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June 6, 2008

I (heart) New York

I was just walking down the street in Midtown eating a sandwich, when an old man walking in the opposite direction called me a "pig." After previous street-harassment experiences in Midtown (summary: Midtown harassment is less about wanting to have sex with you and more about wanting to be mean to strangers), I didn't want to let it stand, even if this was, presumably, just a guy who hates people who eat on the street, rather than a raging misogynist. So I turned around, caught up to him, and confronted him about it, at which point he denied ever having said it.

Then I got home and a cockroach crawled on my cellphone.

Previous posts on street harassment here, here, and here.

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January 18, 2008

does he know something we don't?

This evening in Times Square, I saw a street vendor selling campaign buttons for the 2008 election.

The only choices?





January 16, 2008

Tourism is up! Fuck.

Tourism is up in NYC! George Fertitta, "chief executive of city tourism office NYC & Company", offers a reason:
"The city is more vibrant, cleaner and safer - and it's just more exciting than ever before."
It is not possible for something to be cleaner and safer and also more exciting. This is why no one has used a dental dam since the original AIDS scare.

Maybe the reason is that, the more you make Times Square look like an Asheville, NC shopping mall, the more visitors you get from Asheville, NC.

"Oh, look, our Foot Locker isn't nearly that edgy!"


the New York primary is February 5th

When Obama won Iowa, the Intrepid Young Journalist called me from the west coast and clued me in on how it had all gone down; the demographics of who voted for Hillary (older women, old party loyalists) and who voted for Obama (people under 40; the two black people who live in Iowa) confirmed everybody's expectations (well-covered on Feministing) that young women were breaking rank with Second-Wave feminists, who really do plan on voting for the female candidate for that reason alone.

A few days later, back in New York, the Intrepid Young Journalist, who was registered as an independent, was running up against the deadline to switch his affiliation to Democrat so he could vote in the primary; he discovered that it was the last night, and that rather than try to postmark the form, it was safer to go to the registrar's office, which would be open until midnight, and wait in line.

Aside from the fact that states around the country are reporting recordbreaking numbers of voter registrations clearly sent in just before the deadline to vote in the primaries, the line at the NYC office, the Intrepid Young Journalist reported, was made up entirely of young white guys and middle-aged-to-older black men: a pretty good profile of Obama voters. In any case, even in NY in the clutches of the Clinton machine, a sizable contingent is planning (as am I) to vote in primaries for the first time ever.

The IYJ also notes that New York is a shared-delegate state, so even if Hillary, being our Senator, is destined to best Obama, your primary vote still matters, because the delegates are split up in proportion to the votes each candidate receives (in contrast, Republicans in New York run a winner-takes-all primary). Here is a nice little article that explains how everything works.

And finally, I realize that in writing this post, I've made a number of assumptions about those reading my blog. I'm fine with that. (My European and Canadian readers, of whom I have a rather delightful number based on the Comments, may go take a coffee break).


January 15, 2008

a brief note from the Kips Bay Starbucks

Today a black woman asked how I got my hair so black. I felt like I had accomplished something, even though I totally just use $7 bottles of dye from Duane Reade, and try not to wreck the grout in my shower when rinsing it out.


December 17, 2007

blasphemy on 42nd St.

For those not familiar with the Times Square-area subway stations, these people have a permanent, very lower-middle-class-looking Jesus exhibition at the 42nd St stop near the ACE.

Their many placards pull from the Bible very brief quotes -- often containing beginning ellipses, closing ellipses, and internal ellipses (for extra accuracy!) -- which give a highly effective proselytizing effect much like this:

"...FOR HE WHO... HOLDS ... JESUS ... PRAYER ... DIES... IS ... IN HEAVEN...." (So-and-So 3.24)

I do have the sense of humor of a thirteen-year-old boy, but I thought this one was funny.

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December 14, 2007

art acquisition from the 8th Avenue L stop

I recently purchased this work (click to enlarge):

...from this man, who sits in a wheelchair at the 8th Avenue L stop and draws, among other motifs, UFOs attacking cityscapes.

Only $15! Looks awesome in my kitchen.


July 6, 2007

New Yorkiness

Here are two cellphone pictures I took in midtown:

This ad has a treasure trail! Like, an eight-foot-long treasure trail. That's just dirty! Semi-naked people in ads should be all shaved and airbrushed and plasticky. It's not right to get the tourists all hot and bothered.

I thought my Mom would find this funny. Hi, Mom!

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May 27, 2007


I am moving to a new apartment. I am also reading The Four-Hour Workweek.

Together, these things prompt me to ask for this blog poll: How many hours per month do you have to work to pay your rent? (For example, if you make $80,000 a year and pay $2,000 a month, that's about $38/hour, so you work about 53 hours to pay your rent. If you work a $10/hr job and pay $450, you work 45 hours to pay your rent, which makes you, in a way, a little bit richer).

So please answer this (anonymously) in the comments: How many hours do you work to pay your rent, and what city do you live in?

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May 24, 2007

Street Harassment of the Day: Burned-Out Car Edition

I've blogged before about unwanted male attention on the street, which is particularly bad in Bushwick.

In the first week after I moved here, I was walking to the subway in a business suit; it was hot, so I stopped to take off my suit jacket, exposing the long-sleeved shirt I was wearing underneath. A car slowed down and someone stuck his head out and made that obnoxious come-on hissing sound. This, for an outfit provocative only in certain Germanic counties in Pennsylvania.

Today I was annoyed in a new way.

I was walking to the subway and there was a burned out car -- a windowless carcass of a car, with only a stump where the steering wheel had been -- sitting on the sidewalk. I mean, it looked like this thing had been set on fire for an hour. And why was it on the sidewalk? How did it get there?

When you see something crazy, you know how you want to look up and make eye contact with someone and make the "Isn't that crazy?" expression, and then move on and go about your day? If you saw something crazy, you want to make sure someone else saw it too, by damn it.

So I looked up from the crazy car corpse, and sure enough, there was a guy approaching the car from the other direction, and I made the "Oh my god, isn't that insane?" expression. The guy, who clearly had also seen the burned-out car, immediately contorted his face into a sleazy, squinty-eyed expression, and replied, "Oh, yeah, baby ... you like?"

Sometimes street harassment is just gross and/or intimidating, but it reaches a new level when it prevents us from engaging one another as human beings with universal predilections, like occasionally making communicative eye contact with fellow humans in acknowledgment of events taking place in our common environment.

As author Janice Erlbaum quipped, "My feminist demands aren’t that extreme; I just want the simple things -- like to be able to eat a banana in public without feeling self-conscious."

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April 3, 2007

seen in Union Square

Tourist dude carrying a gym bag and walking in a very fast and aggressive manner across the park, exclaiming to all:

"Fuckin' city. You all got sooo much fuckin' money and there ain't no fuckin' bathroom. WHERE'S THE FUCKIN' BATHROOMS?!"


December 20, 2005

In the Soviet Union, the trains ran on time, but everything else sucked and millions of people escaped to come here

Dear Annoyingly Striking Transit Workers: You want more money and more benefits and a bigger pension? Start your own company. That's how we do things in America.

From the Times this morning:
At the corner of Cedar and Nassau Streets in the downtown financial district, Christian Kerr, 28, a foreign currency analyst , was assessing his options for getting to his office adjacent to Grand Central Terminal in midtown.

"I don't know how I'm going to get to work, honestly," he said. He thought he might take one of the ferries to the 30's and walk.

"It's a pain in the neck," he said. "I'm very anti-union, especially this time of year. It's ridiculous. If you look what they're asking for, that's 50 years ago. Pensions don't work like that anymore."
Hey Christian, I think you're sexy.

The MTA is, indeed, corrupt and doing shady things with its money, but that doesn't change the issue; an unlikable MTA doesn't somehow make illegally striking workers more deserving. Also from the Times article:
Mr. Toussaint appealed for public support, acknowledging the tremendous inconvenience to millions of commuters and tourists. "To our riders, we ask for your understanding and forbearance. We stood with you to keep token booths open, to keep conductors on the trains, to oppose fare hikes," he said. "We now ask that you stand with us. We did not want a strike, but evidently the M.T.A., the governor and the mayor did."
Hey, guess what -- I don't support any of those things, either. Keeping token booths open for the few old people who refuse to use vending machines? Opposing conductorless trains out of simple fear of technology? And, sure, nobody wants a fare hike, but compared to the cost of owning, insuring, maintaining, and buying fuel for a car, $76 a month for an unlimited card is damn cheap (I paid $350 a month to have a car in Virginia). If they could make the train come faster, and install those little electronic bulletins they have in the stations in DC that tell you when the next train is coming, I would happily pay more. Another $10 a month for all the time I'd save? A fine deal.

Don't like your job? Put together a resume and try to get a better one. It's never been a secret that you live in a capitalist country.

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September 30, 2005


At one point, I had some jokes in my comedy act about moving to New York, including a bit about homeless people, and how it would really help if they were cuter, because that's what matters for endangered animals.

In the process of making that point, I commented "When I first moved to New York, I was really disturbed by all the homeless people everywhere. But then I went through a six-month Empathy Adjustment Period, and now I could give a shit like the rest of you."

I like making people feel bad for laughing.

Piled in my to-do pile is an article I tore out of Big News, that newspaper that homeless people sell on the subway for $1. Persuaded by the "this gives us a job and keeps us from asking for handouts" speech, I bought one, and was absolutely confounded by an article therein.

The article, by Toby Van Buren, is entitled "A Guide to Homelessness." Here is the introduction:
When I was suddenly homeless in Mamaroneck, New York, in April, 1996, I knew that I had to quickly get out of there -- it's no place to be homeless!" New York is where I knew I had to go, the homeless capital of the world, where you can blend in with people & get things you need. Even though I had my last $600 or so on me, I wanted to get where I knew I'd eventually have the basic necessities when my money ran out.
Now, I know conservatives are busy ragging on gays and Muslims right now, but during various periods (for instance, the Reagan years), conservatives have been preoccupied with vilifying the poor. Mr. Van Buren -- who goes on to talk about living on the streets for five years because he "hated the idea of shelters," and instead loitering at McDonald's and Barnes & Noble, and using the internet in public libraries -- is just giving them ammunition. He seems to be saying that the more social services we provide, the more marginally poor (and, apparently, lazy) people we will attract to homelessness!

He had only his "last $600," and his solution was to become homeless? I mean, I know plenty of comedians who get by, non-homelessly, without ever having $600 on them at one time, except perhaps the day before the rent is due. Does it occur to them to live in the park? Park-bench living makes it difficult to keep the corners of one's headshots from crinkling. So, no, those down to their "last $600" crash on a friend's couch, or rent a room in a bad part of town, or move back in with relatives. $600 is not an insubstantial sum of money. I moved to New York with less.

Mr. Van Buren's article contained a passage about the value of spending time in nature, as public parks are free and "very healing." So, someone down to his last $600 (in a town that almost certainly offered more reasonably-priced housing than New York) was so attracted to park space and free food and blankets (with no job-hunting requirements) from charitable organizations that he actually elected to move to the city and become indefinitely homeless.

Good job, New York! You have made homelessness aspirational.

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September 21, 2005

the lady luck of lettuce

I am really having trouble just dealing with the sheer excitement of my life right now.

First of all, I just read this article in the Times about "dewy go-getters" moving to the city and becoming sad, embittered, impoverished urban underdwellers.
E. B. White, in his famous essay "Here Is New York," wrote that no one should come to New York unless he was willing to be lucky. But not everybody gets lucky. You can make a slip, and then another, or somebody else can make a slip, and then ... the city swallows you up, like an ogre in a fairy tale.
Reading this article (which ends with an anecdote about a once-beautiful old lady who has been reduced to foraging in the garbage for discarded heads of lettuce) prompted me to decide on the spot that I am basically just never going to complain again. I have a good life, and one in which a small but eminently likeable group of people are wearing Peeps t-shirts.

Once upon a time I was stuck in Virginia, running a company I had put my whole life into and which eventually tanked catastrophically and sort of broke me. And then I moved to Harlem, which I'm not sure I would've even managed if that nice girl at the coffeeshop in Norfolk hadn't bought my juicer from me at the last minute for $150.

Anyway, today I received a personal email from Neal Pollack! I was very flattered. He asked me to perform in "Bad Sex with Neal Pollack" at the 215 Festival in Philadelphia, to which I thusly agreed. (Any readers in Philly? October 8 - save the date!)

I'm heading out to LA soon to finish up this egg business. Hoping to meet some comedy peeps out there, maybe at least hit an open mic or something. You know, while helping a gay guy make a baby. It's good to multitask.

The next Jenny Vaudeville Show will feature fire eating, sarcastic clowns, satiric teen pop sensation Teen Tawny, and free rubber duckies.

My blogging gig with Fleshbot is still happening. Things are looking auspicious that you'll see posts by "J. Dziura" in a week or so.

I have additionally been contacted by a woman who is doing a documentary on women in comedy. And I got a spot in a comedy club showcase for a college booker. And this evening I met a lovely lady whom I contacted after reading a magazine article she wrote; when I got in at 3am or so, the very nice cab driver offered to wait around until I got in the front door.

I am enjoying all the hot fairy godmother action.

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September 3, 2005

Dunkin Donuts

I opened up a Chase bank account a couple weeks ago because of a promotion wherein I would receive "free coffee and donuts for a year."

Yesterday I received my coupon book -- indeed, a book of 52 certificates, each valid for one large coffee and one donut. I had assumed they would pull that standard retailer trick and make each valid for one week only, that way you'd forget to use some of them and they'd expire, and you wouldn't be able to bring a friend and use two at a time, etc. However, this is not the case! I may use these as backup prizes for the little contests in my vaudeville show.

In my first attempt to use one of the coupons, the man working at the counter, who was possessed of questionable English-language reading abilities, insisted I was entitled to either a coffee or a donut. No, no, I replied, it says "and." This is how conjunctions work. I have fifty-one more of these, and we're going to be seeing a lot of each other. A coffee and a donut.

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June 30, 2005

folks from St. Jude

Yesterday on the 6 train, I sat across from what appeared to be a New York woman in her mid-thirties entertaining a visit from her loud, ill-attired suburban parents.

They were all discussing some fourth person (say, "other daughter") who likes Asti Spumante, which "mom" totally couldn't pronounce, and then "mom" went on to say that "other daughter" had at some point requested a mimosa, and mom's reply had been (imagine this really loud on the 6):

"A mimosa? That's not a drink, that's a tree we have outside the trailer!"


some sugar in my smoking?

Yesterday I bought a coffee from a street cart and it came in one of those cups with advertising printed on it (maybe the coffee carts consequently receive the cups for free?)

I have sometimes gotten cups that were a little weird, like one with a bright blue Colgate ad, but then again, I've also posted here about Freshdirect's peculiar but astute cross-marketing wherein, when you buy coffee, the bottom of the page says "Customers who bought this product also purchased: Half and Half, Crest Whitestrips."

This cup, however, was garishly bright yellow, pictured a happy face with a cigaratte coming out of its mouth, and was an ad for an online discount cigarette outlet. I don't want to walk around holding an ad for that! Even if it's run by Native Americans!

It took me a minute after buying the coffee to realize just what I was holding, and it seemed too frivolous to go back and request another cup. I mean, if I had been in an actual store, I would certainly have complained.

That, of course, is one of the benefits of Starbucks or other corporate leviathans -- if I don't like my drink at Starbucks, even if only because I ordered something made with, say, caramel, and I don't like caramel, I can go back up to the counter and tell them the drink is terrible, and they'll toss it out and make me a new one. Your risk is absorbed. And if I want my drink in an extra-big cup, or super-insulated in two cups, or half-skim with a Santaria blessing over it, they'll even hold back on the eye-rolling while complying.

The cigaratte cup, though ... how unappetizing! What's next? Maybe the pro-lifers could sponsor a bloody-fetus cup. How persuasive!

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June 20, 2005

large inflatable white man

Here are my pictures from the Puerto Rican Day festivities the weekend before last, both taken out my living room windows. The first photo shows the inflatable Home Depot handyman who was stationed outside my door, accompanied by Spanish-language slogans about paint and varnish. The second shows why it took fifteen minutes to walk one block to the subway.


May 27, 2005

once you go African-American ... shit, nothing rhymes with that

Yesterday I had a run-in on the 4 train with that guy who does impressions of subway noises ("Boooop. Please stand clear of the closing doors."), and then does a little shtick and sings this song (you know the tune):

You just call on your brother
When you need a hand
We all need some money
To shop at Pathmark

As part of his little comedy routine, he directed the car's attention to me, commented that he liked white girls, and gave several variations on the theme of "once you go black, you never go back." He asked if I'd ever had a black man, and then turned to me conspiratorially and whispered "Don't answer! It's part of my act!"


May 2, 2005

"hell is other people" said sartre

I grow weary of public transit. Yesterday I traversed the city from Harlem to Soho to Ft. Greene to Soho to Kips Bay to Harlem to Williamsburg to Ft. Greene, via the 6, R, Q, Q, R, 6, 6, and L trains (and finally a cab). Notable MTA occurences included:
  • I transferred from the R to the Q at Canal, which requires a labrynthine walk; when I got to the Q, the doors had just closed. I had my iPod headphones in -- you know how, when you're listening to party music, you tend to walk forcefully and gesticulate in an exaggerated manner, as though you were at a rave and enjoying your club drugs? Well, I got to the Q, made a very angry expression, stomped, and stuck out my tongue at the train. And ... the doors opened. I was the only person on the platform; I think the conductor actually gave in to a grown woman throwing a tantrum.

  • On the 6, this couple boarded pushing a wheelchair holding their retarded son; the wheelchair was enormous and took up the entire width of the car from the door to the bench opposite (where I happened to be sitting). So this kid and I kinda stared at each other while he rolled his tongue around and waved his arms (I can hardly complain after my Q train tantrum). The boy's father, however, became completely incensed when the Asian man selling batteries stepped over the son's legs in order to pass through the train. So, all at once, the father began complaining in Spanish to his wife, the battery man yelled "battery one dollar!" over and over, the kid continued to waggle and loll, and I became one with my iPod.


April 2, 2005

New York is drizzly and so is my heart

Today I got off the 4 train and stepped across the platform to catch the 6. I sat down my bag and adjusted my gloves and then someone yelled "Miss!"

I turned, and a man heroically hurled my umbrella out the closing doors of the 4 train. A handful of passengers watched and smiled with satisfaction as I shouted "Thank you!" and went to pick it up.


January 11, 2005

she also tried to sell me a set of false eyelashes

Last night on the train coming back from Billyburg, there was a homeless woman sleeping on the bench across from me. There were two other men on the train.

After many stops during which everyone was silent, the woman -- still prone on the bench -- shouted "The tsunami was a sign from God!" One of the men let out a groan, which incensed her. She went on to say that she predicted the tsunami two weeks before it happened, and that there would be another sign within the next four weeks, and that "I wish I were wrong, but I know I'm right!"

She repeated herself many times, and said something else that I didn't understand, possibly about the poor treatment of prostitutes, or about men treating women like prostitutes, and then, finally, after all this lying-down shouting, she sat up abruptly.

And ... it was Nora! Nora, the homeless woman I previously blogged about after buying jewelry from her at the Bedford St. L stop. This time, she had been sleeping on her bags full of jewelry cases.


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