Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Who is Melissa Mark-Viverito?

She's the new Speaker of the New York City Council and the second most powerful person in town. She's also the highest-ranking Latina woman in our city's history.

Her life story, as this article notes, is quite interesting -- and someday she may be our mayor. 

Spiritual NYC

Here's an interesting WNYC segment from last week about living a spiritual life in NYC -- with 8.4 million souls in this city, there's literally a lot of spirit in this town.

While people from other parts of the country think of New York as a city teeming with Godless-Communist-homosexual-pornographers, this couldn't be further from the truth. You can't walk down a street in this town without hitting a church, a synagogue, a temple, a mosque, or some other place where you can pray. The spiritual life in NYC is diverse and flourishing.

And not all the spiritual activity in this town is constrained to formal houses of worship. 

Many people think of Ground Zero as a holy site, understandably. And other spots in this town can provide emotional and spiritual uplift for people -- think of Central Park on a sunny day or an amazing view from a skyscraper. Those may not be places where you pray, but something transcendent can certainly happen.

Spirituality can be found everywhere in NYC. Sometimes you need to find it and sometimes it finds you.


Friday, June 6, 2014

NYC Odds 'n' Ends

Here are several unrelated things that Mr NYC readers might find interesting. They show, in my mind, the things that are both great and infuriating about this fair city o' ours.

First, Airbnb. Subletting your apartment to friends, family, or vetted strangers is an old right of passage in NYC. It's also totally legal since the rent money is going to your landlord and not you. However, renting out your apartment like a hotel room and pocketing the cash yourself is a much more tricky proposition. Namely, it's illegal. People who rent out their apartments on a short-term basis and keep the money are cheating the city of hotel tax and hurting the business of legitimate, modest-priced hotels (and all those they employ). Also, these "b'n'bs" have increasingly become de facto brothels, with sex workers using them to meet clients. This illegal trade is aided by the website Airbnb, and currently the New York State Attorney General is cracking down on it. These types of "hotels" fall into a legal grey area: like sex, giving it away for free is legal, charging someone for it is a crime (unless, of course, you're a legal hotel). And, like prostitution, this type of business is hard to regulate. If the AG prevails, this part of the burgeoning "sharing economy" will be kille. But, if Airbnb survives, it will be yet another transformative "disruption" in the city's economy.

And here's something that really should be disrupted: NYC may be the capital of culture, the capital of the arts in America but, when it comes to arts education in our public schools, we do a lousy job. Funding for arts education, particularly in public schools in the poorest parts of the city, is scandalously low. There are schools in this town that don't have art teachers or cultural enrichment programs. This is terrible because arts education isn't just about painting or learning about painters. It's about the mind to creative possibilities, about using another part of the brain. The arts makes people smart, makes kids smarter, so our public schools MUST increase arts education in our poorer schools. 

Moving on, but staying on the subject of capital (as in money) and "capitals" (as in centers of power), NYC is, in case you didn't know, the "capital of capital." Wall Street is located here and the financial services industry is headquartered here. How did this happen? It wasn't by accident. This great segment from WNYC radio gives you a comprehensive history of how NYC went from being merely another American city 200 years ago into the global financial powerhouse of today. American may be ruled in Washington, DC but NYC is where the real power, the power of money, still resides.

Finally, bagels. We're not only the capital of "dough" but we're also the capital of dough that it shaped into a circle and boiled into a bread-like substance that can be toasted and shmeared with cream cheese and, if you so like, other taste items (like lox and ham and capers). Here's list of ten of the best bagel spots in NYC - and, what's funny, is that so many of them are outside of Manhattan!  

So there's my little NYC odds'n'ends about what makes this city ticked. I hope that you learned something. And, if not, that's okay too. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

ODB and Me

New York City has produced any number of colorful characters over the years, and few were as colorful as Ol' Dirty Bastard -- the legendary Brooklyn-born rapper and co-founder of the Wu-Tang Clan who died in 2004. 

To think, our city and the American culture has been without this great creative mind and philosopher for almost a decade. It's a low down dirty shame.

Oh yes, he was a musical genius. The Wu Tang Clan was probably the most influential East Coast rap group of the last 20 years and Mr Dirty Bastard was one its pioneers.

But what really made ODB stand out was how chronically outrageous he was. 

In a day and age when hommies be frontin', all trying to be da' Mack, ODD kept it Real. He was one dope-ass brutha'. Who can forget when ODB interrupted a Grammy-winner's speech to declare that "Wu-Tang is for the children?" Or that he fathered 13 children? Or that he declared that his big plan for the year 1998 was to find some ladies to "put some babies in"? (He was apparently very fertile).

Or the time he went to go pick up his welfare check -- in a limo? 

But more than that, ODB was a deep thinker, a great mind. This was reflected in the lyrics to his music. For example, these choice gems of wisdom:

"Bitch ass niggaz counterfeit the funk
I smoke the bead and the skunk, treetop of the trunk"

"I don't have no trouble with you fuckin' me/ But I got a little problem with you not fuckin' me"

"Oh baby, this is dedicated to all the pretty girls. All the pretty girls in the world, and the ugly girls too cause to me you're pretty anyway."

Wasn't he sweet?

Anyway, we will never see his likes again. Mr NYC mourns in his continuing absence. And like any good hommie, I tip a 40 to the memory.