Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
A number of years back, I said that I was probably going to stop talking about the events of September 11th, 2001 here as, essentially, everything I needed to say on the subject had been said. This particular post isn't so much about the events of that day or even of the fallout of that day, but more a statement about where this city is now.
I've spoken about my friend Mike Armstrong here before, most notably here on this post from 2006. As stated, Mike and I had gone to high school together. After we all graduated, Mike attended Fordham University with a few of our other friends, but Mike served as something of a lynchpin for our entire class. It largely fell on him to reach out to everyone come reunion time. Beyond that capacity, Mike was always ready to socialize, and tirelessly extended invitations to that effect. The shot at the top of this post dates back to 1997, when Mike was moonlighting for kicks at a bar in midtown (that's him at the register). His day job, meanwhile, would later be at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center, and that's where he died on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.
Shortly afterwards, Mike's friends from the bar he was moonlighting in decided to open a new bar and name it after their fallen comrade. M.J. Armstrong's -- the first bar dedicated to a victim of that fateful day -- opened on the corner of East 19th Street and First Avenue in December of 2001. Virtually the entirety of our high school class dutifully showed up in force. In short order, the spacious bar became both a significant spot for my friends and classmates as well as a beloved neighborhood mainstay.
I've been re-discovering my love for Robyn Hitchcock in recent days, and it occurred to me that I've probably never devoted any space here on Flaming Pablum to "Storefront Hitchcock," the Jonathan-Demme-directed film from 1998 that put Robyn in,....well..., an empty storefront right nearby on West 14th wherein to perform a full, largely acoustic set. Using the same bare-bones approach he applied to "Stop Making Sense," Demme lets Robyn Hitchcock's singular wit and lushly illustrated songwriting take center stage, strangely offset by indifferent by-passers on West 14th between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Even if you've never heard Robyn's music, the film is bound to make you a fan, given its intimate setting and Robyn's undeniable (and endearingly bizarre) charm.
I'm not sure what I was doing when this was being shot, being both a massive fan of Robyn's and a resident of the very neighborhood this was filmed in, but I do wish I'd been there. If I'm being honest, I don't honestly recall the business that occupied the storefront in question prior to Demme's utilization of it, but I believe it may have been just another cut-rate retail outlet of the variety that dots virtually the entirety of 14th street (the longest east-west running street in Manhattan, don'tcha know, catching the island at its widest). Somewhat ironically, the space Robyn's seen performing in is a giant Guitar Center today.
Here's a quick clip from the film, which you'd do well to seek out. Though Robyn's songwriting is arguably more renowned for its penchant for absurdist surrealism (ever-garnering lazy comparisons to Syd Barrett), "The Yip Song" is a comparatively straightforward composition, concerning the illness, invasive surgery and death of Robyn Hitchcock's father. In typical fashion, Robyn jettisons the notion of making this poignant eulogy a sombre affair, turning it instead into a jubilant, giddy celebration of his dear parent's life. Having just lost a parent myself in similar circumstances, it was this single song that drew me back to Robyn Hitchcock's music anew.
Play it loud and tell your loved ones how much they mean to you while you still can.
Yeah, I know -- there are already way too many books about CBGB out there, but hang on a second.
For a start, photographer David Godlis is a goddamn legend. Secondly, I found his ruminations on night-shooting by available light (influenced by pioneering Hungarian photographer Brassai) to be really pretty interesting.
I should preface this post by saying that I've never liked Reservoir as a bar, and I've never spent any time or money within its walls. It's just not my scene, and I've never given a damn about it.
But while my comrades Jeremiah Moss and EV Grieve are exceptionally more suited to providing reportage regarding sudden closings and the rumors of closings, I heard a bit of speculative talk recently that I thought warranted a mention.
While procuring some goods in a neighboring establishment just down the way, I overheard the shop's somewhat legendary clerk discussing with the patron in front of me the sudden sale of 70 University Place, the building that houses Reservoir on its ground floor. The patron mentioned that the bar would probably soon be closing, in order to accommodate a developer's new plan for yet another new condominium.
Now, again, I have zero idea of the veracity of this story and of the credibility of the tale-telling patron in question, but if it's true -- or even if just part of it's true -- it only spells more change for University Place (and, for that matter, downtown as a whole).
Like I said, I don't really give two hoots about Reservoir. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about it. It might as well be in Pataskala, Ohio for all the character it exudes. It's a depressingly formulaic sports bar with too many televisions.
Once upon a time, however, the space that Reservoir currently occupies was Bradley's, a fabled jazz club.
You can read an authoritative account of Bradley's via this New York Times piece. Now, I am not -- nor have I ever claimed to be -- anything of a jazzbo (I own maybe four credible jazz records -- and most of them are populist cliches), but still ... I respected Bradley's for its cool cache and cultural significance -- despite the fact it was the type of place where you'd prompt a lot of emphatic "Shhhhhh"s when you ordered a beer.
Despite maybe the layout of the room, pretty much everything that was cool about Bradley's is invisible in Reservoir, but it seems likely that the next incarnation of 70 University Place (if it's really going) will erase everything about its former glory.
You can catch a fleeting glimpse of Bradley's in this clip of NYC jazz clubs of the 1990's -- many of which are also gone. Watch for it at about 06:19 minutes in.
I was feeling a bit remiss in my updates about my newfangled fitness initiative, but -- honestly -- there hasn't been all that much to tell. I started running back in mid-July primarily as a means of combatting my increasingly less-than-healthy lifestyle, but also as a way of finding focus, direction and clarity. This year started out poorly for me and has gotten successively worse as the months have rolled on. That hasn't stopped. Since I started running, my family weathered another blow, that being the death of my step-father in mid-August. The painful process of dealing with that loss -- and the logistical demands that accompany a death in the family -- have only strengthened my resolve. I don't just want to keep running, I positively need to keep running.
That all said, now that summer's over, there are new obstacles. I'd gotten a bit spoiled after spending much of my summer in Quogue. My morning runs out there found me slogging around a comparatively idyllic country block. Sure, it was a bit larger than Washington Square Park (the distance from start to finish on my Quogue route initially took me about ten minutes to complete ... shaved down to eight and a half minutes by early September), but I'd settled into a nice routine. Now that I'm back in NYC, it's back to Washington Square Park.
But the Park itself isn't my problem. My problem is that I'm on drop-off duty. As the responsibilities have shaken down, my wife usually makes the kids' lunches and takes care of their breakfast (I'm still largely all thumbs in the kitchen), while it's my gig to get them dressed, out the door and to school on time. That may sound simple, but if you've ever tried to wrangle an eight- and ten-year-old into executing these tasks with any semblance of efficiency, you know it can be a taller order than it seems.
Anyway, as a result of this, while I'd been toying with the idea of squeezing my runs in before these morning duties, I was finding that a bit complicated to pull off. As such, I'm now doing my run after I get back from the school drop-off detail. That's not a huge deal, but it means I'm not getting it done until about 9:00 AM or so.
By this point in the morning, Washington Square Park in September isn't the unpopulated garden of silence and solace that it is two hours earlier. Nope, running around it at this hour means ducking and weaving and wading through any number of obstacles -- foremost among them herds of the NYU student body, a sprawling demographic of disdainfully youthful human cattle, all decked out in pre-tattered flannel and "Cool Story Bro" tees. My curmudgeonly ire notwithstanding, it's still ultimately their turf. As much as I lament the NYU kids' return to the neighborhood at the end of every summer, the irritation they provide me is my own damn fault for choosing to live off of University Place. Thus, I puff, pant and awkwardly plod around the perfectly tanned, toned and tirelessly exposed young midriffs of the co-eds during my lap-and-a-half around the Park.
About a week back, I was engaged in a spirited discussion about running with my cousin, and he spoke with such certainty and zeal about the endorphin rush that results from certain increments of exertion, he being an accomplished runner himself. I just had to nod and feign understanding. It's not that I don't feel good after running, but I've yet to harness that natural high I keep hearing about. Again, I'd probably do well to curtail more excesses in my diet to make a more meaningful amount of progress, but it's the commitment to the physicality of running that keeps driving me.
Even though I don't run every day, on the days I don't do it, I feel a compulsion to compensate. I skipped a run yesterday, as I had to make a trip up to my late step-father's home in Connecticut. On the train ride home, I got off at the Harlem 125th Street stop -- and walked home to our apartment in the Village.
I haven't mastered it all yet, but I'll get there. I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable really calling myself a runner. I don't know that I'd ever feel confident in my abilities to try a half-marathon, as my afore-cited cousin encouraged me to do. I don't know that this will ever feel normal, or if I will ever feel normal again.
My Facebook bud/photographer Susan Fensten's father John snapped same circa 1980 (which she, in turn, posted on the excellent Facebook group, Manhattan Before 1990). I still remember it being like that.....a wide expanse of space with precious few souls about.
It's a very different scene these days, of course. Here's that very same spot about fifteen minutes ago (with my kids in front of it, of course). How times have changed, eh?
Fensten's original shot reminds of the video below. I've wheeled it out a few times, but I just love the quiet, unhurried vibe of it all....
While it's a bit touristy, I logged many an hour in Katz's myself, usually after a heroic amount of beers consumed in the largely now-vanished bars of Ludlow Street in the 1990s. I even attended a festive "pastrami toss" there, when Cop Shoot Cop signed with a major label. Katz's, meanwhile, is probably most famous for being the location of a laboriously over-referenced scene from "When Harry Met Sally."
I've lamented the changes to Ludlow Street a couple of times here already. The northern end of the strip in question used to be an endearingly desolate area (although said desolation sometimes came with a price). Now, much like the westernmost end of Spring Street on the other side of town, real estate developers seem feverishly intent on making it a densely populated hive of monied exclusivity.
With all this in mind, I exhumed a photograph I took with my then-new wide angle lens in 1998 (click on it to enlage). Here's a potentially final glimpse of the bright, empty skies over Katz's and the northern end of Ludlow Street. And I wouldn't be surprised at all if Katz's was soon to vanish too. Just sayin'.
As far as I'm concerned, this summer has sucked a sizable amount of balls. As such, what better tune to close out the season than the uproariously applicable "Summertime Blues"?
As I mentioned back on this ancient post, while Eddie Cochran's hallowed anthem to frustrated deliquency has been covered by everyone from The Who through the Black Keys, my very favorite rendition is by the ludicrously amusing Japanese garage punk ensemble Guitar Wolf. If you are unfamiliar with them, that is a tragedy to be remedied with all stealth. Here's their endearingly over-the-top rendition, best experienced at a VERY HIGH VOLUME.
Well, were it not already strenuously enjoyable, here comes Bug TV's homage to same, addressing Guitar Wolf's heroically incomprehensible Japanglish with suitably explosive aplomb. ENJOY AGAIN:
Not a lot preamble necessary for this one. I randomly stumbled across this clip on YouTube and felt compelled to share it here.
Initially filmed for a cable access television program called "Inner Tube" (which I wrote about back here in 2011), herewith the mighty Circle Jerks -- in their original line-up, no less -- performing at the Mudd Club in 1981.
Today, the Cirlce Jerks are no more (vocalist Keith Morris now sings with OFF!, Greg Hetson plays with Bad Religion, Roger Rogerson is dead, and I have no idea what Lucky Lehrer is doing). The Mudd Club at 77 White Street is also no more, having closed in 1983. In 2014, the building that was the Mudd Club is now a pricey condo.