National Sundress Day

Day at the park by nastasha1996 from flickr

Winters in New York are difficult. We are a walking city and when you have avenues that are miles long, the wind can whip down them at horrible speeds. Overcoats and hats and gloves can feel like they’re made of lace when you turn a corner and hit a negative twenty degree windchill.

Going out is curtailed. People’s faces are hidden by scarves. There’s a blind, zombie-esque trudge underlying everyone’s movements. Colds and flues move into your apartment and make themselves at home. I know families that didn’t have a single day this winter when everyone was healthy.

Summer in New York is…a bit of a mixed bag. The summer is fun but smells can abound and, frankly, fuck August. It’s too damn hot.

But Spring? Ah, Spring.

Suddenly the light has a different feeling and we change our clocks so that the sun doesn’t set at four in the afternoon. Suddenly the parks don’t look like cemeteries for trees and restaurants set up their outdoor seating. Suddenly you can see people’s faces as you walk around and the sound of free concerts fills the air.

Suddenly it is Spring.

This time of year has long had a significant impact upon the human race. All of our holidays hinge on the turn of the seasons. And from pagan rituals to organized religions to festivals and celebrations, there has always been a desire to cheer the end of winter and the beginning of warmth.

For me, I choose to celebrate whenever National Sundress Day rolls around. In some regions it is known as National Skirt Day. Were I into the male body it might be National Bicep Day or National Shorts Day. Were I more interested in myself it might be Feel the Warmth on My Skin Day. And were I in the Southern Hemisphere I would just be fucked.

But, as I said, for me it is National Sundress Day.

There are hints of warm weather leading up to this wonderful day, and then, after the mercury has stayed north of 70 degrees for a long enough period of time, everyone breaks out their warm weather clothes. Suddenly the human body exists again in all its wonderful glory. Suddenly skin does not need protection just to be outside.

It is a celebration, it is a time for drink and song.

It is National Sundress Day.

Get out there and celebrate.

Who Named This Storm Nemo?

I found Nemo by DaugaardDK from FlickrThis past Friday a massive snow storm hit the east coast. The name of this storm was Nemo. I am not the first person to note how ridiculous this name is, nor will I be the last, but come on. Who doesn’t think of a cartoon clownfish when they hear that name? I can’t even count how many photos I saw on Twitter of people shunning their Nemo stuffed animals because they were pissed at the storm.

Norman. There’s a good name for a winter storm. Creepy and subtle and hiding its dead mother in the attic. That’s got winter storm written all over it.

Anyway, I went out first thing Saturday morning with my camera and  my new tripod to try and grab some shots of the snowfall. Ironically the massive amount of snow meant that going into the park wasn’t going to happen, the cuffs of my jeans were frozen solid just by walking down the sidewalk, and most of that had been shoveled. Trekking into the ungroomed park? No.

Plus, this was my first tripod experience so I really was spending a lot of time figuring out what I had to unscrew where to make different things tilt. Ideally with a tripod I can shoot with a nice slow ISO and a high aperture value because I’ll have the stability needed to avoid blur due to the large time such shots will take. This should give me high detail and large depth of field. And, from what I can remember from high-school art class, the highest aperture setting should equal a depth of field of infinity.

Should.

I’m still tinkering.

Here are a few shots from Saturday. Click through for larger views.

Icicles 71st Street after Nemo
Central Park West facing North after Nemo

Central Park West facing south after Nemo

The Tester on My Train

Vintage Subway Train by rikomatic via FlickrI don’t know much about the subways of other cities, but in New York the station announcements are made both by the train’s conductor, and with pre-recorded messages. It depends on how new your train is whether or not your ride will favor the pre-recorded announcements or a human being.

So I was riding the A-line home yesterday from West 4th street and the speaker was making the normal announcements at each stop, where we were and what connections could be made. I was reading so I wasn’t paying too much attention.

But then I heard something weird and I looked up. I wasn’t entirely sure what I had heard, but it was off. That was all I knew.

As I looked around I saw, standing in the subway door, a little kid maybe ten years old. He had sandy blond hair and looked, to my eyes, about three feet tall and he was wearing a backpack that was bigger than his torso. He was standing with his feet in the subway, but was leaning out the door and looking down the platform.

This was odd. I mean, I see adults do this all the time, but for a little kid to be doing it was just strange. Then the kid shouted out, “We’re being held momentarily by the train dispatcher. We’ll be moving shortly. Please forgive the delay.”

Now this was getting really weird. And, I should point out, that when I say that this kid shouted these words out, I mean he shouted them out. He still had the voice of a ten year old but he put everything he had into it and knew how to belt out a phrase with some authority.

Okay.

Fine.

I was feeling a little disoriented but…so this boy likes to play conductor. I mean that’s not the strangest thing ever. I guess.

Then suddenly he shouted, “Please stand clear of the closing doors.” At which point he stepped back into the subway, the doors shut, and we started moving.

We were well past weird at this point. This kid was predicting when New York subway trains would leave the station. That’s just pure wizardry. Plus, I was looking around, and I didn’t see any parents keeping an eye on this boy. He seemed to be all alone.

Then, as we’re riding, he threw in a, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remember that large backpacks and other items are subject to search by the transit authority.”

This is the exact phrasing of the on-board announcements. Everything he had shouted up to that point had been a perfect imitation of train-speak.

My first thought was, “Well I’ve lost my mind. What fun.”

Except that, as we moved from stop to stop, other people in the car started looking up and catching each other’s eyes and laughing. At one point the lady sitting next to me leaned my way and whispered, “Did I miss something?”

“I have no idea what’s going on,” I replied.

“Oh good, I’m not the only one,” she answered.

For his grand finale, while we were pulling in to my stop, the kid shouted out the location and the connections and then called out, “There is a B local train arriving across the tracks. B local across the tracks.”

Sure enough a B train arrived across the tracks shortly after we had stopped.

I walked to my connecting train actually laughing out loud.

Having thought about this now for awhile, it makes more sense. Obviously the people driving the train have to get the information for their announcements somehow. I had always assumed they used a radio or something, but it’s just as likely that there’s a system of signals located along the routes that gives them a heads up about what’s going on and then they make the corresponding announcements. Someone probably taught this boy, or he figured it out himself, and he knows where to look when pulling into a station to tell if there’s a delay ahead or what other trains are arriving.

Plus, his mom was sitting right next to him, but she also had a little girl with her. She was reading to the girl and focusing more on that, so the first few times I tried to find the boy’s parents I missed her. As I searched more and more I noticed that there were plenty of times when she was glancing over at her son to make sure he was okay…although clearly he did this trick a lot.

And, while I’m glad to have made sense out of yesterday’s train ride, and always knew there was a sane explanation, I have to admit that it was so much more fun during those first few minutes when I was happy to believe that a very small, supernatural being was somehow interacting with my reality.

That’s always been part of the joy of writing the Matthew and Epp stories, trying to figure out ways to have these characters come into contact with human reality so that, well, maybe they explain some weird event in my readers’ past.

It was nice to have reminder of that in the form of a ten-year-old tester on my subway ride yesterday.

Your Holiday Guide to New York

I have tons of thoughts on marketing and writing and creating paintings with fans and stuff…but I had to get to dinner downtown last night and my cab ride took sixteen days because of traffic. And that doesn’t even make any sense.

Apparently it is time once again for my holiday guide to New York

Take heed, all you visitors to my fair city.

1.  STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE TREE:

Seriously.  Please. It’s a tree.  Yes it’s actually quite pretty and yes it’s very large but you don’t understand what you’re doing when you go visit the stupid thing. The foot traffic around Rockefeller Center creates a chain reaction that snarls traffic up in all directions. I don’t want a bus ride across the park to take two hours just because you want to see some lights.

Look.  Here is the location of the tree:

tree-location

Now here is my estimation of the area that becomes affected by congestion due to tree traffic:

tree-traffic

Please don’t go near the tree. I’m sick of telling my cab drivers to take the long way through Nicaragua to avoid traffic when I’m trying to get across town.

2. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM CHINATOWN:

Chinatown isn’t known for it’s fast moving foot traffic under the best of circumstances but during this time of year it becomes another thing entirely. Somehow all of humanity stopping and pointing at the little shops that sell weird toys and disgusting fruits manages to bend time or something so that I seriously think the foot traffic actually starts to move backwards. And if you’re in a car just forget about it.

You think I’m kidding?

Here is a shot of Chinatown in June:

Chinatown Dialogue

Just try to imagine it when it’s crowded with holiday traffic. Occasionally I like to go there and get dumplings with family this time of year. Off limits.

3. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ANYWHERE I MIGHT WANT TO GO DRINKING:

There is a bar in Murray Hill called Rolf’s. This is what Rolf’s looks like (this was taken with my phone so sorry for the quality):

rolfs

You’re waiting for a punchline, aren’t you?

There isn’t one. Rolf’s is its own punchline. Around the holidays the owners go completely out of their minds and put up more decorations than, to be honest, the actual tree probably has. Rolf’s is known far and wide as the bar where Christmas goes to projectile vomit then die.

You may go to Rolf’s. The heat from the lights and the general creepiness of the dolls they hang up make it hard to last more than two beers there during the holidays.

Oh. Here are some of the dolls:

rolfs-dolls

One year some of the dolls had mustaches.

Maybe lasting two beers would be stretching it.

Feel free to crowd into this place as, even if I do go there, I won’t be staying long.

Otherwise the rest of the bars are off limits.

4. NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, JUST STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM NEW YORK ENTIRELY:

Honestly. It’s closed or something. And they built a wall around the tree this year. Here look:

tree-wall

It’s bedlam.

Stay away.

If you want to you can gaze at this picture of the tree. That should satisfy:

the-tree

It really is pretty, isn’t it? And when you catch a glimpse of it as you turn the corner and look down that long alley of evergreens and statues and then walk in close to where the skating rink is and smell the chestnut vendors…

God damn it.

Okay. You can come to see the tree.

Just, you know, try and keep it down while you’re here.

New York Comic Con and Me

So last weekend was the New York Comic Convention. And as I’ve mentioned I decided to attend this year. I brought my camera and this probably makes more sense if I just talk you through some photos…all classy like.

We begin our journey with the beautiful walk up to the Jacob Javits Center here in Manhattan.

Jesus. This is a freaking embarrassment. I’m sorry, all convention goers, who have had to trek out to this place to see their friends and colleagues. I mean come on, New York.

I’m not saying a city shouldn’t have local color and everything.

I’m just saying that maybe this isn’t what we, as a city, want leading up to our convention center.

No? Yes?

I dunno whatever.

So then it was inside the Javits Center to wait online!

Here is room for more lines:

This line was to be the first ones onto the showroom floor Thursday afternoon. I could have showed up an hour later and just walked in with minimal lines. I recommend doing that.

This guy had a New York Furies shirt on. Which is awesome. That’s one of the gangs from The Warriors.

Frankly, the whole convention was awesome. There’s fun stuff and people having a blast everywhere.

There were great t-shirts.

These stickers were cool. I don’t even know what half of them are but I suddenly wished I had a place to put stickers.

There are crowds, too. Here’s the entrance hall Friday afternoon.

Obviously a large number of people were kicking costumes. This was great but also annoying because I’m SO not used to photographing people directly. I usually take candid shots, including people without them knowing it, or I take pictures of my nieces and nephews. I wish I had more practice calling out to adult humans and telling them I wanted their picture. That’s not something I really had the hang of.

Still, I got a few pics.

Ghostbusters were everywhere…with Bane in this instance for some reason.

Here’s some Minecraft humor.

This is all in the vendor hall. I mentioned loving some of the t-shirts earlier. Some t-shirts, though, seemed…out of place?

And some booths seemed out of place. Like the ones that sold weapons. Maybe this is normal. I have no idea.

Here’s Artist Alley.

I took this on my way out on the first day, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to swing by. But I never did. Oh, the folly of youth. Time flew and I kept getting swept up in other stuff and I never got to check this out.

The entrance hall was a big hangout and, because of the open space, seemed to be one of the better spots to show off one’s costume.

This pic was fun…because even superheroes need shoe shines.

Here’s someone’s back that was standing near the shoeshine stand.

Great get up.

It took me awhile to figure out the layout of the Javits Center in relation to the convention. Downstairs, where I had waited in line, transformed into a whole other thing later on, part of which was a Quidditch field.

That seemed a bit much even for me. But they were having fun, so, whatever.

On Sunday the place was packed and they stopped letting people in for a bit so a crowd built up outside. That was not so awesome.

They had the Winnebago from The Walking Dead there…

And they had a fake Dale to sit look-out…

And actors wandering around dressed as zombies…at least I think they were actors…

But that line still sucked.

And here’s the inside during a peak moment:

So. Yeah. Crowds.

But all in all? All in all It was WAAAY more fun than I expected and I’ll be recruiting people to go again next year. My feet were killing me by Sunday; I don’t think I needed a four day pass. But one or two days, yes.

As for marketing and networking? I dunno. The environment is really more like being at an amusement park than anything else. Everyone is in their groups and is very set on getting to see the stuff they want to see, so it’s hard to strike up a conversation.

I think the panels are a better place for that, as are the various side parties in the city that surround the convention. I think next year I’d try to track down more of those.

But I did meet up with a few people and definitely got my ticket’s worth and, as I said a few weeks ago, there has to be a first convention at some point where I start to figure all of this out so it’s best to get that out of the way so I can get to my second convention.

Oh and this was there too:

See you next year!

Some Thoughts On September 11th

I have a friend, he was a roommate at the time, J, who walked out of the  second tower from around the hundredth floor on 9/11.

After the first plane struck they told people to remain calm and stay where they were. J worked, as I said, on the hundredth floor of the second tower. A buddy of his said to hell with it. Let’s ignore the messages to stay put. Let’s look like idiots. Let’s get made fun of tomorrow for walking down one hundred flights of stairs for no reason. J and his buddy rounded up a few others who agreed and they started walking.

J was in the stairwell when everything shook. That was the second plane hitting the building he was in, luckily about forty stories higher than where he was.

This isn’t exactly about him. But there are certain anchors for my thoughts about 9/11 and he’s one of them. It’d be impossible for me to talk about that day without including him.

Five of us, all in our early twenties, were living in an apartment on Thirtieth and Madison. I was home with one of the other roommates watching on TV. At first it was a novelty. There was talk on the news when word first got out about a glider that had hit some building years earlier in a freak accident and how it looked like maybe that had happened again. Nobody had quite gotten a sense of the size of the flaming gash the first plane had made.

The second plane got everyone’s attention. All the cameras were on the towers at that point and most people can remember seeing it bank in, the size of it all disproportionate because planes weren’t supposed to look that large flying against the skyline.

When J finally managed to call us and let us know he was okay, I asked him if he needed me to do anything for him, or if there was anyone he wanted me to call. Had he gotten in touch with his family?

He still pokes fun at me to this day for that. “Sure, Joe. My roommates were the first people I called. I hadn’t thought of calling my mom yet. It’s a good thing you reminded me.”

I let him have that. Now. In the years right after, though, I would try and explain.

There were five of us in one apartment. If you pool that many people together you can get a good amount of space in New York, something unheard of for people our age. We also lived on Thirtieth. I think everything below fourteenth was shut down. Tunnels and bridges were closed. So we were pretty far south as far as things went.

And with five of us, everyone had friends and family or whomever that were slowly streaming north in a weird dazed exodus from utter confusion.

Our living room was full of people I didn’t know. It was full of people I did know but hadn’t seen in years. One cousin came in and hugged me and sat down and realized she had walked from some ridiculous distance away in her heels, and she pulled her walking shoes out of her bag and changed, talking about yet another friend who had been stepping over bodies on the sidewalk on her way north.

This was eleven years ago. We had one land line. We had one computer in one of our bedrooms hooked up to the internet. Cell phones were common enough, though I didn’t have one at the time, and even then the cell towers were over capacity. Most people making outgoing calls on their cells just got a recording saying that service was down. Our land line was constantly in use by the swarm of people in our apartment to call loved ones and let them know that they were safe. And a lot of those calls were met with recordings of service being down, so they’d move on to the next number on their mental list and call that, just to get word out to somebody that they were okay and let that person spread the word from there.

I didn’t get in touch with my parents until I remembered about email later on in the day.

That was eleven years ago.

God I hate saying that. That’s one of the most annoying parts of today. Big events, huge events, they don’t come along in life that often. But every year on the eleventh of September every outlet of communication is flooded with reminders of today, of how long it’s been, of how much time has passed.

I do that anyway.

I mark time.

Or I used to. I would take careful stock of what happened when and tie events together and say, “Oh right, B must have happened after A because I was dating Soandso during A, but not B.”

And I hated it. I try not to think like that anymore. It’s annoying constantly being reminded of how much time has passed. Counting years like that. It’s depressing. It never fails to make me feel like I’ve wasted the year. I’d much rather spend my time than mark it. But that was something I used to compulsively do, mark time, and every year this damn day would come along and remind me that another 31,557,600 seconds had gone by.

Did I use them correctly?

Not that I’m saying there shouldn’t be markers for this day. I understand the notion of “Never Forget.”

It’s just, you know, I have to imagine that there are plenty of people like me who wanted to do nothing but forget. Or maybe get to a place where it could be remembered without being relived. The phrase “Never Forget” doesn’t have a lot of room for that concept.

I walked outside and looked down Fifth Avenue at one point that day. I had been sitting and watching the news for what seemed like forever and the notion that all of the shit happening on the screen was actually happening nearby flooded my head and I wandered outside to Fifth Avenue and I looked south. I could see smoke and dust and clearly something happening. And sirens of course. I could hear sirens. I was still about fifty blocks away, mind you. But sirens were everywhere. Sirens haven’t sounded the same since.

I watched and it was real, but it was jumbled and made no sense.

I went back to my place and the news was saying that one of the towers had collapsed. My mind immediately rejected that notion. I can remember saying to anyone who would listen, “Oh, they must mean the foundation has somehow shifted or something like that.”

That the towers would fall wasn’t even a possibility. The story was supposed to be winding down, not getting worse.

That’s what I remember, though. One of the things. Back when I would have given anything to forget. Me standing on Fifth Avenue looking s0uth and seeing all that chaos, and then coming back inside and hearing that a tower had collapsed.

I had stood on Fifth Avenue and watched a few thousand people die.

Back when it was still alive in my head I would think about that the most. Now that there’s some distance, I still think about it plenty.

I think about how all of my friends and I went wandering around that afternoon to try and give blood, but everywhere we went was already packed.

I think about J, making fun of me because I offered to call his mom, like he hadn’t thought of that yet. He was one of a handful of people at his firm that had opted to leave. The number of funerals he attended in the next few weeks was well into the double digits and a lot of them were combined memorials. He had just avoided plummeting one hundred stories to his death on a whim.

I think about waking up that night on my couch to the worst sounds I’ve ever heard. I had fallen asleep with the TV on and the news had just received footage of the first plane hitting from some pedestrian with a video camera who was only a few blocks away. They didn’t edit it or anything, the news just let it play. The planes look like they’re almost going slow in a lot of footage shown. Planes do that. You look at a plane in the sky and it seems to be lazily moving along. It’s hard to get a sense of the fact that it’s travelling at five-hundred miles per hour. I woke up in a panic to the noise of a plane shrieking into the first tower and then everyone around screaming and crying. It took me a long time to realize it was only on the TV. My girlfriend at the time came out a few minutes later and plucked me by the hand and wondered why I wasn’t in bed.

I went to a wedding the next weekend. People were still grounded and unable to fly so the crowd was small. The band played forever while everyone danced like crazy and then thanked they us at the end. It was the first time they had smiled in days.

I went to work at the piers where the steel and debris were being offloaded from the island later that month. Though that’s probably another post.

It just goes on and on.

Hell, navigating the city suddenly made no sense. When you pop out of the subway, you look around for a landmark to get oriented. I still walk the wrong way getting out of the subway downtown.

When it’s on my mind I look at pictures of my nieces and nephews and find it hard to believe how old they are, and yet they weren’t even born yet.

Something that big, it touches everything. The bad parts of it can touch everything if you let it.

It’s best not to let it.

I don’t know. I have no point here. I didn’t set out to write a post with some big point.

I just see a lot of other people’s thoughts on this day and I guess they never seem to quite match up with my own, so I thought I would add mine to the mix.

No point. Just thoughts.

 

Your Holiday Guide to New York

It’s that time of year again, when going below 55th street means participating in a mosh pit and traffic stands still for about four weeks. Ah, yes, the holidays in New York.

I have a handy guide to help me keep my sanity through these times..there might be some secondary benefit for you as well but that isn’t really the point:

I have lived on the island of Manhattan for ten years now and every year there is a massive influx of tourists and visitors and merry-makers during the holidays.  People come for many reasons and to enjoy a wide variety of activities and so I’ve decided to put together some of my thoughts in order to help out all these weary pilgrims who make the journey to my fair city.

1.  STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE TREE:

Seriously.  Please. It’s a tree.  Yes it’s actually quite pretty and yes it’s very large but you don’t understand what you’re doing when you go visit the stupid thing. The foot traffic around Rockefeller Center creates a chain reaction that snarls traffic up in all directions. I don’t want a bus ride across the park to take two hours just because you want to see some lights.

Look.  Here is the location of the tree:

tree-location

Now here is my estimation of the area that becomes affected by congestion due to tree traffic:

tree-traffic

Please don’t go near the tree. I’m sick of telling my cab drivers to take the long way through Nicaragua to avoid traffic when I’m trying to get across town.

2. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM CHINATOWN:

Chinatown isn’t known for it’s fast moving foot traffic under the best of circumstances but during this time of year it becomes another thing entirely. Somehow all of humanity stopping and pointing at the little shops that sell weird toys and disgusting fruits manages to bend time or something so that I seriously think the foot traffic actually starts to move backwards. And if you’re in a car just forget about it.

You think I’m kidding?

Here is a shot of Chinatown in June:

Chinatown Dialogue

Just try to imagine it when it’s crowded with holiday traffic. Occasionally I like to go there and get dumplings with family this time of year. Off limits.

3. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ANYWHERE I MIGHT WANT TO GO DRINKING:

There is a bar in Murray Hill called Rolf’s. This is what Rolf’s looks like (this was taken with my phone so sorry for the quality):

rolfs

You’re waiting for a punchline, aren’t you?

There isn’t one. Rolf’s is its own punchline. Around the holidays the owners go completely out of their minds and put up more decorations than, to be honest, the actual tree probably has. Rolf’s is known far and wide as the bar where Christmas goes to projectile vomit then die.

You may go to Rolf’s. The heat from the lights and the general creepiness of the dolls they hang up make it hard to last more than two beers there during the holidays.

Oh. Here are some of the dolls:

rolfs-dolls

One year some of the dolls had mustaches.

Maybe lasting two beers would be stretching it.

Feel free to crowd into this place as, even if I do go there, I won’t be staying long.

Otherwise the rest of the bars are off limits.

4. NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, JUST STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM NEW YORK ENTIRELY:

Honestly. It’s closed or something. And they built a wall around the tree this year. Here look:

tree-wall

It’s bedlam.

Stay away.

If you want to you can gaze at this picture of the tree. That should satisfy:

the-tree

It really is pretty, isn’t it? And when you catch a glimpse of it as you turn the corner and look down that long alley of evergreens and statues and then walk in close to where the skating rink is and smell the chestnut vendors…

God damn it.

Okay. You can come to see the tree.

Just, you know, try and keep it down while you’re here.

New York BBQ Festival

This past weekend was the New York BBQ Festival. I went and stuffed my face. This is one of those things that my group always talks about going to but then never does. This year I’m happy to say we made it, though I do have to recommend arriving at around 11:00.

I go there five minutes before everyone else and managed to eat a fried blackberry pie while waiting. Then I wept openly on the sidewalk. God that pie was good.

Sadly I ate it too fast to photograph, but here are some other shots. Most of them are fuzzy due to smoke…which is awesome.

Here we have the world’s greatest traffic sign:

Here is a proud member of the BBQ family alongside his tools:

Here we have delicious, delicious sausage being grilled:

Here’s an old pro serving up some pulled pork sandwiches (these were the most delicious things I tasted all day by the way):

And the following are various signs on various smokers. Apparently BBQ enthusiasts also love word play:

Fantastic day, was home napping and full of meats by one.

And, again, I have to recommend showing up early. This was taken at maybe 12:30:

Not a seat to be found.

Man those sandwiches were good…

Your Guide For the Holidays in New York

I just spent like sixteen hours trying to walk two blocks in mid-town. Clearly everyone is in need of a refresher course from me on how to behave while you are visiting my little town over the holidays, all seventy kajillion of you. So for the sake of my sanity I’m going to repost my holiday guide from last year…there might be some secondary benefit for you as well but that isn’t really the point:

I have lived on the island of Manhattan for ten years now and every year there is a massive influx of tourists and visitors and merry-makers during the holidays.  People come for many reasons and to enjoy a wide variety of activities and so I’ve decided to put together some of my thoughts in order to help out all these weary pilgrims who make the journey to my fair city.

1.  STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE TREE:

Seriously.  Please. It’s a tree.  Yes it’s actually quite pretty and yes it’s very large but you don’t understand what you’re doing when you go visit the stupid thing. The foot traffic around Rockefeller Center creates a chain reaction that snarls traffic up in all directions. I don’t want a bus ride across the park to take two hours just because you want to see some lights.

Look.  Here is the location of the tree:

tree-location

Now here is my estimation of the area that becomes affected by congestion due to tree traffic:

tree-traffic

Please don’t go near the tree. I’m sick of telling my cab drivers to take the long way through Nicaragua to avoid traffic when I’m trying to get across town.

 

2. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM CHINATOWN:

Chinatown isn’t known for it’s fast moving foot traffic under the best of circumstances but during this time of year it becomes another thing entirely. Somehow all of humanity stopping and pointing at the little shops that sell weird toys and disgusting fruits manages to bend time or something so that I seriously think the foot traffic actually starts to move backwards. And if you’re in a car just forget about it.

You think I’m kidding?

Here is a shot of Chinatown in June:

Chinatown Dialogue

Just try to imagine it when it’s crowded with holiday traffic. Occasionally I like to go there and get dumplings with family this time of year. Off limits.

 

3. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ANYWHERE I MIGHT WANT TO GO DRINKING:

There is a bar in Murray Hill called Rolf’s. This is what Rolf’s looks like (this was taken with my phone so sorry for the quality):

rolfs

You’re waiting for a punchline, aren’t you?

There isn’t one. Rolf’s is its own punchline. Around the holidays the owners go completely out of their minds and put up more decorations than, to be honest, the actual tree probably has. Rolf’s is known far and wide as the bar where Christmas goes to projectile vomit then die.

You may go to Rolf’s. The heat from the lights and the general creepiness of the dolls they hang up make it hard to last more than two beers there during the holidays.

Oh. Here are some of the dolls:

rolfs-dolls

One year some of the dolls had mustaches.

Maybe lasting two beers would be stretching it.

Feel free to crowd into this place as, even if I do go there, I won’t be staying long.

Otherwise the rest of the bars are off limits.

 

 

4. NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, JUST STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM NEW YORK ENTIRELY:

Honestly. It’s closed or something. And they built a wall around the tree this year. Here look:

tree-wall

It’s bedlam.

Stay away.

If you want to you can gaze at this picture of the tree. That should satisfy:

the-tree

It really is pretty, isn’t it? And when you catch a glimpse of it as you turn the corner and look down that long alley of evergreens and statues and then walk in close to where the skating rink is and smell the chestnut vendors…

God damn it.

Okay. You can come to see the tree.

Just, you know, try and keep it down while you’re here.

 

 

 

Disney World vs New York City

Having spent most of last week in Disney World with my family I found myself a little confused upon returning to New York. I was constantly stepping into lines expecting to see some sort of show or animatronic pirate at the end only to be greeted by people wondering how I take my coffee.

While living in this odd mindset of half Disney, half New York I decided to host a little competition between these two worlds to see which came out on top.

Round 1: Friendly Vermin

Actually I’m going to open this up to all animal performers and not just rats. But we’ll start with the rodents and that puts New York out to an early lead. Our rats have character, grit and verve. Disney’s rat has massive (and I mean massive) kid appeal but really doesn’t do anything entertaining outside of being famous. Mickey Mouse is like Paris Hilton that way. I’ll take New York’s rodents every time. Watching them scamper and play around the third rail has whiled away many a long subway wait for me.

However, when we throw open the net to all animals Disney starts to edge out New York. In Disney World I saw an all-bear band playing a hoedown complete with washboard and jug.

New York’s bear is depressed and on prozac.

Decision: Disney

Summary: They have bears playing jugs in a hoedown. Come on. That’s like eight Simpson’s jokes fully realized.

Round 2: Spontaneous Performances

One of the more remarkable things at Disney World is the number of “spontaneous” events that crop up all around you during a day in the parks. Parades and floor shows and characters dancing, they all start to seem old hat once you’re on your third day of Disney and by day four you get a little miffed if you stop for some french fries and a chipmunk on a unicycle doesn’t instantly appear to entertain you.

That being said, New York City has its own type of floor shows and during my first few moments back in town I walked past a drummer in the subway going absolutely Bonham on some buckets and I began to realize that these worlds weren’t all that different and maybe New York could compete on this front.

So who wins? Disney, as mentioned, does a great job constantly making the world seem like freaking a Hollywood musical with everyone around pouncing on any opportunity that presents itself to sing and dance.

I realize the commitment it takes for you to watch a three minute video while surfing the web is immense but I really have to recommend checking this out. They break dance on a moving subway which is making stops the whole time and their grand finale is to form a human wheel and roll up and down the car slaloming between the poles.

If you’re not going to watch the video then please go ahead and reread that last sentence.

Disney has nothing on these guys.

Decision: New York City

Summary: Seriously? If you still need a summary you obviously haven’t watched the video.

Round 3: International Flair

The above image isn’t quite what I was shooting for but I couldn’t get a picture that nailed Epcot’s World Pavilion so I had to go with the iconic Epcot ball and leave it at that.

See it’s the World Pavilion, with its one hundred and eighty degrees of globe hopping, that I’m pitting against the multi-cultural neighborhoods of New York.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “What could Disney World’s little toy ‘cities’ have that could possibly compete against the diversity of a real live thriving metropolis? One is fake the other is real.”

Well pipe down there, Pepe. I’ve made this argument before and I’ll make it again, partly because I like arguing and partly because I refuse to let anyone out-cynical me. The areas of your cities that you call Chinatown and Little Italy are about as Chinese and Italian as fortune cookies and Chef-Boy-Ardee. Which is to say not at all. It’s all fake. Or at the very least it’s all the original culture sort of mushed up with the local culture and then boiled together over time. Anyone who claims to like “Italian food” and then goes to Italy quickly catches on that there are, in reality, eighty bajillion different types of Italian cuisine from southern to Sicilian to Tuscan to northern and that most of them serve horse. And none of them put olive oil on the table with your bread. And the bread sort of sucks.

One of the wonderful things about culture is how flimsy it is, which makes it a terrific medium for soaking up whatever happens to be around at the time and taking it to heart. My point here is that I’m more than happy to view the fake Epcot worlds as being just as real as Little Italy and Chinatown no matter how un-hip that makes me seem. So take off your Che Guevara t-shirt and shut the fuck up.

That being said the food at Epcot is nothing compared to the food in New York City’s neighborhoods, plus you get a lot more diversity in New York with the additions of Korea and Ethiopia and Nepal and on and on.

On the other hand wandering through twelve cultures in New York would ring up about two-hundred dollars in cab fare while at Disney it’s a nice leisurely stroll that you get drunk during.

Decision: Disney World

Summary: It’s all nuts to me and Disney allows roadies.

Round 4: Rides

The rides are one of the biggest attractions at Disney World, and for good reason. From The Tower of Terror, which is just so very wonderful, to Dumbo, which my 3-year old niece thinks is just so very wonderful, the flying, spinning storytelling trips through time and space in everything from tea cups to train cars tend to make up the bulk of most memories from Disney World. The negative to this is, of course, that everyone else in the park is trying to get on these rides and you can burn a lot of time waiting on lines. Still, it’s a theme park and lines are de rigueur so I can’t take too many points off for that.

Plus you can spend a lot of time waiting for one of New York’s rides, especially if it’s on the cursed orange line. And when you do board your train it usually goes sort of slow and at no point does it suddenly plummet down thirteen stories. So at first blush Disney seems to win here.

However, on New York City subways the people are as much a part of the ride as anything and dear god do I love the people. Crazy or happy, neurotic or asleep, dressed in full-on pimp gear or decked out like a wizard you will see every possible combination of everything if you take a seat on a subway car and keep your eyes open. I’ve gotten countless stories and characters from the nutcases and briefcases that have bounced in and out of my subway rides and just when you think you’ve seen it all you catch a train while a Knicks game is letting out and your car fills up with inebriated lunatics speaking in dialects that have yet to be recorded anywhere. And then someone walks by selling batteries at a very reasonable price. Combine that with a subway going to the boroughs where you break through into daylight for the first time and look back at the city framed in bridges and we have our winner.

Decision: New York City

Summary: People watching never loses its thrill. Also…seriously…why batteries?

Round 5: Soundtracks

I utterly loathe any and all musicals. As a friend of mine who shares this sentiment put it: “If you’re sitting there and the actors break into song and all you do is cringe and think, ‘Oh Jesus god no they’re singing again?!’ You are probably not a fan of musical theater.”

However, I love pretty much all the Disney films. Sneaking songs in via cartoons is downright dirty pool but it works and I’ve been known to sing “Under the Sea” in the shower in an awful Jamaican accent with the best of them.  And while you’re in Disney World you hear all the classics over and over, and over and over. Long after the kids are in bed and you’re having a drink at the bar you still find yourself humming along to “Be Our Guest.” I honestly can’t tell if this is a positive for the strength of impact or a negative.

So while we’re deliberating let’s go to New York. What do we have? Well we’ve got Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York” after every Yankee win. We’ve got Billy Joel and his “New York State of Mind” as well as Alicia Keys and Jay-Z with their Empire rejoinder. We’ve got hip-hop and doo-wop and Ella and Louis singing about Autumn in New York. There’s The Beastie Boys and “The Boy From New York City,” Neil Diamond’s “Brooklyn Roads” and Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.” Simon and Garfunkel boxed here, Croce didn’t mess with Jim here, AC/DC feels safe here. The Pogues put on a fairy tale while The Ramones rode to Rockaway Beach. There’s jazz and show-tunes, trance and punk, ballads and beats, from uptown girls to downtown where the lights are bright to Bono singing about angels.

And anything that got left out Bruce has covered.

No contest.

Decision: New York City

Summary: I’m not repeating that.

Final Tally

Disney World: 2

New York City: 3

It’s good to be home.