“Watch Out Where the Huskies Go…”

With snow falling on The Real New Yorkers today, October 29th, it’s time for our “Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow” (RIP Frank Zappa) top 10 list of NYC/snow rememberances:

#10:  With the real risk of being late to kindergarten imminent, my baby sister crawling and shrieking in the back seat, Mom’s attempts to “rock” our aging Pontiac Super Chief out of snowdrift proves futile — YAAAH!  NO SCHOOL!!!!

#9:   As a blizzard approaches NYC, local parents huddle in the situation room (aka, my kitchen), to discuss the feasibility of one of them leading group of tykes to school.  Conclusion: treacherous footing; “stay home, kids”  — YAAAH!  NO SCHOOL!!!!

#8:  While attempting to play ice hockey on snowy, choppy Van Cortlandt Park lake, our entire team of 4th graders slips and falls during 4 on 1 breakaway.

#7:  A Hostess Bakery truck is stranded on icy hill during blinding blizzard; goods are ransacked by a mysterious horde of rowdy 10 year olds (us), the first known example of a pre-cell phone flash mob.

#6:  Seconds after Roger Grimsby announces advancing winter nor’easter, the entire stock of milk is gone from neighborhood A&P.

#5:  Jimmy Hoppins and Jim Jim McGlynn airplane their sleds down 190th Street, veer onto University Avenue, jump up, and leap onto the back of a moving #38 bus.  We score it: 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 9.7 (the latter because Larry says Jimmy’s left foot was hanging off the bus’ bumper, thus ruining a perfect score).

#4:  Myron and Tony drop acid during intersession, at the start of a big blizzard in pre-cell phone era and are not seen or heard from in three days.  They later turn up in Telstar Diner, eating cheeseburger deluxes, as if nothing happened.

#3:  Days before X-Mas, a drunken reveler on the edge of icy, el platform slips, falls off the platform onto tracks, shakes head like Wiley Coyote after getting hit with Acme anvil, and hops back onto the platform, mere seconds ahead of incoming #4 train — a Christmas Miracle if ever there was one.

#2:  During winter of 2005-6, which will rack up something like 17 consecutive snow storms, Park Slope awakes to find streets, trees, cars and benches encased in a perfect, crystalline sheath of ice.

#1:  With 17″ on the ground and snow showing no signs of abatement, our family dog, Genghis, leaps out of our building and into a drift, momentarily disappearing from sight before vaulting up and pirouetting two feet off the ground to try and eat snowflakes on their way down.  A perfect crystal lands on the little “snowflake” of white that colors the tip of his black nose.  RIP Genghis, charter member and president, Board of Directors, dog Hall of Fame.


Of Slobs, Subways and Self-Control

We have to weigh-in on the MTA’s trial program of removing subway bins from some high-volume stations.  Advice to the MTA: whoa, there, fellas.  Let’s think this here thing through, together.

There are a lot of Real New Yorkers who are subway slobs.  Over the years, I’ve routinely seen NY’ers:

  • Do #1 on subway platforms and ramps
  • Do #2 “”    ”            “”             “”     “”
  • Vomit “”    ”            ”              ”       “
  • Methodically rip paper into tiny pieces and drop the pieces on the floor of the moving car because, when asked one time, this lady told me, and I quote: “Mind your own business; if I didn’t do this, what the (expletive deleted, this is a family blog) would those (expletive deleted) have to do?” 
  • Let their half-empty Snapple bottles roll along the floor of the car
  • Drop newspapers, like, wherever…
  • Eat complete, multi-course chicken dinners, daintily dunking the food into a little cup of BBQ sauce — with pinky extended, people while sitting in the moving car and casually drop the bones on the floor
  • Etc.

Dudes of the MTA: we need a multi-pronged plan before you pull the plug on garbage bins.  Consider:

  • Promote “carry-in/carry-out” laws (yup, like when camping);
  • Encourage riders to contribute their clean plastic shopping bags for this use;
  • Educate riders on how fast rats multiply, using graphic billboards near bin locations;
  • Announce the fines for being a subway slob;
  • Strongly discourage eating food on platforms and trains (yeah, I know…but fer crissakes, we gotta at least try);
  • Then and only then, take the bins away, in stages.

Real New Yorkers shouldn’t be subway slobs.  But many are.  Going cold turkey and removing the bins without a heavily promoted program of rules and penalties will benefit only one group: exterminators with City contracts.

Comments?  What do you think? Inquiring minds at The Real New Yorkers want to know…


Walking On Sunshine

I’m humming the dopey song by Katrina and the Waves, Walking On Sunshine, after my encounter with a Real New Yorker earlier today.  I say “dopey” because it’s hard for me to reconcile the blaring optimism of its major chords and feel-good lyrics with the 4/4 beat of bad vibes coming from the Eurozone, Washington, and Mitch McConnell’s disingenuous “Yertle the Turtle” mouth.

But the song had to be sung, after my meeting with an African gas station attendant today.  I drove up, got out of the car and asked for $40 dollars worth.  Today’s sun was warm, and felt good on my bones, so I stretched and smiled.  He laughed, and he stretched too.

“Such a beautiful day,” he said.  “A gift.”  I agreed.  He turned to the expanse of Van Cortlandt Park across the street.  The leaves were turning, the air was cool and fresh.  A team of workers tended the Park’s athletic fields, a vast carpet of green worn after a summer of hard use by kids from around the City.  The weather reports for the rest of the week were for sheets of cold, wind-driven rain, but today was superb. 

“I plan to take a run after work,” he said.  “I will either run the cross-country course in the park, there, or perhaps down the East Side along the river, from my block on 116th Street to South Street and back.”   

I nodded in agreement. “Such a day is too beautiful to waste,” he said in his accented English.  I looked down the block and saw two school teachers leading a gaggle of pre-schoolers towards the park.  They were all laughing and in high spirits, these little kids, as they held onto their leash/tow-rope.  Some of them were actually skipping.  Imagine that!  Such a miserable world and these kids were skipping.

I looked up at the sky.  It was Boulder blue.  I suddenly felt calmer.  My gas station guy, from Cote d’Ivoire, did the trick, along with the kids.  The problems, they will be there tomorrow.  They always will.  But today is a magical day, to be savored, appreciated, revered, lived.

Some say that The Real New Yorker believes that there is no place for positivity, when a sour disposition will do just fine.  A sunny outlook?  Ha, that’s for the rubes in smalltown America, right?

Wrong. Sometimes, even New Yorkers have to bop along with Katrina and the Waves.  It’s not mindless.  It’s mindful — of the gift of life, which can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. 


Why This Blog, Now?

What does this great image, from the New York Daily News in the days immediately following the 1977 blackout, have to do with this new blog, The Real New Yorkers?

Two answers spring to mind.  First, the mind-boggling demographic and physical changes in New York City during the past few years compels us to re-assess our citywide frames of reference.  The city is always a work-in-progress, but the last few years have been nothing short of eye-popping. 

History lesson for those who dine, party and/or live in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  This photo shows Bushwick looters, helping themselves to merchandise from stores torched in the aftermath of the big blackout on a scorching hot New York summer night in ’77.  Today, the L train is perpetually packed, into the wee hours.  Bushwick draws incredibly vibrant, original, creative people — from all over the country.  Is “the new Bushwick” in danger of becoming a cliche, another shrink-wrapped section of NYC?  One might argue that, in some ways, it already has become the SoHo of the new milennium, a bold idea in real danger of being co-opted by subsidized poseurs.  You know how it goes with New York City neighborhoods: first come the trappers, then the ranchers, then the farmers, then the tenderfoot townspeople. Any fan of John Ford’s flicks can tell you that. 

So yes, a reassessment of what’s “real” in New York City is in order.  (Homework assignment: What do YOU think?  Are today’s Bushwick newbies “real New Yorkers”? Discuss and explain.)

There’s another point, however, that this image — the photo of looters, that is — brings to mind, regarding “what makes a ‘real New Yorker'”?  I think of the bold public discourse regarding the morality of Wall Street in this moment of Occupy Wall Street.

Much of the discussion is reduced to “one percenters vs. ninety-nine percenters.”  Here’s my take and here’s why it’s important to — now — define terms re: The Real New Yorkers.  New York is — and always has been — about making money.  It started as a Dutch trading post.  We are all about commerce and we are big-league about it.  Here are the swashbucklers, the Bob Gibson’s who throw the ball high and tight because, hey, we own the inside of the plate and you either back off or get beaned.

But: we should not loot.  We should not create catastrophe and then plunder.  IMHO, The Real New Yorkers should work hard, play hard — yet retain compassion for those less fortunate.  Dudes: you did not come over on the Mayflower.  Want to make oodles of money?  Sure, go ahead, sharpen your algos along with your elbows and do what you have to do, as long as it’s legal.  Do not, however, set fires and then loot — which is basically what the big money boys did, just like the punks in Bushwick  34 years ago.

Who Are “The Real New Yorkers”?

Who indeed are “the REAL New Yorkers”?

This blog will explore the people who make New York hum, the places they go, the things they do — and more.  Importantly, we’ll travel throughout the city, into all five boroughs.  It is a very big mistake to focus only upon Manhattan and some quarters of Brooklyn fancied by some of today’s tastemakers.  After all, what is the shelf life of the New York zipcodes du jour?   

Those that made New York City great, and who will continue to do so, live throughout the city. 

And, in my opinion, one thing they have in common is “soul”  — in the visceral, 60’s Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell sense. The Real New Yorkers dig the differences, the inconveniences, the frustrations.  They know the real deal and have no patience for the bogus, the poseurs, the shriveled heartless husks living in cotton batting.

The Real New Yorker is not defined by rich or poor, black or white, high-rise or townhouse, man or woman, young or old.  It’s a question of: do you GET it, our city?  Do you FEEL it?  Does living here make you buzz with anticipation.

We need to winnow out the wannabees.  Here’s a start and, admittedly, it’s quite superficial but, again, it’s a start: do you like blueberry bagels?

If your answer was “yes,” you need to run along now.  Just scoot.  If your answer was “no” — welcome to the blog.  See you soon.