Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Color Man

I am really surprised I did not get the living hell beat out of me based on the following misunderstanding at a local bar in my neighborhood. I was enjoying a taste while watching some playoff football and a conversation was struck up between myself and the gentleman sitting next to me at the bar. Finding out he was a big Mets fan, and myself being a huge Cardinals fan, the conversation predictably turned toward the 2006 National League Championship Series.


This really did not turn into an issue. Cardinal fans are a lot like the people of Alderon, we are peaceful and we have no weapons. We had a nice debate about the series and the conversation was amicably pleasant. A few days before, I was listening to sports radio hosted by one of the Mets play by play broadcasters (Howie Rose) and for the life of me I could not think of his name but I wanted to quote something he had said. So not being able to remember, I ask the Mets fan what the name of the Mets color commentator is. Mets fan's eyes go wide open as he declares "Dude, I don't know!". Thinking that was an odd response I ask again, "so you don't know the name of your color man?" Again he states he does not know and he asks me why that would even matter. Now I am the one getting mad and I tell him, "well it matters because I was trying to quote him and all I know is he is the Mets color commentator and I can't believe your such a big fan and would not know the answer to that. "

At this point the Mets fan stands up, slams his drink down on the bar and looks at me and says "I will say it for the last time, I am not aware of any 'colored's' that broadcast for the Mets" before walking away from the bar. First of all this is the point in the story I should point out two things. The Mets fan I had been chatting with is indeed at least partially African American, and secondly had never heard the term "Color Commentator" before which I shall define:

'A color commentator, sometimes known as a color analyst, is a member of the broadcasting team for a sporting event who assists the play-by-play announcer by filling in any time when play is not in progress. '

It took me about 20 seconds to fully grasp what had happened. When it hit me, in all honesty the first thing to come out of my mouth was "Wait, I'm not a racist!!!" Wow, Michael Richards would be proud.

I immediately bring the bartender in to the conversation to back me up that there was indeed a term called "color commentator". After much persuasion from the bartender and myself the Mets fan finally pauses and says "Oh, I get it.... he brings color to the conversation....you mean Howie Rose?". Yes.... Yes.... Yes.... Howie Rose, indeed he brings color to the conversation. Thank You.......

So the conversation once again returned to civility for at least the next 20 seconds until I asked him
"So, do you think Beltran has taken the bat off of his shoulders yet?"

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

So, I witnessed my first mugging.....

Central Park at night is not the dangerous place it used to be. During the winter months running in the park after sunset is the only option for many New Yorker's to get a run in and I am no exception. The police presence is strongly felt and one feels the comfort of 'strength in numbers' from their fellow runner. With crime as low as it is now it is easy to forget that it can still happen, but for over two years of living in this city I had never seen a crime......until now.

My friend Kirk and I were running a full six mile loop around Central Park and we had just passed the Harlem Hill on the north west corner. On the downward hill I ran ahead and stopped near the 102nd street transverse on the west side. As I waited for Kirk I noticed a group of three running toward me coming from the transverse. As they approached I noticed two girls of Asian descent in full running gear and following close behind by another runner that was not female or Asian and not wearing running gear at all. Honestly, I am so naive (see definition: simple and guileless) the only thing I thought to myself as they all passed and turned south on the main loop was 'I don't know what type of workout this guy is going for wearing baggy jeans, and that black down coat has no reflectors... is he asking to be run over?'.

About 45 seconds passed and I saw Kirk approaching from behind me when I hear screaming coming from in front of me. It was a woman's voice yelling "You asshole, you asshole". The next thing I see is the man in the baggy jeans and the black coat running on the inner sidewalk of the park darting for the woods while he was being chased by one of the girls. By this point she was shouting "Help, please help, somebody stop him!!!".

At this point I have no idea what this guy has done so I start running from the main road toward the sidewalk. He starts to dart in to the woods so I look around me on the road and see an unopened can of beans. After quickly checking the wind I let the can of beans fly in to the air effortlessly toward the attacker, the beans strike him on the head knocking him unconscious to the ground. The cheers from the crowd that gathered engulfed me, and as I turned around to address them I tipped my hat and said "G'day mate". Wait..........no that was not me, that was actually Crocodile Dundee. My version was quite different and pathetic.

OK, lets reset the situation. The mugger was being chased on the inner sidewalk by the girl screaming "Help, please help, somebody stop him!". My first reaction actually was to run toward the mugger to try to help. I had no idea what was going on, the ideas of what this guy could have done fueled my adrenaline as he was entering the woods. Then the girl yelled "He stole my I-Pod!". Huh. I-Pod you say. The immediate thought of chasing an assailant in to the woods over an I-Pod caused me to stop my brief pursuit.
So my decision was to do nothing except try to console the victim. So it is official, I am no subway hero Wesley Autry.

A few seconds later Kirk arrived and I explained what had happened. He immediately told me how foolish it would have been to chase this guy down over an I-Pod. How did I know he did not have a knife or a gun. This is true but it does not make me feel better about it. I have told this story to a few people and they all say I did the smart thing considering only an I-Pod was at stake and I knew that. Again, I feel mixed about this. It is true I probably could have caught up to the guy. It is also true I am not Crocodile Dundee and if he would have pulled a knife on me I could not have quipped back "That's not a knife, this is a knife....".

Honestly, what should I have done? I want to know what people think. To be fair to myself I would have had to run in to the woods, with it pitch black out, in the Halem part of Central Park. Yes it would have been dangerous, but wouldn't an obituary that read "Even though the assailant only took an I-Pod, the Samaritan still risked and lost his life to help a stranger, because that's just the guy he was". Nope not me, still here writing a blog. It seems what my obituary will read is "Always lived to run away today, so he could live again to run away another day". I didn't really run away (I stole that from the movie Maverick) but you get the point.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sitting in the Audience of Late Night with Conan O'Brien (Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Part 2)

After seeing Letterman in person twice, next on my stop of the late night talk show circuit was Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Getting tickets was slightly more complicated than David Letterman was. There was no easy 'ticket request' on the internet like 'The Late Show' provided. After some searching on NBC's website I found a phone number to call. The lady that answered said that they were taking reservations for dates that were six months in the future, except for the following Monday night in which they had four tickets if I wanted them. It turns out that Conan usually does not film on Monday's and that is why they had tickets available.

The following Monday my three lucky friends and myself met at Rockefeller Center for the taping. As we stood in line there was a rambunctious line growing across from us that turned out to be the audience for 'Last Call with Carson Daly'.

These people were being plucked right off of the street to see this show, staring at this motley bunch I did feel some superiority over them because they had Carson Daly to look forward to in their future. Honestly I think I would rather take my chances with the Cracken from "Clash of the Titans".

The atmosphere for Conan is a lot more laid back than at Letterman's show. They do not run you through any sort of boot camp to teach you how to laugh. All you do is wait in line until they divide the line up for the elevator rides up to the studio. When you get to the studio doors there is no 'door man' with a velvet rope deciding who sits where, it is completely first come first serve. Upon entering the studio, the first reaction is to notice how small that place really is. I mean really small. On television it appears that Conan and Max Weinberg are a decent amount of distance from each other but in reality they are almost right on top of each other.

After a warm up comic finishes, Conan himself come out and addresses the crowd. Wow he is a tall man in person, I mean really tall. One of the guests was Seth (tell Sloan I said 'wad up') Green who is not a tall man and the contrast was freakish. Like I said earlier, Conan usually tapes Tuesday through Friday. He explains though on this night, through the magic of television that even though today was actually a Monday it was to become Friday. Because of a prior commitment they were taping Friday's show on this night. This led to awkward giggles from the audience the entire evening. It started in Conan's monologue when he declared "TGIF...... right crowd!!!" It was actually pretty great to be there, it was like an inside joke the whole night that Conan never revealed to the viewer at home. Another great thing about Conan's show is the awkward silence after a joke bombs. Without any boot camp training like Letterman's people put the audience through, if a joke fails it fails. So if you are watching Conan at home, all the laughter is real, there is no cattle prod forcing it which I really liked.

The best moment of the night came after guest Josh Duhamel (of Las Vegas and Tad Hamilton fame) explained to Conan how he barely made it to the taping tonight after being at the Superbowl in Jacksonville (which was the night before). This lead to the biggest laugh of the night when Conan asked Duhamel "Why, did you walk? You had 5 days to get here.....right..." Of course the at home audience would have no idea why the crowd erupted in laughter.

I have to admit I enjoyed my experience at Conan more than I did Letterman. The atmosphere was just a lot more natural (and warmer, yes it is freezing at 'The Late Show' a fact I forgot to mention) than at Letterman's show. Of course on the way out there was one incident, a woman in front of me snapped a quick picture of the lobby leading back to the elevators and an NBC page saw this transgression and confiscated the camera. This was after the show!!! The woman understandably was irate and wanted to go on to their next destination.
The page informed her that the camera would be taken to security for the removal of all her photos taken inside Rockefeller Center and then it would be returned, and she could pick it up the next morning. As we went down the elevators she was still arguing with the page, I heard her cry "But we are going to the Statue of Liberty tomorrow morning........" as the elevator doors shut. Ha.

The next instalment will take a look at the taping of the third ever episode of "The Colbert Report".

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sitting in the Audience of The Late Show with David Letterman (Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Part 1)

To this day I have never been to the Statue of Liberty or the top of The Empire State Building. To me, the one touristy (remember I still had a lot of Midwest in me) event I had to do when I first moved to New York City was to be an audience member at my favorite late night shows. Today in 2007 I would look at this endeavor as just a big hassle, but growing up in the Midwest the most exciting live taping I had seen to that point was a clogging exhibition at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO that was being carried live on KY3 Action News. Perhaps I will share that story if I ever start my sister blog "Midwesterner's Guide: The Ozark Years".

In truth, for about a month I was a late night audience member junkie. I could not get over the fact that not only did I get to see someone such as David Letterman in person, but that it was absolutely free!!!! Right after one moves here and has just paid two months rent upfront, a deposit and a broker fee..... free entertainment is pretty much a necessity. Over the first few weeks of living here I had secured tickets to 'The Late Show with David Letterman', 'Late Night with Conan O'Brien', 'The Daily Show with John Stewart', and later 'The Colbert Report'. I will offer a description of each in a four part series. In part one, lets take a look at our night in the audience of 'Late Night with David Letterman'.The first taping I attended was 'The Late Show with David Letterman'. Actually I attended twice in one week. My friend Kirk and I both signed up on the internet thinking it would be incredibly difficult to get tickets. Yet surprisingly we were both called back on the same day and offered tickets to attend a taping that week. To finalize the ownership of the tickets you have to answer a 'trivia question' about the show. Our question was to name the owner of the 'Hello Deli', so really not too difficult if you have ever seen the show before.

So we arrive for the first show at 4:00pm to check in. 'The Late Show' is very unique on how they seat the audience members though. Honestly, it reminds me of a West Chelsea nightclub on their door policy. Sure, everyone gets in and no one has to purchase a $300 bottle of Kettle One to get past the door but it is best to be attractive and spirited to get on the lower level. After they give you a line number (which means nothing) they have you meet outside for what I can only describe as audience member boot camp. The very spirited pages spend the next 30 minutes teaching you how to clap and laugh then only after this boot camp ends is it finally time to enter the theater.

On the first night we befriended four girls on 'holiday' from London who were a little drunk but quite entertaining. They found it quite amusing to refer to Kirk as 'Captain Kirk' then giggle amongst themselves for 30 seconds before asking 'The Captain' another question. Anyway, 'The Captain' and I found them to be a fairly fun group and it did actually enhance the experience. As we entered the theater the pages instruct the line to loudly clap and cheer. The six of us were full of life, but as we approached the doors to the seating area the pages were sending people up to the balcony, which we thought was quite disappointing. Interestingly enough when we got to the doors they stopped the line and sent the six of us to the lower seats five rows from the stage. I have to admit, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves as Letterman came out to talk to the crowd before the show.

Its strange when you are actually at the taping, things you would never laugh at on television are just hilarious in person. I suppose it is just the mood you are in, but I could have sworn at one point how lucky I was to be at the funniest installment of David Letterman of all time. Ice Cube was the guest that night and I was honestly riveted as he tried to explain why I should pay money to see a movie called "Are We There Yet?".

On the second night we showed up, checked in and went for our second round of boot camp. To this point everything was going as planned as we lined up to go in the theater, yet this was the exact moment the night went horribly horribly wrong for us. Kirk and I were talking amongst ourselves when I was tapped on the shoulder. We turned around and to our horror instead of being befriended by four drunk English girls, we were in the clutches of the freak shows from Akron, OH who resembled a male and female version of 'Digger the Dermatophyte' (The creature in the Lamisil commercials who lives under people's toenails).

Usually I am a pretty nice guy (I am from the Midwest after all) but I knew the policy at the door and the freak shows would not stop talking to us. As we approached the doors the page was letting a free flow of people right in to the prime seating. As he saw what he perceived as our 'foursome', the page actually stops the line with his arm and waves the four of us up in to the balcony as a third base coach would have sent a runner in to score . Kirk brazenly ignored the instructions to continue, stopped and sheepishly pointed at what appeared to be the section our seats were in from the earlier night and declared "We are not with them, can't we.......", to which the page cut him off "Well, you are now". Defeated, we made our way upstairs. I looked behind me, and the page immediately let the people behind us in to the prime seating. Sigh. So now, not only were we banished to the balcony, when we arrived they were out of seats!!!! A page then breaks out a couple of folding chairs and with a straight face she tells us "You know, these are actually the best seats in the house". Wow. Of course what made the evening better was the girl to my left having a cell phone conversation. Unbelievable. Did she think it was just like being rude at the movies? Did she think the people on stage could not hear her? The pages never even made her leave, just told her two separate times she was not allowed to use her phone. Of course with all the distractions I was less inclined to see Debra Messing's movie "The Wedding Date" that she was pitching to me. Though one highlight though came when Peyton Manning was being interviewed and a man shouted out "Go Eagles!!!" and this joker was immediately shown the door.

So that was it, I had finally attended a taping of David Letterman. And even with the bad second experience its hard to complain when it is free, yet I will anyway. On the next installment I will describe our evening at "Late Night with Conan O'Brien".

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cheers

A few conversations I have had recently with friends had me pondering this issue while I was reading about all the benefits of moving to Jersey City in AM New York this morning. Ever since moving here I have noticed the abundance of people who use the word 'cheers' in their daily conversations. I am not referring to just before a toast, I am more referring to the people who use the word 'cheers' as frequently as a Smurf would use some form of the word 'Smurf' in their dialogue (ie: smurfy, smurftastic, smurfalicious).


First of all let me say I have a good amount of friends from other countries that use the word 'cheers' quite often. These are not the people I am talking about. This word is more prevalent in the vocabulary of other English speaking cultures and it actually sounds quite normal coming out of their mouths.

The people I am talking about are people born and bread in the United States, and one day decide they are going to start using this word. Like I said, I have mentioned this to a few people and it seems everyone I know has a friend that has done this to themselves. I really can only talk about people that I have hard evidence of this though. There was a guy that used to live in my building that instead of saying 'goodbye' would say 'cheers'. He used that word from the day I met him to the day I moved out, so even though I suspect he adopted that word sometime recently he gets the benefit of reasonable doubt.

Which leads me to my coworker who I have worked with for over two years now, and would frequent some after work happy hours with. About two months ago he was at my desk discussing which Transformers t-shirt suited him best, the Decepticon or Autobot version.

After we both agreed the Decepticon model might help his street cred more than the Autobot version we said our good-bye's. I said "talk to you later" he responded with "cheers". At first I did not think much of it, but over time the 'cheers's' persisted and increased. Of course any form of 'good-bye' is now 'cheers'. If we are at happy hour and the waitress brings him food, instead of 'thank you' she gets a 'cheers'. If I get an email from him, at the bottom it is signed 'cheers'. I asked him once to exchange 4 quarters for a dollar, as he handed me the quarters ...... 'cheers'.

How does this happen? I really want to know. How does someone go from never saying a word to it becoming a major force in their vocabulary. Did he meet someone cool that uses this word so he decided this word will make him more cool as well? I realize we have all done this in the past, if I did not adopt any words from others I would still be saying 'goo' and 'gaa' quite often. Then again I could have avoided the embarrassment of the stage when I thought Norville 'Shaggy' Rogers from Scooby-Doo was cool and added the word "Zoikes" and the phrase "Gang Way" to my vocabulary.
But at this age I really do not understand how this happens. Does one sit down at night and have a catharsis that tomorrow is the day everything changes. I wonder if they try it out on strangers to see how it goes before bringing it out for their friends and family? I will probably never get the answer to this, if I ask I will probably just find out that I happen to just not be cool enough to pull off this word socially. That's fine, I will happily stick to 'Zoikes' and 'Jeepers'.

Until next time,

Cheers

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Are I-Pod buds worth a trip to Harlem?

Another strange occurrence on the New York City subway system happened to me again. First of all, let me say I love my I-Pod. I listen to my I-Pod pretty much at all times when I am in transit. I bought my first one in 2003 and it is probably the best piece of electronic equipment I have ever purchased based on the amount I use it. Now when I am in a closed public space (say for instance the 6 train) I use the utmost in I-Pod etiquette. In other words, I do not want anyone around me to be able to hear what I am listening to.

Take for instance the guy next to me on the 6 train this morning, I could actually hear his I-Pod music over my I-Pod music which is actually quite amazing when you think about it. The main problem was that this makes other straphangers very angry and it was obvious they were all looking in "our" direction. All they could tell was loud music was coming from one of us, so I got the brunt of angry stares as well. To be honest, I think for as much as I want to be polite to my fellow commuters, I just dont feel the music I listen to is angry enough to warrant the high decibels the guy next to me had his set to. That is one constant, if the music is loud then it is an angry metel or rap song. What my fellow commuters did not know that if the culprit was me that they would have been treated to the rousing beat of Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride".



Having said all that, I tried to make it clear I have other people in mind when I ride the subway or bus. Low volume level, I dont sing with the song (yes some people do this), and I keep the cord that leads from the I-Pod to the ear buds close and as snug with my body as possible. So I had a meeting near Columbus Circle for work and I am headed uptown riding the D train, I exit the D train at the 59th street Columbus Circle station. I was a good 15 feet off of the train when this woman, who looked like a cross between Estelle Costanza and Mrs. Poole from The Hogan Family comes flying down the stairs trying to make the D train. In her mission to make this train, arms flailing, she runs right in to me on her way in the door. I don't think much of it, it happens all the time, but something now was odd. I was looking at all the people around me, and I could hear what they were saying!!! What happened to "I Don't Like Monday's" by The Boomtown Rats???
So immediately I assume I was pickpocketed and actually my first reaction was 'well I was due'. But low and behold my I-Pod was still safe in my coat pocket. I turn around and see Estelle Costanza-Poole standing on the D train and my I-Pod buds were actually hanging around a button on the front of her coat. Her coat button snagged the cord and yanked the buds out of my ears, and out of the jack, when she ran in to me.

So I decide I just cant let this woman wear I-Pod buds as an accessory all day so I burst through the closing doors of the D train and quickly try to get my buds back before I am trapped. I reach for them, then I realize to her it would appear I was randomly reaching for her left breast so I change stratagies and mearly tap her on the shoulder and point. Her reaction at first was like I just pointed out a huge spider was on her, as she swatted my buds three times before they started to fall to the ground. Knowing they are worthless to me if they hit the floor of the subway I snatch them in mid fall, reverse field like I just intercepted a pass and head for the subway doors. But alas, it was to late as it shut locking me inside just as I reached the doors. Again, knowing I have a meeting in 15 minutes my heart sunk deeper as I knew what I would hear next. "Express D train, next stop 125th street". With an impending meeting, I am now stuck on the longest express route (66 blocks) in Manhattan going away from where I need to be, knowing I will have to turn around and take the same route back to where I was. At least I had music to listen to, right? Of course I was 20 minutes late for the meeting. This was not a "lose my job if late" kind of meeting but I still had to offer an ackward explanation. So what was the right call, should I have let my buds disappear forever in Harlem? As I type this I admit I am happy I do not have a trip to the Apple store ahead of me tonight.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Frustration on the 5 Train. (Or, why do I live in this place again?)

Every so often, perhaps once every six weeks or so, I really question why I wanted to live here. This feeling struck me last night around 6:10pm as I was standing on a crowded and not moving 5 train.

I only had to go one stop, but yet this took almost 20 minutes. And before I continue, to the woman sitting in the corner wearing the yellow down coat: Repeatedly yelling at the top of your lungs "Lets go.... Move!" will not make the train start or go any faster. This I swear to you.

I am always supportive of anyone who wants to move here, but the easiest piece of advice is just the word 'don't' because most sane people are simply going to hate it. I just think people should fully understand what they are getting in to before they move here. Basically you are going to pay an ungodly amount of money and at the same time have every comfort of life stripped away from you. Open space, clean surroundings, an automobile, polite people.....all gone. The only thing this city provides to help sustain life is water (which is surprisingly good from the tap) and air. And even air is now debatable after the gas smell that plagued the city yesterday. I honestly believe we will never get an honest explanation of what that smell was. About a year ago the city had the delightful smell of maple syrup for about two days. No one has any idea what that was to this day.

Basically New York is a larger real life Mos Eisley Space Port, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum or villainy. Though it is unabashedly rewarding. Every day is like one big, very long 'Double Dare' obstacle course complete with leftover food and slime. Even the automated voice on the 4, 5, 6 trains sound a bit like Marc Summers.
Other than people in prison I have never seen more people that know to the day how long they have lived in one place. This is how you keep score to see who is winning. I think that's what it is, I think a segment of society is drawn to a challenge. I think if brand new cities opened up called 'Scavenger Hunt, Ohio', or 'Laser Tag, Maine' or even 'Minesweeper, Delaware' the waiting list for apartments would set records. I think it is human nature to want to feel challenged, or risk the feeling of irrelevance. Or maybe that is just what I try to tell myself when standing in a crowded 5 train that is not moving after someone just farted.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Shaking Hands with Tony Soprano

The title to this post did in fact happen recently, but I will get to that a bit later as I try to ignore the smell of natural gas that for some reason has engulfed the city today. Just another day in the life here.

One aspect of New York living I am still not used to (other than the gas smell) is celebrity sightings. In all honesty I am still not sure what is an acceptable ratio between seeing a celebrity and caring that you just saw a celebrity.

Oh sure, we had our fair share of celebrity sightings in St. Louis, I think what changed is the definition of 'celebrity'. In the 1980's there was a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals that had a carer record of 74 wins and 75 losses named Danny Cox.
There you go, that was a celebrity. I remember once dining at a restaurant called Charlie Gitto's in downtown St. Louis a few years ago, and my girlfriend at the time sheepishly leaned over and whispered "Don't make a scene, but sitting to the table to the the left of you is Kent Ehrhardt". To which my response was "who?". In which I was informed "You know, from the 'You Can Count on Kent' channel 4 weather". To which I replied, "Ohh that is cool, where!!!"

Seeing a celebrity in New York is not like seeing one in L.A. where you really cant swing a dead cat without hitting a celebrity. The sightings here are not as common as that, so it is still a halfway special moment when you see one. What makes it even more difficult is no one here makes eye contact on the street except for the loons like the man on the west side of Lexington Ave. near 62nd street that reminds me a bit of Reverend Jim, Christopher Lloyed's character from Taxi.

In my old neighborhood I used to see Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick quite often. They frequented a restaurant that was near my building. It is really a weird phenomena when I would see them (or another noteworthy celebrity, other than maybe Chris Noth. I see that guy around town more than I see some people I consider good friends) coming down the street. Its like you go out of your way not to notice them. Its very similar to the advice in Return of the Jedi that Han Solo gave Chewbacca after Luke informed Han Solo that Darth Vader was on the ship that was checking their credentials for passage to the moon of Endor. "Keep your distance, but don't look like your keeping your distance.....I don't know, fly casual". In all honesty I want to not care, I even think to myself "Well that's no big deal, who cares...... I will let the tourists fawn over them." But who am I kidding, if Bacon turned around and said "You there, we have an extra seat... would you like to dine with us?" there would not be much hesitation.

The rule of thumb is that you leave these people alone, which I do too a fault, except the one time I had approximately 27 beers in me. A few months ago I had two friends visiting from the midwest for what was all intents their first visit to NYC. From here on out they will be known as "the two Steve's" because they both happen to have the same given name. We were finishing up a marathon three day bender that was concluding at approximately 4am in the meatpacking district on a Tuesday morning. We decided to have one more drink to kill some time before their 6am flight. At one point in the evening one of the Steve's mentioned he was bit disappointed that there was not a celebrity sighting the whole weekend (unless you count Angles pitcher Jared Weaver) and was jealous of an across the street sighting I had of Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos a few weeks before. The other Steve looks behind us at the bar and tells us sarcastically he thinks the guy sitting 10 feet away from us is on The Sopranos. I turn around and sure enough Tony Soprano himself is sitting next to us. Unfortunately this was the perfect storm because of the alcohol I had consumed, having friends in town, and an actor that was the star of a show that I love. The bartender confirmed our suspicions by shouting out "That goes on Gandolfini's tab." So I look at the two Steve's and tell them I am going to talk to him. As I turn around I just kept telling myself not to call him "Mr. Soprano" or "Tony", which is surprisingly hard after a lot of alcohol consumption. I remember hearing my thoughts saying 'this is so lame I am saying hi' but to my horror I noticed those were my actual words coming out of my mouth followed by introducing ourselves and saying "we are big fans of everything you do".
What an asinine thing to say, does this mean I am a big fan of James Gandolfini taking a shit? So the next five seconds were possibly the most awkward of my life. If you ever have seen the Soprano's, you know the face Tony Soprano's makes when some schmuck outside his crew from 'normal life' tries to have a conversation with him and he is pondering weather to just whack said schmuck or be friendly? This is exactly the face I got. But to my surprise he extended his hand and looked each of us of in the eyes and addresses us each by name as he introduced himself. Really the guy could not have been more pleasant. If only the smell in the city today was as pleasant as James Gandolfini. Honestly where is that smell coming from????

Saturday, January 6, 2007

El Nino

I love winter. I actually love all the seasons, that is one of the things that brought me to New York as opposed to the west coast. Today is January 6th and it is 72 degrees outside. All week people have been talking about the upcoming weekend like good gossip. "Did you hear what might be reaching 70 degrees soon?" I thought I was excited about this, I have certainly been telling people all week how excited I was. But in reality I find myself actually missing snow. And not the Toronto born reggae rapper. Actually I take that back, sometimes when I am drunk enough and find myself in Murray Hill bars at night the song 'Informer' makes me happy.


I got out of bed this morning with all intents to hit the city on this fantastic day. I was actually getting ready to head out the door but before I could I noticed "Legal Eagles" was on HBO and decided to watch that instead. When I saw it on the guide, even though it clearly said "Legal Eagles" I got it confused with the Louis Gossett Jr vehicle "Iron Eagle". I was a bit hung over and it actually took me about 30 seconds to realize this was not the movie I was thinking of. I actually said out loud waiting to see a jet fighter "I don't remember Robert Redford in this movie". Of course I still watched the whole thing.

Friday, January 5, 2007

The Worst Place on Earth

OK I should clarify this, the title should probably be called "The Worst Place on Earth I have ever been". I am sure if I was dumped in the middle of Afghanistan or Iraq I would have a different opinion. Before moving to New York I always assumed Branson, Missouri was the worst place on earth. If you have never been to Branson it is a lot like Las Vegas. Only take away every person in Las Vegas except the fat tourists, the gambling, the prostitute flyer's, and the excessive stream of alcohol and this is a lot what Branson would look like. Well after the last few weeks I have concluded the worst place on Earth is the 86th Street subway station on the Upper East Side.

I hate waking up in the morning. Anytime I have any amount of time off my natural sleep schedule usually finds me going to bed around 3am and waking up after 11am, so the mornings are not my favorite time of day to begin with. At least in my previous life I had a little bit of downtime in the car on the way to work to gain my bearings before I had to deal with anyone. In New York you are immediately thrust in to a crowd of people just as angry as you are.

Also, a little fun tidbit about Manhattan. The Upper West Side is roughly two thirds the size of the Upper East Side. Yet the Upper West Side is blessed with three subway lines to connect people to the rest of the world. Of course the Upper East Side has one subway line which makes every station along the 4 5 6 line extremely crowded, especially the 86th street station which is the only stop for the express 4 and 5 trains on the Upper East Side. When the original architect was worried that no one would want to use his wonderful new station he was boldly told: "Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to 86th St and Lexington Ave. for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up at your turnstile not knowing for sure why they're doing it. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $2 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

I recently just moved to a new apartment and moved further uptown and now this station is my only option to get to work in the mornings. This is the only NYC Subway station I visit on a regular basis that I get legitimately scared at times. Not of a mugging, but the station is so crowded I fear actually being pushed on to the tracks by the oncoming mob behind me, and unfortunately New York City subway hero Wesley Autrey does not live in my neighborhood to save me. The best way I can describe a New York City Subway station is if you have ever seen the movie "The Empire Strikes Back" it is what I imagine the Carbon Freezing Chamber would look like entering for the the first time on Cloud City. Only more crowded, dirtier, louder and more depressing. "Whats going on ...... buddy?" "Your being put on the 6 train"

This morning I was actually being pushed in two directions. The 6 train pulls in to the station and I was the third or fourth person who was entering. There seemed to be a nice pocket of room in the back of the car that reasonable people in front of me would have sought out. So the jackass walking in front of me, a very tall man, somehow made the decision that he really liked the area of the train right where the doors opened and just stopped. I literally had one foot in the door and one foot on the platform, not a good place to be. The guy would not budge, I try to go to the left but a girl with dreadlocks was not willing to move either to let me by. If anyone has ever been in this position there is really no time for politeness because the mob is pushing you into them. I do my best to squeeze by the dreadlocked girl so she is not trampled by the angry mob but as I make my way past her, even saying "excuse me" which you never hear in this city, she pushes me. I mean really hard. More of a 'shove' I would say. How do you react to that? Seriously I want to know, what is the proper response? Do I turn around and shove a girl that I am 7 inches taller than back? Do I look her in the face and cleverly tell her "Well the Jerk Store called and they are running out of you"? I invite anyone to comment on a proper reaction to this please. Of course I did nothing and went to my corner and sulked as I tried to pretend that I was really interested in the article on Busta Rhymes being out on bail in my AM New York. And oh yes, people saw this. So it's official, I got beat down by a dreadlocked girl on the 6 train this morning in front of a hundred people. And when I think about what my normal daily experience is at the 86th street Subway Station in the morning and compare it with what happened today, I do find myself saying "Yeah, thats about right".

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Dear Apartment 4A

I wrote this a few weeks ago and posted to a rants section on Craigslist. After another beating on the floorboard last night I will repost with love:

Dear 4A,

After months of letters, visits, and repeated banging on the ceiling from you; all in protest of me having the audacity of walking to my bathroom, folding socks, and any other activity that involves me walking in or past my living room. This has now crossed a line I thought no one dare cross - - - - - you made the new cleaning lady cry. Well played 4A, well played.

Too many innocents have already been harmed by this so I will make the necessary changes to make sure your live a life of peace and tranquility in the quiet oasis of New York City. It’s not fair to you, people obviously live in New York to escape the noise and enjoy the natural sounds that the good Lord intended. It is simply not fair that I ruin this by walking on the floor above you.

You have complained when I vacuumed at night. So I hired a cleaning lady (who you made cry) to vacuum earlier in the day. Again, a complaint. So I will take the next step and never vacuum again. Of course the roach problem that will manifest itself in our apartments might lead to health code violations. But really, that is a small price to pay right?

The main issue, of course, is that that the construction of my floor (your ceiling) seems to be thin. And it appears this is not the fault of the building management or you for buying an apartment not on the top floor. It, of course, is my fault for letting the spin of the earth create a gravitational pull on my body that creates force when a step is taken on a surface. The area rug I have purchased, in order to alleviate the sound of the force of my step that the gravitational pull on my body so embarrassingly creates did not have the desired effects. So instead of you taking the next step, and inquiring in to the purchase of a ceiling insulator, it is still my responsibility to make sure your life is tranquil. So from now on I will never take a step in my apartment again. Now I know this may sound unrealistic, but it is quite simple. I have installed catheters on my bed; so all of my excrement is immediately jettisoned to a plastic bag under the bed (crossing my fingers it does not leak through the floor) without ever having to take a step toward the bathroom which insures your comfort. For the times I do have to leave my bed, such as go to work, I have purchased a hoverboard which never makes contact with the ground. You may have seen these in the 1990 motion picture Back to the Future Part II.

I hope these steps I have taken allow you to live out your final days at 4A in the peace in quiet that every other New Yorker has and takes for granted.

Always Yours,
5A

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

My First Post

"You mess this up and I will have your ass on the first flight back to the bootheal". This was one of the first things my boss ever said to me as I was handed my first assignment on the job I had just transferred to in New York City. Three things entered my mind as I heard him say that: First it was true I was from Missouri originally but I was not from the area in the southeast corner of the state called "The Bootheal", as a matter of fact I had never been there. I had actually considered the St. Louis area, where I was actually from, a mildly respected urban area of the country until I moved to this place. Secondly, I am fairly certain there are no airlines from any of the three major airports in the NYC area that have direct flights to the bootheal. And finally, how did this guy know what the freaking bootheal was?

That was two years ago and people I work with still think I am from an area of the country called the bootheal, which they do not bestow on me as something that is flattering but I have given up trying to correct this perception. Though, at least since October I get to leave work every day muttering under my breath to a higher power thanking that higher power that the Cardinals beat the Mets in the National League Championship Series.

I tell people that I always wanted to live here, though 'always' might have started in 1990ish the first time I watched a full episode of Seinfeld and saw all the comedic hi jinks the average New Yorker got to experience. And it was right next to New Jersey, and that is where Bruce Springsteen was from so Jersey had to be a cool place as well.....right? So anyway, I did seek out the transfer through my company and was elated the day it was approved. The first mistake I made was not asking for a $1,000,000 bonus upfront that seems to be required to even get an apartment in this place. I used to think I made a nice salary, wow I can not begin to describe how wrong I was. I think the day I realized this was the day I was introduced to the term "broker fee". Living for over a quarter century in the comfort of the heartland then all of a sudden being thrust in to living in Manhattan is probably what a football coach feels like when his players dump Gatorade on him after a big victory. Only instead of standing on the sidelines of a stadium, you are sitting snug in your pj's drinking coco on your couch watching your favorite tv show (I'm sure my coworkers would assume He-Haw) when the cold Gatorade hits.

I have been wanting to do this for awhile. Its hard to live here and not have an avenue to share the ridiculas things one sees and experiences on a daily basis. I did feel I needed to live here for a couple of years though before I started this though. That wide eyed kid in 2004 driving a u-haul through the Lincoln Tunnel who made a right turn at the end of the tunnel instead of the left that Mapquest clearly said, who wound up driving through the heart of Times Square on a Friday night during rush hour with his Labrador Retriever sitting shotgun (who lasted all of one week in a Manhattan apartment before he decided he wanted to move back to the Midwest) was not ready for a blog. Two years and some change later the wide eyed kid is a lot more jaded. To the point that on my recent trip back to Missouri for the holidays I felt like I was on a different planet. Actually at one point, when on television a character mentioned he visited his Rabbi, my mother looked me dead in the eyes and stated "That character is Jewish because he has a Rabbi........ and the Jews do not believe in Christmas".... Thanks for that Mom??? It is true that that Suburban St. Louis will never be confused with Crown Heights.

I feel like if I wrote this two years ago that my posts would be titled "This city is loud", or "My apartment is small", or "Cabs honk a lot and smell funny". Actually in all honesty, that is still going to be what the posts are called.