AMBI: (Keys and door opening)
AMBI: (Opening music)
TRACK: In the first episode of this two-part episode, you were introduced to Victor Caltajeno, a super from New York City who has spent 21 years as a super. You heard about how he started and got to know the person rather than the super. In this episode, you’ll listen to him as a super. He’ll talk about what it takes to be one, what the job is like, the difficulties about it, as well as more. Let’s start with what it means to be a super and what does a super do.
Victor Caltajeno: Being a super is making sure that your building is safe. Um, how? No fire hazards, no gas leaks. Your heating system is working properly in the winter. Nothing in the hallway that’s a hazard because somebody can trip and fall, garbage maintenance, moping sweeping in the building. Things like that you know.
TRACK: After explaining to me the job of a super and what he does. He goes on to tell me that he didn’t always work for the company he works in now. He use to work for a company called dogger management. He was glad he didn’t have to work for them anymore. According to victor, they didn’t pay him sick days or vacation days or any bonuses and treated him like garbage. But the company he’s with now is better.
Victor Caltajeno: This company took over it’s a better company, better benefits, we get vacation we get sick days we get a health plan. Plus, like I said, they give us a phone for they can reach us, and also they give us a uniform. Hats, three shirts, right now you got a coat they give us a coat. Everything is blue, you know we gotta wear boots, and we gotta have a sensor for we can check the hot water temperature. The temperature of the house is cel… the radiator makes sure everything is working proper. We gotta have a knife a chief wright knife on us a spatula. We gotta have a tester an electric tester for we can test the outlets and the switch. What else we gotta have a tape metric just in case we have to measure something right away. And that’s it make it look mostly professional and make the tenant feel comfortable with us being there.
TRACK: Victor also told me about what happened to dogger management and how the transition to where he is now happened. It wasn’t a smooth transition; instead it was more luck and chance that made the change happen as Victor explains.
Victor Caltajeno: they lay me off cause the company went bankrupt and they give the building to somebody else then I got a porter job in dogger management. Then they gave me a super job. That’s how I switched up to here in 179th St. Then a year ago this company took over the building after I was working for seven years for dogger so they took over, and they gave me the opportunity to work for them. I had to leave cause if they didn’t give me a chance to work with them I had to leave cause the management was different, so they was not responsible for me, but they like the way I working so they gave me an opportunity to work with them.
TRACK: One of the interesting things Victor told me was how he was starting to focus on getting his certification or diploma, for he can earn even more money. Which I thought was smart the way he was thinking.
Victor Caltajeno: Right now I’m focused on getting my diploma and more degree’s cause at the end of the day they gonna pay me more. The more things I know how to do they gonna pay me more so you really work to get money right, so the people is paying good. The company is paying good so yea I’ll stay here cause in order for me to do something else. I gotta go to school I’m thirty-five years old I don’t wanna go to school to do something else I don’t like you know. I do like this what I’m doing so if they gonna pay me more for doing what I like, my goal is really is to stay here and play it safe and probably be a manager who knows a general manager.
TRACK: Other reasons why Victor doesn’t want to leave include his kids and the community also the longevity he’s had there. It’s all he’s known he’s never really worked anywhere else as a super. He’s Done favors here and there for other companies but has always remained with the one he’s in now.
Victor Caltajeno: I been here since I started as a super I haven’t moved and I don’t want wanna move I create this like around here my kids they around here in school I like the area you know everybody knows me I don’t wanna move and start all over again. With other people other habits I know what they like some somethings got to be done, and I could do it right away they can wait and more patient, somewhere else I won’t have it like that.
TRACK: As much as victor does like his job there are some things he does hate about it. Plumming is always a struggle for Victor. And now I understand why.
Victor Caltajeno: Plumbing cause I’m tall, so when I gotta unclog a bathtub or work under the sink you know it’s hard for me I be hitting everything; it’s kinda messy.
TRACK: There’s also, of course, the supers who don’t take their job as seriously. Victor goes on to tell me about friends he has that are like that. He does admit that there are supers that don’t care what happens and do their jobs for other reasons.
Victor Caltajeno: I got like twenty friend supers probably more, and out of all of them probably three of them like what they are doing the other ones do like to do it. They just do it for the job and the apartment and for the money. They don’t got the building as clean as I got, they don’t work as hard I you know. I like to help right now this is not my building and I came over here and I made my own clock I got the snake in my house I got my tools, so I come over here do it real quick you know a favor for a favor.
TRACK: When asking Victor about the advice he would have for other supers if they ever find themselves in any type of situation with management or any legal troubles, this is what he said.
Victor Caltajeno: Get legal advice cause some of them is legal, and some of the things they do is illegal, and you can’t shut up, and you cant stay quiet cause you know what I’m saying you saying something it helps benefit others. When you speaking you free your mind it’s a free country you got freedom of speech so some of them like me I was scared to say a couple of things we didn’t have sick days or holidays pay. Other companies do it and other companies they don’t do it. So they know we not gonna go out there for fear of losing your job, you know.
TRACK: But as far as advice for anyone who is just becoming a super and is just getting into the actual job Victor keeps it simple, really.
Victor Caltajeno: I’m just letting them know every day is a new thing, so you got to deal with it and if you come to the garbage room and it stinks get another job cause it’s gonna stink all your life.
Track: There’s another important and simple piece of advice Victor did add on later to the conversation.
Victor Caltajeno: Take it easy. Don’t take your job to serious not too serious just don’t take it too hard. Don’t be rude and be flexible with the people around you and work wit the building, the building works with you the people in the building is the one that makes you and to be a great super and to be successful for you to like your job you gotta do it like this is a hobby makes somebody happy, it makes you happy. So do the best you can to satisfy the person you know the tenants.
TRACK: And you learn how to be a super and everything from your father you said right, so what was like the number one thing he told you that always sticks with you?
Victor Caltajeno: Don’t change be yourself and like I said being around some of the people it will give you bad vibes sometimes they will get mad at you and you just trying to make them comfortable and listen to them and what they say work around with what they want, you know if you can do it, do it if you can not then you can not do it.
TRACK: In closing out my conversation with Victor there was only one real thing he wanted people to understand about him and his job, just one thing he ask of the tenants and for anyone else he does a job for.
Victor Caltajeno: I got things to do to its not like whenever you wake up today its listen well call the super for he can do it now. No please, I would like for people to understand me better and treat me better, that’s it I give you respect, and you give me some respect.
TRACK: Hopefully you got some insight into what it’s like being a super and the trials and tribulations Victor had to face and is still facing to a degree. And I hope you enjoyed the listen as well for Baruch College this Christian Nazario signing off.
AMBI: People talking, scene for potluck.
TRACK: I attended an end of the year holiday potluck. It was hosted by Open Love NY, a New York-based organization that serves the polyamorous community. It was at a local rented room in Midtown, Manhattan. Hardly anyone knew each other, and yet, within five minutes, people were talking to each other as if they had been friends for years. Many gushed over the array of foods set on the table: cheese and meat platters, cake, pulled pork, salads and pie. It was there that I met Leon Feingold, a very tall, welcoming polyamorist. We chatted and decided to meet for lunch.
TRACK: We met at a restaurant called Yum Yum in Midtown, Manhattan. Leon is a frequent visitor, and indulges in two courses of lunch specials. He is a competitive eater.
ACT: “I was in the US Open of competitive eating, I was featured in the Glutton Bowl, I was the second person the history to eat two three and half pound sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli here in New York. My mother doesn’t know whether or not to be proud of me.”
TRACK: When Leon isn’t competitive eating, he’s a lawyer, real estate broker, baseball pitching instructor and running several organizations. Though, Leon wears many hats, all paths lead him back to polyamorous advocacy. The reason behind this? A curious date that sparked his interest.
ACT: “I first realized I was polyamorous when I first went on a date with somebody from OKCupid. She described herself as smart, interesting and polyamorous. When we went on a date, she told me what that meant. In short, you can have people in your life and different relationships, have a boyfriend, have a husband, whatever – but continue to date. Continue to meet new people and have relationships with them. That was shocking to me. Not because it was against my moral beliefs, but because I didn’t know such a thing existed. I was amazed that polyamory existed. And even worse that no one knew about it. So, from that week on, I pretty much decided I was going to be a volunteer in the poly community.”
INTRO: This is Plural Love and I’m your host Melissa Bacian. (introduce yourself as host)
TRACK: Though, Leon was new to the polyamory community, he had always known this was who he was.
ACT: “Monogamy never felt natural to me. And I thought, maybe when I meet the right person, I’ll be happy and settle down and be monogamous. That’s the idea, that’s what society tells us. At least for me, the idea of monogamy just simply didn’t fit. It made sense that I should be able to meet new people at all times and explore connections with them in ways that made sense. So, even when I had an amazing partner, I never really felt like they were everything that I wanted. But I assumed that either meant that I needed to mature, or that I needed to meet somebody who was everything that I wanted. Unfortunately, I don’t think such a thing exists. It’s more the story we tell our self.”
TRACK: It’s difficult to know exactly how many polyamorists there are in the US. According to Elisabeth Sheff, an academic who researches polyamory and has written numerous books on the subject, she conducted a general study in 2017. Out of 8,700 US single adults, it was found that more than one in five engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point intheir lives.
ACT: “I think the idea of non-monogamy is super, super common. Most people know about polyamory these days, which is way better than a decade ago when I started dating. I had to explain what polyamory was to everybody. Now, I have to explain what polyamory is to maybe a third of the people and I have to correct what people think what polyamory is to the other next third of the people. And I’d say the other third have the right idea about it.”
TRACK: Leon strives to educate the general public on polyamory. Though, the practice of dating multiple people has become more prevalent, it is still a new term for many.
ACT: “I was a guest on The View and Jenny McCarthy says, ‘Oh, I tried it in college and it didn’t work. So, I don’t believe in it.’ First off, you’re gonna tell me you had one threesome in college? You were like penthouse pet of the year. You really had one threesome in college. Okay, that’s one. Secondly, the idea that because you tried something and it didn’t work means that it can’t work for other people is ridiculous. And third, you know what, I have learned that even if something doesn’t work for me, I have no rights to judge other people if they believe it is what works for them. As long as whatever it is that they do, doesn’t hurt other anyone else and doesn’t hurt themselves, go for it. Do all the things, in fact, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the purpose of life. Do everything, try everything you possibly can. Without hurting yourself or anyone else, as long as you do that, I have no place to judge anyone.”
TRACK: Leon is the co-founder of Open Love NY. It’s an organization created by members of the polyamorous community, for the polyamorous community. They host both educational and social events for its members, and foster a public climate in which all forms of consensual adult relationship choices are respected and honored.
ACT: “We provide at least three or four events in and around New York every month. Sometimes it’s a discussion group, sometimes its social events. But sometimes there’s, you know, there’s fun things like board game nights. There’s also a group called spiritual polyamory, which is a group of people that decide that their polyamory, their version of it, or whatever appeals to them, is in touch with their spirituality and whatever that means. While that’s not something that I’m personally interested in, I love the fact that it’s not polyamory, like an on and off switch, there’s so many different variants, like colors of a rainbow that when you look at the entire prism of the polyamorous experience it’s not just, ‘Oh, you’re poly, you must be into all these things.’
TRACK: Leon is a widower whose wife was also poly. He now currently has two partners. One he’s dated for almost four years and the second one for almost two years. he describes the two relationships being vastly different from each other. With that said, jealousy can still arise from time to time.
ACT: “The one I’ve dated for almost four years somebody, she’s polyamorous. She is somebody who has been with me since before Yuanyuan, my late wife. Before she got sick, before we got engaged, we were all seeing each other at the same time and there was a little bit of jealousy in that situation. And I think it’s because nor my current partner or my late wife have ever been in poly situations before. However, both of them took to it extremely well. We are heavily socialized in our relationships. So, even though jealousy is a natural, completely normal emotion, we’re taught to fear it. We’re taught to avoid it. But I think with enough communication and teamwork we were all able to make things work. In fact, we could not have done it when Yuanyuan got sick, without the support of her partners and my partners coming together in a community that worked together to provide support both to her when she was sick and to the rest of us who were taking care of her.”
TRACK: Leon hopes to continue his work as a polyamorous advocate in the community.In May 2014 he helped launch New York’s first openly polyamorous residence as its spokesperson, broker, and attorney. He gave a TED Talk on polyamory at TEDxBushwick on March 21, 2015.
ACT: “It’s my personality. When I believe in something, I want to pursue it. I want to tell others about it. I’m not gonna push polyamory on anyone. My goal is not make people polyamorous, my goal is to educate them about polyamory and help them make the decision for themselves.”
TRACK: Leon has a monthly polyamorous relationship advice column, “Poly Wanna Answer?” He’s also writing a book set to come out next year.
AMBI: Does anyone ever call it Baruch College and then you get really offended and you’re like no asshole, it’s Baruch. Baruch Ata Adonai, which means uh, actually, it means Baruch, how are you? So, Baruch Ata Adonai, nice to meet you all. Actually, wait, Baruch Ata Adonai means blessed are you God, so Baruch means blessed, so, Baruch you are God, like millennials need more ego stroking. I’ll be here all week, try the pad Thai.
TRACK: This has been another episode of Plural Love, I am your host Melissa Bacian, signing off.
Freeni: Hey listeners this is Freeni Aragones here to talk about an amazing ice cream booze infusing company called Tipsy Scoop, who share some of their recipes through ice cream classes. I got the opportunity to speak to Abby Lavin, the Director of Operation for the company, by making a trip to their production facility in Harlem. It was a bit difficult finding it but well worth the trip. The classes are held in their production facility as well where you will hear some of the employees, trains because its New York City of course, and most importantly get an Introduction to Abby, Tipsy Scoop, and their incredible Instragram page which everyone should check out.
Freeni: You guys have a page that people want to be a part of, everyone wants ice-cream one of the most popular desserts ever, everyone wants to mix booze, if you can put booze into something people are going to be there. Over 21. You guys have crazy decorations, when you guys put all these things together, how does it feel to come up with the final piece when you see everybody be happy, maybe after a class or something, how does that feel?
Abby: It’s amazing! It’s always the best feelings to make your customers happy and excited, we love what we do, and we get so excited to share what we do with others and make them happy. Melissa Tavs in the owner and founder of Tipsy Scoop, She’s the creative director, she thinks of all the recipes and decorations, she’s a genius. Does such a great job putting things together, there’s a lot that goes on behind closed doors, as every small business has, but we work really really hard to make sure our customers are satisfied with our product and our Instagram is sort of a story of what we do.
Freeni: How many tipsy scoops are there?
Abby: We have two retail locations in New York City, we have our production facility in Harlem, where we are now. We have our co-packer who produces a large quantity of our ice-cream in Brooklyn, and then we are in wholesale nationwide, we also ship nationwide.
Freeni: Their Instragram page might inspire soon to be ice cream makers and could create a world where ice cream machines become just as popular as a coffee makers and toasters. For now, we get a close look into how Abby used to implement her ice cream skills at home, making you considering buying an ice cream machine for yourself.
Freeni: The average person doesn’t know how to make ice-cream, this is actually why I’m coming here, I’m a huge fan of ice-cream, it’s one of my guilty pleasures, because I have ice cream way too often. For someone who knows how to make ice cream, how often do you make it at home and what is your favorite ice cream combination to make?
Abby: Good question, so actually I’m actually a classically trained French pastry chef, so I have been making ice-cream for over a decade. I used to make it at home before I went to pastry school and when I was in high school, I would have fun with a small ice cream machine at home. But now that I have access to a commercial grade ice-cream machine here, I don’t make ice-cream at home as much anymore, I do eat a lot of ice-cream at home. For the average person trying to make ice cream, there are lots of great books out there, to find recipes to find out how to make your standard ice-cream. As well as some really fabulous ice-cream machines out there, you just mix it and you pour it in, press on and start and its ready to go in 10-15 minutes. But in class you really get to see how to make boozy ice-cream because the ratios are different, obviously alcohol doesn’t freeze, so you wouldn’t add too much alcohol, and then if there’s not enough alcohol then what’s the point?
Abby: Alright so now we’re going to do our ice-cream, which is Santa’s cookies and whiskey, This is the first special class doing this flavor. This is one of our most popular holiday flavors. It’s based on the story with Santa eating cookies with milk.
Freeni: Besides ice-cream what’s your favorite thing to do? That you could put alcohol in.
Abby: Well chocolates are a great example; you could put old fashioned types of cholates like rum balls. They don’t bake off so you can get the alcohol in there. A lot of baked goods though, bake. So you bake off alcohol and it doesn’t have the alcohol content. With ice-cream you don’t bake it off, so it actually stays in and we have a 5% alcohol. It doesn’t disintegrates, doesn’t evaporates.
Freeni: Honestly just let me know what’s the craziest story you’ve ever experienced working and teaching classes?
Abby: The craziest story teaching classes… obviously when you have retail stores crazy things always happen. In our classes which for the most part are pretty well maintained, and we have really lovely students who get along with each other and it’s a professional-happy environment. Once we were doing a corporate class with a corporate company, there was you know coworkers there and I guess they had a corporate happy hour before they got here. They brought along their own alcohol as well, so by the time they got here they were pretty tipsy. So they were not interested in the class. We no longer allow BYOB in our classes, but we do provide tastings of the alcohol we put in the ice-cream while you’re making it, so it doesn’t get as out of control anymore.
Freeni: Remember that important detail, you don’t pre-game for Tipsy Scoop, Tipsy Scoop is the pre-game. They create a great environment for a corporate team, dates, family outings, whatever the case is, you’ll leave with a bunch of ice cream and ready to enjoy the rest of the night.
Freeni: So when it comes to bake off and bake on, is this anything that people can find online and what would you recommend if someone wanted to do it too.
Abby: It’s a really good question, there are more desserts made of alcohol now than there were 5 years ago even. For an example a very popular bakery on the west side, prohibition bakery, their known for boozy desserts, they have a cookbook, so you could find their cookbook. You just have to go online and read the recipes, teach yourself you know, bake it, see how it tastes and that’s the best way to learn. Thank you! That was so fun.
Freeni: After speaking with Abby, I checked Prohibition Bakery’s book on amazon and a bunch of recipes are available inside of it if anyone wants to give it a try. Other booze infused books and foods pop up as well. Making ice cream and baked desserts can be time consuming but spending the day in an ice cream making class opens the door to plenty of possible booze infused options that might encourage us to learn ourselves. Thank You to Abby Lavin, Melissa Tavs, and the whole Tipsy Scoop team. With Baruch Blogs this is Freeni Aragones.
Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to episode 2 of people of the blue basement with Max Hsu. Special thanks to Max for his time.
TRACK: The Renzo Gracie academy. The world-famous jiu jitsu school in New York City. It’s filled to the brim with enthusiastic students who work on their craft daily. Each person setting goals, having aspirations, getting closer to where they want to be day by day.
AMBI: Neiman teaching a technique
TRACK: It’s a typical Wednesday afternoon class at Renzo’s, typical in that it’s as educational as it is arduous. After cooling down for a little, Max and I take to one of the empty training rooms. We’re surrounded by the blue mats, to our left is the weight lifting area. He says today’s class went well.
ACT: “I’ve been cutting down on the aggression a little bit, focusing more on technique, so,
you know, I feel like a lot of the times in life and in BJJ people try to force things, and they don’t really think about the complex problems that arise within our dynamic environment, but today you know I was able to keep up, I was able to put the puzzle pieces together, it was fun.”
TRACK: Most people don’t find rolling in sweat looking for chokes and arm locks fun, but jiu jitsu practitioners aren’t most people. People start their BJJ journey at different points in their lives, some old, some young. Max started his journey after feeling unfulfilled with what he was studying in college.
ACT: “I studied cyber security, homeland security and criminal justice as my double major. I graduated in May 2018, and I know that’s obviously different from what I’m doing now but you know I had some big time job offers from big 3 letter agencies down in DC, and with defense contractors down in the Arlington and Roseland virginia area, and you know what I realized something towards my senior year, this is not what I really want to do. I really don’t enjoy it, I don’t enjoy cyber security. It’s cool to learn how to password crack, people think its cool, once you really do it its like if you’re not about that life, you’re not about THAT life”
TRACK: Jiu-Jitsu had always been in the background. It hasn’t been a constant forward progression for him to get where he is. It started very rocky. He first tried it out when he was 17, six months before he went to college.
ACT: “I hated it. So I quit it. I basically took over 2 years of not doing anything, not having anything to do with it, just doing what college students do. Went to class, slept in, partied, got internships, I don’t really care about that stuff.
TRACK: But in the summer between his sophomore and junior years, he did an internship in London and spotted a familiar name.
ACT: I passed a Gracie school out there, and I was like “lets go back in” just you know a white belt who doesn’t know anything anymore. And I got choked out by a 21 year old Brazilian nurse. Who was 2 years older than me at the time, and it was like “what the hell” she’s 5 feet tall, 115 pounds, what is this magicianry that I didn’t see the first time around? So I was like you know what im STARTING BJJ now!
TRACK: When he got back to Albany, he kept it up.
ACT: I went from fucking absolutely hating to BJJ, to disliking it, to being neutral with it, to liking it, and then I realized it was the ONLY thing that I really loved. Like, something I was truly passionate about”
TRACK: Max always had a fighting spirit. As a kid he found himself channeling what would fuel his passion for BJJ in a much less healthy way. Its safe to say Jiu-Jitsu’s helped mellow and develop his character.
ACT: “But, in hindsight, looking back at myself as a kid, yeah I could see myself doing something in fighting. I’ve been fighting since I was like 5 years old. I’ve been fighting in school, I was fighting in middle school, I was fighting in high school, I was fighting outside of school, I was fighting with my family. I got into a fist fight with my father when I was 17 years old. And you know, I think at the time you know when I tried BJJ I was like “oh I knew how to fight” right? I had this ego, I had this young bravado. And I think I was insecure, and im still insecure, but im working on it. 7:38
TRACK: Max’s perspective on life has evolved a lot just through this former hobby turned full-time. Most people throw the term “live in the now” as a way to excuse them hurting themselves. Max uses it to improve himself, and at some point he would like to make a living doing it.
ACT: “But what im more worried about, is being 35, 45, 55, 65, or any age, and looking back and going the fuck did I do with my life? I got a job in cyber security. I went for a 401k, I got benefits and pension, and what did I do? I spent 9-10 hours a day doing something I truly didn’t want to do because people who have what I don’t fucking care about told me to do it. And at the end of the day its like, there are obvious insecurities and worries I have but what trumps all of those is looking back in 15 years and going what did I do?”
TRACK: BJJ is also a great foundation for establishing a person’s confidence. For Max, it completely changed his view of himself in his day-to-day life. It’s not about hurting others or putting other people down, its all about self-improvement.
ACT: “it might seem like, we wanna hurt people, but I don’t wanna hurt anybody. When I was younger, and especially in college, id get drunk and wanna go out and fight. And its like I look back and im like “yo dude you’d get crushed man.” Like that’s such a bad physical and emotional mentality to have. It makes no sense. So now when I train, unless someones being extra aggressive and you know jamming their elbow in my eye or raking my face, I don’t try to hurt people. I don’t wanna hurt anybody, I wanna get better”
TRACK: BJJ is a real community. People practice with each other, point out each other’s mistakes in technique and execution. Some go a step further, and go out of their way to devote their time to teaching others. Max is one of those people.
ACT: “I teach BJJ and regular martial arts. In the regular class it’s a mix of basic boxing and karate punches, crosses and jabs, then its you know games also theyre kids they gotta play they gotta have fun, some wrestling some BJJ, no submissions though. But then on our BJJ team we let these kids go all out. They’re doing real stuff, like they’re doing legit world class techniques. They get hurt, they cry, we make them brush it off and throw em back in. Kids need adversity, PEOPLE need adversity”
TRACK: I tried capping off the interview with some sort of profound question, something eye opening. I asked Max who he looked up to, what kind of person inspires him. I found myself realizing his answer was a lot like how I would answer.
ACT: “One of my friends here, Deshawn, that dude works 56 hours a week, trains almost as much as I do, and he’s a beast. Think about that. This guy is training at least 20 hours a week, working 56, that’s like an 80 hour work week. And nobody understands it, how much it takes, how much energy you need to do this thing. This is a lot, theres different types of energies but this is a lot. That’s extremely admirable, and if I feel like I have to make an excuse, its like nah dude shut up, get to work get to training, people are always working.”
TRACK: His next tournament’s coming up next month. Needless to say, he’s aiming for first place. This has been another episode of people of the blue basement. I’m your host Konrad Szybisty, thanks for listening.