Tuesday, June 30, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Is the Bowery Salvation Army, closed months ago, really becoming a high-end sushi restaurant? [Curbed]

ABC No Rio gets money to stay alive. [NYT]

Grieve begins chronicling the Superdive Diaries. [EVG]

This creepy Michael Jackson painting turned up in a Meatpacking gallery window:

And more weirdness: A piece of Jackson's Neverland Ranch now resides at Coney. [Gothamist]

More gang-banging off Tompkins Square Park. [NMNL]

No Longer Empty

As the storefronts of New York City sit vacant, thanks to a combination of landlord greed and economic meltdown, No Longer Empty steps in to fill the voids.

"Revitalizing space : unlocking creativity...No Longer Empty is a group of curators and artists who present thought provoking exhibits in empty store fronts." Their first stop: The Chelsea Hotel. Running until July 18, they've taken over the former space of the Capitol Fishing Tackle shop.

Inside, there's a vaguely nautical theme--the curators told me that each show will have a theme somewhat in line with the space's former occupants--beach balls pile on the floor, there are sailors and portholes.

There is also tattooing imagery, a few life preservers, and a collection of sculptural books on how to catch "big fish" like Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg.

It reminded me of my favorite moment in time on 42nd Street, when the empty theaters were filled with art installations, surrounded by smut shops and peep shows. It was, to me, the perfect combination of aesthetics and cultures. Art and sex.

There are no smut shops around the No Longer Empty show, but it does feel a little bit like the early 1990s--when a recession opened up creative possibilities in the city.

There is still hope.

Friday, June 26, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

How NYC mourns the death of Michael Jackson. [Gothamist]

The city's yuppie bars are already cashing in on Michael's death. [Grub]

Everything you wanted to know (or maybe didn't) about a night at Superdive. [EVG]

The showdown between pier queens and Village neighbors gets heated. [Villager]

Pride Weekend kicks off today with the Trans March for Social Justice and then the Drag March in Tompkins Square Park...followed by tomorrow's Dyke March, before the big parade on Sunday.

This weekend and next, take an ambient, absurdist, audio tour of Manhattan. [Absurdist]

A peek inside the NYPL through time. [NYPL]

The Wiz

In honor of Michael Jackson today, a tour through the New York City of The Wiz.

Released in 1978, The Wiz presents a frightening, fantastic, post-apocalyptic vision of New York City. It was filmed in Astoria Studios and on location--but many of those locales have vanished.

From a cozy apartment in Harlem (where she's "never been south of 125th St."), Dorothy (Diana Ross) travels to Oz, landing at the New York State Pavilion in Queens' Flushing Meadows Park, where munchkins were turned into graffiti by the Wicked Witch of the East, aka the City Parks Commissioner.

New York Magazine

Traveling through a landscape of urban decay, she finds Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow in a junkyard garden. Wikipedia writes, "Michael Jackson's performance as the Scarecrow was one of the only positively reviewed elements of the film, with critics noting that Jackson possessed 'genuine acting talent' and 'provided the only genuinely memorable moments.' In 1980, Jackson stated that his time working on The Wiz was 'my greatest experience so far...I'll never forget that.'"

The Scarecrow in crucifixion pose

After Michael's song and dance number, they ease on down the road, past mountains of uncollected garbage, and along the tracks of Coney Island's Cyclone. The amusement park around it has gone "el foldo," closed down, says the Tin Man presciently. Next, they pick up the Cowardly Lion, who busts out of a stone lion at a replica Public Library built inside Astoria Studios.

Michael Jackson

The yellow-brick road takes them through a danger-filled Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station and Times Square's 8th Ave., where Spandex-clad hookers drug them with poppy dust. Thus doped, they nod out on a tenement rooftop.

The Caprice and Eros I theaters, both vanished

Revived, our heroes glimpse the Emerald City of Lower Manhattan and ease on across the Brooklyn Bridge for a massive dance number in the courtyard of the World Trade Center.

There, the Wiz sends them off to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, who runs a sweatshop down in the sewer system. After the flying monkeys, a gang of bikers, chases them through Shea Stadium, they of course manage to melt the witch and save the day.

World Trade Center/Emerald City

As is well known, Michael Jackson was most happy in his fantasy lands--and the New York of The Wiz is pure fantasy. The city that inspired it is gone. Michael Jackson is gone. Roger Ebert wrote yesterday, on the occasion of Jackson's sudden death, "Oz was where he wanted to live. [Scarecrow] was his most truly autobiographical role. He could understand a character who felt stuffed with straw."

At the end of the film, Michael as the Scarecrow says, "Success, fame, fortune--they're all illusions." Nothing matters, he says, but the love you have in your life. As we saw last night in spontaneous gatherings all across the city, he was loved by many.

The Wiz cast

Thursday, June 25, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Singing on the fire escape. One woman off the High Line is making it work for her. [NYT]

This High Line tour has a close-up shot of those leopard print unmentionables. [FNY]

Some new "bespoke cocktails" joint is actually asking its customers to respect the neighbors and keep it down. [Grub]

On Mott Street, collapsing buildings and vampires. [EVG]

If you buy a $98 Bowery T, says Alex, "you're pathetic." [FP]

No more dancing in the Washington Square fountain. [GVDP]

Beauty Before & After

About a month ago, Beauty Bar opened another outlet of its growing chain in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The original opened on 14th Street in 1995.

The New York Times in 1997 called the ambiance here and at Beauty's sister bars "part theater, part seance to the ghosts of the spaces' former occupants." The former occupant here was a beauty parlor owned by Florence Cusmano. According to the Voice, "When they took over and turned it into a watering hole, they kept on the then 87-year-old Cusmano until she couldn't make the trip from her apartment anymore."

An addition to the Vanishing New York flickr pool turned up this ghostly image:

Photo by Aonghais MacInnes on flickr

You can play "note the differences." There aren't many, really. But the "Please Be Quiet" sign in the new photo is definitely missing in the old.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

The Dystopia is officially here: MTA "sells out public," begins selling naming rights to city subway stations. No way in Hell will I ever say, "Get off at Doritos Station." [NBC]

Varvatos is selling Bowery T's for $98 a pop. [Racked]

Please save us from this Save the Nightlife committee. [Gothamist]

The CB3 gets bait and switched yet again. [EVG]

100's of calls to 311...and nobody's listening. [BB]

Your ticket to the Rent Guidelines Board Circus. [SG]

Parisian Dance Land

Grieve and I were on the same wavelength recently when we both thought of doing a screenshot guide to Kubrick's Killer's Kiss, which played this weekend at IFC. As he showed, Killer's Kiss is one of the best cinematic sources of imagery from 1950s New York City. It's packed with scenes of Times Square, and one of my favorite recurring scenes in the film takes place at a taxi dance hall.

all images here from Killer's Kiss

Called Pleasureland in the film, it was shot at the Parisian Dance Land at 49th and Broadway. In archival photos, you see it next to the RKO Palace ("8 Acts Vaudeville"), above a Whelan Drugs store, and underneath a big, neon advertisement for Sylvania (Television Sets! Radio Tubes!).

Across 49th, a multi-story wraparound ad for the Mayfair Theater was forever changing its bill: Robert Mitchum in Angel Face, Robert Taylor in Above & Beyond, Gary Cooper in High Noon, William Holden in Escape from Fort Bravo.

In 1955, when Killer's Kiss came out, if you were dancing inside the Parisian and you looked over your partner's shoulder, out the window and uptown, you would be met with the startling and no doubt stimulating image of a giant-sized, three-dimensional, bikini-clad Jane Russell, bowie knife hitched to her scanty bottoms as she dives for treasure in Underwater!

A man in 1955 might imagine that the 1 of 50 "charming hostesses" in his arms was Jane Russell, and not a dancer described by Leo Rosten in his amazing essay "Taxi Dance," where we meet, among others, Blossom, a girl with a toothache from New Brunswick, New Jersey, who glumly recalls her former life as a five-and-ten store clerk and a movie usherette. Who keeps sighing and saying, "Gee, it's too bad you had to choose me tonight. Really, I'm lively."

According to Rosten, a ticket bought you one minute of dance time and, every minute, a buzzer went off, telling you to give the girl another ticket. You had to keep going back to the booth for more tickets. Your partner would tell you all the presents she likes to get, like "Lingerie, bracelet, purse, maybe an evening gown. Honey! Let's you and me go out tomorrow night. Mmmm! If you keep me past nine, of course, you can make up my time."

In "Taxi Dance," Rosten briefly visits the Parisian, the site of Killer's Kiss. There he meets Flo, Hazel, and Babe, each with a housepet who "thank God...can't tell what goes on" in their wild apartments.

I wonder, watching this film, if any of those girls are in these scenes, if the dancers are real dancers or actors. But Rosten visited the Parisian in 1938 and Kubrick was there 15 years later. Flo, Hazel, and Babe would have been middle-aged by then, married or moved away. Maybe back to the five-and-ten or murdered in some noirish scene. But anyway, off the Parisian dance floor for good.

Also see:
1551 Broadway

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

NYC Prep: "this paean to Upper East Side plutocrats looks a little out of date — if the camera panned the other side of Madison Avenue, it would show darkened store windows and 'for rent' signs." [NYT]

Take a close look at this photo sent in by tipster Reed. "New York's Oldest Restaurant, Est. 1879"...Gage & Tollner soon to be an Arby's:

Fight for rent stablization tonight at Cooper Union. [Gothamist]

Visit Frenchie's Gym--for a Chandleresque, Brooklyn experience...Frenchie "does it with love." [SNY]

Is the former Cafe Figaro getting banked? [BB]

Will the Parks Dept say "no way" to Washington Square Park's private security force? [WSP]

Celebrate Pride with a look at pre-Stonewall NYC. [BBoys]

Another Myrtle tenement torn down--"as a precaution." AKA "to make room for a condo." [QC]

Note from the Backside #6

Yet another Backsider has begun hanging items from laundry lines and fire escapes behind the Coop. They write:

"As you know there's been an underwear battle going on--clotheslines hung up by tenants to show protest of the bars inches from people's windows, and other problems. I'm sending a picture of the latest installment--pantyhose and douchebag." The words "Douche Bag" are written on it in black marker.

Patio-goers should definitely wear protective headgear with this little number dangling above--nozzle-side down...

More Notes:
Note 1
Note 2
Note 3
Note 4
Note 5

Monday, June 22, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

On the renovation of Washington Square Park: "rich folk who are sponsoring this want to change the character of the park from the free-wheeling street-theater scene to something that resembles their backyard terraces." Sounds familiar, doesn't it? [Post via Curbed]

Teens today "do not have much sympathy for alienated antiheroes." They're a generation of joiners. So to Holden Caulfield they say, "Shut up and take your Prozac." [NYT]

Grieving the loss of beloved white cat in the East Village. [NYT]

Anti-ramen graffiti saves the day. [EVG]

No Longer Empty storefronts are art galleries at the Chelsea. [LWL]

photo: Softies Central, JVNY flickr pool

A building collapses on Myrtle Avenue. [NYT]

Track down a mystery of Diamond Jim Brady. [GLF]

If a tree falls in Brooklyn, does anyone listen? [ENY]

Mark your calendars:
6/26, 7pm: Attend the 24th annual AIDS Candlelight Vigil in Greenwich Village, at Sheridan Square Park and Christopher St.

Check out the "Indigenous" show--art by native New Yorkers--at the City Reliquary, 7/1 - 8/15.

Labor Day weekend brings a Rockabilly & Burlesque Festival to Coney Island.

Friday, June 19, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

The New York Subway Project chronicles all 468 subway stops in New York City. It even comes with an interactive map! [via Trainjotting]

Sally Young and The Bowery Neighbors have put together a website chronicling the history of (just about) every building on the Bowery from Houston to 9th. Check out their East Bowery Survey here.

Admiral's Row is collapsing. [Curbed]

Did a "disgruntled old man neighborhood blogger" tag the accursedly named DBGB? [Eater]

Is it Dallas or New York City? That's the question I ask myself whenever I walk past the new face of Astor Place:

This whole thing about wild hawks infiltrating East Village eatery "Birdie's" sounds like a viral marketing stunt to me. [Gothamist]

Alphabet City gets Novogratzed--with a new mansion between A & B. [EVG]

Another gas station goes--and big-box development seems likely for this corner of the LES. [BB]

Take a walk along Court Street. [FNY]

Seltzer Man

For years, I have had this dream about running into Walter Backerman, the seltzer man, the best in town, third-generation schlepper of fizz, and owner of the oldest seltzer route in the city (dating back to 1919). Well, you walk the streets of New York long enough, and eventually some of your dreams come true.

I ran into Walter on Bleecker Street.

Amid the flurry of high-end super-shoppers, parked among gleaming BMWs and SUVs, Walter guarded his rickety delivery truck while his helper ran seltzer bottles in and out of buildings. Walter watches the truck because the traffic cops love to give him tickets.

Maybe it's the truck itself that attracts the traffic cops. It's no beauty queen, but a beat-up step van filled with character. The cab's back panel is lined with photos, autographs from the famous (Sarah Jessica Parker and Whoopi Goldberg), clippings from the many newspaper and magazine articles on Walter, and faded snapshots from the old days of seltzer hauling.

"This'll be the last picture taken in this truck," Walter told me as I snapped his photo for the blog. He's getting a new truck. A sleeker, roomier model. But the old shelves will go with him, as will the wooden crates made by a customer--and the bottles, of course, those gorgeous antique bottles, some the same as his father and grandfather used to schlep.

Walter is friendly and chatty, and he likes to tell stories. He recalled the old days, back in the 1970s, when he delivered to dangerous neighborhoods and kept a gun stuck in his waistband to fend off thieves. Today, in Bloomberg's New York, it's the traffic cops he has to fight.

"So what was better," I asked, "the traffic cops or the muggers?"

"Same shit," said his helper, Derek. "Only difference is, you can't touch a traffic cop, but the muggers you can fight back."

Walter agreed, laughing, "The sneak thieves. I could take 'em. They put a gun on me, I'd take out my money, like this. I was arrogant, counting it out slow, one, two, three. Right in their face. I'd tell 'em: You better shoot straight, 'cause if you miss, I'm gonna make you eat that gun."

Nobody messes with the seltzer man.

Walter Backerman, back in the day
  • Hear Walter on Radio Diaries
  • Read about him in the New York Times
  • Read more in Imbibe
  • In Walter's own words: "...I remember loading the truck in the Summer of 1964, and seeing another seltzerman with a tall multi-paneled forest green bottle in a case of ten, next to me. I pulled it out to admire it. It was cold, having just been filled, and in the heat, it seemed to be sweating. I held it to the light, and spun it around in the air, and as the sun reflected off its dazzling brilliance, it looked like a jewel ablaze. It was at that defining moment, that I fell in love with seltzer bottles..."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Payphone Man

There is a man in the East Village who has walked the streets for years, checking the coin return slots of payphones for spare change. He used to carry a Tower Records bag. Now he carries a Duane Reade bag. Years ago, our paths crossed at the same time and place each day, early morning by Love Saves the Day. There, he would slip his finger into the payphone's coin return, often coming up empty.

If I got to the phone before him, I would put a quarter in the return slot. Not because I thought it would help him financially, but because when you're searching for something rare, unexpectedly finding it can really lift your spirits.

My morning schedule and route changed and I stopped passing that corner. I didn't see the man for years. When Love Saves the Day closed and the new ramen place ripped out the payphones, I thought of him. I wondered if he was still alive.

Recently, I ran into the man near the same corner and spoke to him.

"They took out your payphone," I said as we passed Love Saves the Day.

"Yeah, they did," he said, "Business has been down all around."

"Is it because of cellphones?"

"Yeah, cellphones. And you know what they're doing now? They make impressions of the key and open the phones. They just empty the coin box."

He stopped to check another payphone's return dish. I asked, "How many phones do you check each day?"

"Whenever I see one! But the odds are zero to five, zero to twenty."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

French anarchists take Union Square Barnes & Noble and Sephora by storm. [NYT]

...anarchist's reading of The Coming Insurrection "" [AM]

Lower East Side a "Disneyland for drunks." [EVG]

On the MTA
, more yunnies = harsher urban etiquette signage. [CR]

Checking in with the Bowery Stakeholders. [BB]

"This bespells doom." --Sedaris, at the Strand, on the Kindle. [NYT]

Park Slopers, don't leave your stuff lying around--it'll get stolen. [BP]

Note from the Backside #5

Near tragedy struck the Backside last week. An air conditioner plummeted from a top-floor tenement window, sailed towards the hotel patio, and took out the infamous clothesline with all its brown-stained underpants and double-D brassieres.

Foul play? Karmic retribution? Or just a couple of loose screws?

Wrote one Backsider, "There was a huge thud. At first I thought it was someone falling off the hotel’s upper balcony, which totally scares me. Relieved it wasn’t. But now the clothesline is gone (well, for now)."

RIP: old clothesline

This week, the clothesline has been rehoisted in a new, more prominent position. And the group of disgruntled residents who resurrected it have gotten fresh press--WPIX calls them the "panty coalition," and 1010 WINS' John Montone dubbed their exploits a "lingerie line of defense."

the new line from the Backside

"No word yet," writes Andrew Ramos at WPIX, "as to how owners of the CSH Bar are taking the subtle, but effective" tactic.

But let's not forget what the Times reported last year--that the hotel developer "considers it an asset that guests in the $100 million hotel...may peer down on a tenement roof where laundry is being hung out to dry. 'That’s the kind of thing people want to see,' he said."

More Notes:
Note 1
Note 2
Note 3
Note 4

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Thompson LES owner says the angry neighbors will eventually realize the hotel is good for them. [Grub]

The Backsiders and their Cooper Square panties get heard on 1010 WINS.

Note to clueless hotel guests, that bench is reserved for the Hell's Angels. [EVG]

A gang of mermaids, along with Miss Cyclone Angie Pontani and a sad-looking bunny, showed up at Amanda Burden's office yesterday to protest the destruction of Coney Island. Said Pontani in a press release, "If this plan goes through as it is, it’s going to be a tragic loss, and 20 years from now, people are just going to say, What was the City thinking?" Read more at Kinetic Carnival. And watch the video here.

(thanks, John, for the photo)

Bloomberg gets hipsters to do his dirty work in Greenpoint. [NYS]

This American Apparel photo-shoot spoof is pretty funny. [Gothamist]

Boogie covers the news coverage of a Calvin Klein billboard. [BB]

Meet to Save (what's left of) the Bowery tonight. [EVG]

Stay away from the "Hell Line." [ANY]

The Waterpod

The Waterpod--"a floating, sculptural, eco-habitat designed for the rising tides"--has docked alongside the South Street Seaport, shoulder to shoulder with Water Taxi Beach. And though they're experiencing "technical difficulties" in opening to the public, I got the chance to climb aboard for a tour.

Mary at her bunk, with view of Brooklyn Bridge

I talked with Waterpod founder Mary Mattingly, an artist formerly living in Queens, and two of her shipmates, Alison Ward and Mira Hunter.

Mary walked me around the barge and showed me their chickens, the gardens planted with edibles like corn, squash, lettuce, and strawberries, along with flowers for attracting bees and other pollinators. She explained how rainwater is cycled through various systems and how the Waterpod might one day be fully sustainable, providing shelter for displaced people.

She's thinking about global warming and over-crowding, the Earth running out of space. But the Waterpod made me think about gentrification.

What if we all lived on Waterpods in the East River? In fact, the Waterpod is a kind of floating New York, hammered together from the odd flotsam of the city.

The cedar planks used to build the structures around the kitchen and shower were recycled from dismantled water towers, those lovely icons of the skyline.

The metal fencing came from the Broadway play Equus. The garden enclosures were cut from wooden crates used to ship art to Chelsea's galleries. The tarp over the geodesic dome, built as a rainwater catchment system, was ripped from advertecture signage. (It's inside-out so the dome is white outside.)

And the retro woodland wallpaper that covers the living quarters came from the TV studio backdrops used on As the World Turns, which has been taped in New York City for half a century.

The Waterpod was built at the Long Island City Boat House and GMD Shipyard at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. It doesn't have an engine, so it gets tugged from site to site by the tugboats of Staten's Island's Miller's Launch. I asked Mary what the reaction has been from the city's salty maritime folks, phrasing my question something like, "Did they give you a hard time, thinking, you know, What are these tree-hugging artist types up to now?"

Mary told me it was quite the opposite. "Seafaring people play by their own rules," she said, "and they're very environmentally conscious. We learned a lot from them. Really, we're catching up to their speed on all of this. They know how to live on the water and deal with waste. Even the dockmasters. They tell us, 'Thank God you're doing this--we've been preaching this stuff for years.'"

Monday, June 15, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Enough people want to spend $65 on a "Fuck the Recession," burn-your-money T-shirt that these are Sold Out at 7 New York:

Hey, it's a trend:

Others are enjoying "recession porn." [TIME]

Another mall store for Manhattan--JC Penney says "we're just like you." [Racked]

Pelham 123 remake unrealistic, say NYC's commuters. [Gothamist]

...and why the original Pelham is better than the remake. [RS]

Non-homeless bread thief pilfering in Williamsburg. [Grub]

So how has the downturn affected crime in NYC, if at all? [CR]

The Bowery gets pretentious. [EVG]

Another antique shop falls, with childhood memories of psychos. [FP]

Roxy Graffiti

Walking on the newly landscaped High Line recently, I noticed a row of sheet-metal panels, all freshly painted gray. It seemed odd to me at the time. What I did not know was that the gray paint covered a large graffiti tag.

photo: Jason Andra

At the time of the graffiti's erasure, a reader sent photos to Towle Road and said, "I think what makes the High Line so special is its attempt to claim urban decay as a feature of beauty...not about painting over any former features of the city."

The tag, which read WERRROSLURRR, had topped The Roxy nightclub for years. In a warehouse dating to 1920, the famous Roxy opened as a roller rink in 1979 and closed as a gay dance club in 2007, after passing through the 1980s as a hip-hop and breakdancing mecca. The Bowery Boys have a full history here.

Did Werrroslurrr belong to any of those groups? A roller diva, a disco doll, a breakdancer, or a Chelsea boy? Maybe not. Maybe he or she was just a random tagger, aching to get that name up high on the High Line.

source: Towle Road

Today, the whole High Line has yet to be developed. Further uptown, there is still a wild meadow along the tracks, untouched, but slated for dismantling and reconstitution. There is also more graffiti, including a large mural by Cost and Revs.

The same Towle Road tipster also indicated to Gothamist that a fight to save graffiti along the High Line has gone on--and perhaps continues to go on--among and between Friends of the High Line and the mayor's office. (If anyone knows more about this fight, and how to get in it, let us know.)

Will all the graffiti be painted gray? If so, will the only visuals placed along the High Line be these massive billboards hawking luxury goods? The answer should be obvious--the Joneses are here and they have property values to protect.

Friday, June 12, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

This was inevitable: Standard Hotel guests show off their naked selves for the High Line strollers. The show includes men, women, "Lights, leather, chains. Everything." [NYM]

Check out the schedule of summer rock in Tompkins Square Park. [TSPL]

Some broke-ass tips for living cheap in Greenpoint. [BAS]

Still trying to save Coney Island. [RS]

When new New Yorkers and old New Yorkers clash, there may be Yelping. [EVG]

Oh boy, snow leopards in Central Park! [Gothamist]

A collection of Times Square images through time--from the extensive and infinitely distracting vintage ephemera site of James Lileks.

Note from the Backside #4

Just when you thought it had gone away, the Backside returns. This time, an audio-video mini documentary. The best part comes at 20 seconds into the video, showing how sound travels through windows closed and open.

As the Backsider writes, "We hear every drunken inanity." Now you can too!

More Notes:
Note 1
Note 2
Note 3

Thursday, June 11, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Here comes Marc. It's only a matter of time before the cupcake trail brings him east. [Curbed]

"Where are we?" (Hint.) "It’s like one of those movies set in New York City but clearly filmed in Canada..." [Awl]

There's not much more annoying than people who walk and text. Says one, "It’s become like your security blanket." Exactly. So what are these people so afraid of? [CR]

Looking down from the High Line at Standard Hotel guests--all with "smartphone" security blankets in hand or lap:

Are squatters taking over empty apartments at StuyTown? [STLL]

Remembering Sammy's Bowery Follies with a rare postcard. [EVHP]

View the changing face of Harlem. [NYE]

Do you belong in New York? Take the quiz. (I scored a 107.) [TONY]

Nicholson Baker is speaking at Judson Church tonight. Read his nifty article about Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Another spot on the Rodeo Drive end of Bleecker is opening (for Marc Jacobs?) as beloved Biography Bookshop announces it's moving east--to the non-Beverly Hillsy end of Bleecker...

...The bookshop will be near Cornelia Street, across from the still-empty Zito's Bakery, and it looks like it will be renamed "bookbook":

Butter Lane owner says they don't want to be a bar, they just want to serve wine with cupcakes. [EVG]

...Meanwhile, they're experiencing some suspicious non-cupcake-related (?) odors. [NMNL]

On the gentrification of Park Slope's 5th Ave--and, stop the presses, the NY Post actually quotes and cites a blogger. [HIPS]

It must be Defend Hipsters day. I did it and Mike Albo does it: "I come to you at a time of great tension. I am here today to defend the hipster, and to create lasting peace between hipsters and greater New York City." [NYT]

"I keep picturing Carrie Bradshaw on the High Line, and it terrifies me... I worried that it would one day be overrun with tourists and film crews. I imagined turning on the television to see Carrie stumbling down its promenade with a broken heel, weeping over Mr. Big. How, I wondered, could it possibly retain the tranquillity that made walking along its rusting, decrepit deck such a haunting experience? ...We still need to see what will happen when the High Line gets on the major tourist itineraries." [NYT]

View the corpse of Times Square. [GVDP]

Old Oldsmobile signage on Flatbush. [SNY]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Yesterday, at the High Line, I sampled the Bird Bath green pizza. It tasted good. But it was gone in 3 bites and it cost $4. That's $1.33 a bite.

Ken's been walking the High Line since it was a jungle. [WHL]

Take a look back at the old High Line. [FNY]

As the Times announces hipsters go home due to lack of parental fundage, Details gives the scoop on the Brooklyn "poorgeoisie," those who "look like hoboes but spend like millionaires." [Details]

Check out pics from the benefit to Save Ray's Candy. [SG]

A new novel by Colum McCann looks deep into 1974 New York. [CM]

The trash produced by the customers of 16 Hindles continues to fascinate. Grieve took a second look at it last night. And now, this morning, right outside the froyo shop, these strange symbolic configurations of cup and spoon. What does it mean?

New High Line

Ever since I first saw the High Line in photos by Joel Sternfeld, I wanted to go up there. Yesterday, when the newly renovated High Line opened to the public, I got my chance. Of course, it wasn't the High Line I remembered from the photos.

That vanished High Line was an off-limits, untrammeled mystery hidden right above our heads.
Weeds and wildflowers poked out between rusted railroad tracks. Ailanthus trees sprouted along crumbling, graffiti-covered train platforms. The High Line was a weird, green path cutting between the brick hulks of abandoned buildings. I longed to climb up through the locked gates, where only the brave dared to venture. But I wasn't brave enough to even try.

That was a decade ago. Today, the High Line is a tamed, manicured beauty. An elegant showpiece.

The crazy quilt of weeds, junk trees, and wildflowers that helped make the High Line so mysterious and otherwordly are all gone, and yet returned--in domesticated descendants of themselves. Before removal, they were harvested for their seeds, cultivated in a Staten Island nursery, and then placed with care and planning in the new park.

Signs along the path say the landscape is wild, but it's actually, according to the High Line Blog, "designed to recall the self-sown landscape that grew up on the High Line after the trains stopped running" with "over 7,500 native grasses and perennials" that peek up between hand-laid tracks and track-like slabs of poured concrete.

The new High Line is a simulacrum of the old. In its imitation of nature, it separates us from the natural. We're in Baudrillard's hyperreality territory here.

But in this elevated urban garden, people are not thinking so much about the difference between the real and the hyperreal. They sun themselves, text, talk on the phone. They carry golf clubs and push double-wide strollers. They rest next to piles of shopping bags, exhausted after hours of consuming. One or two read a book.

From way up here, in the rarified air, we gaze at the glazed backdrop of condos, hotels, and shop windows. Sometimes, it feels like a tour of CondoLand, as if the towers had come first and this new High Line was perfectly placed as a scenic viewpoint from which to admire them. Look at all the glass! Mountains and icebergs and glaciers of glass.

As if it were a giant roadside drive-thru tree, we stroll straight through Balasz's luxurious crotch.

Here and there, you'll find remains of the old Meatpacking District. A couple brick buildings are still inhabited. You pass a few cracked windows, some barbed wire, the crazy backside of Novac Noury's building, complete with a dessicated Statue of Liberty and collection of broken urinals. (But where is Noury with his spurting keyboard?)

It's not bad up there on the new High Line. It's very pleasant. Very nice.

I sat down on one of the many benches and enjoyed the view, the breeze, the summery fragrance of the vegetation, which smells like something wild if you close your eyes. And I overheard one young man say to his friend:

"This project was actually controversial. Some people wanted it to stay a natural meadow. But I'm glad they didn't. I mean, that would be dangerous."

See all my photos of the New High Line here

See Joel Sternfeld's photos of the old High Line here