Category Archives: New York Happenings

A Guide to New York City in the Summertime

By Zach

Hey there, Gator acolytes. I’m sorry to have abandoned you for these summer months, but I am not without valid reasons. Foremost on a list that includes items like “drank beer in bed and watched Batman instead of writing” lies a legitimate excuse: I live in New York. Look past the cooking street garbage and knife-wielding psychopaths — it’s the center of world urbanity! There are things to do here.

Let’s go over seven of them.

1) Go to Prospect Park and watch the sports players

Prospect Park on a nice Saturday is more littered with wholesome family goodness than an episode of the Cosby Show. Young parents holding hands, puppies cuddling with toddlers in strollers, all that shit. But it also serves as a venue for sports games played by people who enjoy playing sports.

Volleyball is one of my favorites. It’s played by two subsets of people, the first being guys who played volleyball in high school and the second being friends of that guy who he coaxed off of their picnic blankets. It is the least egalitarian of pickup sports – lots of people have played basketball and soccer before, so you generally see more parity on New York’s asphalt courts and turf fields. By contrast, volleyball draws a mix of Kerri Walsh wannabes and overweight, ponderous 5’8″ men. Lots of mismatches lead to lots of misplaced intensity on one side of the net and lots of apathy on the other. Trust me, very entertaining.

Cricket is also fun if only for its exoticism. I wasn’t exactly sprinting out to recess in elementary school to bowl a few wickets, and I’ve never played it or watched it on TV, but I enjoy watching the West Indians (?) play in the park. There are a number of older guys, probably in their 60s at least, who join in. Either West Indians aren’t ageist, or they’re just trying to emulate the Knicks.

2) Drink on a roof

My mountain-climbing, wood-chopping, forest-dwelling 2009 self pities the 2012 me that gets excited to receive a text containing the words “roof party in Crown Heights.”

3) Hang out with the mole people

Recently, my friend and I were sitting on a bench in Cooper Square, deservedly one of Manhattan’s less-known public plazas, when we noticed some hubbub to our left.

Now, as a good journalist, I’m always on the lookout for hubbub. I swiftly investigated. The commotion came from a drum circle comprising several hobos, a number of trash bags filled with their belongings, what looked like a campfire, and a sleeping, possibly dead dog. (RIP Union Square pit bull.)

I’ve lived in New York long enough to know my grades of hobo. First you have your basic homeless people, not yet indoctrinated on street decorum. They’re on the streets because they’re down on their luck and don’t have a support system (Democratic view) or because they’re lazy food stamp-pilfering drug addicts (Republican view).

Then you have the bums – hobos who just don’t care. They’ll poop on a subway platform during rush hour, for all you and your horrified children care.

Finally, you have your mole people, who literally live in the sewers. I strongly suspect that in Cooper Square, we were watching such persons. And that brings me to my disgusting sub-anecdote: three of them were leaving and stopped right near the bench where my friend and I sat. One forgot something and put his bag down a couple feet from ours while he ran to fetch whatever it was. Another bent down to pick up the bag, and the third mole person cautioned: “Don’t touch that. He’s got body lice.”

IN NEW YORKKKK, CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE DREAMS ARE MAAAADE OFFFFF

4) Play soccer in a park

New York’s soccer subculture is shockingly resilient throughout the winter months, but everyone comes out to play in the summer. Beware several dangers, though: one, there’s a Hispanic family barbecuing right behind the goalmouth; two, there’s a plump man in a wife-beater who’s kicking everybody; and three, turf-induced staph infections.

Note also that with field space at a premium, New York is not the most welcoming city when it comes to pickup soccer. New people and late arrivals are treated like Mitt Romney at a rap concert. Expect plenty of staring followed by awkward avoidance of eye contact.

5) See a movie

New York, while not legendary for its cinematic tradition, offers what my pig-farming uncle might say is a shit-ton of movie theaters. Yeah, prices aren’t cheap, but I’d opine that Christian Bale raspily barking “Justice” is worth 14 dollars alone. Same goes for Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones pretending to masturbate a chapstick tube.

6) Go buy new suits

Guys, it’s hot out there. There’s no reason to sit at home, crank the A/C and rack up your electricity bill when you can just go rack up someone else’s.

If you’re not in the movie mood, and/or you’d like something tangible to show for your money, why not go buy new suits? I don’t know about you, but it’s the only thing that gets me more excited than buying an orange mocha frappuccino. So that’s what I did yesterday.

What I discovered: Suits are expensive. You have to drop at least four or five hundred dollars if you don’t want the other wedding guests congratulating you on your successful parole hearing. There’s lots of options, too – cummerbund or no cummerbund is the greatest style question of our time. Then you have to decide on your vest style, measure your calves to ensure the ideal fit for your garters, and determine the appropriate level of garishness for your pocket square. Decisions decisions.

I didn’t buy a new suit. But I’m still planning on it once that shifty Men’s Wearhouse salesman guarantees me that his product will make me look the way I’ve long suspected it will.

7) Go to a German beer hall

A German beer hall just opened on the end of my block in Brooklyn. Alcoholism awaits.

Disappointingly, the bartenders aren’t German, nor are the barmaids particularly busty. And they do not seem to appreciate wiener schnitzel jokes or fake German accents to quite the same degree that I do. Those sad creatures.

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A Study in Creepiness: A Guy At My Gym and Marilyn Monroe

By Zach

I have two entirely unconnected stories for you, but they both concern a subject I find fascinating: creepiness. Now, I should probably precede this with the disclaimer that I appreciate creepy things and people. They’re actually really funny, to a certain extent.

Of course, this is very subjective — the line between what’s creepy and what’s not can be drawn anywhere between Herman Cain with a couple cocktails in him and necrophilia. And obviously there’s a massive existential difference between a creepy guy on a crowded street in the daytime and a creepy guy who’s duct taping you to the lathe in his apartment. But in its most harmless form, I find creepiness to be a good source of comedy.

So here are two recent instances of creepiness I’ve observed. One of them I found kind of humorous, and one of them less so.

The gym

Do you ever notice someone at your gym who’s ALWAYS there? Even if you go at different times of day, they’re there? It’s 6 a.m., hey there. One in the afternoon, don’t you have a job? 9 p.m., whoa, it’s you again. It’s rather creepy. I’ve also discovered with some discomfort that there are certain people who regularly violate my number one rule for going to the gym: don’t under any circumstances make eye contact with anyone else.

Well, I have a guy who fits these criteria. He’s probably in his forties, he has long hair, yesterday he was wearing a wrestler’s suit, and on multiple occasions I’ve seen him flexing into the mirror with the same face that Christian Bale has in American Pyscho when he’s filming himself boning those two chicks whilst flexing.

He’s one of those guys who’s a little too friendly with everyone there, maybe struts around a little too much with a little bit of a creepy smirk on his face. He looks like R. Kelly in a middle school.

Also relevant: I’ve noticed that this guy lifts the maximum amount of weight on most of the machines. Needless to say I can’t let him catch me laughing the next time he poses in the mirror.

The movie theater

I went to see My Week With Marilyn a couple nights ago with my friend, who assured me that it would be totally normal for two heterosexual males to go see a movie about Marilyn Monroe together. He was a film major, OK? Lay off me.

I have mixed feelings about the film. The storyline got old as it progressed and the acting, outside of Michelle Williams as Monroe, was pretty pedestrian.

But let’s focus on Williams as Monroe. Though I haven’t watched many of the legendary sex icon/mistress’s movies, Williams seemed to capture Monroe’s essence. And now that I have a general idea of what Monroe was like, I think it’s kind of creepy that she was lusted after to such a boner-popping extent. The little girl voice, the confused demeanor, the temper tantrums. Combine all that and…ewww. Did that really rev the engines of American males for a good decade?

I understand that she came off as more elegant onscreen, and I certainly recognize that on a very basic evolutionary level she was desirable (good birthing hips and breasts — my family produces very thirsty babies), but in My Week With Marilyn, at least, her persona comes off as very childlike, even babyish. And considering she was a sex icon, that’s really creepy.

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Differences Between Canton and Brooklyn: The Bar Scene

The trap I've set outside my local Brooklyn bar.

By Zach

Volume One of My New Series, Differences Between Canton and Brooklyn

If you’re not familiar, Canton is a small town in upstate New York. It’s a real salt-of-the earth hamlet, the kind of town that has more hardware stores than restaurants, more methamphetamine than cocaine, and more Confederate flags than Obama bumper stickers. In Canton, babies are born early and frequently.

Canton is also where I went to college for four years. And besides a three-month ziplining stint in New Hampshire, it’s the last place I lived before I moved to New York. I thought it might be a useful exercise to compare Canton and my new home, Brooklyn, if only for purely selfish contemplative purposes. I plan on doing this in a series of posts; stay tuned (shouldn’t we replace this antiquated radio-themed cliche with a more modern one, like “keep refreshing”?) for future analysis of Canton’s nightclub scene and Brooklyn’s dairy farms.

Considering the content and presumed readership of this blog, I believe alcohol is a reasonable place to start this breakdown. I’ve discovered, through methodical weekly research, that Brooklyn has more bars than Canton. I haven’t visited every bar in Brooklyn, because four dollar PBRs are a completely unsustainable means of inebriation, but I’ve certainly been to more than three, which is Canton’s grand total. Let’s run down the slate of Canton bars, shall we?

First, there’s Dave’s. I think that’s the name of it; I’ve never been inside. It was one of those typical small college-town locals’ bars where, if a student, say a dude on the lacrosse team, were to enter wearing, say, a Ralph Lauren polo under a vest, a backwards trucker hat, and boat shoes, he would soon find himself outside the premises, shaking shards of plate glass out of his hair. Dave’s was frequented by men with high cholesterol who snowmobile on weekends; the WASPs of St. Lawrence were not welcome there.

Then there was the Hoot Owl, a hockey-themed dive bar. The Hoot was a good place. It had cheap beer and was just hygienic enough that you didn’t have to shower after spending an hour there. The Hoot met my minimum requirements for an alcohol-dispersing establishment.

And then there was the glory that was the Tick Tock. The Tick Tock had it all — a dance floor populated by kids sweating like they were in the Sahara, an old speaker system blasting out top-40 hits and cheesy 80s music, a popcorn machine. The lighting consisted solely of flashing disco balls; the refreshments, of overflowing beers that inevitably ended up in the nearest girl’s hair. And the urination! People urinated everywhere. In the sinks, on the walls, on the bar itself. It was a great place.

Brooklyn’s bars are different, and by that I mean there are approximately six more horn-rimmed glasses to be found per cubic meter of bar space, and about four times as many winter hats unnecessarily sported in moderate or warm indoor temperatures. I believe that the average Brooklyn pub has approximately eight hundred beers on tap, and each bartender can tell you the precise number of hops that went into each one. For bartenders in Brooklyn need to know these things; all white borough residents require intimate knowledge of their beer’s distilling process prior to its consumption. This has been my experience, at least.

I also noticed, to my dismay, that in Brooklyn bars there is significantly less making out. Also, the girls look French (how the fuck are berets back in style?) and the guys look less masculine than me. If you don’t know me personally, just picture a slightly better looking (I’d like to think) but more shamefully endowed Klitz from The Girl Next Door. I’ve also been compared, very charitably my girlfriend tells me, to Ashton Kutcher — by both the lady who used to cut my hair in New Hampshire and by a woman selling me a hot dog at Madison Square Garden. So yeah, I’m not exactly a Neesonian hulk of masculinity. But I’m still looking forward to my first bar fight against the next wool-pantsed, non-prescription glasses-wearing, porter-sipping indie musician who steps up on me while I’m waiting on my Genesee Cream Ale.*

Keep refreshing for the next part in this series.

 

 

*I’m just kidding. I drink microbrews like everyone else.

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New York Misses You, Whitney

They’ve already named a street after her.

My friend Pete sent me this picture; it’s some kid’s Instagram. In all seriousness though, hasn’t the reaction to her death been a little excessive?

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The Cat Ladies of Comedy Were Not Very Funny

By Zach

Last night my girlfriend roped me into going to a benefit comedy show for the dog shelter she volunteers for, an outfit called Mighty Mutts. I was persuaded mainly due to her promise to buy me dinner at Noodle Bar (if you’re ever in the West Village, go there. Seriously delicious pad thai and lo mein).

Wanting to have something material to show for my time at the show, I donated an extra ten dollars at the door and got a T-shirt. The guy at the door handed it to me in its plastic wrapper and joked, “the wrapper will cost you an extra dollar.”

Looking back, this should have indicated the standard of comedy I was in for.

Now, I know it may seem heartless to tear apart a BENEFIT comedy show, but I’m gonna do it anyway. They could have just had a benefit screening of Dumb and Dumber or some other movie with a marginal connection to dogs and I would have been happy. Instead, I was left fuming at the overabundance of self-pity and jokes about online dating and owning cats. It was just a procession of late thirty to early fortysomething women with low self esteem and access to a microphone.

Who was the only funny comedian? Predictably, the one guy in the lineup. Do I feel like a huge sexist for saying it? You bet. Am I now starting to sound like Donald Rumsfeld describing a terrorist threat? Possibly.

The guy was funny, though. He was really flamboyantly gay, recently had his arraignment for being arrested at Occupy Wall Street, and he told us a funny anecdote about fighting with lesbians at the Park Slope Co-Op when they ran out of kale. As a hardened three-month veteran of Park Slope, I could relate.

Anyway, the ladies who performed violated a couple of my rules for comedy, namely “Don’t feel sorry for yourself on stage,” “Maybe don’t make a joke about owning too many cats if the three comedians before you did,” and “Never, EVER, tell a joke about how you used to work in a vet’s office and put dogs down, in the process comparing the dogs’ ashes to a bagged lunch, to an audience at a benefit for a dog shelter.” We ended up leaving early after that last rule was violated. It was painful.

After the show my girlfriend also told me she’d been eavesdropping on the couple in front of us — an enormous, grey haired and impressively mustachioed man in a leather jacket and his equally biker-ish looking wife. After a joke about blow jobs, the wife leaned over and asked him, “I give the best ones, right?” to which he happily responded, “Oh yeah, best ones ever.” So I was left with that mental image for the rest of the night. Overall, it was a nice little Monday.

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BREAKING: Improv Everywhere Hosts Largest, Most Controversial Event Yet

By Anthony

Earlier today, the popular group Improv Everywhere hosted the largest event in the group’s history. In a controversial move, the unofficial organization behind the spontaneous movements planned a massive “tidal wave” to crash into parts of lower Manhattan. Coincidently, event organizers say, most of the crowd was wearing Giants-labeled apparel. A spokesman for the event said, “those must be the only blue shirts people in NYC own.”

The event, seen from above, had participants dress in blue to replicate water surging through the streets of the city

A crowd of eager "water molecules" crashes against a barrier set up by event organizers

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Things That Irk Me On The Subway

By Zach

1. When homeless dudes take their shoes off on the train. A guy did this the other day when I was heading home from work. I feel for him; I’m sure it’s awful lacking a support network when things take a turn for the worse. But I think if I lost my job, my girlfriend broke up with me and my parents disowned me, I’d find a way to keep my shoes on while riding the 3 train.

On a side note: Now that I think about it, I feel like the smelliest bums are always on the older NYC trains. If you live in New York you know what I’m talking about – there’s the newer trains with the electronic banners and station lists, and there’s the older ones with orange seats. Every really pungent homeless guy I’ve seen has been sleeping on an older train. Why is that? Do they just want to keep the subway system pristine, or are the cops booting em off the new ones, or what?

2. When other people are drunk. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for obnoxious drunkenness. I just prefer to be the one who’s loudly letting society know about his latest sexual misadventure or showing off his not considerable dancing talents. The role of the onlooker is much less fun.

Take last night. I’m riding the 3 train home late at night, reading the paper and minding my own business, and this loud dumpy girl asks me to scoot over so she can sit next to her friend. Fine. They and their friends across from them then proceed to yap about how they’ve all walked in on their roommates having sex (WILD story! That never happens!) and at every stop start arguing about whether they’re supposed to get off or not. They’ve agreed their stop is Bergen, my stop as well, but apparently the signs reading “14 Street,” “Chambers Street” and so on at each preceding station didn’t tip them off.

Then they started arguing about how to get to the club. Finally right before my stop I just looked up and told them: “Southpaw’s on 5th Avenue, walk down to 5th and take a left, it’s four blocks down.” One of them just looked at me all confused and said in her shrill, indescribably stupid-sounding voice: “Wait, who are you?” Needless to say I ignored her and walked off the train.

3. When people poop on the platform. I witnessed the aftermath of this at the 2/3 Bergen stop this afternoon. No way was a dog in that station, and no way would it have left something that big. It ran down the wall…yeah, I know, way too much information, but now you get the point: It was gross.

 

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What You May or May Not Find Down a Dark Alley in Chinatown

An iPhone picture of the article (artifact) presented outside.

By Anthony

I visited a New York Times reviewed restaurant recently. I wouldn’t have known it was reviewed, except that to the left of the door the article itself was blown up, printed and framed to draw attention to the otherwise anonymous, unnamed doorway I was about to enter. The date on the article, however, was less recent. January 1999, it read. Only 13 years ago. A mere second in the epoch that is the lifespan of a great restaurant.

Though to call this place a restaurant is a stretch. Inside are two large steel counters, opposite each other. One with stools, the other with a glass front. One for dining briefly and the other for rolling, cutting, stuffing and steaming Chinese dumplings. The decor and accommodations are sparse, but the value here and satisfaction make one wish for more. The price per quality metric you might hear me ranting about elsewhere delivers exceptionally between those stainless facets of industrial consumption.

It’s as if the place is locked in its 1999 review, or earlier, even. I’d love to tell you where to go, but I believe it’s a little like Diagon Alley. I think you’ve just got to find it. What you may find down a dark alley in Chinatown is a man brandishing a knife with a dragon tattoo and demanding your kidney. Or you’ll find an unmarked door to a brightly lit kitchen just like your grandmother’s, stocked by some lovely old ladies who speak no English, but will hand you five delicious dumplings for a mere single dollar. Don’t be afraid. Sometimes it’s worth losing a kidney.

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The L Train: A Follow Up

The (in)Famous L trian logo. Seen on subway signs, T-shirts and in my nightmares

By Anthony

Earlier this week I posted briefly about a tragic weekend for straphangers (subway riders.) Four people were killed in transit related deaths. I’m following up here with a brief mention (rant) about the L train, my current commuting aide and bane of my existence. The L train runs from Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie, Brooklyn to 8th avenue in Manhattan. When I say runs, I mean limps along like a roving infant blind black bear with its right hind paw ensnared in a hunter’s trap. Needless to say, the L train can be a difficult commute, but for full disclosure it is convenient — the schedule runs frequently enough during normal hours that I’m never waiting long.

The worst part of it, though, is the crowds, especially at peak hours. The Times reported in October that on average weekday commutes, the train operated at 116% or more of its maximum occupancy per car. That’s a lot of people. It described weekends even worse, reaching numbers as high as 130% of the maximum. The MTA has promised more trains running more frequently, but I’ve noticed little effect so far. They plan on rolling out more weekend trains starting summer 2012, but that won’t help my commute.

The other largest problem; when the L train shuts down, denizens (hipsters) of Brooklyn and myself are basically shit out of luck. There’s no other trains servicing our tract of north Brooklyn, except maybe a JMZ, but that’s uncharted territory. And the worst of the matter, this abomination of steel and metal decides to often shut down for a whole stretch of the weekend. This is the equivalent of being marooned on a dessert island, provided that island was populated by dirty tattooed twenty-somethings, great brunch spots and cheap bars. Maybe the marooned part isn’t terrible, just inconvenient.

For reference on the regularity of the L train’s sucking, there’s a single served site declaring simply whether the L train is fucked or not. Appropriately labeled, istheltrainfucked.com. The regularity of “YUP” is discerning.

Allegedly, the MTA is installing new computer equipment to improve the switches, thus allowing an increase in the amount of trains running the tracks at one time. But I’m afraid this is only going to add more “delays due to train traffic,” one of the most common and annoying messages you will ever hear your train driver utter. The fact of the matter is, Brooklyn is growing in population at an extremely high rate, ridership on the L train has increased more than three times the growth of the subway system as a whole.

I’ve heard rumors about a ferry leaving from the Williamsburg Waterfront and docking somewhere around 23rd avenue on the east side, perhaps I can grab a seat there next time.

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Man vs Machine: A Rumble in the (Urban) Jungle

By Anthony

This is dated. Perhaps you’ve already heard. In fact, I’m certain you have, provided you’re living in the New York metro area. For the rest of you, though, this may come as some gruesome news. I’ll excuse my lateness with the haughty claim that I am providing you with superior reflection and analysis, which only come when time has lapsed. I’ve also been preoccupied with the aftereffects of my decision, not entirely executed independently of duress, to trade my own kidney to a man with a prison shank on the Brooklyn bound L train. Or maybe my lateness is because I thought storing my laptop with Ruairi’s resume in a 30 was a good idea. (ProTip: this is never a good idea) But I digress…

Last weekend, the 21st and 22nd of January, as reported by the Huffington Post, there were four separate subway-related fatalities. Related as in bodies or parts of bodies were found on tracks, platforms and stairs.

If your gore fetish kicks in, you can read a report by first responders about common scenes they encounter arriving at subway related accidents at Gothamist.

Also, if you haven’t been consuming copious amounts of liquid PCP, you will remember the woman who was killed in a horrific elevator accident. (If you’ve missed it, here’s the article from the Times .)

Besides linking real news stories, what’s my point here? I’m not sure, but I’m going to watch my step these days. It’s a dangerous city when you’re avoiding dark alleys at midnight. It’s a scary-as-shit city when the machines you rely on every day are actively trying to cut you in half.

Subway car? Or a vehicle of death?

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