Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meet the Brooklyn Jewish Sarah Palin

But maybe that's not being fair to the former half-term governor of Alaska.

There's a 22-year old recent college graduate running for the New York state senate in Brooklyn. She is, to say the least, interesting.

Her name is Mindy Meyer and she's wants to be in the New York state senate because ... well, why not? After all, it's not easy for recent college grads to get jobs these days, so why not run for office?

Mindy has many great plans for her district, including hiring a guy from the TV show White Collar -- not the actor but the actual fictional character -- to help her do stuff. As for who the governor of our fair state is, Mindy is not apparently very familiar with who he is.

She's quite the phrasemaker too. Mindy is, by her reckoning, a "magenta yenta" whose campaign is "divalicious." Her website is pink and, according to her, "blinged out."

Who knows? Maybe she'll win. These days, being colorful is more important for a politician than being, ya' know smart. 

If not, I guess a reality show and Playboy shoot could be in her future. 

Oh, and she's a Republican. And considering how degraded and vile the GOP has become, she fits right in. 

On to November!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Topless NYC

My previous post about New Yorkers of mystery included some info about a woman who is a topless advocate in NYC. She goes around town without a shirt, drawing attention (to say the least) to the fact that New York ladies can bare their breasts in public.

A true heroine of our age.

Anyway, my post prompted a comment from someone praising Ms. Johnston and indicating that on August 26th there will be a "topless freedom rally" in our fair city at Bryant Park from 12-3 PM. 

Yes, if you so choose, you may go and become a freedom fighter for breasts. Perhaps, even, the media will "cover" this rally and you could be on TV!

Will Mr NYC be there? Hmmmmm ....

Of course some of the more conservative elements in this town won't like this. "What are we? New Orleans?" they might cry. 

But New York is the place to do this. Fighting for freedom is in our history and our DNA. This is a city where we rallied for workers rights, for civil rights, against the Vietnam and Iraq wars, for freedom of all sorts. 

So why not boobs? 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Yorkers of Mystery

There are lots and lots of different types of people in NYC -- this is an understatement, to say the least. There are 8.2 million people in this city so there are 8.2 million different reasons why people live here.

But what are the reasons? What is it that most New Yorkers want?

For the vast majority, it's the same thing. We want to make a good living, have a nice home, have good relationships with friends, family, and significant others, and enjoy living in this, the greatest city in the world. Some of our fellow New Yorkers are motivated by more nefarious reasons -- greed, power, world domination, whatever -- but, really, New Yorkers are the same as people anywhere else: we just want a good life, whatever that means for each of us.

And yet ... there are certain New Yorkers whose motivations are, in a word, a lil' wacky. 

To whit: Moira Johnston. I don't know if this dame is just a nut or a true blue activist but her "activism" is certainly interesting. She is as "bare breast" activist, walking around this town topless, trying to draw attention (boy, does she ever) that women have the right to walk around town bra-less. Yes, that's right -- since men can walk the streets without a shirt on, the courts have determined that women can too. Obviously this makes men in NYC quite happy and, I'm sure, they hope that other women in this town will follow her lead.

Then there's this guy: James Roberts Williams. He's a man of mystery, the opposite of someone trying to attract attention but someone who is trying to wield influence. Living in a relatively poor section of Queens, Williams is one of the single biggest donors to politicians in NYC. He gives huge amounts to the state and national GOP and also gives money to big NYC Democrats. What does he do? That's not clear. He seems to have interests in real estate businesses but how he makes his money is not well understood. Hopefully we'll find out more about this guy and what his agenda is. To be continued. 

So there you have it: two very different New Yorkers, two distinct individuals, motivated to live in this town for very different reasons. This is the city that never sleeps -- and never makes you stop wondering about its people.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Watch da' hair!

Olympics in NYC?

Last night was the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England. 

It was a great big honkin' spectacle, lots of fireworks and pulsating music and glowing objects plus masses of people. These events are always an excuse for the host nation to celebrate itself, and Great Britain certainly did. Opening ceremonies have become the greatest shows on earth, although nothing will probably ever top the 2008 Beijing opening ceremony. That was something.  

Then there's the actual games. They've begun in earnest today -- and so far Michael Phelps ain't quite all that. But we shall see how it goes.

For those of you old enough to remember -- and care -- you might recall that NYC came close to hosting the Olympics this year. In 2005, as he was completing his first term, Mayor Bloomberg had made a huge push for our fair city to land the games. For the first time ever (I think), New York had become a finalist city, competing with (if I remember right) Paris, Madrid, Moscow and London. Obviously we didn't get it and, considering the financial crises that hit in 2008, it's probably a good thing too. 

But what if we had? What might have been?

If you follow this link here, you can see the NYC final bid video that shows what an Olympics in this town would have been like. Personally, I was unimpressed but you can decide for yourself if our city lost out on something -- or if we dodge a metaphorical bullet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Sounds and the Money

In NYC, there's lots and lots and lots of things to see: buildings, people, cabs, trucks, cars, storefronts -- you name it, you can see it here. 

But what about the things you don't see that make an impact? And what about what you hear?

First, impact. Namely, gay marriage. Namely, the money that gay marriage has thrown into our city's economy. Last year, when New York made gay marriage legal, there was lots of speculation that the marriage industry would see a boost and that it might help our city's economy.

And guess what? It did! 

A year later, thanks to marriage equality, an extra $259 million was pumped into our city's economy and an extra $16 million into the city's coffers. That's some impact. That's great.

Second, the sounds. Again, you can hear anything you like. That's why this WNYC segment about the most annoying sounds in NYC is so interesting. It's so hard to think of just one. WNYC is doing a listener survey and you can add your own idea of what this city's most awful noises are here

Just another example of the city we don't see but that certainly exists. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Girls" and "Mad Men": Where do they hang in NYC?

Are you a fan of these two great cable series? 

Yours truly is, and they are really are two great NYC shows. They couldn't be more different. 

"Mad Men" is a period piece, set in a glamorous Manhattan of a 1960s advertising agency. The characters hang out in beautiful apartments, swanky bars, and go have affairs in classy hotels. "Girls", on the other hand, is modern day show set in hipster Brooklyn. It involves a bunch of over educated, underemployed twenty-somethings suddenly discovering that they're not that special over all -- and they spend their time doing this while living in crappy apartments in Brooklyn, going to coffee bars, and warehouse parties. 

One city, two very different worlds.

So if you want to see the NYC worlds that the characters of "Mad Men" and "Girls" inhabit, go here and here for these two maps. And see the city yet again through some fictional but nonetheless fascinating eyes. 

Mayor Bloomberg Discusses Shooting in Aurora, Colorado

Eric Schneiderman Profile

It's easy to be cynical about politicians these days. The vile swamp of modern day politics seems only to attract only the most loathsome types, motivated less by a spirit of public service than by a desire for money, power, or just pure vanity. Occasionally some good people get elected to office but rarely do they make it to high office -- and rarely are they effective.

That's why New York State is quite lucky to have Eric Schneiderman as its Attorney General. The "top cop" of our great state, he is a smart, effective, progressive politician. 

He has been in office for a year and a half and is one of the only leaders taking on the financial industry for its mendacity in triggering the financial collapse. While other state attorney generals and the federal government wanted to make sweetheart plea bargains with the these people, Schneiderman bravely refused to go along and is demanding justice -- real justice. 

So we're lucky to have him. Let's hope New York State keeps him. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Leaving NYC

Why would anyone do it?

Here's one story.

Midtown, it's a'chagin'

Midtown Manhattan is, to say the least, a busy place. People and cars compete for precious sidewalk and street space, all in the attempt to move up, down, and sideways in the center of the mighty isle. The worst part is, obviously, trying to cross any street in Midtown, where the cars and the people converge. Both the people and cars have places to go and feel entitled to charge ahead. Many Mideast negotiations are only slightly more difficult than negotiating vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Midtown.

But it's changing.

Well, only slightly, but any change in the traffic flow of Midtown is noteworthy. In the last few years, we've seen the rise of the pedestrian plaza, car-free zones where folks can walk around and sit at tables and even sunbathe on deckchairs. They've become very popular and the city wants to create more. Thus, Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to build a pedestrian plaza at Vanderbilt Avenue.

Never heard of Vandy Ave? 
It's a funny little street, between 42nd and 47th streets, carved out around the environs of Grand Central Station. Around the eastern side runs the viaduct that circulates lots of cars uptown and down around Midtown. The street itself is very short and narrow, and there really isn't much there except the Yale Club and some fancy restaurants. So turning it into a pedestrian plaza makes sense, considering that space for cars is already available up north. It would be a pleasant walk and open up more space for what is already an overcrowded area. Let's hope it happens.

One thing that is happening, however, or already has happened, is 6 1/2 Avenue. Yes, you read that correctly. A series of pedestrian arcades and plazas from 51st to 57th streets for this new, formally marked avenue. You walk from one to the other, block by block, and are actually walking on a new, honest-to-goodness avenue. I haven't gone there yet myself but plan to soon.

So you see, what's happening is that the city is getting more pedestrian friendly. This is a town for people, not cars, and it's the reversing of the Robert Moses vision of a car-centric town. 
This is something we should all celebrate.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mr NYC in Louisville, KY

One of the reasons why yours truly hasn't been blogging lately is because I was preparing for -- and then recovering from -- a trip to Louisville, Kentucky. The jaunt was for a friend's bachelor party and, needless to say, much about it cannot be revealed ('cause, you know, me and my boys are real wild and crazy guys) but we did do a bunch of stuff that you, dear reader, might find interesting. So here goes:

First, we stayed downtown at the Galt House Hotel. To say it's big is an understatement. It's a massive two building complex by the Ohio river, and lots of conventions are held there. In fact, when we were there last weekend, there was a Fandom Fest going on. It's basically a big horror/sci-fi convention and it was quite a sight to see all the people dressed at various weird characters -- and I don't think I've ever seen more people with tattoos outside a punk rock club. But aside from that, the hotel was very nice and, for a very low price, you can get a ridiculously big suite. Highly recommended.

Since it was a short trip, and since Louisville is not known as a gourmet capital of America, we did not have a lot of fancy meals out. However, our big dinner was at a place called Proof on Main which is also downtown. While not an incredibly fancy restaurant, it's quite elegant and, more importantly, it has really good food. Their food is grown and brought in from their own farm and I had, easily, the best pork chop that I've ever had in my entire life, along with a delicious octopus appetizer. (Farm fresh food is, truly, unbeatable).  What also makes this restaurant a treat are the cocktails. I had a wonderful Sazerac but, best of all, I relished one of their phenomenal in-house cocktails called a Close Call. It was so good that I took a picture of the recipe and post it for you here: 

I would strongly recommend making this if you are a cocktail making kinda person. Another interesting thing about this restaurant is that it's attached to a small modern art museum. On your way to and from the bathroom you can view some actually quite good modern art. Also, the bathroom itself is a trip: in front of the urinal is a one-way mirror covered by a waterfall looking out into the halls. It's definitely one of the more interesting bathroom going experiences you could ever hope to have. 

Later on, we had drinks in the hotel bar of the Seelbach Hotel. It's one of the old, elegant hotels of Louisville and it is actually immortalized in the greatest 20th century American novel -- and that quintessential New York story -- The Great Gatsby. If you don't recall, the characters Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker are from Louisville (Daisy was "by far the most popular of all the young girls in Louisvile") and, in the back story of Daisy's relationship with both Gatsby and Tom, we learn that when Tom and Daisy got married there and he "hired a whole floor of the Seelbach Hotel." By the way, the hotel today retains that some old money elegance although the bar is surprisingly small. Still, it's where the beautiful rich people of that town still hang out (so, needless to say, yours truly was a big out of place). 

If Louisville is famous for anything it's probably the following two things: bourbon and horse racing. No trip to Louisville would be complete without visiting either a distillery or Churchill Downs, home of the annual Kentucky Derby and probably the most famous racing track in the whole country. 

Our distillery trip was to a place called Buffalo Trace, located in the state capital of Frankfort about an hour's drive outside Louisville. This distillery is something like two hundred years old and, amazingly, they still make bourbon whiskey in much the same way as they did back then. I learned that the reason Kentucky is the bourbon capital of America is because there is a lot of limestone water available that makes the whiskey good. Also, they still to this day store whiskey in wooden drums in wooden warehouses. In hot weather (and it was ungodly hot last weekend) this is quite risky -- especially since a drum of whiskey contains about $6000 of the product and they have hundreds of thousands of drums. If a fire ever broke out, well ... you do the math. However, I greatly enjoyed the visit since it was my first distillery trip and I picked up delicious cream bourbon that is only available in the state of Kentucky. Unlike Bailey's Irish Cream, this whiskey is made with real cream, let's just say, the taste is vastly superior.  

Finally, Churchill Downs. Ah yes, a day (or two) at the races. The boys and I placed a number of bets and some of us even made money. I won a few bucks (but mostly did not) but I did enjoy seeing what is probably the most beautiful race track anywhere outside Britain. As the name implies, Churchill Downs is very much a re-creation and continuation of the British racing tradition. Here in the American heartland was little piece of England. The horse race announcers were British. Even better, a few minutes before a race, a guy dressed in an elegant red racing outfit would come out and blow his trumpet. It was quite Edwardian. The races took place every half hour and were thrilling. The track was long and winding and these were the best jockeys in the world. This made betting hard -- you would bet on the horses with the best odds and then they'd lose badly. If you ever visit Churchill Downs, get some good betting advice.

 On my last day, shortly before going to the airport, we dipped into the Louisville Visitor's Center. It was very small but they did have this interesting exhibit. 

Yes, besides bourbon and horses, Louisville is the home of Kentucky Fried Chick -- and they're darn proud of it! 

So, all in all, a good trip. Louisville has a very distinct culture and it probably the most under appreciated party town in America. If you go, you can have a really good time. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bye Bye Bob

Last year the NYC political establishment was rocked when a Republican named Bob Turner won a special congressional election to fill a formerly Democratic seat. Turner was a 71 year-old retired cable executive who basically had nothing else to do and couldn't find another job so, when this seat opened up, he ran and won (his Democratic opponent was a moron), thus establishing Turner as a new GOP star.

And now his star has flamed out.

Last month he ran in the Republican senate primary and lost badly. His congressional seat was carved up via redistricting and he no longer had a viable way to remain in congress. So, at the end of this year, he will be out of a congress and probably out of a job. And NYC will thankfully be rid a noxious right-wing congressman. 

As Machiavelli wrote, power gotten through luck is the easiest to get and the hardest to keep.

So long Bob. You won't be missed.