Under Pressure

New York's last seltzer man goes all in.

I Gave My Cat to a Robot

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 10.14.23 PM

Rob! So what happened here?

Like anyone afflicted with toxoplasmosis, I care about my cat. His name is Fernando. We share a one-bedroom place, and I felt like he was getting bored with his small arsenal of feather wands and self-articulating lasers. He used to do these huge, four-foot X-Games backflips going after the feather thing, but those kind of stopped once he realized climbing up a chair would give him most of the benefits of jumping.

He was getting a little lazy, and I wanted to get him back some edge, you know? Fernando was a rescue but not like a mean-streets rescue; someone had left him and his littermates in the basement of a nice Upper East Side building before calling the Upper East Side of animal shelters. It wouldn’t shock me to learn they’d nursed him on tiny bottles of almond-butter smoothie, like the protagonist of a children’s book sold exclusively at Barneys.

Anyway I’d heard about Sphero, a (you guessed it) spherical toy robot that rolls where you tell it to with your iPhone. I liked Sphero for Fernando because its creators had made a promo video of spooked cats casting side-eye as it rolled past them—and when a cat is properly suspicious of something, it takes over their brain and leaves them incapable of creating their own mischief. Which seemed, at the time, like more than enough reason to spend $120 on a robot for my cat.

Blizzard-Hoarding at the Gowanus Whole Foods

The scene last night:

It was not pretty.

“We don’t have lettuce—all we have is spinach and kale” is something I heard a hot dad say last night in the Gowanus Whole Foods regarding the state of his groceries. Hurry, hot dad, the blizzard is here! You’ll just have to make do!

My Friend Is a Die-Hard Elitist Snob, So How Do I Fix Her?

Dear Concessionist,

One of my friends is elitist. I don’t have very many close friends, and she’s only recently become one of them; still, I love her and trust her like any of my older friends. She’s a native uptown New Yorker who went to a prep school and later an Ivy League college. She’s really smart and hard working. She has a great job that I know she got only by making use of her own credentials. We met over four years ago now—we’re in our mid-twenties—and now we see each other at least every two weeks. We live in different neighborhoods, so it feels like we hang out frequently.

Everything should be great between us, but I struggle sometimes because she’s kind of an asshole about class. For instance, most of our acquaintances (common or not) live in Brooklyn. I find myself in the borough almost every weekend to hang out. She won’t go to Brooklyn, ever, under any circumstance. I’m not sure when was the last time she went. Maybe Smorgasburg in 2013? There have been over 20 house parties in the past two years that she’s been invited to but refused to attend. A couple of times I’ve co-hosted said parties. Still, nothing. Bushwick, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, not even Clinton Hill she’ll do. When people ask me about it, I often say she works really hard and is a huge trek for her to come all the way from Tribeca to Utica Ave., even though I made an even longer trip from East Harlem.

The party thing above is kind of petty, but it’s her most repeated offense. Her lifestyle is questionable on Marxist grounds in other ways. She won’t live in a building without a doorman, or a bunch of other amenities. She won’t date people who didn’t go to “good schools,” which I’m pretty sure means “an Ivy League institution, save Cornell.” She is a member of private clubs in the city. She will judge you for wearing vintage clothes.

I brought this to her attention when it exploded, and she “kind of [saw] her point.”

She just doesn’t get it.

At the same time, she mustn’t abide by these rules 100% because I wear second-hand clothes, use the subway regularly, and, like, make under 40K, yet she calls me her friend. This makes it all the odder when I detect hints of elitism in her behavior. I call her out on it constantly, too, but she always replies with something along the lines of “that’s just who I am,” which, let’s ignore for the moment.

I’ve grown to love her but I’m not sure I can continue to call a friend someone who seems to be so out of tune with her (our) reality. What do you think?

A Friend In Deed

New York City, January 22, 2015

weather review sky 012215 (1)★★★ Now the seasonable half-day’s allotment of pleasantness came in reverse: a dark morning’s clouds thinned and the light slowly intensified, till the afternoon sky was clear blue and the scaffold shadows sliced up the sidewalk. Up in the treetops, the sun was precise on the fine new buds; down by the river, it spread a vague, spectral shimmer over the water. An arc of dry pigeon droppings traced the arc of the awning around the back corner of a Trump building. Pink-rimmed purple clouds rode above the descending sun, which was round and just bright enough to leave a field of polka dots on the retinas after tempting the eye to follow it. 

Five Moments in the Life of a Black Mother

julia

1. At library storytime, the white librarian comes up to you and says that she has the best picture of your son making a craft, and, excited, you ask her to show you. So the white librarian flips through her iPad and then finally, triumphantly, shows you a picture of the only other black boy who has ever been to storytime who looks nothing like your son, who is two years older than your son. And you realize that, to this white educator, all black boys look alike—are to be equally, interchangeably, dismissed in the classroom—and you suddenly understand that the preschool to prison pipeline is very real and just how many black boys in prison are there because they have been falsely accused, misidentified as someone else.

Magazine Taken to Slaughterhouse

moooo

“I don’t want to speak ill of the dying, but what is the plausible audience in such a magazine?” he asked. “It was too kind of nitty-gritty and old-fashioned, back-to-the-land hippie magazine for the food-farm porn market, and yet too ‘What about the dairy situation in the Philippines?’ for people who are really raising chickens for a living.”

Fortunately for Kurt Andersen’s karma, but not for anybody who worked there or is owed money by it, Modern Farmer, the National Magazine Award-winning publication about farming for people who have no actual interest in farming, is no longer dying, it is dead:

Jesse Hirsh, a senior editor who came from San Francisco to help start the magazine, and Cara Parks, the executive editor who joined the staff in October, were the paid editorial staff that remained. When they left Friday, the editorial content was left to two interns who were scheduled to leave by the end of January.

Will the last intern to leave the office please remember to feed the goats on the way out?

Thoughts Likely to Pop Into Your Head While Meditating at Davos

white dude
1. Fascinating conversation with Wim Drexler about how helicopters work. Terrific guy. Princeton.

2. Is my wife’s hair actually blonde?

3. I can’t tell if I really give a fuck about Greece or it’s just been going on so long I have convinced myself. Wait. If my wife’s hair isn’t actually blonde, is that less hot, or more hot?

4. Is it bad that during the Global Financial Council on the Global Financial System I kept thinking about how maybe we could just get rid of Cyprus?

Under Pressure

selt

One day at the end of August, dozens of cases of seltzer were piled in stacks that rose chest-high around a cramped warehouse in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Each case holds ten bottles of seltzer and weighs seventy pounds when the bottles are full. A small black cat slunk between the stacks. “That is Chicago,” Alex Gomberg, a twenty-seven-year-old, fourth-generation seltzer man, said. “If he bites you, I will chase him outta here.”

Alex’s great-grandfather, Mo Gomberg, a seltzer delivery man with his own route, had been filling up at a co-op in Brooklyn when he decided to open up his own shop, Gomberg Seltzer Works, on the corner of 92nd Street and Avenue D in 1953, so “he didn’t have to schlep it anymore,” Gomberg said. At the time, there were dozens of such filling stations in the city, hundreds of seltzer men, and thousands of customers receiving cases of seltzer at their homes every week. Mo passed the business to his son Pacey, and Pacey passed the business along to his son—Gomberg’s father—Kenny. Only two of Gomberg Seltzer Works’ four siphon machines, manufactured in London in 1910, are still operational, and only one is actually in use. “We’re the last fillers in all of New York,” Gomberg said. “People don’t know it, that it exists anymore.”

For a long time, seltzer was just a New York thing. Jewish immigrants brought a taste for seltzer—”the worker’s champagne,” as it was colloquially known—to the Lower East Side in the late nineteenth century. “In 1880 there were only two seltzer companies in New York,” writes historian Gerald Sorin in his book A Time for Building: The Third Migration, 1880-1920. “By 1907 over a hundred operated in the remarkable ethnic economy Jews had created.” When Canada Dry started marketing flavored seltzers around the country in the mid-eighties, “it found that few people outside the New York area even knew the word,” the New York Times reported in 1986. “The company had to include the phrase ‘sparkling water’ on packaging.”

Two couples sat in a restaurant having dinner together. They were old friends, but haven’t seen each other in a long time. One of the men had lost his job in the months that had passed since.

The man described his daily routine. He pretty much just stayed home all day doing nothing, he said. His wife, meanwhile, had a busy job as a television show producer. She would come home and tell him about the big news stories her show was airing, the celebrities that she was working with. “She gets home and tells me all these interesting things,” he said. “And then she asks me about my day and all I can say is, like, ‘Today I saw a man with a big dog.’”

They all laughed.

“I find that very interesting,” said the other man. “What kind of dog was it? Like, a St. Bernard? Those things are huge!”

The first man shakes his head, and lets out an exaggerated sigh. “There wasn’t even a dog,” he says, letting his head drop. “I was making it up.”

They enjoy themselves all through the meal, the two couples, and promise not to let so much time pass before they next see each other.#

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Sound Painting


I’ve been much enjoying Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s Euclid recently (a quick listen to “Sundry” here should give you a fairly good indication of whether you will feel similarly; I can’t imagine that you will not but then again not everyone shares my capacity for the uncomplicated appreciation of ethereal joy). Here, the synthesist “visits the Moog Sound Lab with her Buchla Music Easel and closes the gap between East Coast and West Coast philosophy. Using analog control voltage, Kaitlyn simultaneously controls her Music Easel, a Moog Little Phatty and a Moog Werkstatt-01 (accessed via the Werkstatt CV Expander: http://bit.ly/CVExpander), creating a sonic portrait of her visit.” I don’t know what any of that means but I sure do like the blippy bloopy meer meer sounds that result. Enjoy.