Sunday, October 10, 2010

I am the most important person in New York

Or at least I feel like it, when I part ways on the street with my boyfriend and his pooch. Because she cries, cranes her neck and howls (while he stands there impassively and sips on his iced coffee) and it pierces through the ambient Manhattan noise, and ricochets around the skyscraper canyons. Hurried businessmen and -women stop, turn, look for the source of this tortured wail, and then follow the direction of its plaint up the street, to me, grinning, blushing, hurrying to the train, fishing for my metrocard.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


We can talk about why 9/11 is my most hated time of year, or we can just watch this video together.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Six storeys underground in a bank

So, one day I went to the Federal Reserve. I mean, I lived across the street from its hulking stone mass and its armed guards and its barricaded entrances for an entire year. And then one day, much more recently, I went on a tour of the inside. The tour was utterly bizarre. This is, of course, post-2008 financial collapse, which gives the cheerful, educational colouring books and filmstrips boasting about our financial system a rather uncanny glint. The highlight is when they take you six storeys down to the gold vault, and you get to walk through a 6-foot thick steel door and peer through the metal mesh fence at the stacks of ingots. The individual vaults all belong to foreign governments or private holders, but they won't tell you whom! Fun fact: all official weighings are still done with mechanical, and not electronic, scales. When the tour ends, you are treated to a bag of shredded dollar bills.

And then, a few weeks later, I accompanied a friend to the very same depths underground in Chase Manhattan Plaza, directly opposite the Fed. He had to retrieve something from a safety deposit box. This requires being escorted by a bank official, through turnstiles, into a service elevator, through vault doors and into a reinforced room. You sign a ledger. The official takes you into the maze of safety deposit boxes. Some are big, some small, some have spinning locks like an old safe, some just have keys, as did my friend's. Two key holes, in fact, which you and the bank official have to unlock simultaneously. The metal sleeve comes out, still concealing its contents, and you take it to a private booth to deal with its contents. When you are finished, you repeat the process in reverse.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

HA where?

My stalker and I (will explain later) have a shared fascination with obscure street names in Manhattan. I mean, everyone knows Broadway and Delancey and Houston and the Bowery, but Cherry Street? Attorney Street? Corner of Jefferson and Henry, anyone? Beach Street at St John's Lane? We can play this game because we like to walk around WDT (that's waydowntown, yes we invented that and yes you can use it). I mean, you sort of at least have to play this game below Houston, where the grid ends and the streets get name-names and not numbers. The best neighbourhood for it is perhaps Two Bridges (my favourite neighbourhood - so obscure, the radar), on the far east side of the island between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. We have a running joke about hopping in a cab and casually telling the driver "Um yeah, going to X Street and Y Way thx."

Well I have found the ultimate, my friends. The intersection of Wui plaza and Teddy Gleason Street. I defy you to find it on a map. It even mystifies Google. Bahahaha.

UPDATE: Teddy Gleason is gone!

Backing up: This strangest intersection in New York was discovered on Tuesday night, around midnight. We happened to walk past that same spot the very next night, and found that the sign for Teddy Gleason Street had disappeared! Just then, a mysterious man emerged from a parked car under the street lamp to which the street signs are attached.

“You two! I remember yous from last night.”

“What the hell happened to Teddy Gleason?” we ask.

“The sign – they knocked if off,” he says, gesturing at a pair of ATCO trailers parked on WUI Plaza, evincing some kind of construction taking place during the day. He said it like he’d been waiting to tell us all day. “It’s layin’ on the ground around here somewhere.” And he proceeded to look for it, like he was going to…give it to us?

“We found out who he was,” we say. “He was the president of the Longshoreman’s Union.”

And then, simultaneously, the mysterious man said “President of the Longshoreman’s Union and all he got was this little street?” and my stalker said “They named a street after him just cuz he was president of the Longshoreman’s Union?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

SMS Highlight Reel, vol 28: impromptu vacations

"3 seats left. You in? Bahamas."

Drinking out of coconuts poolside, taking the jitney to the collection of shacks that serve fresh conch ceviche, walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean and basking in the sun and then going up to the air-conditioned room to lie on clean sheets and watch CNN. Also: watching 20-year-olds with fake tits and belly button piercings parade around in leucite heels and string bikinis - apparently we were there just in time for the "American Dream Model Contest." The non-idiomaticness of that title was oh so apt.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mirth vs. mirthlessness

My favourite humans are those who do not take themselves too seriously. Illustrating the opposite pole is the Serbian artist Marina Abramovic, who had an exhibition at the MoMA that involved...being admired while sitting in a chair? Also, a retrospective of her "art," the recurring theme of which seemed to be: "OMG the naked human body!" It soon became clear that all of Abramovic's admirers take themselves too seriously also, because - for instance - when they had to squeeze between two naked models in order to get to the next gallery room, none of them - not one - like, giggled. Ugh, we do not share a world.

Also, Orlando Bloom was there with some incredibly hot chick, and they were getting their own guided tour amidst the crush of visitors. And people did not notice them and kept bumping into them with their bags, hee.

Sigh, and then date and I had drinks outside on some rooftop bar and then went to Nougatine for dinner (address: One Central Park West) and then walked around the park after dark. Rough life.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Prague conference

I got invited to an invitation-only conference in Prague. There were lace curtains and frescoes and doors with keyholes. I printed my talk out on A4 paper (it's like 8.5 x 11 on a diet). Between talks coffee was served in porcelain cups for a 20 kroner piece. Important people listened to what I said and asked me questions about it. I stayed in the villa, on the conference grounds. It looked... like this:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A tale of two delis

Admin I sit next to at work: "That place is kinda pricey."
Me: "I don’t know, I can get a bagel, lox and cream cheese there for $2.95."
Admin: "It’s probably cheaper at the Bagel Buffet."
Me: "Nope. Don’t believe you. $2.95 is cheap. Not lox cream cheese, lox and cream cheese."
Admin: "Nah, Bagel Buffet would be cheaper."
Me: "Which one is that, anyway?"
Admin: "13th and 6th. We used to call it the smelly deli. They had a vent to the outside so you could smell their bacon all day."
Me: "Weird, I’ve never seen that place and I'm at that intersection all the time."
Admin: "You could walk right by it and miss it."
Me: "Well I still don’t think it’s gonna be cheaper."
Admin: "Hey, [office assistant], call Bagel Buffet please and aks them how much is a bagel with cream cheese and lox."
Office Assistant: "I don’t know - you have to habla espanol at Bagel Buffet."
Admin: "Don't worry, they speak American dolla."
Office assistant: "Oooh, you're not gonna be happy, [admin]."
Admin: "What did they say?"
Office assistant: "They said $7.50."
Me: "Hah."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Damn it, I need a PA

A personal assistant, yes. Not because I am important (I am not important), but because by the time I finish working, going to class, and riding the subway all day I have just enough time left over to answer emails and put more things in my daytimer. In other words, forget studying or reading or writing these damn conference papers, or even getting all my mundane little tasks done. Yeah, that's what I need, one of those PAs like the ladies on the Upper East Side or West Village have. Return these library books for me. Update my cv and find me the email address for the editor of the Times real estate section I DON'T CARE HOW. Drop this picture off at the framer's and drop this cheque off at the landlord. Finish this fee board application and buy my sister a birthday gift (by the way, you're late, her birthday was April 8th). And, of course, pick up more diet coke and ramen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Takin' it from the streets

One night after a few glasses at Loup, on my way to the subway home, I came upon an abandoned coffee table on 13th street. Beautiful, solid wood construction and just like new. I carried that table up and down stairs, through subway turnstiles, onto the 1 train and off again, and up two flights in my building, where I knocked on my neighbour's door (well after midnight, I am sure) and asshhkked her if she wanted it. She did!

The other night after a nighttime stroll my friend and I came across an abandoned Billy bookshelf on Chambers street. It was covered in dust but in surprisingly good condition, and the former owner had even gone to the trouble of bundling the shelves with twine. I pulled all the shelf pegs out and stuck them in my pocket, and we carried it off into the night. Some twenty blocks later, my neighbour had a new bookshelf, too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

He's standing right behind me, isn't he?

Things continue to happen in twos in New York.

I brought my mom and her friend Cathy, who were in town visiting me, to Loup, and explained that this was our after-class haunt (and hence where my mom got me a $100 tab as a Christmas gift), though celebrities sometimes pop up here, perhaps because it is so low-key. Just then Michael Douglas walked by and took a seat at the table over my right shoulder. (Which means he would have got a good view of when the bartender came over to give us props, hehe.)

Saturday I "tabled" (vended) all day at the Anarchist Bookfair, with my publisher-friend who was in town for that reason, and at some point we ended up engaged in conversation with a passerby about what a clown Zizek is, har har har, until I realized that he (Zizek) was standing at our table perusing our books.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Hot dog guy and coffee cart guy are friends!

My coffee guy had to move his cart across the street because of the tearing down of the New School Graduate Faculty building (a matter of some controversy, if you recall). Now his cart is right next to my hot dog guy! I actually don't visit my coffee guy so much anymore (I get free coffee at work, which accounts for some 90% of my job satisfaction), but I'm up to about two hot dogs a day.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Passover vs. Easter

Sarah is one of my favourite Jews, not least because she will invite all of us to her seder and give us photocopied Haggadah handouts so we can participate.

She is a vegetarian, so this is her version of a shankbone:

Apparently Passover is a whole week long! We closed it out (same guest list) with a big, ham-centered Easter dinner cooked by yours truly (I forgot to take a picture before we decimated the banquet).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Conference In Chicago

Because my mom came along, we stayed in the nicest damn hotel. No crashing on futons for me.

Also because my mom was there, we took a lot of cabs (Chicago is windy!). But we also took the El. That damn train feels like it's going to tip over. I prefer my trains underground, thank you.

And because my mom was there, we ate deep dish

But we also ate tapas and sangria and crab salads and prosecco

Finally, because my mom was there, I got to do wonderful touristy things and not just conference-y things (which were, admittedly, also great), like check out the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Oak Park

And have a drink at the top of the John Hancock building, and then wander through downtown

Now, my mom came with me a conference once before. The very first time I got a paper accepted to a real, grown-up (non-student) conference, she and my dad flew us all down there, and rented a car, and got a hotel room (and stocked it with wine), and even sat through my talk - my mom, in her gold sketchers and gold earrings and leopard print top, my dad in his Nexen Engineering promotional windbreaker and his Colt Engineering promotional golf shirt. It was absolutely lovely.

Now admittedly, we dowdy academics dress like caricatures of ourselves too. But not this time, friends. Because this time, when I arrived to find myself underdressed for the cold, my mom went and bought me scarf. And the only one she could find (SO SHE CLAIMED) was loud gold paisley just like hers.

The two of us walking around with our big, Texas beauty queen hair and our gold scarves? We were several El stops away from the University before I put that thing on, lemme tell you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Going to Chicago

Email conversation between me and my mom:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Manhattan vs. Brooklyn

Some of my friends live in Manhattan, but more live in Brooklyn, because it is cheaper, on account of being a little to the right of the centre of the universe, and not having quite the same vibe, or energy, or number of coffee carts. Don't get me wrong, living in Brooklyn involves very little sacrifice. You can live in the cute hipster Brooklyn neighbourhood, or the quirky warehouse neighbourhood, or the gentrified, family-populated neighbourhood, or the somewhat sketchy neighbourhood, or the really homogeneous ethnic neighbourhood. In fact, people who live in Brooklyn will go on and on about how great (charming, convenient, homey, interesting, up-and-coming) their neighbourhood is. Sure. But when someone invites you to their birthday drinks at their neighbourhood Brooklyn pub, and you're at the mercy of the single goddam train that goes there, and unable to hail a cab back, all you can think is "pay the extra two hundred dollars and live in the city, asshole."

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I filled out my census form. I opened it and filled it out and mailed it right away like it was Christmas morning. I like the idea of there being a record that I lived here. In 200 years, someone mining data will happen upon this and wonder, "There used to be a Lower Manhattan?"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday was cold and rainy

It's still the case that our good friend passed away on the ides of March. I don't think either she or we realized we'd think of her this much.

Haha this is video is terrible, and I can picture the two of us arguing about it.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen

People here are pretty creative with their panhandling spiels. Obviously. You need a good narrative and a good gimmick to grab the attention of most cynical, iPod-sporting New Yorkers. There's the guy who imitates the train announcements and bells (his wife died in a fire ten years ago and he has three kids to support), the kids selling candy for their sports team, the mariachi bands, the veteran hobos who really work the crowd and make dirty come-ons at the female passengers.

And then there's this sort of recursive honesty that goes on: I'm not selling candy for a basketball team, I'm just trying to get some money. There's the guy with the sign that says he's collecting money for beer. Or the woman who says she's tired of prostitution. (Okay, that woman gets to me. I want to set her up with an apartment on Park Avenue.) Or the guy who plays bongos on the subway and says that he used to walk the streets with a gun, now he walks the streets with a drum. I always love that. The veiled threat of pointing out "Hey, I'm not out there beating people and robbing people and stabbing you in the fucking gut if you don't give me a dollar please?"

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Spoiled. Rotten

This keeps happening: I go to dinner with a friend or colleague and they pick up the tab. And good food, too! Steak tartare and creme brulee and lobster bisque. Multiple course affairs with preprandial cocktails and wine with dinner and coffee after. I cannot even describe how much I love this. In fact, I try - I sort of squeal and clap and it makes the other person uncomfortable.

So that's the graduate student Lebensform, you guys. I'm either cleaning out my pockets for a $1 hotdog or choosing a wine pairing for my gigot.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Potato Peeler Grifter Saga, Continued

You remember this guy (RIP). His daughter is now following in his footsteps. She's good, too. I love participating in the obscurity of this. "Remember watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve in Times Square?" No. Remember that family of potato peeler grifters in Union Square? Yes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Now get back to work

I'm thirty years old and I live in New York, which pretty much means I can do whatever the fuck I want. Like spend the afternoon at the new David Chang restaurant in Midtown and then at the top of 30 Rock, just for fun, because you can, because it's Friday, you ain't got no job, you ain't got shit to do (that's not true: you do have a job, and you have a lot of shit to do).

But seriously, they need to update their maps.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Apartment saga, continued

My rent complaint is finally getting settled. More on that later. But in the meantime, I found out all kinds of fascinating things about the woman who used to live here, the one who paid $95 rent when the apartment was still set up tenement-style. The landlord doesn't know for how long she lived here - their records only go back to 1965 - but she was living here then. Which means that she lived here when this neighbourhood was still populated by families and little local businesses, and possibly when the El still ran down Greenwich Street, and before several square blocks were rased for the World Trade Center. She would have witnessed the building of the twin towers, and the evolution of her quaint neighbourhood street into Sodom South. And when September 11 happened, she was evacuated, as was all of Lower Manhattan, and according to the superintendents and the landlord she was "very elderly" at the time, and "never returned." In fact, the city didn't give my landlord the go-ahead to allow tenants to return until the spring of 2003. At some point that year, the woman's family asked the landlord permission to enter her apartment and remove her belongings, and at some point that same year (before or after, no one recalls), she passed away. I think about her utter confusion the day the towers fell, the diremption of her universe, the final chapter of her tenancy here written by that horrific act around which the entire world's politics then pivoted, let alone New York's history. Her name is still on my mailbox; I've never changed it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

SMS Highlight Reel, vol. 26

I an drunk.

"come meet the majority leader"

You, me, cab? Yes No
(circle one*).
*note: failure to circle means yes.

I want you to know that the suspense is killing me.

What is the grounding principle of the first critique, again? (purposiveness is the grounding principle of the third)

Where you at? I'm outside your door with a half dozen roses.

AfterPARTy. Gonna pick a fight with kid rock

Guess what? Bill fucking Murray was at Loup last night. My co-workers talked to him.

Jeez woman, you ever deliver good news? It's always stuff like "The Times thinks you're a terrorist" or "Guess what? I'm on my period."

Holy shit there's going to be a lot of cheese and crackers there tonight. and i mean that both literally and in the derogatory and racist way.

Je vous ...? 4 letters.


i bow to your talent to slip in a fucking BOMB.

Omg! That is him! Holy shit!

I say "claro que si" though I can't get the netflix in time I don't think

Collin robinson just launched a new house and the first book is on Sarah Palin. Plus he apparently throws great parties.

Me too! Its been forevs! Im scared we will giggle all through class since all the giggles have been pent up

I cant tell if thats a sad cry or a cry me a river cry

Eh yo brooklyn eh

1458 your mom ave. Your Mom, YM 696969

Omg. I just met two of the cutest guys. They told me to come by 9th st coffee house. I told them I studied phil & they didn't flinch, it's on. We should go

Way to be! Way to be!

Am seeing [name] tonight. I am a weak, weak woman lol. How's the paper?

guy died on my train

You tell me if this comes across as impassioned or perfunctory: wanna get drunk and fool around?

We meeting for gut bombs or what?

Sawed off shotgun should be fine. It's right above the bedford nostrand G stop.

This text message warrants no response from me. I walked through the SNOW.

You are the worst kind of human being. Is the date with the 23-year-old tonight? P.S. You're gonna intimidate the Jaegermeister outta him.


I am lurking on g-mail chat.

Listen, do you want me to be pretty or do you want me to be not pretty? Because i can come not pretty. Actually that's a lie i would never do that.

On my way. Dont drink anymore til i get there!

So [name] came home with me last night. We still on for pilates?

We're cabbing over. Where is wine?

Wait til u see the video

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I have something that most New Yorkers don't: a neighbour. My good friend moved into the building about six months ago, and I can't tell you how ideal it is to have precisely that arrangement for the simultaneous intimacy and separation (roommate = too much; no neighbours = too isolated). We regularly - almost daily - get together and make cocoa and talk about boys, academia, our neuroses...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Must see tv Thursday

So Thursday I went to a taping of The View (long story) with a friend. Now that I have been to two tapings of shows, I am pretty sure I "get" it and never need to do that again. The best part, however (besides the swag - apple martini mix and face moisturizer!), was when a producer for the show stood directly in front of me (just because of where my seat happened to be located, on the aisle) and looked me directly in the eyes and barked commands into his headset. This went on for several minutes, and he never broke eye contact.

Then I got to work, and a guy I work with happens to be an actor, and this week he had a brief speaking role on As The World Turns (as a Russian ship captain, lol), and we huddled around the computer and watched his scenes. Awesome. So awesome. Uncanny.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Ugh, get off of my cloud

I have a date place - a place I suggest for drinks, especially on a first date. It's small and intimate and has good music, played quietly enough that you can still converse easily.

A few weeks ago I let a friend in on my date spot, and she took a guy there. Tonight she had a date with a different guy, who she also arranged to meet at this spot. Only thing is, when she got there, date number one was sitting at the next table, obviously on a date himself. He stole her date place! Which means he stole my date place.

Of course, this being fractal New York, the small city infinitely redoubled back upon itself, the city of eight million people you will keep running into, they had the luxury of simply ignoring each other. Which they did.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Campbell Apartment

This is one of those worst kept New York secrets, but damn is it a nice place for an after-work drink. Actually, the crowd was strictly business and not tourist.

The best part was the email by which my friend arranged to meet me there:

"Exit Grand Central via the grand staircase on the west side leading to Vanderbilt Ave. Upon exiting, turn left, walk 50ft, and reenter Grand Central through the glass doors on your left. Climb the stairs to the Campbell Apartment."

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Universe, what?

Today I went for brunch at a friend's place. Really, really good brunch - she says she's a little bit country and a little bit Columbian, so there was hot chocolate with cinnamon, vegetable fritata, biscuits and gravy, and cheese grits. When I was leaving, I had to wait for her to finish saying goodbye to some other people first. One of those other people looked at me and said, "You look familiar." It turns out we went to junior high together. Like, we were in the same class and everything, way back in YYC.

Later on I was on a date with this guy. We started talking about both having gone to the ticker tape parade for the Giants, me because I am a social anthropologist, and he because he worked in the Financial District at the time. I asked him where he watched it from. He said, "You know that big red cube in front of Zuccoti Park?" It turns out we were standing right next to each other. (He was not one of the guys I was quoting in my blog post.)