Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year in Review: My Own Unnecessary List.

The blogosphere is simply bloated with "Top 10 Things!" or "Arbitrary Best of That" articles this time of year. This could be because humans are naturally attracted to lists (just me?). A more likely scenario is that post-Thanksgiving, bloggers start a slow, cookie-enhanced descent to laziness. Lists are way easier than writing something hard, like, with themes and metaphors.

The blogger description is highly questionable, but I am feeling lazy and have consumed an ungodly amount of bakery. Plus I promised myself I'd squeeze one last post into 2010. Let's hit it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

"It's Kabletown...with a 'K'"

Is that Ikea? Very nice. 
Cable TV is both ubiquitous and, if you don't count TLC, innocuous. That is, of course, until you live alone in a partially submerged cave that has never been fitted for cable lines and is protected by historical building regulations that disallow satellite dishes.  Being locked out of the system is like not having a brain hole to plug into the Matrix with.  What are you supposed to do? 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

So You've Survived the End of Days

"Nothing bad could come of this!... D'oh!"
Wow, human society can collapse pretty quickly, huh? Like in a week! A friend of mine convinced me to watch AMC's new hit, The Walking Dead, a story set in the Atlanta metro the Zombie Apocalypse (whoops!). I'm addicted. If riding a horse into a concrete jungle only to have your trusty steed eaten from under you by a zombie mob isn't a city danger, I don't know what is.

New obsession aside, zombie flicks have never been my thing. I'm pretty ignorant of undead lore. However, The Walking Dead is also an 'end of times' tale and, MAN, do I heart a good end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story. Actually, it doesn't even have to be good. Independence Day, Children of Men, War of the Worlds, The Matrix, District 9...and the granddaddy, The Day After Tomorrow. All tremendously entertaining.

Sure, we could probably draw deeper lessons on human nature from the CGI terror of alien invasions, nation-destabilizing infertility, and global megastorms. But I couldn't care less about morality metaphors when I watch an Apocalypse movie. I watch for one reason: "How would my survival technique compare to these idiots'?"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Chicago Easy Button

If you press the red button, you will get your
heat, but a person will die
somewhere in the world.
Today is November 3rd, which means one crucial thing has changed in Chicago since October. New political leadership, you guessed? True, but like that makes a difference! Nope. Far more importantly, it is Day Three of the El platform space heaters being turned back on!

I speak for myself, but I project that every Chicagoan must have a love/hate relationship with the Easy Button. I love that I can stand under the toasty lamps with my pigeon colony friends and have a buffer from the frigid wind. Especially valuable given that my office El stop is perhaps THE COLDEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. That's saying a lot considering I spent four years in Siberacuse.

But I hate that I have to use it at all. Its reemergence each fall means that deepest winter is around the corner and pretty soon I will be pushing that button like a cocaine-addicted mouse in a lab experiment.

The first rule of Easy Button (and the only one) is that if you are standing nearest the button, your sole role in life while on that platform is to reset the heater the split second the timer kicks off. Preferably a second before it turns off. Count in your head if you have to. Yesterday, I stumbled into the button keeper job and let a whole two seconds pass after the lamps turned off before several people's heads whipped around at me, as if to say, "W.T.F.? Do your JOB, woman!" My reflexes will improve. By February I will be an Easy Button Ninja.

He Who Rules the Mob

Morning, readers! I am pleased to report that all City Dangers bloggers survived The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in D.C. this past weekend. Despite the estimated 200,000-strong crowd, and the huge potential for disaster, the day was a certified success... filled with sunshine, media-skewering jokes, and naturally, Ozzy Osbourne & Cat Stevens performing a duet.
A moderate and sane bottleneck.

While the politeness of the masses was appreciated at the time, it created a gaping void of topics for a new blog post. I was so sure we'd have a brilliant lesson in danger come out of the day, but in the end we were only moderately inconvenienced by a bottleneck upon exiting. Even then we had hilarious signs to entertain us. I'll leave it to my fellow blogger to hone in on any other slight Rally dangers.

But to take a cue from Stephen Colbert's fear theme, good-humored masses could VERY easily turn into an unruly mob at any moment. In fact, I encountered a much more dangerous group scenario at Reagan National Airport on my way home to Chicago.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"This is NOT civilization!"

Well, it's been a while since anyone posted on this blog. Perhaps you thought City Dangers was defunct, but I'd like to thank our loyal followers. Hi, Dad! Oh ... he left too? Awkward.

New business. I wait in line, then sell my front-row spot to the highest bid.
It turns out that a sizable city danger is the trap wherein you spend much of your free time working to support your urban lifestyle. A lifestyle you then cannot enjoy because your brain is Jell-o from squinting at Photoshop for 11 hours. Or, you know, solving world hunger. However you might be employed.

This Halloween, my reward for those long hours is a break from Chicago to visit an exotic and uniquely scary place: our nation's capital. Ostensibly, I am headed there to have sib bonding time and to reunionize with much-missed friends. But, there is also the matter of the small get-together on the National Mall called the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Glenn Beck is Saruman in this one.

So, you thought all the noise was just? 
You know that scene in the second Lord of the Rings movie where Saruman goes out onto the balcony of his tower with Grima and looks out over his massive army of orcs that he has created to conquer Middle-earth, and if you look closely you can see Grima shed a single tear, but it's not clear whether he is overcome with awe, or has just realized he helped destroy the human race?

Well, that was pretty much this weekend in Washington when Glenn Beck came to town for his public anger conclave/suburban block party, where he and a hundred thousand (after CGI)  friends appropriated the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to Take Back America for conservative anger bears.  If Sarah Palin shed a tear, it was for the first reason.

Highlights and photos after the jump, hooray!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guest Spot by Josh Nance: "That's what real gunfire sounds like? Training Day sucks!"

After my brother and I (mostly my brother) started this blog, it quickly became apparent that our grievances with our respective cities were pretty tame. While we hope those stories are at least semi-amusing, let's face it, stalker Mary Kay agents and the hazards of river kayaking are low on actual danger in the traditional sense. I think we're grateful for that. However, there are people in our urban circles who do brave life-threatening activity on a routine basis. Our first City Dangers guest spot is courtesy of Josh Nance, a Chicagoan who lives in an area of town quaintly named, "The Devil's Rectangle". ...

A few weeks ago two gang members were shot outside my building. One was shot twice in the legs. The other was shot in the chest and died immediately. I heard the whole exchange and watched the man bleed out from my seventh story window. A police officer appeared on foot within minutes along with at least five police cruisers, a fire truck and an ambulance. The gangbangers' attitude towards anyone authoritative is obvious and tired, which is why I was so astonished to see their cooperation with the police once they arrived. The ones that hadn't been shot directed the officers and EMTs to the man with the chest wound first while the other victim sat patiently nearby. 

And I mean patiently. He didn't say a word as he lay there next to, presumably, his friend, and watched him die, waiting his turn to be looked at. But this cooperation ended instantly. The second the police asked them what they saw and which direction the shooter headed, the kids fell silent.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Bikes, Part 1: Five Reasons Why Biking is City Dangerous

My trusty steed. 

Last week I ran out of money on my metro card, and decided that the rest of the month would be Bike To Work Month. I’m on my third day of biking and it’s already time for a list of things that make biking annoying and potentially dangerous. 

1. Bikers who pick and choose which traffic laws to follow. I know. I know you can’t be bothered with The Man’s game of red-light, green-light and you eschew play-by-the-rules cogs like me that live within in the double yellows. I know that when you speed past me with a smirk as I’m sitting at a red light sucking in exhaust, you are thinking, “This goddamn tool, waiting for the robots to let him live his life.” And when you cross onto the sidewalk to avoid waiting at a red and then don’t signal as you rejoin traffic, I know you are proud of your little trick. I want you to know that you sicken me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First time riding metro? Our doors aren't like other doors.

Bear traps?
I feel a little bad now. The Washington metro's escalators were this blog's introductory City Danger, but it appears I may have been a bit insensitive in giving WMATA a hard time about the Bethesda escalator outage. According to the best blog in DC, the problem is that there are, like, so many escalators down there. The post has a fascinating map of the metro's escalators, and some interesting figures on how much it takes to maintain them. Spoiler Alert! Due to math, it's $30 million dollars per year. 

Get a reasonable distance away!

They also make mail boxes. 
It began with Groupon, itself a City Danger in its own way, where my friend Devin and I purchased half-off coupons for a popular kayak rental place on the Potomac.

For those of you imagining either the Olympic style of kayaking where you rush down gigantic waterfalls or the original style where you hunt seals on icebergs, don't. Modern urban kayaking is essentially for babies, akin in safety and intended demographic to those pedal boats you find at amusement parks. So, I was expecting our five hours to be a fun way to relax, see some excellent river views of the city, and get a little exercise.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

If a tree falls in the boreal forest, how much do I owe Greenpeace?

Save the world! Just $20!
Though I live in Chicago and dodge minor city dangers on a routine basis, my office is located in Evanston, a leafy urban-suburban hybrid just north of the city. It should be an oasis. In addition to two Whole Foods, a host of gourmet fro-yo shops, multiple sushi houses, and most essential services in an tastefully-designed downtown, this paragon of urban planning also houses an elite university. Powers combined, the place is bursting with yuppie guilt and eager students. 

And how is all that do-goodery enthusiasm to be channeled? Social petitioning of course! Initially, my own enthusiasm was right up there with the perky, clipboarded ones. Save the environment! Support women's rights! Well, I'm a woman AND I enjoy trees! Rock on.

The shine wore off the day I succumbed to Greenpeace. Anyone who has been hooked by the question "Don't you have a minute for [fill in cause here]?" knows that the subtext is, "Don't you have $20 [minimum] non-tax-deductible dollars a month to fund us?" If I stood on the corner and repeatedly asked for a Jackson a month to aid the greater good of my bank account, I am sure I would be run out of town by these very same people. (Don't email to lecture me on selfishness. I would never ask for $20. Smaller denominations are perfectly acceptable.)

City Fauna

Hey there, buddy.
It was late morning and I had found a coffeeshop with excellent coffee, delicious pastries, The New York Times (I was in New York, so it was still fresh), and a shady porch. Heaven. The farthest thing on earth away from a city danger. Until I was accosted and adorably, awkwardly attacked by a hungry kitten.

The creatures that roam our city streets fall roughly in two categories: rodents/pests and Things On Leashes.  I guess there are also birds, but for every graceful peregrine falcon in its skyscraper perch, there are blathering armies of aimless, pooping pidgeons, which fit nicely into the first category. How unlikely then that I should meet such an enterprising member of the city-jungle's third estate:  part-pest, part-TOL, part-neither.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Stranger Danger

Take the candy!
After years of nearly zero brushes with unlawfulness in big cities, I recently fell victim to my first ever mugging. Being robbed in broad daylight ranks relatively high on the list of city dangers, but for me it lead to a far scarier threat ... Mary Kay saleswomen.

At first glance that cosmetics company would have no relationship to a purse-snatching. However, with my shoulder bag went a stash of newly purchased goods from "Facial Home Depot"*, Ulta Beauty. Cruel fate! It was a deep blow to my shallow side. Due to budget constraints, I settled on cheap drug store replacements but the feeling of loss lingered. (It did amuse me to imagine the thug's dismay when he realized all my assets were tied up in Bare Minerals. Or maybe "Golden Gate" was his shade too?)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"According to WMATA, this escalator is operational."

Stay to the right, guys.
The metro in DC is great - it's often orderly, on time, and clean-ish. (Of course, when something goes wrong, i.e. some anxious tourist or exhausted bureaucrat prevents the door from closing, the place makes the capsized Poseidon look like a poorly-done carnival ride.) One thing that's not great about Metro, though, is the escalators - they are so frequently incapacitated that, yes, they constitute a City Danger.

The escalator at the station near my office has been "closed for modernization" for months (I am expecting cup holders, charger outlets for my iPod, and leather) which annoyingly requires that traffic go both ways up the functioning escalator.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Welcome to City Dangers

My sister and I enjoy living in cities, mainly because they offer access to dainty things like coffeeshops, bookstores, subways, cupcakes, "eyes on the street", and so on. Also salient is the fact that they offer jobs - or used to? - but that's really just a funding vehicle for the coffee/books/pastries/etc. Sadly, the urban arena brings with it a host of colorful dangers, "city dangers" if you will. These dirty, scary, itchy, annoying, painful challenges are what our blog is about!