Best of Manhattan 2001: Services

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Best Shoe Repair
Shoe Repair
2 Barclay St. (B’way)

Sole Man.
Some years ago, we attended a recital at Carnegie Hall. At the intermission,
we strolled into the lobby. We passed a strikingly handsome, dignified older
gentleman in black tie, knowledgeably discussing the performance with several
people. We recognized Sal Iacone, who is as fine an artist in leather as the
pianist was at the keyboard. In the seconds before he broke off his conversation
to shake our hand, we realized he had been appraising the pianist as a fellow
craftsman–for the integrity and skill shown in his work.

Sal is a professional
shoemaker by birth as well as training, as he was raised in the family cobbler’s
shop back in Italy. He began running the Continental Shoe Repair shop on Barclay
St., directly across from the Woolworth Bldg., in 1977.

That is when
we met him. We began working downtown around that time. We often wandered about
the City Hall area, probably because we were fascinated by local history even
then, and stumbled on Sal’s shop. We realized our black oxfords from Brooks
Brothers needed new heels. We walked in. The air was rich with the scents of
leathers and glues. A tall, kindly man with the unshakable dignity of a Roman
senator stood behind the counter. We asked if he could fix our heels. He asked
us to take off the shoes. He glanced at them, then his hands began examining
them, the fingers pressing the soles and uppers, caressing the stitching and
gluing. He looked up.

“You need
new heels and taps on the heels and toes,” he said. “You should also
come back in another month or so, because the soles will wear out by then.”
Then he smiled. “You have good shoes,” he said. “We can work
with them.”

Sal repairs
most things made of leather, with the patience and skill born of art and love
for one’s craft. He has been repairing our shoes and our briefcase–a
gift from the unsinkable west-side activist Maggi Peyton–for nearly 24
years. We highly recommend him as an artist and an honest man.

We were last
there before Sept. 11. The shop is west of Broadway, in the area that is still
closed off by the police. Sal isn’t answering his telephone. We hope he
is well and that he can reopen soon.

Best Mexican
Cowboy Boots

4505 5th Ave. (betw.
45th & 46th Sts.)
Brooklyn, 718-851-4074
88-07 Roosevelt Ave.
(88th St.)
Queens, 718-899-1742

The other day we were riding through Brooklyn in a car blasting
corridos–those rollicking, accordion-driven, heartwarming tales
of the greatest drug traffickers ever to cross the Mexico-U.S. border–and
we thought, we need some gear to go with this tape. Zapateria Mexico is the
place for fantastic cowboy boots with beautiful geometric, vaguely psychedelic
embroidered patterns. Full-sized boots, half-height bootlets, high-heeled boots
for the ladies, they’ve got them all. In good-looking leather, ostrich
(or a convincing facsimile thereof) and, best of all, snakeskin. Regular ol’
snakeskin, and–the piece de resistance–snakeskin with the heads of
the snakes still attached, one on each boot and another on the matching belt
if you care to acquire it. If we ever walk into a bar and see someone wearing
these snakeheads, much as we prefer live snakes, we’re gonna have to buy
him or her a drink or two in salute.

Best Source
of Guns ’n’ Ammo


And Let
Slip the Woodchucks of War.
What with Rudy probably leaving office and no
credible replacement in sight, an underpaid police force and the impending release
(from the federal prison system alone) of some 600,000 felons jailed during
the Crack Wars, it might be time for the average law-abiding citizen to start
thinking about a gun.

If you are
filthy stinking rich and have friends in high places, you can get a carry permit
in NYC with ease. Having none of those qualifiers, we prefer to do our shopping
in Vermont. Guns are cheap and plentiful in the Green Mountain State, and all
we had to do was bring the subject up in a bar to gain access to a wide variety
of reliable weaponry, from the incomparable Mossberg shotgun line to some very
fine concealed-carry handguns of various calibers. We aren’t recommending
that anyone violate the law; however, should you be inclined to take personal
responsibility for the well-being of yourself and your loved ones in the perilous
times ahead, you’d be well advised to head for Vermont to make your purchase.
The scenery’s very nice as well.

Best Neurosurgery
Medical Center
530 1st Ave. (32nd

We Can Still
Think, Therefore We Are.
We went to the eye doctor last January thinking
we needed new glasses for the blurred vision and loss of color perception in
one eye. We were wrong. The eye doctor was suspicious and sent us for an MRI.
Turns out what we needed wasn’t glasses but brain surgery to fix the pituitary
tumor that the MRI found. We made an appointment to see the brain surgeon at
NYU. Before we went, we boned up on the pituitary and its possible ills. We
learned that it’s the master gland, located right behind the eyeballs and
that it hangs by a stalk from the base of the brain like a lightbulb from the
ceiling. Its secretions tell the thyroid, adrenal glands and reproductive organs
what hormones to make and how much. The pituitary’s a player–other
organs return the pituitary’s phone calls right away. When there are “masses”
on the gland, those masses don’t spontaneously dissolve, hence the brain

The first thing
you learn when talking to neurosurgeons is that they aren’t shy about telling
you the nasty details of their work. Our guy pops the MRI pictures into his
lightboard, looks them over and dives right into the problem.

There are two
ways to approach a pituitary tumor, he says: endoscopic surgery or a craniotomy.
The endoscopic approach requires only an overnight hospital stay and is generally
painless and quick and wonderfully effective. Unfortunately, our mass, the size
of a dime, is clinging to the stalk, and that location makes us ineligible for
endoscopy. We’re getting the craniotomy. The surgeon then delivers the
PowerPoint version of the procedure we would have a week later.

start with a 9-inch incision across the scalp, slicing from the top midpoint
of the head down the right side to the front of the ear. Interestingly, they
don’t shave your whole head for the procedure. Instead the surgeons cut
a neat little path about half an inch wide through your hair. If you’re
not bald, the hair will regrow to cover the scar. Once the incision is made,
they peel back the scalp like the skin of a banana to expose the skull. Using
a drill, they burr little holes in the skull. The doctors then take what looks
like a piece of wire to saw through the skull plates, surgically connecting
the dots. They remove a chunk of skull about the size of a small salad plate
from the right side of the head.

With the brain
now exposed, the surgeon cuts an X through the dura, the brain’s tough
enclosing membrane, to get to the brain proper. They push the frontal lobe out
of the way and literally lift the brain using brain retractors to get at the
pituitary lying underneath. The surgical journey from first anesthesia to arrival
at the pituitary takes about two and a half hours.

The pituitary
lives in a crowded neighborhood. The bean-sized gland is situated in the optic
chiasm, the place in the brain where the optic nerves cross. The optic chiasm
is smack-dab close to the carotid arteries. And to make it even more challenging
for the surgeon, the whole gridlocked area–pituitary, arteries, optic nerves–are
all jammed into a playing field about one inch long. One false move with the
knife could mean severed optic nerves or, worse, a nick in the carotid artery.

As he’s
describing the surgery, he also provides a truth-in-advertising counterpoint
of things that can go wrong. In addition to the surgical risks you would run
with an ordinary nose job, there are some other brain-specific problems that
can occur: strokes, blood clots, seizures, bleeding, infection, incomplete resection
and more. The operation is 94 percent effective, he says, leaving a 6 percent
chance of the unthinkably catastrophic to occur.

After about
two hours of actual snipping and draining, the tumor is gone for good. They
cauterize the bleeding and then douse the whole area with something to prevent
seizures. After they’re sure their handiwork is secure, they back out.
They put the brain back in place, reposition the frontal lobe, sew up the dura
and bolt that chunk of skull back into place using titanium screws. The whole
thing takes seven hours.

What you want
in a brain surgeon–and what NYU’s team provides–is a guy who
won’t get the yips and start banging into arteries or snipping optic nerves
or poking your hippocampus with a scalpel. You also don’t want him fooling
around with the parts of the brain that help you do things like walk, talk,
eat, breathe and remember.

We had the
actual surgery and everything went perfectly, due in no small part to the incredible
nursing staff on the 12th floor Neurosurgery ICU. Recovery time is fairly slow
inasmuch as one is coming back from a fractured skull and a scrambled personal
chemistry. There were some headaches and insomnia but recovery was otherwise
uneventful. And the eyesight? Blur is gone and we can see colors perfectly again.

As brain tumors
go, this one went, thanks to the fine skills of the neurosurgical staff at the
NYU Medical Center. If you’re planning on a brain tumor in the near future,
don’t mess with second best. NYU is the place to go.

Best Place
for Oxtails & Chickien

M&F Fish & Meat Market,

240 Canal St. (Mulberry St.)

Best Place
to Buy a See-Through Wedding Dress

Gaelyn Designs
155 E. 2nd St. (Ave.

Here Comes
the Groom!
We’re getting married in a transparent, yellow-tinted, latex
body glove that shows off everything from our tan lines to our waxed snatch.
We want to feel like a warrior princess, we want to flaunt our shapely self
and parade down the aisle past 350 guests with our breasts pressed against see-through
rubber and our legs flashing under clear latex ruffles. And Gaelyn Designs is
going to help us out–show us pictures of the see-through wedding dress
they’ve made, talk to us about the one we want, and even let us try on
latex pants and corsets when we stop by the shop. They’ll polish our rubber-clad
body and whip a bicycle inner tube into a slick, clear gown in time for our
big day. They’re so sweet and eager to please, we think if we ask nicely
they might even throw in a neck corset and a bottle of body polish.

Best Venue
for a Preteen Birthday Party

163 W. 46th St. (B’way)

Children Go, We’ll Follow.
We’ve been to a number of birthday
parties at Lazer Park, including two for our own boys, and if the hi-tech gadgetry
is beyond our ken, you ought to see the faces of the kids as they race from
arcade games to simulated spaceship rides to the dark room where Lazer Tag campaigns
are waged.

Read this description
and tell us it won’t delight any boy or girl who hasn’t yet reached
puberty: “Grab your Light Phasers, slip on your special body armor, and
get ready to do battle in the world’s most incredible lazer tag arena.
Up to 20 warriors per team stalk each other in a futuristic environment of mind-boggling
mazes shrouded in fantastic fog swirls, darting lazer lights and the kind of
adrenaline-rush music you need to keep blasting…and to keep you alive!”

After the kids
have collected tickets from the games and cashed them in, after the Lazer Tag
flight of imagination, a superb staff troops them into a private room for a
meal–pizza, McDonald’s or other fast food of your choice–and
then the birthday cake. It’s a two-hour escape from reality, for the kids
as well as parents, where everyone’s smiling on their brother and getting
together right now.

Yes, it’s
a long way from pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, but if you accept that your children
will never really get The Honeymooners (at least until they study the
classic sitcom in college) and prefer Rocket Power or Sponge
, then Lazer Park’s the place to go.

Best Wine Store

Union Square Wines
& Spirits
33 Union Square W.
(betw. 16th &17th Sts.)

by the Dozen. That’s Our Excuse and We’re Sticking to It.
we be real New York Press about this and air a complaint first? What
is up with the rude, bored, barely-ESL chicks Union Square Wines hires to stand
behind the checkout counter and give stupid face to its customers? Everybody
else who works there, the proprietors et al., are so professional, so polite,
so knowledgeable. Why do they have this terrible penchant for hiring ill-tempered,
uneducated, gum-snapping girls to work the registers? Not to go all yuppistical
and classist on you, but you go into a sort of upscale wine store like this,
you spend some time trading snooty vintner names with the professionals, you
come to the counter ready to drop some serious platinum… You don’t expect
deli counter attitude, okay? It’s sooo a setup for a scene from American
. Hire somebody nice, okay? Spend a dollar more an hour, and
train them to be polite to the customer. Is it so much to ask?

Okay. Thanks
for your attention. Here’s your award:

We buy wine
at Union Square because we drink French whites and Italian reds and they’re
good with both. Every wine shop in the world can do French whites, but it’s
criminal how few, even in wopaholic New York City, know Italian reds. In a Socialist
nation we’d require them all to acquire some sort of Italian Reds license
before they’d be permitted to unlock the front door. At Union Square it’s
not all just Chiantis and Brunellos, the choice is wide and excellent. They’re
always coming up with great new finds, and delight in introducing them to their
customers at very favorable prices. They keep the dearly priced old faves–the
Brunellos, etc.–in stock as well. We wish they’d get a little more
hip to rosato, but maybe that’s a matter of personal taste.

So we go, and
we browse, and we fill up our cart with a dozen bottles. Never less. Because
if you buy a case, Union Square delivers. And better still, they give you a
15 percent discount. That’s darn decent of them, and we’ll drink to
that. Twelve times.

Best Overreaching
by a Barbershop

100 Stanton St. (betw.
Orchard & Ludlow Sts.)

Tip Not
Dandie is a Stanton St. hair salon of recent vintage, the existence
of which poses a kind of absurd relief to its immediate surroundings, like the
grocery across the street where every morning a man in a white coat named Hector
fastens pig carcasses to meat hooks and then stocks the shelves with Clamato
Tomato Cocktail and Goya Potted Meat. While the tonsorial artistes who comprise
Dandie’s staff are the sort of gaunt, sallow, slit-eyed, fauxhawk-sporting
and in-need-of-a-scrubbing, proto-punk-fops-on-a-three-day-smack-jones one really
wouldn’t care to have waving scissors or any other sharp-edged utensil
in the region of one’s head, just two doors down there’s a Dominican
barbershop named Tropical Unisex. At Tropical Unisex a quite excellent guy’s
’do, shaped exactly to order by a professional with more years of haircutting
experience than the Dandie coiffeur has years living, costs $12.

So what is
it, then, that sets the Dandie buzz apart from the Tropical Unisex buzz? Why
an additional $75, of course.

Best Brooklyn

Animal Kind Veterinary
365 7th Ave. (betw.
10th & 11th Sts.)

He Can Talk
to the Animals.
We’ve heard this from more than one person, and we’ve
experienced it ourselves. The doctors and technicians at Animal Kind are miracle
workers. In our case, we brought in a cat on the brink of death–and the
staff there told us as much. They made no promises, they were very straightforward,
they explained everything they were doing every step along the way. And at every
step, they warned us that we could lose him at any time. It was that serious.
And two weeks later, we brought that damn cat back home, where he’s still
healthy and happy today, having made a full recovery.

It was something
nobody expected to happen, but they did it anyway.

There are a
lot of things that make Animal Kind different from most vets you’ll encounter
in the city. The people are nice, and clearly love what they’re doing.
They keep owners regularly updated on their pet’s condition. Most importantly,
however, they allow you into the examination rooms with your pet–and encourage
you to visit if your pet, God forbid, has to stay over.

We were in
the ICU every day, and no one batted an eye. The people on staff knew us, knew
the case, and helped out however they could. They realize how important things
like that are, for the pet’s recovery as well as the owner’s sanity.

Most everyone
we know has a horror story to tell about mistreatment at the hands of a vet–but
for all the time we spent at Animal Kind, and all the people we know who go
there, we’ve heard nothing but warm praise. That in itself is amazing.

No, they can’t
save every single animal that comes in, nor can they keep Fang alive forever.
But what they can do is make the worst hours of a pet owner’s life as peaceful
and comforting as possible.

Best Italian
Food Products

Mozzarella & Pasta
363 7th Ave. (betw.
10th & 11th Sts.)
Brooklyn, 718-369-2874

Used to be a copy shop occupying this South Slope space, wherein
you could find a couple of aging beatniks, who on occasion were known to busy
themselves with a desultory variety of labor, amidst a perpetual atmospheric
sepia tobacco haze. Their dingy copy joint was an appropriate landmark for an
as-yet unredeemed neighborhood. That is, 7th Ave. on the other side of
9th St., back then still a district of shabby tenements, oozing diners and Fenians
in undershirts.

Well, the neighborhood’s
changed over the last couple years, hasn’t it? Half a decade and a whole
new world, and dig the wine shops, the good restaurants, the boutiques. In fact,
if the Fed wanted to study the circulation through the economy of overpriced
baby-t’s, hipster jeans, two-years-out-of-Wellesley-and-we’re-still-bohemian
babydoll dresses or curios from precious emporia, it would do well to send its
economists here.

And when they
show up, they might well find us in Russo’s, which moved into the old copy-shop
premises a couple years back, to the delight of locals. Yessir. It would be
hard to overestimate the quality of the stuff the guys at this little establishment
first make, and then sell: pastas that they churn out all day in the back room
(try, especially, the lemon-pepper variety) and in which you can taste that
eggy freshness that characterizes the best noodles; flavorful sauces (the puttanesca
rules); newly stuffed sausages that look vital and clean; and huge balls of
meltingly new mozzarella, which undulate in their bins under the counter glass,
pure and white as Alaska.

There is, as
hippies have always insisted, something reassuring about knowing who’s
making your food, and where they’re making it. Much of ours these days
is made by the guys who hang out behind the counter at Russo’s, and we’re
not complaining.

Bonus: Russo’s
sells bottles of San Pellegrino water for a mere $1.49. That’s a steal,
chump. Who says Brooklyn isn’t still a bargain?

Best Way to
get a Private Girls’ School Student to Serve Hors d’Oeuvres at your
Next Party

The Barnard
Bartending Agency

Kids Who Really Know How to Party.
Cross-breeding New York chic with
Northampton political savvy, the ladies of Barnard may already seem the perfect
addition to your next party. But, in the spirit of female entrepreneurship,
many of them are available to serve your guests as well. The student-managed
and -staffed Barnard Bartending Agency charges $18 dollars an hour, $20-$25
for holidays, plus cab fare home. These bartenders arrive at your home wearing
bowties, will help prepare appetizers, serve beer and wash dishes. They are,
of course, trained to make martinis, are informed about wines and know which
sides to pour and clear from, too.

Best Travel

Kadesh Travel

Smart Planning.
We’re not afraid to fly.

We don’t
mind getting to airline terminals earlier.

We have mild
sympathy for the pacifists who’re singing “Where Have All the Skycaps

We believe
that major U.S. airports have been too lax in security standards for years.
It’s similar to–although far more dangerous than–voting precincts
on Election Day: Why do you think political corruption is more rampant in urban
areas? Because of the volume of citizens, as well as a lackadaisical workforce.
That’s why people we know were able to vote for Al Gore three times in
New York City last year. Similarly, while in Caribbean airports, say, each ticketed
passenger is thoroughly looked over, at Newark, JFK, O’Hare, Logan and
LAX, just to name a few, it’s relatively easy to get anything on board
the plane, and customs–as long as you’re relatively sober and take
off the shades–is a joke.

Like most Americans,
we’ll be happy to undergo stringent scrutiny if that’ll prevent murderers
from sitting across the aisle from us on a f