Hard Case Crime
It’s the Real Hot Diggity. Over the past 20-odd years a lot of people have tried
to recapture the glory days of the old pulps. Some tried writing contemporary stories with hardboiled
attitude and prose. Other repackaged classics by the likes of Jim Thompson, James M. Cain and Charles
Willeford. But Hard Case Crime did something different. They got contemporary writers like Donald
Westlake, Lawrence Block, Stephen King and Erle Stanley Gardner to pen hardboiled novels straight
out of the ’40s and ’50s. There are no cell phones or gumshoes tracking a butter-and-egg man with
a GPSjust mugs and slugs and gams.
Then they got some original covers, again in the style of the classic
pulps, all bosomy broads and cement-jawed plug-uglies with roscoes. Then they packaged the books
in tight, pocket-size editions (but with better binding). The fonts, the back-cover copy, it’s
To be honest, we’d seen too many stabs at this to have high hopes. But founders
Charles Ardai and Max Phillips (both award-winning mystery writers who’ve contributed to the
growing series) pull it off. Take Phillips’ Fade to Blonde, the story of an ex-boxer who
gets hired by a sultry blonde to take care of a man who’s threatening her. It has everythingmobsters,
porn, drugs, dames, beatniks and a reluctant private dickall in that sleazily chaste (or
chastely sleazy) style of a half century ago.
Best Musicians that don’t look (OR SOUND) like dirty hippies
Treasures of the Sea
Every day in every New York City park a multitude of Jack Kerouac manqus pollute the air with hideous covers of their favorite Bob Dylan songs. We like Dylan just as much
as the next disembodied editorial voice, but we just can’t shake the idea that street performance
is supposed to be an art form. For some time we thought that the art of street musicians had been overcome
by burnt-out hippies’ feeble reproductions of the mediocre classic rock songs of their youth.
Then we found Jake and Michael playing in Union Square.
Their sound is swing and bop, but unlike most of today’s performers,
they have found new ways of performing dusty old music. If you are lucky, you can find Jake Sanders
on the steel guitar and Michael Magro playing the clarinet in Washington Square Park or Union Square.
If you draw quad aces, though, you might hear the entire band together at Fish, the spectacular Bleecker
Street eatery, where they play weekly with Jesse Selengut on the trumpet and vocals by the lovely
BEST NOSTALGIA-FREE REVIVAL ACT
All it takes to prove that songs about rambling, romance, longing and loss
don’t need to be revived is someone who can write and play as well as Ian Thomas. Ian, fool that he is,
seems to think that with enough humor and talent he can get away with playing honestly.
It’s not that he’s trying to sound like a sharecropperhe is definitely
hanging his own modern hat on the old coat rack but he doesn’t dull the natural power of the
form by dressing it up in too much keen appreciation. You shouldn’t need refined sensibilities
to appreciate these lyrics from his song "I Ain’t Lonesome":
"But I ain’t calling out anybody’s name,/ Nor whining for the trees above
to bend./ And I ain’t lonesome ’bout any one girl,/ I’m just lonesome ’bout being in this world."
Listen to the song, which you can hear on his first album A Young Man’s
Blues or at his website. The melody is mournful, beautiful and sung with a sharp resolve that
keeps it from self-pity.
Unlike a lot of the musicians from the anti-folk scene that Ian came out
of, there’s no dolled-up primitivism or preening folk-punk, just a rare combination of musicality
and lyricism, intelligence and directness.
best New NYC Book
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang
Most New Yorkers interested in their city’s history are familiar with the
iconic images of 1970s decay: "Ford to City: Drop Dead," Jimmy Carter’s visit to the South Bronx,
Howard Cosell’s announcement during the 1977 World Series that "ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx
is burning" and so on.
A new book by hip-hop historian Jeff Chang, though, takes all that and
makes it the fodder for an enormously inspiring, eye-opening story of the young people who, though
living in the burnt-out backwaters of the city, took their impoverished lives and used them as the
raw material for an artistic revolution.
Delving deep into the half-forgotten history of postGreat
Society malaise and Bronx gang squabbles, Chang emerges with social history of the first order.
His narrative takes early hip-hop innovators like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Fab 5 Freddy,
and replants them in their native soil, shedding an entirely new light on the early years of the hip-hop
juggernaut. Less interested in the music than its social consequences, Chang gives 1970s New York
a weary dignity it often lacks in retellings of that dismal era. Everyone may know that hip-hop was
born in the Bronx, but Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, part Greil Marcus, part Robert Caro, makes
the effort to find out just what that means. In so doing, Chang’s book serves as a reminder that New
York has always been a dazzling incubator of artistic talent, even during its lowest moments.
Best Actress WHO HASN’T WON A TONY
The critics were reliable in hacking out praise for Nathan Lane and Marian
Seldes in the Primary Stages production of Terrence McNally’s Dedication, or the Stuff of Dreams.
Alison Fraser, however, got the shaft. The recurring term for this under-seen star was "reliable"which
sometimes is the critical treatment given to those who are reliably great. In fact, she saved the
production as the straight woman that Lane desperately needed in his role as a producer of children’s
Fraser’s used to saving on-stage fiascos. Despite her classic beauty,
she seems to disappear under the light of Tony nominations (for The Secret Garden and Romance/Romance).
Forget her old credits, though. Just keep looking for her name in Playbilland on
the credits of the occasional television show filmed in NYCand note how Fraser is typically
the only actress in any production who seems like a real human being.
If Sonny Boy Williamson played English horn, it would sound like Amy Allison’s
voice. Some have compared the urban country-pop chantoozie’s pipes to a dobro, a fiddle, a musical
saw or a very well-made duck call. But that’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s why God put her here:
to be the nasal, mournful, short-breathed voice of feeling so lonesome you could cry.
Allison (Mose Allison’s daughter) has performed around Manhattan
and Brooklyn for about 20 years. She sings with almost defiant dejection about the misery of being
cheated on, of cheating, and of just plain no-reason-needed sadness. "Sad State of Affairs" is
a favorite, about a girl with a "rovin’ eye that just won’t quit," and can’t help hanging out "in some
sleazy bar till two." Allison sings the verses and the punning chorus with such gusto that the sadness
becomes somehow positive. It’s Skeeter Davis for our time.
The reigning queen of New York country is Laura Cantrell, who has a voice
that’s all apple pie with powered cinnamon and thank y’all so much. When she covers classic songs
(she can’t write her own for a plugged nickel), and even when she covers Allison, she sounds sweet,
neat and clear as a bellbut if she cracks a smile or sheds a tear, you could never hear it in
her voice. We’d rather ride the rickety Jack Daniels rollercoaster with Allison any day.
Best Folk Duo
A Brief View of the Hudson
It’s rare that we like a band from the first chord. Yet the first time we saw
folk duo A Brief View of the Hudson play at the Bowery Poetry Club we were hooked.
Ann Enzminger and Nicholas Nace incorporate many of the best characteristics
of both country music and classic rock without sounding derivative. Their songs usually comprise
one or two simple chord progressions with changes so well-selected as to generate an almost narrative
sense of movement.
Enzminger is a tiny woman, a hair taller than five feet, but with an opera-trained
voice as big and sweet as a bowling ballsize Hershey Kiss. Nace’s twangy talk-singing adds
a quirky and ear-catching roughness; we crave the combination time and again.
best Tired-Ass Trend
This little revival started out well, with Amy Goodheart and Billy Madley
wearing flawless period costumes and timing every gesture to the second. Now you can’t go anywhere
without getting smacked by titty tasselsand there aren’t enough good acts (or tits) to
go around. Once you’ve seen Dirty Martini and the World Famous *BOB* for, like, the tenth time, it’s
time to start seeking out a better sex schtick.
Best online Concert Listing
We’re downhill-sliding out of our twenties and, like the Dolly Parton movie,
working nine to five. To contradict graying temples and growing belly, we patronize the rock. And
the roll. But which bands to see? We’ve outgrown obsessive music geekdom, no longer trawling record
shops and online chat boards to suss out concert scoops. Consequently, we’re as plugged in as a candle.
Thankfully, ohmyrockness.com has solved our quandary.
Launched earlier this year, ohmyrockness is a comprehensiveand
well-curatedcollection of NYC’s indie-rock concert scene. Each week, we receive a tidy
e-mail in our inbox with that week’s picks. The editors select top choices (like Oneida and the Hold
Steady), which rarely disappoint. It’s a crib sheet for being the cool kid in school, albeit one
with a beer gut.
BEST SUBWAY MUSICIAN
There is nothing worse than a terrible subway entertainer. They do, however,
help us truly appreciate great musicians, like Jeff Dickinson. Armed with a guitar and a harmonica,
Dickinson sings like a ’60s folkie stuck in a time warp, the type of music that Upper West Siders lap
up. Which is no surprise, since he’s usually at Upper West Side subway platforms, playing his delightfully
earnest songs for every bit of spare change we have.
Most justified public art installation
Whether or not you love me
Wave Hill, 675 W. 249th St. (by the Henry Hudson).
New York is no stranger to dumb crap made by people who should be waiting tables
in Utica. (Sorry, Utica.) It’s our cross to bear as a cultural hub, a "luxury city," or whatever Bloomberg
calls us. For whatever reason, rich folks like to live in a place where they can fling cash at "creative"
morons. This city is the cesspool into which flows every muddle-headed young nincompoop who ever
got an A for sticking five parallel strips of masking tape on a piece of moldy linoleum, mounting
it on a turntable and calling it "Homage to Judith Butler." Their inanity is matched only by our contempt.
Throwing random stuff together and dignifying it with a meaningless title may have worked at Yale,
Swarthmore orGod help usOberlin, but this isn’t college, and we aren’t cynical
TAs who want to get in your artfully spattered pants. "Exploring identity," our classicist ass.
Not only patrons but even charitable institutions and our honorable
government itself support this poppycock. Remember that statue of (what appeared to be) a syphilitic
gorilla riding a giant staple? It used to stand on the corner of Central Park across from Grand Army
Plaza, a tribute to the Native American cultural heritage; now it’s been replaced by a cast-iron
Hello Kitty or something equally depressing. If the city doesn’t feel it can put up more statues
of generals and orators, figures who did meaningful things that might be worth our consideration,
why not at least try to keep the witlessness to a minimum?
Still, just as flowers bloom in parking lots and decent young people
graduate from Saint Ann’s, occasionally a public art installation can justify its own existence.
Take "Whether or not you love me."
We found this agglomeration of rubber tubing and translucent red plastic
during a pleasant Tuesday walk through Wave Hill. This should be permanent, or at least
it should go up every summer. Why? Because it sprays a refreshing mist, and on a hot day, when you put
your hands and face up to the jets, it feels really nice. And if the title means nothing in particular,
at least that’s on purpose, according to the artist’s notes. Let’s have more art like this, please,
and less crap like the infamous Ya big yellow Y with the word "discriminate" written on the
Best PLACE TO DRINK WINE AND WAX ART SPEAK
76 Grand St. (betw. Wooster St. & Greene St.)
18 Wooster St. (betw. Grand St. & Canal St.)
It’s hard to imagine SoHo as a run-down, newly gentrified neighborhood given
its current urban mall status. SoHo as we read about it, with struggling artists, tokers and squatters,
is a thing of the past. The current status finds Broadway mobbed with tourists and street vendors,
and massive corporations buying land, even lots big enough to house the most generic of accommodations,
But SoHo does maintain a few art outposts and independent shops, like
Deitch. A veteran in the local art scene, it’s been around for more than three decades, run by the
renowned Jeffrey Deitch, who has worked with the likes of Rosenquist and Basquiat.
Deitch is home to some of the best up-and-coming designers, like the
Brazilian street artist team Os Gemeos and famed art chameleons like David LaChappelle. And for
that Deitch has been rewarded with a healthy team of art followers. At every opening, pseudo-intellects
fill the small rooms and wax intellectual art speak while staring at contemporary canvases and
sipping cheap wine from plastic cups, lost in the SoHo that once was and, thankfully, still
Best Subway Performer
Professor Edwardo Alvarado
Ever since that guy who played Monk and Miles on the melodian stopped riding
the F train, there’s been a hole in the heart of the subway that even a saw lady, a karaoke Al Green and
countless break-dancing troupes couldn’t fill.
Enter Professor Edwardo Alvarado. The sight is mesmerizing: The Professor,
with his greased-back hair, swoons trance-like, like a character from a Lynch film, playing Italian
melodies on the keyboard while a crowd of battery-operated dolls shakes a demonic hula dance. It
will haunt your dreams until you die.
Best Mercifully Quick Death (music)
Rock is Back! (No. 3)
Every 10 years they try and hit us with this bullshit, and every time it’s more
annoying than the last. First, punk was rescuing rock from its psychedelic excesses and bringing
it back to its three-chord roots. Then grunge was rescuing punk from its synthesizer excesses,
bringing it back to its low-fi roots. Not that punk and grunge didn’t have their moments, but the
notion that "stripped down" rock ‘n’ roll should be some sort of immortal form of ceaseless rebellion
is the kind of wishful thinking that’s gonna get us in trouble. Luckily this time, the hype was particularly
half-assed. No new labels even, just "rock is back." And with the nameless genre’s best claim to
transcendence being the White Stripes with their nothing lyrics and weak songwriting (albeit
some hot guitar), it never stood a chance. Quick lapse. On to the next.
Best Wayne’s World Style SellOut
Back in the early ’00s, when a few improv pranksters were really what the world
needed, there were these guys called Stella (David Wain, Mike Showalter and Michael Ian Blackveterans
of MTV’s The State). Every once in a while they’d throw a new video on their website and we’d
be rolling around on the floor in hysterics. Like The Simpsons circa 1994, the hysterics
could be counted on.
The camera was handheld, and a lot of the jokes revolved around dildos
and sentimental moments to James Taylor, but these guys were so good at what they did that they kept
pushing the envelope on some far-off spiritual level of comedy.
Anyway, flash to 2005. Wain and Black are VH1 whores, and Time Out
New York is running a feature on Comedy Central’s new poster boys, Stella. Now the dildos
are gone, there’s a new supporting cast and the show sucks as badly as our first girlfriend.
Best album we neglected to mention in 2004
The Love Below
This is old news, but seeing as how this album fits into a very elite category
of genius music alongside the likes of Sgt. Pepper, Purple Rain and not much else,
it’s entirely unacceptable that it went unmentioned in our Best of 2004. If anyone’s gonna inject
a little funk into this sorry-ass generation it’s gonna be this Southern dandy, now splitting time
between Hollywood and apparently (although we’ve never seen him) Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
Some close-minded fools were so pissed off that Andre was making pop
instead of straight hip-hop that they missed what a perfect synthesis of pop and hip-hop The
Love Below was. Since the next OutKast effort (December, says Big Boi) is rumored to be a return
to the ATLiens’ ’90s rap-type sound, we sincerely hope that this creative decision was made only
after consultation with the rap museand had nothing to do with the knee-jerk reactions
of a few disappointed chuckleheads.
Best About-Fucking-Time DVD Release
The Cassavetes Collection
Long Islandborn godfather of American independent film John Cassavetes
was responsible for some of the greatest films about New York, from 1959’s Shadows to 1980’s
Gloria. If life were fair, there would be a memorial to the master in the middle of Central
Park. But life being cruel, the man and his work have been downplayed in recent years. Not much play
on the revivals circuits, and not a single DVD: only cruddy VHSs left over from the ’80s, bright ’70s
colors all gone to naught.
Finally, five of Cassavetes’ eight major films are available on DVD:
Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening
Night, in addition to the documentary A Constant Forge.
The thing is, of all the great cinematic auteurs, Cassavetes has gotta
be the most consistent, more than Fellini, Truffaut, Godard, Scorsese, Altman, any of them. Excluding
a few studio jobs early in his career and a forgotten ’80s comedy (Big Trouble), the man has
done no wrong. That means that Husbands, Gloria and Love Streams, all need to come
out stat if justice is to be complete. In the meantime, the latter two are running at BAM this November.
BEST EXAMPLE OF THE RUINOUS EFFECTS OF SCIENTOLOGY THAT’S Best sign hiphop is dead
Like the Caligula of rap, Harlem’s Cam’ron, the prodigal son of the once mighty
Harlem World, is doing his best to lead the form straight into the dark ages. Nowhere is Cam’ron’s
nonsensical blathering more inane than on the inexplicably titled "Get ‘Em Girls" from this year’s
Exhibits A, B, C, D & E:
"You acting funny nigga, come dumb, dumby nigga, killa keeps 20 blickers
(I’m getting money nigga)/Y’all faking the fizzle, I’m caking for shizzle, fuck a sizzler steak,
my steak stay sizzled, eight, boom, boom, my ace boon coon, shake, bake, skate, vroom, vroom (We
getting money nigga)/My team is the ‘goonies,’ we seen with buffonies, toonies, best dressed,
stay up in nemis and bloomies, Want to hit it from the back, she agreed that I’m loony, but proceeded
to moon me (I’m getting money nigga)."
Welcome to the apocalypse, bitches.
NOT TOM CRUISE
At first, it’s hard to say what is wrong with Beck’s new album, Guero.
The lyrics are characteristically cryptic. The voice is the same. The Dust Brothers are in the studio
like it’s Odelay all over again. But it’s not Odelay. Something is hollow. He’s
not talking to us. He’s talking at us, weird religious proselytizing: "A push a pull, the days go
by, into a void we fill with death." It’s even worse than the AA shit the Chili Peppers are trying to
put over on us these days. It’s Scientology.
The release of Beck’s first dud coincided with the unnerving revelation
that Beck is, and has always been, a member of the Church of Scientology. While before he was embarrassed
by that fact, now he’s a proud member, preaching the benefits of the mysterious cult via interviews
aimed at the kiddies. As entertaining an effect as the Church has had on the Tom Cruise persona, we’re
not happy that the Loser has finally become one.
Best Nickname for a Strip Club
Pizza and Tits
Greenwich St. (Rector St.)
It goes both ways. Nestled in the financial district on Greenwich Street,
just off of Rector, is an unexpected row of seedy bars. A few of them bill themselves as lounges and
gentlemen’s clubs but only one is also a pizza parlor. Officially named after its owners, this is
the only place we know of where you can have a lap dance at the same time as a Snapple and a slice.
Favored by the construction workers, the place is actually the kind
of glorified deli that passes too often for a pizzeria in Manhattan. You have to get past the men in
business suits near the door, hanging out in clusters of three and four, drinking cans of beer and
chatting with the kid behind the counter. Past the refrigerator cases in the back is a set of glass
doors too dark to see through. Walk through these to find a bar, some dancing girls and scary dudes.
It sounds like a very New York kind of vertical integrationPizza and Tits. But while pockets
of spookiness like this are a nice reminder of a bygone era, we’ll let you have the lap dancewe’ll
be having a slice.
Best Uptown Jazz CrawlS
2327 Frederick Douglas Blvd. (betw. W. 124th St. & W. 125 St.)
St. Nick’s Pub
773 St. Nicholas Ave.(betw. W. 148th St. & W. 149th St.)
540 W. 145th St.(betw. Amsterdam Ave. & Broadway)
288 Lenox Ave. (betw. W. 124th St. & W. 125th St.)
2485 Broadway (betw. W. 92nd St. & W. 93rd St.)
2751 Broadway (betw. W. 105th St. & W. 106th St.)
Yes, Virginia, there is an A train. It still smarts to recall the lonely apparition
of Smalls founder Mitch Borden, fiddling on a street corner a couple seasons ago as though waiting
for his legendary jazz club in the Village to burn, explaining to me that he’d booked Dr. Lonnie Smith,
not Jimmy Smith, to groove on a borrowed B3 that weekend.
Nobody actually torched Smalls, but a patron fell down the club’s stairs
and the rent shot up, forcing Mitch to move shop to the nearby pool dump Fat Cat. In the meantime, Jimmy
Smith died, and so did Jimmy Lovelace, the unofficial dean of so many Smalls jam sessions, who would
deal a sly rebuke on the snare to nervous young turks who stepped out beyond their talent.
Borden’s Tenth Street experiment reopened under new management, and
the resulting musical chairs provoked ample gossip downtown. While the uptown scene has weathered
its own changes in ownership and booking patterns, many of the firmament venues still give off a
warm glow. Most serve up a genuine welcome alongside clear reverence for the music, without reaching
the constipating levels of academic sobriety that can obtain around Columbus Circle.
At 125th and St. Nicholas Avenue, one stop and a dozen steps from Wynton
Marsalis’ Lincoln Center showroom, Showman’s Caf boasts a perfunctory drink minimum
in a clean, friendly space, and it offers its throne of a Hammond to comers from Europe, Asia, and
around the corner.
At St. Nick’s Pub, one more stop off the A or D at 149th Street, the music
spills up from the basement just like it should, acting as a carrier signal for the click of tourist
cameras as well as laughter from neighborhood residents of all colors. Sax pugilist James Carter
is a regular, drawing as many horns as the audience can spare into "Caravan" when he shows at the legendary
Monday jams. Call the M&S Frontline, closer to the 1 train at 145 and Broadway, to see what funkier
sounds might be had at that local bar.
There’s nothing wrong with tourist-magnet Lenox Lounge, particularly
on Wednesdays when the more engaging band is out by the front bar, without an official cover. And
Upper West kittens have been known to catch veteran Smalls expats (and now Smalls Records recording
starlets) like Sasha Perry at Cleopatra’s Needle at Broadway and 93rd, a decade below the dependable
Smoke at 105th. So far, no sopranos have shown from the shuttered Taci on 110th.
BEST DANCE EVENT TO PICK UP A METROSEXUAL
HIRO AT THE MARITIME HOTEL
88 9th Ave (betw. W. 16 St. and W. 17 St.)
Move over, B Bar! Tuesday nights at Bowery Bar, the converted gas station
that packs in B&T wannabes, is still going strong, but the fickle fashionista crowd is moving
west. Once the home to Covenant House’s street kids, the Maritime has become the anchor of West Chelsea,
the in-spot of the moment for the gallery-and-glitterati crowd. If you’re not wearing someone’s
name on your $300 pre-distressed jeans, you may not make it past the doorman. But once inside, you’re
greeted by several hundred Seventh-on-Sixth tent dwellers. The crowd mixes up Chelsea muscle
boys, Manhattan Public Access TV hosts and refugees from Dirty Soccer Boy Jonny McGovern’s late
lamented sleaze fests with fashion models of all genders and orientations. You ever wonder who
actually reads Cargo and Details? They’re here, in all their peacock glory. Give
them a few frozen cosmos, and they’re yours, at least until the Walk of Shame on Monday morning. As
Harvey Fierstein once said, a thing of beauty is a joy until sunrise.
Best emerging summer concert venue
East River Music Project
805 Driggs Ave. (betw. So. 4 St. and So. 5 St.)
Clap your hands, say yeah, and so forth. Even with a music festival on every
available parcel all summer long, it can be hard to find an afternoon’s worth of energetic shows.
So far the East River Music Project has staged four concerts each summer, each one packed with rock.
Commandeering an old amphitheater against a riverside view, the festival delivers stadium seating
and a domed stage whose adornments would make George Jetson boogie. And the rock-n-roll, from up-and-comers
like the Oxford Collapse and local faves like Oneida, buzzes up to the top bench. There’s no SummerStage
shvitz, no Celebrate Brooklyn delays. Just music and the freedom to come and go as you please. If
the acts bore you, wander up the East River Park path and crash a family barbecue. Somebody’ll have
a radio with the ballgame on.
Best banjo player who sings about hoboes
In a blood-stained seersucker suit, Brooklynite Al Duvall strums banjo,
plays kazoo, and sings of topics such as serving cake to a long-deceased stillborn daughter and
tranny Pittsburgh whores. Hear him warble compositions such as "Labias and Genitalmen" and his
hobo standard "Pick ‘Em Clean," and marvel at his brilliantly sick and twisted take on the old-timey/vaudeville
era. His unvarnished vocal stylings and lurid lyrics make you wish you had a jug of moonshine and
a train to hop.
BEST CHEAP DATE
1000 5th Ave. (82nd St.)
If you have a normal job and live in New York City, it’s likely you spend your
life combating poverty and find it difficult to spend the time and money on anything that is less
than necessary. But there is no reason we all shouldn’t have some sense of fun in our liveseven
in a city where fun comes with a price tag. I recently discovered the best date for those whose credit
card balances are too close to the limit to risk even dinner and a movie.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a great place to start and the admission
is a suggested donation of $15. Luckily, tourists from the around the world are paying $15 so us New
Yorkers whose hard work keeps this city thriving can feel free to pay $1 to get in. If your date doesn’t
yet know how dire your situation is, maybe you should show up a bit early and purchase the tickets
before she arrives. That way, she doesn’t have to know that your cheap ass can only donate $1 and the
only witness to your shame can be the person at the counter. And it is shameful, but like I said, if
you live and work in NYC, you are doing your part and you can dismiss the leers of someone who works
at the counter of the Met.
The obvious advantages of a date at one of the most renowned art museums
are many. You come across as very cultured and you can easily see if your date’s tastes are similar
to your own. Art inspires conversation and makes it easier to fill in any awkward silences.
Best free art show
view through the window of theelevated J train
If you see something, see something. East New York’s white-stucco church
cupolas and Bushwick’s gabled houses and the boxing posters and American flags in the brick buildings
east of Hewes Street all show up in little glimpses, framing each other and fading as some other view
emerges. Looking out the window as the J train transverses Brooklyn and Queens will earn you a sense
of immersion, if not an MFA. You can watch sunset bathe the U.N. from the Williamsburg Bridge while
listening to the polylingual shop talk of world citizens who work at JFK. No hillbilly relief pitcher
ever attacked the J line, probably because he didn’t know how to find it. From the Essex Street stop
at Delancey to the end of the line, you can eye more vistas than in all of West Chelsea’s galleries.
There are even stained-glass decorations at some of the stations.
Best Worst Carnival Game
Shoot the Freak
Coney Island Boardwalk, Brooklyn
Shoot da freak! Shoot da freak in da fuckin’ head! It does have a certain ring
to it. Never at a loss for a cheery, singsong delivery, the MC charges passersby to, well, "Shoot
da freak in da fuckin’ head!"
Step right up to the railing, and take your place with a makeshift paintball
gun, take yer aim, and leterrrrrrrip. Da freak, you may be wondering, is down below in a pit; you’ll
have to step up to the railing to see him. Where is he, you ask? He’s hiding, see, in a makeshift war
zone of mirrors and dilapidated furniture. Don’t worry, though, he is protected by an old hockey
helmet and some baseball padding. One time he even had a shield.
He’s always on, though, yelling insults at you and your fat ugly friend,
whatever it takes to get you to lay down some green to take a shot, laughing his hideous freak laugh
as often as possible. What gets us is how the people who work around him keep their mind together at
Best destruction of a formerly fine place THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT
We knew the shark had jumped when Samantha confronted, and then made friends
with, those loudmouthed drag-queen hustlers in "Sex and the City." Then Jeffrey moved in (beware
of one-man shop names, man) and, quicker than you can say "Stella McCarthy," the rats and blood were
suddenly surrounded by enough Belgian restaurants to coat the prow of the Queen Mary in moules
frites. Soon enough, the black-clad crowd had taken over the entire Gansevoort Historic District.
Cell phones permanently attached to their ears and limos idling at the curb, they wait patiently
while security goons glare at them from behind the velvet rope at the Miami Beach ultra-cool pastel
neon-lit Gansevoort Hotel. Residents like the Olsen Twins, Nicole Kidman and Calvin Klein are
buying high-rises designed by brand-name architects. Meanwhile, the new arrivals complain bitterly
about the smelly abbatoirs and the cycle roar from Hogs and Heifers that drew them to the neighborhood
in the first place. If you think it’s bad now, just wait till the High Line gets yuppified.
Best Death Rattle
The Closing of CBGB’s
Hey! Ho! Let’s Zzzzzzzz. When the rumors turned out to be true earlier
this yearthat CBGB’s looked to be closing, we shrugged once, then went on with our business.
Like most people of our generation, we had our fond memories of the club back in the day, but hadn’t
been there in years, having seen no reason to go. Yes, it had its place in punk history, but we always
thought punk rock was supposed to reject the type of pathetic nostalgia we saw in old hippies and
yuppies . "Let it die," we thought.
Still, we followed the news with half an ear, and weren’t surprised by
all the screams of outrage, the misty-eyed pleas to save this smelly little outpost of a long-dead
culture. It was all pretty grim. And when Mayor Bloomberg stepped in near the end to voice his belief
that CBGB’s should be saved, we knew it was all over with.
And in fact owner Hilly Kristal (who can’t exactly cry poverty here after
making millions in t-shirt sales) and company were pretty well doomed from the start. You don’t
pay your rent, you’re gonesimple as that. But that’s when things started getting really
We expected a useless and impotent benefit show, but in this case the
benefit show dragged on for a month, with every band from our adolescence in attendance. When men
in their fifties are reforming bands they had in their teens to celebrate how vital a grubby little
Bowery club should be, well, that pretty much says it all.
We did find it interesting that so few of the bands from CBGB’s early yearsthe
ones who are always named in connection with why CB’s matteredbothered to show up. Granted,
that scary Debbie Harry was there, and the Ramones have an excuse, but where were David Byrne or Suicide
or Richard Hell? Maybe Hilly had screwed them over too badly for them to care.
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Blvd., The Bronx
William T. Hornaday, if you could see your Zoological Gardens now. The South
America section, where terrific weird creatures like rheas and capybaras used to gambol has been
knocked down for a crowd-pleasing "Congo Gorilla Forest." (Not that public entertainment is bad,
but gorillas are the boringest animals ever.) Patronizing environmentalist blather is everywhere.
Dumb ads in the subways, $12 admission, and gift shops metastasize at an alarming rate. (How many
trees have to die to satisfy the public’s mad lust for Wildlife Conservation Magazine?)
It’s by no means the perfect zoo.
Still, it is the best zoo in the world. It’s always been at the cutting
edge of intelligent habitat construction, and the new gorilla, baboon and tiger environments
are marvels of design.
The sheer size of the zoo, 265 acres, is other-worldly. Street noise
and salsa coming in from East Tremont seem less real than the continents spread before you, linked
by winding paths and the "Skifari" tram, viewable from a hundred angles, lookouts and little terraces.
Go in the winter, when it’s quiet, and you feel like the world is yours.
Neighborhood Most Likely to Shut Down Sorta illicit Concert Venues
Williamsburg’s wild-west days have gone the way of the subway token. Williamsburg,
circa 2005, loves air rights and reinventing biohazardous factories as high-end, cash-cow condos.
Sure, salvos of rebellion are still being fired, though their lifespans are fruit-fly brief.
Take Volume. Located in a former paint factory on Williamsburg’s far-northern
tip, the hangar-size, multi-room hangout booked an ambitious mix of hip-hop (Dizzee Rascal performing
on an 18-wheeler) and oddball art bacchanal (like Madagascar Institute’s "Best Idea Ever" shindig).
Yet the fire department nitpicked club owners with a litany of complaints (like no sink in the bathroom)
until the club closed last year.
Same goes for Monster Island, an ambitious semi-legal party space where
we could smoke and brown bag whatever. We’re talking a bathroom fashioned from plastic bags and
a 100-watt light bulb and wires dangling willy-nilly like vines. One fine night the fire department
raided the space. We were locked in the basement for an hour, cursing Daddy Williamsburg.