Archive for November 2007

A Hint of Worse Things to Come?

November 25, 2007

After I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I walked back home.

On Fifth Avenue, just south of Rockefeller Center, I spotted something I’ve heard about from New York’s recent past:  a three card Monte game.

If you aren’t aware of it, three-card monte involves you and the dealer…and the dealer’s friends who pose as other customers.  In my case, they were all playing as if they didn’t know each other and the friends were making the absolute worst choices of the red card.  What terrible luck!  The players didn’t even notice that the red card had a big crease in it!  Easy money?  There was no way I could lose!  Without me saying a word, the dealer looked at me and asked me if I knew which one was the red card.  I pointed.  I WON!

The dealer then tried to press a $100 bill on me…as the real winner of course.  A woman with the original loser told me I “have to take the money.”  I declined and walked off.

I don’t know how they were going to get it back (with the rest of my money) but perhaps I was going to be set up for pick-pocketing or maybe if I were to try to leave there would be some sort of loud objection or something; but I knew that there was no way they were going to let me off with any of their (or my) money in my possession.

I did get away.  And I spotted another game a block further on.

I thought the cops had gotten rid of these crooks.  Maybe it’s indicative of an economic downturn or maybe I’ve just been oblivious to other games (and, no, that ain’t the truth).  But it does worry me.

-H

2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – Part 2

November 24, 2007

Thursday’s parade was very pleasant and for all of the right reasons.

Adults with children are always trying to get them into the right position to view the parade.  As I mentioned earlier, dad-duty involves putting your child on your shoulders for a view, despite what it means to those of you behind.  The picture below is what I call the “wall of dads”.

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But there are easier means of propping up the little ones.  One very popular technique is to bring step-stools and even ladders.  Another is to put the kids on something high.

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You can see from their expressions that they had a good view.  The problem is…well, they are kids and something always happens.

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In the above case, the little one is objecting strongly to the loss of his camera to his dad.  That kid could wail!

But with enough balloons, even the greatest of injustices is assuaged.

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There was only one sort of “celebrity sighting” from my vantage point.  When I first spotted the below float, I thought “These guys must be some sort of music group or boy band.”

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I hadn’t the slightest idea who they might be.  I then googled the parade to see, and all I could find was something about Ground Zero firefighters.  It wasn’t until this morning that I was flipping channels and ran into some info that indicated that this was the new “Menundo”, a re-constituted boy-band from the 1990s.

My next picture was of something quite a bit different.  Whatdoyathink?

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It turns out that this is a bit of real art done by artist Jeff Koons.  Apparently Macy’s is trying to bring in some artistic sentiment alongside the popular entertainment.  This is a highly enlarged, and balloonized, version of his work titled something like “Shiny Rabbit”.

It certainly provoked a lot of conversation amongst us who didn’t know of it beforehand.  It was regarded as something of a Bugs Bunny robot or a robot rabbit for whatever reason anyone would ever want a robot rabbit.

Now compare that with the cultural meaning of the below.

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For me, Mr. Potato Head rules over Shiny Rabbit any day and in every aesthetic sense.  Of course, I’m a bit of a Luddite and metalicized rabbits aren’t my thing.

 [UPDATE on 11/25:  Just to show what I know about modern art, here’s a post about the rabbit.  I think you can get Mr. Potato Head for $10 or so.]

-H

2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – Part 1

November 23, 2007

Other than eating way too much turkey and trimmings on Thursday, my main activity on Thanksgiving was going to the parade.  No big surprise as I seem to go to most NYC parades and the Macy Parade is the best known of NYC parades.

A co-worker of mine has a family tradition where friends and all are invited to their place for breakfast and everyone leaves for the parade around 8:30am.  Well, not quite everyone, but most.  The traditional gathering place is just inside Central Park at the intersection of Central Park West and 72nd Street.  That’s just opposite the Dakota, which readers will know is one of my favorite buildings.

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Yes, it looks like the waiting line for the parade is 30+ people deep.  Incredible.  Most parades I’m in the front or even all alone in the front.  In some of the better attended parades I can end up behind a couple of people.  I’m never 30+ people back!  The sidewalks are jammed with families and people are already two or three deep several hours before the parade (at least when the weather’s good).

And the weather was spectacular.  And so was the crowd.  Lots of families with little kids.

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This is my third time at the parade.  I always see a phenonmena I call “dad-duty” which is to hoist your child on your shoulders.  Every dad with a child under a hundred pounds seems to be involved in it. 

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For the first time, I saw a mom pulling “dad-duty”.  I didn’t have the heart to take the picture, though.  Her little girl really wanted to watch. 

If you’re my height and you want to watch the parade, here’s one of the typical sights:  a marching band.

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Yep, you can see their heads, and that’s about it.  And this is before the crowd got even larger and every dad was enlisted into dad-duty.

But the balloons show up very, very nicely.  They are big and they are small.

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72nd Street is your standard wind-tunnel street in Manhattan.  Just to the west (6 blocks or so) is the Hudson River and the wind whips across there faster than you would expect.  At this intersection, there have been accidents with balloons being blown around.  For the parade, they put up a wind sock and they removed a light fixture from one of the street poles (it fell and seriously injured someone several years ago).

You can see most of the floats that go by, at least when they have elevated areas.

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In the above, you can see part of the “wall of dads” that later appeared.  But here’s my favorite “dad-duty” guy.  He’s got two big boys and he’s hoisting them at the same time.

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You can barely see the poor guy.

But the balloons are the hit of the parade, without them it wouldn’t be the Macy’s Parade.

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More in Part 2.

-H

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2007

Yes, I did get to the Macy’s Parade today.  It’s a true madhouse.  The place I was at was more than 30 people deep in line.  It’s an intersection of 72nd Street and Central Park.  The street goes into the park and is blocked off from traffic so people just fill up the road.

I’ll be blogging about it in a day or two.  I was toward the back of the crowd and saw just the tops of floats and, of course, the balloons.  It’s my third time there, but I must admit that TV provides an infinitely better view.  Nevertheless, it is always fun to be there.

Anyway, I’ve got dinner being delivered later and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

-H

BAMN! The new Automat

November 21, 2007

The NYC Automats are legendary.  Long ago in a NYC that is no more, the Automats reigned as the place to go to for a cheap meal.  They took only nickels and you could show up with a pocketful and sit and eat all day.  When I talk to old-timers, they wax eloquent about the Automats.

You’d put in your nickels and get sandwiches, soup, sandwiches, salads…just about everything you would want to eat.

The problem?  Well, people would come and get their coffee and stay all day long.  You can’t pay the rent when your seats are taken by people paying a quarter for a whole day’s rent on a table.  Over time, the Automats were chased out of business by that sort of behavior.

Well, they are starting to come back, but with some significant differences.  BAMN, a Dutch company, has opened one Automat-style restaurant in the East Village, located on St. Marks near 2nd Avenue.  To say it is an “Automat” is probably an exaggeration.  From what I understand, the original Automats had “thousands” of little glass doors with food behind them.  This one has only a little more than a hundred.

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It’s an open-air restaurant.  There are no doors into it and, although you can eat in there, it is standing room only.

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You get your drinks from a separate service area behind a counter.

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You still stick your coins into the slots for the food, but it’s dollar-coins only.  There’s a change machine since no one seems to carry dollar coins.

Each of the columns of the little windows has a sort of “food theme”.  Nothing special, but it’s lots of simple foods.  Nothing elaborate here.

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The food’s okay.  I can’t say that the color scheme is pleasing; and I’m not one to mention color schemes so that’s saying a lot. 

-H