Wednesday, June 16, 2010

LA vs NYC

During a recent visit to LA, I asked myself a question that I always ask whenever I step into that blissful world where beaches stretch for miles, every day is sunny, trees are not a rarity, affordable and spacious apartments in great locations DO exist, there is more than one Trader Joe's: "Why in God's name do I live in New York City?!"




But then I get in the car...




















Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Costume People

There are many frequent oddities in New York City. If you ride the 4 train, you may have stumbled across “Train Man”, the self-proclaimed subway superhero whose superpower is his ability to mimic the train noises (He’s actually pretty good). Or perhaps you’ve encountered the almost-naked cowboy of Times Square as he struts around, not playing his guitar. Maybe you’ve even grown so accustomed to the woman who stands on Williams Street and repeatedly asks for what sounds like either ‘water’ in a heavy Philly accent or ‘quarter’ accent-free, even though she always has both a full purse and bottle of water, that you grow anxious on the days she is absent. The longer you’ve lived in NYC, the less shocked you are by such experiences. For me, I have grown fairly accustomed to the strange things people say and do; there isn't too much that fazes me. That is, except for the costume people...

The costume people are those who opt for a profession which consists of dressing up as a random cartoon character, super hero, or animal, waving at tourists, and taking photos. The assortment of characters is impressive; I've seen Elmo, Dora the Explorer, Bugs Bunny, Spiderman, and even this weird looking penguin that sometimes dances. But, despite this creativity in costume, the idea seems as ridiculous as those people who paint themselves silver and pretend to be statues. And for that, I am still surprised, confused, and slightly weirded out.

I think the strangest thing about these costume people is that there is actually some type of market for them; I see them EVERYWHERE. So they are clearly earning some cash and judging by the exponentially increasing number of them, they must be doing it well. But I still don’t understand how this is a successful business operation. I mean, we all know that the tourists are the ones who fund all of this, but I just don’t see why anybody would want a picture with a person dressed up as the flamboyant, purple Teletubby (Tinky Winky for those of you who are familiar with the show) in some nondescript area that is not Disney Land or Universal Studios or anywhere you generally expect to find such characters. I don’t know about you, but to me, TInky Winky doesn’t scream New York City the way, I don’t know, something like...maybe that giant, green woman who sits in the harbor and holds a flame all day might....just a thought.

But, it's not just the idea of the costume people that is weird, it's their behavior as well. Those costumes are bulky so it’s not like they can be carried around like a laptop when commuting to work. Instead, the costume people transport their costumes by simply wearing their costumes. So, just as someone commutes to his or her office in business attire, so too do the costume people commute in costume. It’s quite a sight to see Mickey Mouse sitting quietly on the subway reading the morning paper. Equally as surprising is to catch a costume person on a cigarette break. Charlie Brown will saunter to a street corner, lift his pudgy little arms, and without warning rip off his own head! Then a small, sweaty human face will poke out of the robust costumed body and take a deep inhalation.

Several weeks ago, I witnessed not one but two costume people on a cigarette break. I was lucky enough to overhear their conversation, as follows:


Winnie the Pooh: (in thick Brooklyn accent) “Yea this fucking guy won’t leave me the fuck alone.”

Shrek: Nods, takes a deep inhalation of a cigarette.

Winnie the Pooh: “He's trying to cut my fucking balls off here, and I’m just like fuck off asshole, you know?”

Shrek: (Deep gruff voice) “Shit man, that's rough.”

Winnie the Pooh: “You're telling me.”


And with that, Winnie the Pooh and Shrek flicked their cigarettes, replaced their respective heads, and walked away, all the while waving at the tourists and shouting out greetings behind those never fading cartoon smiles.

I just don't get it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nuts4Nuts

What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of NYC? I will say, based on no official research whatsoever, that most people would mention landmarks: The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Times Square. Others would probably recount frequent NYC sites: mountains of garbage, bakeries that specialize in cupcakes, lots and lots of people. Maybe a few would even be more specific, relaying a memory of that single moment in Central Park, or describing a favorite Vietnamese Restaurant on Doyers Street or reciting, verbatim, the absurd and highly frequent subway announcements. For me, the answer to this question is simple: Nuts4Nuts.

Though these ubiquitous carts are mobile, they have nonetheless become a permanent fixture in the NYC streets and thus a permanent fixture on my mind. That particularly delicious scent emitted from these carts is like no other. It wafts throughout the streets, moving like one of those visible, odorous plumes that you see on cartoons. And then that plume enters my nostrils, and instantaneously, I am salivating like Pavlov's dogs. No matter the time, the place, the level of my hunger or complete lack thereof, when my olfactory sense identifies the source of this mouthwatering smell, I really want those nuts. In fact, you could say I do become a bit nuts for those nuts. (Speaking of that, why use 'four' instead of the grammatically correct 'for?'What does four have to do with nuts? Maybe there are four different flavors of succulently covered nuts? Or they use four different types of nuts? Maybe when this ingenious idea began, there were only four carts? I just don't understand the pun)

And yet, despite my raving, I have never actually sampled a nut from Nuts4Nuts. Why? I have absolutely no idea. When I began asking my fellow city dwellers their opinions of the nuts, I discovered that they too were in a similar position. Though none of them analyzed the oddity as much as I did, they could not tell my why they never tasted the nuts. How bizarre! Why do we, who all live within a 2 block radius of any given Nuts4Nuts cart, deprive ourselves of such a delectably fragrant snack?

After much thought, perhaps a bit too much, I have come to realize that, just like anything else in life, expectation and actuality are not always the same. I, and perhaps others, live in the idea that the Nuts4Nuts nuts must be the best tasting nuts in the world, simply because they smell like it. Though such a statement could be entirely false, these nuts could be nothing more than average, mediocre at best, I would rather forbid myself from ever trying them then risk the disappointment.

Besides, taste is 75% smell anyway

Monday, March 8, 2010

SHARE please

I will admit that I can be one of those pushy New Yorkers while commuting, especially when my path is obstructed by an oblivious, camera-doting tourist. However, I feel as though my rudeness can be excused for I am not charging into innocent bystanders just for sheer enjoyment, but rather because I am generally late for everything. And I don't mean a few minutes late. I mean LATE. Like running through the airport because my flight is about to take off late. And besides, tourists should know better than to stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and try to take a photograph at 830AM on a Tuesday. I mean, how completely absent minded can you be?

But I digress. The purpose of my mentioning this pushiness I have acquired is solely to juxtapose it with my politeness which appears whenever I am on the subway. In fact, I think I am an exemplary MTA user when it comes to common courtesy. For example, I always allow for everyone to exit the train before I enter. I always make myself as compact and uncomfortable as possible so as to provide more space for another person to squeeze inside. And, if the situation ever presented itself, I am sure I would give up my seat for a pregnant woman (Of course that all depends on whether or not I sit down in the first place, and, per an earlier post, I tend to have anxiety when choosing a seat to sit in, so much of the time I stand- but! the point is that if I were sitting, I would give up my seat). Also, I enjoy entertaining babies on the train such as smiling at them and waving and attempting to distract them so they don't cry. I feel as though many mothers appreciate this small gesture. And finally, I always share my subway pole with a fellow rider. It's this last act of kindness which I deem the most important one. For, when this courtesy is not returned, and instead, the guilty party wraps an arm around the pole, or leans against it, thereby preventing even one other person from grabbing it, I find that my entire subway experience is ruined.

Let me set the scene: You step onto the subway car. All poles are occupied by several passengers except one lone pole. As you walk toward this vacant pole, a body, coming out of nowhere, cuts in front of you and blocks any access to the pole. Who is this selfish person? Generally a 20 something year old girl who is absorbed in her blackberry and must envelop the pole in such a way so that both hands are free to furiously press away at those tiny buttons. And even if you do attempt to grab the commandeered pole, and "accidentally" nudge her body with your grip, or simply stand there glaring at her with a sour expression, she still will not notice, and thus, will not alter her unaccommodating position.

When I first encountered this scenario, I attempted to dispel my anger. I thought to myself, maybe this girl just heard terrible news, like her dry cleaners burned down with her dry cleaning in it (this happened to me) and is simply too upset by the monetary and material loss to realize that she is not sharing the pole. However, as these pole hoggers began popping up more and more, I became skeptical. How could it be that so many dry cleaners were burning down?

This pole dictatorship is a problem with no solution. Even if I were to become the most pleasant city dweller, who, instead of shoving the tourists out of the way, offered to take their photograph instead, (all of this in an attempt to pay it forward so that others would do the same and eventually nobody would ever usurp the subway poles again) iI will still find myself on a train, unable to find a pole to support myself because some oblivious and ignorant 20 something year old is too focussed on her blackberry. It is simply infuriating!!!

So in conclusion, there is no point to being nice to anyone.

Actually I am just kidding. I am striving to be nicer and more patient at all times. Unless the other person happens to be one of these pole hoggers, in which case, I will resort to treating that person like a tourist. After all, karma is sort of a bitch right?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where's the Milk???!!!!


Occasionally, the atmosphere becomes thicker than usual in my office. Tension, anger, frustration, irritation weigh down upon us causing everyone to fidget uncomfortably, until suddenly, an audible cry of dismay, accompanied by a series of curses, sounds through the cubicled halls. And with that alarm, the rest of the employees follow suit, until the office reverberates in a cacophony of bitching. Fingers are pointed, threats are made, people are ridiculed, camaraderies are destroyed. The scene is worse than the bloodiest of battles.

Generally these incidents occur on Tuesday, as Tuesday is the day the milk comes. Every Tuesday morning, we all drop by the kitchen to make our coffee, toast our bread, microwave our oatmeal. The universe appears to be aligned until someone opens the refrigerator only to discover 5 half-and-half cartons and 0 skim milk cartons. Such a discovery is quite unsettling to someone with a bowl of dry cereal or someone else, on a diet, with a cup of our tasteless coffee. And it becomes even more infuriating when, after stomaching the cereal moistened with water or consoling oneself for wasting 200 calories on half-and-half, the milk man himself strolls in, whistling "row row row your boat," at 11 o'clock on the dot.

At 11:10, after we've all finished our weekly tantrums we begin to think about a solution to this milk crisis. We've all deduced, some more quickly than others, that our office consumes more skim milk than half-and-half. Therefore, the solution would be to receive more skim milk and less half-and-half. And so we ask ourselves, how does the milkman know how much milk to bring and which types to bring? After interrogating the man myself one particularly tragic Tuesday, I confirmed (though I already suspected) that WE in fact make such decisions. By we, I mean, a representative, though not elected, from our company which inhabits one floor and which is comprised of approximately 50 people, makes such a decision. After careful investigation, (which involved simply asking the office manager), we finally identified the milk-orderer.

And so, after deliberating for hours on how to discuss the matter with the milk-orderer, several office leaders approached her. They attempted to explain the horrific scenes which occur every Tuesday, the pain and suffering of the employees who rely on the skim milk and the sadness which fills the office in the aftermath. Then they proposed our solution of ordering more skim and less half-and-half; they even added another idea- ask the milk man to come on Mondays instead! They held their breath in anticipation of the milk-orderer's response. She was silent. Then she finally opened her mouth. She said, "okay." The office leaders let out their breaths in a whoosh of relief, laughing and clapping each other on the back. They walked around the floor, spreading the good news, all the while swelling with pride for finally stopping the milk crisis. But I was suspicious.
Next Tuesday rolled around, and we all anxiously crowded around the refrigerator. No one wanted to open that door, but we knew we must, not only to find out our future milk quota, but also because some of us were quite hungry and wanted milk for our cereal immediately. We cringed as someone pulled on the handle. We let out a little yelp as the door slowly creaked open. And, after opening our tightly squeezed eyes, we saw...


5 HALF-AND-HALF CARTONS AND 0 SKIM MILK CARTONS!!!!!!!!

Some crises cannot be resolved. On Tuesday mornings, I always buy Starbucks.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Office Space the Tragedy?

The other day I watched the comedy "Office Space." And instead of laughing, as I've done in the past when viewing this movie, I cried. CRIED! It was just far too accurate and I can relate way too much to the characters. I think it's time for a new job.



Peter Gibbons may be my hero at the moment.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Sit or Not to Sit


As a frequent subway user, I occasionally come across the rather stressful decision of whether or not to sit. During rush hour, my decision is made for me as there are no vacant seats, nor even places to stand. And of course, during those drunken late nights, in which I've convinced myself that I should not take a cab, for frugality is more important than my life, I always find not just one but a plethora of seats to slump in (Although in my experience I've found it more prudent to stand as it reduces the risk of falling asleep and missing your stop or the next stop or any familiar stop for that matter). However, every so often I enter the subway car only to discover, to my chagrin, that the car is neither empty nor full, but rather in that ambiguous gray area where I am forced to make a conscious decision about sitting. Why the reason for this anxiety, you may ask. Well, because whenever I find myself in this gray area, the scenario tends to be as follows: every other seat is taken, meaning my presence in the empty seat would be like squeezing into a tight pair of pants which is not ideal for the subway, except for the inevitable "row of three" ie three empty seats in a row, bookended on either side by a person. And so, I have the choice to either sit in the middle of this row or sit next to whomever flanks this empty row. But, since we are now so politically correct these days, 9 times out of 10, those bookmarking people fall into some type of social or ethnic or racial category. And so I am struck with a moral dilemma. Do I sit in the middle of the empty row, free of all human contact and assume the role of an ignorant bigot? Or do I show off my progressive, accepting nature and squash myself next to one of these people which could lead to a breach in social space? Generally whenever I do the former, I glance on either side of me only to find an obese elderly woman and a pungent smelling homeless man. This seems like the wrong choice as it shows I am weightist, ageist, elitist, etc. On the other hand, if I sit next to said woman or man, both may wonder, aloud, why I am invading their space bubbles. And as I become quite shy in confrontational situations with strangers in public areas, this choice seems rather risky as it could cause some unwanted outbursts or conflicts. And these are never good in an enclosed, moving space. So, despite the fact that my legs and feet grow fatigued whenever I step onto the subway, which is odd considering I am seated all day in my office, I resist the urge to sit whenever I find myself in one of these ambiguous gray subway situations. Instead I look for an empty place to stand, and a 4 inch section of a pole to grab...which leads to my next major subway problem. Though I'll save this one for another day.