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The U.E.S. Journal

Category Archives: Rebs’ Journal

NYC–>LA Transplant Tip: Two Driving Hazards They Don’t Teach You About in Driver’s Ed


When I got my driver’s license at 31 and started driving alone for the first time, I began encountering two types of potentially dangerous situations about which no friend, instructor, driver’s manual or internet forum had warned me.

Having spent my first thirty years (minus the few before I could walk) as a pedestrian in New York City, I learned to tune out the constant wailing of ambulances and fire trucks. Unless an emergency vehicle was about to cut through my walking path perpendicularly, the siren sound’s only relevance was to make me sometimes wonder what catastrophe had befallen someone who wasn’t me. In highschool, we actually had an assembly where a troupe of performers encouraged us to hear that common car alarm tune that goes from oscillating cries to robot-like beeps to a sort of slide whistle, as a song and they taught us dance moves to go along with each part. Such was the drive to reinterpret sounds of alarm into something benign. In a city as dense as New York, if you don’t learn to at least ignore those noises, you’ll be on edge all the time.

Now, behind the wheel, I still think of the siren as something to tune out, a distant cry in a Law and Order episode. I only really get it once the cars in front of me mysteriously slow down and pull to the side. And then there’s still a slow-motion thought process:

Hey! Wait a minute! What’s that guy doing? What’s that other guy doing? What’s going on? … Oh… Right… Shit! Is there room for me to pullover? I’m not sure!

By the time I slow down and pull to the shoulder or parking lane the ambulance has figured out a way around me and my fumbling maneuver was an empty gesture.

Pulling over to yield to an emergency vehicle is one thing in a manual, it’s another in real life. So far, the scenario has not occurred with enough frequency to break my 30-year habit of ignoring sirens. I hope that writing about it here will make this important rule sink in.

While my first unexpected driving hazard is heralded by a warning sound I should heed but do not, the second hazard functions oppositely. I have SIRIUS satellite radio in my car and I switch back and forth between NPR and BBC. It seems like BBC correspondents are always interviewing people on the street during rush hour. In India, China, London… there is so much traffic that it’s all a driver can do to honk out their frustration. Or, is it a tradition to honk at BBC reporters? I’ve stopped short more than once at an alarmingly urgent beeeep meant for some poor driver on the other side of the earth. But, the more time I’ve spent listening to BBC the easier it’s become to hear these horns as background noise. It’s been far harder to break the habit of not paying attention to very real sirens.

The hazards are not the ambulances or radio programs, but my habits, my non-driver ways of processing sound and confusing real and fake signs of danger.  Much of the California driver’s manual is geared toward teen drivers. Perhaps the DMV should add some instructions specifically for late-bloomer drivers.  I’m sure these dangerous habits will change in time like some of my other pre-Los Angeles habits have. Last time I was back in New York City I had to relearn to jaywalk!

P.S. When you’re taking the road test and you come to a yield sign, crane your neck all the way around really exaggeratedly even if you think you saw out of the corner of your eye that no cars were coming. I just saved you a few points.

NYC->LA Transplant Tip: The Right Watering Can

We never had plants at my parents’ apartment in New York City. In fact, my mom is offended by the presumption of guests who bring fragranced flowers as a gift. I’ve been in Los Angeles for three years, and since we moved to Highland Park in October I’ve acquired a porch-full of potted succulents through estate sales, Craigslist and local grocery stores. I’ve learned to water them when they start to look ill. I even talk to them. But, I don’t have it in me to regularly clean the watering can.

Last week I noticed that a mess of leaves and yard debris had accumulated inside the can. I turned it upside down and shook but nothing came out. I reached my hand in to grab the stuff but recoiled at the feel of something sticky like cotton-candy.

It was time to give the can a good wash. In the kitchen, I ran a lot of precious LA tap-water through it but the bits of dried leaves and petals stayed suspended in the middle, vibrating slightly. Then, out of the tip of the spout, a big brown spider sidled out, glaring at me with its presence (do spiders have eyes?) for several seconds before hustling back inside.

In a panic, I filled the can with dish washing liquid, ran another minute’s worth of tap water, shook it violently, reached in with a paper towel, but everything was still stuck in a sticky, silky, messy web, even the spider. And, I didn’t have the room or the co-ordination to maneuver the paper towel effectively while being grossed out. So, I put the can in the backyard, ceding the territory to the spider, and decided to buy a new watering can.

Actually, I was determined to buy a used watering can to avoid contributing to the proliferation of cheap stuff in the world. I was tempted by many elegant and whimsical designs on eBay but they were all potential spider houses and I couldn’t pull the trigger. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by this whole ordeal. One of the first songs I learned as a child was “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” but I never understood its real-world implications. Also, the song is not accurate. Water does not wash a spider out.

Then, while shopping for toilet paper at Target, I found the perfect watering can. Its wide open top probably uses less plastic (pat on the back) than most, and its rare anti-spider function will make it a family heirloom. I’d have to neglect it for months before a spider would dare take up residence inside. This less than six dollar can is so exclusive it’s not even listed on Target’s website but you can find it elsewhere by searching for “Arrow Stackable Watering Can.” By the way, this stackable can was made in the U.S.A. of Polypropylene (Plastic #5).

Spider House and Waterinc Can

P.S. The new watering can is very difficult to pour without water gushing out everywhere. Still worth it.

For Jeremy’s Place Kids

Jeremy Sage in an old Calvin Klein commercial with Brooke Shields.
Thank you Davie Kaufmann for showing me this a few years ago.

For those of you not familiar with Jeremy’s Place, it was the premiere children’s birthday party venue on the Upper East Side when I was little. Jeremy’s Place was run and hosted by Jeremy Sage who played Jesus in Godspell in 1977, and Thomas Garbutt who, during the party, acted as Jeremy’s sidekick, Chief.  Located in a brownstone on East 81st Street (which is now a consignment store) you entered through a gift shop where the birthday kid’s parents picked out the contents of the party favor bags.  My favorite was the glow-in-the-dark spiderweb with suction cups.

Me on stage with Jeremy.

Upon entering the main room, the first thing you saw was a large vitrine holding a complex train set which was running and making noises.  From my childhood memory- Read more →

Saturday Night Sober (a true short story)

An account of a night in 2009.

It’s 3am. I just got home. On the way in through the kitchen, out of habit I loped toward the cabinet above the sink to take my nightly cup of water to my room when I remembered I was completely sober and I could stand up straight and calmly reach for the cup of my choice.

My evening started at 6pm at a gallery in the West Village where I watched an artist demonstrate unusual ways to conduct electricity in order to light a lamp. He successfully turned a hot dog into a battery. I wasn’t that impressed because as a child I had had a potato clock from the Klutz catalog. But he was humble in his presentation and earnest in his dedication. He said he had researched many different brands of hot dog and found Nathan’s to be the best. Read more →

Pen Pall: Alienated by a famous pen company’s anti-Semitic namesake

Visiting Barcelona, I walk into Vinçon, a cutting edge design shop. I peruse glass cases of gadgets, gifts and housewares. “Well, this is awkward,” I think to myself as I come upon a display of art supplies featuring a box of Caran D’Ache color pencils. “Here I am, a Jewish customer, and they want to sell me a product whose brand is named in honor of- whose logo is, in fact, an adaptation of the actual signature of one of the most vilely anti-Semitic illustrators in recent history.

It’s a lot of drama for a nice set of pencils and no one else in the store seems aware.

I first learned that the name Caran D’Ache was related to something other than art supplies in 2006 when I visited the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris. They were showing “Alfred Dreyfus: The Fight for Justice,” an exhibition telling the story of the “The Dreyfus Affair,” 19th Century France’s biggest scandal, through artifacts, correspondence and the press.

A very brief summary of The Dreyfus Affair:

Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish captain in the French army and in 1894 he was accused of sending French military secrets to the Germans and subsequently convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. Soon after his conviction, evidence emerged that the real traitor was a French army officer, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. Esterhazy was tried and acquitted. Dreyfus was tried twice more and convicted twice more. Forgeries and suppression of evidence were involved in Dreyfus’s convictions. Eventually, all claims of Dreyfus’s guilt were disproved and in 1906 Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated into the military.


Read more →

My New Obsession with Novelty Costume Jewelry

I’ve recently gone down an ebay rabbit hole, fascinated by three costume jewelry brands: Jonette Jewelry, American Jewelry & Chain and Danecraft. I started collecting a few JJ (Jonette Jewelry) pieces and am impressed with the quality of these mass produced castings. I am also baffled by the variety of whimsical and literal subject matter. An outsider studying 20th century American culture through costume jewelry would be convinced that we were obsessed with cats chasing mice and fish. I guess current internet culture does demonstrate our obsession with cats. I now work as a designer and model maker for a big jewelry company in California and I also wonder at the number of models and molds each of these companies created just dedicated to one particular theme.

The following pins depicting a cat and  fishbowl were ALL MADE BY ONE COMPANY, Jonette Jewelry. I imagine every few years they felt they had to revamp this popular theme or give the consumer options within this theme.  Each of these pins was available in different finishes and you can see the last one even has added color, definitely elevating the production cost. (I’m not even going to get started on the variety of cat and mouse jewelry because it’s too vast!)


Next we have designs from two companies, Danecraft and Jonette Jewelry. I like to imagine a JJ design meeting: “Those jerks at Danecraft have a cool cat couple in a car?? We’ll show them!”

It’s not just cats. Cows are thoroughly represented, as are nurses, real estate brokers, wizards, pretty much every aspect of human, animal and fantasy life. There are Read more →

Ballet, Eamonn’s, Aphra Behn Trunk Show

Thursday, October 4, 2012
I’m moving to LA in January so I’m going to try to actually journal these last few months as a New Yorker and Upper East Sider.

Lost on the subway.
Went to Lefferts Gardens to have jewelry photographed by Alex Crowe. Got on 5 train going home, ran across platform at Atlantic Ave to get 4 train thinking it would be faster, got absorbed in the free Metro paper (yesterday’s weirdly having been guest edited by Richard Branson), arrived at last stop in wrong direction, Crown Heights. Had to take 4 all the way back to 86th Street, got very far in Metro paper because I was afraid to play boggle on my iphone because of all of the recent iphone muggings, especially because of the hypodermic needle mugger even though they caught him.
Still finding great architectural details. 
6pm: Walked from 88th to 75th on Park Ave, excited to notice new architectural details. It happens often because so many buildings have scaffolding up for weeks or months at a time for repairs, when the scaffolding comes down there’s a discovery. Read more →

The Franklin

I recently stayed a few nights at The Franklin Hotel on 87th Street between Lexington Ave and Third Ave.  Been walking by it for years, used to see the bellhop in a top hat.  Haven’t seen that in a long time there was no top hatted bellhop during my stay.  I have a feeling The Franklin has a gritty, story-filled New York City history.  The building was constructed around 1929 and the neon sign looks old and classic.  When I told people I would be staying there, most asked in a disgusted tone, why would I want to stay there?  I guess it doesn’t appear from the outside to be a really “nice” hotel but I was looking for something with a certain old New York vibe.  I almost didn’t stay there because when I sought out more information The Franklin Hotel website painted a picture of a chic contemporary boutique hotel, no mention of any past.  There were mixed reviews on Yelp and I think anyone looking for a contemporary boutique hotel could be disappointed.  The hallways and parts of rooms like the nook for the sink in my bathroom were datedly small.  But for anyone looking for that old New York feeling like myself, The Franklin was everything I wanted it to be.  Perhaps the coolest part is the elevator with an art deco motif in the cab.  The doorsknobs to the elevator on each floor have inlaid mother-of-pearl or abalone bits.  Mosaic room numbers.  I wish the Franklin would market its historical aspects more.  I want to know who stayed there, who died there, and if I knew its stories I swear I would stay there more often.  Anyone know any Franklin stories?  Please add in the comments.  Here are some photos.

The elevation plan is on display in the entrance.

A blurry photo I took several years ago of the bellhop.

Me in Carnegie Hill News

I’ve already written about this on my personal website and facebook, but it’s actually relevant, so, I’m excited to share that I’ve finally been featured in Carnegie Hill News, the newsletter put out by Carnegie Hill Neighbors.  I’ve been reading it for years and now my time has come!

Scariest Thing Ever

As you may know, I have a well-documented fear of dolls.
So, the other night when I was walking home up Madison Avenue I was a little spooked when I passed the window display for “Chuckies” shoe store on Madison Avenue and 85th Street. I remember when the store first opened the name made me uncomfortable for obvious reasons but I got over it.  When I saw this window the other night I figured it was for Friday the 13th BUT…

…when I walked by the next night, the doll on the right was MISSING! Where the F did it go?????

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