Friday, June 23, 2017

Gabe Pressman, RIP

The legendary NYC reporter Gabe Pressman died today at the age of 93. Pressman was an institution in this city, covering every mayor from William O'Dwyer in the early 1950s to Bill De Blasio today. If you wanted to know what was going on this town, Pressman knew. A TV reporter, he was as comfortable reporting form the streets as he was interviewing the powerful from a studio. He knew every inch of this city, understood its complexities, and helped New Yorkers learn more about their hometown than anyone else. He'll be missed.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mr NYC in Denver

It's been a while since yours truly hit the road -- working full time and raising two kids will cramp your wanderlust -- but last month some friends and I did just that and headed west. We ventured to the capital of the Rocky Mountain region, the Mile High City, better known as Denver, Colorado.

Despite traveling a lot in my younger days, including living in the Midwest for college and going to the West Coast several times in my teens and twenties, I'd never been to the Central Time Zone region of these United States. We settled on Denver because most of us had either never been there or hadn't gone for a long time. Denver reminded me of two other cities I've blogged about on here: the hipster-ish Portland, OR and the industrial Kansas City, MO. Like those cities, Denver is a repository for a certain kind of person, someone with ambition but someone who also values beauty and fun. People from all over the country settle in Denver. At one point, someone overhead me speaking and asked if I was from the East Coast. When I confirmed that I was, he said he was a transplant from Boston -- so there you go.

On our first night, we went to the Fillmore Auditorium and saw a great, rocking Irish band called Flogging Molly. This was one of the most crazy, out of control shows I've ever seen. Just as impressive was the Fillmore itself. It's a massive concert venue like the Bowery Ballroom or Irving Plaza but even bigger.  The only word to describe it is cavernous. There are maybe half a dozen bars (or more) inside the hall and there are big chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. If you ever get to Denver, I strongly suggest seeing a show there -- it's quite a scene.

Next day, after beating jet lag, we saw a baseball game at Coors Field in downtown Denver. There's nothing particularly special or distinct about this stadium but, when you're used to seeing baseball games either in the Bronx or Flushing, there's something very cool about seeing the Rocky Mountains right beyond the bleachers. After the game, we strolled along the main street (I believe it was called Market) and went to Union Station. Unlike train stations in other cities (the Union Station in DC comes to mind) this one is very small. However, if you sneak upstairs, there's an almost secret bar area where you can get some amazingly good cocktails. If you're ever in Denver, and want to find a nice quiet spot to hang, this one is perfect. More strolling followed, where went walked around Confluence Park. It's a not a particularly beautiful park but there are two small rivers that merge here -- hence the "confluence." This area is where, if the signs are to be believed, the city of Denver was founded.

The next day consisted mostly of strolling. Denver is the capital of the state of Colorado so we walked around the impressive capitol building. The seat of Colorado government borders the main downtown area and another neighborhood that can only be called "funky" -- lots of bars, restaurants, bookstores, and people walking around with long hair, ripped jeans, and tattoos. The capitol is right across the street from city hall, the two buildings almost in a face off, as these two photos taken from each vantage point will attest. Nearby are some contemporary art museums and the massive public library. On the streets are some quite interesting public art displays. 

A few blocks away is the American Museum of Western Art. From the outside, it looks quite small, basically a converted townhouse. But inside it's a multiple story museum with an incredible array of paintings by Western artists both past and present. Western art is true genre unto itself and, not surprisingly, it's highly influenced by the Renaissance and Hudson River styles. There are paintings of cowboys, Native Americans, settlers, land wars, even people making movies in the desert. Again, this is a place I highly recommend if you ever get to Denver.

We spent most of our final full day out of town in Rocky Mountain National Park. I'm not much of an outdoors/hiking/nature type but, I must say, venturing around this gorgeous preserve was a religious experience pour moi. The mountains and valleys, the glaciers, the lakes and forests combine to create an milieu and experience where you see and feel the true beauty of this world, God's handiwork (if you believe in God), the veil between heaven and earth worn thin. I've never felt more at peace, more mellow, than seeing this place. I hope these photos due it some justice. One day I hope to go back.


Finally, on our way to the airport, we checked out the Molly Brown Museum. If you ever saw Titanic or The Unsinkable Molly Brown, you know the story of this woman who married money and made something of it. Unlike the vulgarian in the aforementioned movie or the singing/dancing lady in the latter, Molly Brown was a woman ahead of her time: a feminist, a humanitarian, a passionate believer in education and civil rights; she was a pioneer woman with a pioneer spirit. Her house, located in a residential downtown neighborhood, is a tasteful and elegantly preserved home. It was one of the first historic houses that I've seen that had "modern" features i.e. a telephone, electricity, refrigeration.  Like its namesake, the Molly Brown house is a link from the past that stretches into our present and future.

One more thing about Denver that some of you might be curious about: I can confirm that, as one of our cab drivers said, people in this town "Love dat weed!" Colorado is one of a small handful of states in the union where recreational marijuana is legal and, as you might imagine, it's quite popular. There are dispensaries all over and the smell of "dat weed" is all over the city. Go to Denver and, if you wish, go get yourself some legal pot -- and realize why it's so dumb that it's still illegal in most of the rest of the country, including here in NY.

I enjoyed Denver and hope to return one day. We ate in lots of great restaurants and did lots of walking. If you're a New Yorker, that makes it an especially great town to visit.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Leaving New York" - Extra Excerpt!


“G-Spot uncorked the bottle and held it up. “Care to sniff the product?” They did so. Smells like paint thinner, thought Tommy. G-Spot got out three shot glasses and poured a small amount of Scotch into each. He asked Tommy, “What do you think of our establishment?”

“Very cool. I didn’t think the place would be so huge.”

“Not only that, but the acoustics are great. Good feature for a karaoke bar.”

“And I love the Asian theme. I guess that’s typical of most karaoke bars but you guys really pulled it off here. It’s elegant instead of tacky.”

“Eric deserves the credit for that.” G-Spot handed a full shot glass each to Tommy and Eric. “My skills are mostly related to the dispensing of alcohol and the occasional oversight of personnel. Mr. Steinberg is the one who put this place together.”

“I love everything Asian,” said Eric. “And everyone Asian!"

“May I propose a toast then,” said G-Spot. The three men held their shot glasses aloft. “To profit! And to Tommy’s arrival. May your time with us be joyful.”

“Cheers!” shouted Eric.

Tommy agreed. “Cheers!”

They all clinked and took a shot. The fire-smoked wood liquor burned Tommy’s throat and stomach yet had a wonderfully strong aftertaste. Eric grabbed the bottle, re-filled the glasses, and proposed another toast. “To the Japanese ...”

“Clink. G-Spot added, “They make such bloody good cameras.”

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Updates to Mr NYC

If you look to your right, you might notice a couple of things:

1. There is now a permanent link to my recently published novel Leaving New York -- download your copy today!

2. A Mr NYC Facebook page is currently under construction but you can link to it right now just to see what it is (or will be) all about. 

3. I'm currently working on creating a Mr NYC podcast -- more on that soon!

MTA: 2017 Summer of Hell

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"Leaving New York" - Even More Excerpts!


“As they moved north to begin Jacob’s ghastly “witness” tour, numbness took hold of Tommy. Time ceased its feeling. The neat division of days, the predictable emotional chart of the week—the excitement of Fridays and Saturdays, the melancholy of Sundays and Mondays, the neutral arc of Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays—collapsed into sameness. The night no longer felt separate from the daytime, just a continuation of a blank temporal plane, much like the Texas landscape they drove through, an expanse of flatlands and desert, civilization hiding, nothing to see except the occasional batch of oil rigs and desolate towns. The car became less a mode of transport and more a lifeline to the familiar, to sanity. They drove constantly yet seemed to get nowhere, on and on, and on and on. And so they drifted . . .

. . . and drifted . . .

. . . drifting along Highway 90, bypassing Houston completely, as Tommy and Eric alternated driving duties, talking little, Jacob losing himself in his iPod, his white ear buds occasionally falling out, stopping for gas and food at rests stops . . .

. . . drifting onto Highway 45, passing through places called The Woodlands, Conroe, Willis . . . cutting through a patch of Sam Houston National Forest—finally some greenery!—then plunging back again into the barrenness, unceasing, relentless, the sun boiling the car in daytime, the air conditioner blasted high, the nighttime dropping into sudden cold . . . hours and hours of silence, fiddling with the radio, trying to find a decent radio station, avoiding the country music and religious programming that predominated, listening to Eric’s iPod on occasion, giving him a needed dose of rap music, jiving to the Wu-Tang Clan, followed by the endless, endless, endless strains of “November Rain” by Gun’s’Roses . . .

. . . drifting by several more towns, including several “-villes”: Huntsville, Madisonville, Centerville—stopping, as always, for more food and gas, Eric calling his karaoke bar back in Portland, getting updates on how business was faring in his absence, agreeing with his manager to make this or that purchase, allowing such and such a person to be hired, one to be fired, yelling when he heard that his accountant hadn’t completed his taxes on time and he would have to pay for an extension, the delivery of an important piece of equipment that had been delayed . . .

. . . drifting further, everyone sleeping heavily at night in a bland motel, waking up early, awkwardly lingering around the cramped room, watching TV while one or the other of them showered (the only real privacy any of them got was in the bathroom), all conversation between them exhausted, their laundry bulging in their bags, their supply of clean clothes dwindling, their hair getting longer, no barber shops in sight, their nerves jangling, close to fraying . . .

. . . drifting, inching more like it, towards Dallas . . .”

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What's the Best Broadway Song of the Last 40 Years?

I'm not a big fan of "best" lists -- you know, those intentionally provocative lists that attempt to compile, in some determinate order, what is the best of this and that when any such "best" conclusions are purely subjective. So I read this "30 Best Broadway Songs of the Past 40 Years" with a bit of skepticism -- and it justifies my skepticism. Some of the songs on the list are spot on - "Memory" from Cats, "Don't Cry for Me "Argentina" from Evita, "Sunday" and "Our Time" from Sondheim musicals. But "Beauty and the Beast?" Which is originally from a movie? "One Day More" from Les Miz but not "I Dreamed a Dreamed?" Come on! And no "Tomorrow" from Annie? As my five-year old daughter would say, "Are you kidding me?"
My favorite musical from the last few years, The Book of Mormon, shows up on this list with "I Believe" but that's not really the best song from that musical -- there several, like "You and Me (But Mostly Me)", "All-American Prophet" and several others that are quite better. My favorite is "Hassa Diga Eibowai" which is the funniest song I've ever heard. As this list and my observations prove, there's no "best" of anything -- just the continuing effort to make great work. That's what we should be celebrating.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"The Deuce" - Upcoming HBO Show Set in 1970s NYC!

"Leaving New York" - Yet Another Excerpt


“A truck zoomed past, the driver wearing a giant black cowboy hat, a bumper sticker on the back of the truck reading: SOMEWHERE IN KENYA, A VILLAGE IS MISSING AN IDIOT.
Tommy said, “I’ve never felt more like a Jew than at this very moment.”
“We gotta be careful,” said Eric. “We’re a bunch of New York Jews in a nasty Republican state. Everyone in Texas has a gun. I mean everyone. If you’re a Democrat here, it’s legal for them to shoot you. Don’t piss anyone off by saying the word ‘Obama.’ Watch ... out.” 

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

"Leaving New York" - Another Excerpt


“Brandy looked flummoxed. “You guys are ... weird,” she said after a pregnant pause. She pointed at Arjun. “I thought he was cute, but—Jen, let’s go.” She rose up with Jenna following.

She looked back at Tommy. “Maybe I’ll see you in New “York.” 

Slightly inebriated, Tommy felt bold. He told Jenna, dead on, “Let me give you some advice, totally unsolicited. Don’t move to New York. New York isn’t what you think it is. Not anymore. It’s a parody of itself, and not even a very good parody. Stay here, or find another city to fall in love with. Go to Dubuque or someplace and make that cool. New York hasn’t been cool since 1978.”

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