Pistachio Disaster by jarmatz
Things Of Interest From A News Reporter
Nov 21, 2008 | 4178 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Take A Hike! Walking In NYC vs LA
by jarmatz
Dec 30, 2008 | 4974 views | 0 0 comments | 162 162 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
So, I wasn’t expecting this blog to become a meditation on city life, but I’ve been traveling a lot and it just seems to be the thing that I’m most interested in right now, aside from the usual comic bookery that occupies nine-tenths of my non-working time.

For a little background on myself, I’m an off-shoot Los Angelino, having been born and raised in Long Beach California, which is the southernmost point of Los Angeles and borders Orange County. I’d like to think that Long Beach embodies the best of both counties, which have pretty divergent cultures, but others might say the city embodies the worst. As the name would imply, Long Beach is a huge beach town, but while many of Orange Counties waterfront strips have been turned into sun-drenched playgrounds for the upper class that lives on them and the lower classes that visit them, Long Beach was transformed into one of the nation’s largest ports, completely industrializing and commodifying what was once, I can only assume, a rather long and lovely beach. Because of this, Long Beach has quite a bit of squalor, and while it borders on sunny Orange County on its south side, it’s north side shares streets with Compton, Inglewood, Carson, and other cities that are known more for their criminal element than for any type of relaxation culture. Long Beach also has a pretty thriving music and arts scene. It can’t really compare to Brooklyn, but a night on the town in Long Beach will have much more in common with scenes like Silverlake and Echo Park than it will Peoria, Illinois.

And while I grew up in Long Beach and went to college in Claremont, two towns on opposite ends of LA County, I really haven’t spent too much time in Los Angeles proper. When I did, it was either after a show we saw in college or as a returning Southern Caifornia expatriate. (For the record, I saw two of the best shows I’ll ever see in Hollywood as a college student: Mars Volta and MF Doom, both at what were their creative peaks.) I’m much more knowledgable about the New York scene than I ever was about the Los Angeles scene, which is pretty distinct from the Long Beach scene.

The reason that I never knew a lot about after-hours Los Angeles is due to the lack of a transit system. Both Long Beach and my college in Claremont are about a 30 minute drive from Downtown LA, West Hollywood or Santa Monica, but getting out there by car is often a nightmare. Traffic and lack of parking spaces are pretty big deterrents from skulking around warm LA streets at one in the morning, and the long drive home is even worse. Additionally, and this is the point that I set out to make with this post, it’s not nearly as fun to walk around in LA as it is in New York City. Even more spread out parts of Queens make for a better late night pub crawl than the most densely packed parts of LA.

I was home for the holidays this year, and had the pleasure of spending one of my few free nights in Santa Monica. I was dispatched to retrieve The Club, which is a brand of canned martini and my most favorite of West Coast-only confections, and though I only walked about 12 or so blocks to get them, it felt like a million miles. Had it been New York City, there surely would have been a bodega or liquor store much closer to my friend’s apartment, but it wasn’t and there wasn’t. And though the distance I trekked was one that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to in Brooklyn, it was annoying as hell to do it in LA, and I found myself wishing that I had driven.

There was plenty to look at during the trek, from the fancy boutiques and classy restaurants along Wilshire Ave to the neighborhood streets I took on the way back as a means to enjoy one of the Clubs that I had just purchased. If I had to single out a reason why it was so unpleasant to make the trip on foot, I would have to guess that it wasn’t the trip itself, but the fact that I was the only one out walking. Sure, I saw other people out on the streets, but there were either walking to their car or away from the car, and absolutely no one was actually walking anywhere. It made me feel like I was the odd man out, missing some bigger picture, and made me want to retreat to the safety of my own automobile, even though I would argue that I was doing what actually made more sense.

I actually did a fair amount of walking during the time that I was actually in Long Beach and Los Angeles, which wasn’t much. The Long Beach journeys, one along the aforementioned beach and the other to a high-end grocery store to purchase ingredients for Pimm’s Cup, were less awkward, not only because they were taken during the day and with family members, but because I was retracing routes I utilized frequently as a youngster. It was much more pleasant.

Interestingly, and this is the last pseudo-point I’ll try and make, some friends and I were at a bar late in Long Beach late one night. Because of some bad decision-making, I found myself stranded at a bar with one other, car-less friend, and we had no idea how to get back to our respective homes. (Not because we were lost, but because we were so far from where we needed to be.) I was having a classic social freak out and had to leave the bar instantly, but my good friend was with it enough to let me cool off in isolation while he charmed us a ride home from a lovely young lady, who I had neither the wits nor the wherewithal to say more than two words to. (“Thank you” was all that my shell-shocked, booze addled mind could muster as we left her car.)

Regarding the walk home, we could have made the trip, but it would have taken us at least an hour, and in LA conditions, with warmth but nothing open and wide, deserted streets, it would have taken a long, long time and felt even longer. Of course, there is always the urban hitch-hiking option, but I’ll have to go into that at another time.

So, New York is a pedestrian-friendly city in more ways that we might think, and we should thank our lucky stars and also our burnt-out, worn-down Nike’s that it’s easier to walk where we live than it is to drive. Now get out there and take a stroll.

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New York: The Cinderella City
by jarmatz
Dec 12, 2008 | 5475 views | 0 0 comments | 149 149 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I was rereading the phenomenal final issue of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory series last night, and was particularly struck by his conception of New York City. It was the first time I had read since starting at the Queens Ledger/Brooklyn Star, which is the point at which I fully immersed myself in the City, so it was particularly enjoyable to catch the nuances of his version of New York City. The story is about the invasion of faeries from a higher reality into the fictional universe, and seven less-than-super superheroes who have to fight them off.

For those not in the know, which I assume includes most of you, the New York City of Seven Soldiers exists within the DC universe, home to the fictional super-cities of Gotham and Metropolis, and several less famous cities like Keystone, Coast City, and Opal City. These fictional cities, home to superheroes and fantastically exaggerated architecture far outshine anything that the real New York City has to offer. Morrison decided to set his superhero epic in the DC universe’s New York City, which has been relatively overlooked by creators in favor of the fictional cities. So Morrison, ever the innovator, decided to fill the fictional New York City with the architectural projects that were imagined and even designed, but never built.

The New York Times, which is much more of an authority on the city’s architecture than I am, ran an article on Seven Soldiers in 2005:

The first issue of Seven Soldiers, published last February, features a broad Manhattan skyline that includes a hotel that the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí designed for New York nearly a century ago. Not far away is the so-called Rolls-Royce Building (its facade resembles a grill) that the Austrian architect Hans Hollein unsuccessfully proposed as the new headquarters for Chase Manhattan Bank in the late 1950's. And snaking around the two buildings is the Mid-Manhattan Expressway, the elevated highway long championed by New York City's powerful urban planner Robert Moses.

All of these buildings, Mr. Morrison said, will reappear in other issues of the Seven Soldiers series, as will other unrealized architectural marvels. The opening panel of Manhattan Guardian's third issue, for example, featured Frank Lloyd Wright's domed futuristic complex Ellis Island Key, which the architect designed shortly before he died. Mr. Morrison, who lives in Glasgow, said by embellishing on the existing New York he was tapping into his favorite comic book power: the ability to create alternative realities. "Things as they are have never really been enough for me," he said.

Also for your reading pleasure is a wiki of New York locations featured in the series. Worth clicking within that link is a section on the Secret Subways.

Of course, I’m not one to catch every reference made in the series, and Morrison is known for packing his stories with arcane and historical details, but there is a cute mention of an event occurring on “Broadway and Lennon St.” I think I can safely assume that Lennon St. is a rededicated 72 St, named for the Beatle that was shot there.

There’s probably a ton of other references in the story, and I’m looking forward to reading it again and seeing what else I can spot.

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Holidays in DC (Or New York City Is Dirty)
by jarmatz
Dec 11, 2008 | 5312 views | 0 0 comments | 153 153 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I spent my Thanksgiving Holiday in our nation’s capitol, Washington DC, and several of the suburban cities that lie on the edges of its borders, specifically Fairfax, Virginia, and Annapolis Maryland. It was the first time I’ve been outside of New York City since the last time I was in Washington DC, and both of these trips were taken specifically to get out of the city. The first of the two trips, taken in June, was such a physically and emotionally devastating fiasco that it absolutely did not count as “relaxation,” so I was thankful that this trip gave me a chance to cool my metaphorical heels.

It was on this trip that I noticed that Washington DC, a major metropolitan city that has millions of tourists and a sizable poverty problem is extraordinarily clean. I mean, squeaky clean. Completely spotless. I can see my reflection in the sidewalk, and if I dropped a sandwich in the street, I would brush off my mouth instead of the meat that touched the ground. Even historic Annapolis and suburban/southern Fairfax were sparkling when compared to the Big Apple.

This makes me wonder why New York can’t be clean. It’s a much bigger city, but it’s a wealthier city and it could easily afford to spruce itself up from its current decrepit state, but could it ever be clean. The grime and grit of New York City is legendary, and I’d argue that it has become a part of its character. Even if it was cleaned, it would never truly be clean, if you know what I mean.

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Track Fire!
by jarmatz
Nov 21, 2008 | 6051 views | 0 0 comments | 154 154 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Some friends and I were attending two events in Bushwick. The first event was off the L-Morgan Ave stop. After attending in a most excellent fashion the first event, which was an art/fashion show at Brooklyn's own 3rd Ward, my crew hopped back down to the subway platform to travel deeper into the borough. Unfortunately, we were confronted by a track fire.

Not just a distant idea of a track fire somewhere down the line that caused train delays, but an honest to goodness, smoldering third rail right before our very eyes. There were gentleman claiming to be undercover/off duty police officers who explained to us that trains would not be running, stranding us in relatively deserted industrial part of Brooklyn.

Ever the optimist, one of my three friends and myself hung close to the tracks, trying to keep an eye out for an oncoming train while doing our best to inhale as little smoke as possible. We were not successful in either endeavor.

The train never came, and we took a hired van to drive us to the second event, which, no offense to the cab drivers of New York City, is something that I never ever want to do. But our time in the tunnel had not left us unaffected, as the younger members of our group, the ones who had steered clear of the fire and smoke, were coughing and hacking all night long, eventually leaving early to find some refreshing beverages with which to cool their throats.

As for me, my lungs are hardy and brittle twins, and if affected by the toxic third rail smoke at all, would not behave any differently. Fortunately, my partner in their hazy operation had a handy new iPhone device that was able to snap photographs of me unsuccessfully hiding my throat from the all encompassing fumes. Here, posted without her permission, is one of those photos.

I can only urge my readers to steer clear of track fires, because they can really dampen a good party-going spirit. The MTA says that litter contributes to track fires, but seeing one first hand, I don't really understand how they can be related, so please continue to throw latte cups and Milky Way wrappers onto the tracks. The rats have to eat something.
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by jarmatz
Nov 21, 2008 | 5779 views | 0 0 comments | 150 150 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Hey gang. I just wrote a big introductory piece for this new blog of mine, but it got eaten up by my own inability to hit the button marked "post." I'll introduce myself more fully later, but I'm a writer/editor for the Queens Ledger/Brooklyn Star Newspaper Group. I live in Greenpoint, my office is in Maspeth, and I try to stay out of Manhattan as much as possible.

This blog will be about things, from both my jobby and my social life, that interest me. I'll try to stay out of trouble, but that rarely happens. Follow along closely and watch me self-destruct!

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