Hand Chewed

I just learned from co-worker that I missed a reading by Douglas Coupland over at B&N in Union Square. He signed books and everything! Dang. How I wish Barnes and Noble had an rss feed of all the Meet the Writers events in Manhattan stores.

Anyway, heads up – Coupland is on his way to Atlanta, SF, Berkley, Portland, Seattle, etc.

I am surprised Kurt Vonnegut did not think of this first: “hand chewed” book sculptures. I wonder what inspired Coupland – the Spanish Inquisition that forced heretics to eat their books?

“Generation X”
Paper and magnolia branch
First edition English language version of Generation X
hand chewed by the artist and then formed into a nest
2004

Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant or a Hidden Starbucks

Advertising might be the engine of commerce, but there is a surprising number of NYC businesses are hidden inside skyscrapers with almost no indication of them on the outside.

For instance, me and my co-workers often go to a Starbucks that is located in a lobby of a skyscraper. There is no sign outside, and inside you need to pass a security guy (who surprisingly lets you through) and turn a corner. I could not believe my eyes – you absolutely had to know where that Starbucks was.

There is nothing special about our hidden Starbucks, except it is the closest one to us and the lines are usually shorter. They do have an old style La Marzocco machine not yet replaced by the new superautomatics, but the barrista has no idea about how to grind the coffee and tamp it properly. I guess they don’t teach that anymore at Starbucks U.

There is a more interesting hidden place that we frequent. It’s a restaurant called Taam-Tov (46 West 47th Street, 4th floor 212-768-8001) which happens to be located on the fourth floor of a dumpy and decrepit art deco building in the middle of the Jewelry district on 47th street. To be fair I have to mention that there is a little sign on the step of a staircase that can be seen from outside. But you have to climb 8 flights of stairs, past dirty walls, an exposed phone comm. box and frequent full trash bags. There you will see an unmarked closed door and a small open order window.

Alternatively you can enter a jewelry store on the first floor and take a tiny little elevator, which will deposit you inside the restaurant. I strongly discourage you from using it.

Once me and three of my co-workers, one of whom is “portlier” than I am (and I am pretty “portly” myself), two have asthma and only one inhaler, despite my reluctance chose to take that tiny elevator. We let a bunch of people go up before us, waited for the elevator to come back and boarded it. Immediately what seemed to me like three shady looking Russian jewelers squeezed in after us. To my horror I noticed that in fact there was a fourth guy with them, just as sweaty and unshaven, but really short and skinny. Of course we got stuck between the floors and it took me and one of the jewelers few very uncomfortable minutes to figure out how to open the doors. Oh, and I forgot to mention – the co-worker who insisted the most on the elevator was not only slightly asthmatic, but a bit claustrophobic as well.

Anyway, the place is rather unique. The patrons are mostly jewelers – you might see them exchanging large sums of money and gold or diamonds, but there are a lot of programmers from surrounding offices who also found that place somewhere. Since the place was featured in the last issue of Time Out New York dedicated to cheapest restaurants, there the mix will be a bit more eclectic in the future.

The cuisine can be described as Middle Eastern/Russian, typical of the Baku region. Everything is cooked on site (in fact I’ve witnessed a small kitchen fire once that was quickly taken under control while everyone continued eating), kosher and very tasty. Shish kabobs are excellent (my favorite is rib kabob), so are soups. Just don’t ask for sour cream for your Borscht – and you can be sure that they don’t use Ukrainian pork fat. Other than that it’s very good. There are good salads, golubtsi, pelmeni, shawarma, etc. They even have kompot – Russian fruit punch and green tea served in small “piala” cups with sugar cubes (for drinking “vprikusku”).

Over the years I had lunch at Taam Tov with my boss, my boss’ bosses there, my co-workers, three different livejournal users and many other people. And until I’ve read Time Out New York article I did not know that one floor below Taam Tov there’s a second hole in the wall restaurant called Sabor Latino.

TT : Thought Tally : Dude, Where’s My Biochemistry Degree? or Kinky Crew Superstar

is going to like this. As I learned from TV Guide Magazine, Ashton Kutcher majored in Biochemistry.

According to one of the most annoying things a customer can do at the checkout line is to say “He heh. I guess it must be free” when the scanner beeps and refuses to scan the code. See, I could never come up with that stupid and apparently common joke. A Null is not a zero.

This kind of reminded me about a dude who was playing an electronic one arm bandit in Moscow when the machine crashed with 999999 rubles in the payout window. He stayed at the gaming parlor for days guarding the machine, but in the end the machine was rebooted and he wasn’t given any money. Or so I heard.

Coca cola definitely tastes better when it’s sold in those glass bottles. You know the ones that are probably based on the shape of the cacao pod (which was mistaken for the kola nut by the designer or something). They still make those in Mexico and sometimes they are sold in a few bodegas in NYC. I always thought it tasted better because of the glass, but finally found out the true reason:

“She told me that they were bottled in Mexico and I nodded since I already knew that and said, “I think it is because they use real sugar.”
She shook her head, “No, no, not the sugar. It’s the water.”
She leaned in like she was telling me a secret, “Mexican water is the BEST water in the entire world.”
Just then a smaller woman leaned in beside her grinning with a single eyebrow raised and whispered.
“It’s MAGIC water!”

Apparently it is not Montezuma’s revenge that assails unsuspecting tourists, but the magic waters that sour in the bellies of the unimaginative, somewhere South of the border.”

Many big corporations in order to retain employees use powerful “cult team building” techniques. One thing that I noticed is that worker ants usually have very peculiar job titles. For instance at Kinko’s the official title is “Co-worker”. At McDonald’s – “Crew Member”. From Gig I learned that Kinko employees unofficially use “Kinkoid” instead of “Co-worker”. And from an lj user in I learned that a McDonalds crew member who has formidable years of experience, but isn’t a manager is called “Crew Superstar”. I guess it’s kind of like “Research Fellow” at Microsoft :)