You have the Right to remain Silent

05/20/2011

Have you ever peed on the street? Come on, no excuse. I’m sure you did. Do I see you nodding yes? Cause if so, you are in huge trouble. At least if you live somewhere in the United States. ‘Cause obviously it’s a major crime here. You may wonder why I know that. So let’s just say a good friend of mine told me this story recently. Since it happened to him that he got apprehended by two NYPD police officers while peeing on the street. But this isn’t the most interesting part to the story. It’s more interesting that they handcuffed him right away and put him in their car – treating him like he’d killed somebody. So after a free ride in an NYC police car they took him into custody for an hour with the whole entertainment you might know from the movies. Ok, as far as I was told there were no mug-shots, but the poor guy was certainly forced to hand out all of his personal belongings such as his belt, scarf, wallet etc. After a questioning of 45 minutes, the guy was still handcuffed at the time, the officers sort of announced his plead: Guilty in first degree Public Urination.

Hold on guys, the story gets better. After they released him, without bail thank God, they let him know that his crime will come to trail. Of course it will, since it was a major assault against the United States, its President and all United Churches within this God blessed country. But let’s rather stick to the facts within this pre-trial record: On July 21st at 9:30am there will be held a trail on this hideous crime. Until then, the defendant has to check in twice a week with his probation officer to discuss changes in his peeing behavior. Since of the incident the sidewalk moistener is only allowed to pee under the supervision of a state official. During his trial in mid July a jury is going to decide whether he has to serve a lifelong sentence in Guantanmo or is put on death row in New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail which will rather be the case, since the authorities there just got rid of Mr. Strauss-Kahn and therefore can provide an open spot.

Please be advised not to comment on this entry. All your statements can and will be held against you in the court of law.

Sincerely,
U.S. Department of Justice, Land of the free and home of the brave

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Good night, sleep tight.

04/18/2011

And don’t let the bed bugs bite. That’s a famous local lore in America and the bad news is, it’s quite true. What in Europe is considered to be the result of bad hygiene and usually only something a poor neighborhood has to struggle with is a very common issue in America. At least in metropolitan areas such as New York City where even the affluent snobs on 5th Avenue have to deal with these little freaking bugs. Supposedly it’s because the population in the city is so dense that these tiny creatures can hop from one coat to another in no time and find new homes to conquer the city every day. One tribe of them obviously must have a lingerie fetish since they moved into the Victoria’s Secret store last summer and made themselves at home there. The root of another tribe must go back to California because they decided to spread around the Abercrombie and Fitch store in SoHo while their relatives settled down in beautiful Nike Air shoe-lofts at Nike flagship store in NYC.

So, you see, this bed bug thing is kind of serious in New York. If you are planning on coming to fun city within the next weeks please make sure you download this life saving iPhone App displayed above and teach yourself how to fight against these invisible but militant troupes. The war is on. Sharpen your teeth and get ready to bite back.


100 years ago today

03/25/2011

The weather was pretty much like today on March 25th 1911. It was one of the first beautiful days in spring that year and lots of people were gathering at Washington Square. It was Saturday afternoon at precisely 4:40 when smashing windows and horrific screaming changed the scenery instantly.

At the time then, most of the garment producers within New York were located in that area around Washington Square. So was the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, in the early 1900s the most successful blouse producer in America. More than 600 people were working for the owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris in their Greenwich Village headquarter. Most of them 16 to 23 year old European immigrants, basically women. Lots of them were on duty at this fateful Saturday afternoon in 1911 and waiting for the closing bell that usually rang at 4:45. Only five minutes before they would have been off for the weekend, a gruesome fire inferno broke out in the eight floor of the ten story brownstone on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street.

Within minutes the fire was all over the place. Most of the dressmakers in the tenth floor could get out of the building by climbing through a hatch up to the roof where they later were saved by firefighters. But for most of the young women in the eight and ninth floor was no possible escape. The elevators in the building didn’t work any longer since the fire damaged the mechanic seriously. While some of the workers from the eight floor could escape through the staircase the tailors in the ninth floor where completely trapped. Somebody locked the door to the staircase there. As it was discovered later, the owners themselves did it to avoid theft. With no possible way out the dressmakers rescue depended on the firefighters. But their turntable-ladders were literally a dead end too, since they only reached between the sixth and seventh floor. While the fire got worse and worse lots of the young women began to leap out of the windows which implied the certain death since there were no reasonable life nets either.


Dead bodies on the pavement of Green Street. Nobody of the leaping women survived.

After less than 20 minutes the inferno was over and 146 people had died. 123 were young women. Although the tragedy paralyzed New Yorkers at the time, they began to change the unacceptable working conditions in the manufacturing companies around the city. Three month after the incident, John Alden Dix, the 38th Governor of New York, passed a bill that started the labor movement and finally established the “Fair Labor Standards Act” in 1938. In a sense the fire was a huge and gruesome tragedy that saved thousands and thousands life’s in later years.

The brownstone where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company ran their business in 1911 still exists. Meanwhile it’s part of NYU. Right in these minutes where you’ve been reading this short abstract, hundreds of people gather in front of the building to commemorate the victims of the fire that happened 100 years ago today.

Editor’s note: I just wrote about the incident in detail for German News Magazine Spiegel-Online. Click in and find more details about the Fire that changed America.


The fear of the uncertain

03/07/2011

Nothing seems impossible in the Land of Opportunity. I mean, they flew to the moon once. And there was this guy named Willis who prevented the entire world of the Armageddon in the late 90s, remember? Even Ronald Mc Donald was born here. So you see, there is nothing America fears. Not the moon, not meteorites and even not a guy who seduces its children with unhealthy food.

Except – except these little white things called flakes. Mostly common during the winter when the temperature goes under 30 degrees. Yes, we are talking about snow here. And it seems that a whole Nation is afraid of this force of nature. A couple of weeks ago we had a prediction of 7 to 15 inches which equals almost 40 centimeter. What happened was that offices got closed, children stayed home rather than going to school, employees called in that they couldn’t get to the office because the public transportation shoot its service down and the streets of New York looked a little like they’ve been depicted in the drama “I am Legend.

Since of then I’m still asking myself where this fear comes from. Is it because there is a certain lack of control. Does a Nation that’s been always in charge of everything have trouble to deal with the uncertain? Maybe. The upcoming spring will hopefully bring some redemption and the climate change will do the rest to eliminate this threat for ever. But that’ll probably take another couple of years. We’ll see.


Sold out – Empty shelves are common

02/26/2011

I don’t know about you but at least I grew up at a time where empty shelves in grocery stores were long gone. Of course, there were my grand parents who told me about the care packages and the food stamps they’d used after WWII. But that was a long time ago – I supposed. But it seems I was wrong all those years. ‘Cause since I’ve been living in New York I see empty shelves in grocery store regularly. Every other week if you’d like so.

As many other New Yorkers I still take my bi-weekly trips down to 14th street to get some affordable groceries at Trader Joes. You can get some decent stuff there: For instance cheese that’s less then 9 Dollars. Which would be the regular price in many other stores within Manhattan. But you have to have the luck of the draw while stopping by at the American version of ‘Aldi‘. Cause if you are to late you’ll literally face empty shelves. And they are not empty because the service guy’s are lacy to fill them up again. They are sold out. Gone for the day. I took some pix there a little while ago just to convince you completely. Did you get these creepy goes-pumps already?

Maybe this matter of fact leads to the conclusion that to live in a capitalistic society that’s out of control is as bad as to live in one which had to deal with the aftermath of a cruel dictatorship. Just a thought.


The Undercity

01/07/2011

There is always something underneath something. Which, of course, most people are not interested in because they don’t like to dig through the greasy and muddy surface to unveil the treasure underneath. Fortunately, there are some people left who do care for treasure hunt. And if this treasure hunt takes place in, or more precisely, under New York City it’s even more exciting. So if you’ve been always wondering what’s under the most popular and precious landmarks of NYC you should definitely take a glimpse at Andrew Wonder’s video below.

The documentary starts with a short visit at the abandoned City Hall Subway Station which, by the way, can be visited by taking the 6 train to Brooklyn Bridge Station and not getting out of the car. ‘Cause MTA is using the old station as sort of a roundabout for its trains you’ll have the chance to drive through. But in contradiction to Andrew Wonder and Steve Duncan you won’t be able to literally take a stroll on the platform.

Another thing you’ll probably never experience by yourself is the incredible few from the Williamsbourg Bridge to the skyline of Manhattan. A truly stunning end of this revealing clip. Oh, and if you don’t believe that there’s some community life going on underneath fun city, you should take a deeper look to the mid section of this video. Steve is interviewing some ‘Tunel Residents’ who’ve been living in the underground for nearly 30 years.

It’s not always about what you’ll see in the first place man.


The Proof – New York City Rental Index

12/20/2010

“Where do you live? Oh New York, great. But probably very expensive, isn’t it?” That’s a typical phrase I’m hearing every so often while talking about the current city I live in. And it’s true, it is expensive. But most people don’t realize how expensive it really is. Why? Because talking about cost of living also means talking about relativity. For instance, just a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was visiting from Zurich, Switzerland. And he surprisingly said, “Oh, it isn’t really that pricy I’ve supposed it would be.” Of course it isn’t, coming from Switzerland with a paycheck three times as much as an average New York City salary. But most people who have to make a living with a decent job in town struggle with the tremendous cost of living. As a proof just take a look at the current rental index below. Almost §3.000 for a decent One-Bedroom-Apartment is ridiculously expensive. And it explains very well why New York City is probably the capital of shared apartments.

I’ve never encountered more people, outside of a student community, living with roommates. It’s the only way to deal with the upscale rent at least in Manhattan. Except you are a fellow of Gordon Gekko. A couple of month ago I had the chance to talk to one of these legendary Wall Street bankers. And he told me frankly, that the spooky salaries you sometimes hear of are not part of a conspiracy theory. It’s the truth. Their salaries range actually from 300 to 350 thousand Dollars a year after graduating from a notable business school. But honestly, even for this amount of money: Who wants’ to work in this kind of boring industry. “Where do you live” is probably an important question. But the more important one is “what do you live for”, isn’t it?