The City – Got the Jimmy Legs

The City

Brain freeze

To lighten the mood, here's a parable: We were playing host to Jeannie's nephew again this past week, culminating in a trip to Manhattan on Saturday to ostensibly check out some colleges. We went up to the NYU area first, checking first to see if there were any 7-Elevens around the campus. Jeannie and her sister were big on Slurpees and kept talking about how much they wanted one, so we looked online but there weren't any in the vicinity.  (more…)

Ready with a handshake and an open palm

Damn. I knew they'd catch up with us sooner or later. For years, New York State has tried to get us to pony up nonexistent sales tax for stuff we buy online. There's a line in the tax return that asks you to estimate the total amount of "unpaid" sales tax for anything and everything you've bought out of state that you have in your possession here. From the first year they put this in the tax form, I momentarily fretted over it, before chuckling and ignoring it, which I've done every year since. Chuckling to oneself is good for you!

So now comes the news that the State has passed a law forcing online retailers to charge sales tax on every NY-based purchase, even if they don't have a physical presence here. This totally defeats the purpose of buying stuff online, except for the fact that stuff gets delivered right to your house/office. The whole driving factor behind mail-order has always been getting the best possible price. At a certain price break, it's usually worth it to buy online, even if you pay for shipping.

Anyway, the Times says that only 2 of the most popular retailers have not already registered in New York to charge this "use tax" (WTF?) One is, as we all know they don't have any brick and mortar stores here. Duh. Although some of their Marketplace sellers probably do. Whatever, I guess it's back to the used book store for me.

More disturbing for me is the news that the only other unregistered retailer in the Top 10 is This is a fine electronics vendor from which I have purchased pretty much every computer-related tool in the past few years. Part of their appeal is that they have very good customer reviews/ratings of every product. Also their prices were routinely the lowest around. Best of all, they're based in Jersey, so I would get stuff in like a day.

Now everything will suck. Buying from Amazon or Newegg will be like buying stuff in a regular store, but with shipping costs on top. Yay. Something about this whole thing strikes me as unjust. Why should New York state get to benefit from these sales? I don't know much about interstate commerce, but I'm not fully confident in New York's sovereignty in this arena. They can't even get the damn subways to run right fer chrissakes!

Oh well, I just hope the Calypso Discount Store down the street from me has a good price on USB flash drives.

0 for 1

ScoresThe other day I trudged uptown to the Bed Bath & Beyond way over past 1st Ave and 61st St. It's nice to have this big box store sort of nearby, but it's always a bit of a hike. I go by the Roosevelt Island tram, which is always fascinating in its total obsolescence (don't get me wrong, I hope they never dismantle it!) I also realized that the area I walk through also contains Scores, the 'gentlemen's club' once patronized by Howard Stern until his friend who worked there quit and now they go to a place called Ricky's.

Ugly from Day 1I also go by Trump Plaza Apartments, a building unique in its design in that no matter the time period, it always looked dated and tacky, yet without style. I dunno, maybe it's the super-scripty calligraphy noting the name of the building all over the place. I walk though part of Sutton Place as well, eyeing actual brownstones and fancy stores I shall never patronize. I balked when I first found out I would have to work in midtown; now I'm pleased to be able to see all these parts of the city I would never set foot in otherwise.

A rump named Trump buys a lotta junkAnyhow, I went to BB&B to buy a warm mist humidifier, because our house has been so dry this winter we are all suffering. I can't even pet the cats without creating sparks worthy of a Mr Wizard episode. Plus it's irritating my nasal passages (it's also possible the 10 cats currently in the house are adding to this). So I pick out a decent, basic model, thinking dimly that I should open the box to check it out before purchase.

E 61st townhouses"Aw, nah," I think to myself. "I don't wanna be one of those people who opens up boxes in the store." I don't know where this came from, but I had noticed a lot of the boxes had obviously been opened, including the one I ended up purchasing. Still my logic prevailed, I was above tampering with an item before I purchased it.

61st brownstonesThe box was just large enough to be cumbersome, one of those things that makes you conspicuous on the train. I managed to get it home with only a few scowls, and brought it up to our bedroom. I unpacked the humidifier, only to find a huge-ass crack in the plastic reservoir.

Roosevelt Island Tram docksAt first I thought I somehow cracked it in transit. But then I realized, that's why it was still on the shelf even though it had been opened. Somebody smarter than I had the foresight to make sure the damn thing wasn't all smashed up before they lugged it halfway across New York. Alas.

Feelin GroovySo today I had to drag it back. It actually worked out well, because at my initial purchase I had forgotten I had a coupon good for 20% any item (it was actually addressed to Matt but he has no need of the girly gear sold at such stores). So I returned the cracked one, and bought the replacement (I checked it out this time first) and saved ten bucks. I just hope this thing does the trick. I already feel like an old lady, now I'm an old lady with a humidifier.

Oh yes, and 10 cats.

A Day late, A dollar short

Pot Pie, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

I didn't notice it so much during the past week, but when the last of our visitors had successfully decamped, I realized how exhausted I was/am. The upside is that the whole Christmas visit thing went fairly effortlessly; the downside is that it left little time to really relax.

We picked up nephew Devon on Friday. Man, JFK really needs to get their story straight about picking up unaccompanied minors. We ended up running all over Terminal 8 trying to get him, being variously told to wait by baggage claim, the security check-in, or that we were supposed to have visitors' passes to meet him at the gate. No two people had the same answer. Even with everybody conferring on cell phones it took a long time to snare him.

Jeannie's mom came up the next day, and her sister (who lives here and we see all the time anyway). We did a lot of the touristy stuff; Little Italy, Chinatown, Panna II, Pearl River, (veggie) sushi, South St Seaport, The Bodies Exhibit, the J&R computer store, Thai food, World Trade Center, the Natural History Museum, an abortive trip to Rockefeller Center. The latter was like being in a Night of the Living Dead movie, except instead of rending human flesh the zombies assault you with their manfactured Christmas cheer.

Other notable moments: we thought we should see a movie to pause from the frantic running around. None of us had ever seen an IMAX movie so we got tickets to see I Am Legend on 68th St. We totally blew it, getting caught in the unforseen rains on Wednesday and not making it to the theater until it was too late to find a seat. In short, everything the movie was supposed to alleviate stress-wise ended up only compounding our aggravation. The one good thing to come out of the day was stopping at Economy Candy which never seems to be open when I'm there normally. We saw the movie the next day; it was okay, but that big huge screen scared the hell out of me!

Christmas Day was festive, though I learned the hard way that the grocery store actually does close that day. I made another vegan pot pie, even better than last time (I swear I just want to make this recipe and nothing else all year). Devon, however, was in dire straits as we didn't pick up much of the meaty variety (hey I thought the store was gonna be open!) We did have some hot dogs and frozen pizza at least, which everyone knows they had at The Last Supper.

Later in the week we did end up getting a game console, a Playstation 3 specifically. The games seem interesting, if very complex. I particularly liked the casino game that is known for being #1 Aussie Casino Bonuses at, you can even win real prizes. For my money though, I am more excited that the console acts not only as a gaming device, but also as multi-function DVD player. It's got that Blu Ray technology, so now suddenly I hope to god that format wins out over HD-DVD. But it also plays video files in the Divx/Xvid formats, the primary format I get movies from on Usenet. Which reminds me, No Country for Old Men kicks ass, but the Joy Division movie, not so much (and I'm a fan from way back).

The week ended with us getting Devon's return flight time wrong. We thought it was Sunday afternoon when it had actually been at 7 in the morning. His mom was able to reschedule for the next day, meaning we'd have to leave for JFK by 4:30 AM. So we just stayed up all night.

We took a car to JFK and waited in a huge line for no good reason. Why can't everybody use the kiosk things? I know we had special circumstances but was this true for all the other people in line with us? Anyhow, we get up there and I fill out some form, at which time they tell me I have to go with him to his gate. Jeannie would have to wait outside the checkpoint. A little awkward, but whatever. I figured I would take him to his gate, where he would be met by an airline rep, who would chaperone him the rest of the way. Devon was asked to pony up $75 for this privilege.

So we go through security and to the gate, where we proceed to wait for an hour. We ask what he's supposed to do and they tell me to hang out and he'll go on after everybody else is on the plane. Then they tell me I have to stay until the friggin plane takes off. What?

So Devon finally gets to get on the plane, after asking "So what did I just pay $75 for?" and I stand around like a chump. I wait for a while, thinking that if I bail, someone will arrest me for child abandonment. But eventually I slip away, find Jeannie and hop on the Airtrain home. It doesn't take all that long to get home, we end up on the exact train that we normally pick up at Halsey Street every morning. We go home and pass out. Consequently, New Year's Eve was a decidedly low-key affair this year.

Here's some photos from the week. I kept forgetting my camera, as usual, so they are a little abrupt. Meanwhile I finally found time to build that cat shelter!

Lovin' every minute of it

Funboy, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

Whoa, what a long week. We've been preparing the house for our visitor all week, which was a lot more work than I thought. And now I'm not even sure the house looks that much better than it did before (there's only so much a broom and a sponge can do when you've got mismatched moldings and poorly-patch ceilings). But things should be stable enough to weather a couple of people coming over for a few days.

Speaking of visitors, Mugsy the feral cat showed up after disappearing for almost half a year. We assumed he was dead, but as you can see he's as beautiful as ever.

We have a bunch of brochures for stuff to do this week. Lucky for us, we haven't done anything culturally-relevant since moving to Bushwick. We'll probably go to that Bodies exhibit, even though I think it might make me hurl. There's another brochure that advertises a "Tour Simulator," some kind of IMAX type thing with footage of the city. I love the idea that people travel here from all over the world then see a simulation of what they ostensibly are here to see.

Last weekend, our interior designer Sean (so named because we keep furnishing the house with stuff he's throwing out) lent us an Xbox plus a bunch of games, so that should keep everybody occupied for at least a half-hour. I still can't tell the difference between the PlayStation and the Xbox; the Wii still seems like the most fun, but I usually get broed with video games after a couple days anyway. What's really fun is … building cat shelters!

This weekend I am hoping to finally assemble the shelter I ordered from FeralVilla, it's basically a 2-story, shingled-roof house for cats. If the cats don't use it, I'm moving in.