Monthly Archives: July 2008

Just 22% of one year’s rent, plus one year’s rent

So, you may or may not have seen our piece in Fodor’s, but as it turns out Smackdown HQ is one of New York’s finest apartments. They went on TV and talked all about it. In honor of this honor, I’ve composed the following sonnet:

Forty-four feet long, and the width? About seven
Us and this apartment, a match made in heaven.

What’s that you say? That’s not quite a sonnet? Try reading between the lines; you’ll see the rest of it. Anyhow, we’ll be featured on This Old Tenement next week, although we didn’t win the award for “Best placement of bathroom,” because the bathroom is real hard to get to. There’s a damn ladder. But Bob Vila is going to help us put together all the IKEA furniture that’s sitting, rusting in the corner. Wood usually doesn’t rust. I don’t even know how they do that.

The reason that I’m talking up our happy home is that I have a new job. So do several hundred other people, and I have lunch with all of them. And all of them have just rented apartments. My new lunchtime diversion is to ask them where they live and how much they pay. [Note to foreigners: It is only acceptable to ask someone this in New York City, for some reason]

Summary: They pay SO much money. And as a New Yorker, you help this happen. After all, did you know that hyping New York rents is the best way to trick newcomers into paying $2000 for studio apartments in old buildings in Northern New Jersey? $2300 to live with a roommate, in Bushwick? (I have specific individuals in mind.) “Oh, just moved to the city and you’re looking for a one-bedroom in Williamsburg? I hope you’re prepared to pay $8200.” Meanwhile, my apartment is actually free. They give these out sometimes. Oh, you didn’t hear about it? Don’t they get NY1 in Iowa? Haven’t you heard of inflation?

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Streets Is Not For Bikes!!!!!

Can I talk to you for a second? Can we get serious? Totally fucking serious?

I have a confession to make, I’m a New York bicyclist. Yes, that’s right, I’m that guy weaving wildly in and out of traffic, scraping your sideview mirror with my elbow, taking up the reverse lane on Delancey Street, and hipstering that shit up. While I have not yet transcended samsarra to the point where I can have a fixed-gear bike or anything, my bike was made by a company that, as far as you know, only makes TVs.

Panasonic, bitches. (Note: This is the girl version. My bike has testes. And it’s black, like coal mining.)

Anyway. Biking. It’s super-fun, but I don’t recommend it at all. My friend Sara was demolished (bike-wise and shoulder-wise) by a cab that decided to take a U-turn in the middle of Chrystie Street, sans signal or warning. My cousin hit her head and was unconscious for several days one time. I myself get really sweaty. (Yeah, my life is very hard.)

Biking in New York is stressful for everyone, even though it’s quite fun, rewarding, and exercise-tastic. But many’s the day people have swerved wildly into me. The same cream-colored minivan rear-ended me on Bedford Avenue in the Hasidic district, in the fucking bike lane, three times. On Brooklyn Avenue once, a guy swerved in front of me (and in front of the stranger riding beside me), then came to a dead stop without warning. When we tried to pull around him, he shouted “Streets is not for bikes!!!” out the window. How do you counter such a fine-grained, poorly-worded argument? Via the Socratic method? A nuanced round-table discussion on traffic management? By pointing to the giant “Bike Route” sign just twenty feet away? We decided to swear at him and take a side street instead.

Anyway, I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now. Wanna hear me complain about girls? No? Okay, well, see you later. Oh, hey, P.S., wanna see a cop almost kill a bicyclist in Times Square last Friday, the whole reason I started this post to begin with?

This particular clip is not to be missed. (Don’t worry, I’ll go back to italicizing funny swear words next week.) The average New Yorker pays $9192.24 in taxes to support the NYPD every year (note, I made this number up) — for that much money, shouldn’t they be coming to my house to change my children’s diapers? Or, um, you know, not indiscriminately killing us? Just sayin’. It’s hard out there for a pimp, especially on two wheels.

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The Fragile Ecosystem Of My Bathroom

So, I came home the other night. And… how can I put this? I’d had a few. And then they got lonely, so I had a few more. Have you ever seen a drink separated from its friends? It’s like watching an angel cry. Then I walked home from Sunnyside at 3 AM, because that’s just how I roll.

First thing I did when I walked in the door at 3:08 (I can walk *very* fast when drunk, and really I left the bar at like 3:06 to boot, like Michael Johnson) was get in the (gold shoes) shower, despite my somewhat altered state of consciousness. You see, my dream has always been to be killed in a completely avoidable household accident, like Dave Matthews. (Hopefully, I mean.)

And when I finished toweling off, I very nearly got my wish, because there was a cockroach crawling around the sink. And not one of those friendly cockroaches from Song of the South that sing and dance and grant the wishes of lonely wooden dolls, no, no, not one of those motherfuckers. This cockroach was twenty-two inches long. It needed a haircut, badly. It bumped up against me, dropped its sunglasses, and said I had to pay for a new pair, cash. It said it could get me tickets to the Today Show. It cast racist aspersions on me for not helping out. Three days later, I saw it on the subway saying it was an Iraq veteran and selling Snickers for $1.50 out of a bunch of boxes held together with mailing tape. Then it breakdanced with its five-year-old brother. This was a total sociopathic motherfucking cockroach.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen me when I’m the worse for liquor, but I get jumpy, friendo. I sprinted out of the shower. My lovely co-blogger will testify that I actually stacked a bunch of books against my bedroom door while I slept, lest the clever creatures follow me the forty-one feet from the bathroom and come to my room while I’m asleep and lay eggs in my goddamn mouth.

This sort of thing stresses me out slightly.

The last time I saw a roach, I’d just woken up. It was about three inches long and it crawled out of my line of sight so quickly — and I was so unable to find it — that I wrote it off as a hallucination. And it’s okay to ignore them. Roaches are a vital part of living in New York, like worrying about terrorism and eating $6 egg sandwiches every day. Like power outages and subway strikes. You can forget about them for months, even years at a time, but they’re there. Oh, yes. The roaches are still there. They’re hanging out in the 1/8″ gap between the sink and the wall, demanding 32% wage increases and delivering rolling blackouts whenever the temperature breaks 80. They’re the rent-controlled tenants of the bathroom-kitchen boroughs. They are fucking everywhere and all I want to do is go to sleep without thinking about tiny legs on my face. Goddammit.

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Wet Hot American Sellout

I started blogging today strictly because I wanted to use that title. But also I want to talk to you about McCarren Park and what is becoming of it.

McCarren Park, if you don’t know, is the epicenter of all Williamsburg and Greenpoint leisure. It’s a giant, unpleasant, treeless park littered with cigarette butts and dog crap. It has an all-weather track, an astroturf soccer field, a Hasidic softball team, and is now completely surrounded with giant luxury condo towers. It’s a hipster promenade: people put on the absolute dumbest things they own and strut around with their ironically named dogs. (Some good ironic dog names:  “Meow”, “Ceci n’est pas une chien”, “Capitalism”, “Michael J. Woof”)

What’s that? You want more pithy commentary? Well, there’s seven ice cream trucks there, nineteen hours a day, and they never turn the goddamn sound off. When they passed that “shut the ice cream trucks the fuck up” law last year, these trucks straight up cranked that shit up until it bumped, my friend. That’s how the bootleg Good Humor man rolls. Bling bling, and watch out for children. Also there’s a bunch of women that don’t speak English selling sickeningly sweet fruit ices, and they have bike horns on their carts to alert you that they’re now standing within a couple miles of you. This is to protect us from silence, which is one of the top ten problems facing New York. Right up there with “way cheap”, “too polite”, and “subways insufficiently crowded.”

The park is tres complicated and fun, in other words. And the gem of McCarren is the McCarren Park Pool, which is a big abandoned pile of bullshit that you aren’t allowed into ten months of the year. Here’s a brief history [NOTE: this is mostly mythology at this point]:

  • 1935 – Robert Moses bulldozes some tenements or something and builds a pool.
  • 1950 – The pool is popular. People swim in it.
  • 1969 – A bunch of Puerto Ricans move to Williamsburg and have the audacity to use the pool. In a furor, the grumpy Italians and Polish demand that the pool be immediately abandoned and destroyed by weeds. The city gives in, because back in the day the city was a huge racist, and apparently also didn’t realize that Puerto Ricans could vote.
  • 1998 – A bunch of hipsters move to Williamsburg and start using the decaying corpse of the pool for free concerts.
  • 2005 – The concerts are getting really popular.
  • 2007 – Some genius realizes that if they charge $50 for the concerts, they won’t be fun anymore, so Clear Channel immediately starts doing that. Bayard Street becomes jammed with Hummers.
  • 2008 – Grumpy Italians and Polish (now joined by the 1960s Puerto Ricans, who have grown old and are annoyed enough with hipsters to join the “angry” team) realize that the concerts and events are popular and fun. In a furor, they demand that the venue be turned back into a pool, at tremendous expense, so nobody can enjoy it ever again. The city gives in.

Trust me. Robert Caro said so.

So, as a result of all this helpful political activity, this is probably the last summer of events at McCarren. Then they’re going to turn it into another gross New York swimming pool, complete with the pervasive urine and gunfights. [NOTE: People love killing each other at public pools in New York. I blame RENT.] In the meantime, though, there were a few awesome events left this summer that didn’t cost money.

First there was the Hold Steady concert, at which thousands of people were left outside a locked gate on Lorimer Street while the band played, during a thunderstorm. That was pretty hood. I took the bus home.

Then there was Wet Hot American Summer. Let me be clear. This wasn’t a bad event. It was well-attended. The people next to me sat there smoking cigarettes, talking loudly on the phone (“I’m at the pool! In the outer boroughs somewhere! What? No, I’m watching a movie! What? Yeah, there are lots of weird people here!”), and generally indicated how they were just way too cool to enjoy the movie. But hey, I wouldn’t have moved to Brooklyn if I didn’t want to put up with massive douchebags all the time. So I put up with that. Michael Showalter and Paul Rudd arrived and made funny.

Also, the guy from the L Magazine showed up. “L” (get it? it’s the name of a rad train and I guess it sounds like Elle, that’s clever) fancies itself a hipster rag, but the man was wearing a power tie. He had a combover. He asked us to, quote, “give a round of applause for the Scion.” He helpfully informed us that our fun was being sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery (cheer), Greenpoint Wines (faint, snootier cheer), and Starbucks (crickets). And Scion.

[P.S. Scion has also taken over Adult Swim. Maybe somebody should call Scion and tell them that nobody in the 18-24 demographic will ever buy a new car. “Hey, guys, they don’t sell Scions at thrift stores or Old Navy. Yes, really. Uh huh. Stay classy, dudes. OK. Thanks for all those unpaid marketing internships.”]

At this point, walking the six blocks to Williamsburg is like going to a sponsored funeral. Have you been to the American Apparel? It’s right next to Sea! Across the street from the Pad Thai place! No, the other one. No, the red one. They have great egg rolls, I think. The pallbearers were brought to you by Pepsi. That’ll be $74.99, special bereavement rate. Smile for the brochure.

But hey, man, pretty much all 8,000 hipsters showed up to see the movie and be mocked by Michael Showalter. It’s nice to see a little community. And the DoubleShots were free! Let me tell you, I can’t wait to drink Colt 45 in the kiddie pool with all you jackasses next summer. 25 cents off park admission if you buy a condo. Now with authentic grit!

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I’m Running For Mayor

Here at Smackdown HQ, things have been decidedly sedate lately. Probably it’s the heat, or the fact that our air conditioner, if one person is in the room, keeps the living room just cold enough that you can sit in it comfortably if you never move. So we’ve settled into a sort of summer hibernation (like a regular hibernation, but opposite). Stumbling home, dripping with sweat, exhausted, our hair held on mostly by duct tape at this point, sitting on the couch for a few cartoons, then waking up at 8:45, still on the couch, and realizing there’s no time to shower.

Well, anyway, let’s spice this shit up. As you may or may not know, next year is an election year, which means our wunderkind mayor will be forced to leave office. Or Manhattan will secede from the boroughs and elect him mayor-for-life; that wouldn’t surprise me either. Still! There’s going to be an election, and without Our Man Bloomy in the running, let’s have a quick look at the contenders and their pitches…

Helen Marshall
“I was on All In The Family”

Christine Quinn
“Let’s be fair, I may be corrupt but you haven’t had a lesbian mayor yet”

John Castidimatis
“Hey, electing an unattractive billionaire worked last time”

Marty Markowitz
“Good Shabbos! Oh, fuck, I’m not supposed to be in a car.”

Tony Avella
“I fear teenagers and change”

Ray Kelly
“Vote for me, I’m fucking terrifying”

Betsy Gotbaum
“My name used to be Betsy Flower… no, really”

Fernando Ferrer
“Uh, Zach, I don’t think I’m actually running this year”

John Liu
“I promise to be the worst mayor ever”
“Also, this is the only known photograph of me”

What a good-looking group of people. Problem is, they are all fucking horrible. Where are the crackpots? Where’s Christopher X Brodeur? I’ll tell you where. He’s in prison again. (Right?) So I am forced to become Christopher X Brodeur.

ZACH FOR MAYOR

My platform is simple:

  • Rent is free
  • More bars
  • More bars in more places
  • Free beer
  • Outlaw running for mayor by people who are not me
  • Pancake breakfasts delivered by helicopter
  • Word “hipster” outlawed
  • Subway is free, and flies through the air
  • Declare war on Philadelphia
  • Secede from United States
  • Become part of Peru, for the sweet oil revenues
  • Every third building demolished, just for yuks
  • Central air… everywhere
  • Verify that Peru has oil

I’m like Norman Mailer 1967, but I haven’t beat my wife yet. Vote for me… or be destroyed!

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America Day Is Not A Holiday Here

Fourth of July! The day when New York reminds America that while America is 232 today, New York is about six thousand years older. At least, that’s what it looks like in my subway station. Also, those rumors about alligators in the subway: totally crap. The dinosaurs would devour them, like that.

But yes. It’s turkey day! America turkey! Everyone’s happy! The Post runs pissy columns questioning the patriotism of their enemies! There’s camraderie! It’s a hundred twelve degrees out and the sky is overcast with this horrible glowing white color that makes everything look awful!

Bonus: After the show, the city turns into Night Of The Living Dead!

THE FOURTH OF JULY!

My best instincts told me not to go to the waterfront. It’s what I’ve done every year in the past. Go to McCarren Park, I said to myself, and settle for the somewhat crappier view from the middle of the football field. But, of course, I didn’t. I just got on the subway and went to the Brooklyn Heights promenade, about an hour before the show.

And it wasn’t bad! There was space! I was happy! But as the crowds pile in, your view of the skyline slowly transforms into your view of the ass, and your newfound sense of community slowly evolves into a wish that everyone would just go the fuck home, you realize the truth — all public events in New York suck, all the time, no matter what. You thought today would be the exception — the first exception since 1880, when it is rumored that the Gentlemen’s Haberdashery Faire was pretty fun. The Long Islanders behind you are trying to figure out which of the downtown skyscrapers is the Empire State Building. (Hint: None of them.) Yeah, a good time. You were wrong. Again. The thing about New York is that you are always wrong.

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