New York


“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?

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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 …

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