Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee, RIP

The brilliant comic book creator and Marvel founder Stan Lee has died at age 95.

The list of classic characters he created and co-created is jaw-dropping: Spider-Man, Iron-Man, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Strange, and The Thing (amongst many others). 

A son of the the Upper West Side and Washington Heights, Stan Lee loved NYC and made it the backdrop for many of his characters. Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) is from Queens and The Fantastic Four have their own Manhattan building.

Even though Stan Lee was a creator of superheroes, they were also recognizably human -- they might have superpowers but they had normal vulnerabilities and insecurities. They were New Yorkers to their cores -- tough but humane, smart but sensitive, aggressive but compassionate. Just like their creator. Just like NYC. 

RIP Stan Lee -- we won't see your likes again. Excelsior! 

P.S. Not only was Stan Lee a great creative mind but he was also a solider, a veteran of WWII.

And here they talk about The Thing in Reservoir Dogs


It's Official -- Amazon & 25,000 Jobs Headed to LIC


Monday, November 12, 2018

Who Makes a City?

Recently I watched again the great 1974 movie Chinatown, the noir thriller about the battle for land and water in 1930s Los Angeles. While the movie itself is fiction, the story is based on the very real history of how William Mulholland brought water to -- and stole it from -- Los Angeles. He was a man of humble origins, a hardworker, an immigrant (!) from Ireland who worked his way up the economic ladder, and helped shaped the nation's second largest city -- while making himself rich and causing the death of 500 people in the meantime. A legend and a monster all at once.

History is made of such people, and the people who powered the growth of cities are no exception.

In NYC, the masterbuilder Robert Moses is the most obvious example -- a great builder of roads, bridges, parks, and everything else who brought this city into the 20th century -- and also destroyed neighborhoods and lives forever. But Moses was not the only transformative New Yorker -- think of the great artists and businesspeople who have shaped it -- Broadway producers like the Shuberts and the Nederlanders, filmmakers like Scoresese and Woody Allen, businessmen like the Rockefellers and Lew Rudin, the list of New Yorkers who built this city and made it rich (literally and figuratively is great). Some were great, some were awful, and many were both -- but they gave us our city, for better or worse. 

That's why I loved reading this excerpt from a book about the growth of New Orleans. It's about the various characters -- some inspiring, some frightening, many just down right weird -- who shaped the Crescent City in the 20th century. I love New Orleans and have blogged about my 2009 trip there as well as other things I love about. As a city, it couldn't be any more different from NYC but, like NYC, it has great characters over the years who made it the great place that it is.

And, if you're the mood for some good New Orleans grub, consult this list of the best canjun-creole joints in NYC.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown - The Final Episode

It premieres Sunday night on CNN, finding him touring and eating on the Lower East Side.

In many ways, his story ends right where it began -- in the heart of NYC.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Making an Icon

If you were smart enough to vote in NYC yesterday, you were handed one of these cute "I Voted" stickers. 


This sticker really is an example of smart, inclusive, economical art that captures, dare I say, the spirit and energy of NYC: all five boroughs called out, divided by subway-map looking lines reflecting, literally and figuratively, the "political stripes" of this day and age: red, blue, purple, green -- although what yellow represents I have no idea.

Anyway, this sticker is fast becoming iconic, much like the "I [Heart] NY" one from long ago. If you'd like to know more about how this sticker came to be, and the person who created it, read this.   

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Big Upset in Staten Island

Democrats swept New York State last night, winning outright control of the State Senate as well as several congressional districts. 

One of them was right here in NYC -- Democratic veteran Max Rose beat incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Donovan in a big upset. Even though most of NYC is solidly Blue, this district as been Red almost continuously for decades. Now NYC will be under complete Democratic representation -- and in the majority! -- in the US House of Representatives.



Onwards! Excelsior! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Amazon HQ to LIC?

Today is election day so, if you haven't already (I have!) go vote! 

Dear Lord, for the love of all that is holy on this planet, please please please please please please please please please please please please please please (you get the idea) go VOTE! VOTE BLUE! NO MATTER WHO!

We should know tonight, certainly tommorrow, who won. Le sigh. 

But one thing we won't know tomorrow, but should soon, is whether or not Amazon will open a new headquarters in Long Island City. This is apparently close to a done deal but the head of Aamzon, Jeff Bezos, and Mayor De Blasio are saying nothing about it -- yet. But, if this happens, it'll be a huge moment in NYC history and a transformative moment in the history of Queens.

If the numbers are to be believe, something like 50,000 jobs will come from this move. It'll mean lots more people living, working, and communting in this historically underpopulated neighborhood. In the last few years a large number of high rises have been popping up in LIC and the neighborhood has gone from being a quiet industrial area into a bustling residential and commercial neighborhood. If Amazon sets up shop there, it'll cement LIC's legacy.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Vote Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is The Day. Tomorrow is The Day when this country either slides further into fascism or reclaims its soul. 

It's never been more vital, never been more urgent, never been more necessary than for all decent minded people to go out the polls tomorrow - and VOTE BLUE!

This weekend I did some political canvassing, handing out flyers for a candidate in an important NY State Senate race. It was absolutely amazing. Except for encountering a few angry, deranged Republican cranks, the vast majority of the people were excited to vote for a Democrats. This included people from all walks of life -- young, old, black, white, brown, male, female, everyone. It gave me hope -- but, again, hope doesn't replace votes. So go vote!

Here is the info for the NYC Board of Elections. Go find your local polling place and head there tomorrow!




Thursday, November 1, 2018

Mr NYC in Iceland

Once upon a time I went to Iceland -- "once upon a time" being almost 30 years ago.

I was 12, and had never heard of this country before my dad thought it would be a good idea to take me there for a two week tour.  I remember people asking us, "Why would anyone go there?"  When I returned to school from summer vacation and told my schoolmates that I'd gone to Iceland, I was mocked for doing something so boring and dumb. Whatever its name implied, going to Iceland was not "cool."

Well it turns out that my hopeless square father was ahead his time -- today, Iceland is a very popular tourist destination. 

In fact, like so many places that become popular quickly -- leading to big influxes of people and cash -- the small Arctic country is struggling to adjust to their newly "cool" status. There is a run on hotel rooms, restaurants, tours -- the demand is outstripping the supply. Like the city of Venice, more people now visit Iceland every year than live there and its straining this modest country's resources. 

So what makes Iceland so popular these days? Why the sudden tourist boom?

Well, here's my theory: it's a GORGEOUS country with volcanoes and natural hot springs and glaciers. Simply being out in nature there is a wondrous, therapeutic experience. Then there's the people -- they're very nice, extremely friendly, and HOT. Oh my god, Iceland is nothing but gorgeous people, even their ugly people are gorgeous, it's just a country full of unbelievably good looking people -- which naturally makes people, especially men, want to go there. And the people in Iceland like to party --  the capital, Reykjavik, is a big party town. And it's cheap (or was). And, in the summer, it's cool and comfortable -- not hot and gross. In short, Iceland is just a very nice place to go and kick back, experience nature, hang out, and feel zen.

My trip was a tour of the natural wonder of this beautiful place -- lots of glaciers, volcanoes, and such. We ate lots of lamb and fish (the staple foods) and bought cheap, incredibly comfortable  wool sweaters. On our last day, we even flew to the very end of the island and saw the coast. All in all, an amazing experience.

I'd highly recommend going to Iceland if you can -- it's only about a four-hour flight from NYC and it's a great stopover if you want to go on to Europe (Iceland is technically part of Europe, the country closest to our shores). 

Interesting fact: Iceland has the world's longest operating Parliament, going strong since 930 AD. Iceland is a democracy that takes amazing care of its citizens and is extremely politically progressive.

Iceland is an amazing place -- and seems to be finally getting its due. 


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Tour of Morningside Heights

Morningside Heights is a neighborhood I know extremely well since, uh, yeah, well, you know, I grew up there.

It's a relatively small uptown Manhattan neighborhood nestled between the Upper West Side and Harlem, anchored by the mighty campus of Columbia University. In many ways it's more of a college town than anything else -- oh, and besides yours truly, it's the same neighborhood where George Carlin and Humphrey Bogart grew up in. How cool is that?

Over the years Morningside Heights has gone from a quiet middle-class neighborhood into a gentrified madhouse -- with more high-rise construction, more chain stores, more expensive restaurants and boutique stores, more tourists, more noise, and just more people conquering the streets than ever before. It doesn't even feel like a residential neighborhood anymore -- it feels more like a bustling commerical district where some people happen to live.

That's why this New York Times piece about Morningside Heights confused me -- according to the "paper of record", this neighborhood is still considered "affordable"? 

Really? Really? The average price is a million bucks for an apartment and it's affordable? Basta! It used to be cheap but not anymore -- and not for a long time. It just goes to show you how skewed the idea of what's "affordable" in this town has become.

However, the article does provide a nice "tour" of the neighborhood and it was a fun, nostalgic read. It you want to know more about the streets where Mr NYC, George Carlin and Humphrey Bogart grew up, read this and enjoy.