Friday, September 30, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

There are still characters on the streets of New York--but they are octogenarians. [TONY]

From our friend Romy, get your copy of the first issue of Housedeer, featuring Liza Condon, daughter of jazz great Eddie Condon. [HD]

Support things printed on paper--get to the NY Art Book Fair this weekend. [PS1]

Plywood on the Waverly Diner--the future looks bad and "Yuppies Go Home." [MAD]

So about that TV commercial where Commerce One Bank plays on all of our worst nightmares by turning the landmark St. Mark's Church into a Commerce One Bank... [EVG]

New York has only 5 statues of women. Where are they? [ENY]

A new wrapper on the old Village Paper--Jay Shells' mural had a good run:


Goodbye to the Fribbles and Fishamajigs of Friendly's. [Gothamist]

Drinking at the divey Rockaway Beach Inn. [Eater]

From the Fillmore to the (S)Limelight. [Stupefaction]

New Yorkers need to "help the banks," says Bloomie, not occupy Wall Street. [RS]

The demonstration grows as labor unions join the Occupation. [NYM]

Daily Show takes on pepper-spray cop and more. [NYO]

Michael Moore at St. Mark's

Last night, St. Mark's Bookshop was packed with people. All ages and colors, they were there to hear Michael Moore and to save the bookstore from shuttering. Moore came in with body guards, charged up from a day spent downtown at Occupy Wall Street. He took the microphone to thrilled and grateful applause.

"We're appealing to Cooper Union," he began.

"There's no appealing to them," shouted one woman. "They're fucking up the neighborhood!"



After some laughter, Moore continued, "We must appeal to their conscience and to the integrity of their history. They exist only because the people of New York have supported Cooper Union...and without the people there would be no Cooper Union. So we are asking for a very simple quid pro quo."

"I've seen enough of New York destroyed," he said, explaining that all St. Mark's Books is asking for is a "decent reduction" in the rent.

"It's not asking for a free lunch. Oh, God forbid! It's just asking for some decency. That's it. Cooper Union has to understand. We've been asked by the people who fund them, the largesse of this town that keeps certain institutions going...it's time they shared the sacrifice, too. That's all we're asking for... They're not asking for a handout. They're not asking for a check. They're just asking that we support our local independent bookstores."



He made an eloquent plea for the communal consumption of culture, urging the audience to read real books from real bookstores--and to see real movies in real movie theaters.

When he makes a movie, he said, "I'm not sitting in the editing room thinking of you watching this on an iPhone. I want you sitting in the theater with 200 other fellow Americans that you don't know. And I want you collectively to be experiencing, in the dark, what I'm putting out there to you. I want you to laugh together, I want you to cry together, I want you to get angry together, and I want you to march out of the theater saying 'Goddammit, this is not the America I'm going to live in!' And that cannot happen as easily, or as good, when you're sitting at home alone in your underwear with your laptop!"

"The movies are not going to die," he said, because people are social animals. And for the same reason, "The bookstores are not going to die! ...We want to be around other people. That's why we love coming to a bookstore. That's why we love coming to St. Mark's. Right? There's just something that you can't put a number on. You can't really quantify it. But you know it, don't you? You know it as a feeling. And you know it feels good when you say, 'Hey, let's go over to St. Mark's for an hour. And just go through the shelves.' And when you leave here, you ran across something you didn't know...and you take that home and you read, and you learn something you didn't know before. It's a great feeling, isn't it?"



At the end of his speech, he urged people to support local indie bookstores: "They are the backbone of defeating ignorance in this country."

Before people lined up to get their books signed, there was a quick Q&A. These things always go awry. People make statements more than they ask questions. And they never stay on topic. One woman raised her hand and made a speech about the importance of veganism as she urged Mr. Moore to do the correct, feminist thing and become a vegan to lose weight and to fight the forces of "anti-speciesism."

It's still the East Village, after all.


More on the situation at St. Mark's Bookshop:
Columbia's Precedent
An Open Letter to Cooper Union
Buy A Book Weekend at St. Mark's
Xmas in September
St. Mark's Vestibule

And sign that petition

Thursday, September 29, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The Cooper Square Committee sent out an update on St. Mark's Books with this important note: "We believe that Cooper Union is stonewalling this issue, hoping our community will forget about the bookstore. We need you to send this petition out to all of your friends and family today. Help us reach 50,000 signatures by the middle of October."

Check out Karen Lillis' "Bagging the Beats at Midnight," a bookstore memoir by a former employee of St Mark’s Bookshop.

See the Safran Foer 9/11 trailer. [Gothamist]

Happy 85th Birthday to a long-time Ruby's bartender--last call will be Oct. 29. [ATZ]

The Mosaic Man makes a new bagel sign. [EVG]

A day at the races--remembering Steeplechase Park. [ShaunC]

Greenpoint's WASCO landmark to be an "eating and drinking establishment," but the "WASCO-mobile will live on. [NYS]

Occupy Wall Streeters in suits and ties. [NYM]

On the High Line: "The lush green artery is killing off a chunk of New York’s entrepreneurial and gritty industrial past as the real estate developers, landlords and other profiteers cash in on the city’s latest chic attraction." [AMNY]

...like Firestone Bear Auto and places like Poppy's and The Eagle and Folsom East and everything else that isn't luxe.

Newsstand Slaughter

The ongoing onslaught against the city's newsstands continues and the past month has been especially bloody.

First the little shack on 14th St. and 6th Ave. got CEMUSA'd.


Before

It was green, it was ramshackle, it had its own ragtag style. Now it's another dumb shiny box. The whole city is full of these anonymous, interchangeable nothings.


After

Then we heard about the removal of the newsstand on 6th Avenue and West 4th, a deliriously overstuffed little beauty I hoped, hopelessly, might be spared.


2008

Finally, the stand at 8th Avenue and 14th has fallen. It had been shuttered for a couple of weeks, awaiting its death. I always liked this one, too. It had a striped awning in chocolate and cream that flopped out and glowed in the morning sun. The newsstand was a warm, toasty shape on that corner, like a big loaf of bread. Like something almost alive.


click here to see it in better days

Now it's gone. Vanished. Just an empty spot on the sidewalk roped by caution tape and guarded by a man in a helmet. The idiotic ice box is coming soon. This corner won't be so warm anymore.



See Also:
Hojo's Lost Newsstand
Another Newsstand
Union Square Newsstand
Jerry's Newsstand
Lots more about Bloomberg's destruction of the old newsstands
&
All my newsstand photos

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

As we learned from Grieve, Michael Moore will be signing books at St. Mark's tomorrow. On his Facebook page, Moore calls it "a signing to benefit St. Mark's Bookshop." Mr. Moore is on the case!



Help Brian Rose kickstart the publication of his book of amazing Lower East Side photos. [Kickstarter]

Inside the lovely, shabby elevator of the Lyceum Theater archives. [LC]

A most excellent example of an urban etiquette sign in the EV. [EVG]

10/3: Check out the films at "Lower East Side: On the Screen: Evolving Urban Identity." [AOF]

Crazy lawn ornaments on Staten Island. [SNY]

Village Lukoil

Since the coming of the undulating One Jackson Square condo and the condo-sponsored mega clean-up of Jackson Square Park, I've been waiting for the Lukoil gas station at 8th Avenue and Horatio to vanish.

Now it has.



Tipster Randi let us know it just shuttered without warning. The gas pumps have been uprooted and carted away. The bags of potato chips and quarts of motor oil have disappeared from the Mini-Mart. A weird sign advertising (sold out) "Explosions in the Sky" remains stuck to the wall.

Once a busy stop for cabbies, there was but a single lone taxi parked there when I visited. I asked the Russian driver, who was eating his lunch in the abandoned station, if he knew what happened. He shrugged and said, "Something bad probably. They took gas pump! It all disappeared overnight."



Like the former Gaseteria of Soho, will this prime spot be the future home of luxury lofts? Residents above, you may be saying goodbye to your park vista.

Esquared alerts us to a pop-up art show at the other Lukoil gas station, up in Chelsea, already wrapped in a silvery condo's grip. How long will that one last?



More vanishing gas stations and the like:
Chelsea Mobil
Firestone Bear Auto
Capturing Manhattanville

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The latest Facebook announcement from Ruby's of Coney: "After 77 years of serving the Community, Ruby's is being Evicted........ Come share with us, and join us on our last day which will be Sat October 29."

5 questions for St. Mark's Bookshop. [OTG]

Cooper Union "asked [St. Mark's] bookstore to move into the empty retail space on the ground floor level of the dormitory building as a way to placate outraged community members." [Villager]

In the current issue of Bookforum (print only), Choire Sicha reviews James Wolcott's new memoir, which reconstructs "the vaguely dangerous '70s heyday of the East Village."

Bruce McCall's cover for this week's New Yorker is a dream come true--special sidewalk lanes for corralling tourists:


LES is a wasteland of stalled developments. [EVG]

Susan Sarandon at Occupy Wall Street. [Gothamist]

Occupy Wall Street collides with Luxury Night Out. [RS]

A slideshow of portraits from Occupy Wall Street. [NYO]

"Goldman Sachs rules the world." [youtube]

Bed-Stuy is getting a boutique wine shop. [BSr]

So which one really is the original Original Ray's? [Slice] via Eater

St. Mark's Vestibule

As we celebrate St. Mark's Books and strive to save it from vanishing, let's not forget, in addition to the books, the value of its vestibule.



It's a "curated" collection of flyers, carefully selected for a particular audience, for people that are vanishing, too.

Where else would we discover simultaneously a seminar on Lacan and a concert by the Isle of Klezbos? It's "Psychoanalysis and Sexuation" one day, a klezmer brunch the next. (There's also a flyer for the talk "Psychoanalysis and Our Time" where you can find out "How might analysis act as a refuge against consumerism for both the individual and culture?")

There are no ads here for Two Broke Girls (on every to-go coffee cup, brought to you by the producers of Sex & the City). Instead you'll find notices for a tribute to squat pioneer Michael Shenker, a Banned Book Party at Housing Works, a Public Books roundtable with author Amy Waldman, the ongoing Occupation of Wall Street, the New York Gypsy Festival, a memorial reading for "Carma Bum" Scott Wannberg at the Bowery Poetry Club, and something called DEFY for "Skaters, punks, skins, goths, and metal heads" to "train your mind to achieve the impossible."



It's nothing less than a microcosm of the old East Village ("old" meaning prior to 2000-ish). And if you need to remind yourself about what's still good about living here, in the neighborhood and in the city, just step into St. Mark's vestibule. There's plenty there to keep you sane.


Also read:
Columbia's Precedent
An Open Letter to Cooper Union
Buy A Book Weekend at St. Mark's
Xmas in September

And sign that petition

Monday, September 26, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

9/27 at 7 pm: Join Eileen Myles at St. Mark's Bookshop to celebrate the release of Zipper Mouth by Laurie Weeks--it's "life on the edge in New York City." [SMB]

Check out Ben Katchor's "Up from the Stacks," a musical about the NYPL and Times Square c. 1970. [BK]

After 60 years, DeBragga to leave the Meatpacking District. [Eater]

The bachelorettes take Avenue A. [EVG]

Corporate fashion, hipster, bicycle trend mashup thing. [Racked]

What's up in the Chelsea galleries? [TGL]

More from the pepper spraying of protesters. [NMNL]

Saying goodbye to the Starlite Lounge in a documentary about the oldest gay, black-owned business. [TSP]

Reader Phil Vasquez offers his Woody Allen-style nostalgic film, Song of Relations, for your viewing pleasure.

Blogologues: onstage monologues of blog posts at Under St. Mark's.

Enjoy the Obscene Diary of Sam Steward at the Museum of Sex (NSFW). [KLO]

2nd Avenue Agitation

On Saturday, Occupy Wall Street protesters marched to Union Square. The NYPD made several arrests. At one point, they corralled a group of young women in a net and hit them in the face with pepper spray. The images on film are disturbing.


Maced on Broadway and 11th, Davids Camera

In a dismissive report, the Times conjectured that most of the Occupy Wall Street protestors have traveled from somewhere else and do not live in New York City. Wrote Ginia Bellafante, "It is a curious fact of life in New York that even as the disparities between rich and poor grow deeper, the kind of large-scale civil agitation that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently suggested might happen here hasn’t taken shape."

It raises a good question: Why haven't New York City's young people risen up in riots?



Fast forward a few hours from the Union Square march. Later Saturday evening, just three blocks east, masses of drunken revelers, many from the Big Apple Beer Marathon, swarmed Second Avenue.

Young people in Viking helmets and Mardi Gras beads, in t-shirts with a beer-drinking whale on the front and a list of bars on the back, clogged the block. They vomited, stumbled, and danced before the glowing lights of the Chase Bank.



It's like this every weekend. The block between 9th and 10th, especially, on the west side of the avenue, is out of control. The crowds surge and jostle, grabbing at beers and buckets of frozen yogurt, throwing them down their throats as they whoop like wild animals. They block the sidewalk, stumble screaming into traffic, dump garbage on the street, but no cops come to stop them.



At The 13th Step, the tables ache beneath multiple mugs of beer. The spicy vapor of hot wings is so fierce in the air that inhaling actually hurts. I swear you can feel the spices burning through your nasal passages as you walk by.

It's the only taste of pepper spray in this part of town.

Friday, September 23, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The St. Mark's Books rent decision won't come today. The owners tell me that Cooper is giving the request "serious consideration," have referred the matter to Finance, "and we should expect to hear back from them by the end of October." That means there's still time to buy lots of books and boost the shop's sales and spirits.

If you need more encouragement, here's what happens to you when you stop reading books:


Sex and drugs in the Washington Square Park bathrooms. [DNA]

Listening to a lady trombonist and remembering Liza Condon. [WIC]

"My East Village apartment still fits, but the neighborhood doesn't." [BU]

A rousing recap of this summer in the East Village. [EVG]

Sunday 9/25: Join David Freeland and Poor Baby Bree for a free historical musical tour of the LES. [PBB]

Goodbye (more, again) to the ghostly signage of Chef Restaurant Supplies. [BB]

Bloomberg News chimes in on the St. Mark's Books story. [BN]

Meanwhile, newbie Greenlight Books is expanding: "Apparently bookstores, just like the people who write books, are getting priced out of Manhattan." [NYO]

Little Wisco Takes Little Italy

Little Wisco has raised a flag in Little Italy.

Reader Adam Lass sends in this shot from the San Gennaro Feast:



The Times explains it: "at the Little Wisco counter, representing the restaurants Joseph Leonard, Fedora and Jeffrey’s Grocery, goofy improvisations include featherweight falafels with molten Cheddar hearts ($8) and sriracha-doused chicken meatballs on a potato pancake with the perfect ratio of spring and sponge ($10). 'This is the kind of stuff we make for ourselves at the end of the night,' explained the scruffy young man taking orders."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Columbia's Precedent

"There was a time when any university worth visiting seemed to have a great bookstore worth visiting too, an idiosyncratic sort of place with a complex intellectual and social role in the exotic ecology of academic life."



So wrote the Times in 1997 when Columbia University fostered the birth of the Labyrinth bookstore "in an elaborate process reminiscent of efforts to rescue the California condor from extinction and return it to the wild." Columbia's officials had spent years trying to cultivate a quality bookstore in its neighborhood. Jonathan R. Cole, the university's provost, put it this way: ''It becomes part of the general view of the university as a place where people interested in matters of the mind congregate. And that helps us attract scholars, attract students, retain scholars.''

Imagine: A university in New York City actually valued books and wanted them nearby. So do you know what they did? They made the rent abundantly affordable.



What has changed in this city since 1997 that Cooper Union could permit St. Mark's Bookshop to fail in hard times? What has changed that Cooper Union, where people who ostensibly value "matters of the mind," would not value its neighboring bookstore enough to keep it alive and thriving? What has changed that the East Village could become a university neighborhood (Cooper, NYU, SVA) without its own high-quality bookstore?

In 1997, Columbia's provost stated: "It is especially important, it seems to me, that universities offer some form of support to keep this kind of bookstore in existence."

So what has changed in this city between 1997 and today? (And it's not just about Apple and Amazon.)

Cooper Union's board meets tomorrow to decide the fate of St. Mark's Bookshop. Senator Daniel Squadron has written a letter urging the school to lower the rent. More than 35,000 people have signed a petition. And many of you have lifted the shop's revenue by buying books. Will Cooper Union's president, Jamshed Bharucha, follow Columbia's example and show the city that its institutions of higher learning still value books and "matters of the mind"? Or will he follow the new Bloomberg order and pay homage only to the bottom line?



Also read:
An Open Letter to Cooper Union
Buy A Book Weekend at St. Mark's
Xmas in September

And sign that petition--it's now at over 35,000 signatures.

Thanks to reader Robert for tipping me to this relationship between Columbia and Labyrinth Books, a bookshop now thriving as the recently expanded Book Culture--who says bookstores can't do well in Manhattan?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

State Senator Daniel Squadron urges Cooper Union to lower St. Mark's Books' rent. [Scribd]

Sad news of the death of Ballpark Lanes, endangered by the new Yankee Stadium culture. [EVG]

East Village IHOP thinks it needs a bouncer because the neighborhood is glutted with rowdy drunks. [Gothamist]

Check out Richard Kern's newly preserved 1983 film Goodbye 42nd Street at Anthology, Sept 23 - 24. [AFA]

Remembering the neon of the Railway Bar. [NYN]

Shots from the Occupation of Wall Street. [NMNL]

Houston, we have a swizzle stick. [MAD]

104 E. 10th

The last bohemian has been booted from the most elegant block of E. 10th Street. A TOWNHOUSE FOR SALE sign has gone up on 104 E. 10th and the listing states: "Now delivered vacant, this four story 18.5-foot wide frontage home can be rebuilt into a jewel that matches its setting."



"Vacant" means that there's no Edgar Oliver inside anymore and that's a pity. I guess the realtors didn't think 104 was a jewel with Mr. Oliver residing there, though many would disagree.

A beloved playwright, poet, and performance artist, Oliver has been called "the kind of legend that inspires people to move to New York" by the Village Voice. He lived in the house, formerly a rooming house, for many years. He wrote and performed about his life there in the acclaimed theatrical memoir "East 10th Street: Self Portrait With Empty House," which the Times called "sweet and sinister." (And there's an extensive interview with him in Goodie from our friend Romy, who also informs us that Mr. Oliver has been relocated to an apartment further down the Lower East Side.)

Watch him talking about the house and its strange and amazing tenants in his hypnotic monster-movie voice:



(Here's another video, reading "Donuts Luncheonette" at home, and the trailer for The Hermit.)

I don't know Mr. Oliver, but I liked walking that block of fussy, recently renovated beauty queens, seeing the one shabby old survivor, and looking up at its only inhabited windows, lit by Oliver's strings of Christmas lights, knowing he was up there writing, or doing whatever he did, just not being someone humdrum.

It was a comfort.

Now I suppose some god-awful heiress will move in with her zombie husband and hollow-eyed children to fill the place with their flat-screen lives. This is how it goes.


Edgar Oliver on 10th, by Andrew Lachance

"On one of the finest blocks in the East Village," says the realtor's listing, "this building is located at the epicenter of this vibrant neighborhood." Of course, the neighborhood is less vibrant without Mr. Oliver in it.

The owner is asking $5,600,000.00.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Track Mind

One Track Mind, a film by Jeremy Workman, chronicles an obsessive love affair--that between one man and the New York City subway system--and the efforts to preserve every nook and cranny in a massive collection of detailed drawings and notes.

Phil Copp might remind you of Joe Gould, the Greenwich Villager made famous by Joseph Mitchell for his non-existent, 9-million-worded "Oral History of Civilization." But Copp has succeeded where Gould failed--his opus exists, on real paper, as the multi-volume, never-ending "Silver Connections."

It's a story of old New York, a place filled with eccentrics and obsessives, where a strange and wondrous love for the city can take root and bloom in the shadows of the underground. I talked to Jeremy and Phil and asked them some questions.


Jeremy Workman

Q: Who is Phil Copp and what's his subway project all about?

JW: Phil is a subway historian extraordinaire. He is a regular guy from New York and New Jersey who works at a printing press. A kind sweet man. A bit on the quiet side. An avid church-goer. But he's had this lifelong obsession with the decor and design of the New York City subway stations. He's spent most of his adult life creating a study called "Silver Connections," a massive homemade, self-published, illustrated encyclopedia of the the decor in the stations. He's studied it historically, artistically, and sociologically. It's like a billion pages and it has literally thousands of amazingly detailed hand-drawn sketches and diagrams.

PC: My study has two purposes. First, to record the art & architecture of the NYC subway stations in word and picture. Second, to reveal the persons who designed or crafted the decor. Both subjects of my study were neglected and unheralded (especially in the late 1970's, when I began this undertaking).


Phil Copp

Q: Jeremy, how did you find Phil and what drew you to his story?

JW: Randy Kennedy (who's interviewed in the documentary) wrote a piece in the New York Times about a group of hyper-extreme subway obsessives. At the time, I was tipped off about Phil by another NY Times journalist, as I was beginning a documentary about New York obsessives. When I met Phil, I realized that he should be the subject of his own film alone since his story was so interesting.

Q: Phil, what has it been like getting so much attention for your project and seeing yourself in this film?

PC: First reaction--utterly honored. Second reaction--utterly squeamish to see myself in that NY1 interview, or giving that lecture for the senior citizens. Third reaction--grateful to the friends I've made who said such nice things about my mania. Fourth reaction--loved that smash rapid fire ending!!! And the music chosen--wellllllll, it was different (like my study) (and a better choice than hitting you all with Wagner and Tchaikovsky: my idea).



Q: One of the people in the film says you are "possessed" by your study of the subway, that you have a "certain kind of mind." How would you characterize that kind of "one track" mind?

PC: What kind of "possessed" mind do I have? There's two of me, after a fashion. The everyday me goes to work, goes to church, does all the special occasion and holiday stuff, does the house chores, et al. Just like any of you. Then there's the me who has filled 36 notebooks with sketches & transcriptions, journeyed on field trips, drawn the illustrations, wrote the texts, and got it all published, and so on. Sometimes I don't know how I've done it. This endeavor has been my abiding passion for about half of my years lived so far. I'm possessed in that I know I must finish this.

JW: People are often blown away by Phil's level of commitment even before they've seen his book. Then, when people see the multiple volumes of Silver Connections (which can pile waist-high), their jaws invariably drop to the floor. I've never met a person with this level of commitment to one particular subject. He's been working on this study for over 30 years and is totally undeterred by anyone's else interest (or lack of interest) in his study. It's incredible.



Q: The scene with the elderly audience, all of them falling asleep with boredom, is hilarious and poignant. I find myself hoping that Phil has found a cohort of like-minded folks with whom he can share his passion. Or does his subway project remain a solitary enterprise?

JW: He's totally alone in this. He doesn't seem to associate with the subculture of subway enthusiasts. And Phil is not so much interested in the subway cars or the subway tracks per se; rather, he's ONLY interested in the actual stations and their decor. He's just on an island doing this by himself and seems to prefer it that way. I spoke to a guy once at the NY Public Library who said that there's no other resource on this subject other than Phil's book. That's it. It's Silver Connections and nothing else. All this great history would be lost without Phil's study.



Q: Phil, what are you working on today?

PC: Revising Volume I. The text is in sore need of a balanced mind--which I was sure I had in the late 1970's/early 1980's, but the maturing years that have passed since then have revealed the awkward, mawkward horrors I committed to print, and induce me to remedy my embarrassing ways. Plus I'm adding new material and new illustrations & station layouts. Much needed.



  • Watch One Track Mind here.
  • Some of Silver Connections are available for sale by contacting Phil at philoceans@gmail.com

Monday, September 19, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The Occupation of Wall Street continues. [CR]

So just how well did St. Mark's Books do on the Buy A Book Weekend? Your purchases bumped sales by a whopping 35%. Nicely done bibliophiles of New York! [RS]

Gothamist followed up, too, and reports that St. Mark's "had a very good weekend—it was extremely busy." [Gothamist]

Remember when St. Mark's Books = “Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz used to come in here every Sunday night and close the place down... Allen Ginsberg met Philip Glass in the store... William Burroughs used to come in every Saturday morning wearing a suit and carrying a cane and hat." [NYT]

The real original Ray's to shutter. [NYT]

Broke-Ass Girls: some new ideas for New York-based TV shows. [Restless]

In 2008, I did a post on vanishing parking meters. Now we hear the last working parking meter is being ripped from the ground for good. [Gothamist]

Will Life Cafe be split in two? [EVG]

Look out--Crown Heights gets its first Farmers Market. [BSr]

Xmas in September for St. Mark's

Reader George writes in: "I was buying some books at St. Marks and overheard the guys behind the counter talking about what a good sales weekend it was. They had sold out of some paperbacks and had to order more. They said it was the best weekend they've had since Christmas!"



Congratulations and thanks to everyone who heeded the call and took the time this weekend to buy books at the St. Mark's Bookshop. Of course, one weekend is not enough. To keep this great bookshop alive, we need to keep going back.

And remember: Real books are better for your brain than electronic readers, and reading fiction makes you more empathic. READ BOOKS: Save our city from the yunnie zombies!

P.S. The petition keeps chugging along, coming up to 30,000 signatures--and it's fun to play "Find the Authors":



Friday, September 16, 2011

Buy a Book Weekend!

Almost 28,000 people have signed the petition to save St. Mark's Bookstore. Cooper Union is still deliberating on whether to lower the shop's rent or let the market forces crush this landmark. Many commenters have said (some rather snarkily), "If everyone who signed the petition bought just one book, they could save the shop." Feeling guilty about spending more time reading blogs than books? Good!

Jen Doll at Runnin Scared agrees. She notes that if all the petition signers "bought a book...in September, the shop would make approximately $405,000. More than enough for to pay the month's rent... But that doesn't happen, not even in the heady days when everyone loved paper."

But it CAN happen. Let's all buy one book from St. Mark's this weekend. Consider it a campaign of unbridled optimism. (And please pass this post on to all your Facebook friends, blog readers, tweeters, etc. The Internet is killing bookstores, might as well use it to try and save one.)

You don't even have to go into the shop--you can sit on your ass and buy it online. It's as easy as Amazon! (If you're one of those Kindle people, you can even buy an evil ebook, if you absolutely insist...the money is going to a good place, so you get a pass. This time.)


St. Mark's Books window

To make your browsing even easier, here are some personal recommendations. Just click the links and go. (Mention "Vanishing New York" when you make your purchase and you might get a free St. Mark's bookmark made of fine artisanal paper hewn from actual trees):

The Art of Fielding is getting rave reviews everywhere. Not New Yorky but definitely on my to-read list.

Tango is a new memoir by downtown performer Justin Vivian Bond. Bond recently got evicted thanks to the demolition of Mars Bar, so buying Tango means you're supporting two East Village "institutions."

I just finished reading By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham and enjoyed the writing very much--it's about a fussy New York art dealer who gets the hots for his wife's little brother.

I also just read Ten Thousand Saints--a great snapshot of New York and the hardcore scene of the 1980s.

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad is most excellent--more New York, more music, more dystopian technology.

Store Front is the must-have collection of vanishing New York photos by James and Karla Murray.

The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York is by one of our blogger pals, Bryan Waterman. Check it out for a rich analysis of city lit.

Miss the sleazy Times Square? The Last of the Live Nude Girls promises to bring it all back in sticky detail.

And who doesn't love Fran Lebowitz?

How about anything by Arthur Nersesian?

If you are in town and you do go into the store, they've got a great remainders table where you can stock up on some excellent titles for cheap.

Tell us what you bought! And finally, remember what John Waters says about anti-bookists: "Don't fuck 'em!"


At the Strand

*Everyday Chatter

The Times profiles the last holdouts of their neighborhoods, featuring the fabulous Ivy Brown. [NYT]

photo: Todd Heisler

Congratulations to Joe My God and Sheepshead Bites for winning CBSNY's Most Valuable Blogger. Thanks again to everyone who voted!

Books are not pickles! [WNYC]

Jay Shells, the etiquette sign guy, plays nice on Fox News then flips the script. [ANY]

The bones of dead bikes. [Restless]

We live in an age of glass,” said Ms. Laurel, an architect. “It can be a perfect mirror in certain lights, and the larger the glass, the more dangerous it is.” [NYT]

Our Lady of Sorrows processing through Carroll Gardens. [OMFS]

The exceptionalism that once made NYC: "Many people – whether they live in the heartland or on Fifth Avenue – like to think of New York City as so wild and extreme in its cultural fusion that it’s an anomaly in the United States, almost a foreign entity." [P&W]

How to make an egg cream just like Mr. Hooper:

Remembering the Wall of Remembrance

This week, Villagers memorialized the 9/11 memorial wall at St. Vincent's Hospital.



A memorial for a memorial.

This wall was once covered with 9/11 Missing posters. "The Wall of Remembrance" was preserved here for years, secured under plexiglass, and eventually taken down. A permanent memorial was planned, but there was not enough money for it.



Wrote Clyde Haberman at the Times:

"The 9/11 fliers are now preserved in plastic and arranged alphabetically, from Terence E. Adderley Jr. to Ken Zelman, in four loose-leaf binders... The binders are in storage, emerging rarely save for one day a year. 'We have a memorial Mass every Sept. 11 in the chapel, and we bring the books there,' Sister Kevin said. 'We let people look through them, and then we take them back' — out of sight but never out of mind."



Of course, St. Vincent's is now a haunted house, Sister Kevin doesn't work there anymore, and who knows where the loose-leaf binders have gone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Starbucks encroaches deeper into the East Village. [EVG]

On saving St. Mark's Books: "I'm not convinced this neighborhood deserves to have a great bookstore... this place is a youth destination for children of means, not an intellectual or countercultural destination anymore." [SLES]

St. Mark's Books in the Daily News. [NYDN]

On Cooper Union's new Astor Place vision: "when completed, the new building will change Astor Place forever--and far more drastically than Gwathmey Siegel's tower... [it] will dwarf all the others and hardly harmonize the jumbled buildings around it." [TRD]

Taking up arms on E. 10th St:


Artists and hipsters forced out of Williamsburg. [Gothamist]

The Beaux Arts Ball parties at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. But what is "loading dock chic" dress? [NYO]

Enjoy Frank's Barber Shop of Staten Island. [LC]

Hope? Fewer people going for MBAs. [NYM]

Carrie Bradshaw will never die. [NYO]

An Open Letter to Cooper Union

Dear Cooper Union:

Today you are meeting with the owners of the St. Mark's Bookshop to discuss a rent reduction that would keep this invaluable business afloat. So far, the owners say, you have not been "particularly sympathetic" to the situation.

You weren't particularly sympathetic in 1994 when you leased a gas station to the Bowery Bar, helping to set in motion a tsunami of hyper-gentrification. Bowery Bar's neighbor (gone now) put a lighted sign in his window saying, "Cooper Union: How could you do this to us?" More protesters responded, "Don't Party on the Poor." But the party raged on.

You weren't particularly sympathetic in 2000 when you leased the Astor Place parking lot for a luxury hotel that turned into a luxury condo tower--one that opened the door for more massive development in the East Village. One of your own faculty members at the time told the Observer, "[Peter Cooper] would die again if he knew what was going on. For him to find out what his legacy turned out to be, he would be appalled. He was never one for pure mercenary gain. It’s all about money, money, money."

You weren't particularly sympathetic in 2001 when you tried to demap Taras Shevchenko Place and the Ukrainians of the East Village fought back.

You weren't particularly sympathetic in 2004 when you painted over a popular 9/11 mural to make space for advertising on 35 Cooper Square. That little building was later sold to developers and demolished against more protests.

You aren't being particularly sympathetic now in your current plans to turn Astor Place into a corporate office park. The neighborhood has been fighting those plans for the past decade to no avail.

Even though, as we understand it, you make a mint on the Chrysler Building, which stands on your property and reportedly costs the city $8 million every year, you keep finding ways to make more money from the East Village. As New York Magazine put it, you have "helped to corporatize a once raffish and still artistically fertile area." People are angry. We have lost too much. We cannot lose one of the best bookstores in the city--a place that fuels the soul in an increasingly soulless neighborhood.

As of this writing, more than 24,000 people have signed the petition to save St. Mark's Bookshop. Will you be sympathetic to that enormous outcry? I hope you will surprise us and grant their request, but your track record does not inspire optimism.

A few years ago, I was inspired by a story in the documentary film Twilight Becomes Night. A group of Upper West Siders saved their local pharmacy from eviction by calling the bank that planned to move into the space, and telling them, "We will not use your services." The bank backed off. Suba Pharmacy still stands. So here's an idea: If St. Mark's Books is forced to close due to unyielding rent, whatever business moves into their space at 31 Third Avenue will be boycotted and protested.

I'm sorry, but I can't be more sympathetic.

Sincerely,
Vanishing New York

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

The New Yorker's Book Bench asks if St. Mark's Bookshop is worth fighting for. [NYer]

Alex says: Go shop at St. Mark's Books. [FP]

This Sunday: It's the Brooklyn Book Fest! [BBF]

What's still wonderful about the dumbed-down East Village? [EVG]

Christopher Gray visits the lost Rhinelander Row--with a nod to the remains of Rhinelander Gardens. [NYT]

What is the Best of NYC? [RS]

Reading E.B. White's Here Is New York. [P&W]

LES Onscreen Film Series starts tonight. [TLD]

Stuyvesant Street becomes Paris in the 20s. [OTG]

Waverly Diner

As we heard in July, the Waverly restaurant is being gutted for a renovation, its first in 30 years. Recently, a peek through the open door revealed the carnage:



Before the gutting, New York magazine called the old aesthetic: "working-class steakhouse with dark-wood paneling, snug, vinyl-padded booths" where "you just might reinterpret those black-and-white actors’ eight-by-tens lining the perimeter as a forgotten pantheon: patron saints of cheap food, fast service, and fading traditions."



Fading is right. When the Waverly replaced their neon sign in 2008, we lost "STEAKS CHOPS SEAFOOD." (See also Lost City's "Fall of the Chop.") That was the beginning.

Here's what the diner will look like after the renovation, sort of Southwestern, the moody dark-wood paneling replaced by something optimistic and sandy beige:


Jorge Fontan

It's too bright for my taste, too bland. And I have to wonder: What will happen to all those forgotten actors' 8x10s? And will the bacon and eggs still be served in a battered frying pan on a block of wood?

Monday, September 12, 2011

*Everyday Chatter

Save St. Mark's Books: Let Cooper Union know they can't take away another vital piece of the EV. So far, Cooper has not been "particularly sympathetic." [RS]

What do shuttered bookstores become in NYC? Genital waxing salons and real estate offices. Atlantic Books' memory befouled. [BSr]

After 30 years, Life Cafe has closed. Indefinitely. [EVG]

Good to know 21's classic and kinky murals are A-OK. [LC]

Target has created a giant blogger doll. And it's very creepy. And it lives in the Meatpacking District. [Racked]

Check out this collection of here-today, gone-tomorrow storefronts of the LES. [GC]

9/12

September 12. It doesn't have the ring of September 11, and yet the date remains in our memories as the day we crept outside into a new and unknown world.


all photos scanned from my film, Sept. 2001

The night before, we stood on our rooftops, where we had stood frozen most of the day, and watched the sunset turn the smoke cloud an apocalyptic orange. The buildings had just been there. We had watched them burn. We felt the rumbling impact of their impossible collapse. It seemed "unreal," as everyone would say, like a movie.

We went to bed worried. We had our canned goods, our bottled water, our cash, just in case. But we hardly slept.

The East Village night was silent, with traffic blocked off and all non-residents banned from entering. We lay awake, waiting for the percussion of another explosion.



In the morning we wandered out into the smoky world. Our neighbors covered their faces with breathing masks. The air shimmered with dust.

American flags, overnight, had sprung up everywhere. On the streets, men had carried televisions to the sidewalks where crowds gathered to watch the towers fall, again and again.



Signs went up for prayer services. People who never went to church went to church. Men pressed transistor radios to their ears and listened to the latest reports.



In Union Square, a sprawling memorial quickly blossomed and, in the coming days, overflowed.



Signs told us what to donate to the rescue workers, a long list of necessities. On our own transistor radio we heard that candy bars and chewing gum were good. We loaded two bags with Snickers and Doublemint and headed downtown. The blood centers didn't want anymore blood.



They wouldn't let us down past Houston, so we kept walking west.

On the empty West Side Highway, dump trucks carried debris northward, past the desolate Meatpacking District. We heard about body bags. We watched the smoke plume climb the cloudless sky. We heard about the Chelsea Piers being turned into a "makeshift morgue." There, they waited for bodies and took our donations.



Was it that same day or the next? Downtown, the tourist machine had already begun.



Like vultures pecking at the body before it was cold, hawkers sold American flags, posters, postcards, and pins of the Twin Towers. More would come. Already, orders were in for Trade Center snow globes, ashtrays, and baseball caps. Somewhere, someone was putting together gruesome photos for 9/11 Memorial Scrapbooks. Already, the tourists were adding Ground Zero to their vacation destination lists.

But on that day, and for many days, the smoke had not yet cleared.



On the souvenir stands, the vendors sold respirator masks. We bought them and put them on. Without them, we coughed and choked on the smoke as we stepped as close as we could to the disaster. It was still burning.



Up in Times Square, the tourists had all scurried away. The streets were dead. Newspapers floated across Broadway. It was so silent there, you could hear the sound of the traffic lights changing from green to yellow to red, though no cars came by.

All the big TVs were shut off. In the window of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, the curator of wax had taken some celebrity from the window--Leonardo DiCaprio?--and replaced him with George W. Bush.