New York


… reports the Times Machine:

The Lighter Side of the Convention

“The National Convention of 1908,” said Perry Heath, formerly Assistant Postmaster General, “will be known undoubtedly as the whiskerless convention.”

Mr. Heath was right. Looking over the convention, one was surprised to find so few men with hirsute adornment.

In the whole National Committee there were only five, and they affected, with one exception, not the full beard, but a sort of goatee growth, that they smoothed with a lingering fondness.

The story continues, with a ribald anecdote about jaundice. My point being: If this kind of witty reportage persisted, if we had more mustache news, more often, maybe the Tribune’s Zell & Co. wouldn’t be so close to the brink of defaulting.

Utterly fascinated by Mapfaced, a sight that lists bar crawls of all stripes — for example, “cool places in the East Village, celebrities included,” “get tanked by Grand Central after work,” or “drink like a writer.” A lot of the lists seem redundant (yeah, the Lower East Side is full of cool and cheap places to drink) or just douchey (does anyone really want to behave like an NYU frat boy?), but a neat idea nonetheless.

Among the “meant to do but didn’ts”of this weekend: the Renegade Craft Fair at the McCarren Park Pool and the Affordable Art Fair (which featured, among lots of other stuff, presumably, Lieu Nguyen’s <i>Spring Blossom</i>, above).

Anyone score good deals? Artists to keep an eye out for? 

A bold choice, perhaps more believable at the Costume Institute Gala than in Rego Park; nonetheless, you have to respect a woman who has the courage to rock a bright-red turban.

“Laying down his garden hose, George D. Folkman, janitor of the county Court House, joined in matrimony Miss Mabel Blanche Cutler, the daughter of John C. Cutler, the Governor of Utah, and Thomas Edward Butler, a man of limited means and no social prominence, here this afternoon.”

Brought to you by the stellar Times Machine, and possibly a new daily feature. The news today is so depressing; A1 should carry more (obvious) pronouncements about the status ascribed to figures in New York’s highest social stratosphere.

It’s been a rough month. But I think I’m ready to come out of hiding. Reasons for hunkering down are largely beside the point.

And now, a scene.

Platinum Gym: a family-owned sweat palace populated largely by what appear to be bodybuilders of the former Soviet republics. Our heroine is doing pull-ups, wiggling excitedly between sets to an infectious pop number. She is marveling at a lissome lifter when she realizes that he is no longer kicking his leg to his forehead; he is staring at the pull-up bar, then at her, then at the pull-up bar, then furrowing his brow, and then fixing his gaze, again, on her.

Gym dude:

Hey, girl. I, uh, I wanted to say …

She smiles nervously, as is her wont. Just see what happens: It can’t be as bad as the time another regular mumbled through a discourse on the evils of Google Toolbar before asking her for a drink.

GD:

… you’re beautiful. But it’s not just, you’re not just beautiful. It’s that you work at it. You’re here, what—

TJ:

Oh, yeah, I come five or six days a week, blow off some steam.

GD:

Yeah! Blow off some steam! I’m K—-, and you’re?

TJ:

TJ, good to meet you K—-. And thanks, I, um, appreciate it?

He smiles and starts mumbling something again, and she knows that she should be annoyed, that he’s penetrating the little bubble of herself and the time she’s created when she never has to think about her husband or cleaning or making dinner or those damn cats, those fucking cats. But it’s not always about hormones and gonads and the ceaseless beating of flesh on flesh; sometimes it’s just nice, right when you feel farthest from the world and everything you wanted, to be reminded that there are others going through the motions, making the effort, trying to connect when it’s easy enough to make it through the day with no more contact than a rapid-fire coffee order or an exhausted “Excuse me!” yelped in the crush for the rush-hour train. Only connect, only connect.

Two cool projects: a pixellated gush of water from an old downspout and a plastic-bag Loch Ness Monster constructed over a subway vent so it “comes alive” every time a train rushes by underground.

The first, Gawker reports, was NYU student Kelly Goeller’s assignment for Intro to Sculpture. The other, which I found via Wooster Collective, is a piece by Joshua Allen Harris (who also did the plastic-bag polar bear) best understood by watching a YouTube clip:

These are the things that make me love NY….

“Sal’s Boots,” 1982, Barbara G. Mensch, via NYT slideshow, “New York’s Seaports.”

There’s (what sounds like) a cool photo exhibit down at South Street Seaport — Barbara G. Mensch’s images of the Fulton Fish Market, taken from 1979-1983. (Mensch’s work was also featured in South Street, a book put out by the Columbia University Press.)

My fascination with the Seaport, despite its disgustingly Abercrombie-fied current incarnation, stems from my being enamored with Joseph Mitchell, the New Yorker writer whose The Bottom of the Harbor is truly a gem of narrative nonfiction. Read Mitchell’s short stories, then go to the exhibit. And then, umm, get drunk on a dram of grog and see if you can dig some clams in Raritan Bay?

After Time Out New York deemed the Skylight Diner the best Manhattan diner of the year, S and I bravely ventured to the borough of the gods for a bite. But we needn’t have suffered the E train — especially not as we have the Shalimar Diner so close at hand in Rego Park.

Reviews on Chowhound are a bit mixed, but for the appetizers alone — a bowl of chickpeas well-spiced and mixed with vinegar and chopped onions, alongside two types of pickles, matched with poppy-dotted challah and melba toast — I’d give it a thumbs up. I have no clue about the proprietors’ origins (Uzbeki, as per Regz’s norms?), but it was average to enticing grub that pushed the boundaries of traditional diner offerings. I had a nice rigatoni with sundried tomatoes and broccoli, while S had a good half dozen varieties of meat on a sizzling platter, very old school. Our waitress was a kick — sassy, middle-aged, pony-tailed, and adamantly opposed to the sugar-free pies the diner was offering — and the place was jammed, so it seems they’re doing something right.

(Picture is from Morton Fox on Flickr.)

(“Cozy Donkey,” Swati Kurana, 2007, via NY Arts.)

From NY Arts profile of Swati Kurana:

I see myself as very loose, disorganized, and cluttered with my artistic process. I’m a collector, so I have too much stuff, too much music, too many tear sheets, too many journals, too many plastic flowers, too many hard drives with too many images and movie files. But I keep it all, because I hold onto a piece of text, a source image, or song that I want to incorporate in a piece. It often gets shelved for a while, until another text or image or song comes up that complements the first one, and then I ferociously work to complete it.

Although I respect artists with a singular vision, artists that paint from life or doggedly pursue a discrete theme expressed in a wash of watercolors, variations on one idea, I’m much more an eclectic; I always love reading about other artists working across media, jumping from branch to branch as the wind blows through the trees …

… or I assume so. Actually, I have no basis on which to judge this, as I don’t eat beef or, um, any animal products, but $3 a pound is bananas-cheap. Housing Works’ new concept, reminiscent of so many Goodwill warehouses (represent, Milwaukie scrapper’s bins!) of yore, opened today at 261 W. 36th St. in Midtown. Racked has an opening-day report; it’s open Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Suppose I’ll have to check it out this weekend … anyone find anything nonsucky there?

(Above: Picture I took of a Coney Island storefront.)

Cool new book out — Paul Lacy catalogs entrances and handpainted signs around New York in Brooklyn Storefronts. Read about it on the Times’ City Room blog, which noted, “In the foreword to the book, Mr. Lacy admits that his visual record of Brooklyn’s storefronts might seem “a bit odd,” and indeed, some store owners would pop outside to ask why he was taking snapshots. Mr. Lacy writes:

“Granted, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but a small, independently owned store is singular and so is a handpainted sign. When you see one, you have to wonder whether there will be something inside not found in the other stores, let alone the chains and franchises. Very often there is: a lovingly made dish made from a family recipe, a display of photographs or posters, a funny story, catchy tunes from another land: there are so many surprises.””

Supercool — and a real testament to the creativity and ingenuity of everyday people. What with the corporatization of public space, gems like those Lacy captured are already few and far between; thankfully, this old-fashioned art hasn’t disappeared completely.

Tomorrow? I’m totally going to the Coffee and Tea Festival (Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W. 18th St., between 6th and 7th Avenues), even if a day pass is $20. It promises:

  • Coffee and tea sampling
  • Lectures / Classes
  • Shopping
  • Contests
  • Demonstrations
  • Art
  • Java/Tea Lounge with music & entertainment
  • Funds will be raised for the official event charity, Cup for Education

If you’re in NY, come! I’ll be there with bells on. OK, not really. I’ll probably wear all black like I always do. But you get the picture.

I’ve been reading Luc Sante’s Low Life, a great book, and also one that is a convincing argument for soaking more fully in New York’s flavor. It’s not the Bowery of the 1890s, but there was a remarkable array of people strolling down Park Avenue at lunchtime today (likely because today was hands down the nicest day of the year thus far). I saw people with guidebooks, middle-aged office workers taking noontime strolls in tennis shoes, a man with a dog that crapped in front of oncoming traffic at a crosswalk, a woman in a cherry-red power suit, three or four couples making out in front of the Citi building, and, best of all, a man in a three-piece purple suit, topped off by a fuzzy purple-fur beret. And this, in one of the tamest parts of town …

Interpreting the descriptions of men and women in the media; that is, using the descriptions proffered in stories from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and other mainstream media purveyors to concoct sketches of the sources they cite.

Today’s image: the left-shin mole woman.

mole-left-shin.jpg

Yup, New York’s guv was caught on a federal wiretap soliciting a prostitute. Prospect of me getting any work done this afternoon? About as good as Spitzer getting off scott-free. Everybody’s talking about it, and I don’t have much to add to the discussion, so, without further ado, books about prostitution for your scholarly edification:

An excerpt from the latter …

Passing now to the fourth of this vice we find prostitution in a most repulsive form, the women themselves diseased and dirty the houses redolent of bad rum.

Poor-quality booze! Say it isn’t so!

unionsqare.jpg

My favorite New York street photographer has a great shot from Union Square.

 

The Times of India reports that it’s now as expensive to lease a flat in Mumbai as it is in NYC.  Nauzer Bharucha writes:

“A three-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side can be rented for about $5,000 to $8,000, or Rs 2 lakh-Rs 3.20 lakh a month. In Mumbai, a similar-sized apartment in any good building between central Mumbai and Bandra could cost as much, or even more, according to realty experts.  …

“The rental segment of the residential market is booming mainly because of expats and a large number of senior executives belonging to corporates setting up base in Mumbai,” claimed Joygopal Sanyal of Jones Lang Lasalle Megraj, a global property consultancy firm. According to him, large flats in south Mumbai could fetch upwards of Rs 10 lakh a month.”

This is bloody bonkers! I guess I got out of India at the right time ….

In honor of my discovery of Steal This Wiki (based on Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book), I present a bit of culture-jamming from the mean (har har) streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn — the above picture is of homemade stickers with slogans such as “We are rapacious developers” pasted onto a real estate company’s plate-glass storefront etched with “plain-folks” platitudes so unfriendly bohemians begin to bond with the nouveau riche couples snapping up million-dollar condos in post-industrial playland.

Bonus: I love public art, even if (or particularly when!) it’s a bit rough around the edges, as evidenced by this street scene from N. 6th —

flora.jpg

Two retro reminiscences I’m really digging: a 1950s Jim Flora woodcut, now being sold as a limited edition on eBay, and New York’s 40th anniversary rehashing of the magazine’s inaugural issue. The past is not even past….

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