|From: Jon Koplik||10/17/2019 12:31:38 PM|
|NYT -- once homeless pizza mogul / memorials to 4 homeless men ..................|
Oct. 11, 2019
‘I Know the Struggle’: Why a Pizza Mogul Left Pies at Memorials to 4 Homeless Men
Hakki Akdeniz built a pizza chain and has 3.5 million followers on Instagram. But he was once homeless, and returned to the streets this week.
By Michael Wilson
Candles, flowers and handwritten tributes flow onto the sidewalk like surf filling a void in the sand, replacing the body just taken away. Memorials in Chinatown this week marked the spots where four homeless men were killed on Saturday, their heads smashed while they slept by an attacker wielding a metal bar.
But something else was left at the sites. Fresh boxes of hot pizza were stacked at each memorial. And with them, a note. “I wish with all my heart,” it read, “that I could have been there at that very moment to protect all of you guys.”
The author added, “you know me as the pizza guy.” Then he revealed something from his own past: “As a former homeless man, I know the struggle that all of you guys went through every day.”
The pizzas and notes came from Hakki Akdeniz, a 39-year-old immigrant who has built a small chain of pizza shops in the city and, with it, something of an unofficial, but solid, support network for the homeless in Manhattan. His visits to the memorials this week, each time lugging a stack of pizzas that reached his chin, follow a remarkable journey even in a city built on rags-to-riches tales.
Mr. Akdeniz is Kurdish, was raised in Turkey and emigrated to Canada as a young man. Back in Turkey, he had worked in cafes making lahmacun, flattened dough topped with spiced meat, and he aspired to make its Western cousin, pizza, in the United States.
He arrived by bus in New York in 2001 with $240 in his pocket and a promise of a bed at a friend’s apartment. When the friend changed his mind, Mr. Akdeniz moved into a dingy motel on 42nd Street and watched his meager savings dribble away at $30 a night.
Broke, he spent a few nights huddled with his bags in Grand Central Terminal. Someone pointed him to the Bowery Mission, one of the city’s most well-known homeless shelters, in the heart of the city’s skid row.
“I stayed there for 96 nights,” Mr. Akdeniz said. He busied himself in the kitchen, chopping onions and washing dishes, and he looked for work making pizza. His English was poor. He noticed a woman at the mission reading a Turkish language newspaper, and she helped him find a listing for a job at a Mediterranean pizza shop in Hoboken, N.J., near the PATH station.
He showed up in New Jersey in unwashed clothes. The owner was skeptical. “He thought I was so dirty, unclean,” recalled Mr. Akdeniz. Desperate, he asked, “Can I make a pizza?”
“I was shaking, so nervous,” he said. “It came out no good. I said, ‘Can I make another one?’”
After a few failed attempts, the owner hired him to wash dishes. That night Mr. Akdeniz slept on a bench across from the restaurant, returning early the next day. The next night, he slept in the basement of the pizza shop’s building.
Later that week, the cook gave him a tip. There was a building in Sunnyside, Queens, where the super had an assistant who did odd jobs and lived rent-free in the basement. The assistant was looking for an assistant same perks. “The boiler room, you can sleep in the corner,” Mr. Akdeniz was told.
A year later, he had saved enough to move into an apartment with a roommate. He got a new job in early 2003 washing dishes at a restaurant on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. On St. Patrick’s Day, the regular pizza maker didn’t show up to work, and Mr. Akdeniz was promoted on the spot.
He spent five years there, improving his skills. In 2009, he found a tiny pizza shop in the Lower East Side that was for sale. He had saved up $40,000 by then, and the shop just an oven with a counter in front of it cost twice that, but the owner agreed to sell, setting up monthly payments.
Mr. Akdeniz immediately fell behind in his first month, then his second and third. The man he owed told him, “Pay me, or I’ll put you in the oven.” Little did the man know that, to save money, Mr. Akdeniz was already sleeping under that oven, locked inside the shop every night until another worker opened a padlocked gate the next day.
Then, a breakthrough. Mr. Akdeniz entered a pizza-making contest in 2010 at the Javits Center. To stand out, he threw and spun his pizza dough after setting it on fire. He won first place.
He was featured in a cover article in PMQ Pizza Magazine, which gave him thousands of copies that he handed out outside schools in the neighborhood near his shop. The teenagers laughed and called him “Champ,” but they bought slices, too.
“It became just busy busy, busy, busy,” he said.
He paid off the shop. He heard of another one for sale nearby, on Rivington Street, and he made an offer that was accepted. Now with two places, he figured he needed a brand name, and he thought of the nickname the teenagers had given him. He named his two shops Champion Pizza.
He bought a third place, then a fourth. He improved his ingredients, making his dough extra light and importing organic sauce from Naples. He bought a fifth place, then a sixth, stretching out to Soho, Union Square and Columbus Circle. His seventh, which opened last year, is near the building in Queens and his old corner in the basement.
Along the way, he became something of a pizza celebrity, known for his flashy acrobatics in tossing and twirling dough, flaming or otherwise, and for building giant pizzas. He has won international pizza making competitions, and his Instagram account has 3.5 million followers.
While building this small pizza empire, Mr. Akdeniz never forgot his time among the homeless. He passed out free slices to street people who came around asking. Eventually he started a weekly food and clothing handout on a stretch of sidewalk on West 34th Street.
His outreach extended beyond pizza. He found a nearby barbershop that agreed to cut homeless men’s hair, and a gymnasium that was willing to let them use its showers. He paid both for their services. He also regularly distributed pizzas to the homeless in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, becoming known among them as the “pizza guy.”
Last weekend, he was having a meal with friends when he learned that four men had been bludgeoned to death in Chinatown and that the police believed the killer was another homeless man. Deeply shaken, he had to excuse himself.
“How could you?” he asked in the interview. He pointed to a man sleeping on the sidewalk nearby. “That guy over there, how could you kill him?”
On Wednesday, Mr. Akdeniz and one of his employees carried 16 small boxes of pizza to a waiting Uber, and placed them in the trunk, before making the short journey to 2 Bowery, where one of the victims was killed.
He placed several boxes on the ground next to a row of candles, removing the empty ones from his previous visits. A passing man pushing a shopping cart stopped, and Mr. Akdeniz handed him a pizza box.
In large letters, its cover read “Champion Pizza,” and below, in smaller print, “Made in New York With Love.”
© 2019 The New York Times Company.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Jon Koplik||10/23/2019 10:25:17 PM|
|Bloomberg -- Tesla’s Futuristic Door Handles Blamed for Death in Fiery Wreck ......................|
October 22, 2019
Tesla’s Futuristic Door Handles Blamed for Death in Fiery Wreck
Police couldn’t free man from smoke-filled car, lawsuit says
Model S handles are supposed to pop out when fob is detected
By Robert Burnson
The futuristic door handles on Tesla Inc.’s Model S are being blamed for a fatal crash in which a police officer was unable to pull a man to safety from his burning car.
Omar Awan, a 48-year-old anesthesiologist, was driving his leased Tesla in February when he lost control on a south Florida parkway and the car slammed into a palm tree, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in state court in Broward County.
A police officer couldn’t open the doors because the handles were retracted and bystanders watched helplessly as the car filled with smoke and flames, according to the complaint, which alleges the fire originated with the car’s battery.
The door handles on the Model S are flush with the car and pop out -- “auto-present” in the words of Tesla -- when they detect that the key fob is nearby.
“Fire engulfed the car and burned Dr. Awan beyond recognition -- all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk,” according to the Oct. 10 suit. The complaint lists the cause of death as smoke inhalation and states that Awan had sustained no internal injuries or broken bones in the crash.
Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Consumer Reports said in 2015 that broken door handles were one of the most common problems with the Model S.
Awan’s Tesla continued to burn for hours, re-igniting several times even after firefighters had extinguished the flames and the car had been towed, according to the complaint.
This isn’t the only case to fault the Model S’s lithium-ion batteries as flammable. The family of an 18-year-old who lost control of his Tesla at 116 miles per hour and crashed into a concrete wall last year blames an explosion of the battery for his death in an “entirely survivable” crash, according to a suit filed this month in state court in San Jose, California.
Awan’s case is Awan v. Tesla Inc., 19-021110, Circuit Court of Broward County, Florida.
© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Jon Koplik||11/13/2019 9:13:09 PM|
|BBC News -- Cows swept away by Hurricane Dorian found alive in North Carolina ...............|
[ My initial thought was : Bahamas ... all the way to North Carolina ! Wow ! But -- not correct. Jon.]
November 13, 2019
Cows swept away by Hurricane Dorian found alive in North Carolina
Three cows swept off an island in North Carolina during Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after apparently swimming for several miles.
The cows belong to a herd on the US state's Cedar Island but were swept away in September by a "mini tsunami" generated by Dorian.
They were presumed dead until they were spotted at the Cape Lookout National Seashore park on the Outer Banks.
Plans are now under way to send them back home.
Park officials say they believe the three stranded cows swam up to five miles (8km) to make it to the Outer Banks barrier islands.
Spokesman BG Horvat told the McClatchy news group that park staff spotted the first cow on the North Core barrier island about a month after the storm, while the two others were discovered in the past two weeks.
Mr Horvat said the animals were lucky not to have drifted into the Atlantic, which happened to some wild horses.
They "certainly have a gripping story to share", he added.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall on North Carolina's Outer Banks in early September as a Category One storm, lashing the state with heavy rains, winds and flooding.
It travelled there from the Bahamas, where dozens of people were killed.
Copyright © 2019 BBC.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Jon Koplik||11/14/2019 1:44:36 AM|
|WSJ -- Small Town in Georgia / Big Plans for Enormous Topiary Sculpture Chicken ...........................|
Nov. 13, 2019
Small Town in Georgia Has Big Plans for an Enormous Chicken
Hoping to feather its nest and scratch up some tourism, a community is trying to build the world’s tallest topiary sculpture; ‘It’s something different’
By Cameron McWhirter
FITZGERALD, Ga. -- Mayor Jim Puckett’s dream rises next to a supermarket parking lot.
Shoppers gawk as work crews -- their drills echoing throughout the neighborhood -- attach steel beams to what he hopes will become the world’s tallest topiary sculpture: a 62-foot chicken.
The chicken will cost $150,000, use at least 16 tons of steel and include an apartment inside that officials plan to rent to visitors. It will match the tallest building in the city, which is five stories.
Paul Dunn, 90 years old, likes the mayor’s plan. A huge chicken made of vines and flowers just might be what the struggling community about 155 miles south of Atlanta needs to bring in more visitors, he says.
“It’s something different,” he muses from a chair on his porch near the construction site. “Fitzgerald needs rejuvenating. It’s drying up on the stem.”
But the big bird, a grand homage to wild chickens that roam here, has many residents of this rural Georgia city clucking.
A schematic of the head of the topiary being built for the town of Fitzgerald, Ga. Photo: Topiary Joe
“Nobody’s coming to Fitzgerald to see a giant chicken,” says Mr. Dunn’s neighbor Justin Phillips, 26. “It’s stupid. Waste of money.”
Mayor Puckett, 52, discovered unused special tax funds after taking office in 2018 and learned the city could use the money to promote tourism.
“I was thinking about it,” he says, “and thought, ‘Why don’t we just build a big-ass chicken?’ ”
The dust-up ruffling feathers is the latest squabble in a decades-long debate over what to do about the birds that overrun streets and yards here. Many residents see the colorful birds as a draw for tourists. Others want to fry the renegade fowl that crow at street lamps, stop traffic, and scratch and peck in people’s gardens.
In the 1960s, the state brought jungle fowl from South Asia to a forest near Fitzgerald in hopes of promoting game hunting, according to Jeri Lynn Gilleland, who heads the Fitzgerald office of the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension. The birds disappeared and at first were presumed killed off.
Somehow, a few made it to Fitzgerald -- some say eggs were smuggled into town, others say the birds just flew here.
Wild chickens have roamed in Fitzgerald, Ga., for decades. Photo: Fitzgerald Department of Tourism, Arts & Culture
Mr. Dunn, who says he helped with the state’s jungle-fowl program to make extra money, recalls that shortly after the birds left the forest, he saw something odd in town.
“I looked in a plum bush and saw these little birds up there roosting,” he says. “I shot at them a couple of times, and they dropped to the ground and run off. That was the beginning.”
With fewer predators and plenty to eat in town, they thrived. Today hundreds of the birds’ descendants, which have interbred with local chickens, run around the town. Most have colorful feathers, but some now are white. They can be tough with other animals and have been known to chase small dogs. They are skittish around humans. Four squawking birds flew the length of a city block to escape a reporter when he approached recently.
Locals insist the chickens are no good to eat. Kristie Johns, 47, pursed her lips remembering when she tried to eat one that her son shot. “It’s tough and gummy,” she says. “It’s not your regular farm chicken.”
The topiary frame under construction in Fitzgerald, Ga. Photo: Cameron McWhirter/The Wall Street Journal
There are fewer chickens than there used to be, partly because some people smash eggs in the spring to keep the population down, residents say. Others run the chickens down with their cars, they say, even though injuring a bird is a city misdemeanor.
“If we want a big turnout at a council meeting we just put chickens on the agenda,” says Cam Jordan, 63, the city’s deputy administrator.
Mayor Puckett’s initial plan was to build a chicken slightly taller than a 56-foot-tall non-topiary structure known locally as “The Big Chicken” at a KFC restaurant in suburban Atlanta. Then he learned the tallest topiary structure in the world, a Mickey Mouse in Dubai, is a little over 59 feet tall, according to Guinness World Records’ official website.
“When I heard that I said, ‘Screw it, let’s go to 62 feet,’ ” he says.
Officials at Guinness World Records, Dubai Miracle Garden where the Mickey Mouse is located and the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A record-holding topiary of Mickey Mouse in the Dubai Miracle Garden, in the United Arab Emirates. Photo: Amazing Aerial/ZUMA PRESS
Much of Mr. Puckett’s drive for his colossal chicken stems from his belief that God gave him a second chance and life is too short to think small. In 2010, he accidentally ignited a gas can, burning himself severely. He almost died. While in a coma, Mr. Puckett had a vision that he was in hell and prayed fiercely to live again, he says. When he recovered, he decided to live boldly.
Fitzgerald Mayor Jim Puckett with his wife, Joanna Weaver Puckett. Photo: Puckett family
“You may not like everything I do as mayor, but you damn sure aren’t going to be able to say I didn’t do anything,” says Mr. Puckett, who owns a diner in town.
Like many rural communities in the South, Fitzgerald is struggling. Many storefronts and homes are boarded up. About 8,700 people lived in the city in 2018, down 4.5% from 2010, according to the Census. Almost 39% of residents live in poverty.
The town tried for years to promote its chickens, with limited success. The Wild Chicken Corner gas station has a large bird statue on Main Street. Metal statues of chickens of various sizes stand in front of stores and homes. Fitzgerald holds an annual Wild Chicken Festival, in March, which includes a crowing contest.
Joe Kyte, also known as Topiary Joe, installed a topiary wolf for an event in San Francisco in 2017. Photo: Topiary Joe
Mayor Puckett hopes the giant chicken will be the draw his city needs. He plans to erect a billboard on nearby Interstate 75 to alert drivers to the attraction. When asked what the town would do if the big bird flops, Mr. Jordan, the deputy administrator, says, “Well, it won’t be the only gamble that we made that didn’t pay off.”
Most of the bird will be finished by Fitzgerald’s next chicken festival, says designer Joe Kyte, 60, a Tennessee-based topiary maker who goes by the business name Topiary Joe. For clients around the world, he has built sculptures of greenery resembling all kinds of things, from dinosaurs and Bigfoot to elephants and whales. Once the main structure is completed, workers must add steel mesh, a drip-irrigation system and the apartment. Then they will attach at least 5,000 plants, he says.
Mr. Kyte says he has never built anything this big. He has two 13-foot-tall chicken legs in his garage waiting to be trucked to Fitzgerald. Asked how he adjusted designs to handle the project, he says, “I just winged it.”
Write to Cameron McWhirter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Jon Koplik||11/24/2019 1:20:28 PM|
|Dog puts car into reverse, drives in circles in Florida ..........................|
A dog drove doughnuts alone in a car for half an hour. There's video.
They should give that dog a license," a neighbor told the Sun-Sentinel. "He drives better than some people I've seen on the roads here."
A Florida dog put a car into reverse and drove it in circles for nearly an hour
No one was injured, though the dog did ram into a neighbor's mailbox.
Florida dog trapped in car drives in circles for an hour
In a Florida cul-de-sac, neighbors watched in confusion as a dog was captured on video driving its owner's vehicle in circles in reverse for nearly an hour, ...
WPLG Local 10
Dog days in Florida as pooch seen 'driving' car
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: SirWalterRalegh||12/26/2019 7:33:42 AM|
|ITEM 17: Ace of Spades HQ reported, "If Donald Trump wants to ensure he recaptures the 2020 electoral votes in the Great Lakes states he won in 2016 -- and possibly add Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Maine -- there is one simple thing he could do that would make him a hero to every snow-blowing American -- issue an executive order to restore functioning gas cans.|
"To be clear, this would also make him a hero to tens of millions of other Americans throughout the country who use lawn mowers, power tools, etc around their homes or in their jobs. In 2009 the EPA banned the sale of gas cans that functionally pour gas. To be specific, the scientifically illiterate bureaucrats at the EPA outlawed gas cans with vents, mandating that all new gas cans must have crazy contraptions that require three hands to operate. Unlike the old gas cans, the new ones spill gas all over the user and onto the ground. The result of the EPA’s incompetence is a new gas can that is much worse for the environment than the one it replaced. The incompetent regulators at the EPA are so scientifically illiterate that they honestly believed that the vents on gas cans were there to allow gas fumes to escape, rather than the actual purpose of allowing air to flow in to the can so that gas can be poured out. Having received their science education in Oppression Studies classes at Grievance State University, these morons making rules for how we gas up our power tools have likely never handled a tool more powerful than their own personal groomers.
"The government-mandated non-functioning gas can may be the most unpopular government-imposed regulatory rule since the 55 mile per hour speed limit. If you don’t know someone who mocks and despises these stupid red canisters, then you are living a very sheltered urban or upscale lifestyle. Most all working-class and middle-class Americans deal with these awful containers, and they mock the government for imposing them on us."
I am not going to pretend to know what he is talking about.
But if the federal government did it in 2009 -- the beginning of the Obama Era -- then by all means it was probably the exact opposite if what should have been done, and should be repealed.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|