Archive for the ‘new york’ Category

New York story

Friday, January 15th, 2010

My friend S. and I waited in line for over an hour last night for a free screening of The Book of Eli (very good, neat twist, God-y but in the best way possible) and the free tickets ran out just ahead of us.

So S. and I go into the cinema to see if there was anything else playing – the smell of popcorn was that tantalizing – but there’s nothing at the right time, and I’m ready to leave. S. eyes the staircase. “Let’s just go up here for a minute,” she says.

I’d never been to this theater before, but she’d been here lots of times, born and raised in the city. At the top of the stairs is a ticket-taker, so I hesitate. Nearby is another cinema worker, chatting on the phone. “Bathroom?” S. says, and the woman gestures. We walk right in.

Who knew you could do that?

I’m giddy, having snuck into the movies – I feel like a little kid as we’re walking down the main drag, past the popcorn concessions (gotta get some), past theater after theater. I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to see. S. is just heading for the bathroom – she really did have to go.

And suddenly we’re in the doorway of a movie, I can’t tell which one, but I have my suspicions as there are security guards and a guy waving a wand-style metal detector. S. is walking so purposefully, he assumes she belongs there. “You were here before, right?” he says, and waves her in. I ride her wake, trying not to screech with joy.

We’re in. And The Book of Eli is just starting.

We had to stand, but it’s just under 2 hours and we both work on our feet all day at the bookstore, so no sweat (my feet are much better these days).

Later she told me how she and a friend happened to walk past a theater downtown showing a premier of some big movie, and all the stars were there. She and her friend just walked right in. Saw the movie, saw the stars.

New York!

Concern, not alarm

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

photo by scol22My hypochondria is flaring up.

Every morning I turn on New York One, the NYC news channel, just to make sure the world is still there. I get online and check Facebook, my favorite blogs, and the major news headlines. So I heard about the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico early last week, and I felt a little tickle in my throat.

The next day I heard there were a few cases in Texas and California. Slight headache.

And on Friday, I turned on the tv to learn that a bunch of high school students in Queens – some of whom had just been to Mexico – had all gone home with the flu. Like, 75 of them.

I sneezed.


My “go” bag

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Like I'm really gonna get out of here alive. (But what if I do?)

Like I'm really gonna get out of here alive. (But what if I do?)

Living in New York definitely brings home the idea of the impending apocalypse. Any subway at rush hour reminds me that disaster is just one panic away. We handle ourselves well here when disaster happens, and I’m glad to be in the city, but obviously 8 million people can’t just carry on as usual if there’s no electricity, or an epidemic, or a “dirty” bomb, or catastrophic economic collapse. I probably won’t survive such an eventuality, but in case I do, I want to be ready. I have extra water stored, and some stockpiled food. And I have a “go” bag.


The stench of unanswered questions

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
"Some fumes which are not poisonous would be a welcome change."  - S. Holmes

"Some fumes which are not poisonous would be a welcome change." - S. Holmes

Astute reader J. suggests that it’s more than just coincidence, that they solved the mystery of the maple syrup aroma mere days after I mentioned it here. He may be right.

The Gothamist isn’t buying it, either. In fact, according to the crack journalists over there, this may not be the end of the mystery at all. Frutarom itself, one of the factories accused of producing the aroma, expressed surprise at the accusation.

But the real money quote is this one: “Some health experts believe that it is highly unlikely that a food-based emission from a small plant like this could be so strongly detected three or four miles away,” said North Bergen spokesman Phil Swibinski. It has been smelled as far away as the Bronx and Queens.

Yet the Health Department is able to “confirm” that the odor is perfectly safe.

And, dear readers, when I first smelled it, it was 11:30 at night and, as I recall, quite still.

I think they’re afraid I was about to blow the cover right off their operation, so they came up with these factories in New Jersey to explain it – knowing that nobody from New York would ever go and check it out. I mean, it’s  New Jersey. And anyway, we’re used to funny smells coming from that direction, right?

This whole thing stinks.

(I did enjoy the visual of all the inspectors running around with little cannisters, trying to catch a smell.)

Mystery solved?

Thursday, February 5th, 2009


The city’s Department of Environmental Protection (did you know we had one of those?) claims to have discovered the source of that weird maple syrup smell that periodically wafts over the city: a factory in New Jersey that develops and makes flavors. According to them, the smell comes from a reaction that occurs during the processing of fenugreek seeds.

I still prefer my explanation, which is that the city is testing spreading patterns of gases to help with response planning in the event of a gas attack. If it’s Frutorom instead… I guess that means they’re not testing to see how gases spread through the city?

That’s just swell.

I’m trying to look on the bright side: maybe they’re lying.

That maple syrup smell

Monday, January 12th, 2009

mrs-butterworth-lit-maplHave you ever smelled maple syrup in the air, in New York city? I have. According to Gothamist, it’s back.

Gothamist has been tracking it, which is awesome; their map has Mrs. Butterworth as the icon, showing how wide the cloud of syrupy aroma has spread, and they’ve documented each date, as well. I first smelled it just before Halloween, 2005.

It’s not an unpleasant smell, to me, though some people don’t like it. The problem is, it’s not one of our usual smells. There’s no maple syrup factory in the five boroughs, as far as I know, no reason why we should all suddenly smell a pancake breakfast.  It’s not like oh, sometimes when the wind is right, you can smell Vermont…

The first time I smelled it, I swear, I ran home and put the news on, sure that some factory or fleet of trucks had had some enormous, comical accident. Nothing.

Nothing from the police, nothing from the mayor. Not  a word on what this thing might be.

Naturally, I have a theory. I think that it’s some government agency, testing to see how gases travel in the city. You  know, you release a harmless gas, with a distinctive odor, at Grand Central, and see how far that thing travels. You can’t tell anyone what you’re up to, because people might object to being experimented on, and it also lets “the terrorists” know that we’re, I don’t know… trying to be prepared? There must be some important, government-agency-type reason why we can’t know what they’re up to.

I’m not too concerned about it, though I’m usually fairly paranoid about these things. Maybe because it’s maple syrup. I worry much more when I smell something nasty. Somehow I don’t think anyone would bother to scent, say, sarin gas with a pleasant aroma. Apparently sarin is odorless. So if you don’t smell anything right now… maybe you should be worried.

Meanwhile, report all non-pancake-induced scentings of maple syrup to

Here’s hoping that, whatever it is, it’s harmless. *chink*


Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
I can barely look at this

I can barely look at this

We had a cockroach incident in the kitchen this evening. I’m still recovering, having a beer while washing every pot and pan I have, before I can proceed with making dinner.

In New York City, cockroaches are everywhere. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have, there are cockroaches in your building and in the restaurants where you eat. They’re scuttling around on the streets, and infesting the subways.

I found a dead one in my dishwasher when I first moved to the city. It took me six hours to muster up the courage to pick that thing up (with many layers of plaster bags) and dump it down the trash chute. I’m a little more sanguine now. I deal with them, even the live ones, immediately. I just curse a lot, loudly.

Thank god for winter. I know that with the constant heat and moisture in other, more jungly parts of the world, these monsters get really big. But they get pretty big here, too. Big enough to fly. Did you know cockroaches could fly?

You might call them by another name when they get that big. You might call them “water bugs” or “palmetto bugs.” Do not be fooled. I did the research. That is not a different species you’re looking at, that is a big ol’ cockroach flying straight at your head. I always say, if I ever get a cockroach caught in my hair, I have to set myself on fire. There’s no living after a thing like that.

I came home from work one steaming hot summer midnight to find a great, big, disgusting, horrible, flying cockroach in my bedroom. I swear, I almost moved out on the spot. Instead, after I mustered my courage, my cat and I stalked it around the apartment until I could finally corner it long enough to napalm the thing to death. If I had to do that often, I think I might actually leave the city. For somewhere very, very cold.

That’s the only flying one I’ve had so far (touch wood). But I’ve had lots of the regular, running-creepily-fast kind. I used to get one gigantic cockroach every season. Four times a year, I can handle that. But I think now my landlord is cheaping out on the exterminator. A few months ago I had four in three days. There was one earlier this week. And now this one tonight.

It’s stressful. They’re enormous, and they’re tough. You drown them with RaidTM, and they just keep struggling. Usually at some point they come right at me. I feel like Jack London and some freakin’ bear. Part of me feels sorry for them, I mean they’re obviously in some distress. And part of me wants a flamethrower.

A friend in Shanghai told me he had a cockroach in his apartment that was so enormous, it was trapped in his apartment. He couldn’t get at it to kill it. Regular poisons (Chinese poisons!) had no effect. It was so big, he said, he could see its intelligence. I don’t remember what he did to finally get rid of it; I think I blacked out when he described having to listen to it scuttling around at night.

I make a conscious effort in my life not to hate any living thing. I even made a vow, not to kill. But all of that goes away when I have a cockroach in my apartment. It turns into the Lord of the Flies over here. And I will use anything to kill the beast. Any concern for the environment goes straight out the window.

I justify it to myself, by saying well, killing an insect isn’t like killing an animal that has an autonomous existence. An individual cockroach is like one of the cells in your body. I’m not killing the whole hive. Or whatever you call them. (shudder)

Although… given the chance? Hand me that flamethrower.