Category Archives: Albanese Meat Market

Art In The Time Of Occupy-Oct 8th 2011

So I’m sitting on an express train bound for New York and it’s a nice day…real nice. I am armed with both cameras intending to do a photo shoot and I am also pondering whether or not to go downtown and cover the Occupy protest. I sit down across from a pretty girl with a backpack, I am busy admiring her whilst trying not to leer (that would be creepy) when she  pulls out a camera so big if a puma attacked her she could kill it! This is of course a real camera with a lens as long as my forearm, it makes mine look like child’s play. So much for the ego of the great shutter-bug. Today is all about the art project I’ve been working on lately but I’m bothered by the feeling that I should visit the Wall St protests. This kind of thing is happening all over the world, people are fed up with the government, the corruption of the politicians and are taking to the streets. But I can’t help feeling like something bad is going to happen, maybe not today but soon. The rumors of jails being built to house the creators of dissent with videos to match on You Tube  are possibly true. People have been arrested by the dozens and New York’s finest have even herded women into penned areas and pepper sprayed them at close range! I think it’s gonna get ugly real soon.

I predicted all this would happen years ago and the revolutionary in me wants to be there standing up for what I believe in too. But I worry, what if some idiot does something stupid and incites the police? I could easily find myself in a situation. This is one of those times when I wish I was free to do whatever I wanted. If I get arrested and wound up in jail and missed work I’d be in real financial trouble. I have people depending on my income for their life too. But this is what the government and our employers count on-fear. This is how they keep us in line and make us work like slaves. I’ll see how I feel later but at my age I’m a little tired and sore from a busy week at work, I’m getting too old to be doing the grunt work I do.

I head straight for the Lunch Box Buffet, an Asian place right near Penn Station. They are rumored to have the delicious egg tart the Chinese are famous for but when I get there they have none, the only breakfast they have is the ubiquitous NY bagel and rolls or pastry. I was never a pastry for breakfast type so I pass up the chocolate croissants  and move on in search of something better but cheap. I start walking in the busy hustle of the city just before the shops open. The problem with the city in the morning is the blinding sunlight, if you’re walking east your blinded-even with sunglasses on! But I forge on shading my eyes and zig-zag to stay on the shaded side of the street. I hit 3rd Ave and head south. There’s many Indian and Thai eateries here as I walk through Gramercy Park , it’s a busy built up area but as you go south it gets quiet and quaint in ti;s own way. I see many places are not open yet and I make mental notes on shoot locations. I pass a new restaurant where a nice old French cafe used to be, I wish I had eaten there just once. Soon however I come to the industrial part of town, it’s busy and loud here, this area has many restaurant supply shops and metal works fabricating those shinning steel counters where are food is made and sold. Recently on his new show “The Layover” Anthony Bourdain gave a quick tour of such a place, showing viewers how one could cheaply buy the same saute pans they used at Les Halles for $18.95, in fact he got a whole bag of stuff for under a hundred dollars.  I also read online that the people in these shops on Bowery are really helpful and nice to walk-ins so I will make it a point to go over my kitchen inventory and buy my next pans at such places instead of high priced department stores. I turn off the avenue and go down Prince St into the heart of Little Italy. By chance I turn on Elizabeth St and walk right by Albanese Meat market to see Moe sitting inside, I go in and greet him and chat a little about business and the weather. He’s in early on Saturdays as he supplies the restaurants before shutting down for the weekend. He’s always cheerful and happy, I often wonder what his secret his?

I move on to get my breakfast and wind up at Cafe Duke, a fancy name for a place that serves every kind of food you could want in separate stations- both hot and cold can be had. This place also doubles as a cyber cafe and has the mix of cuisine to please everyone. I order a bacon,egg and cheese on an everything bagel with utility coffee and wait for my order as the smells begin to drift about from various stations that are firing up the days offerings. It smells real good in here as food is being cooked in half a dozen places, who would have thought a place that’s not very attractive could be so appetizing. This is the kind of place that amazed my relatives from England in 2008, they have no English equivalent over there. I suggested they open one up and hire people to run it but they politely declined. My egg sandwich is nothing special but it’s still good and compared to a sign I saw advertising a $9.00 egg sandwich with truffles on it I think mine for $3.50 is as good as it has to be. I leave full and in search of my reason to be here today.

The sun is making today’s walk a little hotter than I would like but maybe it will burn the head cold out of me that hasn’t taken hold yet. I walk in the direction of the west side but stop when I see a girl getting off a Vespa, I walk over to make a little conversation about scootering in the city. I ask her about the safety issues of driving a scooter on NYC streets and she tells me that she’s had hers for years and never feels like she’s going to get mowed down by a truck, but also confesses that she stays away from big avenues at rush hour anyway.  Big avenues really aren’t needed to get around in her orbit.  She suggests that I look into buying one and tells me that it was a gift to herself for her 26th birthday. I wish her a happy birthday and she excuses herself to go about her business at the Vespa dealer nearby. I decide to move on without looking at them, I can’t afford one right now and of course the vintage one that I would like is the most expensive and hardest to find. I would like to go to Rivoli’s Pizza and have a slice, having just finished the painting of the storefront but I actually don’t have the address. It was weeks ago that I took that photo and I don’t remember. So I wander through familiar streets till I come to Broadway and see a strange and wondrous sight.

There are crowds gathered on the sidewalks watching dozens and dozens of skateboarders go south on Broadway! Each green light releases another group in all shapes and sizes and colors are coming in waves right alongside the traffic. Many are wearing their cameras taped to helmets or carrying small sticks with cameras running to video their run. The run of their lives! I don’t know why they are doing this but it is but I love it! I snap a few pictures and videos as they pass and am amazed to see some older guys in the mix and girls too. Up ahead a young guy stops and leans over, he’s sick and throws up a little bile. He apologizes and moves on but stops about six feet behind me and throws up for real. It’s pink in color and I figure he has a smoothie for breakfast, I wait till he done and offer him my unopened bottle of water. He gratefully accepts and begin washing out his mouth and drinking water to rehydrate. I ask him “What’s this all about?” puzzled.” Were going down to Wall St.” he says. “Oh to join the protest?” I ask knowingly. “No we just love skateboarding.” he says as he catches his breath. “I mean some are going there for that too.” he says. “Oh I see…where did you start out?” I ask curious. “Ah 116th street.” he says plainly. “Ah hundred and sixteenth street! I repeat astonished. That’s basically three quarters of the length of Manhattan! He offers me a few bucks for my water but I refuse, so he thanks me and turns off to join the ride again. It is then that I think the arrival of hundreds of young skateboarders could turn the protest into a free for all. So I decide to sit it out this time. The sad fact is that I could only stand around impotently for a few hours and go back home. I would then be protesting equivalent of a teeny-bopper from the sixties, spending the weekend as a hippie then going back to my real life. Essentially with all that’s going on at home and at work I could never live the life of a real political activist. The reality is that we can only muster a few signatures on a petition or two and then the powers that be just do what they want anyway. I am no advocate of violence but the only way to achieve change is through total rebellion, like the Star Wars saga. We would have to be funded, armed, organized, and military-like in our actions. Lets face it, a bunch of hipsters, latter day hippies, low level office workers, and housewives are not going to change anything. That might be a cop out but it’s the only one I got. I walk away to find refuge in my work.

I continue my walk and soon find myself on Laguardia Place by a happy accident. This is near where the French pastry shop Mille-Feuille is located, there is no way I’m not going in  for a Macaron or two. I walk down a few streets and find it there between Bleeker and 3rd. Once inside the small shop I seek consultation on which is good today. The salted caramel and a rose are my choice with a decaf coffee-the caramel is the best. I excitedly tell the young staff about the skaters and between customers show them the video I made on my cell phone. They are suitably impressed and happy about it and I leave the shop in search of more pictures. It’s not easy to find good shots, either the lighting is wrong or there is a truck in the way but I persevere. I stop in a Spanish deli and look around, there is an amazing array of oils, olives, sausages of every kind and a whole Serrano ham being sliced paper thin for a customer who talks and waits as his meat is lovingly arranged on butcher paper. The owner offers me a tiny piece and it is magical melt-in-the-mouth good, but a $28 dollars a pound I’ll have to pass this time but I will be back to make some serious purchases some day. By now it’s getting on to about two in the afternoon and I’m hungry again. I wanted to try and find Rivoli Pizza after finishing the painting I felt it would be only right to be able to say I had eaten there once. But I can’t remember where it’s located exactly, so I go around the block to a place I passed before. Roma Pizza is doing one thing and doing it well, pizza on artisinal bread in the tradition of Rome. This is a slab of thinner crust pizza made in long rectangular pans, it’s nothing like Sicilian or Neapolitan or anything else I’ve seen in my life. I go in to a long counter bar with a dozen different pies, I’m greeted by the hipster pizza chef and he tells me what each one has for toppings. I pick the potato and sausage with hot pepper flakes and an imported Italian beer. The pie is cut into two large pieces with “chicken scissors” and brought to me at a small table by the wall. The bread is really nice but too soft for me I like my pizza crunchy, but at this point I just want to eat. I’m actually very hungry after hours of walking and taking pictures. The flavor of the toppings is very good, meaty sausage and cracked peppers provide a salty sharp counterpoint to the mild potatoes and smooth olive oil. It’s good but as usual I went for something I never saw before and I really should have gone with a cheese and tomato slice instead. By the time I was done however there was no room for a second slice. I paid my check and went to the back for a loo break before leaving, there was also an outside dinning area past the actual dinning room. I chatted with a couple from Pittburgh while waiting for my turn and after went back outside to walk the pavements once more.

I spent the rest of the afternoon so wrapped up in shooting that I didn’t actually write any more notes on the trip, and by the time I got on the train going home I was too tired to even try to remember all the places I’d been. This is very unusual for me and I regret now not being able to finish the story of today correctly. The pictures I took offered up about six good choices for my project, so on the whole it was a very good day.

Cheers

Glen

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Filed under Albanese Meat Market, Anthony Bourdain, Art, Food, Food Writing, Life, Lower East Side, Memories, New York City, Travel, Village Voice, Writing

Lower East Loafing-Sept 4TH 2010

 Once again I’m sitting on an express train bound for Penn Station, on my way to New York City for the day. I’ve begun to doubt the validity of these stories I’ve written, I mean they all seem the same lately. I keep reminding myself that the whole reason I started this Blog was to keep a sort of open diary for my own enjoyment and old age reminiscing. But lately I’m not feeling the excitement of the past stories, some of those felt like they were magically written. Now my trips are not unlike the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour; where the boys took a bus and a bunch of people driving around England and filmed what happened, the only problem was…nothing did.

 My second anniversary on WordPress looms and I don’t feel this years work has really hit the mark. I certainly don’t feel as though I’ve written any journalistic pieces this year. Perhaps I’ve been too self-involved, I mean with all that’s going on in the world you would think I could write day and night but I don’t, my output is very low. Maybe if I had the freedom to be a writer and not work a full-time job I would be producing more thoughtful work and be way more productive.  I am in serious study now of language and just purchased a book on sentence structure, I am hopeful that with study I will become a better writer without losing my own style. I know that my hero Anthony Bourdain said in an interview that he doesn’t stress over his sentences, but he also possesses a greater ability to talk his way into and out of trouble than I do, which he admits is where his natural ability as a writer sprang from. I don’t think he would be so successful without that talent.

  The main reason I’m going in today to pick up a dry aged steak from Moe the butcher at the Albanese Meat Market in Little Italy, and I’ve decided to have my breakfast at Russ & Daughters, the best bagel and lox in NYC. I really don’t need all the bread but I’ll walk it off so I’m not worried. (Sidenote: at the time of this writing despite a pain in my spine which has curtailed my bicycling, my total weight loss as of this morning was 30 lbs!) I am trying to check off places that a good tour guide in NY should be able to say he or she has been. I also have tentative plans to eat at Sigiri, the only Sri Lanka restaurant in New York, which promises to be a mix of Thai and Indian cooking discipline’s. We arrive quickly in Penn and I waste no time getting to the subway heading downtown, negotiating the maze of stairways only to find one side closed due to track maintenance. So I have to take the uptown tracks to go downtown. This is a first for me and when I get to the uptown tracks I’m told I have to go to the center track for the downtown train. Then I begin the crawl back up and down and up and down the stairs till at last I drag myself up the last set of stairs to the center track. How many sets of stairs I climbed to get here? Honestly I lost count. But at least I got some good exercise before breakfast so I catch my breath, and breathe the stuffy subway air with many others who found the same path and the train arrives a few minutes later. The subway car is cool, a refreshing opposite to the furnace like subway station and my stair master training ordeal. This is also an express train so I make a speedy exit at the West 4th St station and soon find myself topside.

 The weather is a study in contrasts as the shade feels very cool because of the strong winds, while the direct sunlight is very hot on one’s skin. I walk a little to get my bearings and then consult my map. I have to get to the east side and decide that W. Houston is the most direct route. I’m not usually in the city this early so the sun in my face tells me I’m going in the right direction. The city is just getting started in some ways, many places are not open yet-and those that are seem sleepy and needing a coffee to get going. I pass Pulino’s Bar and Pizza so I know I’m close now and soon I see Russ & Daughters in the distance.

 Russ & Daughters is long and cramped but at least not too crowded. to my right the confection and dried fruit counter, to my left an array of fish and cream cheeses and salads to make your head spin. In the back and behind the counter are canned and jarred specialty foods. It’s a little confusing, so many people moving behind the counter, all of them seem busy. Suddenly, someone yells out “78!”…”79!” I don’t even see a ticket machine to pull numbers from and the crowd milling about instead of keeping place doesn’t help. I realize that everyone is already being helped. I finally order two mini bagels, one with cream cheese and Norwegian Salmon and the other with chopped liver and pickles and a decaf English Breakfast Tea. I get my order and head out to the center island between the two sides of Houston St where some benches are set up and tuck into my brunch. The salmon is the best Nova I’ve ever had but the liver is a little too mushy for my liking. I’m used to French Pate ( to be a right snob I guess) and this is not to my palate.

 I finish my meal and watch the world go by and write a little while I finish my tea. A couple waiting for the light to change begin to slow dance, leftover passion or free spirits? You decide, I admire their carefree way in a judgemental world where it’s getting so hard to just “be”. I think I’d better get up and walk off some calories even though I don’t think that I’ll be hungry for lunch any time soon no matter how far I walk. It’s just as well because I can’t find the address of Sigiri anyway, the little sticky note is gone. I know it’s nearby so I start walking in squares, coming back to my starting point and overlapping a little, noting points of interest. I begin to see how close to Prune I was at Russ & Daughters, and how Katz’s is just steps away from the Mercury Lounge and Ashara, old landmarks from my first stories-that seem so long ago. I eventually wind up in Little Italy and find Moe the Butcher busily engaged in trimming meats in his quiet humble way. “Hi Moe, how late you open today?” I ask enthusiastically. “Hiya” he says looking up. “Seven O’clock today” he says and goes back to his cutting. “OK see you later” I say and move off to find lunch, it’s actually been hours since breakfast.

  I walk down Elizabeth to Prince St and mosey around a while finally settling for Jacques, a French bistro I know is not that good but the outdoor seating in the shade beckons so I sit and decide to eat clean. I order a Merguez sausage omelet and a screwdriver and write a little. I was alone but soon the tables around me are filled with hungry locals and travellers who sit down one by one. Two young guys pull up in a car and park on the street, they are parked illegally but on a Saturday I don’t think anyone cares, they sit down at a table next to me and begin to peruse the menu, one of them says “Maybe the Merguez omelet” to his friend who looks at my plate and suggests that’s what our neighbor is eating. But I warn them against it as it is not very nice, this is like a dog food sausage packed inside a thick omelet with no sauce or any redeeming quality. I suggest they go to Marseilles, not the place but rather the restaurant near Penn Station to get the Merguez meal they want. So they thank me for the warning and order other things from the menu. I polish off my unlikely meal and enjoy a decaf coffee and write while listening to these two fellows talk. I find out (by asking) that they are originally from Oregon but moved here to work and are heading upstate for a hiking trip for a few days. The young owner of the car is absolutely paranoid about the car which is sitting about ten yards away with its flashers on, he is convinced he’s going to get a ticket. Suddenly a whistle is blown and he jumps out of his skin, poor kid. The whistle-blower is a drugged looking middle-aged hip looking black dude talking to himself. He says he’s not afraid, and he doesn’t give a s**t as he acts up strange and strung out and walks away, another mind taken by drugs I guess. Unfortunately, my neighbor has had his nerves frazzled and it’s almost comical how fast he and his buddy stop eating, ask for containers to pack the leftovers and the check. Then they jump in the car and try to leave in the congested village traffic. You could see the kids nerves jangling as he walked away, I laughed quietly to myself and thought how much easier it would have been to find a legal parking space and walk a few blocks than to go through all that. I pay my check and head back to Moe’s for my steak.

 I find him trimming more meat from fat to give to people who have dogs, nothing is wasted at Moe’s, food is too precious and the animal is respected here. He insists on finishing his work and asks if I mind and I say” Take your time, I’m not in a rush.”  I ask him “How is business?” and he says “Ok, the holiday comes and everyone leaves town for a few days and then they come back, the kids go back to school and it’ll pick up again. I’m going to Florida for two days anyway.” Good for him, I wish my parents were as active and sharp as he is. Just then a guy in his late 30’s walks in and says “Hello, I just wanted to let you know I’m still alive.” Moe  seems to know him well and asks the handsome guy with perfect hair and teeth how he is doing. He says “Not bad for a 68-year-old man.” This must be an inside joke and he and Moe laugh and I do too in spite of myself, although I don’t really know why. Then as my steak is done (it is a giant too) and is tied and wrapped an attractive woman walks in and says “Hello Moe, I see you’ve already met my 68-year-old man!” They all laugh and I exclaim that “I’m in on that joke and I’m not even from here” which sparks even more laughter. I thank Moe with a pat on the arm and wish them all a good day and I’m off. I wish my dad was in as good a shape as Moe.

 I walk down Lafayette heading north, from this point I can take the 4th St subway or the 14th or the 23rd for that matter but naturally I walk a little (hours really) to burn some calories and see the city above ground. The sun is hot on my back as I make my way to Union Square, but I need a loo rather badly so I leave the marketplace and the wonderful smells of fresh basil and mint and find myself sitting in the Old Town Tavern enjoying cold melon soup and Stella Artois. A little tyke runs down the length od the bar towards the door followed by his dad, mom, uncle, whoever can keep up. He wears an Ireland shirt and may end up playing soccer. The juke box plays classic rock while a silent baseball game is on the TV’s to occupy the eyes of patrons to tired to talk. This is an old bar, rustic with tile floors and filigree ceiling panels with chandeliers, it even has an indoor phone booth! One can easily imagine James Cagney using it in a gangster film in the 40’s. I finish my refreshments and take a call from my mom to see how my day went. I give her the rundown and she just for a few minutes gets to live vicariously through me, she used to work downtown New York and is always interested to hear of my adventures although she doesn’t read my stories on paper or on-line…odd isn’t it? I pay my check and tip the cute middle-aged waitress who served me, I promise myself I will come back and chat her up a bit the next time I’m in New York. I leave and resume my walk through the crowded city streets, heading for home. it was a pretty good day after all and in reality any day in New York is way better than at work.  I feel happy to be going home early with plenty of time to enjoy the evening ahead. But as Penn Station looms in the distance I already miss my adopted city.

Cheers

Glen

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Filed under Albanese Meat Market, Food, Little Italy, Lower East Side, Memories, New York City, NY, Travel