Wednesday, June 30, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

I love this Best Housekeeping sign on Avenue A. Selling appliances since 1924. But how long can it really last? ...before some genius entrepreneur turns it into an appliance-themed bar.

"Brooklyn has become as much a brand these days as a location. Slap the word 'Brooklyn' on a piece of clothing and it’s instantly edgy, and quite likely to sell." [Inc]

The Amato Opera House has lost its commemorative plaque honoring the decades of work from Tony and Sally Amato. They just can't have that on the bar/lounge to come. Is nothing sacred? [EVG]

Richard Price on the LES: "there were lines going around the block to buy heroin in an apartment that today probably sells for about $2 million." [BB]

Frank Gehry's IAC Building looks like "a plastic iceberg, proud to be likely the last iceberg on earth." [Restless]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Boy, an apartment in Stuyvesant Town sure was big back in the day. And ruffly. This vintage ad comes from Samuel Zipp, author of Manhattan Projects:

Check out the queer HOT Festival at Dixon Place.

A call to rally around Stonewall veteran Storme Delarverie. [LWL]

City's oldest Papaya King is closed for a re-do. [Grub]

Roy of Mars Bar has passed away. [EVG]

Hoteliers work fast on the LES. In May 2009, fire destroyed two tenements. Today, plans for a hotel on the site have emerged. [BB]

Lafayette and E. 4th--in 1912 and today. [FP]

A list of places where people, for reasons I will never understand, like to stand in line. [Eater]

Digital Gould

Back in October, I wrote about how the portrait of Joe Gould has gone missing from the Minetta Tavern, ever since Keith McNally took over the place. I noted how a commenter to Greenwich Village Daily Photo discovered that the painting is now "collecting dust in the owner's 'private collection.'"

my flickr

That commenter, video-game designer Dave Gilbert, recently wrote me an email about how the Minetta, Gould, and Joseph Mitchell have become players in a series of video games that he created. I asked Dave a few questions.

digital Gould

What roles do Gould and Mitchell play in your videogame?

They play roles in two of my games. There are three games in the Blackwell series--Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, and Blackwell Convergence. Mitchell plays a part in the second game (Unbound), which takes place in the early 70s. The main characters are investigating two unusual deaths, and it turns out the victims are people Mitchell had written about. You can go to Mitchell’s office at the New Yorker and speak to him about them. The conspiracy behind these deaths (and the curse that caused them) is further explained in the third game (Convergence), which takes place in the present day. It ties into the strange mystery surrounding Mitchell and why he stopped writing for thirty years.

digital Minetta Tavern

What attracted you to the old Minetta Tavern and the portrait of Joe Gould?

For some reason, I found it fascinating. The image of this emaciated man, wandering the streets and scribbling away in composition notebooks, chatting away with intellectuals and writers, so on the pulse of everything but still very much an outsider. I learned about his relationship with Joseph Mitchell and the fascination increased tenfold. I actually made an appointment with the NYU library to read portions of the oral history (and yes, it’s just as boring and banal as the reports claim).

I still can’t explain why it resonates with me so much. Maybe it’s because Gould and Mitchell were so “old” New York. A type of New York that you don’t get anymore. A type of New York that I was born too late to see and never will. That’s part of what attracted me to the Minetta Tavern. A way to feel connected to that time. I’d go in there and look up at that portrait and get mega inspired.

What do you think of the new Minetta?

I’m the type of guy who likes to drink in quiet, relaxed places. They are hard to find, but the Minetta used to be one of them. Despite being on MacDougal, you didn’t get a lot of the NYU crowd there during the week and so it became my default place to go when I wanted to meet friends for drinks. It was quiet and relaxed, but you could find people to talk to if you wished. A far cry from “On the Wagon” next door, which is always loud and rowdy and not my kind of place. Ironically, I suppose what made it so great was also why it had to be sold. That neighborhood is ridiculously expensive and they just couldn’t pack the people in.

As for the new Minetta, I don’t feel comfortable there. When it reopened, I walked in wearing my t-shirt and jeans and I felt really, really out of place. The missing Joe Gould portrait was only a small part of it. The bouncers, the Gucci and Prada clientele, the loud inane chatter. It just wasn’t my Minetta anymore. And that’s fine, I suppose. For the Minetta, it was either change or die, and at least I can LOOK at the place, even if I don’t want to enter it.

the ghosts of Mitchell and Gould at a diner

There's a lot of discussion these days about digital media vs. print media. And here you are, paying homage to two men of print--Gould and Mitchell--in a digital format. Do you think the two can co-exist, or are they naturally at odds?

The way media is consumed and created is changing rapidly. Joe Gould’s oral history is almost like a personal blog. I always say that if Joe Gould were alive today he would have probably jumped on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagon like a shot.

Monday, June 28, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

More on the art of heroin. [Stupefaction]

Thanks for Jack Szwergold for scanning these flea market photos of NYC from the 1960s and 1980s.

More and more theme-park bars for the East Village. [EVG]

Woody Allen doesn't think Manhattan is one of his best? [P&W]

Who knew anyone cared about the V Train? [BB]

A history of and requiem for St. Vincent's. [youtube]

Running into punk stalwarts at the K-Mart. [FP]

Seen at the Brooklyn Flea, Brooklyn's ghostly scaffold signs on t-shirts by Live Poultry:

Friday, June 25, 2010

10th St. Graffiti

The plywooded corner of 10th St. and 4th Ave. continues to become more interesting since the plans to build a boutique hotel here evaporated.

Some time ago, someone wrote a series of messages that are anti-Bloomberg...

...anti-Marxist (and not anti-Muslim)...

...and anti-psychiatry. The messages seem to be spreading.

Other people have responded in their own notes. Some simply call the writer an "Asshole," others offer their own opinions. It's the old-school analog form of the blog-style comment thread.

There are even grammar and spelling police--my favorite kind. One corrects the spelling of Frances Farmer's name and the myth that she was lobotomized, a fantasy perpetuated by the 1982 movie Frances, starring Jessica Lange.

Most recently, into the monochromatic montage walked this interloper, a wheat-pasted nude with black ski mask and erection spouting floral ejaculate.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

After the departure of Treasures & Trifles, western Bleecker loses another antiques shop. Leo Design's sign--printed in the same font, on the same paper, as T&T's--says goodbye and "We're being turned out." They will, however, be relocating:

Levinstein photos at the Met: "Though it’s hard to imagine now, there was a point when New York was truly the creative engine of the international art scene... That all began to change about a generation ago, as gentrification smothered the city in upscale conformity." [TONY]

The Tenement Museum puts its photo archives online. [TM]

Manhattanville set to be bulldozed by Columbia. Take a look back in photos. [Curbed]

All over Manhattan, junkies are lining up for their drug of choice. [Gothamist]

The art of heroin, the "ultimate ephemera." [Stupefaction]

Farewell to a tugboat bard. [CR]

There are lots and lots of bars on Ave. A. [EVG]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Florent documentary premieres. [Gothamist]

Hotel Pennsylvania is back on the chopping block for demolition. Visit soon and say hello to bellhop Barrington Lovers who doesn't like wheeled suitcases. [LM]

CB3 denies Frank's 165-seat restaurant for Ave A. [EVG]

A former stripper and quinquagenarian horns in on the Naked Cowboy's territory. [HP]

Scenes from Punk Island. [FIB]

Some lovely old store signs. [ENY]

Planet One Cafe


Planet One Cafe is gone. On 7th Street for decades, the little vegetarian restaurant has been shuttered. Inside, the window is stacked with cardboard boxes marked FRAMUS--inventory from the new guitar shop next door.

I guess custom-made guitars are expanding and vegetarian food is not.

I don't know much about Planet One, except that it seems to have been there forever and have a very neighborly vibe. And now, without a goodbye sign, they are just gone. Does anyone know what happened here?

Here's what Vegetarian New York City had to say about Planet One:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Urban Outfitters is creating a fake, "old New York" Upper West Side. Writes one blogger, "Coming next--a theme park where you can meet actual 'mom and pop' actors portraying independent store owners. Bring your kids! Watch actual small business owners cry as their dreams are dashed by sky-high rents!" [WSI]

Raised on the Upper West Side in the 70s, a blogger defends her childhood home from "bad old days" attacks from Commentary and City Journal. [CGW]

A letter of opposition to crowded outdoor cafe on Ave A. [EVG]

"Forget the clopping of hoofs, it was the clipping of hair that beckoned Saturday at Belmont Park." Anyone up for a haircut at the race track? [via Fat Al]

The condos coming to replace Frank O'Hara's last home have been revealed. [Curbed]

Are we about to lose the signage of Katz and Sons? [BB]

Gino's Zebras

When Gino closed, many of us wondered what would become of their signature zebra wallpaper. Sprinkles, the Beverly Hills cupcake chain that is moving in to the location, wanted to keep it on the walls, but as Obit reported, Gino co-owner Michael Miele said, "We take our zebra with us."

And they have.

JVNY reader Karen McBurnie sends in a gut-wrenching photo of a gutted, de-zebra'd Gino:

Karen & Jon's flickr

Without the old wooden bar, without the tables filled with patrons, without the zebras leaping across their tomato-red walls, the place has no character.

It amazes me how all that feeling can simply vanish, leaving a shell that looks just like any other vacant storefront, a dull rectangular box, soon to be churning out cupcakes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

What happened to the Empire Diner's Empire State Building?! It used to stand at the corner like a glittering hood ornament. I hope those Coffee Shop people are just polishing it up to be put back:

"In the late 1970s, the historian Christopher Lasch famously described America as a culture of narcissism. Today we might well be called a nation of dysregulation. The signs that something is amiss in our inner mechanisms of control and restraint are everywhere." [NYT]

Walking the Seaport. [FNY]

If there are mermaids, then it must be summer. [Blah]

Who's designing NYU's big tower? Grimshaw, the creators of the Cemusa news boxes. It's all a matched set. [WSJ]

Looking at the watery ruins of the Hudson. [SNY]

Fairey mural just can't win. [EVG]

Tomorrow night, author David Freeland speaks at the Skyscraper Museum.

In the Bronx: "Today’s bland urban landscape of concrete towers and big box stores rests atop what was once Freedomland, which shrank the United States down to theme-park size." [CR]

Times Square? Enough already. [FP]

Folsom Street East went on this weekend in the shadow of shiny new condo towers:

Klein's Fat Men's Shop

Ever since I first discovered its existence some years back, while researching the city's past, I've had a mild obsession with Sig Klein's Fat Men's Shop. From the late 1800s until who-knows-when, it stood at 52 3rd Avenue, near the corner of 10th Street. For close to a century, it served the needs of fat men all over.

Let's take a look back at Klein's timeline...

from under the 3rd Avenue El

Klein's was the subject of a New Yorker "Talk of the Town" piece in 1931, a year before Mr. Klein died in 1932.

Ben Shahn photographed the shop around 1935. The painter Paul Feeley painted it in 1936. Klein's can also be seen in the background of Berenice Abbott's 1937 photo of the Stuyvesant Curiosity Shop.

Ben Shahn

Kiplinger's Personal Finance wrote in 1949, "The store is well-known in New York for its huge weather-beaten sign featuring an enormous fat man wearing a form-fitting union suit," above the famous slogan: "If everyone was fat there would be no war." (Apparently attributable to one Dr. Frank Crane, a Presbyterian minister fond of making up aphorisms.)

For a peek inside the shop, check out LIFE for their shot of a rather rotund man being fitted for a suit. And Getty Images has two excellent exterior close-up shots, one from the north, and another from the south--both taken in 1947.

Throughout the 1940s, Klein's advertised in popular magazines, proclaiming their prodigious sizes.

Advertisement in Popular Science, 1943

In 1955, Meyer Berger wrote about the place, noting that the "two low gray buildings that house the gargantuan sizes date from 1804," and that Klein "launched the specialty shop back in the Eighties, when most of his customers were German neighbors too fond of their beer. 'The more they drank, the bigger they got.'"

East Side News columnist George Freedman got a similar story in 1954 for his "Did You Know That??" column, crediting the beer-loving Germans for the birth of Klein's:

click to enlarge

In the '60s, things started going downhill for Klein's. In 1963, the Times reported, "Garments Stolen (Sizes 62 and Up) at Fat Men's Store."

The Klein's sign then shows up in Bill Binzen's wonderful book of photos, Tenth Street, published in 1968. In the same time frame, possibly the most recent trace of it appears in this undated shot of that era by Tony Marciante. The photo is from inside the Brata Gallery at 56 Third Avenue, from the time when art galleries took over on 10th Street and 3rd.

Bill Binzen

I can't find any mention of Klein's from the 1970s. No, I take that back--it is briefly mentioned in a 1978 New York Times article about a store called London Majesty, for "royally proportioned men." The writer states, at the end of the article, "shops for king-sized men have come a long way since they had names like Sig Klein's Fat Men's Shop."

Since they had names like Sig Klein's--past tense.

c. 1950s, Klein's sign at 4th Ave. and 10th St.

So was Klein's gone by 1978--or just forgotten? Did it live to see its 100th birthday in the 1980s? What happened to it?

A walk over to its former address shows that the two gray 1804 buildings that once housed Klein's are gone today. A squat, khaki-colored building stands there now, housing a surgical supply pharmacy and a nail salon.

There is no sign of Klein's.

Friday, June 18, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Italians in Williamsburg maintain their traditions while coping with hipsters and yuppies who drop their pants during church processionals. "They don’t respect us, all these young kids--artistes, whatever you call them." Warning: This article will make you angry. [NYT]

Take a look inside an old theater on Ave B. [EVG]

Dispatch from the Noise Wars of the 1980s: "Hey, look man, New York is party city, that's why we moved here...if you don't like it, you can move to the country, old man." Sound familiar? [FP]

In the Village, an urban etiquette sign shows the new nervousness of bar and restaurant owners--please be quiet so the neighbors don't stop us from having our liquor license renewed:

TGI Friday's really is coming to further humiliate Union Square. [Eater]

Bloomberg backs down "somewhat" from banishing art vendors in the parks. [NYT]

Taxi Driver is playing at the Sunshine. [BB]

Looking back and forward at Lafayette Street. [NYT]

In Chelsea, lovely house numbers. [ENY]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Also on the hunt for Hopper's diner--check out the conclusions from Nighthawks Forever. [ShadeOne]

Newest NIMBY war: Wine bar vs. Street fair. [Eater]

Tie up your dog, watch your ass. [EVG]

Remembering the General Slocum. [GL]

Bobby Steele at Niagara. [SG]

"Fauxcade" all wrong for the non-Nighthawks triangle. [Villager]

Beware: "the digital hive mind has no superego." [CR]

Pizza for Zito's

In 2004, Zito's Bakery closed after 80 years in business. At the time, along with rent increases and the rising price of coal, Mr. Zito cited the war on carbohydrates. Since then, the beloved bakery has remained empty and unrented.

The facade has become a miserable canvas for junk graffiti and stickers. One of the tinted glass panels above the window has popped out, leaving behind a dark cavity. But this month a building permit has gone onto the door for a $160,000 renovation--for a "BUILD OUT OF A PIZZERIA."

So much for the war on carbohydrates.

A quick search online reveals an article from Crain's, who reports that "Pizza Roma is taking over the former home of the famous Zito’s Bakery... The new eatery, which has outposts in Rome and Barcelona, is expected to open its first Manhattan location within four months and hopes to follow up with more New York eateries in coming months."

So, Zito's is getting a chain--at least it's Italian.

Will Pizza Roma keep any of the interior? Here's a shot I took in 2008. While the shelves and tiling are intact, it looks like there's not much there to save.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

Allen Ginsberg's apartment is being gutted--and the neighbors wait for the move-in of a "long-past-teenage idiot amping-up to Baba O'Reilly." [Blah]

Landmarks tries to save Bowery buildings. [Curbed]

All these people moved to New York in 2008. [Gothamist]

The debate over banks vs. crowded restaurants. [EVG]

Pre-demolition at Coney landmarks. [ATZ]

There is still nothing happening at Chumley's, though the plywood piles have been moved around:

Monday, June 14, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

The excellent blog Lost City has now been lost from the city. Brooks says goodbye. [LC]

Historic ghost sign disappears from Houston St. [EVG]

The new South Ferry gets a Jetsony space station. [Restless]

The iguana from lost 61 5th Ave. gets a new home. [CR]

Gay youth shelter vandalized in Queens. Rally tonight. [HP]

The owner of Apotheke, the "speakeasy" on the wondrous Doyers St., has been arrested for his cocktail-fancy fire shows. [Eater]

Coney needs mermaids! [ATZ]

Automat Fossils

In his invaluable book Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville, David Freeland of Gotham Lost & Found takes us into Times Square's Grand Slam, "the Number 1 tourist store in Manhattan." Next to the hideous new American Eagle Outfitters (replacer of HoJo's and much history), Grand Slam is three stories of New York souvenirs--snow globes, giant pencils, tons of Yankees stuff.

It also happens to be the site of the former Horn & Hardart Automat, the big one, the flagship, the glorious Times Square Automat. Most of its glories, however, have been covered up. Most of them, but not all.

Armed with camera, taking Freeland's words as a guide, I went inside to seek out the remnants of that lost landmark.

all color photos from my flickr

Of the smooth, brass-railed stairs, Freeland writes, “If the stairway appears proud, stranded amid the miles of tourist ephemera, it has a right. A genuine Broadway survivor, it can remember the days when ham sandwiches were sold instead of Zippo lighters, when troupes of matinee ladies in pillbox hats would sip coffee at front tables by the window, their conversation rising and falling against the happy squeals of children armed with nickels.”

Looking up, in all the clutter, you will see something remarkable.

Writes Freeland, “In the ceiling’s dead middle, clustered around a central pillar like a stalactite formation, twists a lovely design of blossoms and foliage, interspersed with tiny holes for the placement of incandescent bulbs…"

" is what’s left of the Art Nouveau centerpiece unveiled that long-ago morning of 2 July 1912, ignored but not yet willing to disappear."

Imagine taking away all the Big Apple sweatshirts, the "New York Princess" baseball caps, the yellow cab shot glasses and Wipe Out Terrorism rolls of toilet paper. Imagine replacing the racks of souvenirs with tables and chairs. Take the Derek Jeter posters from the walls and install automat dispensers of cream-cheese sandwiches and slices of key lime pie. You will see 1557 Broadway as it used to be:

from NYPL

For another Times Square artifact in a tourist shop, see: Secret Peeps.

Friday, June 11, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

It's time to really start worrying about Meatpacking holdout Hector's says Scoopy. [Villager]

20,000 Legs Under the Sea, a surrealist burlesque manifesto at Coney. [Spectacularist]

Gay Pride parade rerouted to save rich NIMBY wickets. [Gothamist]

The beautiful W. 4th newsstand is revived. [BB]

Meet Moe Stein of Frank's Sport Shop. [CR]

Grieve uncovers mystery behind the Blvd of Broken Dreams. [EVG]

Revisit the speakeasy days on W. 54th. [GLF]

Another obit for Gino. [Obit]

Hopper's Studio

To round off the week of Edward Hopper, a trip to his studio on Washington Square North. It was here, when he wasn't on Cape Cod, that Hopper painted from 1939 until his death in 1965.

all color photos: my flickr

In her Hopper biography, Gail Levin reports how NYU tried to evict the Hoppers in 1947, along with all the building tenants, raising the rents by 20% and refusing to renew any leases. Hopper told the press, "It's getting worse and worse. They're tearing studio buildings down and none are going up. We think it is inhuman and cruel to evict us from here. The University is supposed to be an educational institution, in sympathy with the arts. Is this the way to show it?"

His wife accused NYU, with its real-estate hunger, of "Hitler-like aggression."

The Hoppers managed to stay on as holdouts, becoming the only remaining tenants in an otherwise empty and desolate building, though NYU continued to harass them.

Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbot photographed Hopper here in 1948, during the eviction tension and the artist's resulting anxiety and depression.

A writer from the Met Museum recounted the story of the photo: "When Abbott arrived at Hopper's studio on Washington Square North, she was intending to use some of his paintings as a background. Instead, Hopper's wife suggested that she pose him in front of the bare, worn walls of the studio itself. In the resulting image, Hopper is an austere, angular figure. At the left stands a potbellied stove in front of a fireplace; at the right, the spokes of Hopper's etching press, which he also used as a makeshift hat rack, intrude into the composition."

Remarkably, the Hopper studio was preserved when NYU turned the building into their renovated school of social work.

At the time, historians were nervous. From the New York Times: "Universities have a reputation for being devious," said Ian Anderson, a Manhattan lawyer and preservationist. "What I want to know is how the studios will be preserved when I was told the building is being totally gutted."

Today, the studio (and its skylight) is now a point of pride for NYU.

They probably don't want you to know this, but you don't have to wait for an official tour from Open House NY or some other organization to get in to see the studio. If you're lucky, and a bit affable, you can charm your way past the guard. If you are neither lucky nor affable, just pretend you're going to visit someone on the fourth floor of the social work school.

There is no lock on the studio door and no guard to guard it.

Some ladies sit at desks by the threshold, doing mundane things like answering telephones and typing letters. It seems ridiculous that they should be here, in this sacred place, where Hopper worked, and where he died--until you think: Hopper enjoyed seeing women at their desks and he most likely would have painted them.

The artist's easel is still here. The one, I assume, that held Nighthawks and so many others. If you look closely, though the easel's wood has been scrubbed clean, you can still see a drop of paint here and there. And when the afternoon is right, the wooden floor glows with a buttery Hopper light.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Finding Nighthawks, Coda

Days go by. I am finding it extremely difficult to let go of the notion that the Nighthawks diner was a real diner, and not a total composite built of grocery stores, hamburger joints, and bakeries all cobbled together in the painter's imagination.

The poetry of that idea is lovely and all, but I want the damn thing to have existed, in real time and space. And, if possible, to still be standing.

Thinking again about that line from the Vogue editor who reported that Nighthawks was "based partly on an all-night coffee stand Hopper saw on Greenwich Avenue," I look back at the possible corners, second-guessing my rule-outs. Somewhere, there is the source, the brick-and-mortar genesis for the Nighthawks diner. A coffee stand on Greenwich Avenue.

NYPL, 1933

Walking north on Greenwich, I decide there's no way it's the nascent White Castle burger joint at Mulry Square. That's too far-off.

That pointy florist was a newsstand/candy store, not a coffee shop.

Two Boots Pizza has a glassy curve, but it was a bakery back then. Wait a minute--I'm thinking "diner" when the descriptive term is "coffee stand." Could a bakery be referred to as a coffee stand? In the print-out of the tax photo, Two Boots was the Hanscom Bake Shop. Wouldn't they have served coffee? And maybe all night? It's very possible.

Tax Photo of Two Boots corner, c. 1940

But then it could just as likely be the prow-shaped luncheonette, that surely also served coffee, behind the Loew's Sheridan theater, which Hopper was known to frequent as an avid movie fan.

I could keep going back and forth, up and down Greenwich this way forever, deciding and undeciding, seeing Hopper diners everywhere and nowhere. The entire enterprise is maddening.

NYPL, 1932

And then there's that mystery diner at Block 613, Lot 62.

Even though it's not on Greenwich Avenue, I return to the southwest corner of Mulry Square, where 7th Avenue South meets Perry. Maybe the Vogue editor was off by a block. What did those people at Vogue know from all-night coffee shops anyway?

NYPL, 1933: Southwest corner of Mulry Square

Obsessed, I look around for evidence of the one-story building that went up on this corner in 1942.

No photo of it exists in the Municipal Archives tax records. A mapmaker in the 1950s noted that it was a diner. By 1980, the two-story building that would become today's Empire Szechuan Village had taken its place, erasing it from our sight.

I circle Empire Szechuan, hoping to find some remains of that diner. I don't know what I'm looking for--a rusted footing that once held a signpost, the ghosted outline of a curved glass front? Something.

Then the oddly placed wedge of the entrance rings a bell. And I suddenly see it.

From the Perry Street side, I see the old diner--the single story of bricks that still stands, holding up the addition of the second story. It was not demolished, only expanded. It's like looking at the young-woman, old-woman illusion, where first you see a withered crone, then your brain adjusts and the girl she used to be appears before your eyes.

Thrilled by the possibility, I compare the bricks of the first story to the bricks of the second. They look like different bricks. The lines of mortar are deeper on the first story than they are on the second.

I wonder if I am seeing things--things I want to see. But the clunky second story and the glassed dining room out front do look tacked on, like afterthoughts.

close up of Mulry Square, 1950s

I decide that this is, indeed, the lost DINER marked by the mapmaker in the 1950s Land Book.

But is it the Hopper diner? Could it really still be standing, still serving food, hidden beneath the blocky augmentations and red paint of a Chinese restaurant? Or have I stumbled upon another near miss, another "close but no cigar" facsimile of the Nighthawks inspiration?

I want the Nighthawks diner to be buried in these bricks, because they are still here. Or if not these bricks, then let it be the bakery that became Two Boots, because I can still put my hand on that curve of glass, because the soul of that lonely coffee shop remains in its blunt, solid particulars. But the ultimate truth remains bitterly out of reach.

It is time to give up the search.

Resigned, lapsed into uncertainty, I fall back onto a few lines from the poem "An Urban Convalescence" by James Merrill:

As usual in New York, everything is torn down
Before you have had time to care for it.
Head bowed, at the shrine of noise, let me try to recall
What building stood here. Was there a building at all?

Follow the entire saga, step by step:

*Once again, thanks to blogger Teri Tynes and singer/songwriter Don Everett Pearce, who pointed me to NYPL photos and offered their theories, launching me on this obsessive search and pushing me to the bitter end.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

*Everyday Chatter

One Jackson Square, that marvel of luxury undulation and keeper of the Greenwich Village spirit, has a first floor tenant--across what looks like the entire first floor. And it's--wait for it, wait for it--a BANK!

Two trendster restaurant/bars on the Bowery are now squabbling over who gets to call their joint "SRO"--another unfortunate appropriation of poverty-related language by caterers to the affluent. Hey, why not call it Flophouse? Or Soup Kitchen? Or Skid Row? Wouldn't that be hip? How about Scabies? Anyway, here's the scoop on the swank place coming to the former Sunshine flop annex. [BB]

Enjoying the alleys of Downtown Brooklyn. [FNY]

The New Yorker's softball team gets trounced by The Nation. [NYer]

Touring with David Freeland of Gotham Lost & Found. [P&W]

A fire on Second Avenue. [EVG]

St. Marks Bookshop points us to this essay by Sven Birkerts on reading in the digital age. [SMB]