440 Amsterdam Ave. (81st
Pajamas. Pet toys, for the most part, can be an incredibly expensive and useless
waste of time. Most pet toys, it seems, are designed more to amuse pet owners
rather than their pets. Unless you happen to own an incredibly stupid and gullible
pet. Most cats and dogs, we’ve found, just stare blankly at any official
“pet toy” for a few moments–no matter how cute or fuzzy or alluring
it is–before returning to the piece of furniture they were shredding or
pissing on. If you do happen to own a gullible pet, however, Pet Bowl is worth
the trip to the Upper West Side.
to miss Pet Bowl–the big, bright letters bouncing around the outside of
the building, the mountains of carpeted cat and dog furniture (as uninteresting
to most pets as the toys are, we’ve found) set up on the sidewalk. Inside,
the huge picture windows keep the place bright; the floors are clean, the selection
As the name
implies, they offer plenty of bowls stacked along the back wall, and beds, too.
Things for animals to climb on and hide in. Food of every variety. ID tags shaped
like mice, and fire hydrants and bowties and police badges and bones. It’s
really quite a mind-boggling collection.
The thing that
caught our eye was the enormous toy selection. It’s like an FAO Schwarz
for our beastly friends.
the “Cat Entertainment Center,” full of moving parts and uselessly
bright colors. Or maybe the “Cat Track”–a plastic ball locked
into a circular plastic track; idea being, we guess, that the cat would spend
hours knocking the ball around and around, wearing itself to such a frazzle
that it wouldn’t choose to start running laps at 3 a.m. Unfortunately,
the tag line on the outside of the package reads, “Drive your cat crazy
with this toy!” It’s a nice sentiment, but we don’t need to push
them any further.
Over in the
dog toy section, we found the particularly delightful “Gumadisc,”
as they call it, and what it is, again according to the package, is a “Naturally
flavor-enhanced” flexible flying disc for dogs.
In other words,
a meat-flavored rubber Frisbee.
just from a first quick glance around. The selection is endless. And while these
things don’t come cheap, they’re about as cheap at Pet Bowl as they
are anyplace else in town. And even if these things hold no interest for your
pet, they should at least amuse you for awhile. Worked for us.
468 Broome St. (Greene St.)
Up the Homestead. This is actually a clothing store with lovely women’s
dresses and sweaters; very colorful and French-looking. However, don’t
miss the new and antique Venetian-blown glass vases. Great prices and beautiful
merchandise; the owner has a collection that she pairs esthetically with the
clothing line to make the shop cohesive. If you ask, they’ll show pieces
not on display.
Video Store Manager
Dave Nighbert at Tower Video
1961 Broadway (66th St.)
Star. If you’re having trouble finding a title amidst Tower’s video
selection, find Dave Nighbert, who’s on duty until about 6 p.m. He’ll
tell you why the movie isn’t available, and what other establishment besides
his own might procure you a copy. And, as if that weren’t enough, he’ll
cross-reference three other movies that are better than the one you wanted to
a true professional who actually cares what his store looks like, and about
whether it serves his customers’ needs. Plus, he writes science fiction
and detective novels on the side, speaks with a gentle Tennessee drawl and can
name every movie Robert Mitchum ever made. A true gentleman in a profession
defined by mean, stupid teenagers.
Post-Literate Smut. For
all its scuzzy, chaotic, manipulative, credit-card-hustling ethos, online porn
is actually pretty conventionally organized and predictable. Surf around for
an hour or so and you’ll learn all the tricks and recurrent conceits: the
pop-up consoles, the redirects to other sites when you try to close windows
or click “back” on your browser. And the bevy of tempting thumbnails,
which have inspired quasi-portal sites dedicated to keeping track of where you
can find the best smut, gratis.
core problem with online porn is the core problem with analog porn: a disregard
for esthetics. Or, more accurately, an excessive regard for kitschy, overdone
scenarios, silicone maidens, dudes with love scepters like railroad spikes,
chicks with talonish French manicures and sets crammed with distracting junk.
Asian “action” porn (usually of the straight variety) offers a counterpoint–25
views of the same fuck, on a white-sheeted futon in a white-walled room–but
for the true freebie connoisseur who disdains visual distraction, the elegant
Hogtied site provides yet another alternative. Admittedly, you’ve got to
have a thing for slightly hardcore BDSM. But only slightly. This isn’t
gruesome black-and-white dungeon/
slave-girl/testicle-tormenting/whip-scarred BDSM, but an altogether more austere
variation. No brick-walled subbasements, no excessive devotion to fetish gear,
no omnipresent nightmarish gloom. No unholy contraptions. Instead, a cast of
about half a dozen regulars who rotate every couple of weeks through the generous
homepage samples. Everything takes place in what appears to be a studio apartment
somewhere in a major American city. The free stuff involves far more women than
men (if you want a lot of bound boys, you have to pay). The elements are Zenlike
in their simplicity: flesh, chains, floor (though lingerie and the inevitable
high heels are often present, as well). The contortions are alluringly framed,
mannerist. The bodies are pleasant. Overt expressions of pain are limited, we
suspect because everyone is professionally clued-in to the artifice. All appears
cordial and collaborative. As body art online goes, this site gives away what
we’ve come to appreciate as some of the most compelling.
Which is not
to say that it isn’t raunchy as hell, at a base level: pussy ropes and
nipple clamps and dripping wax and ball gags and riding crops abound. But it
just goes to show you that filth can remain filth–threatening, disturbing
filth–and still maintain an esthetic integrity. And really, we want both.
Electronics Service Department
Sony Service Center
550 Madison Ave. (55th St.)
not so hot on Sony as an electronics manufacturer just now, but we have to say
we’re impressed with their service. Got a fancy new surround-sound DVD-playing
home entertainment system as a gift recently. It included a Sony receiver (model
STR-DE835, if you’re in the market). We spent a weekend hooking everything
up, toying with the room placement of the half-dozen little speakers and subwoofer
for max home theater sound quality, watched ourselves a DVD or two. Liked it
fine, went to work the next day as usual.
two weeks, we come home from work one night and find the system mysteriously
dead; the receiver will only keep flashing us a message: “PROTECTOR.”
Sony fuck-up #1: Need we note that the word PROTECTOR appears nowhere in the
owner’s manual? We read it twice. But it does list the 800 number, which
we call, and find out that the receiver’s surge protector has inexplicably
been activated. Why? She doesn’t know. Sony fuck-up #2: There’s no
way the owner can switch it back. All you can do is unplug the box, wait a couple
hours for it maybe to reset itself, plug it back in and see. We do this a few
times. Doesn’t work. Nice person on the 800 line tells us there’s
nothing we can do but box it up and haul it to the nearest service center. All
right. That Saturday we unhook the rat’s nest of wires we’d just spent
a whole weekend hooking up, box the thing, haul it downstairs, get a cab uptown
to the Sony Service Center. It’s at Madison and 55th, in the Sony tower
there, which looks very much like the faceless black granite Japanese corporate
office monolith in Die Hard. We square our shoulders and steel our nerves,
determined not to be outfaced by some humorless corporate drone who’s going
to try to convince us that it is somehow our fault that the two-week-old
machine doesn’t work. You know the routine.
our shoes if the middle-aged guy behind the Sony Service Center counter doesn’t
turn out to be an extremely polite, soothing, nonthreatening, downright therapeutic
character. Before we can hardly get a word out, he says, “Let me guess–it
went into permanent PROTECTOR mode.” Seems he’s been seeing it a lot,
some internal engineering flaw in this new DE835 model. He whisks the box away,
prints out a receipt, lets us know we’ll get it UPSed back at no cost within
10 working days, smiles and wishes us a nice weekend. We…smile back and wish
him the same. And many, many happy returns to you, sir.
426 Amsterdam Ave. (betw.
80th & 81st Sts.)
Not Abused. There’s a subtle change going on among the used CD stores of
NYC. The inventory is slowly becoming more generic at all the stores cluttered
together in the East Village. You’ll find that it’s increasingly hard
to find those weird little obscurities, as the different shops hold out for
whatever current chart hits are brought in by disappointed consumers. The good
news is that this means the interesting CDs are being shuffled off to the $1
racks. The bad news is that the $1 racks aren’t being replenished. You
used to walk past a used CD store and wonder what’s inside. Now you wonder
what they’re refusing to buy from the desperate poor music fans with great
Those who do
lean toward obscurity tend to up the price and have a lousy attitude about it.
We recently had a real nightmare experience over at Norman’s Sound and
Vision. We brought in some really cool CDs for trade after seeing some albums
Norm had in stock. Norm gave us his usual doing-us-a-favor attitude, but at
least he appreciated the obscurity. But when we went to the register with the
expensive albums we picked up in trade, he made a comment about how we were
grabbing all the rare stuff. Yeah, as opposed to all the crappy ultra-rare
Japanese imports we had just handed over to the guy?
NYCD is a great
store at an obscure location. They’ve got an incredible selection of imports,
a wide selection of “imports,” and both the used and new CD racks
in NYCD are also full of all kinds of interesting curios. NYCD actually takes
chances at what sells in exchange for ensuring that the racks are actually interesting
to all kinds of consumers.
The only store
that comes close to a similar stock is the grossly overpriced Smash Compact
Discs on St. Marks. Which reminds us of another nice feature of NYCD. The Internet,
to be honest, can now undercut the store on the cost of a lot of the imports.
But you’ll actually enjoy dealing with the people at NYCD. They’re
an exceptionally helpful and nice bunch of music fans who somehow resist the
urge to spend all day pontificating loudly about music.
NYCD takes the unique measure of making sure that there’re always a few
great finds in the cheap bins. They routinely take a few of those $30 imports
that don’t sell, and slash them down to $5 or $2. Every weekend, they put
boxes of the cheap stuff out on a card table in front of the store. That spindly
display stands alone as one of the most interesting record stores in town. Not
that the sidewalk traffic on Amsterdam notices, but now you might.
98 Prince St. (betw. Mercer
& Greene Sts.)
What is aromatherapy anyway? Who’s to say it works? It’s pretty damn
subjective when what smells great to one person can induce nausea in the next.
has some good points. Nice-smelling things are pleasant, and research has shown
scents to be the deepest memory triggers. Incense definitely helps set an atmosphere
in a space and a woman’s perfume is as much a mark of her as her kiss.
But aromatherapy, taken to the mass-market level, can often smack of hucksterism–everyone’s
bought at least one “scented candle” that smells like…wax.
If it really
works, 5S has it down to a science. Combining aromatherapy with color therapy
(what’s with the “therapy” tag anyway? Are we all so fucked up?),
5S sells 10 “approaches” to better health through colored potions.
There’s a “mind approach” and a “body approach.” The
“mind approach” solution is all about the scent of the product, like
chamomile in “Rebirth.” It’s pretty and pink and supposed to
make you feel fresh and innocent. The “body” approaches actually have
ingredients that are supposed to do something, like peony in the “Mattify”
formula. If you ask us, it’s the supporting materials that are doing most
of the work: vibrant, mouth-open models cavorting about in electric blue sarongs
hawking “Empowering,” or meditative-looking models in pink and lavender
standing in a field of lilacs pushing “Quiet.”
look for oils. 5S takes the once-hippieish pastime of making self-love with
scented oils and cleans it up for Prince St. All 5S solutions, right down to
the talcum powder, have a clean and silky tactile quality that takes aromatherapy
out of a parking lot bazaar at a Dead show and straight into the 21st century.
Not Rocket Science. But it is physical science. And that’s what Lowell
Boyers–who trains clients according to the “super-slow” technique
in his Chelsea loft–knows. Move the muscle in the full range of motion.
Do it real slow so you work harder, so you don’t get the added help of
the momentum bounce (you all do it, that little jerk when you start to bring
the weight up. That’s not your muscle, that’s Isaac Newton). You get
rid of the bounce by going slowly. That’s the way to increase muscle mass.
And more muscle mass means, in addition to more strength, higher metabolism.
Higher metabolism means more energy (duh, calories) expended.
want scrawny supermodels, he wants strong, lean clients. Work those muscles
to fatigue, that’s when they gain strength. The beauty is that you do that
and you’re done for the day. No three sets of 15, no do it 30 times and
move on. Work to momentary fatigue, anywhere from six-12 repetitions (hell,
it can be four on a bad day) and you’ve applied the science.
have to spend an hour going nowhere on an exercise bike. In fact, if you do,
you’re expending muscle, not fat. You may get skinny but you’ll never
get tough. Do what Boyers say, eat well, take a walk and be strong. Why do you
think we’re the ones changing the watercooler bottles at work?
Haircut (West Village)
323 W. 11th St. (betw. Greenwich
& Washington Sts.)
the Boys Are. They certainly make it friendly for you here. We hit the door
of this luxuriously appointed establishment–a series of little warrens
and baroque nooks strung along backwards into the storefront’s bowels,
full of secret spaces and heavy with crimson touches–and it’s like
we’re a Gambino walking into Rao’s: we’re pressing flesh, getting
offered coffee and seltzer, all the way back to the washroom. Then a shampoo
and a soothing scalp massage, during which oils evocative of Oriental handjobs
get worked into our skulls–we’re told they strip away the shampoo
residue, these jojobas and essential reductions–and within a minute of
settling in for the cut itself we’re lulled into a salon-coma, drowsily
monitoring the progress of our stylist, who’ll strike you as that rarest
of humans if, like us, you’ve spent the last 10 years getting your head
butchered by Armenians in septic Upper West Side barber-holes or by Jean-Louis
David ninnies: he’s someone who actually knows what he’s about. Our
man moves with the efficient movements of a master sculptor working clay; he
wields razors and other instruments of great incisive elegance. Call us rubes,
but the Red Salon’s probably the first place in which we’ve actually
trusted our cutter to do right by us in almost three decades’ worth of
a half hour’s worth of his craftsman’s diligence–we tend to nod
off–there’s the usual application of pomades, modeling clays, elixirs.
Then a handshake, the deployment of about $80, tips included; and finally we’re
out the door, blinking in the west side light.
Sure, we at
first resemble something from a Belle & Sebastian concert. Why not? We’ve
just received a high-end chop-job from a West Village tonsor. And certainly
we’ve got to muss our head thoroughly as soon as we’re out of the
sight of the storefront–just to rub the queerness out of it. But the cut’s
deep structure is all integrity: underneath all the sticky crap, we’ve
got a haircut that’s an expression of loving skill, one that’ll grow
in gracefully and that’ll look the way we’ll want it to without our
having to fuck around with it all morning, and that–and this is perhaps
the finest compliment we could pay a haircutter’s subtlety and skill–no
one will even know we got.
To Be a Shut-In
Home Theater. We hate
leaving our apartment, pretty much for any reason. We don’t care for crowds,
we don’t enjoy shopping and we hate feeling pressured to make decisions.
We love renting movies, buying books, playing video games and listening to music.
Thanks to Kozmo.com, we never have to leave our apartment to do any of these
the home delivery service for new releases and favorite titles on both VHS and
DVD, to buy or rent (nothing too exotic, but their customer service department
is working on that). It’s like a Blockbuster that delivers. Plus
the latest CDs, magazines and books, first-rate video games and, best of all
for agoraphobes, snacks. Just log on, browse their menus, click what you want,
type in your address and credit card number (it’s a secure site, for those
who worry) and in less than one hour it’ll be at your Manhattan door. (They
also inform us they hope to expand to the boroughs.) As George Tabb says, it’s
quicker than Chinese food.
we were able to rent Rushmore the week it came out on video and keep
it for two nights for $4–our local video store charges $4.50 for one
night. We ordered the Lauryn Hill CD for about the same price we’d have
paid at Tower, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey for $3.25.
Delivery was free, and on the hottest day in July got to our apartment before
the ice cream had a chance to soften–46 minutes from laptop to door. They
have drop-off boxes all over the city, but for an extra dollar they’ll
pick up the tapes or DVDs from you or your doorman.
We use Kozmo
every weekend. They even have porn, which, as a woman, we have to tell you is
a lot easier to rent when you don’t have to stand at the video store shelves
with a bunch of strangers perusing your choices. Let the tourists have the city–you
may never leave your apartment again.
to Buy a Ukulele
30th Street Guitars
236 W. 30th St. (betw. 7th
& 8th Aves.)
ta Me? 30th Street Guitars is a cavernous, surprisingly quiet place, its walls
covered with not only guitars aplenty–every make and model you could hope
for and dream about–but strange, tiny electric stringed instruments as
well. Things we couldn’t recognize, but which sure did look cool. It was
our girlfriend’s birthday, and she’d been wanting a ukulele, so we
figured this was as good a place as any to start looking. We’d
only been in the store a minute, gaping at all the instruments in wonderment,
when what appeared to be a big, longhaired biker-type approached and asked–very
politely–if we needed any help. “Tell
you what we’re looking for,” we said with some hesitation, not exactly
sure what to expect. “What’s
that?” he asked. “We’re
looking for a…ukulele.” He
paused, a smirk working across his face, and then said, “Yeah, I think
we have one.” He
turned and headed up a flight of carpeted stairs, and we followed, still not
sure what we were getting ourselves into. Upstairs
was still another showroom, with still more guitars. Our biker friend headed
to the back, behind a counter, and pulled the one uke they carried off the wall.
He plucked at the strings, then handed it over. “Here
it is,” he said, “though I’m not really sure how to tune it.”
“That’s okay,” we told him. “This is your only one?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
We asked how
much, and the price he quoted was actually much less than what we’d been
expecting, after checking out various prices on the Internet earlier in the
“We’ll take it, then,”
we told him, and he seemed happy. He
headed back downstairs, and we followed, carrying the ukulele gently. On the
way to the front counter, another salesman stopped in front of us, looked at
what we were carrying and smiled broadly.
“Hey, hey!” he exclaimed,
“Look at what you got!” We
had been hoping to avoid any scenes like this, and felt the blood rush to our
“It’s…it’s not for us,” we stammered. “It’s
for our girlfriend.”
“Right, right,” he said,
still grinning. “It’s for your girlfriend.”
This wasn’t going well
“Don’t worry,” he continued,
“I think ukuleles are great.”
“Yes, fine,” we said, stepping
around him and continuing to the counter, where we plunked the instrument down
and pulled out our wallet. We just wanted to get it over with. As the biker
was ringing things up, our new friend appeared in front of us again.
“You know,” he said, “I’m
thinking of starting a support group for people who are ashamed to admit that
they’re buying a ukulele for themselves.”
“Yeah? Very good. This is for
“Yeah, for your girlfriend.”
He laughed, but in such a good-natured way that we didn’t feel so bad about
it anymore. We paid, grabbed our purchase and headed for the door, not much
looking forward to the prospect of walking the streets of Manhattan, carrying
Place to Get Work Done on Your Horn
146 W. 46th St. (betw. 6th
& 7th Aves.)
Blow Jobs. Why bother with recently Sam Ash-ified Manny’s when cheaper,
friendlier Roberto’s is just two blocks away? We’ve (literally) bumped
into James Carter in this tiny second-floor shop and we hear that Sonny Rollins
and Michael Brecker are customers, too.
Romeo specializes in saxes, clarinets and flutes and has a good selection of
used horns. This summer he even had a bass sax. You’ll find all the reeds
(cane and plastic), mouthpieces and assorted musical paraphernalia you need
here plus, of course, the fairest prices in the city for repairs.
Bell Atlantic’s DSL Service
Mouse, Faster. With Digital Subscriber Line, New York City finally has an affordable
high-speed Internet service, catching up to Southern Florida, northeastern New
Jersey and other vanguards of the nation’s high-tech market. For 50 bucks
a month, you get a perfect network connection that is always on, at speeds more
than 12 times faster than a 56K modem. Comparable to cable access, DSL is a
service installed on an existing telephone line that makes ingenious use of
all of the phone’s many bundled wires, carrying multiple digital signals
at the same time, both “downstream” (into your phone/
computer/fax/etc.) and up- (the other way). This means that you can do lots
of things–like use the computer’s modem and talk on the phone or send
a fax–at the same time, without any disruption or drop in the rate of data
transfer (as people with ISDN, cable modems or even crowded T1 lines have to
deal with). It’s a digital line that’s dedicated to your home, so
the speed never decreases. Just think of the possibilities: Now you can look
at 10 times more pornography on the Web while having phone sex or sending a
fax of your butt–and only pay twice as much as AOL!
to Get 5-Pound Bags of Pistachio Nuts
Kalustyan’s Orient Export Trading
123 Lexington Ave. (betw.
28th & 29th Sts.)
Nutser. Kalustyan is one of the several Indo-Pak groceries on this “Curry
Row” stretch of lower Lexington. You can get pistachios in red or plain,
and the salt content varies, but the main thing is that the packs are far greater
in nut-numbers than you ever thought plausible (except maybe when you were little).
There are other mouth-exotica also available in these groceries, and a few minutes’
tour will begin to give you some sense of the architecture of the Indo-Pak food
you can order in the neighborhood restaurants.
of Imported Waters
Dean & DeLuca
Decadent Category. Down with the hepatitis–that was us last year around
Labor Day. Jaundiced. Nauseated. Sick as a dog. Achy and appetiteless. Vomiting
bile. Pissing real yellow. We won’t even tell you about the semen. (Does
the descriptor “butterscotch pudding” quash your interest?) But it
was merely hep A, so our embattled liver eventually made a full and relatively
swift recovery and we were able to stop wearing sunglasses day and night (to
hide our viral condition).
was to be no booze of any sort during the months of recuperation. So we abandoned
our habit of two glasses of wine per day and ascended to a higher elemental
plane of beverage connoisseurship. We became water snobs. And as this is Manhattan
in the flush late 90s, we had no trouble at all setting out on our imbiber’s
odyssey. Ground zero was Dean & DeLuca, where in the coolers just to the
right of the fish counter they stock enough imported H2O to keep even the most
persnickety aquaphile preoccupied for a month or so. Grotesquely overexposed
(and overrated) Evian is here in abundance, but so is Volvic, a superior French
still water that pretty much kicks Evian’s ass. As with much else in this
gourmet mecca, D&D also offers its own spin on high-end hydrology, imported
from France. Rounding out the still category is Vittel, another Frog libation.
The sparkling front is even better: Pellegrino, of course, but in addition Pellegrino’s
more bitter sister from the Italian Alps, Lurisia.
it’s an international liquid smorgasbord: Gerolsteiner from Germany, Fiuggi
(from Italy, and the winner of the “Best Label Design” award), Ramlosa
(Sweden, coolest bottle), and–just so the Anglo-Saxons won’t feel
left out–Ty Nant, from Wales. (Did Dylan Thomas use it to cut his hooch?
Probably not.) When it’s a wholesome gustatory minimalism we seek, a purification,
this is our first stop.
Way to Avoid Getting the Flu
Instant Hand Sanitizer
Need a Kleenex? As the flu season approaches again, we’re starting to see
more and more items in the news about vaccinations, vitamins, all that kind
of crap. But we know better. We know that a painful needle in the arm, or jars
and jars of oversized pills, isn’t gonna do shit when everyone starts hacking
and coughing up lung cookies all over the street, subway or office.
why we carry instant hand sanitizer. Whether it’s Purell, Dial or even
a generic brand like Duane Reade, we know that with its ability to kill 99.99
percent of germs without water or towels, we can be safe wherever our travels
may take us. The active ingredient is ethyl alcohol. We just rub this gloppy
fluid on our hands when necessary, and voila, dead microscopic critters by the
millions, like people croaking from an H-bomb.
not only hands we find ourselves applying this new-age wonder upon. We have
also rubbed it on the part of the telephone you speak into, other people’s
remote controls and the biggest germ-bank of them all, the metal subway strap.
Just the thought of the thousands of bacteria-infected hands that come into
contact with these every day gives us shivers.
We have also
formed the opinion that using the instant hand sanitizer after having to shake
lots of hands really does decrease the chance of colds. Then again, we also
found that when applied to the genital area to avoid germs down there, all we
ended up with was a burning sensation.