Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A (slightly) definitive map of Manhattan's neighborhoods

Intrepid explorers of Manhattan may find themselves wondering exactly what neighborhood they're in at any given moment, whether it's to geotag a photo (if your latest digital wonder doesn't already do so automatically), correct a geotag (Flickr being an infamous offender) or simply because you don't know but then you wouldn't be very intrepid, would you? Then there is of course the most amusing of all - the person that has no clue but insists on preserving the facade of supreme coolness. As we know, it's decidedly un-cool to ask anyone for anything in the city, let alone what neighborhood you're in. Often asking someone's opinion is only likely to complicate matters as the subject of neighborhood boundaries can be as fraught with peril as asking "Giants or Jets" or worse, "Mets or Yankees." Of course there are the classic, undisputed hoods like the Lower East Side and the West Village but it wasn't always so neat and tidy. In fact, it continues to this day. Neighborhoods expand, contest and re-invent themselves whether in the hearts of their residents or what's officially recognized on paper by the planning committees. What about Queens and Brooklyn, you ask? That's for another post, my friends.

As I have explored this city over the years in photography I am often faced with the dilemma of describing the neighborhood in which they were taken and it's not always easy. My search started a few years ago when I scoured Google images for maps in an effort to get a definitive answer and after seeing many decent (and many mediocre) contenders, I found one that seemed to include the locally-accepted ideas about boundaries and embraced some of the new, blasphemous additions. This is the main point of contention as many of the rabidly-patriotic locals refuse to recognize these "pointless, redundant displays of renewed self-identification by yuppie transplants," as one long-time resident put it. Whether or not you subscribe to this polarized viewpoint is inconsequential as you will soon see because if anything, the map is incredibly good-looking.

This dapper map was rendered by artist Alexander Cheek and was once found on his website but it seems Mr. Cheek has moved on to bigger and better things as it has been 404 for some time now.* Not to worry as it will now be hosted here for all eternity (or at least until the end of Blogger). Remember this was completed at the very end of 2006 so for all we know, the fluid nature of the boundaries may now very well make Manhattan's neighborhoods seem a random assemblage of ink puddles instead of the tidy arrangement we all know and love that resembles cuts of beef.

*Update (Jun 15, 2010 02:28:30): Apparently the map hasn't been completely 404'd. The current version can be found on his main page and it seems part of him moving on to bigger and better things was his map being featured in the New York Post, albeit uncredited. As if the pun of the Meatpacking District wasn't enough, the updated map includes a new area named Tenderloin. I swear I'm not making this up. Check it out. (It's below Koreatown.)

Too much.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finally, a first post!

Well, I figured it was high time to finally make a post! I have fairly recently re-kindled my love for cycling and, as I do with most of my hobbies, I have started to get quite passionate about it. A couple years ago I bought a GT Calafia at Belitte Bikes in Jamaica, Queens in an effort to relive some of my lost youth. My family always struggled financially when I was a kid so I was lucky to have had the humble bikes I had (namely Huffys). Humble or not, I rode a bike constantly, had a paper route year-round (in the burbs of Seattle) and learned much about bicycle maintenance. Several of the kids in my neighborhood owned Haros, GT's and Redlines and I could never afford one...that is, until I was nearly 30! It was fun for a while. Then I remembered how rough of a ride you got on 20's and having flatland geometry, it was pretty hard on the knees. I ended up selling it on craigslist to a nice guy and his son. This also happened to coincide with my move to Queens which was perfect.

Fast forward a few months and I'm getting comfortable in my new apartment. I had a rehearsal with one of my groups in Bushwick and one of the residents had a lovely old vintage Bianchi leaning against the wall. If memory serves me, it had a black road frame with yellow accents and yellow Deep V's. It got me thinking so much that I ended up researching more about road and track frames (something I had never known much about). I also had wanted to try this fixed gear thing I had been hearing so much about over the years. Of course, as soon as I did a search for "fixed gear track" I realized what a big deal it had become, namely among the hipster set. I don't care who or what you identify yourself with so long as you cherish and utilize the purity and practicality of your bike more than its capabilities as a fashion accessory.

I came across this incredulous behavior last year when, on my way to a gig at Spike Hill in Williamsburg, I spied a hipster sporting a vintage Russian Leica clone around his neck. I approached him and initially praised him for his taste in cameras but quickly retracted the compliment when he told me he had no idea what it really was, how it worked and that he had no intention of ever actually using it. It was essentially a necklace...a lifestyle accessory apparently intended to lure the fairer sex with its undeniable retro-ness. I was furious. I often feel the same way when I see like-minded people on their bikes, completely oblivious to the purity of its design and purpose...only interested in its bling factor. It's as though a war is raging against good sense. Ever-deepening "aero" rims, 6" straight handlebars with Oury grips and ridiculously high saddles and low handlebars are somehow favorable over utilitarian, tried-and-true classic designs (and settings). I often wonder exactly how far these bikes can be comfortably ridden, if at all, but I digress. There is plenty of this kind of thing over at BikeSnobNYC and tarckbike.

The point is, I'm happy to be cycling again. I went to Chelsea Bikes and was fitted to a Phat Cycles Phixie. Despite my concerns with the name (and its ghastly checkerboard rim decals) I went with it. After a few hiccups I have started to wonder if I should have gone elsewhere. I immediately needed new crank bolts and I have realized the frame is too small for me. Also somehow the rear tire won't line up perfectly between the chainstays and the seatstays. I took it back to them, they re-sat the wheel and told me it was fine. The wheel is fine between the chainstays but it leans to the left about an inch between the seatstays. I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the dropouts is not true, either from the get-go or at some point on the shop floor. I'm going to be getting Phat Cycles on the phone today and see what they say. In the meantime I'm planning a new build from scratch. Soma's new Special Edition Rush Track Frame caught my eye today. More to come.