Friday, December 17, 2010

You're It

UPDATED: My loved ones expressed concern about me calling people out by name (they're worried the people in question are going to hunt me down and stab me). I doubt it would happen, it's a small price to pay for a little peace of mind for those I care about.

I consider myself to be someone who enjoys art. Since moving to New York, I've had the opportunity to visit world class art museums on multiple occasions, and it's always enjoyable. Despite failing art class in Junior High, I still appreciate the beauty of a good painting. Of course, there's more to art than just paintings and sculptures. There's music, there's film, there's literature, there's poetry, there's street art, and there's street art by artists who haven't become icons of sorts.

It's street art that brings my fingers to the keyboard today. Actually that's not true. It's really the exact opposite of street art that made me write today. You see, all trying not to condone vandalism aside, I enjoy some good street art. One of my favorite views in all of New York city is from the 7 train heading into Queens. As it turns uptown, you see two things. In the distance, you see the New York City skyline, looking pristine and beautiful as it always does from a distance. You don't see the dirt like you do up close, and the grandeur of the skyscrapers isn't lost due to a lack of perspective. No, the New York that you see from that view is the New York that dreams are made of. In front of that, however, are the backsides of buildings, all covered in spray paint. It's a giant canvas painted by who knows how many artists, and that canvas is a part of the city itself. Those two drastically different sides of the city placed within the same frame is just wonderful. Which is why it drives me nuts when some goon with a can of paint sprays some words on a wall without truly making a mark.

This, as you may have guessed, is something I witnessed just the other day. While waiting for my train in the subway station, I saw a guy looking around nervously and then disappear into a corner. Then I heard the sound of an aerosol can. It was pretty obvious from the beginning that what he was doing was destruction rather than creation, but when he was done I took a peek just to be sure. And of course, all he did was tag the station. And as he got onto a train moments later, all I could do is glare at him and shake my head. That, and be really irritated with him. And the guy filming him, that was annoying too.

So what did I learn from all of this? To tell you the truth, it's tough to say. I already knew that people drive me crazy sometimes and that not all painting is created equal. I also already knew that I'm a lot tougher from across train tracks (hence my ability to give the goon the stink eye instead of looking away). I guess what I learned is that some particular gang, whom I won't mention by name, has no artistic inclinations. What a boring bunch.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best Things About New Jersey: Watering the Garden State

Warning: This blog entry is rated PG for childish body humor. If you can't laugh at that, then you may want to hold off until my next entry.

This is how it has to be: a kiss for luck, submerge myself, and in seven weeks resurface (even if we don't look back again).
- "7 Weeks" by Gym Class Heroes
It has once again been entirely too long since I've fed the growling entertainment stomachs of my gentle readers. I'm not going to apologize, but I will at least spare you from a tedious recounting of the various struggles and tasks that have kept me from writing. I assure you, it has not been because of a gap in my education.

This time when I resurfaced, it was to go celebrate Thanksgiving with some friends in New Jersey. And that, of course, means it's time for a new entry in my ongoing series, "The Best Things About New Jersey." What can I say? New Jersey is an absolute triumph. It is a fantastic state...

For me to poop on!

Hear me out, New Jerseyans (New Jerseyites? New Jersans?). I'm not being facetious here (or feces-ous... tee-hee-hee). I really enjoyed that fact that in New Jersey, you can go outside and, well, go outside.

Actually, in the interest of honesty, let me say that I did not actually poop on New Jersey. In fact, despite having been to New Jersey several times now, including a two day trip for Thanksgiving, I'm pretty sure I have yet to poop within the state lines of the Garden State. But the idea holds for... other things as well.

Anyway, as a male, I enjoy peeing outside. There's just something that makes trees superior to urinals for men. Maybe it's our way of being green. Maybe it's a hardwired natural instinct. Maybe men are just gross. Whatever the reason, it is enjoyable. Those of you who know me know that I am not really the outdoorsy type (no, really, the guy who lives in the middle of New York City and writes a blog about random things isn't an avid outdoorsman--go figure), but peeing outside is an exception to that rule. It's clearly the best part about nature.

In New York City, I don't get the chance to do that very often. And unlike the guy who exposed himself and peed all over himself and the column that was about four feet away from me in the subway station, I do have limits. The biggest of which has to do with trying to get a little isolation. As you can imagine, that doesn't happen a lot in the city.

In Jersey, on the other hand, there are places. It's a beautiful state full of lush forest land. It's quite beautiful; I highly recommend visiting it. When you're here, I recommend you take a deep breath, take it all in, take another deep breath, and let it all out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wes Sight Story

There's nothing quite like being outside a movie theater, tickets in hand, waiting for the rest of your group to get there. On the one hand, getting there earlier is not going to make the film start any earlier, so it doesn't really matter. On the other hand, getting there even a second late (and by "a second late," I mean as soon as the lights go down-- the first set, the ones that go down for the trailers, not the second set that goes down for the actual film) is completely unacceptable, will make me feel like I'm getting ripped off, and probably put me in a foul enough mood to ruin not only the movie, but also the rest of my night. And yes, I know that's a ridiculous overreaction, and I'm trying to change that.

In any case, I found myself in this familiar position yesterday. And yet the position I found myself in was altogether new. You see, the theater I was patronizing was also home to the premier off Wes Craven's newest directorial effort: My Soul to Take. Yes, believe it or not there are still new Wes Craven movies coming out, not just bad remakes of his classic work.

As I waited not-so-patiently outside, I saw a small crowd just outside a blocked-off area of the lobby. I peered in and saw a young blond actress getting her picture taken. Not yet knowing what was going on, I looked closer, trying to identify the actress. Upon further inspection, I was still unable to ascertain her identity. Just then, a man pointed at her and said, "You know who that is?" I hoped that he was going to tell me, but it turns out that he didn't know either. Apparently he asked because he was curious, not because he wanted to show off.

So the two of us embarked on a quest to figure out who she was. We asked one of the men in suits keeping out the riff raff. He didn't know who she was, so we asked another. "One of the actresses from the film," he said. I'm surprised he didn't change out of his suit into his Captain Obvious superhero tights before telling us that one. After a little more half-hearted effort, we gave up. To this day, I still have no idea who she was. Granted, "this day" is only one day later, but I'm sure that statement will hold up years down the line.

Fortunately, there were other stars that walked by into the theater. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize any of them either. That is, of course, until the man himself, Wes Craven, walked by. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I didn't recognize him, but I know who he is and I identified him when someone said his name, and that's more than I can say about anyone else. Still he's got to be the most well-known celebrity I've seen in the city (not including the ones I've seen performing). Way to go, Wes, you've managed to edge out Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Martin Henderson (no, that name doesn't sound familiar).

I found this mildly exciting, or at least I did until I kept talking to my fellow investigator. He told me that a few weeks before Robert De Niro and Kate Beckinsale were there. If only...

A few minutes later I was no longer waiting, and I made my way into the theater with about 45 seconds to spare. All in all, it worked out pretty well. Apparently waiting outside a theater in New York City is more exciting than waiting outside a theater in the 'burbs. Who'da thought?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shooting at Columbia

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, then you know that--despite this entry's title-- all is well at Columbia and that no one has been shot. If you haven't, then I have two things to say. First, where have you been? All the cool people read this blog. I even read somewhere that Bono reads it. Second, I apologize for possibly giving you a heart attack. The apology goes double if you're a family member. Although, as an aside, if the first place you'd hear about a shooting at a major university in a major city is my blog, you may want to consider changing your homepage or something.

But no. No shots were fired. The shooting I am referring to is something likely to do far more harm to society: filming an episode of "Gossip Girl." No, I'm not one of those people that says that watching women gossip on TV will make girls gossip. I mean, I watched X-Men as a kid and you don't see me shooting lasers out of my eyes or cutting people up with adamantium claws. I just thing it's going to help wreck society because it is terrible and has no artistic merit. Granted, I'm making a bit of an assumption here because I've never seen an episode, but it's on The CW, so I don't think it's an unreasonable assumption for me to make.

On to what actually happened and, more importantly, what I learned from it.

It was an afternoon just like today, because it was today. I was meandering over to the local pizza joint because my plans for free pizza fell through. Apparently EAEE isn't the same thing as IEEE, and the EAEE people aren't nearly as generous with their pizza. So as I went to cross the street I heard a guy yelling at people, telling them to not just stand there. Had I been back in New York for longer than a week, I probably would have ignored it-- we have to yell that at tourists all the time (yeah, I said "we," deal with it). But today I took the time to wonder what was going on. It turns they were shooting an episode of The Gossip Girl right outside Columbia at 116th and Broadway, and they were having a tough time doing it too. See, the target audience of Gossip Girl is, to the best of my knowledge, teenage and 20-something girls. And a bunch of the students at Columbia are... yes, teenage and 20-something girls. Honestly, what did they expect to happen? There's a reason they didn't film "Die Hard" right outside of a hardware store.

So let this be a lesson to all you future film makers out there: if you want to make a film without people crowding around and watching, don't shoot it between your target audience and where your target audience is going.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hindsight Bias

Hello again, friends. Well, I'm not back in New York yet, but fortunately, I have uncovered another thing that I learned in New York. How exciting to be writing again.

But before I talk about what I learned in New York, I need to talk about something I learned in San Luis Obispo. It's called the hindsight bias. It's a psychological phenomenon that makes you think you always knew something when you just learned it. For example, right now you may be thinking "Yeah, I knew that people think they always knew stuff that when they just learn it." Ha! That's the hindsight bias about the hindsight bias. How meta.

With that little tidbit on our mind grapes, let's proceed to what I did learn in New York.

I suppose I'll begin with the story that made me realize I had just learned something in New York that I thought I had always known. I was on BART riding back to the 'burbs, when I tall man who--though not particularly impressive physically-- wore toughness on his face, began rambling some utter nonsense and commenting that if we could translate what he said we were truly gifted. He then, of course, decided to flirt with all of the young women on the train. Enter the second character of our story: a man with the head of Justin Timberlake (circa 2000) and the arms of Arnold Schwarzenegger (circa 1987). Apparently he didn't think the first guy should talk to strangers.

As we waited at the Castro Valley station, their disagreement escalated from a polite "move along" to a "Dude, I'm a boxer, do you seriously want to step outside?" Thankfully for those of us who are not into watching grown men hit each other (okay, without pads at least), the incident ended without violence. Then the second guy commented to me that he couldn't believe that guy. Who could believe that some random guy would start talking to everyone on the train and spouting nonsense?

Um... anyone who has been on a train in New York. Ever.

See, I assumed that I had always known that people are crazy and that crazy people harass people on trains. But perhaps that's not actually the case. I guess that's something I learned in New York. The hindsight bias strikes again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Escape From New York

Well friends, it has once again been far too long since I've posted a new blog entry. This time, however, I feel like I have something that at least approaches a legitimate excuse. See, I've been back in California for the summer, and it's hard to learn things in New York while you're in California. Today, however, I saw a blog post by a friend of mine who has a blog that I would describe as very similar in spirit to mine, and I decided to dust off the ol' keyboard and get at it again.

And it's not like there hasn't been anything interesting going on in my life lately. After all, just last weekend I went on an adventure that involved silent films, the Castro district or San Francisco, missing the last train out of the city, and witchcraft. Sadly, it's not quite as exciting as it sounds.

But that's a story for another day. After all, the name of the blog isn't "Crazy Stuff That's Gone Down in SF." No, instead I'll talk about something much more boring: homesickness. Because apparently while I was in New York, I learned that it is my home.

The mixture of melancholy and nostalgia started as we drove across the Bay Bridge into the city. I couldn't help but notice the similarities between the two great American cities: iconic bridges, locations on the sea, and traffic. Eventually, despite the best efforts of the driver, we arrived in the city alive.

Upon arriving at our destination, we immediately noticed another similarity: parking (or lack there of). At any given moment, there are exactly 12 available parking spaces within the city limits of San Francisco and New York City combined. And 8 of those have meters. After driving around for what I'm sure must have been at least 3 hours, we found a space and parked.

Since we'd been in the car for what seemed like an eternity thanks to traffic and parking, we decided to get something to eat. Not seeing anywhere that sold Rice-a-Roni anywhere, we decided to get the other San Francisco treat: New York style pizza. We found a place called "Escape From New York Pizza" and I was at home immediately. There were pictures of New York tourist traps on the wall. There were large, thin slices of pizza for sale. There was a rude guy who only took cash working the counter. Oh, happy day! I was a big fan. If you're looking for genuine San Francisco New York style pizza, I highly recommend it.

That was all well and good, but it wouldn't be a true New York experience without at least one in-your-face interaction with a truly crazy person. Never fear, though, because that came the next day. This time there were four of us, and we had just seen a show at the Golden Gate Theater. Once again, we needed to find some food. We crossed the street when there were no cars coming, even though the light hadn't changed yet, (just like being home! -- forgive the shameless self-promotion) and were about to continue down the next block when it happened.

"What the [expletive] you looking at, [racial slur]?!"

After trying to figure out whether he had more teeth or fingers, I had to wonder about his comment. After all, I wasn't really looking at him, or at least no more at him than at anything or anyone else. More puzzling was the fact that the particular racial slur he used... well suffice it to say it's generally used to describe people that look like him, not people that look like me.

Still, it was strangely comforting. I was in a big city, and it felt like home.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Man-i Pedi

Author's Note: Any family members with heart conditions should skip the first paragraph.

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, especially living in New York. You had to know that sooner or later some guy was going to put a blade to my throat and then make me give him money. For me, that day was yesterday. When it was done, I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled to myself, and tipped him. Because, really, if there's anyone you want to make sure you tip well, it's the guy with the blade on your jugular.

For those of you who haven't figured it out yet (and for those family members who heeded my warning) I went to the barber shop and got a professional shave yesterday. You see, last month I started growing a playoff beard in support of the San Jose Sharks. But last Sunday when the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs, I was left looking like Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top for no reason. But, like, if he only grew facial hair on his neck and not his face. So really more like Kyle Orton. This was all well and good when it was in support of my team, but once they lost it was only nasty and brutish (sadly, it was not short). And since I was also in need of a haircut, I decided I'd take care of it all in one fell swoop.

So I looked for a barber shop where I could end my participation in the Grizzly Adams look-alike contest I had apparently entered. I came across a place called Solomon's Barber Shop. Given the name, the yarmulkes were not surprising. The Russian accents were. Still, despite the fears instilled by the film Eastern Promises (sorry, no link-- it's graphically violent, and this is a family blog) I went in and asked for a cut and a shave.

Men, (and some of you women... you know who you are) if you have never been professionally shaved, you really should try it. Yes, you could always shave yourself, but you don't have the time, skill, or equipment to do the job a professional does. Essentially, it's the male version of a manicure or pedicure. The parallels are actually quite striking. Both are grooming tasks that you can really do yourself, but to an inferior degree. Both leave you sounding like Ron Burgundy. Both make you feel pampered. And both will be gone (or at least will have lost their professional touch, which was the whole point) in a matter of days.

Now, I realize that I may have lost some of my men there. After all, if you're reading my blog, you must be a real man's man, right? So why would you want something I describe as being kin to a manicure? The key here is that it's got all of the benefits of a manicure, but with all of the awesomeness of being manly. I've never had a manicure before, but I imagine it doesn't involve a guy expertly wielding a razor sharp... um... razor right around your neck. And I'm not talking about one of those razors that has more blades than Wesley Snipes' filmography, I'm talking about an awesome, straight edge, kill you where you sit razor. And a piping hot towel wrapped around your face. It's really a wonderful experience.

In the slightly paraphrased words of Ferris Bueller, "I highly recommend getting one if you have the means. They are so choice." Add that to my list of discoveries here in New York.