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.