Monday, March 18, 2019

Transformation

When 9/11 happened, thousands tragically died and the world changed forever. 

And so, physically, did NYC.

The mighty Twin Towers had commanded the city's skyline for nearly 30 years and now -- suddenly, horribly, unthinkably -- they were completely gone. Yet the story of the Twin Towers is a case study of how NYC transforms itself. Certainly, the way they were extinguished is well-known and tragic but what is much less well-known is the scandalous, corrupt, bizarre way that they were built back in the early 1970s. By 9/11/2001, the Twin Towers were of symbols American financial power and nearly beloved icons of NYC. But when they first emerged from the concrete canyons of Lower Manhattan, they were viewed as egregious interlopers, totally out of character with the neighborhood, and monuments to the egos of the Rockefellers who spearheaded their constructions (Governor Nelson Rockefeller and his brother, the banker David). 

How NYC transforms is forever complex and unending.

And massive projects continue change the face of NYC -- and it's not just big buildings like the new Hudson Yards but there are proposals and projects underway that will literally be built into the East and Hudson Rivers. NYC is expanding! Literally! That's one way to transform NYC -- make more of it!  

But the transformation is not just literal, it's also political. NYC used to be a bastion of Irish-American power in the United States but that's changing rapidly. Last year, three prominent Irish American politicians lost their seats to non-Irish challengers (including Joe Crowley to AOC). The city is becoming less Irish, more diverse, and the political establishment is reflecting that. As the city transforms, so does the power elite.

And one final transformation is the death of NYC street photographer Vivian Cherry at age 98. She took photos of NYC life starting back in the 1940s and through the 1950s. She captured a city coming out of the doldrums of the Great Depression and World War II, transforming into the financial and cultural capital of the world. The NYC she photographer is long gone but remains in our memory. Her work is a reminder of what NYC was and of what it's become -- and the transformation of NYC is never complete.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Review: "The Fisher King" (1991)

This isn't a review so much as an appreciation. The Fisher King is one of those movies that, when you see it, stays with you. You never forget it. It might not be your favorite movie (it's not mine) but it touches something in your soul and remains there.

This movie is about forgiveness. It's an NYC fable. 

It concerns a loud mouth radio shock jock named Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) who unintentionally inspires one of his callers into deadly violence. We catch up with Jack a couple of years later -- he's lost everything, drunk all the time, living above a video store (remember those?) with his guidette girlfriend (Mercedes Reuhl, who won an Oscar for her performance). Stumbling around the city drunk one night, Jack is attacked by a group of thugs and then saved by an eccentric homeless man named Perry (the late, always brilliant Robin Williams). Perry's mission in life is find the Holy Grail which apparently resides in the home of an Upper East Side billionaire. Jack soon finds out that Perry used to be a college professor but his life was destroyed when his wife was killed in front of him -- by the very same caller Jack inspired. Guilt ridden, clearly seeing that Perry is mentally ill because of him, Jack resolves to help him -- first, to help attract a young lady he has a crush on, second, to retrieve the "Holy Grail." The rest of this movie is a hilarious, often very moving story of friendship, forgiveness, going beyond one's selfishness, and discovering something much more valuable than the Holy Grail -- true human connection.

I remember seeing this movie when I was in high school and enjoying it. I think, frankly, I was too young to fully understand or appreciate it -- I hadn't had enough life experience, enough setbacks, enough heartbreak, enough friends. Since then, in the last 28 years since it came out, I've had lots, and this movie has a resonance for me that it didn't back then. If you haven't seen The Fisher King, you should -- it might just change your life.

And, yes, this is an NYC -- but it's view of the city from both high low, it's concentration on the least and most ordinary among us, the surreal world of NYC that director Terry Gilliam creates, is like no other NYC you will see in any other movie. 

See this movie with someone you love -- or someone you want to love better. 

By the way, this movie and his later appearance in The Big Lebowski confirms that nobody in the movies looks cooler lounging around the house in bathrobe than Jeff Bridges.


More Lou Reed!

Hudson Yards is not the only big opening today -- at the New York Public Library, the Lou Reed archive has officially become available. It includes a vast array of Lou's writings as well as 600 hours of recordings. Now I just have to find some precious time to go down and look over all this!

By the way, the first 6000 visitors will get a commemorative Lou Reed public library card. 

He's a New York City Man ... always and forever ...


NYC Has a New Neighborhood!



Thursday, March 14, 2019

NYPD Gala Day -- It's More than We Can Handle!

Oh yes, it truly is a "gala day" for the NYPD -- both in the metaphorical and Grouch Marx sense of the term.

First, some NYPD members have been naughty -- one ex-cop and his wife got busted for dealing drugs and another was allegedly caught being frisky with her male partner until, we found out, it was a hoax (it would've given new meaning to NYPD ... Blue). 

Second -- and this is big -- the boss of the Gambino crime family was just gunned down in Staten Island. This is the first "whacking" of a Gambino (or any) crime boss since 1985, when Paul Castellano got hit outside Sparks Steakhouse (this was, of course, engineered by John Gotti who  then took over as boss). This hit must have been ordered by some very high-ups (probably in Sicily) because, as Goodfellas taught us, you don't whack a made guy (let alone a boss!) unless you "have a sit down and get the okay" or else you're the one who's gonna get whacked. The NYPD is going to have a big job ahead investigating this hit and it'll probably make someone's career. 

Third, there's Rudy Giuliani -- the former mayor/Trump lawyer who's going through a nasty divorce. Twenty years ago he was a powerful and popular mayor beloved by the NYPD and all of law enforcement. Now he's a cartoon villain, a sneering buffoon, and he and his ex-wife literally are being ordered not to be in the same room together. How the mighty have fallen.

Fourth -- this is an uplifting one - I just read a great story about a lady named Isabella Goodwin who was the first undercover female cop in the history of the NYPD. She brought down bank robbers and earned a shield through undercover work for over a decade. Truly an inspiring, groundbreaking woman.

The NYPD is a never-ending source of interest. I got one story coming up that'll fascinate you. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Memo from NYC

The following are my incredibly deep & brilliant thoughts on this whole college admissions scandal which is ballooning from a news story into a dialogue on socioeconomic inequities:

Basically, trying to get a kid into college is like trying to get laid, you have one of two options: 1)  do it honestly by being, as they said on Seinfeld, "sponge worthy" i.e. woo the person, work hard to prove your physical and emotional attractiveness by fitting your l'object d'amour's idea of a good partner and hope you efforts are rewarded; or 2) demonstrate your power, your status, your strength, your awesomeness by buying him or her expensive gifts, taking them to fancy restaurants, sending bouquets and candy to their homes or places of business, introducing them to your big shot friends and co-workers, you know, showing what a "Mr Big" (or, to be PC, "Mrs Big") you are, and, again, hoping your efforts are rewarded. 

The analogy to college admissions: 1) your kid gets in on their merit i.e. test scores, grades, recommendations, extracurriculars, essays, the whole merit-worthy package but the competition is fierce and admission is not guaranteed; or 2) you donate massive sums of money to the school over the course of years, making the school's decision to admit your kid a smart, logical, and relatively easy business decision.

What you don't do, in either case, is engage in a quid-pro-quo, a blatant "this-for-that" transaction. You don't directly buy your admission into either a college or another person's body. Society has deemed that illegal -- "getting in" via merit is legal and "getting in" via status is too, but putting an exact amount on it, turning it into just another things to buy, is not. 

Perhaps this shouldn't be illegal or perhaps we should try to have 100% merit based "admissions" and status-driven "admissions" should be outlawed too -- but human beings are flawed and therefore our systems are too.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Coming ... Soon

Huge news! Good news! Huge good news in an age of nothing but bad news!

Howard Stern has a new book! For the first time in almost 25 years! 

It's called "Howard Stern Comes Again" and, from what he's saying about, it's based on the wisdom he has learned over the years as well as from the numerous high-profile interviews he's done.

I'm sure it'll be hilarious and it's incentivized me to get a new Kindle ASAP. 

I can't wait to read it! Howard Stern can't come fast or soon enough for me! 


Monday, March 11, 2019

The Lou Reed Compendium

If you've read Mr NYC for any legnth of time, you know how much I love the music of Lou Reed, and how romantic I am for the 1960s NYC that birthed his band The Velvet Underground.

This month also marks the 30th anniversary of one of his greatest solo albums, New York. While the album is certainly a love letter to the city, it's more complicated than that -- it's a cry of emotion about the complex feelings any New Yorker has for this place. Nothing about Lou Reed's music is easy or simple, and this album is no different. When it came out in 1989, New York explored a city that seemed to be in crises, that was dying, but that still contained a wondrous  and inspiring spirit. And this album is as inspired as any that Lou Reed wrote.

So here is my little compedium to all things Lou Reed & NYC:

- My collection of blog posts about Lou Reed and The Velvet Undergroud.
- A review of the New York album.
- How Lou Reed and NYC are inseperable, both in music and soul, and are practically addictive.
- And a guide to NYC per Lou Reed's music.

If you like Lou, this post is ... for you ...


"Shields Up!": The Dome That Never Was

Once upon a time an eccentric architect, with the eccentric name of Buckminster Fuller, came up with an extremely eccentric idea to build a clear shatterproof dome over Mid-Town Manhattan.

Yes, decades before Donald Trump thought America needed a big useless wall across the southern border, this dude thought that a big dome over midtown would literally shield this most busy part of the city from the elements, from danger, and increase energy efficiency. It was a bold idea ...

... and, predictably, it went nowhere fast.

Fuller proposed his dome in the 1950s, in the years after the war, when there was lots of building going on in NYC and America, and the idea of protecting the city -- and the world -- from another catastrophe was certainly understandable.

And, crazy though Fuller's idea was, it wasn't nearly so bad as Robert Moses' idea of ramming a highway though lower Manhattan (which was, thanks to Jane Jacobs, mercifully killed). 

Personally, I don't think we should build a dome over NYC -- instead, we should develop the kinds of electromagnetic "Shields" like they have on Star Trek that protect the Enterprise. So whenever a storm or something threatening approaches NYC (and Lord knows that's happened!) the mayor could just yell "Shield's Up!" and we are thus protected. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Nothin' Like an NYC Dame

Today is International Women's Day, a day where women and the movement for gender equality are celebrated.

All sorts of fascinating women come from NYC. There's no such thing as one type of proud NYC woman -- there many of them.

Here's a few impressive NYC ladies -- they couldn't be more different but they come from all walks of NYC life and each one is (or was, in one case) amazing:

There's Real Housewife Sonja Morgan, a glamorous NYC lady whose turned her socialite life into an art form.

There's Audrey Sanders, a legendary bartender and club founder.

There's the recently deceased Lois Carl, a Bronx girl who moved to LA and became a beloved on set tutor for the child stars.

And there's Anna Shechtman, a young lady from Tribeca, who is re-inventing the crossword puzzle.

Reading about each woman I got a sense of their fearlessness, their determination, their grit -- these are tough NYC negotiating a man's world and the exigencies of life. Whether you have sons or daughters (and I got two) they are role models for everyone.