The New York City Tourism Association Thanks You for Visiting the Apple Store

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Slate Assistant Editor Miriam Krule tells us more about intergenerational information transfer at the Apple store in Grand Central Terminal.

Working from Apple store in Grand Central where a teen is teaching old ladies how to use a comp. Tourist just walked by and took photos.

— Miriam Krule (@miriamkrule) October 8, 2014

Miriam! So what happened here?

I was heading to Connecticut to celebrate the festival of huts out in the wilderness. My ride had fallen through, so I was taking the train, but the only one that worked for various boring logistical reasons was essentially midday. My parents live in New Jersey, so even though I grew up in New York, I’ve spent very little time in Grand Central Station and didn’t exactly think things through, figuring I could work from there in the morning. I found a nice quiet corner, only to realize that there’s no magical train station Wi-Fi (coincidentally this was as news of “Wi-Fi is a human right” was blowing up). Just as I was about to cave and pay for it (aka, look for a Starbucks), I saw an Apple Wi-Fi option and basically searched for a strong connection and ended up in the Apple Store, which I had no idea existed. (For future reference, it’s on this majestic balcony overlooking the main floor. Also, it’s impossible to miss.)

Do Not Roast the Squash

Trends and memes may be on the side of fall and winter squash—I dare you to find a single vendor without some variety of pumpkin foodstuff between September and December—but I rue the transition from light, delicate, and fresh summer squash, like zucchini, to heavy, sugary, and starchy winter squash, like acorn, pumpkin, delicata, butternut, and, of course, pumpkin. The most common way to eat winter squash, the one I see at potlucks and on restaurant menus alike, is actually the worst: a simple PC&R (peel, cube, and roast).

This is a very good way to cook almost any vegetable, but a bad way to cook winter squash. Summer squashes are typically eaten young, while the seeds and skins are still soft and edible—even raw—while winter squashes have been allowed to grow to a mature stage, so they are hardier; their flesh is dense and sweet and their skin tough and sometimes warty. This makes them very resistant to winter temperatures, but their texture makes people think they can be treated like potatoes or sweet potatoes, with a PC&R. Nope.

I have tried every possible way to PC&R winter squash: I have par-boiled; I have sous-vided; I have covered in aluminum foil; I have experimented with every possible temperature and timing and size and shape and amount of oil. My final conclusion is that there is no good way to PC&R a butternut squash or pumpkin. The pleasure of a roasted starchy vegetable is in the crispy exterior and pillowy interior, but this does not happen to winter squash—the only thing it does well in the oven is turn to mush.

This is all not to say that there are no good ways to eat winter squashes. That very tendency to turn to mush can be embraced. The squash is mush. Let it be mush. This means transforming it into soups, sauces, and purees, where the winter squash’s mushiness and heaviness become creaminess and richness. Here’s how to cook them properly.

Dick and Jane Both Work Hard, But Jane Pays the Bills

Originally published July 9, 2013.

FROM: Jane TO: Dick SUBJECT: Money So I’m suspending my Y membership even though swimming is the only thing I’ve ever loved doing because I can’t afford to pay it. I only have $300 until I’m paid in 2 1/2 weeks to buy groceries, etc. and only have $500 left in my overdraft account so you have to start on [Commission B] seriously after [Commission A].

FROM: Dick TO: Jane SUBJECT: Re: Money you should keep the Y membership if it costs less to renew than start over. I have to do the [Commission C] too. I told them it would be this week, I can finish it by the weekend. pay your membership with [Commission A]’s money. how much is it?

FROM: Jane TO: Dick SUBJECT: Money The membership is $63.28/ month. There’s a $45 cancellation fee, but no joiner fee to start back up. [Commission A]’s money will help of course but if you’re not paying rent on a month-to-month basis there is no way I can afford to keep my membership long-term. I can barely afford our rent and groceries right now.

FROM: Dick TO: Jane SUBJECT: Money wow that’s a lot per month, it seems very high, is there anywhere cheaper to swim besides public pool? 

Hotels Are People Too

It’s increasingly hard to escape the sensation that the primary proprietors of the so-called sharing economy don’t so much share as take—from their users, from their contracted workers, from the localities in which they operate, by utilizing infrastructure that they do not contribute toward. It’s everybody else who shares.

The New York State Attorney General’s initial report on Airbnb in New York City, which analyzed full-apartment bookings (crucially, not room shares) with the service from 2010 until this past June, feels fairly conclusive in this regard. Even if you absolutely do not care at all that, according to the attorney general, seventy-two percent of the private bookings on Airbnb are technically illegal, or that real hotel operators are losing out hundreds of millions of dollars in bookings, or even maybe that the city has lost tens of millions of dollars in taxes the city has lost to Airbnb and its hosts, it’s frankly easy, as a renter in New York City (I mean, Jesus) to feel supremely agitated that last year, more than four-and-a-half thousand apartments listed on Airbnb were booked for short-term rentals for three months of the year or more, and of those, nearly half were booked by half the year or more—meaning apartments that could and should have been on the market were being largely used as hotels. (These apartments accounted for thirty-eight percent of the revenue to Airbnb and its hosts from units booked as private short-term rentals, according to the attorney general.)

Why My Baby Doesn’t Eat Animals

Having a child means that you, as a parent, wield incredible power. You can dress your baby exclusively in green, or never let her hear Simon & Garfunkel (as if) or Iggy Azalea (oops, I wish). Arguably the greatest power arrives with the introduction of “solid food” into your baby’s mouth, around the time they are six months old. I thought for a very long time, even talking it over with friends, about what Zelda’s first food should be. I was told by my doctor to start with something naturally mushy. I settled on a daily vacillation between the avocado and the banana.

Zelda didn’t want to wait until she was six months old. By the time she was four-and-a-half months old, she was trying to grab food from my hands, or off of my plate. So, one afternoon, in a less momentous fashion than I had imagined, I mashed up both an avocado and a banana and offered them to her, minutes apart. She took the spoon from me and hoisted it into her mouth herself. She made a face, but she was also “chewing” as she handed the spoon back to me for a refill. A lot of what I gave her on the spoon fell out of her mouth and onto the floor, where the dog was anxiously waiting. But Zelda clearly understood the ritual: The next day, when I fed her sweet potato which I had peeled, steamed, and pureed, more went in—and stayed in. In less than a week, she’d been introduced to green beans, peas, carrots, and leeks (which I steamed with a small piece of potato and pureed for her).

Now, at eight months old, with just two teeth, Zelda can chomp down anything you hand over, in smallish chunks. She likes her food pureed or not, warm or not. Toast, strawberries, steamed broccoli, pasta noodles. She eats a lot, usually feeding herself, and often sharing with the dog. The one thing Zelda has never tasted, however, is an animal.

Our Eyebrows, Our Selves

I’m not sure when I decided that my eyebrows—thick, dark, and joined—weren’t considered attractive, but I was a preteen when I realized that I would have to do something about it. When I was 12, I begged my mother to let me get the offending patch waxed. Getting my eyebrows “fixed” was Step One of the makeover process that I just knew was necessary if I was going to be a pretty teenager. In teen magazines and on The O.C. (everyone’s favourite show in 2003), I saw smallness and whiteness celebrated in bodies, in clothes, and in upturned noses. Even Kristin Kreuk, the only image of non-white beauty I remember from that time, was hairless and thin.

I always wondered if my eyebrows could be a little better—a little more arch, a little less thick, a little further apart. Maybe, by some miracle, my eyebrows would make the rest of me seemed smaller, small enough to fit into a white, blonde, hairless ideal that seemed to be attractive to everyone around me. I understood that to be small, to not offend, was to be feminine, which seemed instrumental to achieving all the milestones of successful teenagehood—parties, boys, Marissa Cooper’s hipbones.

Nothing But the Truth: An Interview with Teyonah Parris

You may recognize Teyonah Parris for her role on AMC’s Mad Men as Dawn Chambers, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s first African-American employee, and subsequently, the series’ first recurring African-American co-star. As Don Draper’s former faithful secretary, she has mastered the series’ distinct sensibility of balancing thoughtful, serious drama with wry humor and wit.

As Parris started her role on Mad Men, I began writing my master’s thesis on the series, a critical feminist analysis of the representations of women in the workplace. After hours of multiple viewings, I was most intrigued by the pivotal scenes among Parris, Elizabeth Moss, and Christina Hendricks, and their personal and professional struggles at various levels within the fictional advertising agency. For a series set amidst the civil rights and second-wave feminist movements, Mad Men has done little to directly address the issues surrounding them.

Parris seems acutely aware of the developments in contemporary mainstream and independent film and television, and has actively taken on challenging and complex roles that address issues of race, gender, class, and privilege. With the end of Mad Men in sight, her career is only getting started: she has two projects premiering this month—Dear White People, a critical favorite at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Lebron James-produced Starz basketball drama Survivor’s Remorse. She also worked with Amy Poehler in this summer’s satirical rom-com They Came Together, poking fun at the inherent tokenism of the sassy-best-friend archetype.

I talked to Parris about her education as an actor, landing Mad Men, working on Survivor’s Remorse and Dear White People, and the future.

A Field Guide to the True American Diner

Hello, I am an American from New Jersey and I care about diners.

The True American Diner is a casual sit-down restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner—all three meals—all day, often for all twenty-four hours of it. Time has no meaning in the presence of eggs, steak and hash browns. Portions are large but not obscene; sides are available with nearly everything. The food is sturdy and simple, a few strong flavors and techniques. Nothing in a True American Diner couldn’t be made by a moderately skilled cook in their own kitchen: corned beef hash, club sandwiches, and a variety of scrambles.

Menus are oversized and presented as a single, huge laminated page with unavailable items taped over, or in a leather-bound binder. Everything in the “diet” section of the menu contains cottage cheese or is steamed. There are daily specials, and they come with soup or salad. Chicken Parmesan and mozzarella sticks must be available. Ketchup is served in bottles, not packets. The coffee is available and drunk at every meal; cups may even be set out on the table before patrons arrive. Refills are free and assumed to be always wanted, unless you indicate you want no more by turning the coffee cup over. Dessert is pie, and if displayed in a glass case at the end of the counter, it must rotate. We did not free ourselves from England’s cruel yoke to have static pie.

Worst Behavior

From the outside, Toronto seems like a utopia: the world’s greatest rapper calls this city home (that’s Drake, if you haven’t been paying attention), gay couples are free to get married, our healthcare system is beleaguered but subsidized, and our film festival is a barometer for Oscars. Torontonians are a happy clash of cultures; almost half the population are native speakers of another language. Vogue recently named our bustling Queen West the second hippest neighbourhood in the world. THE WORLD, YOU GUYS. VOGUE.

But in the tense run-up to the municipal election later this month, there’s been a lot of drama that exposes the conservative, xenophobic face of this city’s power elites. Two female candidates, both women of colour, have publicly come forward about incidents of basic bullying hate rhetoric directed at them online and IRL, some originating from self-professed members of the ill-defined, amorphous mob known as Ford Nation.

The Best Time I Worked At Hot Dog On A Stick

My current job—very grown up, very mundane—affords me a lot of time to peruse the Internet. I sit at my desk, wait for phone calls to come in, for my co-worker to bring in more baked goods and for lunch to roll around so that I can finally step outside and smell the fresh air.

Recently, while at my desk, I read the worst headline: “‘Hot Dog On A Stick’ Files for Bankruptcy”. After 68 years of selling freshly made lemonade, hot dogs, and cubes of cheese dipped in batter and fried on sticks, Hot Dog On A Stick is no longer serving with style and a smile. Foot traffic in malls is down; people trying to eat less breaded and fried meat; and as a result, the once-iconic mall chain is filing Chapter Eleven.

Provocations of a Bad Jingle Writer

It’s Thursday afternoon in late August. I am recording a dismal power-metal jingle for CBS Sports and the NFL. Football: a sport that should have died 65 million years ago. To record this jingle, I am using my iPhone’s GarageBand app. This isn’t composing; this is clicking. I am assembling a loop of sludgy, charmless instrumental samples. “Dark and Heavy Riff 06.” “Indie Rock Riffing 02.” “Double Punk Drumset 01.” I am 30 years old, and a songwriter. A singer-songwriter. Multi-hyphenate. But since my music is virtually unknown outside a narrow circle of Chicagoans and South American women, and since there’s about five thousand dollars left in the entire music industry, I’m also a composer for advertising.

I freelance for three agencies. Every week or so, I get an email from a music supervisor. It will start with: “we have been tapped to find the just-right song” or “we have a new spot that needs some rad music.” It will end with: “we need this in two days.” There will be a brief description of the commercial or, if I’m lucky, an attached script. Sometimes the client or advertising agency will be named. Occasionally the client will be ambiguous. A “big box retailer.” An “automotive company.” In the early stages of an advertising campaign, either the brand, the ad agency, or, more often, the director will become eye-wateringly fixated on a pop song. This song will be used temporarily while filming. However, usually for budgetary or ego reasons, it will be unlicensable. So, a knockoff version is requested. That’s when a music agency is contacted, and I receive an email. I’m often told the music should be “almost exact to the references.” At best, this is a creative process lacking creativity. At worst, it’s plagiarism.

I’m not always asked to steal melodies from contemporary songs. Sometimes a music supervisor will indicate light creative freedom. It’s like finding a few inches of space in a feedlot. In these rare moments, the music brief will say: “looking for songs that are heartwarming in a folk/pop way” or “looking for something upbeat and happy.” Empty descriptions. Once these original, or orginalish, songs are submitted, the client will request changes. “Good start, but we dig this new Black Keys song. Can we get something almost similar to that?” For Redd’s Apple Ale, I submitted several songs from my own record, Delicate Parts. My lyrics were “too challenging.” The client also wanted the word “Red” in the lyrical hook. So my words and voice–everything essential and human and exclamatory–were removed from the mix. Throwaway lines jammed with “red” were dashed off. The songs were edited into 30-second clips and a female singer recorded over them. My music became part karaoke, part evisceration. And I permitted it.

How did this happen? How did I become a jingle man?