New York World

Memos from Tina

To: Si

From: Tina

Got your lovely message, but I’m afraid I’ve already edited TNY once, and once was enough.

I do, however, have something else in mind.

O.K., here it is. New magazine. Keep reading.

What’s the hottest thing going right now? No, not Angelina’s baby or Miers’ mire. Disasters, of course! Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, naughty terrorist attacks, Biblical floods, horrid bus accidents! SO why not a magazine which captures all the buzz and excitement and je ne sais quois of these events? I give you:


With me at the helm, and you shoveling the proverbial coal, KATRINA! will flood the newsstands (ha!) and cause a seismic shift (double ha!) in the magazine world. The main audience would be, just like VF and Talk, mainly women. I call them “FEMA females.” She’s a woman who downloads the latest weather on her P.D.A., always builds her house on high ground, and just might like to know what’s under that Sikh’s turban! She’s up, up, up on all the news; she watches BBC World News at the Reebok gym. She has a heart: She sent $100 to Red Cross to help the “unfortunates” in New Orleans, blah, blah, blah. When disaster strikes, others may stress—she buys a new dress! If the 90’s were all about nightclubs bombing, now it’s all about bombing nightclubs! (Good advertorial possibility with Bali Industry of Tourism here. Maybe a cruise with Simon Dumenco?)

The mix in KATRINA! would be celebs (that model who swam around in the tsunami would be a good first cover; I see Jesse Kornbluth), art, fashion, finance—our girl doesn’t want her bottom line to get soaked!

At the end of the day, a disaster always gets people buzzing. Think about it, Si-nubs: Every time something terrible happens around the world, we get a bounce on the newsstands and our cost-per-thousand plummets like a lorry falling from the sky!

So join me, Si, get in on the ground floor of KATRINA!—before it blows up! (Sor-ry!)



Interview With an Inventor

I spoke with Brooklyn inventor Serge Pastin.

SPARROW: I understand you have invented a psychic alarm clock.

PASTIN: Yes, I have.

SPARROW: How exactly does that work?

PASTIN: Suppose you set the alarm for 7:08 p.m. At 7:08, you hear nothing. But, inside the clock, a microchip plays the phrases “Time to awaken …. Please wake up … , ” over and over.

SPARROW: Does the clock work?

PASTIN: For some people, yes. I’d say 5 percent of the population can “read the mind” of their alarm clock. Of course, it depends how sleepy they are.

SPARROW: How would one use the clock?

PASTIN: If there’s a pressing engagement—a polo match or an airplane flight—you use an ordinary clock. But if there’s an elective awakening—if you take a nap, and you’d prefer to get up in a half-hour—you use my clock. If it succeeds, you feel like a genius.

SPARROW: Do you use the alarm yourself?

PASTIN: No. I’m not psychic.


Medieval Manhattan

On a recent Tuesday night, large men suited in medieval armor battled with swords and shields on an asphalt field in the Canton of Whyt Whey—which is to say, by the Petco just off Broadway.

“Go ahead and hit me in the head, squire. In the head, hit me!” screamed a warrior named Gavin, all the while making sure not to accidentally smite any of the neighboring skateboarders or rush-hour commuters entering the subway at the northern end of Union Square. There, under the soft, golden glow of the McDonald’s arches and above the rumble of the R train, about a dozen members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, “a nonprofit, educational medieval recreation group,” meet every Tuesday night, Halloween season or not, for “single combat or melee battles.”

Manhattan, or Whyt Whey (“It’s supposed to sound Nordic and Viking and all those things,” said participant Lady Elizabeth Devon) makes up one of the 18 kingdoms of the “Known World.” Created in—you guessed it—Berkeley in the 1960’s, this quixotic universe is now populated with scores of imagined characters, such as Lady Lile Dubh inghean ui Mordha (Lilli Cohen) or Baron Sean de Londres (John Cnapich), transported from sometime between the fall of Rome and the English Civil War to the safe, bland streets of Bloomberg-era New York, where any vice or quirkiness can seem anachronistic.

Whyt Whey, like its earthly counterpart, turns out to be quite the medieval melting pot. The society counts Scottish lairds, Italian courtiers, Viking raiders, Flemish merchants, Irish clansmen, Norman Crusaders, Middle Eastern sheiks and Mongolian horsemen among its ranks. But few fighters have caused as much stir on the battlegrounds of Union Square as one fierce Trump Tower chef did on the damp October night.

“I haven’t seen that style before—different even from a California style. There’s a lot of feinting, throwing and blocking until a shot finally lands,” said Dwayne Herron, 44, the wizened master of the Manhattan warriors. Dressed in a leather jacket and leaning on his walking stick like a portly wizard, Mr. Herron studied the mysterious chef. His thick chain mail and steel helmet glinted in the lamppost light. His nimble sword thumped on his opponent’s head and limbs.

“He just cut his leg off. Ooh, that stings,” said Mr. Herron, noting that the chef wore a white belt. “That means he’s a knight.”

Indeed, Duke Ibrahim—also known by his mundane name, Abraham Risho—is a 28-year-old knight from Montana. Through his helmet’s battered grill, he recounted how he had brought his hand-painted aluminum shield, leather boots and trusty sword with him when he came to Manhattan in July to cook over on 56th Street. So far, he has found the island’s competition most worthy, he said, though he conceded that the really topnotch fighters of the country’s East Kingdom are found in the suburbs of New Jersey.

“It’s hard to get to practice here because of all the parking restraints,” he said.

The Duke’s sword, like everyone else’s, was made from rattan sticks, wrapped in strapping tape, then duct tape, and equipped with a crosspiece (usually a basket or metal guard) to protect the hands. Judging from the number of his opponents who suddenly dropped their swords, skipped around in circles, shook their wrists and blew on their fingers, the hand seemed the Duke’s favorite target.

Halt—injury to thumb!” Mr. Herron often called out.

Some locals have grown used to the weekly clanking of armor and shields, but the fights inevitably attract a small, rather nonplussed crowd.

“Excuse me, sir, what do you call this? Fencing?” one woman asked Mr. Herron after having been dragged over by her intrigued young son.

“It’s called armored medieval combat. It predates fencing.”

“It sure does,” she said, before guarding her boy from one of the chef’s quickly retreating enemies. “Be careful!” she snapped and stomped away.

But others—such as Adam Deutsch, a tall 27-year-old attorney dressed in a dark pinstripe suit—watched the fighting with a wild gleam in the eye. “It’s great to get your aggression out,” he said. “Just to beat each other, with sticks, after work.”

The Union Square warriors stress that they aren’t putting on a show and that their armor is no mere Halloween costume, but rather a portal through which their alter egos express themselves. The fighting is real, not choreographed, insisted Lord Ervald the Optimistic, 37, dressed in blue with a yellow triskelion. This was no game—except when his buddy Flynn rode by on a bicycle and unsheathed two Star Wars light sabers from the guitar case on his back. “Cool,” said the Optimistic.

Flynn fought with an elegant style, crouching low with his left arm folded behind his back. “Yo, he fight like Yoda,” one kid in the growing crowd commented.

The Optimistic became aware of the building audience.

“You got to throw a spin in there somewhere,” he whispered to Flynn. “Swing low—I’ll leap.”

—Jason Horowitz

New York World