Archive for the New York City category

January 28th, 2011

Year of the Rat?

Yesterday as I stood waiting in the subway, a rat waddled up, politely sniffing, then climbed upon my bag, as if hoping for something to eat.

An omen?

An image of our society in dissolution?

Upon noticing his approach I’d begun to call Shoo, then did something of a St Vitus dance. Finally he respected my panic and scrammed, taking cover beneath a garbage storage bin.

Days before a rat was found making the rounds on a subway car.

Usually of course they’re shy of the Big Folk.

In The Plague, it’s the rats who play harbinger on both ends of the disaster.

They are the first to die in agony on the streets, filling the inwoners with wondrous dismay. And then their reappearance on the streets, going about their business, is the first sign that the pestilence itself is dying out.

So yes, If rats all over New York are suddenly behaving in a sociable manner, why, I wonder what it means.

Years ago, while living on the expanding eastern edge of Chinatown in Manhattan, I was walking home from Wall Street late at night and rats must have been busy at work because as I strode along I was thinking about the portentous rodents of THE PLAGUE …

And suddenly a rat scurried out across my path, directly beneath my foot as it fell — and screamed as his spine snapped with a crunch then bounced straight toward heaven a yard and fell dead.

Perhaps as we are told the Evil flee where none pursueth, but see here too the innocent, the poor fool, mind boggled, who in panic was just trying to get out of the way.

I still recall the crunch of his spine and his scream.

Needless to say I felt terrible, and wondered what it meant.

A friend says the Chinese view rats with great favor.

For it is said that when all the animals raced across the river, the rat with its genius won out — by riding upon the oxen’s back and then at the last moment leaping from its head to reach the bank first.

So it is that to be born in the Year of the Rat is deemed a blessing.

How good of the Chinese to honor the rat. And how interesting to hear that the rat won the race …

The whole Get A Job business always struck me as futile, a poor expense of spirit.

Friends suggest that my encounter with this favored creature yesterday means that I’ve been forgiven for crushing, in my distraction, his ancestor during the 80s on a greasy Chinatown street.

Well and good. But why as a race are they behaving so sociably?

Perhaps the season’s record snowfall — the lack of accessible garbage on the streets — has them desperate?

Or does their frank boldness bode some eruption to our state?



January 5th, 2011

The Village Voice loses
its voices

The VOICE will now be nothing but Special Lefty whining, petty bickering for crumbs, as the fascist shift accelerates.

It’s a generational thing as much as anything. American society no longer breeds Universalists.

“The left has disemboweled itself,” Nader said. “It doesn’t even have a strategy every four years like a good poker player. The best example is Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO. Obama has given them nothing. Therefore, they are demanding nothing. … And now wait till you see what they will do to the public employee unions. … Everybody is ganging up on them. You have new class warfare. It is non-unionized lower income and middle class taking it out on the unionized middle-income public employees. It is a classic example of oligarchic manipulation.”

One irony is that the undermining of Universalism in American society was the work of people in Academia calling themselves Leftists: Feminists. Progressives. The theorists of the war on the White Male Hegemony.

This new struggle replaced, in hearts and minds Left of center, the traditional class struggle, central to modernity, which was basically about money. Thirty years on, the working class cannot afford to educate or medicate its children and the slide into the Third World seems at this moment inexorable.

The Progressive campaign not only splintered the Democratic Party, taking it out of power in Washington and the state capitols, but also diverted and diluted education. People raised on television and Identity Politics are now shaping the society. The results are plain: 96% of the population is politically powerless.

“We’ll GIVE them civil rights,” Midge Decter once said in my cab, in the late 80s. “But not economic rights. Economic rights are not civil rights.”

So-called Progressives continue to play right into that hand.

October 4th, 2010

Allen Ginsberg Moment:
An old cool interview
and a magical new film
about the Genii of the City


Recollections and thoughts about the new film HOWL are on the way.

Meanwhile peeps can comment on the man and the poem and the movie — and a very local interview from 1988 — here below.




June 26th, 2010

Falling branch kills baby at Central Park Zoo

Posted in Death, New York City by ed

Brings to mind the Japanese tourist beheaded by a snapping cable on the Brooklyn Bridge footpath some years ago.

April 26th, 2010

The Walt Whitman Archive
publishes Civil War letters

Posted in New York City, Writing by ed

The great WWA has just posted his letters from the Civil War years, gathered with responses.

It’s a wonder to appreciate his prosaic mind and voice.

And the colloquies with poetry editors are hilarious, to wit:

Jan. 20, ’60.

Dear Sir,

Mr. House inform’d me that you accepted, and would publish, my “Bardic Symbols.” If so, would you, as soon as convenient, have it put in type, and send me the proof?

About the two lines:

(See from my dead lips the ooze exuding at last!
See the prismatic colors glistening and rolling!)

I have in view, from them, an effect in the piece which I clearly feel, but cannot as clearly define. Though I should prefer them in, still, as I told Mr. House, I agree that you may omit them, if you decidedly wish to.

Yours &c
Walt Whitman

Portland av. near Myrtle | Brooklyn, N. Y.

March 16th, 2010

Third novel: Dying Days

It has begun.

What the Dice Man has joined may none put asunder.

If your brakes don’t work, smile as you go under.


What’s he building in there?

This is actually a conversion of a screenplay, the antepenultimate, my fifth, from 2005, into a novel. Thought about doing it before. Now it seems to have gone and …

Oh brother.

The opening paragraph seems to be:

In June 2004, after five Medecins Sans Frontieres were found murdered in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan, Aaron called, for the first time since coming to New York with Maya. Long out of touch had been the pattern of a friendship born and first aborted in Texas, then again at Duke, before settling down to disjointed maturity during years of criss-crossing work overseas. Since the rebirth of History the routine had been that to meet for coffee one went to Baghdad or Bosnia or Berlin.

That, or perhaps:

He would miss his turn.

And so on to the end.

If we shall suppose that writing lengthy bits that no one shall ever read is one of those offenses which, in the providence of Dog, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both Yea and Ney this terrible task as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living Dog always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of lore may speedily pass away.

Yet, if Dog wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the pen man’s sore head and hands and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the quill shall be paid by another drawn by the horde, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the lord are true and righteous altogether.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as Dog gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

October 19th, 2009

Geography of Lost Jobs & Homes

Posted in Money, New York City by ed


A map of jobs lost and gained.

A political pattern?

And here’s a map of foreclosure rates.

The two maps don’t synch as much as one might think. The wave of unemployment foreclosures, if coming, is not yet reflected in the one.

April 11th, 2009

Local Color

Posted in Movies, New York City by ed


Dem wuz da daze …

April 4th, 2009

Coney Island not dead yet

Posted in Death, New York City by ed

The cruelest month:  Coney Island starts up for summer despite the death of Astroland, the prime kiddie amusement park.


“The thing is, we ain’t closed,” said Jimmy Carchiolo, an old salt with a pigskin voice who has run a dart game behind the Wonder Wheel for 43 years.

“Astroland went under, but everybody figures it’s the same. Astroland’s three acres. People don’t know how Coney Island works.”


Ever since the first carousel was installed on Surf Avenue in 1876, Coney Island has been a jumble of competing institutions, an amusement park cooperative of sorts. Today, there is the Cyclone, Nathan’s, the Wonder Wheel, KeySpan Park (where the Brooklyn Cyclones play), the New York Aquarium, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and the Coney Island Museum.

The separate parts exist together, squabbling and sharing like a family, and giving off a tribal fractured energy, a mirror of New York’s.

“People think amusement parks are Disney World, where you pay one price and enter at the gate,” said Aaron Beebe, the director of the museum. “But Coney Island isn’t like that. It isn’t homogenized. It has lots of moving parts.”  …

“It always feels like New York is on the edge of losing its soul,” he said, “and Coney Island represents that. Coney dying — it’s kind of like a stand-in for everything else.”



September 25th, 2008

Fritz Finance Minister: Uncle Sam no Longer Superman


U.S. losing financial superpower status: Steinbrueck

By William L. Watts, MarketWatch
Sept. 25, 2008

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Germany’s finance minister on Thursday laid the blame for the global banking crisis on the Anglo-American free-market model’s quest for ever-higher near-term profits, predicting the United States would soon lose its role as the world’s dominant financial power.

“The U.S. will lose its status as the superpower of the global financial system, not abruptly but it will erode,” Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told the lower house of Germany’s parliament in Berlin, according to published reports.

“The global financial system will become more multi-polar.”

Steinbrueck criticized the United States for failing to adequately regulate investment banks and said free-market policies embraced by the United States and Great Britain that emphasized a short-term “insane drive for higher and higher profits” were partly to blame for the crisis.

“Wall Street will never be what it was,” he said.

The finance minister said he would push for a global ban on speculative short selling and would use next month’s meeting of the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers in Washington to press for new rules that would prevent banks from fully securitizing loans and selling them to third parties.

Steinbrueck said U.S. authorities were late in undertaking rescue efforts, but said he welcomed the decision to attempt to bail out only organizations whose collapse would threaten the world financial system.

He repeated that he felt there was no need for Germany or Europe to echo the U.S. Treasury’s proposal to spend around $700 billion to buy up toxic assets from distressed banks’ balance sheets, saying the financial crisis is largely an “American problem.”

The minister warned, however, that the fallout from the crisis would make for lower growth in the near future and eventually impact the labor market.


Well. That blast follows the whipping Bush took in New York this week as the U.N. General Assembly convened. Lecturing re terrorism and reassuring re finance, he was greeted with open anger and derision.

(One had thought his people had learned he can’t be allowed to take the world stage.  That ended at the G7 in 2006 (?) when he groped Merkel on the way to the podium.)

It’s breathtaking, to grasp in one thought the extent of the damage Bush-Cheney have wrought. Starting with Enron right out of the gate, then into 9/11, the wars, Katrina, the consistent assault on constitutional protections (again from day one), and now, in the end, this consuming financial disaster.

So what’s happening, man?

Not merely the end of a cycle of American history, but, as wondered aloud again last week, of the American hegemony that has pertained throughout the postwar period (1945)?

I’ve often thought — most of my adult life — that such a come-down would be a good thing.  “The business of America is business!“  has always been vile propaganda.  The fall the German minister foresees  may land us in a better place.

Meanwhile, in any case, the Chinese today launched three men into orbit, hoping for the first time to execute a Space Walk.


September 23rd, 2008

Senate suffers fools sourly / McPalin suffering /
New York to suffer


The reception for Boom Boom and Hammerin’ Hank before the Senate Banking Committee today went from cool to frosty to hostile.

Chairman Dodd of Connecticutt concluded that the big bailout plan was “not acceptable”, and ranking GOPher Shelby of Alabama told the departing big brains that all options remained on the table.

The markets wandered up and down, ending up down hard — but then some green was generated by a post-bell item about Warren Buffet buying into Goldman Sachs for a nickel.

($5 billion)

I wondered over the weekend if the big bailout was really necessary.  Today in the air was the notion that things have already gone so far wrong, for so long, that Bernanke’s opening demand that something big be done immediately was ill founded, or, at least, absurd.


Personal income in New York City is going to be pressured for years because of this, beginning in the investment banks and their law firms, and spreading through the services that serve them.

Perhaps, however, the city might benefit. Culturally.  Might trend a bit toward sleepy and philosphical. Even, in time, affordable …

But it’s the current homeowners who will pay for that adornment, and today the mayor announced the notion of a 7% property tax hike for January.


The only good news is that the crisis seems to be hurting McCain-Palin, as the odor of gross incompetence in high places begins to overwhelm Sarah’s rustic charms.

And here we have another late news item — that McCain’s campaign manager has been getting a $15,000 monthly stipend from Freddie Mac, and doing nothing in return.  Payments discontinued only this past month.  Guess the bloke’ll resign before the opening bell.

Might the pain of what’s happening be compensated, then, by a spectacular victory for the Donkeys in November?

Not so fast — a trader I know has been worrying since the weekend that a “catalyzing event” may occur in the city before Election Day to get people panicked about National Security again instead.

Oh but that’s so 2004 …


January 21st, 2008

Local anti-Jewish Mossado-Rus Terrorist shoots himself in foot (?)

Here’s an odd story about a mad fellow living about five blocks from New Combat central, here in genteel Brooklyn Heights.

Accidentally shot himself in the hand. Cops wondered why, took a look in his apartment and found half a dozen pipe bombs and bomb-making equipment. Handguns, sniper rifle and silencers. Let’s see here … Crossbows and arrows. A machete …

Apparently the fellow, Ivalyo Ivanov, had been suspected of, and has now confessed to, spraying violent anti-Jewish grafitti on the local brick walls, some of which date back to Colonial days.

Seems to be one of those mad skinned-head neo-fascist Russian nationalist types you’re always imagining.

Oh, except that he told the cops that he was “trained” by Mossad.

And “Russian?”  Maybe not. One paper says he was born in Bulgaria.  Another somewhere in the mideast. And his lawyer says he is jewish, a third paper says.

The neighbors say they found him across the years very personable. “He seems like a really nice guy, a really gentle person.”

Huh. The bomb factory/apartment seems to be owned by a well known health official (once associated with Mayor Rudy G) who has been living with mad Ivan for years:

“Michael C. Clatts, 50, a medical anthropologist and researcher who is the director for the Institute for International Research on Youth at Risk at National Development and Research Institutes in New York. Mr. Clatts, who owns a unit in the building, according to property records, was commissioned by the Giuliani administration to study New York’s homeless teenagers.”

The Odd Couple, eh what?

What a funny story …

September 8th, 2007

Taxi talk

Posted in New York City by ed

Funny to come across this:


I drove a cab for three years in NYC during grad school. Recorded people surreptitiously (microphones under each headrest). Quite a gas, and a great way to study the spoken language. But Tony Schwartz was apparently all over it before I was born.

January 20th, 2007

Feuding Brooklyn Couple Builds Wall to Divide House

Posted in New York City by ed

This from the BBC:

Chana and Simon Taub, both 57, have endured two years of divorce negotiations, but neither is prepared to give up their Brooklyn home. Now a white partition wall has been built through the heart of the house to keep the pair apart.

The Taubs’ divorce has been rumbling through the New York divorce courts for two years. But despite owning another home — just two doors away — the unhappily married couple have decided to carry on living under the same roof.

“It’s my house,” said Simon Taub, who requested the building of the wall. “And emotionally, in my age, I want to be in my house.”Chana Taub maintains that she has as much right as her partly-estranged husband to stay in the Borough Park house.”I need a house to live and money to live on. I worked very hard for him, like a horse, like a slave for him.”Eventually, after negotiations led nowhere, a judge ordered that the partition wall be built inside the house. It divides the ground floor of the house, and keeps husband and wife penned into separate sections on different floors. One door linking the rival sections of the house is barricaded shut to prevent any accidental contact between the pair.But therapist Kimberly Flemke interpreted the Taubs’ acrimony as evidence of a still-flickering flame.

“It’s clear that if they’re going to go to this length, there’s still far too much connection. I would hope they’d both go to therapy.”