Call Me English

A little corner of the world where I talk about what I want.

Archive for the ‘Life in New York’ Category

Not in my backyard…

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One wonderful highlight of January 1, 2017 was the opening of the long awaited Second Avenue Subway, as finally, after the better part of a century, a second subway line has come to the east side of Manhattan.

The MTA really did an excellent job despite years of noise, construction, blasting, and hassle. The stations are spacious and clean, quiet and bright, and the art in each of them is classy, memorable, and evokes feelings about New York.

So I was really deeply disappointed to read opinions online from some in the area complaining about noise and vibration from the new stations, noise and vibrations that we have not heard or felt here DIRECTLY ABOVE the line. I’m terribly sorry that despite the $4.4 billion price tag, engineers were unable to defy the laws of physics and make a silent train. It’s this sort of NIMBY indignation that explains why we had to wait so long for decent transit in this part of the city. People should be grateful that their commutes are likely going to get easier or shorter. There’s no way that anything they may be hearing or feeling can possibly be worse than what they put up with for years during the excavation and construction.

Whiny brats.

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Written by Dave

January 2, 2017 at 22:50

President Trump

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I really don’t even know what to say. I scrapped much longer remarks expecting a wholly different result tonight.

The truth is I am absolutely terrified. I have never been so terrified in my entire life, and I want nothing more than to leave this retrograde country as quickly as possible, a dangerous country that could somehow put a reality TV bully with cartoonishly poor impulse control in charge of a nuclear arsenal on a platform of hating people who are different simply because “at least he’s not a corrupt insider.” Are this rage and this vile bigotry really who we are as a people?

There is no place for me, for my partner, or for my family in a country as hateful as this one.

When your home tells you it doesn’t want you anymore, what other way is there to feel than like less of a human being?

I have never been more thankful for my Canadian citizenship than I am right now. All I learned tonight is that America was never great.

Written by Dave

November 9, 2016 at 02:39

September 11

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I can’t believe fifteen years have gone by since that day, since the deadliest and costliest single terrorist attack of its kind on non-military targets in the history of the world, since cowardly and murderous heretics decided senseless chaos and indiscriminate killing were the only ways to redemption. I can’t believe people born after the attack are in high school now. I can’t believe there are people voting in this upcoming election, where we are still dealing with the divisive ramifications of terrorism and national security, who may be too young to remember when this event even happened.

And I know many probably mean well when they brandish the flag and loudly tell us all to “never forget.” In reality, though, what almost all people saying “never forget” need to do is… STOP.

Stop saying “never forget.”

If you are not an actual victim of this attack, if you are not the relative or friend or colleague of someone who is or was a victim of this attack, if you didn’t spend hours or days after the attack struggling to make contact with everyone you knew from the four fateful flights or from the New York or Washington areas where these murders actually occurred to be certain everyone was accounted for, please stop saying “never forget.”

You have nothing to forget.

Those this profound tragedy directly touched would like nothing more than to forget, and yet how could they ever?

Everyone in the world with access to media on September 11, 2001 shared the experience of watching with utter confusion after the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, impacted the North Tower.

“Oh, no. That looks awful. Maybe a news helicopter lost control or something.”

Everyone in the world stood and screamed and swore aloud when they saw the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175 – a nearly fully fueled Boeing 767-200 aircraft with registration number N612UA, hurtling over Staten Island and plowing into the façade of the South Tower at nearly 600 miles per hour (950 km/h).

That initial dose of almost cinematic dystopia, along with perhaps giving blood to help victims that never emerged from the rubble, digging out an old American flag to display out front, and being glued to cable news coverage for the next year, two years, fifteen years… that’s about where the shared elements of this event end.

Answering the question of “Where were you when you first found out about the attacks?” with a sheepish “I had just finished wrecking the toilet at the Starbucks in the strip mall down the street from my house” eternally disqualifies you from telling anyone never to forget. The best thing someone like that can do is keep quiet. Keep quiet and step aside and allow those whose lives really were permanently altered by this crime to do the best they can to get through this day for one more year.

The last thing the surviving victims, families, friends, and colleagues need is to be reminded of the senseless, violent, and painful manner in which their loved ones died. The last thing they need is to be bombarded on traditional media and social media with 9/11 specials and 9/11 retrospectives and, perhaps tackiest and most heartbreaking of all, 9/11 sales. (Shame on that former mattress store in Texas for ever even considering such a thing. I hope the responsible parties never earn another dollar.) Why can’t people express their respect for the losses of others by giving them space? Why can’t people honor a terrible day by doing something other than making it about themselves?

The September 11 attacks weren’t perpetrated against the suburbs or against middle America or against capitalism or against “our freedom.” They were committed against visible symbols of American hegemony abroad by the brainwashed followers of a morally bankrupt group of lunatics who wanted nothing more than to get the attention of our government. It was never meant to be a rallying cry for those who’d been longing to score political points against “others” for decades.

There is no need to say “never forget” because how could anyone involved ever forget? I just wish the people who’ve been shouting “never forget” for the last fifteen years could say with confidence that they have ever learned.

Written by Dave

September 11, 2016 at 12:35

Independence Day

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I can’t make any apologies for the fact that real life has gotten in the way, as I knew it would, over the last several weeks and prevented me from posting in this space with the frequency I always intend. As much as I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts, real life and work must come first.

And it’s not like the news has been silent during this time. Everywhere you look, it’s been one deadly terrorist attack after another, one political gaffe after another, and Brexit, the dreadfully misguided and xenophobic “Dear John” letter from the United Kingdom to the rest of the European Union that pissed on the world economy for no reason and proved for posterity that dimwitted, uninformed voters aren’t just confined to one country.

So where’s the positive in any of this? How can we take an occasion like the Fourth of July when people in this country like to dress in the colors of Old Glory and loudly proclaim how great America is and how if you don’t like it, you can get out?

The way to do it, the way to get past negative news of any kind, is to focus on the society we live in, the cities, countries, and planet we call home as merely works in progress. This is a world and a life that, naturally, will be filled with steps forward and steps back, but no steps back can undo the fact that time goes on and we all have much to celebrate and much to fix.

Our world is a work in progress, and WE are the ones expected to deliver the results. However, we must be doing something right because immigrants have over the centuries and even to the current day risked their lives and livelihoods to make better existences for themselves and their families in countries of opportunity and liberty like this one.

I always think of “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus’s 1883 sonnet to raise money for the construction of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and now inscribed forever within it:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

Life in New York: Walking

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When you live in a city where you likely pay thousands upon thousands (or even millions upon millions) of dollars for the mere privilege of living in a tiny, dank apartment with a view of a brick wall, a gaggle of loud neighbors, and no washer or dryer, you have to find a way to spot deals when there is one out there to be spotted.

One of the last great deals left in New York is also one of the most convenient and most interesting forms of exercise you can engage in: walking! This is a walking city. It has always been a walking city. Even before the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which laid the egalitarian and perhaps rigid street grid plan onto most of Manhattan, New York was a city best enjoyed on foot.

It is not simply a process of elimination that makes the city so much fun to walk. It is not because driving in the city is an anxiety-fuelled nightmare. It is not because commuting by subway, bus, or taxi is some dystopian combination of crowded, slow, and smelly. What makes walking through New York rewarding and fun is the same thing that makes any city worth visiting or living in: its people and its neighborhoods.

There should be no surprise when I say that the people-watching here is without parallel, but when you combine it with the fact that neighborhoods change color and flavor every few blocks, you wind up with an entertaining and different walking experience every time you go out… and I can’t stress how important that is for me. If exercise feels like a repetitive chore, I won’t do it. I won’t want to get off my butt on the weekend, no matter how nice the weather may be outside, if what I get is the same every time.

We have really begun to get back into the swing of going on long walks to different parts of the city and think about planning the next walk before the one we’re on is even done. And this is not just on weekends, either. As with a lot of other things in life, results are what matter… and we’ve got them. In the month of May alone, we have walked more than 100 miles (160 km).

Not too bad!

Written by Dave

May 29, 2016 at 23:45