BEST JEWISH DATING SCENE
SATURDAY MORNING AT KEHILAT HADAR
Kosher meat market. One of the reasons young, single Jewish New Yorkers
go to synagogue on Friday and sit through an hour and a half of Hebrew prayers, self-righteous sermons
from rabbis and all that Manischewitz is that it’s one of the easiest dating scenes in New York. When
you’re standing with a prayer book in your hands and a shawl wrapped around your shoulders, it somehow
doesn’t sound quite so sketchy to ask, “Haven’t I seen you here before…?”
For those who have mastered the Jewish Dating Scene, there are a number
of old favorites:
B’nai Jeshurun (don’t laugh: abbreviated as “B.J.”) was once considered
the hot Jewish dating scene of the Upper West Side. It’s Uber-Reform and extremely “inclusive”
(aka annoying). But most people who attend B.J. have, well, married each other. Everybody’s a family
now; it’s really not the place for a single Jew looking to score. Then a few years ago, Jews (and quite
a few non-Jews) were going nuts on the internet dating site, J-Date (and they still are, to a large
extent), but like any dating site, more than a few slimeballs can be found in these seemingly innocent
For those looking to meet the lunatics (the ones who try to convince us
to grow our beards and move to Israel), try the Manhattan Jewish Experience, a missionary organization
aimed at making young Jewish professionals more religious. (Don’t laugh—some super hotties
spend their Friday nights there.)
And Makor, of course, the Upper West Side Jewish arts center, has a lovely
bar where one can get one’s Jew on.
But the best Jewish dating scene right now is Kehilat Hadar, which meets
every other Saturday morning in the basement of the Second Presbyterian Church at 4 W. 96th St. at
Central Park West. The service is serious and egalitarian; committed Jews recite their prayers,
sway, dance the Torah around the room. And unlike a lot of the wealthier synagogues, the Hadar people
are expected to bring something to the meal afterward.
There’s something about this communal spirit that gets people really
excited. Those who attend Hadar really get into it—a less-than-full house is rare—and
nearly every week an engagement is announced. Almost every engagement is followed by a statement
like, “Sarah and Shlomo met, right here, in Hadar.”
BEST STREET TO
FIND PEOPLE YOU’D LIKE TO STRANGLE
Preferably while they’re on the cellphone, eating corn. We
don’t know exactly when New York got square. Rudy Giuliani is the most obvious cause. The dotcom
boom that put absurd amounts of money in the hands of 24-year-olds didn’t help. Kids right out of
college, by the laws of nature, are supposed to be flat broke, if only to learn the value of cheap beer,
falafels and using your imagination for fun. That peculiar bubble turned the world upside down
by giving young twerps entrée into the world of swank restaurants, expensive nightclubs
and fancy living that would normally be reserved for the over-40 set.
Used to be, poor but creative kids set the tone. Today the affluent, unhip
and unimaginative have taken over streets that once belonged to the creative class that actually
produced interesting things. On Elizabeth St. alone, you’d see photographer Sandy Skoglund,
theater director Ping Chong, Eric Bogosian, Martin Scorsese, Robert Frank and (an artist of a sort)
Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. The local residents had color and charm; so did the stores that catered
Most of those characters are dead or have moved away. What these storied
streets attract now are shoppers—consumers, not producers—who plod through a place
they’ve been told to visit, without a thought in their heads for anything more than buying shiny
crap at ridiculous prices. It’s a shopping district for day trippers from Connecticut and the Upper
East Side, and residents are forced to wade through the clots waiting to munch on the roasted corn
at Café Havana. (Roasted corn as delicacy is rivaled only by rice pudding as the most asinine
food fad in the area.)
By day, Elizabeth St. is a constant battle against the throngs of slow-walking
shoppers who shuffle like zombies to stare at shoes and ironic furniture. Most mornings, there
is an old, crippled man on the street who takes his daily constitutional with a walker—and
even he manages to get down the street faster than these mesmerized Nolita shoppers. Hipsters?
Hell no. These are Paris Hilton lookalikes, down to the oversize glasses and pink tutus, oblivious
to everything except what beckons them from the store windows. And by night, it’s a year-round spring-break
hangout for drunken “wooooo!” girls and their woofing, wasted boyfriends baying to hump them.
Things change. We understand that. But for a neighborhood to morph from
a vivid classic like Little Italy into what it is today—the execrable Nolita—is heartbreaking.
BEST ANNOYING NEW TREND
Got that? It’s actually a reactionary trend, an answer to the rampant
flakiness of yesteryear. It particularly galls us because we’re people of honor. When we say we’ll
be there, we’ll fucking be there. But now we must confirm, then they must confirm and our phone is
ringing off the hook with reminders and promises about going to the dentist/clinic/lunch the very
Perversely, it’s also a clever way to be unreliable. If you don’t want
to go to dinner with somebody but have accepted, you don’t actually have to show up anymore. When
the offended party calls, demanding an explanation, you can act startled and angry: “Oh, did you
still want to do that? It’s just that you hadn’t confirmed with me.”
When exactly did this pigheaded logic come into common practice?
BEST PLACE TO
THIS DOWNTOWN IRISH PLACE
THAT WE NO LONGER GO TO
Centrally located, but still off the list. To the best of our recollection,
we made it through college without being slipped any variation of Rohypnol. We put in time at fraternities,
in dorms and off-campus houses. (This doesn’t include the time we popped a couple in Tijuana just
for kicks.) So for the past few years we’ve grown lax in regards to our drink-monitoring habits,
except for our regular routine of kindly asking our friends not to roofie us while we’re in the bathroom.
That was more for affect than effect.
This was no truer than in one of our favorite bars, a place we’d avoided
name-dropping extensively and to much editorial struggle for almost two years. So we guess you
could say we were asking for it, when our eyes were opened to the fact that roofies aren’t just for
frat boys anymore. Some months back, we headed to the hallowed haunt for a few after-work drinks—read:
three—that left us instantaneously wasted, quickly on our way home but not before
maybe—or maybe not—swapping spit with an old bald English guy. Ugh.
We were an easy target, having opted for a glass of beer over the bottle.
(Because it’s an Irish joint, we didn’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention by sucking on
a bottle. Oh well.) Our two wingmen, used to our pre-bathroom spiel, had clearly failed us—disarmed
by the accented banter of nearby drinkers. One fly in particular, an English recovering-thug who
clearly channels Trainspotting‘s Begbie for inspiration, was the most friendly. And
therefore, he’s the prime suspect.
Here’s how it happened. We’d made a dent in our second beer before stealing
off to break the seal, and returned to find a premature new beer lined up. When we inquired, we were
told it was our buyback. Sounds reasonable, we thought, so we went back to the drinking. As we sipped
the third—and final —beer of the evening, conversation grew harder to follow, accents
got thicker and words were stumbled over. Then everything went black.
The rest of the evening was filled in by our faithful companions who reported
we became instantly drunk, stopped drinking without even making a dent in the third, and insisted
on going home, unable to even carry on bar chat. Begbie was kind enough to walk us to a cab, where it’s
possible a “wee bit of a kiss” was had. Fortunately, we arrived home solo, but were completely unable
to open either door to our apartment, much to the chagrin of our roommate, who found us starring helplessly
at a set of keys, eyes rapidly darting back and forth, unable to focus.
She let us in, where we promptly passed out on the couch and didn’t move
until the next day. Remembering nothing, we can’t say who did it or why, but we learned our lesson
the hard way. If it happened here it could happen anywhere, so from now on we hold tight to our drinks—now
preferred in bottles—even dragging them to the bathroom when necessary. If we want to get
so fucked up we can’t remember the night before, we’ll do it the old-fashioned way: with Jagermeister.
BEST PLACE TO GET JUMPED BY TEENAGERS
Nowhere left to hide. Tired of the cannibalism of the city? Want some
breathing space, to read and reflect? Just take the A-train to the second-to-last stop up north
and regain your selfhood in the rustic and peaceful grounds of Fort Tryon and the Cloisters. We like
the river sliding beneath it, sparkling in the noonday sun, and the white clouds puffing away like
plumes of tobacco smoke from kind old mother nature’s corn cob pipe.
The day we went, the city had been gnawing on us, trying to suck out our
marrow. We couldn’t redistribute the bitterness that was usually easy to pass on to the next dweller;
things needed to just slow down for one second. That’s all we needed before jumping back into the
boiling vat of iron called Manhattan.
So up we went. The wide-open spaces make us uncomfortable, so we hurriedly
looked for a spot facing the river. Sitting there alone, we began to concentrate a little bit on ourselves
and began to unwind. Until, of course, the bushes seemed to waver and—
And a dozen teenagers emerged, laughing. The city has found us and has
now come to reclaim its own. They spread out in every direction, asked us for the time, laughed some
more. And then all of a sudden a knot of them lauch their wiry little bodies onto us and begin to awkwardly
pound. We’re not hurt badly, just maybe a small knob on top of our head. They ran away laughing as soon
as their scouts down one side of the path indicated that someone was coming.
We’ve learned our lesson. We understand that we can’t ever get away from
the city. Not even a Cloister can provide sanctuary.
BEST LITERARY ADVICE
ENTRANCE AT 72ND ST. & 5TH AVE.
Full-speed ahead. The Beats, who invented the term Automatic Writing,
would have liked Rule No. 6 on the signboard posted on Ron McKechnie’s cart in Central Park. The gentle
McKechnie, who looks like a friar, oversees the miniature sailboat concession at Conservatory
Pond, on the east side of the Park. With the aid of a remote control, children of the bourgeoisie spend
a dreamy hour steering McKechnie’s boats from the pond’s shore.
McKechnie has a sign listing seven rules for sailing. Like all good rules,
they’re sensible and short. (“Do not hit other boats” is number one.) Often, while writing at our
desk these days, we find ourselves calling up rule number six: “When you are going fast you are doing
Like the best rules, besides being sensible and short, this one carries
over to realms of experience outside the bounds of its first application. Rule number six, to our
way of thinking, deserves immortality in the form of a sampler for all blocked writers to gaze on
at intervals. If the verb “to inspire” means “to fill with divine breath,” writers need to run with
the wind when it comes.
BEST PICK-UP BY BUS DRIVER (MTA)
M-14, HEADING WEST ON 14TH ST.
The little bike that could. We were riding our little blue Traveller
bicycle, a Traveller because it folds, not because it would be at all efficient to ride long distances,
on the way home to Hell’s Kitchen after brunch. We love our bike, with its single speed and slow starts
when the light changes to green, especially on Saturday afternoons when our car enemies are diminished
Hardly anyone was out as we headed west on 14th St. But then, “Go, little
bike! You can do it!” While we frequently whisper encouragement to inanimate objects, this time
the call had come from the outside world. We skimmed the sidewalk for laughing teenage boys. Not
Then: “Hey little bike, I’ll race ya!”
The sound was coming from behind as we slowed for the red light at 8th Ave.
Slowly, we turned around, coming face to face with the M-14 bus. Who knew the buses had speakers directed
outward? More importantly, we wondered, could the passengers inside the bus hear this?
Feeling awkwardly aware, we rolled through the red light, heading uptown
on 8th Ave. We made it about two blocks when the bus rolled into view two lanes over. “Hey, you cheated,
little bike,” the driver admonished, waving as we rode on.
BEST PICK-UP BY BUS DRIVER (SCHOOL BUS)
METROPOLITAN & GRAHAM AVES., WILLIAMSBURG
We’re flattered, but… We’re feeling a bit under the weather as
we walk home along Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg, so we nearly lose our shit when the yellow
school bus honk as we cross in front of it on Graham Ave. We have long had a tendency, heightened exponentially
by cold and sinus medicine, to become a ditz at intersections.
We rush the last few feet to the curb, then look back to see the light still
red. Which leaves two options: Either we dropped something across the street or we tucked the bottom
of our skirt into our underwear and the bus driver was drawing our attention to our one-woman show.
We count our plastic bags (1. Ansonia pharmacy, 2. 99-cent store, 3. fruits and vegetables). We
run our hands over our ass—skirt intact. So, what?
Another honk. “What are we doing wrong?” we ask in gesture as the light
changes to green. The bus inches up a bit and then stops. Through the window it looks like the driver
is waving us over. A woman is standing behind him in the aisle. Perhaps they’ve taken a wrong turn
coming home from a school trip?
We head to the driver’s side, hesitating as the cars behind the bus start
“Hey,” we say.
“Can I help you?” we ask.
The driver just looks at us. The woman behind him just stands there.
“Yeah,” he finally says, oblivious to the cars honking behind him. “Gimme
“C’mon, cutie. Gimme your number.”
We slowly turn and walk back to the curb, scratching our head. We realize
that we didn’t notice if there were students in the back of the bus, but with the ambitious driver
honking at us again, we resist the temptation to turn around and check the back seats.
BEST PARK TO
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK
The black tabac market. Before running around downtown, the first
place any good 16-year-old hooligan stopped was Washington Square Park, where shady Rastafarians,
the homeless, skaters and con artists ruled the night. Before the security cameras were installed,
you could score low-grade weed, some weak acid on a good night, even a bag of white powder that actually
came from South America and not just inside a bottle labeled “Johnson & Johnson.”
Then Giuliani and NYU flexed their muscles and cleaned house, making
the park a lot less, um, dark after night. It’s a pretty safe place now, as evidenced by the park’s
current black-market industry: cigarettes. Whereas once we heard, whispered and slurred, “smokeweedpotacidcokemushrooms,”
we now hear “Newports. Newports. Newports.” With countless other spots to buy loosies, just why
kids would buy them here makes no sense. We’re still glad to see Washington Square Park trying its
damnedest to retain a touch of outlaw.
Have it both ways. In the city, fast-food outlets look vaguely lost
and forlorn, a trifle out of place crammed between bodegas and nail salons, overeager like conventioneers
strayed from the Chelsea Piers and wandered unawares into the thick of the Meatpacking District.
The fast-food experience, after all, is hopelessly entwined with the automobile; in the pedestrian
fantasia of the city, burger joints lack the defining accoutrements so familiar from countless
suburbs and road trips: an illuminated sign on a pole, a parking lot, a drive-thru window. Take away
the car, and the appeal is reduced to blunt cheapness and speed.
Two such franchises, the northernmost in Brooklyn, have struck upon
a novel method of avoiding the loneliness. At the corner of Greenpoint and Manhattan Aves., a McDonald’s
and a Burger King cling to each other for dear life, with the oddly shaped BK actually forming an L
around the McD’s, enfolding it on both sides, a forbidden embrace of the Montagues and Capulets
There’s something undeniably poignant about this pair, hunkered down
in one of the last great immigrant enclaves of the near outer boroughs. One would expect these processed-food
giants to observe the laws of brand decency and permit one another a respectful distance. (Certainly
this tends to hold true even in the close quarters of the airport concourse or the mall food court.)
Not so out here, where the butchers and stevedores and travel agents of Little Warsaw go about their
business around the two restaurants, blithely indifferent, neither Lovin’ It nor Havin’ It Their
But cry not, for as the hipster baby boom overspills Williamsburg, McBurgerkingald’s
will be there, doing what they do best: feeding fries to the kids and fostering a comforting sense
of ill ease among people who should know better than to suckle at this teat
5th Ave. at Central Park South
Of course I have a room here. The ones in Starbucks smell awful from
all the coffee squirts. The ones in Barnes & Noble are filled with parents changing diapers.
The ones in department stores are too hard to find, and the ones in the parks are filled with the homeless
washing themselves. If you have to go, why not go at one of the world’s most luxurious hotels?
As an old professor once told us, “As long as it looks like you know what
you’re doing, no one will question your actions.”
That’s great advice, no matter where you are, but it’s especially important
to remember if you’re sneaking into a five-star hotel just to use the crapper. In which case, make
a left after walking past the folks drinking their tea. Then a quick right. Make another left at the
stairs. Then another right, heading down a short flight of stairs. And there they are: The gentlemen’s
room is on the right side and the ladies’, on the left.
Turns out, you actually don’t need to look like you know what you’re doing
at all. You just have to look for the signs that will direct you to the bathrooms. We might even recommend
a pleasant saunter through the hotel. It’s an awfully nice place.
After we finished our business, we let the attendant treat us like we
were guests at the hotel. They turned on the water, squirted a few dollops of scented soap into our
palms and handed us as many paper towels as we wanted. We didn’t worry about turning off the faucet.
That was taken care of for us.
Sure, you don’t have to tip at Barnes & Noble, but we emerged from
the Plaza feeling just short of having showered. That’s worth handing over a couple bucks to a hard-working
BEST YOGIC CONTORTION
Rat-with-wings position. You’re on the ground, one leg stretched
out behind you arrow-straight, top of the thigh, shin and foot pressing into the floor. Your other
leg is out in front, bent at the knee, calf perpendicular to the thigh and back leg, shin against the
floor. Your arms and torso might be draped forward, and perhaps your forehead is pressed against
the floor. Chances are, you’re on a mat, and a dozen or more other people are in the room with you doing
the same thing. Don’t say “ouch.” Say “pigeon.”
We never thought we’d be the yoga type. We’re curmudgeonly and impatient,
especially when it comes to hippies, who’ve spoiled everything from granola to comfy sandals for
the rest of us. In the past, we found yoga frustrating and confusing, and loathed those om-happy,
perfectly toned, high-on-life instructors. A former Go Yoga teacher named Courtney once tried
to force our heels to the floor in downward dog, and we hissed in rebellion, “Hamstrings—won’t—stretch—any—further!”
eliciting muffled cheers from other similarly tortured students.
But after a recent surgery to remove a scary breast tumor meant no running—and
training for the marathon had been taxing our knees, besides—yoga clicked. Habit of Creation
founder Julia Frodahl treated us to a private lesson after our first class, and that hour and a half
cleared up years of confusion. We found ourselves consistently attending her Sunday class at the
Greenspan Center; her clear instruction and uncanny ability to thoroughly challenge students
without incapacitating them won our trust and respect.
Pigeon, step one of a far more advanced contortion called Eka Pada
Rajakapotasana, is common to beginners’ classes; teachers tend to sneak it in after a lot of
sun salutations and downward dogs, when students are panting and sweaty. After a year of practicing
yoga, we can now do a headstand and the superwoman-esque warrior III; we can stay in tree pose about
half the time; and we’re this close to achieving full wheel. Yet it’s humble pigeon that we love best.
“Pigeon is one of those poses in which gravity does much of our work for
us if we let it—that is reason enough to love it. But the pose gives a deep stretch to an area
that is tight for many people, and releases good-mood hormones into the system,” Frodahl explained.
“Besides that, there is much to learn from the name of the yoga pose alone: Pigeons are dirty-feathered
survivors who get a pretty bad rap but still manage to keep their chests puffed up and their hearts
We’re not so sure about relating to actual city pigeons. Besides being
survivors, they also bear disease and regard the world at large as their toilet. But we’ll wring
the living hell out of our hips for those good-mood hormones.
BEST CORPORATE SCAM
THE KINKO’S PENNY PINCH
Pennies from heaven. We’ve never met anyone who didn’t loathe Kinko’s
for their abominable disdain toward customers, but what miffs us the most is their self-service
copiers, which you must obtain a “value card” to use if you want to make 10-cent copies. The catch
is that the copies are in fact an awkward (and secretive) 11 cents, meaning that almost all of their
patrons end up leaving one to 10 cents on the cards, which we figure adds up to a shitload of free money
for Kinko’s all over the U.S.A.
If Eliot Spitzer weren’t so busy with his bad combover, maybe he’d take
a look at this.
BEST CUSTOMS AGENT TO AVOID
WHEN BRINGING DRUGS THROUGH JFK
Speedy delivery. We always promised ourselves we’d never bring
drugs through the airport. We’d seen Midnight Express at an impressionable age, and we’re
familiar with minimum sentencing laws in this country. We’d also rather be poor and sober for the
rest of our lives than be bent over the communal shower drain at Attica for 10 minutes.
But then we tasted Laos-made yaba in Phnom Penh. Pure speed in
a pill. In the words of our Cambodian scooter driver, “Yaba party time! Good for drink beer!
Good for girl!” It was good for everything. One micro-pellet had us zipping along strong for three
to five, with an easy comedown and no toxic aftertaste in the blood. Short of what presidents get
during missile crises, it is some of the cleanest meta-amphetamine mass-produced anywhere in
the world. At two bucks a hit, we giddily bought up 80 pills and started thinking about how to get it
back to New York. It was hard to imagine going back to the Ajax ‘n’ chalk meth that passes for crank
in this town.
Ignoring every screaming instinct in our brain and body, we stuffed
a tight bag of pills inside the toe of a dirty sock, which we wrapped in a t-shirt and bunched at the
bottom of our backpack. Everything in the pack was damp and stank with budget-travel fumes. A customs
agent might take out each item one by one, but pry open and inspect these Socks of Doom? Unthinkable.
When we arrived at the customs gate, we were tired but nervous, already
regretting our gamble. There was one person in front of us, and a lone inspector called him over.
The agent was a heavy-set man of late middle age with thick walrus bristles. The Polish-American
poster uncle of Reagan-Democrats, he looked determined to do his part fighting both the war on drugs
and the war on terror. Since we looked like a cross between a bearded Mohammed Atta and a gutter hippie,
we were very curious to see how JFK’s Lech Walesa handled the business-casual guy in front of us.
If he was put through the ringer, we might as well surrender right now.
We watched in horror as everything in his suitcase was taken out and laid
on the table. Walesa then began going through everything on the table with great care. Not the
socks, not the socks… The socks. The inspector methodically squeezed each pair of socks
up and down.
Our heart started pounding inside a frozen chest. We were nailed.
What’s the law on speed?
Would they think it’s ecstasy?
Is that better?
Sixty pills equals—
Didn’t we hear about some kid who got 10 to 20 for less than this?
Is it too late to go back?
And then Jesus appeared. It turns out Jesus is a lanky black customs agent
at JFK. We shouldn’t have been surprised. He appeared out of nowhere, sat down behind another table
and waved us over with something resembling a smile. We walked over, plopped our pack down and suddenly
felt safe. Saved.
“Where are you coming from?” he asked.
“Vietnam and Cambodia mostly,” we replied, trying to control our breathing.
“Oh, yeah? I did two tours in Vietnam,” he said in a friendly voice.
“No kidding? Wow,” we said. “It’s—it’s probably changed a lot
I bet. Um…”
He opened up our pack and pushed our dirty clothes around a bit. He unzipped
our toiletries bag and shut it when he saw the deodorant and toothbrush.
“Did you buy any medicine or anything like that over there?” he asked.
“Nope. No, nothing like that. Just a t-shirt and some film.” We began
to dig into the bag, to prove there was some film in there.
But he didn’t care. He just told us to have a nice day and waved the next
person over. Home free. As we walked toward the exit, we glanced over our shoulder at the other inspection
table. The well-dressed man was still being thoroughly inspected by Lech.
Outside, the November sun was shining. We started laughing out loud
as we stepped into the cab. We smiled all the way to Midtown, promising ourselves to never, ever do
that again. We probably won’t, either, but that one time was worth it. We got to meet Jesus and lived
to talk about it.
As for the yaba, those wonderful pills were gone in a week, our
gift to the world.
BEST WAY TO GENERATE NEW REVENUE
LEGALIZE THE VICES
Amsterdam on the Hudson. The city is facing multi-billion-dollar
deficits, and the best ideas our billionaire mayor can come up with to make up the shortfall consist
of doubling the cost of parking tickets, closing essential firehouses and stiffing the cops and
firefighters on their salaries. We have a better idea, one based on sound free-market principles
of supply and demand.
The city should create zones in which Amsterdam-style rules apply to
the sex trade and cannabis. East of Broadway, between 14th St. and Houston, for instance, would
be a perfect venue for the “coffeehouses”; the area just south of the Javits would be extremely convenient
to conventioneers for the prostitution market. Licensing, taxing and generally regulating these
two indomitable local industries would spark a new wave of tourism and generate a huge flow of revenue
for the city, not to mention gainful employment for many residents lacking the skills necessary
for other trades.
Should the hyper-vigilant moralists of the NIMBY crowd begin nattering
about the danger to “the children,” we could refute them by pointing out that “the children”
in this town are responsible for the bulk of the violent crime. Or, we can simply move both operations
to Governor’s Island—and throw some casinos in, to boot. No one under 21 gets on the island.
If a city as glorious and welcoming as Las Vegas can sprout and bloom in
the godforsaken desert of southern Nevada based on indulging the public’s appetite for forbidden
pleasures, we too can pull ourselves up from the economic quagmire in which we are trapped by upping
the ante and grabbing the pot. So to speak.
BEST RUN-IN WITH AN EX
“Oh my god, what are the chances?”
“Yeah, wow. New York really is a small place.”
“You can say that again.”
“So, you look really good.”
“Well, yeah, I’ve actually started to take care of myself and not let
others make me feel like a worthless pile of crap.”
“Uh, yeah. That’s…great.”
“Oh, you know, it’s just what I’ve learned, you know, that no one really
will be there for you, and people will always let you down and just leave when you really need them,
like when your dog just dies or maybe when you’re diagnosed with cancer.”
“But how are you?”
“You weren’t diagnosed with cancer when we broke up.”
“And I didn’t have a dog. But I could have had one; that’s the point. You
just didn’t ever really care about me. You just used me and had fabulous sex and talked late into the
night and shared so many dreams for our future. You just abandoned me. Oh, is that your new friend
over there? Of course: blonde. You are so obvious.”
“Hey, you were the one that wanted space in the first place.”
“But I didn’t want to break up, I just wanted some time to think.”
“Well, it gave me time to think, too, and I realized that I needed to get
out. I’m really sorry.”
“But I loved you. I still love you. I want you back, I need you.”
“Did you follow me tonight?”
“You followed me from my apartment?”
“No, no, of course not. That’d be a little weird, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh come on, I know you did, you would never come to a place like this.”
“Maybe I would. You don’t know me.”
“Okay fine, I didn’t. Well, actually, I was in your closet watching you
get dressed earlier. You know I still have the key, so I just sometimes let myself in and walk around
and sniff things. And if you come home and surprise me, like you did tonight, I sit in the closet, you
know, the one where we had that amazing sex that one time. You remember that, uh?”
“Um, I was just kidding. Hey, where are you going? I love you…”
BEST NAME FOR A
Where yuppies dare. When did West Chelsea die on the vine? Was it when
New York magazine dubbed it “the” neighborhood, thereby ruining it, as so many times before
(“If You Like Europe, You’ll Love the Village”; “The Yupper West Side”). It’s hard to believe, sampling
$13 raspberry martinis on 10th Ave., but this was once a gritty manufacturing area. (The High Line
delivered raw materials and picked up finished goods before it became an urban theme park.)
Not so long ago, you could rub bellies while avoiding rats at Zone DK,
a cavernous gay sex club. Serious leathermen would cruise the West Side Highway along 21st and 22nd
Sts., straddled by the Eagle and Spike—or “the Spiegel,” as it was known. Both bars have been
demolished, but you can still own a piece of the Eagle—the old Eagle Warehouse, to be exact,
just around the corner from the original leather bar (not to be confused with its latest incarnation
a few blocks to the north). It’ll cost you, though: Prices start at around $600 per foot.
BEST BLOCK TO
Let Vonnegut chronicle the ruins. There’s something about a groundswell
gone to shit. Take the Lower East Side’s Clinton St. Until five years ago, the block’s culinary options
ranged from rice to beans, with side offerings of meats of the fried and stewed sort. Restaurants
were quaint, cozy and in tune with the largely Hispanic populace. Then a little eatery called 71
Clinton Fresh Food set up shop, attracting high-rollers to the low-rent ‘hood.
Quickly, Clinton St.’s flavor morphed from home-cooked carbohydrates
to goat-cheese terrines and skate with a butter emulsion. Where bodegas once outnumbered restaurant
critics 10 to one, entrepreneurs snapped up leases for a pittance, setting the stage for a cuisine
invasion. Tapas at 1492. Sushi at Cube 63. Esoteric American at WD-50. And, just like that, bye-bye
Today on Clinton St., rice and beans are rarities. Mouth-searing Thai,
fresh-baked organic bread and figs stuffed with prosciutto and mint are not. A fine selection for
the foodie, but sadly out-of-whack with longtime locals. A market correction is in order. We recommend
In WWII, Allied planes firebombed Dresden, Germany, into a smoldering
ruin. It bore a not dissimilar appearance to the Lower East of recent vintage. Hence, we recommend
a new diet on Clinton St.: Molotov Cocktails. Several of these flame jobs will send property values
scurrying back to normal and, hopefully, the gourmands and their truffles back uptown.
BEST REASON TO JUMP
BEST BLOCK TO FIND
A BODY IN A SUITCASE
EAST 13TH ST.
Where’s that real rain? There are several noteworthy tidbits about
the bodega-strewn stretch of 2nd and 3rd Aves., smack on E. 13th St. First, Taxi Driver was
shot amid the bygone cocksuckers and junkies. Second, it was once site of a building collapse. Third,
its empty lot is, evidently, a great resting place for a trunk containing a rapidly decomposing
The lot in question—filled with rubbish and fast-food wrappers—was
formerly the site of the ornate Jefferson Theater that, like much of 70s and 80s East Village, spiraled
into disrepair and a refuge for drug addiction. In 1999, the building was demolished, but the area’s
evils were not so easily razed. The rubble-strewn lot quickly became a refuse epicenter. Local
citizenry tried cleaning up the lot. However, the lost cause degenerated until early June when
a homeless man, rooting around an abandoned trunk, found neither trash nor treasure, but something
far more horrific.
We certainly mourn the loss of this woman’s life. We’re far from fans
of murder, though we have favored a capital punishment or four. However, the trunk serves several
reminders. First, the East Village’s edges are far from Chelsea Boy smooth. Second, the reports
about a paucity of open space are far exaggerated. Third, we’ll never leave our luggage unattended
BEST SUBWAY LINE
Eat deez nuts John Rocker. Remember that hot-as-shit relief pitcher
for the Atlanta Braves? You know, the one who didn’t play professional baseball this season? Seems
that after increasingly diminishing returns and so-so seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Texas
Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Rocker quit. He’s, um, promising a return in 2005.
Rocker, you’ll remember, caused an outrage in a 1999 Sports Illustrated
article when he disparaged 7-train riders, Mets manager Bobby Valentine and the city of New York,
saying he’d retire before playing for either team. Of course, the shit hit the fan and we all know
what happened—the flying batteries and the shouted insults, first at Shea and then in the
Bronx. But it brought the 7 train into the spotlight as the one subway train people west of the Hudson
might be able to identify.
Relief pitchers aside, the 7 train shares the problems of all subway
lines in the city. The MTA recently replaced all the old red cars with silver cars, facilities could
be upgraded and the Roosevelt Ave. Station looks more like a permanent construction site than a
But there are plenty of things to celebrate about the train. Service
is frequent enough. The cars are usually air-conditioned in the summer. The freaks are usually
pretty entertaining. You can buy batteries, cheap kiddie toys and wallet chains at deeply discounted
prices. There are plenty of attractive people of both sexes to ogle from behind your reading material.
And with a bus connection or two, the 7 can get you just about anywhere you want in Queens, from industrial
LIC to Flushing. Since it’s elevated, you can talk on your cellphone, catch great views of Manhattan
and avoid those unbearably hot subway stations.
A lot of the time, talking about New York as a melting pot degenerates
into silly, sentimental platitudes about something that doesn’t really exist. However, the 7
train, cutting through some of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods on Earth, is one of the
better examples of how very different people can live in close proximity and not kill each other.
People out in Queens don’t forget. As recently as this summer, a 7-train
straphanger was sporting a faded “Rocker Sucks” shirt, a remnant from that summer when the train
and its riders went up against a bigoted loudmouth—and had fun doing it.
The 7 train trundles on day after day, long after its detractors have
faded into ignominy and early retirement.
BEST TRAGICALLY COMIC CASE OF
And so began another shitty year… New Year’s Eve for us always
comes and goes like a riot, dragging a wrecking ball through our highly strung relationships, pilfering
our last scraps of sanity like rare Byzantine statuettes from the Iraqi National Museum.
As usual, this year’s festivities left us reeling, clutching the pole
as our train rocked and rolled, wondering if it was indeed as far back as the second grade that we’d
gone so horribly wrong. Knee-deep in a barrel of cheer, we felt a jolt and looked down.
It seemed only natural that our wallet should be gone.
And there you were, standing right beside us, your shaky hands hovering
suspiciously. You smelled like Jagermeister, and we were pissed, not about to let you out of our
So we followed you—walked right up and got in your face. We shook
our head in disbelief as you offered sputtering, evasive answers. We eventually stopped yelling,
but only because you’d backed your way onto the express train and sped off into the underground distance.
We canceled all our credit cards right away.
The next morning, of course, in the sober light of day, we found our bright
red wallet sitting on the kitchen table.
Sorry about that.
BEST STOOP TO
BREAK UP ON
PERRY ST. BETW. W. 4TH & BLEECKER STS.
Where Harry dumps Sally. As soon as one person utters those terrible
four words, “we need to talk,” there’s the immediate and pressing need to figure out where to meet.
“Come over here” is a bad idea; “go over there” is even worse, and though you’ll consider doing it
via email or SMS, “we need to talk” is absolutely, undeniably an in-person event.
For such occasions, the bottom of the stoop is our tried-and-true confessional.
The ideal spot is situated on a street where pedestrian traffic is sparse, but is within eyesight
of a well-traveled sidewalk (distraction for when the tears start). Ideally, a large avenue is
within sprinting distance, to aid in quick-escape taxi-flagging, as is a nearby bakery or well-stocked
bodega for chocolate and brown-bag bottles of cheap beer.
Our favorite break-up spot is Perry St. between W. 4th and Bleecker streets,
where more than 10 stoops mean no waiting, even during the busy, end-of-the-summer break-up season.
West 4th is littered with meandering dog walkers, babies in strollers and buff tanned men in tight
shirts. Where Perry intersects, you’ll find two cafes, Osteria del Sol and Sant Ambroeus where
you can sit and write long anguished journal entries over a glass of wine and some comfort foods.
Another block and a half away is the legendary Magnolia Bakery, where sweets await, and the Blind
Tiger Ale House on Hudson St. is just a few minutes further. Bring a few cupcakes to the bar, work your
way through the 24 taps of beer and no one will protest your growls of heart-wrenching pain.
And while it’s not a very New York way of dealing with break-up, we won’t
think less of you if you head over to 7th Ave. and catch a cab or subway home to the comfort of your pillow.
We’ve all been there at least once. If not 20 times.
BEST HOMELESS SERVICES
New York is the only state with mandatory shelter laws. There are more than
50,000 homeless people in New York City. Each night, an average 40,000 people cram the city’s shelter
facilities; most are families living in temporary shelters, with maybe 10,000 single adults.
Grand Central Neighborhood, which runs Manhattan’s largest drop-in
center, recently asked its clients for their thoughts on the city’s homeless services. Forty-two
people offered responses ranging from the normal or expected (as summarized below) to the kind
of responses one might expect from the angry and jaded. Best Shelter? Fuck a shelter. Best
Holiday Meal? Ain’t no fuckin’ holiday 4 a homeless nigga.
Best Public Assistance Office
Job Center, 14th St.
Best Public Bathroom
Grand Central Terminal (Tie for second-place: Port Authority and McDonald’s)
Best Foodline/Soup Kitchen
Holy Apostles, 28th St. & 9th Ave.
Best Holiday Meal
Best Place to Sleep
The chairs at St. Agnes
Best Free/Cheap Internet Access
Best Free/Cheap Health Care
Best Free/Cheap Dentist
NYU School of Dentistry
Best Place to Spend New Year’s Eve
Best Resource for the Homeless
Coalition for the Homeless
Best Way to Pass Time
Walking around. (Other responses: Meeting people in the same boat, Slow Death, sleeping, reading
newspapers, studying, sports, hiking, watching a movie, traveling upstate.)Sleep? Probably
Toby Van Buren is a soon-to-be 65-year-old formerly homeless client
of Grand Central Neighborhood, now employed there as a part-time typist and data-entry clerk.
He’s written numerous articles for their streetpaper, BIGnews.
Best Shelter, Best Drop-in Center I can answer that, but
I’d better start off by stating I detest them. I was a street person all the way, from the beginning
to the end, for five years. Though I always chose the street over being cooped up indoors, based