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Earthquakes Explained (by a Californian)

the chess tablesKevin FarleyChess continues at Tompkins Square Park despite yesterday’s earthquake.

When I was growing up in California, earthquakes were kind of fun. You got to hide under your desk or in your doorway, and whether you were in sixth or second grade your teacher always freaked out and rushed outside to the baseball field without providing any instruction to the kids.

The feeling of a southern California earthquake was unmistakable; it rattled the house and shook you with quick jolts. My sister and I would drop to the ground to feel the earth move, because we knew the sweet and powerful force would not last long. I loved earthquakes – their unpredictability, their distaste for shelves, and their short lifespan prevented me from getting bored. My mother used to tell me that earthquakes were the same feeling as riding the subway, which is maybe why I moved here (she was wrong). Read more…

The Cost of Living

white linesMichelle Rick

If you don’t live here in the East Village, you all naturally assume that we collectively get up around 10:30 a.m., rearrange our dreadlocks, drink coffee while sitting on a fire escape, admire the worn painted ads on the sides of our buildings, and then begin our long day of dance auditions before our bartending gigs start at 5 p.m.

You imagine that our clothes are beautifully tie-dyed and that our jewelry looks like we sprinkled a Tibetan souvenir shop onto ourselves. You picture us writing poetry on a bed of leaves in Tompkins Square Park, only raising our heads to drink wheatgrass smoothies. You are not wrong about any of this, and we are ALL like this.

However, it has recently come to my attention that real estate in the East Village is incredibly expensive.

Expensive to the point where if a group of roommates were to live in a two-bedroom apartment overlooking Pommes Frites and live the lifestyle described above, said group would need to be about 10 people to afford this kind of East Village abode, and that is not including the upkeep of dreads.
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All Brunched Out

Hairless Khala Dog Outside Westville, East VillageShawn HokeA Hairless Khala dog stands outside the Westville East — one of the locations where Sarah Shanfield has violently tripped while indulging her brunch habit.

It came on quickly.

I didn’t know I was addicted; I thought I just had a lot of friends. There was that birthday “Kegs & Eggs” celebration for my roommate’s coworker. There was that friend from home that only had a few hours until her return plane ride and desperately wanted to go dine at 11 a.m. at the Boathouse Cafe, “like Carrie Bradshaw!”

And then there was that day I woke up and there happened to be five people sleeping on the floor of my apartment, and the only way to get rid of them was to promise them really good pancakes at the cute little place around the corner.

It’s a sad story, but soon after I moved here, I became addicted to brunch.

I ate so many brunches that I began to choke when I had a piece of fruit that wasn’t drizzled in lemongrass-infused balsamic honey. Friends would joke that my blood was actually just Bloody Mary mix, but after violently tripping on the outdoor tables at Westville East I realized it wasn’t Bloody Mary mix, it was just straight celery juice running through my veins.
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Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Graduate

Woo!Peter Boothe

A few weeks ago, NYU seniors from Avenue D to West Fourth Street washed their greasy hair and used their parents’ credit cards to buy something nice-looking for the penultimate of college events — graduation. For what seemed like way too many days I stood in line behind glossy moms in white ankle pants at H&M, mingled with round, red-faced Dads on the F train, and dodged double decker tour buses barreling through my streets, working overtime to accommodate all of the neglected aunts and uncles.

I wanted to run and hide, not because I was jealous of all the checks being picked up by parents at Mercadito, nor because those parents then gave their little graduates some “beer money” before they stepped into a cab to retire to their Times Square hotel. Not even because I’m scared of other people’s grandmas (which I am).

No, I wanted to get the hell out of the East Village during those days because from what I could see, all parties involved with the occasion seemed extremely unhappy and unhopeful, both for their own futures and for the futures of everyone around them. Yes, even commencement speaker Bill Clinton.

It reminded me of the misery of my own college graduation. My Dad cried, which I thought was sweet, but my mother assured me he was having a reaction to looking at his bank account. Last week, when I saw a silver-haired man in a Pebble Beach baseball cap painfully clutching the brunch menu while waiting in a throng of other silver-haired men outside of Peels, I assumed it was a similar situation.
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I ♥ Bicycles

blue bike brown paper bagMario Ramirez

The bicycle is such a decorous, ingenious, quiet machine, it’s a shame it has become a politicized one as well. But when you see somebody on a bike with a placard attached to it which reads A QUIET PROTEST AGAINST OIL, you know Politicization has arrived. (On First Avenue, in this case.)

Beautiful and ingenious as the bicycle may be, the human body is even more beautiful and ingenious, at least until the age of 60, and especially below the age of 30. And let’s not forget one important thing. As a pedestrian, I also fall into the category of partaking in A QUIET PROTEST AGAINST OIL, unless I’m in a cab. I just don’t have a sign, or a T-shirt, with which to make this fact plain. But I’m going to get one. It’s going to be a quiet protest against other, equally quiet protests.
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Boss Rat

ratpoison_0573aTim Milk

Just a few years ago, in the face of a widespread rodent infestation, a concerned citizen offered the suggestion that New York would do well to appoint a “Rat Czar.” City Hall firmly said no. The idea was, indeed, preposterous. Especially when you consider that the rats themselves had already filled that position.

The Rat Czar is, by all accounts, a shadowy figure, whereabouts unknown. My calls were not returned directly. But the Czar’s own Lieutenant of the East Village, a rat of great cunning, agreed to speak on condition of anonymity:

“I apologize for the security precautions,” he said as we sat down, “but you see, someone is trying to poison me.”

“Oh, how awful,” I exclaimed. “Any idea who’s behind it?”

“No,” he huffed. “It was but a single, cowardly act.”
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This Jaybird You Can’t Change

legsMichelle RickFree as a bird (not the article’s author).

I am an educated person who can read and write. I can also see perfectly well. I should know, therefore, that when there is a giant red hand flashing at me from across the street, I should probably stay on the curb instead of walking out into the oncoming traffic. But I don’t remember learning as a child that crossing the street only when the white symbol for walking-human was illuminated was essential to societal orderliness. I was always just told to hold hands.

Lacking this educational background, I convinced myself that if a car was to hit me, the driver would have to pay me several thousand dollars in some sort of law suit and I could go back to my life of walking into oncoming traffic again, except I’d be richer. I’m in no position to turn down free money. “Bring it on cars!” I would say as they honked their useless horns and I tiptoed across the asphalt. “Try and hit me, I’ll see you in court!” They would slow down, like cowards, or slam on their breaks, also like cowards. They would climb out their windows and tell me I’m crazy and that I must have a death wish. No, I just knew that the alternative to getting to the other side of the street when I wanted meant either free money or death. And if I died, then I wouldn’t really know the difference would I?

This attitude allowed me to get a lot done while crossing intersections. I could time myself on a mile walk, uninterrupted. I could eat the falafel I just bought. I could make calls to my grandmother. I saw the stretch of open asphalt as a vast field of opportunity. What could I get done from point A to point B? Could I finish this container of pasta salad? Could I paint my nails this shade of electric blue? Could I keep knitting this scarf? Of course I could. Read more…