Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Is New York "over?" (Part 2)

Jersey City Across the Hudson
Originally uploaded by Richard-.
Part 1 can be found here.

It often seems to me that the typical New Yorker is never satisfied. No matter how well off they have it, and despite living in what is (to me at least) the greatest city in the world, their complaints are legion.

One of the ways this perpetual dissatisfaction manifests itself is in the state of the neighborhoods residents live in or once lived in. The long-ago metamorphosis of Soho is one prime example. The typical scenario goes something like this:

Young urbanite finds that s/he is priced out of a "desirable" area of Manhattan--or later, even Manhattan itself.

A few brave souls, often artists, decide to explore "uncharted territory." Many decades ago, artists began moving into formerly industrial areas such as SoHo. The area was dark and unwelcoming, with virtually no residential amenities.

After the artists had given it their stamp of approval, others became drawn to the now-hip ambiance of the area. Soho became a mecca of the new arts scene, and restaurants and bars sprung up to accomodate the residents and myriad tourists who came to visit what had become a charming enclave.

Soho's main drag, West Broadway, soon became clogged with retail outlets. My friend D used to say everything was a "gallery"--a clothing gallery, a shoe gallery, a jewelry gallery.

Eventually the area became too expensive for all but the most successful artists, and the more monied non-artists who could afford to bask in their reflected glory. The main art scene and the biggest storefront galleries such as Mary Boone moved from Soho to Chelsea, and other struggling artists looked elsewhere for sufficient space and light to live and work in.

BG, who first came to the city in the summer of "69, often reminisces about how accessible and affordable Manhattan used to be. After returning from his periodic "sabbaticals" at his brother's or parent's places in Louisiana or Wisconsin, he could get off the bus and within an hour or so be set up in a cheap hotel. The per day rate at the Bowery flophouse BG used to frequent when he was too poor to get an apartment is now too steep for him to ever return to. The place has been renovated and harbors, in part, tourists who are looking for cheap accomodations, since a typical Manhattan hotel can run into hundreds a day.

So as Manhattan became out of bounds for artists and the hipsters who followed them, Brooklyn started to become the next big thing. Park Slope, which as I recall used to be rather dangerous, is now chiefly home to yuppie families with young children.

As I mentioned in Part 1, Williamsburg, Brooklyn--once an enclave for the ethnic poor and Orthodox Jews--became a true hippster enclave within a few years' time. Artists began to discover it, and soon young people looking for cheap rents followed. At first, the new residents had to endure the same lack of amenities and crime as the old-timers in the area. But when things started to take off, businesses sprung up to accomodate the culture and lifestyle of the mostly young white new residents. Bars, restaurants, and other necessities of bourgeois New York life began to emerge rapidly.

As neighborhood rents inevitably started to rise, would-be hipsters ventured further into the depths of Williamsburg, starting the whole cycle again. The irony was that those who came there to experience the grittiness of a semi-gentrified area often started to complain that the rapid commercial growth of the area had leeched all the original "character" from it. Though these folks' presence was the primary reason for this change, they complained bitterly that the Williamsburb scene was officially "over."

A recent NY Times piece called The Duel Over Cool illustrates the insecurity of nouveau outer-borough residents. Deep in the heart and soul of most New Yorkers is an enduring envy of Manhattan, and so they must always compensate by declaring their neighborhood to be as good, or better than the city's epicenter. This piece described the rivalry between residents of Long Island City in Queens and Williamsburg over which is the most happening place to live.

When I was in the process of putting my Lower East Side coop up for sale, I eagerly scanned all the real estate websites and blogs I could find. One of the best is Curbed. Updated several times daily, Curbed is the place to learn about real estate and housing trends all over the city. It is here, in the comments section, that one can find the snarky, even downright nasty, grumblings and feuds of the perpetually dissatisfied and/or insecure New Yorker. Here readers guess the asking price of overpriced Manhattan coops while declaring that only an idiot would pay those prices, especially when the housing slowdown hit. Some will praise their neighborhood as the best there is, while others will quickly counter that that area sucks for one reason or another. Things can get downright vicious on the hot comment threads at Curbed.

Recently, Curbed had a short blurb called "The Half-Life of a Trendy Neighborhood," which linked to an audacious article in New York Magazine entitled "If You Lived Here, You’d Be Cool by Now," which started off like this:

"Hot Neighborhood Entropy
Red Hook? Already over. Lower East Side? It’s hot—no, wait, it’s not. No, wait, it is again! The life span of a trendy neighborhood used to be measured in decades. Now it might not last long enough for you to make the subway ride out there."

The jist of the article was that gentrification had accelerated so rapidly that a neighborhood could go from hellhole to cool to "over" in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, the author claimed that Jersey City, which seemed to be showing signs of rapid gentrification, would become the next hot thing--despite the fact that it wasn't even part of New York City.

This provocative post set off an avalanche of comments at Curbed, with various folks sounding off on what neighborhood was cool and not cool. The comment string is well worth a look, but here are a few typical examples:

"The real estate boom and rags like NYMag have created the impression that you can take any poor non-white neighborhood, sprinkle in a few artists, add a yoga studio and a "brunch place" and blammo - the next cool neighborhood! It used to be (I THINK, anyway) that artists and musicians moved to a neighborhood because it was cheap and they wanted to create their own scene, and it was only later that the cool vultures came. Now people think they can make it all happen at once. But I guess the definition of what's "cool" has changed too - turn your lifestyle into a brand, etc."

"Greenpoint and Astoria aren't on that graph, so that dude doesn't know what he's talking about. I think those two neighborhoods trump the South Bronx (SoBro? fck you) as far as the h*pster thing goes."

"new york magazine is for recent transplants and brief reading at the gyno office. by transplants, i mean nonnative new yorkers (not necessarily from the midwest)."

Even though as a typical New Yorker, I can sometimes be under the delusion that the rest of the country is nothing but an arid "wasteland" of cookie-cutter suburbs, I know that other urban areas around the country have seen the same trend emerge. It's just that as with everything else about New York, the trends seem to emerge earlier and be more spectacular in scope than elsewhere.

As for me, I'm moving from Manhattan to the Bronx--in all it's semi-pre-gentrified glory.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The untamed

The untamed
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
BG says he painted this when he had a wicked hangover. In any case, it was loosely based on a photo from a book I brought home from the library with all sorts of cool black and whites of mainly Brit pop wonders of the 60s. This bunch was called The Untamed.

BG's version bares only a passing resemblance to the original. To me, it is BG's version of Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon>--with varying degress of abstraction and representation intertwined. BG says it is a family portrait of sorts--with him in the middle and his siblings at his side.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Banned by BlogExplosion!!!

Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2006 22:08:18 +0100
Subject: Blog denied at Blog Explosion -- Profanity in title
From: "BlogExplosion" Add to Address Book Add Mobile Alert

Upon reviewing your blog we have to deny it because there is profanity
in the title of your blog. If you still want to be a member you will
need to change the title of your blog and re-submit for approval.

Site reviewed:
Shithouse rat

BlogExplosion Team

Seems as BlogExplosion doesn't want me on their "team." Hmmm...think I should change the name of my blog? I don't THINK so...

I joined BlogExplosion quite awhile ago, but hardly ever visited or utilized it. I decided to take another gander at it the other day, and found that though I was still registered, my blog was no longer listed. I assumed it was because I'd been absent from the site for so long, and resubmitted it. The result was this e-mail.

I've heard that they've switched owners, so I suppose this is why I'm no longer welcome. Could it be owned by born again Christians, I wonder? I felt rather outraged at first--I am not a fan of censorship, to say the least--but that's the way it goes...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Poe's Christmas bells

Poe cottage, Bronx, NY
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
"Hear the sledges with the bells -
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells."

From "The Bells," Edgar Allen Poe, 1849

Eight years ago, my boyfriend BG left Manhattan for a small studio apartment in the Bronx. Being a tad on the paranoid side, he does not like to keep all his windows wide open, and the apartment can get rather dark. However, the one room in the place with a great view is the bathroom, and the window is left unshaded for the entertainment of BG's cat, who can observe the pigeons who love to vex her from the safety of the outside windowsill. Here, the sun streams in all day, and looking out one can see some of the buildings of Fordam University in the distance-- including, I believe, the spires of its church. Since most buildings here are no higher than six stories, I've often remarked to BG that looking out the window and seeing the low rooftops makes me feel like I might be in a garret in Paris.

Near BG's apartment lies Poe Park. Within it sits Poe Cottage, where Edgar Allen Poe lived from 1846-1849. Poe moved there with his ailing wife in an attempt to escape the crowded city for the then-bucolic atmosphere and fresh air of the Bronx.

During these years, one of the poems Poe composed was "The Bells." In 1845 the University Church--located within what is now known as Fordham University--was constructed. It is possible that the chiming of these church bells inspired this famous poem. At least, I like to think so.

I believe it was last Christmas when I first heard the bells that I assume were originating from Fordham's church--it seemed as if the University had decided to bring them back into play. In addition to chiming the hour, they pealed out the Star Spangled Banner and Christmas songs. I thought about the fact that in the days before everyone had a Rolex or even a humble Timex, the church bells might have been the only way for the common man to keep track of the hours.

So on this Christmas day, it seems appropriate to hear the chiming of the church bells through the window of BG's humble abode, and to feel the spirit of Poe still present, somehow, from his former humble cottage down the road.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Portrait of the Artist as Jean-Michel Basquiat

Doesn't look much like Basquiat, nor exactly like BG either--it's more of a "BG disguised as Basquiat, if he could also have facial surgery" kinda thing.

Actually, I think of it as an artistic version of the "Vulcan mind meld."

What say you?

A very Jewish Christmas

Scots Pine in the Snow.jpg
Originally uploaded by OpenEye.
Question: What do you get a Jewish woman for Christmas?

Answer: Real estate.

I have received the best Christmas/Chanukkah gift ever: my freedom.

My ex-boyfriend L and I went into contract--we found a buyer for the co-op we co-own.

We will split the proceeds (minus the 25 odd percent for various and sundry flip taxes, brokers' fees, lawyers' fees, closing costs, ad nauseum) and each get our own apt. I'll be moving very close to BG's--you should excuse the expression--'crib' in the Bronx. L will move to Queens or the Bronx, probably.

I know the complex I want to get into, and it should be a cinch. I am meeting on the 8th with a management company guy I'd met there years before when I was browsing. He has a one bedroom, 750 square feet, river view ready to show me. Ah, life is good...

In any case, in the spirit of that most noble of all American traditions--namely, "regifting"--I've gone back a year in the Shithouse archives, taken an old Christmas post, brushed it off, polished it up, and resubmitted it on Blogcritics.

That's not the fake bonsai, btw--it's a real one. Gorgeous, no?

I've had some intriguing comments so far. If you're of a mind, come visit and put in your two cents.

Friday, December 22, 2006

My hubby Herman

Coming of age in the '70s, I always strived to be boho. At college I was the belated hippie chick while some others favored the Farrah Faucet Do or the Saturday Night Fever thing going on. Some loved disco; I eschewed it in favor of Phil Manzanera, Led Zep, Fripp, Eno, blah blah blah.

As a result of my iconoclastic ways, I didn't really want to get married and have kids. Not because I didn't want a lifetime relationship, but the paper and the vows seemed meaningless to me; the ceremony cliched and contrived; the wedding reception tacky and gauche. All in all, it seemed like a jinx.

And I knew, even before I knew I was really crazy, that just as I never dared take acid, not even once, I couldn't handle children. Besides, I had a bad childhood and don't trust kids much.

I was with L for 20 years; I've been with BG (though living with L) for eight. No need to marry that I can see--though L and I co-own the coop, which means we split the proceeds from our upcoming sale. .

But back to me and BG. Both of us are blantant cheaters. BG's reat "wife" is his black Halloween spoiled pricess of a cat. Mine is Herman, my Apple Powerbook.

Herman has seduced me away from BG time and again. There is a whole Universe of Herman BG hasn't a clue about, technophobe that he is. Ours is a discreet and civilized affair, though, totally open and above-board.

In any case, there's lots I could say about Herman, but this will have to do for now:

Herman and I have a real relationship, complete with power struggles and expectations.

I am like the spoiled girlfriend who is used to her guy doing her bidding in the blink of an eye. Herman gets exhausted from trying to please 24/7 and develops a glitch or two every now and again. This throws spoiled ungratgeful bitch into a tailspin,first cursing boy-toy's ass, then groveling at his feet begging him to give it up again.

Sometimes Herman is like a powerful, addictive drug. I can let my life pass by, the seasons melt away one by one, with hardly an upward glance away from him. Sometimes the stimulation is too much, and I have to shut him down for awhile.

Just thought I'd share that. Anyone else with a cyber ball and chain?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Touched by the hand of Gawker!

Hand of God
Originally uploaded by larukucafe.
I believe it was in the wee hours of Tuesday morning when I awoke and turned on Herman, my trusty Mac, to check for e-mails and such.

For some unknown reason, I decided to check my Sitemeter first thing.

At first, I thought there must be some mistake, for I found an incredible number of hits (for me anyway) had amassed within the last 24 hours.

Checking my "referral" link, I quickly discovered that my sudden avalanche of new visits had amassed thanks to a one-liner inGawker:

"New York may be over...but we're sure as hell not going to Jersey Fucking city. (Shithouse rat)."

The result of this one little sentence was, I think, over 2000 hits in two days' time. Small change to some, but to say it was unprecedented for me is the biggest understatement possible.

I guess it's the 21st century equivalent of Warhol's "15 minutes of fame."

When I first started blogging, I tried in my own pathetic way to get more visitors to my site. I occasionally submitted to blog carnivals, for instance, but such strategies resulted in no more than a mini-blip in my stats. I briefly tried BlogClicker and BlogExplosion, but only for a day or so--though perhaps I should have perservered.

In my early blogger days, I was also puzzled by the sheer popularity and "power" of the mega blogs--particularly the ones which amass daily links (usually with at least a modicum of clever commentary) from around the blogosphere. But when I was trying to sell my coop and turned to Curbed--which provides links to various NYC real estate/housing/neighborhood blogs and sites--I saw for myself how valuable such a resource could be, and why folks would come back to it again and again. With millions of blogs out there being updated on a daily basis or more, there's just so much research one can do on one's own when one is obsessed with a topic such as real estate, or media, or gossip, or celebrity gaffes, or gadgets.

Now that the hubbub has subsided, I'm pretty much back to my super-pathetic number of daily hits. But it was fun while it lasted.

Although this was a fluke, I heartily recommend that bloggers install a hit counter if they don't have one. If you are not getting many comments, it can help you see who has visited so you can go there and drop a comment and get some interaction going. Registering with Technorati can also help you keep track of anyone who has linked to you.

Not that it's made me a blogger of note, but at least with my Site Meter in tow I was able to see that I got linked to an uber-blog rather than being completely oblivious to the whole "phenomenon." Thanks, Gawker, for bestowing your grace upon me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Is New York "over"?

After graduating from college on the New York suburb of Long Island in 1979, I returned to New York City and got an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with my then-boyfriend. Every now and again I'd make the trip down to the Lower East Side to visit my aunt and uncle, who had raised me after my parents died when I was 15. Though I took the subway there, by the time I left it was dark and my aunt insisted that I take the bus across the street rather than walk to the subway. They'd watch anxiously from the window to make sure I was ok as I waited for the crosstown bus that would first take me to 14th Street and 1st Avenue, where I'd transfer to the second bus that would transport me on the long but pleasant ride back home to the East 80's.

At the time, my aunt had a subscription to New York magazine, which came out weekly. She'd save up the old issues and present the bundle to me when I came to visit, along with jars of homemade chicken soup, to take home to my cramped one-bedroom fifth floor walkup. From perusing the magazines and observing the street scene on the bus, I learned a lot about how neighborhoods can change over the years--in a gradual but inexorable metamorphosis from seedy to trendy to unaffordable.

Manhattan was a somewhat different city back then. Though the "hellhole" days of Manhattan (think "Taxi Driver" or "Midnight Cowboy") and the concomitant dirt-cheap rents had started to wane, by the time the '80s hit it was still possible to emerge fresh out of college and get an apartment in the city. And indeed, the Upper East Side (or the far East side of it at any rate) was a kind of ghetto for young singles back in the day. It was reasonably safe, and had all the city amenities I craved--bars, restaurants, bookstores, and all-night delis where you could grab the Sunday Times on Saturday night on your way back from dinner or a neighborhood movie.

The Lower East Side, however, was a different story. It seemed to have been suspended in time, its roots as the starting point for countless 19th and early 20th century European immigrants still very much apparent with its ancient tenements and unhip demeanor. To me, the Lower East Side didn't even seem to be part of Manhattan at all, but a dowdy enclave where many working and middle class predominantly Jewish families, my aunt and uncle included, had settled in the big apartment complexes on Grand Street that offered affordable coop living. But after dark, when the local shops closed, if one ventured down the nearby tenement side streets, your only purpose (or so it seemed at the time) would have been to risk life and limb to buy drugs.

There were numerous other Manhattan areas that were still "sketchy" as well. In those days, the Bowery was still "The Bowery"--complete with winos and flophouses. No one was doing real estate speculation in Harlem. Alphabet City--the southeasternmost stretch of the "East Village" that ran from Avenues A through D--was still largely a "no-man's land" to the more monied class.

When the Manhattan housing boom began in earnest and once crumbling areas became desirable, the scope of its course took some folks by surprise. But there are a certain subset of New Yorkers--especially the New York magazine reading contingent--who are forever searching for the next big thing, months or even years before others catch on, whether it be the hottest new restaurant or the next big neighborhood. And if one had the wherewithal to invest in real estate, this foresight would pay off richly in the decades to come. Unfortunately, it would also mean that many poor and even middle class residents would be pushed out, little by little.

Meanwhile, on my periodic sojourns home on the Avenue A crosstown bus, I began to see gradual signs of my aunt's Lower East Side 'hood's inevitable transformation. Avenue A in the adjoining East Village had already become safer and more "accessible," especially after Tompkin's Square--the local park--had been cleaned out by the city and totally renovated. Previously a site where homeless would literally set up camp, it was transformed into a kid and family friendly space. The same had been done with other parks including Union Square--which now hosts a thriving farmer's market several days a week and has a tony outdoor cafe-- and Bryant Park, which went from druggie hellhole to a midtown oasis with cafe tables and chairs for lunching and relaxing, films in the summer and host to runway shows during New York Fashion Week.

In any case, the trendy ambiance of the East Village eventually traveled further south til it finally landed in the Lower East Side proper. More and more neon bar signs glowed and beckoned as my bus traversed Essex Street which transformed into Avenue A at Houston. At some tipping point, bars, boutiques and restaurants sprung up like mushrooms on the once-desolate adjoining streets as well, til young people from all over turned the area into a bona fide party space. Along with this came rapidly rising rents, and those who could not afford a space alone might double or triple up with like minded young hipsters so they could afford to live in the center of the action.

Eventually, as neighborhood after neighborhood in Manhattan gentrified and became more and more unaffordable to the average resident, the outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island) gradually experienced their own renaissance. As a result, most of Brooklyn can now be almost as pricey as Manhattan, with amenities to match. Queens, for many years considered an unhip Archie-Bunkerland, started to develop hip enclaves as well. The boundaries of well-heeled--or at least more "desirable"-- New York living had extended to the adjoining boroughs of the city in earnest.

Perhaps the biggest shocker was when the press started reporting on development in the South Bronx (nicknamed SoBro by real estate brokers). In the 70s, the area was a national symbol for the most extreme urban blight. But the combination of significantly lower crime citywide, an infusion of funds to improve parks and other amenities in all five boroughs, and real estate mania had finally started to hit one of the most unlikely of neighborhoods.

To be honest though, SoBro--as well as most of the Bronx with the exception of the perpetually tony enclave of Riverdale to the north-- is still pretty much "Wild West" territory to many New Yorkers who can afford not to live there. But whenever I now visited my boyfriend BG--who lived in Manhattan for decades but moved to the Northwest Bronx over eight years ago--I began to witness subtle yet gradual changes as the months and years went by.

The day BG was shown the apartment, the first thing the super told him was: "I'm not a policeman. If you have trouble, don't call me. Call the police." BG's soon to be new abode had a second entrance which led out into a back hall/stairway which was basically used as a fire exit. When the super showed it to him, there were chunks of tobacco and cigar stubs strewn all over--remnants from the spliffs that local kids used to create, I believe, mammoth joints, or perhaps pot mixed with crack.

Not long after he moved there, BG opened his front door and found blood smeared all over the floor in front of his apartment, with more in the elevator. Loud and boisterous weekend revelry on the street below used to be the norm--when his brother visited he liked to say come Saturday night that it was "getting real Bronx." The parks were not particularly well-tended, and folks would routinely park their SUV's on the street in front of them and turn the volume on their radio to 11 for a kind of urban version of a rowdy tailgate party.

Still and all, it didn't seem that much different to me than the Lower East Side of yore, and I felt pretty safe on the streets, all things considered. And over the next several years, as the real estate market continued to jump upwards in leaps and bounds, I saw a 'hood that already had a lot going for it become even more so.

Increased police presence had something to do with it, as did a fresh influx of funding from the city. Though there were few coops in the area, the one development that I had had my eye on for years has now doubled in price, though it's still dirt cheap by New York standards. The local parks are being revamped, and the nearby Kingsbridge Armory is at long last poised for commercial development after sitting almost vacant for years on end. Work is underway to develop the waterfront, and the old Yankee Stadium is being replaced with a new one (though for the life of me I can't quite see why). BG's building, now under new ownership, has become harder for interlopers to use as a drug den. And the streets are now almost eerily quiet on the weekends.

In addition, this part of the northern Bronx was pretty darn fancy long ago. After the IRT subway system expanded to include access from Manhattan to the Bronx in the early decades of the 20th century, a lot of people who wanted to escape the cramped tenements of Manhattan, including the Lower East Side, moved here, and builders took the opportunity to create buildings that had amenities which were novel at the time. All up and down the Grand Concourse--designed after Paris' Champs Elysees and called at the time, I believe, the Park Avenue of the Bronx--elegant buildings, many with elaborate art deco features, were built to accomodate the Manhattan refugees.

As a result, this now "economically challenged" area still has pre-war buildings in good condition, rife for conversion to coops. But already the ugly side of "progress" has become apparent, as some ruthless real estate investors are trying to force old tenants of a few buildings out by any means necessary.

In any case, the Bronx is still far from "hip," but I see it headed in the inexorable direction of eventual gentrification, for better and worse. And as soon as I get the money for the sale of the LES coop which I co-own with my ex-boyfriend in my desperate, grasping hands, I plan to get a place near BG in the coop development I've coveted for years.

Though still the ultimate "promised land" for millions, Manhattan has become increasingly unaffordable and even bourgeois over the past several decades. Though it suddenly became hip to live in other boroughs, the intitial "pioneers" selected only some parts, starting with the areas closest to Manhattan and gradually moving further "inland" as rents climbed upward. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a great case in point, and New York magazine did a brilliant, snarky piece about its rapid development awhile back. The author rode the entire route of the L train in Williamsburg, noting that the hipster contingent was slowly making its way further and further into the wilds of the borough. He used a legend with cute little illustrations to note the transformation of each area, with the first stop having all the hipster accoutrements-- yoga studios, wine shops, bars, sushi joints, soy milk, New York Times, lattes, and bakeries--while the newer, "sketchier" areas had fewer.

Since I've been trying to sell my apartment for the past several months, I was elated when New York magazine published some pieces on the allure of the Lower East Side and the real estate "bargains" to be had on Grand Street.

But this past week, New York magazine has again come out with a rather outrageously ingenious article, claiming that the hipness factor has accelerated so quickly that now the upcoming "scene" is no longer even within the city proper. In a word, they have proclaimed that Jersey City--which is part of the neighboring state of New Jersey, of course--is poised to be the next annointed neighborhood.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blog recycling is a beautiful thing

'Tis the season to go crazy trying to live up to the feel-good expectations of the holidays. With this in mind, I've reposted a Christmas piece I did here last year to Blogcritics called "The Holidays: Is That All There Is?"

On Monday I see my shrink and have to deal with this dilemma: upping my Effexor seems to be helping me, but it's messing with my eyesight somewhat. I don't want to go back into total couch potato/nonwriting mode again, so I'm a little apprehensive. Dealing with antidepressants can sometimes be downright depressing.

I think we've finally got a deal going with selling the coop. Since real estate has been my obsession--or even more so than usual--for the last several months, I have a post pending on it. Not my first by any means, so I want to go back and make sure I'm not being too redundant. It appears that the bursting of the "housing bubble" hasn't really affected Manhattan much. Wall Streeters just got record bonuses, and brokers are frothing at the mouth at all the potential sales that might result.

Despite my holiday cynicism, I wish everyone a great holiday season!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Confessions of a former comment nazi

Nazis Not Welcome
Originally uploaded by bdunnette.
Hey guys, thanks for the comments on commenting. It's very ironic that in my "heyday" I was like a comment nazi--my feeling was, as Jack's Shack said, that if someone took the time to comment, responding was the least I could do. In the past, I sometimes found myself feeling "jilted" if someone didn't respond to my comment. It felt like I'd initiated a conversation and the other person just gave me a blank stare and walked away.

In fact, I got so obsessed with the issue that I remember doing a number of posts on it with names like "A final comment on commenters's comments on comments" or something like that. In fact, things go so out of hand that I wrote a comment to a blogger who seemed to be ignoring "legitimate" comments (like mine, of course) in favor of endlessly bantering back and forth with one of her pals in IM fashion.

The result of this comment of mine was an apology post from her on her blog. Coincidentally, the commenter pal (Satan) decided to go on vacation right after this and not tell anyone. Instead, he just (literally) said "fuck you" to his loyal readers and went his merry way for several weeks--his idea of a grand joke, I guess. As a result, some of his regular fans thought I'd alienated him. The result was a comment flame war with Squid--one of Satan's ardent fans--claiming that I "broke Satan."

We bantered back and forth here, exchanging insult for insult, and to tell you the truth it was the most fun I could have had with my clothes on. Here's one representative comment from Squid, who lovingly nicknamed me "Elvirus":

"But alas, my dear I've vested too much time into you and your tunnel-visionist mindset. Your pathetic attempts to bag on my lack of comments on my blog does not hurt me, for I am not a stat whore unlike you. I REALLY could care less if anyone visits my blog. Anytime you want, you can suck a fart out of my ass."

And you know something? He was right. In those days I was trying like hell to get more traffic to my site, and became a self-admitted "blog pimp" and "comment whore" to boot. But it did make for good blogging material--I really milked the shit out of it for awhile.

Most likely, it was my raging hypomania speaking, but I couldn't seem to leave the comment issue alone during September of '05, writing post after post about it. When people are in a manic state, they tend to be full of themselves, self-righeous, opinionated, and generally asshole-ish.

Well, my karma caught up with me, and the result is that I eventually turned into one of those bloggers I criticized so vehemently before. Squid and I came to a truce. And Satan abandoned his blog many moons ago.

In any case, I truly believe that receiving and responding to comments can greatly enhance a post. I guess the prob is that I'm just now crawling out of my shell and don't quite have the energy I had back in the day.

But if I really want to get back into the true Shithouse spirit, I should try to get back into the fray if I can. I truly do enjoy it. But I don't want to be like the bad old Elvira who somehow didn't seem to be able to "live and let live."

Anyway, thanks guys! And Ice--you are, as always, one of a kind.

My next post will not be about comments.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blogging, commenting, life, the universe, and everything

Blogging For Gaijin
Originally uploaded by Robert Sanzalone.
Well, I don't want to jinx it, but my blogging slump may actually be coming to an end, at least for now. It may be chiefly due to an up in my Effexor meds. For those who don't take psych meds, it may be hard to understand, but having the right mix of seratonin and all those other feel good brain chemicals can make the difference between laying passively on the couch for months on end and actually having the will and enthusiasm to write and live life, whatever that may mean. Not to mention that when those chemicals go way out of whack the result can be hospitalization and all that other fun stuff I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Or if mania strikes, one may find oneself doing outrageous and deeply regrettable things, though it may feel good at the time.

I so love the comments I've received in the last few posts and beyond. I was debating whether to go back and answer them all individually which is what I used to do routinely. I would never want anyone to get the impression that I'm rude or ungrateful.

But even in my blogging heyday, sometimes I'd fall behind in my commenting and wondered if a reply to a comment late in the game was just absurd.

So I'm debating whether it would be more efficient and make more sense to just go to a commenter's blog and leave a comment there instead. Though I used to do both, but as I say it can become a quagmire of sorts.

In any case, I am very very grateful for any and all comments, and will try to reciprocate in one way or another if I can.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Evolution of a portrait

Johnny Winter first draft
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
Ah, technology. I've always been interested in how the creative process expresses itself--sometimes even without the conscious will of the creator. I'm sure many creative types know what I mean when I talk about that feeling after stumbling upon a completed work you hadn't looked at in a while, and saying to yourself: "How the hell did I do that?"

Anyway, in the spirit of Deconstructionism, Postmodernism, and all other things both holy and profane,, here's the three main stages of BG's (aka Clyde's) construction of this painting.

I've had the pleasure to witness many such metamorphoses since having met Clyde. There's times when I think his earlier "drafts" are just as compelling--if not more so--than the final finished product.

But I do think the tthree versions make for a nice series, or as Francis Bacon might have put it, Studies toward a Portraitt of Johnny Winter.

Which one do you think says it best?

Johnny Winter draft 2

Johnny Winter draft 2
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.

Johnny Winter Verision 3 final

Washington Square Park, NYC, 1957

I'm just testing to see if Flickr will download my photos. So here's a photo taken by my father a month after I was born of Washington Square Park, where beatnicks gathered (and still do).

Yep, another not-quite post.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Prelude to a real blog post

As some of you know, my postings for lo these many months have been few and far between. I can blame this chiefly on my bipolar disorder (how convenient!) because when I get depressed or even semi-depressed the first thing that goes out the window is my writing. This time, it wasn't a psychotic depression complete with hospitalizations and shock treatments, but more of a twilight zone of apathy and listlessness.

Three things happened recently that give me hope that the hiatus may be over: I started to get out more, I began the process of selling my coop, and my shrink upped my Effexor. Gradually, things that I used to dread doing have become easier. I was forced to be proactive as far as prepping the coop is concerned, and developed an obsession with real estate blogs and sites which are tracking the crazy market we are in now. And I think the extra touch of Effexor may be helping, though I had to lower the new dose two times since it is causing dry eyes and blurry vision.

I used to love to add a photo to each of my posts, but Flickr is not letting me do that now for some odd reason, so my posts will be pretty naked until I figure out how to fix the problem. I've also noticed that a fair number of recent commenters have been folks with something to sell on their blogs. However, unlike traditional spammers, they actually read the blog and make intelligent comments. I think this is cool--if I had a blog like that I would do the same.

I've had a bunch of ideas that I've jotted down in my beat-up notebook during my down period, so I will most likely be blogging about such things as NYC's subway beggars, how I've learned how to get out of the way of my own ego when it comes to writing and recognition, and of course my adventures in real estate.

I've met some incredible people since I began blogging, and it has served to renew my faith in humankind. A few days ago, I had the great pleasure of coming across one of the true superstars of the blogosphere--fellow New York Jew/baby-boomer Pia Savage of Courting Destiny. If you haven't heard of her I encourage you to check her out. She is one of the top rated bloggers and for good reason.

For any art lovers out there, I also want to give a shout-out to my good blogpal BC. Her paintings are awesome and well worth a look. As far as my boyfriend BG's stuff, which I've sometimes highlighted on these pages, I've just started a Flickr page for him as well, but have to flesh it out some. These two artists couldn't be more different--BC specializes mainly in gorgeous abstracts and nature-based compositions, while BG is a representational expressionist--meaning that the subjects of all his portraits look suicidal, pissed off, and/or insane.

Since I've also been sadly remiss in visiting my old blogpals' sites, I hope to start catching up soon. It's disheartening to note that some sites are no more--some have even been highjacked by spamblogs. I need to update my blogroll, as some folks have changed their URL and there are others I should add.

In any case, with any luck I'll start posting more regularly, for what it's worth.