Under Pressure


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.

It's Time to Rediscover 'Daria'

dariaA couple years ago, I bought a Jane Lane T-shirt. If you don’t know who that is, you may recognize a picture of her. And I say that because every time I’ve gone out wearing the shirt, it’s rare I haven’t gotten a “Hey, nice shirt” (usually from twentysomething women with dyed hair), or at the very least a “That’s, uh…that’s Daria, right?” But that’s sort of how it goes with Daria, the series, in general. Over a decade out from its finale, it remains a recognizable pop culture reference point, popping up randomly in strange places, like that time when Katy Perry dressed up as Jane for Halloween, or when CollegeHumor made that Aubrey Plaza-starring, live-action Daria trailer a couple years ago.

Yet, at the same time, it’s a rather under-watched and under-discussed series today, this despite its entire run being available for streaming (well, except for the two hour-long movies that bookend its final season) on Hulu Plus. I only know a handful of people who’ve seen more than a few episodes, and I rarely read anything new about it, even in an era where retrospective articles (like this) are more and more common. So with Broad City returning for its second season last week, I thought it’d be a good time to look back at Daria, another comedy with a refreshingly different female friendship at its center, albeit one that’s vastly different and about as misunderstood as its title character.

New York City, January 21, 2015

weather review sky 012115★★★ The line and the curve of a lamppost, lit by the crosstown sun, glowed down in the shadows of the morning street even to uncorrected eyes. Gray streaks on the early sky became loose-knit cloud cover. Shouts of children at rooftop recess echoed between buildings. The sun made a bid to shine up Broadway, brightening the taxi paint. Instead of thickening toward the forecast snow, the clouds kept relenting, letting thin sunbeams and half-formed shadows fade in and out of the afternoon. Sunset was an orange tinge low in the distance, as a helicopter made a gentle pulsing flutter against the darkening clouds. An advertising circular that had been frozen into a puddle at midday now lay soggily in plain water. Down in the dry rail bed a rat sat up on its haunches, nibbling at some newly obtained morsel.

How to Power Lunch When You Have No Power

The power lunch for modern knowledge workers, who can no longer escape the confines of their cubicle for more than fifteen minutes before someone might notice that they are potentially not being productive—but who do not spend enough time on Reddit or Hacker News to seriously entertain the notion of drinking Soylent (yet)—is the chopped salad.

Broke With Bad Skin, UNTIL …

is this a noxzema commercial or wutBack in December I saw a dermatologist who was listed on my insurance’s site as an in-network provider. I was feeling terrible and gross about the sudden, constant angry breakouts on my cheeks and I also had a weird tan on my stomach from the summer that had never quite faded. The tan didn’t bother me, but I felt like had to go in there with a somewhat serious concern; I was sure the the doctor would size me up and down and make a snide remark about how there are people dealing with melanoma out there and couldn’t I just drink more water and moisturize?

The doc came in for a full body check, told me the tan would fade slowly and that yes I did indeed have acne. When she asked her next question—”What products do you use?”—I was ready. I knew she was expecting me to list a string of cheap makeup products and bad hygiene habits, but no.

For more than a year I’d been experimenting with different skin health regimens, giving each a few weeks’ chance to prove itself. I was loyal to LUSH for awhile: I used their tea tree toner water ($10) religiously, and a spot on treatment for blemishes ($13). I used their moisturizer ($42) that was way too thick and I quickly abandoned, and an herbal facial paste ($13+) as a wash. It worked well, but it was too expensive.

Then I read about the magical benefits of the Oil Cleansing Method and began rubbing combinations of different oils (castor, almond, jojoba, tamanu; $40 total) into my face every night, then gently wiping it off  (with the rest of the dirt and makeup) with a warm, damp microfiber washcloth. It worked, but without a proper scrub I now had a minefield of blackheads to deal with. Plus, it added 10 minutes to my nightly routine and mixing oils was the last thing I wanted to do after a night out, so I often resorted to makeup removing wipes ($6), which left me feeling greasy and unclean.

Two men around the age of forty sit at a bar. It’s October and late-afternoon sunrays shine through a big plate glass behind them, playing in the glass of their green beer bottles.

One of them takes a sip of beer and asks, “You wanna hear the funniest thing I ever heard anyone say?”

“Yes I do,” says the other. “That’s exactly what I want to hear.”

“Okay,” the man sets his bottle on the bar and begins. “This was when I was in college. Me and my friends Carter and Will and Matt went to D’angelo’s sub shop. We’d been watching football in Carter’s room and at the end of one of the games, it was getting to be dinner time, Carter said he was hungry for a sandwich. He liked the steak sandwiches at the D’angelo, so we went out to Cohen’s car, Matt’s car, and he drove us there. We were totally stoned.”

The bartender, a woman with red hair in a ponytail, looks up from where she’s standing at the other end of the bar, typing on her cellphone.

The man continued.

“So we get the place, and we go inside, and I’m standing there like a dipshit, staring at the menus, trying to remember how to read, when the lady walks in from the kitchen to the counter and asks us whether we were ready to order.

Carter says, ‘Yes, please. I’d like a number 14, grilled steak. Sans pickles, please.’

And the lady scrunches up her face, all quizzical-like and says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t think we have those kind. We just have, like, normal sandwich pickles.’

I burst out a cough of a laugh before covering my mouth with my hands.

But Carter totally played it cool. Without missing a beat, he says, ‘Oh, you know what, then? I just won’t have any.’”

The man shakes his head, still in disbelief, and lets out a little chuckle.

The other man doesn’t respond at all. He takes a sip of beer and remains staring straight ahead. Then he says, “That’s not that funny.”#

A Poem by John Ashbery

A New Desire

Not so good anymore,
post avant-garde. How’s that?
Find anybody still puzzled up.
Your marcelled feet were on the stage:

If you could save our container
in Pennsylvania in October…
The fire broke out / declared itself.
We drank the grass, drunken fish,
in servile mode. An antique something about it.

You’ll have to pay for brunch—I’m too excited.
Milk and carrots from the editor at
my beloved Sierras!
It passed inspection,
or they’ll have found that too:
Fully understand
(gonna close some time,
pudgy rules, hyper airlines,
lifter-upper—a boomlet, so he said).

There goes another one belies
any significant pores,
and everyone at home, officials stressed.

Don’t slide down the ones John says they still aren’t using—
the worst driveway in
western Connecticut.
He’s right—it shouldn’t do anything,
culprit shoes. Why many have passed on to the sun.

What is it like to be a startup that venture capitalists have determined is worth at least a billion dollars?

Jyoti Bansal, CEO, AppDynamics: “It’s not like winning the lottery. There’s not a phone call you get and suddenly you’re a billion-dollar company. It was a process that took several months.”

And one might mistakenly expect that these billion-dollar valuations just happen overnight!#