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  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:24 am on October 14, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ale, Be Good or Be Gone, biographer, Bridge Cafe, Century Club, Chechnya, , East Village, electricity, , gas lamp, , Landmark Tavern, , McSorley, McSorley's Old Ale House, , , , NYPD detective, Pete's Tavern, Public house, typographically exuberant poet   

    Why Was I Not Informed Earlier 

    A certain typographically exuberant poet wrote these lines about an Irish bar that I was recently taken to by a co-worker.

    I was sitting in mcsorley’s. outside it was New York and beautifully snowing.

    Inside snug and evil. the slobbering walls filthily push witless creases of
    screaming warmth chuck pillows are noise funnily swallows swallowing revolvingly
    pompous a the swallowed mottle with smooth or a but of rapidly goes gobs the
    and of flecks of and a chatter sobbings intersect with which distinct disks of
    graceful oath, upsoarings the break on ceiling-flatness

    The bar, McSorley’s (15 E. Seventh St) turned out to be one of the most famous and unique bars in New York. And it’s not like New York is short on old or famous establishments frequented by poets. In fact, even though McSorley’s Old Ale House started operating in 1854 (or 1862 by some accounts) , Bridge Cafe at 279 Water has it beat hands down by going back to 1794. There are also Pete’s Tavern (1864), Landmark Tavern (1868) , PJ Clarke’s (1870s) and a few others in the Century Club.

    What makes McSorley’s stand out is that it operated continuously through the Prohibition, keeping renovations and changes in customs to the absolute minimum.

    The traditions and customs are especially strong in this Irish bar that can proudly tell anybody, even the 124 year old Zabani Khakimova of Chechnya: “we were here before you were born.” Another McSorley’s old slogan, ” No wine, no whiskey, no women” is only partially true. In 1970 New York State passed “McSorley’s Law” that disallowed discrimination in public establishments. I’ve heard that it’s still possible to have a gender specific private club still, but it has to have less than a certain number of members to be considered such.

    These days, a man or a woman, when you walk into one of the two rooms at McSorley’s and sit down at a WWII vintage table continuously soaked with beer, you’ll find that you only have three choices of alcoholic beverages. A dark, a light or a “one and one”. The dark ale or the light ale always come in two little 8oz mugs. You can have one mug of light and one mug in the same round.

    The food is only slightly more varied, but just as old fashioned. The daily specials might include liverwurst sandwiches, burger and fries, shepherd pie and “cheese and crackers”: a package of saltines in cellophane, some cheese and cut onions.

    “Begood or Begone” is yet another slogan of this institution. Don’t drink too little, don’t be troublesome when drunk. “distinct disks of graceful oath” are Ok.

    The waiters are both gruff and friendly at the same time. If you don’t want to begood, they won’t begood either and there’s no doubt that they’ll make you begone quick.

    Here’s E.E. Cummings’ biographer’s description of the place:

    “It has two rooms, each with its individual admonitory sign, “Be Good or Be Gone.” The walls are crowded with photographs and lithographs in which a vanished city dwells, and dead, buxom ladies and derbied men. The room in front has the bar, but the room in back boasts a famous lady of smooth and beautiful nudeness. . .”

    The place is truly “snug and evil”. It smells funky, the ceiling is ancient and low, the floor is covered in sawdust, the glasses are clinking and the ale is flowing. Cummings got it so right, it’s ridiculous.

    With the exception of smoking prohibition and admission of women, McSorley’s did not change too much. In E.E. Cummings’ time one of the two kitchens was already converted into a bathroom with Art Deco/Sanitary Style urinals (these days there’s a women’s bathroom too). But the walls and the bar are still crowded with patron-donated artifacts, prints, paintings and photographs. Unlike the crap-o-la encrusted restaurants, the artifacts and images are authentic and full of meaning.

    There’s an old gas lamp converted to electricity over the bar. A group of regulars being shipped out to WWI placed wishbones on the lamp with the intention to remove them when they come back. Those that were not removed continue hanging over there collecting gobs and gobs of dust.

    Any attempt to touch the almost century-old wishbones will surely get you a lifetime ban and probably a good beating.

    There are a few other interesting artifacts, like a pair of handcuffs that either belonged to one of the owners who was a retired NYPD detective, or to Harry Houdini. The helmets over the bar range from 1911 firefighter’s to the 9/11.

    “I was sitting in the din thinking drinking the ale, which never lets you grow old … Darkness it was so near to me,i ask of shadow won’t you have a drink?”

    My only regret is that it was not snowing outside this time. Also, the cat that is said to live at the bar did not make an appearance.

    Crass Commercialism:

    They sell McSorley’s-style mugs over here

  • Michael Krakovskiy 12:53 pm on March 2, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , electricity, , , metal handle, Office Space, , Static,   

    My Life At Penetrode or Is It Good For The Company? 

    Every morning the metal handle of the hallway door at work gives me a good ‘ol dose of static shock. This has been happening for the last four years. And only now I realize how “Office Space” this is.

    There must be hundreds of other people on my floor who get that same static shock every morning. I wonder how wide spread is it. Do you get a daily dose of static shock from a door handle where you work?

    Maybe it’s some form of thought control. Or maybe they generate electricity that way. Who knows..

    I am so ordering my red Swingline

    I am thinking about starting a protest website GAA – “Geeks Against Annoyances”. The top 4 things on the agenda will be:
    1) Wall warts
    2) Cheap Ass Go Off Every 10 Minutes Car Alarms
    3) Fluorescent Lamps Of Death
    4) Door handles that shock you at work.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 12:37 am on November 23, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AC power plugs and sockets, , , , electricity, , Greg Graff, , , Plug, Power cord, Sonic, surplus equipment, technician at a medical center   

    The Sonic Quality of My Fridge 

    I recently learned that there is such a thing as “hospital grade” electric outlets and plugs. Apparently they are slightly more robust and have stronger, springier contacts that keep power cords from unplugging. Here’s an example of a Hubbel brand 20 amp outlet (that’s why it has a T-shaped slot) and surge protection (that’s what the light is for, I guess).

    The prices range from 8 to 70 bucks per outlet. Of course audiophiles could not pass by such highly priced electrical components.

    Greg Graff writes in this Usenet post:
    “I was stunned at what a hospital grade electrical connection could do in my system. Much tighter/deeper base (which is saying something for the WATTS), larger/deeper soundstage, fuller midrange, and a sigificant increase in dimensionality. “

    That’s nice, Greg. But some are a bit more skeptical :

    “Personally, I use the hospital grade plugs on almost everything, because I used to work at a technician at a medical center and salvaged several dozen plugs off surplus equipment. I strongly recommend them if you don’t pay anything for them. I doubt they’ve improved the sonic quality of my fridge, though…”

    I wrote about audiophiles before in my article Brilliant Pebbles, Lost Marbles or The Proud Audiophile.

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