Wide Awake: Song of Summer

I was born the summer Nixon resigned. I know this because in my family it was always spoken of as if the two events were somehow related. My ex-hippie mother used to say, “Thatbastard Nixon” (he was always Thatbastard in our house, never Richard)… “Thatbastard Nixon got what was coming to him. And we got you.”

I always took a kind of pride in this. Not so much because I thought he resigned because of me, but because we were both the results of one long, hot summer when everything changed.

For Nixon, the summer of 1974 was an ending. For me, a beginning.

It was a heady time for music, a summer when new genres were just taking form and competing for national attention. In the cities, disco was rearing its head for the first time, at the same moment the Ramones were making their CBGB debut. Outside the cities, “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Annie’s Song” by John Denver dominated jukeboxes and car radios.

Classic rock, folk, disco, and punk were all facing endings and beginnings that summer.

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Ironically, the song that dominated the pop charts that year was the treacly Barbra Streisand ballad “The Way We Were.” No matter your opinions on Streisand, the song was huge and the movie of the same name — a love story about a Marxist Jew (Streisand) and her WASP-y writer boyfriend-then-husband (Robert Redford) attempting to find love in the face of idealism, betrayal, and McCarthyism — inspired one perfect line that applies as much to the summer of 2018 as to the summer of 1974, as we once again find ourselves caught in the brouhaha of presidential scandal:

Streisand: Wouldn’t it be lovely if we were old? We’d have survived all this. Everything would be easy and uncomplicated, the way it was when we were young.

Redford: Katie, it was never uncomplicated.

I like to imagine those words reverberating quietly behind the public longing for simpler times, an echo of past sins mocking the idea that a once-slave-owning country longs to be “Great Again.” It’s just the kind of willful ignorance at which America excels.

The song that was everywhere in the summer of 1989 had no such rheumy-eyed notions of the past. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy was as angry, sweaty, and claustrophobic as the Spike Lee movie (Do the Right Thing) that made it famous.

I had just finished ninth grade at Westchester High School in Los Angeles, where I would hide out in my Morrissey T-shirts and twelve-hole Docs in hallways dominated by Bobby Brown (“My Prerogative”), De La Soul (“Me Myself and I”), and the few white kids belting out “Love Shack” by the B-52’s.

“Fight the Power” was a revelation, a glimpse into something forceful. With one righteously pissed-off line after another, the song inspired phrases that survive to this day in the modern lexicon of resistance. To wit: “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.”

The heroes in question — Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver — found themselves brought by the song into the American mainstream 25 years after their heyday. Tragically, that same summer, Huey Newton was gunned down in cold blood, a victim of a drug crime as much as the white racism he spent a lifetime fighting. 

This was also the summer of the Bensonhurst riots in which Yusef Hawkins, a sixteen-year-old African-American boy was killed by a white mob because the mob (mistakenly) believed he was dating a local white girl. (The Public Enemy song “Welcome to the Terrordome” includes a dedication to Hawkins.) The race riot came just two months after the release of Do the Right Thing, which itself featured a race riot in Brooklyn in response to the killing of an innocent black man. 

So here’s Chuck D and Flava Flav broadcast into the bedrooms of the American suburb (in a video directed by Spike Lee), angrily pointing out the history of “nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check,” as the white kids raised their skinny white fists, timidly placing a toe into the raging waters of American racial anger while quoting Spike Lee’s powerful lines: “Hey, Sal, how come you got no brothers up on the wall here?”

It was a long, hot summer when everything changed. It was never uncomplicated.

In fact, had social media existed in the summer of 1989, there no doubt would have been a series of righteous hashtags (#myheroesdontappearonnostamps) followed by an inevitable backlash (#Elviswasntracist) followed by the backlash to the backlash (#FuckJohnWayne), in which we would organize ourselves into the neat camps of allies and adversaries that are the trademark of modern political discourse. 

When I posed this question to my Twitter feed, with just these ideas in mind: “What is the all-time best Song of the Summer?” I was surprised to find an inclination toward, well, sunnier songs.

People tended to view the question in one of three ways: Any song that has the word “summer” in the title; a song that dominated the charts and airplay for a summer; or a song that simply evokes the feeling of summer.

“Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was the most popular answer, and it was probably because it checked all three boxes. As one commenter put it, the song puts the listener mentally and emotionally into “a perfect summer day.”

Other songs that fulfilled all three requirements: “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone and “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. These songs share the idea of summertime as holiday — both literal and figurative — from the existential grind of the fall and winter.

“Cruel Summer,” the 1984 hit from the all-woman pop band Bananarama, was a popular choice, an angsty take on heartache amid the heat of summer. (For my money, the summer of 1984 belongs to “When Doves Cry” by Prince, when His Purpleness blessed us with the best bathtub vocal performance until “Stay” by Rihanna).

“Smooth” by Santana/Rob Thomas and “Summertime” by Janis Joplin seem to share a spiritual connection to “Fight the Power,” a kind of slinky, sweaty feeling about summer that eschews the explosiveness of explicit politics but embraces the anxiety of heat in close quarters.

It’s hard to talk about these songs outside the events, both personal and political, which surrounded them. There’s a necessary nostalgia to such things. Where were you when you first heard “Brown-Eyed Girl”? And who was the brown-eyed girl that loved you for loving it? Were you dancing at your cousin’s wedding to “Crazy in Love?” in the summer of 2003? Do you remember your date? The smell of the spilled champagne on your tux, the mud you noticed on the heel of your shoe from dancing in the grass because your brown-eyed girl was too shy to go to the dance floor?

Were you belting out “Free Fallin’” in the front seat of your best friend’s tattered old Plymouth as you made your way to another lazy summer day at the beach, the park, the river, the lake, the shore, the parking lot of the Dairy Queen one shoeless summer before Everything Changed?

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I like to think of the talk I would have with my past self if I could. I like to imagine just what I’d tell me about the future. “It’s totally different than you think it’s going to be. You turn out all right, man. But you don’t get jetpacks, and there are no flying cars.”

Instead we get this. We get social media and computer screens. We get a worldwide metaphor in which we pose these questions to each other, the ones we, as humans, really care about: Who am I and Who are you and What do I like and What do you like and Do you like me and Do I like you and Are we on the same team? Like the beak of a hummingbird, our adaptation to the world is this networked computer metaphor in which we’ve all agreed to participate, an extension of our freakish brains that we use to pose and solve the social questions we really care about.

So instead of flying cars, we got social media. Instead of jetpacks, streaming pornography. How disappointing.

But maybe there is hope in this because at least, perhaps finally, we see ourselves clearly for the cloying, needy, angry, imperfect things we are. Nixon resigned. He resigned because he broke the law and got caught and still people forgot, choosing instead to wrap themselves in American flags, to long for an American innocence that never existed. And despite the utter morass of immorality, the racist, thieving, lying shitshow that is the long, hot summer of 2018 — the disappointment with American promise, with American discourse, with American tribalism, with America — the effect of all this daily conflict is that we no longer have to carry the burden of a past innocence betrayed.

Perhaps this is why the song that best defines this particular fucked-up summer — the one we’ll remember forty years from now — is likely the viral phenomenon “This Is America” by Childish Gambino, which is as violent, tragic, contradictory, and angry as the country at which it takes aim.

Maybe it’s the summer we finally realize it was never uncomplicated. We were just young.


“Wide Awake” is a new column from Mikel Jollett, who you should be following on Twitter.


How to Survive Midsummer in New York

In the summer in New York, everything is covered in airborne grit; it’s not anything so clean and fine as dust, and not quite ash, just ambient black specks pirouetting through the air in a kind of Brownian motion toward any uncovered surface. Every arm and thigh in the city is slick with sweat: When the air isn’t still and glassed-in like a hot bell jar, it’s buffeted by moist, swollen zephyrs. It takes a thunderstorm to wring all that humidity out of the air, let the crust of grime wash from buildings down to the street, where by noon it will dry out enough to flake to bits, and be cast forth on the wet hot wind.

Everyone with enough money deserts the city for weeks at a time. Select portions of Upper Manhattan look not dissimilar to an evangelical church after the Rapture: Behind the high windows is an enormous absence. Those left behind are free to envision orthodontically perfect grins and bronzed limbs sprawled out by the sea, while we gasp for air.

By August, it’s the proles and tourists that control the sidewalks. The entire psychiatric profession hits pause. The air gets thick as caramel; the sun a disc of violent light; the thunder starts long before the rain arrives, if it ever does. The bodega line grows to conga length, and everybody’s buying ice. It gets hard to eat.

There are days when it’s so hot outside — or the A/C is on the fritz or just dripping feebly — that the whole damp fabric of the heat hovers like a chloroformed rag around my face. On days like this, my throat feels pinched and arid. It begrudgingly accepts cold water and cold coffee and little else.

Running on cigarettes and stimulants, I get shaky. My brain feeds on itself and excretes neuroses. Bad memories waft up in brackish gusts — loves lost and friendships ended, searing fumes of shame and regret. It’s too hot to become a madwoman in an attic — heat rises — but it’s also too hot to control my nerves and my anger, my fear of the future and rumination on the past.

All this is my betrayal of an essentially American doctrine of resilience. In this country, we are supposed to turn suffering into motivation; the will to work ought to stay intact no matter the time of year. The flow of capital never ceases, and neither should you. In New York, city of wealth and capitol of capital, the doctrine of work reigns in the congested streets from the north Bronx down to Brooklyn, condenses in the air and runs down our clenched jaws in salty drops. The pursuit of success — in work, in love, in investments — should never stop or sleep; neither should you, even if, in the heat, all you want to do is halt your bloom.

On days like this, I have precisely one solution to get out of this crucible of inner bile. It’s not medicine or moderate exercise or even HVAC repair. It’s not Superman’s icy Fortress of Solitude, or a ticket to the tropics. In fact it will cost less than ten dollars and only a few blocks’ worth of fortitude. It will require a blender, a few tomatoes, a piece of old bread, a little oil and vinegar and salt. It will require someone to feed, even if that someone is only hungry, baking, trembling little you.

There’s a quiet alchemy to cooking — a stillness of the mind brought on by rhythmic actions of the hands. There’s a congruity of mental and physical effort that’s rare in my life, so driven by a restless and self-cannibalizing mind, that I come to crave it. I enjoy cooking more than I enjoy eating; when drunk or anxious or sad, I cook too much, more than I can eat, and scramble to find hungry friends. Peeling garlic — slipping the pale cloves out one by one, prying the skins loose with my thumbnail – is a small act; peeling a head of garlic, mincing it, letting it foam aromatically in sizzling butter, is a little reclamation.

I got divorced a few years ago and fell apart spectacularly. I cried in public so often I learned the etiquette of crying in public — minimize noise, carry tissues, mutely shake your head if ever offered help. (New York City is a wonderful city in which to cry in public, as no one wants to offer any help.) A month ago I left a very good job in less-than-ideal circumstances, and I found out the muscle memory of grief was intact in me. Each circumstance represented my life diverting from a path that was easy to explain, appealing on paper; if not authentically ennobling, or enough to make me happy, being married and working at an institution with an excellent reputation were circumstances I could point to as external evidence of my worth.

In the aftermath of each I had to learn — slower than I’d hoped — how to rebuild myself piecemeal. Absent a husband, I had to muster friends who didn’t mind my ghostly presence on their couches, as I struggled not to disappear into my own grief. Absent the good job, I found out who cared about me only because of the job, or who would let the taint of scandal drive them away.

Each time, I learned to let fragments of me die and turned to nourish other parts. When the clamor in my head overcame me, I let my hands work at the cutting board, in the slow, sawing rhythm of return.

In the full and ghastly heat of summer, or in the grip of powerful emotion, it can be too much to ask of yourself to stand in front of a stove. Enter the cold soup — friend of the weary and the scorched. I have built a repertoire over the years — gazpacho foremost, but also other exemplars of the genre: Russian yogurt-and-radish soup, Hungarian sour-cherry soup, French vichyssoise topped with a fan of chives. Each asks so little of you and gives so much. There are few things on this Earth that can quench your thirst and fill your belly and soothe your restless heart at once.

In each crisis of mine in recent years, there was one friend who distinguished herself — who visited me in my mouse-infested first post-divorce apartment; who gathered my things and helped me move away from it; who slept in my bed when I couldn’t stop shaking, and watched marathons of sleazy true-crime shows with me. In Russian, one term for a perennial companion is a sobutilnik — “a friend who will share a bottle with you.” My own spin on this excellent word would be someone willing to make soup with you; to chop and blend and pour into the bowl. My best friend’s avid delight at the punch of garlic in the mix is better than rubies. There is little better than someone who understands that what you offer, when you offer a perfect soup, is all your love.

I first tasted Andalusian gazpacho in Spain with my mother; I made it for the first time with the man who would become my husband. It differs from most gazpachos I have encountered in America in that it is thick and smooth, a soup, not a salsa in a glass. The key is a heel of stale bread, which, when combined with olive oil, binds the broth, thick and cool and pale. When my husband left me I waited a year and made it again. Now I have made it for my mother, for friends, and even for myself, the first to receive my ire, the last to receive my gifts.

In the dog days of summer, when the grass dries pasta-pale, wildfires fill the news, and the skies portend collapse, find yourself a soup companion, and make gazpacho. Make too much — ideally, enough to fill the biggest container you have. Like resilience, you have to make it yourself; like healing, it will look a little different each time. Like forgiving yourself, it will brace you, make you stand upright again, cease the tremor in your hands. With each cold sour spoonful I restore myself, dilute the bile in my mind and my heart, return. Vinegar and oil and bread, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, whirred and poured into a jar and sealed for tomorrow, and eaten at midnight anyway. One trip to the grocery store is all it takes me to remember that — even wending my way circuitously in a world of straight lines — I am moving forward, that there is cool and comfort to be had in this ashen city I love.

Andalusian-Style Gazpacho
Serves 2 to 4

1 pound vine tomatoes (don’t use beefsteak tomatoes, please)
2 medium-size cucumbers
1 fresh green bell pepper
1 small red onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 chunk stale bread, ideally French or Italian
A few generous glugs of olive oil (about a cup)
Two generous pours (about 2 tablespoons) of red wine or sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the bread in water for five or ten minutes, then squeeze it out with your fist till it’s a soggy solid.

2. Chop up all the vegetables and the garlic. De-seed the cucumbers and tomatoes unless you like tomato seeds getting stuck in your teeth.

3. Put all of the above in your blender or food processor.

4. Add the liquid ingredients and spices.

5. Pulse until it turns a pale red, reminiscent of vodka sauce.

6. Chill till it feels cold to your finger.

7. Eat when it’s too hot to eat anything else.

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How to Get the Best Out of (and Survive the Worst of) City Pools

It’s hot. Really, really hot. If you’re like me and don’t have air-conditioning, at times like these the nearest places you can go in New York City to escape the sweltering heat are our beautiful outdoor public pools, which thankfully opened for the summer season at the end of last month, and will remain open 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. (with a one-hour break for pool cleaning at 3) through Sunday, September 9.

I’m an avid swimmer. As a resident of Bay Ridge, the two pools I dip into most frequently are in Sunset Park and Red Hook –  spacious, beautiful pools nestled in the middle of public parks. These are among the eleven facilities opened in 1936 under the purview of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration — as the city Parks Department explains on its website, the WPA pools “were among the most remarkable public recreational facilities in the country, representing the forefront of design and technology in advanced filtration and chlorination systems. The influence of the pools extended throughout entire communities, attracting aspiring athletes and neighborhood children, and changing the way millions of New Yorkers spent their leisure time.”

Ah, how things have changed. For readers who want to venture out to their neighborhood chlorinated oasis, it’s useful to remember this: Rec pools are the seasonal equivalent of the subway system. They are social equalizers, serving a broad cross-section of city residents. At their best — when the weather is hot and the water is cold and not too packed — the pools exemplify the power of public works to bring joy and well-being to the lives of New Yorkers.  At their worst — when it all gets shut down because someone pooped in the pool, or you have to slosh through an inch of water in the changing room to get to your locker — the pools are a mournful reminder of the city’s crumbling and underfunded infrastructure.

Still want to go for a dip? Find your nearest public pool here, and then consult this brief guide to navigating the pools:

1) There are rules. Lots and lots of rules.

  • You’re required to bring a lock, and will likely be asked to show it — along with your swimwear — in order to access the changing room.
  • Swimmers are prohibited from bringing a range of items onto the pool deck, including newspapers, phones and cameras, sneakers, glass bottles, and “workout gear.” (Water bottles, books, towels, and sunglasses are supposed to be okay, though once I was prevented from taking my Klean Kanteen out to lap swim.) Employees are posted at the threshold between the changing rooms and the pool, tasked with ensuring you’re not carrying a prohibited item onto the deck.

2) Swimmers, like subway riders, are sometimes subject to surveillance and invasive scrutiny.

  • Your bag may be searched upon entry, so keep that in mind.
  • There will sometimes be police officers present at the pool, both on the deck and driving around outside.
  • You’re required to have swimwear in order to access the pool, a rule that staff seem to interpret in very conservative terms: People perceived as men are expected to wear swim trunks, while people perceived as women are expected to wear a one-piece bathing suit or a bikini. Trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people who fashion their own swimwear might encounter resistance from staff. (Especially if the staff consider the clothing to be “workout gear.”) I imagine people who opt for modest swimwear may encounter similar issues.
  • You are permitted to wear a white T-shirt or tank-top into the pool, as well as a white hat.

3) Don’t expect the changing rooms to be clean or luxurious.

  • Lots and lots of children and families come to the pools daily. And the facilities are a bit decrepit. So if you’re especially squeamish about cleanliness, the public pools probably aren’t for you.
  • Flip-flops are advisable if you want to avoid going barefoot across wet locker room floors.
  • Yes, they really do sometimes shut down the pools when children have accidents.
  • There are few private changing areas.

4) If you want to participate in lap swimming, do brush up on the appropriate etiquette.

  • The larger public pools offer specific lap swimming times twice a day: from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and from 7 p.m. to dusk. You’ll need to register online or in person to participate. There’s a citywide competition for the top three male and female distance swimmers, so keep track of your laps if you want to participate. You can find out which pools host lap swimming here. (These pools generally offer lap swimming at other times of day as well, but your laps during these time periods don’t count.)
  • If you aren’t familiar with the lap swimming rules at your particular pool, try checking in with the nearest lifeguard before you get in, including by asking whether people are sharing lanes or just swimming up and down in their own zone.
  • If you end up sharing a lane with other swimmers, take notice of whether they are faster or slower than you. If they are faster, do your best not to hinder their workout: If they’re coming up behind you as you approach the wall, hang back and let them push off first. Keep in mind these swimmers may also pass you mid-lap.
  • If you’re the faster swimmer, don’t be a jerk. Pass safely and be nice. It’s summer, after all!

5) Embrace the beautiful vibrancy of New York City.

  • Roll with the punches. Like on the subway, at the pool there are sometimes announcements you can’t quite understand.
  • Appreciate the crowds. You’ll be surrounded by kids, families, couples, and groups of friends — and almost everyone is having a great time.
  • Remember that this is an amazing and 100 percent free amenity. The city pools aren’t perfect, but they’re still great, and there is no better way to escape the heat.

Here’s All the TV Not to Miss This Hot, Dumb August

It’s August, which means it’s even hotter than July and you need TV now more than ever! The planet is hot, but you watching TV in your underwear with a fan pointed directly at your swimsuit parts is even hotter! Have at it!

Manhunt: Unabomber (Discovery), Aug. 1
Essentially, this is American Crime Story: Unabomber. It’s an eight-episode scripted series about the manhunt to find Ted Kaczynski and will probably be interesting, if only to see Jane Lynch play Janet Reno. Apparently she’s very good! That Jane Lynch! Who’da thunk that Best in Show’s poodle-loving lunatic would one day play a former attorney general?! (Everyone raises their hands.)

The Sinner (USA), Aug. 2
Jessica Biel stars as a Pretty White Mom who snaps and stabs a stranger in the neck when she’s on a beach vacay with her husband and young son. The detective on the case, While You Were Sleeping’s own Bill Pullman, is tasked with figuring out what makes this Pretty White Mom tick, and since she’s a Pretty White Mom, an entire series gets devoted to it. (Also, who wants to bet that she’s actually a Good Person and that the man she killed totally had it coming for some reason probably pertaining to sexual assault. My bet is that it’s an episode of SVU dragged out into a series, which doesn’t sound half bad now that I type it out.)

The Guest Book (TBS), Aug. 3
I have very little clue what this show is about because the trailers are so cryptic, but my best guess is that it’s a big dumb comedy series about a (non-creepy) cabin in the woods where weirdo guests (played by a slew of celebs) have ~wacky~ adventures. And I think each episode might be an independent tale, the only thread being the cabin and perhaps a few locals from the town? That said, I like the looks of it, because dumb funny stuff is great, and the cast is tops: Margo Martindale, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jenna Fischer, Danny Pudi, Kate Micucci, Lauren Lapkus, Michaela Watkins, Jaime Pressly, and Stockard Channing. If that list doesn’t make you tingle all over, then you’re probably a corpse who can read and I’m sorry you’re dead that sucks unless heaven is for real and then I can’t wait.

What Would Diplo Do? (Viceland), Aug. 3
It’s the first scripted comedy series from Viceland and it stars James Van Der Beek as a fictionalized version of Diplo. You’re either incredibly turned on or you already burned your house to the ground. Both are correct responses.

Atypical’s Brigette Lundy Paine and Graham Rogers

Swedish Dicks (Pop), Aug. 9
It’s a comedy series about a former stuntman and a Swedish DJ who team up to launch a detective agency. Hmm. I like that Margaret Cho and Keanu Reeves are in it, so that’s good. I don’t know. I am just kinda done with white men starring in things, you know? You had a nice run — time to retire to pasture. I’ll bring you some oats and misogyny to chew on while you’re out there. You’re gonna love it!

Atypical (Netflix), Aug. 11
Jennifer Jason Leigh is the mom of an autistic teenager in this comedy from two producers of The Goldbergs. It looks like a “comedy” in the vein of, like, Casual? Like, it’s a bunch of people talking at each other and maybe there will be a character-based joke every three minutes. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my comedies with laughs! So sue me! (Disclaimer: It might be great and I’m just a dumb ham sandwich who doesn’t understand anything.)

Marvel’s The Defenders (Netflix), Aug. 18
All your favorite Marvel/Netflix superheroes (Jessica Jones and Luke Cage) and also the other ones are forced to get together to battle a new supervillain, and it feels like we’re all just going through the motions at this point. Considering how much certain shows flopped, I don’t see the point in dragging those characters back for a family reunion that nobody particularly wants to go to and doesn’t even have matching T-shirts! I wish Netflix had instead spent the money on buying me a bunch of sandwiches, because that feels just as necessary as this series, but also more delicious.

Disjointed (Netflix), Aug. 25
Kathy Bates stars as the owner of an L.A. cannabis dispensary in this new comedy from former Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum and Chuck Lorre, the creator of every popular TV show ever (true whether you like it or not!). I’m all in. I mean, it’s Kathy Bates and marijuana. I’m pretty sure that’s what God herself masturbates to.

The Tick (Amazon), Aug. 25
How many The Tick shows have there been? Like, fifty? Anyway, here’s another one, starring Guardians of the Galaxy’s Peter Serafinowicz as the giant blue-suited idiot hero and Griffin Newman as his beleaguered brainiac sidekick, Arthur. It will probably be good dumb fun and we could all use a little of that after a stressful day of calling our reps and begging them not to kill us. Maybe the Tick and Arthur can tackle Single Payer next?

Not Without Us (PBS World), Aug. 29
Climate change. It’s happening, we’re all fucked, and the only way to slightly maybe unfuck ourselves is thinking and talking about it constantly. To that end, this documentary follows frontline activists as they fight to make us all give a damn, as well as face the fact that even things like the 2015 Paris climate agreement, that symbol of progress, don’t do nearly enough to mitigate and reverse damage. Of course, it feels a bit quaint to be discussing the flaws of the accord when Melania’s husband has withdrawn from it and is hell-bent on sending this planet to the shitter just because Obama hurt his wittle feewings once. Anyway! Not Without Us is also available to view on other channels before August 29, so check your local listings!

Arkansas Traveler (YouTube, Vimeo), available now
An indie Western web series from Deadwood’s Sean Bridgers, this Civil War-era tale stars the ever-wonderful Garret Dillahunt and Angela Bettis alongside Bridgers, and it’s got tons of gun slinging and whiskey drinking, as you might expect from a production with serious Deadwood roots. I have a feeling this will appeal to fans of the departed HBO series and it’s flying a bit under the radar, so consider this a PSA to watch it ASAP.

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Rockaway Beach Surfers Take Avantage of a Late Summer Morning

While NYC is not commonly thought of as a surf destination, Rockaway beach is only a 45-minute ‘A’ train ride from the city. An variety of board rental and lesson services can be found at Beach 66 and Beach 91, the areas where surfing and body boards are permitted. Photographer, and newbie surf enthusiast Jena Cumbo went out Labor Day weekend to capture scenes and surfers at Beach 91. With temperatures remaining in the 90s, there’s still time to head out and get in one more beach day.

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New Yorkers Re-Create Famous Times Square Kiss on Its 70th Anniversary

It’s a well-known story that the Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of that famous kiss in Times Square — first published inside LIFE magazine in 1945 — between then 22 year-old sailor George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer, 20, was a chance encounter. Mendonsa kissed Zimmer, who had walked over to Times Square from her office when she heard the news that World War II was over. He thought she was a nurse so he planted one on her. She was really a dental assistant. They were not a reunited couple, but strangers. What’s more, Mendonsa was actually on a date with a girl who’d later become his wife, reported the New York Post in this 2012 story. Seventy years to the day, couples from all over convened on Times Square to recreate that famous photo, as they every five years.


NYC Dealing With ‘Worst Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak in Its History,’ Says Health Chief

Update: 12:36 p.m., August 7, 2015:
The total number of people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ has risen to 101. Ninety-four of them have been hospitalized, and 65 have been treated and discharged. 

“New York City is experiencing the worst outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in its history, with more than 100 people diagnosed in the South Bronx,” Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said today.

“We now see the frequency of diagnoses decreasing, as well as the number of emergency department visits for pneumonia in the South Bronx. We have fewer new cases; people are seeking care promptly and getting treatment promptly. We’re optimistic that we’ve seen the worst of this outbreak, and that our remediation efforts are having an impact. I thank the people of the Bronx for hearing the message and getting it out to their neighbors, friends, and family. However, we must all remain vigilant. The health department will continue to monitor for new cases and check that building owners are continuing remediation efforts. Residents of the Bronx: It’s critical that if you do develop pneumonia-like symptoms, you seek care right away.”

* * * 

Update: 5:55 p.m., August 6, 2015:
Tonight Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Legionnaires’ death toll has risen to ten people. The total number of people who have contracted has hit a hundred. De Blasio said the city has ordered the managers of all buildings with the large cooling towers that can harbor Legionella bacteria to disinfect them by August 19. “We are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” de Blasio said. Fifty-three people have been discharged after treatment.

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Update: 7:33 p.m., August 5, 2015:
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports tonight that eight people have now died from the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the South Bronx. The number of people who have contracted Legionnaires’ from this cluster now comes to 97. Ninety-two of them have been hospitalized and 48 have been treated and released. Every site tested must submit a “long-term plan” as to how it will guard against the growth of Legionella bacteria.

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Original story: 7:11 p.m., August 3, 2015:
Seven people have now died of Legionnaires’ disease in New York, clustered in the South Bronx, up three people from the announced weekend total.

The mayor’s office noted that the three additional people were “older adults and had additional underlying medical problems,” and that “these additional deaths occurred in prior days and were reported to the health department [Sunday].

“These patients are connected to the current cluster.”

So far, 81 people are reported to have contracted Legionnaires’, and of that number, 64 have been hospitalized. Twenty-eight of those people have been treated and discharged.

The mayor’s office assures us that “New York City’s drinking water supply and other water features, like fountains, showerheads, and pools, are safe” and “unaffected by legionella.”

The first cases were reported last week, and Mary Bassett, commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, described the symptoms on July 29 as “the ones that we see in pneumonia: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, headache, muscle pains — you can even have chills. These are symptoms that people should seek care for, especially if they are living in the South Bronx. Well, you should seek care for those kind of symptoms any time.”

Seventeen cooling towers — which can contain water contaminated with the Legionella pneumophila bacterium — were tested; five have returned positive. “Remediation” has been completed at those five locations:

• Lincoln Hospital (234 E. 149th St.)
• Concourse Plaza (214 E. 161st St.)
• Opera House Hotel (436 E. 149th St.)
• Verizon office building (117 E. 167th St.)
• Streamline Plastic Company (2590 Park Ave.)

Most cases have been reported in the South Bronx neighborhoods of Highbridge-Morrisania and Hunts Point–Mott Haven. 

The mayor’s office on Monday announced that by Friday, “all sites will submit long-term plans as to how they will maintain the cooling towers to protect against any future growth of legionella.”

There were 301 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease in 2013 and 225 in 2014.

It’s been a little over 39 years since the disease broke out during an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in July 1976.

The bacterium Legionella pneumophila can be found in water in large central air-conditioning systems in office buildings, hotels, hospitals, or any other large building. In that first documented outbreak in ’76, of the 182 people infected, 29 died.


Sanitation Sergeant Frank Musella Dies on the Job on Staten Island

City flags were ordered to half-mast on Thursday after the death of Sanitation Enforcement Sergeant Frank Musella.

According to the Department of Sanitation, the nine-year veteran was on duty on Staten Island on Wednesday when he “mentioned” the heat — which climbed as high as 96 degrees — to a colleague. Musella, 37, then went to his car, according to the NYDS, and was found unresponsive shortly thereafter. He was pronounced dead at Staten Island University Hospital South. The department says it does not yet know the cause of death, or whether the incident was related to the heat, according to spokeswoman Belinda Mager.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office released a statement Wednesday night offering its condolences. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of New York’s Strongest,” the office said in a press release, “who died while in service of our city. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sergeant Musella’s family….New York City stands ready to support them all in this tragic time of need.”

Musella leaves behind a wife, Alessandra, and two sons: Frank Jr., eight, and Anthony, four.

Alessandra Musella has posted a heartbreaking message on Facebook that reads, in part:

How will life ever be happy again! 17years together and never have we been apart for more then a Day! How do I tell thr boys Daddy won’t be home, EVER…He won’t be here to pull teeth, give piggy back rides, clean boo boos, hug you, play nerf with you! He lived to make US happy! No matter what it took!


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Jon Campbell is a staff writer for the Voice, covering criminal justice, legal issues, and the occasional mutant park squirrel.


‘It’s Disgusting’: Here’s How New Yorkers Are Keeping Cool This Summer

The heat wave that hit the city this week forced New Yorkers to either find new ways to stay cool or sweat it out.

From Battery Park to Times Square, some headed for the city’s public swimming pools on Monday — when the temperature was in the low nineties — while others weren’t willing to stop wearing black because of a little humidity:

“I think it’s actually kind of disgusting when you sweat through white,” said a woman reading a book in Union Square. Meanwhile, another man warned us that there are only sixteen weeks until we’ll be worrying about snow.

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The Ten Best Ice Cream Shops in NYC, 2015 Edition

National Ice Cream Day is this Sunday, July 19, and although we prefer not to schedule our cravings around food holidays, ice cream is an exception — it always makes people happy, regardless of the season. But of course, summer is a scoop-shop’s time to shine. Our favorite NYC ice cream makers ply their trade using time-tested family recipes and push the icy treat’s boundaries with ambitious flavors and toppings. Whether you’re looking for gonzo ingredient combinations, sassy, saucy sundaes, and banana splits, or just a scoop of plain vanilla, it’s a great time not to be lactose-intolerant. The city that never sleeps has become the city that can’t stop churning out mind-boggling frozen desserts. Here’s where to find the best:

Banana royale
Banana royale

10. Eddie’s Sweet Shop (105-29 Metropolitan Avenue, Queens; 718-520-8514)
This Forest Hills soda fountain has been pumping out fanciful sundaes, malts, and egg creams for over 100 years. A favorite of marijuana- and food-loving rapper and Queens native Action Bronson, everything — from the ice creams to the marshmallow sauce — is made by hand. With its tin ceilings and antique décor, you might expect the menu to run a bit vanilla, but owner Vito Citrano satisfies fogies and foodies alike with limited-run flavors like pistachio-pineapple.

9. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (1 Water Street, Brooklyn; 718-246-3963)
Housed in a landmark building on the Fulton Ferry Landing pier, Mark Thompson’s modest creamery impresses with both its pointed, straightforward eggless ice creams and atmospheric views of the East River under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. The menu maxes out at eight flavors, the wildest of which is peaches and cream. Vanilla chocolate chunk is a personal favorite, with a profusion of dark, irregular chips. The Factory’s location makes it a must before or after downing pies at Grimaldi’s or its kindred frenemy pizzeria, Juliana’s.

Banana bread ice cream
Banana bread ice cream

8. Mikey Likes It Ice Cream (199 Avenue A; 212-470-0426)
Michael Cole launched his C.R.E.A.M.-y dreams on the back of a marijuana conviction, via a nonprofit organization that schools ex-convicts on entrepreneurship. His East Village scoop shop combines bygone-era charm (think all-white soda jerk uniforms and an ice cream recipe from his dearly departed aunt), whimsical flavors that reference pop culture, and a special humanitarian bent: A percentage of profits is donated to school programs that benefit underprivileged youths in NYC. In addition to standards like Kissing Cousins (crunchy peanut butter with banana) and a rich strawberry ice cream studded with balsamic-macerated berries, Mikey pulls inspiration from everywhere, with flavor combinations like the Sky’s the Limit, which pairs milk chocolate ice cream with butter crunch cookies in honor of Biggie, and a cognac-infused ice cream that was scooped up by New York’s W hotels for their room service.

Ice cream flight
Ice cream flight

7. Ample Hills Creamery (623 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-240-3926)
Brian Smith’s ice cream was so popular when he first opened this place that the former sci-fi writer was forced to expand his production after just four days in business. The Prospect Heights shop is still plenty busy churning out countless seasonal flavors every year, and Smith’s spread the dairy love to other Brooklyn neighborhoods, including a standalone shop at the southern edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Flavors change daily thanks to the high turnover, but we love the salted crack caramel and the “munchies,” which takes pretzel-infused ice cream and mixes it with potato chips, pretzels, Ritz crackers, and mini M&M’s. Their packed pints are also Oprah-approved, so do as the media mogul does and have your staff spoon-feed you.

Strawberry shortcake sundae
Strawberry shortcake sundae

6. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain (513 Henry Street, Brooklyn; 718-522-6260)
Have yourself a retro-chic time at this restored faux-vintage Carroll Gardens apothecary where malts and egg creams are doled out by hipster soda jerks who look and play the part. The menu changes seasonally and includes everything from pumpkin to banana chocolate chip, and even though the place froths up a solid egg cream, the thing to get here is a sundae. Choose from eleven combinations, including the Mr. Potato Head, with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, and potato chips, and the cookie monster, which finds mint chocolate chip topped with hot fudge, chocolate chip cookie crumbles, whipped cream, and blue sprinkles.

Corn ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon
Corn ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon

5. Cones (272 Bleecker Street; 212-414-1795)
The handmade Argentine-style ice cream served from this barebones West Village shop has a pronounced buoyancy that’s similar to its Italian relative, gelato. There are some true gems among the nearly 25 different flavors, including dulce de leche and yerba mate, plus stunt flavors like sweet potato with brie cheese and one that mixes Johnny Walker Black whiskey with kumquats. And although it’s no longer all that rare among the city’s finer ice cream operations, Cones’ best offering may be its sweet corn ice cream, chock-full of kernels and dusted with cinnamon.

Absinthe chocolate chip
Absinthe chocolate chip

4. OddFellows Ice Cream Company (175 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-599-0556)
Scoopable neo-nostalgia here comes from pastry whiz Sam Mason, who left his post at wd~50 and subsequently opened a progressive restaurant, a Brooklyn bar, and an artisanal mayonnaise company before setting his sights on ice cream. Mason is a sweet-and-savory master, and it’s no surprise that the parlor’s cold cases are filled with tubs of manchego-pineapple-thyme ice cream and strawberry-tomato sorbet. Mason also gets whimsical with the sundaes, tossing cornbread with blueberries and an intense composition that uses local favorite Mast Brothers chocolate six different ways.

American Beauty
American Beauty

3. Ice & Vice (221 East Broadway; 646-678-3687)
After two years on the NYC market circuit, owners Paul Kim and Ken Lo opened their first brick-and-mortar shop this summer, flooding the already saturated Lower East Side ice cream contingent with bonkers flavor combinations like crème fraîche swirled with rose petal jam and smoked chocolate with caramelized white chocolate ganache. The shop’s dressed in sleek black-and-white tile, which makes their colorful ice cream visually pop. Speaking of which, we’d far prefer Ice & Vice’s Movie Night over a bag of stale kernels at the multiplex — the inspired batch mixes buttered-popcorn ice cream with toasted raisins and dark chocolate.

Pi Day scoop: Peanut butter ice cream with raspberry jam, pie crust chunks, and chocolate
Pi Day scoop: Peanut butter ice cream with raspberry jam, pie crust chunks, and chocolate

2. Davey’s Ice Cream (137 First Avenue; 212-228-8032)
Owner David Yoo is the man behind the frosty magic at this East Village shop outfitted with a colorful, beckoning sign that’s a nod to its creator’s former life as a graphic designer. Yoo makes his ice cream from raw ingredients, and each batch requires a four-day-long production schedule. There’s the much buzzed-about strong coffee, and deep, dark double chocolate, although recently we can’t get enough of the gonzo brunch flavor with brioche french toast pieces, cinnamon-maple syrup, and coffee-glazed bacon all folded into a sweet cream base. There have also been collaborations with other neighborhood businesses, including neighborhood legend Moishe’s Bake Shop, which supplied the creamery with a custom cinnamon and chocolate babka.

The $18 King Kong sundae
The $18 King Kong sundae

1. Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream (2 Rivington Street; 212-209-7684)
A pint-sized parlor serving avant-garde flavors like durian-banana, deep yellow egg custard, and “black ass” licorice, the ice creams here come courtesy of former pastry pro and budding restaurateur Nick Morgenstern, who spent time at Daniel and Gramercy Tavern and owns GG’s pizzeria and L.E.S. stunner El Rey.

Yes, the banana split costs nearly $20, but other fountain creations, like the hip-hop-inspired royales, are exercises in decadence. For the Peanut Butter Wolf sundae, triple chocolate cake gets three scoops of chocolate ice cream and a drizzling of peanut butter sauce; the new God Flow stuffs fluffy Japanese milk bread with raw milk ice cream and burnt honey. Morgenstern also introduced an ice cream breakfast this year, including avocado ice cream spread onto sweet toast. Forget Folgers, we’ll take our morning meal with hot fudge.