Stubborn Horsepower


The fact that parking spaces on Manhattan streets are as rare as empty seats on subway trains during rush hours has been long established. Motorists have been known to search high and low–oftentimes begged, borrowed and killed–for a chance to park within a reasonable distance (maybe 2 or 3 miles) of their destinations. Even within the luxurious dream-within-a-dream realm of the city’s Upper West Side, it doesn’t come easy for those ritzy travelers wishing to exercise their God-given hopes to park their cars.

A slightly startling instance of the trials and palpitations of parking on the streets of the aforementioned Upper West Side appears in the New York Times Metropolitan Diary. After a grueling day of visiting her mother in the hospital, a woman was returning to her Central Park West apartment. As if by magic, she caught sight of a space right in front of her apartment building. Just as she positioned herself and her car for the usually daunting task of parallel parking, she looked in the rear-view mirror and saw, staring back at her, something far too anachronistic for the eyes of 21st century motorists to gaze upon: a horse-and-buggy!

The standard gag when attempting to pull into a parking space in NYC is, that by an amazing coincidence, of another car suddenly appearing with designs on the very same spot. Rather than opportunistic car blocking her path, the woman found this quaint means of equine transport, hot and static on her tail, instead. Naturally, since her car was stopped, she expected the buggy to go around her; this didn’t happen.

Both drivers, that of car and that of carriage, gazed at one another with that look of competitive incredulity we New Yorkers know so well; a look that seems to say “I’ll fight you for it.” To make matters worse, while this gazing refrain was in progress, the horse began taking a gastronomic interest in the woman’s car.

Horror of everlasting horrors, this quite distant ancestor of Seabiscuit and Mister Ed, began licking her car with horse-powered abandon. From trunk to back window, the woman’s car became a delectable morsel for the leisurely and unmovable horse, its saliva creating a film over her children’s college decals.

The woman did what any self-respecting motorist would do:

“I jammed the car into park, opened the car door and screamed at the driver, “What am I supposed to do now?”

The buggy’s driver response was typical to the busy streets of this crowded metropolis:

“It’s a green light, lady. Go!”

That’s all there is, there isn’t any more; at least, not any more that I know about. But I’m sure that the whole affair was peacefully concluded with minimum casualties. After all, there are 8 million stories (or so they say) in the Naked City, and this one, involving urbane motorist, cocky buggy driver and epicurean equine, was just another offering in an eternal list of urban comedy routines.

The Gothamist


Papa’s Brew Is Back


Absinthe, that clever intoxication of literary and legendary yesterdays, has returned. The drink of choice for Hemingway‘s expatriated characters, in such works as The Sun Also Rises and For Whom The Bell Tolls is now resurrected as the drink of choice for patrons at L’Absinthe. Even though the restaurant has been serving it since 1995, it wasn’t officially served until 2009.

The wormwood-based elixir was banned by the FDA in 1917. While absinthe itself was never specifically cited, thujone, an ingredient of absinthe, was. Because large doses of thujone could lead to toxic convulsions and liver damage, any drink or food containing an excess of 10 ppm of thujone is prohibited in the United States. However, a later study determined that absinthe, as it was traditionally distilled in the 19th century, contained less than the proscribed amount of thujone and opened the way for U.S. sale and distribution.

“L’Absinthe serves absinthe using the traditional style, with a fountain that slowly drips ice water into the absinthe through a sugar cube resting on a spoon on top of the glass. The leisurely process releases the herbs in the absinthe and balances out the prominent anise flavor. Each serving at L’Absinthe ranges in price from $12 to $16, and varieties include La Clandestine, St. George Absinthe Verte, and the American-made Lucid.” (The Gothamist)

Let me close by saying, here’s to Jake Barnes and Lady Ashley,  Robert Jordan and Maria, and all those other Hemingwayesque heroes and victims of political, social and (what’s worse) romantic bewilderment: Everything old is truly new again. Indeed, it’s a great time in America again to be dreamily expatriated while being totally drunk?

Tattoos On The Island

Staten Island may not lay claim to many distinctions but can finally boast of one: Island Tattoo, New York City‘s first tattoo museum. This is certainly a radical move for that ignored borough (suspected of being a covert part of New Jersey), often dismissed as lacking in the finer graces of NYC’s bohemian dwellings, commuter anxieties and hipster frivolity. (The last time I was in Staten Island was when my car broke down while en route home.)

The Gothamist went so far as to allege that Staten Island was on the road to becoming “Williamsburg II,” one of Brooklyn‘s newfound realms, cleverly bustling with herbal tea liberalism. Tattoos are the latest craze sweeping a society endowed with an overabundant luxury for self-expression (no matter how strikingly self-mutilating) and it’s rather odd that Staten Island, by fact and fancy, dangly conservative in its ways should be the first to  accommodate a tattoo museum.

In any event, Island Tattoo is the source and repository for total tattoo creativity. Located at 203 Old Town Road in Grasmere on Staten’s Island’s East Shore, Island Tattoo, as reported last summer in the Staten Island Advance, has drawn Staten Islanders attention to “the world’s most intimate canvass” and has lofty goals to broaden its popularity and appeal.

“The owner, known only as Dozer, has plans to create three tableaux in the 500-square foot space, with automated mannequins depicting tribal, ancient Japanese and World War II-era tattooing methods. Video and sound elements will add explanation and atmosphere to each scene.”

According to my somewhat dependable spies in the field, all has gone as planned for Island Tattoo.

It’s All Topsy-Turvy, Mon Amie!

That’s not a plane buzzing Central Park; it’s actually a quite static art installation buzzing our sensibilities. Paola Rivi’s How I Roll is the latest in a slew of surrealist-laced public art offerings that are popping up around town.

Italian-born Pivi, who is currently based in Alaska, created the plane as part of a sculpture series featuring large machines that have been taken out of their usual context, like an upside-down helicopter and an overturned tractor-trailer. “How I Roll reminds me of a famous anecdote about the birth of modernism,” Public Art Fund Director and Chief Curator Nicholas Baume said in a press release. “Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, and Fernand Léger are said to have visited the 1912 Paris Air Show together. Upon observing a propeller, Brancusi [it was actually Duchamp not Brancusi] exclaimed, ‘Now that is what I call sculpture!'”

Central Park is big and New York City is, of course, even bigger. I suppose there’s room enough for this sort of thing here, especially when we consider that “art is long and life is short.” But I still believe this upside-down piece of art would look much better as a prop in a disaster movie. A disaster movie, did I say? Well, on second thought, perhaps the like of How I Roll does indeed belong here after all.

Source: Gothamist

Ominously Beeping, Hanging, Whatever

The foolishness of misguided caution and muddled security strikes again in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Just a couple of weeks ago, someone in that “hipster capital of the world” called the cops when he spotted a suspicious looking “I Love New York” bag hanging from a light pole. The bag was traced to 50-year-old Takeshi Miyakawa, an artist who merely created the piece for Design Week. Mr. Miyakawa was arrested and had to spend a considerable amount of time and energy trying to convince the NYPD that he wasn’t out to blow up the city.

Yesterday, there was yet another “scare” over yet another suspicious-looking bag…one that was “beeping ominously.”  The only thing found in the bag was an electronic keyboard. Even though it wasn’t clear as to who left it there or what caused it to start beeping, it was soon evident that the keyboard didn’t pose a threat.

Hell, no one could beep as ominously as I do when I’m at the keys of my Yamaha Motif playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. I predict that a SWAT team will be surrounding my house one of these days.

Source: Gothamist