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New York City, March 25, 2015

★ Murk blurred the river, one of only two faults on a fine February morning, the other fault being that April was less than a week away. The sunscreen came out of the medicine chest, as a moisturizer for cold-parched skin. An unusual keer-ing and a shaking in the branches led to a glimpse of a blue jay. Clouds eventually suppressed the light. The subway steps were spotted with rain in early afternoon—the evening showers had come on early, and without the evening warming trend. People were not dressed for this. At preschool pickup time the pavement was wet and the breeze was raw. By six, the chill had lifted. The gray clouds were full of unexpected little ripples, like fingerprint ridges, moving unexpectedly fast.

The Best Places to Get Free Coffee in LA

coffeeee From Sunset to Sun Valley, here are eleven of the city’s finest free coffee establishments.

1. Milt and Edie’s Drycleaners, Burbank

Milt and Edie’s, which has been open twenty-four hours a day since 1962, offers far more than just coffee: they have free cookies, free hot dogs and popcorn, free treats for your dog, free flag-cleaning, and on their website, a page of free fashion tips with confident headings like, “How Long Pants Legs Should Be.” The free coffee comes out of an automated machine set beside a plate of Hydrox cookies, both types, and under a bulletin board advertising local businesses, mostly dog walkers and dialect coaches.

2. Sunset Car Wash, West Hollywood

There was nothing I loved more when I was a little girl than going with my father to Sunset Car Wash on Sunset Boulevard, a low-slung Brutalist monument with an interior viewing window through which I’d watch our red Mercury Topaz slowly trundle through suds-covered tentacles. We referred to our car as “The Sharkmobile” because it would instantly overheat if you tried to stop or slow down. Then we’d have to pull over and my father would lift the hood and bang at the radiator with an old espadrille that we kept in the trunk specifically for that purpose. My father would pour himself a free coffee from a Mr. Coffee set into an alcove alongside an uncovered pitcher of cream and an open box of sugar cubes. I always begged for a sugar cube but my mother had forbidden my father to give me one because she’d heard somewhere that fiends would dose unattended sugar cubes with LSD just for kicks.

3. Emergency Room, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank

I went to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center Emergency Room after my eight-month-old tumbled face-first off the kitchen counter and landed on his fortunately pliable eight-month-old nose, chipping his front tooth and severing the frenulum that once connected his upper lip to his gums. The free coffee is not located in the main emergency room waiting room with the vending machines and the TVs playing soap operas, nor in the triage area to which you will later be assigned to sit and chat about infant head trauma with a man who looks like Sting, but in a smaller subsequent waiting room in an area called, without apparent irony, Rapid Care. While drinking your coffee you can try to avoid eye contact with a room full of people who look perfectly fine to you and one person who definitely doesn’t, a gardener who sliced through his forearm on the job and is now standing with his arm wrapped in a jacket, his demeanor calm and slightly apologetic, like a man sorry for getting blood all over your perfectly nice waiting room.

Three and a half hours later the cheerful doctor assured me it’s all but impossible to break a baby’s nose (“at this stage it’s all cartilage”) and that most healthy American boys have torn their frenulums by the age of six; she should know, having two young sons of her own. The baby had no signs of brain injury, though she did recommendI check in on him every two hours overnight “to make sure he’s still breathing.”

The Not-Trump of the Lower East Side

Welcome to Surreal Estate, a column in which we explore listings and stories from the tumultuous New York City real estate market.

146 Orchard, 5B
$2,495/month
Studio
? square feet
Nearest subway: JMZ/F at Essex Street/Delancey Street

“The idea of this neighborhood is basically bars, restaurants, and art galleries,” Joe Safdie, an agent with Misrahi Realty, told me as we strolled through the Lower East Side on Wednesday afternoon. We were supposed to visit three apartments that he had listed, but one had rented the day before and one was already under contract. (He generally recommends that clients look at ten to twelve apartments over the course of two, maybe three days.) “Inventory moves pretty quickly.”

According to Streeteasy, the studio at 146 Orchard last rented in 2012 for $2,295 a month—an increase of two hundred dollars in two years. It’s a simple apartment—basically just a rectangle, with two big windows looking out the back of the building. I asked Safdie the square footage, but he demurred. “When it comes to rentals, I don’t like to quote square footage, because square footage can be very deceiving,” he said. “When it comes to buying, then it matters, because you’re actually paying for every square foot. When it comes to rentals, I always tell my clients, don’t ever focus on numbers with square footage, focus on what you need to put in, what you would like to fit in. Can you fit your bed, can you fit your couch, can you fit your TV?”

A Poem by Morgan Parker

The Book of Negroes

1

You see the commercial on BET
while you’re painting your nails.

The women are only crying.
The cabins are dull. You’re trying

to text this dude. Negro, please,
why sleep when the world so bad.

Twisted golden butt in ash. You crazy.
D’Angelo. Slum Village. That good good

memory of skin. For him you would
be pumice shined to pearl.

He makes you wanna write your name.

Talking to a Former South Pole System Admin

port lockroy flickr
After we ran our piece about the new jobs at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, Sarah contacted me and asked if we’d like to learn about what it’s really like to work at the South Pole.

Tell us a little bit about what you did in Antarctica. What was your job, and what did you do while you were there?

Here’s the basic setup: Nobody owns Antarctica. A bunch of countries operate scientific research stations down there. The U.S. has three permanent stations and occasional summer “off-and-on” stations. When you’re talking about jobs down there, it’s support staff for the science research.

My job was—well, I had a bunch of jobs. I was first hired on as “entry-level computer help desk,” and then I built my skills and kept coming back with better jobs. I did the classic progression from help desk to PT tech to system admin.

What prompted you to go to Antarctica?

As soon as I heard that there were jobs there, I said “sign me up!” Then it took me five years to get in. The U.S. program runs everything through the National Science Foundation, and they hire out the support jobs to the contractors, so it’s just like applying for a job with a private company.

So in terms of money: first of all, before I ask about your salary, I’m going to ask about how your needs were taken care of in Antarctica. Did they give you housing? Did you rent housing? Did they provide you with food and uniforms?

Room and board is provided, so you’re not paying for that. You get cold-weather gear, though you’re expected to bring your own regular clothes to wear underneath. But you get the Carhartts and the parkas and you’re expected to give them back at the end.

“In one hour of chore time saved, Mallon estimates she can make $1,000 for her company. Tech companies have long realized that if you hook up your employees with everything on site, they’ll work longer, more industrious hours. And if apps deliver that same to the home, corporations keep benefiting. Employees can work even more undistracted hours remotely or buy even more on-demand services (like that Netflix binge). The perfect cycle of productivity and consumption is created— and all without ever having to step outside.”#

Bitchin Bajas, "Marimba"


Fair warning: If you press play on this one you are probably going to keep playing it over and over again and again until suddenly an hour has gone by and you’re like, Huh, what have I been doing all this time, oh well, let me play this track once more. It’s mesmerizing, is what I’m saying, and it also puts you in a state where you feel like you’re somewhere else, and what is better than being anywhere but where you are right now? Nothing, that’s what. Anyway, enjoy.

New York City, March 24, 2015

★ The distressing undynamic March continued, more of the same, nothing but February with better lighting. Still a lump of snow was surviving under the shrubbery. Out on Broadway, there was no real shade, only different illumination schemes in the crisscrossing reflected sun. Hair gleamed. The best measure of the sun, though, was the grim chill on descending into the subway. Downtown, the masonry was as stingy with light as the the glass uptown had been generous. Crossing the street into the shadow brought on an involuntary wince. Down by the floor of the eye doctor’s examining room, a space heater displayed wobbly (and blurry) images of ersatz flames and coals. At bedtime, Little Miss Stubborn got on the wrong bus: “It went to Coldland. A country so cold that everybody has a cold all year round.”

The Car Seat

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 4.59.42 PMIf I had to choose the single worst aspect of parenting in the first year of a baby’s life, I have a very simple answer: the fucking car seat. Every aspect of it—choosing one, buying it, installing it, removing it, putting it into another car, strapping a screaming baby into it—is totally maddening and utterly exhausting.

The first challenge you will face, alone as parents, just unleashed from the hospital, will be getting your baby home. If, like me, your baby was born at the tail end of a blizzard in Manhattan and if, like me, you live in Brooklyn, well, getting home will possibly be worse than the delivery.

We planned in advance: We researched the best and safest infant car seat (which it turns out is, unsurprisingly, probably the most expensive), and we bought it. We installed the base into our tiny car weeks before Zelda’s planned escape from my womb. We hauled the little seat into the hospital, where a nurse showed us how to strap her little body into the seat. She sat there, strapped in, surrounded by sausage-rolled blankets, seemingly gasping for each breath. We threw the seat into the base which, we’d read, shouldn’t budge “more than an inch” in its position. It budged. We white-knuckled it all the way home. We made it.

We didn’t drive that much after the baby was born, so she never really got a car groove going. She threw up in the car sometimes, she yelled, and I wrestled, often, with the sneaking suspicion that the car seat was improperly installed. Finally, I hired a professional car seat installer, and paid the best seventy-five dollars of my life to find that I was correct: The car seat wasn’t situated correctly. The installer showed me how to get it in and out of the car in seconds flat: You need to move seats and get your entire body into the back seat of the car. You push on the seat with your body, you tug harder than you’ve ever tugged on the seat belt which will be all that stands between your baby and the outside should an impact occur. You struggle and huff and puff. You turn red. And you get that fucker installed properly. And then, before you know it, the little rat has outgrown her first car seat and needs an upgrade.

The Tiny Blue Box That Makes 'The Daily Show' Work

snapstreamWhen you’re watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you often see these comedians contextualize their commentary with short, specific news clips, like John Oliver’s use of a 5-second clip from a Bloomberg TV news show — just long enough to catch a newscaster saying “March Madness now brings in over a billion dollars in TV ad revenue” — in his recent NCAA segment.

Have you ever wondered where these clips come from? Does one Last Week Tonight employee watch hours of TV in the hopes that someone will drop a reference to the annual March Madness ad revenue to fit in with what they’re writing? What about the recent Daily Show Vine featuring “50 Fox News Lies in 60 seconds:” did somebody watch Fox News for days to get all of these clips?

The way these shows compile montages and search through the vast wastelands of cable news every day has changed over the years, with a new technology making the process exponentially easier and more streamlined. It’s a tool that neither HBO nor Comedy Central were willing to talk about, not wanting to pull the curtain back on the magic behind what they do. It allows comedy shows to pull out the tastiest, most hilarious news and political clips for their nightly or weekly broadcasts like they never were able to before, and we’ve got an inside look at exactly how it works.