lunes, diciembre 18, 2006

NYC's Village Idiot

He. He He.

Check this out. Those two remind me of my cats: all the fighting, swatting, hissing and scratching. And for what?

Toussaint insists that "every New Yorker should be furious with the MTA", for it was Kalikow who insisted that the contract business should go into arbitration, therefore wasting $2 mill in the past year. And you know who all paid for that. Rog, sweetie-darling, we are furious with the MTA. Always have been, always will be. We are also furious with the TWU, you in particular.

The object of today's game is to figure out which of the two, Kalikow or Toussaint, qualifies for the above-mentioned title.

Identify yourself

With regard to the shootings by police officers (is it just me or have there been, like, three of them in as many weeks?) and this past weekend's stabbing of an off-duty officer at a diner in Williamsburg, news articles always say "it is unclear whether they identified themselves as police officers". Who the fuck cares if they identified themselves or not? They still shot 50 bullets at unarmed men, one of whom was getting married that day. Are people trying to say that if they did identify themselves as police, the whole case would be scrapped? Will the shootings be rendered less tragic if the shooters identified themselves? Of course not. Sounds like the splitting of hairs to me, buying some time with nonsense in the hopes that no one gets to the heart of the matter - white cops went into a black neighborhood and on "suspicion", shot into a car of unarmed men, just the same way white cops went into Soundview "looking for a suspect" and shot Amadou Diallo 41 times for pulling out his wallet.

On the 7 train this morning, I heard a guy telling his friend something along the lines of "that cop [in Williamsburg] deserved to be stabbed" in return for all the recent shootings by police. Somebody had to take the fall for all the crap his group has been dishing out lately, seems to be what he meant. A lot of people looked up from their papers, books, and/or iPods. Nobody uttered one word in disagreement, and a few people even nodded their heads in agreement. I suspect the reaction would have been much different had that been said on, say, the 6 train at Grand Central.

viernes, diciembre 15, 2006

Ha! I'm so not alone on the tourist-contempt thing!

Hey, here's an article from the New York Times on tourist season. It was in times select, so I can't link it, but I've pasted it here. Enjoy and happy holidays!

Unfortunately, the T-shirt that came closest to what we wanted was hopelessly obscene. We dropped in on a dozen souvenir shops, and not one carried a shirt that we had seen some years ago. It summed up our sentiments in this season when Midtown streets are so crowded that you can barely move.

“Welcome to New York,” it said. “Now go home.”

Really, is it asking too much to have our city back?

Oh, sure, this is not a new lament. And yes, out-of-towners pump economic juice into a city that produces precious little these days other than Goldman Sachs bankers and traders with year-end bonuses that amount to double the gross domestic product of Tajikistan. We know how much New York needs tourists.

NYC & Company, the city’s tourism marketer, estimates that the number of visitors this year will exceed 44 million, including more than 7 million foreigners. That would be a 20-percent increase from 2002, the jittery first post-9/11 year.

Visitors, bless their open wallets, are spending more than ever, thanks perhaps to the incredible shrinking dollar vis-à-vis the euro and British pound. They shelled out $22.8 billion last year, or 62 percent more than in 2002, NYC & Company says.

Thank you, visitors.

But now can’t you go home, some of you anyway?

It shouldn’t take a reasonably fit fellow 10 minutes to walk from 50th Street to 45th Street in the theater district. But the crowds were so impenetrably thick on a recent Saturday at matinee time that the best one could do was shuffle along in frustration.

Is it fair to be forced, in one’s own city, to walk in the gutter because the crush on the sidewalk is too great? Must New Yorkers repeatedly endure the annoyance of not getting to an appointment on time because the tourists in front of them insist on walking — no, make that ambling — five abreast?

The mayor delivered a fine speech this week about the challenges awaiting a city whose population over the next 25 years is expected to grow by about a million, to more than nine million overall. Among other things, he said, mass transit must expand so that “congestion doesn’t bring our economy grinding to a halt.”

He was talking about the year 2030. Never mind that. Those of us who live and work here are grinding to a halt on the streets right now. And the city’s marketers are not content with 44 million visitors. They want to beef up the number to 50 million within a few years.
Gutter, here we come.

In fairness, most visitors seem like perfectly nice people, even if they sometimes do odd things. This goes beyond their non-New York tendency to stand dutifully at the corner waiting for the light to change.

They also — a startlingly large number of them — stand in long lines to get into Broadway shows for which they already have assigned seats. This phenomenon is conspicuous at tourist-dependent shows like “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Tarzan” and “Les Misérables.” Tickets in hand, the out-of-towners start forming tidy lines 45 minutes or more before the curtain goes up, as if they were at a movie theater with its policy of first come first served.

It is a baffling phenomenon.

“We saw others doing it, and we just joined them,” a middle-aged woman said as she waited with her teenage daughter outside the Broadhurst Theater to see “Les Miz.” The daughter added, “It’s part of the experience, I guess.”

I GUESS. No New Yorker would think so, though. Philip S. Birsh, the president and publisher of Playbill, chalked it up to these visitors’ being “a Disney World crew.” And “if you’re a Disney World person,” he said, “you’re in some way trained to stand on line.”

At least there is no harm in being sheepishly sheeplike. The same cannot be said of another type of visitor: young Europeans who come here for the sole purpose of spraying billowing clouds of graffiti on New York subway cars. “Guten-taggers,” The Daily News cleverly labeled them this week.

How serious is the problem? It’s not clear. New York City Transit says that defiled trains never make it out of the yards, so they are not an eyesore for the riding public.

Still, have we reached the point where we are outsourcing our graffiti?

Too bad we couldn’t find that T-shirt. It would have been nice to tell the Guten-taggers: Willkommen in New York. Jetzt verschwinden Sie wieder nach Hause.

In other words, welcome to New York — now go home. For that matter, you graffiti vandals can forget about the Willkommen.

jueves, diciembre 14, 2006

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

Bloomberg made a speech recently challenging New Yorkers to envision what kind of city we want for the future. His office has set up a website where NYers can read about ideas and plans and give suggestions. You know that this Mariposa has already weighed in, especially after my hour commute from Woodside to Midtown on the 7, a journey which usually takes 1/2 an hour, this morning. I like the way the suggestion "box", if y'all will, was phrased: what would you change and what would you like to see stay the same? My change was: foster a culture of responsibility, because no plan for reform can be carried out when people/politicians who are supposed to work for the City keep "passing the buck". Sure, that happens at the UN all the time, that's why the place is a hotbed for trouble, scandal and failure as well as success, and a great case-study is my old office. For all my whining about it, I think I forgot to mention that the larger reason why it is such a fucked up place is because most of those people have been allowed to make a career out of doing nothing, and that goes from the bottom all the way to the top, including the Director and his "senior" staff. In any case, what I wanted to see stay the same was the "neighborhood" sort of vibe that most NYers give off, and their/our ability to laugh in the face of ever-rising levels of bullshit (and tourists). As for me, now that the only crap I have to put up with is on the trains and the sidewalks, I am a much happier person, and although I had to let 4-5 crowded 7 trains go by before I could squeeze onto one, I LAUGHED. Even when the station attendant guy made the announcement "please avoid over-crowding" to a platform chock full of people waiting, just like me, to smoosh onto a train, I laughed it off. What a relief it is, too, to know that my general outlook and disposition was not completely altered by my old office. I finally feel like myself again.

When I did manage to get on a train, I started talking to this lady who worked for the City in the Department of Health (or whatever the official name is). She was an older lady, from the days when people still took responsibility for themselves and their work, did their best and knew that if they didn't, they would get kicked to the curb. I mentioned to her that I hoped that Spitzer would do a better job of taking care of the City, that maybe he would get rid of Kalikow and the rest of Pataki's appointees who do nothing constructive, and that maybe he would give us more money. See, in my broke-ass, credit card debt world, I very naively think that throwing money at a problem will make it go away, and it does help. But I'm quickly learning that some problems require many more elements and resources to fix. The lady asked me, "Do you really think that a wad of cash will fix things? Please! People need to take more responsibility for their actions, is what needs to happen. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. People have got to make more noise. Write letters and complain loudly." Ah, a woman after my own heart. If there's one thing I know how to do is belt out my complaints to anyone who'll listen. The lady went on to mention a college professor whose class was full of students who, let's just say, were not exactly prepared to do the work. "You all are illiterate!" the professor said to his students. At first, the students rebelled, but as they realized that he only spoke the truth, they started trying harder and by the end of the year, when it came time for term papers, everyone wrote a great one. This is similar to what Frank McCourt talks about in his most recent book "Teacher Man". The hardest part of being a teacher is getting the kids to listen, to get past their social status and other bullshit and into the learning mindset. Sometimes this requires a bit of tough love. So I propose that NYers give more tough love to the City, its various corporizations and its government. What a lot of NYers don't know is that when they spend money at Bergdorf's or K-Mart, they inadvertently tell the City that everything is fine by pumping more money into the economy. This includes me, and that would be why I do most of my non-urgent (clothes and shoes, etc) shopping when I go see my parents in DC/Virginia. The fact that Virginia has a 5% sales tax helps too, and I know most of that revenue is going to the state and not the tourists. Another problem that the city has is a gross mis-management of revenue. Why is that the more taxes we pay, the worse infrastructure gets? And while we're at it, why are people like Alan Hevesi allowed to continue in their posts? (there's an article in this week's NY magazine, entitled "the Penitent", with the subtitle "Alan Hevesi is Really Sorry", wherein he insists that he just "overlooked" paying the State back for the personal car service. No, Alan, what you did was steal and hope no one would notice. Another thing you should be sorry for is that tacky decor lurking in your house).

From what I read in New York magazine and NYC's tabloidy newspapers, on my own blog and on others, people complain a lot on paper, but that doesn't go anywhere and doesn't fix anything. The trick is turning the anger into action. Case in point: a couple of years ago, I got really tired of the fact that for every Manhattan-bound 7 train during the morning rush, about 3,4 or even 5 empty Flushing-bound trains would go by. I complained to the MTA everyday for a week (I know I wasn't the only one, either), and for the next two months, the MTA kept the Manhattan-bound trains coming and it was smooth sailing. But then it stopped. So the answer is to keep at it until they get so tired of hearing our mouths that they do what we want. Remember "The Shawshank Redemption"? Andy kept writing letters requesting old books for the prison library, and after a few years of one letter a week, he got his books along with a note asking him to stop writing letters. He said, "Now I'll write two letters a week." Perseverance, y'all. Learn it, live it, love it.

After talking to the health-department lady, I got to thinking: the UN is most definitely fighting an uphill battle on the "fostering a culture of responsibility" goal. But some of the UN's obstacles to achieving that goal come from the inside. There's only a handful of us, at all levels, who actually try to put out good work and take responsibility for our failures as well as our successes. The other obstacles are the Member states, most of whom are like the US and like to bark orders but are not very forthcoming when the time comes for concensus on solving a problem (Bolton was not alone on that one, and his critics should take a look at themselves in the mirror). That's part of what happened in Rwanda and most recently, in the Sudan, and a large part of the reason the UN is so critiqued. To the UN's detractors, I say, you try getting 192 countries to come to a agreement. The UN is just a forum for these folks and whatever happens in the Security Council, in the General Assembly and in their countless debates is totally on them. UN staff can only work with what they give us. Unfortunately, most governments have the same problem arriving at a concensus, externally as well as internally. Everyone has different interests and they all act accordingly. But even bigger than that is the problem of coming up with new solutions and procedures that benefit everyone and that we can all agree on. But there's an obstacle to that too: the voters, and those who don't bother voting but mouth off about government whenever they get the chance, like my own mami (and I'm still trying to school her on that).

So let's take a lesson from the civil rights and anti-war movements of the '50's and '60's. Boycott, protest, whatever. By any means necessary. Keep at it. It may take years to see what you want actually happen, but persevere anyway, if only in the hopes of really pissing off those who do you wrong.

lunes, diciembre 11, 2006

Pinochet dies

Augusto Pinochet died over the weekend. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing, but I will leave that up to God. I know that He can punish people far better than any on earth ever could. My joy is that there is one less devil here on earth.

martes, diciembre 05, 2006

Assassins need love too

When I first started this blog in 2004, Chile's former despot, Augusto Pinochet was finally being brought to justice for his crimes against humanity, specifically, Operation: Condor, a US backed "plan" to oust Salvador Allende, Chile's socialist leader in 1973, in which Pinochet wiped out his opposition, which included thousands of leftist students and civilians as well. But the poor old man got "sick" and was sent home to his country, and there he recovers, with a mix of supporters and opponents camping out waving flags and being patriotic and others who are denouncing him, remembering those he killed and "disappeared". Note, however, his supporters are mainly members of the upper-class, accompanied by people too young to remember Pinochet's murderous campaign, which means they were told that Pinochet is some hero and he should be honored as such. That to me cuts out half his support, for if those kids got a clue, Pinochet would be left with a bunch of upper-crusty abuelas.

I do understand the people who insist Pinochet rescued Chile from Allende, who, they say, had put the country in total disarray. But I have a lot of trouble believing that the only way the dictator could have put the country back in line was to torture and asassinate his opposition. Just look at Argentina: they had a "Dirty War" as well, and the economy is still crap and the government lives off people's pensions. I don't understand people who can look the other way and pledge undying support to someone who, directly or indirectly (for some, ahem, can kill indirectly), kills and tortures tens of thousands to exercise power that is really just gained by default.

Foaming at the mouth gets you nowhere

John Bolton, the mad dog Bush unleashed on the UN based on a technicality back in '05, resigned, effective at the end of the month. Bush reluctantly accepted his resignation, conceding that Bolton would never be confirmed by the new Senate (not that the old one confirmed him, either), and he and his party will die a slow death, ending, with all hope, in a resounding defeat in 2008. Like I said, when the going gets tough, Cons get to stepping. And be sure to check out the caption under that awful picture with the NYT article. That's good for a hearty laugh.

Bolty's Security Council colleagues have given him mixed reviews, praising him for his strong stance against North Korea but wishing he'd play better with others. Bossman Annan's chief of staff, who in a speech accused the US of using the UN by "stealth", triggering Bolty to demand a public apology, which he never got, by the by, has said "no comment", but the grin on his face as he said it was of course quite telling. There has been some rejoicing around these parts, some of it by me, and I think most people believe that if Bolton had come to the UN under different circumstances, things may have turned out differently. That is to say that many at the UN knew well that Bush was not at all interested in diplomacy, and for him to have sent us Bolton was just the straw that broke the camel's back. Consequently, the US has lost some power around here. Just look at what happened with the Security Council vote. Most countries who voted Venezuela and/or against Guatemala did it for many reasons, but among them was pissing off the Americans. Anyway, I think I will take a walk on down to the conference room floor and keep an ear out. Oh, I forgot to mention.....that Security Council seat belongs to Guatemala. If y'all hear about Panama in that seat, pay no mind. We just very graciously lent it to our hermanos centroamericanos.

Robert Gates, Bush's nomination for Rummy's replacement, said, at his confirmation hearing, that the US is not winning the war in Iraq. We all know this, but it is nice to hear when someone on the inside speaks the truth for a change, and at least the comment might stop Bush from running around in flight suits talking about "mission accomplished" (I can't possibly forget that one). The crap news is that he apparently does not intend to reduce troops over there, but he might pull a fast one once he is in the Pentagon. One never knows with politicians.

lunes, diciembre 04, 2006

“Aún hay más"

I know I am a little late on this one, as it came out in the New York Times last week.

I just wanted to remember Raul Velasco, host of the Mexican TV show, Siempre en Domingo, Latin America's answer to the Ed Sullivan Show. He died last sunday, 26 November, of complications from hepatitis and a liver transplant. The show was on the air from 1969-1998.

I watched the show religiously whenever I was in Guatemala, mostly because there were only 4 channels to choose from P. C. (that's Pre-Cable). Domingo's heyday (for me anyway) was back in the late seventies/early eighties when music was still about music, before silicona became a prerequisite for talent, and me and my cousin particularly loved Jose Luis "El Puma" Rodriguez and the lovely Luis Miguel. I miss the mariachis, huge 20 piece bands that would take the stage and throw down, all in their black suits, vaquero boots and huge, black sombreros (above are pictures of the mariachi band that played my treintañera party back in March. not the same, but you get the idea).

While we're in this headspace, I want to give special shout-outs to the telenovelas Quinceañera ( I still know the theme song by heart) and La Fiera, and of course, Chespirito/Chavo del Ocho/Chapulin Colorado, aka, That Spanish Bee Guy.

If you ask nicely, I can sing you some of the commercials from back in the day.

viernes, diciembre 01, 2006

So what exactly are they trying to say?

An article in today's NY Magazine Intelligencer about yesterday's hike in taxi fares includes various statistics on cabbies' take-home pay and lack of health insurance. I'm not sure if this is supposed to appeal to whatever sympathetic side New Yorkers have left within themselves. First of all, if the stat regarding cabbies' take-home pay is true, they make about $3500 a month now with this increase, which is still only a dream to most people, some of whom are day-care center workers, hospital workers, school teachers and those who care for the elderly. Am I supposed to feel so sorry for cabbies that I would want to hand them at least $3 more dollars a ride, not including the tip they loudly demand, shitty attitude or not? Here's another spot where the hard-ass bitch in me takes over and replies, hell no.

People who do much more important work that actually contributes positively to the community are paid much less than men and women who sit in cabs all day and drive all over the city, blaming riders for the fact that they have such horrible lots in life and for the fact that their asses hurt with the horrible attitudes they almost always display. I've lived in New York for 8 years (not incuding college) and I have met approximately three cabbies who did not piss and moan and bitch the whole ride. And then, when they are handed the tips that are commensurate with the uncomfortable ride they have given us, they have the nerve to protest, quite rudely and loudly, and demand a larger tip. Consequently, they get the door slammed in their faces, if they are dealing with me. But I'm sure a lot of people are with me on this one. In sum, there is absolutely no change in service. Most cabbies are still as rude as they were before the hike, they all still mysteriously go off duty at the same time, which just happens to be rush hour, and they will still kick you to the curb if you have the audacity to want to go somewhere they don't feel like going. So why must I pay more for this? It's just another case of someone trying to get more for nothing, much like the MTA and other corporizations, and I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about this problem except to stop taking cabs unless I am doing the airport thing. I think a lot of people will do the same as me.

miércoles, noviembre 29, 2006

Greetings, My Christian Brethren

I got an email a few days ago from a gentleman representing a group of Christian bloggers. He had read my blog and somehow came to the conclusion that he would invite me to join his set. Of course, I was thankful for the invitation, but also curious as to what exactly he had read that made him think I was "Christian" in the "everyone must accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour" kind of way. I mean no offense, but when I think of a Christian, I think of that movie "Saved!", in which Hilary Faye, the ultra-Christian girl, hurls a Bible at a perceived heretic's back and shouts "I am full of Christ's love!!"

I do pray: if I need help or extra strength to keep myself sane, if I, my mom or dad or anyone I know are sick or in danger, you know, the usual. Sometimes these go with appeals to St. Jude, patron saint of impossible causes. For example, when I was trying to get paroled from my last office, I prayed and prayed, acknowledging of course that God would not put me in a situation He knows I can't handle. And then it happened, I was lifted out of that seventh circle of doom, and I spent the next few weeks randomly looking up at the heavens and giving thanks. I went to Catholic school for four years (but more for the fact that it was private and not so much for the parochial aspect of it), I've done time at several masses, and I've gone through First Communion and Confirmation. I've been known to wear a gold cross on a chain around my neck as well as a medal of the Virgin Mary. But I wear them more because they are symbols of protection given to me by my mother, who I really believe to be my guardian angel on earth. When I was in the hospital, close to death, my dad went to the shrine nearby to pray to the Virgin to help me, which she did, and with a quickness. We're all still thanking her for that, 20 years later.

So we are a religious family. But we tend to shun organized religion and what it teaches us, because we don't believe all of the rhetoric and dogma. Furthermore, some of it doesn't make any sense. And let me go even further and say that in my opinion, the Bible is a book written by men who insist it is the word of God, as if God said unto them "can you take dictation?" and the apostles all whipped out their old-school steno tablets and set to work. Don't get me wrong, the Bible does have a lot of good teachings in it, and for the most part, it encourages love and peace. But what doesn't make sense to me is, if God is such a benevolent and peaceful being, how then could He inspire such hatred in the world? Fanatical Muslims say that it is Allah and the prophet Mohammed who have ordered intifadahs and jihads all over the world against infidels. Christians said it was God who told them to ride off to Jerusalem to convert the Muslims during the Crusades. The Catholic kings of Spain insisted it was God who had them use torture to convert the Jews and Moors in the south of Spain to Catholicism. And now, it is God who says homosexuality is unnatural and shameful and we should pity gays and try to rid them of their "disease", as that is the Christian thing to do. Perhaps you can all see how none of this makes any sense, and even people who claim to be Christian or Muslim or Jewish misinterpret "what God said" in their respective Good Books. As for me, I'm sticking to the whole God as a benevolent and peaceful being idea, just to avoid confusion. So please, I don't want any titles or classifications being thrown my way.

Thank you.

martes, noviembre 28, 2006


I just read an op-ed in the New York Times (sorry, can't attach it) by Bob Herbert, in which he suggested that Americans should feel more responsibility and guilt for the war in Iraq, since America is the offending party. I usually like Herbert a lot, even though he is just a tad bit whiny, but he was way off the mark with this one.

I have no problem announcing that I feel absolutely no responsibility or guilt for the war in Iraq. There is no reason for me to feel responsible for a war which was started by a misguided coward that I didn't vote for and did not elect. If anyone should feel guilty, its the idiots who voted for Bush, Bush himself, and well as those who profit, directly or indirectly, from the war (and that last part takes care of the rest of the government). What I do feel is great sadness for the innocent Iraqi civilians (not the militants, to be clear), first and foremost: they did not elect Saddam, and therefore should not have to suffer invasion, occupation and crimes being committed against them in the name of deposing him and bringing Iraq to "democracy", which to the army apparently means the freedom to rape and murder a 14-year old Iraqi girl and kill her family. I feel immense pity for the soldiers who choose to go over there when they have no real idea what they are supporting, what they are fighting for or what they are doing and for the ones who "stress out" so much that they murder innocent people. I'm sorry that some of those soldiers had to come back from the war without limbs or otherwise injured so that they could realize the unnecessary danger Bush put them in. But guilt? Sorry, no.

I think the real tragedy is that not only is Iraq being destroyed, but that the government is slowly chipping away at all that which America is supposed to be made of. Responsibility for something that proves to be a mistake lies with the person who made that mistake and his enablers. Just because Americans are out in full force doing their holiday shopping, just like every year, does not mean they should be ashamed of themselves. On the contrary, for they are out there ensuring a wonderful holiday for themselves and their families. If anyone should have felt ashamed when they were shopping, it was definitely Condi, who was out buying Ferragamo shoes when the levees broke in New Orleans last year.

To improve on the government's lack of a sense of responsibility towards anything, Representative Charles Rangel has suggested that the draft be reinstated, so that government officials and the rich can be assured that their sons and daughters are in the same danger of being whisked off to war as the sons and daughters of those who are less financially fortunate. On first impact, the draft sounds like some awful and greedy policy, and there is always the possibility that, if the draft is reinstated, the rich will be able to buy themselves out of it anyway. But I can't deny that the draft definitely has an equalizing power to it, and I'm all for that.

lunes, noviembre 20, 2006

Rogue Waves

So that I am not accused of rambling without showing the way to the light at the end of the tunnel, let me just sum up my day so far by giving you a philosophical approach to the concept of Rogue waves.

No, rogue waves are not pieces of ocean targeted by Bush for possible invasion. They are large, very unexpected waves, like tidal waves, that occur many miles offshore for no scientific reason. That is, no seismic or any other type of conventional activity can be detected as a possible reason for the wave. There are many theories as to why these occur, such as shifting ocean currents or gases that bubble up from the bottom of the sea.

So, a boat goes sailing along the ocean, say, about 300 miles off the southern coast of South Africa, en route to New York. Let's say this boat is carrying plane tickets to Kuwait and daily subsistence allowances for 6 people who just happen to be in positions to rid the world of transnational crime. As these are traditionally difficult waters to navigate, for this is the region where the Atlantic meets the Indian ocean, some hardships are certainly expected. The boat sails along towards its destination, the crew determined to deliver its precious cargo. Then, all of a sudden, a huge wave, quickly gathering force, comes rolling towards this poor, doomed little boat. Since it is at sea and the wave is quite long, the boat cannot make a sudden change in its course to save itself nor will it simply be tossed onto shore by the wave. As the wave approaches with a vengeance, the crew of the boat have no choice but to prepare for death lest a miracle happen wherein they are beamed safely to shore, or into another profession, by the hand of God Himself.

It could be argued that if this little boat had not plunged into difficult waters, it would not have been hit by the rogue wave and the crew would continue to live in a comparative happy-land where no risks would ever be taken, no challenges would ever be met and no karma points earned, in a perpetual, circular journey towards an ever-increasing paycheck. But the crew, just for getting on that little boat and because of the determination with which they worked to rise to the challenge, are to be rewarded in the heavens. The more shit they had to wade through (no pun intended), the greater the personal rewards. This be my thinking.

miércoles, noviembre 08, 2006

There is hope for the world

By now most of you know that the Democrats have taken over the House and have made strong gains in the Senate. True to form, when the going gets tough, the Cons get going...right out the door. Let's all say a very hearty "LATER!!!!" to Rumsfeld. With luck and God's will, the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, who led the CIA under Bush the Elder, will be less of a problem and will handle Iraq, for one thing, a little better and with more sensibility than Rummy.

miércoles, noviembre 01, 2006

Friends...How Many of Us Have Them?

This post will be an ode of sorts to my old friend J, the person with whom I broke up on Friday. All the things I never said because I wanted to be nice and a good friend, since I did at many times enjoy her company, will now be said. If she will still read this blog, I cannot say for sure, but if she does and does not like what I have to say, tough titties.

First, let me relate to you the straw that broke the camel's back (the camel would be me in this scenario): Friday morning, I received an email from Miss J telling me that her parents were in town and did I want to have brunch on Sunday. Understand that this email was sent after three months of tense relations between us during which J. fired off the occasional message to see how I was doing and I replied and it was all very cordial/terse. See, she got herself a man back in February/March, T., for which I was happy because she really needed and deserved someone special. I had started to notice that we hung out less than before, and when we did, T. was coincidentally out of town. But when I invited her to a SummerStage event in August, and after saying yes, J. then decided to go to a museum with T. instead, I saw that we weren't hanging out because she spent all her weekends with him even though she often saw him during the week too, which to be fair, she told me outright. But see, he was, according to her, "nice", and I am, I know now, very mean chopped liver. A case of have boyfriend will leave girl(s) behind. Fair enough. Far be it from me to get in the way of destiny and love. So I stayed away thinking that when she was ready to see this friend again she would email or call and, well, we'd cross that bridge when we got to it.

Fast forward to Friday's email. I replied that my mom would be in town too and that we had plans for Sunday. J. replied that she had "given up" on trying to hang out with me because she thought I should take "a more problem-solving approach" to my life. She was referring to my bitching about my job, and other things when they weren't going right, and her perceived notion that I did not do anything about any of it. Note here that she says this to me about a week or so after I announced to her that I had secured a new job, which apparently went in one ear and quickly out the other. I will be the first to admit that, yes, I bitch and moan my fair share and beyond, but I certainly am not one to do nothing to solve the problem. Besides, if we did not bitch, why then were blogs invented? But this was definitely the comment that made my jaw drop: she said that she felt that her "only" job as my friend was to listen to me, and that any advice she would have offered would have made me mad, as if I were this beast who would turn even more beastly if she said something I didn't like. This made me feel like the most horrible person on earth, and I don't think I have resented any commentary more in my life. Honestly, if she were in front of me, I might have clocked her. Come to think of it, if she were in front of me, she wouldn't have said anything at all, and therein lies the problem. First of all, and I know she knew this even though she could really be annoyingly clueless at times, I listened to her a lot, too, even about things that were maddening to me, and for the record, she has one or two issues in her life that she never did anything about either. My reply: "I hope that, in the future, you will be more understanding of the fact that not everyone chooses to swallow bullshit and internalize everything," or something along those lines. I did not mention the fact that among the many things included in the job description of a friend is to LISTEN, in sickness and in health, for fuck's sake, and to try not to give unsolicited advice and just be a shoulder to cry on. That would just be spoon-feeding J. something that she should already know, and I already spoon-feed for a living. I concluded my response by saying that us not hanging out would prove to be a relief to us both, and I meant that with all my heart. Let me ask you, my lovely readers: have you ever known someone who inadvertently brought out the worst in you? Well, this was the case for me. J. made me want to pick on her like a schoolyard bully and I hated that I felt that way and that I might make her feel badly about herself in any way. I probably might have at some point, and for that I deeply apologize. Actually, I should have said this to her, but oh well.

Her pitiful reply: her parents had not raised her to be emotional. No shit. She was strangely unemotional, a little cold, even. I think at least 6 months passed before she would allow me to give her a friendly hug. Last October, my mom and I had dinner with her and her dad. I thought her dad was wonderful and extremely wise, and at hello and goodbye, he seemed very warm and offered a hug and kiss. Anyway, my mom mentioned to me that when she went to give J. a hug and kiss goodbye, J. tensed up and made this face of "get the hell away from me", which offends me even now, as I am fiercely protective of my mother and do not appreciate anyone making her feel awkward, not even my father or stepfather.

In any case, it's over. Neither I nor J. will have to do anymore play-acting. And no, I did not spend my weekend moping around the house singing Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life" or anything like that. I did talk to the lovely S., my trainer at the gym, and since I was in self-doubt mode (and PMSing on top of everything), I asked him if he thought I was pessimistic. I thought that he would know given that we've been "together" for three months now, he has seen me at my worst, and often tells me he loves me ( as a friend of course. Otherwise we'd already be married and waiting on beautiful Guatenigerian babies.) He said that, given what I have been through in my life, he thought I was pretty damn positive. My mother said the same thing, and she is always devastatingly honest with me. A REAL friend. Even my friends at work have always thanked me for bringing positive vibes into our awful office. I can only conclude that J. probably sensed that I wanted to pick on her, that I never really felt that wonderful about our friendship, so I guess things just ran their course. I regret that I spent so long carrying it on, and that I wasted my time as well as hers. I would love to say "no hard feelings", but that would be a lie, unfortunately.

By the by, the office party went OK. Me and the Russian started out by taking a few shots of Stoli before the speeches, so I was nice and warm when the Director started up. He had some very kind things to say about me, and added "Let this sad occasion serve as a lesson to all of you on how not to let excellent people go." Too bad only two of the people who needed to hear that were in attendance. I really do regret that my departure leaves some of my favorite colleagues in a little bit of a pickle, but all of them understand why I need to go and support me in my decision. I made my own little speech: "It is impossible for me to sum up almost 5 years in one tiny speech, but I want to thank you all for the good times as well as the bad, because it is the bad times that show us who our friends and supporters really are, and make us appreciate the good times even more."

Editor's Note - In response to a comment left by anonymous: This post was not directed to anyone in particular and was meant only to tell the story. However, the subject of the posting did read the post and actually replied to Mariposa's personal email. Please refer to the last line of the fifth paragraph. This still stands. Mariposa is not too self-righteous to admit that she will be holding a grudge in this particular case.

miércoles, octubre 18, 2006

Because in Every City, There's Fools to Pity

I just read an interesting article in the NY Times about a program called "Operation: Refusal". In response to black men's complaints about being discriminated against when trying to hail a cab, the City has come up with this plan, in which undercover cops of color go out and try to hail cabs to see how many cabbies are refusing fares based on race. It's about time they do this. So far, there is a very good compliance rate, as this article will tell you, and several folks have been very happily surprised. But really, the fact that people still equate black men with bodily harm and/or murder says a lot about this society. We have not progressed that much at all, and New York is not as advanced as people think it is. It is really just another city run by money-hungry heathens, and in that way, it is very similar to Washington, DC, so theoretically, I should feel right at home.

Now, if only they could make some sort of rule so cabs would go into Queens at rush hour, considering that most of them are on their way home to Queens. The last time my mom was in town, she came to meet me at my office in the Chrysler Building, and since she can't walk for a long time or climb and descend stairs so well, we decided to get a cab home. Nightmare. After the 6th cabbie refused to go to queens, even though it was the end of his workday and he was going in the direction of the 59th street bridge, so he said, I kicked his hubcap right off his car. The guy didn't even stop or make any obscene gestures. I don't think he even noticed, but I still have that hubcap in my living room, and I keep it as a talisman of sorts. Since I got it, I haven't had any trouble with cabs. Another secret is to open the cab door when it stops for you, plant yourself inside, shut the door, let the cabbie drive for 1/2 a block or so, and then say you want to go to Queens or Brooklyn or wherever it is. When he threatens to throw you out, remind him of the little "Taxi Riders Bill of Rights posted behind his seat, grab your cell phone and threaten to dial 311 or whatever. That puts them in line real quick. Knowing curse words in Arabic and Urdu helps too. I really should thank my colleagues for that. I'll miss them.....Why?

BECAUSE I GOT A NEW JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Still at the UN, but not in this office, so that's great. It is also a promotion to the next "salary grade", so I'm excited. Oh yeah and I'm excited for the new challenges and whatnot.....Actually, let me edit my previous statement: I'll miss most of them. The other ones, of whom you can probably guess, can eat me. The bosses are scrambling to find my replacements (plural because I do two jobs for the price of half of one, which you also may already know), and they have chosen a candidate, but she refused, and the next candidate refused as well, so now they are on to the third candidate, and I hope that karma bites them in the collective ass and number three refuses too. If they had acted right, this office wouldn't have such a horrible reputation at the UN as a bunch of troublemakers, which the bosses most certainly are, and they would have my replacements and I would be sitting in my new office. Which brings me to the downside, albeit a very small one in comparison: they're not letting me go to my new office until 27 November. Mr. R, the Director, asked me when I wanted to go. I said that I would like to get to the new office on 1 November so I could get settled there before the holidays, and Mr. R. was just about to authorize this, when Mr. S., like a little yipe-yipe dog, the kind that tries to jump on you when you get home because it craves attention, rushes into the room and says "No, no, you can't leave until we get a replacement and then you have to train her," yadda, yadda, yadda. Then I said "Well you know you can't keep me here indefinitely, as I'm sure you want to. You have until 1 December." So they compromised to 27 November, and of course I say "compromise" with a heavy dose of sarcasm. They did compromise, but on their terms, which is not a compromise at all, and you know I pointed this out to them both. Then Mr. S. left the room, and Mr. R. asked me why I was leaving. Let's just say that I was perfectly honest with him. As for me, this month I have left will be the easiest time I ever did, you know, like when the prisoner finds out he will be released from jail soon. The downfall of this office will be Mr. R., though, and the poor soul either doesn't know or doesn't care. He knows all the unsavory crap that's going on here, through the various eyes and ears that he puts out himself, but he doesn't do anything about anything. Like that witch Ireland? He knows very well that she is constantly degrading people, taking money out of people's paychecks for travel that they should be reimbursed for and then refusing to authorize the reimbursement, and doing other, bitchy, underhanded things. She's accusing people in the office of fraud for God's sake, without any hard evidence. But he does nothing. So anything that is or will go wrong here is most certainly his own fault. But I am out of here, and thank God I will not be associated with this dying fish anymore.

PS - I am loving Mr. T's new show, "I Pity the Fool", and his slogan: "Because in every city, there's fools to pity." Don't I know it. The show is on TV Land. It's sort of a "Shalom in the Home" kind of thing, Mr. T style.

viernes, octubre 06, 2006

"The Pest of the 21st Century"

I've had this problem since July, perhaps even earlier. I haven't wanted to admit it to anyone except the stupid people who are supposed to "manage" my building. But since I see that the problem is rampant in NYC and could almost be considered very en vogue, and you all know that I like to bitch a lot, I will admit it: My name is Mariposa, and I have a bedbug problem. First of all, bedbugs are not like roaches and don't just happen to dirty people. I am pretty damn clean; I sometimes drift a little into the Anal Retentive category. In fact, in the olden days, bedbugs were considered the plague of the cleaning-staff having rich, since the suckers (quite literally) prefer cushier digs like comforters and mattresses. The bugs cannot be controlled by conventional means, although I have recently found bedbug sprays at the supermarket, now that the problem is so out of control in the city. There have been cases of infestations on Park and 5th Avenues, if that is any indication of the scope of this problem. The problem could be taken care of with one swift spraying of DDT, but that's been outlawed for a couple of decades. Unless you want to go online and see if you can get some contraband from Canada or something, you are limited to using pansy-ass sprays.

It took me over a month to be able to even get someone in my building's management office (Celtic Park Owner's Corp./Tudor Realty, Woodisde, Queens, to be exact, and you know I have no problem pointing fingers) on the phone to report the problem. A lot of people in my building have had infestations for a while now. One woman's infestation got so bad, she had to throw away over $9,000 in furniture and clothing, due in part to the fact that when she first went to report the problem, her complaints fell on deaf ears, and nothing got done. These "managers", let's call them, thought perhaps that she was lying because they didn't have bugs themselves, and they apparently remained inactive until they started to experience problems in their own houses. As for me, my problem was worse over the summer than it is now. Me and the X used to see a lot of them on the couch, maybe 3 in one night as we watched TV, and some of them we found because we could feel them crawling ON US. Fortunately, they did not come out when other friends were over, and since I am afraid they will come out at any time, I don't have many friends over anymore. I also feel them on my skin when they are not there, which means that very soon the problem gets into your head. So after I realized I would need to go it alone, I went online and bought almost $100 worth of Delta Dust and two sprays, one to kill them on contact, and the other, Gentrol, to make them "sterile", thereby instituting a forced family planning policy. We turned over the couch and pulled back the mesh cover, dusted and sprayed that, sprayed the upholstery, the rug, my bed, wall hangings, etc., and out of sheer paranoia, I left a little ring of Delta Dust around my couch and around my bed, which the cats sniff at and then run away. I moved both pieces of furniture away from the wall and taped up any large cracks in the floor and along the walls, of which there are many in my $1200 a month apartment, since I had asked for those to be repaired/closed months ago, to no avail. This has all helped considerably, but has not completely wiped the suckers out. Which leads me to my next round of complaints.

Now that the managers have gotten through their thick skulls that they need to do something about the bug problem since it's on their watch and it's their property, they have taken swift yet quite muddled action, even assigning a "project manager", Ms. C, to coordinate between us residents and the exterminator, Metro Pest of Queens. On August 24th or so, I trudged over to the Management office and sat there for a good hour so that I could talk to someone face to face about my problem, as none of my calls were being returned and I was getting no act-right from any of those people in general. The woman at the office, Ms. V, got on the phone with the exterminator and then told me that I would have to basically take my house apart as if I were moving and put everything in plastic bags so that the exterminators could "inspect and go ahead and spray since you've already reported a problem." She was quite nice and understanding at the time, but I know that people often smile big to cover up their unwillingness to move their asses. I made the preparations, the biggest and costliest of which was boarding my cats while the exterminators sprayed, at a cost of $92 for both cats, in addition to the separation anxiety that both babies and myself experienced. Poor Samson couldn't stop shaking on the way to the Catotel and for the whole time he was there, and he meowed accordingly, quite loudly, I've been told, since he is the momma's boy and doesn't like to be far from my side, for better or worse. When I returned from work on the day the exterminators were supposed to come, I found that furniture was indeed moved and couch cushions were strewn across the room, so I thought the job was done for now, although I'd still have to live in a virtual dumpster for three weeks until they did their follow-up spray. A few days later, though, I found out that they did not spray at all, so I had just wasted $92 dollars, which is a big deal in my broke-ass world. Fast forward to last week. Ms. C sent a letter, which I have since thrown away in my sheer disgust at their inability to do this thing right, that the exterminators would be visiting again on 27 September. Again, I went through the process of tidying up and of boarding my cats for the occasion, at the same cost. I got home, saw nothing was out of place and the apartment was untouched. Another $92 down the drain, and all Ms. C can say to me is "well, that's too bad," and honestly, she gets a little attitudinal with me when I ask her "and what do I do with my cats?" A simple question, but I have had to repeat it several times because she didn't get it the first time. No reimbursement either, not even an empty offer of one. By the way, the excuse that the exterminators gave for not coming into my apartment as scheduled: the key that security/maintenance has used for over two years to enter my apartment to make repairs and such all of a sudden did not fit the lock, which has not been changed, by the way. A lame excuse, I pointed out to Ms. C. I used to make better, more creative excuses in high school. We have since rescheduled so that the exterminators come in on my next day off, the 24th, so I can personally let them in and watch them as they work to make sure that they do it. I have also emphasized to Ms. C. that I am not spending another cent on something that may or may not happen, but i don't think this has gotten through to her. Apparently, the managers, Ms. V, her receptionist, Ms. C and the exterminators think this is a huge joke, and that money grows on trees. All told, I have spent approximately $284 just for this problem, hours of my and the X's time spent putting things in their plastic bags as well as time spent explaining things to people who quite obviously are not paying attention or are plain stupid. The landlord has been charging me rent as if nothing has happened, which I suppose is fair enough, but I hope that soon enough he gets to know for himself what an inconvenience this all is, how little help he will get, and what it is to keep shelling out $1200 a month when you have to live like one of those poor souls who are forced to take up residence in the municipal trash dumps in third world countries. However, mine is far from the worst case. The stories that I have read in the Times and on websites are really the stuff of nightmares and make my problems look like infinitesimal potatoes. At the very least, I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone in this, and people don't pass as many judgements regarding the bug problem as they used to, probably because now they have the same problem.

My advice, keep a look out for any mysterious dark spots on your bed linens, upholstery or clothing. They look like little ink spots, but they are actually bed bug droppings. Also keep a look out for any small, red, circular welts, which may or may not be itchy, because chances are they are bed bug bites. You will not feel these as they happen, sort of like when mosquitoes bite. You never know it until the bump swells up and the itch comes in, usually not until the next day. Take action immediately and complain very loudly to anyone who will listen and to those who should listen but will not. Do your own inspection. Look at folds and creases in your mattress and couch, wash any affected linens, clothes and upholstery covers in boiling hot water (this burns the bugs to death). Seal your mattress in a vinyl cover and suffocate the little sons of bitches. Run a hot shower in your bathroom, close the doors and the windows, if any, and steam the fuckers out (I've done this and whether it really works or not, I can't say, but I haven't seen any in there). If you see some, your first instinct, if you are as sadistic as me, might be to pick them up in a tissue and squeeze the life out of them. Don't do this. Find a way to get them in a sandwich bag that you can seal shut so that you have proof of the problem and ammo in case your building authorities don't want to help you. You can bring the baggie to them later and shove it in their faces to drive your point home. My problem is not as rampant, but I've heard that some people have had to check their books, wooden furniture, clothes, picture frames, electrical sockets, and crown mouldings. Go to, get sprays and dusts and get to it. Don't wait for help from others, even if those others have a responsibility to take action. The problem will get worse if you wait. Keep in mind that you may have to get your own exterminator, even if you rent from a large company. Best of luck and here's hoping you never have this problem! And thanks for letting me cry on your collective shoulder!

UPDATE, 10/19/06 - It's been a month, and no sign of the little buggers. I think what I will do is tell Ms. C. to cancel the exterminator (I'm sure the appointment isn't even made yet). Besides, I saw the "special" sprays that the exterminators use, and the same ones are available online. So I'm going to do this myself.

Another update of interest, 11/15 - I read in this week's "Us" magazine that Maya Rudolph from SNL and her boyfriend are suing their landlord for $45,500 because they had bedbugs in their $13,500 a month apartment. They allege that the landlord didn't do anything about it. Benedict, be afraid!

Yet one more update, 11/17 - An inspection has been performed on my house by Metro Pest, and they have found that my apartment is bug-free, no thanks to them.

martes, septiembre 19, 2006

D .C. Style, or Lack Thereof

On 3 September, I was in Akhila and Jeff's apartment in Crystal City reading the Sunday Source section of the Washington Post, mimosa in hand and glad not to be in New York. By the by, all of you must join me in congratulating Ms. Khi and Jeff on their recent engagement! Anyway, there was an article about DC's style, or lack thereof. The author had moved from NYC to DC and related that Washingtonians are not really all that concerned about fashion, which struck her as quite odd. Let me tell you, their non-chalance shows: Toes hanging over the front edges of perfectly cute peep-toe pumps, dry and cracked heels hanging off the backs of strappy mules, color combos gone pathetically awry, thinking Marc Jacobs clothes are all available at their local Target or Big Lots, I could go on. Don't get me wrong, I love DC and I love Washingtonians. They are head and shoulders above NYC in terms of manners and politeness, for one thing, and although this often hovers on the verge of annoyingly perky, I consider it a very welcome change to the constantly grey outlooks of most New Yorkers. But Washingtonians can also be just a tad provincial about things, and let's not even touch the subject of Chocolate City's Vanilla Suburbs. And they seem to fear change, which is not good considering Washington needs a big one right about now, and I'm sure you all know of whom I speak.

New York is such a "fashionable" place (there are exceptions - go to Dyckman Street in Washington Heights for proof) that it undermines all the good things that fashion can bring, because many believe that being fashionable makes it OK to judge others who don't quite meet the standards. I admit, I fell hard into this trap when I first started going back to DC to visit. My mother can tell you how I yammered on, nose perched in the air, about all the fashion faux-pas's in the Metro, for one. I think I even offended her with my talk. But I realized that that is the beauty of a city that doesn't pledge constant adoration to the fashion gods: they judge you based on other, more concrete factors, such as what government contractor you work for, what kind of education you have, etc. Snap judgments are never good, but they are inevitable, and they go down a lot better if they are made for valid reasons other than the label on your coat.

As DC becomes more expensive, however, interest in good fashion is becoming more prevalent. Cute little boutiques selling Cynthia Rowley and Kors, among others, are springing up all over the city, especially in newly-revitalized areas like Adams-Morgan and Shaw, even in Southeast. Other areas, like my dad's neighborhood in Arlington near the Pentagon will always stay the same, conservative, and boutiques are doomed to fail there. I know this because a couple of them in the Pentagon Row and City shopping centers bit the dust after a year or so. For that reason, I don't think Washington can ever reach the depths to which New York has sunk in this regard. New York is now the best example of a "fashion victim" ever. So DC, I totally forgive you. Better to be smart and cultured and not look as hot than to be stupid with a supermodel's walk.

martes, agosto 01, 2006

My unhealthy obsession with the MTA continues......

Remember July 26th 2006. If you live in NYC, you'll need to remember that on that date, the MTA claimed a very large surplus, thereby postponing a fare hike that would have taken effect in January '07 (thanks for letting us know, criminals)until September '07. If you have experience with the MTA, you will know that the organization will deny any surplus come October or so, and it will be important to remember 26 July 2006 so you can throw that back at them. Meanwhile, the Port Authority has approved a $1 billion plan for a tunnel under the Hudson so Jersey folk will have an easier commute to infringe upon our territory. Can we say PRIORITIES...FUCKED...UP?

In other transit news, the N train has been voted worst on the line for the third year in a row. Hah! Where was the Straphanger's campaign when I was living in Astoria 6 and 7 years ago? The W was still only a dream, so we had nothing if not for the God-forsaken N, which by the way didn't run at all most weekends until I moved to Washington Heights. That train was so unreliable, I made up an N train dance, kind of like a rain dance. I only make up these dances for trains that hardly ever come, and 9 times out of 10, the dances work like a charm. I made one up for the A train too, but I had to perform it a lot less than the N. So if the N is the worst, I shudder to think what they are saying about the 7, the reject line, which gets all the old cars once Manhattan lines are through with them. Sloppy seconds.

The latest....there is raw sewage festering on the rail paths on the G line. The MTA won't clean it up because the leak is from a sewage system, not that they really do anything at the G train stations anyway, and the sanitation folks aren't stepping up to do it either saying that it's an MTA problem because it's on their property. How mature they all are. But one thing that does bring a sneaky little smile to my face is that the G runs through all the cutesey parts of Brooklyn, like Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Fort Greene. Shit happens, folks.

viernes, julio 28, 2006

If you can't stand the heat......

I bet some of my readers who've heard about last week's blackout in Queens have been wondering why I haven't been bitching about Con Ed. Well, wait no longer.

The imminent heat wave, which is supposed to start up later today, has struck fear in the hearts of most, um, outer borough folks who theorize that since Con Ed cannot apparently handle any kind of heat, the lights are destined to go out again, and who knows for how long this time around. As for me, my cats and I have been kicking it old school for the past week, even though I did have at least some electricity throughout the whole fiasco and got complete power back on Friday last. I want to conserve as much as possible, which should make my ex very happy since one of the reasons we broke up was because, according to him, I kept leaving the lights and the AC on and was otherwise wasteful. OK, OK, I've learned my lesson. I've seen the news clips on the people in Astoria who got back power for about an hour, after 6 or so days of nothing, just to have it shut off again. My thinking is that since Con Ed (emphasis on the CON) just fixed whatever problem they came up with last week, they will use this heat wave as an excuse and say that they hadn't finished their repairs and cannot continue because of the weather, yadda, yadda, yadda. On New York 1, they went over the blackouts that have happened in the past 29-30 years: the big NYC one in the Summer of Sam, 1977, several brownouts in Washington Heights with a complete blackout in 1999, the BIG one in 2003 where most of the northeast was cut off, and then this one. The track record doesn't really look that bad, but if you have had experience with Con Ed and are acquainted with the way media works, you know that there are many problems they don't even bother to report. When I lived in Washington Heights in 2000 and 2001, there were brown- and blackouts during heat so bad, it made my cat Samson jump into the cold shower with me. No lie. And when you compare NYC with other big cities, we have way too many infrastructure problems to warrant our status as "capital of the world" or the City's tax happy ways. Yeah, I'm outta here ASAP, God willing. On another note, I was talking with M-the-media-guy, who lives on the Upper East side, that NYC is a pretty ugly city for all the taxes we pay. Of course I was surprised to hear that given his cushy place of residence, but happy to hear that I am not alone on that one.

The irony last week was that Con Ed's power plant is in northwestern Astoria, across the street from some customers who lost power. That and the fact that Bloomberg, who was sitting pretty in Gracie Mansion, was claiming that a "continuing" heat wave was at fault even well after the temperatures had fallen to the 70's. That statement of course was a completely unnacceptable excuse even the first time he used it when Con Ed, in the beginning of the summer, swore to its customers and their local representatives and government that they were well-prepared for the summer (as it does indeed come every year...duh, motherfuckers), and temperatures ALWAYS get into the 90's around this time of year. Heat waves are nothing new. It took Bloomberg 4 days to cross the East river and check out the situation. That surprised me because, even though I don't really like Bloomberg that much, I didn't think he was going to be so negligent and squeamish. But, just like a good businessman, he follows the money, and it unfortunately is not in Queens, which is also kind of his own fault, but that's another story. So there I was, taking the stairs in my building (not that that's bad for me or anything), which was rendered a 7-story walk up, getting outside and looking down 48th avenue at the Empire State Building, all lit up for the tourists and the rich. Yeah, I was pretty bitter about the whole thing, but couldn't complain too much because I was spared from the worst of it. I did call Con Ed's media office last thursday to ask about the problem and was told that the company didn't even know what the problem was and therefore didn't know how to fix it. This went against everything that the media was feeding us: that Con Ed was "working tirelessly" to fix the problem, meaning that Con Ed had misled the customers, local government, everyone. And I saw just how "On It" (their new slogan) Con Ed was: the was a Con Ed truck parked across the street from my building the first night, which I was glad to see, until I got closer and saw that the repairmen had grabbed the last of the cold beers from the corner deli and were sitting on the bumper of their truck drinking away. That was not at all heartening, to say the least, and the urge to yell and curse at them in both spanish and english almost got the better of me. Pataki talked of suing Con Ed, and those guys have to at least get slapped around a bit for this. They and the MTA should be thankful that Giuliani isn't around, because he, even though he was/is a racist, would have had them by the balls already. That's the only reason I miss Giuliani. He was a strong leader who wouldn't take shit from anybody (except maybe the NYPD), unlike Bloomberg who is everyone's lapdog.

Yes, I have learned my lessons. 1. Even if I don't have to deal with Con Ed directly anymore as I have an all utilities included rent, I still have to deal with them. That's the problem, they're everywhere, and there no choice but to deal with them. Even Brooklyn's Keyspan energy is apparently part of Con Ed (so any Park Sloper's thinking they are immune to the rest of the City, sorry, you are not). 2. Conserve, conserve, conserve, and not necessarily because it's good for the earth and "helps reduce the US's dependence on foreign oil", so says Bloomberg. Those are fringe benefits. No, I will conserve so as not to give Con Ed any ammo with which to screw us again.

Editor's note: HA!!!!!

domingo, julio 02, 2006

New cinematic triumph!!!!

Yes, Hollywood has sunk to a new low.

Tonight I went to the movies with my mom to see the fluffy Devil Wears Prada. It was enjoyable enough, even worth, dare I say, the $11 ticket. Meryl Streep is always a fine actress, and I could not help but to be reminded of my old boss in publishing. We did not publish anything at all glamorous, but she was a prima-donna anyway and I proceeded to quit after two months of putting up with her crap. I am far from a patient person.

Anyway, we saw a preview of the new 9-11 movie, whose name I do not recall as I was busy wincing at the screen. I do remember that Nick Cage is in it because he looks a hell of a lot better than your usual NYC policeman. Is it just me, or is making a movie out of a tragedy that killed 3,000 people utterly tasteless and tacky? My mother of course thinks that the movie is absolutely necessary as people have apparently forgotten that terrorists exist, a response which I knew I was going to get since I am not all gung-ho about the war, and I acknowledge fault here for not keeping my mouth shut when I know very well how she will respond when the issue at hand has anything remotely to do with politics today. I think it was bad enough that the government got their 9-11 ass tattoos and made a mess in the Middle East insisting that it was payback time or some such shit and invoking the names of the families affected by 9-11 as justification when God only knows if those families were at all in support of their efforts, and it turned out that most were not.

I guess people in the suburbs of Washington are not really going to understand what it is to see a reenactment of a real life tragedy with people dying and buildings falling on a movie screen until it happens in their backyard. After all, it was NYC and we New Yorkers probably deserve to drop dead in their eyes anyway (how dare we come and criticize their horrible fashion sense). It also saddens me that my mother cannot see the tackiness of the movie given that she was with me in NYC on 9-11. Maybe it is just me, and I am just over-reacting because I will have a lot of time on my hands this week as I am on vacation. But one thing is for damn sure, I am certainly not going to pay to see that movie in the theatre, as I have seen it enough times on the 11 o clock news, PBS, etc., etc., and I do not need any reminding, thanks very much.

Editors note: This movie now has it's own MTV special. I hope that anyone who couldn't understand my distaste for this cinematic effort now gets it.

jueves, junio 29, 2006

Why I don't do MySpace

Nice idea, but it can have some really unwanted side effects. Check this out.

My dad always says, the more technology advances, the more complicated life becomes. Now, the action of hand-writing a letter, putting a stamp on it and mailing it is really something special, and that's pretty disgusting.

Then again, here I sit, writing this and posting it on my blog for you fine folks to read. OK, so I'm really selective.

miércoles, junio 28, 2006

Ray of Hope

Sivilicious emailed me this wonderful speech that Barack Obama made in last week's Take Back America conference, which took place in DC, my hometown.

I have to confess, I shed a few tears when I read this one, because of all the harm that the current government has done to America when there are of course better solutions to the problems we face today. Some might ask "so YOU got any bright ideas, Mariposa?" Well, I have ideas, some of them may be feasible and some not, but guess what, that's why I am not in politics. I know I'm smart, but not as smart as the politicians who I want to see running things. Strive to put someone smarter than me in office, I always say. Anyone who thinks otherwise must have some very deep-seated contempt of this country.

So read the speech and enjoy it.

martes, junio 27, 2006

Ghana vs. People with Nothing Better to Do

In past years, I have avoided World Cup madness like the plague. This year, I gave in, because the games are on all three TV's in my office, and the mild-mannered legal officers I work with have morphed into wild and crazy trash-talking beasts. So it's either join them or actually do a full day's work. Let me just say here how glad I am that it was Ghana that threw the US team clear off the field and made them eat shit. That was almost as great as if it had been Guatemala's soccer team. I'm so sorry to see that Ghana lost to Brazil today, but at least it was Brazil and not UK, with their lovely little pitches and cleats. Remember that most of the soccer players from Africa and Latin America learned to play barefoot in the dirt. It's only fair that one of those teams should win. This be my thinking.

I just read an article in the New York Times (select, so I can't link it - sorry) about a player on Ghana's soccer team, Mr. Painstill, who at one point in the tournament waved an Israeli flag to pay homage to his Israeli supporters. The reporter said, basically, that Mr. Painstill has the right to do whatever he wants, and I agree. Of course, it turned into this big political issue and Painstill lost a lot of supporters, but he did gain some new ones, so I doubt he's at all worried about this. I thought it was good of Painstill to acknowledge those who support him. However, in today's over-reactionary climate in which people with far too much time on their hands pass judgement on someone because of the country he pledges allegiance to, the color of his skin, and his RELIGION, etc., etc., Mr. Painstill probably should have kept his appreciation to himself. I found his action to be a nice protest against those very people.

Someone made a comment on the article saying that there this huge amount of Anti-Israel propaganda going on in the world today. While it's true that Israel has probably lost some supporters since Sharon started bombing kids, WHERE is this anti-Israel propaganda that's said to be so rampant? Maybe it is where I live, but I see many people have a lot of unwavering support for Israel. I won't say that I necessarily support Israel's actions of late and I do have some other questions, but I very much condemn the retaliatory actions on the part of some Arabs. It is disgusting of them to take these actions upon Israelis, especially since Israel was created by the UN and Britain, and the rug was simply pulled out from under the Arabs who were on that land. The fact that most Israelis are Jewish should not provide any justification for their murderous acts. I feel that both peoples are in the wrong simply because neither is about to take the high road and prefer to languish in perpetual conflict. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, plain and simple.

And now for the obligatory disclaimer: Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but this is only one Mariposa's opinion. Now please do leave me a comment if you have something to say.

jueves, junio 22, 2006

Father's Day...Mother's Day....Army Day?

Army Day in Guatemala is June 30th. When I first saw this on my desk calendar thingie, I was all, what in the hell is a country with a history like Guatemala's doing with an Army fucking Day? So my industrious arse Googled it.

Turns out it is a celebration/commemoration of the June 30 1871 revolt for agrarian reform in which Justo Rufino Barrios overthrew the Conservative president, Vicente Cerna. I'm all for overthrowing Conservatives and for agrarian reform. But in my readings on the United Fruit Company's history, I found a slight discrepancy. Was it not Barrios who began the selling off of Guatemalan lands to a company which came to be known as the UFCO? And doesn't that negate any agrarian reforms altogether?Anyway, about a hundred years later, there was this pesky little civil war there in which the army did most of the killing, taking jobless campesinos and making them into death squads who later blocked roads and demanded compensation for lowering themselves to army levels and joining in the massacreing. I don't know about you all, but if I were the president, I would have that day abolished as my very first presidential duty. All this talk about fixing past woes, but Army Day still exists in Guatemala of all places. As I said before, these are some half-assed and illogical times my friends. Just wanted to remind you all that this is still the case.

martes, junio 06, 2006

Kick the Tires and Light the Fires Big Daddy!

It seems that Pentagoners are finally getting a clue. The US is not going to win this one, it seems. Well, that's what happens when one goes to a foreign country, takes it upon himself to overthrow the leader, throws the country into complete disarray and tries the whole divide and conquer thing. Sometimes shit backfires.

Boy, I wish I could use being over-stressed as an excuse to kill unruly people.

jueves, junio 01, 2006

Fuck him in the ear!

I just got done chatting with Sivilicious, my homegirl in Chi-town. She was dealing with her student loan thingies, for which the rate is now 7%, up two percentage points (Love that Bush, y'all!!). My answer to that news: This is probably the only country on earth where one who is not rolling in it and is seeking education has to agree to either put their life on the line or be indebted for life. Of course it's ridiculous, and a big reason why I have yet to do the graduate school thing. I would love the opportunity to get even more knowledge, but since it comes with such a hefty price tag, I'm good with Discovery Times and my Mac for now. I know if I wanted it bad enough, I would ante up for it, but it's a choice between getting a place and having a (quasi) permanent roof over my head, and I think for now I'd rather have the house and just exercise my brain with crossword puzzles and Jeopardy!. (By the way, Sivilicious, is there no more blog from you? Ever????)

So what good has Bush done lately? Anything? Depends on who you are and what your income is. It also has to do with where you live. First of all, to feel the glow of his latest round of tax cuts, you'll probably need to make somewhere near $200,000 or 300,000. Anything below that and you won't even feel a thing. If you make as little as I do, you can look forward to a break of about $30. If you work at the UN, this is completely unnoticeable as it is eaten by either the UN or the US mission to the UN, as part of the staff assessment of every American UN staffer goes to the US mission so they can be a part of an organization they clearly despise in order to save face. You're welcome, you ingrates.

And for those of you living in New York or Washington, DC, your anti-terror funds have been slashed to provide more funds to places like Jacksonville, Florida. If you live in New Orleans and are still recovering from Katrina, you are still up shit's creek, broke and without a paddle. The funny/disappointing thing? On some risk assessment "scorecard" that Secretary Chertoff of Homeland Security uses to try and get a clue, it is stated that New York, a primary target for it's financial institutions (duh) not to mntion a city already hit TWICE by terrorists, has no important monuments to protect and therefore does not deserve adequate funding. Well, Bloomberg, so much for trying to get all chummy with the Repubs. I could have told you they would stab you in the back. You did throw one hell of a party and violated the civil rights of some of your citizens, though, so all is not lost.

Go here for Bush's latest ratings. They are dissapointingly high, I say. People smacking themselves in the face again.

jueves, mayo 25, 2006

The Wall

I just read an interesting article in the New York Times
about Mexican views on the proposed wall to be built at the US border with Mexico to try to stop illegal immigration. Many Mexicans believe that a wall is the best thing that could happen to migrant workers and all Mexicans, for that matter, because it would force the government to come up with economic and social reforms that are long overdue because the porous border with the US was seen as a convenient way out of that. Apparently, Presidente Vicente Fox has been accosted with this wall thing at every stop during his current US tour. He says that he is prepared to deal with stronger monitoring of the border, as long as that comes with increased legal means to help immigrants move legally.

The point made in the article was excellent. When one's safety net is taken away, one must learn to do for self. I hope that happens, but we can only wait and see. Unfortunately, it's going to be really hard to make certain Latin American countries whose economy is mostly made up of remittances from relatives in the US (as it has been for what seems like eternity) finally INdependent of this country. Moreover, diplomacy will have a very important part to play here, because it will be very simple for many in Latin America to look at the wall as the US not wanting any more to do with the region, especially already established America-haters who are quick to pounce on anything and everything in their war of words with this country, and I'm positive that that's not the message Bush would want to send. Unfortunately, the US government doesn't have the greatest reputation for reaching out to folks and I think misunderstandings will abound.

The relationship between the US and Latin America is very symbiotic and has been such a mainstay for such a long time, it will be hard to reverse that. I don't really like the idea of putting up a wall, as I believe that has many unsavory connotations, but if it will make Latin American countries address the root causes of immigration instead of bragging about how much money they get in remittances, then let's give it a go. But I wonder what will happen to the US side of things should a wall go up. The US will lose its steady supply of cheap labor, obviously, and would this exchange end with someone saying "Mr. So-and-so, tear down that wall"?

lunes, mayo 22, 2006

Punching themselves in the face

It seems to me that America's new favorite pastime, which is quickly replacing baseball, is a very self-deprecating game called "Punch yourself in the face."

To be fair, as I said in my post "You'll Die Before They Come", Mayor Ray Nagin and the governer of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, cannot take all the blame for Katrina's fucked up aftermath. I maintain that the guy who aspires to be the leader of the free world (and I say "aspire" because he's nowhere near to making it there) has to take the bulk of the responsibility for a) being on perpetual auto-pilot while asleep at the wheel, b) completely inneffective coordination of efforts, and c) denying any responsibility at all like a child. But Nagin and Blanco were also at fault for not taking the initiative to help their own and instead waiting for Bush to get off vacay. 9/11 should have told them that waiting for Bush was going to end in disaster.

This past weekend, Nagin was re-elected.

This is a pattern similar to that of Washington DC. Former DC mayor, Marion Barry, was caught doing crack with 16 year-old prostitutes in some hotel room in DC in the early nineties, yet got himself re-elected a few years later. This be my thinking: cities with large minority populations keep electing their own, no matter how bad, because these voters think that because the candidates are their "brother", he'll do their communities favors. The predominantly black areas of Washington, DC, some of which have only in recent years become passable, are living proof that that theory is ludicrous. Another case: Bush. The man got us into an unnecessary war, made a fortune out of a tragedy, killed thousands of people without even being near them, is unbelievably stupid and embarrassing and has a family and a cabinet that should be dubbed "the new axis of evil". Yet because he promised the ultra-religious to overturn Roe v. Wade and to outlaw gay marriage, etc., he was re-elected. Everyone knows that neither of these promises were kept, but perhaps the news has yet to reach the cornfields of Kansas. Let's hope it gets there before the next election. For now, Bush lovers can chew on this: According to Bloomberg news, your main man's approval rating is 33%.

Anyway, this is all such unfortunate spin. Maybe I'm wrong on this one, but I tend to judge candidates on the things that they've done. Not reward them for the things they haven't or the things they say they'll do that just never materialize. Don't you all think we should know better by now than to take the word of a politician at face value?

lunes, mayo 01, 2006

Whatever happened to "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"?

Please note that this post was originally written on Monday, 1 May, but since Blogger hasn't been working since then, I'm trying again to post it today. So just takes yourselves back to Monday, if you will....

.....or "don't bite the hand that feeds you"? Or even "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth"?

This is what comes to my mind when I hear about what all is going on regarding immigration policy. Seems to me this is the first time Bush makes sense. He's only one of the "authorities" who's put his feet on the ground long enough to realize that we need immigrants in this country, legal or not.

First of all, who came up with the crap idea of making them felons? These are people like anyone else coming here for a better life for them and their families. Since when was that a felony? I know, I know, you break the law you pay the piper. I'm a known hard-ass but I can't bring myself to apply that to this case, which is certainly not cut and dried. Everyone knows in their heart of hearts that without immigrants, we'd be up shit's creek, and very hungry at that. Unfortunate story: My mother and stepfather (two immigrants, just legal, which really doesn't make them that different from the illegals in my book. They just started out with the cushy G4 visa and went from there) were trying to get out of New York this morning, and on the way, they stopped at La Nueva bakery in Jackson Heights for breakfast. Due to the boycotts, of course, Jackson Heights businesses are closed and the place is a ghost town. Instead of saying "Oh, we had trouble with all the protests blocking the way out of New York, but we understand their cause", the parents were very upset that they missed out on the empanadas and the facturas and would have to go home without their sandwiches de miga. When my mom told me that story, I knew the point the immigrants wanted to make: without them, New York ain't so much fun. This country ain't so much fun.

In my oh-so humble opinion, immigrants, legal and illegal alike, should be recognized for their very hard work, and before authorities start tightening borders, we should start with a relatively clean slate and grant legal status, or at least the tools with which to gain that status, to those who work and agree to play by the rules and pay taxes and contribute to health care subsidies just like the rest of us. I do still think that if you want something bad enough, you will ante up to get it. Then later on down the road, we deal with the ones who sneak in once we start running a tighter ship because, and maybe you will agree with me, the border patrol is quite lax when it is convenient for America. Let us also not forget, my friends, that the US has traditionally set up programs to obtain cheap labor and periodically (in the past, I mean) let people in with no consequence. Examples are bringing Chinese over to build the railroads and bringing Mexicans in to fill the void in the labor force left by American soldiers who went off to WW2. The US can't really afford to be selective, then. Another solution to curtail the problem which many deem feasible would be to impose tougher penalties for employers who hire cheap labor and then treat them like shit. The theory being that if the resources that immigrants are after dry up, there will be an end to immigration. But take heart, folks, as this will never happen in a million and one years. I think the best idea would be to address the root causes of immigration in order to curtail it. Economic reforms where national wealth in Latin America is shared instead of concentrated onto 10 major families or something, governments that are not corrupt, etc. But that won't happen either. I add here that while Latin America, as much as it wants to, cannot possibly blame all their woes on the US, the US certainly does not help and pits people and countries against each other whenever they can to "stabilize" the region.

I can't wait to see what is decided in the case of immigrants. My guess is that there will be a few more protests and boycotts and whatnot, and then the problem will be swept under the rug like it's always been. Government is very quick to tire and throw up their hands when finding a solution to a pressing problem starts to keep them at work past 5pm. And then they wonder why there are people in this country who don't want to work. On top of that, they try to persecute the people going out every day to do the lazy people's work.

jueves, marzo 30, 2006

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Just as there are those who believe in Intelligent Design as an "alternative" way of explaining evolution, there are those who believe that the world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Since both theories have about the same amount of evidence to back its claims, the folks at wrote the Kansas school board to ask that the Pasta theory also be included as part of the curriculum since they were going to include the other theory.

Really this is too funny and you just have to go to the site yourself!!!

Be touched by his noodly appendage!

More violence in Guatemala

Yesterday at about 3:30 pm, Guatemala time, the husband of one of my mother's best friends from childhood was shot dead in the street as he left a restaurant where he had had lunch with his wife and grand-daughter. I didn't think the victim was the man we knew, because there must be hundreds of other people in Guatemala with the same name. I didn't realize until I went to the Prensa Libre website and saw the article with the picture of her sitting on the sidewalk next to her husband's lifeless body.

My mother told me that the authorities did not bother themselves with taking away his body until 4 hours later, so the man's wife sat there all afternoon protecting his body. God only knows how it was that the assailants didn't kill the wife and the granddaughter, and I can only imagine the state of shock that the family is in right now. The wife is very stoically making arrangements for the funeral, to which throngs of people are expected to attend, but has yet to shed a tear. For me, when someone close to me dies, it takes a couple of days for it to really sink in, and that's when I let it all out. But I can only imagine, and I hope I never have to experience for myself, what I would feel had that person been killed right in front of me as we talked about being so full from lunch and then I had to watch him dead and bleeding for four hours.

And now for the funny (not ha ha at all) part: witnesses to the murder there on the street caught one of the assailants in his car and beat him and sent him to the hospital, and that seems to be the only reason he was caught. The other guy ran off and the cops didn't really knock themselves out giving chase.

So, for those of you who really don't know anything about Guatemala except for Tikal and Antigua, the hippie hang out, this is how Guatemalans in the city live these days. This is what they have to fear as they walk innocently down the street. This is why I can't go anywhere in the city by myself. This, folks, is real corruption. Whatever corruption on the part of Bushco we complain about is really not that bad compared to other places where people are murdered because of their job, where people get their pensions taken from them by the government and can get mysteriously "taken away" because of what they believe at any time. I may have a lot to say regarding our government, or lack thereof, but I'm glad to live in this country, if only because it is one of the last countries in the world where I can go to the supermarket whenever I want and be relatively safe.