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New York Minuet

Dianna has been polluting the discourse on Cementhorizon lately with her tales of sunny Pacific Northwest friendliness. In an effort to clean up the fetid, cheerful mess she has left behind, the bloggy equivalent of a Superfund site littered with good-nature and high-spirits, I present the following tale of an encounter I had this morning in New York City:

It's my last week on the job at The Firm. I'm wrapping up one last project before I leave, writing a chapter for a book The Firm is publishing. This morning I attended an informal meeting with the other interns working on the book. After a brief chat I headed back down the stairs to my office. On the way down I started talking to one of my fellow interns who was at the meeting. I'd never seen her around before, but I'm not super-social so I didn't think too much of it.

She got off on the same floor as me. There aren't a lot of interns on my floor, so this was somewhat unusual. We kept walking.

She works in the office immediately next to mine.

We were still engaged in conversation when we reached our offices. I asked where she goes to school. "Columbia." We had the same professors, took the same classes, and didn't know each other.

The conversation next turned, as it inevitably does in New York City, to housing. "Where do you live?" she asked.


"Oh, I'm on 113th! What's the cross-street?"

"About halfway between Lexington and Lennox."

"Really? That's where I am. I'm in 685."

"...I live in 685 too."

"Get out! What floor are you on?"

"The fifth floor."

"Really?! What apartment number?"


"I'm in 55! We live next door to each other!"

We've been living next door to each other for two years, attend the same school, went to the same classes, and worked for the same law firm in offices that are right next to each other, and I didn't even know who she was until today.

And on top of that, I still don't actually know what her name is. And hopefully she doesn't know mine; there's only so far you can trust people, even co-workers/classmates/buildingmates. In fact, especially co-workers/classmates/buildingmates.

Note: I've changed all the numbers and names above related to my address. Thus, why it won't make sense if you try plugging it into Google Maps.

This Damn City...

New York reached a new low this morning. I arrived around 10 at the 116th St./Columbia University station. I was running way late, but didn't really care. We wrapped up trial last week and, if my attorney was running to form, it would be a while before I got another assignment. As it happened, I was right; noone noticed me slinking in an hour and a half late, and noone got around to giving me work to do today. This is, however beside the point. The point is that I was at the 116th St./Columbia University station around 10 AM, long after the rush hour crowd had passed through.

I arrived shortly after a downtown train had passed, which meant I wouldn't be able to catch another downtown train for at least a few minutes. As is my habit when I've got time to spare on a subway platform, I made my way to the far end of the platform so I could board a less crowded car when the train arrived.

That's when I saw it, around a car-length and a half from the end of the platform. A small pile of poop. Real, honest-to-goodness poop. It was sitting perched about a foot from the edge of the platform, in around the place people stand when waiting for the train, as though it was patiently awaiting the next train's arrival so that it could hop on and take a trip to South Ferry. There were no footprints in it, so either everyone had managed to avoid it during the rush hour or some harried commuter had decided that he couldn't wait until he got to the office and relieved himself on the platform.

So I ask: At long last, New York City, have you no sense of decency? I've tolerated the vague urine smell that permeates the city, the unfortunate byproduct of a populace that treats every upright structure south of the Cloisters like a urinal, but poop? On a subway platform? Really? Have we sunk so low?

The headline for a condo listing currently on Craig's List:

"$349000 Purrfect PIED a TERRE!-Reno'd STUDIO!"

"Oh!" I thought to myself, "A place that'll let me have a cat! Intriguing!"

The first line of the listing:

"Sorry to say: Pets can’t live in this Pristine, Pre-War, elevator building, two blocks from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade."

Wait, what? This strikes me as real estate listing malpractice; you can't use an onomatopoeiac animal noise to advertise a condo with a no-pets policy.

Some other headlines the lister might try in the future:

"Whatcha got cookin' in our beautiful 500 sq. ft studio apartment?"
"You'll love our gorgeous studio apartment in an up-and-coming neighborhood with one bathroom, no kitchen."

"The convenience of downtown Manhattan in the comfort of Queens!"
"This lovely house is only a quick 45 minute walk and 3 hour train ride from midtown Manhattan!"

"Finally! An Upper-East Side apartment you can afford!"
"Rent starts at $24,000/month."

This strikes me as a really poor marketing strategy. Signalling Pet Friendly in your headline attracts people who want an apartment that allows pets and repulses people who want a pet-free environment. The people who want to live in a no-pets condo won't read your listing, and the people who want pets will read your listing, get annoyed, and write disgruntled blog posts.

This is silly. It's like naming a street Park Avenue that never touches any parks. OH WAIT.

"Wunderbar" is German for "Wonder Bar"

I am about to leave Lake Tahoe to fly back to New York City early tomorrow morning.  And what should I find as I briefly check the local news before shutting down the laptop?  <a href="">Somebody attacked a passenger on the subway with a pair of portable power saws</a>.  I should clarify: The attack did not just occur on the subway; the attack occured at the 110th Street/Cathedral Parkway station.  That would be the closest subway station to my home, the station where I board the train every morning to go to work and where I get off each evening on the way home.  Granted, the attack happened at 3:30 in the morning.  I seldom commute that early.  Still, it looks like the attacker just snagged some power saws from a nearby trackwork crew and went to town on an elderly postal employee as the stunned construction workers looked on.  It looks, in fact, as though nobody did a thing to stop him and he would have gotten away had he not gotten punchy a few hours later up on the street. 

I submit that this is not a welcoming news story to hear as you are about to return home. 

Architectural Malpractice

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Let me start by describing my building, broadly. The floor plan of my building is like a big H shape. The horizontal line in the middle of the H is the hallway. Each floor has five apartments, one shooting off on each prong of the H's vertical legs, plus one small one in the middle of the horizontal line. The elevator shaft and stairwell face the small apartment. Anyhow, my apartment, like the other big ones, is long and narrow. We're on the bottom-left prong of the H, for reference. We have windows on both sides. On the north side the windows face into the hole at the bottom of the H, on the south side they face the apperture between the buildings on our street and the backs of the buildings on 112th St.

So this is all to say: No matter where you go in my apartment, there's a window facing out on a wall of more windows. Half the rooms face toward the backs of the 112th St. apartments, the other half face the the apartments on the bottom-right prong of the H.

Let me re-emphasize a point: Every room here has a window. Every room. That includes, but is not limited to, the bathroom, which has a nice big window placed conveniently right over the bathtub/shower. The glass is fogged, but when the weather gets hot in the summer you've a choice between being muggy and hot in the bathroom or allowing airflow at the cost of your shame.

Lately I've noticed that at least one of the girls who lives in the apartment on the bottom-right of the H one floor up likes to take showers at night. With the window open. The window opening directly on the shower that looks straight down into my kitchen.

This puts me in a bit of a spot. I like to use my kitchen. At the same time, I don't want her to glance out the window and see me there staring, looking as though I've staked out a watchpost to oggle.

I blame whoever designed the building, or at least whoever did the interior layout. Why would you put huge windows right over the long end of a bath in an apartment facing a wall of other apartments? Especially, as in the case of my shower, where, given a choice between a half of the wall hanging over nothing and a half hanging over the shower, they elected to put the window over the shower (or the shower under the window, whatever).

I suppose, though, the whole thing is another incentive to get in shape for the summer.


Yeesh. Power failures left the Roosevelt Island Trams, along with all of their passengers, dangling over the East River last night. The trams weren't started again; the passengers had to be rescued via gondola. This is another very good reason not to take the Roosevelt Island Tram. The other major reason not to take it is because if you do, you end up on Roosevelt Island.

Well, not really, but nonetheless: It's snowing, on April 5, which is well past the Statute of Limitations for Snow, particularly in light of last week's consistent mid-to-high 60s weather. This lends further evidence to my theory that the weather is determined by my suit-wearing schedule. The weather always takes a turn for the worse just when I need to go out in nice clothes, as tonight when I'll be making Moot Court oral arguments. My theory is that this will stop as soon as I buy a trenchcoat to protect my suit from unauthorized aquatic intrusion.

Anyhow, Moot Court orals tonight. Wheeeee. Oral Arguments entale presenting the case I made in my various moot court briefs before a panel of three Celebrity Guest Judges (Columbia Law alumni). The trick is that it's not just a speech; it's a back-and-forth with the judges. You talk and they can interrupt at any time to ask questions. It is, I have heard, a fifteen minute grilling in which you are judged on how well you respond to their questions and how much of your actual argument you can squeeze in between interruptions. Moreover, there is the master-servant social dichotomy; judges are permitted to interrupt you at any time, to talk over you, whatever. You are required to listen quietly until the judge is done. You're expected to treat the judges with respect and decorum. Judges are under no such obligation with respect to you, and in fact see it as part of the game of Moot Court to try to anger you into a misstep, be it through giving you a hard time, justified or not, about your arguments or through a more generalized disrespect.

I don't mind this per se; the social dichotomy is a reproduction of actual dealings with judges. What's annoying is that Moot Court judges apparently feel a positive obligation to take this to the extreme. One frequent Columbia Moot Court judge introduces himself by saying, "Hello, my name is _______, and I'm here to make your life hell for the next fifteen minutes."

So that's what I'll be doing this evening. Being berated by judges in my soggy suit. I have to say that, at this point, taking certain people's suggestion of interpreting this as Mute Court and delivering my oral arguments in mime is highly tempting. But how do you mime "Authorization to access a wireless network?"

I got a letter today from the New York State DMV informing me that there had been a mistake in the fee they charged for my Non-Driver's ID. Apparently the DMV misinterpreted a fee increase to apply to me when it didn't, so they charged me $10 when they should have charged $5.

The letter, from, I stress, the DMV, was to inform me of this error and to tell me that I would shortly be receiving another letter from the DMV containing my $5 refund.

I'm glad they did this. Getting a $5 check in the mail might have been too much for me. It's nice that they provided this buffer. "Okay, just so there are no surprises, there's going to be a check coming from us. It'll be for $5. Just don't wig our or anything when it arrives."

I'm a bit disappointed, though, to have gotten the shocking news of the refund all at once. I think it might have been best to start with an e-mail. "This is the New York State DMV. This is to inform you that there is some business we need to transact. Further bulletins are forth-coming." That way, you know, I wouldn't be shocked to get a letter from the DMV. As it stands, there's no telling how I could have reacted to seeing that envelope. I did fine this time, but in the future, who knows?

They might also have softened me up with some further letters. "This is to let you know that an error has occurred. Further correspondence will detail the substance and nature of this error." "The error alluded to in the prior letter concerns your non-driver's ID. Further information about this error will be sent promptly." "The error with your non-driver's ID concerns the matter of payment. We will keep you informed as events develop." "The error in payment for your non-driver's ID involved your over-paying. The amount of over-pay will be detailed in the next letter." Only then would I be prepared for the shocking revelations that awaited me in my mailbox today.

So, let this be a warning to fellow New Yorkers: If you have a heart condition, or are otherwise easily frightened, beware letters from the DMV! There's no telling what they might tell you, without a moment's concern for whether you have received adequate warning!

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