Liz and I spent a couple of hours reading up on New York City’s history. This isn’t research for a book or anything, it’s just because I’m a huge nerd. We were walking around the city and got talking about NYC’s Dutch origins as New Amsterdam, and how Harlem (originally spelled “Haarlem“) was settled around the same time, while the area now comprising midtown and the East and West sides weren’t settled for centuries.
I realized I didn’t know much else about the region, but a few hours diving down the Wikipedia hole helped that. Here’s some of my favorite New York City trivia:
- The Dutch established settlements all over the East Coast, within a wide territory called New Netherland that was basically just wilderness and a few villages, and of which New Amsterdam was the capital. The first settlement was at Governor’s Island, but in the roughly 50 years before the English took over New Netherland, the Dutch established cities along the Hudson River, around the Greater New York City region, and in modern-day Delaware and New Jersey. A few of the many cities and neighborhoods named by the dutch are Harlem, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Long Island, Flatbush, and New Dorp.
- New Dorp may be my favorite awful place name ever. And yes, I’m well aware there is a city in Austria called Fucking. That’s still not as terrible as having to tell people you’re from “New Dorp.” Continue Reading
My uncle tells me Blue Bird has acquired legal rights to the Hostess name and various trademarks, and will soon be putting Hostess back on the shelves. I guess they don’t yet own the rights to the name “Twinkies.”
But really, “Bingles” is a pretty good try, don’t you think?
A charming NYT article and video about the last remaining indie video rental joint in Chelsea, the proprietor, and some of the customers who keep them in business.
The shop is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. “It’s like having a convenience store,” said the shop’s owner, Alan Sklar. “Everyone needs milk.”
Message boards, blogs, and e-zines allow us to connect with people who share our interests–but while me may have friends on other continents, we may not meet the ones next door. We stream video instead of going to the movies or the video store, we download books to our e-readers instead of going to the book store or the library, and buy our records on iTunes instead of at the local record store. We lose the connection to fellow fans, but more than that we lose the curators–the librarians, checkout boys, and store managers who immersed themselves in their medium and knew our taste better than us. Sure, AllMusic and iTunes Genius can recommend albums based on our tastes, but there’s nothing like the first time someone tips you off to Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Captain Beefheart.
I remember discovering Meet the Feebles, a recommendation from a friend who worked at a video store, back when it was unavailable in the US and could only be viewed on a worn-out hand-me-down VHS tape. There’s an air of mystery and possibility there, that can’t be had from a download or streaming video.
It’s encouraging to see some people willing to spend money to keep this alive.
h/t to @imseanavery for the link.
It’s been pretty quiet around here for a while. Sorry about that. Since relocating to NYC I’ve been pretty busy–but now, with the Snowstorm of the Century rolling in and canceling my weekend plans, I should have time to catch up a bit.
As of today Liz and I have been in town for exactly a month. One month ago today, I was recovering after spending 10 hours puking my guts out, and missing my scheduled first day of work. Today, we’re pretty well settled in–though there are still a few boxes–and I’ve had the chance to explore the city a bit.
I’m still working on getting published–in fact, being in New York seems to have lit a fire under me. I don’t know if it’s living among the ghosts of the Harlem Renaissance, or reporting to work each day just a few short blocks from the literary agents I’ve spent years querying. Part of me is hoping there’s good mojo in proximity. At least it’ll be easy to take a lunch meeting, right?
I’ve been stepping up my energy polishing and submitting short stories to various markets, as well. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon.
As Liz and I were heading home from Broadway Tuesday night, she noticed on Twitter that yet another person had been killed by an MTA subway–something that’s been in the news a lot recently. The last couple of incidents happened in Queens, where she was living. This one was at 125th Street, which is near our new home in Harlem. Maybe Liz is bad luck.
Yesterday, Gawker reported that, unlike the last two incidents, this one didn’t involve a victim falling or being pushed from a platform in front of a moving train. No, this time, the victim apparently fell off a moving train while pooping in between the cars.
Honestly, I think the weirdest part of this story was that this was the New York City subway and the guy didn’t just crap inside the car.
A quick study in contrasts.
Here’s how apartment searching works in Philly:
You find ten apartments on Craigslist that suit your needs. Five of them are fake, and someone asks you to send money via Western Union. You ignore these. The other five you go visit. You pick your favorite, put down a deposit, and you have an apartment. Huzzah!
Here’s how apartment searching works in NYC:
- You spend hours perusing listings on the web, finding apartments that meet your needs. On each of these listings is contact information for a broker who reps that property.
- You contact the broker about that apartment, at which point the broker says “oh, that apartment was just rented.” This means “that apartment is fake. I use it to get you in the door.” Because you’re already in touch, you walk the broker through everything you are looking for: price range, size, location, amenities, etc.
- The broker ignores everything you have just said, looks through his or her records, and sends you to see a few properties that in no way resemble the description you supplied. Likely these are the same apartments they have been trying to move for several weeks by sending every single person to see them. Several of them are broom closets, one is a rooftop with a vinyl tarp and an army cot, and one is literally an old-timey wooden outhouse in an alley behind the United Nations.
- For this “service,” should you happen to trip over an apartment that IS right for you (or if the broker manages to get one right, almost certainly by accident alone), you get to pay the broker 15% of a full year’s rent, though most suggest this is negotiable down to 8.4%.
My brother and I had some time to kill on the Upper West Side on Saturday (and I felt like throwing away $40 to park my car for a couple of hours) so we took in the American Museum of Natural History. Perhaps my fifth or sixth visit in my lifetime, and I think the first time I didn’t see the dinosaur bones. I do love that museum, though; it’s a classic example of the Victorian-era museum, with few changes toward a more modern philosophy. This leads in some places to exhibits that might be perceived as socially or racially insensitive (I have to assume there were others that were more offensive, that have since been removed or updated) and to captions that, while not denotatively sexist, are fairly amusing in their language.
Of particular interest was the exhibit on ritual and magic among African tribes. They had a display of ceremonial costumes that was particularly fascinating in its unusual mythology. I would love to see a fantasy world developed around African tradition, the way much of fantasy has been developed around European and Christian mythology. I get the impression Octavia Butler writes things in this vein, but I’m not familiar enough with her work to assume so. I know I greatly enjoy Orson Scott Card’s “Tales of Alvin Maker” series, which plays with North American mythology and beliefs, like knacks, voodoo, and hexes.
I also have to say, a museum like that is great fun when you have a ridiculous sense of humor and an appreciation for the ironic and subtly off-balance the way my brother and I do.
A few photos from our museum experience:
Apparently these are the “first New Yorkers,” according to the caption. The guy on the right is asking someone for a quarter. The guy on the left secretly thinks that Jeter is a fag. I mostly took the picture because of the peg leg.
This is from the “Hall of Awesome” (our name, not theirs), an exhibit that was just lots and lots of preserved animals hung in no particular order on the walls… Just about thrown in a heap on the floor, actually. I think the point was to show “biodiversity” and motivate people to save endangered species, but that might be a stretch. Take, for instance:
Some kind of crab monster that was attacking us. I like to call this part the “Wall of Molluscs”
A squid fighting a flamingo? That’s just confusing.