Tag Archives: East Village

Lower East Side (Slight Return)-April 24th 2010

 Today is bright and will be warm and I sit and munch half a bran muffin washed down with a decaf coffee on the train to New York City while I listen to a young couple dote over their three-year old boy, he’s a cute kid in a baseball cap who stands on the seat and marvels at everything, looking around in wonder and asks questions, lots of questions. There is three young girls sitting diagonally across from me speaking French, I am shy to go and talk to them I don’t want to make a fool of myself, but I push shyness aside and walk over asking if they were from France, which they confirm.  I excitedly talk about my love for France and everything French, my ambition to cook French food and to be a tour guide in NYC and to someday ex-pat to France after Mom and Dad are gone and Chris is moved to Vegas or Canada whichever he chooses. They are here for five months and are doing work/study programs although they don’t seem to want to share the details or even talk that much too me. The dark-haired girl is friendly and the redhead too I guess, but the mousey girl sitting closest to me looks petrified or at least uncomfortable. They assure me that they are meeting friends who live in the city and will not need my services but I explain that I am not licensed yet so cannot guide them anyway, although I could do it for free… that is not illegal in New York but give them time. So I decide to wish them well and head back to my seat and they talk amongst themselves, laughing occasionally at the  older guy who just wanted to meet some people from France, but now I feel like a fool who should have kept his mouth shut. When will I ever learn. 

 I know I have a tendency to be too excited when I talk about my passions, but I’m not the only one and I remember Drew Barrymore, the actress talking on Late Night about how she scares people with her enthusiasm for a new project, so I can really identify with her, I guess I do too but at least I’m in good company. So I get out at Penn Station and make my way to the blue A,C,E subway line and check my old tickets for credit left on rides, I swipe my old cards and see that I have plenty. While doing so the three girls come up behind me and are busily engaged in trying to use the ticket machine, I say a quick hello again but don’t even try to help them, I would have helped them in any way I could just to be nice.  But their snobbery being what was I move off quickly to get the next train to West 4th St station and make sure I’m in a forward car so I don’t run into them again. It’s a quick ride on the subway, whoosh! and your there almost before you know it, I get out and almost immediately I am asked for help by a woman and her daughters from Queens who are looking for the Washington Arch and NYU University, I whip out my flip map and tell them to follow me and we walk up to the 8 Th Ave exit. 

 It’s a beautiful day turning warm as I lead them to the Arch, they walk fast and it’s hard for me too keep up, I’m guessing they are looking at the school for the girls to attend after they graduate high school and after we walk past the fountain, still dry. Not in operation yet as I see excited kids running around inside its shallow bowl that will soon be cooling off visitors who brave the (clean?) water to cool off in the heat. I part company with the family on the other side of the park pointing out the NYU buildings to my left and with a few Thank You’s they are off to see the wizard and I go to towards the Lower East Side starting point for my tour. I am stopped on my way by a young Asian girl who is lost, looking for an address. She is staring right at a map mounted inside a frame for the students looking for certain buildings in the area but this girl cannot find it and she cannot be late, she’s going for an audition! I tell her to follow me and I tell her also that I’m a tour guide in training and it can be very confusing especially with all the construction going on with closed streets and all. We walk a few blocks and a few turns later and I’m beginning to think I screwed this girl up but she turns to her left and says “Here it is!” with glee and with a shake of my hand we wish each other good luck and I continue on my merry way, the triumph of making a difference for two people putting a swagger in my step as I continue on my way. I give a homeless man the other half on my Bran muffin and says God Bless You as I pass him by and a little further on I see a youngish couple looking around in confusion so I stop to help. They are also from France and I tell them how much I love their country and using my flip map show them exactly how to get to the West 4th St Station, and also what train to take to get to 42nd St which is where they want to go next, they also thank me profusely and with smiling “Au Revoir’s!” they move off and I holster my map like a smoking gun in its holster ready for the next time. My starting point is a few blocks away but I am in need of nourishment now and I spot an old-looking place just ahead. 

 I stop in the Cafe Colonial, a Brazilian eatery with a brunch menu and a simple atmosphere with white metal bistro tables and chairs, and a pay phone in the back corner. I order a simple meal of warm steak over field greens and a decaf coffee and after a wash up in the loo begin to make notes on the trip so far, I feel a real optimism about today as my food arrives and that is made more apparent by the delicious food I get. This is the way I should eat at home, no starches just meat and greens with a little whole grain thrown in too. So I pay the bill and start walking down the street when I see a familiar face standing in chefs gear smoking a cigarette, I don’t know his name but I recognize his face from the food network Iron Chef show, he was one of the contestants to be the next Iron Chef! I stop and say “Hey I know you from the food network!” “That’s right, that was me.” he says casually but visibly happy to be recognized. I look at the building , “Is this where your working now?” I ask not being able to see the sign up ahead. “Yeah. you should come in and eat, it’s the best!” But I explain I just ate at Cafe Colonial and he suggests I get a paper menu, so I move off to do so and them after I get it I can’t resist going back and saying “Dude can I be a real tourist and have you sign this?” as I offer a permanent marker and the menu. He signs it without hesitation and I explain that I’m studying to be a tour guide and will be back to eat here the next time I come to the Bowery to study and eat. I shake hands agin and start walking towards the starting point again. This is shaping up to be a great day! I might just have made my first contact in New York! 

 (Footnote: I would find out later that he’s only been there since February when it opened and on April 4th he was arrested for carrying a two-inch knife on a chain he uses to cut boxes at work as he was walking home between shifts at his restaurant Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, he was surrounded by three police cars! Nice going New York’s finest, way to keep us safe from 2 inch knife wielding chefs, I know I feel a lot safer now!) 

Best place for a bagel and a smear in New York City!

 

So I begin my tour stopping first at the Famous Russ & Daughters Deli appetizers since 1914, it is said to have the best bagels, Nova & Caviar cream cheese in New York, it is packed so I walk down and back getting glimpses of fantastic food in flashes as the space between bodies is small and closes quickly, people are ordering bagels by the bagfull! I leave promising myself that I will have a bagel next time around, next I take a few minutes to photograph the famous Katz’s Deli, I wish I was hungry because this place serves up beef brisket or pastrami sandwiches that need their own Zip Code! I peeked in once at this place at night right before the Anya Marina show in 2008, (see Anya Marina Concert Parts 1&2) but didn’t want to eat so much as this place gives you between two slices of bread. I move off turning on Norfolk and take it down to Rivington & Orchard, but needing a loo I stop in Nooy’s Bar for a cold beer but first a wash up, this is actually the bar for the Kampuchea restaurant, a mix of Cambodian and French Cusine I find out from the young friendly bartender who is cutting and squeezing dozens of limes to fill a Magnum for drink-making. I sip my cold Hennepin Ale and we talk the interesting menu, travels abroad and N.Y.C. He is a Californian studying graphic design who works 50 hours a week and pays $1200 a month for a studio apartment! I find him a great source of info for food and wine, he has re-done the drink menu for the restaurant himself and added his own spin to them. He is smart, friendly, hipster, cool and I admire his ability to multitask and still be a great conversationalist. I can’t resist ordering the Chicken Rillettes and another beer, they come with small greens and pickled Rhubarb with toasted slices of Baguette. It is superb, I needed this so bad! I haven’t been this relaxed and happy in a long while. I could sit here all afternoon, but I can’t eat or drink anymore. I pay the tab and shake my bartenders hand and thank him for his kindness and move on. I walk down the street taking it all in, the sun, the breeze,  the easy feeling of being able to do whatever I want with no one telling me what to do or where to stand while I do it. 

 I move through Chinatown and enter another world where I am the minority and don’t speak the language. I sit on a low wall on the corner of Bowery & Canal St and write, cool from the breeze yet warm from the sun. I watch the kids play on a clay soccer field while parents sit on benches and talk on the sidelines. The little park is surrounded on two sides by a grass field about ten feet wide where a young woman sleeps peacefully with a cell phone on her chest while a young hipster lies on his back with his knees up talking on his phone a few yards away. I realize how lucky I am to have a piece of land I can call my own, this is all the nature they get in this urban sprawl of concrete, stone, and the ever-present sound of traffic and machinery. It makes me appreciate the ease with which I walk out my back door and step into nature. I move on into the heart of Chinatown where stalls of fresh fish (some still flipping around) crowd the sidewalks that flow with the runoff of melting ice in a constant stream to the street. The foods here are endless, dried mushrooms, dried fish, and strange vegetables are displayed and in butchers windows whole roasted Peking Ducks and chickens. The crowd is a mix of tourists but mostly natives that live in this enclave and shop here all their lives, vendors hawk their wares and shoppers argue loudly over prices and freshness, at least that’s what I think they’re saying  but who knows. The bucket of still moving blue crabs from some far off place the subject of this particular debate. I pass into Little Italy and the mix of Chinese and Italian turns all Italian as I make my way up Elizabeth St where I see a familiar figure sitting outside his butcher shop, Moe is still going strong at 83, he sits with his son enjoying a Perrier water and enjoys the day. I promise to come back and get a “Got Cha Steak” his trademark aged beef steaks as soon as i fix or replace my grill. 

 Well, the tour was done a while back on Grand Street and now I am back on the corner of East Houston Street and Elizabeth Street, the Cafe Colonial is a few steps away, across the street is a big mural on the wall of a building painted with the cities permission by Shepard Fairey of Obey giant fame ( see What is Obey Giant Parts 1,2,3,&4 for more) the last time he was in New York, right next to that is Billy’s Antiques and Props. My brother and I have plans to cook over the open fire tonight so I better head back to Penn Station, I walk towards 6Th Ave as the strong late afternoon sun burns a little as I pass familiar sights, the basketball park and street vendors on West Houston and easily find my way back to the West 4Th Street subway station. It’s an easy ride to Penn and easily grab an express train to Hicksville, three stops to home! 

 I sit on the train and think about what might have happened if I had a camera crew with me shooting my fun day. Somehow I think it’s just possible that I too could have a hit show on the Travel Channel, so what if I’m not tall dark and handsome. I don’t have to be a hipster twenty-something with a face full of scruff and a half tucked shirt with vest. I can just be who I am in all my aging hipster, latter-day bohemian, over enthusiastic glory! Those French girls missed out, they could have spent the day with me being shown the ropes, while listening to a good storyteller who knows a few good places to eat and drink. It was a great day nonetheless, and I managed to make a difference for a few people who let me into their life for a few minutes, all in a days work for The Guide Boheme. 

Bonsoir 

Glen

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Filed under East Village, Food, French, French Food, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, New York City, Shepard Fairey, Travel

Winter Medley – Jan 11 Th 2008

 It’s a sunny cool day as I sit waiting for my brother to come out of the house, I have to drive him to work before I head into Manhattan today to see the new pieces of Abstract art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. The weather has been strange lately, we had a few warmer days so it’s not too bad weather wise.  I’m off this week so I don’t care that I’m getting a late start, my brother finally comes out and we go to his job. The two of us joke around in the car a little on the ride there but I feel bad that he has to work and can’t join me today. I drop him off and make my way to the train station and search for a place to park, I try to park under the lights so I can feel safe we I come back at night, this isn’t a bad neighborhood but it’s better to be safe.

 I board the train and am happy to find it’s an express-good deal, so I sit looking out the window and and listen to the people around me, as an artist and writer I find that this kind of voyeurism is good for my creativity. I write this poem by looking and listening…

 Old places glass and steel.

Bricks with black lettering.

Pools of water on rooftops.

Shinning rails of travel, momentary blindness.

A man sleeps seeing nothing

A man sighs behind me.

Sleeping man passing gas oblivious to the

Smoke billowing black from chimneys.

A man sighs again alone.

A lone flag flies in the distance.

Is it all nothing to you?

Copyright  G. Henley 2008

 We are going into the tunnels now and I feel the creative energy coming back, must keep it turned on always I think as the train stops and I head out into the stuffy platform and walk upstairs to Penn Station and up to the street. I grab a taxi to the Met, I will walk later but right now I just want to get in and see the exhibit, later I will head to the Village for some Hong Kong style Octopus balls, which I will explain later.

  This is a collection of 55 new works given by Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman, an astute collector of art who collected works of both the old guard of Abstract Expressionism, but also the work of younger artists that proved to be worth her attention years later. This is an exceptional show, many new pieces by some of my boys, I am happy to see a Robert Motherwell. I am lucky to own a large hand signed print by him, it’s not in great shape but at least I got one-too bad it’s so big I can’t frame it. There’s also a few by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg (god rest his soul) that I hadn’t seen before, there’s a Pollack, a Kline I especially like, a DeKooning and work by David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Rivers, and Anne Ryan. But it was a smallish exhibit so it doesn’t take me long to see it all and I make my way to a special exhibit of African Reliquary Art.

 The word reliquary means literally container or vessel where religious relics or artifacts are stored.  Some held the remains of  tribal people who had died, say a finger bone or a piece of the skull which were thought to be magical andwere used with carved guardian figures on top in tribal rituals. Many reliquaries were used used in Christian ritual from the 4th century and have been venerated by Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. These carved figures are fantastic, detailed and so finely made, the most famous of these is The Pahouin or Black Venus made by a member of the Fang people, Betsi group; Gabon. Many of the most famous artists in Paris collected and studied tribal art including Pablo Picasso, Andre’ Derain, Henri Matisse, and Maurice de Vlaminck just to name a few. There are also beautiful statues made by the Punu and Kota peoples, the fascinating thing was the Gothic ones made from metals, a finely wrought hand in a magical gesture kept my attention for twenty minutes, the only time I really wanted to steal a museum piece in my life. I then watched a short film taken in the 30’s by an Anthropologist, a burial of a huge reliquary. The dead person was sewn inside a huge stuffed Golem like doll which was carried and buried in a huge grave with much crying, singing, and ceremony and the TV on which this was viewed was about 5ft away from the actual reliquary in the museum!  This thing was bigger than a Volkswagen Bug standing on it’s end, I won’t forget this exhibit anytime soon…I just wish I had the money and the proper space to collect African art myself like my old friends in Paris, now we know where the influence for Cubism came from!

 I leave the Met and take the subway all the way down to the East Village, I’m on a kind of pilgrimage you see, after watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where he ate them in Osaka, I just have to try the Takoyaki at Otafuku. Located on 235 E. 9th St (Btwn 2nd& 3rd Ave) this place is the real deal, it’s tiny-I mean there is enough room for about three people to stand inside and place orders. The two young men that run the place are cramped in front of a tiny grill, a special device for making octopus or squid balls sits next to the take out window. But what are they? you ask puzzled. Well it’s a seasoned batter witha piece of octopus inside which is cooked in a grill that has dozens of  holes the size of a golf ball, as they cook crispy they are turned crispy sideup so that more raw batter hits the hot grill until they are crispy on the outside-gooey on the inside, they even turn a switch and the grill shakes to help loosen the hot treats so they come out easier, they also make a great batter pancake with veggies and your choice of toppings. Everything is covered with sqeeze bottles of Japanese mayo, thick soy sauce and dried flaked pork or fish, they also serve yakisoba noodles and a good assortment of teas or soda.

 I take my hot food and go to find someplace to eat, finding a little park at E.6th St and Cooper Square I settle down to try my food, it’s magical and delicious, crispy then chewy then gooey describes the balls, the pancake is savory and sweet and the hot tea is welcome as it’s getting colder. I see a group of people coming down the sidewalk and wonder what’s going on, but I am surprised when the group stops and the guide begins to talk about the building behind me. This is strange because I can see that everyone is not watching the guide, they are all watching me eat! Here I am, dressed in many layers of clothes looking like a bum dinning Al fresco on a bench using chopsticks no less!  They move off and are replaced by a group of young goofs with thier girlfriends who come inside the park apparently to throw pennies at the Pigeons, a boom crane moves slowly nearb, sirens, traffic, the bang and boom of work being done and people walk by. I go on enjoying my meal and ignore the world for a while…It’ll still be there when I get back.

  I ride home on the train enjoying a young redheads reflection in the window, she is facing me and I can see her even though a seat separates us(a miracle of refraction or reflection?) and enjoy being a voyeur, I wish I had a drawing tablet with me, she looks like the actress in “Lady In The Water” when we come topside I can’t see her anymore, the glare of the setting sun robs me of the view, so I write and remember the day and hope to do this again real soon.

Peace

Glen
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Filed under Art, Art Shows, East Village, Food, Greenwich Village, Japanese Food, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

All My Sons-Part 1-December 2008

  I’m standing inside the platform waiting room of the Long Island Railroad, as you might have guessed by now, it’s very cold and windy and the small room is pretty packed. There is a large contingent of Asian’s here, they seem to be disabled and are being overseen by a few folks, probably a church group. The group leaders are looking after everyone and one nervous young man in particular counts heads over and over again, maybe it’s his first big assignment. We board the train and I score myself a window seat and take out my pad to begin writing. The nervous church leader seats his people and counts heads again, he is really working hard. Then he passes out chopsticks and starts passing out long styrofoam boxes of food before sitting down next to me and opening one up for himself. He has way too many of these, I guess some people didn’t want any. But he opens his and starts to eat, it’s vegetable sushi and the large rolls are cut into about eight pieces. This is an express train so we stop only twice before getting into Penn Station, a cool thing because I’m a little hot now in my overcoat and there’s no room for me to get up without disturbing this guy’s meal.

 I’m going to see the Arthur Miller play “All My Sons” at the Schoenfeld Theatre tonight but my first destination will be Prune, an East Village landmark for the downscale hipsters but also an upscale place for dinner where I saw Anthony Bourdain eat on his hit show “No Reservations” a year ago. Tony ate upstairs in the kitchen where only chefs are allowed to eat, probably because many of us wouldn’t want to eat what’s served out of fear or culinary knowledge. Thank God the brunch menu is not so scary as that!, I’m really looking forward to this meal. My seat companion is on his second boat of sushi, that’s sixteen pieces and counting folks. The day is bright and mostly clear, I’m warm now so I take off my scarf, hat and open my coat up a little to cool off. This guy next to me is up to twenty four pieces of sushi!, I mean he’s thin…how is he doin it?

 There’s a young guy behind me talking on his cell phone in low, obviously educated hipster tones. He’s talking about snopes.com mentioning an accident of some sorts, he asks the person on the other end if their bone was broken or pulverized, (nice choice of words genius) I think as we roll on into Jamaica Station and then off again.

 When I arrive in Penn Station I waste no time in going topside to seize the day in New York, enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are scores of people walking about as I try to get my bearings and figure out where I need to go. But it’s too cold to do a walkabout, right now at least, so I go down to the subway and take the seven train across to the six downtown, there are alot of people here in the tunnels waiting for a train. Families are just starting to shop for Xmas and the kids are fussing and crying over something already. So many people are shopping today, and it’s not even black friday yet! Makes you wonder where people are getting the money to spend in a bad economic environemnt as ours. Thanks all of you out there in Washington, you too in big business for messing things up, but don’t worry your pretty heads about it, the middle class will pick up the tab for you as usual, we always do… don’t we? Yes, of course we do, the only thing that matters is that you have all you need because God knows, rich people  need their money!

 But  there I wait, in an ever rising body temperature coupled with a growing urgency to relieve myself. Nearby a one man band plays bongos and cymbal and uses pre-recorded tapes to provide the missing band members. The music is temporarily drowned out by the rush of trains coming in, but not mine yet. The train roars out and he begins a different piece, a few minutes later the six train comes in and I get on with the throngs of people. But the trains are stacked and mine  has to go to fourteenth street.  Because of a jam up on the lines, (too many trains I guess) so off we go passing station after station in this underground time travel device we call a subway, I get off at Spring Street and have to double back and over but that’s okay.

 I find Prune easily, located on 54 E. 1St between 1st & 2nd Ave, it’s owner and head chef Gabrielle Hamilton presents with an eclectic menu of childhood memories mixed with favorites turned on their end with ingredients and flair. It is jammed, there’s a 1 1/2 hour wait to get in and by that time brunch will be over. I ask the attractive red headed  hostess if I can use the rest room, and since the upstairs one is occupied I’m allowed downstairs. I descend a spiral staircase, small steps made for a time long ago when people must have been smaller overall, and find myself standing in an anteroom out side the bathroom door, to my left is a kitchen door about three  feet away from a table of five waiting for their food! Down here in this small space is a table? But that’s how good it is here, every available square foot of table space is used for seating-it has to be! I use the loo and then go outside to wait for my spot with others hoping to get in. It’s sunny but cold, and growing colder and after about forty five minutes I decide to move on to my backup destination I begin walking toward Bleeker Street, to my backup eatery A O C.
Bon Nuit
Glen
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Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Arthur Miller, East Village, Food, Greenwich Village, Memories, New York City, Plays, Theater, Theatre