Saving Landmarks from Lovelocks

I’m thinking of starting a nonprofit. It will be called GOTCHA, which stands for Guardians of the City’s Historic Architecture. Its mission is for members to patrol landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, catch couples in the act of defacing these sites with one of those stupid “lovelocks” (a padlock to signify lasting love) and cheerfully throw them over the side.

Landmark Brooklyn Bridge

The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge

Really, what is the mindset of young adults (and they are almost always young) who think it’s OK to attach junk to an extraordinary public treasure in order to mark a relationship which is significant only to them? I already can’t walk the bridge without stumbling over tourists planted in the middle of the walkway, poised to stab my eye out with a selfie stick. Now I get to see scores of cheap, colored padlocks—often with accompanying graffiti—hanging from the beautiful cables of an engineering marvel, placed there by people with no respect for public heritage. I want to wring their self-centered necks.

They won’t always have Paris

Paris has several times had to remove millions of locks from its landmark Pont des Arts footbridge over the Seine. Their weight actually collapsed some of the bridge’s parapets. In the weeks following, hundreds more locks appeared, forcing Paris to add protective guards to the bridge that make defacing the structure more difficult–and also diminish its charm.  A few years ago, a group of lock pickers here in New York went up on the Brooklyn Bridge and removed many of the padlocks that were degrading both the structure and the view. Just days later, new locks appeared (although, thankfully, not as many as in Paris).

The landmark Pont les Arts bridge jammed with lovelocks

The Pont des Arts bridge in Paris jammed with lovelocks

But perhaps Gretna Green

This ridiculous phenomenon is happening to landmarks all over the world. On the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, along the Wild Pacific Trail on Canada’s Vancouver Island, on an overpass at Taiwan’s Fengyuan railway station. Sensing a commercial opportunity, a private business at Scotland’s Gretna Green (the Las Vegas of the 18th century) decided to go with the flow and sell special, lightweight padlocks to lovers so they can deface the historic place without causing too much damage. I wonder how the people who live in the village, as well as other visitors, feel about that.

So who wants to join GOTCHA? In the interest of keeping you out of prison, I promise to protect your identity—at least until the Russians hack my server.

Yep, It Gets Better: Tim Anderson, Author of ‘Sweet Tooth’

Sweet Tooth by Tim Anderson. Book Party Invitation for May 28 at WiX.

Come to the book launch on May 28 at WiX in Chelsea, NYC.

Tim Anderson is the author of Sweet Tooth, a gay diabetic memoir and Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Jimmy, and his cat, Stella, and also writes young adult historical fiction under the name T. Neill Anderson. Tim blogs at seetimblog.blogspot.com. He is interviewed here by Michelle Tompkins, an award-winning strategic communications consultant and writer. If you are reading this, you’re invited to the Sweet Tooth book launch party on May 28, 6-9 pm at WiX Lounge in Chelsea, NYC.

MT: Tell us about Sweet Tooth.
TA: It’s a funny, gay diabetic memoir of adolescence and angst in the 80s. It starts with my diagnosis, at age 15, with type 1 diabetes, and the concurrent realization that I was just unavoidably, irrevocably gay. It was the worst summer ever.

MT: Did you face bullying?
TA: Oh sure. Some genius saddled me with the nickname Tinkerbell Tim when I was in 4th grade. It followed me until I switched schools in 8th grade to get away from the bullying. High school was much better because by then I’d found the punks and goths and thrift store bombshells/new wave weirdos that became my people.

MT: What are you passionate about?
TA: Health care. I can’t believe the health care debate in this country is so idiotic. Folks can say what they want about Obamacare, but for this type-1 diabetic it’s a dream come true. I didn’t have health coverage for years because of my pre-existing condition, which meant that I paid out of pocket for insulin, blood testing supplies, doctor visits, blood work, and all the rest of it–things I needed to merely stay alive–and then had to live in fear of something else happening to me and not having any coverage. I wish we had single payer, but I’m happy enough just living without worry.

MT: How did you get started writing?
TA: My first book, Tune in Tokyo, started as a series of emails I sent to folks back home while I was living and working as an English teacher in Japan. People really responded to the stories, so I wrote the manuscript but couldn’t interest a publisher. In June 2010, I self-published it and then miraculously got a great review in Publishers Weekly. That’s how Amazon Publishing found me. They reissued the book in November 2011 and brought it to a much larger audience.

MT: Humor is such an important part of your books. Do you use humor to deal with difficult situations?
TA: Sure. I don’t know another good way of dealing with them! I’m constitutionally incapable of not trying to lighten the mood by coming up with a zinger.

MT: What kind of role do music and pop culture play in your book?
TA: Music was a lifeline for me as a teen and Sweet Tooth is infused with music and pop culture. I was lucky enough to be coming of age during an era of really incredible music made by ultra-stylish weirdos. And it wasn’t just a soundtrack to what was going on in my life, it was also what introduced me to the playground that is the English language. It was the lyricists whose words I always had bouncing around in my head that got me interested in nailing down an emotion or state of mind via the perfect chunk of language. Morrissey is a master of that. The Smiths are the main touchstone in Sweet Tooth because the thematic content of so many of their songs dovetails so beautifully with what’s happening in the story.

I was also very moved by the movie Torch Song Trilogy, and not just because it was about being gay. It was the writing and the story and the zingers. And as dark as it got at times, it still had an “It Gets Better” quality to it that spoke to me.

MT: What are your hopes for your book party on May 28?
TA: That people show up!  Wix Lounge in Chelsea is a great space and a great sponsor. I used one of their web templates to design my own author site. I’m really looking forward to reading from the book–I haven’t done any reading events for it yet, so this will be its maiden voyage.

Sweet Dealmaker: A Profile of Amy Chasan

Best Cupcake in NYC

Sweet Generation founder Amy Chasan with some of the “Best Cupcakes in NYC”

How would you describe your life’s work?
I’m an artist, educator, baker and businesswoman, with a lifelong interest in removing barriers that limit opportunities for disadvantaged youth. This led me to create Sweet Generation, a business combining my love of art and baking with my commitment to increase access to arts education for underserved youth.

Why does it matter?
I have seen firsthand the tremendous challenges funding cuts impose on arts programs and schools, and the acute disservice to our youth that results. Arts education in low-income, predominantly African American and Latino communities, is less available and declining more rapidly than in affluent, predominantly white communities. Funding is notoriously insufficient and unstable. At Sweet Generation, we work with selected arts organizations to help them reach their fundraising goals.

How did you come to do this work?
When working for the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, I was able to support and develop some wonderful arts organizations, but funding was a challenge and every year budgets were cut. As my work became more challenging, I returned to baking as my own personal creative outlet. Before I knew it, I was being hired to cater weddings, music release parties, art events and private parties. I began to think about how I could connect my creative outlet with my education and professional career. I realized I could scale up the concept of a community bake sale — a familiar fundraising tool in many schools and nonprofit organizations — to reach a national audience with an online bakeshop and fundraising partners. This idea became Sweet Generation.

What would you say is your most significant achievement in the past two years?
Early this year, my concept for Sweet Generation was a winner in the New Challenge, a social innovation competition for graduate students, at The New School.  It was a huge milestone as a new start-up to have an institution validate and invest in my idea. Also, Sweet Generation was just awarded “Best Cupcake in NYC” by the Village Voice, which is a huge endorsement in such a highly cupcake-saturated city!

What’s next for you?
What’s next is really what’s happening now — building and growing Sweet Generation. This is a lifelong commitment and investment for me, and a vehicle for pursuing my interests and goals for social change.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered for whatever good I am able to accomplish in this world — from the relationships I build, to the joy I bring to people’s lives with my sweets, to making a significant contribution to the fight for arts education. I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard, loved fully and danced through life.