Posts Tagged ‘New York City (NYC)’

Madness at the turn of the millennium: Salman Rushdie’s ‘Fury’ chronicles a disaffected writer’s experiences in New York and abroad

February 6, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 6, 2017

New York City at the turn of the millennium, writer Salman Rushdie not unreasonably posited in his 2001 novel Fury, was full of motion and spectacle. The opening paragraph gets right to business:

Professor Malik Solanka, retired historian of ideas, irascible dollmaker, and since his recent fifty-fifth birthday celibate and solitary by his own (much criticized) choice, in his silvered years found himself living in a gold age. Outside his window a long, humid summer, the first hot season of the third millennium, baked and perspired. The city boiled with money. Rents and property values had never been higher, and in the garment industry it was widely held that fashion had never been so fashionable. New restaurants opened every hour. Stores, dealerships, galleries struggled to satisfy the skyrocketing demand for ever more recherché produce: limited-edition olive oils, three-hundred-dollar corkscrews, customized Humvees, the latest anti-virus software, escort services featuring contortionists and twins, video installations, outsider art, featherlight shawls made from the chin-fluff of extinct mountain goats. So many people were doing up their apartments that supplies of high-grade fixtures and fittings were at a premium. There were waiting lists for baths, doorknobs, imported hardwoods, antiqued fireplaces, bidets, marble slabs. In spite of the recent falls in the value of the Nasdaq index and the value of Amazon stock, the new technology had the city by the ears: the talk was still of start-ups, IPOs, interactivity, the unimaginable future that had just begun to begin. The future was a casino, and everyone was gambling, and everyone expected to win.

The opening is somewhat misleading, however. Although Fury immediately and vividly captures the frenzy that was New York circa 1998–2001, the novel is quite coy about revealing many of the details of the life of its protagonist. This is, of course, an intentional choice by Rushdie: Solanka has deliberately suppressed major episodes from his childhood, to the point where repressed trauma threatens to destroy his entire life. Moreover, the character suffers repeated blackouts, prompting him to wonder whether he may have committed a series of vicious fatal assaults on wealthy young women that command the full attention of the tabloids.

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Phantom gunshots, real terror: Notes on two recent incidents in the land of the free, home of the armed (and fearful)

August 18, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 18, 2016

In Tuesday’s edition of Cheeps and Chirps, I included a tweet from Saturday that shared a breaking news alert:

This was one of the lead news stories in the Triangle on Saturday, but what I didn’t realize when I was preparing the blog post was that police have yet to find any evidence that a gun was actually fired at the mall that afternoon. I deleted it from the post once I understood that there had evidently not been any kind of shooting whatsoever. Authorities are continuing to investigate the reason why shoppers thought that a firearm had been discharged, a misperception that provoked a stampede that left several people injured.

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The essays in Eddie Sarfaty’s ‘Mental: Funny in the Head’ are also funny on the page

August 10, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 10, 2016

Mental: Funny in the Head is an engaging collection of personal essays by comedian Eddie Sarfaty. The book, published in 2009, conveys a variety of moments from across the Long Island native’s adulthood, starting with the story of his coming out to his nonagenarian Orthodox Jewish grandmother (a tale that was previously published in the 2005 anthology When I Knew).

The book’s topics range from the amusing to the morose. Both of the opening essays, “Second-Guessing Grandma” and “Lactose Intolerant,” about a milk run gone awry, belong to the former category; among the latter are “Cheapskate,” about a soul-crushingly thrifty boyfriend, and “My Tale of Two Cities,” in which Sarfaty and his mother take his father, who suffers from dementia, on a second honeymoon tour of Paris and France. But even in his darker moments, the author manages to wring some humor out of the situation — a trait he may have inherited from his father, who once told a Jehovah’s Witness, “I’m sorry, but my covenant is with Lucifer.”

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The persistence of memory: A tribute to two obsolete sports radio jingles

October 31, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 31, 2015

As I demonstrated in my previous posts, about the New York television and radio landscape of years past, I remember plenty of things that are no longer. (Perhaps this is something fundamental about human existence: We remember things that are no longer and dream about things that never have been.)

All of which is to set up two very short anecdotes about radio jingles and the weird persistence of memory.

As most Americans know, the New York Mets are playing in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, with the latter squad leading two games to one in the best-of-seven competition. The Mets, who last appeared in the Series in 2000 (a loss to the Yankees, for whom I traditionally root), have not won a Major League Baseball championship since their previous Series appearance, in 1986.

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The persistence of memory: New York radio and New York sportscasting

October 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 28, 2015

Earlier today, I wrote about the greater New York City metropolitan-area television scene of my youth, which was dominated by New York City. Radio, as I mentioned, was much the same.

I don’t know the channels of various television stations in North Carolina because I have essentially never had a working television in my house during the nearly dozen years that I’ve lived in the state.

I have, however, had a working radio in my home and my car for all of that time, and I’m somewhat familiar with the radio scene down there. I definitely know the frequencies of my favorite Old North State stations, beginning with WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, which is located at 91.5 FM on the radio dial. (Dial — do radios even have those any more?)

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the New York radio scene.

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The persistence of memory: New York television circa 1980

October 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 28, 2015

The other day, I was at a restaurant in North Carolina and I asked for the channel to be switched to one of the major broadcast networks — ABC, Fox, something like that.

When the bartender asked me what channel that was, I grimaced. Then I awkwardly explained that, although I’ve lived in North Carolina for nearly a dozen years, I’ve never really had a working television in any of my homes during that time, so I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the channel number was.

I grew up outside of New York City, in an area where the broadcast media was dominated by New York TV and radio. This was true, to a lesser extent, for daily newspapers — The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and their trashier tabloid competitors, the New York Daily News and the New York Post, were sold alongside the local paper in pharmacies and grocery stores and everywhere else I can remember papers being sold.

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Wendy Wasserstein’s 1981 coming-of-age comedy ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ explores questions that still resonate today

September 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 24, 2015

Because — full disclosure — a friend of mine plays a role in the new Cary Players production of Isn’t It Romantic, I went to see the revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s 1981 comedy on opening night at the Cary Arts Center.

The show is quite enjoyable, mixing humor and pathos as it shows Janie and her longtime friend, Harriet, negotiating the compromises and sacrifices that they must make in their work and personal lives after moving back to New York City in their late 20s. Harriet, who as the show opens is a freshly minted Harvard M.B.A. on the verge of being hired by the Colgate company, is career-driven, much like her mother. In fact, a key question she faces is how much she wants to follow the trail blazed by her mother, Lillian, a successful business executive and single parent — which would have made her something about as unusual as a unicorn in the 1960s and ’70s.

This cake was displayed in the lobby of the Cary Arts Center during the premier of the Cary Players production of “Isn’t It Romantic” by Wendy Wasserstein on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015.

This cake was displayed in the lobby of the Cary Arts Center during the premier of the Cary Players production of “Isn’t It Romantic” by Wendy Wasserstein on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015.

Janie isn’t exactly certain what she wants. For months after she moves into her downtown Manhattan apartment, she puts off unpacking. She begins a romance with Marty, a sweet doctor whose father is a schlocky restaurateur (and possible arsonist), but she drags her feet whenever he expresses interest in moving in together, getting married and starting a family.

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That was the place that was: Two films, one bookstore and a luxury hotel

April 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 28, 2015

As I was putting together the previous post, it struck me that the scenes that shared a location from the new feature film True Story and the new documentary Deep Web might have actually been filmed at a New York City bookstore, which is where we see a character in the True Story reading from his memoir at the end of that film. Perhaps, I mused, it could have been the Barnes & Noble at Union Square.

I did a couple of image searches, one of which — using the keywords “new york city” barnes & noble chandelier — led me to a 2013 video posted by Rizzoli Bookstore. A quick look at the video clinched it: This was the space that I’d seen in both films.

The video’s title proclaims Rizzoli to be “The Most Beautiful Bookstore in New York.” The label is immodest, but it may be apt.

Or at least, it may have been apt.

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Jolted: Suddenly recognizing movie scenes filmed in places that I have known or seen (or even actually been!)

April 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 27, 2015

As I was saying the other day, a few times a year, my parent and I and the beloved dog-in-residence will drive down to Piermont. We’ll park in the big lot behind the shops and restaurants and walk up Ferry Road to the end of the pier and back.

The view out there is great, especially from the large concrete platform where the pier ends near the middle of the Hudson River. A few miles to the north, the Tappan Zee Bridge reaches from Nyack on the western bank to Tarrytown on the east. The span carries a seemingly endless river of cars and trucks.

If it’s a nice day, there’ll be lots of recreational boats, often wind-powered, zipping back and forth. (You’ll also find plenty of folks fishing in the Hudson River from multiple points along the pier when the weather’s good.) In any conditions, you can watch the occasional chain of barges cruise slowly up or down the river; now and then, a freighter or two will sail past them.

At regular intervals, a silver MetroNorth caterpillar crawls along the rails on the river’s eastern shore, pausing at the Irvington station before continuing on its journey. And once, I saw kayakers cutting through the water on the pier’s north side.

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The river, the railroad, the pier and the mountains: Some notes on the picturesque village of Piermont, New York

April 25, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 25, 2015

A few times a year, my parental unit, the parental unit’s dog and I will pile into a car and drive to Piermont, a picturesque New York village on the western shore of the Hudson River a few miles north of the New Jersey border.

The community was originally known as Tappan Slote. In 1839, residents renamed the place Piermont after its most prominent, and newest, manmade feature — a roughly mile-long pier extending toward the deep center channel of the broad Hudson.

The pier, built in 1838, was meant to serve as the eastern terminus for the New York and Erie Railroad. Upon its completion in 1851, the line was the longest in the nation. Passengers and freight could transfer to boats for a 20-mile river cruise to New York City.

Once new laws authorized the Erie railroad company to operate in New Jersey, the brief era that some historians call Piermont’s glory years was bound to end. Passenger trains soon began traveling along lines that bypassed the community, which allowed them to save time on their journey to New York City.

Freight trains continued loading and unloading at the pier, but even this ended by the close of 1861. The railroad’s repair shops and other facilities were abandoned; ultimately, they were destroyed by fire.

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Eyes on Henderson, N.C.: Reminiscing — briefly — about 2003 through 2008 (part 2)

February 18, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 18, 2015

In my previous post, I described setting eyes on the rural town of Henderson, N.C., in September 2003. To quote myself:

This part of the road isn’t very picturesque, and there aren’t many landmarks there, but a few things stand out. There is (or at least, there was) a giant Wal-Mart warehouse facility on the east side of the route. Also, there are churches on either side of the highway — lots and lots of large churches with large buildings and enormous parking lots.


[A]s I drove along this unlovely stretch of U.S. 1 for the first time in my life, I muttered something uncharitable about how bleak and unappealing the town of Henderson appeared to me.

Of course, the joke turned out to be on me.

Reader, I moved there!

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Wrestling with words: An attempt to unpack the meaning of Don DeLillo’s ‘Point Omega’

December 20, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 20, 2014

On one level, Point Omega, the slender 2010 work by American novelist Don DeLillo, is the tale of a social and intellectual seduction that is interrupted by inexplicable tragedy.

The two primary characters are Richard Elster, a 73-year-old former adviser to George W. Bush’s presidential administration, and Jim Finley, a 30-something filmmaker who is determined to make a documentary about the older man. Most of the book takes place in Elster’s isolated cabin in the Colorado Desert, about 180 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Much of the book consists of long meandering philosophical discussions between Elster and Finley, such as this exchange from the first chapter:

“Lying is necessary. The state has to lie. There is no lie in war or in preparation for war that can’t be defended. We went beyond this. We tried to create new realities overnight, careful sets of words that resemble advertising slogans in memorability and repeatability. These were words that would yield pictures eventually and then become three-dimensional. The reality stands, it walks, it squats. Except when it doesn’t.”

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Football, television and beer: Rambling thoughts on these three things

September 9, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 9, 2013

At the beginning of 2002, I moved out of my childhood home (at a rather advanced age — but never mind that) and into a small studio apartment on Broadway near Columbia University, where I was then pursuing graduate studies at the renowned journalism school. One of my grandmothers lived in Murray Hill, another Manhattan neighborhood, and I would typically visit her at least once a week.

We would sit and talk, and we would go out to eat for dinner, as I remember. But many afternoons, I would disappear into her bedroom for a few hours. That’s where grandma kept her television — a popular entertainment device (as you know) that I did not have in the cluttered studio where I lived.

Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with television. I find it entertaining and boring and seductive and frustrating. I frankly love to tell people that I live without a television.

Or, to be a bit more accurate, I loved telling people that I live without a television. I hate that at this point in the early 21st century living without a TV no longer marks me as a particularly distinctive individual.

The issue here, as with so many facets of modern American life, is the Internet. Thanks to YouTube and Hulu and Netflix, and probably other stuff that I’ve yet to encounter, one can live without a television and yet watch oodles of its programming on one’s computer. Much of this streaming content is relatively current. Some of it is made available, legally or not, as it is actually being broadcast.  Read the rest of this entry »

The batboy, the Boss and the colorful team that filled the House that Ruth Built: Ray Negron and Sally Cook tell of ‘Yankee Miracles’

August 24, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 24, 2013

At 3:35 p.m. on June 29, 1973, on what should have been the last day of class for Queens student Ray Negron, the high school junior began to vandalize Yankee Stadium. Just as he did, a navy-blue town car containing two Yankees officials pulled up. Negron stood there, paralyzed with fear, as his companions fled from men they thought were undercover cops cracking down on graffiti.

Years before, Negron, a Yankees fanatic, had been able to scrimmage illicitly on the stadium’s hallowed field, thanks to sympathetic members of the ballpark cleaning crew. He thought he knew the historic ballpark at River Avenue and 161st Street inside out. On that summer afternoon, however, team security manager Frank Wilson and the other official escorted Negron into the stadium bowels, to a small police station that few even knew was located there.

Negron sat in the fetid holding cell, thinking about a wayward uncle who had met an untimely end after being drawn into a life of drugs and crime at an early age. He imagined how devastated his mother and stepfather would be by news of his arrest.

In fact, that aborted act of vandalism turned out to be the best mistake that Negron ever made. The other man who apprehended him was one George Michael Steinbrenner, a.k.a. the Boss, the larger-than-life team owner who decided to let Negron work off the damage he’d inflicted by apprenticing in the Yankees clubhouse.

Thus began a decades-long association for the Queens resident, not just with Steinbrenner but with the flagship Major League Baseball franchise.

This almost too-good-to-be-true anecdote helps kick off Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers, the 2012 memoir co-written by Negron and Sally Cook. The volume affords a pleasant and sometimes surprising trip into the distant and recent pasts of the most famous team in all of American sports. Read the rest of this entry »

Talking about my generation? On revisiting the 20th century

August 23, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 23, 2013

On Tuesday, The Economist released what I thought was a surprisingly frivolous poll. (Especially coming from The Economist, for pete’s sake!) Under the headline “We still like Ike,” the publication trumpeted its findings that a plurality of Americans (18 percent) would prefer to go back in time to the 1950s above any other decade of the 20th century.

The older the age group surveyed, the higher its preference for the era of the Eisenhower presidential administration; 35 percent of those 65 and above picked the ’50s as their déjà vu decade. One-fifth of Republicans who were polled also preferred the 1950s, with Ronald Reagan’s 1980s coming in second and (interestingly) the tumultuous 1960s placing third among members of the Grand Old Party.

Among Democrats, the ’80s were the least popular decade of the latter half of the 20th century. The 1920s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’90s each were chosen by about 15 percent of Dems surveyed.

The least popular decades were the teens, chosen by 1 percent of poll respondents, and the 1930s, which covered most of the Great Depression and were picked by 2 percent.  Read the rest of this entry »

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