New York City's Lesser-Known Fixtures

They’re not quite tourist attractions, but they’re definitely part of the landscape.

Some people just stick out. There’s nothing really notable about some of these people, but if you live in or visit New York City, I’m 90% sure you’ll know at least one if not two of these people by description. These characters aren’t labeled as neatly as the naked cowboy, but they’re definitely identifiable.

  1. The bucket drummer (and his wife)
    Usually hanging in Union Square, this guy bangs on buckets loudly. A woman, enamored with his skills, joined him, married him, and now buckets along side. So the story goes.
  2. That big homeless guy
    I see this guy everywhere. He wears a brown sweatshirt with blue sweatpants, usually carrying something in a hurry. He’s a white guy, black hair, looks a little like a rounder Richard Kind. Really nice guy. Often seen scurrying around midtown. 
  3. The Central Park dancing boxing man
    Take the 60th and 5th ave entrance to the Central Park Loop. Just before the merge, you’ll see an old-school boxer — often with cape — throwing punches or doing warmups. Sometimes, he swings to rocky-style music. Usually seen on weekends.
  4. The Kokyu-playing old man on the BDFV line
    He reminds me that I’m on the west side. He sells CDs last time I checked. 
  5. The pouting homeless couple
    Always in midtown east, between 45th and madison to 60th and lexington. They sit next to each other, put their heads together, and have a cardboard sign that begs for dollars. Sometimes, their sign rests on a paint can. I think they’re full of shit.
  6. Greenway trombonist
    For those who frequent the west-side greenway, north to the George Washington Bridge*, every weekend a shirtless man plays his trombone. He’s actually quite good, but I’ve only heard a few notes as I’m usually flying by on my two-cycle.
  7. Vegetable cutter
    Upper east side man in a suit cuts fresh vegetables for you. It’s a bit bizarre.
  8. The breakdancing troupe
    Usually performing around Bryant Park and Times Square, these guys breakdance. Watch your belongings! Pickpockets tend to follow these guys around and steal tourists wallets. As such, there’s usually a cop standing nearby. 
  9. The drawing War Veteran
    Sits near 19th and Park Avenue South, this man draws. His art is mediocre, but his heart is pure gold.
  10. Tarzan
    Frequenting Union Square, this guy’s Tarzan for the 21st century. He must work in construction or something. 

Someone should start a repository for these people. Perhaps that someone is me.

*I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but that area near the GWB never lacks someone sitting there or hanging around. I wonder if it’s undercover surveillance.

Our Cup of Elijah

Filed under: chronicles Topics: , , ,

Some stories wonderfully capture family tradition. This one frames mine nicely.

Last night, my family sat for passover seder. If done “correctly”, seders can last hours. Ours takes ten minutes– tops. We’re big on shortcuts. 

My grandfather distributes the Concise Family Seder, a tome used by nearly all secular jews. “Page 1.” He speaks to no one in particular. He motions to my aunt, “Janey, care to start?”

“Sure. Mine’s got annotations.”

“Oh,” I say, “that’s my copy. I crossed out all the boring stuff and condensed everything when I ran seder five years ago.” 

Beat. Part pinball machine, part middle-school volleyball player, my uncle lurches for the annotated copy and flings it over to me. No one is surprised. Looks like I’m in charge.

“Page one” I begin, ” is crossed out… as are pages two and three. Alright, Janey, bottom of page four, where it reads, ‘A participant continues’. You’re a participant. Continue.”

We read some, skip most, dip eggs in salt water, and charge through the ceremony. Though we unabashedly compress most of the seder, we pause for my grandmother’s speech. Probably the most important part of our seder, she reflects (at great length) on how wonderful it is that we’re together, the tragedy of the Holocaust, how the message of Passover reflects on modern times, and so forth.

As she often does, Grandma brings a prop. She motions to a brass cup, placed on the center of the seder table and filled with wine, found at a flea market in Germany.

“This cup of Elijah was an heirloom of a German Family. It’s engraved, dated [somewhere around 1930]. … It was cared for over all these years, and now we use it as our cup of Elijah.”

Janey examines the cup and whispers something in my uncle’s ear. My grandmother continues, “Why are you talking over me? Anyway, Daddy [my grandfather] insisted we have this seder. … He believes it’s an important tradition that we should carry on. … like that German family showed, seders are important. …” and so forth. After five minutes of this, she stops.

“Mom,” Janey says, “that cup is a first-place trophy for a ski competition.”

She was nearly right. The cup reads:

ENGELBERG. JAN. [12th 1930]

Which roughly translates as:

1st Place
Toboggan Run
. January [12th 1930]*

We’re big on shortcuts. The truth shouldn’t get in the way of a good story or powerful teaching.

Perhaps this is the true meaning of passover. 

More: Engelberg – Translation: “Angel Mountain”

*I forget the actual date. To boot, chances are good it belonged to a Nazi.

New Apartment Resolutions

Filed under: chronicles Topics: , , , , , , ,

I move next month. No roommates. No compromises. What ridiculousness will come?

Since college, I’ve lived with one of my best friends from high school. It’s been fun, but he needs to move in with his girlfriend and I need my own place. Shared living space means compromises and concessions; and now, for the first time ever, I have complete freedom.

I’m excited and have begun thinking about the implications.

  1. More Nudity
    With the prospects of the roommate (or his girlfriend) arriving at any time, I found it good practice to wear pants at all times. No longer an issue, I’ll likely forgo pants around my apartment. 
  2. Less Laundry 
    More nudity also means I’ll be doing less laundry as I’ll be wearing fewer clothes. Seems logical.
  3. More Gym Time
    More nudity also means I’ll notice how out of shape I’ve become. I’ll likely go to the gym more, or spend more time on my two-cycle.
  4. More Laundry
    Frequent gym time doubles my load, so I guess I will have more laundry after all.
  5. No Cable TV
    My current roommate compulsively watches TV. (He gets antsy without the Trinitron’s warm glow.) I tend to watch shows without commercials on DVD, and entire series in one sitting. I suspect I’ll skip the Cable, Blockbuster and Netflix accounts and just buy an AppleTV. 
  6. No Stuffed Animals In The Living Room
    The only fight my roommate ever won was the stuffed animal debacle. Right now, a Mr. Snuffleupagus and a Tux penguin (holding a hand-written “NO LOAFING” sign) [dis]grace the living room. While every girl who’s ever visited the living room thought they were adorable, I still can’t stand them. At least I relegated the stuffed amoebas to the roommate’s bedroom. (Yes, he owns stuffed amoebas.)
  7. Cups Will Be Stacked Rim-Up
    When you live with someone, little lifestyle differences begin to crop up. I stack cups rim up; my roommate does rim down. I won that battle, but he still puts the silverware the wrong way in the dishwasher. (Two years and it still bothers me.)
  8. Better Music
    My roommate discovers music through Volkswagen and Apple ads. ‘Nuff said.
  9. More Home Cooking
    My roommate and I love ordering from SeamlessWeb. It’s our favorite thing. But, with a supermarket next door, I now have no excuse.

It’s like my own magical DisneyWorld. I’m too excited to sleep.