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.
Without giving away my exact location, suffice it to say that Silver Spurs is what I'd consider my "local," although if truth be told, you're more likely to find me ordering delivery from Cozy Soup & Burg down a few blocks on Broadway. The burgers at Silver Spurs are just too unwieldy, and I'm never been a fan of their fries.
While I always preferred University Diner back in the day, I did go to Silver Spurs on the regular. I vividly remember dining there in 1997 or so, and sitting in the window with a copy of the N.M.E., reading about then-favorite Britpop bands like Kula Shaker (forgive me) and Mansun. When my kids were born, Silver Spurs became more of a go-to spot for us.
In any case, as of tomorrow, it's gone. Apart from the afore-cited Cozy Soup & Burg, there are now precious few places in my neighborhood to get a burger or a grilled cheese on the cheap. What's up with that?
I’ve been setting items “to one side,” as they say, with the intention of posting them here. This list is getting unwieldy, thus it’s time yet again for another installment of Stuff You Might Have Missed.
I posted this on Facebook this morning, and it struck a chord, so I thought I’d bring it here too. Gramercy Park is a lovely place, however exclusive. But even if one’s not affluent to live in it (which is most of us), it can still be a pleasant experience to walk through … or around, I should say, being that in order to walk through, you’d need to be in possession of one of those hotly-coveted keys. In any case, as picturesque as it is, there’s an awful, evil tree that grows on the western side of the park (directly across from the stoop that Bob Dylan posed on for the cover of Highway 61 Revisited). This tree blooms little berries that, when crushed or stepped on, emit an odor that makes the scent of death seem like fresh brewed coffee on a Sunday morning by comparison. After posting this, I was informed that the tree in question is known as a Ginko tree, and not – as previously suspected –- the tree of vomit-slathered dog poo.
By definition, I’ve always considered myself a fan of Marvel Comics, but back in my days as a slavish comic geek, I did pick up the odd D.C. title now and again. As such, I was saddened to learn this morning of the death of illustrator Nick Cardy. Cardy’s responsible for the cover above, which I picked up a young lad, haunted by the surreal imagery. Notice how Supe’s destroying his own logo? That really put the hook in me.
Listen to Michael Gira’s entirely harrowing early recording for “Hard Rock,” the premiere release by Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label. Listen to what Dangerous Minds warns: Not only is this recording not safe for work, it’s not safe for home either. Hell, it’s not safe for HUMAN EARS! Seriously, it’s utterly, utterly revolting. You’ve been warned.
Lastly, speaking of SWANS, I’ve not been able to stop playing this rendition of “Coward” from their new live album, Not Here/Not Now. I saw SWANSlast year just prior to the arrival of Sandy, and it was a fittingly apocalyptic experience. They continue to amaze. Play this very, very loud.
There's a bit of a pervading stereotype that this blog, EV Grieve, Jeremiah Moss' Vanishing New York, Bowery Boogie and a few others all partake in fetishizing New York City's grittier past. There's certainly a bit of truth to that, personally speaking, but I don't think any of us attempt to glorify or gloss over the uglier aspects of NYC's so-called "bad old days." Collectively, I think we all lament the gentrification that has rendered certain parts of town virtually indistinguishable from their previous incarnations (some of us more bitterly than others, admittedly). This isn't to say we miss the crime, prostitution, poverty and drug trade, but we feel that during the "quality of life" crusade and the tireless campaign of real estate development of the past couple of decades, a large swathe of the city's once-storied character, diversity, heritage and culture have been forever lost. And I, for one, will make no apologies about decrying that. New York City has become a more exclusive, less affordable and crushingly less interesting place to live as a result. That's not an opinion either, that's a fact.
In any case, let me get down off my soap box and explain the photograph above. Some readers may remember a picture-post I put up back in 2011 of Gem Spa on St. Mark's Place. It was a great picture, but I didn't know anything about its true provenance, so to speak. Well, this morning, I stumbled upon another remarkable cache of vintage NYC photographs, and that photo was among them. It was taken circa 1978 by one Manel Armengo, and his collection of other photographs from the era are equally captivating. The above is another example of Armengo's work.
Speaking, as I was, about neighborhoods that are no longer recognizable, one is hard pressed to name a strip that has changed more in the last fifteen-or-so years than the Bowery. When I was growing up, the Bowery was pretty much a no-go zone (the type of area, if you were driving through it, might prompt your father to bark "roll'em up, kids!' ala Clark Griswald). By the time I was exploring downtown in the 80's, it was still a fairly rough and tumble place. Hell, it was still pretty rough well into the 90's and into the beginning stages of the new millennium. Nowadays, of course, it's an entirely different story.
This fleeting slice of the Bowery in 1978, though, amply sums up the sense of desolation and desperation that used to hold sway on that bit of real estate. If you don't recognize the specific patch in the photograph, it is just steps to the south of Houston Street. See that Restaurant Equipment outlet on the left hand side? Today, that's a chic eatery called Pulino's (although, not for much longer). Back then, the gentleman in the boots in the foreground would be facing a vacant lot filled with weeds and rotting vehicles. Today, if he was standing in that same spot, he'd be facing a sprawling Whole Foods Market. And back behind him is the wall that now plays host to a variety of celebrated street artists (whose work, in turn, is summarily derided and tagged up).
Here's roughly the same shot as snapped by Google Maps circa 2011.
In the footsteps of the original Baramundi, the original Ludlow Street Cafe, the Luna Lounge, the Pink Pony, Motor City and -- wait for it -- Max Fish, so vanishes another reason to ever go back to Ludlow Street. Well, I guess Cake Shop's still there. And Katz’s, of course.
Honestly speaking, I stopped being a Ludlow Street regular quite some time ago, and I can’t recall the last time I actually darkened the doors of El Sombrero, but I still have many fond, beery memories of the place. You may remember this post from several years back, wherein I read off a similar laundry list of preferred bars, eateries and live music venues on Ludlow that couldn’t meet the demands of their respective rents. It’s indeed been many years since that street looked like the strip I reminisce about, but it still stings that most of the joints I cared about have vanished. This particular phenomenon is sadly not limited to Ludlow Street either.
Anyway, in the throes of my mourning, I stumbled upon a clip of the place I probably miss that most, that being the Ludlow Street Café. As I wrote in that earlier post, this spot was indeed a great live music venue, but what I loved about it was the Cajun food and the bar. In any case, there’s no year cited on this video, but here’s a walk inside the Ludow Street Café from probably sometime in the very late `80s or early `90s. Note the Missing Foundation graffito at 00:24, before you climb down the steps and into the Café.
I have no idea who George Gilmore is/was, but Beat Rodeo was a band that frequently graced the stage at the Ludlow Street Café. Not exactly my cup of tea -– kinda proto alt.country/NYC cowpunks, for lack of a better description. Check out one of their proper videos beneath (also shot, or so it looks, somewhere on a Lower East Side rooftop).
Even before moving into an apartment just off the little avenue in question in 1996, I was well familiar with University Place. While I was born and raised on the Upper East Side, I'd fully ensconced myself in all things downtown by the early-to-mid 80's, drawn by the then-plentiful record stores, live music venues and storied urban bohemia of Greenwich Village, the East Village, the Lower East Side, SoHo and their surrounding environs. As such, University Place was one of the main arteries that fed into that wonderland, and it was a strip I'd grown to love. In much the same way I'd thrill to walking up the subway stairs and out into the air and (formerly) wide open space of Astor Place, when I used to cross East 14th street into the veritable mouth of University Place, I'd get a spring in my step just knowing I was heading into more interesting terrain.
When I moved into that first downtown apartment in `96, I already had a pretty good lay of the land. Back then, University Place wasn't quite as...well..bespoke as it currently is. I snapped the picture above in the summer of 1997. There were more endearingly crummy little delis than boutiquey bistros, and there were a couple more dusty antique shops than currently survive. My three favorite businesses that dotted the avenue were, of course, the Cedar Tavern (practically my living room during my years on 12th street), The University Diner (technically called "University Restaurant") and, if I was feeling momentarily financially flush, Japonica for sushi.
There were other decent spots. Down the road a piece there was El Cantinero, Lemon Grass, another Greek diner on the northwest corner of East 11th, BBQ on East 8th and Knickerbocker's on East 9th. In the late 90's, a great neo-Indian spot opened up called Cafe Spice that I grew to be quite fond of as well. There was also the jazz bar Bradley's on 11th. But my favorites remained the three I cited above.
Here in 2013, only Japonica remains of that early trio of favorites. I've penned many a bitter screed about the slow demise of the Cedar Tavern (click here to read the last one), and it was an equal blow to see University Diner shut its doors not too long back. Two fairly crucial locales of my early-midlife (for lack of a better term) have been wiped off the map.
After a long period of emptiness, the space formerly occupied by the Cedar Tavern has become a European waxing center. And, as reported just this morning by Jeremiah Moss, the space formerly held by the University Diner is on its way to becoming a dainty cookie emporium.
These days, despite the ever-shifting parade of eateries that open and close up and down my strip, my loyalties now lay with lovely Knickerbocker's (a great old NYC bar and t-bone steaks to die for) and, when I can afford it, Japonica. If these place go before I do, that'll invariably be my cue that it's my time to leave too.
As long as we're being honest, I have to say that I never thought much of the Lyric Diner. My kids go to school in that neighborhood, so I'd been known to drop into the place from time to time, and was always somewhat underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong -- no one loves a good, solid NYC diner more than me, and I bitterly lament that they're vanishing in droves, but the Lyric never got me where I needed to be.
Not too long ago, however, the Lyric Diner closed. As I understand it, the same owners re-imagined it as a newfangled Greek taverna. Sometime shortly afterwards, the place got a full makeover (complete with a new, rustic wooden exterior) and re-opened as such. The nice thing, though, was that -- for some reason -- they decided to keep the old south-facing neon signage that boasted the establishment's former name and identity. I figured they were preserving their legacy, or at least acknowledging the fact that neon signs of this variety should be cherished.
Well, you can forget that. As you can see above, they've recently dumped the old Lyric signage, which is too bad.
In case you don't remember it, it used to look like this:
On Thursday evening, I had a friend in from out of town. We repaired to the East Village for what was supposed to be just one drink before dinner, but turned into simply several drinks. These things happen. And, in this instance, these things happened in one of my very favorite bars still left in the neighborhood, that being The Scratcher on East 5th Street between Cooper Square and Second Avenue.
While ostensibly an Irish pub, the Scratcher comes refreshingly devoid of any of the blustery blarney and "Darby O'Gill & the Little People" bullshit that plagues many of this city's other Irish pubs. It's just an intimate little space tucked into the garden level of a humble brownstone that currently cowers in the shadow of that abomination of a modern hotel just a stone's throw to its west.
In any case, while my friend and I were putting away the pints, I was reminded -- as I often am, when in the Scratcher's comfy confines -- of the fabled Dead Boys incident that happened just outside its front door.
I've spoken about it here a couple of times here before, but as told in Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain's fabled "Please Kill Me," back on April 19 of 1978, Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz and Blondie roadie Michael Sticca were out and about on this particular strip (probably on their way home from CBGB), and they were happened upon by a car-load of angry Puerto Rican guys with chains and baseball bats. An altercation ensued and Johnny Blitz ended up getting stabbed and lay bleeding to death in the middle of East 5th (a spooky, dimly street even today). In the wake of this incident, the local punk luminaries of the time organized the Blitz Benefit, a fabled four night event at CB's, featuring a host of notable acts and surprising cameos (guest included Divine, King Crimson's Robert Fripp and John Belushi filling in on drums for the recuperating Johnny Blitz) to help raise money for Blitz's medical care.
I did the math and realized that the Blitz Benefit happened exactly 35 years ago this week.