs endless uh... endings. But the least exciting, obvious choice is sadly, the correct one. I had a fun little walk through east, central, and west Greenwich villages, soho, chinatown, and of course hte endless no-mans-land between my home and hte rest of Manhattan, called the financial district. I made it home just in time to shower before my dinner party... which was unfortunately called off due to hostess illness. So I decided to finally brave my local bar, Ulysses. I've been avoiding hte bar for ages now, and by "ages" I mean "two weeks." I've walked by several times, sure, but never really ventured past the door to buy a drink because it's awfully unfriendly... trying to socialize in a bar... in NY... in the financial district... with finance folks in suits... okay I probably just tipped the end of that story. But in case you missed it, uh, nobody talked to me and to make matter worse, the bartender brought me a free drink, which cruelly extended my solitary torture.

But at least... oh, forget it, I've lost sight of the upside.

A few of you have been asking to see pics of my apartment... which I haven't taken. But I did manage to take a few out my living room window. Yes, if you're thinking it looks more like Tucson or Toronto than Manhattan, you're on the right track. Hey - if you look closely - you can see... a human being.




Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Picking up

This is the view at 3am from the rooftop somewhere in the meatpacking district after my fourth or fifth venue on a Tuesday night. Let's just say things are picking up.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sucks in the City



Statements like, “I stopped off at the Met after work to check out the sunset from the roof,” sound so romantic. But in truth, they are far less romantic when followed by the qualifier, “I waited on line for an hour to buy a $15 glass of $3 wine in order to share the sunset with my cell phone.” In an effort to put the rumor to rest, it is, indeed, just as difficult to find social satisfaction in New York as it is in the city of Los Angels. But the view’s just as perty from the City that Never Speaks:



















I got Nailed!

Walk down any city street in greater Los Angeles and you're bound to come across as many nail shops as there are Starbucks. New York is no different. On my lunch break, I fully intended to hit Whole Foods in Union Square, but by the second nail shop, I was entirely distracted by shiny objects and offers of air conditioning. I decided to ditch the humidity outside by drowning my feet in a bucket of water, and my nose in the delicious stench of formaldahyde.

Contrary to the typical LA shop, everybody here spoke fluent English. They didn't shout loud, funny stories across the room in Vietnamese at each other, making me think they were gossiping about me. Nobody invited me to, "Peek yo cuhlar." These ladies were from India. My lovely manicurist told me all about her family, and how her neice speaks Nepalese, Tibetan, and English. I was having a simply delightful lunch until I got the bill. On Beverly, in LA, a cheap, duck-in mani/pedi will run you about $18. On Broadway, in Manhattan, that converts to $46. Yes. That's pre-tip. So I guess it's more expensive to have an English conversation than a Vietnamese one. So I learned something very important today... I don't charge people enough to talk to me.







Monday, June 19, 2006

9th Ward

The Southern tip of Manhattan is fondly referred to not only as the "Financial District" but as the "South Street Sea Port" area. I have been lost here for a week, thought I've walked my feet off wandering around the city to sort out where I am. My street is short, and is curiously missing from most maps. Somehow, I have to walk West to get to the water, though the water is the East River. I have yet to figure this out, all I can assume is that my street must be at some curious angle that makes lefts become rights in the eyes of Mother Nature.

Sunday, I went to an art gallery for most of the day, then wandered back to my area. Bored, as the financial district is EMPTY on the weekends, I decided to check out a new direction and see where I ended up. So glad I did. I am well aware that quite a few people live down here, and have been wondering where it is that they all go at night for a coffee, beer, dinner, walk, or to kill themselves. It's like the 9th Ward down here, it's so deserted. And lo and behold, it turns out that the "South Street Sea Port" is an actual pier... like the Santa Monica pier... it's a destination, with bands, restaurants, shops, activities, a mall, etc. And THAT'S where all the people have been hiding. Good to know. I'm not alone. Though nobody down there talked to me either, so technically... I'm still alone.

Saturday, I went to an outdoor free concert at the East River ampitheater. I am fairly certain that I walked through a series of projects to get there. And once I did, there were like 28 scattered people on bleachers watching a very late sound check get under way. I waited. No music. No crowd. No drive-by. I decided it wasn't happening and took off.


I wandered through the East village and found that the bars were curiously packed for an early afternoon. One even had air conditioning that was so strong, I felt it from the sidewalk as I passed by. Obviously, I ducked inside, where I found the World Cup was just getting underway. I joined a guy at his table and watched half the game. After nobody talked to me, once again, even though i attempted to make polite "commercial break" conversation, I finished my drink and bailed out into the blistering heat. It was - pardon the pun - a little too cold in the bar for me. Wow, I even cringed while I wrote that sentence.

So I checked out the rest of the city between the village and "no man's land" where my home at Goldman Sachs lays. I joined the gym downstairs, where I was required to sign an agreement not to discuss stocks or financial business while on the premises, or take pictures. I laughed. As much as LA is an industry town and one can't take photos for fear of leaking actors' private lives to gawker.com, here one can't document anything for fear of disrupting the stock trade. Still an industry town, but more suits and ties left on the locker room floor here.

Here is the view from the second floor of the mall at the S. St. Sea Port:




HOT

I learned a new word today. It's called "hot." I previously believed that I understood the meaning of said word, however -- today I learned I was mistaken. The weather temperature I previously understood to be "hot" will heretofore be referred to as "pleasantly warm." The word "hot" will now be reserved for "F**KING AFRICA HOT!!!" as Matthew Broderick so fondly referred to New York's summer temperature in "Brighton Beach Memoirs." So it goes without saying that all efforts to walk to work have now ceased. All previous attempts to walk to afternoon meetings at offices more than two minutes away have been cancelled. And I'm gonna need some cab fair. Send packages. Cash accepted. Wire Sheckels through western union under the code, "whoturnedupthesun."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

SubWAY off Course

Today I went to Brooklyn. On accident. Which, in hindsight, may be how most people first experience this city. The New York subway system is the spaghetti western of metro systems. It is a huge, wild pot of what should be a linear transportation system, melted together in the most illogical fashion… at least to the untrained tourist eye. There are no obvious maps on the tunnel walls. More than one train stops at every platform. And as I learned today, not all trains stop at all stops. The fast trains miss whole sections of the city at once. For instance, the train I leapt onto after work today, went from Canal Street all the way across the Brooklyn Bridge to somewhere past DUMBO. Now I’ve been turned around in this city for days, but I was certain I was headed in the wrong direction when the train I boarded underneath the street suddenly rose out from beneath the city and clouds appeared. Then I saw the DUMBO sign, which sort of made me excited, as I thought perhaps I had just arrived at the Disneyland parking lot. Reality swept in when I saw Dekalb station fly by and I momentarily feared I’d been on the train for so long that I made it all the way to Indiana. I exited some time after that and found my way back to the reverse direction, where the deserted platform schooled me on a New York truth. Most people work in Manhattan and live in Brooklyn, not the other way around.

My parents made me promise not to take the subway home from work at night. Yesterday when four people were stabbed on the subway, one right where I was that night, I considered that perhaps they weren’t being overly protective. But I’m still an optimist. I assume that most people use this wide network to get to and from, day and night, without hazard. Foreigners just aren’t as familiar with it, because New York set sitcoms never feature stars taking this common transportation. Our “Friends” must have lived right above Central Perk. The “Sex and the City” sirens were yellow cab junkies. “Caroline in the city” might well have been “Caroline on the soundstage.” I figured the subway must not be all bad when a nice businessman asked me out on the uptown W train. And I was sure the locals take it all in strike when I stumbled across this overly relaxed couple making their way to the office the morning after the stabbings.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Welcome to New York

"Shock and Ha!"

I arrived to the city that never sleeps just before midnight last night, and was swept via arranged car straight to my apartment. It was dead silent and deserted at 10 Hanover square. The streets around here were quiet and empty, save for a young couple sneaking a cigarette behind a pilar. The driver was worried about leaving me here, he was so sure it was an office building rather than a residence. Seems he was right. My building had just been renovated from the old Goldman Sachs offices into new luxury apartments. After unpacking until 4am, which would be bedtime in LA, I passed out in my "bed" room. I qualify it because it literally is exactly the size of my bed and its accompanying nightstand. And yet, oddly, my clothes fit better into this space than my three bedroom house. Perhaps my spacial reasoning was lost at baggage claim.


This morning I walked up to the village to see if my office is walking distance from my home here at Goldman Sachs (where, incidentally, I now imagine my alter ego character as an important banker. Monday morning I'm ringing the bell at the stock exchange because my company went public.) I'm hoping it's close enough that I won't have to brave the crowded subway. I always prefer walking, because it's the best way to get to know a city. When you travel underground, you never really feel the pulse of the city, get to know the culture, or actually have any idea geographically where you are. It took about 40 minutes with pedestrian traffic. I think I'll continue walking until the pavement rage sets in. You know that over-crowded, claustrophobic, anxious horror that generally sets in on the freeway? In this case, it attacks you on the sidewalk when insolent tourists have the audacity to walk slowly, or - the horror - stop in your path and snap a photo. Or shoppers stare off into space and bump into you instead of keeping pace with the very clear, functional, fluid traffic pattern you have organized for them in your mind.

I've been back in the apartment for hours now, working. At about 9pm, I suddenly heard this incredibly loud explosion. It was followed rhythmically by several more extremely loud crashes, that sounded most like concrete floors dropping onto one another. There is a lot of construction in this area -- I'm a block off of Wall Street -- so I assumed that there was an accident. I opened my window, but nobody down below seemed particularly panicked as the thud kicked up a notch and it became obvious something huge was happening. Then I recalled how people described the towers collapsing, the sound of the floors crashing onto each other echoing in the streets. I was suddenly grateful that I insisted (to everyone in NY's amusement) on having an apartment below the 8th floor, where fire ladders can still reach. To my horror, as I stared down below, I realized I was remiss in not requesting an apartment low enough to jump from. There's no way I could drop 7 floors and still have a story to tell tomorrow. It's always the one thing you didn't think of that takes you out in the end, isn't it? I looked up, but the buildings are so high and close together, you really can't see more than half a block in any direction in this city.

I grabbed my keys in a panic, wishing I hadn't had that beer with dinner and my mind was fully focussed. Braving the elevator, I raced downstairs, where people were gathered in the street outside. Why?

Because everybody loves fireworks. Yes, the explosion was coming from a brilliant fireworks display shooting off over the river on either side of a full, orange moon.

I started laughing at how my mind spun straight to disaster. It's just like the time my brother and I were wandering the streets of Copenhagen and a car backfired. We both hit the ground and scanned the scene for a safe cover, assuming it was a gunshot. That's the Los Angeles public school childhood experience rearing it's ugly head. But fortunately, I've grown by leaps and bounds since then. I no longer assume that every loud noise is a gunshot. Now I think it's an incomprehensible act of terrorism. The irony is that some day in the future, if I should ever get shot in the back while returning home from a tough day of buying and selling junk bonds at Goldman Sachs, I'll probably end up running around with a huge smile on my face, staring up at the sky in search of all the pretty lights.