Saturday, June 30, 2007

What's that smell?

It’s difficult to describe the smells of New York City. The sweet bread smell of a bakery often mixes with the smell of fresh (or aging?) garbage on the sidewalk, or the mysterious steam that wafts up from grates in the sidewalk. And what do you call the resulting mix of smells? Sweet sewage? Delicious decay?

And when you’re packed on the subway like sardines, and everyone around you has to lift their arm to grab a bar and prevent themselves from being slammed into the wall by the lurching train operator, and all these people have just come from the subway station that is a good 10 degrees hotter than the 90-degree-100-percent-humidty of the street level, and you’re trying to keep your hands in a place that is not touching other people and wondering what that thing is that feels like a hand rubbing against your butt and you can’t turn and look because you can’t move, and the train stops in the middle of a tunnel, and the train operator crackles over the intercom and says something completely unintelligible, and you’re hoping you won’t be stuck here for long, and you’re breathing through your mouth and thinking that if you’re here for more than 5 minutes you will claw your way to the doors, pry them open with your bare hands, and brave the unknown of the subway tunnel rather than spend one millisecond more breathing in the body odor of the guy next to you, with his arm up exposing to everyone in the car (and, you think, perhaps the cars in front and behind you, it’s so bad) the glaring fact that this dude needs a shower. Stat. Ol-factory indeed. I never thought I would regret having a sense of smell. Welcome to New York.

For fun, check out Gawker’s New York City Subway Smell Map. Readers of the Gawker blog write in with what smells they’ve experienced recently at all the major subway stops. At the stop I normally use, Borough Hall in Brooklyn, the smells recorded recently were body odor, chemicals, and urine. All in a day’s commute.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gin Rummy

I'm not inherently a political person, but who can avoid it in the hyper-information age? This should be required reading for every citizen of the United States: Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker article detailing yet one more instance of how this administration has abdicated responsibility for anything and everything that went wrong and systematically undermined anyone who had the courage to stand up to them. To ostracize and cut short the career of a decorated and devoted Army General for doing his job and telling the truth is appalling. Far more appalling that we most likely continue to treat our fellow human beings in the most inhumane of ways.

PC Load Letter

I'll be starting a new job on Monday at Pace University in the Education Department as an Administrative Assistant. It's a temporary position, but could last as long as six months (we'll see if they want to keep me around and vice versa!).

My sister Anna kindly sent me some Office Space paraphernalia, so the Jump to Conclusions Mat and Innotech mug are definitely coming with me. And I'm putting the little red stapler on a neck lanyard. That's right, Lumberg, you're going to have to kill me to get it.

What as super impression this will make on my new employer! I see a raise coming before I've even started...

Talk Radio

I saw Talk Radio on Broadway last week, with Liev Schreiber in the role of Barry Champlain, a fictional talk radio pioneer in the late 80s. The show was good, especially Schreiber, who deteriorates throughout the play, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol as he contemplates the sheer banality of his life's work and destroying every tenuous relationship he as with real human beings (as opposed to disembodied voices, with whom he seems to deal much easier). Talk radio is an ego-driven enterprise. Here, that ego is having a hell of a time justifying itself. Eric Bogosian's 1987 scrip is a bit dated, but you don't notice that at all once Schreiber sits down in that chair. It's fascinating to watch Schreiber take us on his trip through hell in one two-hour radio show.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I could honestly say / things can only get better...

Alright, out of context, but you can find a quote for every stage of life in the canon of Elton John (thanks especially to my lovely Paige, who is Sir Elton's biggest fan).

I've been having a great time exploring my neighborhood and Manhattan, especially the parks and public spaces. I haven't gotten to Queens or the Bronx yet, but I can't ignore them for too much longer.

Brooklyn is a fascinating area, reminiscent of Seattle in ways (though it's bigger and has rapid transit). The neighborhoods each have a certain character and there are small parks and community gardens in those rare open spaces. I think Prospect Park especially reminds me of the Northwest, with a huge sprawling lawn that extends down the middle of the park, and trails on which you can (almost) forget you're in the city. The parks in New York are in densely populated urban areas, which I think is a major difference. You look at the big parks in the Northwest, with the notable exception of Portland's Washington Park, and they are invariably in the less dense neighborhoods that require driving to them. Here they are within walking distance or a short train ride away. Central Park sprawls out for a staggering 52 city blocks, making it within walking distance for a huge swath of Manhattanites.

Of course, New York does not seem to have, or perhaps has disguised through development, the stunning natural beauty that seems to be around every corner in the Northwest. The iconic sights here are the Empire State Building and Times Square rather than Mt. Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympics. Oh how I miss them all already...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big City Blues

I've been here for more than two weeks now, and literally have nothing to show for it. I haven't worked on my monologues as much as I promised myself I would. I've applied for too many jobs to remember and have received no calls or emails back. I'm sitting in my room in the middle of the day typing a blog post. Big city blues indeed.

I have been checking out the city though. Last Thursday, I made my way out to Coney Island, which is much less of an attraction to me than the HUGE boardwalk and beach. Though the wind made for a very cool afternoon, it was really a beautiful day. I walked up and down the Boardwalk, taking in the sights of seagulls and waves. If not for the thousands of people, it would be an oasis just outside the urban jungle.

Friday evening, I visited the Museum of Modern Art ( in Midtown Manhattan (it's free on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm). Right now, they are featuring a 40-year retrospective of the artist (sculpter) Richard Serra. Seattle has it's own piece of Mr. Serra in the Olympic Sculpture park (his is the giant hulking wavy steel plates fused together). Truly, his art is not meant to be admired from a distance, but to be experienced, to walk around his sculptures and feel how they transform the space in which they are placed. There is a real energy coming off of his works, sometimes that feels like electricity or some kind of magnetism. His work all looks very similar, but each piece has it's own, very distinct, presence. I also saw some very famous works by Picasso, Leger, Monet, and countless other artists of the modern era. I'll definitely be going back for more.

I haven't been to any theatre yet (sacrelige!), but it can be expensive, so I'm taking my time to weigh what i really want to see. I did see my dear friend Victoria in a showcase last night (a small collection of scenes by 10 or so actors). It was quite good, and Vic was great! They're having another run for "industry" folks tonight. Break a leg, guys!

Back to the job hunt...

Richard Serra's Torqued Elipse IV in the Scupture Garden at MOMA

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A New Day

It was hot in New York City yesterday. Unseasonably hot, unbearably hot, hotter than hell. Today is a new, and thankfully cooler, day. (Of course, everyone tells me that this is only a little preview of the summer to come, a sweltering string of unending heat and humidity that lasts well into September.)

It's also a new day, in a different way, for me. This is the first time I've lived out of my home state. I'm going to feel like a tourist here for a long time, even after I find a job and "settle in" as everyone seems so fond of saying. There will be no settling. This move has been unsettling, but in the best of ways--this city is teeming with people, many of whom are here for the same reason as I, and they're all working toward a similar goal. That's incredibly intimidating...but it's also heartening to know that others are surviving the struggle. I think it's okay if I'm unsettled for awhile.

I was so lucky to be able to ease into things here, staying with my friends (who really are more like family), Sam and Vic, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They have a lovely one-bedroom apartment in a walkup (4 flights of stairs multiple times a day for them) that is just a block or two away from Central Park, subways, and many other amenities. It's a great neighborhood. They were just married in November, but they've been here three long years--I'm so proud of them!

The room I'm renting now is in a 4-bedroom apartment in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. It's a beautiful little neighborhood, with shops and movie theatres and restaurants just a short walk away. I live with three other guys, all of whom seem to be a bit younger than I am, a bit more fresh-out-of-college, and seem to be having a great time living in the big city. And all 3 are actors at varying stages of trying to find a career (from no auditions to three-in-one-day auditions).

I was missing home today, so I found the one NYC Trader Joe's near Union Square in lower Manhattan. They had my favorite item, Just Mango (no sugar added, no preservatives or color enhancers, just dried mango slices) and all the delights of Trader Joe's back home. Of course, in true Manhattan style, the line for the checkout wound nearly around the entire store, and that was with nearly 20 checkstands. Fun as that was, it'll be awhile before I return for another 45-minute wait in line there. They have an entirely separate wine shop next door. I didn't go in this time, but when I have a hankering for some Lambrusco, I know where to go!