Long Island City on a Snowy Morning

January 9, 2015 New York City, Personal Comments (0) 318

Long Island City Snowy Morning

 

Google does this thing it calls “Auto Awesome” when you sync your phone photos with Google Plus. Once in a while, you get a little surprise message that some cyborg somewhere has gussied up your photo with an elaborate Instagrammafication. Usually I think it’s nifty but unnecessary. In this case, however, I have to agree with the name. The original photo is below, and it’s nice enough–but that filter above is, well… Continue Reading

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Empire State Building, Dusk

January 5, 2015 New York City Comments (0) 206

Empire State Building HannukahA photo from 2013–Hannukah, actually, which is why the color scheme.

I walk past this building every day, and every day it’s impressive.

 

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Sunset over Philadelphia City Hall

December 31, 2014 Personal, Philly / Pennsylvania, Travels Comments (0) 264

2014-12-27 16.51.24I paid a visit to my old stomping grounds over the holidays–even took in the old Wanamaker holiday light show at Macy’s for the first time. You’d think in six years living in Philadelphia (fifteen if you include my time in the suburbs) I would have done that earlier. We took a little walk through South Philly to check out the house lights, too. It still feels like home.

 

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How to be a Good Hotel on a Marathon Weekend

September 22, 2014 In The News, Personal, Reviews, Travels Comments (0) 227

Marathon runners
It’s marathon season
, which means time for runners to book hotels. Actually, it’s late September, which means marathon accommodations will be hard to find in many cities. If you’re running and haven’t booked your stay yet, get on that.

Over the years I’ve noticed varying levels of preparedness among hotel staff on marathon weekends. Some hotels cater to a marathoner’s every need, while others seem surprised to learn there is a marathon in town–especially surprising when 2/3 of the guests are probably there to run.

In the interest of improving accommodations for marathoners everywhere, and to help you hoteliers satisfy your customers and make more money, I’ve put together a quick list of ways you can better serve your marathon guests, in order of descending importance.

  • Rule 1: Offer an extended check-out. Marathons generally start around 7 or 8 AM and take 3-6 hours, depending on a runner’s ability level. With wave starts, slower runners start later than faster runners–sometimes, as at the New York City Marathon, hours later. Bad weather can occasionally delay a start, and blisters and minor injuries can slow a runner’s time. Factor in time to travel from the finish back to your hotel and grab a quick shower before leaving, and your 11 AM checkout isn’t going to cut it. I’ve seen hotels offer extended checkout as late as 3 PM, but even just extending until 1:00 will accommodate most runners. On the other hand I’ve encountered hotel managers who refuse to extend checkout, which is a quick way to piss off marathoners and ensure they’ll never come back.

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…A Little Rain Must Fall

July 22, 2014 New York City, Personal Comments (0) 181

This is what it looks like in my apartment building when it rains.

20140715_083507It isn’t safe to use the stairs, you see, because the skylight above the stairwell is broken and massive quantities of rainwater make the stairs slippery. This has been the solution, mind you, for well over six months now. Once or twice when I have used the stairs in the rain, I’ve had to carry an umbrella. Continue Reading

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Bellevue’s Secret Garden

July 15, 2014 New York City Comments (0) 129

On Friday Liz and I took a walk, winding our way from Bellevue Hospital to Williamsburg. We found a beautiful little secret garden behind the hospital with some amazing handmade treasures. It was particularly striking with the enormous car rack as a backdrop.

I snapped a lot of photos. Here are a few of my favorites. You can view the whole set in this Flickr album.

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USA’s Oldest LGBT Bookstore to Close

April 28, 2014 Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Philly / Pennsylvania Comments (0) 289

Giovanni's Room PhiladelphiaSad news this week as the Philadelphia Gay News reports that Giovanni’s Room, the oldest LGBT bookstore in the country, will close for good in May.

Owner Ed Hermance, who has operated the store since the dark early days of the gay-rights movement in the 1970s, tried to find a buyer for the store so he could retire, but an apparent deal fell through. According to the PGN, Hermance blames Amazon and similar retailers for making business difficult for indie booksellers, and says he’s lost between $10,000 and $15,000 keeping Giovanni’s Room open so far in 2014.

I’ve shopped at Giovanni’s Room many times in the last twelve years or so, and lived for two years at Juniper and Pine Streets, less than two blocks away. It’s always been a dream to one day see a book I’d written on their shelves, one of those fantasies young writers have about how we know when we’ve “made it.” Giovanni’s Room was a terrific, welcoming space where the shelves were always well-stocked and well-maintained. It felt like a place where people loved books. Continue Reading

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Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, April 2014

April 24, 2014 New York City, Personal Comments (0) 334

I took advantage of the beautiful spring weather and a lunch break this week and walked up to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for the first time. I looked for the fountain with the turtle statue, well-known to fans of Steven King’s Dark Tower series, but no luck. Maybe next time.

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New York City, April 2014

April 15, 2014 New York City, Travels Comments (0) 265

It’s been beautiful here in the Big Apple the past few days, which means I seize every chance to get outside and get some fresh air. Once in a while I even remember to take photos.

As a rule when I explore a city I try to get photos of elements people don’t see all the time, or (even better) elements locals tend to overlook. And, yes, occasionally I stop along Fifth Avenue and take a touristy photo of the Empire State Building. I can’t help it, it’s a damn impressive building.

Anyway, here are a few shots I got on a recent walk through Chelsea, including an anonymous industrial building near the Highline and a mural I’ve never seen before, even in photos.

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Civic Personnae

April 11, 2014 New York City, Philly / Pennsylvania, Travels Comments (0) 171

South Philly ChristmasSomething Liz and I got thinking about this past weekend:

After attending a particularly drunk and rowdy brunch at a bar in downtown Arlington, Virginia (nice town, by the way) Liz remarked how different it was from the more subdued brunch in New York City. I remarked, off-the-cuff, that “New Yorkers have a certain expectation of how New Yorkers are supposed to behave.”

This got me thinking about how people change to fit the city they live in–or the city they might be visiting. We all know humans unconsciously change their behavior according to the role they are assigned, but in many cities there’s also the question of self-selection. New York City is full of aspiring Carrie Bradshaws, Gordon Gekkos, and Patti Smyths. [pullquote position=”right”]People don’t just behave based on their city’s reputation; they move to the city they think suits their ambitions.[/pullquote]

We got talking about examples that came to mind: The way Philadelphia sports fans worked to maintain their reputation for anarchy, half a century after the infamous Santa incident; the young beautiful Angelinos who adopt every new diet fad and obsess over physical beauty; the bikini-clad beach bodies in Miami, back-country liberalism of Austin, and ardent anti-corporatism of Portland or Seattle. Yes, these are stereotypes, but that’s the whole idea: some stereotypes are reinforced because people unconsciously work to conform to them.

In late 2005 when I moved back to Pittsburgh after five years away, I discovered how much Queer as Folk had influenced the gay culture. QAF, actually filmed in Toronto’s thriving gay village, was set in a fictional Pittsburgh that greatly exaggerated the city’s gay presence. I met numerous young gay men who had moved to Pittsburgh because of the show, and bemoaned the gap between television and reality. I often wondered why they hadn’t bothered to visit first–Pittsburgh has no shortage of hotels. Notable, however, was how the gay landscape in Pittsburgh flourished, in part thanks to QAF, as the locals and newcomers created a world that resembled their fantasy.

Liz and I got talking, too, about cities that don’t necessarily have as strong a sense of identity. I didn’t find that there was much of a “stereotypical Philadelphian,” for example–at least outside the sports arena. I think I might prefer this kind of setting, because people feel less restricted to type and more free to be themselves.

I have heard murmurs recently about discontent among Portland residents who say fans of the show Portlandia arrive expecting a certain kind of experience, and that an influx of Portlandia fans has begun altering their community in a way they don’t necessarily like. Maybe in five to ten years, Portland will become more like the show. I wonder if South Philadelphia is being reshaped by fans of It’s Always Sunny, though I can’t say I’m familiar enough with either program to say what they represent. I did occasionally meet tourists, when I lived in South Philadelphia, helplessly searching for a bar called Paddy’s that didn’t actually exist.

I wonder about cities like Columbus, Denver, and San Diego, where I’m not aware of any stereotypes beyond broad generalizations about their respective regions. I’d guess there must be a shared sense of identity, but nothing as strong as the caricature of the frazzled sophisticate adhered to by so many New Yorkers. I wonder if these people feel more freedom to be themselves, rather than following a cultural archetype.

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