Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And the Winner Is...

My friend Tom just found out who bought the Central Avenue firehouse. It's a construction company that specializes in upscale historic restorations. The firehouse is going to be their office.

That's a great use of the space and these people won't be in over their heads like I would have been. They're even the same guys who renovated the restaurant across the park from me. Which I need to go to...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Regrets. Well, Maybe a Few.

A few minutes ago, "my" firehouse up on Central Avenue went to the highest bidder (of five) for $290,000.

Part of me really wanted it. The other part of me was not into negotiating the zoning (commercial) or property tax appeals. Then there's the roof — not only do you get to pull off the old roof and put on a new one, you also have the pleasure of repairing all the rotting rafters — and the heating, electricity, plumbing, and so on.

If I had about $150,000 more dollars, I'd have done it. But I don't think I could have swung what I estimate would be $3,000 a month in costs during renovation.

Am I a little sad I didn't go to the auction? Yeah. But it's for the best. I'd certainly have bid after $290k. The property will be unique and valuable when it's finished.

It's just the meantime I couldn't handle.

And then there's the dead squirrel factor.

photo by Spencer

Monday, March 29, 2010

Saturday Night at Journal Square

Here is what happens before films at the Landmark Loew's (a grand 1929 movie palace) at Journal Square. Tracy and I went up there to see "On the Waterfront" on Saturday night.

Afterwards, a few experts spoke about the film, which was shot in Hoboken. The five-minute speech given by Karl Malden's character was verbatim one given by an activist Jesuit priest in Paulus Hook, JC, a few years earlier.

Truly a fabulous way to go to the cinema...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Firehouse in the Heights

The Central Avenue firehouse that goes up for auction on Tuesday morning is too much for me. I can't handle it, can't even consider bidding on it. What if I got it? I'd run out of money in a week of trying to renovate the thing.

Such a crumbling beauty. I love the outside, the facade, and the location. But inside?

Take a look.

The tragedy is the water damage. The extension in the back is water-logged. Soaked. The main roof leaks like a swamp. Pull off the roof and you'd find rotting beams and damp wood.

I'm no builder, but I'm betting that the dead squirrels are the least of the problems up on Central Avenue.

Such a shame. I'd love to have this firehouse as my primary residence.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adventures in Taxis, Part Bazillion

I planned to be prompt for my first firehouse tour. Really, I did.

I got up at 6:30 a.m.! That's a half-hour earlier than I usually find myself able to stop ignoring that incessant beeping that comes out of my alarm every weekday. And I did get ready, and I even checked up on the various sites that have been featuring the on-auction JC firehouses I've been coveting. But when I meant to leave, at 8:30 for my 9:30 appointment on Central Avenue, I found myself instead rushing back to my computer to figure out how to get there from here without my car.

I wanted to avoid the Newark Avenue traffic that the jitney to Palisades hits in is circuitous route to the Heights. But taking the Light Rail to Hoboken and then a bus didn't seem to be faster than taking the PATH to Journal Square and getting a bus. Shouldn't there be a bus from somewhere around here to there? I dug around online.

Sure. There's a bus. The jitney, a private, mostly Latino bus that goes from the bottom of 8th Street up to Palisades.

"Shut up and take it," I thought, just when I noticed is was already quarter-to-nine. I'll just have to risk the Newark Avenue traffic.

I raced around and out of the house, and just missed a jitney at 9 a.m. I waited a second, then decided to cross the mall and get a taxi.

Which worked, until the taxi driver started chatting. Right after he called into his central office, got the fare, and then laboriously pushed buttons on the GPS.

"I can tell you how to get there," I said.

He made some vaguely affirmative noises and stared at the GPS instructions.

"Are you from here?"

"Yes, I live over there." I waved my hand vaguely towards the mall.

He made a U-turn and hit every single light and then aimed his taxi straight up the Holland Tunnel exit. (Uh-oh. He should have gone under the Skyway and up the cliff the back way. I should've waited for the jitney. Damn GPS.)

"I am not from here," said the driver.

No kidding, I thought. I could have played his game, but I wanted him to hurry. I didn't want to chat.

"You are Egyptian," I said flatly. "You are from E-gept." I said it with the guh, not juh, like an Egyptian would.

Surprised, he said "Yes, I am. But I am Coptic! I am not Muslim."

"I can see that." I glanced at the Jesus decals on his dashboard. Coptic taxi drivers do this in Egypt and the US, and probably other places too.

"Coptics are Christian! We are not Muslim!"

Yawn. Here we go.

"America is a very smart country! Why do they let these people in? They are terrible people."

Taken aback, I said that America was open to everyone and that there was no way to know who would do bad things.

And then he made it quite clear what he was talking about.

"Obama - Muslim."

I actually laughed at this point.

"That's ridiculous. Obama isn't a Muslim.'

"Yes, he lived in a Muslim country."

"Barely for any time and anyway, it doesn't matter. I lived in Muslim countries and it didn't make me a Muslim. Obama isn't a Muslim."

And in my head, I thought "Why the hell am I having this conversation with this idiot? He is probably discriminated against all the time and yet here he is doing to others exactly what is done to him all the time. I should get out and walk. No... wait... that's only hurts you. Sit tight. Just stop the conversation."

"I lovvved Bush."

"I only have ten minutes. You went the wrong way. You shouldn't pay any attention to that GPS. You should have gone under that bridge and up the back way. I will show you. You need to hurry. I am in a hurry."

And with that, we fell into silence for the rest of the trip.

Just another installment in my ongoing awkward adventures with Egyptian taxi drivers, I reckon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Early Evening of the Dead

On Saturday, I was running around like crazy, doing things people do on Saturdays. I did laundry, looked at a few firehouses, and when I was at the supermarket, in the parking lot, I stopped and looked at my phone.

(And by look at, I mean read my email and then scrolled down the Facebook updates page.)

And there was Bunche, in a snapshot he posted of him with George Romero. Bunche had come over from Brooklyn to JC and gone to the horror con that was in Journal Square.

*&^%! I am soooo lame!

How could I not bother going up the hill on the jitney to see George Romero, the esteemed originator of the zombie movie? All I had to do was sit on the jitney for ten minutes. But I'd gotten bogged down in the mundane.

I continued to swear at my own super-lameness on the drive home, where I dropped off my groceries, changed my shirt, and ran down to the jitney.

Ten minutes later I was in the front row at the Night of/Dawn of the Dead panel at the Landmark Loew's 1929 movie palace.

And it was super. Super-duper. There were all kinds of former zombies on the stage, along with director George Romero and the main actors from Dawn of the Dead. They reminisced and took questions from the audience. George Romero talked about how the main part in Night of the Living Dead had been written with a white actor in mind, and when they found the man who had gotten the part, he had been a black actor, but they hadn't changed a word of the script. And the script took on much weightier meaning when the team had been driving to New York with the film's answer print and they heard on the radio that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated.

Their marvelous zombie movie had suddenly sprouted unexpected symbolism. Unanticipated Zeitgeist.

And watching the panel, I thought back to my first midnight movie, in high school. At Skyline Mall out on the edge of Alexandria, with the other Marie, her friend Rob that she knew from Naples, and his friend Kevin (whose dad owned a heating and air conditioning company). And I remembered Rob chuckling wickedly when the elevator door opened. "Watch this zombie, hahahahahaha..."

I'd never seen anything like Dawn of the Dead, at least since my little ex-boyfriend had borrowed his mother's car and taken me to see Road Warrior at the drive-in. Both of these movies blew my little 17-year-old mind.

Is it any wonder I ended up working on comic books?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Detour

I had to walk to Grove Street PATH today because the JC police were up to something along my usual route. They were conducting a drill from 6:30 to 9:30. I was curious — what kind of emergency drill happens next to the Holland Tunnel? Are they planning on housing people there as refugees in an emergency? Are they learning to protect us all in the mall in the event of something going wrong in the tunnel? Are they responding to a state-government attack on the lower sales tax in the Urban Enterprise Zone?

It's top-secret info, not something I'm going to find out anytime soon. But if it has anything to do with what crosses my mind late at night when I walk through the deserted mall, it's probably got something to do with the imminent zombie invasion.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fire Sale

I like to torture myself, so I went up to the on-auction Central Ave firehouse yesterday to get a closer look.

The front is beautiful. But the copper at the top needs polishing and there is a ledge that pigeons seem to adore. Dried pigeon crap covers the sidewalk. A quick guess at the age of the windows: 15-20 years, based on the discoloration, materials, and style. These look like the windows at Yancey's when he first moved in, and those were 20 years old. Old windows might indicate that it's been a while since a major overhaul.

Pershing Field is across the street. Central Avenue is a busy, unattractive, urban street, but everything you need is right there.

The side shows that the place does need a lot of work. Some masonry needs restoration and some bits are crumbling. I'm not sure what's up with that fence.

I didn't walk away thinking "I must have this." I went away thinking that the project is way too big for l'il ol' me. I miss Turbo. He'd have that firehouse tamed in a month.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fantasy Real Estate

At the end of the month, JC is auctioning off some fire houses. I read about it here and my first thought was that it would be amazing to own an old fire house. I'd buy one, renovate it, use the downstairs for laser tag and Roberta's painting, and get a dalmatian.

But then I did a little math and reality checking. I'd need to go to the auction with a bank check for forty grand, for starters. I'd be bidding blind—in spite of being able to do some basic checks prior to the auction, I'd have to work pretty hard to get all the details on potential property taxes, title search, and environmental/renovation costs beforehand. And I've read the fine print—you bid and if you win and upon further digging, find that the property isn't viable for you, good-bye forty grand deposit.

Only two of them are actually viable for me, the Boyd and Central ones.

The starting bids aren't *that* great, considering I could get a finished house in those areas for just a little more than the final bids are likely to be. Then, if I got one, I'd have to somehow manage to get it up to speed and get a certificate of occupancy in order to get a real mortgage.

There could be asbestos or oil tanks on the properties and none of the locations are all that great.

I don't think they even have the fire poles anymore, and dalmatians don't even come with the property.

But I'm having trouble shaking the notion. Fiscally, it's just a fantasy. I could get something *finished* or even buy Yancey's place off him (maybe) for what I suspect the final bid will be on the best of the fire houses, the one on Central Ave. But the part of me that loves a good real estate challenge and hasn't backed down from renovating before just won't shut up.

Here are the less-desirable four buildings in the auction.

This one is too big for my ambitions. I don't think Roberta even has that many paintings.

This isn't even in the running. It's not even a fire house!

This one is in a lousy, inconvenient location for commuting, but it's second-best in the charm department.

Ick. Who put this nice shape between those icky modern houses, and put brown concrete on its front? I guess you could brag that you have a brownstone AND a fire house.

Finally, here's the jewel in the crown of the auction. This one is across from a huge park, has easy bus access to both the PATH and Port Authority, and has all kinds of shops within walking distance. This is the one that is going to set off a bidding war, the one I want, and the reason I probably won't bother going to the auction. It's not going to sell for $200,000, I promise.

I kinda want a fire house.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Afternoon Commute

I had to meet with my tax return preparer on Tuesday after work, and afterwards left from the World Trade Center PATH train. The advent of daylight saving time means the sun was still out, tinting the evening with yellow light.

On the platform, one of the workers had a door propped open into the Ground Zero footprint. And a lost banana sat alone, awaiting a punchline.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hippo Homework

I had to do my midterm assignment for Flash class. I was trying to come up with something about the Pulaski Skyway, when somehow, this hippo "short documentary" came out instead.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New Do

So... I got a haircut. I went around the corner from my apartment. I wanted to get a proper haircut where the hair does stuff like swing and grow out in an appealing manner, but I couldn't stomach spending over $100 on something that might suck.

They did all right around the corner ($65) but next time I'm going back to the Egyptian woman at the mall for $35.

Forgive the intense expression. It's tough to get the camera at the right angle at arm's length.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Talk to the Hand

I wonder if they sell this at the IKEA in Kuwait too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New York Lunch

I got to the same deli every weekday. It's newish, around the corner from my office, and is called Bistro—but the name hardly matters. I didn't even notice the deli had a name until a friend from Greece was in town. He read the sign out front, clever man.

What matters is that this deli is one of those classic NYC-mega delis. One section has a juice bar, one has pasta, one has salad, one has sandwiches, and in the middle is a hot bar.

I'm a creature of habit. I get a hot chicken or turkey panini almost every day. Sometimes I get pasta with a pile of veggies on it. Once in a blue moon, I hit up the hot bar and force down all veggies for lunch.

Last Thursday, I was waiting at the panini section. I'd just noted that someone needed to clean the floor—bits of lettuce and meat were scattered about—when a large Asian man in an apron accosted me.

"EAT," he commanded, handing me a small bite-sized piece of a sandwich.

Startled, I obediently accepted the snack. It was a slice of roast beef, lettuce, tomato, mozzarella, horseradish, and Peter Luger's sauce on a stiff baguette.

Mmmmm, delicious.

The man continued to badger other customers, who were as stunned but obedient as I had been. Those who resisted were mocked. "Take it. Just taste it."

I proceeded with my chicken panini purchase—as delicious as the snack was, it would have to be a pretty special occasion for me to chow down on that sauce-and-steak-laden huge pice of bread.

I was back in the deli on Tuesday. Uh-oh, here he comes again. I steeled myself against accepting the enforced free sandwich. Other customers, I saw, were similarly toughened this time.

I shook my head when he accosted me. I didn't think I'd get away with it, but he was distracted when a flurry of new targets walked up. He shoved the delicious treat under one woman's nose.

"Eep! I'm vegetarian," she squeaked.

"Ohhhh... I'm so sorry." The deli-man seemed truly remorseful. He paused then launched sandwiches at the next surprised customer.

The next man took it and gulped it down, bits of lettuce and meat falling from the sloppy tidbit and landing on the floor.

Ah, that's where the floor-debris comes from.

Then, the deli-man added a new line to his barrage of commands. He offered up a napkin.

"Wipe your face, man. You look like a slob."

And wipe his face he did. We all do what the deli-man demands of us.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More Skyway Photos

Here are some more photos from Sunday's expedition to the Pulaski Skyway.

I put up more photos here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Under the Skyway

I took a little drive out to Kearny on Sunday. I thought I'd stop for lunch, but this diner is empty and for sale.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A Year-Old Review

A geography teacher named Allison L. Newton reviewed Dik-Dik a year ago, and it just now popped up in my Google Alerts. I think that's because the issue the review was in was previously behind a pay-wall, but now it's free and online.

Her review is so kind-hearted and nice, and it came at a really good time after a particularly mean-spirited review on Amazon left me wondering if maybe I should just skulk off and never write again. I know we're not supposed to look and not supposed to let it bother us, but it took me years to not-look at comic book reviews. I'm not there yet with book reviews.

I put the PDF of the Geography Teacher review up here.

I wonder if they'd like to check out the 3-D atlas..?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bearly Affordable

I've been sniffing around trying to sort out a way to go to see the polar bear migration in Churchill, Manitoba.

T'ain't cheap. It's about $3,000 to go on an organized expedition. Going it without a group, you pay $1000 alone for the airfare from Winnipeg to Manitoba. The road ends about halfway between the two and then it's train or plane only. I've been scrounging around all morning trying to put together various non-flying options, but it's not looking good for $$ + carbon impact:nature/bears.

Lessee... frequent flyer ticket from NYC-Winnepeg: Check, and accepting that it's the only way so long as I have a job. Winnepeg-Thompson on the... nine-hour bus? That's $63. Then long train journey to Churchill from Thompson is $56.70 to $222.60 depending on if I wanted coach or cabin. But of course, nothing matches up, so I'd end up with a night in Winnepeg or Toronto, then a night in Thompson. Gah. That's not good. It eliminates any savings on transportation, plus I have a job, which given that I also have vacation time, isn't quite as important as the fact that I have to be in Manhattan every Tuesday night in the autumn to teach coloring class, which ends at 5:50 pm.

Guess I could end class early on a Tuesday, fly halfway, then finish the trip to Winnepeg in the a.m., catch the bus, then the train, or train then the bus.

Oh, and of course the train doesn't run every day. Swell.


Maybe I'll just need to fork over the big bucks or forget about it. Again. For now.

And I might indeed do that... but while searching for answers, I stumbled over the most amazing site.

Brilliant. I don't have a Canadian address but that won't stop me from admiring this person's resourcefulness.

Friday, March 05, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Um, not that different, I guess. I'm not wearing as much makeup and not talking about my book but rather, my day job.

They said my name wrong. It's JAY-vins, pronounced like the -avi- in the name David.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Free Sample

Here I am wearing too much lipstick and looking kinda weird. An ad agency made this a few years ago when they were trying to sell a publishing company on using multimedia interviews with their authors. I was happy to play along as their sample.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Commuting Stats

Here's a look at my morning commute.

# of revolving doors I go through: 4
# of regular doors I pass through: 12
# of turnstiles: 2
# of escalators: 3
# of elevators: 1
# of trains: 1
# of minutes on train: 15
# of shopping malls I pass through: 2
# of Macy's I pass: 2

Maybe I need to work more on envisioning opening doors as leading me somewhere interesting.