Life in Manhattan is pretty much like any other large city — and then, there are those times that, well, it's quite unique.
Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, I was forewarned of moving to the big bad Big Apple because it was a haven of criminal activity and surely I'd be raped and mugged within a month. Of course, this warning came from West Coasters who had never been to the East Coast.
I found the people of New York friendlier in many ways.
Perhaps it's because on the West Coast, everyone drives. Need a quart of milk? Hop in the car, drive 2 blocks to the liquor store and grab the milk. No interaction within anyone except the clerk. Here, you need a quart of milk, you step out your door and walk to the local bodega (the liquor stores here sell only liquor). Along the way, you'll pass a variety of people, faces familiar and perhaps might stop to talk to a person or two along the way. When you return home, not only do you have the milk you needed, but you've also passed the neighborhood Rite Aid pharmacy, a flower shop, a liquor store, a shoe store …
One of my friends out here told me of a friend of hers who had moved out to California. His complaint? Californians are clique-ish.
Yeah. They are.
After 11 years of living as a New Yorker, I still boggle my eyes at standing on line at a fast-food place, ensuring the girl knows I intend to take. It really throws them off when I pull out a "… and make my order to go. Please."
Comparing Los Angeles to New York, it's a definite that the East Coast beats out the West on cultural experience.
Only in New York can you walk along the streets at 3:00 a.m. and stop to munch shish-kabobs from a street vendor; or if you're daring — falafel.
Or share a memorable night in the Village, as the clubs are shutting down, having a conversation with a likable bum selling drooping flowers (it was Valentines Day), tucking one in your hair and watching him beam a smile that melted your soul …
Best Subway Map!
I've discovered the best subway map. Ever. It's called GypsyMaps,
It's absolutely fantastic! Simply type in your starting point and your destination and it plots your travel route using the NYC Subway system, including walking directions and estimated time and distance traveled. It even handles transfers fairly well.
What happens when you input a starting point and destination that's ridiculous via the subway (i.e. 86th & 1st to 86th & Columbus)? It tells you, "Walk from Start to Destination". It should tell you to take a cab.
Since it uses Google Maps, it's not without its quirks. It also doesn't like if you hit your back button to change the address (it told me it was best to walk between Greenwich Village and the UES after I used the back button).
Taken from the FAQ, it's name is a play on the term GPS and has nothing to do with actual Gypsys. The author is waiting for some information from the MTA so he can add bus routes as well. And if you follow the directions provided by GypsyMaps and it leads you to a dark alley and you fall into an open manhole, it says you can't sue, but I'm sure some lawyer would take the case.
Hm. Have you heard this one?
Listening to your iPod in a crosswalk joins the list of things that are evil-bad, like war, pestilence and famine.
Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), is convinced that "iPod oblivion" – the zoned-out state of the earbud-wearing generation – can be a ticket to the Great Beyond and wants to slap pedestrians with $100 fines for using electronic gadgets – cell phones, iPods, BlackBerrys, etc. – while crossing the street. "This is not an intrusion into someone's lifestyle," said Kruger, who cites two men killed in his borough while listening to tunes through earphones (one by a bus and one by a car) as reason for the law. "This is government recognizing that there's a safety issue."
The measure seems a little too Big Brother for many here in Manhattan, where pedestrians gabbing on cell phones are as common as overpriced apartments. "I'm a grown adult. I can take care of myself," raged one pedestrian. "What are we, 3 years old? The government should not be my nanny."
So disgusted by this, said pedestrian wrote Kruger a letter. "It's not his job to police things like this," he went on to say. "I asked him to focus on schools, housing and jobs. The rest of it, we'll take care of. What, do they not have enough work to do up there?"
While admitting the phone or music can be distracting, most said crossing the street safely is a matter of personal responsibility.
"If people aren't paying attention, that's on themselves," said one woman, who chatted on her cell phone as she crossed Seventh Ave. "I think they should be [responsible] for their own life. But I pay attention."
"I've done that a few times, where I've walked into the middle of the street, not paying attention," admitted another pedestrian, who did the iPod shuffle across W. 34th Street. "I can see both sides of it. But if they start banning us walking with iPods and stuff, what else is next?"
"One hundred dollars? You're kidding me. I would be bankrupt in a week," said a Manhattan store manager, who was crossing while phoning.
If such a law could be enforced, it would be a bonanza for government coffers: Between 4:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. yesterday, a reporter counted more than 144 people crossing W. 34th St. and Seventh Ave. while talking on the phone, wearing headphones, texting or BlackBerrying.
However, there's no need to panic yet. There's no matching bill in the Assembly and Kruger's a Democrat in the Republican-run Senate.
Incidentally, Kruger admits to using a cell phone, but he does not own an iPod.
Okay, I admit it. I've been talking on my cell phone while crossing the street; in Times Square in fact. But I was paying attention; I'm always at the ready to leap for my life while submitting myself before the various taxis and other vehicles within the faux-safe confines of a crosswalk.
Other things to be fined on while crossing the street:
- Talking to your friends/associates who are crossing with you (double! TRIPLE! fines!);
- Humming to yourself;
- Thinking about that job interview you're on your way to;
- Fighting with a strand of hair that the wind has decided to fling across your eyeballs.
Big Bucks for Wieners!
Did you realize that hot dog stands are a multimillion dollar business?
On any blustery winter day, you'll find a man, perhaps his wife there helping, standing beneath the umbrella on his hot dog stand , taking one order after another from on-the-go New Yorkers. Some haggle about the price, others take their relish-covered hot dogs and happily head on their way. It is a daily sight on sidewalks around New York, from the small push carts that sell only hot dogs and pretzels to larger grills where vendors cook meat for sandwiches.
But behind these operations lies a big business — one that that generates millions of dollars a year for New York. Vendors pay the city top dollar to get a permit, including some that cost about $300,000 for prime locations around Central Park. According to the Parks Commissioner, "Basically, if you buy a hot dog in Central Park, you're helping to pay for a police officer, or the teacher in a school across the street and all the lights and city services."
Additionally, carts can cost as much as $10,000. Many vendors pay hundreds a month to house their cart in a garage, plus they must cover the cost of food and fixings. If it's a cold winter day, business drops. If it's too hot, pedestrians avoid the steamy carts.
Here are the figures.
In City Parks
- $5.1 million: Money raised for the city's general fund from food vending licences in the parks.
- $300,000: Cost of bid to operate a hot dog vending cart in Central Park near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- $600: Minimum bid for a food cart in city parks.
- $500: Minimum bid for a food cart 10 years ago.
- $2: Parks Department-regulated cost of a hot dog.
- $2: Parks Department-regulated cost of a pretzel.
- $1.25: Parks Department-regulated cost of a 12-ounce soda.
- 50 cents: Regulated cost of a bag of potato chips.
Outside City Parks
3,000: Number of annual street vending permits for food issued by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 1,000: Number of summer permits available. $200: Permit cost for processing food cart. $74: Cost to lisence non-cooking food cart. $50: Cost for food vending operator's lisence for two years. $1: Average cost of a hot dog outside city parks. 50 cents: Cost of hot dog plus bun and all the fixings to many vendors.
I haven't eaten at any of this places, but New York Magazine rates them with four stars!
65 E. 55th St.
Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson puts his own uninhibited spin on Scandinavian food.
110 Waverly Pl.
The most exciting Italian restaurant in town serves food you'll never find in Little Italy.
Craft (American Nouveau)
43 E. 19th St.
A high-concept menu that focuses almost obsessively on the raw materials.
60 E. 65th St.
Daniel Boulud triumphs with why-didn't-anyone-else-think-of-it culinary feats.
Jean Georges (French)
1 Central Park West
Prepare to be open-mouthed whenever you're not chewing.
Kampuchea Noodle Bar (Asian: Southeast)
78 Rivington St.
Ratha Chau focuses on the regional specialties from his native Cambodia.
Le Bernardin (Seaford/French)
155 W. 51st St.
Experience the thrilling sensation of having everything that surrounds you perfect.
10 Columbus Circle, 4fl
Masa Takayama abandoned an adoring Beverly Hills clientele to indoctrinate New Yorkers into the esoteric realm of $300 dinners.
Per Se (French/American Nouveau)
10 Columbus Cir. 4th fl.
A gleaming, lavishly equipped kitchen lures Thomas Keller out of his bucolic Yountville existence.
35 W. 64th St.
Chef Terrance Brennan's venerable French-Mediterranean flagship aspires to lofty heights, and reaches them.
wd~50 (American Nouveau )
50 Clinton St.
Wunderkind chef and LES poster boy Wylie Dufresne has finally opened his own place.