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Three Days of a Hundred Years of Darkness: Hurricane Sandy and 12 Months of Nothingness

One year ago today, 8.5 million people in the New York City area were without heat or power as Hurricane Sandy blasted the soft middle of our lives — thrusting us backward a hundred years behind a wall of water into at least three days of cold and darkness:

Monday night, at 11:00 pm sharp in Jersey City, New Jersey, the lights went out and stayed off until last night at 7:43pm.  That’s three days without power or heat.  Hurricane Sandy was a massively nasty beast, and we’re just now starting the recovery process.  We are hungry and scavenging for food.  Supermarkets are closed.  Few places have power.

For many of those directly touched by the floodwater a year ago, life has yet to return to normal, and many will never recover the good lives they once had before the storm; and that is a clear failure of the government safety net and the lack of any sort of real social fabric that meshes us together.  The King has no clothes, and we don’t, either!

When it is better, and more profitable, to cut and run and abandon than it is to stay and rebuild and recover — we all have a problem.

Continue reading → Three Days of a Hundred Years of Darkness: Hurricane Sandy and 12 Months of Nothingness

Chasing Cobblestones: Underfoot and Smothered in Asphalt in the Jersey City Heights

When I was on my recent Red Squares walking tour of Jersey City, I happened upon some street construction that gave me a chance for an aesthetic and professional mulligan: Exposed cobblestones on their way to disappearing again for three decades!

I whipped out my new iPhone 5S and awkwardly began taking photographs to make up for a previously lost opportunity articulated here in a comments stream from two months ago:

I did not take photos of the cobblestones! Gah! I was always mesmerized by them and felt such sadness that the beauty would soon be covered up. I’ll have to look for another street in the area to document! …

Our cobblestones were like square granite bricks and they were put in the street end down — creating a long-lasting, and deep stone that would never wear away. …

I only know the cobblestones here are so massive because I tried to dig one out to keep! I couldn’t do it. Too massive. Too heavy. Too deeply seated in 1600 soil! …

They just covered up the old cobblestones again. They’ll be hidden for the next 30 years until they re-pave it all again.

Here we go!  Caught, in situ, exposed cobblestones half-dead under hot, new, asphalt — and a burning morning sun — but now also half-alive for forever and a half-life, exposed, and memorialized here in this article!

Continue reading → Chasing Cobblestones: Underfoot and Smothered in Asphalt in the Jersey City Heights

On the Jersey City Heights Streets with the iPhone 5S Camera and Red Squares on Abandoned Buildings

With the arrival of our new iPhone 5S smartphones, Janna and I have been delighting in the new technology.  I can’t believe how lightweight the 5S is compared to my old clunker of a 4s.  Weight makes a mighty difference in the tote along tone and temperature of your day.

Here’s a caveat about the iPhone 5S camera:  When you shoot in bright sunlight — as I did on September 26, 2013 — you cannot see the screen, and you are basically taking blind photographs.  You rely on your iPhone to focus and try to frame what you’re hoping the camera is seeing.

There is also a new “slider set” of features on the  iOS 7 iPhone camera — “square” and “pano” and “video” and such — that, if you are not careful in your screen blindness, can change the way your iPhone shoots and frames the images.  Yesterday, my fingers tended to slide and select things on the new camera that I had no idea were being activated.

I like tall photographs for blog images, but some of the shots you’ll see here are the new “square” feature that I had no idea was a feature until I got home and saw the infuriating results.  I did not crop any of these images. With the iPhone 5S camera, it’s “live to live again!”

Here’s the first image taken with my iPhone 5S.  It’s a view of the Empire State Building in New York City and I am standing in Riverview Park.

Continue reading → On the Jersey City Heights Streets with the iPhone 5S Camera and Red Squares on Abandoned Buildings

Vienna: Day One, Part One

We slept like kings!  We slept so well that the hassles of the previous night were temporarily forgotten, and we showered and took ourselves down to breakfast.

We went to reception to inquire about breakfast and the internet — not really having been in a fit state to do so the night before. Breakfast starts at a whopping 19 Euros for a continental breakfast and goes up to 28 Euros for the full Monty.  Internet usage is 35 Euros a day.  They could, however, offer us a daily package of 35 Euros per room to cover both. PHEW!  We thought we had better check on car parking while we were talking EXPENSE — 25 Euros a day !

We could take our breakfast outside, which we chose to do.  PANIC — where is my camera?  I want to photograph this. Mr P goes to the car and I check the room — then we do it in reverse to make sure the other has not missed it .  Still no camera!  Mr P suggests it might have been left at reception after the debacle the previous night.

We asked, they checked, and bingo — there was my camera!   I was able to give make and model, identify and name other objects in the camera case and, phew, I had it back.

Continue reading → Vienna: Day One, Part One

The Thousand Dollar Sausage Biscuit with Egg: McDonald’s and the Urban Warfare Economy

If you ever want to know the impending weather, or the political forecast, or how a community is feeling at a precise instant in time — spend a few minutes in your local McDonald’s, and you’ll instantly know if it’s going to rain that day, or if there’s rage on the street, and you’ll learn how neighbors feel about each other.

During one recent stint in the McDonald’s coffee queue, I witnessed a Jersey City municipal worker, a restaurant regular, who walked in and pointed to the current special on the menu board — two Sausage Biscuit with Egg sandwiches for $3.00 USD — and he said he wanted four of them, but only the sausage and the egg part, for a grand total of $6.00 USD out the door.

Not so fast!

Continue reading → The Thousand Dollar Sausage Biscuit with Egg: McDonald’s and the Urban Warfare Economy

The Misery and Heartbreak of Trying to Buy an FHA-Approved Condo in New York City and Jersey City

Over the past couple of weeks, Janna and I were given a hardcore beatdown in the housing market as we tried to figure out how, when, and where to finally buy our first home in Jersey City or New York City.  We quickly found that an FHA loan — a Federally-sponsored mortgage program where you only have to put down 3.5% of the purchase price instead of the standard 20% — is but a dip in the yonder horizon:  A great idea in theory, but an impossible dream in reality.

The 2008 housing crash ruined everything for the first-time home buyer.  Nobody trusts anybody now.  Everybody’s playing an angle.  Everyone wants a quick and fast and dirty deal and nobody wants to deal with the red tape the FHA loans now require.

As one of Janna’s Black co-workers told her, “An FHA mortgage means to sellers and brokers that you’re Black and can’t afford a real down payment.  They don’t want to deal with that.  Try again later when you have more cash for 20% down.”

Continue reading → The Misery and Heartbreak of Trying to Buy an FHA-Approved Condo in New York City and Jersey City

A Death in the Village

On Janna’s way to work this morning, she snapped this image with her iPhone and emailed it to me.  She’s done that in the past with a copper moon, and a Steve Jobs memorial, but these flowers, and this mourning this morning was different.

This shrine was filled with hurt and rage and you can find it all right now at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the corner of West 8th Street and the Avenue of the Americas; for this is the spot where Mark Carson, a 32-year-old Gay man, was gunned down a few days ago — shot in the face by an impromptu stalker just for being who he was — and so the latest Greenwich Village New York City hate crime is now on the police blotter, written in blood on a public sidewalk.

Continue reading → A Death in the Village