Posted tagged ‘New York City’

City, Rain, Bike

December 9, 2012


Tired at the End of November? (National Novel Writing Month)

November 30, 2010

Horse Cart? Horse Cab? So Much To Brush Up Against

Back in New York City and find myself tired tired tired.

All that physical energy that seemed so boundless in the fresh and cooked air of a Thanksgiving break in the country now seems sadly dissipated.

What has sapped me?

The grind/stress of the job?

The lack of frolicking!?  (Unpopulated spaces somehow lend themselves to dashing and dancing in ways that don’t quite work in most urban settings.)

Or, I wonder, as I drag myself to the subway through all the faces and vehicles, bodies and clothes, concrete and glass, is it the entropy of brushing up against so many different beings and energies–all that collected history, mortar, CO2?

I could point to the end of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month).  Am I tired simply from having scribbled and typed 50,000 extra words over the course of November?

And then I look about me on the train and see that a whole bunch of people have a slumped (non-)edge to them.    Were we all plotting throughout the past month?

(Is that why we’re plodding now?)

Did they also do Nanowrimo?

Mouse Plotter(?) on Train???

Mosque Near Ground Zero – Really? (Park51)

August 10, 2010

What's Going On Now at WTC Site

I’m not a huge fan of Islam–I don’t know enough about it to have a position of any substance.  I admit that I am suspicious of any faith which seems to keep women in a subordinate position (but that makes me suspicious of many orthodox faiths).

As a result, perhaps, I haven’t much followed the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate, even though I live in downtown Manhattan.  Based on the extent of emotion stirred up, I thought the mosque was planned for the actual Ground Zero site; that it was somehow, with other shrines, to be on one of the memorial “footprints” of the two towers.   Despite my own strong bed towards religious tolerance, I could understand why this might upset some.

After actually reading more, however, I’ve realized how misguided I’ve been; that the whole issue is another tempest based on stewpot of misrepresentation.  The planned Mosque isn’t to be at the Ground Zero site at all; but on Park Place (Park51) , a couple of blocks away.

Okay, Park Place is near Ground Zero in the same way that anything in downtown Manhattan is near Ground Zero.  Downtown Manhattan is the thinnest part of the island; the World Trade Center site is large.

If you live down here, you quickly realize that everything (especially the subway stations) is both close and far – that is, technically, just a few blocks away, but a long frigging walk.  Blocks are big, and the differentials in blocks–in cityscape, tenor, view, even in weather (wind shear)– are consequential.

The news accounts highlight factors such as “500 yards” and “13 stories” in a way that gives one the  vision of a face-off–  Ground Zero on one side, the Mosque (whose visitors will surely be tittering inside) on the other.   These terms are just ridiculous in the context of downtown Manhattan.  500 yards = if that’s even accurate–is many buildings away;   13 stories is a shrimp.

What makes the debate stranger – setting aside the whole issue of what this country and city stand for – are the facts of what is currently happening at Ground Zero:

Hawking.  People selling ghoulish photo albums and NYFD hats and cheap American flags with the names of victims stenciled in.


Shopping.  Right opposite the site stands a true world trade center – Century 21.

And, on the site itself,  which, as some 9/11 families have pointed out, is a de facto burial ground due to the impossibility of recovering ashen remains, a large building is rapidly rising, destined to lease commercial and office space.

(THIS POST HAS BEEN CORRECTED; An earlier version mistakenly referred to the location of the proposed mosque as Park Row – a couple of blocks east of the WTC, rather than Park Place, a couple of blocks north.)

16th Day of National Poetry Month – Vacationing Away From New York Limericks

April 16, 2010

New Yorker In a Car (Outside of New York)

Unfortunately, this 16th day of National Poetry Month was so busy I had little time to focus on much poetic.  A good day, in short, for draft limericks!

I’m sorry to say that the limericks I did  (which connect as one longer poem draft) have a fairly limited subject matter;  they describe that feeling of “going to seed” which may descend on vacation, particularly a family vacation, in which normal exercise and eating routines are put to the side; this feeling may be particularly pronounced in the case of the peripatetic New Yorker.

The limerick form is five lines, with a rhyme scheme that is typically: A, A, b, b, A; with the first, second and fifth rhyming lines longer than the truncated couplet of the third and fourth lines.

Traveling New Yorker

There was an old gal from New York
who watched what she put on her fork;
still, outside the confines
of the Four and Five lines,
she felt herself turning to pork.

The thing is that life in the City
made her walk through the nit and the gritty,
while, whenever afar,
she traveled by car,
quite bad for the hips, more’s the pity.

So she worried, this gal from Manhattan,
as she felt herself fatten and fatten–
too many fast treats–
too many cheap eats–
and just about all came au gratin.

Oh, for her home—twenty blocks to a mile;
twenty steps too, till the average turnstile.
Sure, there was soot,
but she’d breathe it on foot.
Once back, she’d stay put for a while.

“A Man Steals A Bicycle….”

March 11, 2010

Big Bicycle, Small Silver Box

Like many New Yorkers, I sometimes buy an egg sandwich in the morning from a little stainless-steel cart parked outside of my office building.

I love these stainless steel carts; my daughter calls them “boxes.”  While she was in high school, she would go out every morning at a time that was somehow called lunch, and buy “box coffee.” It was reasonably good, very cheap, reliably hot.

The carts remind me of little, square, Airstream trailers, everything silvery and compact, the glass of the little windows, as slightly dulled as the 1950’s, showing the Art Deco curve of crullers; the boxes of tea displayed on the top shelf, even green tea, brightly anachronistic.

My particular silver box guy is named Nick; he is from Greece.  For some years, I thought he was from Macedonia, and, trying to be nice, commiserated throughout the late summer of 2007 about the forest fires there.   But I have finally gotten it into my head (after several bemused corrections) that Nick is from the Peloponnese (Olympia).

Nick would be unlikely to make a corresponding mistake about where I am from.  Like almost every silver box guy I’ve ever dealt with, he has a memory akin to Borges’  Funes the Memorious.   He knows the caffeine, dairy, egg, ketchup, bagel and doughnut preferences of a few hundred regular customers, many of whom simply greet him with a grunt, or (the more polite ones), a nod.   (People waiting for coffee tend to be quiet.)

Nick and his some silver box occupy my corner every single weekday, rain or shine.  His only vacations come when the police cordon off the street.  His is one of the few businesses, other than Goldman Sachs, that has done well  in the economic downturn.  His prices for a substantial breakfast are so much cheaper than lunch prices in mid-town that, over the last year, more and more people fill up early in the day.

I really like Nick.  He treats everyone with friendly respect, never even rolling his eyes at  their requests for eight sugars, or their bacon sausage cheese, grape jelly, and ketchups on a roll.

Besides all that, I look like his mother.

He has told me this a couple of times.  I’m never sure whether to be insulted or touched.  (Nick is younger than me, but not that much younger.)  (He also once made a guess of my age, a wrong guess;  we don’t talk about that time.)

I asked Nick today about his mother.  He laughed and said that he had told her about me.    (This time I actually did feel touched.)  Then we moved on (it takes a while to cook eggs) to the Greek economy.  He shook his head sorrowfully, murmuring about the tough time people were having, the tough times that were expected for a while; higher taxes, higher expenses.

“A man steals a bicyle, he goes to jail,” he said.  “He steals a million dollars, he goes to…” he shook his head.

“The Ritz,” I finished.

We bemoaned stealing and dollars (both millions and the lack thereof).

I asked him if he could visit Greece soon; he wistfully shook his head ‘no’ again, wrapping my sandwich in thin silver foil, passing it through the small silver space.

“A man steals a bicycle, ” he said again, “he goes to jail;  he steals a million dollars….”

(Note re above post:  it’s not intended in any way as a criticism of what Obama has done, or is trying to do, with respect to overseeing and regulating financial system, executive compensation, etc.  )

Chopin at Financial Center – Clarification

March 3, 2010

I’ve been feeling a little guilty about my March 1 post about the Chopin Festival at the World Financial Center.  That post was definitely written from the sour side.  (Sorry.)  The problem was that at the free concert on the first night of the five day festival (March 1 – March 5), I found it hard to get the din of the Financial Center’s diners and bar revelers out of my ears enough to fully enjoy the music.  

So, here’s my clarification.  Yes, there is a lot of background noise in the evening concerts at the Financial Center; the acoustics are terrible, and, yes, if you are an imaginative person, you may well feel barraged by brutish and uncaring-for-Chopin commerce.  Nonetheless, the festival is magical, what with (i) well, the Chopin, (ii) the unflappable pianists, and (iii) the fact that free live music is going on all day long from 9 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m. every single day this week.  Perhaps the nicest part, in fact, is not the highlighted evening Chopin concert (which has increasingly famous pianists performing as the week progresses) but the pianists scattered about the different parts and buildings of the Financial Center’s public spaces.  Several grand pianos at once, each next to six or seven dark folding chairs, each playing different unamplified Chopin piece, Nocturne, Etude, Mazurka. 

Passers-by, primarily workers in the Center, residents from the neighborhood, tourists from Ground Zero, are really pretty considerate;  a hush that only slightly buzzes attends the running brooklike notes.  It’s sort of the opposite of elevator music, and though there is sometimes no one sitting in the folding chairs, the entire space seems to be uplifted.

Morning Snow In Lower Manhattan

February 25, 2010

Thick Morning Snow on Lower Broadway

This morning approaching Lower Broadway, the snowflakes were thick and feathery, almost warm.

The last ticker tape parade I went to, people just threw reams of paper out of the upper windows.   That was after they’d emptied their shredders.

The shredded paper worked pretty well; though it was not exactly confetti-like.  Still, it at least fell in fine (if long) jigsaw-edged strips, like big strings of miniature paper dolls, the occasional paper arms clinging to a cornice or window ledge.

The reams of  loose paper that were thrown once the shredded paper ran out was thick, heavy, and fell in gushing slants, the pages looking as if they might decapitate one of us jammed down upon the crowded sidewalk, the papers descending like a kind of divine (or at least bureaucratic) vengeance.   A snow of writs.

But today’s snow, thick, clean, feathery, makes for a sky of redemption.

The people on the sidewalk, where the snow disappears even as it lands, don’t seem to notice it much.  We trudge ahead, faces grim with Thursday.

But what I imagine inside every single snow-frosted head is that there is some part of the brain whose tongue, (brain-tongue, even pinker than the pink lobes of the cortex), or, among the squeamish, whose hands (brain-hands) is/are sticking out towards the thick flakes, anxious to taste, capture, hold, some of this soft white light, this proof of something other–something to fête, something to cheer, something as big as sky.