Tag Archives: Manhattan

When Big Money Comes to Town

1 Apr

Just last night a bar on Atlantic Avenue that opened its doors 16 years ago announced it will be closing them at the end of this month.  I never worked there and, to be honest, I haven’t hung out there all that much in the last couple of years.  I always kind of thought it was one of those places I “lost in the divorce,” as they say.  Whoever “they” are.  I guess we all should have seen this coming when the Barney’s Coop opened up a few years ago.  Followed by a Sephora, a Lululemon, a Splendid, Gap and Banana Republic Outlets, talk of a J. Crew and who knows what else.  There isn’t so much room for character when big money and condos come to town.

It’s a weird coincidence because I was literally just thinking about this yesterday.  (My life, by the way, has involved a lot of coincidences recently.  Maybe I’ll tell you about them someday.)  So I have a few friends, two in particular, who oftentimes lament the loss of the old Brooklyn, the Brooklyn they grew up in.  One of them posts in this blog here which is really awesome and you should check it out.  No, seriously, check it out.  Anyway, I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, or New York City for that matter.  I grew up in the suburbs in New Jersey, a place that has a lot of trees and doesn’t really change all that much.  You don’t hear too much about people losing leases on storefronts.  Generally, stores close because whoever owned them either gets sick of doing it or gets old and dies.  Then the store closes and a nail salon goes in its place.  There are A LOT of nail salons in my hometown.  You also don’t have the same brand of blind development as in the city.  Here, luxury condo after luxury condo just sort of go up over night, oftentimes cheaply built, overpriced, and under filled.  Eventually people move into the doorman, gym included building.  Usually they are transplants from Manhattan, previously transplants from somewhere else, looking for something more affordable.  Their “more affordable” prices-out the people who had lived in the neighborhood previously, many of whom priced-out the people who grew up there.  In my hometown, a lot of people knock down houses to build bigger houses with more rooms than they can possibly use.  I really don’t understand the appeal of getting lost in your own home but that’s just me.  My mom calls them McMansions.  They are pretty much just the architectural version of a big dick contest.  I digress.

So I grew up close to New York City but not in it and even though I went to the city quite a number of times my memory of it is pretty limited.  Here is what I remember:

1.  Going to Take Your Daughter to Work Day with my Dad and spending most of my time at the Museum of TV and Radio watching old episodes of PeeWee’s Playhouse.
2.  My Dad’s one office that had those really cool pipes that ran throughout the floor so you could deliver messages to other people.  You would put the message in a little tube thing and then put it in the pipe and it would get sucked away and end up where it was supposed to go.  I loved those pipes.
3.  I’m pretty sure we went to the Thanksgiving Day Parade once?  Or did I make that up?
4.  That one time me and my friend Gina cut school and went into the city for the day.  We felt SO cool.
5.  My Uncle Mike works at The Met and I got to go see The Temple of Dendur when it was still closed to the public.

We never went to Brooklyn.  Honestly, I don’t think I even knew what Brooklyn was when I was a little kid except for as it was represented by Spot Collins in Newsies.  Spot Collins and the boys from Brooklyn really saved the day in Newsies so I always figured that where ever it was it was pretty damn hardcore.

Over the last almost 10 years that I have lived here, I have seen my neighborhood change quite significantly.  And that is nothing, I am sure, compared to the changes that came before.  I have wondered sometimes what it was like in the 1990s, before trendy bars and restaurants opened and before the hipster invasion of 2011.  I was wondering exactly that thing as I walked home from a hardware store across a busy avenue in the less developed, slightly rougher, area.  I walked past a scrap metal collection place and stopped at the light, right next to some guy who I guess had just disposed of his metal and was waiting for his buddy.  Then, this:

Guy: Damn, you lookin’ sexy mama.
Me:  (Eye roll, unimpressed head shake.)
Guy:  What?  Bad day?
Me: It was fine until you said that.
Guy: Well, how are you supposed to know if I don’t tell you?
Me: I already know.
Guy: How about I take you for a drink? Some coffee? There’s a bagel store over there.
He gestured at a storefront that has been having constant grand openings for the past 8 years at least.  I am 100% certain it is a front for something nefarious.  The light changed and I walked away.

So here’s the thing.  I never felt intimidated or scared talking to that guy.  A few years ago, I would have been petrified because it might not have been one guy, it might have been 3 and he might not have found me quite as amusing.  There certainly would have been less people walking around.  More than anything I was annoyed that this guy called me sexy while I was holding a bottle of Draino* to, once again, unclog the shower.  I mean, without the Draino I would have also felt annoyed but for some reason I felt like sharing that with you.  I just found it amusing because, like, I was hungover, I think I still had a little makeup on my eyes from the night before, my hair was filthy and I was carrying Draino and some drier sheets and yet still with this guy.  But the point of all of this.  The point is that this gentrification is a real mixed bag.  I miss the days when big chain stores didn’t come to Brooklyn, when everything was family-run, when spending money locally was really the only option rather than some trend that only wealthy people can afford.  I miss my neighborhood being less trendy.  I miss hearing more Spanish than English on the streets.  I miss having sunlight on my street, the sunlight that was blocked by the fucking ugly 13 story building they built on my corner.  What I don’t miss?  Walking home from the train alone at night.  My neighbor getting jumped on the front steps.  Another friend getting beaten up by a group of marauding women.  Feeling afraid.

Here’s the thing.  I know that when Big Money Brooklyn takes over my neighborhood I am not going to be pleased.  I know I will get priced-out.  And it will be one more step in the direction of making all of New York less affordable for the people who always lived here.  I feel like I can’t really be mad about being priced-out because I, unknowingly at 21, did it to others.  At this point I am aware of my own privilege and the impacts it has.  It will suck, though.  So I don’t know.  I mean, I’ll take the improved safety but I wish you would keep your condos, your Barney’s, your expensive cars, your $15 bottles of pickles.  My hometown, and towns like it, could use a little business diversity.

*I was feeling very guilty about this because my landlord, who I ADORE, told me not to use Draino because it messes up the pipes.  But every time he comes to unclog the drain he tells me to use a drain cover because I have so much hair.  But I do!  And it clogs anyway!

What do I know from Yoops?

11 Apr

So today when I was walking east on 33rd Street towards my long, long, LONG overdue* waxing appointment I heard something weird.  I was walking by a hotel (or maybe a fancy apartment building?  But probably a hotel because who in their right mind would want to spend a lot of money to live like 2 blocks from Penn Station) and outside there were two door guys talking.  They were both definitely born and raised in New York City somewhere.  Anyway, they were in the midst of a very heated conversation when one of them says to the other,

“Well, I wanted to get yoops to pick up the package but then I called the guy and the guy said that it was probably FedEx that was doing it and not yoops.  I don’t know.  I told the guy I think yoops is better.”

Okay.  So as I walked away I started thinking about why it might be that this guy calls the company yoops rather than U.P.S. like the rest of us.  I came up with the following few possibilities:

1.  It’s like his cute little thing that he does.  Kind of like the way that I say “water” which, admittedly, is a little less choice and a little more accent (and not terribly cute) but still.  It’s like when someone says something about Carl and then you’re like “who’s Carl?” and they’re like “Oh, you know Carl.  He’s the one that says yoops” and at that moment you know exactly who Carl is.

2.  He doesn’t like acronyms and so therefore just doesn’t use them.  He’d be all “well, there was this debate up at the ‘un’-security council the other day” or “I wonder whether ‘who’ is going to approve that new drug for malaria” or “ohmgah! Did you see the new Carie Diaries?!”**

3.  Maybe he doesn’t realize that it is actually called UPS and at first all his friends and family thought that he was just making a joke and they kept letting him do it and then they realized that he was serious but they had been letting him make a fool of himself for this many years and they sort of feel like assholes pointing it out now.

4.  Maybe ‘yoops’ is actually a thing that people say but nobody ever told me about it.

So, yea, that’s it for today.  Other than the fact that I have Funkadelic’s “Freak of the Week” stuck in my head which, all things considered, isn’t so bad.

*You know it is overdue when your waxing lady, who you have been seeing regularly for the past 6 years, takes a look at you and goes, “Oh, Rebekah…”

**Apparently in my mind ‘Carl’ is simultaneously an international affairs student and a 15 year-old girl.

People Never Cease to Amaze Me…

11 Mar

…and I don’t always mean that in a good way.

It was my first weekend shift back at work after my (too short) vacation to New Orleans.  I was setting up the bar, feeling pretty good about my morning run and laughing about something that had happened at dinner with my family the night before when the phone rang.  It was Johan.*  I actually didn’t know who Johan was but by the way he started the conversation I guess I should have?  Anyway, apparently Johan had been in the bar the night before and had forgotten his card.  I found the card in the register — it had already been rung up for the amount plus a 20% tip as is our custom — and told him it would be safely sitting there waiting for him to come pick it up.  He told me his friend was probably going to come get it and gave me her name.  He laughed when I informed him his card had already been charged but it wasn’t like a, ‘wow that was funny’ sort of laugh it was more like a rude scoff which I didn’t particularly appreciate but whatever.  I mean, I wasn’t the one who forgot my card at the bar so I kind of figured if anyone in that phone conversation had the right to a rude scoff it was me.  I didn’t scoff, though.  I exercised restraint.  Anyway, I hung up the phone with Johan and went about finishing the task of setting up the bar so I could unlock the door promptly at 12 to the throngs of people waiting outside.**

About 1/2 hour later the phone rang again.  I noticed that the number on the Caller ID looked suspiciously like Johan’s number.  I answered and, sure enough, Johan!  He started explaining to me about the card again prompting me to inform him that I was, in fact, the same person he had spoken to a mere 30 minutes ago and that I remembered the situation quite clearly.  He then told me that his friend would be unable to pick up his card that day.  The rest of the conversation went as follows:

Me:  Oh, that’s okay.  I will just leave it sitting in the register until you can get here.  Don’t worry, I won’t go on a shopping spree or anything.***

Johan, decidedly not amused by my comment:  Well, I was wondering if you could send it to me by post.

So in this brief moment I thought to myself, okay, maybe Johan was just in town visiting some friends but by noon on a Saturday he was no longer in the city.  Or!  Maybe Johan, with his thick Scandinavian accent, was actually at JFK awaiting his flight back to whatever distant land he came from and he was calling in a panic, trying by whatever means possible to get his beloved card back.

Me: Um, where do you live?

Johan: Manhattan.

Me, shocked:  Um, so why don’t you just get on the train and come down here and pick it up?

Johan:  I’m very busy.  My parents are coming to town…I am going back to visit in Switzerland at some point.

Me:  Well, I also am very busy and we don’t have envelopes at the bar right now.  I work all day today and tomorrow.  So you would like me to take this card home with me and then on Monday go out and buy stamps and envelopes and then mail it to you?

Johan who obviously does not understand sarcasm:  Yea, that would be great.

Me:  Um.  Yea.  I’m not going to do that. You’re going to have to come pick it up.

Johan:  But I live all the way on 34th Street!

Me:  Somewhere near Penn Station?

Johan:  Yes! Exactly!

Me:  Oh, you mean you have express trains there?  Just take the 2/3.  It’ll take you like 1/2 hour to get here.  Otherwise I can cut the card up for you.

Johan:  So you won’t send it to me?!

Me: No.

Johan seemed both shocked and appalled by the tragic turn of this conversation.  He really thought that I would mail him his card.  To Manhattan.  Because he was far too busy to get on the train and come pick it up.  And, I mean, if he was on his way back to Europe, or if he lived super far out of town, I probably would have just mailed it to him because I am nice. But dude lived in Manhattan!  He just couldn’t be bothered to come get his damn card. Eventually he informed me that he was going to have a different friend come pick it up for him and all was well and good but seriously, if I ever hear a European tell me that American’s are lazy, I am going to give them Johan’s number.

*Name changed by Googling “common Swedish names.” In hindsight, I should have gone with Lars.

**In the interest of full disclosure there were no throngs.  Basically never are.  And if there were throngs, or even just one throng, I would probably be annoyed about it because a throng, in my experience, never results in something good.  It results in like, stampedes and stuff and it was far too early, and I am far too young, to be stomped to death.

***That is basically my favorite thing to say to people when they call about a forgotten card.  Or I tell them I have already gone on a shopping spree and thank them for my awesome new Vespa but they never seem quite as entertained as me.