On Manhattan Fashion

At least since last winter, if not before, I’ve observed a trend I like to call “Arctic Extreme!!!” People dressing like New York City is some vast frozen tundra, wearing huge Sorel boots rated to -60°F, donning 800 fill power down jackets, covering their heads in fur hats donned by Russian czars. I observed this and chuckled, especially when it was 35° and sunny.

Well who’s laughing now, with New York buried under 60″ of snow so far this winter? With an ice storm underway, and paralyzing amounts of slush and snow blocking the streets, making foot passage nearly impossible? Last year, if I’d seen someone mushing with their dogs down an avenue I’d laugh. Today I’d think, “Huh, not a bad idea. Where do you get sled dogs in the City though??”

The trouble with Whole Foods

One of the things that makes New York — or at least Manhattan — workable, given its density, is that people know what they're doing. If you walk along any crowded Manhattan street, people are moving at a brisk clip, swerving left and right as necessary. No one has any tolerance for lollygaggers or fools. And that makes NY work — it can be crowded and you can still get through a busy subway station and make your train. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone moves towards the same goal — except at the Union Square Whole Foods supermarket.

It dawned on me today as I tried to maneuver through the stalled crowds in the produce section, when I attempted to pass the woman just gazing at the row of Dungeness crabs at the fish counter. At Whole Foods, people turn into, well, something else, something like non New Yorkers! They move slowly! They stop short and then just turn 180° back the other direction. They just stand around, not moving, only looking at the mountainous displays of organic produce, like a tourist in Times Square. And it's excruciating if you go into the store as a New Yorker, knowing where you're going and what you want to do. It's nearly impossible (if you go at any point in the afternoon/early evening) to zip in and get what you need because you're stymied by gawkers overwhelmed by the cheese selection.

It's a good store people, but come on! Remember yourselves! You're New Yorkers! You're brusque. You hurry. You Get. Things. Done. And that includes shopping at the Union Square Whole Foods! I know I'm fast and focused and aggressive. That's one of the reasons I *like* living in NYC, I feel like I'm surrounded my people — except when I go to the Union Square Whole Foods!

New York’s diabetes problem

There's an astounding article about diabetes over at the New York Times Diabetes and Its Awful Toll Quietly Emerge as a Crisis. I was unaware not just of the amount of people being diagnosed with diabetes, but also its damaging effects. More than one in eight (!) adult New Yorkers now has diabetes.

New York, with its ambitious and highly praised public health system, has just three people and a $950,000 budget to outwit diabetes, a disease soon expected to afflict more than a million people in the city.

Tuberculosis, which infected about 1,000 New Yorkers last year, gets $27 million and a staff of almost 400.

Well worth a read, as the article says, "There is an underappreciated truth about disease: it will harm you even if you never get it. Disease reverberates outward, and if the illness gets big enough, it brushes everyone. Diabetes is big enough."

What to do with your old tree

Hey New Yorkers, wondering what to do with your Christmas tree now that the holidays are passed and it's dropping needles all over your apartment? According to this press release, Sanitation Announces Christmas Tree Recycling Schedule, you can just put your tree out on the curb!

Residents should remove all tree stands, tinsel, lights, and ornaments from holiday trees before they are put out for removal. Trees must not be put into plastic bags. Clean, non-bagged Christmas trees that are left at the curb between Wednesday, January 4th and Saturday, January 14th will be collected, chipped, and then mixed with leaves to make compost. The compost will be processed and subsequently spread upon parks, ball fields, and community gardens throughout the city.

It always makes me sad to take down the Christmas tree, but I guess it's about time for it to go. Godspeed little tree, and happy mulching!

Overheard in the neighborhood

Eating at a typical New York City diner the other night, I hear one of the women at a three top behind me call the waiter over to her table.

"We've decided we'd like some wine," she says to him. "Could we please see the wine list?"

He says nothing for a few moments, then replies, "We have two wines: red and white."

Old New York is right here around us

What a perfect article to welcome me back on my visit to NYC: Here Is New York, Right Where We Left It. Phew! Except of course the author is talking about old New York: hat shops, places to get a mug of beer for fifty cents, and pigs-knuckles lunches. It's a neat look at the small New York shops, bars, and restaurants hidden amongst the ever-increasing sprawl of national chains springing up around the City. At the very end of the article is perhaps the most important bit:

One thing the streets surely stand to lose when these frayed patches of New York's vast tapestry are finally replaced is a measure of their human scale. These remnants of a less mobile and more local New York speak of a more modest urban life in which goods and money traveled in smaller amounts between slightly less hurried parties moving in slightly smaller orbits.

No one goes to these old places to be seen or find the perfect pair of shoes or have a life-changing culinary experience or stock up on Turkish pistachios or toilet paper. If for nothing else, people go to these unfancy places because they embody a hidden truth about New York: that it is possible in almost any part of this monstrously huge, indifferent city to feel strangely at home.

How perfectly true.

A photo of the jeans police in action

Shortly after the time I wrote about the New York City Jeans Police, GQ contacted me about doing a short article and photo shoot about the idea. On a nice October day in 2003, we set out into the streets of Tribeca to photograph and Gina brought her camera along. Now she's posted a photo from the shoot to Flickr, a great one of me throwing Choire's jeans into the trash while he stands on the street in his boxers and handcuffs.

Pale Male and the City

I missed a great essay yesterday from MUG entitled, Why Pale Male Matters. (For those who aren't aware, Pale Male (and his mate Lola) are red-tailed hawks that have lived for 11 years in a nest they built on the cornice of a Fifth Avenue co-op overlooking Central Park. A week ago, the co-op board removed the nest, leaving the hawks homeless. Protesters have been at the scene ever since, as the hawks float overhead.) Editor Charlie Suisman writes:

'What sort of city shall we be?' isn't a question that most New Yorkers take time to answer in their course of their daily lives. It's a question that gets asked and answered at moments of disruption (blackout? block party!) and deeply, urgently in moments of tragedy…

[Y]ou truly become a New Yorker when the city seems more to you than your workplace and a collection of shops and restaurants, when you start caring about the city itself, beyond your daily route, outside of your neighborhood, about the city we were and the city we might become. You know you're a New Yorker when you know what kind of city we are…

927 Fifth Avenue board president Richard Cohen and his wife, Paula Zahn failed to understand the public, communal, and civic space that is the sine qua non of New York. They failed to understand that they, like all the rest of us, are guardians of this city first and foremost. And when something belongs to the city, as Pale Male and family so manifestly do, and they are treated so cavalierly, as Cohen and Zahn so manifestly did, the arrogance becomes untenable. And untenable arrogance has a way of meeting comeuppance in this city.

The outpouring of support for Pale Male has been incredible and it's moments like these (and essays like Suisman's) that remind and clarify for me why I love New York. And the good news? Today's New York Times reports, Co-op to Help Hawks Rebuild, but the Street Is Still Restless. Yay!

Also, a humorous examination of the price of Pale Male's perch at Curbed.

Perfect photo

This is perhaps the best photo I've ever seen. Hopefully with a day off, the Red Sox can remember how to play baseball and come back tomorrow for a big win with Cornrroyo at Fenway. Otherwise, well I just can't even say. Soxaholix gets it about right, once again:

All hail the mighty John Lieber. Swing early and often at anything, fellas, that'll do it. Did I miss the memo where the Sox hitters were told to give the fuck up on patience and the importance of OBP?

Spies like us

Having been away from New York City for nearly six weeks before I returned, I can't say exactly when the City's train systems — MTA, Amtrak, and LIRR — began their new disturbing announcement campaign exhorting all passengers to keep their eyes open and report suspicious behavior immediately to police. But I heard the announcement over and over again, on every subway I rode and while I waited at Penn Station for an Amtrak train to Boston. It was more than the old "unattended bags" line, and it was more than even a "look out for unattended bags." It sounded like, "watch everyone around you and report them to the police." It gave me a very East German Stasi-esque feeling, and of course, got me thinking about what a New Yorker would actually bother to report as suspicious behavior.

Living in NYC you see a lot of weird things, things that if you just happened to be visiting NYC you might even find "suspicious" but which are just part of living in a big, messy, diverse, crazy city. Would the woman talking to herself walking in circles count? What about people walking between subway cars, speaking a foreign language? Or someone wandering slowly, eyeing each store in Penn Station? That was me of course, not because I was casing the place but because I was trying to kill time and find a sandwich. Is asking the general population of New York City to spy and snoop on each other a good preventative measure, a la The Wisdom of Crowds, or is it an opportunity for mistrust and misunderstanding, like Annie Jacobsen's Northwest flight from Detroit to Los Angeles in June?