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.