BEST COVER BAND
Appetite for reconstruction. Everything seemed normal, if a little
quiet, when we walked into Bellevue, the hard-rock watering hole near Port Authority where, on
our first visit three years ago, we witnessed a Mexican-food delivery man race a moped up and down
the length of the bar to a cheering crowd. Picture Bellevue by way of this: We knew a heavy drinker
who finally decided he’d found bottom when he was 86ed from Bellevue.
So who cared if, when we stopped by two months ago, the jukebox sounded
a little light? Cars as opposed to Danzig. Hey, change is natural, right? Besides, a little Metallica
always went a long way with us. Then, after assuming the position at the bar, we also noticed it was
Raising Arizona on the tv, instead of Edward Penishands (the only good thing about
watching the tube at Bellevue was finally finding out whether those dirty jokes from high school
were actually based in fact).
All right, so no more graphic sex. Still nothing to get alarmed about.
Yep, we thought, grabbing our drink and turning to face the room, move along folks, there’s nothing
to see here—
“Where’s Duff McKagan!”
“The…the picture,” we stuttered to the suspiciously un-slutty
barmaid, “the framed, two-foot-tall picture of Duff McKagan—where is it?”
“Oh,” she answered casually, under the mocking glow of newly installed,
hideously hippie-freshman-dorm Christmas lights. “Probably in the basement.”
“Well, can you find out? Immediately?”
“I’ll…ask…the…new…owner,” we heard slowly
through the dizzy haze that gripped us like death as we tried not to go into shock.
Well, Duff McKagan may no longer hang out on 39th and 9th, but the better
news, we discovered weeks later, is he’s still performing, and not with grunge’s leftovers. The
perennially smirking bass player can be seen, semi-regularly, on stage at B.B. King’s or during
one of the popular Rocks Off boat cruises that circle the city, playing all your favorites from Appetite
and Lies. Plus “Civil War.”
How do they look? Like Axl, Duff, Izzy, Slash and Steven Adler—20
years ago. How do they sound? Tighter than a 13-year-old groupie. The vibe? Hormonal—not
a dry panty in the house. But what else did you expect when a young, sweaty, shirtless Duff starts
ripping through “Rocket Queen”? If it ever was a joke, to the crowd or them, both of you forget by the
The Lord taketh away, and then the Lord giveth back. Ten fucking times
over, you kings among men, you rock gods among mere listeners.
BEST BAR TO
PICK UP A HUSTLER
236 E. 58th St. (betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves.)
Urbane cowboys. From the street, the Townhouse looks like, well,
a townhouse. Located on tony E. 58th St., the Townhouse resembles a gentlemen’s club, and most of
the men are dressed for the occasion. But then you notice the slight disconnect between the majority
of patrons—successful men d’un certain âge, in suits and blazers—and
the younger, scruffier guys. While not straight-off-the-bus-Port-Authority street hustlers,
these are definitely men on a mission. The management keeps things pretty aboveboard (everyone
remembers when the city shut the late, lamented Rounds for facilitating “solicitation”) but everyone
knows the score. So if a good-looking, slightly hard-around-the-edges John Rechy type asks you
for a drink, just remember: You may end up paying for a lot more than that mojito.
TO AVOID SEEING
YOUR FAVORITE DJS
THEY’RE PLAYING AT APT
Dance music, sans dancefloor. APT wants to be beyond cool—no
sign, no velvet-rope lieutenant outside. But you have to wonder what the owner was thinking with
this space. It’s pretentious, pricey and doesn’t have any room for dancing. Though they book some
of the best DJs from New York (Spinna, Bobbito, Metro Area), Cali (Peanut Butter Wolf) and Europe,
all you can do is squeeze in while trying to hang on to that $8 Sapporo. After navigating through all
the trendies on the wall rolling their eyes and doing their best to look jaded and bored, you realize
this: I’m going home to have a party in my own APT with my own friends and my own beer.
BEST WAY TO
EMBARRASS YOURSELF IN FRONT OF YOUR DATE AT CONEY ISLAND
THE 100+ MPH BATTING CAGE
Strike 23. We played baseball in high school. We weren’t bad, either.
At 17, we could at least make contact against just about any pitch—smoking fastballs, even
major-league curve balls. So when we found ourselves strolling by the batting cages at Coney this
summer, we thought we’d treat our new girlfriend to some traces of our former jock glory.
“This is how fast they pitch in the pros,” we said as we stepped into the
We didn’t even see the first pitch coming. We just heard a loud “Bang!”
behind us—the ball hitting the backstop. By the third pitch, we thought we had an eye on the
ball as it exploded out of the hole. But despite a string of increasingly desperate, tired swings,
we never made it within six inches. The most embarrassing moment came during the last two chances,
when we tried to bunt, in a desperate attempt to make contact.
A couple of teenagers started to snicker, but we didn’t dare turn around.
Our date was laughing, too. Worst thing about it was, we deserved it.
BEST GO-GO BAR
WITH FREE BUFFET
324 E. Railway Ave. (Knickerbocker Ave.) Patterson, NJ, 973-279-6999
Burger with your clams? Roxxie’s is a large go-go bar located on East
Railway Ave., just a stone’s throw from the Clifton border. It’s so close to the railroad tracks
that the rectangular building rumbles every time a train goes by, and you can hear the train whistle
gloriously over the loud satellite-channel music. The bar is so dark that the men stumble in the
door blindly as their eyes try to adjust, before they scatter loosely around the bar like homing
The men who patronize Roxxie’s are of all ethnicities, but are mostly
blue-collar types with a handful of white-collars thrown into the mix. All can safely indulge their
sex stare, and plenty of dancers will even grant a gratuitous grope in exchange for a tip. The go-go
dancers are largely from Eastern Europe, and like all Eastern European women, they’re intriguing,
provocative and predatory. When not on break or strutting around the stage in their thong bikinis
and eight-inch platforms, they’re avidly lap dancing in a separate room.
As the Friday-afternoon happy hour approaches, the cook and bar-back
scamper about, setting out the free buffet. Famished from their absorption of alcohol, the men
line up eagerly with paper plate and utensils. Strong appetites that have been unleashed and whipped
up from peaking lust are ready to pile up their “all you can eat” plates with the buffet offerings
of the day: hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, macaroni salad and romaine lettuce with tomatoes.
Then, with full bellies, it’s back to the ogling. What a wonderful place.
BEST ART-RELATED EXPLOSION LEADING
TO A BACCHANAL
Don’t touch that. It was an arctic January day, and disaster began
with a simple plan: create a confetti cannon to act as a starting gun for stupidity. Namely, NYC’s
inaugural Idiotarod, a drunken version of Alaska’s sled-dog challenge featuring mushing men.
The confetti cannon—a potato-gun variant—was being crafted by the Madagascar Institute,
erstwhile merchants of mischief and mayhem.
Several hours before the race, Chistopher Hackett, the Institute’s
dreadlocked captain, was tinkering with the contraption when…BOOM! Premature
detonation. In Hackett’s face. Destruction was immediate and catastrophic: fractured orbital
socket, broken jaw, rearranged teeth and a sizable hole in his cheek. Compounding matters were
In post-9/11 brouhaha, the police assumed terrorists were vaporizing
Brooklyn. They rushed to the wintry, bloodied site in Gowanus to find injured Hackett, as well as
a cache of decommissioned guns. Weapons were used as building blocks for sculptures, but cops thunk
A fat pile of legal suck soon swamped insurance-less Hackett. Official
inquiries. A jaw wired shut. Medical bills zoomed past $80,000. There was no recourse but to bash
So, in March, the Madagascar Institute threw “Best Idea Ever!,” a nightlong
bacchanal at Volume, Williamsburg’s latest paint-supply factory turned venue. There were inflatable
nuclear cooling towers. Gyroscopic machines launching revelers toward the ceiling. Not to mention
homemade absinthe, which further blurred the line between benefit, disaster and blackout-induced
BEST KNITTING FACTORY TAKEOVER
THE DROP DEAD FESTIVAL
I vant to fuck your brood. A well-known haven for art rock, melodic
indies, experimental jazz, breaking bands and other music that gets earnest ex-college-radio-DJ
types to come all over themselves, Knitting Factory threw a nice curveball with September’s three-day
Drop Dead festival.
In a coup that’s likely due to the wall-to-wall crowds at their Johnny
Cash tribute earlier this year, NY Decay Productions secured the whole club for their annual pan-horror-rock
festival featuring vendors, horror film screenings, giveaways, zombie burlesque and roughly
50 bands ranging in sound from greasy roots punk to rockabilly, surf, goth, experimental and anything
morbid. Headlining acts included Ausgang and Skeletal Family, genuine proto-goth artifacts
of the 80s UK scene, contemporary art goths Cinema Strange and Bella Morte and contemporary surf-rockabilly
heroes Deadbolt, morbid experimental musician David E. Williams, DC punks the Alphabet Bombers
and others from both here and abroad.
Not catering to the mall punks, gothic techno-metalheads or the posturing
nouveau-rockers, Drop Dead Festival was instead meant for Misfits-worshipping misfits who crawled
out from the woodwork in search of the likeminded. Basically, it was Halloween—two months
early and three times as long.
We raise our cup—filled with the blood of three virgin lasses,
of course—to NY Decay Productions, and to Knitting Factory.
Dodgeball is for wimps. In this age of electronic entertainment,
with its complex circuitry and live-action role-playing, recreation has never been so sedentary
and mysterious. The majority of those entertained by these technologic sports rarely understand
how pushing a button while reclining on the Laz-E-Boy causes a laser to slice through the bad guy’s
face 10 feet away on the plasma screen.
“So what?” you ask. With New York City resembling Tokyo more and more,
you note, it will soon be time to dig out the bedrock beneath Times Square and construct an artificially
lit arcology where Conde Nast and Time-Warner employees live, work and breed. Let them play Halo
15 and order Fresh Direct without ever seeing sunlight again.
We couldn’t agree more. Let the gamers accelerate humanity’s evolution
into high-tech mole people. We don’t blame Xbox—we thank it.
What concerns us in the age of technological diversion, however, is
the loss of real sport. Recreation has become too complicated, diverted by eggheads who’d rather
examine stats than toss around a real ball. Think of those opponents who protest a loss by saying,
“My controller isn’t working” or, “My fantasy league team isn’t as good as yours.”
Send the gaming geeks out to the handball court, where there’s naught
more than a wall, a ball and some lines on the ground. There are a few rules, but they have a certain
grace that other sports don’t have—they seem natural, as if handed down by God. It’s also
a compact game, perfect for the city.
Release yourself to the rhythm of the popping rubber ball and the ebb
and flow of the relay. Life will be redeemed to you in the surplus of the human spirit that is real sport.
BEST YANKEE STADIUM STRATEGY WHEN
ARE GATHERING AT GAME
DON’T GO IN
Joy in mudville. You’re on your way to the big ballpark in the Bronx.
The scene under the subway crackles with apocalyptic bonhomie. You’re pining for that moment when,
emerging from the ramps and tunnels, you behold the bright Elysium that is the Yanks’ home field.
But for God’s sake, before going through the turnstiles—before you even leave the office!—check
the Doppler radar for any telltale green blobs gathering over Bergen County.
The infernal chaos of the Stadium in a downpour is an experience to be
avoided at all costs. It’s a Woodstock of off-duty cops, a kindergarten field trip to Penn Station
at rush hour. Worst of all, to Mr. Steinbrenner’s accountant, it’s a day on the books for your courteous
ballpark wait staff. In order to avoid paying those vendors another game’s piddling wages, chances
are that if the first pitch is thrown, the game will be played to its conclusion. Rain delays of two
hours and up have become commonplace at the Stadium in recent years.
The solution is to avoid entering in the first place, until you’re reasonably
certain the threat of rain has passed. There’s no better place to wait out the storm than the News
Room bar at 854 Gerard Ave. One block removed from the boisterous, Yankee-centric frat-house abominations
that line River Ave., the News Room caters to a more discerning neighborhood clientele. The beer’s
cold—and half the ballpark price—and the jukebox knows motown, disco, R. Kelly,
you name it.
See hoochies your mom’s age shake it all over two guys on the dance floor
at 7:15 on a weeknight while following the game (or the ungodly delay thereof) on tv.
BEST OPENING-NIGHT MOVIE SPLURGE
RESERVED SEATING AT LOEWS
Let them eat front row. Once, on the short leg of a very long trip, Lufthansa
bumped us up to first class. We got to board right away, trading those inevitable minutes of aisle-pushing
through coach for immediate beverage service. The leathery goodness of those seats had us considering
a change of career to something that would garner frequent-flyer miles. We weren’t prepared, however,
for the strange discomfort we felt when we’d accidentally make eye contact with “our people” as
they filed to the back of the plane. Uneasy, embarrassed by our newfound privilege, we pretended
to be already sleeping to avoid the passing looks.
These feelings: comfort, relief, beverage-service joy countered
by a touch of seat-endowment shame, returned on the opening night of The Day After Tomorrow.
Our boyfriend bought tickets for the show. We had spent the day scrubbing and swiffering the apartment,
so he decided to treat us right by clicking the new “reserved seating” option on Fandango.com. We
were skeptical, but it was his $5 per ticket to throw away. (Actually, at the time he said it was only
$2 more, knowing we’d be stressed by the actual figure. And now? It’s too late; how quickly we grow
accustomed to luxury.)
Rather than arriving early, waiting on line and scrambling for not-too-close
yet not-too-far seats, we showed up just before show-time, visited the reserved-seating box office
and entered the theater. An usher escorted us to our seats, beacons of comfort in a hard, dark world.
An usher-cum-waitress gave us snack-bar menus; we weren’t hungry but almost ordered food just
to make use of the generous tray tables between every two seats. Around us, latecomers clamored
for the last seats. The usher-waitress became guard as well, brought to the brink of physical altercation
with patrons who had not paid for reserved seating but demanded cushy affluence when confronted
by the first-row-only availability of general admission. Their rebellion was swiftly squashed.
And yes, there was shame. We felt a little wrong for living on the right
side of the cinematic tracks. It could’ve been us in the front row. In fact, it has been, time and time
again. But with the dimming lights, our shame subsided. In the darkness, with no watchful eyes,
there was only us, and only joy.
BEST PUB CRAWL
THAT TIME WE ENTERTAINED AN ENTIRE AIRCRAFT CARRIER DURING FLEET WEEK
Climb aboard, sailor. Everyone loves a man in uniform, but what do
you do once you’ve caught one? When we walked into Westside Tavern with a few friends one night, encountering
a sea of white before us, we knew it was Fleet Week. It seems those bright white outfits, alternating
between an oversized shirt accented with a neckerchief and a square-shouldered, starched, button-down
variation—not that we were paying attention—inspire an outpouring of generosity,
including free rounds and subway passage.
We were no different. Taking mercy on the gang for winding up in Chelsea
in search of a good time, we directed the crew from the U.S. Iwo Jima to other places we thought
better suited them—a mix of jazz bars and choice dives. But, after buying rounds for the shore
party ourselves, and splitting dollars for jukebox picks and pool games, we were rewarded by the
days that followed: a week spent traveling around with a young fun group of sailors—everyone
with their leave buddy—from bar to bar.
Trying to showcase the city as best we could, we ended up experiencing
the city as a tourist, through their eyes, visiting a combination of new places and old favorites,
even giving places we detested a second chance. When we found them the next night at Gold Rush on 10th
Ave., charitably sharing their complimentary drinks with us, we threw back beers and shots while
we challenged them to more pool, witnessed a saucy dance routine—despite the restricting
uniform, girl sailors can move and look stripper-hot doing it—drilled them about sailor
speak and absorbed the details of stories covering their onboard antics and gripes. The bar nearly
empty, we had the run of the place and stayed until last call, which luckily came right after the pool
table grew blurry.
The next night, we met up at Bleecker Street Bar, miraculously devoid
of NYU students. We rotated pitchers, played pool—a game not often associated with boats,
yet still mastered by many sailors—and threw darts at a target poorly positioned next to
a frequently used walkway, until a commander grew bored and declared a need for karaoke. Off we went
to Sing Sing, where, despite the expensive drinks, everyone seemed to be having fun. The sailors
were lined up to do a song until the bartender mentioned to one of the higher-up officers that they
seemed to be in the wrong neighborhood and would probably feel better if they left and went somewhere
else—generally West. Anyplace except there, basically.
Stunned but compliant, we headed out, the sailors a little deflated
by this first encounter with vicious and vocal animosity. At Nevada Smiths, not surprising, most
of Fleet Week’s fleets had flocked. Loose ladies abounded and the boys were fast engrossed, but
a little agitated by no longer being a center of attention. We’re ashamed to say that we stayed again
until closing; the sailors, almost without exception chainsmokers, taking frequent cigarette
breaks to escape the stale beer fumes. Outside, they passed the time starting conversations with
passersby, quickly learning how friendly New Yorkers can be.
The Iwo Jima scheduled to be underway the next day, we bid our
new friends goodbye and unsteadily headed our separate ways, ending a non-stop week of fun.
What did we take away from our catered pub crawl? We learned that
the brig does exist and you go there when you screw up. People do actually “swab the deck.” Putting
your hands in your pockets and smoking in uniform is frowned upon, but doing it and walking will bring
punishment if you’re caught. Sailor caps are one size fits all.
So what do you do when you’ve caught a sailor? You have some fun with them,
then throw them back. They’ll come back next year, all grown up—and ready to keep a little
BEST ONLINE POKER
All in. By all rights, Pokerroom.com ought to share this award with
the more venerable Pokerstars.com, whence 2003 World Series of Poker champion Chris Moneymaker
got his start. Thing is, though, we’re Mac-based and so is Pokerroom. Given the profit potential
of online gaming, it’s hard to fathom that no other live-action poker sites (that we know of) are
100 percent Mac compatible.
With Pokerroom, the Mac user is not saddled with additional program
downloads. Think this is a small deal? Try holding aces over queens on the turn with $160 in the pot
only to be knocked off line because Virtual PC crapped your processor. Not fun. We also like this
site for the quality of the competition: It’s low. Now, perhaps our game’s improved since switching
over, or maybe “creative” Mac types are more right-brained and somehow make weaker tablemates.
Whatever the case, we’ve been winning more since we joined and, well,
that is fun. About the only drawback we’ve found is you can’t access your complete hand history the
way you can on other sites, but we expect this to change as membership grows. With all the usual bells
and whistles like weekly tournaments, real-money bonuses, private tables, play-money tables
and poker variants (Hold ‘Em, Omaha, 7-Stud, Hi-Lo) we see no reason to play anywhere else and neither
should you. See ya at the river.
BEST PLACE TO
REKINDLE YOUR YOUTH
MILLENNIUM SKATE PARK
In Owl’s Head Park
(betw. 68th St. & Wakeman Pl.), Bay Ridge
Dude, I think my ankle’s broken. In the mid 1970s Bruce Logan, Russ
Howell, Stacy Peralta, Tom Sims and Greg Weaver brought skating into the homes and dreams of kids
across the world. In 1982, a scrawny 14-year-old named Tony Hawk won his first competition, taking
skating from a pipe dream into an accessible arena for thousands of lost urban kids. Once-misplaced
and -directionless city youths found communities in empty loading docks and vacant parking lots.
Suddenly street skating was more respected than bowl riding. The dreams
of skate punks were rising around them in freshly constructed steps, railings and sidewalk curbs.
It wasn’t just a way of getting from point A to B; it wasn’t just a way to pass time. Skating became a
way of life, a saving grace, giving disgruntled youths a means of expression that wasn’t possible
in the well-tailored, rigidly ruled sports of football or hockey. Under bridges, up library steps,
hanging off the backs of buses—thousands of skateboarders took over, filling the air with
the scrappy rattle of soft wheels on hard asphalt.
Today, skateboarding is such a part of city life that it’s not uncommon
to see a businessman with a briefcase riding to work or an ad exec board out of a photo shoot. It’s appropriate
then, that Brooklyn (being the birthplace of significant thought) would cross the thrasher world
of skating with the once-were-full-time-now-die-hard skaters of corporate New York. Though
the city is in and of itself a skate park, it is hardly skater-friendly, what with triple-parked
cars and recently purchased lots. Luckily there are places like Millennium Skate Park, which offers
14,000 square feet of concrete bowls, “skatelite” ramps and metal ledges, a haven for four wheels
There is no better way to tap back into your youthful pride than to call
in a sick day and spend the afternoon skating. Dig out your Walkman, slip in a heavy-metal tape and
take off to Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge. The park is sunken and not visible from the street, which
is great if you’re rusty, and makes skating feel like a secret again. Upon arrival you’ll skate down
a 12-foot-wide cement “waterfall” to the floor, where you’ll find a six-foot street bowl with an
assortment of grinding banks. Three ledges of various heights with wide, metal-covered edges
simulate a truck dock that’ll bring a tear to your eye.
Further along is the free-form bowl, designed by Andy Kessler, which
consists of different pool shapes five to eight feet deep all merging one into the other. The park
floor and numerous ramps are meant to be rebuilt every few years by neighborhood patrons in the hopes
of instilling a sense of community, responsibility and ownership over the park. In fact, many local
skaters were consulted during the original construction for just this reason—perhaps
why it is so well maintained. Who would have thought skating would have become a socio-political
Requires: helmet, knee and elbow pads.
BEST GYM FOR
RUDY VAN DAELE’S LIFE SPORT GYM
West Park Church, 165 W. 86th St.
(Amsterdam Ave.), 212-769-3131
God, this is fun. Mondays through Saturdays, gymnastics teacher
Rudy Van Daele welcomes students aged one to 70 explore their bodily strength and agility and to
expand their psyches while learning gymnastics and trampolining at his Life Sport Gym, located
in the attic of West Park Church. Van Daele’s teachings translate basic bounces, flips and other
techniques into profoundly freeing spiritual transformations. Soaring under Rudy’s wing is
great for body and spirit.
“I believe the happier and more comfortable students are, the faster
they learn,” he says. “In Life Sport Gym, we start by giving students total freedom to do whatever
they want to do. Then, through alertness and paying close attention, we create trusting relationships
that give students the comfort and confidence to try things they would be reluctant to do in more
restricted arenas. The learning progression simply follows from there. It’s really a process
of freeing impulse and creating confidence, as well as demonstrating basic techniques that most
people—especially young children who haven’t already been taught restrictions—can
easily assimilate. We encourage students to do their personal best, without competing to best
Van Daele’s explanation of his students’ accomplishments is modest,
almost humble. But those who’ve succeeded under his tutelage say he’s a genius who imparts pure
inspiration. He uses yoga as a basis for his gymnastics and trampoline teachings because “it’s
about health, and that’s what I’m about as a teacher. Yoga provides students with a lifelong buffer
against the health-damaging stresses of competition, which is so high profile and prevalent in
Even if you don’t make it to his classes, you’re welcome to enjoy watching
Van Daele’s students of all ages, including infants, perform at his annual benefit, “Womb: Temple
of the Child”, an extraordinary high-flying performance staged in the Sanctuary of West Park Church
(this year on November 13). Professional gymnasts and musicians usually join in, adding bounce
and fund-raising clout to the event, proceeds from which go toward tuition scholarships for children
who cannot otherwise afford to attend classes.
BEST TRIVIA NIGHT
THE NIGHT CAFE
938 Amsterdam Ave. (betw. 106th
& 107th Sts.), 212-864-8889
We’ll take fair and balanced trivia for $1000, Alex. There’s a lot
of hype about the trivia night at Rocky Sullivan’s. While we respect Liam, the fine Irishman emcee,
and his weekly, alcohol-drenched quiz nights, it’s not quite up to par. When our geek-out requires
more than a tv dinner and Alex Trebek, we visit the Night Cafe.
Why shlep to 106th St. on a Sunday night? First of all, people cheat at
Rocky Sullivan’s. They let you use your cellphone during the match. That’s like whipping out Google
for the Times crossword puzzle. Teams are virtually unlimited in size, there are no prizes
and there are six rounds. Yes: six. Which can mean a three-hour trivia night.
At the Night Cafe, there are rules and regulations designed to keep things
fair and moving along. Most important, no phones allowed. With two rounds of 18 questions each and
teams limited to four members, you’re committing about an hour of your night to alcohol and trivia,
during which you have numerous chances of winning prizes. A bottle of wine goes to the winner of the
first round, overall winner and best team name. Categories fall in line with Jeopardy‘s:
food and drink, movie plots, hodgepodge. And, bless them, the sports questions are far and few.
Correctly answering the night’s final question, always the hardest, means a free round of drinks
for your team.
The Night Cafe is infested with politicos, so if you can’t hang with the
Trots and those bores from the ISO, maybe you do want to stick to Rocky Sullivan’s. You also won’t
find two Jeopardy champions leading the show downtown: Dave Cook and Brian Flanagan, the
uptown trivia-night founders, both played Jeopardy back in ’96. Cook won $23,000; Flanagan,
BEST GRAFFITI (OUTDOORS)
Jackson Ave & Crane St., LIC
Tag, they’re it. Formerly known as the Phun Phactory, 5 Pointz is
a block-long exhibit of graffiti artists in Long Island City, directly across the street from that
other art institution, P.S. 1. Covering the four walls of this building are the burners and pieces
of graffiti art normally dispersed throughout the urban landscapes of the world, illegal to create
yet representative of an expanding hiphop culture. 5 Pointz acts as the canvas over which writers
of varied backgrounds display their work for a certain length of time, depending on how unique the
style. Always great for a quick drive-by, or a “while-I’m-here” walk-by, 5 Pointz is the museum
that never closes, situated next to the train yards, the former venue for the illegal artist of yore.
5 Pointz reps the five boroughs by title and the next level of aerosol
art in concept. With sections of walls brilliantly painted to resemble individual mentalities,
the spraypaint bleeds and blends to display how the various underground artists of our day intermix.
The skill of some of the artists exhibited outshines others, but the total scheme of 5 Pointz allows
for such a hierarchy. Meres, the artist in charge nowadays, hand-selects where each artist will
display, leaving the best spots for the heavyweights while still inviting and encouraging the
next generation to participate. Aiming for a higher plateau than graff, many spots are filled with
aerosol paintings, such as the reproduction of a Rembrandt self-portrait by Sperm. Others like
Sense3 choose to evoke the purist, spreading complex burners upon the bricks, conjuring an old-school
vibe. It’s enough to make the ancestry proud.
BEST SUMMERSTAGE CONCERT
Fences are for apartheid states. Forget the fact that the opening
acts were bullshit—a limp DJ battle between two losers and a glitzy, Broadway-style breakdance
performance by the latest generation of Roc Steady—Nas put on the best show of the series.
Don’t feel bad; a lot of people stood in line for hours only to be disappointed. Which is weird, because
inside it was at about half-capacity, with plenty of room to chill.
Only problem was, it was raining that day, making everything a bit slippery,
but we were happy to see hardly a line for beer and burgers (great burgers by the way, served on hot
dog buns) and a quick line to the Port-a-Potty. Heavenly. Spark the j.
And then, Nas. The beat for “New York State of Mind” surprised everyone.
The chunky piano loop rolled out from the speakers and filled the venue, spilling out over the walls
to wake those just outside the circle. Over our shoulder, we noticed three kids hopping the wall,
smiles all over their faces. They ran past us into the crowd—”We made it!”—and behind
them, 10 or 20 others coming up the hill. Then it’s 60, 100, 200 kids climbing over the wall, storming
the concert like we hadn’t seen in years. It was a beautiful chaos, people taking the music back.
They raced toward the stage and were quickly lost in the sea of heads.
Cops came on stage, threatened to shut things down, and Nas asked for calm.
But 10 minutes later, the mic was back on. The show went on, even surrounded
by cops who seemed to be practicing for their upcoming stint at the Republican National Convention.
And because it was Queens’ day in the park, Q-Tip did a drop-by to represent. But you probably heard
BEST GRAFFITI (INDOORS)
129 Roebling St. (betw. N. 4th & N. 5th Sts.) Williamsburg, 718-384-8729
Writing on the wall. While most galleries will throw an occasional
graffiti artist or clone in the mix to appear current and edgy, McCaig-Welles has been repping the
elite of aerosol artistry since March of 2001. Dalek, Tats Cru, Doze, Seen, West One, Shepard Fairey,
Futura, UA, Ces, Espo, Cope, Duro, Quik, NYC Lase, AngelOneSevenNine, Phem9, Dash, Stash, Lady
Pink etc… It’s impossible to front on names of this caliber. Hands-down, exhibit after exhibit,
McCaig-Welles holds the crown.
CAFE DEL BAR
945 Columbus Ave. (106th St.)
Red black and green with your amber? The utter coziness of Cafe Del
Bar means that no one can even move without some sort of social interaction, whether it be a friendly
excuse-me, or a gentle tap on the shoulder. The best time to come is on a weeknight, when intimacy,
rather than claustrophobia, reigns supreme. And just in case patrons still feel like strangers,
the bartenders make a concerted effort to learn everyone’s names before engaging in playful banter.
The crowd, an eclectic mix of African expatriates, Columbia students, artists and locals follow
the bartenders’ examples, and make friendly introductions among themselves.
The vibe is so welcoming that first-timers feel like regulars, and often
become them. Soon stories and conversations are flowing, in English, Swahili, French and Twi.
Upon entering the glowing bar from quiet Columbus, visitors are accosted by intoxicating rhythms.
DJs spin a delectable mix of underground reggae, funk, and Afrobeat music that induces everyone
to hop off their stools and dance unselfconsciously, late into the night. For stamina, patrons
can visit neighboring restaurant A for tasty French-Caribbean offerings amidst a similarly laidback
Red lights lend a certain sexiness to the already intimate setting,
warmly illuminating faces, while invoking a nostalgic, bordello kind of feel. African masks,
photos of antique cars, and a lone soccer jersey hang tastefully on the walls. No one pays much attention
to these decorative details, however—they’re interested in more meaningful things like
laughing, dancing and sharing stories, and making everyone feel at home. The generously portioned
Ghanaian beer, “Star,” is perfect for sharing with your new friends, lovers, dance partners and
BEST GAY BAR FOR STRAIGHT GUYS TO
PICK UP CHICKS
225 W. 19th St. (betw. 7th & 8th Aves.)
All teams welcome. When we wanted to take our friend out for a drink,
we opted for g bar. He’s no metrosexual (okay, he’s homely), but we figured g’s frozen cosmos (the
bar’s signature drink) would loosen him up. What we hadn’t counted on were all the fag hags. G bar
is the place where boys who like boys feel safe taking their Real Girl girlfriends. Maybe it’s the
giant glass window that screams, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re cruising.” Maybe it’s the ambient
trance music. Or maybe it’s the unisex bathroom (you have to walk past the urinals to get from point
A to point B).
Soon enough, Pete found himself in conversation with two very comestible
Asian women, who thought he was cool for hanging in a gay bar. Pete didn’t get laid that night, but
he’s been back.
THE BIG APPLE CIRCUS
The greatest one-ring show on Earth. By 1977, the one-ring circus
had been pretty much extinct in North America for 50 years. Paul Binder had just returned from an
extended tour of France with his juggling partner and co-conspirator Michael Christensen, where
they had been seduced by the intimacy and high-art aspirations of the one-ring European circus
tradition. As he tells it, Paul awoke one morning in his ramshackle loft in the Manhattan neighborhood
then known as Washington Market with a clear vision, which he immediately shared with his polydactyl
cat, Ange: “The New York School of Circus Arts presents the Big Apple Circus!” He swears
to this day that the cat smiled.
Paul and Michael hustled up the cash and assembled a team of remarkable
talents, including Philippe Petit, the man who walked a wire between the two towers of the World
Trade Center. They set up their little green tent in the shadow of the towers and changed circus history.
The Big Apple Circus succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and inspired
a rebirth of the one-ring show in the Americas. They did away with the overly chatty mercurial ringmaster
familiar to attendees of the three- and five-ring spectacles of the time, opting instead for a seamless
presentation of acts linked by a common the