Two Sides of the Same Pig


Two Sides of the Same Pig

Today, was our last day in Shanghai. Or maybe yesterday was our last day in Shanghai. It’s hard to tell. Anyway, we got up early, after our last sleep, and headed out for a walk around town before we had to fly back to Seattle (where we arrived this morning at 9 a.m.)
Shanghai isn’t exactly an early morning town; Starbucks doesn’t open up until 7 a.m. and the streets are pretty devoid of taxis, buses and scooters. But you still have to have your head on a swivel to avoid being run over by one of Shanghai’s ubiquitous electric scooters.
Waiting to cross Weihai Road, I saw a scooter approaching, driven by a middle-aged, shirtless man.As he zipped past I noticed that he had something strapped, overhanging both sides of the seat, behind him. It was a pig, split from nose to tail, bobbing along on his way to a street food vendor.
We went to the Four Seasons Hotel and ordered the breakfast buffet.
I had bacon.


Underground and Alone

SubwayKi-Suck Han was crushed to death on the subway this week and dozens of people watched, or fled. One man took pictures. Nobody reached out to help him.

This story touched me on a couple of levels. First, my dad was the Superintendent of Safety & Maintenance for the NYCTA in the early 1970’s and part of his job was going to the site of subway fatalities. I remember him describing the physics of what occurs when a person gets trapped between  an 85,000 pound subway car and immovable, concrete platform. It’s not pretty. Second, one night in 1981 I found myself in the same position as Ki-Suck Han, lying on the subway tracks watching the approaching headlights of an unstoppable, 426 ton subway train hurtling towards me. I had gone out with friends after a day of classes at Baruch College. I leaned over the edge of the platform to see if a train was approaching when my overloaded messenger bag swung away from my body pulling me off the platform and face down into the trash strewn space between the rails. From inside the dark tunnel I saw lights approaching.  My friend, overcome with the comical nature of my tumble, was laughing uncontrollably; the other commuters stared and backed away from the edge. The train’s motorman must have seen something on the tracks because he blew the horn.  I threw my book bag up on the platform and as the train entered the station I hoisted myself up. I was lying on the edge of the platform as the train squealed past. Nobody had moved a muscle to assist me. I don’t think it is cowardice, but rather a combination of shock, fear and disbelief that freezes people. It is the rare individual that reacts in these situations. I was fortunate enough to be younger and taller than Mr. Han and thus able to climb out of danger.

Be careful out there.

140 Characters

I think I am too ADD to write more than 140 character posts with any regularity.  Twitter didn’t ruin me, it just met me where I was.

Sandy slowed down our NYC adventure, postponed some visits with old friends who were more impacted by the storm than I and leaving us in a cold, dark apartment for a week. Roland had to move out of his house in Jersey for a while and Karen has been without power for over two weeks. Melinda and I are two of the lucky ones.

Last Monday, election eve, we saw Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, at the Gramercy Theater. She did a show called “Bang the Dumb Slowly” and it was exactly the laugh I needed to alleviate the pre-election stress that was creeping in. We had planned on watching the election results from “Democracy Plaza” in Rockefeller Center, but temperatures had dropped into the 30’s and we were  content to watch MSNBC from the comfort of the couch.

We did brave the N’oreaster on Wednesday night to see “Grace” at the Cort Theater. Dark and compelling. A kick seeing Ed Asner on stage.

Melinda actually took off a second day this week and we hopped a subway up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spent the afternoon browsing European Paintings.

This weekend Patty & Larry are arriving from Indiana for a couple of days and next week James flies in for Thanksgiving. Can’t wait!

Sandy… NY won’t set herself on fire for me anymore


Subways shut, trains empty

storm surge, river rise

streets flood, subways flood.

homes flood.

Winds whip, facades fall

cranes break.

surge recedes, damage remains.

power out, lights out, heat out.

dark. alone. quiet. eerie quiet.

Sandy sounds like sirens.

wind howls, Izaak howls.

sirens wail. incessantly.

no trains. no people. no business.

power out.

day one. no light.

day coffee.

day three. no heat.

day four. no shower.

New York is two cities,


and no power.

dark and empty,

alive, functioning and not missing a beat


everybody walks



for food,

for water,

for connections.

people cluster at Starbucks


free wifi.


Week Two: Reality Bites (Coughs & Sneezes)

After a fast start back in the city jumping right into seeing people, going places and doing things, week two knocked me on my ass with a nasty and long-lasting cold, complete with four days of fever and chills to go with the massive, head-clogging congestion, tear inducing sore throat and matching earache.  Walking Izaak 2 blocks to the dog park in the morning required a 2 1/2 hour nap to recover. Overall, It lasted 12 days and nights.

During this period Melinda fought off the worst of the symptoms (helped by her flu shot?) and worked 12-14 hour days training her 80 employees for the Grand Opening of the Times Square Microsoft Surface Store. On my better days I managed to walk uptown and meet her for the walk home at night, I hopped the LIRR out to Ron Ostermann’s house in Garden City, Long Island for the Giants v Redskins game and even went to dinner at Boqueria, with my niece Meagan and her husband Tom.

What we didn’t get to do was attend the taping of The Daily Show on October 18th that featured President Barack Obama. Reservation email in hand, I sweated my way up to the theater on 11th Avenue and 52nd Street to meet Melinda. Arriving at 11:20 A.M. for a 1 P.M. ticket distribution there were about 100 +/- people already lined up.Tickets were distributed at 1 PM sharp and at 1:10 P.M. the ticket dispensers were about 15 people away from us when a Secret Service agent walked down the line informing those of us without a blue ticket in hand that all tickets for the evening’s  show were gone and we could leave. We would not be getting into that days taping. Disappointed as I trudged back to the apartment, but watching TDS that night I learned that the reason we didn’t get tickets was that the USO had requested ~30 tickets for female troops that were in town; how can you be disappointed when these women warriors get a chance to see their Commander-in-Chief up close and personal? Anyway, I emailed TDS and explained the situation and they responded with guaranteed VIP tickets for the show on November 27th.  Win-Win.

I’m feeling better, Melinda’s store is open (more on that later) and life is good.

Hitting Our Stride

We have completed our first week in New York City and I have to say it has been better than I’d hoped for. Because Melinda will be swamped with work once everything gets up and running at her store, we booked a number of things to do this first week while we knew she’d have some flexibility with her schedule. After landing last Saturday night, we went to the NY Giants v Cleveland Browns  game on Sunday, with my friend from kindergarten, Ron Ostermann, attended the Asian American Art Association’s 30th Anniversary Gala on Tuesday and completed the week at Jon Stewart’s Night of Too Many Stars, last night.

While Melinda was conducting her new employee training I was revisiting old haunts in the Chelsea area, forgetting how much of my life took place in this neighborhood. I stopped by my alma mater, Baruch College, my daily watering hole, The Old Town Bar, and former employers Barnes & Noble, Geer DuBois and A.I. Friedman. I wrapped up nostalgia week by having lunch with Tom Lynch, a high school classmate that I last saw in 1974.

This week the pace slows and we’ll be bike riding in Central Park on Tuesday afternoon, before watching the USMNT WCQ match at Smithfield’s, a local soccer pub. The next day we plan on visiting the Statue of Liberty (and Ellis Island if the day is long enough) and then catching the Seattle Sounders at Smithfield’s, again.

On Thursday, October 18th, we will be lining up early outside The Daily Show studio to ensure that we get seated for the show’s taping. The guest that evening: Barrack Obama, President of the United States.

Back in the New York Groove

“Many years since I was here

On the street I was passin’ my time  away

To the left and to  the right, buildings towering to the sky

It’s outta sight in the dead of night– Russ Ballard

Melinda, Izaak and I landed at JFK Saturday night at 8:30 and by 11:30 we had unpacked and were exploring our new Chelsea neighborhood. The first thing that hit me coming back to New York is the smell. Maybe it’s because I smoked cigarettes for most of the thirty years that I lived here and my sense of smell was poisoned , but I don’t remember the smells being so strong, distinct and enveloping. Pot smokers casually walking and toking on 23rd Street, food vendors grilling sausages, garbage piled high on the street corners, car,bus and truck fumes everywhere and it all blends into an assault on your senses. You can smell it and taste it. It tastes like New York.