Crime Against the Spirit of New York
Coney Island Redevelopment
The absolutely pointless and wasteful “renovation” of Washington Square
Park deserves mention, but as far as large-scale damage to the very heart of what New York means is
concerned, nothing is more odious than the city’s multi-million dollar plan for Coney Island.
It’ll bring in a shopping mall, a hotel, a spa, a bowling alley and a few
high-end restaurants, and cost us Ruby’s, the Nathan’s, the Playland Arcade, the miniature golf
course, the go-kart track, Shoot the Freak, the souvenir stand and a clam stand or two—most
everything on the Boardwalk between the Wonder Wheel Park and the recently-landmarked Parachute
There’s been talk of rejuvenating Coney since the ’60s, when it was a
seedy, crime-ridden boardwalk next to a filthy beach. Back then there was even talk of tearing the
Cyclone down. But most of the plans involved trying to recapture turn-of-the-century Coney, when
it was the working class Riviera—a relaxation and entertainment hub unlike anything else
in the world.
Of all the plans proposed, none involved the wholesale destruction
of so much history and personality. None (except maybe for that rumored Disney deal), tried to turn
the Boardwalk into a slick shopping outlet for the well-to-do, who we doubt will ever venture so
far from Manhattan in any event. This cheap and doomed experiment will cost us so very much.
Best Vintage Clothing store
63 E. 4th St. (Bowery Ave)
For the most part, vintage shopping in Manhattan is a joke. The entire idea
behind digging through racks of hand-me-downs and discarded items is that once in a while a treasure
is found and it is priced at pennies. We all know this isn’t the case in Manhattan vintage stores,
where most good finds are crammed between collections of crap and both the appalling and the alluring
are vastly overpriced. Centricity, though, is not only priced extremely reasonably in comparison
to other Manhattan vintage stores, but is also filled with fantastic clothing from all different
eras and doesn’t require the shopper to plow through heaps of undesirable items. Owner/full-time
retail girl Christine is stylish, hospitable and helpful in a way you can trust. Because she never
pushes items on a customer and obviously has an eye for style, you will never feel compelled to buy
something that isn’t perfect for you. Centricity is a goldmine in an island laden with overly adored
boutiques selling yesterday’s junk at Madison Avenue prices.
Every time we have passed through, we have found no fewer than ten items
that we desperately needed to make part of our wardrobe. With fashions ranging from ’40s shoes to
’80s prom dresses, Centricity should be a frequented place for any girl with an eye for clothes.
It is, as our grandmother would say, a “choice” place to shop.
BEST PLACE TO MAKE YOU STOP WISHING Best Nickname for Gentrification
Three years ago, when we first moved into Brooklyn’s Caribbean-heavy Prospect
Heights—located on the wrong side of the Park Slope tracks—we fell in love with jerk
chicken–stuffed patties, old-man stoop culture and, let’s not lie, cheap rent: $1600 for
a three-bedroom is still a steal.
Living in a house with two white kids, soon joined by six angel cake–pale
activists, our brownstone gained a nickname.
Sample conversation with random neighborhood stranger: “Where do
“On the corner.”
“Oh, you live in the honky house.”
Sticks and stones, you know: Honky was a small price to pay for an apartment
that didn’t double as a club for hyperactive cockroaches. Anyway, as one year begat two, we noticed
a trend: the shock troops of neighborhood expansion—marauding lesbians, paint-splattered
artists and boys with wispy facial hair—soon moved into our block’s empty apartments.
“It’s like someone spilled a bottle of wite out across the neighborhood,”
said our neighbor Jose. “It’s Operation Snowflake!” And now, in Prospect Heights, it’s Christmas
all year round.
IT WAS STILL 1988 IN NYC
Toto, we’re not in Bushwick anymore.
Spectacular poverty! Unremitting grit! Festering parcels in prime
downtown locations! The grim epicenter of a decentralized state whose largest paper could (and
sometimes does) boast an annual “corruption section,” so readers can page through their favorite
mugshots of elected officials!
We’ve enjoyed the easy pace and mixed energies of Harlem, unmolested
(knock, knock) by crime, for seven years. But this isn’t Harlem, and it ain’t Giuliani time, neither.
No, we had to start work in Jersey to get my gym bag ripped off… from
my desk… in broad daylight… by a punk whose first call on our cell phone was to a lawyer
famous for entering plea deals for meth-amphetamine and international-child-pornography kingpins.
It’s 2005, and this is Newark, baby. Once the most prosperous city in
the Garden State, Newark today is plagued by the twin blights of murderous poverty and reverse-commute-inspiring
job creation for the college-educated. For nigh on two decades, this Art Deco goldmine has been
Mayor Sharpe James’s personal piggy bank, failed police state and whipping boy.
It’s also a fucking time warp. The shops—both the indoor ones
and the “sock souks” off Market Street—bear out fashion trends that spiral backward whither
Soho pilgrims and neo-Nolitans dare not so much as glance. We swear, the labels on the shattered
beer glasses still all read: “the beer that made Milwaukee famous.”
WBGO pumps out top-notch jazz programming, but of more than 75 “local”
jazz venues on its website, precisely none are in Newark. A terror threat against Prudential’s
headquarters did make a few headlines for the Brick City, but try telling someone in Pru’s New York
offices that they’re actually headquartered in Jersey. We, like, double dare you.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be when Johnny Mnemonic came
out in 1995. Newark was supposed to rise like a fortress while Manhattan, Queens and Nassau fell
It’s not like the cops here don’t try. Newark lost the national title
for car theft years ago. Innovative acoustical systems triangulate the source of gunfire before
terrified citizens can pick up the phone.
We ourselves, crossing in the shadow of that mighty Pru (and in the glow
of Rainbow Lingerie), narrowly escaped a ticket for jaywalking. The officer volunteered no information
concerning our gym bag. But we avoided the municipally sanctioned roughing-up that sent documentary
filmmaker Marshall Curry off the fence of objectivity in Cory Booker’s Storybook Quest to Unseat
Sharpe, Book I, or something like that.
It wow’d ‘em at the Hackensack…er, Tribeca Film Festival. Look
for the sequel in the 2006 mayoral campaign.
But act fast, because the town that gave us Philip Roth is rebounding.
Unevenly, but decidedly, and extending beyond the legendary Hobie’s Deli and the wondrous culinary
onslaught that is the Ironbound. Private-public partnerships are exemplified by the Prudential-backed
New Jersey Performing Arts Center, an anchor of redevelopment that is a brilliant marriage of architectural
presence, varied programming and acoustical quality. Euphoria is a great little café,
and we don’t even mind the Starbucks on Broad Street.
Until the real rain comes, take the PATH or New Jersey Transit to Newark
Penn Station. Take the City Subway somewhere on the other side of Rutgers after dark. Wear brightly
colored golfing attire; sport the latest personal-amusement gadgetry. The pleasures of Newark
are best explored alone, so give that bodyguard and driver the night off.
And remember, though Newark has a poverty rate on a par with Bangladesh,
it’s a high-cost locality. So bring cash. Lots of cash.
Just stand there a few moments. Newark’s imminent resurgence is bound
to touch you personally.
Best Terrorist Plot
Osama bin Laden Poisons the Cocaine Supply
Earlier this summer, when the New York Post broke the story of this
failed terrorist plot, we thought it was a joke: Osama bin Laden attempts to buy a load of cocaine
from Colombian drug lords, with the intention of lacing it with poison and selling it on the U.S.
market. Cokeheads drop dead by the thousands, sparking a nationwide wave of terror.
It’s an inspired idea.
When we imagine hoards of coked-up investment bankers, entertainment
industry flacks, supermodels, frat boys, media personalities and gossip columnists dropping
like flies, eyes bulging, limbs twitching and mandibles grinding their last, “terror” is not exactly
the word that springs to mind. We’re thinking something more along the lines of “Well, how about
that,” or maybe just “Yay.”
If an evil terrorist mastermind wants to wipe out a major component of
America’s asshole population, we say Allah to you, sir!
According to the Post article, bin Laden’s diabolical scheme
was foiled when the Colombian cartel turned him down, fearing he’d cripple its dependable U.S.
We only hope that an undaunted bin Laden is now working on a set of custom
ringtones that render cellphone users sterile.
Best place to see stupid Luddites fucking with street traffic
United artists court street stadium 12
108 Court St. (betw. State St. & Schermerhorn St.), Brooklyn
The scene is the same on every lazy summer Saturday in front of the UA Court
Street Stadium 12 in Brooklyn Heights. It’s fucking sweltering outside, and dozens of people are
standing in a line, looking like they’re going to pass out from heat exhaustion just because they
really want to see Lindsay Lohan in that Herbie movie or watch Brangelina blow up their entire
neighborhood while exchanging brilliant bon mots. These poor moviegoers often have to wait in
line for half an hour, while blocking traffic to the Barnes & Noble next door. Every time we see
this line, it crushes our soul and makes us never want to go to the movies again. Until we realize that
we can walk right inside, buy a ticket at one of the Fandango machines, where there’s never a line,
and be sitting in the air-conditioned theater two minutes later. What’s up with the crowd outside?
Are they scared of technology? Do they not have credit cards? It’s a mystery that manifests itself
weekly, and one we may never solve.
Best Subway Pitchman
The “High Quality 10-Piece Manicure Set” Guy
Fingerpickin’. We saw him for the first time as the 2004 holiday season was
approaching. It was a few minutes after 6 in the morning when the subway doors opened and a little
man with a funny, unidentifiable accent stepped aboard.
“You… better… be-lieve it!” he announced, as
if he’d been studying his Ronco commercials carefully. That caught everyone’s attention. He then
launched into his spiel for the “10-piece men’s & ladies’ manicure set—for the low price
of only $2!” It was such a lively, happy—downright goofy spiel, that he sold half a dozen manicure
sets in that car alone, to people who simply liked his style.
We’ve been seeing him pretty regularly since, and every time the spiel’s
a little bit different. (“High quality and low…low…low prices!”) We also
learned that a high-quality 10-piece manicure set makes a perfect gift for whatever holiday happens
to be approaching: Christmas, Ramadan, New Year’s, Mother’s Day, Easter—whatever. A manicure
set—and only a manicure set—makes any one of those holidays truly complete. And you
know, we believe him. We’re sorry to report, however, that the last time we saw him, the price had
gone up to $3.
Most Unusual Building with No Reason for Existing
300 W. 38th St. (8th Ave)
The first thing to grab our attention is the exceptionally large cornice,
so wide it looks like it could, at any moment, collapse under its weight onto the sidewalk. Closer
inspection reveals an unusual row of sculpted female heads; impassive gazes set within delicately
curved seashells. The women are adorned with disc-like ear ornaments that descend into a dense
intestinal string of garlands and flowers. Every visit to this bizarre 3-story building—which
does not seem to fall into any recognizable school of architecture—reveals something new,
such as nautical ripples above the corner 2nd-story windows, as well as tiny lions’ heads on the
upper façade that echo the startlingly large one perched atop the 38th Street entrance.
A sign in the ground floor window reads, in descending columnar order, “LINGERIES SHOES NOVELTIES,”
then, as an afterthought, “PEEPSHOW,” but nothing offers a clue as to the identities of previous
occupants or why anyone would ever have been inspired to build such a peculiar creation.
A bit of research uncovers some background, but not much. We know that
a fire in 1906 caused proprietor Bernard Goodwin $100 worth of damage, that Winston Stewart, 46-year
old jewelry thief, kept his stash of purloined gems here in 1932, and, most sensationally, the building
was home to one of the alleged killers in the “Capeman” case – the 1959 Hell’s Kitchen stabbing
that alerted the country to gang violence and later inspired a Broadway show by Paul Simon. Aside
from these details, the structure’s history and original purpose remain mysteries, although
any information from knowledgeable readers would be most welcome. Until then, we’ll simply content
ourselves with admiring its off-kilter sense of beauty. In a city that seems to be losing its quirks
on an almost daily basis, some eccentricities remain.
Best Business Proposal
Rat Shooting Gallery
And why not? Turn a negative into a positive! These fast breeding and nearly
impossible to kill vermin will surely be around longer than us, but we might as well squeeze some
entertainment out of them. Just pick a semi-enclosed area, supply some small but deadly weaponry,
and charge a reasonable fee for access—any rich person can kill some overstuffed large prey,
but can you kill a New York City rat? Step right up, and try to succeed where poorly funded extermination
programs and centuries of civilization have failed! As for zoning and what not, we’ll look into
Best Public Facility for Pee-Shy Men
455 5th Ave. (betw. W. 40th St. & W. 42nd St.)
The men’s room we have in mind is up on the third floor, on the 42nd St. side of
the building. Needless to say, all four urinals are blinkered off each other by barriers—an
absolute must for those with our affliction. Then there’s the welcoming sirocco-like roar emitted
by the hand-dryers: noises, like barriers, are a covering device. And the place is just busy enough
(most of the time) to keep this covering noise in play—but not so busy there’s a queue waiting
to piss (death to the relaxation response). When our turn comes to pound the hand-dryer, we can’t
help but feel we’re performing a service for some fellow sufferer waiting for cover.
Best Street to Get Splatted By Cars
Some people may wager on Williamsburg’s car-crazy Bedford Ave. Others may
pick Park Slope’s fatality-prone Fifth. But if we’re placing a mortician’s bet on the street most
likely to murder pedestrians and bicyclists, we’re nominating Eastern Parkway.
When Frederick Olmsted first designed this broad swath of road, he envisioned
Paris’ bucolic boulevards. To that end, he demanded verdant trees and an idyllic path for Sunday
strolls. However, deviating from the sidewalk or strolling lane is the answer to that pesky problem
Minivans and Mini Coopers alike race down Eastern Parkway, dashing
from light to light like truckers two days past deadline. Of particular concern is the swamp-like
traffic miasma surrounding Brooklyn’s cultural pillars: the Museum of Art, Botanic Gardens and
Prospect Park. Poorly timed traffic lights. Streets as curvy as snakes. It sometimes feels like
real-life Frogger. We have been clipped on the arms by countless rear-view mirrors, our
bruises a deep midnight blue. Rumors have swirled about traffic upgrades, but as long as Marty Markowitz
has his myopic Brooklyn Nets hard-on, expect cars to claim a couple more notches on their bumper.
Best Wing of a Museum to Get a Blowjob
Brooklyn Museum’s Period Rooms
200 Eastern Parkway (Washington Ave.), Brooklyn
For once, it wasn’t the art that sucked. It was a rainy afternoon, and we were
at the Brooklyn Museum of Art with our girlfriend, wasting time perusing mummies and their fine
sarcophaguses. But it was an esophagus that ultimately caught our attention.
“Want a BJ?” asked our girlfriend, a mischievous young thing with a hankering
for hidden hand jobs and flexing her oral skills on the subway. Her nimble fingers danced below our
equator, landing on the South Pole.
“Mmm,” we mumbled, losing all need for vowels.
“Follow me,” she said, leading us up a flight of stairs to the fourth floor.
This museum wing features 28 period rooms. They recreate various stages of Americana. From John
D. Rockefeller’s Moorish-style smoking room to a rustic, 19th-century dining room from South
Carolina. They’re kind of impressive. And kind of boring. Most visitors whirlwind through, tossing
cursory glances before moving onto the modern art upstairs.
“Right here,” our girlfriend said, pulling us into a quiet corner, near
some puffy, peacock-plumed furniture. Our zipper went south.
“…rt. Yes, that’s art,” she said, finishing us yet again.
Best Group Therapy as Blood Sport
A dozen at a time. Eight million stories in the naked city. Given 6,410 years
or so, story-telling collective the Moth might tell them all.
For five years, the 501(c)(3) devoted to the impossibly democratic
idea that everyone might, just might, have a story worth telling has gone beyond its Moby-magnetized
shows at the Players and the NYPL to mount biweekly “Story Slams” at less tony venues. For $6 in arenas
like the Nuyorican and the Bitter End, you get to witness raconteur Andy Borowitz alternately bait
and coddle minor-league hopefuls in contests that are half poetry slam, half campfire.
While the pregame warm-ups call for “Newlyweds”-style performer sequestration
and the kind of audience shoutouts that typically mark improv comedy, the emcee strictly admonishes
against standup routines. Audience judges, too, generally reward a delightful narrative arc
over simpler comic recall tactics, and persuasive character conflicts over standalone punchlines.
Any given Tuesday (or Monday, or Wednesday — check the calendar
on themoth.org) elicits talent, story construction and delivery skills ranging from promising
young masters down to green-belt exhibitionists. Familiar stress positions (e.g., roommate
indignities and family fiascoes) are staples, peppered with cultural touchstones from Zionism
and J-Date to Bartelby and the Oracle of the Fedora in Madrid.
Failure (as the Prophecy of the Stylish Hat would attest) is part of the
enterprise, but not for cruel sport: the pre-show buzz is akin to that of a keg party (or we’ve read)
an encounter session. Heckling is restrained, and anything less than a 6.5 from the East German
judge tends to draw boos from the many friends there to support their favorites.
At a recent slam, the opening bout drew a feel-good tie that left our thirst
for blood unquenched. But a first-time storyteller was named the official victor of the main event.
Her dizzying tale-telling grazed our own, punier experiences just often enough to lend them a bit
of her energy, illuminating the cathartic value that storytelling has possessed since before
Aristotle coined the term.
Or put another way: since before shrinks muscled in on the storyteller’s
turf. At $3 an hour, We don’t need to see the sheepskin.
Best Conversion of a hospital into apartments
the brooklyn Jewish Hospital
555 Prospect Pl. (betw. Classon Ave. & Franklin Ave.)
Factory-to-loft renovations are so passé. If you’re anybody in
the ought-five, you’re living in a hospital-to-substandard housing conversion. Yes sireee,
drop the Sheetrock in your burnt-out Bushwick building and hotfoot it to Crown Heights. Down here,
developer Steve Valiotis (the wallet behind Bed-Stuy’s Taaffe Place Lofts, aka Pratt HQ) is transforming
the long-shuttered Jewish Hospital into the latest bastion of overpriced housing.
No fewer than five years ago, withered bags of flesh padded around the
fluorescent-lit halls with their colostomy bags, biding time between radiation treatments.
Now, with a massive facelift, the site of so many last breaths is now home to post-college kids paying
above-market rent. We are ungodly boggled.
In our short, stupid history, we have lived in countless mouse-ridden
apartments in neighborhoods where a baseball bat to the jaw is our neighbors’ way of saying howdy.
This we can handle. But living in a warren-like maze of white hallways and paying $500 more
than market rent to cohabitate with the ghosts of bubbes and zadies, now that’s meshuggeneh.
Best Reason to Dress Up Like a Drunken Santa and Make Homeless Men Happy
Our cold, Jewish hearts get a little colder each Christmas when we’re lighting
candles while Jesus-lovers get the Broadway musical treatment: garish lights, catchy songs and
a lard-bellied ringleader. To brighten our spirits, we hide our yarmulke, tuck tushies into a jolly
old St. Nick suit, glue on a moth-eaten beard and join the jolly mob known as Santacon.
The annual Santacon hullabaloo started as an informal gathering of
faux Kris Kringles in downtown San Francisco. That innocent subversion has blossomed into a worldwide
phenomenon of adults channeling St. Nick and Skid Row winos, while marauding city streets. Kind
Santas pass out presents to stunned children; others pass out in a urine puddle. You’ll lose faith
in a just God when 500 hootched-up Santas (and assorted naughty elves) stomp down Fifth Avenue,
such as we did last year.
“Hey, Santa, got something for me,” shouted a man in a camouflage hunter’s
cap, pushing his friend in a wheelchair.
“Of course, Santa has something for all his naughty children,” we said.
We waddled over, handing him a wrapped gift. It had a skinny neck and thick
“I know what this is!” Mr. Camouflage said, tearing away paper to reveal
New Jersey’s finest Georgi vodka.
“Merry Christmas,” we said, stumbling away with holiday cheer, which
smelled an awful lot like whiskey.
Best Burgeoning Tradition to Battle the Cold With Idiocy
Come January, when eyeball-freezing winds scream down from Canada, we grind
against silver radiators, praying for one last squirt of steam heat. We’re reluctant to venture
outdoors, sustenance derived from Chinese delivery men, each one quickly replaced, like the Pony
Express’ foolhardy charges, when the elements enact their toll. We’re brownstone hermits…except
during the blessed Idiotarod.
After two years, the Idiotarod has become our favorite winter pastime,
trumping even our pee-in-the-snow calligraphy. The Idiotarod is like the Iditarod, but with fewer
dogs and more stupid humans. In a nutshell: strap four fools to a shopping cart. Enlist a fifth individual
as the “musher.” Drink cold-quashing rye whiskey and race through the streets, aiming for victory
through any necessary sabotage. Examples: providing wrong directions, smacking contestants
or throwing a competitor’s cart into the East River.
Participating in the Idiotarod is not about victory (to wit: anyone
wearing Spandex is eliminated). Rather, the race is about embracing, nay, celebrating the Arctic
elements. January in NYC is not for the faint of heart, but for the idiotic, it’s perfect.
Best Park to feel like a creepy child Molester
Cobble Hill Park
Veranda Pl. (Clinton St.), Brooklyn
Take an afternoon stroll through Brooklyn’s jewel of a pocket park, located
on the border between the tony Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods, and one can’t help
but feel a bit out of place. Out of place, that is, if one is lacking that essential accoutrement for
true park citizenship—a deluxe stroller, and/or a sticky little kid’s hand to hold in your
own. Without these accessories, a lone park visitor runs the risk of receiving that terrifying
look from the legions of stay-at-home moms and dads giving Junior some air, the one that silently
asks, “Will you be attempting to molest my child?” Always a pleasant feeling. Nonetheless, if you
can get over that, and don’t mind the hordes of writers and other self-employed types lazing a summer’s
day away, Cobble Hill Park is a lovely place to while away an hour or two. Sit on the park’s north side,
and face a row of stunning brownstones that open onto an alley in picture-perfect Brooklyn splendor.
Or better yet, don’t, and save yourself the heartache of tabulating just how many man-hours of your
McJob it will take to supply a down payment for one of those babies.
Best Bike Path
Hudson bike path between 125th Street and the George Washington Bridge
The superiority of this riding path lies not only in the scenery, but also
in the other folks sure to be enjoying the park around you. On a typical weekend you’ll see hosts of
Dominican families barbequing, playing volleyball, blasting music, dancing and generally having
a good time. You can also buy mangos on sticks, peeled and cut to look like lovely yellow flowers.
The point is to make it easy to eat—now if only we could get those pulpy mango bit out of our teeth.
When you get to the foot of the GW, the Hudson laps right up onto the shore
you’re standing on; and it really looks like a shore: pebbly, a bit sandy, with only tiny shrubs.
You can pretend to be a Revolutionary soldier on the banks of the river, resting from a long day’s
effort evading the Brits and being Independent. When you look north from this vantage, you can see
the lighthouse that sits a few miles upriver. Looking south you see the piers down on the Upper West
Side and the moored ships at the 79th St. Boat Basin. And looking right out east over the water you
might see pleasure ships, kayakers, floating seagulls, or just the determined towers of the Garden
An added benefit of this route is that around 125th you must make a detour
back from the water’s edge to the other side of the Hudson Parkway. On your bike you’ll zip past lower
Harlem’s Cotton Club and, the mansion of chard, Fairway. You can also scope out the big changes going
on in the old, Columbia-owned buildings up there, as development continues and gentrification
Best Pipe Dream for a Real-Estate Renaissance
Gowanus, the neighborhood
Stagnant, noisome body of water equals real-estate boom. Of course! Why
didn’t we see it coming? Realtors will have you believe that Gowanus (yes, the one with the canal)
is the next East Williamsburg, but quaint. If by quaint, Mr. Real Estate Broker, you mean homes crumbling
from nuclear waste underfoot, sure. Six months into your lease your olfactory will be fried, and
you’ll develop a nasty whooping cough. But those sunsets! Oh, man. That ain’t the most beautiful
sunset you’ve ever saw, it’s the radioactive haze rising from the canal. If those Huns are betting
on the stroller set, they should fold now. Let’s not even talk about the proposed Holiday Inn and
its in-room air fresheners. Oy!
Best Man on A Horse
Joan of Arc
93rd St. & Riverside Dr.
We’ll grant you that trim mounted NYPD can look mighty fine cantering along
(perhaps in pursuit of mounted jaywalkers). But by far the most dashing man on a horse in this town
has got to be…Joan of Arc! This fierce French femme in full armor sits pretty atop her steed
on her own Joan of Arc Island at Riverside Drive and 93rd Street.
And just as Joan had to work to convince the powers that be that a chick
could lead a unit of troops into battle, sculptor Ann Hyatt Huntington dreamed for nine long years
of depicting Joan of Arc standing poised in the stirrups, sword brandished, eyes fierce, ready
to lead the charge. Huntington went so far as to travel to Joan’s native home in rural France for inspiration.
Finally she was commissioned to create this bold statue in 1915, making her the first woman to be
selected to craft a NYC equestrian sculpture. And Joan became the first woman to be memorialized
with a sculpture anywhere in the City.
Mademoiselle D’Arc makes two other prominent New York City appearances,
(although neither of these show her storming along on horseback). At the Metropolitan Museum of
Art she may be seen in Jules Bastien-Lepage’s oil painting of 1879. There we see a young Joan receiving
the sacred vision. The Met also boasts a rather more frivolous image of American actress Maude Adams
as Joan of Arc in a 1909 oil painting by Alphonse Marie Mucha, who intended it for display when the
play The Maid of Orleans, starring Adams, opened at the Harvard University Stadium.
Joan of Arc—she’s our man!
Best Urban Legend
Russian child brides for sale
If you’re like us, you’re almost glad you don’t speak Russian, because if
you did you’d plunge into Brighton Beach, determined to learn the truth about the Red Mafia—whether
legendary gangster Vlad the Hand is really as powerful as legend has it, for instance—only
to be badly disappointed when finding that everyone in the know is distinctly unimpressed by the
fact that you speak their language, leaving you as badly off in terms of getting in the know as the
If you’re like us, though, despite all this you still do wish you spoke
Russian, not because it would allow you to read Goncharov in the original but because it would allow
you to investigate that hoariest of all New York urban legends, the one involving Russian nightclubs
where one can supposedly mingle with immigrant families literally selling off their heartrendingly
beautiful teenage daughters to slick killers from Petersburg. Such a thing couldn’t possibly
be true, and it really wouldn’t even be worth going to a few nightclubs in search of such a scene—but
then, if you’re like us, you’ve actually spent time in the tunnels underneath Prospect Park looking
for the pale subterranean race alleged to live there, the youngest of whom are said never to have
seen the sun, and thus spend far too much time wondering if it’s actually possible to buy some young
girl in Brooklyn, maybe even under the benevolent eye of Vlad the Hand.
Best Place for a Tattoo of Satan
We realize that the parts of the body are limited and choosing the right tattoo
placement is key. The anchor (classic) tattoo goes on the sinewy arm; the zenned-out Chinese character
tattoo (which we’re all convinced have the literal meaning of “eat me” in Chinese) goes on the oh-so-sensitive
nape of the neck. The Celtic motif goes just north of the great buttockal divide, where today’s low-cut
jeans can expose both. The upper-arm band tattoo goes on the upper-arm. The butterfly poises on
the shoulder. And the unicorn over a castle with dancing fauns and happy ponies with dolphin faces
and teddy bear bodies goes all over the back.
However, Satan can go nowhere but smack-dab in the center of the forehead.
It screams “not afraid to embrace the Dark Side!” If evil is to prosper, its advocates must be outspoken.
That is why the best tattoos of Lucifer that we have come across have, without a doubt, been those
centered right in the middle of the brow.
Best Reason to Enforce Public Dress Code
When our pregnant wife hit that point where it was time to shop for some new
clothes last summer, we quickly despaired—not because of the change in her figure (good
genes and healthy habits actually made her a quite fetching mother-in-waiting), but because of
the horrible fashion choices she was forced to make. Not one to pay much attention to her dress past
maintaining a certain standard of decency, our poor wife was confronted with the horrible fact
that she could either wear shapeless pastel mu-mus or lacy, expensive top from specialty boutiques
whose designers had apparently spent their working lives pondering the question of how best to
make a woman deep into the second trimester look like a tarted-up slut. Faced with the appalling
prospect of paying eighty dollars for a wispy piece of fabric she’d outgrow in a month or two, one
meant to display as much of her bosom as possible and thrust her womb at passerby, our woman showed
why we married her and went for the shapeless pastel mu-mus.
Imagine our horror, then, when while walking about downtown a friend
pointed out a heavily-made up harlot flouncing about in an expensive maternity shirt, tight enough
at the ribcage to staunch the flow of a mighty river and billowing just above the waistline of her
jeans, which we slung low enough to reveal a thong.
“Can you imagine?” she asked us as we feared for the future of this poor
woman’s child. “Wearing something like that when you’re not even pregnant.” And then, after looking
the woman over and failing to note even a single sign of incipient parenthood, the awful truth dawned
on us that women no more pregnant than Betty Grable are deliberately choosing to wear maternity
clothes for heaven only knows what reasons, presumably having to do with the dictates of smart magazines.
We cherish our liberty as much as the next man, but would find legislation unobjectionable.
Best Reason to Spend Some Money At The Local Smoke Shop
Count us as a foe of punitive cigarette taxes. We don’t care that Mayor Bloomberg
doesn’t like smoke; the policy is ridiculous. Aside from the always-questionable wisdom of attempting
to legislate morality, which inevitably backfires (in this case by creating a black market and
driving consumers out of state and online to get their cancer sticks, harming small businesses
here in the city), these taxes have inconvenienced us and hurt our bankroll. Who wants to choose
between spending eight dollars on a pack of filtered Luckies and giving out a credit card number
to a shady website?
The roll-your-own alternative has always struck us as distasteful.
Partly this is because hand-rolled smokes just don’t satisfy. Partly this is because of their unseemly
association with sensitive artists who fancy their Bali Shag habit sophisticated because of its
vaguely European associations and dippy vegans who think it’s somehow more healthy to light up
a formaldehyde-free smoke. We don’t like picking shreds of tobacco out of out teeth and we don’t
like being mistaken for the sort of person who wears a suede jacket, drinks cappuccino and soulfully
nods while listening to art school girls talk about their feelings.
Luckily, clever engineers have arrived at a method of getting the savings
associated with roll-your-owns while being able to smoke a proper filtered cigarette. All you
need is some tobacco, a carton of filtered tubes and a small gadget called a tube injector, which
will set you back about $40. You sprinkle tobacco into the gadget, shove a tube into it, turn a crank
and out comes a perfectly packed cigarette, visually indistinguishable from a real smoke. It takes
no more than five or ten minutes to roll a pack and by keeping them in a naff cigarette case one has an
even better affectation with which to impress NYU girls than a random twerp slobbering over a hand-rolled
does. Going this route, a pack of smokes costs under $2, and we can happily report that the smoking
is good—excellent, even. Using Bali Shag, out cigarettes draw well and taste good, like
nuttier Winstons, and we can pass them to our confederates without inflicting the taste of our saliva
on them. Real savings and a civilized air—what’s not to like?
Best spot to watch the revolution devour itself
Union Square Park
Now that Washington Square has become little more than a “local-color” lunchtime
atrium enclosed in the confines of NYU, the HQ for the counterculture has moved uptown. For that
“only in New York, folks” brand of wackiness that out-of-towners will jot down in their journals
with breathless excitement but locals just find tedious, Union Square is the place to spend an afternoon.
The park staked its claim to being the staging ground for the anti-war
movement from the moment the second plane hit, eventually becoming so packed with soapbox-screamers
and gutter “revolutionaries” that it’s taken on the look of the cantina in Star Wars.
This hive of scum and villainy has seen both “Communists for Kerry,”
a pack of junior-varsity Swift Boaters whose shtick was to costume themselves as such Marxist luminaries
as Lenin and Che and extol John Kerry as their boy, to the never ending antics of ANSWER (Act Now to
Stop War and End Racism), a group who co-opted the antiwar movement from its inception but who also
seem to have much love for megalomaniacs like Zimbabwe’s venal Robert Mugabe. At first glance (and
second and third) such folks cause passersby to cock their heads and wonder Um? are they for real??
When parody and self-parody unite, the dead (or other creeping automatons)
will walk the earth. Among the undead horde you can find the theologically baffling Jews for Jesus,
the perpetually grinning Mormons and equally creepy 9-11 conspiracy theorists (many of whom,
interestingly enough, reserve their particular ire for FDR). Sprinkle on top of this mess a gaggle
of hip-hop Goths and the smell of wet dog shit wafting over from the dog run and serve on a very, very
Best Place to Exert Peer Pressure
The schoolyard behind P.S. 120
We’ve tried a lot of back alleys, schoolyards, boys’ rooms, etc. to break
kids down into doing our will though the threat of ostracization. We found the highest capitulation
took place at the expansive and habitually teacher-less lot behind P.S.120 on Staten Island. There,
dressed in over-sized t-shirts and swaggering, we pressured teens into everything from giving
up speakin’ wit’ right English to skipping out on Gender in 20th Century Astronomical Physics Studies
What makes this yard so particularly effective for getting other kids
to do the stupid things they might otherwise resist is a combination of features. A wire fence is
perfect for leaning up against to look extra cool, scaling at night to seem dangerous and cool, or
pinning kids to in order to intimidate them…and seem cool. Also, hidden under the fencepost
is stashed a list of names to call the kid you want to pressure; names such as “squirrel” “pussynoggin”
“frank’s mom” “and mushpants” will break any straight-and-narrow kid down into the drug-buying
sycophant you’d like him to be. It’s worth the ferry ride just to try it out!
Best Vomitous Smell
Central Park South
We ask, paraphrasing Lauryn Hill, “When it smells so bad, why’s it feel so
good?” And if curious odor holds a similar magnetism for you, please do check out the stench on Central
Park South—the stretch of 59th Street between Columbus Circle and the roundabout at 5th
Avenue. This is a picturesque section of Central Park where horse-and-buggy rides are still to
be had (for a peasant’s price of 50 bucks a ten minute trot).
On a fine summer day the smell of warm horse rises aloft, mingling with
the essence of midtown car exhaust, the rising fumes of the M59 crosstown, the farts of foreigners
sated with Central Park hotdogs and the aroma of pet dog excreta. And if you’re lucky enough to encounter
one of those meth-crazed, nose-bombing pigeons that flap right at your face, you may, in
fact toss your cookies. Sure, subways are dank, Tompkins Square Park sometimes smells like urine,
and your hamper smells like socks: but for New York’s absolute most gut-turning reek, check out
BEST MANHATTAN NEIGHBORHOOD FOR DOG OWNERS
We were forced to admit that there is something infectious about New York
City after a desperate escape attempt failed in L.A. Once New York’s got you, there’s not much you
can do but settle for the filthy subway, the sick garbage smell and the rude people who would slit
your throat before letting you have that seat on the bus.
We were worried about moving back, though, because we now had a German
Shepherd puppy who was used to California sunshine and tanning by pools. We had new priorities and
knew of no neighborhood where we could afford to live and have a happy, healthy and well cared for
Then we heard about Inwood. We’d never been there, but we heard that there
was a huge park that had dog runs galore. Well, it sounded great and once we saw the neighborhood we
began to get hopeful. We’ve had our share of New York apartment disasters, so we know how dangerous
hope can be. But the apartments were huge and affordable, and no one was joking about the park. It’s
the last remaining natural forest left on the island of Manhattan and if you are careful, it can be
The park itself has the softball fields, tennis courts, creeps and garbage
that other city parks have, but behind all that is a real forest-—just like forests in the
country. Sure there are a few more people and a decent amount of broken glass, but the trees and plants
and pure outdoors of it is so incredibly different than everyday life in New York. And if you’re daring
you can let your dog run free off-leash in the woods, though you do have to watch out for the cops. Because
the park is a nature reserve, they can ticket you as much as $1000. But usually tickets are for $100,
and once you know where they are, you can avoid the police.
The dog run is frequented by a collection of people obsessed with their
dogs. We see each other every day, know all the dogs, and have a sort of neighborhood watch that revolves
around Inwood Hill Park. In the year that we’ve lived here, about 100 dog run regulars have formed
a not-for-profit group called “Inwoof,” whose goal is to make Homer’s Run the safest and best dog
run in the city.
As nutty as this may sound to those who aren’t serious dog owners, these
people are some of the best resources in Upper-Manhattan on everything from where to get the cheapest
and safest pet care and free shots to how to avoid getting ticketed or mugged.
So for anyone who loves dogs but feels like it would be cruel to have a dog
in the city of no backyards, there is hope. Just move to Inwood.
Best place to Bond with other Low-Tax Bracket New Yorkers
The Insidious Lines at the Greyhound Port Authority Counter
Out of all the rundown subway stations, public parks, and loitering hotspots
in the city, nothing tops the Port Authority. Year after year the bus station attracts the same mixed
crowd of budget travelers, street sleepers, loonies, junkies, lazy cops, and impatient, harried
locals. But there’s one thing that makes all drama scenes appear mild—the endless line at
the Greyhound counter.
The bus stop is one place in every city that unites the people. Black or
white, old or young, rich or poor, busboy or clichéd artist, they are all slaves a primitive
form of transportation.
Despite much practice, every time you reach the ticket line, the same
feeling of dread washes over you. Twenty minutes later, you’ll find the queue hardly moved and the
computers crashed, as they do almost every Friday in the summer.
The only solace you find in this traveler’s chaos is the consolation
that you’re not alone. So you bitch and moan to your neighbors—the young couple backpacking,
the family visiting relatives, and the middle-aged man traveling alone. As the hour rolls around
frustration incites nearly enough to rage to start a riot, for the sole purpose that press attention
may cause Greyhound to establish more efficient processes.
BEST OUTER-BOROUGH SUMMER ACTIVITY
Bronx Culture Trolley
Although on weekends this little red trolley is an excellent way to get from
the Bronx Zoo to the Botanical Gardens then over to Arthur Avenue for pasta, it’s on the first Wednesday
of the month that the trolley actually does something interesting. Dubbed the “Bronx Culture Trolley”,
it makes a run down to lower Grand Concourse (once the borough’s art deco version of Park Avenue)
and stops at various cultural destinations for performances, art shows and the like. Their August
3rd lineup included a meet & greet reception at Hostos Community College’s Longwood Art Gallery,
a poetry reading at the Downtown Bronx
Bar & Café, a “multi-media presentation” at the Bronx Ac