Best of Manhattan 2001: Manhattan Living

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No, Not
Jennifer Capriati.
Early March, the spring thaw and we’re walking east
on 11th St. when the boogedy old salt pushes over his shopping cart and starts
throwing wild jabs at an imaginary foe. We pass at a safe distance, noticing
that his temples have gone gray. He has fewer teeth. His ankles, once scaly
and swollen, are now thick as Hillarystumps. There again at the ATM on Houston
and Broadway. Befouling the air with anus reek and “Mutherfuckingcocksuckerbitch
gon kee you!”


Older? Yeah.
Mellowed? Hell no! In fact, he’s as menacing as ever. Throwing off static.
Stinking of gut decay. Raging along that same frenzied shark-in-bloody-chum
axis of tempestuousness that we recall from back in his early 90s heyday. Yes,
Cracky’s come off the bench. Returned from sabbatical just in time to greet
the careening economy and do a squeegee wave buh-bye to his old foe, da Mayor.
How really like clockwork it all is, we think as we scratch our heads wondering
who let the dawgs out? And what’d he do to himself while he was away? It
seems the old rancor’s been transmuted; in his dotage, he’s even more
deranged. The circuitry’s more fouled, more volatile. New Cracky is, as
often as not it seems, Cracky without the crack. More ion-charged, boog-eyed
and dusty. Cracky, juiced on his own fermented bad chemicals.


Monsieur le
Craque on perma-crack flashback back with a vengeance and no gentle renaissance,
this: E. 80th St., he makes toward a young mother pushing a stroller. She peels
off the sidewalk and through heavy traffic, narrowly escaping to the opposite
side of the street. Who dat pissing into the subway entrance down in Tribeca?
Yeah, the Crack is back! West Village, Midtown, Upper West Side–barking
at stop signs and terrorizing parked cars. Accusing the pavement. Working the
intersections for change. Central Park, yuppie lovebirds observe gapemouthed
as he strips to practically nothing and makes his douche in a nearby water fountain.
Girl, dumbstruck, rubs her temple as if, “So familiar, but can’t…quite…place
it.” Guy, voice laden with dread, moans, “Just wait till winter.”
And he’s right. The season of interiors–that’s when the loathing
and avoidance will register like so much irritating deja vu; that’s when
the new mayor, spurred on by the mounting clamor of irate straphangers and the
like, will weigh in with pronouncements on the citizen’s “right to
be left alone.”


Welcome back
Cracky, you’re a pungent reminder that things’d been good for a while.
Perhaps a little too good.



Best Foreign
Description of a New York Neighborhood

“Little
Italy,” from AMERIKA, a Website for Dutch Tourists
www.amerika.nl



This Just
Geliquideers Us.
Een Godfather-filmset, dat is het. Al is Mulberry Street
eigenlijk het laatste karige restant van wat eens een enorme Italiaanse wijk
was, alle requisieten staan er nog. Op warme avonden nemen de restaurants–Il
Cortile, Benito’s I en II, Casa Bella, Vincent’s Clam Bar en co.–de
smalle trottoirs over. Dan dwarrelen Caruso’s hoge C’s als duiven
boven de norse, met brandtrappen omlijste gebouwen, als honderden mensen afkomen
op pasta, parmezaanse kaas en ontelbare varianten van rode sauzen, hopend een
glimp op te vangen van Correleone-achtig gedrag, of, wie weet, een festijn zoals
dat in 1972, toen maffioso Joey Gallo werd geliquideerd in Umberto’s Clamhouse.


Best Perverted
Tourism Site

“Ground
Zero”



Party Time.
It’d been building for some 48 hours, but we’d mark Saturday, Sept.
22, as the day the WTC disaster became amusement park fodder for shameless gawkers,
whether they were New Yorkers or out-of-towners.


At 4 that morning,
awakened once again by the overpowering stench that envelops Tribeca, we went
downstairs to get a cup of coffee and quart of orange juice. A new barricade–Checkpoint
Charlie to those of us who’ve been living with well-meaning cops since
9/11–was set up at Duane and Hudson Sts., cutting off access to King’s
Pharmacy, Morgan’s Deli and the nearby ATM. We asked a policeman what gives,
whether another building had collapsed, and he was churlish in response: “That’s
just the way it is now!” We didn’t really blame the guy; he’d
probably been working for 36 hours and was sick of the constant harassment from
increasingly persistent pedestrians.


Later in the
day, it was carnival-like in the neighborhood, with thousands of people packed
at Greenwich and Duane Sts., half with disposable cameras, trying to “experience”
the thrill of “Ground Zero,” gazing into the distance where the Trade
Center once stood. It was a boon for recession-battered local businesses in
the area–the only benefit we could think of–but one more setback for
the neighborhood. Remember how ghoulish the crowds were after JFK Jr. died two
summers ago, with thrill-seekers slurping ice cream cones while they snuck a
peek at his N. Moore residence? This was the same sick phenomenon, only 100
times worse.


Meanwhile,
unfortunate residents of Battery Park City were trying to get back into their
homes; recovery workers were still on the job; and people who live in Tribeca
attempted to buy groceries, newspapers and toilet paper amidst this disgraceful
stream of thrill-seekers. Rudy Giuliani was certainly correct in his request
that New Yorkers go out, spend money and pump up the economy, but we don’t
think he meant that this battered area of Lower Manhattan should become the
equivalent of a human zoo.



Best Letter
from a Film Crew Publicist



You Really
Like Us.
They were shooting an O-Town video on Ludlow St.–which is
a weird and beautiful thing to see, that video, with the supercoiffed, soft-focused
O-Townies slow-motion running past the Hat and Ludlow Guitars–and we guess
they thought they might have an easier time of it if they flattered the local
population. So photocopied letters on J Records stationery were scotch-taped
to the street signs and parking meters, with a J Records publicist congratulating
our neighborhood on its “tremendous color and energy.” Ah yes, thank
you, J Records publicist, for noticing our neighborhood’s extremely groovy
“color and energy.” We’re sure glad all those years of struggle
for survival by immigrants and artists alike have finally found their fruition
in an O-Town video.


Best Impression
of the Mob by NYC Government

Cabaret
License Law Enforcement



Wetting
Their Beaks.
What is this, that town in Footloose? Does Kevin Bacon
have to come along and arrange for a party across the county border to show
John Lithgow how wholesome dancing is? Enforcing the “No Dancing”
clause of the 75-year-old Cabaret License Law in 2001 New York is–as John
Wayne once said about something else–ri-goddamn-diculous.


The old rationale
behind the law was that mobster-esque big club owners used it as leverage against
small club owners, so they wouldn’t have to compete. But now that some
of those characters have themselves been harassed out of business, other explanations
as to who fuels the city’s crusade against rhythmic motion are surfacing.
Leading the pack of suspects are major property owners, who supposedly worry
about the negative effect nightlife crowds have on real estate values. But even
landlords aren’t asinine enough to fail to realize that if the problem
is that the few bars that allow dancing draw big crowds, the solution is to
let every bar allow dancing.


No, the way
official Building Inspectors repeatedly entered bars with flashlights during
busy hours to check permits and count routes of emergency egress suggests something
simpler: the motherfuckers enjoy the power. It’s just like when they used
to bust up gay bars. Straight-up bullying with a touch of titillation and the
possibility of a payoff, and a brute demonstration of muscle by meatheads who
don’t like to see other people have a good time. If the new mayor doesn’t
change the law, a Stonewall of dancers will be necessary.



Best Overused
Summer DIY Fashion for Women

The
Cut-Up T-Shirt



Overexposed
Overexposure.
Most things in life are only appealing to a point. This includes
fashion, especially summer wearables. A few years back it was the black slip-on
shoes that every woman seemed to own. Then it was Chelsea ladies in their slim-fitting
Capri pants. Equally overused were men’s cargo pants, which pushed the
limits of acceptable fashion when they became abundant in the workplace. Last
summer, and this, it was flipflops.


The item of
clothing that beats any in the “overused” department, though, is the
cut-up women’s t-shirt. Levi’s cords and jeans, altered into skirts,
come close, but they aren’t as obnoxious.


We understand
that t-shirts tend to be boxy, oversized and just unflattering on women, so
for saying “Fuck you” to t-shirt-makers, ladies, we salute you. And
at first it was cool to see 80s-styled shirts resurface as hot little numbers.
But it wasn’t cool anymore when we’d walk into a bar and notice half
the girls inside had tried their hands at homemade shirts. We saw shirts from
Hooters and Florida vacation spots. Some new shirts tie on the shoulders or
in the middle of the back, while others appear to be shoulderless–like
the one on the girl rocking out in front of the stage at the White Stripes show.
The funniest cut, though, has to be the slit down the front of the shirt, often
made into a “v” to promote viewable cleavage. We knew this trend had
gone too far when we saw the subway posters with Madonna flaunting a torn-up
shirt. Armani shirts safety-pinned up the sides reinforced our belief that 2001’s
summer trend had become way too commercialized and no longer cool.



Best Romantic
Trend
May-December
Liaisons



Forever
Young.
Younger women and older men want the same thing: love. Older women
and younger men want the same thing: sex. This axiom does a good job of describing
the neat balance of the May-December ball, where the caretakers and the plain
old takers get to waltz until the ghost is given up.


As a May in
the May-December equation (well, maybe we’re more like a June and Rory
is more like a November), we believe this axiom is true. We really want this
axiom to be as clean-shaven as it sounds. Only, when we unearthed Rory, who
is 22 years our senior, we unearthed a man who wanted love and sex, like
we did. Never mind that love and sex mix about as well as booze and pills.


Forever, or
close to it, when we think of men, of Man, we will think of Rory, who barged
in during a dry spell and became the stoutly priapic Viking lord of our thighs.


We think it
is important that you know that we met Rory many, many years ago, when we were
about six or seven years old. He was, until we started fucking him last winter,
a friend of our father’s. Back when we first knew Rory, he was a blond
ape in low-slung white jeans, who could somehow drain a can of Miller and simultaneously
dock start on one ski off our float, naturally being pulled by a Boston Whaler
that he had “borrowed” from a rich friend who was in love with him.
The boat would be piloted by my father, who was also tripping. Rory’s wife
was the slim, pretty and wee-voiced Stevie, who kept to the patio and had reason
to believe that Rory was humping everything that was slender and female in Berkshire
County.


We hated Rory
and believed Rory hated us. We hated his big laugh and the fact that he took
over every scene he walked into. We hated how our father was in awe of him.
We stopped hating him and started beating off to a virginal fantasy of him when
we were 16. When our father went to take a leak one late night, Rory slipped
us some good-night tongue, beery and wiggly. We didn’t see him for the
next 18 years. In that time, our brother died, our parents divorced, Stevie
and Rory divorced, we moved around. We heard, through our father, that Rory
was seeing some younger girl and was living on a boat. He was in Poland on business.
In DC. In San Francisco. Dealing with his dead brother’s estate. We guess
that’s what older people do. They deal with estates. They deal with stuff.


And then, this
past winter, Rory was in Amherst. He looked us up, and we went out for an embarrassing
dinner (with our mother, who left in a panic after Rory ate fries off an adjacent
table’s serving tray) and that night before he dropped us off we made out
in his huge rented SUV, and there still wasn’t enough room for the thrashing.


So, Rory spirited
us away to his house, where we had the “talk” with his 18-year-old
daughter. (“Oh no, oh no, I like you, don’t worry, it’s just
the last one was a psycho.”) We stayed in the pool during those cruel days
in mid-August. Then, the other night in Sag Harbor at this awful Jap restaurant
called Sen, Rory tells the hostess, this blonde, blinky whippet, to fuck herself.
We lead him outside. Rory had been drinking all day and was splendidly dressed
in a white linen suit. We, on the other hand, had not been drinking all day
and looked like the rent girl with a vicious tan and flipflops.


We veered toward
the relative cool of the American Hotel down the street. Rory was limping and
muttering, and we studied him as we ate the raw almonds at the bar. He looked
like a baggy old man. Rory had become a baggy old drunk man who still blasted
old Dylan and new Stones in his old open Jeep in a feeble attempt to be the
young ape again, and we hated him.


We’ve
been trying to break up with him lately, but it’s difficult. Rory has a
great dick and he’ll do anything to please us. Rory has money. Not cash.
He flies us down to see him. This impresses us. We’re not above that.


We saw a picture
of us taken earlier in the summer and we make a great couple. Rory is old and
fat and, as a result, we look young and sexy. We imagine this is why Catherine
Zeta-Jones looks so good. It’s because of her baggy better half.



Best Way to
Cry

Flying in on a
Clear Night



Sniff…
It gets us every time. We’re out of New York for family or business (never
for very long, since 48 hours away from the city causes everything to go haywire
in our lives) and we manage, by poor planning or delay, to take a late-night
flight in. There aren’t any clouds; we have a window seat, and right as
the pilot tells us to buckle our safety belts and prepare for landing, the grid
of Manhattan jumps out at us. Like a Hagstrom Five Borough Atlas at 1:1 scale,
it shows us the big streets in pale yellow, and we’ve been here so long
we recognize it all. There’s the West Side Hwy. picking up around 59th
St. and slinking over that patch of land that Trump is always threatening to
develop. There’s Riverside Park, where our friends got busted smoking pot
but we escaped. There’s Macy’s, where our first real girlfriend walked
out on us. There’s that horrific rubble heap that’s the focus of everything
now–but it’ll be fixed soon, restored to the order of the grid. There’s
the rehearsal studio where we used to party. There’s one, two, three places
we used to work; that’s the block where we used to have to walk in the
street to avoid rats. That’s the first house we lived in away from our
parents; there’s our parents’ house; there’s the house we’re
going to now (in Brooklyn). And just as a look at the clear night sky (not the
New York night sky, obviously–maybe the one in Ohio, which we left two
hours before) shows us how small we are but somehow comforts us, the New York
grid says: “Fuck ya,” but we smile. Because we don’t need to
care for it. We print up “I Heart NY” shirts for ourselves–the
town couldn’t care less. It’s got a mean harbor; it’s been making
money for 350 years, and it’s going to keep on growing like a pile of black
snow.


Best Mullet
Haiku



This…THING.
It’s Clamped to My…HEAD! Must…Free Myself! But It…Won’t…Let…Go!

This little chestnut of hipster irony has sadly reached the “over”
stage, its death knell tolled by an abundance of crappy websites crappily copping
to the original mulletsgalore.com, repeated mentions on the Tonight show
and a dreadfully unfunny “Mullet Madness” exposé that popped
up on our AOL welcome window the other day. Oh well, it’s sure been a fun
ride. As parting homage to the Canadian Passport, the Achy Breaky Bad Mistakey,
the Short-Long and so on, we offer the following pick for “Best Mullet
Haiku” along with first, second and third runners-up. And then never more
to be mentioned:




Short like
my schooling,


Long like my
prison sentence.


Buzz it penal,
please.





O! Squirrel
brother,


Your tail,
my hair. We are one.


Yet I must
eat you.





Dogs urinate
where


they so choose.
And so do I.


Red and blue
lights flash.





Short for dad.
Long for


the daughter
mom always wanted.


Everyone’s
happy.



Best Subway
Musician Who Only Knows the Chorus of One Song

The
“Who’ll Stop the Rain” Guy



But Who’ll
Stop This Guy?
We must admit straightaway that in recent days, we’ve
received eyewitness accounts of this guy playing at least one other song. But
for a while there, he was a real fixture around Astor Place with his guitar
and his practice amp and his song fragment. You could always tell him apart
from the slew of other half-talented musicians playing out in the neighborhood,
because this guy only knew the chorus of “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”
And he’d play it over and over and over again, in a seamless, endless loop.


“Who’ll
stop the rain? danadanadana Who’ll stop the rain?…”



It was especially
maddening if you happened to find yourself on a subway platform with him, and
you knew you had a while to wait before the next train.


We’ve
seen people shout out requests to him, and people shout other lines from the
song, but all their efforts were in vain. Funnier still, we’ve seen people–obviously
hearing him for the first time–bobbing their heads and smiling in time
with what was clearly one of their favorite songs. Inevitably, a few minutes
later, we’d see these same happy faces turn confused and lost, watch as
the shadows crossed over them and he swung around to start the chorus a fifth
time.


It would’ve
been one thing had we seen him doing this once–street musicians often use
their impromptu “stages” as rehearsal spaces, where they can work
out new material without worrying about bothering the neighbors. The crowd out
there is mobile, so few people hear more than one song or a few bars of one
song before moving on.


But this guy,
Jesus Christ! We saw him five or six times, and every goddamn time it was the
same fucking chorus to “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”! It wasn’t
bad or anything–he obviously had some talent, but still–you just wanted
to smack him.


Then we got
to thinking. Maybe he taught himself the song by listening to an old Creedence
record that was very badly scratched.



Best Outdoor
Vomit Spot (Uptown)

Scores
333 E. 60th St. (betw.
1st & 2nd Aves.)
421-3600



The Sickness
Unto Death.
Scores is so very many “bests”–”Best Place
to Chat Up Strippers on Their Way to Work,” “Best Place to Sell Overpriced
Weed at 3 a.m.”–but it’s most notable for the particular brand
of homestyle applesauce that can be found outside its doors on Monday mornings
without fail. Scores must be serving up some questionable seafood, because the
samples are always pink, with chunks of shrimp. Guess we should stay away from
the surf & turf once we finally ditch our self-respect and go there, but
we know we’ll probably end up vomiting anyway. How else to react, really,
when presented with heavenly bodies we’ll never have, celebrities we’ll
never be and drinks we can’t really afford?


Best Swiss-Cheese
Memory

Mike Gentile



So Where’s
The Onion?
The Brooklyn-based New York Metropolis, a weekly
that debuted in August, is an evolving publication. We suspect that a few months
along, the paper will stop wasting space printing tv listings and clean up the
silly writing. For example, the fine print on page 3 reads: “New York
Metropolis is published every Thursday by tiny little house elves who
live in the shiny part of the Chrysler Building. All contents…cannot be reprinted
without the expressed, written consent of Major League Baseball.” Given
that collegiate yuk, next thing you know the Metropolis will be protesting
on behalf of a living wage for PETA employees.


We’re
sure the New York Press/Stranger hybrid will improve. That may
require the removal of the editor, publisher and managing editor, but someone’s
financing the operation.


In the “Last
Week” section of the Aug. 30 issue, a recap of an Ironminds wake,
a writer recalled some of the guests, including this newspaper’s founding
art director Mike Gentile. “[Gentile] congratulated us on our new paper
and pointed out that New York Press’ first edition was only
24 pages.”


Actually, it
was more modest: 20 pages.



Best Place
to Sleep in the Met

Metropolitan
Museum of Art
1000 5 Ave
(82nd St.)
879-5500



Not Far
from the Velazquezzzzzzz.
You thought it would be relaxing to spend a quiet
Sunday in the Met, hermetically ensconced in old masterpieces, pondering impasto
lace collars and grisaille portraits. Little did you know there would be classes
of children cavorting about, Gucci-laden European women clicking their heels
and the inevitable father screaming at his equally disruptive child. Not to
mention the ever-intimidating guards.


Here’s
what you do. Make your way to the Robert Lehman Collection. From the Great Hall,
approach the large central steps, but just before you reach them turn right
through a rectangular doorway. Gaze at the large-eyed Byzantine mosaic. Turn
left and continue down this hall, past sarcophagi and ancient gold girdle coins,
into Medieval Art. Walk past backlit stained glass and regal tapestry, through
the far door flanked with freestanding columns. Continue, straight, swerving
around Claux de Werve’s Virgin and Child, and go through the wrought-iron
choir screen from the Cathedral of Valladolid (you might have to skirt this
as well, at least while the Christmas tree is up). Go through the rear passage
(an archway), past Venetian glass. You should now see a plexiglas sign with
gold lettering, announcing the Lehman collection. Enter.


Now comes the
tricky part. Veer toward the left of this diamond-shaped atrium. Past the window,
a bit down the wall, you’ll see that there’s a painting slightly inset.
For now, it’s a Renoir that almost seems to draw on Cassatt for its soft
and vibrant portrayal of two girls. Face this wall, then go to the right, through
the passageway and into the next room. There you are. The only couch in the
Met you’re allowed to sit on. Ignore the grit deposited by the thousands
of tired souls who’ve made this journey, and plop down. Look at the El
Grecos and Rembrandts, sigh relief. Tilt your head back, pretend to look at
the chandelier or the velvet wall paper and, finally, relax.



Best Waylaid
Social Trend

Sexual
Openness



And It’s
Often Healthier.
We’ll say it if no one else will: good riddance to
fuck-me feminism. Because for the past five years or so, you couldn’t utter
a sexual platitude without being rewarded with your own column. (Only the great
Candace Bushnell knows how to work a fade-away, and she’s elevated sex
writing to social satire on the level of Tom Wolfe.) But the rest of you, please–no
more! No more book deals! No more Salon articles! No more PhDs in contemporary
American culture! We’ve congratulated your self-congratulations for long
enough. You’ve explained to us the difference between lotion and saliva,
you’ve scheduled, and written about, “self-pleasuring sessions”
with sexperts, and you’ve knowingly juggled such shorthand as doms and
trannies with admirable ease. And while we’re not against any of these
things per se, we’d prefer a little literary panache with our blowjobs
and our G-spots. Even Bataille knew about plot and pacing.


Because, the
thing is, we’re all doing these things. We liked hearing about it when
it sounded like you were trying to figure it out, before you got coy. We love
Annie Sprinkle because she’s sweet and perverted, and writes about things
we’d never ever do, and because she believes that writing about sex is
a public service. But that’s the thing about actually being transgressive.
Transgression is not talking about something we all do; it’s about doing
something we can’t even bring ourselves to talk about. Sexual coyness and
sexual quirkiness, of the kind that are being written, are just another way
to get boys to like you. Quirky isn’t sexy; it’s bragging. It makes
sex generic. It’s closer to The Rules than to the dark and interesting
aggro-pathologies of testosterone around which it’s modeled. Why are California
and Sweden bland? Why are nude beaches unsexual? Why is imagination better than
literalism? Why is Andrea Dworkin more erotic than the Nerve personals?
The kind of San Francisco-tested pro-sex writing we’ve been exposed to
these past years just shuts off that psychological stuff that makes us want
to have sex in the first place. At that point, when it’s just physical,
you might as well go jogging.



Best End of
an Era

The Hamptons



Pushed Out
By Not-Our-Kind.
Rather than the Place to Be that it has become, the Hamptons
used to be simply a place to go when it got too hot or empty anyplace else.
After grandfather died, nearly 15 years ago, and certainly after all of Granny’s
friends died–those stately summertime acquaintances who lolled in the rough
surf with her–after our nick of heaven on the South Fork was overrun with
leadfoot Jews and other pawns of the New Rich (who were so unrefined that hiding
their wealth meant shopping at J. Crew), after they kept flooding in unchecked,
more and more every year, our family decided to sell and get out.


The recent
sale of the “cottage” (that’s what Granny quaintly calls the
house, which is really a seven-bedroom giantess hunkered down on Georgica Pond)
officially put an end, at generation number six, to our family’s ramshackle
but steady rule on a dead-end gravel road.


We imagined
that if we knew exactly when the Hamptons became “The Hamptons” it
would lessen the sadness somehow. In true half-Jew fashion, we developed an
Aryan-friendly theory that would make even Goebbels dance a jig.


So this is
what happened: Somewhere in the maw of the 1980s, Georgica’s Masters of
the Universe discovered that the pool of good, marriageable women had drained
down to either their mothers or their sisters. The Hamptons started to curdle
when the Masters of the Universe discovered that there weren’t any Mistresses
of the Universe. They wondered if this strain of femaleness even existed in
the first place. So they married Dominatrices of Reality instead. Grannies rolled
in their plain coffins and saw the fall from grace long before we did.


These Dominatrices
of Reality were loudmouths in Lilly Pulitzer halters who hated the sun, or loved
it too much; who designed hats; who ran galleries; who were whores in the bedroom;
who ordered takeout; who bore them lookalike thuggish offspring. These women
did not use nannies. These women cut off their husbands’ balls with platinum
nail scissors. And worst of all, these women did not respect the matriarchs
of Georgica.


The final blow
came when these women invited their friends: the celebrities, the climbers,
the toothy, the hirsute. And they, in turn, fell in love with the fragile beauty
of our avalon.


Our family
is fragile, too. We are a pale ecosystem, and with the death of our brother,
we don’t have an heir to carry on the name. So there’s a lot we don’t
care for. We don’t care for conspicuous wealth, exotic food, beautiful
people or the burgeoning hysteria on Rte. 27. We just don’t care for the
New Breed. Two years ago, after having to excuse ourselves from cocktail hour
because our father bitterly used the term “million-dollar view” for
the umpteenth time (in reference to the expanse of lawn, pond and ocean spread
out before us), the whisperings of getting out started to leak in. Granny wasn’t
getting any younger. Operating expenses on the cottage weren’t getting
any cheaper. We didn’t pay heed to this kind of talk, it had been rambling
on since our grandfather (who was the dry-eyed linchpin in the whole family
scene) first started catching whiffs of the weirdness way back in the 1970s.


But as this
past winter and spring progressed, after we saw the cottage referred to as a
“property” in a color brochure, we knew the end was coming soon. Our
father sent us a list of items in the cottage that were up for grabs. We only
chose what we could carry, as if we were salvaging from a house on fire–the
150-year-old framed sewing sampler, a lithograph from our favorite bedroom,
the wooden clogs, forever empty by the hearth, from Granny’s early life
in Holland.


The cottage
now belongs to, and these are our father’s hurt, typically platitudinous
words: “a happy young couple who will hopefully love the cottage like we
did.” Our mind draws a blank on who or what these “happy” people
could be, except for more of the New Breed. Sleek and wide-eyed. Unhappy people.
Not like us. It will always be difficult to imagine anything but our kind puttering
around out there.



Best Reason
Not to Live in Astoria



A Rhinestone
in the Rough.
Never mind that it’s become hideously overpriced. The
real reason: pure hype, whether it’s trumped-up newspaper and magazine
articles declaiming its subtle virtues, or that untrustworthy word-of-mouth
regarding “cool” 718 neighborhoods. Astoria’s only saving graces
are its proximity to Manhattan, no-nonsense local bars and a few good restaurants.
Even with the mass influx of nonindigenous, college-educated white folk, it
remains a relatively dull, family-oriented neighborhood, albeit one with skyrocketing
rents.


As for the
feel of Astoria, “standoffish” is the word that comes to mind. The
Greeks and Indians keep to themselves, the middle-class Latinos cling a little
too farcically to their ghetto roots and the Italians are firmly convinced everyone
but them is for shit. Wiggers abound. Throw in a smattering of white bohos suffering
from working-class envy and Manhattan wannabes living in forced financial exile,
and you have a strange, surly mix of unsatisfied people who try to ignore how
much they resent one another for legitimate reasons.


A hidden gem?
One stop at any realtor’s office will put an end to the word “hidden.”
As for “gem,” rhinestone would be more fitting.



Best Pilgrimage
to a Fallen Heroine



Body and
Soul.
If you are in a morbid frame of mind, why not make a trip to Billie
Holiday’s grave? She is buried in the new St. Raymond’s (Patron Saint
of the Falsely Accused) Cemetery in the Bronx. Take the 5 train to East Tremont,
then the 42 bus to 1201 Balcolm Ave. The first cemetery you see is prettier,
being the older one, but you still have to hike about 10 blocks until you reach
the second one, on Lafayette Ave. Then you need to locate Row 56 in the St.
Paul Division. Bring some pencils and paper if you want to make a rubbing of
the rosary that decorates her rather plain tombstone, and ask yourself why one
of the greatest blues singers of all time died pretty much alone, arrested on
her death bed, with 70 cents in her bank account and 15 $50 bills strapped to
her leg. And remember a white flower for Lady Day.


Best Local
Summer Story

Lizzie
Grubman



Lizzie Grubman
Took a Clutch…
When the world’s most charming p.r. flack, Lizzie
Grubman, threw her black Mercedes SUV into reverse outside the Conscience Point
Inn, mowing down 16 bystanders before fleeing in a friend’s car, she accomplished
several very important things. First of all, she came this close to starting
a real, honest-to-goodness class war out in the Hamptons. Now that would’ve
been something to see!


Funny thing
is, while news reports made repeated references to her “white trash”
slur, few of them noted that most of the people she hit were people Just Like
Her. Which would’ve made a knock-down, drag-out class war even funnier.


The most important
thing she did, however, was help reveal which local news outlets were under
the thumb of the Rich and Famous–and to what degree. Why is it that the
Times and the Daily News let the story slide under the radar,
even when it was the main topic of conversation amongst New Yorkers? Simple.
Grubman is a high-powered publicist who works for one of the country’s
most powerful p.r. firms. You go after Lizzie, you can kiss that J-Lo interview
goodbye.


That’s
why we should all thank our lucky stars for the Post, which gave Grubman’s
firm a big, fat “Fuck you” and tore her to shreds at every available
opportunity, going so far as to hold a shockingly cruel contest in which they
raffled off a “LizzieMobile,” which they paraded around the Hamptons.
They just didn’t care. They know who their readership is, and they gave
them what they wanted.


No J-Lo interview?
So what? Who cares? Give us more Lizzie coverage and we’ll be happy.


What’s
more, the Grubman story contained more fascinating twists and turns than the
Kimes case. It was a story with everything–drugs, violence, money, celebrity
cameos, blackmail and deep, inherent social symbolism. Nationally, we haven’t
seen anything like this since the OJ Simpson case.


At this point,
the only thing that could make this story better is if Lizzie were to take it
on the lam on the eve of her trial. And who knows?



Best Place
to Watch Fireworks

Waterside
Plaza
25th St. (FDR Dr.)



American
Eagle-Eye View.
Living a block from the East River usually isn’t so
bad. You can watch garbage barges drift lazily downstream and see the faint
glimmer of the Circle Line at night. But once a year, this otherwise idyllic
urban stretch becomes more riotous than Chelsea on the night of a Madonna concert.
Ah, the Fourth of July. Fireworks.


Usually, as
the police, barricades and men selling phosphorescent necklaces move in, we
move out. This year, though, rather than finding solace in the outer boroughs,
we entered the fray. Our destination? Waterside Plaza. Sure, these towers may
be slowly sinking into the current, but in the meantime, they afford a wonderful
view. John Gotti’s daughter lives there for a reason. In order to visit
on the 4th, plan on making friends with someone who lives there, or skulking
around well beforehand, looking for extra guest passes. Think of them as front-row
tickets. Once inside, you could very easily find yourself in the same paradise
we did. Flanked by fine wine, small roast sandwiches and someone’s Emmy
award, we waited for the show to begin. And did it. Rai

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