Tag Archives: new york city

Lame Adventure 220: Vespa Worship

In exactly one month and a day, on September 23rd at 5:05 AM EDT, the fall equinox will arrive and summer 2011 will officially end.  Even though I much prefer early and mid-fall to the more sweltering days in summer when I feel boiled alive, I always suffer melancholy once the days start to grow shorter.  My sidekick, Greg, just feels remorse that women will be wearing more clothing.

An aspect of warmer weather that I love is seeing the many Vespas that end their hibernation.  I seem to notice more Vespas in the city every year, and I think this iconic scooter is the go-to summertime cycle in New York, and possibly other major US cities.  Last winter, one of the more haunting sights in my Upper West Side neighborhood was this rampant case of Vespa neglect.

Heartbreaking.

I wanted to rescue this poor little scooter parked next door to my laundromat or at least shelter it with a covering.  Every time I walked past it I could practically hear it shiver.

As the days grew longer I noticed more cyclists (scooterists?) tooling around town on these classically designed sexy little Italian machines manufactured by Piaggio.  I also noticed many parked in the street in cheery shades.

Barbie's Raspberry flavored Vespa.

Electric Blue Vespa with big accesories.

Parking ticket accessory Electric Blue Vespa owner would probably prefer not to have.

Rear view orange Vespa with black chrome protection bar.

Vespas in any color, bright or dark, are always a very welcome sight to me, unlike the 45-year-old yutz channeling his (or her) inner nine-year-old riding a razor scooter down the street.

None of my friends nor does anyone in my family have a Vespa, but in the early 2000’s when I worked in TV news, I had a colleague who dated a guy that rode one that was mint green. Whenever she talked about him she referred to him as Vespa.

Mint Green Vespa, but not Vespa's actual Vespa.

A few years ago, I ran into him on the 1 train.  He remembered me, but I could not recall his actual name.  I resisted the urge to ask:

Me: Why are you riding the subway?  What happened to your Vespa, Vespa?

My current colleague, Darkness, told me that he’s considering getting a Vespa.  He urged me to visit the Vespa boutique on Crosby Street in Soho.

This must be the place.

Ramp out front is not for wheelchair accessability, but to wheel out Vespas. Youths also love to ride their skateboards over it.

I took his advice and stopped by on a recent Saturday afternoon.  Vespa Soho is a Vespa lover’s paradise.

Pick a shiny color.

Pick a matte color.

Make a statement with red.

Dan, Vespa Soho’s Sales Manager, told me that Piaggio halted Vespa sales in the US market in 1985 due to our raised emission standards which were stricter than Europe’s.  Eventually Europe raised their standards, and Piaggio’s improvements to Vespa’s technology met the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards, clearing the way for the Vespa to return to the US in 2001.

Dan told me that the high-end Vespa, the 300, has a top speed of 80 miles per hour, and it can be driven on the expressway.  It averages 70 miles per gallon.  Depending on style selection, it can cost between $7,200 and $8,200.

The most popular model for the average New York City slicker is the 150.  Its top speed is 60 miles per hour, it gets the same 70 miles per gallon gas mileage as the 300 model, but costs between $5,200 and $6,400.

There is an economy model, the 50.  It has a smaller engine and a top speed of 40 miles per hour and sells for $4000.  It gets 100 miles per gallon.

All three models have the same size gas tank, 2.3 gallons.

In order to drive a Vespa, you need a motorcycle license and you must obey the same driving rules that pertain to cars.

Dan said that the darker colors are the most popular in New York all year round, but he’s noticed that lighter colors tend to sell better when the weather is warmer.  This did not surprise me since black is the most popular clothing color out here twelve months of the year.

Basic Black Vespa.

Maroon Vespa with serious windshield.

Chocolate lover's brown Vespa.

I asked Dan what can be done to prevent the scratches and dents I so often notice on the rear panel covering the back tire.

Dents on left side.

Scratches on right side.

They sell an accessory, chrome bars protection, but Dan insisted that a common sense way to prevent this problem is to avoid parking behind an Enormous Vehicle that can crunch the Vespa since it is completely invisible to the Enormous Vehicle Driver.

Red Vespa with chrome bar protection parked where motorist can see it.

Brilliantly parked Vespa at a distance from Mini Cooper.

Living on the edge Vespa asking to get crunched by SUV.

To hell and back Vespa tempting fate once again.

Dan insisted that the Vespa can be a year-round mode of transport in the city.  He pointed out that in winter we’re not blanketed with snow all season long.  He did admit that this past winter was unusually snowy, but most of the time, we get a dump of snow, it melts after three or four days, the streets are clear again, and the Vespa rider can resume riding.  I thought:

Me (thinking):  Yeah, but that rider better be dressed for the Arctic.

If I had a Vespa, I’d be more inclined to ride mine in spring, summer and fall.  I see it as a romantic getaway vehicle I could hop on at day’s start and end.  Of course I would ride it all over the city on weekends.  I’d breeze past motorists stuck in traffic as I make my escape from the monotony.  Feeling exhilarated I imagine myself singing my favorite Broadway show tunes horrifically off-key at the top of my lungs.  Although I could ignore the bugs splattering me in the glasses, the possibility of swallowing a live bee whole while belting out a sustained note in my rendition of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top” made me return to reality.  Pictured below is the Vespa best meant for me.  <sigh>

Pathetic.

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Lame Adventure 216: Savage Waiting

Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has closed.  This past Sunday was the exhibit’s final day.  According to The New York Times:

“The exhibition attracted more than 650,000 visitors since it opened on May 4, and 15,000 on Saturday [August 6] alone. It is among the 10 most visited shows in the museum’s history, and the most popular special exhibition ever at the Costume Institute, which is housed at the museum.”

Two of my closest friends, Coco the Fashionista, and Ling the Graphics Designer, had already seen it.  They both gave it solid rave reviews.  The previous Thursday I emailed Milton that I was thinking about doing the unthinkable, forego my usual Sunday power sleeping, and rise at 7 am to get to the Met by 9 am, “Are you interested in joining me?”  Milton emailed me back, “I’d do it.”

We were well aware that going on the last day of the final weekend was an act of guaranteed masochism bordering on the certifiably insane, but it would also be a very only-in-New-York-thing-to-do since New Yorkers are veteran line waiters.  At this stage in our lives, I am certain that Milton and I have invested the equivalent of at least an entire year of our lives doing nothing more than waiting to enter films, plays, restaurants, exhibits, and standing at box office windows (refer to Lame Adventure 1 for the story of another epic wait).  Yet, we did not anticipate when we both arrived early – he at 8:40 and I at 8:45 (the Met opened the doors at 9:30), that the lines leading down from the front of the museum on the 79th Street side as well as the 83rd Street side would both be so monumentally long, reaching so deep inside Central Park, they nearly snaked through the Upper West Side and into the Hudson River.  Thousands upon thousands of other people had the same idea as Milton and me.  The lines continually grew longer as we inched forward.

Huddled masses not exactly enjoying a day in the park.

Inching closer to entry more than an hour later.

As we approached the home stretch of the line in the sweltering heat around 10 am, I noticed two young women toss water bottles into the trash and confer with each other.  Mind-reader me knew what they were thinking since I could smell the acrid stench of line crashers.  I gave them the hairy eyeball.  They got the message and did not attempt to weasel their way in front of us.  Instead, they cut right behind us in front of a clueless guy whose head was absorbed in his iPad.  I said loudly:

Me:  Great, future tax cheats of America right here.

Milton the Wise reasoned:  Pretty young girls can get away with this sort of thing, but if we or anyone we know tried to do it we’d all get killed.

Cheating duo up front.

Soaked in sweat, we finally entered the museum around 10:40 and purchased our tickets at 10:48 while staring at a sign declaring that the next phase in the wait would be 2 ½ hours.  We stared at that sign expressionless until Milton, who was now starving and getting cranky, groused:

Milton:  These fuckin’ clothes had better get up and spin.

For interim viewing pleasure the Met had us wait in long lines that snaked through galleries displaying ancient artifacts.  We were particularly fond of the Chinese sculptures from the 5th through 8th Centuries.  A guard told us that it was okay to photograph the permanent collection.  To help Milton take his mind off of his hunger, I handed him my camera and he snapped away.

In predominantly good company.

Crowd waiting patiently.

Impressive mural.

Appreciating sculpture while waiting.

I occupied my time working on solving the US debt crisis so we can regain our AAA rating.  I suggested to Milton:

Me: Maybe if we returned these artifacts to China, they’ll forgive some of our debt?

A tourist standing behind us asked Milton:

Tourist:  Are you from out of town?  You’re taking so many pictures.

Milton:  No.  We like taking pictures.

Milton relaxing.

Milton’s dream pasta bowl.

Next leg of epic journey.

Ha! Suckers that just got in!

Ha ha! Sucks to be us!

Ancient artifact conversation piece.

Ancient artifact conversation piece 2, or part of an ancient trend with who-knows-what function, possibly a kinda/sorta inspiration for the bong.

Just as we approached the sign that said we had 30 minutes to go before reaching the McQueen exhibit, we saw a sign warning us that there was no photography beyond that point.  Therefore, we did not photograph any of the impressive Auguste Rodin sculptures.  Our Tourist-friend bleated:

Tourist: Did you see that sign?  Put your camera away!

Milton:  We saw the sign.  We’ve put the camera away.

Milton’s stomach:  ROAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After enduring nearly four hours of waiting, we gained entry into the McQueen exhibit around 12:35 that afternoon.  The galleries were so densely packed with visitors it was impossible to see everything.  We did notice people taking photographs with their iPhones, and as much as we wanted to follow their lead, we didn’t.  Every so often a McQueen-weary guard would erupt:

Guard: No photography, please!  Put your camera away!

A number of visitors brought their youngsters.  How much can you see in a crowded gallery when you stand barely four feet tall?  A little girl tried to grab one of McQueen’s trademark Armadillo shaped shoes and Milton had to control his knee-jerk desire to lunge at her.

Look. Don’t touch!

He gasped:

Milton: Don’t!

The kid’s mom seemed indifferent to her daughter’s antics.  This exhibit should have been off-limits to small fry under age ten, but at least strollers were banned.   Overall, it was impressively assembled and what we did see of the clothes was in a word, brilliant.  Milton and I may be the two least stylish people we know, but we both recognized McQueen’s amazing artistry or as Milton observed, McQueen not only had the daring to go further than other designers, but he had the ability to do so and do it brilliantly.  I will never look at a feather* the same way again.

*Exception: stray pigeon feather littering the sidewalk.

He told stories with each of his collections and his imagination struck me as so vast.  How tragic that he was compelled to commit suicide at only 40.

Since we played by the Met’s rules and controlled our impulse to sneak photographs, click this link to see a video that the Met has online of the exhibit.

When we exited the Met an hour later, we saw that the lines were still miles long.

Missing sound effect: cash register clanging.

The museum extended their hours to midnight both days of this past weekend.  We were glad that we were able to see this show before it closed.  It was certainly unlike any other exhibit we’ve ever seen, and one truly worthy of a four hour wait and 5+ hours of standing.  Andrew Bolton, the exhibit’s curator, deserves a shout out; he did a great job putting it together.

Lame Adventure 215: Riding the Rails

Truth in advertising.

As any veteran New York City subway rider knows, whenever a train packed with a horde of passengers pulls into a station, but one car mysteriously has both space and seats, that’s a neon red flag if it’s a hot day in the middle of summer.  That space and those empty seats are the obvious giveaway that the air conditioning in that particular car is dead on arrival.  When the doors open, the riders eager to escape the sauna of the sweltering subway platform into a cool train enter collectively hopeful.  Even I have done this, and I’ve been riding those rails so long, I still remember what it was like when air-con on subway trains was not the norm.

To put it succinctly, it was rolling hell.

So like lambs to the slaughter we enter a train that feels like a barbecue pit.  There are loud shouts and soft murmurs of contempt for this situation.  The more Type A types (myself included) are mute.  We simply clamor to open the doors in-between cars that will lead us to the chill in the air we crave in the next car, even if it means breaking subway rules.  Passengers are not supposed to go from one car into another via those doors, but in this case, many of us cannot flout the rules quick enough.  Hey, we’re veteran subway riders and we also happen to have sweat trickling down our backs

This car was particularly cruel for the doors between cars were locked!  That generated more frustration, and I announced to a fellow steamed rider:

Me:  This is a health hazard! I’m about to spontaneously combust!

She chuckled at me in shared sympathy and then proceeded to take a step backward.  We were in effect being held hostage in this tube of stagnant hot air until the next stop when we could file out and make a beeline for the oasis of the next car.  As I charged out the door, I warned an overheated business-guy in a suit that was about to enter:

Me:  It’s Dante’s Inferno in there!

He got the message.

Overheated Business-guy in Suit:  I’m following you!

He raced behind me and entered the next car that offered the welcome cool air we sought.  He and I exchanged the New Yorker nod of “thanks” and “you’re welcome” (I’m old school, I don’t say, “no problem”) and then returned to our own focus and had nothing further to do with each other.  Also very New Yorker-like.

Anonymous passenger editorial comment to the MTA.

Lame Adventure 214: Wedding(s) Crasher

The brides.

Today is a lovely 91 degree day in the city – hot but not humid, and a perfect day to get same-sex married in one of the two pop-up chapels near Columbus Circle at the Merchant’s Gate entrance to Central Park.  The area seemed equally divided with well wishing onlookers as well as police and wedding staff.

Well wishing onlookers.

The crowd was behaved although one onlooker’s father, a grumpy tourist who was more hungry for his lunch than storybook-New-York-City-style-romance, continually groused to his wedding-loving-daughter:

Grumpy Dad:  C’mon, we’ve watched enough of this!  Let’s get lunch!

Wedding-Loving-Daughter:  You get lunch.  I wanna watch!

Grumpy Dad:  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Wedding-Loving-Daughter was adorable, and a thought occurred to me:

Me:  People meet at weddings all the time.  Give her your Lame Adventures card.

Then a second thought occurred to me:

Me: She’s at least thirty years younger than you.  You’re older than her dad.  And, hello, you’re not a cougar!

I kept my card and returned my focus to the festivities.

This event offered free weddings including officiating, photography, champagne, witnesses, and of most importance to every New Yorker, cupcakes, to 24 first come, first serve couples that responded to the Pop-Up Chapel web site.  The weddings are co-sponsored by an on-line wedding planning site called the Knot.  The number 24 was selected because June 24th was the date that the bill was passed to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

The two chapels were selected from 56 design entries.  Two of the stipulations were that these chapels had the capacity to be constructed within two hours on the morning of the event, and they measure no more than eight by eight feet.  The winners were Kiss by Z-A Studio and a cube of rainbow ribbons by the design firm ICRAVE.  What I liked most about Kiss, aside from the simple elegance of the design, was that when separated, the two pieces could not stand alone.  Gee, if I was the sappy type, I might have popped a tear when I wrote that.

Here are some pictures of the two chapels of love Gotham City-style and some of the loving couples.  Click on this loving couples to link to learn a little about fourteen of the couples that were wed today.  They’ve been together between three and thirty-seven years or according to my abacus, an average of eleven years.

Sign and Keeper of the Sign

The Knot's staff.

ICRAVE's rainbow ribbons chapel.

Jay & John, together almost 37 years, exchanging vows.

Z-A Studio's empty Kiss waiting for next couple.

Deb & Jazell (in traditional dress), together five years after meeting over a cantaloupe, exchanging vows.

Congratulations!

Deb and Jazell mingling post-nuptials.

Next couple preparing to exchange vows.

Cameracrew recording ceremony.

Exchanging I do's.

Post-kiss under Kiss (missed kiss due to snail slow shutter speed).

Just married Tom & Scott after almost 30 years together.

Lame Adventure 207: Lost and Wondering

A while ago, I was in the Chambers Street subway station waiting to board an uptown express train when I noticed this sorry site of a pair of sunglasses lying on the concrete platform floor.

Undignified end.

I figured that Someone Somewhere would soon be exiting the station at their final destination, enter the glare of sunny daylight, reach for their missing shades and would soon be searching their pockets or satchel at that very moment, wondering:

Someone Somewhere:  Where are my sunglasses?  What’d I do with them?  I know I was wearing them when I entered at Chambers Street …

My train arrived, I didn’t pick up the lost shades, nor did I hear Big Foot Bozo step on them, but I figured that was likely.  Or possibly someone might kick them into the tracks accidentally or intentionally.  Those shades, once valued by Someone Somewhere were now toast and their final destination was probably a landfill.  Of course, looking around my apartment as I write this post I suppose everything in my humble abode will eventually end up in a giant trash pile, too.  If my demise is remotely natural, my carcass will meet its end in the crematorium, and my ashes will be distributed evenly – one third by the Upper West Side’s Fairway Market (good food), one third by Film Forum (good film) and one third by the Public Theater (good plays).  It’s so much more emotionally satisfying to knowingly unload one’s possessions and self at will rather than suffer that sick feeling in the pit of one’s being and wonder:

Me (wondering):  Hey, what did I do with my [keys, gloves, American Express card, New York Film Festival ticket, umbrella, one hundred dollar bill from my dad, that phone number, lip balm, pen, mind]?

The follow-up phrase I always think as I perform that futile pat-down on myself:

Me: I know I just had it right here!

Then, there’s the moment of sick recollection:

Me (recalling):  Did my keys fall out of my pocket when I impulsively slipped into that screening of Hairspray when no one was looking?

Answer:  They sure did, and that multiplex’s kind lady in Lost and Found had them.  My unusual French key fob was quite a topic of cheerful monologue with her, but all I was thinking about was lying through my teeth about losing my ticket stub should she ask me to produce one.  She didn’t.  It is very likely that when she asked:

Lost & Found Lady:  Are these keys on this cute unique key chain yours?

And I gushed:

Me:  Oh, I lost my ticket stub, too.  Yes, those are my keys!

She thought I was spastic.

Recovering my keys in response to my being a movie-going cheat that day was a rare and lucky break.  Most of the time when I’ve lost something, even if I have a solid clue about what happened to it, I know like Someone Somewhere’s lost shades, that item is a goner and no amount of certainty that I still have it in my possession will bring it back.  Suck it up to fate and replace it.

Lame Adventure 205: Sniffling and Sneezing

After a day of denial where my loyal friend, Coco, insisted I was fine and that my sniffling and sneezing had been caused by exposure to mold, a conclusion likely reached as she reflected on the mold-covered bathroom in my think-tank department, Tile Labeling.  Yet, that problem has been eradicated.  Recently, Elsbeth, my lord and master, was motivated to have the mold removed after I said the twelve magical words every employer longs to hear:

Me:  Our bathroom’s a real health hazard, Boss.  Do we want a lawsuit?

Fast-forward to a few days ago, as Coco and I are sitting in a watering hole pounding beers while I sniffle, sneeze and wonder aloud:

Me:  Do you think I’m sick?

Coco (reasoning):  No, you’re fine.  You live in New York City.  The whole city’s covered in mold.

I have quit denying the obvious, and for the first time since February 2010, I have admitted that I am actually suffering a cold.  Even though this is not a monster, phlegm-filled, butt-kicker of a cold, I opted to stay indoors where I sneezed and sniffled for most of the July 4th holiday.  While on a tissue replenishment run, I did take a few photographs.  This one made me think that if Milton and I had ever mated, our spawn would have been this creature.

"You can take my picture, but do not, I repeat, do not photograph my left side!"

Meanwhile, Coco emailed me a slightly more dramatic shot as she observed the barges in the river that would launch the fireworks over the Hudson that night.

Waiting for the works!

When I returned to work on Tuesday, still sniffling and sneezing, I emailed Milton the details about my cold that had primarily nestled in one eye:

Me: It seems completely confined to my left eye where I feel like I’m holding three gallons of fluid.

Milton: Yuck! I have so many different allergies now that I have no idea when I have a cold.

To take my mind off my flowing eye and my sniffling and sneezing, Coco emailed me a video she shot of the fireworks display I did not attend because I was too busy – sniffling and sneezing.

Lame Adventure 204: Yankee Doodling

My sidekick, Greg, is very excited about the July 4th holiday since his long weekend will extend into ten-days of personal independence, a period where he’s completely free of crowded subway trains, tile labeling, and me.  Before heading off to the Missouri wilderness for a back to nature roughing it excursion with his buddies in the woods, coincidentally prompting the trailer for Deliverance to play continually on a loop inside my head all week, we recorded a free jazz video of Yankee Doodle at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25.

Please forgive the camerawoman’s evident delirium tremors at the start.  She’s still in Pride withdrawal.