Inhuman Swill : Queens : Page 4

The 8% solution

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When you call ConEd today, they'll report an 8% voltage reduction in northwestern Queens. In our bit of Astoria, though, it's more like 8% voltage period.

For a couple of days now, throughout the heat wave, our power has flickered from time to time. We had pared our electricity usage down to bare essentials, like air conditioning and some lights. But last night, sometime between 11:00 and 11:30, the voltage fell drastically. Some appliances still ran, like the cheap digital clocks and the fan in the bedroom and the fluorescent light over the kitchen sink. But throughout most of our floor, there was not even enough power to run the lights. (The circuit breakers were all fine—I checked them.)

We sweated through the night with the windows open, though at least the thunderstorm last night had cooled things down. But there were lots of sirens.

By morning, a few of the incandescent lights showed a very faint orange glow if you turned them on. I called 311 and ConEd both, but got no helpful information. Laura took Ella out for a walk and gathered more helpful intelligence: electrical fires in the power lines all over our neighborhood. One man reported watching all the power lines for blocks around catch fire and burn. At 31st Avenue and about 44th Street, Laura herself saw a ConEd manhole cover in the street with black smoke pouring out it while it danced and popped and crackled. It was cordoned off and guarded by a cop.

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I forgot to report my Friday subway adventure! Friday afternoon I left the office at 4:45, but I didn't make it home until nearly 7:00 pm. Seems most all of the underground subway lines leading into Queens were flooded in the thunderstorms.

My usual 6 station was jam-packed with non-commuting commuters, so I walked over to Herald Square to catch the R home. I took a Q instead since it turned out that R was terminating at Times Square, and E, R, and V trains weren't running to Queens. At 57th Street I went topside to try to call Laura and warn her to take the N or W. But by the time I got back down to the platform, the N and W were shut down as well. I took the Q back downtown to Times Square and set off for the 7 train.

A huge crowd was trying to fit down the tiny staircase to the 7 platform in the bowels of the station, like sand in an hourglass, so I slipped down to the 2/3 platform and took a shortcut down to the 7 platform that apparently almost no one else knows about. I managed to get onto the least crowded 7 train, and the one that left first. The crowd on the platform at Grand Central, though, was truly terrifying in its vastness, and one woman was yelling at everyone on the train to move to the center of the car or else be responsible for tragedy in the station. People packed in so tight that I (being a good citizen in the middle of the car) almost could not get out at Queenborough Plaza.

I probably could have caught an N shuttle to Ditmars at Queensborough Plaza, but by the time I realized this I was down at street level and walking toward home. As I got close to the 39th Street station, I decided to try again and ascended to the N platform. Laura and I had been calling each other back and forth but for some reason not catching each other. She was walking home from midtown, and up on the platform I got a message from her saying she had just made it over the bridge. After ten minutes or so, no train had materialized, so I threw in the towel, descended again to the street, and kept walking.

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This 'n that

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The Google logo today for Joan Miró is quite lovely.

The more I read about the rescue operation for the passengers stranded on the Roosevelt Island tram a couple of days ago, the happier I am that I never did get around to riding it. Laura and I always talked about how pleasant it would be to ride our bikes over to Roosevelt Island and then take the tram over to the Upper East Side for a movie and some food. And the weather is just getting to the point where we might have started talking about it again. Not now, though.

A lovely reading at KGB last night with [info]nihilistic_kid and [info]14theditch was marred only by the fact that I spent most of Jeff's reading slumped over the bar trying to hold onto a) consciousness and b) my dinner. Seems my enthusiasm for our pre-reading conclave at d.b.a. was a tad too enthusiastic, and while I outdistanced them for a time, those three single-malts (Auchentoshan 21, Ardbeg 10, and Glenfarclas 10) and three Arrogant Bastard Ales all caught up with me at the reading and tried sloshing themselves everywhere. (Thanks for the scotch nonetheless, Jeff, and it was great get a chance to hang out for a while.) (And great to see you, as always, [info]asphalteden! Thanks for coming!) Laura heroically fetched me fish and chips from A Salt and Battery around the corner, and I managed to hold it together. But sadly I didn't catch most of Jeff's story, and I don't remember half of the cab ride home. Thank Cthulhu I don't go crazy like that very often. (Nick, sorry I didn't get a chance to introduce myself. I did have to rush off awfully fast afterward.) (Good to see you there too, [info]slushmaster. I hope I was not as much of an ass in my alcoholic stupor as I seem to recall.)

But one great thing I did take home was a slightly advance copy of the US edition of Hal Duncan's Vellum from Jim Minz. It comes out next Tuesday, I believe. I can't wait to dig into it, as soon as I'm done with all my reading for the Blue Heaven workshop.

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A man walking down Broadway in Astoria twirling his bamboo cane like a drum major with a baton.

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Medical emergency on the downtown 6 uptown this morning, messing up subway service roundly. I keep forgetting why I hate coming to work during rush hour.

Anyway, I had another lovely U.N. night last night in Astoria. Actually it started right after work in Murray Hill, where I went to Artisanal for mostly French cheeses and white wines with an out-of-town colleague and his wife. The best cheese we sampled was the Bleu de Basque from French Basque country. Yum. One wine from our flight had gone bad—full of sediment and tasting very thin—and our waitress promptly replaced it with a similar Spanish wine. Yum.

Later that evening, back home in Astoria, Laura and I walked over to an Irish pub called The Quays that we'd been meaning to try for some time. (Sadly, there was no live music, though I have it that Shane McGowan of the Pogues has appeared there in the past.) But when I say Irish pub, I mean Irish pub—I.R.A. ballads on the stereo and the whole nine yards. We might have had the only American accents in the place, and Laura was one of only three females. The third female, by the way, was a young pug named Lucky (yes, a dog) whose owner was feeding her Guinness from a plastic cup. The Guinness was four bucks a pint, and we had a great time. We'll have to come back when there's music.

Laura was hungry on the walk home, so we stopped at a place called Ukus, offering Balkan pie, for a late dinner. We each had a huge pizza-like slice of spinach pie, and the nice owners brought us each a mug of a cold, thick, sour, yogurty drink the name of which I can't now recall, on the house. They told us that this drink goes with the pie, and damn if it didn't. We watched American Inventor on the wide-screen televisions as we ate. I went home feeling happy and full, but poor Laura had a stomachache by the time we were greeting the dog again.

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  • 20% of the stuff takes 80% of the time to pack. (Corollary: 20% of the stuff takes 80% of the time to unpack.)
  • If it's valuable and you don't pack it yourself, it may not turn up at the other end.
  • It's never wise to start a long day without either coffee or breakfast.
  • Never attend a new Woody Allen flick on opening night on the Upper East Side. (Corollary: Never attend a new Woody Allen flick.)
  • Better to spend a little extra money on higher-quality packing tape.
  • Self checkout at Home Depot rocks. (Corollary: But only if you have the deft touch of an Indiana Jones.)
  • Never attend a kid-friendly exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History during the holiday break.
  • Nothing hits the spot after three days of moving like grilled cheese, fries, and a chocolate shake.
  • Reversing the doors on a refrigerator is not a trivial operation, but neither is it impossible.
  • Even the friendliest, least threatening of dogs can make you believe even the friendliest, least threatening of moving men, telephone technicians, and cable installers are serial killers freshly sprung from the lowest depths of hell.
  • Some apartments look bigger when furnished than when empty.
  • Antibiotics are more wisely acquired before the move than after.
  • Friends and in-laws make everything go better.
  • Sleep is good.
Oh, yes, and, as requested, there are pictures of various stages of the move.

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At 10:15 pm tonight, over the protestations of my dog, I left the apartment and took a twenty-minute walk over to the Arabic stretch of Steinway Street where, thanks to Bloomberg's smoking ban, the men congregate with their hookahs on the sidewalk before the storefronts. I joined my friend Ali, the Egyptian chef, in front of his restaurant, where I met Manny the Indian-American computer programmer and Declan the Irish chef, and where we all enjoyed a glass of white wine. (Not the same glass.) Then Ali and I repaired to the Czechoslovakian social club where the delightful owner Daniela ("I'm not Czech, I'm not Slovak, I'm Czechoslovakian") served us after-hours pilsners and a sweet liqueur the name of which I couldn't tell you if you put a gun to my head. As we were discussing religion and politics and gender relations and smoking Cohibas, the Bangladeshi kid who manages the Kaufman-Astoria movie theater wandered in for a while. The African-American garbage man stuck his head in because the garbage wasn't out at the curb for his midnight pickup, so we all rushed to gather it up and carry it outside. And now I'm home again with the dog, and all is right with the world except for the fact that my French-American wife is in Texas with our Greek-Italian-American friend Stephanie.

Fucking Queens, baby. All the world should be like this.

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