All posts by CajunTomato

I am a 29-year-old New Yorker from the bayou. I write about the city that never sleeps, live music, and other kinds of mischief.

Denying McDonald’s Temptation in NYC

My friendly neighborhood McDonald's has a PlayPlace. I would have loved this place in my prep quiz bowl glory days.

My friendly neighborhood McDonald’s has a PlayPlace. I would have loved this place in my prep quiz bowl glory days.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 56 titled “Denying McDonald’s Temptation in NYC” explores McDonald’s and temptation in the land of a 1,000 real food choices.

The eyes of adults and children alike converged on the elementary-aged girl swinging a thin stick in the room’s center. Some cheered while others snapped photos as she struck a weak, glancing blow against the pinata, a blow incapable of exposing its deepest high fructose corn syrup secrets. I resumed walking along the slick, slush-covered pavement after witnessing this McDonald’s birthday party scene through the restaurant’s window.

I never received a McDonald’s birthday party as a kid growing up along south Louisiana’s bayous. I did once witness a friend of a friend bring a candle to a McDonald’s date when we were in middle school. My high school quiz bowl team’s short bus stopped at McDonald’s en route to each successive televised trivia massacre in which we participated. Years later, I arrived at the realization eating 20 chicken nuggets and diving in a ball pit is not the best way to stimulate brain flow.

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Purity Ring Sticks to Signature, Of Montreal Goes Nuts On New Albums

Of Montreal's Aureate Gloom released this Tuesday on Polyvinyl Records.

Of Montreal’s Aureate Gloom released this Tuesday on Polyvinyl Records.

You changed. I changed. We both fell down. Think of this as my version of “London Bridges” for sad and soon-to-be single adults.

The concept of change is integral to relationships, in both how we connect with our significant other and artists we adore. Accept each other’s changes and your relationship grows. Fail to do so and the relationship will disintegrate at best, implode at worst.

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Bury My Heart in Concrete: Long-Distance Relationships in NYC

It's not all love and rainbows in NYC. It's broken wine bottles in snow too.

It’s not all love and rainbows in NYC. It’s broken wine bottles in snow too.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 55 titled “Bury My Heart in a Concrete Jungle: Long-Distance Relationships in NYC” examines how the city’s transportation logjam creates relationship hurdles.

The world has a long-distance love affair with New York City, as evidenced by the tens of millions of visitors it attracts each year. The city’s residents, meanwhile, have long-distance relationships with each other. Examine a map of the five boroughs absent of any knowledge about New York’s clogged transportation arteries and you would wonder how this is possible. Manhattan, the borough I called home the longest amount of time, stretches only 13 miles from Marble Hill to South Ferry. Almost anywhere else that is no more than a 20-minute car ride, 30 minutes at most. In Manhattan cars are often not part of the equation. The travel time quotient is extended due to several factors when you take public transportation – wait times for connecting trains and buses, additional time for walking, stalled trains and investigations, etc. If only owning a car in this city were practical. If only, if only, if only.

Long-distance relationships in NYC are almost inevitable unless you live with your partner, live on the same train line, or live in the same neighborhood. I learned this my rookie winter in the city, much to my chagrin. As for living in a different borough than your special someone my advice is to invest in an unlimited call and text plan and pray one of you finds an affordable apartment in the other’s borough. What? You think the G train is gonna save your Brooklyn/Queens relationship? The G train laughs at your relationship!

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A Different New York Stage

On the 6 train the city's homeless make their voice heard. Photo via NYTimes.com

On the 6 train the city’s homeless make their voice heard. Photo via NYTimes.com

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 54 titled “A Different New York Stage” looks at how homeless subway riders’ pleas for help raise difficult questions in the greatest city in the world.

While riding the uptown 6 train into Spanish Harlem on a nightly basis this past summer I encountered three, four, maybe five beggars in a single 25-minute train ride. These people, most often men, laid bare their circumstances with hints of shame and desperation, trudged through the car afterward seeking a dollar, spare change, or a smile, and then opened and closed the door between one car and the next, to repeat this process with a new group. This sequence happened in the minute it took for the train to trade one stop for another. Soon, a new person took my car’s moving stage, the circumstances different but no less shitty.

Feeling the need to reevaluate your station in life? Stare into the eyes of a homeless person/impromptu public speaker riding the subway. It’s humbling and horrifying, if you stop to look up from your phone. Life’s fragility, in all its unpredictable forms, comes into focus. You realize the gap between you and them is small. At least I have on many occasions.

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Ayn Rand Selfies Are The Best Selfies

Ayn Rand, ever the purveyor of selfish smiles.

Ayn Rand, ever the purveyor of selfish smiles.

Danish philosopher Kierkegaard and American mythologist Joseph Campbell share a home next to books on Lincoln, World Wars I and II and early Southern Baptist leaders on my dad’s sprawling wooden bookcase in south Louisiana. What I respect most about his eclectic collection is not that he has amassed hundreds of books on a wide variety of thought-provoking topics. What I respect most about the contents of his bookcase is he does not shy away from works that challenge his beliefs. For instance, when I moved to Portland he loaned me his copy of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian. My dad is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. I would venture to guess few ordained Southern Baptist ministers are comfortable enough in their beliefs in Christ to own, much less read and contemplate, such a book.

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My R-Rated Takeaways From Nobel Economist Stiglitz’s TPP Speech

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will fuck us. It will fuck our 11 nation partners. It will fuck their residents and small businesses, their environments and their healthcare systems. It will leave us all fucked. And for what reason? The bottom line of multinational corporations. Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

That was my abbreviated, R-rated takeaway from Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s speech Wednesday night at P.S. 69 elementary school in Jackson Heights, Queens on the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 73-year-old Columbia professor and Clinton administration veteran, of course, did not resort to vulgarities while questioning the Obama administration for supporting the “trade agreement” which could have devastating impacts for all countries involved. The plan being drafted in secret by the Asian-Pacific partner nations and 600-plus corporate lobbyists is its own obscenity, a potential stain on the global market that will not be easily removed, the economist warned.

“When you have issues of secrecy … ” Stiglitz said to the hundreds gathered inside the auditorium, “the natural question is why. What are they trying to hide?”

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Alabama Shakes: “Gimme All Your Love” (On SNL)

Alabama Shakes performed "Gimme All Your Love" off their new album, Sound & Color, on SNL this weekend.

Alabama Shakes performed “Gimme All Your Love” off their new album, Sound & Color, on SNL this weekend.

Alabama Shakes singer/guitarist Brittany Howard’s lung capacity will one day allow her to:

A) power a Mars expedition

B) summit Everest without additional oxygen

C) build a Stairway to Heaven

D) stop bullets in mid-air Matrix-style

E) breathe life into the lifeless corpse of rock’n’roll

F) all of the above

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How I Will Know I Arrived In NYC

MTV cribs, Astoria edition.

MTV cribs, Astoria edition.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 53 titled “How I Will Know I Arrived In NYC” is a tongue-in-cheek peek at adulthood and materialism in the Big Apple.

Three years ago I moved to New York City with little more than my family name and three suitcases filled with clothing not suitable for polar vortex temps and enough books to start my own Washington Heights library wing. I lived out of those suitcases for months. Eventually I purchased a flimsy, three-drawer Target plastic dresser to appease my then-girlfriend. My suitcase and plastic Target dresser days are no more, although what that means is hard to pinpoint. I’ve accumulated Earthly possessions – a flat-screen smart TV, a chair allegedly used as a prop on “30 Rock”, a mini-fridge and a framed Royal Tenenbaums poster I rescued from a storage facility – but I would hesitate to say I have “arrived” in NYC.

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How To Avoid Going Broke in NYC

Viewing a Jackson Pollack original, surprisingly, is one of the ways not to go broke in NYC.

Viewing a Jackson Pollack original, surprisingly, is one of the ways not to go broke in NYC.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 52 titled “How To Avoid Going Broke In NYC” explains how to rough it on a budget in NYC.

Months ago while “working” on my roommate’s short film one of the female production assistants inquired about my role. Producer, I replied with a grin that suggested the title suited me. When she pressed for more details I fed her legit-sounding bullshit about coordinating the project’s Kickstarter fund and even provided her a fictional web site address for myself. She hung on my words, convinced she was talking to “somebody”. When I tired of the deception and revealed I didn’t produce the short film she fled, presumably to find the real producer.

I experienced a similar situation earlier this month with a high school teacher I had not seen in over a decade. He asked me where I lived, and when I answered New York City, his heavily moisturized, wrinkle-free jaw dropped. My esteem in his eyes rose like a skyscraper. He sat up straight, devouring details of Big Apple life. Would he have done the same had I revealed I never left the bayou after high school? Of course not.

Thing is, anyone can live in NYC if they’re crazy, adventurous, and/or determined. Sure, rent is almost as high as One World Trade, people here give no fucks about courtesy and everyone thinks they will be the next big star. How does one survive then in this concrete jungle of chaos and material excess? For starters, you have to know how to avoid going broke or have a trust fund. Full disclosure: I do not have a trust fund.

Here are tips on how to avoid going broke in NYC that I have cobbled together over 2+ years living here.

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Sufjan Stevens: “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”

Sufjan Stevens's new album, Carrie and Lowell, releases March 31.

Sufjan Stevens’s new album, Carrie and Lowell, releases March 31.

A song as painful as it is beautiful, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” finds the artist best known for portraits of other places and people turning his lens inward on his own grief following his mother’s death. For longtime Sufjan Stevens fans hearing the 39-year-old Michigan-born storyteller whisper-sing the words “Fuck me, I’m falling apart”, as he describes trying and failing to use vice to fill his void, will damn near rip your heart out. No one is spared grief in this life but few capture it in song in as haunting a manner as Stevens does here with just his shaky voice, finger-picked acoustic guitar and window a/c unit.

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