And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street

This is the title of my all time favorite Dr. Seuss book. As a kid, I had an extensive collection of the good Doctor’s works that were a raggedy spined collection of hand me downs someone gave my parents for me. Most things I had as a little kid were hand me downs, because my parents were young and didn’t have much money at the time. But I didn’t care, I loved Dr. Seuss books. Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! But Mulberry Street was by far my favorite. If you are not familiar with the story, a young boy on his way home imagines all these incredible sights and sounds that he sees on Mulberry Street, and is going to tell his dad all about it when he gets home. Of course, it’s completely his imagination, and at the very end when he gets home, he tells his dad nothing really happened at all. That’s the truth, but fantasy trumped reality. The story showed the power of youthful imagination and how it eventually becomes repressed by the societal expectations of adulthood. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and while I’ve grown up slightly, I’m still a kid at heart. I hadn’t thought of the book in years until the other night I was reminded of it.

It started on my day off. I went to Manhattan to go shopping for some pants. I was looking for a new pair of jeans, maybe some good looking pants, and I was on Broadway in SoHo, with all the tourists and shoppers. I was having a difficult time because the way fashion trends affect everyone throughout the industry. Consider this: In the ’90s, kids started wearing baggy pants. I remember it got to the point where pants were so super baggy they became comically huge. It was like they were designed to fit the world’s fattest man and they looked like you could fit a couple of teenagers inside them.

Now it’s all flopped around to the skinny jeans trend. They are really narrow at the leg opening and really only the skinniest of guys should be wearing them, if they should be at all. There was a Bud Light commercial from the past year or so where a female bartender makes fun of a patron for wearing what she calls his “Girlfriend’s jeans” which pretty much sums it up for me. Sure, wear something that fits but I think it’s gotten to the point where it looks kind of gay. Not gay in a homosexual way, but gay in a stupid and okay, effeminate way. I see it everywhere, hipsters, skaters, teenagers, and really skinny dudes. Now I’m not a fat guy, but I’m definitely not rail thin either. I’ve always been stocky and with my thick legs I feel stupid wearing these jeans and pants that are cut like this. That is if I can put them on in the first place.

So I’m trying to find something that seems normal, but normal is skinnier than it used to be and skinny is just out of the question. Finding something that actually feels comfortable means having to go so large on the waist that the pants are falling off my ass. Oh wait, that’s cool, I forgot.

So I went to a bunch of stores and eventually found a decent pair, but the effort meant a lot more time spent shopping than I wanted to. I had made it back to around Canal street and I went to Chinatown for some cheap noodles. After getting some food and a little energy back, I passed a street vendor on Mulberry Street with cheap fruits and vegetables and I picked up a Dragonfruit, which I’ve only recently tried. It’s a bit larger than an apple, kind of looks like a dragon head, and when you slice it the inside looks similar to a kiwi. The first one I had tried was white and speckled with black seeds, but these were advertised as red dragon fruit. They were slightly more expensive but well worth it. Beet red on the inside, succulent and juicy, it was amazing.

Lychee

Dragonfruit

Tasty red dragon

Around this time the sun was setting and across Canal street in Little Italy, there were food booths and vendors set up for the festival of San Gennaro. What got my attention was the marching band playing and entering Mulberry Street, led by police clearing the way and a bust of San Gennaro.

I made my way across the street to watch the procession make its entrance and stood nearby as everyone took pictures and listened to the band playing Italian folk songs. The booths sold cannolis, zeppoles, meatballs, eggplant parmesan, and pistachio ice cream. I was transported into a Godfather movie as I listened to the music and stood in one of New York’s classic Italian neighborhoods. Any minute I expected Robert DeNiro to appear from the crowd as a young Vito Corleone and bust a cap in the local Don’s ass but on this evening the NYPD did a good job a crowd control. I followed along with everyone in the crowd, found a free sample of some espresso and made my way out the other side to the subway, past more buildings with signs in Chinese.

And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

For the record, Theodor Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Mulberry Street he refers to in his first book published as Dr. Seuss is from there, but Mulberry Street in Manhattan is a fun place to visit for people of all imaginations.

One last thing I learned about his book, it inspired a few lines out of this song by CCR.

Double Feature

I’ve been slacking since the 9/11 post. I’m living between two places, staying out until 5am every other night and of course going to work. A lot feels like it’s happened in the last week. I’m not sure how much I can remember or I’m allowed to talk about. I went out last Tuesday with my new friend Gigi. She was about to leave town for some traveling and teaching some drumming classes. We met through my roommate and managed to have one cool jam session at a place in Bushwick called the Sweatshop. It has drum sets, big guitar and bass amps, microphones and PA systems. You rent it by the hour, bring your band, or your friends, along with your guitar and you make some noise.

Gigi grew up in the Bronx and Queens and was hanging with her old friends the night before she was leaving town. I met up and it was a group of real New Yorkers, accents and all, plus most of them were drummers too. Metal drummers. So we did a lot of drinking at a bar under the train stop, way North in Queens. When the night was over, everyone went their separate ways and I had a long, late night train ride back to way east Bushwick.

The rest of the week was somewhere along those lines, so last night I finally got around to watching some Netflix DVDs I’ve had, just to have a relaxing night. Oddly enough they were both movies involving New York. On top of that, Anna Paquin was in both, each time playing the role of jailbait or barely legal temptress.

First off, I watched the Squid and the Whale (2005), a depressing movie about divorce in a family that lived in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. Park Slope is a nice neighborhood full of beautiful brownstones and yuppies. This is true today as it was in 1986 when the movie takes place. Jeff Daniels is a college professor/has been writer and Laura Linney is his up and coming writer/soon to be ex-wife. Did I mention that Park Slope and the surrounding zip codes are home to the most published writers per capita in America? It’s something like that, I just read it in a book that I’m not going to footnote. But Norman Mailer and lots of important writers of the 20th century kind of established that and it continues to this day.

Someday when I become the Widely Read and Well Paid Blogger, I will move there too and become pretentious and douchy. In the meantime, you all can say you kinda knew me when I was kinda down to earth and only kinda douchy.

Here’s the deal with the Squid and the Whale:

The Dad – Tweed jackets, hipster/Charles Darwin beard, drives a volvo, talks down to everyone, is a really arrogant prick.

The Mom – Too busy trying to jump on anyone with a dick to care about her soon to be ex-husband or that her kids are looking towards a lifetime of therapy.

Son #1 – Plays “Hey You” from Pink Floyd at the school talent show, claims it to be original, wins $100. Excuse me but The Wall was released in 1979, and no one at his whole friggin’ school knew he was playing a cover tune? Highly improbable. And he gets found out. Duh! Not cool kid. So not cool.

Son #2 – Goes from crybaby to drunkard in about two weeks. I actually kind of liked him. By the way, he’s 11 or something. He’ll eventually be sending some therapist’s kid to college.

Anna Paquin plays the hypersexualized college student that needs a place to stay and ends up moving in with dad when he has to get the second home across the park. Which by the way, is not as cool as being in Park Slope.

Overall, I didn’t like the characters, it was one of those make you feel bad indie movies, and I don’t recommend it.

Moving on, I then watched the 25th Hour (2002), a Spike Lee Joint starring Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Let me just say that for me, you can’t go wrong with Ed Norton and PSH.

The other odd coincidence was the movie’s tie in to 9/11. Being released in 2002 it has the influence of those events, even though the novel was released in 2001 before they occurred. It’s the little things like looking out of a Wall Street apartment onto the empty pit of ground zero, and referring to lost firefighters.

Funny thing is, most of these characters are flawed. Ed Norton is a drug dealer about to go away for 7 years. Barry Pepper is his oldest friend who grew up to be a douchy Wall Street Gordon Gekko wannabe. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the awkward high school English teacher who can’t resist the flirtatiousness of his student played by, you got it, Anna Paquin. And Rosario Dawson is the beautiful girlfriend living off her drug dealer boyfriend.

Somehow, you find sympathy for these characters, and feel moved by what they suffer, even though they are not role models. Part of it is the way Spike Lee turns it into a reflection on the loss suffered by the city of New York and how everyone was in it together and would fight to keep the city alive together. In Do the Right Thing, Spike had the moment where everyone gets all racist on each other before the big riot and calls each other all kinds of derogatory names. In the 25th Hour, Spike brings it back when Ed Norton is talking to himself in a mirror and hurls the insults at everyone: Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Koreans, corrupt cops, gay Chelsea boys, rich upper east side white women, black guys on the basketball court, baseball bat wielding Italian Tony Soprano wannabes, terrorist Muslim cab drivers, and a few more I can’t remember. It’s funny and revealing of our society at the same time and all the more relevant living in New York and recognizing the neighborhoods and the stereotypes.

If you haven’t watched the 25th Hour, I highly recommend it.

And just for fun, because I typed douchy so many times today.

September 11th

Just a few days ago I was apartment sitting in Williamsburg. That’s hipster central of Brooklyn. It really is a great area for having lots going on so when I make fun of it, that’s only because I’m jealous I don’t live there.

I was staying at the same place I lived when I first came to New York. It’s on the fourth floor and it has a view of Manhattan. To the North/Northwest is the Empire State Building. To the West is One World Trade Center, the building located on the site of the Twin World Trade Center Towers. I saw its progress as it grew taller in January and February, and looking now, it appeared to be at its full height, and only the interior of the upper one quarter of the building needs to be finished.

As I stared in the late afternoon, I suddenly realized it was only a few days from the notorious anniversary that profoundly affected New York, shook the nation, and shocked the world. In my lifetime, it’s the major event we all remember and it changed the way we have lived ever since. It became the reason we have fought wars in two countries. It changed the way we fly on airplanes and are expected to behave in public. It changed the way we value our freedom, define our freedom, and defend our freedom. The world may have always been a dangerous place, but we were no longer allowed to be ignorant to that.

Today has been 11 years since I woke up to a phone call telling me to turn on my television. I was living in Los Angeles and it was still early on the West Coast. I watched in disbelief and spent the next couple of days in shock as LAX grounded all flights and commerce in my city 3000 miles from the tragedy seemed to come to a halt.

Just two years earlier I was in New York for my friend’s wedding on September 11th. I only know this now because I was reminded of this a few years after the event. At the time it was lots of fun as the West Coast college friends came to support their friend and celebrate in the Big Apple. One of the events of the wedding day was a booze cruise around Manhattan and at one point another friend and myself posed for a picture in front of the Manhattan skyline with the Twin Towers centered behind us. I didn’t even see it developed (yes pre-digital) until almost four or five years later, which made it seem very nostalgic.

Now there is a new tower nearing the final stages of completion. It’s a positive sign that even though tragedy can occur in many ways, people can begin the process of rebuilding and healing that is necessary to go on with life. I didn’t lose anyone in the 9/11 attacks, but many people did. To see the city now, it’s vibrant and growing. Areas are changing, neighborhoods being revitalized, rents going up, tons of people to compete with. New York didn’t become a ghost town.

That’s all we can do as survivors, keep moving forward. We live in an imperfect world, and the eleven years since that time have offered new challenges, but many good things have happened too.

I enjoyed the view for at least an hour as the sun set. And during that time I took pictures of the new tower. Not the greatest, having only an iphone camera, but it showed the change over from sun reflecting off the glass to the lights inside the tower illuminating it at night.

For the first picture I enjoyed the effect the cranes on top of the building made as I faced the building at a perfect angle so they appeared to form a helmet with wings, making me picture the tower as a Valkyrie, to guide the souls of the dead to Valhalla. Enjoy the rest of the progression, and honor the lives lost that day.

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Hipster Hatin’

Why does everybody seem to hate hipsters?

Who exactly are these hipsters and what defines them?

I’m not really sure I can answer either of these questions, but I will make an attempt.

First of all, what is a hipster?

Back in the jazz era of the early 20th century, “hip” became a part of the lingo surrounding jazz music and its scene. There was lots of jive talk and cool lingo to show you were with it. “It” being the cutting edge of fashion, music, and pop culture.

Styles have changed, but the need to stand out as different from the mainstream has remained. In fact maybe it became mainstream. Now a Hipster might wear skinny jeans, thrift store shirts, and have odd facial hair like a handle bar mustache or big bushy beard.

Brooklyn is widely regarded as a Hipster destination. Or is it the origin of Hipsters? Once again, the chicken or the egg conundrum.

Portland has always seemed to have a large population of Hipsters.

When I lived in Eugene two hours to the South, there was a bar my friends and I liked to hang out at called Doc’s Pad. It was one half sports bar with peanut shells on the floor and a dart board connected to a Chinese restaurant, with the classic red booths and gold decor. When the restaurant stopped serving food around 10, it became an extension of the bar and everyone would hang out in the booths drinking. Anyway, lots of Hipsters hung out there. I can’t remember what we actually called them, but the big defining thing about them was that they all wore the thick black framed Buddy Holly glasses, were mostly art students, and acted like they were super cool.

So I was reading the Rants and Raves section of Craigslist because I was looking for a new place to rent and I got bored of combing through overpriced rentals and was messing around and I came across this little piece I would like to share titled:

Thank You Hipsters!!!
Thank You, you up and coming “artists” from all over! You come to Brooklyn, and the landlords see part of or all of the rent checks come in from Mommy and Daddy and they raise the rent. A person like me born and bred in New York is rent-hiked out of my own stomping grounds. You all either make amazingly dull indie films about relationships (“OH, Living and Loving In New York…”) or post Kickstarter campaigns for your cliched hipster bands (For $500 I will send you a picture of me and my band in wool caps standing around a tombstone!, for $1000 we will fly our band to anywhere in America to perform for you and your friends- never mind airfare, equipment shipping rental cars and hotel rooms run this $1000 venture to at least $2000) Trying to find a Brooklyn apartment but you amish-bearded clowns dressed like Nosferatu with sneakers turned $900 apartments to $2000 can’t-touch-’ems.

Classic. And that is why everybody hates Hipsters.

Tattoo You

I just realized it. Everybody has tattoos.

Okay, I’m kinda exaggerating.

Everybody but me.

I’m not really sure when it happened, but tattoos became mainstream.

When I was a kid I remember my dad saying stuff like “Only sailors, bikers, and longshoremen have tattoos, don’t get a tattoo, you’ll regret it.”

Since he grew up in L.A., I’m guessing he was referring to San Pedro and Long Beach from his era. Definitely a lot of sailors, bikers, and longshoremen there.

During the ’90s heyday of Grungeapaloozas it seemed like every dude had a tribal arm band tattoo on his bicep and every chick got a tramp stamp of some really meaningful artwork perched above her ass. Piercing through lips and noses became more common and ordinary earrings gave way to African tribe style megadiscs to stretch out the earlobes.

I had some friends who were really into the Grateful Dead and got some different Dead iconography tattooed one day. Today tattoo shops are rivaling Starbucks, but back then there were less quality artists around. When the three of them returned, they instantly regretted the shoddy work that now adorned their skin. I laughed and was glad I missed out on that one.

Today’s 20 somethings who grew up after us have found an even more accepting attitude towards body art. Even the most tame looking, skinny nerdy guys seem to be covered in full arm sleeves like they front hardcore punk rock bands. White boys with Japanese Yakuza gangster art, girls next door with knuckle tatts and 666’s and daggers, I’m not even sure who to believe anymore. I mean, to a degree you must be pretty hardcore to spend the time and money getting pricked with a needle, but it’s all just an image. A hard image to change.

Maybe I’m just jealous. I never came up with anything that creative and original that I wanted to show the world. Maybe I feel that’s just tipping them off too much. Not my favorite band. Not my favorite football team. Not my favorite brand of beer. I once saw a guy in Portland with a PBR elbow tattoo. That was on the East side of course.

Out here I recently saw a kid with a canoe on his forearm when I was riding the subway. Certainly unique. And I really appreciate the work some people do. Really that’s why I’m staring. I’m trying to figure out if that pattern on your cleavage is a rose or a heart.

I’m not sure about the rest of the country, or the world, but Portland and New York definitely have lots of tattooed people. My roommate who just left was working as a tattoo artist in New York for the summer. He’s from Spain and was covered head to toe with tattoos. Okay, neck to shin.

Like I said everybody has tattoos, ‘cept me.

Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

Wasn’t it not so long ago the NYPD shot a man right near my work and I wondered if that wasn’t a risk to public safety?

Bad Times Square

Just yesterday, a guy went to his former place of employment, next to the Empire State building and shot to death his former co-worker. A person who saw this action take place pointed him out to the police, who then took him out and injured 9 bystanders in the process. I know they were just doing their jobs and keeping the public safe, but we’re talking the Empire Freakin’ State building. In Manhattan! New Yorkers in and out of work, tourists everywhere. Lots of damn people milling around the sidewalk. I can barely get through the gawkers of Times Square on my way in to work sometimes. I can only imagine the chaos if everyone were suddenly inspired to run in random directions.

There was also a little rant about a certain social networking site going public and how I thought it was way overpriced, overrated, and overhyped.

Saving Face

And yes its price continues to sink, one of it’s largest initial investors just cashed out, and people are wondering more and more if the Zuck wants to step up and be a CEO or just a really awesome programmer.

But most important of all, I know table tennis.

Olympic Update: Chinese Dominance

PRC sweeps all gold medals.

http://www.london2012.com/table-tennis/medals/medallist/

The only white guys to even get to the podium were the Germans with bronze.

“Ein, Zwei, Drei, Fear. Now vee drink a lot of bier!”

Anyway, I’m not quite at Nostradamus levels of predictions yet. But remember you read it here first. And when I’m right again you can call me by my Japanese fortune teller pseudonym.

Tojuso

Random Thoughts About Post #50

Cinquenta! Wuh Shzz! Oh Ship! Funf Sein! Fitty! That’s 50 spelled poorly in five languages. It doesn’t seem like that much until looking back and realizing I’ve been doing this since February. If you think about it, I couldn’t have just come up with fifty posts overnight and made them this awesome.

It reminds me of a sociology class I had to take in college where we had to find a newspaper article each week and write a page summarizing how it related to the class. I neglected to do this until the night before the final and then realized I had absolutely no desire to go back through ten weeks of newspapers, find articles, and write about them. After consulting the course guide, I figured with the “A” I received on the midterm, if I got another “A” on the final, I would make up for the “0” on the project side and still be able to pass the class. When I received my grades, I was disappointed to find that I instead received a “D”, despite getting an “A” of a high enough percentage to work with my calculations. I only miscalculated the professor’s disgust in my slacker underachieverness that swung me from C- to D+. Is there really any such thing as a D+? It’s all D for dumbass.

Do I regret being a bad student? No, I was just purposeless. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Not all my classes turned out that poorly, but that’s a good example of my feelings of busywork. I understand practice and preparation. And I have extreme confidence in my ability to perform. Game time. On stage. In case of Emergency. I feel the rush of a pressure situation and can keep a level head when everything around me is falling apart. It’s the slow times I apparently don’t deal with so well. But I’m dealing with the persistence of blogging and I’m proud that I made it this far.

Back in 2007 I made a three week trip to China on my own, able to speak maybe 50 words of Chinese. I intended to try and import products to start a business. Eventually I settled on buying about 100 guitars that I sold individually though ebay and other channels. The most fun part of the trip was chronicling my experiences in China as I sent group emails back to friends and family. Apparently, people were entertained by my misadventures and enjoyed the updates. One friend even told me I should be blogging. I had heard of blogging, but I didn’t really understand it. Actually, I’m not sure if I do now. But I got home and thought, yeah I’ll start blogging. And then I sat there with nothing to write about. Honestly, life in Portland was, well, boring. I had nothing to differentiate the days that I spent there. Nothing of significance. No crazy encounters with massive burn victim beggars, or Philipino tranny hookers like I had seen in China. Life was safe, vanilla, and rainy and I had nothing to write about. I would put myself more fully into the whirlwind of the past five years by heading off to Alaska, but that is a tale for another time.

My point is I have had the persistence to put up 50 posts. Definitely being in New York City has been much of the inspiration for what I have put down here. The good, the bad, the decadent, even if you only know a fraction. If anything, this blog has been a way for me to celebrate three great loves of my life. Travel, writing, and music. They have all been vehicles for inspiring and reinvigorating me. As I said earlier, I was slightly purposeless when I was younger, but it has slowly begun to come together. To steal a line from Tolkien or the back of some hippie’s VW bus, Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Not forever at least. I’ve been feeling a change in the air. Or maybe I was just listening to David Bowie.