Discover more from CAFÉ ANNE
Calling a Scone a Skwon!
Plus! Eric Adams Watch!! Ask CAFÉ ANNE!!!
Welcome to Issue #73 of CAFÉ ANNE!
I was delighted after running last week’s feature, Lost Pets of New York, to hear from reader Laura Kelly, who lives in Bulgaria and has published an entire book of lost pet posters. How cool is that? She also suggested starting a Lost Pet Posters Collectors Society. I’m in! Rule #1: Do NOT talk about the Lost Pet Posters Collectors Society!
Meanwhile, good news and bad news for those following my investigation into the Mystery of Mehran’s Steakhouse.
The good news: guess who called me last week? That’s right, Chef Mehran himself. Yes, he is real, and yes, he grills a mean steak. He told me the full back story behind the strange Google listing that launched this whole caper in the first place.
The bad news: he only spilled the beans after making me promise not to reveal anything until the second phase of this project—which I also cannot divulge—is unveiled. This will take several months, but will be worth the wait. I think!
In other news, huge I-Will-Take-a-Bullet-For-You-If-the-Bullet-Is-a-Donut shoutouts to new CAFÉ ANNE paid subscribers Megan H, Robyn L, Allen F, and Aimee H who bought a gift subscription for Eric G. Thanks also to Nina H who liked the steakhouse story so much she sent me a Venmo tip.
I am very excited about this week’s issue, of course. We’ve got the latest edition of Eric Adams Watch, the launch of a new series, “Ask CAFÉ ANNE,” and an account of a very silly thing I did just for fun. Please enjoy.
ERIC ADAMS WATCH
On Robot Dogs, Tito’s Vodka and Imaginary Rats
I continue to enjoy the exploits of Eric Adams, whom my friend Aharon refers to as “New York City’s first AI-generated Mayor.” As a profile in Politico put it, “In a city of weird people and weird mayors, Adams is maybe the most idiosyncratic figure to ever hold the office.”
Here, round-up #16 of the mayor’s doings:
April 11: The Mayor, thrilled that the NYPD is bringing back its controversial robot police dog, holds a press conference in Times Square. "Digidog is out of the pound!" he declares. This is followed by a demonstration of another device, the K5 Autonomous Security Robot, parroting the Mayor’s favorite tagline. "Hello Mayor Adams," it says. "We are here to Get Stuff Done—hashtag GSD!"
April 23: The Mayor entertains folks at the Inner Circle charity show by smashing imaginary rats with a hammer. “Goodnight, get something to drink and remember cannabis is legal,” he says as he exits the stage.
May 2: Asked by a reporter why he has cut back on the late-night carousing, the Mayor denies becoming a homebody. "I'm a Tito's and seltzer person," he insists, referring to the vodka brand. "Or I like a good cognac and a nice cigar, but I’m out. I enjoy the city. I don’t get home early.”
May 16: Crack NYC reporter Katie Honan catches the Mayor buying a shirt at the Century 21 reopening. He says he’s in a hurry to get to a wake, but not before buying a shirt and signing some money.
ASK CAFÉ ANNE
Window Cages and Trash Cans!
I get many letters from readers asking me to solve NYC mysteries. They don’t always merit a full-fledged story, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t intriguing and totally worth investigating. With that in mind, I am pleased to announce the launch of “Ask CAFÉ ANNE,” a new Q&A feature that will run on a regular basis. Please enjoy!
Q. You are the mystery solver and I have one that I have been trying to solve for 3 years. My apartment looks out at this building at 609 Columbus Avenue. On every other floor and at every other window (about) there are cages—see photos.
The cages go from one set of windows to another. What can they possibly be for? If they were for safety, you would have them on every floor. Any ideas?
—David B., Upper West Side
Thank you for your question David. I am surprised that lacking the answer for three years has not made you totally crazy. Because it made me crazy in just a couple of days.
The building in question, as you may know, is a 19-story, 188-unit co-op known as the Turin House. It was built in 1971 as affordable housing.
There is no contact information on Google for this residence. I found a number for the building’s security service, but the person answering the phone had no idea what the cages are for. She gave me the number for the building’s managing agent, but he did not return my call.
I managed to track down a third person who is familiar with the building. When I got them on the phone, this person said they had nothing to gain by talking. When I promised anonymity, they explained that all the units in the building are duplex apartments with a living room and kitchen on the lower level and bedrooms upstairs. That’s why the window cages are only on every other floor.
Okay, but what are they for?
“I can give you a hint,” the person said. “It’s not a balcony, and it has to do with the fire department.”
They wouldn’t say anything more.
There was only one thing left to do, and that was to take the 45-minute trip on the 2 train to the Upper West Side. I didn’t mind. It was a lovely day for a subway ride, and I was dying to get the answer.
This was as easy, it turns out, as buzzing into the building and asking the doorman. Who, in this case, turned out to be a door lady.
“Those aren’t window cages. They’re fire escapes—from one apartment to the other,” she said.
“From one apartment to the other!” I marveled. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“That’s what I was told,” she said. “And I’ve been here 24 years. But I haven’t seen anyone use them yet, because there hasn’t been a fire.”
Just to be sure, I stopped three residents as they left the building—a mom with a stroller, a guy on a bike and a lady with grey hair. They all confirmed that the devices are fire escapes have no stairs but connect neighboring apartments.
So there you have it! It’s a unique escape system that sends you right back into the burning building. But I suppose that’s better than the situation with most high-rises, that have no fire escapes at all.
Q. I have an NYC/NJ mystery, that has plagued me for years.
Why do NYC MTA subway stations have garbage cans (but are relatively filthy) while PATH stations in NYC and NJ have none (and are much, much cleaner)?
I understand that the MTA and Port Authority are different organizations, but why are there no trash can at PATH stations? After all, the Port Authority Bus Terminal has them.
Would it be possible to get CAFÉ ANNE on the case? Either way, thanks!
—Scott R., formerly of Jersey City, now in Washington, DC
Scott, I too have noticed the non-existent trash cans, especially at the gleaming, white marble PATH station at the World Trade Center. Several times I’ve had to stow a paper coffee cup in my purse after discovering there was nowhere to toss it.
A spokesperson for the Port Authority, which oversees the PATH system, told me that trash cans were eliminated from all PATH stations after 9/11, and never returned.
Fair enough. Trash cans are a great place to hide explosive devices, if that happens to be your thing.
But this does not answer your implied question, Scott, about the correlation between trash can presence and overall station tidiness.
I vaguely recalled that years back, the MTA, which runs NYC’s subways, experimented with a program to eliminate trash cans in certain stations. The idea was that if you got rid of garbage cans, you’d get rid of garbage.
This is one of those ideas that would be so funny if it actually worked.
As the agency reported, the can elimination program, which launched in 2011 in 39 stations, initially produced a 66% reduction in the number of trash bags that janitors had to remove from each station. So it saved some money.
But a 2015 audit by the New York State comptroller said the initiative did not necessarily make the stations any cleaner.
“After four years, the best one can say about this experiment is that it's inconclusive,” he wrote. “Except for the fact that riders have a harder time finding a trash can."
The program was discontinued.
You’d think that would be end of it. But in 2018, the City of Philadelphia collaborated with Swarthmore, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania to conduct an elaborate experiment that removed trash cans from four city parks.
The result? After the cans were removed, park staffers spent twice as much time picking up litter. The researchers recommended more trash cans.
The best part of the study, however, is the section at the end, “Complaints and Other Subjective Outcomes.”
A quote from the 17-page report:
“Although there was not a large volume of complaints, the few that were received were quite passionate in nature. All comments came when receptacles were taken away. Some examples include:
• A resident of Campbell Square used very obscene language in a social media post that called into question the competency of city government for taking receptacles away.
• Some business owners in Powers Park reported dog owners putting dog waste in a USPS mailbox to protest the removal of receptacles.”
Have a NYC question? Please send your query to email@example.com.
MY WILD BROOKLYN LIFE
Calling a Scone a Skwon
One of my favorite pastimes is deliberately mispronouncing words. This is partially to test the person I am conversing with—will they let it slide? It is also partially in tribute to my late mother, who employed a large mispronunciation vocabulary, intentionally or not we shall never know.
Among the words I’ve been mispronouncing is “scone,” which, as you know, is a sort of biscuit.
Here in NYC, everyone pronounces “scone” to rhyme with “cone.” So just to be contrary, I’ve been pronouncing it “scon” to rhyme with “gone.”
Imagine my horror when I recently learned that my mispronunciation of “scone” is actually considered the correct pronunciation in half the UK!
In his delightful Everything is Amazing newsletter, Mike Sowden, who lives England, wrote:
“There are very few things that will genuinely cause an actual argument in Britain—even the question of whether the milk or the hot water go into a cup of tea first will usually generate little more than good-natured bickering, but for some reason, we’re all willing to fight over how you pronounce the word derived from the letters s, c, o, n and e, when employed verbally in that exact order.
If you’re interested in the geographical breakdown, perhaps because you’re British and you want to know where your enemies are, a YouGov poll a decade ago showed a 51% bias towards scone [rhyming with “gone”], 42% preferring scone, and presumably the other 7% screaming oh for pity’s sake just stop this madness all of you, with their veins on their foreheads bulging.”
I immediately wrote to Mr. Sowden: “Here in NYC, everyone says "scone" (rhymes with "cone"), and I have said "scone" (rhymes with "gone"), but only to be contrary and disingenuous and drive everyone crazy by pronouncing it wrong. I had no idea it was the actual preferred pronunciation in half the UK. Now I will have to reevaluate my strategy.”
To which Mr. Sowden replied:
“Woah! I love this act of rebellion—but now I feel I've tarnished it a bit by legitimizing it using half of the UK. What I therefore propose is that we find a new, third pronunciation of "scone". Any ideas? I was thinking of how you pronounce the word "one", ie. "WON", and just adding "sc" at the front to make "SKWON". That should cause a healthy amount of chaos if used liberally in a public setting.”
I don’t know why this idea made made laugh so hard. What matters is that I had a new life’s mission.
Friday, 1:30 pm, Lassen & Hennigs, Brooklyn Heights
Anne: “Do you have a cranberry skwon?”
Counter guy: “Skwon? No, we have muffins. Let me check.” (Looks through three baskets of baked goods). “Sorry, just the muffins.”
Anne: “No skwons?”
Saturday, 11:30 am, Bakery Stand at the Brooklyn Borough Hall Farmer’s Market
Anne: “Hi! Do you have a cranberry skwon?”
Farm stand guy: “Cranberry skwon? Yes, one left.” (Puts the scone in a bag.)
Anne: “Oh, fantastic, thank you. Do you have any chocolate chip moofins?”
Farm stand guy: “No, sold out.”
Saturday, 11:45 am, Blank Street Coffee, Brooklyn Heights
Anne: “Hi, um, do you have a cranberry skwon?”
Barista: “No, we don’t.”
Anne: “No? Okay. Thank you.”
Barista: “Have a good day.”
Anne: “You too!”
Barista (To his coworker, as I’m leaving): “What’s a skwon?”
Saturday, 2:30 pm, Ebb & Flow Bakery, Brooklyn Bridge Park
Anne: “Hi. Could I get a small coffee with cream? And do you have a cranberry skwon?
Counter lady: “No. Wait. Is that a drink?”
Anne: “No, a skwon. Skwon. S-C-O-N-E. Skwon.”
Counter lady: “No.”
Tuesday, 3 pm, Alice’s Tea Cup, Brooklyn Heights
Anne: “Could I have a small coffee with half-and-half?”
Barista: “We got whole milk, almond and oat. Sorry, I know.”
Anne: “I probably won’t get coffee then. I’m a big half-and-half fan.”
Barista: “We do have a large assortment of teas and iced teas as well.”
Anne: “Actually, do you have, like, a cranberry skwon?”
Barista: “Oooh. I’m not sure. Cranberry…” (Looking at the tea assortment). “The closest thing we have is our black forest—”
Anne: “No, I mean a skwon. Like one of those biscuits?”
Barista: “Oh! Scone!”
Barista: “We don’t have cranberry at the moment, unfortunately, sorry.”
Tuesday, 3:15 pm, Starbucks, Brooklyn Heights
Barista: “How are you doing today?”
Anne: “Hi! How are you?”
Barista: “I’m good!”
Anne: “Could I have a short coffee, with half-and-half, and a vanilla skwon?”
Barista: “Say again?”
Anne (Pointing out the pastry in the display case): “A vanilla skwon?”
Barista (grinning hugely as he puts the biscuit in a bag): “Vanilla skown! I gotchoo. Anything else?”
When I got home, I emailed Mr. Sowden to relate my adventures. His reply: “HOORAY, LOL and SO IT BEGINS!”
Eager to call a scone a skwon? You can! Please experiment at your local café or bakery and report your results to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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