Friday, January 30, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Don't miss the new blog in the neighborhood: Welcome Slum Goddess.

1994 is preserved in weird images from Sheepshead Bay. [FNY]

Is the St. Marks Place "Sock Man" the grumpiest on Earth? And is that a bad thing? [EVG]

Above TGI Friday's, the enshrined ghosts of old Broadway still linger on at I. Miller's. [GVDP]

Roxy Luncheonette

Down on John Street, between Broadway and Nassau, there's a little hole in the wall called the Roxy. It's one of those survivors, a greasy spoon that has somehow managed to elude the wrecking ball that's been crumbling the Financial District and the whole city.



It's got everything a luncheonette should have: chrome swivel stools, a quilted stainless steel backsplash, and good egg creams.



We can add this one to the egg cream collection: foamy, creamy, multilayered goodness.



A few more luncheonettes (most of them vanished):
Moisha's Luncheonette
Chez Brigitte
Cup & Saucer
Eisenberg's
Grand Luncheonette

Thursday, January 29, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Another diner lost? The Miss Williamsburg goes up in flames. [INS]

More news from the Astroland Rocket. [NYT]

A closer look at the Hotel Carter, America's dirtiest hotel. [EVG]

Starbucks lurches ever closer to death. [NYT]

Will 2009 be the Year of the Tenant? [RS]

Yunnipocalypse Now!

Is the era of the New York Yunnie coming to an end? Has the Yunnipocalypse finally begun?



*Also see my opinion piece: The Downturn's Upside, Daily News

It began in September 2008 and has snowballed since. Several recent reports (see links at end of post) indicate a rising anxiety that New York City is returning to its "bad, old days" of crime and grit.

Let's not be afraid. The choice was never between safety or terror.
Just like the Bush administration manipulated a nation into believing they had to give up their human rights for the sake of safety, the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations convinced a city they had to give up their uniqueness, wildness, and verve to be secure and live well.

They've attempted to create a sanitary, Epcot-style European village, like a planned suburban community, in the middle of what has long been America's most fertile cultural hotbed. They made it amenable to swaggering, narcissistic bots. But maybe that swagger is vanishing.



Last week's New York Times suggested so. Alex Williams writes, "The sudden downturn has affected the very industries that give New York its identity — finance, media, advertising, real estate, even tourism — with extreme prejudice. The result is that some New Yorkers feel that the city is losing, along with many jobs, its swagger and its sense of pre-eminence."

Girlfriends of beleaguered bankers have formed a jokey support group to share their pain (you can join “if your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life"), as the bankers are now forced to dine at McDonald's (and they can't even supersize it).

Williams suggests that the narcissistic blow to the city's overinflated grandiosity now causes us to suffer from an emotional contagion of shared pessimism. But not everyone has caught that bug.



Many of us are feeling optimistic about this city for the first time in a decade. New York's identity has always been about much more than just real estate and money. The path of the New Yorker "has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things."

That quote is from President Obama's inaugural address. In his rousing speech, there is great hope that the narcissistic, sociopathic tenor of our entire country, the dark cloud we've been living under for the past 8 years, is poised to change. And so it is changing in New York, too, where the "risk-takers, doers, and makers of things" have too long been stifled and squeezed out by a swaggering crowd of safety-seeking do-nothings.

Like Bush on his way out of office last week with his posture deflated, their swagger has diminished already. And our city will be far better for it. We don't need to tumble into violence and degradation. We can be safe, we can prosper, we can enjoy beautiful things--without living in a sociopathic New York.


from my flickr

To cut-and-paste from Obama's speech, imagine a new mayor saying this to the city: "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the [city] for a new age. The time has come to set aside childish things. A [city] cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility."

Now if only such a superhero would swoop in to Barackify our greedy, childish, and irresponsible City Hall.


SliceofNYC's flickr

What Signs of the Yunnipocalypse have you noticed?

Further reading from JVNY:
On Thrift
Frozen New York
New York Pentimento
President Obama
Sinking Ships, Limp Dicks

More on the Yunnipocalypse:
Support Group for Banker Girlfriends [NY Times]
Scared to Come to NY [NY Post]
Law & Disorder [NY Times]
When the Action Moves On [NY Times]
Revenge of the Bad Old Days [NY Post]
Fun City Returns? [Voice]
Degentrification [Curbed]
Movies of the bad, old days [Gawker]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

EV's Etherera Records to close. [Stupefaction]

And the Coney rocket is staying! [Gothamist]

"Fashiony" and "downtown-looking" could describe the new LES--rather "esque" in general, a simulation of what was--and that's exactly what the fashiony, downtown-looking people want. [NYO]

There are these moments, when you walk through the city and see it as it once was. And then you keep walking. Shot on 13th next to a new condo building:


Check out the great historic pics at this new Coney blog. via [KC]

BaHa goes Greek and discovers a little life left in Hell's Kitchen. [SE]

Slacktivists to do some old-fashioned flag burning in TSP this weekend. [SG] via [NMNL]

Gregory & Paul's

I wrote about 40-year-old Coney Island snackbar Gregory & Paul's back in the summer of 2007 when we feared it would be vanishing. It lasted through last summer. Recently, as many know, the rocket that topped it was removed and carted away. I hoped it would live a while longer without the rocket. Now Gothamist reports that the snackbar has been torn apart and auctioned off piece by piece.

*Correction: A commenter wrote in to explain the auction was only for the Surf Avenue location of Gregory & Paul's. The boardwalk location, described here, is still in negotiation with Thor. Let's hope it survives this winter's Rape and Pillage of Coney.

*Update: The rocket may be staying in Coney, and not going to Pakistan after all.



The place is a beauty, topped with a hamburger-loving couple that once bookended the rocket. Its interior is covered with vintage signage and paintings done by local artist George Wallace, who was profiled in the New York Times, covered by Gowanus Lounge. Mr. Wallace painted Gregory & Paul's signage for more than 15 years. Said owner Paul Georgoulakos, "There are no other sign painters...Wallace is the only one left. He's not just a painter. He's an artist. And the whole island knows him."

As Gregory & Paul's vanishes, and all the little storefronts and snackbars like it, the artwork of Mr. Wallace will vanish with them.



I always look forward to hitting up Gregory & Paul's for a corn dog and fries. I wonder if that will happen again. Why take the rocket if the snackbar isn't marked for death? Next time I go to Coney, if I ever dare go back to the ruined remains of what was Coney, it will be as if the sea suddenly rose up and washed it all away.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

After shuttering and being gutted as reported last year, The Holland Bar is coming back to life at last. Here's the scoop: "the landlord refused to renew the lease in the hopes that he could make more money converting the building for residential use or selling it off. But such plans apparently did not work out, and the landlord offered Mr. Kelly his old space back starting Jan. 1, albeit at a 20 percent increase in the rent. Now the Holland is scheduled to reopen its taps as soon as Wednesday." Praise the recession! [NYT]

Amato Opera building not to fall? Another theater coming to the space? What year is this? [Curbed]

Don't throw away your TV just yet--the digital conversion may be postponed. [yahoo]

Say goodbye to the Veselka mural--or "hello" if you've got the bucks to take it home. [NYM]

Clyde Haberman wonders how to make the greediest New Yorkers feel shame. Sadly, sociopaths and malignant narcissists are incapable of remorse. [NYT]

Another look at this past weekend's Vanishing City extravaganza. [WSP]

Interstate Foods, Inc.

VANISHING

Curbed recently reported that The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is celebrating Community Board 2's rejection of a giant glass tower for 437 West 13th Street in the Meatpacking District. GVSHP reports, "The owner of 437-51 West 13th Street is proposing to demolish the historic meatmarket buildings on the site and build a 215 ft. tall office tower with a 3-story big-box retail space in its base."

This rejection, however, does not mean #437 will be saved, and that's cause for sorrow, because #437 is Interstate Foods, Inc., the largest meatpacking plant left in the Meatpacking District, it's been here for about 60 years, and now it's about to vanish.

*Correction: Interstate and Atlas Meats shared the space; Interstate, a poultry company, left in fall of 2008; Atlas is going soon. See the Times for their follow-up to this story.



Meatpackers have been vanishing for awhile now and Interstate's closure may mean layoffs for many blue-collar workers. Wrote the Villager in 2005, "Interstate has two-thirds of its business in the Hunt’s Point Market in the Bronx, now the city’s main meat market, to which many meatpackers from the Meat Market relocated. But they can’t move their 13th St. operation there." As Interstate's vice president Vincent Pacifico said, "There is no Bronx. The Bronx is full."



Aware that Interstate's days were numbered, I've been hovering around it over the past year or so. I love Interstate because it's the last of its kind. A big, sprawling plant with a metal awning and rusty track system, it's one of the only places where you can walk by and still see massive slabs of meat hanging from metal hooks. Men in bloodied aprons stand outside smoking cigarettes. The sidewalk out front is greased with a slippery white film of fat. The odor rising from it is pure death--and it makes you feel alive just to smell it.



But not everyone agrees. Back in the early 2000's, when the Meatpacking District was just beginning to be destroyed, locals told the Times, "The sidewalks smell from bloody animal parts...Can you imagine walking over there with your Manolo Blahniks? You say 'cool' when you move in, but then you try to maneuver your baby stroller between all those guys, and you rush home to call 911."

And yet the fashionistas did come, tottering around on their Manolos, pushing their strollers, drunk on cosmos and conspicuous consumption--and oblivious to the blood and guts, as I wrote about here.

In that same Times article, Robert Greenzeig, president of Interstate Foods, knew the end was coming, noting, "If I bought a million-dollar apartment, I wouldn't want us across the street. I'd start complaining."


In Standard's shadow, 2007

So perhaps it's no coincidence that we are losing Interstate just weeks after the opening of the super-luxury Standard Hotel, which towers over the meatpacking plant, its back door spilling shiny, happy people onto a street slicked with blood, where homeless men encamp, and the last remnants of "New York noir" fade away like a black-and-white photograph too long exposed to the ravages of sunlight.

See all my photos of Interstate Foods here

More Meatpacking:
Meatpackers and Meat
Men in Leather
MePa Habitrail

Monday, January 26, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

The Abominable Snow Penis, aka the Penistrator, has been caught in the act--and he's Haley Joel Osment. Maybe. [EVG]

With the "bad old days" returning, people are now scared to come to NYC. And what's left of the East Village may yet survive: "You're seeing empty drink bottles in the street, you're catching people urinating. They're 'tagging up' ...All that stuff is coming back." [NYP]

The return of grit may put a damper on Bloomberg and Burden's plan to turn NYC into a pristine European village. [AMNY]

But the Europeans still plan to turn the Flatiron Building into a hotel! [Curbed]

The Cheyenne lost its signage yesterday--bound now for Alabama. [Gothamist]

"Vanishing City" event sells out--even the investment bankers showed up. [CR]

Take a stroll along "four-shortened" 4th Avenue. [FNY]

"What, then, remains of that elusive American dream of having a country, rather than a country club, that offers something to everyone, and not just its most privileged members, even as the situation becomes progressively more dire?" --from Club Orlov

"Many people who stuck with the city through tougher times now feel that they have a stake in its continued prosperity, and...'are now sticking out their chests a little bit. ‘Yeah, I may be living in this little studio apartment, but I’m making it and I’m surviving here.'" [NYT]

Enjoy Chinese New Year in NYC before Giuliani banned traditional firecrackers. [NMNL]

Ray's Candy

Since I usually go to Ray's Candy on Avenue A for egg creams, it's rare that I go during the winter (warm weather being best for egg creams). But Bob Arihood's recent updates on the imperiled state of this landmark hole in the wall are making me nervous, so I figured it was time for a cold-weather egg cream.



I lucked out to find Ray himself behind the counter. He was looking sprightly, busy frying up some burgers for a well-heeled couple. Mixing a perfect, frothy egg cream for me, he said he was feeling well and recalled the time Hot Dog slammed a cellar door on his head.

The kindly couple whispered to each other, "I think this guy must be someone special around here," as they pulled bills from their Louis Vuitton wallets to pay for their Obama fries and burgers.

(*Last night was also Ray's birthday party, complete with burlesque dancer--no wonder he was feeling sprightly!)



Ray is seriously working the Obama angle--selling Obama socks, fries, burgers, and these air-brushy looking t-shirts. The hook seems to successfully bring in customers. While I was there, more than one touristy type came in to giddily ask, "What are Obama fries?"

They're fries, regular fries, Ray explained. Just like his Obama socks are regular, white sweatsocks (selling the sizzle, Ray has written "OBAMA" in red Magic Marker on their packages).

"Aww," the touristy type said, disillusioned by the reality of Obama fries, "Nothing special, huh?"

Friday, January 23, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Don't forget to go to Dixon Place tomorrow night for the Vanishing City extravaganza.

I really cannot even think about beloved Ray's Candy vanishing. [Villager]

Last summer was the last summer of Coney Island as we knew it. Someone, thankfully, made a movie. [Stupefaction]

The battle of Bespoke vs. Blog is on. [BBoogie] and [EVG]

Per this post on the Square Diner, NYC Dreamin dug up this great photo of the place from the 1970s:

photo by Tony Marciante

The Holland Bar saga continues. [Eater]

Another goodbye to Mondo Kim's and its empty shelves. [Furnace]

James and Karla Murray's Brooklyn Storefront exhibit is extended through March. [BH]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Square Diner

We lost the Moondance to Wyoming and the Cheyenne to Alabama. But we still have the Square Diner. It is not vanishing yet.



Since 1971, the Square Diner at Leonard and Varick in Tribeca has been under the same owner, but I'm certain it dates back further than that. Maybe a diner expert can identify its pedigree. Many of its classic features have been covered up by renovations, including the odd addition of a semi-pitched, shingled roof, but I'm willing to guess it might be a Challenger, made in 1947 by Kullman Dining Car Company. The Victory in Staten Island is a prime example.

The Square retains its curved glass-brick corners and blue-paneled front, as well as original chrome and blue-glass mirrors on the interior.



In Tribeca's sea of trendy, high-end eateries, the Square is an oasis of good old-fashioned grease. But with so many luxury buildings rising all around, how long can it last?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

It's a new day in America. Read the inaugural poem here.

Construction has been buzzing at the defunct Burritoville in the EV. When I spoke to the vice president of Burritoville in September, he told me there were plans to reopen some locations and expand, but that was the last I heard and clearly the local mini-chain is done for. Replacing this one on 2nd Ave? A peek through the cracks has revealed: It will be a Subway.


Grieve treks across the frozen tundra of the EV to track the abominable snow penis, aka, the Penistrator, and he finds a gold mine on 13th St., ground zero for assholes (thanks to A Bldg). [EVG]

A classic stoplight is decapitated in Forest Hills. [FNY]

The official plan for murdering Coney Island (whatever's left of it) to be presented today. [Gothamist]

Is Bloomberg killing Nathan's Famous, too? Maybe, maybe not. [Eater]

Portrait of a shopgirl's loneliness in a high-end ice-cream parlor, during rush hour, on a snowy evening in the middle of the New Great Depression:

Last Trip to LSD

As many know by now, Love Saves the Day closed this weekend. I went in for a final visit and purchased a few token items, just to buy something. Call them souvenirs: A Pez, a box of sparklers, a tin of bacon-flavored toothpicks.

I also talked to owner Richard Herson about what was probably LSD's biggest claim to fame.



The shop will perhaps be most remembered for its appearance in the 1985 Madonna movie Desperately Seeking Susan. In the scene, Madonna spots a pair of glittery boots in the window. With no money, she trades her pyramid jacket for them, claiming it was formerly owned by Jimi Hendrix. Suburban housewife Rosanna Arquette follows after and buys the jacket.



I asked Mr. Herson about the day of the movie shoot. In several hours of setting up and filming, he told me, Madonna was only there for a few minutes. "She just came in and out. Pretty cold. I mean, she was already a big deal. Her hit 'Borderline' had just come out and the whole neighborhood was lined up outside to see her."

The glittery boots she bought were not an authentic LSD item, but a prop, as was the pyramid jacket. Said Herson, "Later on we got a few of those jackets on the second-hand market. Not originals, but copies of it." The movie did boost sales for the shop.



Since Madonna used to live in the East Village (when "Boy Toy" was her graffiti tag), I wondered if she ever actually shopped at LSD. Just once, as far as Mr. Herson could recall. He told me, at that time, the Material Girl had already moved to SoHo. The Hersons sold her a piece of furniture for her apartment. But, alas, no sparkly boots.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kim's and LSD

In one weekend, they were gone.

Mondo Kim's on St. Marks, EV Grieve discovers, has left the building. The devastation has begun--and the collection is off to Sicily.

Read the Kim's saga here:
Kim's to Sicily
Mondo Kim's to Close

Love Saves the Day has also closed for good. The windows are still full of goodies, but the gates are down and it's done.



Wishing this classic "Bon Voyage," a homeless East Villager saw fit to "de-christen" the joint with a splash of Thunderbird piss:



Read more on LSD's closure here:
LSD Closing
Karen's flea market

*Everyday Chatter

Is NYC losing its obnoxious swagger? Says one gal: "When I’m out in bars and restaurants, there is a sheen that is missing...it feels a little grittier; there is a sense that the thrill of paying $20 for a cocktail is over. I find that my friends are still going out and want to have fun but their tolerance for the ‘price of exclusivity’ has waned." [NYT]

On de-gentrification, I am not the only one enjoying "schadenfreudic pleasure that the first to fall have been the coffee shops, kids' boutiques, vegan markets and stores dedicated solely to the sale of a single model of all-clad butter warmer." [Curbed]

Not only is the Holiday Cocktail Lounge alive again, so is the Pizza Box! (Boogie's excited too):


Is beloved Ray's Candy on Avenue A in danger of vanishing? [NMNL]

Is the 58-year-old Frozen Cup of Bellerose enjoying its last days before it's demolished for a hotel? [QC]

An interview with underground photographer Nathan Kensinger. [Gothamist]

A much better thing to do with snow--take gorgeous photomicroscopic pictures of it. [panopticist]

Holiday Survives

On Saturday, Grieve announced some very good news about the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. Closed for weeks, it was at last reopening. I went by to check it out.

I was told that Stefan is doing okay, but he has retired from bartending. And while there was some talk of "sprucing it up," there is no clear plan for the bar's future. For now, they're open only on Friday and Saturday nights, from 5:00 PM - 1:00 AM.



I'd never noticed it before, but a history of the bar, apparently typewritten in Stefan's voice, is posted on the wall. It's a lovely artifact revealing the lost layers of the neighborhood.

In it, he recalls buying the place in 1965--it had been a bar since 1936 and was, unfathomably, a beauty parlor before that--when the neighborhood was all Italian and his customers were tough guys who played cards and bet on the horses. Then things began to change.

"In 1979," he recalls, "many young people from the suburbs began to move into this area. They like to wear second hand clothes. At the same time neighborhood people were moving to New Jersey or getting old and dying... It was a few years ago also that a lot of 'Punk Rockers,' drinking beer and making noise, began crowding all the time in front of the Deli. People were getting very nervous. One night I invited them all into our bar and they come all the time now and behave very well. I still remember one young man who came in with terrible clothes on. I told him to go home and dress better. His face was red with anger. He left. But you know what, he came back and his clothes were better."


click to enlarge and read

He continues, "Our business is so good now that people wait outside to get in, especially weekends. We don't need to advertise, believe me!"

Stefan is a survivor and so is his Holiday. Let's hope the current culture shift in the East Village doesn't wash it all away.

Friday, January 16, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Snow Penis returns. Last week, Grieve discovered on 7th and B, here and here, two examples of snow graffiti on cars, featuring a drawing of a penis and the word penis. Yesterday, the following example turned up on a car at 11th St and 6th. Based on scant evidence, keep on the lookout for what is likely a white male, Floridian, football fan, in his 20s who may be resentful of the fact that he doesn't have his car in the city:


Old Devil Moon's owner, Miss Tami, writes in here to say thanks to all and give the new owners a chance, Masturbakers is seeking a new home, plus "If there’s anything from the walls you're interested in, drop me a note." Who's got dibs on the nifty train set?

Times Square then and now. [GVDP]

The Jane Hotel protesters take their plight to Youtube. [Curbed]

Alex recalls his vinyl high-school days at the Pizza Box. [FP]

Winter Shadows

It's been a rough week. On Monday we heard the Amato Opera is closing. This Sunday is the final day for Love Saves the Day. In between, the Cheyenne was sold to Alabama, Old Devil Moon closed, and the Pizza Box was shuttered by the DOH. There's more. But that's enough.

These are the mornings of long shadows.



Of hunched and quiet walks to work, the subway, the bus. The days are short. We will return in darkness. In cold. Carrying the things we carry. The groceries. The briefcases. The handful of bills as we climb the stairs.



Remembering how, in the morning, we were long and tall, stretched and reaching. And tomorrow we will be again.



When the streets blaze with winter's sunlight slanting from the river, when the fire escapes are copper, and Con Edison's plume of smoke glows something kind of like gold.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Tipster John Ozed writes, "After 28 years, Farfetched, owned and run by Susan Zappone and Lois Marsilio are being forced out of business due to higher rents at the end of January. Make way for the Goth shoe store!" He said the Halloween Adventure store may be taking over the little gift shop for selling shoes.

Wasn't it just yesterday I said I'm worried for the Pizza Box when Bowery Boogie said, "Pizza Box, please don't go"? Oh yeah, it was the day before yesterday. The Pizza Box was open then. Now Reed of New York Lost writes and sends in this picture: "Bloomberg's health dept shut down pizza box (since 1957)." Coincidence or related to its neighbor's impending demolition?


As for Around the Clock, it's not going for good, though their goodbye and "Thank You For Over 20 Years" sign is ambiguous and the Panya expansion news ominous. A waiter told me they're renovating and will be open again in the spring:


Michael Perlman confirms: We're losing the Cheyenne to Alabama. The buyer, an investment banker named Joel Owens, "has announced plans to restore the Cheyenne to its 1940s glory with potential additions including a classic car museum & special events center. Owens states 'This is a dream come true, especially in a state that has no historic freestanding diners.' Alabama Tourism Director, Lee Sentell, states 'This has the potential to be a great Alabama destination.'"

Let's not forget, Zipper Factory and Cutting Room are history. [Gothamist]

It's been a bad week--but at least the Hubbard House will still be here. [FNY]

And Cindy Adams at the Post wants to see the Landmark Sunshine condemned. Maybe if it turns back into 1992 we'll be okay. [EVG]

Old Devil Moon

On a tip, I reported earlier this week that Old Devil Moon on East 12th Street would be closing. Then I got another email from a reader who said, "Though I love your blog, I cannot believe that you devoted so little space to Old Devil Moon's closing. I know that I am not the only person that is completely devastated by this happening."



Fair enough. So I got over there last night for some meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The waitress told me it was "yes, probably, pretty definitely" the last night of business, so if you try to go, I suggest you call first. They are most likely shuttered by now.



Opened 15 years ago, the place is a perfect throwback to the early 1990s. It's got that whole flea market kitsch thing: the strings of holiday lights, the disco ball, the religious paintings next to vintage nudes, the animal heads gathering dust. This is what 1993 felt like around here. Still kind of 80s. People shopped at thrift stores and wore bowling shirts. All your furniture came from the trash. You found the absolute perfect chair on 24th and 3rd and carried it on your head all the way down to the East Village. (I still have that one.)



Anyway, Old Devil Moon. It was crowded last night. People stopped in to say goodbye and good luck. Jill was there with her garden folks. Here's the story from my reader:

"The info that I have about it is that even though the rent is decent, there just wasn't enough money coming in, and the owner just had twins, so she doesn't have the time and energy to continue to devote to a business that is not doing well. They have been trying to sell it for months, and even though almost everyone wanted to keep the space as it was, the new organic place that is getting it is going to gut the place and ruin a landmark in the neighborhood."

Another trophy on the wall for Newer York.



See more Old Devil Moon pics on my flickr

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

"It looks like fans of the Cheyenne Diner will have to travel to the Deep South to get their fix of French toast." And another NYC diner goes ex-pat. At least we've still got the new Market. [CN]

"The converted Old Dutch Mustard Factory? Have you no shame, Mr. Steiner? We wish bankruptcy and financial ruin on this entire abomination of a project for using a building that was barbarically destroyed to sell its vile, ugly and nauseating replacement." [GL]

Anti-gentrification T-shirt sold in hip-looking storefront: "Go Love Your Own City." [EVG]

More empty storefronts coming our way. [Gothamist]

Synecdoche, New York

Charlie Kaufman's latest movie, Synecdoche, New York, is a failure. And it was my favorite movie this year. The notion of failure presupposes effort and attempt, and this film is all about making an attempt in the inevitable face of impossibility. It is doomed to fail because its ambitions are so grand.

The reviews have been mixed--it barely rates "fresh" on the tomatometer. Slate called it "unremittingly bleak, making for one of the most depressing nondocumentary films you're likely to see, well, ever." Anthony Lane in The New Yorker says, "There has long been a strain of sorry lassitude in Kaufman’s work, and here it sickens into the morbid." They just don't get it.



In the film, a director attempts to recreate New York City in a vast warehouse. He tries to capture what might be a Buddhist idea that the present moment is infinite. Arguments, cups of coffee, peeling wallpaper, sadness--all the human drama of the everyday in which nothing and everything happens.

Of course it cannot be done. You cannot hold it all--it deepens and multiplies too quickly. In Charlie Kaufman's world, the self is a multiplicity--a room full of Malkoviches, a twinned Kaufman, the ghosts of remembered selves in a mind not spotless yet eternal. In Synecdoche, the selves keep replicating through actors who play actors who play the originals.

The movie is a (apocryphal?) Cream of Wheat box, a mise en abyme in which we glimpse infinity. (See Droste effect.)

I learned the word synecdoche in a high-school English class and it still means to me what it meant then: A part that represents the whole. Kaufman, like any artist, can only grasp a part of the whole because the whole can never be grasped. The entire movie is an admission of this failure.

As Kaufman uneasily told the Times, “Not only is Caden’s play a synecdoche, but so is every work of art. There is no way to convey the totality of something, so every artistic creation is at most a representation of an aspect of the thing being explored... As for the part about this project mirroring Caden’s, I can certainly see the obvious parallels, but I am not Caden. Perhaps he represents part of me and in that sense, he is a synecdoche of me.”

In the Atlantic, psychologist Paul Bloom looks at multiplicity.

For an artist to admit and expose his limitations as he yet struggles to create, and to put his creation before the public, is a courageous act. Synecdoche is not depressing, nor is it bleak. To write it off in such a way perhaps reveals a shallowness of receptivity, an unwillingness to feel the full breadth of human emotion.

The film's creator painfully knows from the outset that he must fail, and yet he creates anyway. What could be more hopeful, more optimistic, and more successful than such an endeavor?

If you hurry, you can still see it at the Sunshine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Magic Shoes is gone--and I do worry for the Pizza Box. [BBoogie]

Washington Square Park blog responds to the lack of Manhattan blogs in the Times piece this weekend. [WSP]

The Times follows up the sad news about the closure of the Amato Opera. [NYT]

Take another look at the bereft Cheyenne Diner--once again in need of a savior. [FNY]

Not dead yet: Our Lady of Vilnius.

Bloomberg to be King Forever. [CR] ...and why he shouldn't be.

We had no idea there were so many people who owned cowboy hats in New York City. [EVG]

Tishman wants to turn the Rainbow Room into office space? Don't we sort of have a glut of that? [Gothamist]

The Vanishing City

When I named this blog, I didn’t know there would be another “Vanishing New York” in the world. There’s also a film by the same name—because there’s plenty of vanishing to go around—and on January 24 there will be "The Vanishing City," a town hall discussion at Dixon Place, launched by Kirby at Colonnade Row.

The Dixon Place event will feature a screening of Twilight Becomes Night by Virginie-Alvine Perrette, who I interviewed here in 12/07, and a preview of Vanishing New York by Jen Senko and Fiore DeRosa, who I interviewed this past summer and now publish here for the first time.


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Inspired to film by the closing of many neighborhood businesses and the simultaneous rising of “huge steel and glass buildings,” Jen Senko and Fiore DeRosa have watched the city undergo a seismic shift. Said Jen, “My neighbors have been changing rapidly as richer people move into my building. One kind of good thing is there are now great things in the garbage that they throw out." On the other hand, "there are now no more supermarkets in my Soho neighborhood.”

Exploring what happens when a city is renovated for the uber-affluent, one story Jen and Fiore follow in the film is the plight of 47 East 3rd Street, the subject of a protest by the Slacktivists. Bought by the Ekonomakis family for conversion into a private mansion, the tenement was the home of several rent-regulated tenants. The few holdouts settled this past November.

“It is really preposterous,” said Jen, “The building itself is not structurally designed for such a thing. The real reason for the evictions, we believe is quite evident. When you clear the building of rent controlled and stabilized tenants the building is worth 10 million, as opposed to the 1 million they paid for it. They would probably sit on it for the required three years and then put it on the market for a clean 9 million profit. The fact that they put a group of mostly older people--many of who have been there for most of their adult lives--on the street is meaningless to them."

Said Fiore, “So greed is the driving force in this city now. Greed is fragmenting our communities and stealing the life out of our city. We keep hearing the mantra 'It’s the Market,' as if that excuses everything. We don’t believe that maximizing profits is an excuse for being inhumane. There is just no rationale for this. How much money do people really need to make?”

Like many of us, the filmmakers worry that New York is losing its soul. “New York used to be a place where those who felt ‘different’ could come and could ‘fit in’ or find a community," they say, asking, "What will happen to those people...all those misplaced ‘misfits’ (like ourselves)?”

Finally, I had to ask them how they chose such a brilliant title for their film. They told me, "Vanishing New York had a certain simple sexiness. Then a few months into the film we came across your brilliant blog. I guess it was in the collective consciousness!"

Sexy. I like it...


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Monday, January 12, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Ken snaps one of my favorite, odd, neighborhood places: Raul Candy Store on Ave B. [GVDP]

A tipster writes in to say: "Old Devil Moon is shutting down this week...Last day is probably Wednesday." 12th Street will miss those pancakes and French toast.

photo: NY Mag

Curbed has more info on the sad sale of the Amato Opera House. [Curbed]

Vesuvio seems to be gone, but at least there will be t-shirts to remember it by. [Eater]

The Times takes a look at neighborhood blogs--but I don't see any Manhattan blogs named. Is that because Manhattan no longer has neighborhoods, but rather shopping centers and party areas? [NYT]

You could live above Robin Raj, in the Toll Bros shadow, and party like it's 2007. [EVG]

Goodbye Amato

VANISHING

This one has me nearly in tears--a commenter wrote in and the Times confirmed it: This is the Amato Opera's final season. The Bowery building has been sold.

If you have never been, go now. It's a wonderful place. And with its location on Varvatos-Chase Way, it will probably be demolished this summer for a luxury finger building. Whatever replaces it, this is a major loss to the city and the Lower East Side.

Read all about my last trip to the Amato Opera House here.

See all my photos inside the Amato here.