Friday, May 30, 2008

Another Crane Accident In Manhattan....

The city seriously needs to get this together and put in a zero tolerance policy on highrise and construction violations before more people die needlessly. If the contractor was following regulations, maybe the regulations need to be tightened. News like this makes me glad to be in Jackson Heights where it's rare to see a building over six stories tall and where cranes are uncommon. In Manhattan, which is a burrough that seems to be in a constant state of evolution, the mentality behind development seems to be that bigger is better and there are plenty of buildings, old and new, well over twenty stories.

From the AP wire...

"NEW YORK - A construction crane collapsed Friday on New York's Upper East Side, smashing into a 23-story apartment building as it fell to the ground, killing one construction worker and seriously injuring two others.

It was the second deadly crane accident in 2 1/2 months in the city, which is undergoing a building boom.

"What has happened is unacceptable and intolerable. Having said that, we do not know at the moment what happened or why," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference, adding that it appears the builders followed regulations.

At a news conference, he said one of the casualties was in the cab of the crane and a second was on the street. He said he didn't know about the third person and didn't say who was killed."

You can read the rest of the article here.

Some pictures I stole from the linked article...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hello, Birdman!

This is..... Birdman! He, or she, is a brand new baby chick. At the school where Alison worked, for some reason an incubator was brought in. Long story short, eggs turned into baby chicks and much cuteness ensued. She brought one of the little guys home the other night so that her son could check him out, and Justin, being nine and all, aptly named him.... BIRDMAN.

Birdman hung out for the night in our bathtub with a warm cardboard box and a tub full of wood chips. He seemed intent to hop around a lot and enjoyed flopping in his food bowl more so than actually eating. He chirped a lot and woke me up a few times in the night, but that's ok. The cute little bugger went back to the school the next morning.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Back To The Beach!

In honor of Memorial Day (ok not really, any excuse will do) we took the F Train to the end of the line yesterday and spent the afternoon at Coney Island. I'd only been there in the off season, when it's empty and creepy and kinda gloomy so it was a kick to see it alive and full of people and I'd imagine once school is out for the year it'll be pretty hectic. Regardless, we got to cross a few things off of my 'NYC TO DO' list.

We started with lunch at Rudy's Bar & Grill. From the looks of things, this place has been there forever. I had two hot dogs and a Coors Light (The beer of champions! It was either that or Bud...) and Alison had a sausage on a bun with a Sunkist. It was a little spendy for the amount of food that we got, but we got to eat right on the boardwalk so it was worth it. You kind of pay for the gimmick and novelty of it all, rather than the quality of the food.

From there we wandered a bit. The beach was pretty hopping and there were even a few brave souls swimming in what I'd assume would still be a fairly chilly Atlantic Ocean. We also walked by the beloved SHOOT THE FREAK attraction to see what it was all about. I was fascinated by it when I saw it closed down, but really, the freak is just a guy with a shield and some paintball gear on. A barker calls people over to pelt him with paintballs for a few dollars. There was a surprisingly big crowd for it.
We wandered over towards Deno's Wonder Wheel and Amusement park where one of the first things we saw was a strange caricature booth where the artist would draw you or, if you prefer, Hulk Hogan or possibly random African guys. A lot of old carnival attractions like 'grandma's predictions' and arm wrestling machines are still littered across the park for added camp appeal. Being as obsessed with The Warriors as I am, I pushed for us to go on the Wonder Wheel despite the fact that Alison doesn't really like ferris wheels (neither do I, for that matter). I didn't realize that there are two types of cars on this ferris wheel - stationary and swinging. We wound up in line for the swinging cars and figured, if we don't rock it, it'll be fine. No. We were way wrong on that. The colored cars on the Wonder Wheel are on an inside track and as soon as they reach a certain point on the way up, they wooosh up at about a 45-90 degree angle. This did not sit well with either one of us, especially because we were both sitting in the back, which meant no weight at all in the front. The added bonus was that the car did the same thing on the way back down, only in the opposite direction - and the ride goes all the way around twice, so we swung four times. We got off, and promptly sat down. Amazingly enough, neither of us puked so thank God for small mercies.

Stomachs slightly settled we wandered over to the Sideshow by the Seashore, one of the few active live Freak Shows that still exists in the United States. You can't take picture inside unfortunately but it's well worth the $7.50 admission and you can drink cold beer inside while you watch if that's your thing. A ringleader with a handlebar moustache and a bowler starts the show off by pounding a nail up his nostril and then inserting the action end of a power drill into the same nasal cavity. Ouch. From there we got to see a gal dance with an albino python, a sword swallower who doubles as a contortionist, some knife and fire juggling, a real live lobster boy, a woman who could conduct electricity and an impressive fire dancer. It was all good, goofy fun and interesting to watch if you're at all one of those 'how did they do that?' types like I am. I'd scene footage from this show in the American Carny documentary so it was kind of exciting to witness it first hand. At least I got these sweet pictures of the outside of the building and of the barker and midget in a Misfits shirt...

After that we perused the Coney Island Museum, which is fairly small but also only $0.99 to get in, making it by far the cheapest thing to do in the area. They do Q&A sessions in there with local historians and experts but we didn't stick around for that because there were two more important quests to complete, the first of which was the SPOOK-O-RAMA! This dorky haunted house was pretty silly but I was intrigued by the garish sign and the giant skeleton on top of the building. I'm a sucker for advertising. It was pitch black inside and all manner of dumb monsterish things pop out at you. I turned the flash on and shot some pictures. Maybe it ruins some of the magic but some of the monsters were pretty rad. On the way there we passed a strange midway attraction with a creepy bloodied clown inside. I don't know why that clown was there, I only know I hate him.

Once that was over with I had to ride the Cyclone next door at Astro Land, the big old rickety wooden roller coaster that Coney Island is famous for. Alison opted out, having done it before and because it's $8.00 for a three minute ride, but I plunked down my cash and got in line. This coaster packs a much stronger punch than you'd think and while it might be older than dirt, that does add an element of danger to it all. The coaster is obviously well maintained but you can't help but wonder if you're not going to go flying out of your seat and onto the pavement below as you hurl down the hills or around the corners. Good times! You can tell by the expression on my face in the last picture (I'm in the 2nd car) picture that my stomach is about to come flying out.

From there we wandered past a few odd sights like the Dante's Inferno ride, a strange BREAK DANCE ride that was obviously left over from the eighties and which had nothing to do with break dancing, and a fantastic arm wrestling machine with the most cliche looking goomba you've ever seen. If you look closely you can see where his face got punched in and repaired.

We got home and had some dinner and spent the evening in bed watching movies, both a little sunburnt and a lot tired from the hour plus subway journey each way and the hours of walking. It was a lot of fun though, and it's really only as expensive as you want it to be. The attractions and rides aren't cheap but you can wander the boardwalks and the parks without spending a penny if you just want to explore or people watch.

Monday, May 19, 2008


So last week we went and saw Mike Ness with Jesse Dayton at the Fillmore near Union Square. Dayton, who I'd never heard before (but who apparantly played with our friends in Lisa And Her Kin at a truck stop in Portland last year unbeknownst to me) got the crowd warmed up nicely and proved himself to be a rock solid country performer. You wouldn't think that a honky tonk version of The Cars' 'Just What I Needed' would work, but it did.

Mike Ness (with the current guitar and bass players from Social Distortion) came out next and while his set was a little shorter than I'd hoped it would be, he did a fine job. He had a lot of enthusiasm and energy on stage and even played a new track. It was nice to see him bring his 'A game' to the stage as the last time I saw him play with Social Distortion back in 2006 he seemed overweight and tired and just not at all into it. Maybe getting out and playing some solo material did him some good. That said, when three of the four members of Social Distortion are touring as 'Mike Ness' what's the point of keeping Social Distortion alive? SD's newer material has slowed down enough that there's really not a big difference between it and the Ness solo stuff. I dunno. Just seems kind of pointless to me to keep two projects going when they're now so close in terms of content and contain almost the exact same band members.

Regardless, it was a good night. The crowd was fairly well behaved and while I don't like paying $7 for a Becks, at a Manhattan club that's not really outrageous.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hooray for TKD in NYC!

So last night Alison and I went for dinner with Kyle (aka The Kyle Davis, aka TKD) and his lovely lady friend Emily. For those outside of Portland, Kyle is the younger brother of my former roommate Spencer. We hung out on a pretty regular basis during my stay in Portland and got to be pals. Kyle is a good man and I was happy when he wanted to get together during his brief trip to town.

We met near Central Park at Jekyll and Hyde's but evidently it was too packed inside and full of load kids so we wandered until we found a really nice and surprisingly affordable Vietnamese joint near Times Square. Dinner and conversation were both good and we decided a night cap was in order. At my suggestion (oops) we wound up at a bar I'd passed a couple of weeks back on 8th and 38th that I thought was a Tiki Bar. Named The Distinguished Makamba Bar (we didn't know it was the scene of a former crack related police shooting but thanks to Alison's google skills we do now!). it was distinguished all right, if your definition of distinguished involves the smell of fresh urine.

There's a good Village Voice write up on the bar here but to save you a click, here's the important part:

"To their credit, the reviewers at Shecky's actually visited the DISTINGUISHED WAKAMBA LOUNGE (543 Eighth Avenue, no phone number), but they were so disturbed by what they found, they called it "right above self-lobotomy and just below swimming in sewage." What did this breezy little spot—located adjacent to a Gray's Papaya and a DVD porn palace on an admittedly sullied midtown strip—do to deserve such notoriety? Well, for one thing, the Wakamba was the site of a drug sting resulting in the murder of an innocent man: Undercover cops fatally shot 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond after allegedly (and unsuccessfully) trying to buy crack from him here. But macabre past aside, a recent trip to the Wakamba found its only crime to be overpriced bottles of Budweiser ($5). The bar was surprisingly whimsical, with nautical nets strewn about and sea creatures dangling from the ceiling, not to mention faux palm trees and touches of tiki thatch. Attentive Latina bartenders in scintillating outfits served us glasses with our brews and plates of peanuts too, to the top of which they thoughtfully applied extra salt. And while DT undercovers still seem to populate the place (witness the late-night blue-collar clientele), so do the more adventurous fashion plates who work in the garment district. "

We wandered in and grabbed a corner table flush against a mirrored tile covered wall. Alison promptly moved to the other side of the table when we realized that the corner smelled of pee. The buxom bartender came over and took our order, the conversation went something like this:

Bartender: Yes?
Kyle: Gin and tonic please.
Bartender: Si.
Emily: Vodka and Cranberry Juice please.
Bartender: Si.
Alison: Nothing for me, thanks.
Bartender: Non? Si.
Ian: Maker's Mark And Lemonade, please.
Bartender: Que?
Ian: Maker's Mark And Lemonade, please.
Bartender: Que?
Ian: Maker's Mark. It's bourbon. I'd like it with lemondae please.
Bartender: Bourbon?
Ian: Yes, bourbon.
Bartender: Bourbon? Que?
Ian: Whiskey. It's whiskey.
Bartender: Que?
Ian: I'd like a whiskey and lemonade.
Bartender: Si... uh... heeheehee. (motions with her hand that she'll be right back).

Bartender comes back with Kyle's drink and Emily's drink and looks at me at which point I point at Kyle's gin and tonic and tell her I'll have one of those, noticing that right behind the bar beside the cash register was a bottle of Maker's Mark. I figured it wasn't worth the effort.

Other interesting things about this bar besides the fantastic service and smell of fresh urine?
-Mirror tiled all over the place
-plastic palm trees
-fish nets attached to the roof containing plastic starfish and plastic crabs
-a plethora of young, nesting mosquitos in the men's room
-a very empty dance floor
-a strange wood panelled back room
-wooden sculptures of something resembling the Seattle Space Needle behind the bar

The clientele was made up of Spanish dudes and black dudes, meaning that this was either the world's most amazingly lowbrow gay bar or it was a place where local immigrant types came to ogle buxom bartenders who don't speak English. Either way it was a win-win as far as people watching went, though Alison doesn't want to go back anytime soon, something about the smell of urine not appealing to her or some such nonsense. Girls will be girls, I suppose.
For some stupid reason, I forgot my camera but we found a couple of pictures of the interior online this morning, and I've made the appropraite notations in blue text...

At any rate we walked Kyle and Emily back to the hotel and said goodbye before heading over to the Virgin Megastore to look for CDs that they apparantly don't stock. From there we went to wards the subway to go home and watch Killer Snakes (hooray for Shaw Bros. DVDs!) and in that two block radius we managed to get stuck inside an insane crowd who had gathered along the streets to watch Will Smith. It was packed. We could barely move in amongst the screaming middle aged ladies gathered there to show their appreciation for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Alison was moving too fast and trying too hard not to kill people to notice but Will was there on the other side of the street dressed in what looked kind a like a Batman outfit sans the cape and cowl. I have no idea what he was filming but if you see a movie come out soon with a scene where Will Smith is running by the NYPD booth in the middle of Times Square, that'd probably be it.

We got home and unwound and watched TV and zoned out. It was a good day, a fun day and it was great to see Kyle and Emily, but it was also a long day.

Today I slept in. Huzzah! But to bring things full circle, Alison found this review for the Makamba this afternoon...
"A FEW WEEKS AGO, Adrianne and I spent a sunny afternoon strolling the "dirty 30s." You know it: the length of 8th Ave. below Port Authority where the air is scented with dried semen, desperation and a dash of Wild Turkey. In a McDonald's–izing Manhattan, the 30s are refreshingly fetid. All porn and lurid neon and…Hawaiian thatch hut?

"Oh, my gosh, I'm in love!" Adrianne said, peeking into the Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge. Though seemingly built—and last cleaned—when Hawaii became a state, the Wakamba set off dive-bar bells: blue-collar men burping down Budweiser under the glow of Christmas lights. We made plans to come back and sate our mai tai jones.

In the meantime, I Googled "Wakamba." Exactly 793 citations popped up, several of which proved interesting. I discovered, for starters, that Wakamba is a Kenyan tribe. I also found out that, in March 2000, the breezy little cocktail lounge was the site of a grisly mistake.
One dark night, a 26-year-old Haitian-American named Patrick Dorismond was having a nightcap at Wakamba. The young man exited and a couple undercover cops approached him, attempting to score crack.

Dorismond, understandably, was miffed to be deemed a crack slinger. A cop started barking (seriously!), escalating tensions. Fisticuffs ensued. Several swings later, Dorismond's chest became the not-so-grateful owner of a New York Police Dept. bullet. Giuliani's goons, fresh off Amadou Diallo, were cleared of charges. Ah, Wakamba—what other pearls does your rotten oyster shell contain?

Last Tuesday, Adrianne and I plan to meet A——— and find out. A——- color-corrects layouts for a women's magazine yet remains a skuz-loving lush. He damn near cried when the Village Idiot closed. We're running 10 minutes late when my cellphone rings.

"For the love of God, this is not the bar for us," he whispers. "We. Don't. Belong. Here."
Calm down, I say. It can't possibly be that bad.

"I am finishing my beer and leaving. Now."

Hold on, I say. We'll be there in a minute.


A minute later, we're at Wakamba. We peek inside. All seems placid. An American-flag-shaped light abuts a jaunty nautical life preserver. A crew-cut man wearing a khaki Polo shirt guards the door. A———is sitting alone, sucking back a Beck's. He quick-foots it outside.

What's wrong? I ask.

"Where should I begin?"

The beer.

"Okay, so I sit down at a table. Gloria Gaynor is on the jukebox. A waitress—a short-shorts-wearing Latina who looks like a Hooters reject—takes my order. I ask, 'What's happy hour?' 'Qué?' she replies. 'Happy hour?' 'Qué?' I was hoping for something tiki-esque—like a piña colada, you know, to go with the theme."

He pauses to light a cigarette.

"No piña coladas. The place is under Dominican ownership. And the cheapest beer is a five-dollar bottle."

"Anyway, I order a Beck's and a bum beside me passes out. A few minutes later, he wakes up and—"I Will Survive" is still playing—starts wildly swinging and punching. The doorman kicks him out. Then a couple actors go to the bathroom—together…"

Okay, okay, I say. Let's just go inside and gather your things.

Now, I'm a man who savors cockroach-friendly establishments like Holland Bar, Holiday Cocktail Lounge and Mars Bar. But as Crew Cut opens the door, ushering us into a world where Nelly's "Hot in Here" coats the eardrums of slit-eyed Marlboro Red smokers, I realize "tiki" is a four-letter word.

It's not so much the music, bums, threadbare thatch, neighboring dildo salesmen or remedial-Spanish beer-ordering requirement: These factors, separately, make for fabulous atmosphere. Combined, however, they create a powder-keg of unpredictability. And I like my unpredictability, well, predictable. Such as when Stefan, Holiday Cocktail's craggy bartender, sings World War II fight songs. Ha-ha unpredictable; not, Why is that man in the stained Dickies work jacket staring at my soft, fleshy bits? Is that a knife in his pants? He's certainly not happy to see me unpredictable.

We do an about-face and, for the first time in eons, A——— leaves beer in his bottle.

Seeking refuge, we grab draft Bud at Bellevue—9th Ave.'s porn-loving metal dive. A bartendress with curly raven hair and gold hula-hoop earrings takes our order.

"So, what's the story?" she asks.

We tell her.

"Ooh, that place is super ghetto. Get-toe. What were you thinking?" she asks.

When we have no answer, she teaches us a valuable dirty-30s lesson:

"Listen up: You don't go to 8th Ave. to get a drink—you go there to get a whore."
Ahhh..... The Makamba. You truly are a magical place.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Do the Montauk rock!

So it was our one year anniversary this weekend and we decided to get out of town. After sleeping (well, I slept in, Alison got up at a normal hour) we decided to take Northern Blvd. until it turned into 25E all the way out to the eastern side of Long Island, and from there hop over to Montauk. We stopped at a crazy Chinese food buffet on the way and took the scenic route. Once we were there, it was 5:30ish and stuff was closed but it sure was a pretty drive and a pretty destination. We wandered around on the beach a bit then drove back to Queens where we had a mediocre dinner at some Boulder themed steak house that was more or less like Outback except not as good. It was okay, but not great.

Regardless, it was a really nice day just driving around and talking and hanging out and seeing sights. It was nice to get out of the city a bit and see a part of the state I'd never been to before and hang out with the best girl ever while I was doing it.

Interestingly enough, according to a book I read there's a military base out that way where the US goverment conducted time travel experiments during the Second World War. Not sure how much stock I put into that local folk lore, but it's interesting to think about and there are plenty of military installations in that area including some massive radar stations.

Life is good. What a happy year for me in hindsight, really.

A few random pictures...