Everybody knows the dice are loaded, 2

22 07 2014

Ariella Cohen, on “poor doors”:

Extell, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side asked the city to approve a plan for a 33-story luxury condo with a separate entry for the tenants residing in the publicly subsidized rent-stabilized units, which will be segregated from the rest of the building into a section facing the street while the luxury units will face the Hudson River.

This address isn’t the only one with citizen-subsidized egress segregation, but the overall numbers remain low, if only because, as Cohen notes, it’s hard to retrofit old buildings with separate-because-unequal entrances.

Still, one gets the sense that if it were possible, it would be more popular among the penthouse set. David Von Spreckelsen, a poor-door developer, defends the tender sensibilities of the wealthy living in tax-subsidized mixed-income housing:

I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.

Take it away, Jean-Jacques:

[I]f one sees a handful of powerful and rich men at the height of greatness and fortune while the mob grovels in obscurity and misery, it is because the former prize the things they enjoy only to the extent that the others are deprived of them, and because, without changing their position, they would cease to be happy, if the people ceased to be miserable.

~~~

It’s tempting to end on Rousseau, but Cohen makes an important point in her ending: such segregation is not inevitable. It was enabled by policy, and can be undone by policy.





Just sing

7 01 2014

The great Gotham Rock Choir experiment: how’d it go?

I had fun. There are some truly terrific singers in the Choir—some are folks who came to New York to do theatre, got sidetracked (by the need for rent money) into straight jobs, but who still want to perform, others who happened to discover that they could really sing—and by the time of our performance, in mid-December, we sounded pretty damned good. And, quite apart from the singing, the people (altos, represent!) are pretty damned great.

I’m glad I did it, but I won’t be doing it again. I’m just not that good.

This isn’t a professional choir, and it’s not as if I’m tone-deaf, but I was rarely comfortable with my voice. It got better over the course of the cycle—my range was stretched in both directions—but I couldn’t count on my voice locking into the groove. If I sat near stronger singers, I could glide in alongside them, but my voice on its own couldn’t be trusted.

Which really sucks. I could hear the way it should sound in my head, but what came out of my mouth was just. . . eh.

And that bummed me out. I want to be good, and I’m not.

So no more GRC for me, at least as a participant. I did say that maybe I’d try to rejoin again in the summer, but that’s a long shot. I don’t think my voice will get strong enough for me to say, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’

Of course, I did do this, and I’m glad I did. I hope to stay in touch with folks from the Choir, and I’ll happily sit in their audience.

But onstage again? I don’t think so.





Sing! Sing! Sing!

4 09 2013

I’ve been trying to change my defaults—at least, that’s been my story.

A while ago I declared I would make the attempt to get my ass out of my desk chair and into the city, that instead of offering excuses for my nos (noes? no’s?), I’d just say yes.

It’s worked in all kinds of small ways (especially when it involves meeting friends at a bar), but it hasn’t led to any kind of ongoing commitments.

My friend E., to whom I had mentioned my (honestly, fake) desire to say yes more often, had the temerity to take the idea and run with it. Let’s do Gotham Rock Choir, she said!

Um, okay, I said. What it is?

A choir! In New York! That sings rock songs!

Um, okay.

It’ll be fun.

Um, okay.

(Un)fortunately, we weren’t able to make it into the winter/spring round, but E managed to partake of the summer round. I had to teach at night (when they rehearse), so, darn, I couldn’t do it.

E. didn’t really like it at first, but, better woman than I, she stuck with it, and ended up having a gas. I’m going to do this again, she said. You wanna?

Uhhh. . . .

Come on! It was fun!

Uhhh. . . .

Just go to the first rehearsal, see if you like it.

Oooookaaaaayyy.

And  I went. (And she went. . . cf 5:28.)

And it kicked my ass.

I had a decent enough voice when I was younger—nothing special, but enough to carry a tune in high school musicals—but even that mediocre decency dropped with disuse. I used to be able to nail some very low notes, and now, pfft, now my voice bottoms into flatness.

The other folk in the choir? Not flat. Pretty damned good, in fact.

So I was thinking, Ohhh, man, do I really want to do this? I’m not very good, my interest in performing died with my youth, and man! a commitment!

And then a bunch of us hit a nearby bar and I was able to talk with some smart and funny people and I thought, Hmm, hanging out with these folks wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. And, as I told one woman, Yeah, this kinda kicked my ass, but given that I can be real bitch sometimes, it’s probably not the worst thing to get my ass kicked.

So. I have to decide by next Tuesday whether to go all in.

We’ll see.





They certainly don’t make them like that anymore

16 08 2013

Yesterday I finally got off my butt and picked up a canister in which to store my compost-ables until I could take them to the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket for real composting.

On my way back from the dollar store—yes, I went all out on the container—I stopped momentarily to watch the road construction crew lay down a layer of red concrete. That moment lasted, oh, half-an-hour.

The city and various utilities have been upgrading the lines running under half of Nostrand, then building out pedestrian bulges as they reconstruct the torn-up lanes. During the day, what is normally 2-3 lanes of traffic is funnelled into a single eastside lane, as the lane closest to the western curb is worked on and a middle lane reserved for the construction equipment.

I wasn’t the only one leaning on the fencing, watching some of the men run their brushes and floaters over the concrete, while others shoveled the mix into a trench alongside the old roadway. I waited for the mixer to drop more of the sludge onto the prepared lane, but the only guy who wasn’t wearing the yellow safety vest, after yelling back and forth with a goateed man in, mm, his forties or fifties, sent the mixer away.

A dump truck and an excavator crept in where the mixer had been, and one of the workers directed the excavator driver to deposit dirt from the truck on the far side of lane. The goateed man flung a half-brick with a string tied around across the barrier at the edge of the trench, then, carried that string to the curb, roughing out a height. The dump truck and excavator reversed in tandem down the street, pausing to deposit dirt in the road bed (I’m assuming to create a slight slope down toward the curb). Later guy with a walk-behind compactor came through and tamped down the dirt.

The mixer returned, and as the drum rolled, I recalled a piece I had read somewhere (probably in the New Yorker, probably by John McPhee), on the time constraints on concrete mixing. The aggregate, cement, and water need to mix enough to integrate all of the components, but since it begins to set almost immediately, it needs to be disgorged tout suite (within 90 minutes, according to Wikipedia). It was around lunchtime, but it was clear that as long as the mixer was on the scene, the men would be shoveling, troweling, and smoothing instead of eating.

The drum rolled and rolled, the men standing around, rinsing off boots and equipment, and attaching extenders to the chute. (Given that one man could easily lift the 5-foot or so long chute, it was probably a composite plastic material, or maybe aluminum. Lightweight, in other words.) Then a couple of the guys signaled to the driver, and the red concrete began sliding down the chute. Immediately they began shoveling and troweling and brushing the concrete, and as the compactor finished its last run in the road bed, the mixer slowly moved south, pausing as the men swung the chute in an arc from curb to trench.

That was my cue to leave—I’d said to myself I would stay until the concrete began flowing again—but, honestly, I could hung on that fence and watched these men build that road to the end.

I don’t do physical work now—wielding chalk against a board doesn’t count—but I have in the past. My only summer home from college I got a second shift job at a foundry, working the punch press for lawnmower parts, leak-checking oil pans and oil-pan covers, and running the mill-and-tap machine for Pontiac power-steering plug brackets.

I hated that job, not least because, as a non-union gig, the pay was shit and the safety conditions somewhat less than desirable. That it was second shift also meant that when I was getting out of work all of my first-shift friends were at home in bed; while I got along fine with my co-workers (after a brief period of coolness toward the “college kid”, they allowed me to lunch with them), we didn’t socialize outside of work.

Still, near the end of my time there, I understood something of why, beyond just a paycheck, people might appreciate a job like that. There was a certain rhythm to the work. Here’s where you lined up to punch in, here’s where you lined up to punch out, here’s where you picked up your gloves and here’s where you tossed them. Head nod to these folks, a joke with those, and off to the machines. While I’m not much good with regularity, I got a glimpse of its pleasures, and why some might be reassured rather than boxed in by it.

There was also the pleasure at having a part in making something you can hold in your hand. I milled and tapped hundreds, maybe (tho’ probably not: I wasn’t the fastest on this machine) thousands of Pontiac power-steering plug brackets, with damn near each one of which ended up in a car. It was a thing I worked on, which was now working for someone else.

I like teaching and I’m glad to have a job which requires me to be so much in my head, but as much satisfaction I get from my time in the classroom or with my books, I can’t hold the thing I make in my hand.

When Matt Yglesias wonders why so many people bang on about manufacturing, when he suggests that food service (in which I’ve also put my time) be considered a part of the manufacturing sector, he misses the central point of manufacture: that you end up with a thing you can hold in your hand. Maybe he doesn’t get that, or maybe he doesn’t see why that’s important, but if you’re going to stand on a line year after year after year, the routine itself won’t be enough.

If you’re going to do the job, take pride—such an outdated concept—in the job, it helps to be able to pick a thing up and say, without irony or ideology, “I built that.”

That’s why I and so many of my neighbors were hanging on that fence, watching those men build a road. It was something we could see, something we would walk across or bike or drive on, something which had disappeared, and now, finally, was there.





The matches and the Buds and the clean and dirty cars

23 07 2013

More inanities:

1. Trickster loves ice cubes. If she sees me grab one out of the freezer she jumps over to wherever I am to bogart the cube.

It works.

She doesn’t get the popsicles, however.

2. Anthony Weiner stated months ago that there likely were more pics of him floating around in cyberspace, so. . . there you go.

I take it I’m supposed to be upset that these pics apparently date from the same time in which he was trying to get his life back together, that they were from a year rather than two years ago, but POLITICIAN LIES ABOUT SEX is not exactly news.

Anyway, I can’t be arsed to care much since I don’t support him in the mayor’s race. If he wins I’ll be upset because I think he’s too conservative and I’m not at all convinced that he would actually be a good mayor, not because he turns into a thirteen-year-old boy in the presence of a smart phone.

I thought he showed terrible judgment when this first came out, but I also thought it wasn’t worth resigning his seat over. If his constituents decided to vote against him because he flashed his dick, so be it, but as what he did was just kinda-creepy, but not illegal, it didn’t debar him from the House.

And I was sad to see him go, not because he was a great legislator—he was a terrible legislator—but because he played a particular role in the House and for the Democrats that I think is crucial: as the self-appointed pain the ass, the rat-terrier barking at and occasionally biting his and his party’s opponents.

It would be terrible if everyone in the House behaved in this manner, but in a chamber with 435 members each party needs its pains-in-the-ass. The GOP has rather too many of these at this point, and the Dems, too few. Weiner’s resignation was a loss for the Dems.

And if he wins the mayoral primary, that, too, will be a loss for the Dems.

3. Yes, I bought a new fan. Not as quiet as the old one, but still, pretty good.

Doubt it will last almost 30 years, however.

4. I’ve been following this story, mainly at The Slog, about the hunger strike among California prisoners, and am glad to see this bit by Rob Fischer at the New Yorker.

Am not at all glad to see that prison officials are considering force-feeding the protesters.

Jesus fucking christ. I am not a progressive but this is the twenty-first century: can we not figure out a better way to deal with criminals than this?

I get that some people really cannot live in society, that by their deeds they should be keep apart, but is this really the best solution we can come up with?

5. I’m listening to Q with Jian Ghomeshi and the guest host is talking about flip-flops with Dana Stevens.

Dana Stevens is against them anywhere outside of the shower or the beach. I am with Dana Stevens on this crusade.

On the other hand, that people insist upon wearing them oot-and-aboot gives me a chance to be smug: Whenever I see a rat on a subway platform, I get to say “and this is why you shouldn’t wear flip-flops in the city.”

6. I am also, for the record, against people clipping their nails on the train.

Gotta have some standards, doncha know.





Here comes the rain again

15 06 2013

Such a rainy June—marvelous!

Yesterday after the rain as I rode through Prospect Park, the wind scattering the wet from the leaves above, mist rising from the roadway, all of the green laying back in deep contentment, and I thought, Oh, this is lovely!

If only Seattle weather were to settle permanently in New York. . . !

Too much to ask for, I know.





A big hard sun

9 04 2013

April 9 in New York: 84 degrees.

God help me.

Could I hope for some kind of cataclysmic event which doesn’t kill or hurt anyone, doesn’t pollute the air, and otherwise does not interfere with air travel, transportation, or agriculture—and which just happens to cloud up the sky all summer long?

Too much?

Shit.








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