February 06, 2008

I was clearly not talking to India

I had to call to run a question past the insurance people with respect to an application for a disability policy for the firm. The form asked if I had received surgery before or if I had been advised to have surgery. So I called:

Me: This question on the form, does it require me to disclose voluntary surgery?

Her: Well, what kind of voluntary surgery?

Me: A vasectomy and I am not at all sure that I recall it being voluntary, come to think of it.

Her: Gosh, no. That's personal. We want to know if you have had back surgery, or, gahd fuhrbid, can-suh.

To borrow from Cindy Adams, only in New York, kids, only in New York.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 05, 2008

A thought on the NY Super Bowl win

New York won the Super Bowl, as I am sure you all know. The Giants were the subject of a parade down by the Wall Street area. Giants fans were in evidence all over midtown Manhattan today.

An observation.

The Giants, heavily hoped for underdogs, won. Yet:

*No cars were burned or overturned;

*No riots broke out;

*No storefront windows were broken;

*No assaults reported;

*No property damage noted;

*In short, nothing bad happened in New York as a result of excited celebration.

Almost makes you think New Yorkers have some experience with a sports team winning, huh?

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 24, 2007

September 11 flashback

I'm sure that even outside of New York, everyone has heard about the two firefighters killed in the recent fire at the Deutschebank building downtown. This was the building that was rendered uninhabitable as a result of the 9/11 attacks. It caught fire and two men died trying to put it out.

Today, I was walking up Fifth Avenue for lunch at a very grand private club on 5th when I started to run into groups of firemen in their dress uniforms. I knew, immediately, that today must be a funeral day at St. Patrick's Cathedral for one of the men killed downtown. The firemen milled about, in groups, smoking cigarettes, looking somber, some of them holding their children. It was very hot and not a lot of air was moving. The crowds grew thicker the closer to St. Patrick's I got. And there it was in front of the Cathedral: a firetruck hung with purple and black bunting for use as a hearse to take the coffin away for burial.

I stopped walking and, buffeted by those trying to get around me, just stood there and stared, stood there and remembered all of the 9/11 funerals when, for days and day after day, a similar truck was parked in front of the Cathedral. Some days, I would see women dressed in black holding hands with small children. Other days, just the truck, standing sentinel, waiting to carry its sometimes empty, sometimes full, coffin. It was a horrible flashback moment.

I stood, heedless of the time, and listened to the funeral remarks as they were delivered by a friend of the deceased. He was moving and the remarks touching. He even joked about the deceased's ability to spot an attractive woman from the fire truck at a thousand yards, in thick fog, and at night. I chuckled and with that little bit of laughter, the spell was broken.

As the crowd inside clapped at the conclusion, I smiled and turned to walk on.

The death was similar, the circumstances similar, but the difference I cannot express.

Thank god for our brave firemen.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007

Knock three times

I just returned from an interesting lunch. Have you ever been to the 21 Club? I'm sure you have at least heard of it, even if you have never been. It is on West 52nd Street and has been around for a very long time. I gather that the bar and the main dining room are very nice. I wouldn't know. I just passed though the main dining room on my way to the door to the kitchen. I passed through the door to the kitchen and turned right, past food prep areas (very clean, by the way), and turned right again to go down the stairs. Then I turned left at the bottom of the stairs, through more food prep areas and turned left, and stepped down, into the wine storage area. I continued through the shelves, holding hundreds of bottles, some of them tagged with the words, "Private", until I came to a strange and dark opening in the wall. I bent down to bring my head below the lintel and I stepped up over the pipes running at the bottom of the opening and from there I entered the Wine Cellar where I found a lovely table surrounded by wine storage for even more bottles of wine, buried in the deepest, darkest recesses of 21. It is a vestige of Prohibition. It was really very cool.

I highly recommend the experience. The food was great, too.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2007

How children have changed me

I was having this chat with my dad the other day. He and I agreed that having children changes a person. Not a very controversial position, frankly, but it was nice to kick around a not too difficult topic for a change.

This morning, walking to work after my morning squash match (lost, but it was close and who cares since it was so much fun anyway) and weight lifting, I cut across another guy's path to cross the street. I tend to walk very quickly and I easily passed in front of him without him even having to break step. Just the same, he spit out: "F*!k you". Maybe that's just normal behavior in his neighborhood, beats me. So, the post-three children guy that I have become responded, without thinking about it, not that way I would have 6 years ago "("Oh yeah? Suck my ****, you asshole!), but:

HEY!! That wasn't very nice!!!

Any street cred that I ever might have plausibly laid any potential claim to is now officially dead, kaput, gone, history, finished.

I am now officially rated G, even when angry.

That G rating does not apply when I am behind the wheel, however. Just saying.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

I'm the customer, you stupid bitch

Welcome to theKensington post office, Brooklyn. Please take a number and I will be yelling at your sorry ass, shortly. Video shot with a cell phone:

Like watching a slow motion train wreck. Although, I gather that this post office is well known for horrible service.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 27, 2007

New York: Weird but Wonderful

I drove into New York City this morning from the darkest corners of Coastal Connecticut. I was on the FDR at just about 9:15 and I was passing the corner of the FDR and about 120th or 125th street. There he was. A man standing on the corner. He was wearing a faded blue sweatshirt and a blue knitted watch cap of almost identical hue. It was 25 degrees without the wind. And he was just standing there. Well, not just standing there. He was holding something. He was holding an orange in each hand. He also had an orange in his mouth.

That would have been odd enough, I suppose. But it wasn't all.

He, while holding the two oranges with arms akimbo and the third orange crammed into his mouth, was also balancing what I think was a quarter of a watermelon on his head, rind side down on his cap, of course.

I cannot decide. It was either a protest against the war, a protest about low wages given to farm workers, or a protest about the coming rise in citrus prices due to the freeze in California. Or, it was art and he was commenting on man's inhumanity to man.

I love New York. Life here can be so surreal sometimes.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 31, 2006

Who could be so considerate?

There I was, walking up 41st street, when I noticed a bunch (or would it be a gaggle?) of puffers (yes, certainly gaggle as puffer is closer to puffin which is rather closer to bird so within spitting distance (yes, I know, vivid) of geese so clearly a gaggle of puffers) all busy smoking away outside in their shirtsleeves, not a jacket among them, sheltered on three sides from the wind, warmed by a ferocious heater suspended from the ceiling. Who, I wondered, would be so beneficent as to gift smokers, detested by most landlords for cluttering the doorways and littering the sidewalks, with an outdoor heating source? Who could this prince among landlords be? Ah, yes. Of course. I was walking past the Philip Morris headquarters. Someone with a vested interest in making smoking comfortable.

I wonder, idly, what their health insurance premiums are like at MO (now: Altria)? Think Altria pays more? I would hope so.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 09, 2006

Don't cry for me

I won't let you. I don't deserve it. I played hooky for lunch today and took a taxi down to the Village (Laguardia between Bleeker and West 3rd) where I met an old friend for lunch. We sat outside. We watched the fetching young women in their summer dresses parade back and forth in front of the restaurant. We drank a bottle of Gavi, a happy Italian summer wine. The breezes blew on us gently. The trees shaded our table. The anchovies were strong. The fish was fresh. The espresso was properly bitter. And two hours after arriving, it qualifies as almost the ideal summer hooky day. Tomorrow we are back in trial but today, today I am an escapee.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 06, 2006

It is a small town after all

So, New York really is a collection of small towns. I grow more and more convinced by this everyday.

I was up in the East 50's today, delivering the baby’s passport application to the Norwegian Consulate so that we can take him to Norway as a Norwegian citizen, since he, like the other kids, has dual nationality. I had a funny exchange with the passport guy, by the way. We were discussing the intricacies of Norwegian citizenship law (I will spare you) when he told me that everyone always asks him why Norway can’t do it the way the Swedes do it. I interrupted him in mid-sentence and said: “I have been married long enough to a Norwegian not to give a shit about what the Swedes do or don’t do.” He laughed very hard.

Anyway, going up in the elevator, I noticed on the floor listings, the name of a company I sort of recalled. Turns out it was a company that a friend of mine took over after the founder, her father, died. That friend, let’s call her “L”, was someone I met many years ago taking Norwegian lessons together. See, she was also an American married to a Norwegian. We became good friends and also all four of us became friends. We lost touch after she and the Norwegian, “A”, divorced some six years ago.

So, after finishing my business with His Majesty’s Representatives, I stopped by the office, on the off chance my old, lost, friend was actually there. Well, right place and right person but she had stepped out so I left her a note. Nice coincidence, thinks I.

I decided, after the huge lunch I had with clients today, involving a sinful portion of truffled creamed spinach, I decided to walk back to the office.

On the way back, my cell phone rings. I stop to answer it, turning off Park Avenue onto the steps of a random office building to get out of the pedestrian traffic stream. There, who do I spy on the steps above me? A. L’s ex-husband. I had lost touch with him, too, you see and had otherwise no way to get into contact with him. I had been planning to ask L when I spoke to her, but, no need.

The universe is truly a random place and New York City is a collection of small villages.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006

The School of the Subway

You learn stuff taking the subway that you never, ever could have the opportunity to learn by taking a taxi to and from Court. I went to/from Court yesterday on an emergency application by taxi and learned nothing. Parenthetically, the client called me at 8:30 that morning with his very real, very serious emergency and by 4:00 I was at the court house with an 18 page complaint, three affidavits and an order to show cause with a temporary restraining order. Now, that's an example of service-oriented, can-do legal practice, my friends. But, back to the subway.

Today I was not in a hurry. I could take the subway, which was faster anyway at rush hour, and I could observe away to my heart's content. And today I learned.

I learned an important difference between men and women, today. There are differences, you know. Some of them rather critical. This is one that I never knew although I might have suspected. Curious? Want me to share my hard earned wisdom with you? Ok.

A nicely dressed woman on the subway in New York City will never, no matter how hard she was digging away in there, no matter how much force was applied to the problem, no matter how great the effort expanded to obtain a successful resolution -- she will never eat her own boogers. I can't say the same about a man.

Interesting what you can learn on the subway, ain't it?

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 01, 2006

Overheard on the Street: A long wait for a table

This was not overheard by me, but was overheard outside of an Upper East Side restaurant and reported at the end of a review in the NY Observer:

Outside the restaurant, one of the customers was smoking a cigarette and talking on his cell phone. “I went home with one of the hostesses two weeks ago,” he said. “When she saw me tonight, she said I’d be waiting a long time for my table.”

Made me smile.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

Don't really know what to title this

I had a meeting that kept me in the city last night. As if I wasn't already busy enough, I also chair a committee that handles interview requests for applicants to my undergraduate university. You want an interview to said institution and you live in NYC? You come through my office. We had our annual admissions office meeting last night with the admissions staff member who handles our area.

I found myself, in the twilight (sounds better in Norwegian, by the way: skumring), taking a bus up Madison Avenue to the upper reaches of the 70's. It has indeed been a long time since I have done this. I used to live in the lower 70's over by Second Avenue (by still my beating heart, I know you miss it). That was a less swank part of the Upper East Side ("UES"). The swank bits are really closer to the Park. Anyway, I like bussing up Madison. I much prefer it to the subway. There are windows you can look out, you can watch people, you can look at the everchanging array of shops (they change, mutate, go out of business, reinvent themselves with startling regularity).

I was struck by how interesting the UES felt, now that I no longer live there or go there on a daily basis. There was something about it that was odd. It took me a while to put my finger on it but I think I figured it out. It was money and all that entails. Let me elaborate. There are many, many stores on the gold coast part of the UES. Many restaurants, many service establishments (spas, etc.). They are filled with people who are there to help you, to make you feel better, to fill your requests, to respond to your needs (real or perceived, doesn't matter), to help you figure out what needs you haven't realized are unmet yet, and to just cater to you. That gives off a vibe. It is sort of smothering to pass through it, even if, like me, you don't have the bank account to be part of the target audience for this horde of service people. But still, a vibe. A comforting vibe that suggests that you never have to leave this cocoon of the UES, that all of your desires can be fulfilled with a smile here, that you will be taken care of. Money buys that. Money makes it feel that way. Money drives the UES.

You don't get that feeling in the suburbs where I live now.

I miss living on the UES but I'm kind of happy I don't live among the perpetually catered to, the always self-satisfied anymore.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Fidelity, a constant

I have been dipping back into some Liebling (I find him comforting, frankly, as he could write like an angel. A New York angel but still an angel) and stumpled upon the following little bit I wanted to share as it amused the heck out of me:

The Colonel's ideal of feminine beauty remains constant.

In this he resembles an old wartime friend of mine named Count Prziswieski, a minor figure in the exiled Polish Government.

All my life I have been faithful to one woman, the Count once said to me --- a fragile blonde with a morbid expression.

He found this woman in every country, and she never aged, although the Count did. The fragile blonde with a morbid expression, wherever she turned up, was in her twenties.


More to come later.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

My new favorite t-shirt

I had the great pleasure of spending some time in one of the New York City offices of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles yesterday. I had to return license plates now that I have the cars registered in Connecticut. While there, I saw a t-shirt on a young woman which bore the following inscription on the chest:

Objects under this shirt may be larger than they appear

Based on my careful examination of her shirt, I'd have to say that my test results were inconclusive. Still, great shirt.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

More proof why New York City is really the coolest city in the whole world

In what other city could you possibly buy from a Japanese language bookstore, for $1, a copy of Bill Cosby's book, Fatherhood, translated into Norwegian (title: Kunsten Å Være Far), ?

Of course, I bought it. I mean, how could I not?

I love this city.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

Conspicuous consumption

Lunch in New York, at a place with cachet, no matter that the cachet may be old, is conspicuous. Many are there to be seen, to see, to impress, to negotiate, to cut a striking figure, to cut a deal, to flatter, to flirt, or sometimes, to dine. But much of the time it is done conspicuously.

I just had lunch with an old friend. A friend who is both older than I am and a person with whom I have been friends with for long enough to qualify as an old friend. He was retired for some years, got bored, and is now back in the international finance game. In other words, he could afford to take me to a $250 lunch (I didn’t mean to see the bill, but I did). $250 for lunch in New York is also conspicuous. Lunch for two people. One bottle of wine. It was delicious, don’t misunderstand, but a part of me none the less is embarrassed by having been taken to a $250 lunch. That, by the way, was before tip.

What does one eat for $250? A bowl of chilled fennel soup with grilled tiger prawn and saffron oil followed by a burger. Not just any burger, mind you, but a burger of chopped sirloin stuffed with braised short rib, fois gras, and black truffles. We drank something white and delicious and I never actually got to see what it was. We spent about two hours there and caught up with each other.

On one hand, it was a delight. Catching up with a dear friend who is whip smart and well educated and opinionated is great fun. On the other hand, it was done in a restaurant not in my tax bracket and I think that made me a little bit uncomfortable. I can’t quite puzzle out why but I thought I could try here. Maybe it was the huge disparity in wealth between the two of us, although that never bothered me before. Maybe it was the in your face nature of the restaurant. Maybe it was being served wine in the middle of a very hot day – I am now officially sleepy, by the way. Maybe it was the sheer expense and the thought that $250 could have been spent better or wiser or just that it seemed like a lot of money to spend for lunch. Maybe I’m just hopelessly middle class.

Either way, I tried not to be conspicuously middle class. There was enough that was already conspicuously on display without me being there, too.


I finally figured out what really bothered me about that lunch: it made me feel like we got suckered. It wasn't worth $250. I have spent that much and more on dinners before, really fine dinners. I should not, or my friend should not, have to spend that much at a place billed as a bistro. The food was quite good, but not great. The service was competent and professional, but not at the top of the game. The room was packed too closely together and too noisy. For $250 the restaurant should furnish you with more of a quiet hum than a loud roar. Conclusion? The meal did not represent good value for the money. And that's why I was so uncomfortable. I walked out feeling like a mark, a sucker, like we were just conned out of a lot of money.

I feel better now that I figured it out. A day later, mind you, but better late, etc.

Thanks for all the comments!

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:40 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Odd little fact for today

Did you know that light bulbs used in the NY City transit system screw in counter-clock wise? Most light bulbs screw in clock wise. This means that if you steal a light bulb out of the subway, you can't use it at home.

And no, I did not learn this little fact by trying it out for myself. My father told me. I don't know if he learned it from experience, but you never know and I didn't ask.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:22 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 07, 2005

I'm not quite sure what to say about this

I am in a quandary about this post. I'm not at all sure how to write it, maybe because I'm not quite at all sure what I think about it. Maybe I will write this post as if I were musing aloud to myself. You want to come along on a disorganized musing?

We used to live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a beautiful pre-war cooperative. We loved this apartment and we loved the building and we knew our neighbors and even socialized with them. It was a lovely building in a desirable part of town. Parts of the building were pretty Social, too, with a couple of people in the Social Register and some captains of industry and a federal judge. It was a high powered little place. I have no idea how we passed the co-op board or why, for that matter, I was elected to serve on that board. But that's another story.

We made friends with a very high powered couple in the building who had a child shortly (six months?) after we had our first. The two little girls became very close buddies. They played together probably every day. It was sweet to watch them. Even after we moved, the girls stayed friendly and we continued to see the parents, irregularly, but we did stay in touch. The girls attend each other's birthday parties. That's why I was in my car, stuck in nasty traffic, on Sunday.

It took us 55 minutes to go from 86th and Columbus to 84th and Third. That's just too damn long. Although the Girl Child was the model of good behavior in the back seat and was only slightly concerned that we were going to be missing fun things at the party. She was looking forward to the party. She helped pick out the gift and she even wrote her name on the card all by herself. And she drew a picture for her friend.

So we get to the party, and here, my patient readers, here is where I begin the musing part of the post.

The party was held in a big hall, a sort of multipurpose assembly room, at one of the very fancy UES preschools.

A word about the preschool in Manhattan. Parents sweat blood to get their kids into these schools. They procure letters of recommendation from top CEO's for their 3 year old child. They drag their children from interview to interview. They attend open house tours, they are interviewed themselves, they demonstrate to the school how they could be useful to the school. It is a competitive sport. There are limited spots and the schools are hierarchically grouped according to educational role fulfillment and social status. Some schools are better able to place children at desirable private schools than others are. These schools are highly sought after and the parents are, for the most part, well off and have sharp elbows. I have no doubt that they also want the best for their children, but I question whether they happen to weight equally the prestige of the pre-school in the calculus of dinner conversation with their peers.

My wife and I rejected this dance when we moved to the suburbs. When we got to the suburbs, they way we found our kids’ preschool was by my calling a prep school class mate and saying, “we live here now, where should we send our daughter, we figure you probably have a good handle on it” and that was that. We got a recommendation, made a phone call, wrote a check and that was that. No interviews, no tests, no nothing. Simple as pie and my daughter has loved her little school.

Back to the party.

The kids were all adorable, as healthy little kids are wont to be. They played nicely together, following the soccer coach/party leader and his crew. The Girl Child jumped right in and participated, to my infinite pleasure. Watching her run around and kick at the ball was sublime.

The parents. The parents were more interesting. This was the oddest for me. I guess there were class issues and money issues and geographical issues. I looked around the room at these people who are supposed to be my peers, who I would have been living in tandem with if my daughter had attended this school or any other similar school and I felt out of place.

The women, and they were mostly women there, were mostly non-working women with personal trainer hardened and pilates lengthened bodies. They dressed in the latest of fashions. They wore clothes by, I suspect, people I’ve never heard of. The conversations were vapid. They were, on the whole, waaay better looking than the suburban moms in my daughter’s class. They were fun to look at.

The conversations dealt with preoccupations and money issues I don’t usually hear about in the burbs. How many preschools one should apply to, the houses people were renting that Summer in the Hamptons, the rental of vacation houses in Italy (and bringing nanny’s with you), the stress of managing the nanny staff while being a stay at home mom, etc.

These are issues of class and of money. Class and money are not the same thing. Don’t make that mistake. If we had stayed in the City, this would have been my world. I’m not sure we would have been able to play in this world as comfortably as others at the party suggested they could. One family was met on the way out by a privately chauffeured Escalade. On a Sunday. They had the chauffeur working on a Sunday. That takes a lot of scratch. The Girl Child and I were parked on the street some four blocks away. We had fun walking back to the car and looking in the windows together. We do not have a chauffeur.

So where am I going with all this?

I feel like I dodged a bullet when I got out of Manhattan. It’s a big city, New York, but intensely small in places. These people who we would have been part of. . . Let me say this, I’m glad we moved, I’m glad we chose not to subject our kids to that. We didn’t want our kids to feel like the poorest kids on the block with everyone else jetting down to St. Barts on the private plane. I think that in the suburbs they are going to have a chance at a more normal life. Maybe. Maybe not, of course, but still, that’s the choice we’ve made.

And that choice feels good after that party. Don’t misunderstand me, I like the couple we stayed friends with, they just have made choices we’d never make.

Did this make any sense at all? Or was it just another failed post? Beats me. It was hard enough to struggle through writing it, I am not going to torture myself by re-reading it!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:14 AM | Comments (16)

June 02, 2005

Going to a lecture

New York City is fun. Lots of people come to NY, sometimes for the City itself and sometimes just to pass through on their way to other places. Tonight, I'm going to go see Roger Kimball speak. I don't know which of these two categories he falls into to but I'm just glad he's here. He wrote a great book called "Rape of the Masters". I'm very excited and I'm bringing my copy with me to see if he'll sign it for me.

Kimball was the inspiration for one of my favorite posts: Art. Rape. Politics. Gender. A Reflection, in which I try to do my own modern analysis of a piece of art. It was great fun and I think you might enjoy reading it if you haven't seen it before.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:20 PM | Comments (2)

June 01, 2005

Street Art?

I think that this picture, captured in the raw with my cell phone camera, is street art. Either way, I like it:


This is a test of the cell phone camera. I want to capture more of the raw, less filtered, street life.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:00 AM | Comments (9)

May 20, 2005

And a happy, wet morning to you!

It was raining this morning on me as I walked from the gym to the office. Big fat, slow, lazy drops, coming down so reluctantly that I could practically track their trajectory before they plopped on the sidewalk. I was without umbrella today and that was just fine. By the time I got to my building, I was a bit wet. I rode up in the elevator with an elderly African-American man and we had the following conversation:

Me: Good morning, how are you this morning?

Him: I'm fine, thank you. How are you?

Me: Wet, mostly.

Him: Well, that's not all bad, is it? I mean, when you wake up from a good dream, you're wet, right?

Me: Different kind of wet but I totally see your point.

*Sigh* I heart this City.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:51 AM | Comments (2)

January 24, 2005

Ok, since you asked. . .

Friday night was a lot of fun. I will deliver a full report later. I got to work late today due to a physical and am struggling to catch up. The news from the doctor, while still awaiting the results of the blood tests, was good. My blood pressure is now 120/78, which she thought was very good. Beats me. I'm happy if she's happy, you know?

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:04 PM | Comments (2)

January 21, 2005

I know, already, that its gonna be one of those nights

We are dining tonight with some friends in the City, NYC, that is. The friends are Turkish and we are being taken to a Turkish restaurant. I happen to love Turkish food so I'm kind of looking forward to it.

I also happen to like going to ethnic restaurants with representatives of that ethnicity. You eat differently, I believe. You see that in Chinese or other Asian restaurants. Some things are just not meant to be eaten by the Gringo, or so the waiter or manager believes. And the tables around you get things brought to them that you cannot identify but which smell good and look, well, somewhere between yummy and interesting. You can try to remonstrate with the waiter and even try to break out a little phrase book to help communicate that you must, under doctor's order, have a portion of the scallop udder that the table next to you is having, and you want it steamed with chili sauce and then fried, just like them, but they never believe you. Sometimes, they may be doing you a favor but you resent the inherent paternalism just the same.

But, back to the Turkish place. I suspect we will eat things I've never seen before and I know that we will get better service than we usually do. The restaurant is reputed to be the finest Turkish restaurant in the City and our friends are probably regulars.

I am excited.

I am also aprehensive. Do you know why? Have you ever heard of Raki? No? I have. *Exagerated, but not without good reason, shudder* Raki is distilled.

Raki was first produced from the residue of grapes left over from wine making. When a shortage of residue started, spirits from abroad were imported and processed with aniseed. This went on till the First World War when, for want of raw materials raisins were used in the production of raki and sometimes even dried figs and mulberries. For good quality raki, seedless raisins and aniseed in Cesme (Izmir) were preferred. As the raki industry developed, aniseed agriculture grew and developed with it. When alcoholic beverages were prohibited at one time, underhand producers lost no time in taking steps. The administrative authorities, especially in small towns, turned a blind eye to the illegal production of raki so long as it was made in accordance with the technical rules. In many houses meat grinders were used for mincing the raisin, large basins formerly used for daily washing were now used for fermenting the grapes and oil cans were converted into distilling apparatus. The raki which was usually without aniseed and which often contained materials harmful to health were distributed to by children, in the evenings, when the streets were no longer crowded.

Today in Istanbul, drinking raki has its own traditional rituals. Most important is what it is to be partaken with. White cheese is the main and unchangeable "meze" of raki. Raki is usually drunk with cold dishes like tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and seafood. Fish is also a favorite, especially mullet and mackerel. Due to the aniseed it contains, raki changes color and becomes a milky white when water is added and a glass of pure water to go with it gives a distinct pleasant taste.


Distinct pleasant taste until it knocks you on your ass and makes you its bitch. That's what it should have said there.

Raki is an important part of Turkish dining. I suspect that it will play a role in tonight's dinner. This is why I booked a car service to drive us home and why I am front loading on the water, now.

It is going to be a long night, filled with food I may not be able to recognize, drink which has already declared me a hostile combatant, and sub-arctic temperatures outside.

I can't wait! Have a great weekend, y'all!

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:32 PM | Comments (6)

December 15, 2004

NYC Libraries

Andrew Cusack has a terrific post about the New York Society Library today, the oldest private library in NYC, and I commend it to your attention. But it got me to thinking about my favorite private library, the Mercantile Library:

The Mercantile Library of New York was founded in 1820 by merchants and their clerks before the advent of public libraries. By the mid-nineteenth century, it was thriving as one of the foremost cultural institutions in the United States, with an extraordinary collection of books in the humanities, and a popular lecture program that featured such renowned speakers as William Makepeace Thackeray, Frederick Douglass, and Mark Twain. The Library offered classes on many subjects and was considered a meeting place for social and educational pursuits.

The coolest thing about the Merc. is:

The Mystery and Detective Collection. The fiction is particularly strong in mystery, and is arguably the best circulating mystery and detective fiction collection in the United States.

This makes it my favorite place. I loved the collection of out of print mystery fiction.

They also have reading groups for Proust which sound like they could be fun, depending on the other participants, of course.

Finally, go check out their links page for links to the Mystery Writers of America (in residence at the Merc), the Trollope Society (also in residence), and U.S. Membership Libraries.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2004

NY Crime

I was flipping though the Daily News yesterday when a small item caught my attention. Two Bonnie and Clyde wannabes stuck up a local bank. No one got hurt and it looked like the two evil criminal geniuses were going to get away clean. Then, they had a small mishap. The driver of the get away car crashed into another car. Their luck gets worse. The car they hit? A NY City Police patrol car. The thieves were arrested and carted off to jail. They take a dim view of bank robbery in NY, I believe. From the car, the police recovered the $750 stolen from the bank and two crack pipes.

Is there any clearer indication that drugs are bad and make you stupid? Crack, I assume, has fogged their minds so badly that they risk hefty jail time for a couple of rolls of quarters and eroded their driving skills so totally that they crash into the police. No, if they were not using drugs I bet they could have stolen a lot more money by working on Wall Street.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2004

New Museum of Modern Art

This weekend, my wife and I stayed over in NYC. From our room, we had the following view of the new and improved MOMA:


It was a nice view of the museum prior to its reopening.

It was also quite nice to have an adut only evening away.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:26 AM | Comments (5)

October 25, 2004

Another reason to love New York

This from the Metropolitan Diary today (a beautiful moment of perfect NY co-existence):

As Jay Jennings was walking to work on 34th Street during the recent Jewish holidays, he waited while a line of Orthodox men entered a synagogue in front of him.

A hip-hop kid, in basketball jersey and baggy jeans, stopped beside him, looked over the line of men in black hats and suits and nodded.

"Yeah," he said to no one in particular, "kicking it old school."

This fits perfectly with this moment which I blogged about some time ago.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:12 AM | Comments (2)

September 14, 2004

The Cooper Union

How many of you have heard of the Cooper Union in New York City? Its full name is the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, it is located in the East Village and is the only "private, full-scholarship college in the United States dedicated exclusively to preparing students for the professions of art, architecture and engineering".

It is also the site of one of the most significant speeches Abraham Lincoln ever gave. It was his coming out party on the Eastern Seaboard and many consider it to be what got him elected. The speech was intended to provide a platform for Lincoln and the Republican Party and was also intended to make clear that slavery was wrong and that its spread into the new states and territories was not constitutional. Harold Holzer just wrote a very good book about the subject entitled: Lincoln at Cooper Union : The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President. It's on my list of books to read.

The Cooper Union is, at its heart, a place for the study of architecture. And it is now going to build a new building, according to the NY Times. A new building for architecture studios is always fraught with difficulty. Sometimes the architect of the new building is over-tempted to produce a masterpiece, since he or she knows that it will be seen by budding architects for many years to come. I have to wonder if the pressure got to the architect here:


It kind of looks like it is going to slide and fall off the building. doesn't it? Still, it sounds extraordinary:

[T]he new building evokes a delicately calibrated machine. The ground-level lobby and retail spaces will be entirely sheathed in glass and set slightly back from the street. Above, the lab and studio floors are supported by V-shaped concrete columns that give the structure a more tenuous relationship to the ground. The screenlike facade, meanwhile, is composed as a series of horizontal metal bands that will open and close to control the flow of light into the building.

The screening system will be familiar to anyone who has followed the firm's recent work. It is a virtual copy of the facade of Morphosis's Caltrans District 7 headquarters, a state building currently under construction in Los Angeles, yet the differences are meaningful.

At Caltrans, the huge mechanical screens have a belligerent quality. Set on a computerized timer, they open and close in unison according to the position of the sun. Mr. Mayne says that the Cooper building's screens will be more delicate, like a woman's nylon stocking. What is more, students will be able to control the screens from inside their studios. The effect will be more varied and unpredictable - less a vision of bureaucratic conformity than of a vertical hive buzzing with activity.

That notion of a communal hive becomes explicit on the Third Avenue facade, where a large section is cut away to reveal a curved section of the interior atrium. A series of slender glass-enclosed walkways extend along the atrium's surface, where students will be seen crossing back and forth between the various labs and studios.

The web site for the architects is pretty cool, too: Morphosis.

The Cooper Union is an interesting place. Go check it out if you find yourself in the area.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:31 AM | Comments (1)

September 11, 2004

R.I.P.: Those Who Never Came Home That Day

To those who never came home, three years ago today,

To those whose cars remained parked at suburban train stations in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey long after everyone else had gone home;

To those whose apartment doors had newspapers delivered but unread in front of them;

To those whose cell phones went straight to voice mail and were never picked up;

To those whose families never got to say goodbye and, even more heart rending, to those who's loved ones did speak to them in their final moments;

To those who charged into those dying buildings without regard to their own safety;

To those who stopped, in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, and never started again;

We remember. May God grant you peace.

And, Mary Joe? We remember you and we miss you. I hope it was really quick.

Today is September 11. Pause a moment and remember. Then go spend some time with people you love.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:15 AM | Comments (7)

September 03, 2004

Great Buildings of NY: The 65th Street Armory

Andrew Cusack, one of my Westchester neighbors (almost), posts some beautiful photographs of the 65th Street Armory on Park Avenue. They got me thinking that it's been awhile since I did a "Great Building" post. While I figure out one to do, go check out Andrew's page. He covers it very nicely.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2004

Irreverent Observation

Sign seen affixed to homeless guy's shopping cart this morning while walking to office from train station:

Repent: Judgment is Coming

My thought in response:

That's why we have appellate panels.
Posted by Random Penseur at 07:15 AM | Comments (10)

August 25, 2004

I boldly risk the hockey bitchslap

I am going to try to take part in Inter-Munuvian Hockey Whoopass Jamboree. I have selected the NY Rangers, the home town team, and will be posting their shield somewhere on the blog soon. Assuming that there will be a hockey season this year, and assuming that people still care, I'm planning on trying to care a little bit one more time.

The Rangers finished last year second from the bottom of the Atlantic Division with 27 wins, 40 losses and 7 ties. It is not looking like this coming season will be a breakout crazy win filled season by the way.


Posted by Random Penseur at 08:22 AM | Comments (3)

August 23, 2004

Heard on the Street

They must get a less profane group of construction workers slightly farther uptown from me. The following was from the NY Times Metropolitan Diary today and I thought it was charming:

Overheard by Patrick Keeffe recently as he walked to the office: a group of construction workers sitting on a terrace wall on 52nd Street, outside the CBS building. One guy pulled a cellphone from his pants pocket. Another said, "Hey, you shouldn't carry that in your pocket; it could make you impudent."
Posted by Random Penseur at 08:08 AM | Comments (4)

August 19, 2004

The George Washington Bridge

There is a spot, in Washington Heights, where you can pull your car over and get a great picture of the George Washington Bridge. I tender it here for your pleasure.


Posted by Random Penseur at 08:29 AM | Comments (6)

August 16, 2004

Abbott Joseph Liebling


AJ Liebling is probably most widely known for his oft-repeated quotation that: ""Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one". In that regard, we might even consider him the spiritual father of blogs everywhere. If you disagree, just look at all the guest bloggers at the recent Democratic Party Convention where the blogger was elevated to the status of journalist and publisher in one fell swoop. But, that's not why I want to write about him. I want to call him to people's attention because he was a fantastic writer.

This is from a biographical sketch I found on him on the net which also has a nice list of the books he published:

After early schooling in New York City, Liebling wrote in The Wayward Pressman that "I went up to Dartmouth in the fall of 1920, lacking a month of being sixteen". Liebling did not finish his schooling at Dartmouth, claiming they threw him out for missing compulsory chapel attendance. He then enrolled in the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University and after finishing there, took the job at the Evening Bulletin. After his stint in Providence, Liebling went on to report and write for New Yorker magazine. While employed by New Yorker he served as a war correspondent; filing many stories from Africa, England and Europe. Following the war he returned to regular magazine fare and for many years after he wrote a New Yorker monthly feature called "Wayward Press". Liebling was an avid fan of boxing, horse racing and eating, frequently writing about each. In 1947 Doubleday and Company published Liebling's The Wayward Pressman, a highly quotable collection of his writings from New Yorker and other publications. Liebling's father was employed in New York City's fur district and his mother grew up in San Francisco. Liebling was married to Jean Stafford, a poet.

I am a big fan of Mr. Liebling and am re-reading his wonderful book, Between Meals, describing his time in Paris in 1926-27 when, as a 22 year old, his father gave him the gift of a year of study in the City of Light. The title refers to the fact that Paris, for him, became one long study in eating and drinking and this book is about that and what he did in the time between his meals. It includes time spent boxing and time spent rowing. It is a marvelous memoir.

How could you not love someone who writes like this about Vodka:

The standard of perfection for vodka (no color, no taste, no smell) was expounded to me long ago by the then Estonian consul-general in New York, and it account perfectly for the drink's rising popularity with those who like their alcohol in conjunction with the reassuring tastes if infancy -- tomato juice, orange juice, chicken broth. It is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who wants no reminder of how hurt Mother would be if she know what he was doing.

Click below on extended entry for the rest (I put this in bold for my wife, who has problems with the extended entry function and I figure if she does, someone else might).

I went to the trouble of typing out some of my favorite quotes to illustrate how beautifully he writes about a whole range of topics.

On Wine

It is damn hard to find good writing about wine. Most writing is pretentious and does nothing to evoke the whole experience. Liebling can do it.

Tavel has a rose-cerise robe, like a number of well known racing silks, but its taste is not thin or acidulous, as that of most of its mimics is. The taste is warm but dry, like an enthusiasm held under restraint, and there is a tantalizing suspicion of bitterness when the wine hits the top of the palate. With the second glass, the enthusiasm gains; with the third, it is overpowering. The effect is generous and calorific, stimulative of cerebration and the social instincts.

On Getting to Paris

Here is his description of how he helped his father to execute on the suggestion that AJ spend a year in Paris before he got married, as his father said he was afraid AJ would do. It made me laugh out loud.

I sensed my father's generous intention, and, fearing that he might change his mind, I told him that I didn't feel I should go, since I was indeed thinking of getting married. "The girl is ten years older than I am," I said, "and Mother might think she is kind of fast, because she is being kept by a cotton broker from Memphis, Tennessee, who only comes North once in a while. But you are a man of the world, and you understand that a woman can't always help herself. Basically . . ." Within the week, I had a letter of credit on the Irving Trust for two thousand dollars, and a reservation on the old Caronia for late in the summer, when the off-season rates would be in effect.

On Boxing

Liebling was one of the great sports writers ever and his field of expertise was boxing. I recommend picking up The Sweet Science. Here, in Paris, Liebling describes what boxing is, at its heart. As I typed this in here, I realized that it's a darn good philosophy about the war on terror as well.

Defense is either preliminary to attack or an interlude between attacks. You move to beat the other fellow, not to avoid being beaten. Safety, relative though it be, lies in attack, too. You are safer inside a punch -- which means inside its arc -- then stepping away from it and possibly into its sweep. More, if you are inside a punch you are in position to strike, but if you are outside it, you have merely escaped. This is the simple essence. Whatever other inferences may be drawn from it are optional and incidental.

On Food

Liebling wrote very well about food. I happen to like eels, although I know many don't, but I chose this passage for the simple joy of it.

There are certain simple and unavoidably cheap dishes that are the I-beams of French cookery and are not to be tampered with; wine and ells and bacon and onions and herbs and judgment go into a matelote, and the eels should be fresh. The wine can be as old as you please. Within these classic limits, as within the rules of a game, there are gradations of success, dependent on the quality and proportion of the ingredients and on the termotactic gift, since no two stews reach their nearest approach to perfection in the same number of minutes -- or to be meticulous, of seconds. The good cook, like the good jockey, must have "a clock in his head".

Joy. That may be why I like Liebling so much. He wrote with joy and enthusiasm and verve. He treated everything with voracious reflection and seemed to appreciate the importance of the small, the every day. Liebling celebrated life.

I hope you all go out and discover him, too.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:25 AM | Comments (9)

NY -- where everyone gets along and no one minds their own business

This was from today's Metropolitan Diary in the NY Times:

One recent afternoon, I was waiting in line at the silver counter at Tiffany. A woman ahead of me had just purchased a bracelet and was filling out a gift card. She looked up and asked the salesclerk, "How do you spell 'bar mitzvah'?" The salesclerk didn't hear her. I intervened.

"Bar mitzvah?" I asked.

She smiled and nodded.

"Didn't you buy a bracelet?" I asked.

"Why, yes I did," she answered.

"So it's for a girl?"

"That's correct," she said.

I explained: "Well, bar mitzvah is for a boy. Bas mitzvah is for a girl. So you should say 'Happy bas mitzvah.' " She thanked me, then I asked, "Do you know if they are Sephardic or Ashkenazic?"

Her face dropped. "Oh my, I have no idea. Does it matter?" she asked.

I replied: "No, not for the purpose of a gift. But if they are Ashkenazic, it's bas mitzvah, Sephardic is bat mitzvah."

"So how do I spell it?" she asked. I told her. She smiled and said: "I'm visiting from Milwaukee. Thank you for all this information, it's so interesting." She looked a bit sheepish and said, "I don't know any of this; I'm a Catholic."

I said, "So am I."

Surprised, she asked, "My goodness, how do you know all this information?"

I responded matter-of-factly, "I live here."

Brian Honan

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:03 AM | Comments (9)

August 10, 2004

Overheard on the Street


Construction Worker 1: Holy shit. That motherfucker just told me that it was going to be another fucking week.

Construction Worker 2: Well, fuck him, that fat motherfucker .

Wide Eyed Little Girl, aged approx. 6: Mommy! They said a bad word!

Who says kids don't learn anything when school's out?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:56 AM | Comments (2)

August 03, 2004

NY is more fun

I was reading the profile this morning of a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration and this line about JFK Airport in NYC just jumped out at me:

In the last year, Transportation Security Administration screeners have intercepted more than seven million prohibited items. Typically, it's knives, guns and scissors. But you would not believe how many recreational handcuffs I have seen in property rooms at airports around the country. I don't want to single out J.F.K., but the ones I've seen there were lined in everything from suede to fake fur.

It's like I've been telling you, NY is more fun.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:45 AM | Comments (4)

July 27, 2004

Stealing time

I stole some time out of my day today. I just reached into my employer's back pocket and plucked it right out. It was about a half an hour, but it was mine, all mine, and it was glorious. It was freedom and it was irresponsible and it had no agenda or address or anything and it was mine, all mine.

I took papers down to court this morning to file with the motion support office at the Supreme Court of the State of New York for the County of New York, (known to us lawyers as Supreme New York or simply S/NY). This courthouse borders on the surreal. No, well, it may, but what I meant to say was that it borders on Chinatown. I handed in my papers which the clerk accepted without a problem (which is always nice and never a sure thing) and headed off with no agenda to wander the streets a bit. Chinatown is congested, smelly (lots of fish markets), filled with tacky gift shops and just downright fun. Probably because of all of those things.

I walked through the park behind the courthouse and observed a beautiful tai chi class conducted to music and using swords in an intricate and very controlled ballet of movement and internal tension. I also was treated to the odd spectacle of Chinese senior citizens, looking very fit, stretching and twisting on the jungle gym. No kids, mind you, but lots of senior citizens. Their teenage grandchildren, quite a bit less fit looking, were screwing around on the basketball court.

Most of my favorite stores were still closed, so I couldn't do any serious shopping. I had decided to see if I could break some international trademark laws and buy my wife a cool knockoff bag. She's been a bit down of late and a bag never fails to cheer her up. Unfortunately, none of the knock off stores were open yet. However, our favorite bakery was open. Ever have coconut cream bread? It is so yummy, being both sweet and salty at the same time. I bought four pieces for the kids, wife and nanny. I also got two lotus leaf sticky rice packages for the kids. The girl child ought to enjoy unwrapping the package and eating the sticky goodness contained therein.

I then ducked into a little galley of a shop, it was long and no more than 7 or 8 feet wide. It was crammed to the gills with food products from: Malaysia; Thailand; Indonesia; and other exotic locales. I bought some new chili sauces and some Thai fried garlic bits and Thai fried red onions. I passed on the Thai anchovy snacks. They were pieces of anchovy fried in palm oil and seasoned with chili, salt and sugar. The owner of the store insisted that I try one out of the open container he had on the counter. He claimed that they were a great seller and good for your bones to boot. It was chewy, spicy, sweet, and tangy. In fact, it was a bit too chewy and dry for my taste. I ate one but passed on the entire package.

I tasted the anchovy snack all the way back to the subway and wondered, is that fishy taste the taste of adventure or the taste you have in your mouth that signals the return to responsibility?

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:03 AM | Comments (8)

July 20, 2004

Favorite Bartenders

I feel the need for a martini coming on.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:33 AM | Comments (2)

July 18, 2004


My facile observation of the day.

Let me take you through my thought process.

We have people visiting from Utah who went to Chevy's Mexican restaurant where they got sombreros for their birthdays. I was told that in Utah, they sort of smash them on your head but here, that didn't happen. I told them that if someone touched another person without permission in NY, someone might get shot. That got me to thinking that there really is an elaborate code of behavior in NY. Unwritten but understood. It governs how you behave on the subway, when it's ok to talk to strangers, how you walk down the street and give enough space so as to not bump the next person, how to fold your newspaper on the subway, how to cross streets, how to wait on line for a bus, etc. This code was similar to the rigorous code of social behavior I have read about in Japan. At least superficially.

So, I decided to pull up the population densities and compare them. To my surprise, I found that NY has a greater population density than Tokyo.

In 1990, according to the US Census Bureau, the population of New York City was as follows:

7,323,000 people in 309 square miles for a density of 23,700 per mile.

In Tokyo, there are 14,097 per sq mile (source).

Facile observation of the day: you want to get 23,000 people living in one square mile, you better have some code of behavior, some commonly understood rules, or else, without strong gun control, you're going to have a lot of dead people.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:26 PM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2004

Tiny New York

I was looking for a little something on Sniffen Court here in NYC and I came across this link to Forgotten Alleys in New York. Sniffen Court is a cool little enclave of buildings in the East 30's. When I went through the places they listed, I noticed that they left out Pomander Walk, so I did a quick search and found this link from the same site which has a picture of Pomander Walk. I loved Pomander Walk when we lived on the Upper West Side. The neighborhood was a bit dodgy then but it seemed like such a romantic place to live.

P.S. Here's a link to an apartment for sale on Pomander Walk.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2004


Ever been to Poughkeepsie before? It's upstate NY. A Judge of the Bankruptcy Court sits there and I've got to go tomorrow for a hearing. It's pretty much a whole day adventure.

I am posting about this, not because I assume you are interested in my little travels, but because you may not be from NY and you may think that NY State is one big burnt out section of the South Bronx, repeated ad infinitum up to the Canadian border. It isn't.

Poughkeepsie is located in Dutchess County, a beautiful part of the State including some of the Hudson River Valley. The beauty of the Hudson River Valley inspired an entire school of painters in the 1800's. Frederick Church's home, Olana, while not in Dutchess County, is a grand place to visit if you want to learn more about that school of painters.

But, you may ask, what to do in Poughkeepsie when not attending hearings at the Bankruptcy Court? Well, Vassar College is there. If I have time, I'm going to nip over there to see the exhibit on Renaissance print making. The campus of Vassar is one of the most beautiful college campuses I've ever visited and I hope I get some time to walk around there. I may bring a change of clothes, come to think of it, so I am not imprisoned in my suit and tie all day.

But what about food? Surely, you ask, there is nowhere worth eating when you get that far from civilization? Well, among other things, you can eat at the Culinary Institute of America's restaurants. The CIA has trained some of America's top chefs and it's a short drive from Poughkeepsie in Hyde Park. Hyde Park is also home to FDR Museum and Presidential Library, the Vanderbilt Museum and House (a stunning house with exceptional Hudson River Views) and, just down the road in Rhinebeck, is the Old Rhinebeck aerodrome where you can see historic planes and other vehicles from the 1900-1935 era. After the planes and museums, you could also pop in to stay the night at the Beekman Arms, which claims to be the oldest operating inn in the country. I've had brunch there and at least can vouch for the brunch if not for the historical claims they make.

Upstate New York is beautiful. If I had more time before today's deposition, I'd post more about this terrific area. Hope it inspires you to travel there!

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2004

Favorite Old Time New York

With the closing of Zito's Bakery (see below), I thought it might be interesting to do a partial list of some of the old time New York stores and restaurants which give NY its special character. I've talked about some of my favorite NY buildings, now maybe it's time to focus on the people and businesses inhabiting some of those structures. This is a hard list to create because it means sitting back and trying to visualize different parts and streets in NYC. It's a big city, folks.

*Keene's Chophouse or Steakhouse (1885)
*Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station (1913)
*The Ear Inn

*Macy's (the escalator)
*Zito's (thanks for the memories)
*Fraunces Tavern (1763)
*Pete's Tavern (O'Henry did a lot of writing here)
*Old Homestead
*Lexington Candy Shop (malteds)
*Ferrara (1892)
*White Horse Tavern (where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death)
*Elk Candy Company

*Schaller & Weber
*Yorkville Packing House

Like I said, a partial and quick list. I'll be back to this when I get some more time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)

End of an era?

Zito's Bakery (scroll down to bottom for picture) is closing. I think that a lot of people don't realize that NYC is made up primarily of small businesses, many of them family owned. If you live your life in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I visited once, you believe that chains are normal and natural and your needs will be met by the large corporations. Not in NYC. Here the real estate, with some exceptions, is too expensive to support the big chain business model. You can see those guys in their planning meetings wondering where they're going to put the parking lot, can't you? Also, it's tough to make deliveries here. So, when a landmark hangs it up, it's sad. I know change is part of life, especially in NYC where it seems to happen so quickly, it's just that these guys had a special place in the Village and when they lock the door that last time there will be a hole in the fabric of that society. Maybe not a big hole, but a hole nonetheless. And the bread was really something!

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:46 AM | Comments (2)

May 19, 2004

Random Observations on the Lexington Avenue Subway

I was going to/from Court this afternoon and made the following random observations I want to share:

* I am the only person on the subway without a knapsack/brief case on wheels;

* Carrying a band-aid for over ten years in your brief case pays off eventually when you slice your thumb open trying to close your piece of crap umbrella;

* People on either side of you, on the subway, seeing you are struggling with trying to get a band-aid open and applied to your thumb will actually offer to help and not be deterred by the fact that a stranger is bleeding and could have who-know's-what disease;

* New Yorkers will walk people to the correct subway stop even when it's out of their way;

* If you do drugs, don't buy a sundae at McDonald's and try to eat it on the train, people (read: me) will watch you as you try and try again to get the spoon into the container, then get the spoon into your mouth, and then watch as you zone out and let the hard won ice cream drip slowly out of your mouth and onto your shirt which will cause you, like on the shampoo container, to rinse and repeat;

* Attractive women ride the subway at 2:00 p.m. and hard core lesbians will ogle them; and, finally,

* What do some of these attractive young women see in the punks they're hanging out with?

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2004

Who guards the guardians?

Chinatown Says Police Parking Makes Its Streets Too Tight

This is a very old question, perhaps first asked in Latin: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" When the guardians, those people charged with the duties to protect you and to protect society, misbehave, to whom do you turn? Who is it who watches over the guardians? And then, of course, you are have to ask who is going to watch those who are watching the guardians?

It is my impression that the effects of 9/11 on NYC's Chinatown may not have received much in the way of national exposure. Chinatown got hurt badly. Chinatown's businesses and restaurants got clobbered as people stayed home. Those who tried to venture down there may have been deterred by travel restrictions and checkpoints. We are talking about people who were struggling to begin with. Now, if you take a peek at the article I linked to, it appears that the guardians are abusing their privileges, by parking where they shouldn't, and the people in Chinatown are taking it on the chin.

Basically, it works like this: Chinatown is congested; businesses need to have deliveries to stay in business so they have things to sell; the only street parking -- including loading zones -- appears to be taken up by police officers and corrections officers parking their private vehicles there. Result? Business getting hurt again. Remedy? Well, there is no easy remedy if the only people you can call to have cars towed won't tow the cars of their fellow officers. So, who guards these guardians?

The civil courts and the lawyers the merchants have hired. That is what the whole system of checks and balances is supposed to be about and the only way we've managed to answer the question. We don't give final authority to just one institution, just one guardian. All the guardians, in a sense, watch each other. Its not elegant, but it works most of the time in practice. But as one Frenchman once famously asked, yes, it works in practice, but does it work in theory?

post script: I know that the officers have no other place to park, that they are hard working joes (and janes) too, and that they are performing vital and critical functions. I support them and I thank them for their service. Indeed, after 9/11, I regularly thanked these guys in the streets in person. I just wish they'd take public transportation.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:58 AM | Comments (1)