Is TMZ Reading Me?

Sure, you’re thinking is just a stupid personal blog. OK – bad choice of words on my part.

Actually, it’s much more. sets the trend for the glitteratti. Take Kanye West’s 30th birthday party. Where have we seen this before?

Here’s what wrote:

This past Thursday hip-hop star Kanye West celebrated his 30th birthday in style at the Louis Vuitton mansion in New York. There was just one small glitch: the cake was made out to “Kayne.” Who’s Kayne??? Kanye was able to brush the misspelling off his shoulders and enjoy the night which featured performances by Kanye prot

Into New York City To Shop

It’s really been a long time since we went to Manhattan to do some shopping. Today was the day – all five of us: Helaine, Stef, my folks and me.

There was no rush, so we left the house after 10:00 AM. There’s always a little family conflict about this, but I like to drive to Stamford and catch the train from there. Helaine prefers going to New Haven to pick up the train.

She says it takes less time. I say there are a lot more trains go to Stamford to choose from on the way home. Maybe we’re both right. Unfortunately, the long term trend says when there’s this kind of family conflict, either I’m wrong or Helaine’s right.

We parked in Stamford and headed into the train station. I wanted some coffee, as did Steffie. As we got our drinks, the express pulled out! Next train: local… and a half hour wait.

We had no trouble getting to Grand Central Terminal. From there it was a quick subway trip on the “6” local to Canal Street.

Welcome to knockoff shopper’s heaven.

We’re used to hitting Canal Street and the Lower East Side on Sundays. Tuesday is a totally different animal. There’s actually room on the street to stand without being bowled over!

Usually, Canal Street shopping is done from storefronts and curbside stands. On this Tuesday, most of the curbside stands were gone.

I had read about a huge crackdown recently. Big raids on Canal Street had driven out the knockoffs. I still saw some fancy watch names, though no Rolexes.

At one time, Canal Street and $10 Rolex were synonymous.

As far as handbags were concerned, there was merchandise, but none of the high end labels, like Kate Spade, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Coach. These were the names that brought on the raids.

Still, looks can be deceiving. As we walked through the stores, the brand names we desired were being whispered at us, usually in Chinese accented English. After being asked at one store if that was what she wanted, Steffie said yes and was taken to the shopping underground.

Along with my mom and Helaine, Steffie followed the salesperson through a locked door in the back. As they walked out, the door was locked behind them. Then through another locked door, also locked behind them, and into a storeroom.

If they were going to be victims of a crime, this was as good a place as any… and I think there was at least some apprehension as their exits were successively bolted shut.

Where were they? I don’t think they could find the actual store the journey began in, much less the hidden warehouse!

After a little show and tell and typical Canal Street haggling, they were on their way… with a few bags and later, a wallet.

How prevalent is this kind of thing on Canal Street? The huge Heineken billboard, up on the side of a building says it all: “The only authentic label on the block.”

I hadn’t bought a watch in a while, and that was my prey today. Years ago, Canal Street watches, those $10 Rolexes, only looked good from afar. Today, they are masterfully complex and sturdy and Rolex isn’t the only luxury name represented.

I’m sure an expert can tell the difference&#185, but I can’t, nor can anyone I know. In fact, for all I know this was genuine merchandise.

My watch collection, a long running obsession, is filled with watches I trust are real and others I assume are pretend. Like children, I love them all dearly and play no favorites.

Helaine had recommended a rectangular tank style watch, but I though most of what I had seen in tanks were too large and bulky on my wrist. A leather band would be nice, since most of my watches have metal bands. I kept searching.

I settled on a mechanical watch – it’s called an automatic chronograph. As you wear it, a mechanism (visible through a crystal on the watch’s back&#178) winds the mainspring. The face has a main dial, with sweep second hand, plus dials for day of the week, day of the month and hour (in 24 hour notation). There are also two windows for year and month.

It’s very nice looking and, so far, has kept accurate time. Since it’s mechanical and won’t be worn on a daily basis, it will need to be reset before each use. That much is bad. The rest is very good.

Today was a very hot day in an area with little air conditioning. We tried to stay cool with lots of water and soda, but it was tough.

I suppose I was the first to get a little cranky, wanting to bail. That wasn’t nice – wasn’t right. I should have been more of a team player… and I wasn’t. I could blame my aching toe, but the responsibility is mine.

By the time I acquiesced, it was too late. The damage had been done.

We turned up Broadway heading toward SoHo and Greenwich Village. SoHo really is as happening as you’ve heard, with lots of stores and lots of people – mostly young.

After stopping in a few stores it was my dad’s turn to raise the white flag. In his case it was justified. The heat had become more than he could take. That’s the bad news. The good news is, he’s 79. He put up with an awful lot of heat and humidity as if he were half his age!

We cut across to Bleeker Street and found the Uptown “6”. As we approached the station I found the one shot that I think typifies this day in particular, and New York City during the summer in general. Leaning up against a subway entrance were two cops. They were resting and taking in the sights.

Their ease and relaxation set the mood for everyone around them.

Please understand, I am not criticizing their actions. In fact they were very appropriate for this time and this place and I have no doubt they were ready to be “cops” if necessary. Like I said, they set the mood.

We had dinner at Junior’s in what had been the lower waiting room at Grand Central Terminal and what is now a busy food court. This time we caught the express and made it to Stamford in about 45 minutes and the rest of the way home in an hour.

I know this because I’ve got a new watch.

&#185 – Actually, I’m not sure. With some of the products, I suspect they’re made in the same factory, by the same workers, with the same raw materials.

&#178 – I have just learned this type of watch, with parts of the works exposed, is called a skeleton watch.

Canal Street – Say It Isn’t So

We do it three or four times a year. Steffie and I, sometimes accompanied by Helaine, go to Manhattan to do something legitimate and then end up spending some of our time on Canal Street where legitimacy has a murky definition.

“Genuine” Gucci, Prada, Coach, Rolex, and others go for pennies on the dollar. Do we know they’re fakes? Of course. Is the quality as good as the real thing? Probably not – but it’s close enough, and without a microscope it certainly looks good enough.

Now, it looks like it’s all ended.

New York Daily News 12/12/04
Once hawked openly from dozens of Canal St.’s ramshackle stalls, the fake Louis Vuitton and Prada purses, the Tag and Rolex watches have gone.

Steffie asked, “Why will people go there?” Helaine said, “They might as well pave over it.”

Like getting rid of cockroaches, it is much more difficult to kill knockoffs than it seems. They will be hidden for a while, biding their time, but the lure of profit is too strong. Canal Street will be back.

Yon can bet your Breitling on that.

New York City trip – The Producers

Ivy the dog is still in the hospital There was some improvement today, which I’ll get to later. Still, Helaine felt it was best for her to stay home… and she did.

Steffie and I took our three tickets to see The Producers, got in the car around 9:00AM, and headed into New York City. After Dunkin’ Donuts and gas (there’s a joke here somewhere), we hit the open road, convertible top down.

This was actually risky. The mostly cloudy sky turned overcast as we moved west from Bridgeport (In Connecticut, the east-west Connecticut Turnpike is labeled north-south. This makes a geographically challenged adult population even more confused). I expected to have to pull over, under an underpass, at any moment to get the top up. But, by the time we hit the Cross Bronx Expressway, the sun had returned and the air began to get steamy.

The trip to New York, though shared with lots of other cars, was never hampered by traffic.

We followed the CBE to the West Side Highway (following the Last Exit in New York signs) and headed south along the Hudson River. The view to New Jersey was a little hazy. The river itself was pretty empty.

I parked the car ($30, thank you) on West 44th Street, just west of 8th Avenue. I always put up the top when parking, even in attended parking, and that was a good thing, since it later rained.

It was near 11:00 AM and the show wasn’t until 2:00 PM, so we headed into the subway at the corner and went downtown to Canal Street.

For some unknown reason, I thought the IRT #1 train would be the closest (it wasn’t). I mention this, because the subway stairs at 8th and 44th bring you to the 8 Avenue Line IND station with connecting corridors to the IRT (mentioning IND and IRT only helps to show I’m getting older. These labels, a throwback to the era when some subways lines were privately owned, haven’t been used in decades.) It seemed like we were walking to Canal Street as the narrow, tiled, dingy, hot tubes led up and down, left and right, until we were on the downtown platform. We took the express a few stops and then walked across the platform to take the #1 to Canal.

New Yorkers leave the city in droves during the summer, and I’m sure that’s especially true for Labor Day weekend. At the same time tourists pour in. Canal Street was jammed.

Maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m sure Kate Spade, Christian Dior or Louis Vuitton (is there really a Louis Vuitton?) would clutch their collective chests and fall to the ground in cardiac arrest if they ever saw Canal Street. Everything is a knock off… but a nearly perfect knock off.

When a bag says Prada on the outside, it also has Prada on the hardware and Prada “franked” on the leather inside. It’s a pretty thorough job.

Today, I actually stopped as I bought a bottle of Poland Springs water from a vendor, thinking maybe it too wasn’t the real thing. Hey, it’s Canal Street, who knows?

I continue to look, to no avail, for a Breitling combination analog/LCD watch. Obviously, Breitling has them, but that’s a little out of my price range for a watch… maybe not for a car, but for a watch.

Steffie went bag, wallet and shoe shopping. Is it an obsession? Sure. There should be some 12 step program to get her back on the right track. But, at least on Canal Street you can indulge your fantasy. She bought a few things, including some shoes she had been lusting after.

I found a few computer books. One was on Perl, a computer language (which will not make my spell checker happy) used on websites like this one, that I want to learn. The second had to do with Cascading Style Sheets. Again, it’s a concept used on this website and something I had heard about for years without understanding. Like Perl, if I’m going to administer this site, I need to learn at least a little bit about it. Books on Canal Street go for 1/2 retail price or a little less.

A few Canal Street observations. There is a street side display ad for Tag Heuer watches. These watches are sold on Canal Street… they’re just not real. It’s an odd place for an ad like this.

Canal Street is old and tired. There hasn’t been new construction here since the 1930’s or maybe earlier. Little shops are crammed into spaces no larger than a small closet. And, my guess is, this was never an upscale neighborhood, even back in the day. That’s why it was interesting to see beautiful detail work on some of the older industrial buildings.

Finally, even in the midst of urban congestion, people find comfort in things growing. I found this ‘city garden’ on a fire escape. There’s no doubt it’s against fire code, but it is nice to see.

With a 2:00 PM curtain, we headed back into the subway and north to the 42 Street stop on the E train. Up the stairs and, astoundingly enough, we were a half a block from the theater. But, there was a problem. We had Helaine’s ticket!

A try outside the theater yielded nothing. It didn’t seem like the right place to sell it. So, we headed to the TKTS booth in Duffy Square. This is where you’d likely find people looking for tickets, and Producers tickets were always tough to come by.

I walked parallel to the line at TKTS. “Single ticket to The Producers.” Once, twice, three times… and then as I was about to try one more time, Steffie turned me to a woman in line who was interested. She asked how much? I hadn’t thought about it, so asked her to make me an offer. She said half, and the deal was done.

As it turned out, she was Japanese, in New York by herself (though she said she had friends there) and had only come in earlier in the day. She was about to sit dead center in the 6th row, and I was subsidizing 50% of the cost.

The Producers was excellent. It is everything the movie was, though the story has been adapted and simplified for the stage. The current cast is considered “B” next to Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Even then, like most New Yorkers, some of the biggest players were out-of-town, replaced by stand-ins. Lewis J. Stadlen, the lead, was replaced by John Treacy Egan, which meant Egan was also covered by an understudy.

I would very much like to see the show again, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. As the originators of Bialystock and Bloom, and with the theatrical clout to be a little ‘over the top’, my guess is they bring the show up a few notches.

The dialog and sensibility of the show was pure Mel Brooks. You could hear his voice in nearly every line. And, in fact, his voice was heard (lip sync’ed by an actor) during Springtime for Hitler; “Don’t be stupid, be a Smarty – sign up with the Nazi Party!” I believe he did this line in the film as well.

Brad Musgrove as the astoundingly gay Carmen Ghia was a hoot. He got the biggest ovation of the non-principals.

After the play broke, we headed away from the car, and back toward Times Square. Steffie wanted a henna tattoo, which we never found.

We did see a few things in Times Square that you only see in Times Square. The most notable is the “Naked Cowboy.” It is, stripped to its essence, a man wearing a cowboy hat, boots and underwear. That’s it. He charges to pose for photos, and does a pretty brisk business.

For the cowboy challenged, there was also Spiderman, available for a price. In the spirit on New York, I doubt any of his take goes to the copyright owner.

What we did find was rain! What had been a sprinkle as we left the theater turned into a downpour. We were near 42nd Street by this point, so we headed to the ESPN Zone. With a 30 minute wait, we turned back up Broadway and ended up at Planet Hollywood.

When in Times Square, Steffie and I eat at Planet Hollywood more often than not. The food was fine, but more importantly, the restaurant was dry. We were soaked when we got in. Luckily, the camera, books, bags, shoes and the like were in plastic bags. Steffie’s purse had been outside, but tonight, it seemed none the worse for water.

We headed back to the car, only to run into the New York City Fire Department. Something was going on above West 44th Street. Four or five pieces of fire rolling stock and at least a dozen, firefighters (each wearing oxygen packs) stood around chatting as a ladder was extended from a truck and two firefighters climbed to the roof of the theater adjacent to the St. James (where The Producers plays).

If there was cause for alarm, it was well hidden. No one was breaknig a sweat. Steffie wanted to stay and watch, which we did for a few minutes. But, as time went on, it became clear that whatever was going on, was going on out of sight… and wasn’t all that dramatic.

By 6:00 we were in the car, turned north on 8th Avenue, and headed home… with the top down.