Friday, August 28, 2009

More J-School assignments!

After a long week of audio training I pretty much just want to relax. What better way than by painting yourself, right!? Well, apparently that's what we'll be doing tonight at a fellow J-Schooler's birthday party. Will let you know how it turns out.

The week was indeed intense. We used Zoom audio recorders and learned to edit on Final Cut Pro, all very interesting but time consuming. At the end of today, though, we ended up with a little piece of magic. Our voices, mixed along other voices, mixed with noise, to make everything sound like one joint piece. Voila!

Here is my project:]KingB_Kids.wav.Click on the link and you can pretty much download it for free and listen to it from your computer without any virus or such as threats.

Aside form this, we ventured into the streets again to write a story for our Reporting and Writing Class (RW1). My topic was food cart vendors in the city. Originally I wanted to rate the best 10 I came across and write from a historical perspective. Thankfully, lovely professor Perlman, our adjunct professor who teaches along Professor Wald, turned me away from the idea. Why? Because it was too big and we only had 700 words or less to write something.

My piece turned into what a food cart vendor experiences and how they can get into food vending. However, once I interviewed people many of whom spoke broken English, I realized food vending is actually very hard in NYC and comes with many regulations that can lead vendors straight out of business. My article is below. Any comments are welcome, and if it seems a bit rushed at the end it's because-you guessed it!-I still wanted to write more :s

Happy weekend!

The NYC food cart business
For Ayaman El Ashkar selling food on the street has become second nature. Since getting to New York from Egypt five years ago, he has worked in the business. For three years he had his own Mobile Food Vendor license but had to let it go. He said that the costs were simply overbearing.

“Before I had my own business but I paid $5,000 for a license and it was too expensive, too many tickets. It’s hard to care for my family,” said El Ashkar.

This week alone, El Ashkar received two tickets for $400 and $600 respectively. Since he let go of his license the father of three gets paid to run food carts. He currently mans a hot dog and chicken kabob cart on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 23 street, from 7a.m. to 7p.m.

Mobile inspectors, from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, gave him the tickets. They said the chicken El Ashkar was using was not fresh enough and fined him for using it. Although he’s happy he won’t have to pay the tickets directly El Ashkar is still worried because some chicken is left at end of each day. The slow business makes it hard to buy a new frozen bag of poultry daily without losing money.

“Business is slow, I am not selling a lot and I don’t know why they give tickets if the chicken is good,” the man said. “It takes five months of work to pay to the city every day in tickets and license alone. Now I just work but it’s still hard.”

Currently there are about 3,000 food carts with licenses in Manhattan, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Web site. New licenses are no longer available since the city stopped issuing them in the late 70s. However, interested vendors can apply for one and wait until it becomes available, as stated on-line.

If waiting is not an option, people can also rent carts from licensed vendors and spend up to $3,000 a year in rent. Michael Idov said in an article for New York Magazine that, “black market” food cart renting is common. But many of the people who rent these carts are not aware of the regulations and end up with tickets like El Ashkar’s.

“The most common violation is standing ‘too far from the curb.’ You can’t vend within twenty feet of a building entrance. Not offering a customer a receipt is a violation, as is vending at a bus stop. A typical vendor pays $433 a year in fines, and New York’s courts deal with 59,000 vending-related cases every year,” Idov wrote in his article.

With the cost of food, tickets and, if applicable, rent, a vendor can easily go out of business. The regulations are necessary, though. A supervisor from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that in a city with millions of residents food carts need to be inspected to maintain a health standards. Adding that it may seem many tickets are given at once but inspectors check different carts every day.

Generally, the vendors at these carts are immigrants trying to make a living and speak little or bad English. Because of this, some believe the regulations and treatment towards vendors needs to change. They don’t ask for special treatment, rather for respect and patience.

“The history of New York is one with a history of immigrants who came here with dreams of making it in the New World. Primarily this is a business for immigrants because you can still sell something and make some money even if you don’t have a degree or have perfect English,” Sean Basinski, director of The Street Vendor Project, an organization working to obtain legal representation and better rights for vendors. “Our biggest problems include access to licenses and permits, finding areas to vend, fines that go up to $1000 and harassment to vendors by the health department.”

Basinski said that if more education and rational fees were implemented, food vending and inspection would be smoother. El Ashkar just hopes he can support his family.

“I pay $950 for rent in New Jersey and I come because I like work, I have some structure at least but getting money for my bill and my family is not easy,” the vendor said.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My first assignment

Not too, too, happy but I guess I'm here exactly to get better!

Market Profile

In 1965 Westside Market, 2480 Broadway, was at the starting stages of becoming a community staple. The market’s founder, John Zoitas, bought the place where he served as produce clerk for seven years. He created a store where every inch could be used to place food waiting to be bought by hungry customers.

“There is something from every part of the world in every corner of this store. Trust me, if there’s space we use it,” said Ian Joskowitz, general manager at the first Westside Market.

Now in 2009 the Zoitas family own and operate three additional supermarkets, two in Manhattan and one in New Jersey, aside from maintaining their original location on the Upper West Side. Their food emporiums boast long product lists with items stocked above fridges and even registers.

In order to maintain the stores each market needs around 100 employees. At the flagship store 135 employees work a variation of three shifts. Since the stores operate 24 hours, 365 days a year, workers continuously stock produce, cook Zoitas family recipes for the delis, clean and tend to clients.

“I think I have heard it at least a dozen times from Mr. Zoitas himself, ‘work and don’t make mistakes because mistakes mean loosing money and loosing money means loosing jobs. We feed families from this business, our workers families,’” Joskowitz said.

The mindset of creating jobs as well as a lucrative business would not be able without the adequate space. In 2004, building construction for apartments forced the market to shut. Although neighbors were upset over the temporary closing, construction time was spent wisely. Before closing the market had an L shape, Joskowitz said, which made it hard to navigate aisles. After redesigning the floor plans a large square emerged to house all the products. Industrial kitchens were built in the basement of the store as well as storage and shelving space being added. In 2007 the new building was finished and the store reopened to wow customers.

“I like the store and have been coming here for a long time. They have a huge stock and I can usually find all I want in one place, it’s a kind of cornucopia,” said Jeff Ward, of 145 St.

In a week hundreds of cases are delivered, a produce worker said. Many items are from local farms, like Dandrea Farms of New Jersey, and from neighboring countries, like Canada or Mexico. There are also over 15 varieties of coffee beans and food oddities like Marmite, an English spread.

Customers can also try what they want before they buy it. Clear plastic containers with toothpicks or spoons are close to cheese, bread, or fruit so that people can munch. In a very simple way, with no product promoters, shoppers can skip on an item because they do not like its taste. For some store employees this is what makes the markets special.

Jorge Arias, cheese master, has worked at the four Westside Market stores over the past 20 years. Starting as a cook Arias became more involved with cheese and now manages over 1,000 pounds of cheese cut daily.

“I like for people to know the different cheeses that there are, if a cheese is expensive they won’t buy it unless they know what they’re getting. That’s why its good that we always offer samples and try to think of new ideas to implement. I will keep working with food here until I retire,” said Arias, who is 50.

For more information, hours and locations visit or call 212-222-3367.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I still think this is true, so I haven't changed a lot I guess!

Thursday, March 24th, 2005
4:30 pm
Alright, I finally watched Gladiator the other night on TNT- which by the way I love that network so much, but to continue- I watched Gladiator and I though it was great and that the name "Maximus" was even greater. Seriously, when you think about it a person who is called Maximus expels a certain 'je ne sais quoi' about their person simply because of that name!

They can be the biggest wimps but because they are called Maximus they are going to leave an impression. I truly believe a name defines a person. Me for example- Bessie is a 50's name, very popular then but only given to cows now. My name is weird, special, funny, unique, its me! And no I'm not conceited. Another example? All the Stacy's I've met have been dumb. All the Alison's I've met have been intriguing. All Mike's are easy going and all George's, or Jorge's in Spanish, are assholes. Sorry but its true, they are pimp daddys who can't commit to one woman. So where am I going?

I love the name Maximus but its a hard name to pin down with a specific type of person. You can either have the name and be strong, a leader, with rock solid values- like in the movie- or you can be the self centered guy who thinks he's too hot for his own shadow. And if we're talking about naming a girl Maxima then I don't know what the hell that girl will be like except hateful toward her parents.

It's interesting really, I enjoy thinking about these useless intricacies of life because even though they won't bring world peace or end hunger they can get you to learn more about yourself. I have learned that I make preconceived judgments, oops! But I have also learned that these judgments are not necessarily always on the mean or critical side but on the side of thinking any person deserves a chance even if you get a certain first image that may not convince you about getting to know them more.

Think about it. When you are just hanging around and the simplest action or comment get your mind thinking thats major use of brain power. We are such intelligent creatures that if we really concentrate enough we can go back to baby memories! I guess I am just fascinated by my self-discovery and I just want to share it (but meanwhile I m also deciding whether or not to foster a little Maximus junior sometime in the future). For now, put on your thinking caps! Look at the sky and imagine yourself flying, lick a ring pop and laugh at the color of your tongue, look in the mirror and say hello to yourself evey morning- the best relationship you can ever have in this world is one with your own person.

Yeah, too deep. But hey, sometimes it's gotta be.

And this was for my first platonic love

Saturday, February 4th, 2006
8:51 pm
Lover's Day
Last year around this time I was criticizing and making fun of the Hallmark abused holiday of Valentine's Day. The week before the day, to which some people refer to as "black (insert day of the week in which the holiday falls here)," I was not expecting anything big, except for the typical card from my mom. I had no plans, no date, no nothing. When I got home after co-op I was surprised with a beautiful bouquet of tulips and a note from a high school friend whom I hadn't spoken with since graduation.

These were my first ever delivered flowers, and they were delivered on Valentine's day. I was so happy, and so sad at the same time. I had been talking horrors about how people stress to show their love for others when they could just do it everyday and not spend money on gifts, like flowers. Needless to say I fell in love with the holiday and with the true meaning behind it, even if you can show someone you love them every other day, Valentine's Day is that special time when a rose, a smile, a kiss, have a meaningful value because someone thought about you much more.

As Valentine's nears this 2006 I am caught in the middle of wanting someone to remember me and staying away from being materialistic and expecting presents, the qualities I had criticized in the first place. Now, however, I realize that my day will be sad even if I end up with a rose, a smile, or a kiss, because the person I think of does not think of me in return. I came to realize that all the times I criticized lover's day I had been afraid of facing the truth, I was alone and I didn't like it. Therefore, I decided to shun upon the day of love and friendship to repress my true feelings.

I don't hate this holiday, I just hate the fact that the person I want to spend it with is already in a relationship. I hate the fact that I didn't have the guts to say, "hey I like you" before; and I hate the fact that I can't do anything about it now. This is what I believe is the reason behind the critiques of major holidays Some people say it is a marketing campaign but in reality they may not have the need to be marketed to and feel alienated. Well, I must face the facts.

Even if I my platonic love is taken I have friends and family who care for me. Even if I will be working and in classes I can still relax that night by watching a romantic comedy that will give me hopes. Even if I dislike factors in my life I must accept them and deal with them rather than masquerading them in vane.

To any fellow Valentine's Day haters who are reading this, take a second to think about why you "hate" the celebration. Is it because you've been hurt? Maybe because you haven't found love? Maybe you've never been loved? There's hope, I'm an optimist. This Tuesday, February 14, 2006, leave your place happy and prepared to say, "hey I like you," to life, to friends, to crushes, or to yourself. In such a jolly holiday we should all be able to enjoy no matter what. In the meantime, I will buy a red shirt, a bag of lollipops, and smile during Valentine's Day knowing that, in the words of the accurate and talented James Blunt, "I will never be with you."

Love Notes Begin

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
9:39 pm
Your armsWhat to say about your arms? The comfort and warmth
they gave. The habit and tolerance they eventually
came to represent.

Now, I don’t have those arms. I have no expectation,
no routine. I have no worries or concerns.

It was hard to give up those arms, that smile, those
eyes; which I came to realize did not care for me as
much as I cared back. At the same time, its nice to
meet new arms, new smiles, new eyes; that prove to me
I can be liked.

Peace at the fact that other arms can provide that
comfort and warmth, without asking for more in return,
brings me joy. Happiness over knowing that custom
shouldn’t be stronger than love, gives me hope.

Now, I can think of the past and not miss those arms.
I have new arms that welcome me, with an open heart.

(Originally written in 2008)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oh! before moving to NY for the first time!

I'm an only child
Monday, May 23rd, 2005
After six months on coop I’m ready to leave the office that hired me so willingly but has become boredom central. I was meant to take summer classes but received an internship in New York and decided to extend my co-op until the fall.

What’s the big deal? I am an only child and I blame my boredom, impulsiveness, and scared to live alone, issues on this characteristic. I thought about living in the Big Apple and instead of growing excited I grew petrified, was I normal? Did I refuse to leave because of some imaginary umbilical cord that would attach me to my family for the rest of my life? Only children are faced with this type of dilemmas.

Unlike having siblings to tease, only children have to rely on themselves, their pets, or their imaginary friends for entertainment. I cannot tell you how many times my mother thought I was possessed because I had hour-long conversations with my imaginary buddy. Thankfully, my posse of ‘soule enfants’ has told me that they too spoke to themselves, reassuring me that I was really not that whacked.

Another fact is that only children are not as spoiled as people think. Sure, I’ve always had my own room, my own toys, my own car, and my own shebang; but this does not make me spoiled, it makes me appreciative. Since I’ve always had everything I’m good at sharing, listening, and caring. Some researchers even claim that, “Only children tend to be higher achievers, they get along fine with their peers, they aren't spoiled or lonely or aloof,” as Steven Mintz, author of "Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood," writes.

Finally, only children are courageous. Do you think it’s easy to face mom after you break a vase and have no one else to blame but yourself? Or what about standing up to the bully who picks on you a little extra since he knows you ain’t got a big brother or sister to defend you? Only children are truly inspirational. We can be private, we can be social, we can be leaders, and we can also follow the pack once in a while.

So, if I know I have all these qualities why is it so hard for me, and other only children, to leave home? Even though we can keep ourselves entertained, only children can get uninterested easily. Not to mention that we have high expectations of others around us so nuisance chat is unaccepted. Only children are used to sharing; but we praise our space and understand our messiness, cleanliness, or any other organized-ness you mention single handedly. Also, only children can be brave but they can tend to be capricious. When having an argument, hell can break loose, but an only child will win the quarrel.

I know I want to leave home, but why should I leave when I have all that I want without sibling wars? Big families have their problems, and their wonderful qualities, but for my taste having a family of just my mom, my dad, and me, myself and I, is, at the moment, phenomenal. As I am getting ready for NY I understand this is will be more of a personal growth experience than a career related opportunity. I will share my space, look after myself, and not be able to drive 15 minutes to get home. I will live a “normal” life, in the terms of friends who have siblings, and when I return I may be ready to leave my only child world behind.

Old writings

Its interesting to see what I wrote just a few years back, oh man. These entries come from which I guess was still active!

Monday, May 23rd, 2005
Summer days bring steamy flings, tasty fruit Coolatas, and the dreaded swimsuit season. Guys don’t think much about wearing swim trunks and going to the beach. Women need preparation for the pain, trauma, and disappointment that come with buying swimming attire.

I went to the mall ready to buy a swimsuit that would make me feel comfortable. I didn’t care if it was a one piece, a two-piece, or one with a little skirt that hides the thighs. This summer’s trends include buckles, colorful prints, sash ties and spiced up monokinini’s. If you are like me you will try to incorporate these trends into your decision-making, but this is hard to do when stores seem obsessed with “Dirrty,” Christina Aguilera, styles.

As if getting a bathing suit wasn’t difficult enough, I had to look at myself under fluorescent lights in front of giant mirrors that highlighted my worst assets. I endured the torture and I tried a black bikini with hip side-buckles; it looked good until a girl came out wearing it two sizes smaller, then it went back to the rack. I followed up with a red tankini but I looked in the mirror and thought of an overgrown cherry with an emphasized pear shaped body, I felt like fruit a salad. Finally, I came out of the dressing room wearing a one-piece pink suit, with oblong side cuts and a delicate shimmer that made me feel positively giddy. I was over joyous and could already feel the warm rays of the sun reflecting on my swimsuit at the beach.

After 15 minutes of anticipation I was next in line. I gave the suit to the salesman and, beep…$150 dollars. What? I was buying a swimsuit, in a department store, on a college student budget. If I had the cash to spend I would spend it in a Burberry’s bikini, with the store’s famous print, add sunglasses, and a towel for the hell of it. Needless to say I was shocked, and the salesman was waiting for payment. So, I did what any girl in my situation, too embarrassed to say, “forget it,” would’ve done. I took out my mom’s credit card and bought it. Yep, and when that bill comes I better have a really good excuse or a really good paycheck coming.

What have you learned from my story? First, be determined. Fight your way through the hordes of shoppers and try everything once, you will find a good suit. Second, love yourself. No matter how much you complain about your body remember that we all have unique qualities and that nobody is perfect, even after a lipo. Finally, and most importantly, be prepared. If you don’t have momma’s credit card, or alternate payment, be courageous enough to walk away. Hoping that you learned from my experience, I leave you to try and find you perfect summer style.

Hello blogging world

This is the beginning of something I am not used to doing, journal entries. Ever since I was a kid, I could never keep a journal. Don't ask me why I just preferred to write creative stories or list of "what I want to do before I die." Amazingly, I still have one of those lists and I'd like to think I'm doing pretty well on it.

Anyway, I have to start "blogging" because, well, I've been told is the greatest thing to do! And since I am a journalist I want to post my stuff everywhere possible and receive feedback so here we are now. I will be publishing student work, anything that I get published through freelancing and of course the itty-bitty analysis on daily occurrences that make up my life.

For example, I have been in NY for a whole week, officially as of Tuesday, and I've already met 1)amazing people, 2)gotten tremendously lost, 3)found a grrrrreat Mexican restaurant, 4)lived a NYC traffic accident (photos to come), and 5)gotten a job. If there is any other city where so much can happen in a matter of days, I'd like to know where it is.

No offense to New Yorkers, I love your city, but I know that at some point I am going to feel burned out. I suppose I just have to get used to the continuous walking and expenses. Thank God I got that job! When I last lived in NY, in 2005, I didn't really get the whole experience now that I think of it. It was for a certain period of time, I only focused on my internship and I pretty much partied and went to museums. We cooked at the dorms and survived on tuna and cereal and it was still "college life." Now, although I am back in college I really am on my own. That fact got me real hard on Sunday night actually and I felt lonely.

I know that after this year I have to really focus and find "that" job that will help me keep climbing and I just don't know where I'll end up. Who knows if I'll go back to Boston, or Mexico, or stay here or go to China!? Point is, I'm really getting New York. I hope it gets me too.