The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

If You See Something

July 28, 2014 | by

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Photo: Jaroslav Thraumb

I was midway through a very different sort of post today when something unexpected happened: I got hit in the face on the subway.

It was an accident, but no less unpleasant for that. On the subway, you expect a certain amount of violence: in the course of a rush-hour commute you’re liable to be jostled, elbowed, crowded, and trod upon. If you are short, the incidence is even higher. But even by those standards this was unusual. Indeed, even by my own day’s standards—which seem to contain more petty indignities than a Benny Hill sketch—this was unusual.

Long story short: as we were both getting up to exit the 1 train, a man hefted his backpack and, in the process, backhanded me. Because his arm was propelled by the weight of his bag, and because I was in the midst of standing up, the blow was really hard. A gasp went up from everyone who had seen. He apologized, twice, but there really wasn’t anything he could do. And because there is nothing worse than refusing an apology for something done without intention, of course I accepted it, and tried to smile and pretend it was nothing.

It has been a while since I was punched in the subway. The last time was much worse. I got on the train with a heavy paper grocery bag in each hand. No sooner had I walked through the doors when a teenager, out of nowhere, punched me in the stomach. It wasn’t that hard, but the shock was enough that I dropped my bags, a plum rolled down the car, and—I would discover later—several eggs broke. His friends cackled with glee. No one did anything.

That wasn’t even the worst part. “Hey, sorry,” said the kid, after I had sat down. Then, “Give me a kiss.”

Now, I’m sitting here with a cold pack to my aching jaw—I have one of those cartoon-drunk ice bags. I think it is going to swell, but hopefully won’t excite too much comment. If I have to, I guess I could make some awful joke about Zsa-Zsa Gabor and New York, and try to be jaunty. But the truth is, I hate having to admit I’m a victim of the city, you know?

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Philosophy of the World

June 27, 2014 | by

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Detail from Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Kaufhaus im Regen, 1926-7.

In the summer, a trip to the grocery store or the laundromat can pose one existential conundrum after another. On seemingly every corner of the city, one is greeted by a young person with a clipboard in his hand, an enormous T-shirt on his back, and desperation in his eyes. And then come the questions—huge, unanswerable, world-shaking.

DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?

SPARE A MOMENT FOR GAY RIGHTS?

DO YOU LIKE TO LAUGH?

ARE YOU REGISTERED TO VOTE IN NEW YORK STATE?

CAN I ASK YOU A QUESTION ABOUT YOUR HAIR?

YOU LOOK LIKE A FRIENDLY PERSON! CAN I ASK YOU SOMETHING?

ARE YOU JEWISH?

DO YOU LOVE CHILDREN? Read More »

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The Jimmy Winkfield Stakes

June 12, 2014 | by

A racetrack in obsolescence.

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Photo: Ilya Lipkin

Every year on the third Monday of January, the Aqueduct Racetrack, in South Ozone Park, Queens, runs a six-furlong race in honor of Jimmy Winkfield. The choice of date, Martin Luther King Day, is not accidental. Of Winkfield’s many accomplishments, which include winning the Russian Oaks an incredible five times for Czar Nicholas II, he is best known as the last black jockey to run a winner in the Kentucky Derby, in 1902.

To be black in the world of horse racing was no easy thing in the early part of the twentieth century. Winkfield, born in Kentucky, had enjoyed a storied career in Russia and France, but when he returned to America he was forced to enter a reception held in his honor through the hotel’s service entrance, with the bellhops and the kitchen staff.

Because of the raw January weather, attendance at the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes is usually rather sparse compared to the bigger events at the height of the racing season. This year, my older brother Ilya and I saw the race completely on a whim—we thought it might be fun to trek out to the Aqueduct like we used to when we were younger. Back then, if the weather was fine, our father would drive us to the track out in Ozone Park, a favorite destination for the unattached men in the neighborhood. Edik from the dry cleaners down the street was a fixture there, as was Pavel, the bartender at the Pennant Sports Bar on Northern, and Parsons, whose brother was an orderly at the elder-care facility where our grandfather died. To me, gaining admission to that world of working men was no less exciting than the races themselves. I watched with great interest as they quaffed beer and studied the odds on the board and cursed when they invariably lost their money. Being a bit older, Ilya had a better sense of what was actually going on. He nagged Pavel until the bartender showed him how to decipher the near-hieroglyphic racing form. The one time my father let him place a bet, we won eighty dollars. It proved to be a red-letter day, because that same afternoon, I fed a carrot to Cigar, the Hall of Fame thoroughbred, just before the first big win of his career. (The Aqueduct now runs a race in his honor as well.) Read More »

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Sacred Rites

June 10, 2014 | by

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Crown of Flowers (detail), 1884.

The food takes awhile which gave us time to watch a waitress deliver a Dutch Baby and envelop us with its fragrant, perhaps sacred, steam. A tray of ruby grapefuit [sic] juice in large glasses made me think of luxurious jewels. Obviously we had traveled back to a past time. —A review of the Original Pancake House

When I was about twenty-six, a friend sent me a listing for a job at an online review site, which, at the time, had not yet gone public. It seemed to me a good idea to apply to lots of things, so I sent in a letter.

“We’re looking for someone hip and quirky for this job,” said the woman, Tyler, who interviewed me from San Francisco; she’d mentioned an improbably high salary and a host of benefits and perks. “You seem hip and quirky. But we need someone more integrated into the Web site’s community. I notice you have no reviews, no profile, and no ‘friends.’ We’ll need to see more of a commitment.”

I attacked my new assignment with determination. I set myself a quota of ten reviews a day and implored everyone I knew to join my network. In my capacity as manager of the lingerie store where I worked weekends, I commandeered the computer, knocking out reviews of the coffee at the bodega on the corner (“too subtle for the common palate”), the new artisanal pizzeria (“a horseman of the gentrification apocalypse”), and the local nail salon (“The nail technician was slovenly and surly; her coat was soiled; she started cutting my cuticles without asking”).

While I placed a premium on quantity, I began to take my task seriously: I was appalled by the cavalier manner in which fellow reviewers dismissed small businesses after a single visit or graded spots where they hadn’t bothered to wait for a table. I took special care in rebutting what I felt to be thoughtless and uninformed reviews. My tone became hectoring. Read More »

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Wildlife, or Nor Woman Neither

May 20, 2014 | by

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A Chihuahua with a member of ordinary size. Photo: Abuk Sabuk, via Wikimedia Commons

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

The text came up on my phone at 5:34 P.M.

“Just saw chihuahua with human-sized penis :( ”

I tried to think of something comforting to say.

“Don’t worry,” I wrote back. “He can mate with bigger dogs!!”

“:( ” came the response.

In conference with another friend, Dan, later the same day, I mentioned this anomaly.

“It’s at times like this one wonders how self-aware dogs are,” he wrote. Then:

“I hope he knows”

Then:

“He must know.” Read More »

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Lisa

May 15, 2014 | by

John_Singer_Sargent_-_Le_verre_de_porto_(A_Dinner_Table_at_Night)_-_Google_Art_Project

John Singer Sargent, A Dinner Table at Night, 1884

Last week, I was invited to a fancy dinner in honor of a personage in the international art scene who had curated an interactive installation in an urban high school. More specifically, my rather more impressive friend was invited, and he asked if he might bring me. Not being much of a personage in the international art scene or otherwise, I was both excited and nervous. The night before, I tried on and rejected several dresses before deciding on a black lace vintage frock I had picked up at a thrift store some months before, and had altered but never worn. Having had a haircut four days before, I decided to eke a little more mileage out of my increasingly mangy blowout, and I put on my old denim jacket as a sort of security blanket.

The dinner was held in the private room of an austerely chic downtown restaurant. It was already filled with people when we arrived—some recognizable, many beautiful, all looking like personages. The room contained several long tables bedecked with place cards. I accepted a glass of wine and tried to look less anxious. But when my friend went outside for a cigarette, I went with him.

When we returned to the room, everyone was seated. Someone called to my friend to come sit next to her; he had been placed near some famous people in the center of the table. I looked around, but I already knew: there was no place card for me. Everyone else was seated. A waiter murmured in my ear that someone hadn’t shown up; I could sit in her seat for the moment. Read More »

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