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The drive

Last week, I drove 40 miles each way to work, which is 400 miles a week, which is about 20,000 miles a year, or maybe a hair less when you count in the various holidays and days I break an arm or wreck a car or get sent to a trade show where, instead of questions about my work, idiots ask me questions about the parent company’s TV sets.  Today, I drove zero miles.  I sat at my kitchen table, with sunlight streaming in from my giant 17 foot tall wall of windows, with a cat sitting on the table next to me, and plugged away at my laptop.  It wasn’t bad.  I mean, I don’t have a work laptop yet, which meant running Windows in a VM on my Mac, and then running a VPN in that to connect back to Palo Alto, then a morning of trying to figure out how to get at servers in New York, but it worked.

I’ve done this drive for two years.  With my tiny car’s awesome mileage, that still comes out to about a thousand gallons of gas.  Add in the lunches and the dry cleaning of shirts and the cost of said shirts and pants, now that I get to sit around in jeans and a t-shirt, and I wonder how much it cost me to work.  Granted, I probably made much more than that, and it would be much worse if I cared about my appearance and spent more time in a Nordstrom’s or at a salon or going to a gym every day to obsess over my muscle tone, but it’s still freaky math the amount of money you pay to make money.  And that’s on top of essentially paying half of what you make to various forms of The Man.  So yeah, it would be cheaper for me to sit around in dirty clothes in some tea party wet dream of a borderline-anarchist land with no laws and no taxes, but it also costs money to stockpile ammunition.

I spent all day reading tech writing stuff that was my bread and butter from 2001 to 2007, and a lot of it’s still me.  Editing old work I haven’t thought about in years is a really strong and effective time machine.  I mean, the product has moved on since I left, and someone else worked on the docs, but it’s the same basic templates I created, and the bulk of the writing’s still mine, or at least a slight variation of mine.  It really pulls me back to 2003 or whatever, when I was hashing this stuff out for the first time.  And it’s somewhat stupid to get nostalgic about an era that’s largely documented on this very site, and that’s got some pretty solid coverage in my paper journals and in saved emails and all of the other crap sitting on my hard drive.

But red-penning my way through hundreds of pages of this stuff brings me back to the times I sat in the back corner of that office, hunched over a Dell, a giant second-generation iPod playing from its whopping twenty-gig hard drive, wondering what kind of fortified compound I’d build out of leftover shipping containers on my land in Colorado, what I’d do on my next big trip to Vegas, how I’d endure another weekend in Astoria, what I’d add to my Amazon shopping cart for my near-daily purchases I’d rapidly consume on the N train every day.  It makes me think of bad first dates and forgotten coworkers and random movies I saw for no reason other than the two hours of free air conditioning, even if it did cost ten bucks a pop plus a long train ride into “the city”.

And I guess I do lament the New York I resisted in that period, the people who were the status quo and how I knew I could never be them, and how I tried hard not to be.  New York is a land of old money, and a place of millions of people who come to this overpopulated ghetto of an island to somehow prove that they are old money, even if they’re tending a bar and running a receptionist desk.  It’s not like LA, where everyone is trying to get rich quick, where being a nobody from a dirt farm in Nebraska is actually a good thing, because you want to prove that you came from nothing and created everything.  I never came to New York because I wanted to be a New Yorker or because I wanted to follow some near-Parisian dream of being a bohemian but with a rich lineage. And there are millions of people who drive cabs or dig ditches or bust suds in a dish sink who have much different dreams.  But when you’re a white, single, early thirtysomething with a college degree and a desk job, it’s pretty hard to look beyond your demographic.

It’s also oddly contradictory, now that I think about it, how so much of being a status quo New Yorker is all about getting out of New York.  You spend every free second slinging shit at the “flyover states”, but almost every big status symbol requirement has to do with where you summer, how you get a share on Fire Island, how you go upstate to see the leaves turn, how you go to Europe or “do” LA or go to Rio or whatever non-New York place is supposed to make you a New Yorker.  I never built in these escapes, and being confined to a little island with no car drove me nuts.  It’s why I would get a last-second flight deal and go to Pittsburgh and absolutely love it.

I still haven’t been back to New York since I left.  I’ll probably end up going back soon, and I’m sure 100% of it has changed.  And I know I could never live there again, but I am curious if I show up at the corner of Broadway and Houston, if the whole thing will feel like I never left, or if I will be overwhelmed, or if it will all seem like a strange dream.

I think I’m buying a new computer desk tomorrow.  The kitchen table is no AnthroCart.  And once the new laptop shows up, there won’t be room for two computers and a cat.

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Lost City Lost

So Lost City is an interesting blog, an attempt at documenting all of the old bits of New York that are rapidly vanishing and being converted into Subway restaurants and doggie day cares and five dollar cupcake shops in the Bloomberg wet dream of gentrification and sterilization. But I should say was, because the proprietor of this nostalgic blog has decided to close shop.

In a sense, I feel bad about this; I mean, I never found out about this blog until I heard about its closing, so I didn’t get to waste tons of time scouring its pages, looking for things I remembered that got bulldozed or scraped out to build yet another Bank of America branch.  One of the first things I found on his pages is that Chumley’s, the underground, speakeasy-like bar hidden in the village, once  a haunt of literary types and just around the corner from William S. Burroughs’ place, has since shut down because of a chimney collapse, and has been forever stalled in that “under construction” phase that means death. Anyway, I do love me some nostalgia, especially having to do with places I lived, so it’s sad to see a site like this go away.

But, here’s the deal: I know how hard it is to run a gig like this.  I worked on The Necrokonicon for a good four years before I finally scraped it into a paper book and shut down the original site.  It’s a thankless job, one that can generate some decent traffic, but that requires constant revisions, to the point where your full-time occupation becomes the maintenance of this profitless venture you could never hope to monetize.  You get constant emails from people bitching about how you got an opinion of yours “wrong”, and how you got facts backwards when explaining an urban legend that wasn’t true in the first place.  You find dead ends researching restaurants that have long since closed, in cities that don’t keep records of the past, with residents that have no long-term memory anymore.  Every little update becomes a political struggle, and you wonder if it would be easier to just write Twilight fan fiction and call it a day.  There’s some reward when you find a person that gives you some information that’s useful, or when you stir up the thread of nostalgia in someone who appreciates it.  But it’s also a bitch, and there’s never an end in sight, because you’re talking about a city that always changes.  So I understand the decision to call it a day.

What I don’t get is all of the negative bullshit being stirred in the link above that goes to theawl.com.  I started poking around this site a bit, and it’s sort of a hip New York-centric pop culture thing.  So it doesn’t surprise me that much that all of the commenters go off on this guy and proclaim the general uselessness of his work.  I mean, it’s hard to really explain the undertone of the comments without a complicated Venn diagram, but in general, there’s a lot of venom.  I’m not sure – do these people actually appreciate when a place like Zen Palate goes under and gets replaced by a TGI Friday?  I thought urban decay and throwback architecture is hipster cool, but there are people who actually seem excited about mallifying Times Square and building huge glass condos that will look asinine in five years.

I don’t know – arguing about urban planning with someone who self-identifies as a New Yorker is almost as futile as arguing religion with someone who runs a church.  These are the people who claim the city never sleeps, even though I could never, ever find a 24-hour pharmacy within ten miles of my apartment, and yet Elkhart, Indiana, population 40,000 has at least a dozen.  I mean, there is a certain validity in the fact that you can’t keep New York into the exact thing it was the second you got there, because everything constantly changes.  But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to try to remember these things.  Because we have no attention span and now with the death of all paper media and the twitter-ification of all things reference-oriented, you will find it absolutely impossible to look up something that happened five years ago without facing a sea of 404s.  All news has become blogs, and all blogs have a shelf life of even less than a Thai-Mexican fusion restaurant with a $14,000 a month rent in SoHo.  So I find it commendable when someone does try to make a reference of the past like this.  Because all of you are going to wake up tomorrow, a dozen years from now, and only have the vaguest of memories of that Shea-whatever-it-was-called place where the Mets maybe used to play, and every single maybe-relevant phrase you enter into google is going to redirect you to a CitiBank advertisement.

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Julie, Julia, Queens, 2002

I’ve been back from Denver for a week now, sorry about that. We had a good time, and went to two baseball games – won one, lost one. We also took a trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens, which I drove by a million times in 2007 but never visited. And that’s partially a good thing, because if I had, I would’ve spent ten thousand dollars on pieces for a geodesic dome garden for my land in Colorado, or at least spent a month googling plants that survive well in a high mesa desert.

We’re back, and it has been busy, and my arm is almost better, but I got new glasses and they are bugging me. One window closes, another opens. I have also started a new writing project that promises to suck the life out of me, although there isn’t much of it after work and everything else. But it’s good to have something churning that has me awake before 9:00 on a Sunday morning, wanting to get the words into the screen.

I saw the movie Julie and Julia last night. Overall, it was a decent movie – yes, a chick flick, and no explosions or Real American Heroes (TM), but entertaining. The film had two stories going on in it, which means it hit on multiple levels for me. One was the Julia Child story, which has always fascinated me, or at least it has since a few years back when I saw a show on her, maybe an A&E Biography. I also later read a book about her that Sarah had lying around the house. She’s interesting to me because she was nearly 40 and couldn’t boil an egg, and she suddenly started this passion and empire from scratch. That’s appealing to someone who is almost 40 and has sold a grand total of about seven books in their lifetime.

The movie also made me wish I cooked more. Granted, I think we cooked dinner every night last week, and I think only one of those recipes was one of our standards, with everything else being something new. But it makes me wish I could try more new things, and it makes me want to reorganize this kitchen a bit more. Yes, it’s a brand new kitchen, and we just moved in. But we did a lot of “just throw this crap in this drawer, and we’ll figure it out later”, to the point where it took me 45 minutes to find some oatmeal the other morning, and it was exactly where I thought it would be when I started the hunt.

The bigger resonance for me was the fact that the story of the blogger Julie takes place in 2002 in Queens. And for those of you who are new here, I was blogging in Queens in 2002. (Hint: See the link on the left that says 2002 archives.) Of couse, this meant I spent half the movie looking at billboards and subway stops and Queens-style addresses, trying to determine continuity errors. (There were plenty.) But it also greatly reminded me of that era, and what things were like for a struggling writer-type in the general ecosystem of 2002.

First, 2002 was a standout year for me for whatever reason. I published my magnum opus; I travelled more than I ever had before (three trips to Vegas, one including a roadtrip to my land in Colorado; a trip to DC, a trip to Pittsburg, and a return to Indiana.) I struggled in the dating world. I tried to lose weight and I didn’t. I tried to grow a garden and I didn’t. I converted my bike into electric and never rode it. I bought 40 acres of land in Colorado. It was one of those years where a lot happened, and maybe it wasn’t as much as other years, and it was just a nice, round number. And at the time, I certainly didn’t think things were better or worse than other years, but it’s one of those dog-eared eras pf time that my brain easily flops back to without much trouble.

The Julie/Julia project blog brought me back instantly to 2002, because it was a huge meme in New York City for whatever reason, and I think every person I tried to date that year was interested in it. It had huge resonation with the crowd I was on the outside of looking in, the people who think Dave Eggers is ha-ha funny and thought blogs were invented in 2002 by Salon.com. It was the tipping point for blogs in some weird way. I’d been doing it for years at that point, but suddenly, an army of yuppie scum started blogging, and monetizing blogs, and turning blogs into books and movies and careers. I blogged almost 60,000 words in 2002, and looking back at it, it’s not that bad a collection of words. But I felt like a purist acoustic Bon Dylan in a sea of gone-electric, commercially commoditized Bob Dylans. Maybe that frustration turned me to do some good work, but at the time, I felt like I was treading water in an ocean of shit with no land in sight in any direction.

And it feels like 2002 is so god damned long ago, and it feels like yesterday, and I had to subtract 2 from 9 and think about it, and it baffles me for whatever reason. And what happened to all of those people from 2002, all of the wannabe writers and fuck-Bush revolutionaries and artists stuck in secretaries’ cubicles? I can answer my own question – they’re all on Facebook, posting pictures of their kid every god damned minute of the day.

I just got distracted by reading old journal entries from 2002, and I need to get my day started, and I need to make a grocery list for all of these giant cooking project disasters I won’t do this week, and I need to work on the aforementioned secret writing project, so I better get to it.

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Work (or lack thereof), social strata of New York

First things first: there will be a new issue of Air in the Paragraph Line soon, and I’m looking for contributors. The theme of the next issue will be Work (or lack thereof.) So if you have any fucked up tales of corrupt employers or savage burns you’ve pulled on The Man while at a place of business, send them my way. Click on the link above for more info.

I read Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People yesterday. There were several forces that prevented this from happening earlier; the biggest was that when I started working on an anti-self-help book in the fall of 2001, I decided that this would be the perfect title. I worked on the book for a couple of weeks, then sort of wandered writing-wise, and then this smart-ass writes a book with the same fucking title! So that pissed me off for several years. Then, for some reason, I read half of a blurb on a subway over someone’s shoulder or something, and somehow got the idea that Young was working in the fashion industry. I assumed that his memoir was some sort of Devil Wears Prada thing, and wrote it off. But a few people told me I should read it, and I also found a used copy on Amazon for ONE CENT, plus shipping. And no, the shipping wasn’t $28, it was like $2.

Anyway, I liked the book very much. His writing reminds me of Chuck Klosterman in some ways, although where Chuck might go off on obscure KISS trivia, Young goes off on obscure pseudo-academic history, which had the eyes glazing over. But the other stuff was great, because there’s something that I have in common with him, and it’s not as obvious to most people, which is that we’re both outsiders to New York, and the ludicrosness of the situation in Manhattan that would normally be endured by the fashionistas and aristocrats is something that we both notice, in an Emperor Wears No Clothes sort of way.

You’re probably wondering what the fuck I mean, so I’ll break it down for you. I grew up in an essentially classless environment in Indiana. Yes, there were cliques, and maybe some legitimate racial segregation, but the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor shopped at the same mall. The best golf course in Elkhart in 1987 was only marginally better than playing in a gravel driveway. People didn’t ‘summer’ or spend time in Europe. I don’t know who the richest kid in my graduating class was, but there’s a pretty good chance his or her house had aluminum siding just like mine. I’m not saying that the cruelness of children didn’t create great social divides among us; but I’m saying the income of the rich and the income of the poor was probably close to the amount I currently have in my checking account.

I showed up in New York in 1999, and it was a totally different world. The richest of the poor and the poorest of the rich were set apart by seven or eight digits of salary per year. Something that Young explained was that he came from this strict social class system in England, where you never moved above or below a certain level, based pretty much on who your parents were. And if you were stuck in the middle, why should you work hard to become the next Bill Gates? You never could, so keep slumming. Contrast that with New York, where everyone says there are no social classes, and the poorest guy can become the richest person in the world if he just pulls himself together and gets out there. Americans love to think this country is a meritocracy, and in some ways it is, but in New York, there’s this artifical aristrocracy, and it’s something I never really could digest properly.

A lot of people in New York do stuff not to do stuff, but because they think if they do it, that moves them a little closer to the top. The biggest example I can think of is summering in the Hamptons. The other example is how people don’t actually process movies or books, but usually only memorize that one catch phrase that coincidentally is also the first sentence of the New Yorker’s review. (Cases in point: Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential – every single person who said they read that book and didn’t said it was “the don’t eat fish on Monday” book, and that has so little to do with the actually the book, it’s stupid. It’s like saying the bible was the “how to build an ark” book. The other example is Bowling for Columbine, where EVERYONE I knew said “oh yeah, that movie’s about how horrible guns are,” even though it was about how horrible the news media is. Same goes for Fast Food Nation and the fact that everyone says the book talks about how horrible McDonald’s was, when it was actually pretty neutral about MCD and spent a lot more time picking at Jack in the Box and the cattle industry.)

There is such a strong groupthink in this city, it’s impossible to deal with. And the reason this makes this faux-meritocracy so hard to deal with is that the upper-upper-class believe both that “anyone can make it to the top,” even though they are probably at the top because of their parents’ money and influence, but they also simultaneously think that because they are at the top, they are there to stay and they can piss on everyone below them. That’s what makes Enrons happen, not Republicans or Democrats; it’s people so out of touch with reality that doing such horrible things seems normal. And that thought pattern trickles down through the tree until you have people in the upper-middle-class that think it’s okay to spend $800 on a purse because Carrie Bradshaw had one.

Toby Young also really had his finger on the dating situation here in New York. He said most women, knowingly or unknowingly, are just looking for the proper attributes that will produce a man that is marriage material, much like how you shop for a new car or hire someone for an office position. In the people that I met here during the fivish years I was single, almost all of them were looking at what I was, not who I was. And that sort of feeds into the above, in that a woman would rather date a bland guy who had a nice summer house than an interesting guy that her coworkers might think isn’t a good long-term investment. I’m just glad I somehow beat the million-in-one odds and found someone who wasn’t like that.

Anyway, book was good. I’ll pick up his next one now, although it just came out, so I’m sure it will cost more than a penny…

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New York at its finest

I think the best way I could describe outside right now is “fucked.” It’s 30 and raining, basically, which means sort of snow but sort of not, very dark out, and the ground resembles a spilled Slurpee, but everywhere and not Coke-flavored. The intersection outside of my office is being devastated by a crew of phone company people. They’re jackhammering and scraping out a trench in the middle of the intersection, and it’s filling up with this slush, and traffic in every direction is fucked. The jackhammering and pounding sounds like the block is being shelled. A Verizon truck hit a guy in the face with their rear-view mirror in front of the Wendy’s, so there’s an ambulance blocking even more traffic as he holds a dozen yellow and crimson Wendy’s paper napkins to his face to stop the bleeding. A dozen people try to watch what’s happening, but everyone else pushes past them to go inside and get their Chicken Strips Tenders meals and Biggie sized fries.

This is New York at its finest. Every time someone tells me “I think it would be so neat to move to New York!” I want to make them endure an hour of this, and then send them back to Iowa or whatever.

As an experiment, I came to work without a cane today. Probably not the best day to do it, but it’s been working out okay. Of course, in about five hours, I will be screaming bloody murder about this brace on my leg, which usually starts constricting me too much after about eight hours. I have been able to find Vault everywhere, luckily, but I have been drinking so much of it that I think the caffeine is freaking me out. I drank 4x20oz bottles yesterday, plus a regular Coke, which is about a months’ worth of caffeine. I should stop that. I’m drinking a Dr. Pepper now, which is my favorite occasional drink. A strange thing is that maybe six years ago, I was taking some medicine for panic attacks, and I only took it for like a week, because it made me really sick to my stomach. But for some reason, it totally fucked up my sense of taste or smell for Dr. Pepper, maybe something about the vanilla taste in it. And I couldn’t even walk by a thing of Dr. Pepper in a grocery store without retching. I stopped taking the medicine, and then I was fine. It was pretty weird. I’m wondering why one of Dr. P’s competitors haven’t isolated this drug and put it in their drinks as a way to cut out the competition.

Lots of things are going on, and it will be very busy for a few days. It was Sarah’s birthday on Monday, which went well. And then her mom is coming in tonight for a long weekend. We are having an Oscars party on Sunday, and I don’t even know what is involved in that as far as planning or whatever, but I’m assuming it is taken care of. We’re also going upstate to Guy and Scott’s place on Saturday, which should be fun, but that’s just for a day. And add in a bunch of other dinners and seeing friends and soforth.

On top of that, we are catsitting for a friend and have her two cats for a week, because her place is being exterminated. The cats are mostly hiding right now. One is extremely skittish and we will probably not even see her for the week, unless treats are involved. The other one is a little more playful and okay with humans, and she was running around a bit. I’m still not sleeping through the night and wake up every few hours, and it was funny to wake up at like 4:30 and see both of them tearing around the house and playing.

I’ve been vaguely thinking about changes to this page, because I’ve been reading a lot of web design propaganda lately. I’m trying to think of some CSS changes to make to the site, which is not a big deal. The one thing I wish I could easily hook up are buttons for Back and Next at the bottom of each entry. There’s no easy way for me to do this. (Yes, I could hard-code the links in each time I update, but life is too short.) I wanted to do some PHP trickery in which each time a page is drawn, it takes a peek at the directory of HTML, and gets the two entries before and after the current one. The problem is knowing in the script what is “the current one,” because each of these pages imports headers and footers and there are symlinks and all other sorts of things that make the usual way of determining the current page to totally fuck up. I think I could do it if I passed the PHP the page’s ID, like I do with haloscan comments. But then I’d have to go back and edit all of my old pages, which might be a huge pain in the ass. I’ll probably do the CSS first.

Google ads are gone. Not really worth it for this kind of site. I think I made less than a dollar a month, and given that I make about a dollar a minute at my day job, it’s hard to get excited about that.

I have been doing a ton of reading, and at some point, you will get to read another huge list of what I’ve been consuming. But now, lunch is over.

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Reason #8,234,123 New York City Sucks

Reason #8,234,123 New York City Sucks:

June through September.

Seriously, summer blows here. Find me a person that thinks it’s great to live here in the months between spring and autumn, and invite them to my place for an hour, and they will cry faster than those pieces of shit in Guantanamo after the CIA torture technicians crank up the Britney Spears albums. This city is a giant heatsink, and all of the office buildings that need to keep their giant unused conference rooms at a frigid 56 degrees are pumping out even more heat that gets absorbed into the concrete. Add to that the fact that people here shit, piss, and vomit pretty much everywhere as if it’s Calcutta, and the streetsides are giant open-bake ovens for garbage that is put out on Mondays and then possibly picked up a week later. And if you have the wise idea to get the fuck out for a weekend, forget it. Central Park is a baby festival on the weekend, intermixed in with the occasional gangbanger race war. And that’s on the weekend when there isn’t a parade, festival, street fair, mass protest, concert, gathering, or something else throwing a wrench in the traffic situation.

Before you start on the WHY DON’T YOU GET AC diatribe, here are the ground rules on what is known as the misery of my apartment:

  1. Bars on windows. No way to put in an AC unit.
  2. All wiring is from about 1812. We’re talking about that cheap aluminum, paper-wrapped, total catastrophe stuff, with the whole apartment hooked into two 10A breakers, which are conveniently located in the basement in a locked utility room, meaning if I trip a breaker, I have to get the landlord to come over (we have no super. yes, that’s illegal) and he’s out of the country for months at a time sometimes.
  3. Yes, I know they sell free-standing air conditioners. I have one. It’s the most expensive one that the most expensive Italian company produces. It barely works. It’s like making ice with a toaster.
  4. All of the windows are on one side, so there’s no breeze, and no real way to get one going with fans.
  5. I live on the first floor, so when I leave all of my windows open, I am treated to the sounds of the neighbors dealing drugs, screaming at the tops of their lungs, and/or smashing cars in the windshield with a brick to set off alarms and see which ones they can steal.
  6. For the 347 reasons outlined in Konrath publication 456-763-2A, entitled “why I cannot up and move at a split fucking second like all of you geniuses in towns in the Midwest with a 47% occupancy rates and rents under a hundred dollars for a 4-bed house,” I can’t move in the near future.

In another futile effort to make the situation better, I spent $100 on a Vornado fan. Oh wait, I mean “room air circulation unit” or whatever they call it. I just got it set up a few hours ago, and it’s actually working slightly better than my regular high-volume fan, but it’s much quieter, and doesn’t knock this high stream of sickness-inducing air into my face. (Yes, I know that allegedly, exposure to a draft or cold air or whatever isn’t supposed to cause a cold. But whenever I point a fan right at my head and go to sleep, I wake up with a cold. And when I don’t, I don’t. That must have to do with Jesus or dinosaurs or my Tarot card reading or something else, right Mr. Scientist?) So maybe the Vornado will help. I’m hoping if I fire up the anemic AC unit and put the Vornado right next to it, I will get some kind of better cooling. And if all else fails, I will just spend way more time at Sarah’s, since she lives in an apartment built within the last two centuries that actually has AC units, ceiling fans, and no Sopranos wannabes three feet from your head playing with their shitty ringtones on full volume at three in the morning.

I have been working full-time on Air in the Paragraph Line (aka “the zine”), or at least as full-time as I can with a real job and almost no energy from constant heatstroke. But the layout is looking good, a lot of the text has been placed, and the guts are close to ready. The one person holding up the issue is, of course, me, because I can’t decide on what to include, and I think everything in the current inventory kinda sucks and I need to write something new, but any new effort is basically a tone poem that goes like this: “MUST / DRINK / MORE / WATER”. But seriously, everything is looking good and it’s a good read, with a lot of decent fiction, some longer stuff, and I like it.

You’ll also notice some slight changes to the layout here. I’m just trying to make things look a little better, work better, whatever. If you see something horrifically broken or wrong, please let me know. And if you have any ideas or thoughts on the look, I’d love to hear your thoughts. So drop a “you should have an xyz” comment if you have any wise ideas.

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Blackout

Well, I had an interesting day yesterday.

At about 4:30, me and another guy were getting on the elevator to go downstairs for a drink/snack. As we got on the elevator, the lights started flickering, so we immediately got out before the door closed. Right then, the power went out on the whole fucking eastern seaboard. I got to see the emergency procedure of shutting down about a dozen machines that require heavy-duty AC, beeping and complaining as their backup power supplies tried to crash-land them. The machine room was prepared for the contingency – except for not having any backup lights. Oops.

We thought it was a building problem, but within a few phone calls, found out power was really out all over New York, New Jersey, even as far away as Detroit and Ohio. Without a computer, I had nothing to do, so I hit the road. I really didn’t want to walk, but at least I had my iPod, and I was lucky enough to wear shorts that day. Unfortunately, I only had about $2 in cash on me, and the ATMs weren’t going to be working with no power.

The walk reminded me way too much of 9/11, and I even took the same route for the first part of the trip. This time, there were way more people flooding the streets and sidewalks, and the temps were much higher, probably in the mid-90s. I was instantly dehydrated, and cut over to Park to hump my way north to 59th street. People on the street from bodegas and restaurants were selling their bottled water for about 100% above retail. I hope these bastards get anally gang-raped by well-hing, syphilitic SARS patients in the near future.

I finally bought a can of Sunkist for $2 before I hit the Queensborough bridge. (If you saw Spiderman, this is the bridge at the very end, with the battle with Green Goblin.) I have rode my bike across the bridge many times, and there is a separate lower deck for pedestrians, so you don’t walk as high, and it has no cars on it. As I followed the swarm of people to the bridge, I realized we weren’t going the right way. And a second later, I found myself walking on TOP of the bridge, on the upper deck, next to cars. It was very freaked out, being up there with no guard rails or sidewalks, marching next to a line of pretty much parked traffic.

After the long bridge, my body was ready to shut down from dehydration. I barely managed to cross the 39th street bridge over the Sunnyside rail yard and was desperately trying to find a way to simply give up and carjack someone, when I ran into a spa on 39th and Northern that was scrambling to give away all of their ice and big tubs of water with dixie cups. I drank about six glasses of water, the best water I’ve ever had in my life, and then saw that next door, a firehouse had a hose set up with a sprinkler. I put aside my bag and completely drenched myself from head to toe, which immensely helped me stumble the last few miles home.

Round trip: 8 miles. Just over 3 hours. Not too shabby. Of course, I can barely feel my legs today, but I made it.

I didn’t have anything to eat other than snack food and powerbars when I got home, but I really didn’t feel like eating after all that walking. I drank as much water as I could, and luckily I still had running water. I finished reading Skunk Works by flashlight, made a few phone calls (that still worked, miraculously) and tried to sleep. And tried. And tried. Outside, it was a fucking party until after midnight, so I put in earplugs, soaked a towel, and covered myself with it. No fans = sucks.

The power kicked in at about 4AM, turning on my lights and fans. I got a few hours of good sleep, until my boss called and told me to stay put. Turns out a big chunk of Manhattan is still screwed, as are the subways. So I get a day off. Too bad half of the cable channels are out.

I’m going to go take a nap in front of a fan, then hit an ATM and get a bunch of real food. Hope all’s well where you’re sitting.

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general

The Burroughs house

I am back. I am sick. I could barely talk today, and felt like crawling under my desk and dying all day. But I have a deadline this Friday, and I had 248 mail messages waiting for me at work, so I had to get there. Plus I woke up at 6am when the Nyquil wore off, and I had nothing better to do. Actually, I had a lot of better things to do, but I chose to go to work instead of calling in. Maybe tomorrow.

New York was cool, although I was too sick to do much. It was good to see Marie for a couple of days, and hang out with my two feline friends Mungo and Henrey. We did go out a few times, to a Ukranian deli, to the village to look at CDs, and to Tower. I bought two new prerecorded MiniDiscs (Ozzy and Pink Floyd) and I saw the lab which was used as an exterior in Seinfeld when they went to get the frozen yogurt tested for fat content. So that was my big brush with fame for the trip.

Actually, on Saturday, we went to a big party at this giant three-story house. It turns out that the place used to be divvied up into tiny apartments, and in 1943 and 1944, William S. Burroughs lived there. Kerouac and Ginsberg visited there a lot, and it’s the place where Lucien Carr visited the morning after killing David Kamerrer and showed Burroughs the pack of bloody cigarettes he lifted from the body. It’s a flat with some real history to it.

Of course, when we were there, all of that was gone. The building was converted into one giant house long ago. Burroughs’ old residence is now a kids’ bedroom, full of toy cars. On the top floor, there was a bathroom that was seriously as big as my entire fucking apartment, with a sauna, giant bathtub, fireplace, everything. And the whole house was wired for audio and TV, so you could listen to music all over or divide it up to certain rooms. Later, we were trying to guess how much the place would sell for – at least in the seven digit range.

So here I am, sick. I better stop my whining and get some rest and a few good belts of the Robitussen. Maybe tomorrow…