I was walking by 4th Avenue & 3rd today, and yes, the wig on the fence that both Lisanne (of the late, great Found in Brooklyn) & I have been aware of since last fall is still there. I posted it in October, & not that long ago Lisanne told me that it was still around. I hardly had the nerve to check it out (I find it very, very troubling indeed!), but I plucked up my courage & there it was. God knows what dark night of the soul it played a part in.
And around the corner, festooned with shredded plastic, an apparently unrelated message.
I toyed with submitting this one, but it's really just a shrub, and one has to maintain standards.
This one (artificial & with a built-in stand) has no chance, but it's got spare charm & a sprinkling of red berries, & I think it deserves to be seen. All hope rests on my April 22nd tree. Until the next one.
This afternoon I went to see Beautiful Darling at the IFC. The theater was half full, and the audience was an aging one, tenderly appreciative, and full of chuckling nostalgia. One stooped, white haired woman, wearing very loud yellow and black pants, and leather, fingerless gloves, left after the show kvetching about John Waters' role in the film. "He didn't know her! He didn't get here 'til the seventies! I knew Candy!"" I have no idea about that, and I love Waters, but I kind of liked her proprietary indignation.
Oh & after the delight of Public Speaking, it was nice to hear Fran Lebowitz again. My heroine!
An interview with Bruce Davidson (Guardian)
A Ramblin' Man Leaving New York (City Room, 4/19 & 4/24)
New Yorkers Are Really Unhappy, But Committing Suicide? - Not So Much (NY1, via Curbed)
Jersey Shore Given the Wilde Treatment ( Gothamist)
Last Thursday I walked from midtown down to West 4th, weaving between 11th and 8th Avenues most of the way. It was a warm Spring day, I was on vacation, and just enjoying being part of the city's drift. There was no hurry. I was thinking about the awful matinee audience I'd sat amongst at the Music Box theater for Jerusalem (great play), and the absurd disconnect between that pant-suit set and the play's uniquely English fusion of alcohol, drugs & and mythic sense of place. I was thinking how that sense of place is both a blessed inheritance and a narrow, confining curse. I was thinking of being a kid, and of spending my first nine years in a small Cheshire village. Of country superstitions, foxes at dusk, dead magpies and weasels pinned on a keeper's board, of witches, Puck, and Herne the Hunter, of my excitement when the gypsies appeared each year. I was always jealous of the girl in the story who dyed her skin with hazelnuts and ran away with the gypsies, and each summer, when they came to our village, I wanted to be that girl. I was thinking about provincialism, of the mind-numbing boredom of a quiet seaside town, where even your parents accepted that underage drinking was pretty much the only entertainment, of not getting how any teenager in their right mind could be content to stay there as an adult. In my 8th grade homeroom (or its English equivalent), pairs of us had a rotating assignment to decorate the bulletin board with some appropriate seasonal theme or civics topic. My partner, Carol, and I chose graphic scenes from a recent Sunday Times magazine feature: crime in New York City, with shots of bodies lying in pools of blood on barroom floors, and splayed across beds in cheap hotels. New York, circa 1972. We were proud our work, but, as expected, it didn't last out the first period.
I marked time for a few more years and then got away from the town, but Carol never did. At 19 she married a boy from a neighboring school, and settled into a life of discontent. Carol, with your straw blonde hair, your brilliant mimicry, and encyclopedic knowledge of show tunes! Remember dying your blonde hair green for that Roxy Music concert? Remember injecting "Alexis was a little bleeder" as often as possible into our Russian history homework, & the poor faded history teacher's gentle distress? Remember abandoning that Greek play on a classics outing to Cambridge, and hopping on the train to London instead? You should have got out for good.
By Chelsea, on 8th Avenue, I was walking along, sun-soaked, when a cyclist, on the sidewalk, swooped by with a "Fuck you, asshole!" as he passed. I didn't care much, but was a bit nonplussed. I hadn't blocked his path. Whatever. I was feeling too content to care, and the blip of a comment came and went. A couple of blocks later, pausing to cross the street, another cyclist swerved tightly round the corner, and (I guess) noticing my caution, yelled out, "Bless you!" This was really more surprising than "Fuck you asshole!" Who on earth goes round saying BLESS YOU? It seemed like such a wet, asinine comment for even the newest New Yorker. Still, it really happened, and there was such a symmetry in the two cyclist encounters that it made me pause. I'm fucked. I'm blessed. I'm fucked. I'm blessed. This is me, in the city, able to slide along more comfortably here than anywhere else I know. I got here twenty seven years ago and I can't see what other place would do the trick, would accomodate my outsiderly self and my mixed moods of gloom and excitement. Even with the slow, steady loss of places and people, even at the times it seems to drag you down, I love the city prodigiously. It still doesn't cease to thrill me: the crazy conversations I hear, the odd, glancing encounters of the day. There's still a sensory overload, and a huge, undiminished thrill that I'm a part of it all. I'm fucked. I'm blessed. I'm fucked. I'm blessed. Let's just leave it at that.
Last week, the Times ran a piece on Lenny Goodstein, who runs the recently opened Prophecies gallery on President Street. An exhibition of veterans' art will open at the gallery on April 30th, and will run until the end of May. Goodstein, a Brooklyn resident who's been out of the country for the past few years, and a Vietnam vet himself, has transformed the gallery into a bunker, and the exterior is piled high with sandbags (check out the great Times picture). “They need help, and often there’s nothing,” said Mr. Goodstein, who completed his fortress on Thursday night. “So you know what? This is the most exciting thing I can be doing. This is not about art, but something deeper.”
I ran into Lenny this afternoon at the new Fifth Avenue Housing Works, where he has already established his presence as an antiques and second-hand expert, to the slight consternation of the staff. I found him by the counter expounding on the art of the deal, and by the way discussing his five marriages, a stint in the circus, and the decent treatment he felt he'd got from the Gray Lady. He's a great guy - a real storyteller - and a welcome addition to an increasingly anodyne Park Slope. Get to Prophecies next week, and give him your support.
Update. And here's a Times article from 1998, on an impending Sotheby's auction of Goodstein's Coney Island collection.
The storefront at the corner of 12th and Sixth, once home to the infamous mother impersonator Thomas Prusik Parkin, has finally found a tenant. The store will house a restaurant, with a brick-oven, communal table, rustic kind of vibe, and it's expected to open in mid-July. The new proprietors live locally, and seem to have a good sense of what will work in the South Slope, something that Soigne, their neighbor across 12th, hasn't really caught on to. We discussed the possibility of them dressing as their moms on opening night, which I think would be a fitting gesture. Any suggestions for restaurant names will be passed on.
For those who didn't catch the Prusik Parkin story back in 2009, you can read about it here, and catch a Post interview with him here. And for good measure, here's a Post video. Prusik-Parkin is still awaiting trial.
A few years ago I was excited to discover the backyard seating at Baba's Deli (Fifth, just before Prospect). It wasn't a terrace or a patio, and it wasn't frequented by a stroller crowd or anyone even slightly hipsterish. It seemed so far off the radar for those worlds that its only regulars appeared to be me and an especially derelict looking bunch of elderly men. Though I liked the place, with its huge shade trees, and air of gloomy stillness, I did feel a bit out of place at this salon, and when my work routine changed, I stopped going there. Too bad, because the people that run Baba's were a really nice bunch. On the rare occasions I returned, I found the back door marked with a closed sign, & assumed it was shut off for good. On Tuesday, though, it was open again, and I checked it out. It's pretty much the same. They've spiffed it up a bit with some murals, but the view of demolition counters this attempt at cheer. I was the only one there, and my cup of coffee was without a doubt the worst I've had in years, but the visit suited my anti-social mood perfectly. I think I'll be back!
This notice was attached to a lamp post at the corner of 43rd St & Sixth Avenue. I saw it on my way to (ugh) Times Square. Chris has clearly become a little deranged about his bagel & coffee dilemma, & is now reduced to crazy man missives in public places:
I feel a bit sorry for Chris. Would you bother to help him out? If you were really into it, instead of choosing one cart guy to harangue, you could optimize the iced coffee and bagels experience for Chris by being a total jerk & demanding that both guys get their act together.
Update, 4/22. Well, the Times City Room covered this story today, and from one of the comments we learn that there's a whole slew of Chris notes all over Manhattan. An "art project", or slow burning promotional campaign? Maybe more will be revealed, but I'm kind of disappointed. I wanted to believe in him, hunched alone in a dingy studio apartment, eating his Ramen noodles & dreaming of a slightly more perfect universe. Damned tricksters.
Update, 4/23. Oh, the Times updated its story, & Chris is the work of a (of all places) Park Slope writer, Todd Lamb, though he claims that the 43rd Street notice is the work of an unknown imitator.
Much as I love the William Shatner tribute (esp. the Star Trek mash up video I posted a long time ago) this is the real thing. Cocker is a bona fide rock/pop hero, & it must have been pretty amazing to have been fifteen or so when this anthem first came out - a real "it" moment in popular culture. If you look on youtube, you can find a 2008 documentary that traces the genesis of the song, with some fun clips of a young Jarvis. This brings out all the English in me!
Our Lady of Perpetual Help,on 59th St. in Sunset Park, should be renamed Our Lady of Perpetual Signs. They're really competing for your attention (and your soul) here at OLPH, and I find their shrill approach TOO MUCH. I'm not going to run through the whole cycle, but here are a few:
Meanwhile, down on 36th and Fifth, this Lady needs some help Herself. Padlocked into Her earthly dwelling, life is looking a little grim. I'm tempted to spring Her out of there.