So the art students had an exhibit.
I hadn’t been out to Brooklyn yet, so it was as good a time as any to get a taste of the city outside the City. Getting there was easy enough – it’s one of those awesome train rides that takes you out of the ground so you can actually see the City. (If I made a City I would put all he mass transit about ten stories in the air with the birds, not in the ground with the rats.)
The Flux Factory – It’s on 29th Street and 40th Ave!, one of the art students told us. You got it, we said. And after getting lost once walking in the wrong direction – a beautiful direction despite being wrong – we did find it.
Along the beautiful wrong direction, Victoria snapped some photos of a still congested but lower-rise kind of life filled with some of the odder sights I’ve seen yet in the city. Below is a sampling of the sites we saw on our misguided walk East.
This car had a stuffed panda and an action figure of Jesus in it:
Once we got to the Flux Factory, I finally got to see what those artists have been up to all semester – I saw Jackie’s videos, Sava’s collages, Greg’s paintings of fat women’s abdomens, Sarah’s comic books, Chase’s “earth art,” Nellie’s “hand art,” and Kay’s tumor-like bouncy ball things that sat like soccer balls on a carpet of Astroturf (the perfect space for lounging, as seen below:)
As an architecture student, I can’t help but share my thoughts about the space:
The non-descript entrance and the low ceilings of the entry corridor heighten a spectator’s sense of entering something hidden and special. The conveyor belt in one corner reminds us of the building’s past and invites speculation about what used to happen here – the conveyor belt goes out the window? we can put people on this thing? – Daniel get on there! – what is flux? :
Nellie’s hand art really intrigued me. This series of photographs were taken as she penned scenes of the city on her own hand and arm:
The palimpsest that begins to be produced seems to me to be a kind of personal text describing the City’s endless cycle of construction and erasure. Inscribing these things on the body invites a whole series of readings: are they to be read as tattoos? important information that must be kept close – a searing memory, an important note or telephone number? Or is writing the architecture of the City on the body a more sinister critique of how the City’s inflexible networks are imprinted onto the bodies and into the lives of the citizens that live in it, whether they like it or not? And who are we to believe is the author? Nellie or the City?
These art students really get you thinking.
The end of the semester is on its way. We are busy with preparations for final reviews and final papers, but let’s not forget: we are in the City. Want to go to a Broadway box office for student rush tickets tomorrow morning? Let’s do it.
As a mecca of theater and television, New York City plays host to all sorts of broadcasts. Take a look at some of them here:
For me, the highlights include 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, The Colbert Report and The Late Show with David Letterman.
Searching late one night for dwindling opportunities in the city – take note, fellow fans of film and television, plan early for popular occasions like seeing show tapings, as they usually fill up months in advance – I discovered that tickets to The Late Show with David Letterman may still be available. But those people over at CBS sure don’t make getting them easy. First, you fill in an online form with your name and phone number. If your phone number is selected, one of a handful of trusty veteran Late Show organizers calls you, in my case Lisa, to ask you a trivia question. If you get the trivia question right, you receive two tickets for you and guest to attend the following day’s taping. My mother usually turns Dave Letterman on at night in the summers when I’m home, so I thought I had a relatively good shot at getting my hands on those tickets. My conversation with Lisa went something like this:
Lisa: Do you watch the show often?
Mason: When I’m home in the summers.
Lisa: OK, well give this one your best shot. (She doesn’t believe I can do it. I’m just a caj, a casual watcher, a nobody.) We have been interviewing Rupert Jee for years at his small establishment near the Ed Sullivan Theater. What is his establishment called?
Mason: (Instantly, his instincts guiding him – a former star Quiz Bowler, Mason was trained to fire lightning fast at questions pertaining to his vast knowledge base) It’s a sandwich shop.
Lisa: (Just like she thought, a caj) It’s actually called the Hello Deli, but I’ll give you “sandwhich shop.”
Mason: (Sincerely) Thanks.
(The pictures in this blog post were taken by Phillip on his phone.)
So on Monday I lined up with Phillip outside the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, where the Late Show is filmed. After we received our tickets, we are told to come back in an hour to be seated. With so much time to kill, we decided to visit the location that gave us this tremendous opportunity: Hello Deli. I couldn’t believe his eyes when I walked into the sandwich shop:
Mason: (In his head) Oh my gosh! That’s Rupert Jee! He looks so normal, so normally bored! That’s his wife behind the counter! This place actually exists.
You must keep in mind that this is the first “famous” (but not “Famous”) person I can claim to have met in my whole life, except the White Ranger from Power Rangers when I was little (and come to find out that wasn’t even the real one, so I guess I shouldn’t count it). My “Famous People I’ve Seen” list would grow much longer in the coming hours.
Halfway through Phillip eating his “New Yorker” – a delicious pastrami sandwich – a clatter outside attracted our attention. Upon further inspection, we discovered the origin of the commotion: Jennifer Lopez was exiting the back door of the Ed Sullivan theater.
A four foot tall black woman behind me proclaims: “Jenny! Jenny from the Block!” and runs headlong into the mass that begins swarming around the singer/actress. I was amazed at the sight: people shoving their elbows into the crowd, trying to make room, people holding cameras as high as their extended arms and tippy toes would allow in order to gain just the possibility of snapping a photo of the shoulders of The J.Lo. In all likelihood, they probably just got blurry photos of other spectators. Such are the hazards of chasing fame.
The security guards diligently hold back the throng as J.Lo, in four inch heels and slinky black dress, climbs into a champagne SUV and drives off to her next engagement with rabid fans and no privacy. Poor girl. Poor people of this city. If you’ve ever seen a sight like this, maybe you know what I’m talking about. Or maybe I’m the only one who thinks that mobbing a mound of flesh just because she’s had her mug plastered on big moving screens across the country is strange and sad in a way. I prefer to watch from the perimeter, to confirm that J.Lo is actually 3D, not just the everyday 2D version I normally see. That’s all I want to know, that J.Lo isn’t a cartoon, a cardboard cutout. She isn’t, by the way. And she looks great in heels.
Inside the Ed Sullivan Theater, Phillip and I get terrible seats, in the mezzanine level next to the sound guy. But we get to see most of the action: Dave Letterman interviewing Kelsey Grammar and Jeff Altman and then the musical act Hanson, a group who every decade has a different vibe. First they were the bubble-gum tweens, then the pop-rock teens, and now the bluesy-rock twenty-somethings with j-crew looks. I can’t wait for 2020.
The lesson of this story is: if you want to see famous people or attend a taping of your favorite late night television show, you can probably do it best here. Remembering these blissful moments staring at celebrities will help you overlook the garbage dump of a subway system – which still everyone manages to praise (it’s the largest and most sophisticated subway system in the world!) despite the rats and grime and smell. So go to The Late Show with David Letterman and think about it on the downtown six train in the mornings when a six foot tall woman is poking your face with the book that she insists on reading despite there being no room books, just faces and bodies and briefcases.
I think lots of people, myself included, tend to put up with all kinds of things so long as they can laugh every once in a while. Living stacked in buildings may not be everyone’s idea of the “good life,” but who wouldn’t want access to all the entertainment opportunities here? For that, it’s simply the best.
Which is why, despite the to me excruciatingly enormous investment of 19 dollars, I bought a ticket to the IMAX 3D “experience” (not just a showing, but an experience – it’s written on the ticket) of How the Train Your Dragon. My hometown back in Kentucky just got the regular kind of 3d a couple months ago, so this is the kind of treat I can’t miss. As with all IMAX experiences, the screen is huge, the sound is enveloping, and as with all 3D experiences, you get the added pleasure of seeing things flying at you, which in a movie about how people ride dragons is pretty awesome.
A couple notes: when I saw Alice in Wonderland in IMAX 3D at the AMC Lowes 34th St. Cinema, the screen wasn’t nearly as big, the theater not nearly as impressive, and the glasses not nearly as comfortable as at AMC Lowes Lincoln Square near Lincoln Center on the west side, where I saw How to Train Your Dragon. If you want a better experience for the same price, go to the second one.
1. New York City smells. Not bad mind you, not all the time, but it has these smells that seem to waft in from… who knows where. Some of them them come from shops you are passing – I was walking in SoHo the other day and passed the most amazing smelling shop, a candle shop that had seemingly discovered how to make wax happiness because I stood there for a good two minutes – it happened to be at an intersection and this red hand was bleeping at me not to walk, so I didn’t – and I swear, I didn’t want to leave that place. Then there was a lavender stand at the Union Square farmer’s market today. Delicious.
But then there’s the garbage. And then there are the dogs. Which leads me to points 1a and 1b:
1a. I am from a small town in Kentucky with little homes that dot the landscape in that sprawl pattern that is so prevalent in our country. As such, most dogs have a yard to run in… and poop in. New York City dogs aren’t so lucky. I wouldn’t want to be a New York City dog. This is the life of a New York City dog:
What should I do today? Will Mom or Dad take me out to the Big Park or at least one of the Small Parks? I hope they aren’t too tired to do that. Otherwise they’ll only take me out to the curb to do by Business. I hate that. It’s so humiliating. And then they pick it up with their hands! How would you like it, somebody putting you on a chord and yanking at it when you go to sniff a flower in a pot because they think you might be naughty and eat it. Always watching you. I’d love to roam free in a big wide open space, like my brother Cyote Kid and his family do. I miss visiting them. Ever since we moved here from the farm all I get to do is walk around this tiny apartment. Grrrr. Makes me so mad. I’m gonna go tear up some furniture.
Quite unglamorous, that life. The smells that this life produces are atrocious. For instance, I don’t know what it is about the area outside Starbucks on Union Square, but it always smells like a fresh dog squeeze. I walk quickly and hold my breath. I advise you to do the same.
1b. Garbage is another source of smell in the City. And in a City this size, garbage is always piled up somewhere. Every Thursday Garbage is piled five feet high on W.17th Street near Banana Republic. Some nights I walk by and there’s a security guard out there. Watching the Garbage? I don’t know. And I don’t ask.
There’s always Garbage by the McDonald’s on 69th Street by the Weill Cornell dorms, where many of us live. That trash doesn’t smell so bad because, and I heard this from an Asian girl who I don’t necessarily believe but want to for the sake of the idea, McDonald’s food waste doesn’t decompose quickly at all. I’m making this next part up – I’ll bet it has a half-life of at least a century. Only honey beats that. I heard once that honey is the only food never to go bad. Then somebody told me that same thing about peanut butter. The World is so full of misinformation that probably neither of them are true. But it doesn’t change the fact that this Big City produces Big Smells.
They say that too much of something is never good for you. Live in moderation. New York City is not about moderation. It’s about hyperdensity. It’s about faster, stronger, taller, better. In New York City, too much is never enough.
2. Review Day. Winka Doubeldam’s studio had a review today with Craig Schwitters, a principal at the engineering firm Buro Happold. His appearance got me thinking about the differences between the dress codes for architects and engineers. Can you imagine an engineer looking like this? :
Or an architect looking like this?
Despite the contrast between Winka’s sleek black pants and Craig’s carpenter jeans, Craig was an excellent critic even on the architectural intentions of our projects.
Winka’s insistance that we turn these computer generated gobs into realizable systems is currently the bane of our existence, but what else is architecture but something to be built? Too often in studios students hide behind theory and diagram. What’s refreshing about the New York City program is that the professors actually build things – Winka runs a very successful office whose work is predicated on taking computer generated gobs and infusing them with real-world capabilities. The same is true of Lindy Roy, our theory professor who, unlike other theory professors I know, actually uses her theory to make architecture. It’s not that wordsmiths aren’t valuable, it’s that wordsmithing is too often a disguise for laziness. You know what I mean – that girl or guy who just keeps going on with a diarreah of precidents to postrationalize what he didn’t do. New York City is real-er.
I can smell it.
There’s proof: it’s in the garbage by Banana Republic; it’s in the candles in Soho; it’s in the lilacs in Union Square; it’s in the dog def by Starbucks.
I’ve got a grand idea – let’s chase each other around the neighborhood! That way you can learn a little bit about the area around our studio near Union Square.
First, we disembark from the 6 train. Or the 5 trian. Or the 4 train. Whatever train we got here on, we get off it. And the chase is on!
Up the stairs to Union Square.
Today is Friday and the farmers’ market is in session selling all sorts of tasty treats that have been trucked in from farms and bakeries throughout New York City and Beyond. My favorite: hunks of banana bread from one of the bakery stands. My friends have other favorites, especially a rather delicious variety of apple known as Honeycrisp. These apples are so delectable it’s like eating an apple grown in Heaven! Though I seriously doubt whether they were grown there. (Apples have been banned in Heaven for years. You know the story.)
Ah, you’ve spotted me! I’m next to the Starbucks on the corner of 17th and Union Square West. If you’re hungry we could grab a bite here – there’s Pret a Manger (That’s ‘Ready to Eat!’ in French), a Chipotle, a McDonald’s, a Chop’t. You don’t know about Chop’t Creative Salad? Short for ‘Chop It,’ Chop’t is one of those modern health-crazed fast food joints that specializes in scrumptious salads. You order the ingredients and then they ‘chop it’ all up right before your eyes. How delightful!
Oh. You’re not hungry but you need new clothes? You’re in luck. Just over there, on 5th Ave. there are all sorts of hip places you might like: Banana Republic, Gap, Kenneth Cole, H&M and American Apparel just to name a few.
You’re just hungry for dessert? Next to studio there’s a small basement bakery called Nanas where, if you are lucky enough to be a girl when the brother of the owner is on duty, you can escape with about three times the amount of banana bread, chocolate chip cookies or danishes for the same amount of money as a guy pays. There’s also a cute little Belgian café called Petite Abeille that advertises “Half-priced Belgian beer Monday from noon ‘till close.” The price reduction is worth it, considering many of the beers are normally ten dollars.
You don’t have to decide anything right off. Let me drop my laptop off at studio and then maybe you can chase me down 8th avenue. If we head down there, cut across 13th, then take a left on Greenwhich, there’s A Salt and Battery, this fish and chips outfit run by authentic Brits. It is so delicious that Bobby Flay (of Food Network fame) took note and challenged the owners to a ‘throwdown’ on his Food Network show Throwdown with Bobby Flay, where culinary master Flay pits his skills against successful restaurateurs all across the country.
While you’re at A Salt and Battery, scan the walls to find the scorecard from the throwdown: Bobby Flay lost. You’ll taste why. (Click the link below to see part of the episode.)
You want to come up and see my studio? OK, but be careful. Don’t go running into the building. We don’t want to upset Mr. Grump, the doorman. He’s very nice to most people – I walk in and he’ll be laughing and joking with someone. But not with me. I make it a point to say “Good morning,” to which he says nothing. He just stares in the other direction and doesn’t mouth a word. I find this rude. Maybe you’ll find it endearing.
You’d rather just stay here and work? That’s probably best. We have a review tomorrow. Let’s order something. Basta Pasta is supposed to have great Italian food; my Italian professor from Cornell said so…
Next week: An update on class trips. Masha Panteleyeva’s history class toured the Tenement Museum (Il Laboratorio del Gelato is just across the street), which afforded a glimpse into the unglamorous history of New York City’s residential past. Jill Lerner’s Professional Practice class visited to the architecture offices of Morphosis and Perkins + Will.