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Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

The Zebra

April 16, 2014 | by

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Nathan Pyle has recently written an illustrated handbook for living in—or, perhaps even more crucially, visiting—New York. NYC (Basic Tips and Etiquette) contains such valuable tips as

  • Beware of the empty train car, it’s empty for a reason.
  • Bring cash to group dining events.
  • 12% chance you have spotted a celebrity. 88% chance you have spotted someone who vaguely resembles a celebrity. 100% chance you are awkwardly staring at someone while you argue about it.

These will, I think we agree, apply to any good-sized city.

Yesterday, two of Pyle’s tips were very much on my mind. The weather had, abruptly, turned brutal: cold, with high winds and lashing rain. This weather! This weather! This weather! everyone chanted. Pyle is absolutely right in his assertion that “one $20 umbrella will outlast four $5 umbrellas.” I went for my hardiest number, which is, incidentally, patterned with cheerful zebras on a red ground. Read More »

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On Being a Regular, or Strange Chefs, Part 2

April 8, 2014 | by

A counterpart to yesterday’s piece.

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Regulars in the village pub in Tomintoul, Banfshire, 1943. Photo: British Ministry of Information

Speaking of characters. There was a time when, for a small adventure, one had only to go to a particular bakery in the West Village. You know the one I mean. The owner was unfailingly unpleasant, the coffee unfailingly terrible, the place lacking air-conditioning and, in summer, unbearably stuffy. But the croissants were good in their heavy way, and it was always entertaining to see people attempt to ingratiate themselves with the management.

When said owner retired, he sold his business to a hard-working and kindly employee and today things go on much as before, save that now the customer service is more or less normal. It’s not the adventure it used to be. I happened to stop in for a pain aux raisins and one of those awful coffees the first day they reopened, just by chance. One fellow bellied up to the counter and said in a confidential fashion, “Man, am I glad to see you. Jean was a piece of work. Came here every day for ten years and couldn’t get a friendly word out of him.”

He was clearly looking for commiseration, but got only a noncommittal smile from the new owner, and went away with his desired status as “beloved regular” still very much in question. No sooner had he left than another man, who’d overheard, approached the counter with an equally confidential air. Read More »

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The Disappearing Face of New York

April 8, 2014 | by

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What was once Optimo Cigars is now a boutique cupcake shoppe. Photo: James and Karla Murray, via Facebook

Smithsonian Magazine, Beautiful Decay, and others have recently featured photographs from Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, published in 2008 by James and Karla Murray. In 2004, the couple “began a project to capture New York City’s iconic storefronts—the city’s unique, mom-and-pop restaurants, shops, and bars—before they disappeared.” Now, ten years later, they’ve revisited the storefronts to find that most of shops have, in fact, disappeared:

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Many traditional “mom and pop” neighborhood storefronts that had prevailed in some cases for over a century were disappearing in the face of modernization and conformity, and the once unique appearance and character of New York's colorful streets were suffering in the process … We noticed very early on while photographing the original stores that if the owner did not own the entire building, their business was already in jeopardy of closing. The owners themselves frequently acknowledged that they were at the mercy of their landlords and the ever-increasing rents they charged … When the original 2nd Avenue Deli location in the East Village closed in 2006 after the rent was increased from $24,000 a month to $33,000 a month, and a Chase Bank took over the space, we knew the contrast of before and after was severe.

More of the photos can be seen on James and Karla’s Facebook page. They’re especially sobering given the sad fate of Rizzoli Bookstore, which will shutter its beautiful, historic Fifty-Seventh Street location on April 11.

 

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Good Taste

April 7, 2014 | by

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Chef Frédéric Piepenburg, of Murray Hill’s Chez le Chef. Photo via MeSoHungry/MightySweet.com

Over the weekend, Kitchen Arts and Letters, the wonderful culinary bookshop on New York’s Upper East Side, held a sale. I scampered over and, among other treasures, came away with something called The Eccentric Cookbook, by one Richard, Earl of Bradford. The 1985 cover showcases the author sporting one of those aprons made to look like a lady’s body—or, in this case, her brassiere and garter belt.

As promised, the cookbook is idiosyncratic. It is a strange combination of anecdotes and recipes, and the eccentrics profiled within run the gamut from historic figures, to folkloric oddities, to vaguely wacky people in the author’s social circle. The recipes that follow these either do, or don’t, have anything to do with said eccentrics. Read More »

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A New Year’s Drive

January 11, 2014 | by

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Photo: Morven, via Wikimedia Commons

My father bought me a Swiss watch when I was seven. The strap was too big and needed adjusting, but when I could finally put it on, I felt a surge of electricity pulse through me, as if I’d just been shackled to time’s wrist. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the ticking of the second hand to sync up with the beat of my heart.

I stopped wearing it and kept it in my pocket, only later finding the proper use for it: timing the forty-fives I bought and listened to in my room, checking the accuracy of the time on the label to the time on my watch. The Beatles’ singles, I found, all listed the correct times. The Rolling Stones’ singles, not so much. They’d often claim their songs were fifteen or twenty seconds shorter than they really were, hoping to get more airplay from DJs, who would often opt for a song they could run right into the news break. For me, it was the first hint that time was negotiable, that with the right connections no one had to pay full price for an hour. That being the case, what was the point of a watch? I haven’t worn one since. Read More »

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Sit and Cry with the Door Closed

October 28, 2013 | by

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How do you say good-bye to Lou Reed?

For many of us, he’s been unavoidable, not just as a musical touchstone but as a cranky éminence grise: walking his dog, sitting in cafés with Laurie Anderson and berating waitresses (“Oh, c’mon, you know how I like my eggs.” “No, sir.” “The fuck you don’t!”), turning up at tribute concerts at St Ann’s, Tibet House, and Town Hall.

For a while, he and Laurie Anderson could be found at Les Deux Gamins, on Waverly Place, every morning around nine A.M. After Laurie left, Lou Reed would continue reading the New York Times, then look around the café to see if there was anyone who hadn’t noticed him. If there was, he’d slowly get up, saunter over, and tap them on the shoulder. “Hey. Hey listen. You got a cigarette?” The casual no, no, sorry was then followed by a visible HOLY SHIT! IT’S LOU REED, as he leaned over them with solicitous menace. If they looked sufficiently disturbed, he’d whisper, “Could you go get me one?” They sometimes did.

The tenderness and mercy and wonder of songs like “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “Pale Blue Eyes” and “I’m Set Free” wasn’t always easy to find in the geezer who seemed to have more ways of saying fuck you to well-wishers and critics alike than Eskimos have words for snow. But if you could get him talking about Doc Pomus or Dion or Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, the light of the true believer would shine in his eyes.

At Jenni Muldaur’s birthday party last year, she had an old Victrola set up, and I brought a box of forty-fives—the Bobby Fuller Four, the Drifters, the Hombres, the Shirelles, Nervous Norvus. Lou Reed started looking through them admiringly. He stopped when he got to the Jaynetts’ “Sally Go ’Round the Roses,” holding it up like you would the Holy Grail.

“I love that record,” I murmured.

He tilted his head and gave me a look equal parts who the fuck asked you? and me too, me too!

 

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