NYU in the Bronx?

April 25th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

via Gothamist

Designer of the 1970s subway map, Maximo Vignelli, has updated his creation for an article in Men’s Vogue. I’m a big fan of geometric rail maps similar to the original iconic London Underground map, originally from the 1930s. In London, it works fabulously, since you generally don’t care about what’s above ground, you only care about the station you’re going to and the changes you need to make in order to arrive there. The Underground Map assumes that you’ve got an A-Z to handle the above-ground stuff, and just gives you the information you need. The current NYC subway map tries to cram somewhat-accurate geographical data onto the map in addition to the subway lines. The result is that neither the subway lines nor the geography are easy to read, and the map is cluttered and difficult to navigate. It’s quite hard to know the difference between the local and the express by looking at the map, for example. Vignelli’s map makes the difference clear by having a distinct colored line for each train, so everything is separate.

I did notice a few gaffes in the updated version, though. Most of them are relatively trivial; for example, it does not note that the Cortlandt St. station is closed for renovations. This one is by far my favorite, though:

Wait a minute: NYU is still in the Bronx? This map is definitely a child of the seventies!

Rejoining the NYU Security Team, and visiting Little Branch

April 10th, 2008 § 3 comments § permalink

If you’ve spoken to me directly in the last week or two I’ve probably told you this already, but I’m excited to announce to the world that I’ll be rejoining the NYU Technology Security Services team full-time starting on April 15th. This is my post-graduation, real, full-time, proper, grown up job and I’m thrilled to sign there after an eighteen-month stint at NBC.

Naturally, in classic fashion there were some celebratory libations in the village with my new colleagues. We paid a visit to Little Branch, owned and operated by the creator of Milk and Honey, the hallowed, super-secret speakeasy that I’m, frankly, not nearly cool enough to have the unlisted number to, let alone actually attend. The bar is as a bar should be: smallish, dimly lit, clean, tidy, and specializing in precisely one thing: drinks. Little Branch prides itself on mixing drinks in the manner they were mixed at the time of their creation. Their menu is small, but the expertise of their staff spans decades of cocktail history, and a popular choice is to ask suggestions of the bartender or waiter, who will expertly guide your beverage choice based on your suggestion of liquor, flavor, and so on. Some noteworthy drinks from the table:

  • Gordon’s Cup: Mint and Cucumber muddled with Gin, with a pinch of salt and a dash of bitters. Outstanding
  • Vieux Carré: Rye, Cognac, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters. Rather like a Manhattan, but, well,better.
  • Little Italy: Can’t quite remember. (What can I say, it was the last round.) Most likely Bourbon, Vermouth, and Cynar. Bitter as hell, but very tasty

Many thanks go to Jane and Chris for doing the necessary reconnaissance work and introducing me to this fine establishment; I can’t wait to return.

Excuse me, sir, but where did you get those boots?

February 10th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

While in Australia, I received as a Christmas present from my mum a fine pair of R.M. Williams boots. They’re the “Comfort Craftsman” model, in brown. Without a doubt, I’d say they are the finest pair of footwear I’ve ever owned. I wear them a couple of times a week, at minimum, and they’re always incredibly comfortable.

Australian work boots like these are sort of unique-looking. They’re made from one large piece of leather, just stitched once up the back. They have elastic sides and pull tabs at the top.  You’ve probably seen them before.

I’m constantly amazed how much attention they garner, in very strange places. I was on the 6 train last week, heading home after work, listening to This American Life’s weekly podcast, and generally zoning out. A guy sitting on the seat next to where I was standing tapped me on the shoulder. Seeing I was wearing earphones he pointed to my feet, then gave me a thumbs-up and wink. I noticed he was wearing gray suede brogues. I would have thought his own shoes were far more worthy of attention than mine.

Later in the week, on the elevator at work, I was going up to my desk from the ground floor, when a guy whom I had never spoken with before exclaimed (in a crowded elevator, no less)

“Whoa man, those are nice shoes! Where did you get those?”

“Australia, actually.”

“Damn, those are nice. Are they boots or shoes? [he bends down to take a closer look] Boots. Let me see those better.” Awkwardly, I pulled my trouser leg up an inch or two to oblige. He exclaims once or twice more, then he got off the elevator. I haven’t heard from him since.

Only in New York: 1 Train Edition

February 2nd, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

I was riding the No. 1 train this evening with my friend and colleague Patrick. On the bulkhead across from us hung one of the MTA’s safety campaign posters. It shows a young man hanging on the outside of one of the doors of a train, with an enormous headline: “This could be the last ride of his life.”

Patrick turned to me and asked, “Do you think that really happens?”

Some time ago, I had read this article in the Village Voice, in which Peter Duffy tracks down real-life subway surfers as sources. So, apparently, as recently as 2000, this really did happen. I told Patrick that it had, though to my knowledge the preferred method of extra-car subway travel was on top of the train, not wedged against the outside of the door like a gecko. It probably wouldn’t be too hard, I thought, to climb onto a subway car from the door that leads between the carriages.

A man leaning against the door across from us apparently overheard our conversation and told us, “Back in high school,  we used to open up these doors [between the cars], take of the chain between the cars, and just hang outside in the breeze. Sometimes we’d go over the bridge to Brooklyn and we’d just be, like, hanging out on the bridge, you know?”

As if we needed further corroboration, the guy proceeded to open the door between the cars while the train was still hurtling down the tunnel between 50th and 59th Streets, step outside, remove the chain, and hang out on the plate between the cars while waving the chain at us through the doors.

“See?”, he said, stepping back in. “Easy.”

On Bleecker Street

June 16th, 2007 § 2 comments § permalink

Just over a month ago, I moved into temporary accommodations at Bleecker and MacDougal Streets, right in the middle of Greenwich Village. The apartment itself is nice, but minute. It requires a not-insignificant feat of engineering to get myself into bed, which I can just about lie down in; my room being only an inch or two wider than I am tall. I’m enjoying my time living here, but there are some aspects of Bleecker Street life that have taken a moment to get used to. I’ll give you two examples:

First, tenement housing is dense. Perhaps you’ve heard just how densely packed New York City is. It’s difficult to actually appreciate how tightly crammed together Manhattanites are until you’ve lived in a circa-1900 building surrounded by others just like it. I can hear my upstairs neighbours, my downstairs neighbours, my across-the-hall neighbours, and my across-the-alleyway neighbours if they make almost any sound louder than a moderate sneeze. I presume they can also hear any sound that I make, too, so I have to make a reasonable effort to keep quiet.

Second, Bleecker Street has tour buses. I have never before lived on a street down which tourists regularly travel on their specially-appointed buses, and it’s an odd experience. When I’m actually in my apartment, the buses don’t bother me; my window doesn’t face the street. However, there is a fine café across the street where I frequently drink coffee and read books. On the average, every three minutes, a double-decker red or blue bus passes, filled with visitors armed with cameras, camcorders, and in inclement weather, yellow plastic ponchos which make the bus’s occupants look like a small army with a very unfortunate uniform. I’m too far away from the bus to hear the guide’s commentary on the intersection of Bleecker and MacDougal, but the tourists’ heads often turn in unison to look at the old cafés and bizarre stores as they are pointed out (I often imagine the guide pointing out some of Bleecker Street’s better known bong-selling establishements while Auntie Mavis wonders what a bong is). Some of them peer down to look at the people on the street, taking pictures and video as they go. Now, I’m generally pretty tolerant of tourists, unlike others who live in New York, who impatiently shove visitors out of the way on sidewalks and refuse to answer well-intentioned but silly questions (I was once asked while standing on the Seaport pier where the Seaport was, for example), but having 100 people every coupld of minutes ogle me on a Sunday morning while I’m reading the Times can be a little strange.