Tag Archives: New York City

This Week in Great Sentences

This week’s themes: New York, drinking and drinking in New York.

That has something to do with smart governance but more to do with the gritty culture of the city, its work ethic, its inspiring sense of its own grandeur, its shared knowledge of the personal struggle that goes into a day. A Fuld (Lehman Brothers former chief executive), who never took the subway, never sat in Bryant Park with a sandwich, knew nothing of what makes the city tick.

-Roger Cohen, “A Nation Hard to Short,” NYT 7/26

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look at this fucking guy

look at this fucking guy

The hipsters that will be the “dead end of Western Civilization” are the ones who add nothing new or original and simply recycle and reduce old trends into a meaningless meme. It’s for that reason that when Williamsburg’s hipster playland is in crisis, there aren’t many who are concerned.

-Dan Fletcher, “A Brief History of Hipsters,” Time, which apparently is now in the business of publishing stories that sound like they were written in 1998. This story is dumb, inane, trite blog-bait. The sentence is only great in the sense of spectacular tragedy, much like flames that explode from a car wreck.

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In their scope, both the Internet and New York are profoundly humbling: young people accustomed to feeling special about their gifts are inevitably jarred, upon arrival, to discover just how many others are trying to do precisely the same, with equal or greater success. (For a vivid demonstration of this online, try to invent a play on words, and then Google it. You’ll be convinced that there is, in fact, “nothing new in the cloud” — a joke that a British I.B.M. employee beat me to last November.)

-Bill Wasik, “Bright Lights, Big Internet,” NYT 7/29, about the parity between moving to New York and trying to make a name for yourself online

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“OBAMA: I could pick up the phone right now, get the plane, we could go to Italy for pizza.”

-John Kenney, “Shouts and Murmurs: A Beer With Obama,” The New Yorker, 7/27

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Fox Headline: U.S. Brewers Upset over White House Beer Selection. I guess there’s no end to the controversy over this brewhaha.

-Howie Kurtz, Twitter, 10 a.m. 7/30

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Happy birthday, you filthy soapbox!

It’s our blogiversary!

That’s right, it’s been a year since this odd experiment in web interactivism was birthed in the corner of a lowly bar during a lowly happy hour on Hilton Head, as I sat slashing away at the keys in search of some new solace I wasn’t finding in the newspaper industry. Indeed, I only started writing this thing out of a frustrated sense (or premonition) of claustrophobia with the newspaper job, knowing that the bounds of the vestigial print newsroom were constricting around me and other fellow reporters so quickly there was barely time to grab our asthma inhalers.

Lots of people start blogs with the mindset that the world needs their opinion on topics from music to politics to the state of obesity in America. I’ve been lucky never to have such delusions about why I started this. I’ve tried to clean it up over the past year, adding some order among the cranial chaos and occasionally (usually not on purpose) writing about something momentous or of interest to a general audience.

But looking back now, I’m surprised at how reasoned and sensible that first post was a year ago, even though I knew I was shouting into the abyss, before I even started posting links on facebook or attaching my real name to it, when I was still keeping it on the DL out of fear of discovery by an editor or job prospect.

So blog pretensions aside, the only reason I created this was for another outlet, just somewhere else to write that doesn’t involve soul-crushing lede changes or aversion to risk taking found in too many newsrooms. The thing about blogs is, you either devote a lot of time to it and seek to crack the market with a fresh idea and still make a pitifully small amount of revenue, or you do it for the joy of writing and creating a dialogue with friends. And also possibly because some nights you come home half drunk and think everyone wants to know what you think about a direct-to-dvd Batman animated promotion. Which they do.

In the course of a year, I kept track of (and got considerable Google traffic from) trivia team names, channeled unchecked rage at Funky Winkerbean, somehow became the No. 1 Google image search for both “ghostbusters” and “cartoon all-stars,” and wrote in probably unnecessarily detail about a breakup (“I’m not too happy about having personal details about my life out there,” she said after reading it. “Well, it’s my life too,” I said, giving the writers’ “all life is fair material” response. Besides, I said, there’s no one would read this that I wouldn’t tell about it anyway, and better to describe it in precise written words than awkward spoken ones on my end.)

I also kept a sad documentation on the decline of a once-promising local newspaper, then wrote in plain truths about my decision to leave the newspaper industry and to try to pit writing skill against the forces of poverty in New York City. A few times, I even wrote about news events that got linked to and read elsewhere.

And if nothing else, I had a place to write in honest language what it’s like to watch your dad slowly suffocate for the last few days of his life under a maddening blanket of an inconsiderate disease. And I learned writing doesn’t really dull the edge for something like that; it sharpens it to an even finer point most times, but I left the apartment the night I wrote that to go drink a 7&7 (Dad’s favorite drink) at the bar, at least feeling like I had made an effort at turning personal emotions into something concrete, even if it was just ultimately a cascade of words emptying into the mouth of the void.

So overall, I generally tried to write about things that had some broad interest and weren’t just about the limited-interest world of myself.

Some friends have told me they really like this blog, that I should do more with it (others have complained about not being name dropped enough), which is nice of them to say. But I’m the first to admit this doesn’t serve a purpose other than to be just another person out in the internet writing long sentences about things that are important to him, even as people everywhere want shorter and shorter things to read each day.

Since switching to WordPress, I’ve tried to turn this into a slightly more focused site documenting the travels and travails of a young writer navigating the empty void between print and web. Those aren’t the kind of blogs that people read on a regular basis though, you need quick hits like making fun of journalists or poorly edited advertising, and that’s fine with me, I’m not trying to do much here (but please feel free to send me checks out of the goodness of your heart).

Here’s the inaugural post, Feb. 19, 2008: The Powers of Inversion.

If you read this, all I ask is that you bookmark it and maybe check back every now and then to see what’s going on. And maybe even e-mail me with stuff you like, don’t like, suggestions, comments, vegan strudel recipes, cease and desist letters, etc etc at tim[at]timdonnelly.com.

A year later, I’m still sure there’s something else out there that will fill the gap being left by the end of print journalism. Until then, I’m glad to be in New York City, struggling my way through a new media landscape and happy to have at least one outlet in the meantime.

But most importantly, thanks for reading, wherever you are!

A hopeful winter thought: people somewhere are drinking outdoors again already

I wrote a story this week last year about how the first signs of summer already start to peak their heads out this time of year on Hilton Head. A year later, it’s snowing in New York City and so many people have flu it feels like the first act of a friggin zombie movie. And the beach bar mentioned below just opened again for the season the other day.

I still don’t regret the move in the least. And for a kid with summer breeze in the veins like me, that’s saying a lot.

Tiki Hut reopens… and it sure feels like summer

Published Saturday, February 16, 2008

photo by Jay Karr/Island Packet

photo by Jay Karr/Island Packet

Maybe it’s the eternal optimism of the school child, or the sun-loving hubris of South Carolinians who refuse to take their beers or brunches indoors even in the dead of winter.

But there’s something about this time of year, an ephemeral quality that’s hard to nail down, that causes people to start shaking out their patio umbrellas and dusting off their beach chairs as summer on Hilton Head Island comes to life.

People in other parts of the country are still crowding around living room fireplaces and digging out from harsh winter snowfalls. Not here, where the most nascent signs of the season debut this week.

Planning for the island’s big spring events is well underway by now and a handful of restaurants that closed for the (albeit short) winter season reopened over the past few days. [MORE]

I used that word “hubris” on purpose, and I wasn’t being in the least bit pejorative. One of my favorite qualities about coastal South Carolina was its absolute stubborn refusal to cede the outdoors to the changing of the seasons, even when the paltry feint of winter rattled the windows. Everyone kind of looked at the weather in January and February, said “fuck it, you’re not the boss of me,” and went outside anyway. This is why propane-powered heat lamps were invented, why I stood in a light jacket drinking a beer at an outdoor oyster roast while watching through the window of a bar the Packers and Seahawks battle it out in a snowstorm so violent it looked like the TV was covered with static, and it’s why the island’s most-popular brunch spot used space heaters, plastic guards on the patio railing and even blankets left on chairs for customers to reclaim the use of its outdoor seating when that other, non-summer season was around.

The other environmental hubris I’ve noticed is in the arid California desert near Palm Springs, where civilization has been forced to pipe in water from afar to exist in a place probably not really meant for human habitation. That one makes me less happy. But I do not know what their brunches are like out there (save for the date shakes).

Still, only 122 days until summer. Not that I’m counting. Except I am.

I heart-shaped brick NY

Great feature on NYT.com today with Lego representations of New York City:

the sidewalk west side of 8th ave between 39th and 40th

View the rest here: I LEGO NY.

The Artist: Christoph Niemann’s illustrations have appeared on the covers of The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine and American Illustration. His work has won numerous awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Art Directors Club and American Illustration. He is the author of two children’s books, “The Pet Dragon,” which teaches Chinese characters to young readers, and “The Police Cloud.” After 11 years in New York, he moved to Berlin with his wife, Lisa, and their sons, Arthur, Gustav and Fritz. His Web site is christophniemann.com.

Wining about the cost of living

People say New York City is the most expensive city in the world to live in. “Horse feathers,” I say, immediately before Googling the term “horse feathers” to see if it means what I think it does.

As long as you have no intentions of living in a Manhattan penthouse or eating diamond-encrusted Berkshire pork tournedos served on the back of one of P. Diddy’s man servants every night, you can amble fairly comfortably along the boulevard of low-cost living. Living on Hilton Head was equally if not more expensive, simply because there weren’t that many damn options for stuff, like restaurants, bars, stores, etc. The lowest cost place to eat was a fried seafood shack, of little use to a vegetarian other than its cultural significance (it was once visited by Rachel Rachael Ray, of course).

It’s all just perspective.

An example of the change in my life living in the city vs. living on Hilton Head:

Today I paid $11 for four bottles of Two Buck Chuck (actually Three Buck Chuck in New York City), including employee discount.

The honorable Charles Schwab

The honorable Charles Shaw

In August, I sat at the bar at MichaelAnthony’s on Hilton Head and ordered one glass of house cabernet . The tab? $15.

a glass of price gouging

The wine was just OK too. That’s not even to mention the universal mediocrity of the dozens and dozens of island restaurants, few of which I could get excited over even after four years getting to know every corner of the island. The biggest iconic restaurant on the island, the Salty Dog Cafe, had a near-ubiquitous market presence on souvenir T-shirts, stickers and the like. But the food, as Justin Paprocki’s mom once aptly phrased it, was largely “unremarkable.”

Frank Chapman, a former mayor who died last year, was despised by the local tourism industry for his “turning the welcome mat over” attitude toward the island. This quote in 1995 was his undoing:

At a meeting of the Hilton Head Hospitality Association, Chapman gave his opinion on island restaurants.

“They’re too expensive, and the food’s bad,” he said.

The comment caused an outcry and a swell of support for the more pro-tourism candidate who defeated Chapman in an election that year (and has been mayor ever since).

The problem the island faces today is one of obsolescence. Its strict development rules and laissez-faire attitude toward business development worked fine in the early years to keep away monster beachfront development. But now the buildings have begun to crack with age, the amenities have a warmed-over feel and people are clamoring for new options like a modern movie theater and shopping.

Those visitors are starting to look towards other fresher options in Myrtle Beach and Charleston instead. For a long time, island businesses and leaders took for granted that people would keep coming back to their sleepy resort town, even as mainland strip-mall sprawl and crippling traffic made the trip less and less attractive every year, transforming the drive to the island from a rural passageway into a speeding highway past the mattress suppliers, chain restaurants and payday advance storefronts of Anywhere, USA.

Chapman got the boot — maybe justifiably — because he told restaurants they weren’t trying hard enough to provide worthwhile and unique experience for the island. It created an unacceptable public image of a tourism town with an anti-tourist mayor.

But no one seemed to stop and wonder if maybe he had a point.