Let’s face it: Reading tour guides of NYC is a guilty pleasure. Reading stale advice from some doltish non–New Yorker about how to navigate the subway or where to have a picnic (Central Park! What a surprise!) is funny. Ultimately, however, most tour guides are completely useless.
Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in New York is a welcome exception. With a fresh, irreverent view on places known and unknown in the city, Stuart injects some much-needed Botox into the wrinkly face of the overproduced travel guides that newcomers and tourists alike cling to.
Through funny anecdotes and narrative storytelling, Stuart looks at the city through a lens—or the bottom of a glass—that’s not covered in the grime of stale cupcakes.
I recently caught up with Stuart—who’s celebrating the book’s release on Dec. 4 with live music and free beer at The Delancey—to chat about being young, broke and beautiful in this sprawling, thankless city.
I can’t figure out why everyone loves that shithole Mars Bar. Fuck its interesting history, I still feel like I’m drinking in a Port-A-Potty at Woodstock. Why do you think people keep going to this bar?
A large part of it is because people either miss the old New York, or are bummed that they never got a chance to experience it. I mean really, look at what’s happened: CBGBs closed down and you know what they did? Opened up a fucking CBGBs store on St. Marks! It’s like they’re saying, “All the authenticity and rebellion that the East Village and Lower East Side used to stand for is long gone, but hey, at least you can buy an overpriced, purposely faded T-shirt to pretend you were there!” So I think for a lot of people, going to the Mars Bar is kind of like holding on to that part of Manhattan that has disappeared. It’s still a total parody of itself. The guy behind the bar literally said to me, “There’s no soap in here. This is the Mars Bar, man.” That’s just stupid.
I never go to the Meatpacking District because commoners like me aren’t wanted there. You had to hang out there to do reviews, what did you think of it?
Fuck the Meatpacking District. It represents all the aspects of our culture that I despise: Excess, hyper-consumption and general douchebaggery. Why the hell would I want to pay $20 to get into a club with shitty DJs, $17 drinks and a clientele consisting of cheesedicks with blown-out hair and fake orange tans and chicks whose life goal is to be on Flavor of Love? Despite all this, I still found myself there a lot because a friend worked at the Hog Pit and every time I’d look down there would be a new drink in my hand. It’s amazing how easily free booze can win me over.
There are so many photos of you at bars or acting a fool in your book that one might accuse you of rampant vanity. Do you masturbate while looking at yourself in the mirror?
Who told you about me masturbating in the mirror? Was that you I saw out my window last night? Yeah, I guess I’m vain but I’d like to think of myself more as a self-centered son of a bitch with a healthy sense of self-deprecation. While I do talk about myself constantly, I’m also the first one to make fun of myself. I mean shit, there’s a lot to make fun of, especially when I’m wanking it in front of the mirror.
I still miss the shit out of San Francisco and I can’t figure out why. Even though I love New York, I will never feel like I belong here. New York keeps insisting on kicking my ass until I’m a crying, drunken mess on the bathroom floor. Why do you think that is?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think the best way I’ve been able to put it is that in New York, it’s sink or swim, whereas in San Francisco it’s OK to float. It’s like if you move to New York to do something, you better be willing to fucking hustle. Even if you want to be a dog walker, you better make sure you’re the best dog walker on the block. No matter how much you love New York, New York fucking hates you.