Out damned spot

26
Mar
2010

I was doing my laundry this morning when I noticed that one of my t-shirts came out with a spot on it, right in the middle of the chest area. So, evaluating my choices:

1. I can try to remove the stain
2. I can throw/give the shirt away
3. I can keep it and wear it to clean the house, paint, anywhere people won’t see me in it.
4. I can wear it out in public and act like the stain isn’t there or that it doesn’t matter.

The more I started thinking about this, the more I wondered: Why is number 4 so bad? Why do we care so much that a t-shirt has a stain on it? If this were a dress shirt or a nice suit, ok. The whole point of dressing up is to rise to whatever occasion one needs to. But in everyday life, a trip to the store or a casual restaurant? Why do we care so much? Does it say something about our personal hygiene if we wear a clean shirt that happens to have a stain on it? Is it our obsession with the new and fear of decay that makes us turn away from a stained garment? And do the massive changes in our culture, moving as it has from the formal to the mostly casual not changed our appreciation of such things? If a shirt is in perfectly good condition, has not lost its shape, has no rips or tears why will we not wear it? I suspect that it reminds us of imperfection and the messiness of life, things we strive to avoid confronting. Or at least to avoid showing.

At home in Hudson Yards

20
Mar
2010

I took a quick walking tour of my building and neighborhood over the past couple of days. The building is really fantastic with all its amenities and public spaces. And the neighborhood is not bad, but clearly still in need of a lot of development. This neighborhood is referred to as Hudson Yards, and it is really one of the last areas in Manhattan to be developed for residential. Previously it was fairly industrial, and you can easily see in the neighborhood the mix of uses. In terms of restaurants, shops, grocery, etc (the things really necessary to support a vibrant residential community) the neighborhood is already way better than it was a few years ago, and it should improve dramatically in the next few years with so many residential units coming online. That said, it currently pales in comparison to many other city neighborhoods. One is also hopeful for closer subway links, but the planned 7 line extension is having all kinds of money problems, and so the planned station at 41st and 10th looks like it may not happen. Other things I notice about the neighborhood is that there seems to be a lot in the way of convention space (Javits Center, etc) as well as a lot of gallery/art space. And if you were ever wondering where all the taxis went to fill their tanks with gas, wonder no more. 10th ave is the place. I also notice how much blessedly quieter things are at night compared to my old hood. This is due to a combination of far better isolating windows, distance from the street, and that 10th ave is not the fire engine/ambulance corridor that 8th ave clearly is. Below is a slideshow of the goods.

Look, there’s Tootsie.

19
Mar
2010

My friend Gonzalo works for a man who is a bit of an eccentric. This man seems to plan elaborate evenings all the time, mostly consisting of theater and dinner combinations. He also seems to be quite particular about the particulars. Apparently unable to attend one such planned evening due to an illness, he offered it to my friend who invited me to join him. Last night began with an off broadway play called “The Temperamentals“, which follows the story of Harry Hay and the forming of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization in Los Angeles. While the play contained some interesting factoids about the various personalities involved, overall it felt more like a classroom lecture than a gripping stage drama. eh.

After the play we went to a late (pre-arranged) dinner at The Russian Tea Room, and a rush of memories came flooding back to me. I believe the last (and only) time I was here was in the early 80’s. I was taken to lunch here as a teenager by my mother, for what seemed to me at the time to be a very fancy meal. Something of this event stayed with me, for I remembered the Chicken Kiev I had ordered back then, as well as the feeling of big city sophistication the place imparted to a boy from Indiana. I was fairly shocked upon entering the place to note that the decor looked exactly as it had all those years ago, and the menu seemed exactly as it had been as well. There was the Borscht, there was the Chicken Kiev. Though we arrived a little late for dinner, it was quite surprising that there were only two other tables with people sitting at them in the entire restaurant. And although the meal was fine as it went, I was basking in the odd nostalgia more than anything else. This is a place locked in time, a slice of old New York that could use a little updating as it began to feel just a little bit like we had stumbled into a Twilight Zone episode. Still, I quite enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, with all of its layered associations.

Colin Farrell stole my umbrella

13
Mar
2010

My friend Dallas is in town for a few days on business, and had time today to hang out with me. He was excited to allow me to show him around New York a bit, and so was I. I imagined we would stroll through some of the many interesting and beautiful neighborhoods of New York, stopping in various cafes, restaurants, and shops along our way. When I woke up this morning and looked out the window however, imagination gave way to cold wet reality in the form of blustery torrential downpours. So a change of plans took us to a nice long lunch (with truly amazing banana cake) followed by a trip down to The Tenement Museum for one of their fascinating 2 hour tours. When it was over, it was still pouring madly, and the wind was something fierce, twisting our umbrellas and soaking us despite our best efforts. Realizing that we were none too far from a lovely little place called Freemans, we made our way there, arriving quite drenched but happy to be indoors with a hot toddy and artichoke dip. We dropped our soaking umbrellas in the can at the door with all the others so as not to drip all over the restaurant, and sat down at a table by the window. As we were enjoying our drink and dip, I glanced out the window to notice one of the patrons leaving. He looked quite a bit like Colin Farrell I thought, and then I looked down and also noticed that he was carrying an umbrella that was strikingly similar to my own. I turned back to my drink and conversation, not giving it another thought. That is, until we got up to leave and I noticed that the bastard had in fact made off with my umbrella! I rooted about in the can and took one that looked busted up (probably the one he left behind) and we made our way as quickly as possible towards the nearest subway. It was so windy that I had to abandon the brittle thing I was carrying as it split apart in the wind. At that point I just accepted it was my lot in life today to be not just wet, but drenched and cold. I made my way into the subway, then walked the several blocks back to my place from the exit, dripping comically as I entered my building.