Monday, May 31, 2010

Lest We Forget

It's Memorial Day, a time when we remember the soldiers who perished to secure our freedom. Our country is currently bogged down in two wars which is, sadly, creating lots more slain fighters to remember. Personally, I salute a great uncle of mine who was killed in WWII (obviously I never met him but I still pay him tribute).

It's probably the greatest service those of us lucky enough to be alive can render to those who no longer are: the simple act of remembering. Lest we forget.

But remembering and thinking of others shouldn't be limited only to one day or only to fallen soldiers (not that they don't deserve such a special day, clearly they do). It should be 24/7/365. And we should remember people who are both living and dead.

For example, let me give you a couple of NYC-centric examples. They're small tributes, really, but no less noble.

At the upcoming Tony Awards show, a special Tony will be given to the NYPD for their heroism in quickly thwarting and arresting the Times Square bomber. These cops not only saved a lot of lives but also a major NYC industry in the midst of a recession. I'm glad that Broadway is honoring these guys now.

And here's another act of remembering: TV actor Gary Coleman died this past weekend. He was a big star on the show "Diff'rent Strokes" in the 1970s and 80s but his life took a sad turned after the show ended. His parents stole all the money he earned, he had health problems and run-ins with the law. He was so deeply troubled, in fact, that he was turned into a down n'out character in the Broadway musical "Avenue Q." Gary's death has led to some tweakings in the show but his character will not be excised. Although he had a sad life he will be forever immortalized in a classic, joyous piece of theater that gives people as much joy as his TV character did to me a child.

Then there are those who haven't died or been killed but who are struggling. Because of the state budget crises, many adult literacy classes are being cut. Let's not forget these people who are being hurt.

So from soldiers to cops to adult students to TV actors, we naturally think of the poet Rudyard Kipling. He wrote a great poem called "Recessional" in 1897 (for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee) about how, when nations rise to great power, they often forget their God.
"Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget--lest we forget!
he opines at one point, or else we will go into decline.

Well, we all go into permanent decline at some point and we hope that we will be remembered long afterwards.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Si, Venice


Yes, we went to Venice. And it was great.

In an attempt to curb my usual long-windedness, I will do my best to sum up the trip as efficiently as possible.

First, the sights. We saw just about everything: St. Mark's Basilica, the Correr Museum, the Doge's Palace with the Bridge of Sighs, San Giorgio Maggiore, La Salute, the Campanile Bell Tower, Frari Church, the Scuola San Rocco (which houses an amazing collection of Tinterretto paintings), Ca'Rezzonico, the Accademia, the Jewish Ghetto, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. We also went to Murrano to check out the glass factories, spent an afternoon sunning on the beach at the Lido, and even saw a Regatta.

Second, the weather: amazing. The temperatures ranged from between 60 to 70 degrees and it was sunny every day (we did have a spot of rain on Thursday afternoon but otherwise the sky was blue and perfect). Italy gets really hot in the summer so this was a great time of year to go, just before the worst of it. Best of all, we got really tanned.

Third, the food: for the most part it was good but sadly our last night's meal was lousy. Venice is not known as a great restaurant town but most of the places we hit were pretty good. There are lots of places and finding a good spot is all a matter of luck. We also ate tons of pizza and even cooked some fresh pasta one night (we stayed in a little apartment with a kitchen).

Our favorite restaurant was called Trattoria de Marisa ai Tre Archi located on the Fondamenta San Giobbe in the Carnnaregio district. This is a small place where they have no menu and instead serve a multi-course meal consisting entirely of either meat or fish, depending on the night. It costs 35 Euros per person and includes dessert and wine. We came on an all fish night and had squid, ocotopuss, various fried fishes, and a delicious pastichio. If you are ever in Venice, you must treat yourself to this restaurant, it's charming and the food is excellent.

We also coughed up some money and treated out selves to drinks at Caffe Florian. This is a legendary cafe that has existed in Venice, right on St. Mark's Square, since 1720. It is very elegant and swanky and drinks were amazing (I had a Florian Martini and my wife had the Anniversiro Florian). Among Florian's customers over the centuries: Goethe, Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, Charles Dickens, Wagner, Ernest Hemingway, and countless others. (Talk about celebrity clientele.) It has also been featured in some great literature too, like Henry James' "The Wings of the Dove" and Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." It's a truly legendary place.

Fourth (and finally), the city itself. Venice its a beautiful, stunning place. Building and after building, separated by a maze of canals and narrow alleys, is a feast for the eyes. The architecture of Venice is so unique and each structure was built with such care and attention to detail, with so many different flourishes, that after a while your eyes begin to melt from overload. Sadly, over the years, Venice's economy has shrunk to the point where there is practically no other business in town except tourism. Every place you go there are lots and lots of tourists and all the businesses exist to serve them. While this is convenient (and, speaking as a tourist, it would be hypocritical of me to complain), the city has become so "pimped" out to tourists that it only seems like a Las Vegas version of itself, not the real the thing. That said, I'll still go to the real Venice over the Venetian any day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Arrivederci


So Mr NYC and wife have packed their bags and, despite the ash clouds and cabin crew strikes that temporarily threatened it, now have clear skies and smooth flying to a land that gave us the Mona Lisa and the Ferrari -- amongst a few other notable things. Hopefully I'll have some good things to share when we get back. And no, I won't be buying you all gifts. Where exactly in this country we are going? I'll leave that a mystery for now. Just take a look at this picture and guess. We'll be back in a week. See ya!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is NYC Tyrannical?

Recently a scribe named Conor Friedersdorf wrote an article in The Atlantic called "The Tyranny of New York." His thesis: that NYC produces too much culture, too much news, too much stuff, that it attracts too many people and too much talent, and that it shamelessly waves all of this in the face of the rest of the country so as to make the American people feel alienated and resentful towards NYC. He believes the relationship between NYC and the rest of the country is "unhealthy." Hence the supposed "tyranny."

What a tool. What an utter tool.

In fact, his theory was so dumb that Conor himself basically retracted it a week later in a piece called "The Tyranny of New York Revisited" where he calls his initial idea "flawed." Basically, he revised thesis goes, wouldn't it be nice if there was some other American town that could hold its own against NYC? And isn't it a crying shame that there isn't? Yes, that would be so lovely, Conor, I'm sure you're the first person to have thought of it.

You gotta read these two very stupid pieces by this very stupid man -- if you can, if you dare -- in order to see how embarrassingly dumb someone can be who thinks he is smart. It proves that anyone, really, can get published (particularly in a respectable publication like The Atlantic) if they have the right connections, know the right people, kiss the right tuchus, etc.

Woody Allen was right: Conor's writing proves that there really is such a thing as "mental masturbation." I'll be the first to admit that Mr NYC (like all blogs) is basically a big act of mental masturbation but at least no one pays me to do it like Conor or that kid in "Boogie Nights"! Egads.

Look, Conor, and all you NYC "playa hateas": my city, my hometown, is not tyrannical. It is, quite simply, one of a select few of the great cities of the world, up there with London, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Beijing, and Tokyo. It's really big, really rich, really exciting, and really complex because it attracts amazing people from all over America and the world. They come here because it encapsulates everything that's so great about America and these are the people that make it so great. NYC is a place where dreams come true, always has been, always will be.

"If you can make it here" and so on.

Some of you might say hey, Mr NYC, why are you taking this so personally? He's just a jackass (and he certainly is) so why do you care? Well, it's simple really: you attack my city, you attack me. I don't care if you're an Arab terrorist or a douche writing for The Atlantic.

But it goes deeper than that and it's more sinister. It's part of what I call a "red state narcissism", a belief that big cities are somehow "un-American." I really resent this. Big cities are the most American places in America because, you know what, they have more Americans in them! Conor reminds me of people like Sarah Palin who not only knock big cities and praise small towns but also use derisive terms like "liberal elitists", "illegal aliens", and "welfare recipients", etc. Let me clear up something right now:

Welfare recipients = black people
Illegal aliens = Spanish people and other swarthy foreigners
Liberal elitists = Jews.

And being a white person I know my own kind very well and can tell you that this is what people like Conor and Sarah mean when they use terms like this or trash places like NYC as being "tyranical. NYC and cities like it, as well as the people who live in them, make white people feel insecure and threatens their position of privledge. I mean, after all, the president is black -- what do these white folks have left if not there own sense of their own superiority?

So, in closing, I will simply say this: NYC is not tyrannical. It's just a great place.
And lots of people know this and "want to be a part of it." I'm not even saying it's the greatest place in the world -- it's just one of them. And if people like Conor have a problem with that, well, tough noogies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NYC: Past, Present, Future

Ecclesiastes 1:9 "That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun."

Compared to the other great cities of the world, New York is relatively young -- around 400 years old. Rome, London, Paris, Beijing are thousands years old so NYC is a baby in relation to them. But compared to most American cities, NYC is quite old. And one of the joys of living here is discovering spots where the past isn't past at all but still very much present. Walking on the twisting streets of Lower Manhattan you can imagine what our city was like in Colonial times. Go to Staten Island and see the old homes and stately mansions of the pre-Industrial era. And on and on. Sometimes the past jumps out at you. There's nothing I like seeing more than a building with an generations-old advertisement for a product or business that's long since gone -- like the Corn Exchange Bank or Gimbels department store.

Preserving New York's past is a hard job and not all of it can be salvaged. Some wonderful old buildings have been destroyed and others have been gutted. There are even literally pieces of the old city that have been preserved -- but that are now being shipped away. But there are also movements afoot to revive the old city (or at least parts of it), to resurrect that Old New York flavor. And yet this is controversial. Many bemoan gentrification and argue that the city was so much better in the "good old days." Then again, some people argue that the good old days weren't so good.

Amazingly there has been a lot of debate lately about old and new NYC, about whether the city has lost its soul or is better than ever. Like anything, I think it's a mixed bag: in many ways, our city is safer and more beautiful than it's been in a long time, and with better schools! Our government is more efficient and less corrupt than it's been, well, ever. And people are moving here at a furious rate. At the same time, the middle class is being squeezed out, glass monstrosities are going up everywhere, and transportation is worse than ever before.

So I fall on the side of the argument that things are somewhat better than ever but there are still big problems in NYC. And while the problems past aren't entirely gone neither are its wonders ... so NYC will continue to evolve, devolve, improve, recede, and survive ... as it has, as it does, as it always will.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Tale of Two Chiefs

In NYC, like any big city, the second most prominent and powerful official after the mayor is the police chief. Since their one and only duty is to fight crime and not beg for votes, many police chiefs become more popular than the mayors they serve.

This is certainly the case with our current police chief, Ray Kelly. He first served in this post under Mayor Dinkins and then was brought back by Mayor Bloomberg. Kelly has served in the job since 2002, almost a decade, and has an approval rating of 70%, almost ten points higher than Bloomberg himself. Kelly is given kudos for the city's ever plummeting crime rate. Whether he really deserves all this credit is a matter for debate -- Kelly is not without since critics. Some say he fudges the numbers. Some say he's just good at PR and manipulates the press. Some say he dispenses with things like civil liberties and engages in overly aggressive tactics. The man himself seems not to care a whit. In Kelly's mind, so long as crime stays low and New Yorkers are happy with his job performance, any tactics are fine.

End of story.


And Kelly's story is profiled this week in an extensive New York magazine article that takes you into the man's mind and life. It's an interesting read. You have to admire his intense discipline and creating thinking in fighting crime. At the same time, you can't help but be a little disturbed by his dictatorial attitude, his hardcore authoritarian streak. Also, it appears that he abuses the privileges of his office somewhat. He uses his job to enjoy a black tie, red carpet, celebrity lifestyle. And apparently the cops have been known to drive his wife around to collect his dry-cleaning and other stuff, using public resources for private purposes.

Hmmm? Last time we had a situation like this, with former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi having his sick wife chauffeured by state drivers, he was forced to resign and cop to a felony. But Kelly gets away with it. His popularity and the nature of his job permit it. It shows you the double-standard in politics that allows certain individuals to get away with stuff that others can't. Kelly is riding high ... and is apparently in no danger of falling off any time soon. As one of his defenders says in the piece, "Let's not break his balls."

Well, okay then.

Talking about balls, one NYC police chief who is most definitely not riding high tonight is Bernie Kerik. The erstwhile "hero of 9/11," Kelly's immediate predecessor, has officially started his four year prison sentence. He accepted illegal gifts and lied to the White House during his vetting for Homeland Security chief (which mercifully fell through). Kerik's story is really a Shakespearean tragedy of man who came from nothing to scale the greatest heights only to fail spectacularly. He's a reminder of the dangers of ego and hubris run amok, of letting power and its privileges taint your judgement and leading one to become the very thing one hates. Sad. I imagine that for the next four years, Bernie's gonna be getting his balls broke every friggin' day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Secret Life of Artistic Vendors in NYC

Read all about it here.

The Robert Moses Debate

A couple of years ago I reviewed Robert Caro's 1974 book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. This Pulitzer Prize winning biography about NYC's "master builder" has been generating controversy for close to forty years. On The New York Times online, there has recently been an ongoing debate about the Moses' legacy that is captured in a new book called The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. The debate is monitored by the book's author Roberta Brandes Gratz and she provides some very smart answers to all sorts of reader questions about this man who continues to haunt NYC almost 30 years after his death.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Farewell Law & Order

Okay, Mr NYC is about to throw down, getting all East Coast-West Coast for ya'all.

Literally. But I'll get to that in a moment.

After twenty years, that venerable NYC institution, the TV show Law & Order has been canceled. Seems impossible. It's been on the air forever. When this show premiered, David Dinkins was mayor, the first President Bush was in the White House, the Internet didn't exist, and Barack Obama was still in law school. If you were born when this show premiered, you'd be in college now. But "to everything there is a season" and now Law & Order's twentieth season will be its last. This means the show is now tied with Gunsmoke as the longest running TV show of all time.

Wow. In a show-biz landscape that has changed many times in the last twenty years, that's about as spectacular a run as any show can expect to have. Only The Phantom of the Opera and The Simpsons have done better.

There are many reasons why L&O is DOA but the main reason, as usual in television, is ratings. For the last several years, the show's ratings have been very poor and it was getting tough to justify its continued economic existence. Granted this show and its spin offs have generated millions of dollars for NBC, particularly in re-runs (and re-runs of re-runs of re-runs) but the cost-benefit of new episodes had become prohibitive. So off the air it goes.

There are many conflicting stories about the show's demise. Some say it could have been saved, others that it was long, long past its expiration date. What's for certain, however, is that L&O's cancellation is yet another hit to an already lousy economy, since the show provided work for thousands of technicians, caterers, writers, administrators, and, of course, struggling actors. Now that spigot has been turned off. Sad.

But L&O will live on -- sorta. Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will continue. And apparently NBC is planning a new series called Law & Order: Los Angeles.

Ouch.

This is where NBC gets gangsta. WHY? WHY? WHY? Why are they creating an LA version of this show? Does TV really need this? L&O is a New York show, L&O is New York. What made the show great was its real NYC grittiness, it was filmed on the streets and in the apartments of real New Yorkers, it has the city in its veins, in its heart, in its soul. Every frame of the past twenty seasons screamed NYC. And now there gonna transpose that to ... LA?

It won't work. It can't work. I hope it fails.

Count this as yet another example of Los Angeles getting greedy and outright stealing - yes, STEALING -- something great from NYC and trying to make its own. First, in the 1950s, it was the Dodgers. This classic Brooklyn team was uprooted and taken to LA by greedy managers and that prick Robert Moses' machinations. Then, in the early 1970s, it was The Tonight Show, which ditched 30 Rock for "beautiful downtown Burbank" (yuck). And now it's Law & Order ... The show itself is its own most tragic victim.

Yes, if you can make it here then ... LA will try to steal you.

We gave them a great baseball team, the greatest talk show in history, and now a classic crime drama. And what did LA give us? The "Real Housewives" -- ugh. New York has been a creative and financial pipeline to LA for years, LA is basically NYC's bratty younger brother. Schnooks.

So farewell Law & Order. You did New York proud. Our city won't quite be the same without you. You really will be missed (well, not really, it'll be in re-runs until the fall of man but you get the gist). Goodbye.

Law & Order - Opening Titles (Season 1)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The NYC Block

With the nomination of Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court, as I noted earlier, more New Yorkers will be on our nation's highest court. I had forgot to mention that, besides Kagan, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia is also a New Yorker -- he was born in New Jersey, grew up in Queens, and went to high school in Manhattan (Xavier). So that makes four New Yorkers on the Supreme Court -- three liberal women and one male conservative.

Poor Staten Island. It is the only borough without a Justice on the court.

None of this has gone unnoticed and the following articles from various publications examine how and why four of the nine Supreme Court justices came from our fair city.

The reason is simple, really. One word: grit.

New Yorkers may soon dominate Supreme Court
A New York Bloc on the Supreme Court
Kagan would be high court's third — New Yorker?
What does the Wu-Tang Clan have in common with Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg & Scalia?

Audit the MTA!

Regular readers of this blog know how much I dislike the MTA. They make getting around this town a nightmare and the upcoming service cuts are going to hit New Yorkers really, really hard.

Regular readers of this blog also know that I'm a big fan of City Comptroller John Liu, who I enthusiastically endorsed last year.

Well, my vote of confidence has yet again been justified: Comptroller Liu has teamed up with State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to audit the MTA! They're going to find out just what has this opaque public authority been doing with our money all these years. Hopefully they'll find out why, for the love of God why, this agency has done such a piss poor job transporting New Yorkers.

Specifically, they're going to find out why there are all these late night and weekend service "track work" changes that screw up people's commutes. Are they really necessary? They're finally investigating this, and this is a question one that I've been asking for a long, long time. It seems that they do track work all the time, week after week, year after year. Do they really need to? Hopefully we'll get some answers from this audit.

It's easy to be cynical about politicians, Lord knows, but sometimes you get a really good one and one of those is my man John Liu (and, of course, Mr DiNapoli who I now endorse for re-election this fall).

Not a Surprise


New York Minorities More Likely to Be Frisked

If you're black and Latino you are nine times more likely to be frisked by the cops than if you're white.

That means if you're white, you are nine times less likely to be frisked.

Most (white) people say, "Well, if it helps prevent crimes, then what's the problem?" As a white people, I can understand this.

But just imagine if the situation was reversed. Do you think white people would be okay with this? Something tells me, eh, not so much.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fun City Revisited: Mayor John Lindsay


Forty-five years ago New Yorkers elected a handsome Upper East Side patrician named John Lindsay as Mayor. Using the campaign slogan "He is fresh and everyone else is tired", Lindsay became the first Republican Mayor of NYC since LaGuardia and he promised to be a bright, optimistic new light in our city's brutal political culture.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Lindsay's two terms (1966-1973) were a rough, controversial time in this city's history. It was marked by transit and garbage strikes, rising crime rates, racial disputes, and white flight. Lindsay is accused, either fairly or unfairly, of triggering the financial crises of the 1970s and plunging this city into dark days that it only began to emerge from in the 1990s.

Of course the backdrop of Lindsay's terms were the Vietnam War, de-segregation, and Watergate. It would have been a rough time for anyone to be mayor, often called the country's second hardest job, and Lindsay has been given credit for preventing the city from exploding into riots (unlike LA) and for bringing a great heart to the urban jungle.

It was he who said, in NYC's darkest hours, that this was still a "fun city."

The Lindsay legacy is currently being revisited at an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. Also, there's a new documentary about the Lindsay years currently airing on public television. You can also listen to a debate about Lindsay that was broadcast last week on WNYC.

Go back in time and decide for yourself if this time in history, NYC really was "fun city."

Elena Kagan Goes Supreme


Today President Obama announced his pick to fill Justice John Paul Stevens' place on the US Supreme Court -- and, whaddya know, he picked another NYC girl!

Last year it was Bronx native Sonia Sotomayor and now its Upper West Side gal Elena Kagan.

Cool. Finally a Supreme Court justice from my kneck o'the woods! She also graduated from Hunter College High School, a place where a certain relative of mine also went.

This will make three women on the Supreme Court, New York ladies all; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, appointed by President Clinton in the 1990s, is from Brooklyn.

Currently Ms. Kagan serves as the US Solicitor General and is the government's chief advocate in front of the court she will soon be joining. She was also formerly the Dean of Harvard Law School, clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, and worked in the Clinton White House. She's never been a judge before but that's only because, in the late 1990s, the Senate Republicans prevented her nomination to the Federal bench from getting a vote. It'll be interesting to see if they try to do the same thing again.

I recently heard a white male on the radio complain that, with the appointment of these two New York women to the court in the last year (a Catholic Latina and now a Jew) plus Justice Ginsberg, there's less "diversity" on the court than there used to be. Hmm? If I remember correctly, for about the first 200 years it was all white men who occupied the court. Isn't it interesting how certain people start kvetching about diversity when it's they who start feeling under-represented?

America really is changing.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Interview: Urban Infidel

When CNBC reporter Rick Santelli ranted on air about the government bailing out "losers" who couldn't afford their mortgages, he then declared that there should be new American Tea Party movement -- a citizens' rebellion against bailouts, stimulus programs, redistribution of wealth, etc.

His prayers were answered.

In the last year there has been a groundswell of protesters around the country calling themselves Tea Partiers. They are firmly aligned against taxing and government spending in general, and the Obama administration's economic policies in particular. They have expressed themselves through big rallies, confronting congresspeople at town hall meetings, and voting Republican. And the Tea Party is even active here in NYC.

Urban Infidel is a NYC blog that chronicles the Tea Party movement and this new conservative counter-culture. And it does it in a very interesting way. Instead of regular blog posts and links, it documents it through original photography and on-the-scene reporting (unlike most of us thumbsucking bloggers, Urban Infidel actually enters the fray and chronicles it first-hand). Although Urban Infidel claims not to be either an official Tea Partier or a straight-line Republican voter, the blog strongly supports the Tea Party's goals. Urban Infidel was kind enough to answer my questions about the blog and the Tea Party movement here in NYC:

What's your blog about and why did you call it Urban Infidel?

My blog is a photo-documentary of the political scene in New York City. I photograph mainly political demonstrations and political street art. I also like to cover parades such as the Veterans Day Parade and the Muslim Day Parade. Unlike most bloggers, I don’t blog everyday –who has the time?—and I don’t do running commentary on day-to-day news items. All of the content is original, so there may only be a couple of new posts each month.

I initially created the blog to entertain my friends and then it just evolved from there. I was inspired by zombie at zombietime.com who has been doing an amazing job photographing political demonstrators among other things in San Francisco. I thought, ‘Hey, I have a camera and I live in NY. I can do that too!’ The name ‘Urban Infidel’ just came to me. The words had a nice ring to them. It just felt right.

What's your blog about and why did you call it Urban Infidel?

My blog is a photo-documentary of the political scene in New York City. I photograph mainly political demonstrations and political street art. I also like to cover parades such as the Veterans Day Parade and the Muslim Day Parade. Unlike most bloggers, I don’t blog everyday –who has the time?—and I don’t do running commentary on day-to-day news items. All of the content is original, so there may only be a couple of new posts each month.

I initially created the blog to entertain my friends and then it just evolved from there. I was inspired by zombie at zombietime.com who has been doing an amazing job photographing political demonstrators among other things in San Francisco. I thought, ‘Hey, I have a camera and I live in NY. I can do that too!’ The name ‘Urban Infidel’ just came to me. The words had a nice ring to them. It just felt right.

Starting out I never thought anyone would actually even read it but then things took off and my work began appearing in places like Hot Air, Michelle Malkin, Jihad Watch, The American Thinker, National Review Online, Instapundit, FrontPage Magazine, Atlas Shrugged, The Religion of Peace, Islam Watch and Pajamas Media and many more. All of which makes me very proud.

What made you join the Tea Party movement? Is it hard to be a Republican/Tea Partier in NYC?

I’ve been attending political demonstrations since 2006, so in a way the Tea Party kind of joined me. For years in this town there were only a very small handful of conservative activists countering the rampant leftist madness. So I am thrilled to see Americans who have never been to a rally of any kind in their lives freely exercising their First Amendment rights.

I support the Tea Party movement. But I am not a member. I haven’t joined anything as I am not generally a joiner. The Tea Party movement is one of the best things to happen in America. It has reinvigorated our political process. I am not a Republican. I am an independent voter and a former Democrat. I will be registering as an Independent. Is it hard to be a conservative in NYC? Yes, sometimes. Most of my friends and colleagues are liberals, but I’m used to that. But I stick to my guns and vote for the best person for the job, never just along party lines. I voted for Rudy Giuliani three times; the first time when he ran against Dinkins and lost and then again for his two victories. I took a lot of heat from my friends for that.

The Tea Party believes that the Federal government spends too much money. What should the government should spend less money on - and how much less?

...

The top marginal income tax rate is 35%. How much lower should it be?

...

President Bush racked up huge deficits during his eight years in office. Why didn't the Tea Party get started then?

The Tea Party started because of the mortgage bailouts and went from there. It was accelerated by the healthcare and stimulus bills and Obama’s government spending that has far exceeded the Bush administration. I think that the current administration is also viewed by many as the most radical that this country has ever seen. This has people understandably worried about the future.

Finally, what do you love about being a New Yorker and what is the future of the Tea Party in NYC?

I am a native and have a deep relationship to this city. New York is the greatest city in the world and a place for opportunities of every kind imaginable. I am truly lucky to have been born here.

The future of the Tea Party in NYC? There are over 70 Tea Party organizations in New York State. The Tea Party, in whatever form, loose or organized, isn’t going anywhere. I hope it encourages more people to run for office and get involved in our political processes.

Thanks!

Staten Island Ferry Crash

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bare Burger

A good burger is hard to find. The easiest to get, obviously, are fast food burgers but they are, well, gross. Diners have good burgers but they're really hit or miss in terms of tastiness. On the other end of the burger spectrum are those super-expensive burgers made from exotics meats that are served on silvers platter by white-gloved waiters in fancy restaurants.

Isn't there a place where you can get a superior burger at a reasonable price in this town?

Yes! In Astoria, Queens, a block or so down from the 30th Avenue N/W subway stop, is a little place that makes awesome burgers with amazing fries. It's called Bare Burger, an organic joint, and these are easily some of the best burgers I've had in NYC in a long, long time.

Bar Burger lets you design your burger from top to bottom. First, you can choose your own meat: Piedmontese beef, turkey, grilled chicken, veggie, Portabella mushroom, bison, ostrich, elk or lamb. Next, choose your bun: brioche, 7 grain or wrap or iceberg lettuce. Then you can select a type of burger from their wonderful menu and have it cooked to your preference.

My wife ordered a veggie burger in a brioche bun which she loved and I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with elk meat that was unbelievable good. Best of all: the fries. These are fresh cut served with the skin still on (my favorite) and they serve the fries with three different dipping sauces: spicy chipotle mayor, curry ketchup and a special sauce. These fries are so amazing you have to hold yourself back from gobbling them up.

Our very friendly waitress even told us "I work here because of the fries."

And talking about the service, it's excellent. We didn't wait long for our food and they were really on top of everything. We went there on a Saturday night and had to wait about fifteen minutes for a table (it's not huge) so on a regular weeknight you'll have no problem getting a table.

The restaurant has a friendly, relaxed decor with brick walls. If the weather's good, sitting outside is very nice (it's not too near the street). So, if you want a really good, affordable burger and can make a short trip out to Astoria, check out Bare Burger.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Interview: Imogene Lee

Popular culture idealizes the life of horny single women in NYC -- after all, there wouldn't be a second Sex and the City movie about to come out if people weren't so fascinated. But the reality of it is a lot more complicated and a lot more naughty than anything you see on TV.

Few write about their crazy single female life in NYC with greater aplomb -- and lets her readers in on all the really dirty details -- than Imogene Lee. She recently penned a very revealing article about her exploits in The New York Press and also maintains blog called Cruising with the Awesome Slut. She writes with an honesty that burns through your screen. Best of all, her writes really well, combining raw honesty with excellent prose.

You could call her an Erica Jong 2.0.

Imogene was kind enough to answer a few questions for Mr NYC readers about what it's like to be a single woman in NYC -- and what makes her so awesome.

What made you start your blog and what makes you so awesome?

I started my blog to chronicle my dating experiences, especially after realizing what I was seeking is probably not the average "relationship" by societal standards. It was the summer where I thought I was found by a former lover but ultimately, I lost him, and I was emotionally devastated. I threw myself into what might well be considered a fuck frenzy with strangers, trying to find some solace. In the process, I thought I should catalog everything so I could monitor my thoughts, emotions, and impetus.

What makes me awesome? I'm intelligent, well-educated, and support feminism. I don't want to say "I'm a feminist" because that would label me, and labels are very limiting.

Do you resent the double standard when it comes to men vs. women who sleep around?

Of course I do. But I find that in my circle of friends, that doesn't really happen. Sex is an enjoyable act -- why should people be shamed for having it?

Is it hard to be a single woman in NYC? Do you want to settle down?

No, it's not hard at all, but it does get disheartening since the majority of my friends and family are coupled up. When that happens, they tend to disappear and become reclusive in their domesticity. I admit, I go through bouts of loneliness, where I'd love to come home to someone who's got dinner ready and a willing ear. (Maybe I should just get a roommate...or a big dog.)

Do I want to settle down? At some point, yes. I've had long term, serious, committed relationships in the past, and I am not averse to one, but I think at this point in my life I'm not just ready for it. My finances, living situation and precarious job situation all make me not really a viable "girlfriend" option.

You share a lot about your private life on your blog. Tell us something about yourself that we don't know?

I suffered from depression and anxiety for years and was on antidepressants for a long time. I don't want to say that I'm fully out of the woods but I tapered off the medication at the beginning of this year and it's surprising how my outlook has changed. Things seem much more optimistic for me, and I do believe that positive thinking helps to encourage further progression towards healing. I'm still fragile though, despite putting forth a really tough exterior.

Finally, what do you love about NYC?

There's anything you want, any time you want. I am spoiled. In what other city can I walk out the door and get pierogies, pineapple pizza and a Pepsi at 4am?

Thanks Imogene!

The Cuomo Dynasty

We Americans have a love-hate relationship with powerful families. We hate nepotism and disdain the idea of electing people to office just because they come from a famous family. At the same time, a powerful family is like a brand, a comforting pre-sold item that we feel safe buying over and over again -- and that's why political dynasties emerge.

The last few decades have seen the rise of several political dynasties. The Clintons, the Bushes and the Kennedys are currently the most famous dynasties in American politics. Then there are regional dynasties like the Tafts of Ohio or the Carnahans of Missouri.

Here in New York we haven't really had a major political dynasty since the Roosevelts. However, this year will probably cement the Cuomos as New York's newest political dynasty. Mario Cuomo, of course, was governor for twelve years from 1983-1995. Before that he was the New York Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor, spending 20 years in high office in the state government. In 2006, his son Andrew was elected Attorney General and now is the odd-on favorite to become governor. That will mean Cuomo pere and fils will have racked up almost thirty years of service to this state and, if Andrew is a successful governor and serves as long as his dad, it will push forty.

So who are the Cuomos? What is this new dynasty all about? Some recent articles about this family sheds some light and you can read them here and here. You can also read about why it's easier for sons to continue family dynasties than women -- something that Caroline Kennedy can certainly attest to.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Club NYC

These days the worst thing a person can be called is an "elitist." The term has become an epithet and even some rich and powerful people like to throw it at their enemies. We Americans admire, almost deify, the wealthy, but we don't want that wealth to transform them into precious snobs. Being rich and prominent is dandy but you gotta keep it real.

Rich, good. Elitist, bad.

It's hard to even know what an elitist is these days. The term is elastic. Some people will say, obviously, that being wealthy equals being elitist but others will argue that it has more of to do with your discriminating cultural outlook than your socioeconomic status.

This presents a conundrum. Some non-rich folks can be elitists while some rich people can avoid the curse. It's an endless debate.

Hmm? Perhaps the only good elite thing to be these days is an elite airline passenger. After all, it takes a lot of flying so that you can board the plane first and get upgrades. No one's going to begrudge anyone that. That's earned elitism I guess. And the debate goes on.

But if you want to define what being a true elitist in NYC means, that's easy. It means not only being rich, not only having a certain degree of professional and social prominence, but also being the member of a club. Not strip clubs or night clubs or sports clubs. Nor the kind of clubs that people form who have common interest -- books clubs, wine clubs, arts clubs, etc. I mean the kinds of clubs that give the term "club" and "elitist" their real meaning -- places that are exclusive because they exclude.

I'm talking about the old school, old money, must-wear-a-suit-and-tie-on-the-premises-clubs with dining rooms, guest rooms, pool rooms, gyms, libraries, and bars. I mean the kind of place where they serve 50 year old scotch to members sitting on black leather chairs while they discuss earning or losing their latest millions. I mean the kind of clubs where you must be sponsored for membership, get letters of recommendations, be approved of by a committee, and then spend around $25,000 a year for the privilege of breathing this rarefied air. I mean the clubs where the rich and powerful like to relax and unwind and entertain. The kind of clubs where true elitists can be found.

They still exist in NYC. These kinds of clubs are still amongst us. The people who belong to them, the true elitists in our midst, do not call attention to these clubs or to themselves. They do not court publicity. Instead, these clubs and their members, these true elitists, preserve that classy old-world charm of grace, elegance, refinement, and class.

Because they fly under the radar, I don't know how many of these clubs are left. Certainly I can't name them all. But the ones I know about and have links to here (if you're interested to learn more) are:

The Union League Club
The Metropolitan Club
The New York Athletic Club
The Colony Club
The Knickerbocker Club

Some of them don't have websites -- they are that private. And if you know of some more, please let us know. I have been to one of these clubs for dinner (can't say which one, my hosts would be offended) and it was almost like stepping into late 19th century London society. This was a place where class was just as important as money. And I remember thinking, if this was elitism than it was elitism at its very best.