On a recent afternoon, the man who calls himself Scooter Dan was standing on the corner of 91st Street and Madison Avenue, surrounded by 10 shiny new aluminum Razor scooters.
“They’re the hot new craze,” Scooter Dan said, eyeing a nearby line of kids waiting to buy Italian ice. “They’re like Rollerblades in their infancy.”
In recent weeks, kids and goofy grown-ups have been zipping around Manhattan’s streets and parks on their chrome Razors. Made in China, the shiny self-powered vehicles, with two big Rollerblade wheels, fold up like briefcases, and they’ve been selling out at stores all over town.
Scooter Dan roams the city in a silver Ford minivan loaded with the scooters. He recently sold one to an 83-year-old woman in SoHo. But mainly he concentrates on the Upper East Side, installing himself near the neighborhood’s elite schools, catering to 8- year-olds experiencing their first yearnings for a little independence.
A girl approached him and asked, “How much?”
“One hundred and twenty-five dollars,” he said. “Best price around.”
The girl told her nanny, who wrote it down.
“These Razors are good for the kids,” Scooter Dan said, leaning on a wooden cane. “They help them develop the motor skills they need to get ready for biking, skating, even skiing.”
The scooter kids were out in force in Central Park after school the other day. Ian, a shirtless 8-year-old from Public School 6, was cruising around the playground on East 85th Street. He paused for a few seconds to explain the Razor’s allure. “You never know what’s going to happen next,” he said. “You can go on a hill and go down and reach speed limits you’ve never been at before.”
A smaller boy came up to Ian. “Can I try your scooter out?” he asked.
“Sure,” Ian said without looking at him.
Ian said that he had gotten in a few accidents. “I was looking at my mom and looking around when I fell,” he said. “You have to keep your eyes straight forward. So I’d like to say for your newspaper that you should stay on your scooter and you should keep your eyes open and look in front of you when you’re going down a hill.”
Further downtown, Max, a second grader at Allen-Stevenson, was casually riding his Razor down a Central Park path. Max got his scooter at the Sharper Image on May 4. His Razor had green wheels, though he said that most kids found red wheels more desirable. “It’s easy to balance, and I can go very fast with it when I use my feet,” he said. “I don’t like going slow. And then to brake I step on the back like this.” He stepped on the back of the scooter and came to a halt. He folded up his Razor. “I can put it in my car when I go out to the Island.”
The Razor craze began last summer in Japan, of course. By February, propelled by word of mouth and an appearance in the Sharper Image catalog, the Razor reached Hawaii. In March, it hit California. Then, in a span of a couple weeks, it took New York. Three weeks ago, the Razor replaced the Ionic Breeze Silent Air Purifier as the company’s top-selling product. All three Sharper Image stores in Manhattan are sold out of them. Larry Duffus, who sells them for $129 at his Larry and Jeff’s bicycle shop on East 87th Street, said that he has been selling five Razors a day for the past month.
“I see it as a retreat from the electronic generation,” said John Broughton, a professor of psychology at Columbia Teachers College. “It gives the illusion of getting back to a safe period before kids brought guns to school. Something about a scooter gives you the impression that the kids won’t be in gangs.” He tried another tack. “These vehicles are kind of like a parent substitute,” he said. “They symbolize both the separation from and a return to the home.”
But there are still some scooter Luddites, who want no part of the latest trend from Japan.
Jack, an 8-year-old in a worn double-breasted blazer and a loose tie, showed up at Saint David’s for school on May 9 on a scooter. But Jack’s scooter was different. It didn’t shine, and it didn’t fold up. It was just an old orange plastic skateboard with handle bars affixed to the front.
“The Razors, you can brake and you can turn,” he explained, “but you can’t really go like this.” To demonstrate, he scooted down the sidewalk, popped himself up in the air and landed back on his board. He came wheeling back.
A towheaded boy rolled by on his Razor, pulled up at the door to the school and stepped inside coolly with his Razor tucked under his arm. Jack’s mother stood by waiting to carry her son’s precollapsible-age scooter back home.
Come on, Jack, wouldn’t you really rather have a Razor?
“No,” he said.
Oh, but Jack, you will.
–with Ryan D’Agostino
One hot day in New York, and suddenly every jerk with roof access thinks he’s, like, Jay Gatsby or something. Soon the town will clang with cries of “Let’s go up to the roof !” and “Have you been to the roof yet?”
Hosts and hostesses of the city, unite! Offering the roof option ruins a party, cleaving as it does your guest group into two uneasily shifting factions:
A) Smokers, pot smokers, beer drinkers, outdoorspeople, people who like to gaze dreamily at the (non-existent) stars and
B) People who like air-conditioning, cocktail fanciers, people with vertigo, people who don’t want to smudge their weekend best on the roof’s warm, icky tar. (Corollary: ladies in floaty skirts who don’t want to give male party guests a glimpse of what lies beneath on the ladder en route to roof.)
Group B tends to feel ashamed of its inclination toward the indoors (“It’s sooo nice out” being the conventional wisdom); the weaker of its members often drift reluctantly up to Group A, quietly fuming …
While those in Group A tend to flee the building altogether after their initial descent back into the apartment–having forgotten, maybe, how to socialize on the roof, where all that is required of one is to sit and occasionally say, “It’s sooo nice out.”
Point is, critical party mass cannot be achieved with Optional Roof Access. So either stage your gathering on the roof or in your air-conditioned apartment, but stop trying to get credit for both.
Stoop owners should also watch it.
Dog Bites Dog
Linda Gordon is a star feminist historian at New York University. Since her arrival here last fall, Ms. Gordon seems to have adjusted well to life in the big city. But her dog has become something of a serial mauler, regularly sending the dogs of other N.Y.U. academics to the animal hospital.
Ms. Gordon’s hiring was a coup for N.Y.U. The university snagged her after a bidding war with Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is earning more than $150,000 a year, according to N.Y.U. sources, and will move her family into the coveted Washington Mews once some renovations are completed. N.Y.U. gave her husband, Allen Hunter, a job with the International Center for Advanced Studies. On May 9, Columbia’s trustees honored her with the Bancroft Prize for her writings on gender and family.
So naturally, when her dog started making trouble, her colleagues at N.Y.U. started chattering: Who did she think she was?
Francine Shuchat Shaw, a 24-year veteran of the N.Y.U. School of Education, explained what happened when Oatmeal (her 11-pound bichon frise) and Elaine (an Australian cattle dog) met Ms. Gordon’s golden retriever in Washington Square Village. “The golden retriever was off of the leash and darted out from what seemed to be the entrance of the complex,” said Ms. Shaw. “First it went after the cattle dog and bit the cattle dog in the stomach. The cattle dog is larger. She weighs about 50 pounds and she fended it off. And then the golden retriever went for the bichon and grabbed her about the neck and sort of mounted her up in the air. My husband grabbed the bichon out of the dog’s mouth.”
Ms. Gordon saw what was happening from the building and came running out, according to Ms. Shaw.
“She was horrified,” Ms. Shaw said. “She said the dog wasn’t comfortable living in the city, that they had just moved here from Madison.” The Shaws rushed Oatmeal to the veterinarian. She had deep wounds in her neck. She went into surgery the next day. After that, they took Elaine to the vet and had her stitched up, too.
Meanwhile, Mr. Shaw went to see Ms. Gordon and Mr. Hunter. “They said they had just moved here, and they offered to pay the medical expenses, and they did,” Ms. Shaw said. “We had to decide at that point whether or not to report it to the police. And we decided not to, that they would be good citizens.”
But since that incident, the golden retriever has attacked several other dogs, including, on the Saturday before Easter, a cocker spaniel named Diana. Diana’s owner, another N.Y.U. professor who asked to remain anonymous, said the golden retriever lunged at the spaniel and latched onto her ear. “I didn’t know what to do so I started whipping it with my leash,” the owner said.
The Airedale belonging to computer science professor Ernie Davis was another victim. But Mr. Davis didn’t want to talk about it. “Dog bites man is sort of the classic non-news story, and I would think dog bites dog is even worse,” he said.
Ms. Gordon did not return several phone calls seeking comment. “We are taking care of the issues people are concerned about,” her husband said. “We feel confident she is going to behave better in the future.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Shaw said the retriever recently charged after yet another dog coming out of the elevator at Washington Square Village. “The whole neighborhood is up in arms about this because there are a lot of dog people here,” she said. “I’ve never seen the dog off the leash again, but when the dog walks by other dogs he does lunge at them. I think a lot of people are very aware of it, and we’re watching it very closely.”