Plus ça change

Glaser’s Bake Shop closed on Sunday after 116 years in business.

My first apartment in New York was across the street from Glaser’s. I discovered them solely by proximity, as one does in Manhattan, particularly in the pre-smartphone days, where a person had to size up an establishment with his five senses.

The unassuming bakery with the aging storefront took a little effort to try, but once I did, I was hooked. Not only on their famous black and white cookies (I’m not even a big fan of the black and white cookie—only theirs) but of the bakery in general, from birthday cakes to the challah they’d bake only on Fridays, when there was sufficient demand.

Glaser’s closing was a retirement, well communicated in advance. I made the foolhardy decision to visit one last time on Saturday, spending [redacted] hours on line with my son to get one last order. It’s something I didn’t do when the Carnegie closed, and it was nice to say farewell. Not so my family’s two favorite restaurants in Greenwich Village, Cho Cho San and Charlie Mom, which both disappeared rather unceremoniously in the past few years, each after more than 20 years in business. We wish we’d been able to say farewell to them, too.

Glaser’s and the restaurants serve as a reminder, however melancholy, of the ever-changing landscape of the city. Yet they’re also an opportunity to celebrate their longevity and wonderfulness. And they provide us with momentum to revisit the things we love about New York.

My employer has an office in midtown Manhattan, three blocks from where I worked at the turn of the century. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that the Ernest Klein supermarket on Sixth Avenue might still be serving lunch, like it did when I worked up the block, fifteen years ago. So I stopped in. They’ve renovated a bit, but they made me the same exact sandwich, with the same exact honey mustard that I used to adore, but last tasted in 2003. A good number of the lunch spots on West 56th are unchanged, too, and I hope to visit them all in turn.

Things change. But not all things change, and not all at once. Savoring those that don’t is worth the effort.

Bus route

I’m at the M79 bus stop on Amsterdam Avenue, where the bus has to hang a left turn before heading crosstown. An elderly couple walks up to the stop, haltingly, looking around a lot, loitering in the street.

Her: “Is this the bus stop?”

Him: “Yes, it is.”

“Do you think this is the one that goes across town?”

“Yes, this is it.”

“It’s a funny stop.”

“I guess it is.”

They look around some more.

The wife turns to me. “Does this bus go across town?”

“Yes,” I say, “this is the crosstown bus.”

“Thank you,” she says.

She turns back to her husband, who looks at her, impassively.

Her: “I believed you…!”

Assessing the importance of North American cities by their major league sports presence, revisited

A few years ago, I dissected what a city’s sports footprint says about it, a fun (for me) exercise that gave interesting perspective to the American landscape. In light of Stan Kroenke’s merciless city-bashing as he took his Rams out of St. Louis this week—he’s from St. Louis! He’s named after two local sports heroes! And he told the city it’s a national laggard!—I’m revisiting the list, updated below.

Herewith, a revised tally by city of the major sports markets in America, covering MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL teams, in descending order of size, organized by my own arbitrary but numerically derived categories.

The majors
New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington, DC. These dozen cities are the hosts with the most: a team from every sports league. Of them, New York is the most major of all, as it has two teams in every league, if you include the Jersey-based football teams with NY in their logos. (New York’s position atop the hierarchy is much cleaner with the Nets’ and Islanders’ moves to Brooklyn.) Chicago gets bragging rights for its two baseball teams, while Dallas gets a partial bye, since its baseball and football teams technically play over the border in Arlington; and Los Angeles, long a football pariah, has a team once again, and may have two NFL franchises by the end of the decade.

The mid-majors
Cleveland, Houston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Toronto. These cities have 3/4 coverage, not a bad haul, especially for cities you wouldn’t otherwise think are major or important on other scales, like Tampa. With the Rams’ move to L.A., there are now just six cities with this kind of sports presence. I almost demoted San Francisco because the NBA Warriors still refer to their location as “Golden State,” which makes no sense to me, even with the Golden Gate Bridge in their logo. Also, bonus points to Toronto for being so American that it boasts several of our pro sports teams.

The players
Charlotte, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Nashville. Each of these cities has two pro teams. Interestingly, all of them count a pro football team as one of the two (with the exception of Milwaukee, which has Green Bay up the road). Indianapolis and Nashville get less credit here than the others, because they have teams that cite a hometown state rather than the city. And woe to St. Louis, longtime home of the proud Cardinals baseball team, which has now suffered the loss of an NFL franchise—twice.

States that matter, because their cities don’t
Minnesota, Utah and New Jersey each have teams that don’t bother to name-check any town in particular. Poor New Jersey not only lost the Nets, but the Jets and Giants, who have played in the Meadowlands for decades, continue to pretend their port of call is across the Hudson River. And Utah has a lone sports team, which migrated there from New Orleans but retained its name, so we get to enjoy the dissonance of a team in straightlaced Salt Lake City called the Jazz.

Legacies
I love cities that have a sports team much larger than they would otherwise deserve. Green Bay, for one, with its legendary football club. And San Antonio with a leftover from the NBA-ABA merger in the 1970s–which, by the way, explained the New Jersey Nets for more than 30 years.

Canadian cities that make the list thanks to the NHL
Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver. I bet the CFL has a team in each of these cities. (Montreal had an MLB team until a few years ago, and Vancouver briefly sported an NBA franchise.)

One-sport oddities
Columbus has a hockey team. I don’t know why. Jacksonville has a football team, and not even the NFL is sure why. They play basketball in Memphis and Oklahoma City, mainly because wealthy men chose to buy teams and plunk them across town from their estates. Orlando, on the other hand, has a fairly strong basketball presence but no other teams.
Portland has a lone and legendarily popular basketball team; Sacramento also has an NBA presence. A few miles south, San Jose has a hockey team, which I’ve also never understood, although they always had a pretty terrific logo.

And speaking of hockey, the NHL has a team in Raleigh, N.C., which is probably why they call themselves the Carolina Hurricanes. Got all that?

Helpful cashier, II

I’m at my corner deli when a man pokes his head in the front door. He barely comes into the store. He has a dog with him.

The cashier recognizes him; he’s obviously a regular. “Iced coffee?” she asks.

“Please.”

“Black?”

Please.

She intuitively grabs the largest cup she has. “This size?”

He nods in assent. She begins to prepare his drink, helping one gruffly appreciative man to better face his Monday.

Helpful cashier, I

The lottery is $202 million tomorrow. On the way out of work I stopped in the little shop in my office building to give it a shot.

“One Powerball ticket, please,” I asked the manager behind the counter.

“A winning one?” he asked.

On leadership

In the wake of the Royals’ latest improbable postseason run, I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent New York Times Sunday Magazine profile of Ned Yost.

Not because Yost is so hard to parse—how is someone that obviously wrong turning out to be that right?—but because of Yost’s anecdote about his friendship with Dale Earnhardt:

In 1994, when a labor dispute truncated the baseball season, Earnhardt invited Yost to travel with him on the Nascar circuit and serve as “rehydration engineer” (in other words, water-fetcher). At one race, Earnhardt roared back from a huge deficit and nearly won. When Yost congratulated him, Earnhardt grabbed him by the shirt and pulled his friend nose to nose. ”Never, ever, let anybody who you’re around, anybody you’re associated with, allow you to settle for mediocrity,” Yost says Earnhardt told him.

What great perspective. So good I’m going to highlight it twice:

Never, ever, let anybody who you’re around, anybody you’re associated with, allow you to settle for mediocrity.

Why are the Royals successful? Because Yost holds his players to a high standard and expects them to reach it. He doesn’t pander, second-guess or micromanage. He sets a standard and his team follows it.

Ballplayers like to say they “believe in ourselves.” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer stated as much in his post-game interview last night. That comes from the top: Yost, like his mentor Earnhardt, doesn’t let his team settle. It’s an attitude any good manager should adopt.

On spin

Re/code, this morning: “Some Uber passengers said they’re waiting to buy a car because of the ride-hailing app,” was a finding from a new report. “CEO Travis Kalanick has said the company’s real competitor … is the auto industry.” The report was commissioned by Uber.

The auto industry, last week: “New-vehicle sales soared a stunning 16 percent last month to 1.4 million cars and light trucks. … Practically all automakers reported double-digit percentage increases.”

We tell the story we want to tell.

Hey Mr. Conductor

While I was standing on a virtually empty subway platform at Houston Street at lunchtime a few weeks ago, an out-of-service train pulled into the station.

I was surprised when, rather than roll slowly through, the train made its routine stop, and the conductor of the out-of-service train launched into the usual station-stop routine. He opened his window; he pointed at the striped bar on the ceiling.

He then opened the two doors closest to his location, leaving the rest of the train shuttered and out of service. A handful of uniformed MTA employees were in the cars surrounding the conductor. The conductor announced the station per usual, seemingly for the benefit of his coworkers: downtown 1 to South Ferry, stanclearaclosindoors.

I was standing a directly in front of one of the open doors, a few feet from the conductor, and I gestured toward a uniformed man just inside the train.

“Training?” I asked.

“Yep.”

The conductor closed the doors, looked deliberately up and down the platform, then watched, window open, as the train’s driver released the brakes.

Smiling, I gave the conductor a showy thumbs-up. Nice work, I wanted to express, good luck in your new career!

Instead, the conductor looked right past me. Didn’t even acknowledge my presence, despite my standing maybe five feet away, the only person in that area of the platform. Off he went to the next station on his training run, focused on his responsibilities like a racehorse wearing blinders.

I suppose the core job skills are taught right away. Even the unwritten ones.

Progress

At Columbia University, the Columbia Daily Spectator has decided to stop printing a daily physical edition, opting for a weekly paper and daily postings online.

This follows announcements from magazines like New York to reduce their publication schedules, but because it’s a college paper, this one strikes close to home. In 1994-95 I was editor in chief of Franklin & Marshall’s The College Reporter, and I spent many a late night finalizing galleys and eliminating serial commas before driving, often at 3 a.m., from Lancaster, Pa., up to Ephrata, 25 minutes to the northeast, to slide our glue-sticked and blue-penciled newspaper-to-be through a very wide mail slot at the printer, so that the paper could be printed and distributed on time Monday afternoon.

It’s been years since I saw the Reporter at any length. I enjoyed for several years receiving the newspaper mailed to me as editor emeritus, although that policy died out after awhile, and the paper somehow failed several times to establish a proper digital presence. (It seems to finally have an up-to-date website, although the content made me double-check that it wasn’t a parody.) I imagine readership on campus at F&M had a similarly parallel experience. The school will eventually, like Columbia, turn the print edition into an anachronism, and ultimately a dead product. Columbia’s weekly paper won’t last very long either.

I love my printed media. I love carrying The Economist folded lengthwise in my coat pocket onto an airplane; I love flipping through the heft of the New York Times on a weekend morning and perusing its daily sections on the subway; I love reading Car and Driver on the can. But I’m also a digital native, having been online since the 1980s, and I love that, too.

And so does everyone else. The benefits of digital publishing are incontrovertible. The world has already made up its mind, and it’s just waiting for the stragglers to let go of the past. When I bring the Times on my morning commute, I am almost always the only person reading a printed newspaper on the train, and if there’s another paper in my car, it’s a freebie handed out on the subway steps, wire stories and local advertising for the bored. The days of learning the accordion fold are over.

So farewell, Columbia Daily Spectator, and farewell, weekly New York, and farewell, eventually, to the rest of the printed periodicals that have brightened my life for 35 years. You will be missed. And you won’t, too.