Friday, February 27, 2009

Old City Hall

Now and then, the Transit Museum sponsors a tour of old City Hall station. That hallowed, buried place. ForgottenNY visited a while back and I just went in December.

You wait on the platform at the current City Hall station and a train takes you into the loop, where the #6 turns around before heading back uptown.

The loop is where it's all happening. It's the backstage area, behind the curtain, where the wonder lies. You climb out on a wooden bridge and the train roars away, screaming around the curved track, leaving you behind in the semi-dark, in shadows lit by dusty chandeliers and bare bulbs that trace the City Hall arch like lights around an ingenue's dressing-room mirror.

You stand in the former waiting area, in the smell of chlorine, like an indoor swimming pool, while the guide gives his schpiel. They hand out earplugs because this may be the noisiest place in the entire subway system. Train on curved track is a nightmare of sound, all twisted metal and skull-ripping buzz saw.

In the intervening quiet, in the claustrum of that room, you may feel your bowels contract and the breath go out of your lungs. It's a catacomb feeling, a bit claustrophobic. You look up, at the sunlight coming through the stunning jewel of glass above, and exhale. This is what New York used to be.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

BoBo's watch gentrification dreams vanish: From the LES to LA, those who hoped gastropubs and boutiques would replace "tattered old businesses" are left to wonder "What happens to bourgeois bohemia when the bourgeois part drops out?" [NYT]

From the same article as above: Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like says, "The economic downturn is good for fringe neighborhoods. It returns the neighborhood to the people who consider themselves to be real residents."

Happy birthday Washington Square Park Blog!

No Starbucks for Gowanus. [GL]

Harlem loses "revitalizing" coffee shop. [Grub]

Candlelight vigil tonight to remember the closure of Our Lady of Vilnius. [OLOV]

The Times reveals the DABA girls (remember them?) consider themselves to be satire. [Gothamist]

A cranky New York character emerges--and he's spray-painting dog shit. [CR]

Post-Crash Revisionism

Since Wall Street crumbled and the yunnipocalypse began, it seems more and more journalists have come out of the woodwork to say:

1. They never liked investment bankers, hedgefunders, and other masters of the universe
2. They believe such people have half-destroyed New York
3. They miss the old, pre-Gilded Age city and hope the downturn will bring about its return

I'm glad they're speaking up, but where were they for the past 10 years, under a cone of silence? I don't remember hearing these sentiments. At least not until right after the initial crash:

Judith Warner in the Times discussed "a certain kind of resentment and sense of injustice that a particular class of non-monied professionals in the New York area came to feel sometime in the late 1990s... a sense that the wrong people had inherited the earth. They had taken over everything."

In the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote, "maybe Manhattan will become affordable again, and cool, and dangerous. Dangerous in theory, but not to you or your family and friends. Dirty, but in a good way."

Alex Williams in the Times declared, "Wall Street hotshots were never beloved figures on New York’s cultural landscape. It’s no coincidence that the protagonists of books and movies like 'The Bonfire of the Vanities' and 'American Psycho' tended to be narcissistic jerks, or worse."

Fran Lebowitz told the Observer, "Just when you think how horrible New York has become in terms of things interfering with the tone of the city, they’re finally leaving! The rich people! They’re leaving! They’re leaving!"

The Times of London attested, "in New York, nobody likes investment bankers... In recent years, there have obviously been way too many of them and, as a result, a load of bad restaurants, galleries and bars have been allowed to flourish. Now they’re going, that froth will be off too, and it’s no bad thing."

These quotes all come from last fall, back in September and October, before the sins of Madoff, AIG, and all the rest were made public. Since then, many more people are claiming that New York always hated Wall Streeters and Sex & the City kids, with their indulgent ways, their bottle service and shopaholism, all those values that permeated and wreaked havoc on the city.

But is that true? Did most New Yorkers resent Wall Street culture until last summer's end?

I seem to recall everyone having a pretty good time, riding that golden wave of conspicuous consumption, munching cupcakes, making "resy's," buying shoes with abandon. Let's face it: There wasn't much complaining until now.

(Even celebu-chef Anthony Bourdain has jumped on the disappearing New York bandwagon, visiting almost-lost Sophie's bar and bemoaning, "
Where can a guy get a drink when the last gin mill closes down, when there’s nothing left but the fern bar or the lounge, when the barkeep has been replaced by the mixologist?")

To be sure, everything we now all seem to agree is detestable about the Narcissistic Age will come again. Hopefully, when it does return, New York will resist. And members of the mainstream media will be critical of that corrupt culture from the start. This last time around, they could have provided a strong voice of dissent, powerful enough to help sway mass culture.

Maybe then our city would not have vanished.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Antique Shops

There have been two more casualties in the rapidly vanishing Antique Row part of town, which I wrote about here in December.

Another space is opening on 11th Street where most of the carnage has been focused. I couldn't find the name of this shop, but it's had those wooden chairs for sale outside for as long as I can remember:

And the Panorama Galleries on 4th Avenue and 12th Street is closing. A tipster told me they're moving to Brooklyn. This one was always fun to walk by because they had lots of ever-changing furniture outside, most of it affordable and unfancy, much of it interesting. I got a small shelf unit there once:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Anthony Bourdain blogs about the disappearing city and it's good to see someone else singing the praises of "the spaghetts with red sauce and meatballs in the back dining area at Manganaro's," an under-appreciated treat. [AB]

And on beloved Sophie's, Bourdain says, “I don’t want no wide screens, high-fiving white guys, no fauxhawks or gel heads or hot chicks with douchebags." Now let's hope the TV show doesn't start attracting them. [Grub St.]

First look inside the new McNallified Minetta's. Looks like the walls survived, but I'll save my verdict until I get inside. [Eater]

Peeler Man passes down his craft (and his carrots) to his daughter. [Gothamist]

First the Holland, then the Holiday, now we hear Lucy's may be the next "dive in danger." Hopefully, as two commenters suggest, she's just visiting Poland. [Grub]

More bad news for bitter owners. [Gothamist]

The "rockstar" Ludlow to get a Western Union on its ground floor. Not so sexy. [BB]

Love is different in the boroughs than in Manhattan. [CR]

Julie's Boots

Grieve recently reported on the story behind the closure of the original Two Boots on Avenue A, adding that he was "curious what will happen to the illustrations." I was curious, too, so I asked JVNY reader Julie Wilson--the artist who created this signage and the "Two Boots look." I interviewed her and here's what she told me.

photo: my flickr

In 1985, artist, illustrator, and former East Villager Julie Wilson worked for co-owner Phil Hartman as a dishwasher at the Great Jones Cafe. “He gave me my first sign-painting job there--to paint the menu on the wall.” A few years later, Phil with his wife and co-owner, Doris Kornish, asked Julie to design the signs for their new pizza place.

“They knew my style and wanted that! They gave me an overview of what their new restaurant was about--pizza, Italy, Louisiana, fun, family, there would be a jukebox, etc. So I came up with some sketches and voila!”

The original facade included windows painted with a pair of boots, later replaced by Italian and Louisianan flags:

photo: julie wilson, 1987

Using "one shot enamel sign paint," Julie hand-painted the signs for the original location on Avenue A, “and then the sign for the slice place they opened across the street a couple of years later.” She also recreated the Avenue A panels for the Two Boots in Brooklyn.

photo: my flickr

In 1990, The New Yorker wrote a Talk of the Town about Doris and Phil, their life on East 10th St., going back to 1979, and the Two Boots on Avenue A. They described the well-known bar, decorated with objects “mummified” in polyester resin, and the jukebox, which included the Sex Pistols and neighborhood bands like The World Famous Blue Jays. Today, the partners have split. Their Pioneer Theater shut down, the Two Boots video space is for rent, and the original Avenue A location is closed.

Julie’s sign panels, she recently heard, will be going to the Two Boots in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

photo: julie wilson, brooklyn studio, 1989

In 1996, the Times described Two Boots as harbinger of a “creeping civility along Avenue A, and the changes over the last year that some in the neighborhood welcome and others decry as an evil incursion of gentrification”--an incursion that eventually helped push them out of the neighborhood in an all-too common ironic twist. So I asked Julie if she thought the Two Boots empire hastened the gentrification of the East Village.

She told me, “It was a great day when Two Boots first opened. It was a welcome addition to a not very restaurant heavy East Village. I had already been priced out two years before, so gentrification was happening and Two Boots had nothing to do with it. It really is the natural order of things that people who live somewhere and dig in their heels would want to create the places that they want to go.”

To see more of Julie Wilson's art and vintage East Village photos, check out her:

Monday, February 23, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

The Rawhide bar is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. Dark, dirty, and cheap, it's "One of the very few businesses along Chelsea's 8th Avenue that has been around since long before the neighborhood gentrified...still feels a bit like a time-warp," says Gay Travel:

Cell-phone lovers are saying, “Frugal is the new chic... In today’s economy, it’s not cool to pay $120 a month for a phone. It’s a waste of money.” [NYT]

A look inside Gowanus luxury--complete with "Being John Malkovich"-style ceilings. [PMFA]

Go up in the old hotel Joseph Mitchell made famous. [13]

They're getting ready to pave over Extra Place and turn it into a "slice of the Left Bank." [EVG]

Advice to starving artists: Get into the pavement engraving biz. [Restless]

Looking into the mystery behind the loss of beloved Vesuvio bakery. [NYT]

Lovely old public-school doorknobs discovered. [AMNY]

Someone stole a painting of a melancholy cat from the International Bar. They'd like it back:

Lascoff Drugs

In a city overrun by Duane Reades, sterile and bland, walking into Lascoff's Pharmacy on Lexington and 82nd is like being in The Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black-and-white to brilliant Technicolor.

The venerable Forgotten New York tackled Lascoff's last year, reporting: "Pharmacist J. Leon Lascoff (1867-1943) emigrated from Russia (he was from today's Poland) in 1892 and opened an apothecary in a brownstone building on the SW corner of Lexington Avenue and East 82nd in 1899."

Everywhere you look in Lascoff's there's something fascinating to see. Wooden cabinets hold ancient amber bottles stoppered with corks and labeled in vanished typefaces: Dogwood, Oak Bark, Soda Mint Granules. Drawers are stuffed with herbs and labeled with mystical-sounding names like Verbascum.

More cabinets display the pharmacy's history, including photos that go all the way back to the days when medicinal leeches came in stoneware jars. Yes, leeches:

You can't get leeches at Lascoff's anymore, but you can find plenty of odd products, like interesting soaps and combs from far-flung places, as well as the usual stuff you get at Duane Reade. Here's something to think about: What if, instead of DRs, every corner in the city had a Lascoff's?

See all my photos of Lascoff's here

Friday, February 20, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

A slice at Two Boots on Avenue A brought the following intel: A "giant restaurant" is moving in to the former video space and Pioneer Theater and the basement. We heard Upright Citizens Brigade was taking over the Pioneer, and they've applied for a beer and wine license. Could they also be a ginormous L-shaped restaurant that will run from Avenue A to Third St?

Digging has begun on the sliver coming to 7th Street's former Miracle Grill garden:

More "Brodaway" subway typo intrigue. [Gothamist]

A visual survey of New York's neon signs. [NYT]

Parker Brothers to create new game based on getting around the construction debacle that is the Financial District. (Joke). [EVG]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Welfare to Wall Street: Out of work? Finding it hard to stretch that six-figure severance check? Did you "forget" to save some of your income over the past decade? Don't worry, Bloomberg has a handout for you! [NYT]

Bloomberg tells Obama "no thanks," denies out-of-work poor New Yorkers food stamps that might actually help out. I guess we all better pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Except Wall Streeters of course--all they're pulling is a nice handout. [NYT]

Who knew NYC had an "Antenna King"? We do and he says: Even with a digital TV and an HD antenna, if you have tall buildings around you, you will probably get unwatchable reception after the Abominable Upgrade. Can we really afford cable right now? How about lobbying Time Warner to charge $5 a month for rockbottom basic? [NYer]

When the downturn goes bad: the fabulous Gino to shutter? [Eater]

Jill discovers the tragic history of one of my favorite buildings--and one of the last mystery houses of the Lower East Side. [Blah]

Grieve takes a shell-shocked walk through the grim graveyard that used to be Coney Island. [EVG]

HunterG meets a crazy pimped-out hearse in Williamsburg that may become the "It Car" of the new Depression. [HG]

Best sterilization autoclave? In gold glitter? Now that's the kind of ad copy that makes me want to run in for a mani-pedi right now!

Changes on Charles

Last time I checked in with Weird Way West, the westernmost margin of Greenwich Village, life on bricky, cobblestoney Charles Lane was still fairly quiet. Today, it's an explosion of undulating glass. 166 Perry Street has fully arrived--totally glazed and complete with a $24 million penthouse.

Looking a whole lot like the Chelsea Modern with its wavy, boxy windows and louvers, it promises "sweeping views in the heart of the West Village," according to the giant sales office advertising up the street.

Of course, according to recent reports and market predictions, those views will most likely be of transgender sex workers and their clients getting busy at the edge of the West Side Highway.

Or maybe right there, down there, in the shadows by that tree...

Post Script:
On my walk to Charles Lane, I happened to pass a woman flagging down her local garbage men. She had a big, tabletop-sized plate of glass on the sidewalk and asked the men, "Can you take this? I'm afraid if I leave it here, it will get smashed--you know, with all the changes in the neighborhood."

When was the last time you heard someone in this city talk about scary neighborhood changes and they didn't mean hyper-gentrification?

Is glass no longer safe in Meier Haven--now that Charles Lane may be turning back into some semblance of Pig Alley?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

More News from the Yunnipocalypse:
-"Nolita" crashes and burns--goodbye to all the little boutiques that killed Elizabeth and environs
-Sex & the City sequel creators strain themselves trying to make the movie "recession friendly"

The Old Homestead Steak House has officially lost their dining room after the landlord raised the rent. It is up for grabs--and looking for MePa retail in an economy where no one's biting:

After Nolita dies, can we get Elizabeth Street back and all the great street art that once graced 11 Spring? [GVDP]

The replacement for the Playpen and Funny Store has been revealed. It's big and it's made of glass. Because "White glass along Eighth Avenue reflects the movement and shimmer of the street"--which may end up being the shimmer of prostitutes and squeegee men. [Curbed]

Affluence of past decade a trick of smoke and mirrors: "there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium." [NYT]

Jill takes us back to the East Village of the 80s. [Blah]

Pino's & Joe's

This lovely blunt and battered instrument is called a pistone.

It's over 200 years old, it's made of brass, and it belongs to Mr. Pino Cinquemani who brought it from Sicily where it's been in his family for I don't know how long. Last time I checked, at Pino's Prime Meats on Sullivan Street he uses the pistone to flatten cutlets.

Like Albanese Meats and Poultry, Pino's is one of the last of Little Italy's remaining butcher shops, in an island of a lost neighborhood swallowed up by Soho. Owned by Mr. Cinquemani since the 1990s, it's been a butcher shop since 1904. Hacksaws hang from a rail and the front window is filled with black-and-white photographs of men with Brylcreemed hair.

A ghost of New York past, Pino survives in this luxe town in part by catering to its trendy eateries. Said the owner of Prune to journalist Brett Martin: "Pino is a perfect old-world gentleman. At the end of the day, he takes off his apron, washes the blood from his fingernails, and has a cup of espresso. And he pinches my ass every time I come in."

After getting your ass pinched by Pino (if you're that lucky), step across the street to Joe's Dairy, another treasure that has somehow survived the years. At Joe's you can get a sandwich, and you can also get homemade mozzarella. New York Daily Photo estimates that Joe's produces nearly a ton of cheese each day.

Fresh mozzarella tastes great just eating it right out of your hand. Better yet, enjoy it with a hunk of bread and salami. That's a moveable feast right there.

Stumbling on this neighboring pair of classics feels like discovering a hidden motherlode. Each seems to be preserved in amber, unchanged over the decades. Is this little chunk of Sullivan Street a magical vortex of anti-gentrification? Let's hope it stays that way.

See all my pics of Pino's and Joe's here

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

More News from the Yunnipocalypse:
-The fantasy of the editorial dream lifestyle is officially dead
-One economist declares NYC depression-bound: Low rents! Long grocery store lines!
-Cops getting scared of squeegee men
-Real Housewives of NYC worried everyone will hate them now

Luxury East Houston Hotel stoops to advertising on St. Marks Place karaoke screens. People singing Blondie songs have to look at this:

What do you wanna do tonight? I don't know, whatdya you wanna do? Well, tomorrow night, you can honor Ernest Borgnine at Tortilla Flats. [NYT]

"Are bed bugs the new black?" The Jane protesters send up fashionistas. [Racked]

In photos of Hell's Kitchen, Bernd Obermann captures the past in the present. [NYT]

Simon Houpt says a profound goodbye to Oscar Wilde Bookshop in this "season of abasement in the American empire," after a season of starving the soul. [G&M]

It has just been brought to my attention: Luc Sante has a blog. [ekotodi]

Lexington Candy Shop

The Lexington Candy Shop Luncheonette is no hidden treasure--on the weekends it's overrun by Bugaboos packed with trust-fund babies, but it's the Upper East Side, so that's okay. Still, it is a treasure--opened in 1925 and not renovated since 1948.

I remember the first time I stumbled on it, years ago after coming from a day at the Met, in search of good food. Later, when I worked in the neighborhood, I became a regular, sitting in the first window seat eating dinners of French toast and bacon.

I love the counter with its hot-pink panel and the green-topped swivel stools. I love the curved soda fountains like swan's necks and the chrome cake platters with their foggy plastic covers. I love the malted container and matching 1940 seafoam-green milkshake shaker.

And I really, really love the crazy, utterly anachronistic fact that they serve water in these antique conical cups and stainless steel holders. I don't know anywhere else in the city where you can get that.

See all my pics of the Luncheonette here

Friday, February 13, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

The opposition has been very quiet here since the crash. But we just got a juicy comment. Anyone want to answer Anon's challenge (click here)? "Call me crazy but I prefer DR [Duane Reade] to a Mom and Pop--they are cheaper, cleaner, they have more variety and there's always one open. I just think some people here need to get over themselves and grow up a little, you're not a 19 yr old 'atriste' [sic] anymore."

More News from the Yunnipocalypse:

Thanks to the commenter who recalled that Day-O used to be La Marionetta. A search turned up this lovely photo from 1987. Let's hope whoever takes over leaves that antique chrome:

from westvillagebob's flickr

Philip Seymour Hoffman films on Orchard. [BB]

The vanishing cityscape immortalized forever on a cool tattoo. [EVG]

The P&G tries to hang on to some of its old neon sign. [CR]

Are you an anti-Valentite? Spend Valentine's Day enjoying the Post-Apocalypse film festival at Freebird Books.

Gowanus area Jewish Press Building for sale [TRD] ...another picturesque structure to vanish from this enchanting industrial area:

my flickr

Jeffertede's Market Opens

Jefferson Market, long closed and almost reopened rather mysteriously after agonizing weeks of slowly emptying shelves and sorrowful signage, announced its Grand Opening for today, Friday the 13th, at 8:00 AM.

Last night, the place was decked out for the pre-opening private party. Lots of well-heeled, white-haired men in dark suits gathered inside to sip champagne and munch hors d'oeuvres served from silver trays.

As a tipster first tipped here last month, Jefferson Market has been taken over by the Gristede's supermarket chain. A follow-up conversation with an employee confirmed that Gristede's bought the place and The Villager assures the Montuori family will still be co-owners.
So it's sort of the same, but also very different.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Day-O, the retro restaurant on Greenwich Ave, has long been empty and we've wondered when it would reopen. Now it's officially declared Abandoned and the landlord is taking "peaceful possession":

It's almost all signs of the Yunnipocalypse at this point...

Blogger and Madoff victim who writes about "her comedown from a life of pedicures, high-thread-count sheets and Hermes purses" just landed a book deal. Will the new rich-chick lit trend be all about losing it? [NYT]

Buh-bye Dubai! Do you hear that hissing sound? Is that--I think--yes, it's the sound of air going out a big, fat balloon. [NYT]

"'There's a sense of there being a gaucheness in spending in excess and coming home with a Louis Vuitton or Chanel bag,' says Lucyann Barry, a personal shopper and stylist for New York's ultra-rich." [yahoo]

Trapper John

One of the phenomena disappearing from the streets of New York is the "New York character." We still have a handful--like the Birdman, the omnipresent He-Man, and that guy who dresses all in white, and this guy--but they are an endangered species (whatever happened to the Cross Man and Warhol Van Gogh?).

As we become evermore Pupkinless, it's always exciting to find another character, or the traces thereof. In the increasingly flavorless Park Slope, there is still Trapper John--as OTBKB calls him, describing him as "the man who is singlehandedly saving Park Slope from squirrel and racoons."

The Daily News got the story of a Park Slope trapper named Jim back in 1997 and I'm assuming it's the same guy. They described how the "licensed private critterbuster" does his thing. I've never seen him, but I've seen his "Pestmobile," a mid-century ambulance decked out with painted pawprints, anti-skunk and raccoon signage, and notes to potential harassers, like this one below:

There's a second critter mobile in the neighborhood, and while I assume it also belongs to Trapper John, the thought that there could be two urban trappers is sort of exciting. Maybe it's Trapper Jim's. But this brown pickup truck, slathered with pro-hunting and trapping bumper stickers, is not quite as picturesque as the ambulance.

It does come with one amazing piece of folk wisdom: "Kids who hunt, trap, and fish don't mug little old ladies." Maybe, as the city slips back into its bad, old days, Bloomberg should turn a chunk of Times Square into a Bass Pro Shop emporium to cut down on the muggings.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

As Brooks Brothers' Black Fleece debuts on Bleecker, let's not forget what used to be there--Mr. Nusraty's Afghan Imports, pushed out after 30 years by a rent hike to the tune of $45,000.

Stylistas have become Recessionistas--anyway, they're paper-bagging it at Vanity Fair.

Roy wraps up the recession's brighter side for NYC... [RS]

...including this must-read article in the Atlantic by Richard Florida, who says, "the financial crisis may ultimately help New York by reenergizing its creative economy. The extraordinary income gains of investment bankers, traders, and hedge-fund managers over the past two decades skewed the city’s economy in some unhealthy ways."

Anthony Bourdain visits our "Disappearing Manhattan." [EVG]

And our cuddliest Slacktivist, John Penley, disappears from Manhattan. [EVG]

Is a real-estate grab behind the possible demise of Central Park's carriage horses? [MGross]

Daily News

Opinions are like, well, you know. And everybody has them. Today, mine's on the Opinion page of the Daily News. Here's an excerpt:

Please visit the Daily News to read the rest.

Thanks to the commenter who tipped me to NY1's mention of this piece:

For more reading:
About This Blog
The Bloomberg Way
On Thrift
Gated New York

For more daily news from the Lower East Side:
EV Grieve
Bowery Boogie
Neither More Nor Less
Flaming Pablum

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

More Signs of the Yunnipocalypse:
-Fashion Week mavens opt for McDonald's coffee
-Hipster heiress may be fleeing Williamsburg for London
-Obama says so: "The party is now over"
-Ivana Trump now only comes quarterly
-No new products from Paris Hilton this year

West Village Alliance psyched to triumph over 73 8th Ave nightclub, which has withdrawn its liquor license application:

...And at that address, the Manor club has replaced its Seized by the Landlord signage with FOR RENT. The Manor was described thus: "Over-the-top perks befitting the wealthy bachelor theme--phone lines connected to charter jet companies, Escalades to swiftly deliver VIPs home...bottle service (starting at $1,600)." Also say goodbye to their "24-karat gold-gilded DJ booth":

The Peeler Man memorial: "Rest in Peels." [FP]

Plywood coming off "McNetta Tavern," formerly the Minetta. [Grub]

The Times follows up on the Interstate Foods story--says the owner of Atlas Meats, “I’ll be out in two weeks...What can I do?” he said. “I can’t do nothing.” [NYT]

The battle for StuyTown. [NYM]

New blog in the Slope: Here is Park Slope visits an air disaster of yesteryear.

Smith Street rent wars claim Zaida's House of Beauty. [PMA]

Check out "Old Jews Telling Jokes." [via David Kamp]

A Flutter of Paper

The phrase "a flutter of paper in a mad house" is a line from Kenneth Patchen's poem "The Origin of Baseball," which has nothing to do with what I'm about to say, except that the line came to mind as I stood on the corner of 42nd and 10th Avenue, watching a flurry of book pages fall from the sky. From, I assumed, the rooftop of the highrise overhead.

It reminded me of 9/11, how the papers fell like fat snowflakes, singed at the edges. Watching the book pages flutter down, I smelled smoke and thought of fire, but the odor was only of pretzels burning on a nearby vendor's cart.

I picked up a page and read:

It was a page from a story, I later discovered, entitled "Say Goodbye to Middletown." It was written by a man named Mann, appeared in an anthology of gay short fiction, and was described by an Amazon reviewer as "a story of lost love, sex between men and boys, and eventual redemption."

What was it doing fluttering down over Hell's Kitchen on a sunny, unseasonably warm afternoon? Each page was torn, slashed, as if in a wild display of destructive rage.

I worried, for a moment, that a body would follow, imagining a young man at the end of his rope, tearing and tossing pages from his gay anthology as prelude to his own swan dive. The perils of the closet? A lost love affair?

Thankfully, no body fell. Not while I stood there.

But the pages--they just kept coming.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Elk Hotel

What's going on at the grand old Elk Hotel flophouse on 42nd and 9th Ave?

Grieve virtually visited the place last summer and discovered, via the Times, that "The Elk's miraculous -- some would say unfortunate -- survival stems from a real estate fluke (the building's owner doesn't want to sell)."

The Elk is still standing, but its first-floor businesses have departed. Namely, "Chicken Ribs" and a Dunkin' Donuts. Both have lost their awnings and the windows are covered or gated.

The "For Rent" signs are a good sign for the Elk, but I'm not sure this is the best time for anyone, especially a flophouse, to be looking for retail and restaurants to rent.

*UPDATE: February 13, 2012--the Elk has closed.