September 21, 2009

Celebrities in NY

Here's how NYers feel about celebrities: eh, whatever. I think it's a combination of we've seen it all so nothing phases us, we're too self-involved to care and, most importantly we have to play it cool because we're expected to. But secretly...we want to run up, ask for an autograph and a picture. Depending on who it is, of course. We "casually" tell our friends "i was walking to work today, sipping my coffee and had my usual Famke Janssen sighting." In fact, that's an actual conversation that a coworker and I have quite frequently, since she lives around the corner from the office. "Was she walking her dog?" Yep. "Did she have on her big sunglasses?" Of course.
They do a good job of blending in, picking up dog poop, smiling at the common folk. There's no entourage and no visible paparazzi. It's a refreshing change from what you see in LA, which is one reason why celebs who want to be left alone live in NYC.
It's always interesting what happens when you're with a visitor who doesn't know the "stay cool" rule. I've been pulled by my arm to see Yoko Ono getting out of a car in Soho. I've been hit on the arm to turn my head and see Meg Ryan filming on the Upper Easnt Side. I've been repeatedly tapped on my arm to see Philip Seymour Hoffman as I was enjoying bruch alfresco in The Village. Basically my arm has taken a lot of abuse for the sake of celebrity sightings. Stay cool, people, stay cool.
I was mortified when a friend ran over to Matthew Broderick on the street after we had just seen him in The Producers, pulled him over to our group and said "Mindy, take our picture!". I asked if that was okay. He said "Yes - and thank you for asking." I can't imagine that happening all the time, just because you do a job where everyone knows who you are it gives the world complete access to you? It's just odd logic.
Now don't get me wrong, NYers are plenty interested in celebrities and celebrity goings-on. We read Perez and Gawker, text about who we just saw and where, but there's no hyper-crazed fan action. And if it exists, we keep it to ourselves. Until we get back to work and gush to our coworker about seeing Jake Gyllenhaal at the deli 5 minutes ago and how we didn't know who it was until we had to squeeze past him and how he looked like he was going to play basketball and how insanely hot he was and how we're forgetting to breathe or use punctuation. Being the good friend that she is she played the giddy teenaged fan right there with me.
I've found that the stay cool rule applies until you find yourself standing near one of your favorite actors, from your favorite movie. A 20-year talent crush in the making. And there he is, at Dean & Deluca, picking out vegetables, 3 feet away. The actor: John Malkovich, the movie: Dangerous Liasons. I realized that my mouth was hanging open and I was blatantly staring for a good 15 seconds. So much for the cool NYer. I wanted to say "Do you know how talented you are?! Do you know you were in my favorite movie?" But I realized all he wanted to do was find a fresh tomato, leave the poor man alone.
So if you see a celebrity in NYC, remember to stay cool, that's why they live here. They want to blend and not be harassed. But, um, if you happen to see Jake Gyllenhaal at the deli around the corner call me immediately. I mean...not that I care. You know, whatever. (Call me!)

September 14, 2009

The Brooklyn Bridge

For all the shopping, restaurants, and entertainment in NYC, one of my favorite things to do is to simply put on U2's "Beautiful Day" and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Into the city, home from the city, doesn't matter. As long as I'm on the bridge, all seems right with the world. There are no cars (pedestrian walk is elevated), you're over the water, and there are beautiful views everywhere you look. What's not to love?
The 25-minute walk into the city feels like several "wish you were here" postcards. To the left: the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. To the right: the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Hanging out for the duration of your walk? The Manhattan Bridge, just to the north.
There's something very "old NY" about the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe it's the way the grandness of the arches mixes with the simplicity of the wood planks beneath your feet. You can almost imagine it on opening day, 1883: women in long dresses and gloves strolling with men in suits and hats. Then there are the boats. Ferries, cargo ships, luxury cruise liners, water taxis, tour boats, sailboats. It takes you back to a time when water was a primary means of travel and transportation of goods.
I never feel more like a NYer than when i'm on the Brooklyn Bridge. As I'm surrounded by tourists who are in awe of it's beauty and the views I often think "Wow, i'm lucky enough to live in what they're taking home in photographs." Kinda cool.
Ready to create your own bridge memories? Here are directions, along with visitor tips:
• Take the 6 train to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall. the entrance to the bridge is outside the station. You can also take a number of trains to stops close by. It's very narrow at the bottom of the island and the bridge is only a short walk away.
• Be aware there's a pedestrian lane and a bike lane. The lanes are marked: bikes to the left, pedestrians to the right. Bikes come very fast, DON'T walk in their lane.
• Stay single file or staggered, don't walk several people across. Being NYC, there are lots of people and not a lot of room, so please be kind to other tourists and residents.
• Least crowded time? Before 9am. You'll find a few NYers and a few tourists.
• Most crowded time? Sunset. You'll find every. single. tourist.
• There's great pizza and ice cream on the Brooklyn side

Wish you were here...

The Brooklyn Bridge

September 2, 2009

Black and White Cookies

Behold the black and white cookie! Big, fluffy, cake-like goodness topped with chocolate and vanilla fondant icing. Or just regular cake-like icing, depending on where you go. With exact origins unknown, it's been an NYC bakery staple dating back to at least 1902 at Glaser's Bakery (updated: now closed) on 87th St and 1st Ave.
The cookies were originally made from leftover cake batter and today still retain a cake-ish quality. Word spread and these little (okay, very over-sized) gems popped up not only all over NYC, but in bakeries across New England and upstate New York, where they're called "half moons."
The black and white was immortalized in a Seinfeld episode when Jerry told Elaine that he loved this cookie because there are "two races of flavor living side by side by side in harmony." And if people would just "look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved." I tend to agree with Jerry that it's a great place to start, especially since after you're done philosophizing, you get to eat it!
Here are some of NYers favorite places to enjoy the black and white cookie:
--Rocco's (in the Village)
--Leske's (in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)
--Nussbaum & Wu (Morningside Heights)
--Greenberg's (Upper East Side)

Next time you're in NYC, do your taste buds a favor and pick up a black and white cookie. If you can't drop by a bakery, you can order them online. And if you ever find yourself in a heated discussion about world issues, remember Jerry Seinfeld's words, "Look to the cookie!" I do believe he was ::takes bite:: onto something.

September 1, 2009

Apartment Rentals: Decoding the Terms

This is a typical NYC apartment ad:
"Cozy 5th floor walk up alcove studio. Recently gut renovated, with kitchenette. Super on premise. I also have a Jr. 1-bdrm and a floor through railroad. Contact if interested. Must make 40x the rent, guarantors accepted. This is a broker fee apt."
Did you get any of that? Don't despair, after a few minutes and a few apartment terms, you will:
Cozy: Tiny. Teeny tiny.
Floor through: Apartment goes from the front of the building to the back
Walk up: No elevator, only the stairs and your legs
Kitchenette: Very small. What kitchens look like when they're born.
Gut renovated: Entire apartment was redone: floors, appliances, cabinets, etc.
Studio: No bedroom, usually one big room
Converted 1-bdrm: A bedroom wall has been put up (usually using living room space)
Alcove: Small area of the main room, usually in studios, used for sleeping or dining
Jr 1-bdrm: Alcove that has been walled-off to make a very tiny bedroom
Railroad: Series of rooms (usually without doors) you can walk though in a straight line
Broker: Person licensed to mediate deals between property owner and renter
Guarantor: A person who signs the lease (in addition to you) when you don't make the often required 40x the monthly rent (yearly salary must be at least 40 x one month's rent)
Management company: Larger company that owns the building, sometimes use brokers to rent the individual apartments
Landlord: Individual owner of a property, can also use brokers
Super(intendent): Maintains the building. Can usually call 24/7 with building problems, lives on or close to the premise.

So there are some terms to get you started. There are more to know, once you start looking to buy. Like co-op, co-op board, pre-war, brownstone, townhouse, classic 6 - and the list goes on. But for now, I'll just leave you with this cozy, kitchenette-sized glossary.