So I posted an incident on facebook the other day, I was walking on 9th Avenue a woman with a British accent said to her friend “Why does steam come out of the sewers here it’s so disgusting.” I turned around and explained we have a steam system with underground pipes that Con Ed pumps into some buildings and sometimes you can see it come out of the top.
It never occurred to me that someone would not know about the steam system, but then I realized it’s unusual. I’m just from here and simply used to it as a part of the infrastructure. Even for New Yorkers it can be mysterious and easily forgotten, still it sometimes escapes out into the street, and you remember it’s there. It’s not quite like turning on a light, so you don’t notice it. I don’t even know if the building I work in uses it, though there are steam vents right outside. It of course doesn’t feel very modern, but it’s an amazing system and I have been poking around on Con Edison and wikipedia, most other articles on the internet seem to be using these two as sources.
“...New York Steam’s first central steam boiler plant, located at Cortlandt, Dey, Greenwich, and Washington Streets, was completed in 1881 and included 48 boilers and a 225-foot chimney — at the time, it was one of the tallest features of the lower New York skyline, second only to the spire of Trinity Church. The district steam installation was so novel it was the cover story of the November 19, 1881 issue of Scientific American.
On March 3, 1882, the company supplied steam to its first customer, the United Bank Building at 88-92 Broadway, on the corner of Wall Street. By December 1882, New York Steam boasted 62 customers. By 1886, the firm had 350 customers and five miles of mains, and began an expansion uptown. The system proved its reliability by operating throughout the deadly blizzard of March 11-14, 1888. Through the years, the company expanded and made numerous improvements in the design of steam meters, controls, insulation, and even the pipes themselves.
The company built by Wallace Andrews was to go on to even greater success during the 20th century, but he was not to see it. During the night of April 7, 1899, Andrews and much of his family perished in a house fire. His brother-in-law, G.C. St. John, who was out of town when the tragic fire occurred, was made president of the company and guided it for more than a decade during a prolonged legal battle over Andrews’ will.
The paralyzing effects of the litigation made necessary a financial reorganization that lasted from 1918 to 1921, but ultimately left the company, now called the New York Steam Corporation, prepared for a new era of expansion. By 1932, the tremendous Kips Bay Station (occupying the entire block along the East River between 35th and 36th Streets) and five other stations provided steam to more than 2,500 buildings. Among them were some of New York’s most famous landmarks: Grand Central Terminal, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Daily News Building, Tudor City, Pennsylvania Station and Hotel, and Rockefeller Center. Just about every new skyscraper was a testament to the efficiency and reliability of steam service: most were built without smokestacks or individual heating plants.
During the 1930s, the New York Steam Company maintained mutually beneficial business arrangements that would be a portent of its eventual consolidation. The company supplied steam to the Consolidated Gas Company and its affiliated gas and electric companies in Manhattan. In turn, The New York Edison Company supplied steam from its Waterside and Fourteenth Street electric generating stations during the morning hours on cold days to help meet peak energy needs. In 1932, Consolidated Gas acquired approximately 75 percent of New York Steam’s common stock, and on March 8, 1954, the New York Steam Company fully merged with Consolidated Edison.
Today, Con Edison operates the largest district steam system in the United States. The system contains 105 miles of mains and service pipes, providing steam for heating, hot water, and air conditioning to approximately 1,800 customers in Manhattan.”
Steam can be co generated at the same time as electricity so it’s considered more green than some other types of heat. But yet, the central steam system only serves a portion of Manhattan, none of the boroughs and probably has seen the end of it’s expansion. We’ve also had a few steam pipe explosions in my memory. This is one of the more recent ones that I recall. I remember an older one in Gramercy which contaminated some people’s apartments with asbestos and killed two workers. New York, on the infrastructure cutting edge during the industrial age, now seems to posses a patchwork of decaying systems which may fail spectacularly at any time. Yet steam is still mostly just chugging along, you don’t hear about it until something goes wrong, people don’t tend to complain about the prices or anything since all the customers are commercial, entire buildings rather than individuals paying a bill.
When it’s wet, big orange and white plastic stacks come out over the steam manholes, water hitting the hot pipes turns to vapor and has to vent. And that can be beautiful. There’s no doubt that the steam in the city has a very noir movie feel. At night if you are where there are steam vents it can seem like the small clouds coming from ground level and the tops of buildings are setting the scene for New York, to play the part of New York in a film. It’s good to step off a curb in your heels and get in a cab at these moments, or pull your hat down over your face and your coat tighter, so you can be an extra passing through the narrative. Leave your small trace in the vaporous night and disappear.
So as I expected this is a very mixed group of film. Here are three frames from the same Mermaid Parade I’ve posted on before. I liked this first one best. None of the frames are spectacular but it’s definitely reminding me of time not so long ago when you could really still easily enjoy the parade.
So let’s segue with some pictures of the ocean taken from Riis Park.
So now I have some photos from the memorial of my great aunt Dudley Byrd, who I still miss and was definitely one of the most singular and interesting people I’ve ever known. My sister and brother and cousins are in these and it’s in Virginia. It’s very like this part of the family to play music and have a picnic and be outside for nearly all important events. It was still a sad time but you can’t tell in these pictures. Anyway, I love the folks in these pictures, but it’s totally weird to me that I was taking pictures. I guess I’m a strange person. Or maybe it’s just an emotional crutch.
My brother Brendan and sister Tara.
My cousin Charlotte Littlehales and my great uncle Bates Littlehales, who is quite the legendary photographer.
My little cousin Nicholas Littlehales-Staton, when he was just quite a lot littler, he’s a teenager now.
My sister and Terri Allard she is a wonderful musician even though she’s not playing here.
So, this feels like the film in the drawer is going out with a little bit of a whimper. Two batches left, but I haven’t been able to send one off this week because it’s a little tight around here. I’ve also got some more E-6 film in that group and I’ve got to decide whether to cross process it like the other two rolls, or not. But I’ll probably delay that decision till the last.
This shot is in McCarren park, back when the Saturday farmer’s market was actually within the park.
So this is the end of the year and time to evaluate how I did on my New Year’s resolution to develop all my old Rollei film. I did pretty well though I did not finish. I have 15 rolls left, I guess I should have counted them all but it was definitely over 75 so it means I developed 60 rolls. I think what was good about it was the archeology of my life that it was, and my ability to look at a lot of bad photos, and it somehow having lower stakes because the film was so old. I did find little bits of charm and the occasional unexpected happy accident, which is a good outcome of the self sabotage of putting film a drawer for 7 years. I’m sorry to see it end in a way.
That’s also McCarren, which all the locals will know immediately.
I have two posts to put up by the end of the year (including this one I guess, so one down!) Because I’ve gotten two batches processed since I last updated. I will send three more batches and then it will all be over, this will go into next year, by less than a couple months. Then it’s up to me to keep shooting with my Rollei, along with my phone and DSLR. Then I’m committed to getting the shutter speeds on the camera looked at and seeing if I can get the viewfinder magnifier adjusted to align better with the glass, that is my resolution on it for 2014. I’ve already gotten a bright screen put in during a previous repair of the camera. In the time since I’ve bought this camera I’ve developed the need for reading glasses which makes using it a bit difficult and I have to come up with a process that works better.
There is film from my neighborhood in Brooklyn, New Orleans, the swamp tour I took when I was there which is not in the city but close to Slidell, and a roll from Venice which I guess fell out of bag and became part of my uncategorized hoard. Let’s put up the Venice frame here because it’s cute it’s the symbolic winged lion.
Here are pictures from the swamp, this film is E-6 that I didn’t remember shooting and I went ahead and asked them to cross process it. Oddly E-6 was more expensive processing at the mail away lab, which is odd to me as a person who worked as a photo assistant in the days of shooting chrome, when it was such high volume, and there were no prints or contacts so it was the cheapest processing.
A couple from the St. Louis Cemetery. Not nearly as good as the negative film I shot there, which was perhaps the best stuff that came out of this.
Somewhere in New Orleans, I don’t know the city well enough to say where.
One of the things about doing this in blog form is I decided the photos didn’t have to be good, some of them were, at least I enjoyed a few. But it was OK with me if they weren’t because most of them were not going to be and this was a project about dealing with procrastination and inadequacy to begin with. It started with a failure, in that 70-80 rolls of exposed film in a drawer is a defeat already, so my thoughts on it were it’s only up from there. I don’t know why I was willing to face that particular flaw this year but I am glad I was finally ready. If I died suddenly and they all would likely end up in the trash anyway, or I could have chucked them to leave behind any guilt for letting it get that way. That could have been a resolution too, for some people that might have been the choice to make. So I hope any of you who watched this unfold enjoyed it or sympathized with it. There will be four more installments and then it’s over, that’s good I think. On to new things.
Citibike has settled in at it’s current level, until they roll out another stage it’s a good time to assess how it’s all working. In the neighborhoods it serves, it’s now part of the infrastructure, and as good as it’s going to be until they expand. I’m an enthusiastic booster still, but it’s become like another part of our transportation system, when it’s not there when I want it, I get annoyed. I went from not having this service at all a few months ago, to now feeling entitled to it meeting my transportation needs when I plan for it. And yes I know that’s ridiculous, but it’s NYC and that’s about the speed of things. This is a round about way of saying despite using it several times this week and last, I’ve noticed some shortcomings lately related to it finally getting full saturation of members. Today was the first day I really could not get a bike for a leg of trip I wanted to make and had to take the train. However another time I used it it was especially joyous, like when I went to it’s northern and easternmost station (59th & Sutton Pl) on Thursday morning and saw this view. I found a bike at the start, and a dock at the finish with no hassle at a prime morning commuting time, from 9:15-10:00 AM. It was a sweet ride.
However my ending station, on 51st and 6, did not have bikes after 5PM that day, or the next day, so leaving work via Citibike became a problem. I’ve no idea when a redistribution unit brings more bikes or if they come back through natural use in the morning, but between 5 and 6 getting a bike is probably not likely for me from right behind the office. The station empties out and and it probably stays empty until the next day at whatever time riders start to bring back bikes. I’m going to check in with the map this weekend sporadically to see if the dock there fills up and when.
In some ways the empty stations are a great thing, the program is clearly a success, people want it and are using it. The bad thing is I’ve had to go to three stations two days in a row in the hour between 5 and 6 and one of those two times failed to get a bike. This is a problem that is not easy to solve. Theoretically they can put more stations out, but this takes parking space and there’s only so much of that space they can get, or would be fair for them to get. The program may have maxed out on riders it can support in certain areas at the prime times. Citibike has been talking about rebalancing—>here and in other posts. There’s only so much redistributing bikes it makes sense for them to do, and they focus those efforts on hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central. I personally notice that Union Square and Broadway on a Sunday morning at 8:30 is as empty as on a Monday morning at 8:30 but a block away at University there are usually bikes. But in midtown, I don’t see this problem getting better unless they get some stations in spots like garages and off the street in other pedestrian plazas and such, they probably have taken over all the curbside space they are going to get. If you need a bike at a prime time, you might have to skip it and take the train.
Broadway has a large concentration of stations along it’s length in midtown and that’s facilitated by the fact that a lot of broadway above 34th already has lanes blocked off for pedestrian plazas and such. This gives a lot of room to put Citibike stations, and they have put in the largest ones there. When I’ve not been able to get a bike I go to Broadway, unfortunately even those stations were empty at these times around 50th st and just below today. Yesterday I got one of two bikes there. It’s just not going to be a guarantee anymore that I can take a bike from my office at a typical evening rush hour time. Luckily most of the time I do not work regular hours so hopefully that will work in my favor in terms of getting bikes as I need them.
Another issue is that in the app a station indicating very few bikes, might actually have no bikes. Very often you get there and the station has one or two out of service bikes, or a couple of broken docks that won’t release bikes but seem to be trying. The docks may make noise like they are trying to turn some mechanical gear, but the bikes don’t come out. The app, and I assume the system administration as a whole, has no way of knowing bikes or docks aren’t working, or perhaps they do but the app is not smart enough to capture this info and display it. This is the station at Broadway and 49th St. One of these bikes is out of service, because the red light is on on the dock, and the other is in a dock that won’t release the bike.
Clearly that dock eventually worked because in the wee hours of the morning, I looked on the Citibike website and saw that there is only one bike available at that station, which I assume is the broken bike. I assume that because I’ve now been to a station in Soho a couple days in a row with the same four broken bikes sitting there. I don’t know how long they leave them but it’s become an issue, most stations have bikes locked in a dock under a red light because they are out of service. On that same station map, shows the docks by my office holding one bike also, it’s probably the same broken one that I saw there at 5:45 today, possibly it will be there all weekend. I’ll check for it on Monday and see when it gets turned around.
I also had an experience where I took a bike for lunch in Soho and had to go to three stations in that area before I could find a place to park it. I had to walk quite a few blocks back to where I was working, making the whole thing a risky lunch hour jaunt, because I walked in 15 minutes late. I only found a dock because there was a redistributing truck at the station on Canal and 6th avenue and he moved a bike for me to be able to return the one I was using.
So as I said, today I took the subway after finding no bikes to do an errand in Chelsea from Rockefeller Center. I purchased the whole pomegranates I needed to make grenadine for future cocktail posts. Feeling dejected about walking to a few stations and then having to train it instead of ride, I was pleased to see the station on 22nd and 8th had plenty of bikes for my short jag to the L train home. Here’s a picture of what users have come up with as a way of signifying from a distance the bikes that are out of service. They often lower the seat all the way and turn them around backwards. Because you do feel like a chump getting through adjusting the bike and realizing there’s a red light on the dock and that bike is out of service.
I like when a new etiquette is formed. However some people are only doing half of this gesture. Some are just lowering the seat all the way and that’s it, when I think the crucial thing is turning the seat around at whatever height the post is at. As a lazy person who actually rides on the lowest seat position because I’m also very short, at a full dock I look for a bike I won’t have to adjust first, and often I go up to a bike which is just my height to find it’s actually out of service. So to my fellow riders, flip seats all the way backwards on out of service bikes to help even short people know not to try to use them. Obviously this is not a rule, it’s a new courtesy we are all learning to get used to.
Here I am in my backup helmet after finally finding a Citibike today. A little annoyed and tired, but still rolling along.
The Brooklyn, the most elusive of the drinks named for the boroughs of my hometown. As a resident of Kings County for over 20 years, I had always planned to end on it. But it took quite a bit longer than I initially anticipated, and this is definitely the longest it’s ever taken me to plan and execute a cocktail, or cocktail post. I’ve approached all the drinks I blog about, to learn about cocktails from making ones from a classic period. And I try to get at least close to how there were originally made, I’m doing this to develop my own palate and skills, so I knew I would take on Brooklyn last of all the NYC cocktails. I wanted to build up my chops before hitting this one.
The Brooklyn relies on a french amara, Amer Picon, which you cannot get in the US. The other twist is if you do manage to acquire a bottle, they have changed the product somewhat since 1979. The original is 78 proof, and the current variety is 40 proof. If you go down an internet rabbit hole as I have, you will read all sorts of grumblings of other possible changes to the recipe, which seem to have less credibility, but booze bottles have no ingredient labels so you can go crazy imagining all this. Maybe all of this pondering clouded my brain enough that it didn’t occur to me to ask my family members to bring me one when they went to Paris a few months back. An error I still can’t stop kicking myself over.
Substitutions have been made all along in the history of cocktails, during prohibition the rest of the world couldn’t get the rye called for in this drink and had to go with Canadian Club, bourbon or some other whiskey. I did know going in that I was going to need to find a stand in, but I’m completely uneducated on the taste of amaras, and most bars I can think of couldn’t give me a taste tour either. They will have one if they have any. I had been fervently pouring through the eGullet cocktail forums, especially Erik Ellstad’sStomping through the Savoy topic, (which he continued on his own blog, but the comments on the egullet thread are a gold mine of info) and found a post which mentioned that David Wondrich himself had tasted an older bottle of Picon against all the amaras in his collection and posted the result to eGullet. His verdict is Amaro CioCiaro. When I say rabbit hole, you can really go insane on reading about subs for Amer Picon, there are recipes to make your own. It is the kind of thing I do like to take on but I felt a bit out of my depth. Anyway, authenticity was part of my search, but I also just wanted a good drink I would like. I have been served a Brooklyn before in a bar, prior to doing this reading, and I did not like it especially. My hypothesis became that this was due to an inappropriate amara being used for the Picon. I guess I was determined to like a drink named after my home borough, and didn’t leave it there. (I never felt the same determination about the gem Amber, which I’m also not fond of, but there’s really no way to alter petrified tree resin to be more like how I think of myself)
If you are still following along with me, there was more bad news, sadly my delay didn’t end with the decision to use Amaro CioCiaro. It proved extremely difficult to acquire, though clearly not nigh impossible like the Picon. Here I was with the answer, and as a bonus, it’s one of the cheapest amaras you can buy at under $20, yet no one has it in any liquor store in my travels around town. I did not want to order it in the mail, and pay similar shipping. I found one store waaay far away from my apartment on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn that claimed to stock it on their website but I could not get over there, and I feared their website was lying anyway, perhaps they just occasionally stock it I’ve run into that before. If I lived near or ever was naturally in that neighborhood I would certainly check but I didn’t want to head out there and just be disappointed. My theory on why it is not carried is that customers for amaras are sophisticated and want the more expensive brands with deeper vegetal notes to sip. And I’m sure if a liquor store is going to stock something they barely sell, they want to make it worth their while for carrying it, and ring up $40 to $60 when someone bothers to buy this niche product. I just made that up, but I’m going with it.
I had started to move on to other drinks when my search for the amara became frustrating, I did go spontaneously into virtually any liquor store I was near for a while in a vain hope of finding it. In the meantime I picked up a wonderful rye made by a Brooklyn distillery (though it has Rosendale NY on the label), Widow Jane Rye. If you read my posts on the Bronx, the Queens and the pinnacle of them all the Manhattan, you know I tried to include spirits made in NYC. I did fudge it for NY State on the Manhattan, and this is sort of a fudge also, because it is perhaps made in the Catskills rather than Red Hook, but I really like it. It’s got spice, but it also finishes sweet, I have found that for many rye drinks which have other ingredients which are sweet, it’s nice to have the spicier notes counter those, so I don’t want to choose a rye which is super smooth. Widow Jane is also unfiltered which means you find little flakes of sediment in it sometimes, which I don’t mind.
Ultimately traveling to L.A. on vacation without a car brought an end to my search for Amaro CioCiaro. I spontaneously walked into a huge liquor store, as I had been doing futilely all over New York City. Boom! I saw it on the shelf, and not too much later it was in my luggage home. I then got in the door and poured a little taste. It is not especially bitter, it’s sweetish with bitter notes, it’s aromatic, it’s chocolaty, and definitely gives heat at the back of the throat, and I gather it’s not as citrusy as Amer Picon because it’s not particularly orange tasting.
So now all the players are in finally on the field. This left me to finally mix it up and try it. I looked up recipes for the Brooklyn cocktail and found this eGullet page which presented a whole new set of issues, but those I could resolve in my own apartment by consuming several alcoholic beverages. This is the kind of problem I enjoy. I tasted most of these and and came up with my own proportions as well, and I’ll share two recipes I like.
2 oz rye (Widow Jane)
3/4 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
2 teaspoons Amer Picon (Amaro CioCiaro)
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
(adding orange bitters is optional and a good idea because that is supposed to be how the CioCiaro falls short in similarity to Picon)
BTW when I measure 2 teaspoons it comes out to 1/4 oz so you can just measure that out if you have a trusty 1/4 ounce measure.
Shake or stir with ice (many folks stir vermouth drinks, I like the cloudiness and ice chips from shaking) and strain into a glass.
Once I tasted it I thought “This is very like a Manhattan, but a bit different.” And I like that. The drinks are truly sisters, similar but definitely individuals. If you include a Luxardo cherry in your Manhattan as I do, they become even more aligned. I like that the Bronx and Queens are smilar to each other as well. In these proportions I can really taste the vermouth, which you should in a drink in this family, yet many of the other notes pop out too, and it’s a bit sweeter than a Manhattan. However it was a bit disappointing to me that the maraschino is more strongly detected than the amara. This was possibly because I’m more accustomed to drinking cocktails that use it so it is easy for me to recognize. It was not disappointing because I disliked the drink, but because I went out of my mind to get the amara and it wasn’t the strongest note. And I felt I wanted to find a way to separate out the sisters from each other. I had the same issues in other words, as the participants in the egullet thread I linked above. However all the traditional recipes out there for the Brooklyn pair up the proportions of Picon and maraschino, they are greater or less, but they are equal to each other.
Here is my favorite variation, though I’ve gone between it and the one above numerous times and I like each for different reasons, in different moods. My variation ups the amaro and pairs it in proportion to the vermouth instead, though reducing the amount of vermouth and maraschino.
2 oz rye
1/2 oz dry vermouth (I actually tried 3/4 as on that egullet thread and didn’t like it as well)
1/2 oz Amaro CioCiaro
1/4 oz maraschino
This whole thing got me thinking about separating these two borough cocktails. After I took my picture, I decided that I might switch my cherry use and only put it in a Brooklyn, where it seems more natural to be since there is already maraschino liqueur. Neither drink originally called for the garnish, but a cherry has persisted in the Manhattan as it is usually served, but now I feel it might be more misplaced there. Or maybe when I want to feel the two cocktails are closely related I will dunk it in my Manhattan, and when I want the drinks to have very discrete tastes I will not. If anything has become clear to me, is a Brooklyn offers more options to play around with than the Manhattan, which I never vary, and I think I’m still playing with it. That’s definitely fun.
So I’ve some more old film from my Rollei here. I’m just putting it all together. I do have another package I haven’t even opened because I’m just not caught up, and I believe that has the very last from Italy in it. Bye Italy, hope to see you again soon. I still have over 30 rolls left. It’s taking longer than I hoped but this is the first new years resolution I have ever made that was still seeing any traction in June. So I’m happy to have gone this far even though the schedule I planned to keep is out the window. According to the original schedule I should be nearly done by now, not half way. But on to the photos.
The photo above is from Venice and I really like it. This one…I was working on it trying to remove some of it’s flaws and realized it’s interesting how one can’t leave an image alone. Because someone would probably love to put something through hipstamatic and instagram and get this result. I didn’t fully leave it alone but I’m happy with it, even though it’s not a great photo or anything.
That’s all for Venice. Let’s go to New Orleans for two frames. These are portraits of Guitar Lightnin’ Lee in front of the Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge. He was really giving my friend Margaret a hard time flirting with her and she nearly killed me after this incident, because she put up with it for me.
And lastly here’s some NYC beaches, which I hope to visit soon this season.
A couple more things I want to mention before I’m done talking about Citibike for now. One is that if you want to check how long your trips are, at least how long they are billed for, you can go to the web page, not the phone app, and log into your accounts and see that info under the trips window. A couple of these with zeros in front lead me to imagine it’s when I couldn’t get a bike. They clearly haven’t worked on the milage aspect of it yet, because it’s all zeros. Anyway it’s a good way to confirm you haven’t gone over time or find out when you have. I’ve noticed quite a few of my trips take just a hair over 30 minutes. I am not being careful or anything, but I think this is interesting, possibly pushing people toward memberships.
Another thing is that they really have not responded to customer service issues very well via twitter. The website and twitter feed is very sunny without any helpful information, but I glean from the very few responses on twitter that phone calls are what they had been prepared to deal with, until their phones went down. The blog has stats for usage, without any info on outages, problem stations, things that the MTA might have for subway outages. All my tweets reporting station problems have never received a single “we’re working on it” type auto response tweet.
@citibikenyc and not only is the 51st and 6th station full because it won’t release bikes. I can’t get the last remaining dock to work
I’ve sent numerous tweets now about the station at 51st street and 6th ave, having problems I’ve not seen at the handful of other stations I’ve been at. Times of the day it just goes down, no one can get a bike out, the docks fill up and you can’t leave a bike. Even when it’s working it takes 30 seconds for the green light to come on so you can get the bike out. Yesterday in a new twist bikes were sitting there with green lights on but locked and couldn’t be removed. Then I finally sent an email, I received no response but tonight was the first night that I left work to do an errand at 6pm, and nearly all the bikes were gone. It was actually a great sight to see. Also the bike I chose released fairly quickly, so I hope even though they never said a thing the station is fixed, at least for now. Really that’s not such a long wait. We are just over a week into the program.
I do love it, I can’t wait for it to expand in Brooklyn. One thing which is interesting is people are still asking me a lot of questions about it, not just in the station. Other users when you run into them, you might to talk to each other. It’s like when something bizarre happens on the subway, everyone all of a sudden has permission to speak to one another. I know this will go away, but it’s fun for now.
It was more interesting in the first couple days though, now mostly it’s the same questions, and they often are asked right after I’ve taken the bike out and am on the clock. Its really interesting how many tourists and casual users cannot get the idea that the rides are timed. That it’s 30 minutes at a time for a daily price of $10, a weekly price of $25, annual price of $95 (plus tax) and that membership gives you 45 minutes each ride plus the convenient key. Every casual street questioner thinks you get the bike all day. The reason the system works is because it’s timed, if they gave them to you all day, you would need a lock, and the bikes would be stolen. I can’t even believe they have kickstands. The whole purpose of all the stations is to take a bike and leave a bike on every leg of whatever trip or errand you are doing etc. The ubiquity of the docks allows for that in Manhattan at least. It’s very hard to give people a satisfying short answer to explain this, yet I do want to be a cheerful ambassador.
Someone who talked to me for a while from the seat of his own bike asked me more knowledgable questions but also was possibly chatting me up I’m not sure. He did say the bike stores are worried. I hope this ends up being good for them and not bad. At any rate I used my coupon and bought a new helmet at a Manhattan shop, which is actually going to be my helmet to keep home and use with my own bike mostly and I’m wearing it in this pic. And I used the spare pads to rehab the old one a bit to leave at work mostly. I brought my own bike into my local shop for a new rack this week. I hope the program creates more riders who wish to own their own bikes, but it’s probably more likely to enfranchise riders who don’t want to, or really can’t own bikes. Tight apartments preventing one from keeping a bike inside, justified fear of leaving one outside, and four floor walkups are all real barriers to owning a bike. I fully hope that a greater fleet of bikes on the street will cause more people to look out for us, that’s the theory anyway. But it is New York.
Sweaty pic of me picking up my third Citibike of the day. Yes my helmet is all screwed up and there are crumbs from the decaying foam pads dusting the top of my eyebrows.
So today I rode Citibike’s three times. With varying degrees of happiness and frustration. Today I made plans to go to the Cinnamon Snail vegan lunch truck while at work. Their normal Wednesday spot is on 55th and Broadway, which is a bit of a long walk from my office and I can’t always spare the time to do. I went out to the dock behind my office building and had zero problems getting a bike for my lunchtime trip. However all the street directions are a bit against me for this locale. I may go to one of their further east stops on a different day next time. Anyway the tofu pesto cashew cream sandwich was out of sight, also the apple cider donut. In this case, it’s all one trip, I’m on the citibike, waiting at the truck and then heading back to the same dock as all one trip.
The app shows a completely normal info screen on the number of bikes and docks available, I’m getting used to the displays, the dark blue represents bikes and the light blue represents docks on the little station icon.
Later in the day I planned to head from my office in Rockefeller Center to Astor Wines, again, because they were closed last time. I got out of the building and could not get any of the bikes to release to me. At least 6 other people had the same problem while I was standing there. One guy did get a bike to release, one that I had even tried. The stats list this station as one of the system’s “least popular” I have a feeling it’s because many times it’s not functioning properly. I’m now 50/50 on getting a bike out of it. I tweeted about this and DEAR HONORABLE CUSTO replied to me that the 51st and Broadway station was working well. I had luck with that station.
Off to Astor Wines, where I spent over $100 to get cocktail supplies for future posts on the Brooklyn Cocktail as well as the Corpse Reviver 2. This time it took me 1/2 hour to get there, and I really struggled to find the station even with the app, I might have had the map upside down, and I was sweaty and hot. I ended up at Mercer just above Houston, which wasn’t all that close. I should have stopped at Astor Place, which i know for next time. Then I decided to see how a citibike ride loaded down with groceries on each handle as I am wont to do. I could have hopped in the 6 to the L to the G, but instead got another bike at Astor Place bus plaza and loaded it down with bottles of hooch.
As usual when carrying stuff on handlebars, I needed to ride steady and slow. I dropped the bike at the station at 1st ave and 15th that I used on the first day and ran into a woman who dropped a bike and could not get another bike. Lots of not getting bike problems…not sure if it’s intentional when you drop a bike, since the system is still new and experiencing glitches, it will take a while to iron out what the rules are, or the timing is, for dropping one bike and picking up another. They have been intentionally vague about this and there are no rules stated about it. Unfortunately for, now I know I can’t fully trust the dock at my job, which is a shame. The stations need to work more reliably, because New Yorker’s like to plan their trips, of course we have other means to get where we are going but you do want to reasonably know you can get a bike, and how long your trip will take. If you have to walk to another station because the nearest one is a crapshoot, that’s not good long term.
Anyway, I still love the program. Ran into lots of other users, and lots of folks asking questions. You definitely feel like an ambassador for the program, but I couldn’t even take the time to answer every person who asked me about it. I was on the clock.
I did have to delete and reinstall the app to get it working. I think it’s still quite useful, but with some confusing aspects. Inactive stations…I’m not positive what that means right now. This grab seems mysterious to me, there are some bikes and a lot of empty docks, so is it working or not? People seem to have been able to get bikes out of it because a lot of slots are empty. I’m confused.
This one is active, but has zero bikes AND zero docks..what could that mean?
Anyway, watch out Williamsburg, more stations coming soon. I can’t wait for them to hit Greenpoint. One more thing I want to say, I think the bikes are cute. They are called ugly in every single story about them. They certainly aren’t sexy and racy like some bikes, but the bright blue is really very cheerful. I try not to compare them to other bikes and just look at them as singular thing, they are not ugly. I feel happy on one.
I’m just going to give a preliminary review of the new bike sharing program we just christened here in NYC, Citibike, which launched today. This is a cross eyed picture of me returning my first ever bike.
My first impression of the bike is it’s extremely well suited to it’s purpose. The bikes if they stay in this condition, are well thought out and great rides for short hops. They are easy to adjust, 3 speed bikes in which all the speeds are fairly easy. I was often on the highest gear which gave me good speed for city traffic yet you can’t get too fast on. Lever hand brakes were good, grips are big and cushioned, all cables are covered under plastic shells to keep them from sabotage. The front ‘basket’ with bungees held my purse really well. The bike is heavy at 45 pounds. This is not really the drawback it may seem. The somewhat heavy bike is balanced pretty well, though heavy in the front, and very stable on the road when you are seated, so it’s good for riders of a wide range of skill levels. The main drawback of a bike that weighs a lot is getting it up and down stairs, into the subway and adding the weight of your heavy lock to your overall load. That’s not a factor with a bike that docks at street level that you never have to get into your home or on the train. They do not want people to fly down the street at crazy speeds on these, but you can really go as fast as you need to in the stop and go NYC traffic. Standing up on pedals makes it less easy to control than a lighter bike in the same scenario, but still impressively smooth and fun to ride. The lights are automatic and pedal powered which is interesting, but I didn’t get the impression they were very bright.
My first experience was trying to use the station behind my office in the Time-Life building on 51st street. The phone app said all the stations in NYC are inactive, which was confusing. I tried to get a bike out and could not at lunchtime. I put my key into two bike docks, I kept seeing the yellow light and hearing a beep, but never the green indicator that the bike could be taken out. This actually does take a few seconds it turns out and the sun was very bright, so perhaps I just wasn’t seeing the light, though I pulled on the bike it didn’t come out. I went back to my office and read more about it, heard that people were using the bikes, and saw a short video which emphasized lifting the seat when removing the bike. I don’t actually know if the kiosk was having a problem or it was just me because when I tried in the evening I had no problem getting the bike out.
I was worried about being too short for a comfortable ride, I am 5’ and used the #1 setting, and it was fine, and you can go lower than that to put the seat flush with the top tube even. I looked at the phone app for a station near Astor Wines and set the timer on the app, even though I was confident it would not get close the 45 minute ride limit. I got to Astor Wines and it was closed so I checked the timer and saw it had taken 22 minutes to get there from Rockefeller Center and swung up to Union Square to return the bike and get the train home.
When I got to Union Square, the station on University was full. But one block over on Broadway it was nearly empty and I returned the bike. One of the things I think is confusing is knowing that the bike is properly locked on return. Everything I read said there was supposed to be a green light on return too, but that’s not the case. The help portion of the app mentions this green light, but on the Citibike blog post for today, it just said “Redock the bike firmly to ensure it is secure and that your trip is closed.” You just stick it in until it locks and try to pull it back out to test it, if it stays you are good. After eating dinner, I realized the L train wasn’t running, I went to get second bike at a completely different station there was a red light showing when I put my key in. I was never able to get this particular bike out but the rack had plenty of others. I’m really curious if it was flagged for repair. I had a theory that if I bike is returned recently you can’t get it back out again for a few minutes but that’s probably wrong.
People asked me questions about the bike as I rode it and the main complaint and fear folks seem to have is that the ride times seem really short to them. They feel they would never get the bike back in the rack in time. I was not worried about this because as an experienced NYC cyclist I know that most trips in town take 15-20 minutes. Most longer distance trips are still 30-45 minutes. People have got to adjust their minds to a different idea of a bike loan, this is not a bike to have all day, if you need one of those you probably have one. If you are a tourist and want that you need a bike shop rental and a good lock. Most rides you want to take are going to easily fit in the 45 minute time window for annual members, especially once all the stations roll out in Brooklyn and north of 59th street. You can easily return and pick up another bike, also realize overage to 60 minutes is only $2.50 for members for those rare occasions. I think the biggest hurdle for people to get over is realizing how ample that time period is for trips these bikes are intended for. People considering the program who are not experienced city cyclists may genuinely overestimate how long it really takes to get places on a bike. This is something that the city should emphasize in later communications about the program. Show people taking some test rides and publish likely ride times.
The worst part of the program so far is the app, which is a shame because it’s a crucial piece. It really needs tweaks because it’s an essential tool for using the program. A temporary problem is that it lists all the kiosks as inactive at this point. Which is confusing, and made me think none of them were allowing bikes to be used. But it really means that the kiosks that allow day rentals are not on yet, as soon as next week rolls around, I assume just the kiosks that are actually not working will show as inactive. If you are an annual member you don’t really need a kiosk, the key is all you need unless you return a bike right as your time is up and the station is full and you need to ask for extra time to find another place to return it. At any rate, the app shows how many bikes the stations have but don’t indicate things like “full” and I did arrive at a full kiosk. The app also has a timer which is less than wonderful. First of all you need to get used to that it doesn’t work like the iPhone timer which counts down to zero time left and then plays whatever alarm you choose. The Citibike app counts up to the time limit. This is a good idea actually because it lets you be able to learn how long your regular trips are going to take, the time is actually saved when you stop it until you reset it. The real bad thing is the timer goes off and barely makes a sound. It’s like a Twitter alert. It’s not like an iPhone timer which goes off until you turn it off and vibrates as well. This alert really can’t be heard in your bag, or in traffic, though the next time you check your phone there’s a ‘helpful” visual alert that your time is up.
I recommend using your phone’s timer until they make a more noisy alert, perhaps in addition to the timer in the app. The reason I suggest using both at once is that the app timer keeps running when your time is up. Then if you do go over your time, you will know how long your total ride took, and how much overtime you are going to get charged. (For members it’s only $2.50 if your ride goes up to an hour) It also can help you figure out how much you need change your route or habits to shave off time if you do a ride often that is at the edge of the limit. Anyway, most of the problems with the app are not features, they are glitches. The timer is my only beef with a feature.
The worst error is that I got home and now the map won’t show me any stations at all, (though in Greenpoint I’m not near one until the second stage rollout.) I had this happen on the website once as well and it’s really frustrating. Clicking on the one station I put into favorites takes me to the middle of some body of water, or whatever an entirely filled screen of blue symbolizes. This is the useful regular function of the app being broken, I actually wanted to take captures of the station distances and number of bikes but now my app just shows that there’s nothing out there at all. I can’t figure out how to fix it, if it doesn’t reset itself tomorrow I will delete and re-install. You really need the app to plan what station you are dropping the bike when you pick it up and think about your route to your destination. It’s really necessary because many convenient stations are not in immediate eyeshot. So I hope the bugs can be ironed out because it’s really your lifeline when using the bikes.
On the left you see the misleading “inactive” and on the right the blue screen of nowhere.
One other little snag. The package with my annual membership key includes a coupon for $10 off a new helmet purchased at a NYC bike shop. I went to my local bike store, which was listed as participating in the program in the resources section of the website and it was news to them they were participating in the helmet discount program. But they were game to accept a coupon, however, they had none of the three helmet brands the coupon was good for. I realized later looking at that resources tab that they just list all the bike shops they can find, no one has been warned in advance about the coupons or carrying the helmets. The coupon is only good at a NYC shop so I don’t think online works. There is also a coupon to give a guest a free 24 hour ride pass in there, it’s done with a code so I just took a picture of the coupon that way I don’t need to keep track of the tiny slip of paper. That’s a great way of reaching more people I think, having someone try the bikes with a member.
I’m very excited about Citibike and it really solves a problem for me. I love being able to take a one way trip and not be stuck with my bike all day, mostly I make the decision not to ride at all in those circumstances. There are nights I work late and could never consider riding to work as I take a car service home. There are plenty of mornings I can barely get out of the house on foot but would love to ride on my lunch hour or bike home after work. This post should certainly read as an endorsement of the program. My overall emotion when using it today was that of a childish thrill, a feeling of empowerment, that I had options to joyfully go to more far flung places and to see more people and do more errands because I had the flexibility of a bike I didn’t have to look after and could just leave. I plan a lunch run tomorrow. I seriously love new things and this is like a present. Enjoy.
This is Hassan who is from Bangladesh but he’s been here over 15 years and driving a cab for over 10, he was a student when he left his home country. I took a photo of his license but it’s not readable because of glare or I might try to contact him again.
I’ve got to start taking more pictures of drivers when I’m in taxis. Unlike that HBO show, Taxicab Confessions or whatever it was, cabbies usually talk to me. But also I ask, because often they have had really interesting lives in the country they are from. Sometimes they are professionals, have advanced degrees and come to work here in a cab and it’s still worth it. I remember a guy from India who was a mining engineer when he was there, I was totally shocked he could not find any work in that field in the US but his degrees never translated and he made four times the salary he had made driving a cab. I’ve had some of these conversations get very intensely personal. To the extent that a middle eastern cabbie once ended up telling me a lot about his sexual history. I wish there was such a thing as a cell phone back in those days, because I don’t remember his home country and I certainly didn’t have a camera or notepad to record any of it, he parked the cab in front of my apt with the meter off and spoke for at least 45 minutes mostly intimate details of his sex life, though he had started by saying some slightly homophobic things, he eventually confessed to me having sex with people of both genders, especially in his home country he had sex with men. He was also totally hitting on me and said I was the nicest person he had ever met in his cab.
I’ve also had cabbies freely confess their racial and ethnic prejudices to me. One particularly unforgettable moment was a female cab driver in the 80’s who had a blonde gun moll look to her. We started talking and I’ve blanked out on most of the conversation to this point, because she asked me eventually if I was Jewish. I normally answer the question no, not only because I’m not a believer, but officially in the jewish religion only my dad is Jewish, so that means that I am not. The fact that I answered “no” meant that she was free to tell me this story about a passenger she didn’t like who she referred to derogatorily as a “jew boy” the entire time. I really was too stunned to get into an argument with her, and also I felt a bit curious to hear her anti-semitism so open and flip that I didn’t stop her. I guess I feel free to keep my principles to myself in a cab, and not argue, just let them keep talking because it’s a window into a world I don’t usually get to see. I get to judge them privately, and then the transaction is over and they drive away.
Since I’ve been taking cabs my entire life, being from the West Village, (or just Greenwich Village as it was called in the 70’s when I was a kid) they were a necessary form of transport aside from the bus and walking the short distances between school and my moms job and our apartment, or my grandmothers store. I miss the days when really our entire lives played out in this small area, and cabs were a huge part of getting around in that little place, which has tons of subway stops that mostly serve to get you out of the neighborhood. Anyway cabbies change over the years, and I’ve enjoyed each new generation of them, usually it’s an immigration wave from a particular group of countries, you wake up and all the cabbies are Iranian, then they are gone. Lately it’s western African nations and frequently Bangladesh, like Hassan. Who was listening to the Nets, and also telling me how corrupt things are in Bangladesh. A good conversation.
Unlike most of my old friends, I didn’t go to Motor City when they made their great memories there years and years ago. For long time I wasn’t going out, didn’t drink and was in a relationship with someone who had vastly different taste than myself. I still don’t go that much because it’s a bit of a drag to get to and home from on a weeknight when a lot of my friends do go. But all that aside, when Jodi is your bartender it is awesome and I always have a great time when I do go. My dearest old pal Lynne was djing and I couldn’t not go to at least one of the parties for the end of this particular world. I got off the bus at the Williamsburg bridge and missed the first train to Manhattan.
When I got into the bar, Lynne Von Pang had just arrived dressed for the part, to the enth degree.
Lynne played so many amazing records, many that I knew first through her when I went to her apartment as a high school student, when she was in college. It was like she was taking psychic requests from my mind and just playing them for me. I would hear certain songs and say “This is being played for me” and then dance, even if I was the only one.
Alexandra AKA Mighty Aphrodite made these beautiful cupcakes, but the photo I took of her was too bad to use. Instead here’s a sort of compellingly bad pic of me and the awesome Marti Wilkerson, AKA Marti Domination
I took a tremendous number of bad photos of my friends as I drank more which I will leave on facebook where they can un-tag themselves instead of perpetrating that here in public. But this pic of Lynne, David and Mary who call themselves Team Blackout is pretty funny.
I danced my ass off, and when my date arrived we made out like teenagers, before leaving my phone died and I missed my call to go to an appointment with a friend the next day. Anyway, as with so many other places that have closed in NYC there will be nothing to replace it and we will all have to be content with our memories. Motor City burned it up, and soon it will be gone.
I haven’t been posting these lately because I’ve processed some of the most boring pictures of Venice ever. I knew those were the breaks with this whole thing, that I would send the film and the check and sometimes end up with a lot of disappointment. This is a roll from Brooklyn a few years back and that’s my friend margaret at another friends birthday picnic in prospect park. I want to say it’s five years ago or more. Anyway she looks cool. Here’s another of her, less successful.
And same picnic, Joren and Dahlia eating chips. Not genius or anything.
I wish this photo had been better somehow but I’m still intrigued by it enough to go back and shoot. I love looking at the latin baseball league play in Red Hook. Plus the food carts are supposed to be awesome.
A nice lady at the Tour de Brooklyn oh so many years ago.
Anyway I’m not super thrilled with these, but they aren’t just un-postable like some of the rest.
I don’t know when this is from but it’s Washington Square park in the very early 60’s. Mom is the “pillow” which is what she called it, I don’t know if that’s the real name. I’ve never learned the rules for this game but it’s so photogenic.
So we await the big snow, I like a blizzard that leaves deep drifts. But so far it’s slushy and messy though the flakes are big and fluffy. I don’t look forward to the sidewalks being encrusted with a deep layer of ice if that’s the result. That causes me to walk in tiny baby steps and fear with each one that I will do a major ass over teakettle spill. Fingers crossed for big fluffy piles of snow, I wish I knew people with a sled because I would be down for that.