Journal | Friday, October 31, 2003 | #
Want to feel spooked in Brooklyn? Listen for the phantom train of 4th Avenue. Stand near the avenue and you'll hear a train rushing down the center of the traffic. Through some weird acoustics, you'd swear it was about to run you down. But where is it? Underground, naturally. This phenomenon happens a few places in the city, but it seems most eerie on 4th Ave.
... The company Halloween party last night was a frightening event indeed. Roy Horn? Ghastly. Liza Minelli? Terrifying. Me, I went as a third-party candidate for city council.
... A real-life nightmare: What do you do when your arm gets stuck in a toilet on a moving train?
- DarylJournal | Thursday, October 30, 2003 | #
Save money by being rude
I've been using the haggling skills I learned in India here in New York. Actual example:
...Item: Howard Dean has outed himself in the Denver Post as a "metrosexual." I can't decide whether this means Dean is in touch with the people, or if it means the word "metrosexual" is as meaningless as we all suspected.
- DarylJournal | Wednesday, October 29, 2003 | #
House of D is six feet under
I walked past the "House of D" shoot yesterday morning. The crew was setting up a scene at Green-Wood Cemetery that appeared to involve some fake gravestones. Alas, I didn't see David Duchovny. I also couldn't figure out why they had to block off so much of the street for this scene way up on the hill. We'll have to wait until the movie is released next year to see if my neighborhood gets any screen time.
... Remember a month ago when I wrote about how much I enjoy Randy Kennedy's "Tunnel Vision" columns in The New York Times? Well, I was saddened yesterday to read that he will no longer be writing the column. Read his farewell column here.
... Hey New York people: The city wants us to report cell phone dead spots. They plan to take the data we give them and create coverage maps, to help the phone companies improve the networks. (Yet another brilliant GIS application, if you ask me.) Here's the web site to submit dead spots.
- DarylJournal | Tuesday, October 28, 2003 | #
Taking chances vs. eating soup
Usually, I don't shy away from new and scary things. But some days, forget it. I just want to muddle through the day at work, then ride the train straight back home. I want to cook soup, sit on the couch with the cat, watch a movie I've already seen, then go to bed. I don't want to write a journal entry, or call anybody, or do anything significant, because I feel out of sorts, and I'm afraid I'll screw something up. Yesterday was a rare day like that. As it happens, I had work to do, friends to visit, etc., so I couldn't go home until late. Most days, being busy and active is a blessing. So why is it that, for no particular reason sometimes, we get these days when we just want to play it safe and lay low? And why do some people feel that way more often than others? It makes me wonder just what goes on in our brains that affects how we feel about ourselves and the way we behave.
- DarylJournal | Monday, October 27, 2003 | #
Everybody's talking about the new movie "Kill Bill." You're not? Okay, fine: English majors, film geeks, and people who enjoy sushi are talking about the new movie "Kill Bill." I saw it on Saturday night with friends Christel, Amy, and Mark. It seemed like we had the typical reaction to this movie: It's a fun ride, but way too gory. Fun, yes, to watch people leap down flights of stairs, zip around on motorcycles, travel the globe, and serve vengence cold. Plus it's enjoyable to listen to silly music and read funny subtitles ("Ancient Klingon proverb"). Not fun, however, to watch someone get shot in the head, be run through with a sword, or bleed to death after having his tongue bitten off. Yeah, it's cartoonish one of the most violent parts of the movie is literally a cartoon. But isn't there enough actual violence going on right now (see: Baghdad) that watching a stylized version of it just feels uncomfortable? If you go watch "Kill Bill," you'll enjoy a great piece of storytelling, but when it ends you may feel like there's blood drying in your hair.
Oh yeah, and this was just "Volume 1." The second part is supposed to open Feb. 20.
- DarylJournal | Sunday, October 26, 2003 | #
Let me hear y'all up in the House of D
Last week, a bunch of "No Parking" fliers appeared in my neighborhood to warn us about a movie shoot on Tuesday for something called "House of D." Turns out "House of D" is actually a major feature film. Stars include Robin Williams, Erykah Badu, and Orlando Jones, and it will be the first movie directed by David Duchovny! I found a web site that includes pictures of the cast at shoots elsewhere in New York. So what is this big-time movie doing in South Slope? I guess I'll have to wait until Tuesday to find out. They've blocked off what seems like an enormous amount of space, even for a movie shoot: Both sides of 20th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, and one side of 7th Avenue between 20th Street and 22nd Street. Are they filming a chase scene? Are they doing a wide shot of the nearby Green-Wood Cemetery? Does the film perhaps take place in the past, requiring them to drag in a bunch of old cars? I have no idea. I do know, however, that the real House of D is right here on 21st Street, and anybody who says otherwise is itchin' for a fight.
... Did you set your clock back this morning?
... If you haven't seen them already, here are my Snapshots of India.
- DarylJournal | Saturday, October 25, 2003 | #
The Jackson twenty
Someone actually answered my request for a redesigned $20 bill. (Thanks, Pop!) I'm always happy to be holding a twenty, but it's really nice to see the spanking-new design. Behold its color-shifting ink, watermark, multi-toned paper, and a whole school of little yellow "20s" swimming around on the back of the note. Andrew Jackson is back, wearing that same crazy cape and that same bewildered look in his eyes. Admire his hair, but do not stare directly into his eyes.
... Millie and I went to see "Intolerable Cruelty" yesterday. That's the new Coen Brothers movie that stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It's funny, but left us feeling a little tired. Still, nobody does the first five minutes of a movie better than the Coen Brothers.
... If you haven't seen them already, here are my Snapshots of India.
... Tomorrow: What will David Duchovny be doing on my block Tuesday?
- DarylJournal | Friday, October 24, 2003 | #
Showing off my vacation photos
New online today: Snapshots of India.
- DarylJournal | Thursday, October 23, 2003 | #
When does overnight film developing take four nights? When you're trying to get a disposable camera developed onto a Picture CD at Rite Aid. I felt disappointed yesterday when I went to pick up my India pictures and they still weren't ready. The clerk at Rite Aid called the developer at Kodak, who said they need one more day to deliver. So, assuming I get my pictures tonight, look for them online Friday. I hope that's not a bad assumption.
- DarylJournal | Wednesday, October 22, 2003 | #
Walk. Don't walk. Up yours.
New York City has been upgrading to energy-efficient LED pedestrian walk signs. Instead of saying "WALK" and "DON'T WALK," the new signs display a graphic of a person walking and a hand. These signs have been popular in other parts of the country, but many New Yorkers seem strangely hell-bent against them. A few weeks ago, the New York Press ran some angry tirade against them, and the New Yorker this week writes about the old signs with nostalgia comparing them to lobster boats. (More here, here, and here.) Outside the Circuit City on 14th Street, I'm told, someone has vandalized one of the new walk signs to obscure all the fingers on the hand except the middle one. So when this sign switches to "Don't Walk," it flashes the finger to everyone on the sidewalk. There may be a more appropriate symbol of New York than the blinking middle finger sign, but I can't think of one.
Coming soon: I hope to get my pictures from India back tonight and have them posted by Thursday.
Correction: On Monday, I wrote that my new cell phone is Japanese. The phone is, in fact, from Taiwan.
- DarylJournal | Tuesday, October 21, 2003 | #
News for the broke
Regular readers know this home page has an obsession with all things new. Three new things today:
While I was on vacation, the Tribune company launched a new daily newspaper in New York City. The paper, amNewYork, is a free tabloid geared toward commuters. I've read two issues, one from last Friday and one from yesterday. Before I add my voice to the chorus of complaints about this paper, let me repeat what we used to tell people who complained about the Collegian: This newspaper is free. It is a gift. Even if it's only good for a weather map and a TV guide, it's still a bargain. That said, amNewYork is as boring to read as the back of a cereal box. At least it has someone working late to flow in the correct Yankee's scores, which elevates it above the New York Post.
Second, and deeper into the world of newspaper geekdom, The New York Times unveils its new fonts today! Can you contain your excitement?
And lastly, the treasury has started circulating new $20 bills. I can't say much about these, since I haven't seen one yet. If you get one, can you send it to me? Thanks.
- DarylJournal | Monday, October 20, 2003 | #
I am ironic flirty
Free from my Verizon contract, I bought a new GSM cell phone yesterday. I think I might have gotten a bad deal, but anything is better than the phone I had before. I went to one of those shifty places that runs full-page ads in the Village Voice promising good phones for free. I had already decided I wanted an Ericsson phone with an AT&T Wireless plan, but once in the store, the salesman talked me into going with T-Mobile. "Better coverage," he said. One of his "free" phones was a Panasonic GD55, a Japanese import billed to be the world's smallest cell phone. For free? I was sold. I signed a form agreeing to pay $300 if I cancelled the contract before a year was up. Then, after some fast work with the calculator, the salesman told me the cost would be $190.
I bolted for the door a bargaining trick I learned on my vacation. "I won't pay more than a hundred," I said as I walked out. The salesman quickly lowered his price to $103, and I accepted. I probably could have gotten him to go lower, but I decided I had done well enough. After all, this was a cool phone, and it isn't available through the usual channels. This phone has Japanese writing on the keys, some wacky ring tones, and a bunch of pre-programmed badly translated text messages, like "Wearing glasses" and "I am ironic flirty." As for coverage, T-Mobile is just as lousy in my neighborhood as Verizon, but I have a land line here, and I think coverage in Manhattan will be better. Oddly, I got for free the one thing for which I gladly would have paid more: a 212 area code. Most New York cell phone numbers here start with 917 or 646, the overlay area codes. The 212 area code was once reserved for land lines in Manhattan, and thus carries a certain cachet. And so I have a trendy phone and a trendy phone number. Ring me, dah-ling!
- DarylJournal | Sunday, October 19, 2003 | #
More than peanuts
After the plane landed at JFK yesterday, we taxied past a sleek, flowing building labeled as the TWA terminal. The shuttle bus to the parking lot went past this marvelous terminal, but didn't stop. I could see it was as closed as the airline who's name was on the sign.
To me, this ghost terminal seems to tell a story about air travel. As flying became commonplace, it shed all its luster and sexiness. If you haven't seen it already, go rent "Catch Me If You Can," a film that covers the glamour of early air travel. Part of this movie which was actually filmed in the abandoned New York TWA terminal. (Coincidentally, today's New York Times has an article on JetBlue's interest in this building, as well as an essay about the glory days of the Pan Am stewardess.) Most airports today are as charmless as your average motor vehicle office. JFK's Terminal 4, completed two years ago, is clean, comfortable, and boring; the only flourish is an Alexander Calder mobile hanging from the open ceiling above the check-in desks. I'm not usually much for formality, but I wish I could see the days when men wore ties on airplanes, and a cocktail was more appropriate travel fare than a plastic cup of Sprite. Our airlines maintain a safe and working fleet of planes, but do little (at least in economy class) to spruce up the old beige interiors. We are traveling, but we are not made to think we are on a journey.
For the first time in history, we live with affordable, easy-to-use air travel, granting us the ability to visit far-flung places, see family, and teach ourselves about the world. Many of us have lived our whole lives with 300,000-pound vehicles hurling skyward, covering hundreds of miles in an hour, crossing the globe. Air travel has become so routine, we've stopped letting it amaze us. Put another way, if a miracle happens a thousand times a day, is it any less of a miracle?
- DarylJournal | Saturday, October 18, 2003 | #
Jet lag? Small potatoes.
After 30-some hours of travel from Delhi, I've returned to Brooklyn from my vacation in India. (Right now, Id' be grateful if I don't see the inside of a 747 for a while.) I had a delighful trip, with just the right dose of adventure. You can read below for some of the posts I wrote from India. I met some wonderful people, who I hope are reading this. I should have my pictures posted by Wednesday, depending on how long it takes to get my film developed. This evening, I'm enjoying being in a country where the lights work, the water is safe, and we drive on the proper side of the road. My cat is glad to see me, and I'm glad to see autumn has arrived.
- DarylJournal | Thursday, October 16, 2003, 7:15 p.m. India | #
India, land of the bazaar and bizarre
I'm writing again from the hotel in Delhi. This will likely be my last update until I go to the airport tomorrow night and board an early Saturday morning flight home to New York. I must say there isn't much charm to Delhi. Our other destinations in India were much more beautiful and friendly, and Delhi remains a tough place to be comfortable. Still, with our improved skills at dealing with transportation, food, etc., we've learned to at least get around and be reasonably happy as we shop in the bazaars. I have, fortunately, been in good health and comfortable this trip, though other members of our traveling group have gotten "Delhi belly," and one has a foot problem. Our ranks were reduced to three today as we toured Old Delhi and part of New Delhi. It's amazing how so much of this city falls just short of working. Some unreliable examples include cable TV (the channels have different numbers on each TV), bathroom hand dryers (they'll work for 5 seconds, then quit), rickshaw drivers (who lie about where they're taking you), and light switches (most of which seem to have no effect on the lights). Plus the air is incredibly polluted, from traffic congestion, power plants, and millions of people cooking over wood-burning fires in the streets. I can't overstate how annoying and aggressive the beggars are here. In short, Delhi is a good place to begin and end this journey. It got the initial shock out of the way, and it's not a place I'll miss once I leave it. Also, I heard the news this afternoon about the Staten Island Ferry accident in New York, which is a terrible story.
- DarylJournal | Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 11:50 p.m. India | #
From Jaipur to Delhi
I am writing this update from our hotel here in Delhi, where we have just arrived after a five-hour train trip from Jaipur. Meal service on the train made it seem faster. I've gotten to be friends with the other people with whom I'm traveling. (They are from the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand; all of us are traveling alone except for one married couple from London.) Three of us had a great time today shopping in Jaipur for gifts to take home. I still haven't mastered the skill of haggling for a good price, the way shopping is done here. Our tour has been a good mix of tourist sites and true-life India experiences. Last night we went to an enormous cinema to watch an Indian film, but I slept through most of it. I've been running on my standard rush of travel hyperactivity: staying up late, waking up early, doing every possible activity. It finally caught up to me during that movie, and I apparently missed some delighful musical numbers and cheesy fight scenes. (Hard to explain ÷ Bollywood movies must be seen to be believed.) Incredibly, I haven't spoken with another American since I arrived in India last week. No one in my travel group has even heard of Martha Stewart! Well, I'm signing off for now. Will write more later.
- DarylJournal | Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 6:20 p.m. India | #
Today's update comes from a creaky Internet station in front of our hotel in Jaipur. I have seen so much in the last few days that I cannot hope to summarize it here. India is a place that must be seen to be believed, a total amalgamation of ancient and modern. Outside this hotel (which, like most of our accommodations, is literally a palace, converted for tourists), there are several Internet cafes, but the power supply is so dodgy that none of them work except this one. Cows roam free. A thousand forms of transportation run down narrow streets, a thousand smells, a thousand sounds. We visited the Taj Mahal on Saturday and Sunday, a monument to love, God, wealth, and power, surrounded by devestating poverty and squallor. My tour group is a good bunch; seven of us including our guide. All English speaking, but I am the only American. Last night, we were guests of the royal family in a fort palace in a small rural village. (The raja opens his home to big-spending western tourists like us.) We had to ride for miles on dirt roads, dodging camels, cows, monkeys, and giant trucks, to make it there. This has simply been an amazing journey. I apologize for the rambling nature of this update, but there is so much to tell, and I haven't sorted it all out yet. Tonight, we watch a Bollywood film at a cinema here in Jaipur, then we shop at the bazaars tomorrow, and ride a train to Delhi tomorrow night. I hope to update again from Delhi, assuming the power is on.
- DarylJournal | Friday, October 10, 2003 - 1:40 p.m. India | #
I'm using the computer in the lobby of the Hotel Swati Deluxe, where I have successfully arrived and checked in for my first day in Delhi. My flight was five hours late in arriving (landing at 5 a.m. this morning, India time) and my sense of time still hasn't adjusted. This morning, after a wee bit of sleep, I caught a rickshaw (a three-wheeled cab ÷ quite a scary ride on India's lawless streets) and hired the driver to take me on a tour of the city. I've been to a Hindu temple, a Monghul (sp.?) tomb, a shopping area, the New Delhi government complex, and the India gateway arch, which is blocked off for fear of terrorism. Everywhere, it is obvious that I am an American touri$t, and people approach trying to get money from me any way they can. As an unfortunate result, I am relucant to trust any advice given to me. Delhi is an remarkable city, loud, busy, frightening, filled with wonderous things to see. Much of the city is under construction right now as they build a new Metro rail system. It is impossible to escape, however, the terrible air pollution that causes the whole city to stink of smoke. Having a great, but already exhausting, experience. Hope to write more later.
Wednesday, October 8, 2003
Tuesday afternoon, I watched from my office windows as the Queen Elizabeth II floated past on the Hudson and out to sea. Usually when a big boat sails by, bound for some wonderful place, I return to my desk and wish I were traveling, too. Well, for the next ten days, it's my turn. Tonight I get on a big bird that will fly me to the other side of the world, where I can experience places I've seen only in photographs. On Friday, I'm scheduled to join a guided tour in Delhi, which will take me around northern India for eight days. Word is that my hotel in Delhi lacks hot water, but does have free Internet access. So I might be able to keep up with the journal, but no guarantees. Something tells me I'm going to have more than a few conversations about how Arnold got elected governor. Miss you all, see you on the 18th.
Journal | Tuesday, October 7, 2003 | #
Shed pounds fast!
Like rocket payload specialists, the postal service, and people on the Atkins diet, I have become obsessed with weight. Not my own weight, but the weight of the pack that I'll carry on my vacation.
Dual-use items are the best. A fleece vest makes a great travel pillow. I have a little flashlight that doubles as a zipper pull. A beach bag becomes an extra compartment to organize my pack, and will work as a day pack/shopping bag. A piece of webbing can be an emergency pack strap, a belt, that missing link between a hammock and a tree, or whatever. A bandana has a dozen uses, from towel to hat.
I can leave all my keys behind in my car, and carry only my car key. For snacks, a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter is packed with carbs and protein. A book of crossword puzzles has far more time-wasting potential per page than a book or magazine. Only the tiniest bottles of soap and shampoo. No spare shoes. No Game Boy. No phone. No CD player. No raincoat. No underwear... Well, maybe that's going too far.
Journal | Monday, October 6, 2003 | #
Tranqulity v. adventure
Is it too much to ask? I want a comfortable bed that won't hurt my back.
I slept in late both Saturday and Sunday, tucked under blankets as autumn delivered its first chilly weekend. After breakfast Saturday, I took my car in for an inspection and a tire rotation, then walked through Park Slope to buy some last-minute provisions for my vacation.
Food to fill me up, and warm clothes, and all that stuff.
I packed my backpack, did some research on the computer, and listened to Prairie Home Companion on public radio. Later, Sterling and I curled up on the sofa to watch Saturday Night Live.
Pens that won't run out of ink, and cool quiet, and time to think.
After church Sunday, I went for a long walk through the Green-Wood Cemetery. The wind rustled the leaves, and flickers flew from tree to tree as I strolled beneath. Every once in a while, it's nice to have a weekend like this: To drink hot tea, wear slippers, and pretend I'm grounded, grown-up, and all-together. I put my alt-country music mix on the computer Sunday afternoon, and that great Lucinda Williams song came on. You know the one...
Shouldn't I have all of this? And passionate kisses?
Journal | Sunday, October 5, 2003 | #
Easy there, tiger
One week, two tiger attacks: First, prayers for Roy Horn, who suddenly became everyone's favorite illusionist after he was mauled during his show in Vegas. (Take that, David Blaine!) And second, a New York man was bitten by his massive Bengal tiger, which he kept in his Harlem apartment. Police captured the animal yesterday.
Needless to say, I've been keeping a careful eye on Sterling. Sometime last night, he discovered how to unspool toilet paper from the roll. I awoke to find that he had TP'd my bathroom. Thanks, buddy.
Journal | Saturday, October 4, 2003 | #
"Stick it to The Man!"
Millie and I went to see the movie School of Rock yesterday. I saw the trailer for this movie and my first impression was that it would be contrived and terrible. Wrong I was. School of Rock is a rare and precious thing: A simple, stupid, feel-good, marvelous, American comedy. Compare to: Groundhog Day. I could go on, but you're better off clicking your way to the AP review by Ben in Baltimore (Tiffany's boyfriend!).
This movie is wall-to-wall Jack Black. Music geeks might know him from his work with joke-rock band Tenacious D (which, really, is a pretty good name).
Lastly: This movie is another argument for doing away with the PG-13 rating in the MPAA rating system. I submit that there's simply no difference at this point between a PG and a PG-13 movie.
Journal | Friday, October 3, 2003 | #
The wisdom of MetroCard
The backs of MetroCards are sources of sage advice. Think of them like fortune cookies except all of the fortunes are about subways or buses. Here are two actual examples I saw recently:
Words to live by.
... Check out some cool 360-degree pictures, including one of the beautiful Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn: Click here. (Thanks to Renée for the link.)
Journal | Thursday, October 2, 2003 | #
There's a series of monthly readings called The Little Gray Books Lectures which I've now attended twice. Both times, I've returned full of energy and optimism about writing. My friend Betsy and I went last night. (Can't link to her web site anymore! Boo hoo!) It's difficult to explain this lecture series to people who are unfamiliar with it. Let's accept, though, that it is all about the kind of writing I want to do. Witty, informative, irreverent. It's rarely edgy or political. There is no shame here in being a geek. All five readings last night were nonfiction, except for one guy who used an overhead projector to showcase his comics he builds using clip-art office characters. You don't leave these events thinking "Wow, that was deep," or "That was brilliant." You're thinking "Damn, that was a good story. Now I want to tell everyone about it." The next installment lectures on the topic of "Brookline, Massachussets, A City That Has Everything And At The Same Time Has Nothing" is 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Galapagos Artspace in Williamsburg.
Journal | Wednesday, October 1, 2003 | #
A problem with no solution
This week it got cold, with crisp air on my face and a reason to wear a coat with lots of pockets. I welcome this change of season, but it begins a bad time for people who sleep outside. I read recently that the city's homeless population, after decreasing in the 1990s, is the largest it has been in years. The problem is not a lack of effort. The city spends as much as ever on shelters and social services. Homelessness never goes away because it's an unsolvable problem: How to help people unwilling to accept help. The very idea of a homeless shelter is a herculean task, bringing together a collection of people who can't take care of themselves. Shelters are so poor that many people would rather sleep on the streets. The social workers who run them deal with terrible frustrations. Of course each situation is different, but many homeless people labor under a mix of mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction. Many women and children come from terrible family situations. Many are suspicious of authority or have reason to fear arrest.
While we can't miss the "homeless" men on the subways, articulating their need for cash to buy "a sandwich or a piece of fruit," plenty of others lay low. One of my neighbors tossed an old mattress in the street for the garbage, and I was startled on Sunday afternoon to see a filthy, hairy man sleeping on top of it. It's common to see homeless men in the neighborhood where I work, but this is the first time I've seen someone sleeping on my block in Brooklyn. In that situation, it's frustrating not to know the right thing to do.
... Here's an interesting newspaper column about journalism and gay athletes.