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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Me and My Lists...

It's turned bitter cold outside recently and winter seems in full swing.  My radiators never start hissing until the mid morning hours when I'm just waking up, so it's often chilly in my bedroom.  I guess this is how I know it's winter.  And I'm just thankful that I have radiators to begin with.  I can't even begint to fathom what the city's less fortunate and the hurricane victims are going through. And it's only going to get worse...might even snow again this week.  

Now, Thanksgiving weekend is already a memory and I'm gearing up for a marathon December between all this remixing and mastering I'll be doing.  Then more voice coaching and hopefully, more voice gigs.  Also, Lacy and I are gearing up for the CD release parties which are only a few months away...dates and locations TBA, of course. For more information see Lacy James' website. :)  I plan to have the mastering done before the end of December at which point I will be sending the tracks off to the licensing agency.  My first batch. I won't say much more about Lacy's CD release because that's for her to announce.  This Friday I'm doing some voice over coaching with Sylvia which should be great.  I'm hoping to have a copy of the last gig I did for the young adult novel web ad to show her.  But we'll see. 

On top of all of that, I've already started my end of year reckoning and planning for next year's goals.  Lists of goals like these are great motivators.  I find them to be quite useful.  Part of the process of fabricating next years list of goals had me looking back at what I set out to do this past year and it's always interesting to see how many more I'm checking off as done than I did last year.  It was quite a few things.  Plus, the ones that I didn't check off weren't left undone necessarily, they just didn't turn out to be necessary or they were started but I realized that they were too ambitious for one year.  Things like finding a voice over agent.  In that regard, the lists can be fluid.  Voice over strategies have morphed a bit.  For instance, I found myself planning originally to email bomb a ton of production houses with my demos once I felt proud of them...but I think subconsciously I wasn't ever truly proud of them until I started racking up actual jobs to put on them.  Now that they're filled out with jobs I've actually done vs. random scripts I read in the studio specifically for the demo, I'm a lot prouder of what I'm putting out there.  Plus, without even using the demo to solicit more work in other places besides Voice123, I ended up averaging a gig a month for the last 9 months.  So, at some point along the line, I deemed it unnecessary to focus my efforts on soliciting production houses and instead hatched the plot to take my track record to an agent.  And now, I feel I'm still not ready.

So, using all of that, I fashioned a much more realistic checklist for next year, for both VO and music, to keep me on track and motivate me to bring them all to completion...or just about as close as I can get.  What's important is the trajectory, not necessarily whether or not I hit my target.  I'm always going to be getting closer and closer.

That having been said, and speaking of lists, I'm at a rather satisfying stage with the remix project now.  My list has been refined to the point where all the tasks on there are final tasks.   When these are done, the project is done.  At the start, the list is always, "what to do to get started."  And in my notes each day, I write down what I did, what still needs to be done and anything else that came up.  Each day the list is changing until one day, I can see the handful of tasks that it will take me to finally finishing the thing...whatever the thing is.  And that's where I am for the remix project.  Each track has a few tasks left, such as rerecording a bassline, tweaking the drum mix or just bouncing out individual audio tracks from MIDI instruments.  (Sorry just threw some music technical-ese in there, my bad).

This is how my mind works best and there are probably better ways to do it but it works for me so I stick with it.  Some might choose to not even start until every task is laid out on a very precise to do list, some might not make lists at all.  Honestly, so much goes in to my endeavors that I can't not make to do lists but on the other hand, I also can't box myself in and have to remain fluid and be able to accomplish things in stages. If I sat down and wrote out every single task that needed to be done I'd probably quail at the thought of starting.  And ultimately, when taking on a project like this (or any other of comparable scale), it's impossible to see what all needs to be done until you start doing things.  It's important to be systematic, of course, and figure out the best place to start, because that could make me quail as well, not knowing where to start.

Hehe...quail.  What a funny word.  Anyway, as you can see I'm getting a little loopy. It's time to shut this down and go to bed...as always.  Wish me luck with the lists and completing all of my tasks.  This coming Sunday night, the great Tania Stavreva is having her birthday celebration concert at Vivaldi Cafe in the W. Village and Lacy and I have been invited to play.  Though I get off work at 11pm that night, we will probably be doing so.  Stay tuned for updates on that.  Good night! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving aftermath...

...or, secondary title, I've never had so much food in my fridge from one meal and my kitchen has never smelled so good.  So, all in all, it was a success.  The turkey brine was a great idea.  It left my turkey insanely moist for a bird that just spend almost 3 hours in the oven and the process was pretty simple.  Now, I have a bucket leftover for such tasks should I want to do something like this again in the future.  I probably will.

My gluten free rolls were better the first time around but they still were pretty good today.  Nice and soft, and not too gummy or brittle.  Unlike the stuffing.  I used a loaf of Udi's Gluten Free bread which is my go to for sandwiches but somehow it didn't stand up to being turned into stuffing.  It's crumbly still, though less than other brands, and when the moisture in the chicken broth hit it, it started to disintegrate into a grainy mush.  Not Good Eats, as Alton would say.  It did the job just fine though and was certainly tasty, just not quite the right texture.  I added a red delicious apple for more flavor and used shallots instead of onions.

The gravy also did not thicken as much as I wanted, probably owing to the simple fact that I didn't use enough corn starch to thicken it.  It did gelatinize in the fridge though so that's good.  Maybe it'll be better tomorrow.  Lastly, the sweet potato and turnip mash was amazing and I have so much of it I ended up freezing a huge portion of it, along with a large portion of turkey soup I made after dinner.  The turkey soup, even though I didn't boil the carcass for all that long (maybe an hour and a half), came out excellent and it left my kitchen smelling amazing. That'll be great for the colder weeks to come.

After dinner, we ate a pie that Alexa's mom made.  Pumpkin with a crushed pecan and date crust.  It was so good I'm having to stop myself from eating another slice just because they left me a couple.  It'll be amazing tomorrow.  She had also brought a gluten free quiche that we devoured for brunch when they first arrived.  Crust made out of shredded potato hash. 

I guess all this just goes to show you how a gluten free Thanksgiving is totally possible and not all that hard.  In fact, the harder aspects of today were the typical things that anyone would find difficult doing this for the first time or the thousandth time.  And a lot of that falls under the timing category.

And though it was a challenge, timing everything to be ready at the same time, I managed and it reminds me how much I love planning and executing.  Also how much I love cooking.  I have forgotten that in recent days when I'm confined to cooking quick cooking meals that can reheat well (i.e. one pot dishes and simple chicken dishes, never fish because it never reheats well) and that I can bring to work in separate portions so I only have to cook once or twice a week.  This presents its own challenges and can be fun if I have the enthusiasm and creativity to change it up every once in a while, but some weeks when I'm trying to cram so much into a day between full time work, yoga, and freelancing in voice over and music, it gets tempting to just fall into a pattern and stick with what works.  So I'm almost never trying new things like, say, brining a turkey or baking gluten free rolls.  So, this was great fun.  And I'm thankful that I had the opportunity and the means to pull it off and that I have friends and family to share it with.  That's what it's all about after all. 

And for the record, I'm also thankful that I'm living in this city, still surviving after almost four years, doing what I love and accomplishing, albeit slowly, what I set out to do.  Signing off after a long full day of food and friends.  Early day tomorrow.  Good night. 

Thanksgiving 2012 Best Shots

Thanksgiving blurb...

The bird is out of the brine and hanging out in the refrigerator until it's time to stick it in the oven, the stuffing is cooling on the stove top (looking rather strange owing to the fact that I used gluten free bread and it's kind of falling apart in there...should be extra mushy). I just cut up a cantaloupe in anticipation of the arrival of my guests, who are bringing with them: a gluten free quiche, a gluten free pumpkin pie, some asparagus to roast later on (which I hope I have room for in the fridge when they get here), and hopefully some moral support. 

I'm kidding.  I have a schedule written out starting with the time the oven goes on straight up until the rolls and asparagus go into the oven to bake and roast respectively.  I've been meticulous and thorough (I keep telling myself).  We opted for a late afternoon meal which is different from what I grew up with.  By now, the kitchen is usually incredibly steamy from the oven that's been on since early in the morning when my mom got up to start the meal cooking and we were aiming for a 2pm meal time.  That's why I felt a little nervous sitting around watching TV this morning while I waited.  I've had it in my head that it takes from 6am to 2pm to cook a Thanksgiving meal.  Now that I think about it I'm not sure what my mom was doing that early, except maybe making the stuffing ahead of time and making the dough for the onion rolls.  I think I recall the bird actually going in the oven around 9am or so. 

Either way, I think I've done enough research that this is going to go over quite well.  Before and after pics of the bird? Why not.  Stay tuned. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

No Stress, no mess...

Did I say something about being stressed out about this?  No, I said I understood people who got stressed out.  No, I just remembered that I am the king of time management.  I should be fine.  I love this kind of stuff, remember?  Am I not always going on about that?  Yes, Turkey day will be a cinch.

Okay, I got a little advice from a trusted source.  In fact, I laughed that I didn't think of it before.  Good Eats Thanksgiving episode.  Inundated with the billions of different opinions on everything from roasting temperature to brining to whether or not to even use stuffing, I realized I should go to the sources I trust.   I've made Alton's recipes before and they've never done me wrong.  Difficult and complex though they may sometimes seem, I do like the reliable science that goes into them and the rationales behind the steps.

And even though Alton doesn't like stuffing, I am still keeping that aspect.  His rationale for not stuffing the bird is salmonella and campylobacter, but I don't see why you can't just keep cooking the stuffing in a casserole if it doesn't get up to temperature with the rest of the bird.  Right now, though, the thought of brining the bird does seem enticing.  I'm not sure I can procure a large enough vessel to do said brining before Wednesday night.

The point is, I'm remembering that this kind of thing is fun to me.  Not just the cooking but the planning on pulling things off.  I'm sitting here working on my remixes tonight and making slow and sure progress.  Seeing my well laid plans come to fruition is probably one of the most satisfying aspects of what I do.  When they do come to fruition of course.

I spent some time today looking at some of the project files for the songs I've composed this year. I remembered that I need a plugin that came with Guitar Rig 4 Pro for some of these songs and, since my reinstall I can't find the install file on my hard drive so I've had to install Guitar Rig 4 "essential which I do have lying around, but which doesn't have the aforementioned plugin.  So, now I'm thinking of just upgrading to Komplete 8, which gets me not only Guitar Rig 5 Pro but a whole host of other tasty synthesizers and samplers for a measly $229.  Early Christmas present?  Perhaps.

I've gotten the list of remix-able tunes down to 7 as well, which is much more manageable then the 20, I was trying for initially.  And I've gotten those 7 down to a tight to do list, so as long as I can manage to stay focused in the next few days, I should be able to take these all to mastering by the end of the month.   If all goes well.

With that, it back to simultaneously planning my Thanksgiving feast for 4.  More updates as the process begins from thawing the bird right up to managing the leftovers.

Friday, November 16, 2012

First turkey ever and the to-do list...

I now, finally after all these years, understand how holidays can be stressful to some people.  In just under a week, I will be cooking my first Thanksgiving bird for my girlfriend and her parents.  I bought a 12 lbs.  turkey at the Park Slope Food co-op yesterday and am planning on cooking the poor thing in my own kitchen...which means also hosting the dinner at my apartment.

So naturally, I'm in organizational mode and have been taking on more than I can handle, it seems.  Lukcily, I was able to outsource the pie and some of the sides to my girlfriend and her parents.  But Meanwhile, here's a few of the things I've decided to make:

Sweet potato and turnip mash, because we went back and forth about whether to have mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes or one or the other, or turnips, or not turnips and then this recipe surfaced:

Gluten free rolls, which I'm going to adapt to be as close to my mother's onion rolls that she would always make on Thanksgiving.

And as for that pie I'm outsourcing, Alexa found this.

Now, it's all a matter of cleaning up the apartment, planning the timing of everything I'll be cooking, and somehow, finding two extra chairs.  Thinking about seeing if I can borrow something like that from my neighbors or buy cheap ones.  As it stands I have 2 kitchen chairs, a piano bench, an office chair and two sofas but I think I'd rather have everyone sitting on something as chair like as possible.

The trick to all this is to do lists and time management.  I've found them to be invaluable all these years for the enormous amount of stuff I try to accomplish in the 16 or so waking hours I have every day.  Without to do lists my brain would melt into an incomprehensible pool of obligations and deadlines and I wouldn't know what to do with myself.  And without time management, I would never get anything done...or at least I wouldn't get nearly as much done.

My current remixing project would be nowhere without the lengthy to do list I have in place as there are multiple pieces I'm working on.  It's fluid and each piece has it's own sub-to-do list, with tasks to complete before I get to the creative phase of changing things around (tasks like separating out all the individual tracks and putting them into a new project file in Logic).  I'm changing things daily and deciding which songs I should cut as well.  Hopefully, with the technical stuff out of the way, I'll be getting on with the creative aspects, which are better taken care of in the lair, i.e. when I'm at home.  So I'm doing all of the technical stuff while I'm on the move and here at work.  That's time management.

With that said, I need to take care of a few more of those technical things before I leave tonight.  And then figure out the seating arrangement for Thanksgiving dinner.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Voice Over Gig and more remixing...

Just got back from a friend's place in Bushwick.  Great dinner, good times.  And another long day of music, split up by a yoga class and laundry.  This is good, though.  I love when I can get a huge amount of stuff done in one day.  I was tired and didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped but I did finish separating out all the tracks for every song I plan on remixing.  Now comes the hard part though.  Making tough decisions about what stays and what goes in each piece.  How am I going to maintain the essence of the songs while changing what I think needs to be changed. 

With one piece, I was trying to record a bass line today and now I'm realizing how bad the pick up on this old bass I picked up really is...maybe I'll borrow one, maybe I'll scrap the bass line altogether and just use a synth patch.  It might work better anyway.  The more I listen to that one piece though, the more I don't like some of the chord progressions in certain parts so now I'm thinking of overhauling that aspect of the piece. 

I'm also realizing that some of the others don't need as much work and I'm thinking maybe I should focus on them first.  There are ultimately about 10.  Some I wrote when I was in college and, while I still find them catchy, it's apparent that my compositional skills were not as developed as they are now.  The ones written in the last few years need far less work...mainly just different drum samples and more attention to the mix. 

Anyway, I have a full day tomorrow to make some more strides and hopefully, I'll be satisfied by the end of the day and will have even more momentum. 

This Monday was the voice over gig and boy, was that fun!  :) I never use emoticons in my blogs so...

When I got there, I was running a little bit early and had to wait for the producer to show up.  When he got there he handed me a script with one minor change (at this point, I had the damned thing memorized after how much I had practiced it) and then he headed off into the studio to get set up.  It wasn't long before I was ushered into the studio we'd be using and greeted by the tiniest scruffy black dog named Phil.  Phil was not the audio engineer...in fact, I think he belonged to the producer.  Anyway, I sat down and looked over the script some more and got some direction from the producer and then got set up in the booth.  They had a monitor in the booth with me and I was able to see the visuals from the almost finished spot I'd be voicing over and hear the music in my headphones so it was way easy to get into character and deliver.  Strangely, I thought in retrospect, I didn't get any direction from him in terms of which one of the reads I delivered to him in my audition he wanted to hear.  I just automatically went for the more energetic angsty kind of read vs. the deep movie trailer voice of god read that I also sent him.  We ended up with about 10 takes by the end of it plus 10 more takes of pickups (i.e. give me the first line three times in a row, stuff like that).  Throughout, I never felt nervous or anything, I just did my thing and listened to directions, never took anything personally and always remained professional, only speaking when spoken to and when asked to read.  I found myself far more comfortable than I ever do recording at home, which made me wonder if I shouldn't maybe adjust some things about my home setup.  I still can't put my finger on what it was.  Maybe I just love doing this so much and I was more excited to be in a real studio doing a real job for once, instead of just working with people long distance and corresponding in emails.  I was so comfortable I was even able to crack a joke when we started to get some RF disturbance from the cables and they had to stop the session and switch them out.  I was hearing pop music in my ear from some nearby radio station and when the engineer asked me if I was hearing it, I said, "yeah, and it's not even a good station." 

When we had enough takes, the engineer began to move them around and line them up with the visuals so I could see a finished version before I left. The whole thing took about an hour and I hung around to wait for a phone call back from one of the other producers, I guess, who they wanted to approve it with.  He never called so they let me go at that point, assured he would approve it.  Then I just headed to my other job.

Man, if I could just do that a few more times a week, I'd be golden.  Anyhow, I'm off to bed now so I can be fresh for tomorrow and maybe submit a few auditions on top of the music work.  Good night! 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Music, remixes...

Just spent the evening remixing an old tune from a while back.  Going to record a bass line tomorrow if I have time.  And so begins my mission to remix and master 10 songs for the licensing agency by the end of the year.  Hopefully, I can pull this off.  I figured that was the most manageable way to get some music submitted to them soon before starting from scratch on new stuff.

New tracks, I'm going to approach in batches, with regard to what they could possibly be used in (i.e. what kind of shows/movies/documentaries etc.), and also with regard to instrumentation and genre.  For example, first, I may write, solo piano and simple instrumentals, then simple electronic stuff, then rock stuff, then chamber and orchestral.

Old stuff, I took the gems, the ones that I found some catchy element in.  These are tracks that were never released.  I wanted to remix, revamp and even overhaul some of them.  As long as, I could see them working with various types of projects, they were included. 

This is making the process not seem as long and overwhelming.  But it'll be nice to have all of these songs ready and handy.  Just recently, I was talking with someone about supplying music to a short promo for a .org.  I didn't think I had anything prepared that they could use but, after offering to do a custom track for them, I realized I did, miraculously.  Showed it to them but the rest of the production team decided it was too late to change the music.  Either way, it made me realize how nice it's going to be to have all this stuff ready for the licensing agency because I'll also have it ready in case someone asks me directly for music.  This is a non-exclusive contract after all.

Anyway, it's going to be a busy winter.  And I'm psyched as well because on Monday, I go into Big Yellow Duck Studios on W 45th Street to record the voice over for this gig I just got.  Sorta psyched for that.  Will have much more to say about that on Monday evening when all's said and done.  Should be fun.  I'll keep you in the loop.  For now, I'm off.  I have old college friends in town that I'm hopefully having drinks with after work.  Good night!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Aftermath 6, The Kindness of Strangers...

Sunday, I took off from work. The head cold won for a day...or at least I let it think it won for a day.  I slept in until about 8:00.  Yes, I set my clock back before I went to bed.  Every fall, I much prefer this to doing so after I sleep.  It somehow makes the night and that extra hour seem longer.  I can change the time when I'm in a quasi-somnambulistical state, forget I did, and then wake up at a regular time but feel like I've had more sleep.  Anyway, that amount of sleep, almost 9 full hours, seemed to get rid of the aches, most of the snot and a even a tad bit of the coughing.  I'd say by tomorrow morning I'll be closer to 100%.

I wanted to do something, and have wanted to do something all week, with my good fortune following this storm.  Knowing it'd be Wednesday before I could go anywhere that needed help, I opted to donate clothing Sunday because I heard my church was picking things up and taking them to communities in our area, Red Hook and other places on the waterfront.  I also wanted to go to church, even though I told my choir director I wouldn't be there for rehearsal.  Just felt like I needed to be there.  After the harrowing images and stories from this week, and knowing that some of my fellow congregants were affected, I needed to sort of touch base and hear everyone's stories.  Some of the members got up and spoke about their respective adventures throughout the storm.  One woman had a tree on her house and just happened to have taken her family out for dinner that night while the storm was just starting to get bad, so no one was in the house when it happened.  Another, our junior minister, was in the E. Village when the substation exploded on 14th Street. Sounded like it was pretty exciting and scary.  He was outside and, like many others, saw the sky light up blue before all the power went out. 

 I wanted to write a blog at some point sort of encompassing my entire experience with the storm and its aftermath and some reflections.  But it's hard to really know where to start and stop.  For example, the news coverage angle never really stops.  We went straight into election coverage and now there's a Nor'easter slamming the city as if Sandy wasn't enough...it's actually snowing outside right now.  WTF?

Two realizations have come from this experience.  One has to do with the over-arching dilemma of how inefficient and sometimes one-sided news coverage can be and even if it is thorough on some news outlets, how easy it is to assume the one bit of coverage you happen to watch is the entire picture.  For example, I've heard so many sound bites from angry Rockaway Beach residents (whom we've given a chance to shout at the camera and make their voice heard regarding the inefficiency or non-existence of the clean up effort) and, forgetting for a moment that they probably don't have electricity to watch TV coverage of the storm cleanup, it makes you think that, wow, the government is really dropping the ball here, or why hasn't their been any relief out there?  But, stay on the channel for a while, and you'll hear all sorts of reports about how quick and efficient the government response has been to the worst hit areas or how ordinary people are helping out in so many ways.  I saw a story that moved me quite a bit, the local Sikh community in Staten Island were some of the first people (in fact, maybe the first), to go out and serve food to people who were without power and whose homes were destroyed.  The Southern Baptists even came up to serve food to displaced residents in Staten Island.  So, there are amazing things happening and those sensationalized sound bites are merely one side of a story.

I also heard that the gas lines were crazy.  One man was arrested for brandishing a gun at a man who complained when he jumped the line.  But every interview our reporters have fielded from the lines, people seem to understand why the lines are there, why this is happening and they are not angry.  One man said, "so many others have it so bad, so what is it to me to have to wait in line for a few hours?"

It's interesting how people can take one bit of information and run with it without consideration as to whether that bit of information is truth, only a tiny piece of the reality, or a complete falsehood. This is a can of worms indeed so I won't go so far into it.  Suffice it to say that there are far more than even two sides to every story.  While some things as far as cleanup and relief have been inefficient and some bad things have happened post Sandy, I personally choose not to firestorm the government agencies and whomever else because I have had a chance to see several interviews with the local officials over the past few days and I see how big and multifaceted this clean up effort is.  Getting the subways back online in a timely manner itself is a massive feat of engineering and quite frankly, I think the MTA officials are genius for having the presence of mind to shut down the subway to safeguard the equipment.  We are up and running at almost full status as of just about a week later and I'm probably never going to be so quick to complain about a late train for at least a couple of months now that I've been listening to what goes in to keeping the system running 24/7 like it does...the inconvenience of being without it for a few days notwithstanding.  
I acknowledge however that I have a pretty comfortable spot to survey this all from and perhaps I would feel differently if my home had been swept away and I was dealing with a range of emotions over the loss and needed somewhere to direct that.  I get it.  But that's just my perspective and I'm aware that it can't be easy to lose so much.  At least three of my co workers had their homes flooded and are dealing with cleaning that up and salvaging what they can.   It's heart wrenching. 

The other realization ties pretty closely in and it has to do with my own reaction to the storm's effects on this community I live in.  I'll preface this by saying that I've seen this in rooms full of people watching news coverage of past storm cleanup efforts a dozen times before over the years.  Every time this argument comes up and I have to pause when I hear it.  Those people in the evacuation zones who are stranded without power, with destroyed homes, what are they even doing there?  They should have evacuated, it's their own fault, how can they expect government help, yadda yadda blah blah blah.   It's almost cliche at this point.   But, my response to that after being this close to a situation like this is this, and it comes straight from Buddhism: we should be compassionate toward people without judgement.  Especially since some of those people either couldn't evacuate because they are elderly, or maybe they weren't even in an evacuation zone but just happened to be affected or couldn't get out once the storm got bad and they closed the bridges so they hunkered down.  The point is, you don't know someone's situation and you can't presume to condemn them and say they are undeserving or they just want a handout.  If someone's drowning, you don't ask what they're doing in the water.  You jump in and try to save them as best as you can.  Ask questions later.  This is what I've seen so many in this city doing over the course of the last week and it's amazingly uplifting.  We as a society should be more like this all the time.  That's a slice of Ana's sermon on Sunday at the UU church.  Kind of this call to not stop at donating clothes and canned goods.  And I agree and I also think it should extend to more than just storm relief.  I'll leave it at that for now though.  I don't much care for proselytizing or grand-standing.  I just feel like we as humans are at our best when we are compassionate toward each other rather than when we are being isolationist or selfish. 

With that, I'm going to photograph this insanity outside my window and get back to troubleshooting my audio/MIDI equipment problems.  And also share with you a wonderful piece of news that I got last night as I was starting my shift at work:  I just booked another voice over gig!  My 9th paid gig in almost as many months and the first one I'll be going into Manhattan to record at a studio.  It's an internet ad for a young adult novel.  I'll let you know how that goes.  The session is Monday at noon.  Talk soon!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Aftermath 5, electricity returns...

The power is finally back on in the Chelsea Market and all around us.  Though to the south it is dark.  We were getting video in from all over on the East Side as the power came back on over there.  People cheering in the streets.  I have no idea how many more neighborhoods will have power by the time I get off work.  I don't feel like I'll be up to typing after a 39 degree F ride home so I thought I'd fill everybody in before I set out.  I still have just under 3 hours before I leave here and I'm not expecting it to be terribly busy.  The two biggest stories of the night practically happened simultaneously: the cancellation of the marathon and the power starting to come back on in waves.  How can you top those, really? 

Anyway, the commute this afternoon was rather unhurried and I even had time before hand to do laundry and grocery shopping.  Some of the shelves at the co-op were empty and the lines were as long as some of the busiest days there.  It was a typical day at the laundromat though. 

I took my bike on the R train and got off at the end of the line in Downtown Brooklyn where I biked over the Manhattan bridge.  I'll do the same in reverse in a few hours, despite the temperature and my pesky head cold.  I need to get that bike back home.  With any luck tomorrow won't be as bad getting in...I don't expect to have full train service but if there's power in Lower Manhattan, hopefully the trains will run over the bridge. 

I will be elated if this is the case.  Moreso than I was taking the elevator for the first time in 5 days when I went to check on my bike just now.  The sidewalks were illuminated on my side of the street, when I went outside, while the opposite side of 15th as well as 14th on south were in darkness.  Only the billboard across the street is illuminated making for an eerie scene still.  One more spooky adventure through Manhattan tonight.  Maybe I'll see revelers in the streets.  I'll try to photograph what I see, if I'm not too cold to stop.  Good night for now. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Aftermath 4, night commutes...

Another interesting commute tonight.  Here are some pictures:

Aftermath 2, Night Shots

After snapping these, I hailed a cab at 7th and Greenwich.  When I was at work one of the last pieces of video I took in at NY1 was footage of the lines for the shuttle buses that are trying to fill in the holes in subway service between 34th Street in Midtown and Downtown Brooklyn.  I didn't want to brave that even though I had been trying for the last few hours of my shift to work out the logistics of such a commute.  It seemed more trouble than it was worth.  I'd have to bus to the east side (if the M14D showed up) and then take a shuttle bus to Jay St./Metro Tech and grab the R train to Prospect Avenue.  No.  Cab was my best shot.  The company will pay for it after all. 

This cabbie seemed harried and worn out.  I told him, after getting in the cab (because you never tell them where you're going until you're secure inside the cab because they can't refuse you once you're inside), Park Slope, 19th Street between 5th and 6th.  He said, flatly, "I don't wanna go."  I sighed and said, "Look, I get it but I gotta get home."  Before he could speak, I said for him to take me to the Manhattan Bridge at least and I could walk to Jay St./Metro Tech for the R train.  He said he could do that then went on to tell me all about how hard it was getting gas and how hard it would be for him to get back to the city.  We shared war stories for the length of the commute and somewhere along the way in downtown he agreed to take me to Jay St.  Before I knew it we had passed Jay St. and he offered to take me all the way to Atlantic Avenue where the new Barclay's Center is now.  I negotiated a drop off on the corner of Pacific and 4th and hopped out right into the subway station.  There were uniformed officers on the mezzanine.  The emergency exit door was propped open, the turnstiles roped off.  Free subway and bus rides until this ordeal is over. 

I wandered into that subway station, eyes wide, realizing just how long it's been since I've been in a subway station.  A couple of days doesn't seem like much until you consider that every day of my life for the past 3 1/2 years, I've spent at least a half an hour inside subway stations.  I reached out and touched the tiled wall on the stairway to make sure I was really there.  When I hit the platform and walked down to the spot where my usual car comes to a halt, I heard it.  The characteristic sound of a train creaking around the corner of the tunnel and crawling into the station.  I've never been so happy to see the R train.  I left work at 9:23 and I hit the street level at Prospect Avenue at 10:10.  That's the most normal commute I've had in almost a week. 

One day at a time.  Good night.

Aftermath 3, Midtown...

Coming to you from a Starbuck's near Penn Station where there's electrical power and life seems normal.  I'm having to stand at a bar near the counter because it's pretty packed in here.  Even if not for the storm, this Starbuck's might be this way.  Crowded, nowhere to sit, wifi jammed up and slow.  But I'll take it.  And I'll take back what I just said, there is one thing out of the ordinary here.  I was just solicited by a man selling portable phone chargers, a clear sign that there's a new market for electricity in the city.  I saw footage on CBS when I dropped by work of people hooking up power strips to the wiring in the manholes and charging their phones en masse in the streets.  Crazy.

Crazy how we're all such slaves to our devices, our windows to the world.  We are not only starved without food, we are starved without information about the outside world and what's going on around our community.  It's not quite apocalyptic here but there is a bit of a sense of what it could be like without all the creature comforts that characterize modern living.  If we hadn't come to depend on so many of these things that run on electricity and depend on electricity (i.e. preservation of mass quantities of food via refrigeration and mass transportation), I don't think we'd be so lost without them.

Speaking of mass transportation, the reason I'm in town so early when I don't have to be in to work until 1:30pm, is that I had a ride with one of our reporters and her producer, my friend who lives four blocks from me.  The reporter was staying in Brooklyn with her sister because they had no power in Westchester.  Because of the mayor's carpool rule, or maybe just because of the sheer fact that there are millions of transit riders forced to drive, the traffic was horrendous.  Strangely, only until you got to the Brooklyn Bridge was it such.  Then, the road opened up and we made it to work from the bridge in only 10 or 15 minutes.   No one was on the West Side Highway.

I dropped by work, grabbed a banana, and checked in with people before setting out for the line between power and no power.  On the way, I ran into one of my co workers and I ended up going back to the hotel where she said there'd be food.  There was fruit and muffins and coffee.  I stayed for a sec chatting with her, noticing that the pool is actually above the lobby's glass ceiling, something I don't know how I didn't notice before.  Then, I came up here.  The walk was easy and it was interesting to see how things were.  People walking and driving around like normal but everything closed up until I got to the 30's.  There was an Episcopal Church handing out sandwiches on 9th Avenue around 26th Street or so.

No I stand here drinking an expensive OJ and leaning on the counter typing.  I have a free copy of the New York Times from today which I will probably read at some point, though I may go outside to do so, if I don't try to send off some long overdue emails.  Much more later on.  Hope you've been enjoying the pics and the updates.


Today, I biked to work.  It was a choice I made last night when I decided I didn't want to take another cab and wait to be reimbursed nor did I want to brave the limited bus service.  It took Katrina 4 hours to get in to work using the bus system.  No, I'd rather snake my way in between the cars on my bike than sit through that kind of ordeal.

Unfortunately, my bike was really in no condition to take such a commute.  But I was determined and, anticipating possibly having to use the bike a few more times before the subway comes back up, I decided to splurge and get a few things I knew I'd need: a bell, a light and, after the ride to yoga made my hands feel like ice cubes: gloves.  Yes, I worked yoga into the mix.  Because yoga was exactly what this stressful ordeal was missing.  A teacher that I most often take classes with posted to my Facebook page that she was definitely teaching in Brooklyn Heights this morning.  So, since I haven't been to class since last Friday, I knew I had to make that part of my day.  And it was the best class ever!  It felt like it anyway.   Just to have a moment of calm in the midst of all of this.

After yoga, I got some advice from my yoga teacher about where to go for a bike tune up and all those accessories I needed.  She's an avid cyclist and bikes everywhere so I knew she'd have the scoop on where to go.  First I hit a shop on Smith and Bergen for the light, bell and gloves and then, since she'd told me I could probably still get a free tune up here, I went to Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette St. in Soho.  The tune ups were not still free but the shop was at least open and, though there was a crowd, I got in pretty quick.  They had no lights but they had a lot of people on staff and bike stands set up, outside the shop even, giving people tune ups.  They were, of course, only taking cash and walking about the darkened store with flashlights to fetch things.  The guy who tuned up my bike, greased my chain and adjusted it for me, had a thick New York lifer accent and sported 3 foot long dreadlocks.  He was animated and seemed like he was having a ton of fun just helping people out who had no other way of getting around but their bikes.  He fixed me up, rather enthusiastically, in just minutes while we chatted about my bike.  Apparently, one of the first kinds of bikes he ever worked on.  $10 and I was out of there on the smoothest ride I'd had on that bike in, well, ever.

I skirted from there over to the West Side with little difficulty.   Only trick was there were no traffic lights so you had to be on alert and wait to cross avenues.  Most cars would stop, especially if they saw a crowd trying to push across.  Then, since I've never taken the Manhattan Bridge to work (beautiful ride, by the way), I sort of had to figure out as I went what the best route was going to be.  The trick?  Follow other bikers.  There were, after all, a ton of them out. Almost as many as the cars.  In fact, Mayor Bloomberg issued a carpool rule for all the bridges into the city to cut down on traffic in the city, especially since there are still no traffic lights below 39th Street.

Work was okay.   The most excitement happened when the news came in that they were evacuating Bellevue Hospital after losing generator power.  The newsroom was all a buzz with everyone running around trying to make sure we could get one of our reporters there ASAP. 

Biking home was probably the coolest thing today.  I stopped and took a ton of pictures along the route, to the extent that it took me an hour and 15 minutes to get home (30 extra minutes than it normally would have on my bike).  As soon as I stepped out into the night, I realized how spooky it was going to be.  Fitting that it's Halloween.  I had my light, which, as the guy who sold it to me said, would not illuminate my path but it would let people know I was coming.  As such, I could barely see the bumps in the road coming and cursed myself once for turning down a cobblestone road in pursuit of some other bikers who I thought might know the way to the Manhattan Bridge.  My bum really hurts right now.

When I crossed back over the West Side Highway after zipping down the Greenway to Tribeca, it became suddenly dark in between the narrow cross streets of that area.  I had the glow of a near full moon and the occasional passing taxi or other cyclist but beyond that I was straining my eyes to see a lot of the time.  Pedestrians would come up out of nowhere, often in Halloween costumes.  Bleeker Street was the darkest but the spookiest was turning onto the bike path on the Manhattan Bridge right where the mouth of the subway tunnel is for the N and Q trains.  I could feel an eerie warmth coming up from the tunnel, and tried to keep from looking down it as I climbed past it on my bike.  In the middle of the bridge, I had to stop and snap a wide photo encompassing both the darkened Manhattan side and the fully lit Brooklyn side, along with the almost full moon and Jupiter floating nearby.

Scary Commute, Halloween Best Shots

I reached a point on the bridge later on where the street lights suddenly came on and looked back a few times to see the sharp contrast, the line between electrified and powerless.  I had to refrain from taking another picture.  I had already wasted so much time and was fatigued.  The rest of the commute home was a breeze compared to all the turns I had to take in Manhattan and the busy streets I had to cross (Houston, Delancy, Bowery, all the avenues, Chrystie St.) and the cobblestones and the darkness and the distractions.  There was one funny moment on 5th Avenue in Park Slope when a woman dressed as a nurse/zombie was lurking in the street near a cab that had pulled over in the bike lane.  She turned to look at me and began to come towards me, fully in character, hungry for brains.  I shrieked and swerved.  Laughter erupted from the sidewalk from the rest of her friends.

Thankful for that final hill, up my street, being short but annoyed at the obstacle of trash cans blocking the gate to the back yard where I lock my bike, I was finally home.  Now, I'm exhausted and have to sleep then literally turn right back around and go into work again tomorrow.  This time, I'm carpooling with a co worker who lives nearby though I have get up much earlier than I normally would need to and will be waiting around for my shift when I get there.  Should be a much easier day, though, as I'll probably take a cab home on the company's dime.  With that, who knows what tomorrow will hold. See ya soon!