Monday, July 31, 2006

On your marks.....


Set. Go. Every morning (and evening), as I approach the subway station I hear those imaginary words in my head. There is the faintest crack of the starter pistol as I bunch up my feet in the customary flip-flops and grip my stilettos as tightly as possible. And then the race is on.
The first leg involves a mad dash down the stairs and some serious diving to be grab the last AM New York. As with all free newspapers, there is pretty much nothing of consequence to be found within the pages of this rag, but free is free. Having completed the first leg, and now precariously balancing my shoes, my coffee, my bagel and my free newspaper, I commence the second leg. This must be done faster and requires significantly more concentration as the general idea is to grab my metrocard between my teeth and swipe it while rushing through the turnstile before someone steals my ride. This is more of an art than anything else, as you have to tilt your body just so to get the right amount of torque for perfect manoeuvreability.
Now the race is half done and the adrenaline kicks in as my goal is in sight. To embark on the third leg, I weave as close to the edge of the stairs as possible and arrive on the platform.This is where I have to cross an obstacle course of screaming kids, exhausted parents headed for work, trendy hipsters heading to bed, anorexic models not quite sure what time it is and prissy uptown girls offended to be there. If I run this leg of the race correctly, then I end up at the front of the platform, on the spot that says 'STAND CLEAR'.
And now the finish line is right there, I taste victory as the train whistles into the station blowing my hair right off my face and clearing the way. I spy my desired spot, an empty seat in the far left corner of the carriage, with an air-conditioning vent strategically placed just above. I employ all the skills of visualisation taught by self-help gurus across the country (Dr Phil owes me big time!) seeing myself at one with that spot in the carriage. As the doors fly open, the road runner has nothing on me! Before you can blink, I have settled myself into the seat. I balance my coffee and bagel on my lap, open the newspaper to the sudoku puzzle and sit back to savour the fruits of my labour. A seat on the 20 minute ride to work.......aaah bliss.

The New York City Subway Marathon...I run it everyday, best way to get the blood pumping.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Whoever said 'Youth is wasted on the young' definitely had me in mind. I'm having such a lazy extra-curricular month, one would be forgiven for thinking it was the middle of winter. But far from it, in actual fact the weather is beautiful at the moment. Not as hot as it was a few days back..just perfect...and yet what am I doing this evening? Cuddling up to a glass of shiraz and the finest Time Warner cable has to offer. No picnics in the park for me. I know in the middle of January, i'll think back to this day and kick myself...but for now, shiraz awaits!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Even my bitterness is having a hard time manifesting in the sweltering summer heat in NYC. I find myself desperately wishing for a is sooooo damn hot!! We're talking about feeling like it is in the 100's...and there is no relief in sight. My landlord hasn't had the apartment rewired yet so there is no AC either, my only solace from the sweltering heat arrives in the form of the hours spent at work. And yet whenevr I start to moan I think of those poor people in Beirut and am grateful that all I have to worry about is the lack of air-conditioning. It really helps you put things in perspective.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Today I'm feeling .....

bitter. I've been using Meshell Ndegeocello's soothing voice to help me through.

I stand ashamed amidst my foolish pride
'Cause for us there'll be no more
For us there'll be no more
And now my eyes look at you bitterly
Bitterly, bitterly

Bitter - Meshell Ndegeocello

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bribery or Tippery

I want to start out by underlining the fact that I am not a cheap person. Matter of fact I'm generous almost to a fault, but at my own discretion.

One of my pet peeves is the US tipping culture. It annoys me because I fail to see how it is any different from slipping someone a backhander or a bribe. I mean, in addition to paying for goods and/or services you are automatically expected to pay a little something extra! Madness I tell you.

Case 1 - Restaurants, I am automatically expected to leave tip regardless of whether the service is good or bad. The rationale behind this is that waiters get really crappy pay and so they live off their tips. I can't stress how much I do not consider this to be my problem. The restaurant owner is essentially passing all of his costs on to me his patron. Surely the onus for ensuring the livelihood of staff should be on the owner as opposed to the patronage. It is outrageous that when I get poor service I still have to tip at least 18%. If I get good service I can then tip more than that. Senseless.

Case 2 - Delivery guys, If I purchase a piece of equipment or furniture I have to pay shipping and delivery costs. When the delivery guy brings it to me at home, I am however also expected to give him an additional tip. He informs me that he only makes money from the tips and doesn't get paid to deliver. Can someone tell me why I have paid delivery costs if I have to pay this guy again??!!

Case 3 - Hairdressers, manicurists etc. These people give me a price list when I come into their establishment. They tell me how much it will cost for them to provide me a service (it is usually extortionate). That however is not sufficient, I am now expected to tip everyone who has played a role in providing that service. The person who washed the hair, the stylist, the manicurists etc. Do I look like I am made of cash? If you feel that your prices are too low, then increase them or whatever, but I need a fixed cost to work with not a moving line depending on how many people you decide to use to provide the service.

Case 4 - Taxidrivers, In addition to paying the fare for my ride I am expected to give a taxidriver a tip. This one irks me big time. If a cabbie picks me up from the airport and therefore has to assist me with loading luggage then I can see where a tip might factor into the equation. If however he drives me 10 blocks down the street while yakking into his cellphone all the way, what exactly am I tipping him for?

Case 5 - Bartenders, I am expected to tip them $1 every time I buy a drink. I find this especially offensive in establishments that choose to charge $15 per drink. I am expected to shoulder all the staffing costs of their employees? Ridiculous.

Now in numerous countries in the developing world, (Naij comes to mind) you generally have to raise people just to get them to do their jobs. I am starting to see significant parallels between both cultures. Bribery and Tippery are blending into one as far as I am concerned. Why bother referring to it as a tip anymore? As much a they like to pretend it is optional/customary, what they really mean is that it is obligatory...Regardless of service levels.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Muffled Silence

The anniversary of 7/7 stilled my pen...or keyboard, to be more accurate. As the hours went by and I had time to reflect on the brutal horrors of that day, the helplessness that was compounded by having an ocean between myself and my beloved city, I still didn't feel the release I needed. The outpouring of grief, remembrance, sorrow or memories. I was unable to find solace, words failed me. Many times, I turned on the computer but my fingers found no rhythm as they hit the keyboard.

Maybe it is because there are no words. There are only feelings, emotions run deep but remain indistinct. They are all blurred together, and I am unable to formulate a coherent sentence to convey what exactly it is that I am feeling. Perhaps it is enough that I do feel. In all the confusion, one thing retains clarity: We miss you, you will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I've always thought of fireworks as magical.
In spite of the stringent efforts of every physics teacher I have ever had and in defiance of common sense, I refuse to believe that there is a mathematical equation behind their beauty and mysticism. It was 4th of July yesterday, and like everyone else in the city at 9pm I headed out to watch the fireworks. I live right by the East River on the Brooklyn side, so heading to the little park on the end of the street was really no big deal. As I stepped out of my apartment building, I had a sense that this must be what the exodus was like. Throngs of people in high spirits, drawn to the waterside for the magic that was about to take place.
The gentrification of my neighbourhood has been steady and extreme, but every year on this day those who used to call it home always return to the spot where several generations of their family have watched the fireworks to keep the traditions going. I am standing next to a white-haired lady named Juanita who tells me that in the old days, they used to have their own concert in the park during the fireworks. They used to dance to the rhythms of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz under the midnight sky as it burst into searing colour. There was no hassle she told me, only jubilation. Everybody here knew each other by first name, so we all danced the night away and let it take out worries with it.
She tells me of how she and her family have been forced to leave the neighbourhood as prices have skyrocketed far beyond their reach. She explains that they are now forced to live in a new environment with new gangs and different rules.
She used to come back and visit often, but everytime she does another familiar face has disappeared. Now she says, there is no point in coming back here, it only fills her with sorrow as she sees the remains of all her yesterdays in tatters. It belongs to them now, she says. She means the rich kids with the $200 hair gel and $1000 distressed t-shirts. They leave Mummy & Daddy on the Upper East Side and move to Williamsburg to live out the illusion of starving artists, all the while driving the cost of real-estate further and further up. In their wake arrive the yuppies and the real estate sharks, development at any cost.
Tonight however, things are different. The air is filled with the sounds of people from all backgrounds singing, dancing and having a good time. Old friends hug each other, it has been a year since they last met and after tonight another year will follow before they meet again. Always on this same spot, always for the same reason. And on this day, all the distinctions in the neighbourhood disappear. Yuppies and Papis stand side by side watch the sky anxiously. All is quiet to avoid breaking the spell. And when the awe inspiring spectacle begins, Juanita whispers in my ear "Magia". I smile at her because the exact thought is running through my mind.
Fireworks are magical.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I haven't posted in ages because I haven't really felt very inspired.

Today, I don't feel inspired, I feel deflated. After England's exit from the World Cup, I'm not really sure what I have to look forward to! Okay, that was somewhat excessively melodramatic. I am pleased to report however that I have been suitably impressed by Superman Returns, in fact it is probably almost enough to banish the horror of X3 from my mind.

I'm still not feeling inspired, I dont really think I have anything to say. This could be because instead of spending my entire day blog surfing, I have actually been working hard for a change. I thought I'd just swing by though to let readers know that all is well in Monefville...just a simple case of "cat got my tongue".