Posted tagged ‘New York’

City Romps: Pretty Things In My New Hood

September 26, 2008

Most of the time I am too preoccupied trying to text and walk with out getting hit by cabs or other idiots texting and walking to notice much of the city around me. But that’s sort of sad and pathetic. So lately I’ve been trying to banish my iPhone during my daily NYC treks so I can appreciate the crazies–like the guy with the cat on his head that I always see in the village–and the sights–like the graffiti (street art? ads?) below.

I just moved from the land of the Gossip Girl to the apathetically trendy Lower East Side. And despite the wry looks I get from the American Apparel employees when I go shopping in my gym clothes, I am totally loving the change. Every street has a different wine bar or vintage clothing store where old clothes are somehow more expensive than the ones I buy new. The residents range from Hasidic Jews to Dominicans to the hipsters slowly pushing their way in. The couples with matching jackets from The North Face that seemed to be a staple of the Upper East Side have turned into couples competing over who wears the tightest skinny jeans. Oh, and best of all, all the elevator buttons in my building must remain lit on the weekends so my neighbors won’t have to disrupt their Shabbat by pressing a button. It took me weeks to realize this wasn’t a prank the neighborhood kids were playing.

Anyway, the poster pasters have been busy this week and below is some of the street art my iPhone and lack of photography skills captured this week.

The Superhero New Yorkers Really Need

July 18, 2008

Many of my friends back home think that life in the big city is glamorous. I am here to prove to you that it is not. Sure you might hear stories of seeing P Diddy in the Rolling Stone offices or how Woody Harrelson convinced me to go vegan (which lasted a whole six days before I bought a Cornish hen at Whole Foods and ate the whole thing off the bone like a cave woman) but what we are far less likely to tell you about is stories like this.

 

This morning I woke up still groggy from the night before. Having already sat through The Hulk, Hellboy, and Ironman (the only decent superhero movie), I went to see The Last Mistress, a French movie that made me secretly wish for cheesy romance and openly loathe the entire male species all at once. Accompanying me were two friends and three bottles of wine. One bottle was empty before the previews ended and when we stood up to leave at the end of the movie I think we all were shocked at how difficult walking had become.  So in fear of an impending hangover, the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was throw on some clothes and head down stairs to get some coffee, some carbs, and a large bottle of Advil.

 

I live on the sixth floor and I stumbled down four flights before fully opening my eyes. On the second floor I spotted what I thought was a small bird in my peripheral vision. I looked over and there, sitting overturned on the steps of my apartment building, was the largest dead cockroach I had ever seen. It was flipped over on its back exposing its shriveled up legs and tentacles which were still jutted out. I kid you not, this mutant creature was as long as my middle finger and a good three inches wide.

 

 It was then that I noticed that my entire building smelled like bug spray. I couldn’t help but picture my friendly landlord—who brings up all his tenant’s packages and even walks a few of the resident dogs—battling the varmints through the night. Perhaps because it is my personal response to empty an entire can of Raid in our apartment if I see one ant on the floor, I imagined him donning his big rubbery gloves and his professional sprayer and quietly going to war with the creatures while we slept. Sort of like a bug battling superhero.

 

I couldn’t help but kind of fall in love with my middle aged landlord in my hungover, romance hungry state. And that is just one of the many reasons the average life in New York City is far less glamorous than they want you to believe, and sometimes verging on sad and pathetic. Forget Batman, Superman, or Hellboy.  Let’s see a movie about the super hero New Yorkers will really get excited about.

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-cat-some-assembly-required

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.

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.