Category Archives: NYC

Y’All Gingers Move That Dope, Spanish Harlem Edition

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 45 is in honor of Labor Day and answers the question of how this ginger would launder his money if he were moving dope in Spanish Harlem.

“Y’all gingers move that dope. Move that dope, move that dope, move that dope.”

In a parallel universe where redheads are crime kingpins Atlanta alleged rapper Future’s summer smash “Move That Dope” would be centered around the illegal exploits of ginger gringos putting in work in Spanish Harlem. And in this same parallel universe said ginger gringos (i.e., yours truly) would need to wash some of their money clean, in order to evade the corrupt, ginger-profiling police. Fortunately, this parallel El Barrio offers a wide variety of money laundering opportunities from potential moneymakers to well, uh, money giveaways.

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How To Grab A Cab In New York City

Boro taxis stalk me everywhere I go in Spanish Harlem.

Boro taxis stalk me everywhere I go in Spanish Harlem.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 44 is titled How To Grab A Cab In New York City.

Imagine yellow, green, and black middle fingers on four wheels, unbeholden to the laws of traffic or human decency, and you have an entry point into the world of New York City cabs. The sleep-deprived, eternally slighted conductors of these death-defying chariots of status and convenience give zero fucks about other motorists, pedestrians, or unlucky schmucks unable to hail them. Inside this orbit where no fucks are given lies a microcosm of everything that is cutthroat and unholy about this garbage-strewn metropolis.

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An Earth Day Postmortem, Spanish Harlem Style

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Today’s post No. 39 is an Earth Day Postmortem centered around my neighborhood.

It has recently come to my attention the bodega attached to my apartment building doubles as a late-night convention center where debate clubs square off. That’s code word for people looking to kick the shit out of each other for no discernible reason after buying a soda and chips. These excitable parties often contain two to four members, and they’re never the same from night to night. I am not sure how they afford it but each member seems to have voice training, based on how clear their words are to me five stories above. They use their diaphragm to label each other the n-word and/or slang for the female anatomy, describe sexual acts their opponent’s mother should perform on them, and all other manner of threats designed to make their foes “PAY ME MY DAMN MONEY!!!” What I have described is the soundtrack to my Spanish Harlem nights, every night. I count threats, not sheep, to fall asleep.

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Favorite Songs Of 2014, Way Too Early Edition

Hamilton Leithauser performs during The Walkmen's set at One Eyed Jacks on Sept. 30, 2009. Photo credit: Cajun Tomato.

Hamilton Leithauser performs during The Walkmen’s set at One Eyed Jacks on Sept. 30, 2009. Photo credit: Cajun Tomato.

Some days New York City makes me miss having a car. Not because I miss driving – god knows cabbies make my nerves bad – but because I miss singing, err shouting, in the car with my favorite music. I can’t, in good conscience, do the singing/shouting thing on the subway. I’ve noticed more and more people doing that – mostly aspiring rappers – as the city thaws from a brutal winter. If I tried to rap on the subway people would best-case scenario hand me change to stop. Either that or attempt to physically escort me out at the next stop.

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Prompts: Searching For New York City’s Best Pizza Slice

Koronet, one of the biggest, if not best, slices in NYC.

Koronet, one of the biggest, if not best, slices in NYC.

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays (whoops, today is not Friday). Today I am writing about a project I will embark on for the next three months.

A few weeks ago I re-watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II for the first time in at least 15 years. Doing so reminded me how fortunate I am that the rats congregating in my building’s garbage cans cannot talk or perform karate moves, reintroduced me to Vanilla Ice’s high water mark, and made me ask the question, Why no Rocksteady and Bebop. The movie also proved an outstanding vehicle for the wonders of New York City pizza, as consistently excellent and cost-effective a food item as one could hope to find in this overpriced metropolis.

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Angel Olsen Lights Up Le Poisson Rouge

Angel Olsen, she of the elusive smiles.

Angel Olsen, she of the elusive smiles.

Full disclosure: This concert happened Feb. 20, which is almost a month ago. I might rename this site Cajun Tomato Monthly.

I entered Angel Olsen’s sold-out Le Poisson Rouge show with two misconceptions. One, her performance’s power would hinge almost entirely on her garage girl band gone old-timey country voice. The live clips I’d seen showed her gently strumming her guitar without a backing band. Two, like a sullen mime the St. Louis born alt-folk/alt-country/alt-heartbreak artist never broke her stone-faced glare while singing. In both areas a revelation awaited.

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Prompts: Ode To My Garage Sale-Loving Mom

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays (or Wednesdays … wink, wink). Here’s a prompt detailing something my parents were right about that I didn’t realize until later.

Me, in more delusional times.

Me, in more delusional times.

One of my enduring childhood memories revolves around my mom hopping in her Ford Escort on Saturday mornings to go garage sale’n. She would highlight the upcoming sales in the local newspaper the night before then drive up and down the bayou eyeing discarded treasures for quarters on the dollar. I did not value her hobby then. I barely tolerated it. I called her prized takeaways “junk” on more than one occasion. I equated frugality and thriftiness as poor people’s concerns, distant from my fantasy world of Saturday morning cartoons. My mom laughed at my immaturity and continued her Saturday morning routine.

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Reflections On The East Harlem Explosion

NYFD sprays water on building carcass moments after explosion Wednesday morning in Spanish Harlem.

NYFD sprays water on building carcass moments after explosion Wednesday morning in Spanish Harlem.

The mysterious boom lasted two, maybe three seconds Wednesday morning then disappeared, like a jarring apparition. I had pressed the snooze button on my phone minutes before, eager for more sleep on my first day back from vacation. The massive sound stirred me to attention. I asked one of my roommates what she heard. “Sounded like thunder,” she replied. Thunder, in my experience, is a rarity in New York City. No, it sounded like an explosion, I said. For all I knew, the blast, if it was a blast, could have happened a block away or 20 blocks away. The noise came and went and the magnitude of what had just happened in East Harlem, which I will heretofore refer to as Spanish Harlem, escaped me. I checked Twitter, found a lone tweet about a boom, then posted my own missive into cyberspace, wondering, for lack of a better phrase, what the hell had just happened.

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Prompts: “The City I Most Want To Visit In 2014″

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays.

Montreal's Biosphere is among the Quebec city's Epcot Center-themed attractions.

Montreal’s Biosphere is among the Quebec city’s Epcot Center-themed attractions.

The City I Most Want To Visit In 2014 – Montreal

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2014 Governors Ball Must-See Acts

Janelle Monae doin' the tightrope at Voodoo Music Experience in 2010.

Janelle Monae doin’ the tightrope at Voodoo Music Experience in 2010.

Prior to Wednesday I considered skipping Governors Ball Music Festival this year despite three key components working in its favor – a) Outkast; b) I live within walking distance to Randall’s Island; and c) Outkast (both Andre 3000 and Big Boi are key components). Mother Nature conspired to ruin Governors Ball last year, and the memory of my boots sticking in the ground during Kanye West’s festival closing performance lingered. So did memories of lackluster food choices and poor visibility for many shows. (I’ve never attended a festival where I struggled to see the stage so often, and I am 6-foot-2 when not standing in swampy quicksand.)

Governors Ball’s lineup hints via social media in the weeks leading up the lineup release, while novel, failed to suggest how strong the final product would be. I skipped buying presale tickets Tuesday for that very reason – and in the process ended up spending $50 more. The festival’s full lineup release on Wednesday erased my skepticism and convinced me to buy tickets as soon as they went on-sale. As of this writing weekend passes are still available for Governors Ball, which runs from June 6-8.

Below are my 2014 Governors Ball Must-See Acts. My rankings are based on how much I like the performers’ music plus how many times I’ve seen live plus how much I enjoy their live show. My formula is weighted toward artists I’ve never seen before. That’s the point of going to festivals, right?

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