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Number one and number two

Posted on October 3rd, 2007 after 8177 miles by Dean Croshere.

"What's up, one?" asked the man with two teeth. He was pushing a shopping cart loaded with all of his worldly belongings down the middle of the street.

"Not much, two," replied the man with one tooth, "how're you doing today?"

"I'm doing great. I woke up this morning. Can't ever ask for more than that." He sounded sincere.

"That's right. That's right. Live for the moment and savor your breath. Be happy you're here, be happy it's now."

I'm sure two responded, or would have responded, but he was pushing his cart the other way and one was walking the same way I was.

Sometimes listening to the have nots can remind you what you have.

A little further down the street, I heard my favorite song ever.

"I'm not drunk," the drunk man sang, "I'm not drunk, I'm not drunk, Oh I'm not druu-uhh-unk."

Apparently it's best sung while urinating on the sidewalk.

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New York: people are awesome here

Posted on October 4th, 2007 after 8177 miles by Dean Croshere.

A couple days ago I drove into Manhattan, New York. A friend of a friend offered to host me at her apartment on 1st ave and 2nd st aka downtown aka the village. She is a film student at NYU.

I noticed that drivers coming into New York drive like they are trying to intentionally make traffic worse. If they want to change lanes, they will change lanes. If this lane change will cause three other cars to slam on the brakes, screw ‘em, that lane will be changed. Since brakes are the cause of traffic, these impatient Yankees Never mind the fact that with the slightest bit of patience, those lane changes could be made with minimal traffic interference. Outside of the city, patience isn’t a virtue New Yorkers seem to possess. I expected this to be the case inside the city, but I found this to be untrue, by and large. There will be more on that later.

Soon after arriving and greeting my host, her roommate, and her boyfriend (also a film major), we headed to get some Chinese food in China town. This place was utterly delicious and cheap. I tried a bunch of stuff I had never had before and was quite satisfied.

Unfortunately, my host got sick right after we got back to her apartment. Since they were still in school, the other two got back to doing some work. It was really interesting talking to someone who came from an entirely different film program. NYU is rated as one of the top 5 film schools in the nation. I’m pretty sure Pacific is unrated. A few differences I noticed:

1. They shoot film. For nearly every little project they do, they shoot 16mm film. I never shot a frame of film in school, or anywhere else for that matter.

2. They are not nearly as good with Final Cut Pro as we were. This could be seen as the natural progression of the first. Nearly everything we shot (digitally, on tapes we had to pay for), we edited on Final Cut.

3. Their professors sound like uninvolved pricks. Maybe it was just the complaining side of things I got, but I will take the issues I had with my professors over the ones she seemed to have with hers.

4. It seems like we got a far more technical education whereas they got a more practical one.

I noticed something else hanging out with the NYU film students. I had never hung out with film students before. I didn’t get along with my department in school. We just had different ideas of fun, and we certainly didn’t look at film the same way.

In the small kitchen of the Manhattan apartment, there were three Intel Macs set up. Intel Macs have an IR sensor so they can be controlled like a DVD player. A fun little thing with this is that one remote can control as many machines as it can reach.

We spent until literally 5 in the morning (remember, they had class to go to a few hours after that) messing around with the music. We set the three computers to random, and, with the press of a button, we could change the song in perfect synchronicity. After a while we added in my phone’s little built in speaker and an iPod hooked up to a larger speaker system. Then we got more scientific. We started carefully selecting songs that were heavy in different types of noise. For example, we found that using a recorded speech, a light instrumental song, classical, and techno simultaneously turned out the best results.

In the morning, I did my tour with Boxer. I wanted to get some pictures with the dog so I wouldn’t have to worry about it after that. I drove to Central Park first. I really enjoyed the drive, which was doubly surprising since I had expected it to be horrible.

I quickly picked up on the method of driving in the city. The lines on the road are guidelines. Go where you need to go. Everyone drives terribly and they will expect you to drive terribly. There is only one thing that is predictable, people want to get from here to there and don’t want to get in an accident along the way.

Usually when someone gets caught behind a stopped vehicle that has to be driven around, the car in the very back of the line has the most space and is thus able to pull out and step on the gas. This forces the line of cars to invert as people wait for the car behind them to turn out faster than they can and cut them off.

In New York, people are calmly gracious enough to let you pull out and change lanes, likely because they know you are going to pull out anyway and cutting you off will likely lead to an accident, which prevents them from moving forward. This is the exact sort of foresight that is entirely lost on people as they drive into the city on the freeways.

After Central Park, I headed to ground zero. I’m not exactly sure what I expected to find here. There was mostly a bunch of suits walking around between various other buildings in the area. There was a lot of activity going on at the site. They’re building the memorial and starting on the Freedom Tower. While I’m not such a fan of the Freedom tower, I do like the ideas they have for the memorials.

Finally, I planned to take the free Staten Island Ferry to snap some pictures of the Statue of Liberty. This was tough. I wasn’t willing to put Boxer on the railing of the boat and it was otherwise impossible to get pictures taken. I got a nearby passenger to hold the dog up as I snapped some pictures. They aren’t ideal, but I suppose the point gets across.

The next day I left Boxer and my car in a free gravel lot hidden behind a police station that my hosts told me about (it’s on 9th between C and D, if anyone is headed to NY and wants some free safe parking). I headed down to Times Square and wandered about 5th ave. After a while I went and took a nap in central Park listening to a guy playing his sax for money.

I also decided that New York was the place to get my hair cut. It has been a long time since I’ve liked my hair and I figured this was the city to find someone who could remedy that. I like what she did, though I’m not confident it is the best I could have. In any case, she told me about a bar I had to see.

She was right. The 230 5th avenue 22nd floor rooftop bar is right under the Empire State Building. One hell of a view to enjoy while sipping drinks that are roughly double the cost of those anywhere else in the city. I left after one drink, after all, my net worth isn’t describable in terms of net worth. At least, not like the ABC executives that were having a party in a corner of the roof.

I walked back to reasonable prices and hit up some normal people bars. I chilled at “acoustic night” at some bar with some passable solo artists, one of which was distinctly not acoustic. I also hit the bar across the street where I discovered the easiest way to start a conversation in a Manhattan bar. (In retrospect, I should have called rule 8)

“So I’ve noticed that New York beers taste like ass.” I said.

To my defense, they do. Coney Island and… I can’t remember the other one, are terrible beers. I solidly regretted picking them up.

Three guys turned their attention to me after I voiced my opinion. Luckily they were all really cool and no one wanted to kick my ass for the slight against New York. Instead we spent a couple of hours discussing good beers from different places in the country and the good times had in those places drinking the local beers.

In fact, this was my experience everywhere. People love to chat, have a good time and give advice to anyone that will take it. I had more awesome random conversations in New York than anywhere else. My host mentioned that it was likely because people in New York are so used to meeting people that they have lost nearly all fear of making a fool of themselves.

I’m now in Brooklyn staying with a frat brother. I will try to stay a little more on top of these posts.

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Posted on October 5th, 2007 after 8177 miles by Dean Croshere.

What happens when you take a population and shift them into an entirely different location?

Brooklyn is the new place to be for artsy (read: hippie/hipster/etc in denial) types. This leads to an interesting contradiction where everything is covered in graffiti and trash, but the shops are all bike shops, audiophile speaker stors, Pan-asian vegan cuisine restaurants, and the "Rolix" watch street salesmen have been replaced by used book street salesmen. I think this picture of a painted hippie van in front of a spray paint tagged, plywood covered, empty lot is descriptive of the area. I was standing in front of a nice sushi restaurant when I took this picture.

Last night I planned on bar hopping, but I found myself spending most of the night at one place.

The first thing I did was order a cheap beer. I've decided that it is time to cut the costs of a night on the town with cheaper drinks. I was surprised when I got the 32 oz monstrosity pictured here for what I thought was an only slightly over inflated price, (indeed, a price that would fit right in on the other side of the Hudson).

Shortly after I found an interesting group of people that I spent most of the night chatting with. One of the primary subjects of discussion was, "what is iconic about Brooklyn."

There was a claim thrown about that if Brooklyn were its own city, not a boro of New York, it would be the sixth largest city in the US.

It must, then, have something iconic about it. Something that anyone can look at and say, "that is Brooklyn." Chicago has Wrigley and the Sears Tower, St. Louis has the Arch, Portland even has the tram now. The answer I kept getting about Brooklyn was that there were awesome rooftop views of Manhattan.

It is true, there are some great views, but it seems like there should be something more iconic about an area than a view of another area.

"Go to Manhattan and take a picture of Brooklyn," one gentleman jokingly suggested, shortly before buying us all a round.

"Us, here, the people of Brooklyn, we are the iconic thing about Brooklyn." It sounds good while in a Brooklyn bar, but it really is a cop out. A picture of a bunch of cool people in an awesome Brooklyn bar could be a bunch of cool people in any awesome bar.

I guess there really isn't anything iconic about this recently turned artsy suburb. I do really like it though. Something about the entirely unpredictable and unassuming landscape spotted with interesting and kitschy shops appeals to me.

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The Cali Boy Scale

Posted on October 6th, 2007 after 8177 miles by Dean Croshere.

For your entertainment, I will provide the east coast Cali Boy Scale of Interest:

If the phrase "Cali Boy" has been uttered by the female party of interest a certain number of times in a conversation, she is saying:

1 time: I recognize you are from California.

2 times: I recognize that guys from California are attractive.

3 times: I recognize that you are a "Cali Boy."

4 times: ...

5 times: ... !

I'll leave those to the imagination, after all, my grandparents read this.

(more later)

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"Step right up. Mumble. Mumble mumble, freak."

Posted on October 8th, 2007 after 8451 miles by Dean Croshere.

After lounging around for a couple of hours yesterday, I figured it was time to go see something. Brooklyn had to have something interesting, it is New York after all.

While I mentally searched for something to do, the soundtrack for Requiem for a Dream came on. Specifically, the song was “Coney Island Dreaming.”

Oh hey, that’s here, isn’t it?

Before I go into my experience of Coney Island, I should lay out my expectations. I knew it was a beleaguered amusement park that tries to be edgy. I always think of horribly distorted laughing plastic clowns, the most disturbing of “carnies,” and hot dogs that are amazing, i.e. edible. All in all, I expected it to be an entertaining experience in a disturbing subculture.

What I saw was lame.

It was a beautiful, if a little hot, Saturday afternoon. Admittedly, it was late in the season, but such a day should bring people to a permanent carnival for some disturbing fun. At least, this was my expectation.

The place was pretty much deserted. A few of the rides were running, including the big Ferris Wheel that had tracks to allow the cars to move around while going in a circle. Novel, I suppose.

A few of the carnie games and food stands were open. I had already eaten a bite, but I figured a Coney Island hot dog was worth a try. I had two options for dogs. One was Nathan’s, the original Coney Island hot dog place. The other was a video arcade that offered 2 dogs and a soda for $3.

Nathan’s was across the street and the traffic lights never seemed to change, so I went with the video arcade place. Frank’s Fantastic I think it was called.

The dogs were long and slender and not any tastier than any other dogs I’ve eaten. In fact, they were best described as ketchup and mustard delivery vehicles.

I munched on these dogs as I began to wander around the carnie town that was mostly deserted. A carnie ghost town? Sounds like Scooby Doo.

I stopped to watch some guy spend money shooting a game roughly based off of pool. It appeared he had to sink a shot that defied physics. If he did, he would win a Playstation 3. There were some strange rules attached to the game, I’m not sure what they were, but I’m sure they were designed to separate money from fools.

“I’m not lying, the Playstation is right here!” The carnie laid his hand on a not shrink-wrapped black box emblazoned with an image of the expensive game system. “You can go home with this right now.” I’m sure the system itself was hooked up to the carnie’s TV at home. “Now,” the carnie continued, “five will get you six and if you get three on two you can go home with this system!”

The guy forked over some cash. I’m not sure how much, though I’m guessing it was 2, 3, 5, or 6 bucks. I walked on.

Around the corner there was a small group of kids being led in a song by a guitar-wielding guy who’s skin appeared to be almost entirely red. The amount of said skin that could be seen did not make me happy.

The song was something about zoning laws. They repeated the same two verses about 10 times, but I still didn’t understand anything past the words “zoning laws.” I’m sure the kids really cared. After all, I see 8 year olds complaining about zoning laws all the time.

As I wandered around the area, I gave in and decided to try a Nathan's original dog. It was almost exactly the same as the two dogs and a soda place. There certainly no difference in taste and, of course, it was $3 on its own.

After a bit of adventuring, I found the “Cyclone” roller coaster. The Cyclone is ride guaranteed to beat the crap out of you, but be fun enough to be worth it.

It was closed.

I had no desire to ride the slightly enhanced Ferris Wheel, and every other ride was a kiddie ride. There were cars that went in circles on tracks, boats that went in circles on tracks, and horses that went in circles on tracks. There was a free fall ride that looked like it fell about 20 feet. Sounds like a blast, though I’d rather jump off a high dive or rock for free.

Finally I walked by a place telling people to “step right up, step right up.” I gravitated towards the speaker. “Step right up” is the call of the carnie, promising something interesting. By this point I was really hoping to be thrilled. Guess what?

I wasn’t.

I should have expected this. The phrase “Step right up” needs to be said with confidence. It needs to say, “You will come here, you will give me money, and you will be happy that you did.”

Instead, he seemed to be saying, “My boss told me to say this. I’m getting paid minimum wage. My life would be easier if I was a Wal-Mart greeter. I don’t really care if you do this or not.”

It was a shoot the freak booth. A bunch of paintball guns were set up and some guy put on a bunch of paintball armor and slowly moved around holding a trash can lid. People shot the lid. Lame.

The whole Coney Island thing seemed to be lacking confident identity. The place tries to be disturbing and unclean. The target market seems like it should be teenagers and adults that still act like teenagers. “Bump your ass off” does not sound like family fun. Even so, all of the rides at the place were hardly interesting enough to thrill a kid old enough to know what an “ass” is.

The beachfront was nice. I would not shed a tear if the whole place was torn down and turned into a nice suburb of Brooklyn.

On my way back from Coney, I stopped at Prospect Park. There was a really cool arch and fountain thing. I wonder why no one mentioned this as something to take pictures of in Brooklyn. I suppose because it is hardly cared for. I tried to read the plaque describing what it was about, but the plaque was actually a plastic sign that was smeared and falling off the post.

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