Archive for June 2008

People Watching at its Best

June 24, 2008

Karma is going to get me for this one. I already know it but I just can’t help myself. In keeping with my accidental theme of playing weatherwoman to the Upper East Side (but in a much more entertaining way I hope) I am yet again blogging about the conditions.

I am sitting in my little neighborhood coffee shop and from the comfort of my window seat I am having way too much fun people watching. Five minutes ago it was sunny day deserving of spaghetti straps and extra long lunch breaks in the sun. Then, bam! Out of nowhere the wind starts blowing, trees start swaying maniacally and the rain starts coming down.

The normally calm, put together New Yorkers start scattering like ants, seeking shelter and attempting to turn parts of their wardrobe into umbrellas. One man in a business suit dumped the contents of his plastic shopping bag onto a bench and proceeded to hold the bag over his head and rip it apart. The resistance of the plastic bag turned this into a dramatically slow movement reminiscent of The Hulk ripping off his shirt.

It is especially fun to witness the states of emotions the people on the street experience before conceding to the fact that the rest of their work day will be spent in shoes that ooze water in squeeky little bursts every time they walk. They are first shocked as they scramble to put their newspapers, their shirts, anything they have in their hands over their head. Like that is going to protect them from the rain that seems to be falling everywhere but straight down. After a few seconds of trying in vain to shield themselves from the elements, I watched as one by one, they suddenly got extremely pissed off. How dare you rain on me! Let me talk to your manager! They look angrily at the sky, at their soaked suits, before they finally set aside their pride and scurry across the street, dodging cars and puddles, and ducking into any dry area they can find.

Like I said, I will most definitely be struck down by lightening or caught in a similar downpour when I’m on my way to a particularly important event just for posting this from the comfort of my window seat, but I just can’t help myself. I just saw a really angry woman in four inch heels and two inches of concealer duck into the hardware store next door. Then a few seconds later, as if she’d rather brave the rain then whatever might be lurking in there, she dashed out again, actually looking a little bit sheepish for stepping in such an establishment. How can you not love this city!!


The Only New Yorker Who Hates IKEA

June 19, 2008

There are not many firsts left to be had in New York City, but yesterday marked what seemed to be a pretty big one. New Yorkers and Brooklynites began lining up at five on Monday morning, prepared to camp out with their tents and sleeping bags for the next 48 hours. They weren’t waiting for tickets to Britney’s post psychosis concert tour or for one of those riot inducing “I’m not a plastic bag” totes. They were waiting for a store to open.

In their defense, IKEA’s PR stunt masters advertised free couches worth $399 to the first 35 people in line and there were also free Swedish Meatballs to celebrate the opening of the first New York IKEA. But you would think it would take much more than a couch to get someone to play homeless on the streets of Brooklyn for two days straight. And did they know they still have to put the couch together themselves?


IKEA is a brand that twenty and thirty-something urbanites seem to drool over. If your town has an IKEA and a Trader Joes you know it is a trendy place to live. If it has its own section on Craigslist and even its own fringe newspaper, you’ve made it. I spent three years living in New York, listening to stories about this ultra cheap Swedish furniture store, but did not get to actually experience it until last year. After wandering through the store (which is the size of a small village) picking out a desk, dresser, and bed that would both go together and fit in my room, I brought the name of my selections over to the bored looking IKEA employee who informed me, one by one, that each of my carefully selected, awkwardly named pieces were sold out.

Once I found a set that I could bring home the same day (who cares if it was made for twelve-year old girls!) I weaved my way through bathroom textiles and $6 floor lamps before arriving in the warehouse where I had to figure out how to lift the long flat boxes of wood that would soon become my furniture. I was quickly discovering why IKEA was so cheap: they make you do all the work. They don’t have those big machines to get your Klippan Loveseat—which is somehow condensed into a 3” thick box–off the top shelf. You have to do it yourself, and then lug it around with you while you search the endless isles for your Dalselv bed and Malm dresser.

ikea dresser

And that’s the easy part. Once you get the boxes home, don’t expect to actually have a bed to sleep on for a couple more days. Because what you just got a killer deal on is actually planks of wood with pre-cut holes in them. You thought you got a bed for $200 but you were wrong. You got boards painted white and a little picture book of how to turn these sliced up trees into furniture.

I don’t think this would fly in any other industry but somehow IKEA gets away with it.  My dad is a homebuilder, and if he sold his customers pre-cut wooden boards, some loose tiles for the roof, and some screws, and handed them a little booklet that illustrated–with pictures, no words–how to put the house together, he would be able to give them the “house” for much less too. He could probably cut the price in half! But his customers would most likely be crushed in their sleep by the materials he sold them.

My couch lasted three months before the back started caving in. Now whenever someone leans too hard on the back of my couch (you know, like sitting) I have to pull it out from the wall and push the back end back up. My dresser (pictured above) has six drawers and five are still attached and three are still fully attached on both sides. It constantly looks like a robbery just took place in my room even if it is otherwise completely neat.

Unfortunately, for many New Yorkers who do not want to invest too much into their apartments, IKEA looks like the best option. There are two Kmarts in the city but they have a sparse selection of furnishings and they haven’t gotten the trendy thing down like IKEA has. And New Yorkers still have to survive with out the cheap and chic Target. Even though my $700 worth of forest materials turned furniture have less function and absolutely no resale value, I can see why it is so tempting to just go back and buy more low quality furnishings there. I would just stay away from anything that has potential to kill you while in use, like bunk beds.

The Day the Sun Won

June 18, 2008

Last week, during the second day of the crippling New York City heat wave that inspired this post I think the sun managed to singe my brain because I was getting a little bit loopy. Since I moved into my apartment just last September, I only had to suffer through a few weeks of the smelly New York summer before October came around, allowing me to open my windows and let the cool air flow in. Being a Florida girl, I knew very little about these things they call window units (I think that’s the technical term) and had never even seen one until I caught a Law and Order rerun that centered around a little girl who was crushed by a falling unit. So I didn’t have a very positive or clear image of window units, nor had I ever needed one until now.

I survived day one of the heat wave by alternating between my neighborhood coffee shop and my room, where I sat propped up in my bed with my tiny fan blowing directly at my face. I briefly wondered if my pose might be reminiscent of a supermodel’s but then the sweat started pouring defiantly down my face and my hair blew back and wound itself into one big rat’s nest. Thank god I’m not in a profession that requires any sort of attractiveness.

Day two I awoke at five that morning because even at that hour, my apartment was already baking in the 90 degree heat. My survival skills told me I had to take a cold shower and get somewhere that had air and a plethora of outlets to feed my computer.

sunny ny

Sometime after my third soy latte (Woody Harrelson convinced me to stop eating dairy, but that’s a story for another time) the rumbling air conditioner that had been keeping my little coffee shop cool and dry seemed to suddenly pause to consider the odds of fighting against this incredible weather, and just like that, it gave up. The brief sputtering that gave way to silence should’ve been my cue to relocate, but I continued on, happily puttering away on my computer, oblivious to the heat that was moving in. Three hours later, the caffeine wore off and I was hot and incredibly grumpy. I get kind of feisty when I’m in a bad mood (also when I’m drunk) so I decided I was going to stop hiding from the weather and embrace the beautiful sunshine: a sort of valint challenge to the sun.

I packed up my computer and headed over to Central Park. The four avenue walk seemed to take forever and my tank top was sticking to my back by the time I made it to Sheep’s Meadow, which was completely desolate compared to the last time I was there on Memorial Day. But the fact that this field, which was usually bustling with sun bathers, Frisbee throwers, and illegal beer vendors selling Milwaukee’s Best for $5 a can, was still and quiet, did not deter me. I pulled out my bottle of baby oil (again, I’m from Florida), took off my shirt (I had on a sports bra) and took a nap. It was almost four by the time I got to the park so I figured I couldn’t get in too much tanning trouble.

You might think this story ends with me getting a 2nd degree burn and hideous sports bra tan lines, but it doesn’t. My southern skin fared fine, it was the rest of me that didn’t do too well. I woke up two hours later and saw some creepy looking dude staring at me from under a tree. Time to go. The walk back was even worse and I actually had to do something I’ve only seen very obese people and tourists do and stop to rest on my way home.

Once I made it up my six flights of stairs I had cold water and my not so sexy spot in front of the fan. But my apartment was not much of an escape. I still didn’t have one of those deadly window units and every Upper East Side place that might deliver one to me was closed by now. I considered going to a movie for a two hour, $12 escape, but that didn’t solve the dilemma of how I was going to survive the night. I couldn’t get Chris Brown’s “No Air” out of my head and my skin was probably still soaking in all that heat from the park. It was time to call in reinforcements.  I got my man friend, Chris, on the phone and started reminding him how guilty he would feel if I died in my sleep when he had had the chance to come to my rescue. I could tell he was less than pleased with the prospect of coming into the city to bring and install an air conditioner when he had to be at work in New Rochelle at seven the next morning, but when I threatened to fake illness so I could spend the night at Sloane Hospital down the block I think he started to feel bad for me. And when there was a brief silence in our phone conversations and I told him it was because I might have passed out a little, he audibly sighed but was quickly on his way.

In a truly heroic move Chris drove 30 minutes to deliver and install my very own window unit, which can cool my little room in less than 60 seconds. And although I have only used it a couple times since, he can now say that he potentially saved my life, a statement which will be especially useful when he sees my father again, who likes Chris just about as much as any dad likes the man who dares to date his daughter. My dad likes to grill potential suitors on what they are doing with their lives, and at least Chris will have a good answer this time: saving my life. Now that I think about it, I was the one who actually did him a favor. So Chris, I’d say we’re even.

Weather or Not

June 13, 2008

nyc central park sheeps meadow


Nearly anywhere else in the world, talking about the weather is a total cliché, a verbal recognition of an awkward silence or a lack of anything else to discuss. But here in New York City, the weather is always relevant. It affects us in our cramped apartments, where central air is as non-existent as extra closet space. It affects us every time there is a heavy rain that prompts bugs to seek shelter in our already overcrowded dwellings. And worst of all, it affects us whenever we leave for work and don’t have a cushy car waiting for us, ready to keep us cool, or warm, or dry, in those blustery downpours that take the lives of expensive shoes and cheap umbrellas all at once.



You can predict the conversations as easily as The Weather Channel predicts the seasons. We’ve been complaining about the cold since November but as soon as the heat comes sweeping in, those of us who can’t run away to The Hamptons or our country club’s pool easily shift into whining about the heat. Maybe it’s not actually our fault. Maybe its global warming’s fault that we can’t live at a perfect 75 degrees for more than three days a year. But while Al Gore works on that, we continue to complain. 


We’re all guilty of it. Gawker does it , Jossip did it, even respected publications like The New York Times blog about the weather, most especially this horrendous heat wave we’ve been experiencing. And for some reason two out of three decided to accompany their posts with pictures of half naked old men. Of all things. Not little kids playing in fountains or eating ice cream or cute couples tanning in Central Park. Nope. Wrinkly old half naked men.



To oppose that I decided to I wanted to collect pictures of buff young men who were excited to show off the muscles they’d been cultivating all winter long. But as soon as I got the courage to break New York’s public code of ignoring one another and ask strangers if I could take their pictures, the weather turned and men lost their excuse to walk around half naked. When its 100 degrees women walking down 5th Avenue in bikinis are socially acceptable, but now that it’s down to the 80’s there is not as much to oogle and the city streets are verging on boring again. No expanding sweat stains to stare at or camel toes to try not to stare at. No excuse to call in sick because you absolutely have to spend the entire day outside, soaking it all up, or inside, huddled next to your window unit, depending on your skin tone. No excuse to put on those short shorts that are trashy on any other day or make four separate trips to Tasti in one day. And there I go complaining about the weather again.


New York Neurosis: Avoiding Cranes

June 11, 2008

Lunch atop a skyscraper


After the first crane accident occurred in New York City, just 10 blocks from my Upper East Side apartment, I started to take notice of another towering structure that loomed just a few yards away from my 6-story walk-up. I tried not to think about the crane as I sat writing from my top floor apartment, in my favorite sun drenched spot by the window, or as I walked up from the subway, spying the hunk of metal soaring over 30 stories high. But the more I tried not to think about it, the more neurotic I got.


Then came the second crane accident. I got word of the second collapse when I was away in San Francisco and after seeing CNN’s grainy satellite picture of the tree-lined street I was sure it was my own block that had been terrorized by another falling crane. And when the banner below the image announced “New York Crane Collapses on Upper East Side” I just knew it had to be the intimidating steel structure that causes me to scurry away from my window every time there is a strong gust of wind.

 UES Crane

I texted my roommate first to she if she was alive, and second to see if the crane had actually swung through my bedroom window or speared its way through my ceiling, both scenarios I had considered thoroughly, calculating the angles and breaks with my journalist’s math skills.


After making fun of my terror, my roomie reassured me that the crane actually fell more than twenty blocks north of us, and math skills or no math skills I knew that meant we were safe…for now. Ten blocks south, then 20 blocks north, if this pattern continues, according to quantitative reasoning (ok, I don’t actually know what that term means) our apartment is next! My dad offered to mail me my ski helmet, and although he was totally patronizing me, I called his bluff and it is due to arrive via FedEx tomorrow. Countless tons of steel vs. three inches of padded plastic? Whatever makes me sleep better I guess!


Getting Around

June 5, 2008

I just got back from a week in San Francisco, a city that had eluded me in my travels despite my affinity for extremely liberal ocean side cities. I went with my grandma, a lively lady who proudly pronounces her 71 years to anyone who asks and seems to get even more ornery with age. The whole time we were there, Grandma was on the hunt for a street car souvenir of some sort to put next to the miniature taxi cab she got in New York.

Since a small portion of every day was spent seeking out the perfect plastic replica, I had a lot of time to ponder how the street car came to symbolize San Francisco and the big yellow taxi is a clear reference to NYC, especially when neither of these modes are actually the ones most commonly used by locals.

The slow moving streetcar costs $5 a ride and is teeming with oversized Nikons and neon fanny packs. New York City taxis are used by locals and tourists alike but most New Yorkers head underground to make their daily commutes.

For me, subways mean mundane everyday tasks from my two-stop commute to the Rolling Stone offices to the 30 minute ride to go out in The Village. Taxis allude to either special occasions–where my stilettos won’t survive the trek to the 6 train–or the end of a late night adventure, where the subway stations would be too difficult to maneuver or just plain dangerous for a girl to stumble into alone.

The average New Yorker wastes most of his yearly income just to pay the rent so doling out an extra $15 a trip just to get downtown seems unnecessary. That’s money that could go to more mouse traps or cans of Raid, which I personally like to use to line the entrance to my apartment in a vain attempt to keep little creatures out. How can you not love this city!?

But when friends and relatives come to visit, they bring with them a terror of the subway system which I still can’t quite figure out. Is it the rodents or the bums that keeps them on street level? Because we have those above ground too. Is it the crowds? You can’t tell me it is the crowds and then continuously drag me to Times Square, the most obnoxiously crowded area on the island. I can’t figure out the origins of this fear so I can also associate taxis with visitors.

Most guests offer to pay for their taxi rides so I usually don’t mind but I do wish I could figure out the source of their aversion. How can they be so opposed to a mode of transportation I use on a daily basis? Any ideas?

When my best friend from high school came up to visit me a few years ago, we got all dressed up to go out and since it was a straight shot on a nearby subway line, I made the mistake of taking her underground to get to our destination. In a subway scene I have yet to see duplicated, we witnessed a couple get in a knock down drag out fight, a half naked homeless man, and a drunk teenager vomiting over the platform. And that was all after Adrienne and I had to conquer endless flights of stairs in our pointy pumps. Adrienne is my only friend who has not come back to visit me and she is the last visitor I have taken on the subway.