Piss Alley

When I first moved to New York City the long alley in the Times Square subway station that connects 8th Ave and 7th Ave was still under renovation. For years it was a creepy concrete tube full of dust and dirt that never seemed to progress, and always smelled sorta funny. My friends and I referred to it as "Piss Alley."

Now Piss Alley is fully renovated, bright gleaming white with new tile and spanking new mosaic murals depicting revelers on New Year's Eve... but I still hate going through it.

Now the problem is an ever growing series of evangelists and missionaries who clutter the path both metaphorically and literally, handing out Chick Tracts and leaflets and nonsense trying to convince me that bar codes are the mark of the beast or that Obama is the anti-Christ. I cannot walk through there without getting seethingly mad. The capper is that you usually emerge from the tunnel only to find a table full of scientologists hawking their "stress tests." I guess emergence theory is at work, clustering these people together in the bottle neck of that hallway, but it is quite the gauntlet to run when you feel about them as I do... and another reason to avoid that alley.


Is it the Economy?

Have any other New Yorkers noticed a huge influx of new buskers into the subway lately? I see someone playing an instrument or singing on just about every platform, and no train ride this week has been without someone strolling through the car. The A train has a distinct set of musicians that I see frequently, but these guys are new, people I've never seen play before. This afternoon on the way home there were literally four different people who passed through. It seemed like they had their performances timed out so that they left one end of the car as someone was coming in the other end. I can usually tune it out, except when the Mariachi bands come through... they are just too loud. They also seem to be coming at more crowded times now. Seems like they used to come through only in the early evenings whenit was bit less crowded... maybe I am just imagining things.


Subway Sketch


Weekend's Over

Okay... my little holiday is over. Back to work!

Actually I spent most of my weekend working. As I believe I have announced I will be returning to a summerstock where I have worked in the past, to design a portion of their season. (about half of it.) I don't leave for another month or so, but the work has already begun.

Last week they called to say that they had been offered the materials from a Broadway set, and wanted to know if I thought I could use anything from it. Instead of just guessing what might be there, and frankly unbelieving that they had the story correct, I decided to go up myself to see what was there. So KF and took a car up and made a weekend of it.

Here's the story: A major Broadway show from 3 or 4 years ago went on tour, but they used a smaller version of their Broadway set (the London version) for the tour. Somehow (and I am unclear on this) the Broadway set ended up in storage upstate. After about a year they stopped paying for that storage, and now the storage facility has started clearing out the space, scrapping some of it, selling other parts, and donating some to the theatre. This was NOT a simple set. This is a huge, multi-million dollar Broadway musical that played for quite a while and 85% of it is in this storage facility. One major prop/set piece was taken, but everything else is there.


Platforms. Flats. Curtains. Star drops. Scrims. Steel staircases, both straight and spiral. Hydraulics. Oversized props.

Everything! I was expecting a flat or two, maybe a curtain, or a couple of road boxes but this was like theatre Christmas!! I was able to pull the types of things that would literally cost me hundreds of times my show budget in order to get normally. It shifted my whole design on some of the shows, having things that I never dreamed I would have access to. Such is the nature of summerstock, that you are pulling together disparate elements, often recycled from other shows, in order to make things work, but this is a whole different story, and I am a luck lucky boy.





Subway Sketch

055: Photo Phriday

Congrats, Baby!

Kid Flash graduated tonight! He did super well. Final grades aren't in, but they are pretty damned high, and he picked up an award at tonight's ceremony. I'm so proud of him! 3 years ago we had our first date within a few days of his first day of school, so the paradigm of our relationship shifts now. School is over, homework is over, weekends spent writing papers and fretting over projects are over! Not saying that real life won't expand to fill the newly vacated time, but wow! Newly vacated time! OF course this happens just as I'm about to go away for the summer... so I guess I won't really get to experience my new life until fall... but for now I get to revel in my newly degreed boyfriend!



Subway Sketch

Adult Education

I have been asked to speak at "Adult Education," an event that describes itself as "a useless lecture series." From their website: A Brooklyn-based monthly event series where various speakers present brief, multimedia lectures on a shared theme. The theme for the next event is "Urban Travel" and they have asked me to speak about my subway sketches.

The event is Tuesday June 2, 2009 at 8pm, doors open at 7:30 at Union Hall in Park Slope (702 Union St. @ 5th Ave.). There will be a $5 cover.

Other speakers will include a man who designed his own subway map, a woman speaking about the unique tourist attractions along the A Train route, and the owner of a website devoted to photos taken of people sitting in the disabled seats on the train, while he, a disabled man, stands directly in front of them. You can see all the information you would ever need at their website: Adult Education.

If you are in or around New York City I hope to see you all there!


Turns Out...

Remember this post about Techshop in LA? How jealous I was that there isn't something like that in this area? Turns out that there is. It is called 3rd Ward and has much of the same type of equipment and facilities as Techshop. Sadly it is in one of the most annoying and least accessible areas of Brooklyn... which renders it pretty much useless to me, but if I joined for a whole year they give me a free bicycle. Considerations, considerations...


Readings By Rita

I found this one the subway a few days ago, and I've been mulling it over ever since.

First off... aside from the horrible mish-mashing of mythologies, and conflating of belief systems (Tarot, Hindu mythology, Christianity, and witchcraft all make an appearance) I can't for the life of me figure out what she means by that first sentence. "This Southern born Spiritualist who brings you solutions to the mysteries of the Deep South, seeks to help thousands of people who have been crossed." (emphasis mine) Besides the bad grammar (is she solving the mysteries of the deep South, or helping you by using said mysteries?) what the hell does being born in the South have to do with anything? Am I supposed to have some mystic power because I was born in the "deep South?" Is this some oblique reference to voodoo? Is there some left over African magic thing going on? Santeria? I feel like I may be missing some potentially lucrative financial stream if I'm not taking advantage of my psychic gifts. Anyone have any "Nature Problems" I can help with? Want to get rid of "Strange Sickness?" I can do that you know. Oh, and my mystic Deep South Powers tell me that one of you reading this has been crossed with an evil eye. I'll only charge you $19.95 to tell you if it was you....




In case you can't read it: "Remember de Maysonet Ruben."

Netflix Peculiarities

You want to see something interesting? Check out Netflix' Top 100 Rentals. Now look at Top Rentals specifically for New York City. Bizarre disconnect right?

Something else that I find interesting, on the front page of Netflix it lists 9 to 5 as being an NYC fave of the moment (I guess it is too far down the list to appear in the top 25 I linked to there though?) something that is obviously influenced by the fact that it is currently on Broadway.


Keep on Trekkin'

Is it just me, or was the JJ Abrams Trek reboot that everyone is gushing over not such a good movie?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, and I'm happy to accept these as the new faces of Trek, it was visually very attractive, and I'll go and see the next one but... without the good will of the former installments of the franchise to prop itself up, would this have been as well accepted? Try to imagine this movie with no former knowledge of the characters. Would it even make sense? We have 20 years of Trek history that tells us that Spock left Starfleet to become an ambassador to Romulus to heal the schism between the Vulcans and the Romulans. The movie gives us less than a minute's explanation of Old Spock's role in the former history of the universe, and without my prior knowledge I doubt I would have followed it very well. There is no real explanation of why the Kobiashi Maru is so difficult and dreaded, and why it is so staggering that Kirk "beat" it. There's no discussion of who the Vulcan's are and what their stance on logic and emotion is.... etc. etc. The movie seems like it expects us to KNOW all that back story.

Look at it like this, if you had absolutely ZERO prior knowledge of these characters what you end up with is a story about a not very competent organization that allows a troupe of half trained, hopped up cadets, who routinely lie about their abilities to lead a mission. Kirk is douchebag with anger management issues who charms his way into a completely undeserved field promotion (were there are NO senior officers on that ship other than Pike?) that he then builds upon by coercing and manipulating his superior officer. Sulu lies about being combat trained and possibly about being an experienced pilot. McCoy lies and commits fraud to get his friend onto the ship. Uhura abuses her personal relationship with her superior to get a plum assignment. Scotty assumes command of the engineering section of a ship that he isn't even assigned to after abandoning the facility that he WAS assigned to, not to mention marooning his fellow officer. Spock assaults a member of his crew, nearly killing him, but is allowed to walk off the bridge with nothing more than a sad look from Uhura. These people come off as a collection of reprobates and assholes... but we accept them because we know from previous experience that they are actually a competent and thoughtful group that are really very good at their jobs. (Or at least will be when they grow up.) Without that... I feel like what you have is a pretty bad movie. Agree? Disagree?


12 of 12: May

Another month gone by, and it is time for the 12 of 12 for May. A project started by Chad Darnell, 12 of 12 is simple, 12 photos to photodocument your day on the 12th of each month. To see the other participants go here.

I occasionally ramp it up for myself and apply a theme to the month as well. This month: white. Normally I provide a commentary for the photos, but this month I've decided to just let things speak for themselves.


Subway Sketch


Boston Mine

On my geocaching adventures today I saw: an abandoned mine, the ruin of an estate from 1911, the ruin of an old Conservation Corps cabin and much much more. (Not the least of which were enough mosquitos to carry me away for ever.)

All of this (well, most, not the estate) was in Harriman State Park just a scant 30 minutes from the city, but a great park, and chock full of fun stuff to see, as well as caches, including some of the oldest still active caches around.

A great way to spend one of the few really pretty weekends so far this spring.



041: Photo Phriday

Flat Ironing

During my recent trip to Atlanta I was amused to walk past the "Flatiron Building." Seems it was the first of three similar buildings and at 11 stories was the tallest building in Atlanta when it was completed in 1902. I walk by the one in New York City once or twice a week and stumbling on this one (while geocaching) was this weird moment of being at home and away at the same time. How I imagine people from Paris must feel when they visit the French section of Epcot.


9 to 5 The Musical: A Review

You won't find a more devoted Dolly fan than me, and that's the hard truth. So I really went into this show wanting to like it. Allison Janney was of course another plus, as I love her as well, so my good will for this production was pretty high, which frankly was probably what allowed me to have such a good time with it.

The movie into musical phenomenon of the past few years has not exactly thrilled me. Most of the ones I've seen have left me pretty cold, and sadly this one didn't really fare much better. Movies just have a different pacing structure, and unless it is something where you can totally ditch the performances of the original actors, and bring something different to the table, then you are stuck with the comparisons. Of the three leads in this show I think Allison Janney went the furthest towards making Violet her own. She was able to overcome Lily Tomlin's portrayal, and made it fresh. Stephenie Block in Jane Fonda's role probably had the least to overcome, at least for me. But poor Megan Hilty was left with the real conundrum... to play Dora Lee, or to play Dolly Parton playing Dora Lee. Sadly they directed her towards the latter and I think that was to her doom. She lacks the personality to bring it off, and I can't help but wonder if the show would have been better off if they could have divorced Dora from Dolly and allowed an actress to create a new spin on the role. In the end all that is really required is for her to be a bit of a sex-bomb. There is nothing really Dolly specific in the role.

Dolly herself did an admirable job with the show. She wrote 16 new songs, and dusted off "9 to 5" and "Backwoods Barbie," extending them both and adding several new verses and reprise to "9 to 5." While the songs were solid, it was really apparent that she has never written for this genre before. The songs were almost entirely written as asides, and never integrated into the show as a way to progress the story the way they do in the best musicals. But still, fun music, and certainly it showed her trademark charm.

The set was... a bit overwhelming. Scott Pask turns in another admirable performance, but something just seemed... off. There certainly was a LOT of set. At times it seemed to be a show about set changes. There awlays seemed to be something in motion, some wall coming or going, or a line of desks shifting by. The best thing I saw was the movement between the outer office, where the secerataries sit to Mr. Hart's office, the scenery sort of inverted and folded in on itself to create the new space. A cool transition, at least the first time I saw it. The fourth... The rest of the show though just seemed clunky. The giant LED screen at the back was never really used to its full potential, and in fact was more often a distraction. Sadly the most clever thing on stage scenery wise was the act curtain, made of telephone hand sets and curled telephone cord.

In all... not a perfect show, perhaps not even a good show, but a FUN show. I had a good time, and in the end that's enough.


MARTA Sketch

On Atlanta's MARTA train... not as easy to sketch on as an NYC train, and not nearly as easy to navigate. I pride myself on being able to read a train map, you have to to get past the MTA's weekly rerouting and altered schedules and changed lines... but I'll freely admit MARTA stumped me for quite a while. You have to know what direction you are traveling (the lines are marked southbound, westbound, etc.) which is hard for a visitor, and the trains are marked by the final stop on the line, not by any color that I could see, even though the maps are marked with colored lines. When I asked someone what color line went to the airport they just stared and said "Southbound." That was supposed to be all I need to know I guess. At least the last stop on the line I wanted WAS the airport, so when it arrived there was a giant "AIRPORT" on the side. Though I had to run quite a ways down the platform after I realized that even though it looked like it could accomodate an 8 or 10 car train the actual train that arrived only had 4, so it stopped well short of where I had chosen to stand. The ticketing system was odd too, it took me a lot of back and forth to figure out that buying a Breeze ticket was the same thing as just buying a ticket... and what is with the .50 surcharge on a single ride ticket? Where was staff? I never saw anyone in any of the three stations I passed through that looked like they could answer a question. God I'm spoiled by the MTA, and with all the shortcomings they have, that is... baffling.



I would desperately love to have something like Techshop in my area of the world. A cooperative center that has major manufacturing tools available for use by their members. CNC Routers, welding equipment, industrial sewing machines, laser cutters, even a 3-D printer! New York City has a ton of cool stuff, and is great in just about every way imaginable but it is areas like this where it falls down, mainly because no one can afford to rent the floor space needed to house it.



I worked in hotels for a long time, about 10 years all together. It's a great job for a college kid, you can study at work and it really isn't difficult work. Admittedly I worked in a... mid-level hotel. It was an airport hotel, not exactly 4 stars, and there were always a series of problems on every shift. I always assumed that the problems were a function of the level of the hotel, and not just standard hotel problems.

Well, I'm away on business, and staying at what is probably one of the more expensive hotels I've ever slept in, (thanks project expense account!) and let me tell you... the problems are the same. When I checked in I was given a key that didn't work. After retrieving another key I found myself in a room where all of the furniture was disassembled and pushed to the center of the room, as if someone had been painting the walls. This afternoon on the way to lunch I passed a room where the door was left standing open, the whole room exposed. An hour later when I returned it was in the same condition. I passed a maintenance worker on the way to my room and pointed it out to him, he just shrugged and said that housekeeping had probably forgotten to close it (!).

So, all in all... I guess a hotel is a hotel, and maybe I shouldn't put my old employers down quite as much.