Hoping we don’t go back to the good old days

Anyone missing the old NYC didn’t live in the old NYC

Me: Do you want me to slice that for you?
Her: Why?
Me: Cutting bagels are the among the most dangerous household activities.
Her: (getting knife) You’re the clumsiest person I know.
Me: This is true.

Finished up a slate of projects for a client recently and immediately got more work in. There’s no real happy balance with my type of work, it’s either feast or famine.

The professor was in town but we each only had an hour or so, so we caught up in basement of Grand Central.

Me: Y’know, I have no childhood reference for this place. I figured if I came here back then, I’d get shanked.
Him: Yeah.

The people that dream of the good old days of NYC never had to live here back then. I have the feeling they’re the same people that like to rubberneck at car wrecks or watch nature shows when the impala gets killed by the lioness.

Great entertainment if you’re the lioness or the one in a safe car. Not so much if you’re the impala.

Running down my list of friends who were born and raised here, the professor is in Pittsburgh, another buddy is in Hawaii, another one in Cali, another one in Connecticut.

The City takes its toll on you over a lifetime.

I bring this up because I was concerned about our new mayor. The last time we had a mayor like him, the city was a cesspool.

But his recent choice of our old Chief Bratton has allayed my fears, somewhat. Only somewhat.

For me, I can only wait.

Because there really isn’t anywhere like New York.

 

Location: in front of all these computer screens
Mood: tired
Music: I know, I know, I know you ain’t the one to play the game.
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From the Archives: Safe, Grace, and Mercy

Sal, a letter, and the difference between Grace and Mercy


My best friend’s granddad is a fella named Sal. He and his family have always been kind to me. I remember we once discussed Dean Martin. Good ole Dino. Good ole Sal.

Sal just passed yesterday so I’ve got to dust off my black suit and say goodbye. I’m sad, not so much for him, because he lived a good and long life, but for those he left behind.

After all, A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

I wanted to write more but I think I said it best already in the two posts below.

Safe
I thought of my own grandma when I heard the news. We were close because she lived in Taiwan and I’m an insomniac. When I was up at 3AM, I had someone to speak to. After she passed, when  3AM rolled around, found myself just sitting in the dark by my lonely. So I wrote her this letter.

 

Grace and Mercy
And in that entry, talked about the difference between grace and mercy. One is when you get the good things you don’t deserve; the other is when you don’t get the bad things you do deserve. You can read which one is which here.

Back on Monday.

Location: in front of my closet
Mood: sad
Music: don’t remind me to forget
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Remembering the Northeast Blackout of 2003

10 years since the East Coast Blackout

Me: Today’s the 10 year anniversary of the 2003 East Coast Blackout.
Her: Really? Wow. 10 years. Time goes by so fast.

I remember what I was doing that day/night well since it happened just under a year since the 9/11 attacks.

Was actually in a real estate closing when I realized that I was missing a check. So I made a mad dash to my office to get it.

On the train ride back to the meeting, the train got stuck in the tunnel. Was already panicked as this was only my third real estate closing so I remember that when the AC shut off in the subway car, I was already a sweaty mess. I also remember the subway car windows steaming up because of the humidity.

Hours later, the car doors opened in the middle of the tunnel and we worked our way in the dark to the station – we used our mobile phones for light. When I finally got out, I was a mile or so from the closing so I ran there with the check.

Was so absorbed in getting to the meeting that I barely noticed that there were no lights.

Arriving, I banged the door repeatedly when the building manager finally came and opened the door. “I’m…here…for the closing. Checks.” I said, breathlessly.

People walking in New York City during the bla...
People walking in New York City during the blackout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Closing?” he said, “There’s a ___ing blackout. There’s no closing.” And the slammed the door in my face. Only then did I look up and think, Well, that’s weird.

Eventually, I made it over to Rain’s apartment where we ended up BBQing on his roof since his fridge was stocked. I remember sitting on his roof ledge in a rumpled suit, dirty from my tunnel run.

Hours later in the dark, finally managed to grab a $80 cab ride back to my pad. We went at like three miles an hour up to the Upper West Side because of all the pedestrians and lack of light.

When I got home, found my sister waiting for me since she couldn’t make it to her home. Back then I had a car so I lent it to a buddy to go check up on his mom in Philly. End up eating everything out of my fridge for a late dinner.

Two things happened that day:

  1. I have a checklist for closings now so I never forget another check.
  2. Got this here story to tell people now.

All education’s expensive. Some, though, come with worthwhile memories.

Location: enjoying the strangely cool August weather at my desk
Mood: nostalgic
Music: It’s been a long night in New York City
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Goodbye Big Nick’s, you’ll be missed

Change is the only constant in life


I first moved into my neighborhood 17 years ago.

Back then it was kinda dive-y but I was younger and stupider then. Back then, the legendary P&G Bar – which you might know from the Runaway Bride or any number of other films – and the Yogi’s Bar were typical for the neighborhood.

Al Pachino’s Needle Park took place just a few blocks from my doorstep and the film the Warriors had shots all over my hood including the 95th Street Station exterior shots.

The Panic in Needle Park
The Panic in Needle Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Trump moved into the area and fixed up the pier and they installed the new subway station at West 73rd Street, the place really took off.

As you know, I don’t lament the passing of old New York all that much; after all, no one that was born poor wants to stay poor.

But last week, my old haunt, Big Nicks closed. Their menu was as big as a book and if you wanted a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, and a side of gyro with chili at 2:34 AM, they had it. With a Fosters beer, for some strange reason.

As an insomniac, wrote a lot of stuff there; a lot of The Men Made of Stone was done in front of greasy plates there.

That leaves me with two dive bars left in the UWS.

There’s this poem in Chinese I like that goes:

shao xiao li jia lao da hui, xiang yin wu gai bin mao shuai.
er tong xiang jian bu xiang shi ,xiao wen ke cong he chu lai.
少 小 离 家 老 大 回, 乡 音 无 改 鬓 毛 衰.
儿 童 相 见 不 相 识, 笑 问 客 从 何 处 来?

Basically, this dude leaves his hometown and comes back an old man for the first time in decades. He sees children playing and laughing – like he did with his childhood friends – but they’re not him, and they’re not his friends.

But they’re just like him and them when they were kids.

And they call out to him: Hello stranger! And it’s nostalgic and sad in the sense that he’s now a stranger in his own hometown – it doesn’t recognize him and he doesn’t recognize it.

I think one day I’ll leave here and everything will have changed and be like I remember it, but not.

Suppose that’s true anywhere.

More practically: Dammit, there’s no place else now to get a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, a side of gyro,  with chili and a Fosters Beer at 2:34 AM.

I wish some things stayed the same.

Not all. Just some.

In other news, went to see the folks last night. It looked and felt like spring.

Location: the UWS that’s changing too fast for me
Mood: busy
Music: Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
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Scytales On the Dark Side

Imagine if we could send messages to ourselves

Him: It’s funny, isn’t it? How something like a song can snap you back to a time in your life?
Me: I don’t think I’ve heard that song in decades.

A scytale’s just a stick that’s of a certain thickness.

A scytale
A scytale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you took, say, a belt, and wrapped it around a stick and then proceeded to write across it, it would make a rudimentary code. While wrapped around the stick, you could read it normally but unwrap it and it would just be a jumble of letters unless you had a stick of the same diameter.

Spartans and the Athenians use to write to each other in this code. Somehow got onto the topic of codes with my wife.

Me: I used to write these coded letters to myself.
Her: Why yourself?
Me: (laughing) No one’d ever play with me as a kid. No one ever wants to play with the really fat minority nerd. So I just wrote them to myself.
Her: (patting me on the head) It’s hard being a kid.

This all came about because my brother called me to talk about that song above and our childhood in general. It was rough for both of us but for different reasons.

However, my one saving grace may have been my insomnia. Because it’s all very hazy. I just remember being lonely a lot but not really discrete things about it. I wonder if he had such a buffer.

In any case, I think my wife feels sorry for that version of me. And in a weird way, I do too. Because he’s me but he is not I.

But I remember that version of me sitting and listening to that song and wishing he could sing.

Sorry kid, 28 years later, we still can’t.

But we can do things I never dreamt I’d be able to do. And have the most amazing life.

Still, while I am very grateful for everything I have, I did wonder what it would be like if I could send a coded message to my younger self. After all, listening to that message was like him talking to me.

I’d send two, actually:

  • One would tell him that everything would be fine: Everything is the same but different. The acne would clear up, the fat would go away, and sheer terror of life would stop. Just stop.
  • Of course, the other would tell him to buy Apple stock when it was $7 a share like there was no tomorrow.

I’m no sentimental fool.

Location: on my way to other latitudes
Mood: pleased
Music: like a dream, make me feel crazy
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It’s been a decade since 9/11

Midtown West of New York City from the river

Causea the vacation last month, plus the hurricane and Labor Day, things have been slow. Actually, all of summer’s traditionally slow for me so it’s when I map out my trajectory for following year.

As I said, all businesses are comprised of three parts so I like the use the downtime to concentrate on the other two (sales/marketing & research/development). More on that some other time.

Yesterday, though, was running around Staten Island for work. Stopped by the Brooklyn Ikea on the way home to pick up some cabinets; HG’s a lot neater than me so I feel I’ve got to step up and get my stuff in order. Spent far more time yesterday pounding together funny flat boxes than reasonable.

Evidently, there’s this theory that obesity is contagious, which I could have told you – your friends’re mirrors to yourself so if you’ve got friends that love to pound food, chances are you do as well, or will. Think that HG’s a good influence on me in a number of aspects, neatness being just onea of those things.

Part of the reason you cut friends is to make room for the one’s that’re better for you.

Other friends you keep around for years, decades, even.

Speakinga decades, Sunday’s September 11th. Ten years, it’s been. There’re all these memorials and constant news clips whatnot. Which I understand, especially for those that were too young to not know what happened.

Thing is that I remember every goddamned minute of that goddamned morning. Suspect mosta my fellow New Yorkers do as well.

Ten years. Man, it feels like it was yesterday.

This video was shot on 9/7/2011.

Location: getting dressed for a meeting
Mood: pensive
Music: I’ll always love you though New York, New York, New York
YASYCTAI: Meet up with an old friend for coffee. (60 mins/0.5 pts)
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Quiet summer weekends in New York City

View of Bryant Park Grill, NYC

Friday had lotsa meetings lined up, onea which was with an old work associate. Ended up being a three hour meeting. In a nutshell, he got screwed. I’d fight hard for any client but even more so when it’s a friend.

As an odd twist, on an unrelated point, his old boss was the CEO of a Fortune 100 company – and a kid that I went to elementary and junior high school with. We both knew each other because we were in the nerd group. It’s like being in the cool group except the complete opposite of everything and no one calls you except to get homework assignments.

Me: Tell him you know Fatlogan.
Him: They really called you that?
Me: (laughing) That or Whaleboy. Ask him and see. He’ll remember me only because I was the second fattest kid in the whole school and always wore the same four shirts.

I wonder if he talks like a kid from Queens.

Afterward, my boss and I grabbed some food and rum over at The Bryant Park Grill. Then more rum at the Cellar Bar. And then more rum at Salute. He thinks I’m good at what I do. It’s nice to hear. Even nicer when there’s rum involved.

Two glasses of water at Bryant Park Grill, NYC

Saturday, HG and I rented a whip and made it out to Staten Island for some family stuff. Spoke to HG’s cousin for a bit.

Her: I think that when people have kids, they’ll be a lot like they were.
Me: Then that means my kids’ll be pantsed a lot.

It was a nice drive there and back. Afterward, the wife and stopped by to get some frozen yoghurt at a new joint down from us called 16 Handles. Afterward, we lumbered home.

Me: It was a nice weekend.
Her: It was. But it’s good to be home.

Glass of rum on the rocks with a thick slice of orange at Salute! NYC

Location: sweating at a wooden desk
Mood: dreading the heat
Music: the future could it be the good old days
YASYCTAI: Keep cool – it’s a scorcher today. (24 hours/1 pt)
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Feeling like a wealthy adult

View east from Lincoln Center

The weather’s been relatively cool this summer; my running joke’s that in NYC, we go from Winter straight into Summer without a stop in Spring. This year, however, we’ve had spring and there’ve been several nice accompanying days.

Stopped by my old law school to pick up some things and it’s a bit shocking to me that it’s been 15 years since I first walked through those doors. It still smells the same. Smells are the first things I ever remember.

View east from Lincoln Center

Speakinga remembering and smells, saw my mom and dad along with some uncles and aunts this past weekend. HG and I headed out to Flushing where we met up with them in the same restaurant we went to for our Chinese wedding. Somea my relatives were in Asia at the time and they wanted to meet my wife.

Still feels strange writing the word, “wife.”

We took the train out there insteada the subway. It was my first time ever. Afterward, HG went home first so I could get a haircut. My thoughts and I took the 3:06 train to Penn Station.

S’funny, you can live in a place your entire life and never see it from a particular angle. Been to five-star hotels on private beaches in Nantes, suites in luxury ships off the coast of Denmark, private celebrity parties, and expensive fund-raisers. But being on a $12.50 train ride with HG made me feel wealthy and picking up the tab for lunch made me feel like an adult. Silly, isn’t it?

Finally, it’s supposed to be 95 degrees today.

Well, that’s the end of that.

Location: getting ready to get to the bank
Mood: cool, for now
Music: oh, this has gotta be the good life
YASYCTAI: Buy something nice for yourself that makes you feel wealthy. (1 min/1 pt)
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Aerelon: No one that was born poor wants to stay poor

Mona Lisa on a NYC Building

1983
Me: Why do I have to know what a salad fork looks like?
Him: (exasperated) Because, one day you’ll sit down with people that have a fork for salads and you’ll need to know which one to use. Now’s what’s that?
Me: Soup spoon.
Him: (beaming) Yes, soup spoon. That’s right. Good.

Thanks for taking the time to write a comment or email. Found it all really interesting the very different views people had. It’s funny but minorities & native-New Yorkers saw one thing (the second exchange) while non-minorities & non-New Yorkers pretty uniformly saw another (the first exchange).

As I wrote, that was the entire conversation; she never even bothered to respond. And rather than deal with any of the points I made, she sniffed, “Ugh, Logan, ugh! Privileged sentiments bore me.”

Like Nietzxche said, “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” She’s so smugly certain she’s right, she has no need to respond to new information.

Switching gears, you can always tells someone that used to be fat. They lumber. They walk as if they still carry the weight.

When I did lose the weight, onea of first things I did was ask my mom to buy me a nice sweater. She brought me to Alexander’s and I picked out a grey sweater from a bin. Got it big just in case I got fat again.

Wore that sweater proudly cause I got it at a department store. At the time, we didn’t usually get our clothes from a department store. When I told Grace in school about it, she laughed and said that only poor people shopped at Alexander’s and that I probably got it from the bargain bin. So I put the sweater away and only wore it at home.

It took me years to unlearn how to walk like fat person. Just like it took me years so that people didn’t immediately say, “You sound like you’re from Queens.” And years to know that what other people think of me is nonea my business.

Still, gotta admit that “privileged sentiments” made me pause. But not for reasons y’might think.

That I don’t sound like someone born to penniless immigrant parents outside an industrial park in Queens, New York, I take as a particular compliment. No one that was born poor idealizes it, only rich folk that have no clue.

Take it as a testimony to those parents who made sure, even though we grew up with halfa nuthin, we still got a proper upbringing – jia1jiao4. They taught me manners, how to love reading, and how to figure out which one was the salad fork.

“Privileged sentiments” – gotta tell my mom. She’ll take that as a particular compliment too.

And now, geekiness:

Location: hopefully Croxley later
Mood: lethargic
Music: You got the talking down, just not the listening
YASYCTAI: Seriously, stop idealizing things you know nuthin about. NYC in 1993 is hardly NYC when it was gritty. Try five years earlier on for size. (2 mins/1 pt)
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NYC isn’t what it used to be. Thankfully.

Times Square, NYC on a summer night

Her: You know, when you go out, you don’t need to eat everything they give you.
Me: (staring blankly)
Her: (sighing) Nevermind…

It’s holiday party time. Got client events at fancy hotels, steakhouses, ballrooms, and hidden bars on tap this time around. This week, heading to Le Parker Meridien.

Not sure if it beats all-you-can-eat wings and pitcher beer but I’ll find out. Should probably hit the gym. Later.

———-

People who aren’t from here often comment about how they miss the “grit” and “coolness” of NYC in the 80s and 90s.

Cannot tell you how much that annoys me.

For anyone that grew up here during that time, no one misses it. It’s one thing if you come to city as if you’re a tourist at the zoo and get to go home to a nice colonial in the suburbs. It’s another if you have to walk by hookers and over bums to get home off Times Square.

People talk about NYC my home when it was a hell-hole back in the 70s-90s as if it was a movie and y’can just turn it off when you’re done. Lemme tell you that being a fat, awkward, minority nerd during that time was unpleasant.

Very unpleasant.

If you wanna see an idealized NYC where you’re safe walking down the street but can still oogle the seediness without smelling the urine or taking knee to the gut off 14th street, rent a film.

You don’t see me driving to your lawn in Connecticut saying, “This is so sterile and safe – but bears and wolves, now that’d be cool. Oooh, imagine if there was one chasing someone right now! Not us, of course. Or anyone we love. Someone else. Maybe a fat Chinese guy with glasses reading Sherlock Holmes.”

Location: Looking out a rainy window
Mood: irritated
Music: Good times never seem so good – so good, so good, so good
YASYCTAI: Stop idealizing things and be grateful for what you got. (2 mins/1 pt)
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