24 March 2006

Cakes and Syrup (part 2 of 2) (UPDATED!)

This Post is long overdue, and I apologize (and give thanks) to those waiting that have expressed their desire to read the conclusion...

Fueled by a few pints of Guiness, Adam and I, intrepid heroes, headed back to Alejandra's house to plan our departure. We quickly found a place to stay in the area of our destination--Our homebase was to be a small rented cabin on the shores of a frozen lake (note: Adam would later qualify the adjective "frozen" with the modifying adverb "almost".)

The next morning, after guzzling gallons of coffee and purchasing supplies for our voyage, we loaded up in the vehicle and headed North. Armed with little but a map of little detail and bucketloads of confidence, we started our drive. We decided that our path would, as much as possible, be confined to back roads, as we wished to see as much non-freeway Canada as possible.

We headed out and began to drive...slowly but surely...Within a few hours, already growing tired, we arrived in the general geographic region. We had planned a huge feast, and so we stopped at a grocery store in the area to stock up on food and wine. In a moment (perhaps among many) of culinary genius, Adam had planned the menu, keeping in mind the theme of the voyage, and had planned a meal of pork chops marinated in mustard and maple syrup. We decided as a group that the pork chops would go nicely with some potatoes and brussel sprouts.

We purchased our victuals and headed toward the cabin. Oddly, the one thing that we had been unable to find in the grocery store was fresh, local maple syrup in a reasonably sized bottle. There were plently of outrageously-sized bottles of the local goo, as well as bottles of Aunt Jemima and her similar faux-maple pals, but none of these options seemed viable or morally correct. And so, after speaking with some of the local workers, who all had cousins or brothers or sisters or friends that made maple syrup, we headed down the road in search of some roadside maple blessings.

Driving down the local highway, having long passed the turnoff for our cabin, we grew nervous. We saw no sign of the maple shack we were looking for, and we seemed to have gone too far. We fretted, worrying that our good luck had come to an end, and decided to turn back, hoping to find another option. Our great fortune, however, continued to shine upon us, and the road in which I chose to enact a K-turn turned out to be the driveway of the place we were looking for.

So we bought some syrup and moved along, headed toward our fancy lakeside cabin (which was, in fact, a sort of crumby, yet homey tiny little place that had obviously not been decorated since the late 1960's). Adam got to work cooking our meal, and Alejandra and I got to work on the wine we had bought. We all worked hard, and within about an hour, Adam had cooked up a delicious meal, and the three of us had polished off a fairly large quantity of wine. With music-provided by the satellite TV, we sat down and ate, enjoyed the rest of the wine, played some music and finally settled in to sleep and dream of fluffy pancakes and sugary, pure, gorgeous maple syrup.

We woke up late the next morning and immediately got to work packing up and cleaning up the place. Luckily, the night before, we had finally found a map that mentioned the town we were looking for, "Oro Medonte".

And it turned out the town actually exists:

As we got closer, the excitement in the car was noticeably increasing. Road signs pointed to the end of our journey, which we approached with a mixture of anticipation, exhaustion, and sadness.

We had finally reached the conclusion of our adventure. We entered Shaw's, greeted by the smell of scrumptious hotcakes. We were seated at one of the many tables, which like the others, was covered in a bright orange plastic tablecloth. We checked out the menu, and our choices were few.

--Silver Dollar Pancakes with One Sausage, OR
--Two Pancakes with Two Sausages, OR
--Three Pancakes with Three Sausages.

Now, Alejandra was feeling the Two Pancake option, but Adam and I, arriving at the end of such a momentous undertaking, immediately decided that we would obviously eat the largest of all possible options. Adam's conversation with the waitress went something like this:

--I'll have the Three Pancakes with the Three Sausages.
--Uh...are you sure?
--Yeah, I'm sure...Why?
--Well, it's just a whole lot of food...
--Listen! I've come here from Brooklyn, and I think that can handle Three Pancakes!

This last sentence was pronounced with a great deal of force, and the Waitress smiled, slightly taken aback, and then nodded her approval. I seconded Adam's order and we sat to wait for our pancakes. They came a few minutes later, and the truth is--they were pretty damn good. Thing is, as I dug into the mammoth pile of food, I remembered that I'm really not all that crazy about pancakes. I mean, I like pancakes, but they're not my favorite food, and the truth is that I really prefer French Toast any day of the week. No doubt about it.

This realization, however, in no way diminished the metaphysical deliciousness of my plate of pancakes and sausages. Cutting them up, slathering them with pure butter, soaking them in sugary, condensed, natural sap--every action and every bite was pleasurable, and every sip of coffee washed it all down wonderfully.

After the meal was over, we had the chance to meet with members of the Shaw family. We witnessed the entire syrup-making process, learned some interesting syrup trivia (40 gallons of sap are necessary to make just one gallon of syrup), took a walk through the maple grove, and got to try some maple syrup toffee (Little House on the Prairie-style--hot syrup poured over snow).

The Shaw family (and friends) all seemed happy to meet us, and were very impressed by our journey. Oddly, one very nice lady referred to us as "movie stars", which somehow seemed to be the conception of New Yorkers, and even requested our autographs (which I believe and hope was a joke).

And so, the voyage was complete. We had made, against all odds, to Shaw's Pancake House. In the face of those mocking our journey, we had traveled 100 miles North of Toronto to eat some pretty good pancakes. We had met the Shaw family, checked out the syrup making process, and eaten syrup toffee (a dream of mine for years). And now, all that remained was to head home, victorious and stuffed.



Dear Shaw Family,

I just wanted to write and thank you for the wonderful breakfast experience we recently had at your Pancake House.

Some of you may remember that I and two friends made the journey to Shaw's from Brooklyn, NY, after reading about your delicious syrup and hotcakes in the New York Times. The trip was better than I could have possibly hoped for it to be, and it was truly very nice to meet all of you.

I would like to direct you to my website, www.frijoles265.blogspot.com. You may enjoy the narration of our journey from Brooklyn to Oro-Medonte, as well as some of the photos of our trip and the time we spent at Shaw's. I also plan to soon print some of the photos and send them by mail.

Thanks again for everything, and I hope that you are well. I hope to see you again, this time to try some Shaw's Products of the pork variety.


Chris, Adam and Alejandra



Hello from Canada,
Of course I remember all of you. It was a pleasure meeting you and I really enjoyed your enthusiasm about our little Sugarbush in Oro-Medonte.
Your trek to Canada after seeing our story in the New York Times was pretty amazing to me. If you have any extra copy, we would love to see it.
I hope that you can come back some springtime in the future. My husband Tom (the 5th generation) said that I should check out your site to see the photos so I will right now.
Thanks again for your compliments and kind words.
Terri-Lynn Shaw
Shaw Maple Products & Pancake House
#493 Oro-Medonte Line 14, S.
Orillia, Ont. Canada
L3V 6H1

19 March 2006

The Nectar of the North... (part 1 of 2)

I am daunted by this tale I must tell. Even in the midst of living the experiences recounted below, I and my traveling companion were aware of their (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) mythical quality and the deceptive ease with which each moment in our journey seemed to fit into the framework of a heroic quest.

Our journey to the North had been born of practicality. I wanted to take a trip during my spring break from work, and I lacked the funds necessary to take any voyage that would demand air travel and hotels. My travel partner Adam, on the other hand, is currently recovering from shoulder surgery and likewise had time and limited funds. Canada presented itself as a viable option.

Some days after deciding to head to Canada, I came upon an article in the New York Times. The author had written on a number of places in North America that served regional and seasonal foods. One of the places listed in the article was Shaw's Pancake House, a place about 100 miles north of Toronto (our destination) that only opens during March and April each year. All the syrup served atop the pancakes at Shaw's is produced on their 100 acres of maple forest. I clipped the article from the newspaper, and we decided that Shaw's would be the final destination point of our trip. I am not sure that we realized at the time the extent to which the syrup quest would come to inhabit the entirety our thoughts and actions.

Everything began smoothly, perhaps even better than planned. Adam and I left New York/New Jersey on Monday afternoon and headed in a northwesterly direction. We made an unplanned stop in Buffalo and tasted the local (original) Buffalo Wings (see previous post) and headed up to Niagara Falls on Tuesday morning.

The falls at Niagara were impressive, but the weather was severe and not very conducive to extensive gazing upon the thousands of gallons of falling, near frozen water. Standing atop the lookout points on the American side of the border, we felt briefly energized by the rising mist. The sensation was soon overtaken by the lack of feeling in our extremeties and my own fear that I might soon lose my rather pointed, skinny nose to frostbite.

After a short drive around the area, we headed to the border to suffer through the annoying and (for me) typically excessive frontier control. Rather than being passed through directly to the other side, we were subjected to extensive questioning, our passports were briefly confiscated, and our car was searched. Now, perhaps this had something to do with our general scruffiness, and maybe my garb (I was wearing all the clothes that I had with me, including the thick camel wool African robe that can be seen above) aroused a bit of suspicion. Nonetheless, the process was annoying, and after we finally got through we felt as though we had passed through yet another interesting obstacle on our journey.

It was perhaps around this point that our conception of our trip to Canada began to undergo a certain metamorphosis. See, orginally the trip was planned as a trip to Toronto. Pancakes at Shaw's were to be a sidenote. Adam and I both started to notice, however, that our talk of pancakes and of finding our way North of Toronto had begun to dominate our discussions. We both obviously loved the idea of visiting a pancake house 12 hours from home. It was exciting and absurd, and seemed to lend the trip a sort of eccentric feel that appealed to us.

It wasn't many hours later, now in Toronto, having met up with my friend Alejandra (with whom we were staying), that we came to another realization. The article clipping that we had religiously carried with us through days in New York and along the entire car ride had somehow been discarded along with common trash found in the vehicle. We had lost what we would come to refer to as the map for our Holy Grail. Our ties to Shaw's Pancake House had been cut!

Now, the most obvious answer to our problems was quite that--very obvious. A quick search on the Internet turns up Shaw's Pancake House. We had Internet at our disposal. It would be easy to find the place. In a fit of quixotic thinking, however, we decided to pursue a different route--We would find Shaw's sans internet--without the help of the information highway. We would do this analog.

Immediately, the entire trip changed. EVERYTHING was now somehow connected to Shaw's. Could we stay out late at the Toronto bars? No! Impossible! We needed to be up early to get to work on our research. See--unfortunately, we remembered the name of the place, but the town name had completely escaped us. We both had our theories as to how the word started, the letters that dominated, the number of hyphens involved, etc. Still, all that our combing of maps and lists of Ontario towns seemed to prove was that we both had crappy memories. Nothing seemed to fit. We would have to hit the field, meet syrup purveyors, talk to distributors, check bookstores and libraries if necessary. We decided that we would stop at nothing. Even more, we decided that if we failed to find anything in Toronto, we would simply drive north and start asking people about Shaw's. The plan was archaic, but simple and failproof.

We started off Wednesday morning by heading toward St. Lawrence market, known as a place filled with people selling artisinal foods (ie gourmet, real maple syrup). It took us a while to track the place down, as we seem to have accidentally followed a truck route through the streets of Toronto. Nonetheless, just finding the place felt like a small victory.

Inside, we were shocked by the number of people selling maple syrup. Still, nobody that we interviewed seemed to have ever heard of Shaw's. We spoke to people throughout the market, telling them of our quest and our problems. Some were sympathetic to our search, but none seemed to offer much help. By the end of our time in the market, however, we had achieved success on a few fronts:

1. We found some really, really delicious mustard. We tried tons of varieties of mustard. We bought highly priced bottles of said mustard.

2. We found numerous geographic clues based on the origins of other syrup brands being sold in the market (all clues were carefully annotated in a notebook temporarily requisitioned for the purpose of annotating clues).

We left the market with renewed optimism and resolve, realizing now that our quest would not be as easy as we had half-hoped. We began to see all in a new light. Toronto was not merely a delightful city, but the setting in which two syrup-searching heroes would have their wits tested with riddles and bodies tested with wind chill. The waters of the Niagara of the day before became a purifying baptism, and our run-in with Franky Carcioffi quickly converted from a frightening encounter with a mobster into a dangerous temptation to leave the quest and pursue easy women in the whirlwind of an unholy bender. Every moment on the trip was somehow tied to our quest to find Shaw's.

Energized by a wholesome lunch in a strange and postmodern Torontonian atrium, we headed off to the University of Toronto library. Along the way, we stopped in a bookstore and got back to work. Tourist guides and the food section turned up little of interest regarding Shaw's, but Adam found out some interesting things about the mythical history of Maple Syrup.

As the story goes, Waksis (Great Hunter), an Iroquois Indian, buried his axe in a maple tree before heading out to go hunting one day. As luck would have it, a receptacle of some sort happened to be sitting beneath the axe. This container was positioned perfectly to receive the dripping "tears of the maple" that poured from the wound of the axe. In a continuing string of luck, Waksis's wife stumbled upon the pail while he was still out hunting, and took the liquid back home to use in a stew. She heated up the liquid, made a stew, and waited for Waksis to come home. When he did, he ate and declared the meal the most delicious stew he had ever tasted. In this way, maple syrup was born.

(Later, Adam fashioned the drawing below as representation of Waksis)

We left the bookstore and continued to head toward the library. Apparently UT students aren't all that interested in libraries, because we had to ask a few students for help in finding it. The last guy we asked responded slowly, scratching his scabby chin in earnest, obviously thinking hard.

"Well....let's see....you go to the end of the road here, and make a right....and go down a bit...and, uh, um...you'll see a big building...it's...uh....brown, I think..."

We walked down the street, following his directions, when we suddenly saw the most monstrous of buildings looming in the distance. We had never before seen a building that looked so much like a monster. No edifice that ever seemed to be so intent on eating all those that entered. This was the library for which a student had provided as a sole description the word "brown". Why, we wondered, wouldn't he have just told us to head up the road until we saw "a building that looks like a big frigging monster with a big ass mouth that wants to eat you"?

After accidentally skipping past a line of students waiting for the computer catalog, we began our search in earnest. We hoped to find some sort of list of Canadian syrup producers, and began searching terms such as:

1. Syrup
2. Maple Syrup producers
3. Canadian syrup
4. Maple Sugar, Ontario

We came up with a small and useless number of hits, and went off to collect our 1970's government pamphlets on syrup production, our topographic maps, and our detailed road maps of Canada. We found nothing, of course. Stumped again, we tried the phone books, attempting to guess in which area the restaurant was located (having no idea of the town's name). Again, no luck.

Like a flash, the solution suddently occurred to us. It was so obvious, and so easy, and we were amazed that we hadn't thought of it much earlier. We merely went looking for back issues of the New York Times to find the original article. This took a few minutes, as I couldn't remember exactly when I had read it, but we soon found it, and after whopping loudly (severe looks from the librarian), we burst out of the library and headed to the bar to celebrate our success and plan the drive up North.

Coming Soon: The Trip to SHAW'S PANCAKE HOUSE!

17 March 2006


Back in Toronto after a journey a bit further north. Full description to come soon, with photos, as my hands are freezing and my body is tired.

15 March 2006

Wings, Wiseguys, and Wind

"What were you in for?"
"I killed my wife and her four friends"

Adam and I stood there, stupefied, dumbstruck, slowly sipping our drinks and planning our escape.

"Nah...Just messing with youze..."

Adam left for the bathroom to hide his money in his sock. I was stuck alone with "Franky Carcioffi", our brand new self-proclaimed Mafia wiseguy friend. As Franky had told us, he had been up for days, ingesting a variety of drugs, drinking "urine with a little bit of ice" (Seagrams and 7-Up), and enlisting the services of a number of call girls.

For at least an hour, we sat there at the bar with Franky, trying to figure out how to stop talking to him, a bit too scared and a bit too interested to leave. We heard a bit about his five years in Attica, learned all about his daughter's skills as an estetician ("she colored my hair with streaks of blonde! Makes me look young), and were regaled with vague details of Franky's business ventures ("construction", money collection, drug dealing).

We certainly hadn't planned to be hanging out with wise guys in Buffalo, having never planned to even stop in Buffalo. We left New Jersey on Monday afternoon, planning to drive straight through to Toronto, where our friend awaited our arrival. Inclement weather and the unstoppable course of time forced us to reconsider our options.

A brief stop for the bathroom and a snack at a rest stop found us gazing upon a map of the region. It was only then that we realized that our trajectory would take us straight through Buffalo, and with a very small deviation from our course, past the famed Niagara falls. We immediately changed our plans, and decided to stay the night in Buffalo and spend the next morning at the falls before heading to Toronto.

Arriving in Buffalo, driving down Main Street, we took notice of our surroundings. Buffalo was anything but impressive, much as we had expected. At this point, our only true motivation for continuing to enter the city was to unlock the truth of our hopeful doubts regarding the origin of Buffalo Wings.

This question had occurred to us shortly after deciding to stop in Buffalo, when we mutually and suddenly realized that Buffalo Wings must have taken their name from the New York town of Buffalo. Unsure of the truth behind this conjecture, we spent some time considering other possibilities:

--some sort of surrealist/jocular naming of the foodstuff
--A connection to the American West
--Issues of translation from the Italian Buffala --> Buffalo

In this last possibility, we came up with delightful little stories that involved Italian immigrants, a new appetizer that involved spicy chicken wings and mozzarella di buffala, and the eventual cutting of the mozzarella from the plate, leaving the wings with the name buffala, which at some point (goes the tale) had eventually changed to buffalo.

After considering these possibilities, we came to the conclusion that Buffalo Wings must be tied to the New York town, and we became increasingly excited to try out the original, unadulterated and elusive real wing of pub grub lore.

We finally arrived in downtown Buffalo, and were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful little pedestrian area and an area of bars and nightclubs. Our doubts regarding the wing question were quickly erased by the hostel worker Michael Myers, and after chatting briefly with a strange Ugandan man that shared our room, we headed out to chow on some wings and enjoy some after dinner beverages.

We quickly found the place, ordered up a pitcher of beer and a plate of hot wings, and dug in with gusto and fervor. The wings were delicious, and had a certain crunchiness that is often difficult to find with wings. Best of all, the entire meal, beer included, cost only twenty dollars. Things were looking up in Buffalo.

Having finished dinner, we headed out for some drinks to an Irish pub down the street. It was at this point that we made the acquaintance of Franky Carcioffi, from whom we eventually escaped after accepting his offer of a drink and evading vague invitations to join him on his bender.

Leaving the bar, walking down the street, we decided that after the stressful and somewhat frightening experience that we had had with ole' Carcioffi, we deserved a last drink before heading home. Unfortunately, however, the only bars left on the walk were a string of Buffalo gay bars. After finding one quite strange and a bit scary, we headed to another (much calmer) and settled in for a beer that was only rarely interrupted by a strange older man that seemed to take quite a bit of interest in us, our conversations, and our bathroom habits.

More to come soon, including:

Niagara Falls
The Pancake Quest

13 March 2006


I'm leaving today for Toronto, Canada. My friend and I plan to start driving this afternoon, and hopefully arrive in Maple-Leaf-Ville by this evening.

Updates to come.

Oh, and to Peter the dumb Australian--Thank you for your insulting and vulgar comment. Please feel free to go suck an egg.

09 March 2006

Say it ain't so...

(New York Times -- Editorial, March 9, 2006)

08 March 2006

............................ On the Riverside........................

I'm an ignorant dumb hick.

I always knew who was buried in Grant's tomb, I just didn't know that Grant's tomb was just up the road a stretch. Rising up alongside the Hudson River around 120th St. is a huge monument that serves as Grant's final resting place. This building, encircled by a Gaudi-esque mosaic bench, is truly impressive, and dates back to the end of the 1800s. In the center of the building, down an open shaft of sorts, lies Grant alongside his wife, an eternal memory for New Yorkers to the fact that the North whooped the South's cotton-clad ass.

As usual in these sorts of places, there's a whole lot of semi-interesting historical information, strange-looking Ranger type guys, and cheesy souvenirs for sale. Oh--and as the sign outside says, "No drinks, food, restrooms" --Apparently urination, defecation and hydration are somehow offensive on hallowed ground. Weird.

I left the monument pretty quickly, still in awe of my ignorance about old-Uly's final resting place. I headed over the Riverside Church, interested to see if it really was possible to climb its tower and look out over the city. Unfortunately, it was not possible, as the tower is currently undergoing renovation, but after a lengthy process of signing in, I was finally able to enter the church.

I headed up toward the Nave, apparently the only area of the church into which I could enter, and underwent another signing in process. The guy that signed me in here was a nice guy, if a bit strange. He was an African guy, and after assisting me to put my guest badge "on my garments" so that I was an "official visitor," he proceeded to give me a lengthy, long-winded, and enthusiastic speech about the church.

To summarize our five minute interaction: "Put on this badge. You can visit those three rooms."

Incredibly infomative.

I checked out the church, which was quite nice--full of beautiful stained glass and great carved walls. I quickly moved onto the other two rooms (a tiny little chapel with a painting by some "famous" artist that I had never heard of and whose name I forget, and a room that is apparently--if I understood correctly--an Ethiopian chapel used for certain services, weddings, and the like), said goodbye to the strange and talkative man, and headed for the exit. While I enjoyed the visit, I'm not one to dilly-dally in my church visits, and so I felt I had done the place as much justice as I could expect from myself.

As I neared the exit, I decided to nip into the gift shop (what does a book of NY Times Crossword Puzzles have to do with God?) and have a brief look around. The shop sucked, so I continued to egress. As I did so, I heard the voice of the man I had originally seen upon entering the church (the first line of defense, if you will).

"Leaving so soon?" I heard him say.
"Well...yeah, I just wanted to have a look around."
"A look around in three minutes? That's not enough time for a look around."

As he spoke this last sentence, I started to sense a slightly combatative tone.

"Well, I'll be back for another visit," I said, "and I was here about ten minutes, not three..."-- trying to pacify him.
"When?" he asked
"Soon, I'll be back, for real," I told him, starting to get a bit freaked out by this guy's strange insistence on my really getting to know the Riverside Church.
"When?" he asked again.

The tension was palpable. I mumbled back another "soon" and got the hell out of the place.

I'm still wondering, hours later, how a peaceful church visit had so easily turned into the opening scene of some campy horror movie. It's truly a whole different world up there on the Upper West Side.

06 March 2006

Everybody Hates Chris

So the other day a friend walks in my door with a bumper sticker and tells me, "This is for you...I found it outside."

The sticker in question read, quite clearly and boldly, "Honk if you hate Chris." I immediately recognized the style and font of the sticker, and realized that the hated "Chris" to which the sticker referred was not me, Chris Bond, but rather Chris Rock, the comedian. The sticker was an advertisement for his TV show "Everybody Hates Chris".

So I'm thinking--alright, fair enough, everybody doesn't hate me...They hate Chris Rock. Of course, I'm immediately struck with the obvious question--"What the hell are all these "Honk" stickers doing in front of my house?" Now I'm wondering if someone's playing a joke, or if someone hates me and chose this sticky method of letting me know, rather than just choking me or throwing me into a door or something.

The next day I left the house to get something to eat with my roommates...Hundreds of stickers lay on the ground. The wind had carried them as far as a few blocks away, and the whole walk to brunch I was reminded of the world's disdain for me. Worst of all, stickers had been stuck to walls and sidewalks and bicycles and street signs all over the place.

Luckily, my paranoia didn't have to go on for too long, as It turns out that someone that lives upstairs used to live with someone else that did promotions and publicity for the show, or some nonsense like that...So it's apparently merely a coincidence, as they were just finally throwing away their stash of useless and insulting stickers.


02 March 2006

The Number Four


The doors open late on the L train, and all of the passengers burst out onto the platform. The rush to the stairs is mad. I sideswipe someone shorter than me, a mammoth pushes me to the side. We all race, and reaching the stairways, the familiar game of metro tetris begins.

Left Staircase or Right Staircase? A quick look at both sides suffices to tell me that the left is moving slowly, having been forced to accomodate two-way traffic. I jump onto the line on the right, and move swiftly up to the first landing. Here, the choices are ample, and I'm forced to decide between four different two-way routes. I choose the second from the right, move smoothly past the next landing, and slide into the open area upstairs.

A Peruvian pipe player bumps me. I bump a smartly dressed young woman carrying her high heels and wearing sneakers. A dimunitive, balding man and I dance as we accidentally deceive eachother as regards the direction we will take. I advance in one direction at the same time that he does. We are perpindicular to eachother, and yet neither of us can seem to make progress towards our destination. Finally, we break this confusing and loathsome magnetism. We've figured eachother out. I go my way, he goes his way, squealing "excuse me" in a timid and broken voice.

I hit the stairs to the Four Train running and I'm forced to slow down, held back by the traffic, stopped before me. I've chosen the wrong side, obviously. We move slowly down as a train slowly approaches the station. I peer over the edge and see that it is my train. I try to run. I am unable, yet still make the train.

Boarding the car I peer around slyly and suspiciously, like a detective scanning a room that likely contains a suspect. The question I ask myself is, "what seats will open up?" The ride is long and standing is not an option. The train moves with a scream and a rattle and we hurtle forth through the dark tunnels beneath the Manhattan streets. We stop at Grand Central Station and the crowd on the subway begins to thin. I look about, maintaining a calm exterior, inside frantically praying that I find a seat in which I can peacefully read my newspaper.

It is like a Swiss Guard maneuver. Two seats free up, but they will be difficult to possess. The young Latin guy sitting between the two empties slides down to occupy the "aisle" seat on the long bench, freeing up the seat directly before me. I plop down and unfold my newspaper, sighing. As I do, the dreadlocked man beside me makes the same noise and we look at eachother, smiling in our mutual struggle.

"It's like I get on the train and all I do is figure out my next move, like which seat is gonna open up."
"I know the feeling, it's like a science."
"Where are you going to?"
"I've got a long ride, so I need to get a seat, there's no way I'm standing the whole way."
"Where are you going to?"
"All the way up to Fordham Rd."
"I'm going to __________, on the six train, coming from ____________. Two hours each way, every day."
"Yeah man, it's a long way."

At this, he smiles again and sighs again, and I do the same. He settles against the wall, obviously tired. I open my newspaper and begin to read about the calamaties of the day. I'm most drawn by the recent story of the young girl that was kidnapped and tied up and raped and killed and left on the side of the road in Brooklyn, somewhere far, far away. I'm perturbed by the story and I feel badly for her friend with whom she parted at the bar. Apparently they argued before going their separate ways. Seems rough to leave things like that.

The train approaches Fordham. I fold my newspaper, stow it away in my backpack, zipper up my jacket and don my gloves. I'm less worried about strategy now. I'm here, I can relax. I exit and move with the herd toward the outside world, which is now quickly becoming snow-covered.

01 March 2006

Bronx Weirdness

Just a few strange Bronx moments:

1. Quote from a student on the Fordham Rose Hill (Bronx) Campus on February 28, 2006:

"I pissed on my own face yesterday."


2. Today, while riding the 4 train from Union Square to East Fordham Rd, I noticed a strange character across from me. I couldn't quite believe my eyes.

A Skinhead. Shaved head, flight jacket, straight legged jeans, doc maarten shoes with white laces. The whole deal.

Now, I understand that Skinhead culture is not inherently racist. Many Skinheads are not at all racist, and some are in fact virulently (and sometimes violently) anti-racist (i.e. SHARPS--Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice). Skinheads, historically, celebrate working class youth culture, which does not necessarily demand that one hold racist beliefs. See wikipedia's skinhead entry for a bit more information or check out this website which contains a very interesting FAQ.

Fair enough. Not all skinheads are racist. Nonetheless, everyone thinks that they're a bunch of hating violent racists. This is the generally held conception.

So isn't the Bronx (much of which is nearly wholly inhabited by various minority groups) a strange place to find a Skinhead?

Who knows. I just found the whole affair sort of visually jarring.