Monday, June 27, 2011

This is officially the funniest headline I've ever read and it wasn't even in the Onion

'Brady Bunch' mom Florence Henderson admits ex-mayor John Lindsay gave her crabs in one-night-stand

Here's the story of a lovely lady ... 


Gay Marriage Means Mo' Money

In all the arguments that were made for the passage of marriage, one very powerful argument that was not frequently made was -- and is -- this: money. Namely, the amount of money that gay nuptials will generate for the NYC economy.

Think about it: in these economically distressed times, a whole new business will be created out of gray marriage. Tthe Gay Wedding Industrial Complex! 

Caterers and florists and wedding planners will see their businesses flourish, more people than ever will be booking spaces for weddings, friends and families will be coming into town will patronize our hotels and restaurants, boosting business. All in all, gay marriage will be great for the city's economy. That reason alone is enough to justify the legalization of gay marriage.

And as someone who got married in NYC two years ago, I can tell you this: the greatest city in the world is the greatest place to get married in.

One of Mayor Bloomberg's few remaining virtues is his knowledge about what makes money and he knows that gay marriage will make money for NYC. In fact, he's already boosting NYC as a gay marriage destination. 

So come one, come all! Step right up and marry your boyfriend and girlfriend! (And drop your cash here while you're at it).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

So Long H&H

A staple of the Upper West Side identity, H&H Bagels, has closed. On Tuesday, it shuttered its doors after almost forty years.
Stunning. But not entirely.

While the closure of many a New York institution either has to do with skyrocketing rents (i.e. CBGBs), or declining patronage (i.e. Elaine's), the closure of H&H has less do with either than the fact that the owner was a crook who grossly mismanaged the store's finances. It went bankrupt and closed not because it didn't have loyal customers but because it had a disloyal boss. Also, the store got a little too big for its britches: they wouldn't toast their bagels for customers and, every time I went there, they treated us with contempt. Granted, their bagels were very, very good -- but not their attitude or their management. So its demise couldn't be helped. 

Still, it's a lost part of the New York alloy, and it will be missed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some thoughts ...

... on marriage equality in particular and social justice in general.

Like many New Yorkers, I am proud and happy that the state of my birth voted last night to recognize marriage equality. This is an amazing, historic moment and, for once, the New York State legislature should be proud of itself. The reactionary forces of hatred and oppression lost last night -- and thank God for that. For once, progress for humanity was made and we need to celebrate it since it's an all too rare occurrence. 

NYC has always been the biggest and greatest city in America -- and last night it got even greater.

But I wouldn't be a true-blue New Yorker if I didn't get a little neurotic about this. The argument that I always made for marriage-equality was that it was about basic fairness: why should loving, consenting adult gay couples be denied the same rights as loving, consenting straight couples? There was no legal argument against this -- just one based in religious or political ideology or plain ol' bigotry. The issue of recognizing basic human fairness underlined this struggle as it has underlined all the great civil rights struggles in American history.

Yet here's the rub: this marriage equality victory is happening at the same time that union and middle-class workers are under siege both in New York and around the country. It's happening at a time where they are losing raises, pensions, and collective bargaining rights. Where their jobs are dissapearing and their wages are buying less. Where they -- the victims of our current economic doldrms -- are being scapegoated by politicians and the media and special interests for somehow being the cause of it. And where the richest people aren't being asked to pay even a penny more in taxes (even getting their taxes cut) or make any sacrifices whatsoever. 

Many of the same people who support marriage equality and are socially progressive also support  hurting the middle class and are economically regressive. I was recently reading the New York Observer where the editorial pages were strongly supporting gay marriage while also bashing unions and the working class while also ranting about how taxes must never go up on the rich.  

And why is this the case? Because many of the same people who support marriage equality and are rich know gay people -- and it's hard to hate people you know. But many of these same people don't know union or working class people so hating them and blaming them is easy. When you or your friends are the subject of an injustice, fighting it is easy. Yet when you don't know the victims, who cares? 

Equality should be about full respect for all human dignity, and this includes the right to marry and the right to earn a respectable living that can feed yourself and your family -- and also the right not to be scapegoated (i.e. gays are a threat to marriage, unions and poor people destroyed the economy). 

In New York, the war on homosexuals may have ended but the war on the middle-class rages on. And it's a war that all those who truly care about social justice need to fight.

Gay Marriage Now Legal in New York

Mass Yoga in Times Square

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spiderman is Back!

And damn, he is really expensive.

Over the last several months, this town has been all a-twitter (and Tweeting a lot, I'm sure) about the debacle that is the Spiderman musical on Broadway. This strange, clunky musical just opened after months and months and months of previews and the reviews have been mostly lukewarm. 

The musical is making about $1.3 million a week in ticket sales but it costs about $1.2 million in weekly operating expenses. The total costs of this musical thus far is $75 million, double the cost of the most expensive show ever produced. Wow.

In the movie Chinatown, there's a great line: "In the middle of a drought and the water commissioner drowns! Only in L.A."

Only in NYC can anyone spend this much money on a dopey show in the middle of a recession. 

That's even more amazing than the Amazing Spiderman.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The rich are different ..."

The economic crises of the last few years was triggered, in large part, by the collapse of the housing sector. We all know the story: lots of unqualified people were given mortgages to buy houses they couldn't afford and many of them either defaulted or found themselves "underwater" when the value of their homes became less than their mortgages. It's a god-awful morality tale of unregulated capitalism gone amok -- and all of us are paying a huge, huge price for it.

Unless, of course, you're one of the people collecting on the people paying.

Meet Philip Falcone. A hedge-fund guru, he bet against, or "shorted", the housing market and began making billions when everyone else was loosing trillions. He's a Minnesota-boy-turned-New York Master of the Universe and he's one of the devil's with the black boxes who helped destroy the American economy, maybe for decades to come.

This fascinating article in Vanity Fair is about Falcone and his crazy wife and their outrageous life in NYC. These people represent everything that's wrong with America today -- people who make money out of nothing, who create nothing, who produce nothing, who contribute nothing to society but spend ungodly amounts of money of crap and, in the process, shove it in everyone else's face. 

People like this used to be called nouveaux riche or "new money" -- and as socially unacceptable as people like this used to be, over the last century it became even more unacceptable for "society" or "old money" to sneer and look down at them. Over the last decades, the Knickerbocker set went into decline as the tech and hedge-fund millionaires and billionaires became the new NYC society.  Snobbery was so passe.

But when you read this, you begin to sympathize with the snobs. You begin to think maybe the Knickerbockers were right to marginalize people like this. They are so awful, so nauseating, and they are the ones who give rich people in NYC a bad name.

"The rich are different from you and me", as Scott Fitzgerald once told his pal Ernest Hemingway, to which the Big Poppa replied "Yes, they have more money."

More money and, for many of them, no taste, no class, and no morality.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rescue Me Final Season Trailer

Will it happen?

The NYS Senate is only one vote away from passing gay marriage. It all falls on the shoulder of one State Senator named Greg Ball who is hedging and has apparently gone to Twitter, asking people to advise him how to vote.

So it's come down to this. Whether or not gay New Yorkers will be given full marriage rights falls on the shoulders of ... this guy ... who apparently has no real value system and has to poll random people to find out whether or not this is the right things to do.

Seriously. It's too bizarre. But I'll keep hope alive. If marriage equality passes, Sen. Ball will deserve all the credit. If it loses, he'll shoulder all the blame. 

Come on Senator Ball ... get on the ball! Vote for marriage equality! 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Real SVU

Some of you might watch Law and Order: SVU, a show about the sex crimes unit of the NYPD. After more than a decade, it's still one of the longest running shows on TV.

Tomorrow night on HBO is a documentary called Sex Crimes Unit, about the attorneys in the Manhattan DA's office who prosecute sex crimes. It looks like a fascinating piece of reportage and definitely worth checking out.

"Downtown: My Manhattan" by Pete Hamill

A few years ago I blogged about catching a glimpse of the legendary reporter and novelist Pete Hamill on the streets of Manhattan. I mentioned that he had written a wonderful book about NYC several years before called Downtown: My Manhattan. I recently read it again and was reminded how good a book it is. I definitely suggest you pick it up.

This is a different kind of book. It's part memoir -- Hamill remembering certain parts of his life -- as well as a history of the parts of downtown Manhattan -- his memories as well as the history behind them. He writes about how the New York character was developed through the immigrants, small businesses, robber barons, and families that populated downtown in the 19th century and formed the city we know today. He writes about the good and bad, the wonderful stores and restaurants that used to exist there and that no longer do, about how areas like Tompkins Square park when from being a dump to a paradise, about how life in the city has improved in recent years but how certain aspects of our past have been lost forever. About a city that is always, always changing. 

Full disclosure: I'm a terrible nostalgia buff. I love reminiscing about what used to be, about what used to exist and does no longer, about people who affected our lives but have passed on, and about what kind of city NYC used to be and what it has evolved into. Hamill's gorgeous prose in Downtown brings the New York of the past to life and gives us the feeling of what it was a like a hundred-fifty years ago, fifty years ago, and today. It's a great book and, for the NYC buff out there, a must-read.    

You can also hear a 2004 interview about the book with Pete Hamill here

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's the Sixties in Soho!

The production for "Men in Black 3" is back in Soho. Last time, they brought a zebra to the neighborhood which I showed photos of and blogged about here

This week the production has taken Soho back in time. The streets are now lined with cars from the 1960s and it feels like you're waiting for Don Draper to walk around the corner.

Spoiler alert: apparently the third movie is going to be about the Will Smith character going back in time to find the Tommy Lee Jones character. 

While I'm not a huge fan of these movie shoots that shut down busy streets, there's something really magical about walking down a street you've walked down several times and suddenly seeing it transformed to another time. Very cool. Very NYC.       

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The NYC Generational Divide

It's part of the great American story: the conflict between young and old, between parents and children, between keeping up Old World traditions and breaking them apart, between The Hip and The Square, between those who want to change and those who don't. 

Our nation's current political divide is largely the battle between those who want to restore some kind of idyllic 1950s America that never really existed (Red America) between those who want to realize the dreams of the 1960s that probably never will truly exist (Blue America). 

This conflict is at the heart of our identity and, if I may sound pretentious for a moment, represents the duality of the American character.

Here in NYC, that duality is presented in many forms, some of which are also contradictory. A few things I read recently demonstrate this perfectly:

For example, this review of some new books about NYC, show how the city has changed. There's a book about an old school NYC columnist lovingly remembered by his movie critic son -- in particular, lovingly remembering an NYC that didn't quite really exist. There are other books, one about the "other" islands of NYC (like Governor's Island) that more New Yorkers are accessing and that is changing the experience of New Yorkers in their city and will continue to do so for years to come.

There's also this funny, short dialogue between the writer Erica Jong and her daughter Molly, and their attitudes towards S-E-X. It's a perfect case of what's old eventually becomes new again: in this case, prudishness. In this dialogue, Molly talks about the new sexual cautiousness amongst her generation while her mother Erica talks about her generation's libertine-ness and how she doesn't understand how sex suddenly isn't quite so cool anymore. You should read it, it's a hoot, but one thing left unmentioned is that Molly (and mine's) generation is the first one to grow up in the era of AIDS -- an era which, coincidentally enough, began thirty years ago this month. Sometimes the battle lines between the generations are re-drawn for reasons far outside their control.

Finally, two New York Press articles, to me, at least, show how the face of our city is literally changing. First, there's an article about a Lower East Side bartender who has said that he's basically done with the LES since all the rich people who have moved in don't like the noise and craziness of his bars. Imagine that: people who now live on the LES, a neighborhood defined by it's loudness and boisterousness, are turning into fuddy-duddies who want to live in a "quiet" area. That's like moving to Florida and complaining about all the palm trees! So while the funky bars of the LES are beginning their said decline, you can literally look into the East River for our city's future. Someone is designing a public pool that will literally float on the river and will contain water filtrated from the river itself. This is what you might call "visionary thinking", out with the old school and in with the new school, the New York of the future. 

And that's what our city is fast becoming: less a city of funkiness and more a city of sleekness, less a place of comfort and community and more a place of dynamism and strident individualism. The generational divide in this city is, if these stories are to be believed, changing how the city is imagined, how it's functioning, and how it's experienced. 

Some of these changes are good, some not so good, in my opinion, but they are, I suppose, completely inevitable.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The World's Most Creative Marriage Proposal? A Graffiti Mural Time Lapse.

Dan Halloran Should be Censured

Some of you might remember the big day-after-Christmas snowstorm last year that resulted in a botched response from the city's Sanitation Department. The speed and coordination of getting out the snowplows was piss-poor, with many neighborhoods (like mine!) going days without being plowed. Streets and cars were buried under, resulting in people not being able to get around the city, people dying because EMTs couldn't get to them on time, and lots of people (like me again) not being able to go to work. It was fecacta, a real mess, and it made the Bloomberg administration look foolish.

The porcine Republican councilman from Queens began burning up the media (too bad it couldn't have melted the snow), claiming that two supervisors from the Sanitation department had approached him, saying that fellow sanitation employees were intentionally screwing up the snow removal in order to get back at our anti-union mayor. Halloran said he had evidence! It was an outrage!

Problem: it was a lie.

The Department of Investigations has just released a report saying that Dan Halloran in fact had no evidence and, after interviewing 150 people (150!), they could find no evidence whatsoever of an organized slowdown. This was all much ado about nothing.  The real culprit was the awful job that our awful Sanitation commissioner (who still has his job) did -- not the department employees. 

Think about it: a city councilman smears a department in the media and then sets city and federal prosecutors into a wild goose-chase chase, wasting their time, money and resources into investigating a crime that never happened. 

This is the real outrage.

Please understand the subtext of this whole situation: in NYC and around the country, the Republican party and the organized right-wing are doing everything that they can to destroy unions. You saw it recently in Wisconsin where the Republican governor and legislature stripped union workers of their collective bargaining rights. You see this here, where state unions are being forced into giving big concessions while the rich aren't being forced into paying any more taxes. Republicans like Halloran have been smearing union workers for years, trying to paint them as overpaid, under-worked parasites who aren't any good at their jobs anyway and who will hurt the public when they selfishly don't get their way. Halloran used this snowstorm crises as an excuse to further smear union workers and make himself a Republican party star. 

What a twerp.  

Dan Halloran is a lair, a fraud and a disgrace to the city council. I really hope (but won't hold my breath) that his colleagues on the city council will vote to censure him. All politicians engage in political nonsense and lie. All politicians smear their opponents and the groups that support him. But Halloran crossed the line: he forced the already overworked DAs and Department of Investigations employees into spending tax payer money on investigating something that he knew was untrue -- all for cynical, selfish political reasons. This kind of conduct should not be tolerated by his fellow council members -- and they should make it clear that it won't be.