Monday, October 29, 2007

Murder Inc and Starbucks

Just read an interesting article. A new starbucks in the Park Sheraton Hotel's lobby on West 57th Street once held a barber shop in which the mobster, Albert Anastasia, was shot and killed.
"You think people care?" says one barista, out on a smoke break and checking her Sidekick, and who, as per company policy, would not give her name. "That was 50 years ago. Trust me. They just want their coffee and they want to get on their way."
Do people really not care? I think it would be cool to walk into a place and find out all sorts of random information about the place. It could be on a plaque or some kind of historical booklet available to patrons. In NY, almost every place has a history and sometimes a macrabre past. I kind want to go look at those floors now, but I would have been more interested if the place were still a barber shop.

New Job

Last week I started a new job. I definitely think it's going to be a great, but right now, I'm trying to figure out a new role, a new company, new coworkers, new processes and new work hours. It's a lot to take on and on top of all of that, the new hours impact my personal life and I'm trying to adjust to that and determine my priorities. Like, when am I going to blog? And, what about all of the things I read online?

I can say, however, that I'm glad that I left my last job and am working for a place that values the intelligence of its employees. I work with incredibly smart people.

Now I'm off to read NYT, check my reader, pay some bills, clean up, watch TV and relax for a bit before going to bed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Meet Me at the Automat

Horn and Hardart Automats were the original fast food. Slip a nickel or more into a coin slot, turn the nob and help yourself to velvety mac and cheese, fluffy mashed potatoes, creamed spinach or delicious pies, all of which were made to high-standards. Every morning, company VIPs tasted forkfuls of food, throwing out and not serving items that didn't meet the standards.

Oh my God, the coffee! Horn and Hardart introduced drip coffee to the North (Mr. Hardart was from New Orleans, where coffee was brewed by the French-drip method). The rest of the country boiled coffee!

Once there were more than 50 Automats in New York. Every single one of them is gone. It had its heyday from the 1920s through the late 1950s. What happened? Things changed in America after WWII, with people moving away from cities and to suburbs, and it went downhill from there. Horn and Hardart closed its last Automat in 1991.

So why am I interested in Automats? Maybe I was taken into one as a kid. They were still around, albeit in decline, when I lived here in NY. Maybe I passed them by and was fascinated by their signs and art deco architecture. I know I must have seen them or at least their artifacts; I certainly walked by where they were growing up. Maybe it's because I watched a lot of oldies growing up and have forever been obsessed with the earlier part of the 20th century. I know I saw "That Touch of Mink" plenty of times. That's really what I remember about the Automat, Doris Day peeking through the tiny vending window to speak to Audrey Meadows, who's working in the cafeteria. I remember being completely taken by the Automat scenes in the film and peppering my grandma with questions about them.


Growing up in Florida, I was under the impression that the Automats were long gone and I was incredibly disappointed to hear that the last remaining Automat at 42nd and 3rd ave closed in 1991. My fascination, however, did not go away. In 2003, the Museum of the City of New York had an exhibit of Automat photos, memorabilia, fixtures and stories. I got to hear first hand from folks who ate there regularly. To hear them speak... gosh, the men and women I spoke to truly missed the Automat, missed the food, the equality of the place (tables were shared so you'd get all kinds, musicians, businessmen, working class, poor, everyone ate there), the magic of the vending machines, the magic of the "nickel throwers," women who made changing dollars into nickels an art form. Without looking at the coins, they would give you the exact amount somehow. It is legendary. I cried hearing their stories . And I wasn't the only person crying. It was unbelievable, the yearning, the nostalgia, the good feelings. It felt like stories from my own past. My nostalgia for the Automat took on new life. Last year, I started collecting Automat memorabilia. Then, I wanted to know, where were they here in New York? Have I been in a building that was a former Automat? Can I find these buildings now?

That's when I got an idea.

The Plan. See how many former Horn & Hardart automat locations still exist and if any are reconizable as such. By locations I mean buildings, not interiors. If any original exterior facades exist, I'd be shocked. If an interior existed, then I somehow time traveled.

The Research. First I'm starting with google and I have already done a lot of work. I already own and have read "The Automat," by Lorraine Diehl and Marianne Hardart. I have an automat directory from the 1940s which lists all of the cafeteria locations. I'm going to walk around Manhattan and see what I can find. I'm going to pull up old photos of the exterior of Automats. I also will go to the library and review their collection, delving into microfiche if need be.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tori!


I went to see Tori Amos tonight and she was AWESOME! I thought I would be in the fifth row but I actually was in the second. That's the closest I have ever sat to the stage in a concert.

Tori came out, wearing a yellow dress and latex pants and kneeled doggy-style on the bench, her rear to the crowd. Everybody went wild and then she busted out singing. Just fantastic!

I was sitting to the left of her piano, which faces the right, allowing me to actually see her play. I've always been too far back to see her hands.

After her set, I rushed the stage (with many others, not just me!) and watched her encores from there.

I wasn't expecting this concert to be so great! She totally rocked it!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Whack: Craigslist's Trophy Post

This morning, I read about a woman who posted on Craigslist looking to marry a rich man and a response from a male reader that followed.

WTF on so many levels.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Girl, blow out that match!

The stupidity of my company requires me to print out a form and have
it signed by a director to complete a help desk ticket submitted
online. My direct boss is not a director so I had to take this trivial
request to his boss, the C Fucking O of the company.

I walked in. It's his opportunity to ask me about my decision to leave
the company. He looked giddy with joy. I told him about the new job,
what I'll be doing. "Sounds like a lot of work." He smiled the entire
time. I never could tell what was on this man's mind, he's as dry as
they come. But I bet he's glad to see me go considering he all but
shut me out of any opportunity for advancement. I stood there and
remembered when I sat at his desk, a year ago this month, as he made
it clear that I would not even be considered for the managerial
position left vacant by my boss, despite my seven years of experience
and stellar performance reviews.

I was tempted to be sarcastic. I was also tempted to be passive-
aggressive. I was tempted to tell him the truth about why I was
leaving. Instead, I thought about how much I didn't want to burn my
bridges. The truth, while it would feel good to yell out, won't change
the past or the state of the company. Besides, you never know who you
will work for or who will work for you. So I smiled, said I was
looking forward to the creativity and challenge offered by my new job
and that I've enjoyed my time at this company.

The last part was a lie. Oh well. I can live with that.


Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Onslaught

A new commercial from Dove that I think is pretty powerful:



Last week, I went to my dermatologist for a follow up visit. I've been seeing her about clearing up a bout of acne. In a moment of spontaneity, I decided to Botox my frown lines, the ones between my eyebrows (known as the "elevens" for the vertical lines they create) and the horizontal line at the ridge of my nose. The injections were painless and over the course of a week, my ability to create these lines lessened and now that area is very smooth. I look rejuvenated. I look great.

But why did I do it? I'm not apologizing for getting this done and the reasons are varied, contradicting and complex so I want to write about it here instead of throwing out the "because I felt like it" answer. What are some of the reasons behind my choice?

I did it because I wanted to try it and view it as a temporary, relatively benign cosmetic procedure. I just started to develop a faint crease on the ridge of my nose and Botox can prevent that line from getting deeper. If you can't make the line, that wrinkle can't get any worse. I did it because this little line is an indication of getting older. I like hearing from strangers that they think I'm 27. I like their surprise when I tell them I'm 34. I value looking younger than I really am. I'm scared of getting and looking older, of becoming invisible.

I did it because I like gadgets, new technology, cutting edge shit. It's crazy to get a toxin injected, to paralyze your face to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. I love the show, Dr. 90210. I confess that I wanted to experience that world, to do something that people with means can afford to do, that's outrageous and extravagant and totally unnecessary. I still feel a thrill thinking that I got my face Botoxed! Just like those crazy rich people and celebrities! I'm having a lot of fun with it. One of my favorite facial expressions is an arched brow and I could barely do it, my entire face had to scrunch to get my right eyebrow to raise a tiny bit, and the effect was one of goofiness instead of wit and elegance. Now, I can isolate my right brow and raise it! Whee!

I did it because no matter how much I say that it doesn't matter what you look like, I know it really does. I know I'm considered to be a pretty gal. I know this is valued by my family and my culture. I know that for a woman, being pretty is a source of power. While I try and not let myself be defined by an external standard of beauty, I want to be considered beautiful. I won't go to any length to obtain it, but I'll exercise, buy nice clothes, wear makeup, moisturize, wax, and now inject my forehead with a toxin for it.

I did it because while I never feel thin enough at least I have a pretty face. After years of thinking I was ugly, I started to realize in my mid-twenties that I was pretty. I don't want to lose that. Not yet.

How does it fit into my feminist point of view? Tough question. There's a conflict here between cultural standards of beauty, personal choices and feminist beliefs. I believe that I do examine the beauty mandate and my own rituals. I understand how the patriarchy affects my decisions and behaviors. Even though I'm a smart woman, I am still susceptible to its messages. How much of my decision is based on my own standards of beauty? How much of it is influenced by cultural messages? And doesn't one influence the other?