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.
I started this blog as a complete lark in 2005. At the time, I was married with an infant daughter and a long-held job at TIME Magazine.
Since then, I’ve had a second child. At times, given its demands, Flaming Pablum has felt like my third child.
I've since changed jobs no less than three times (and am still currently on the hunt for the next opportunity). And while I started this blog partly as a means to help occupy the long, quiet hours of downtime during weekly overnight shifts at the TIME Magazine news desk, it’s turned into something that’s frequently garnered more attention than my professional résumé.
When I first launched Flaming Pablum, the following concerns were all still operational: CBGB, The Cedar Tavern, Rocks in Your Head, Shakespeare & Co., Bleecker Bob’s, the Roseland Ballroom, Milady’s, Gotham Book Mart, Tower Records, Mondo Kim’s, Chumley’s, the original Max Fish, The Hat, Motor City, the Hog Pit, NYCD, Rockit Scientist, Subterranean Records, the Knitting Factory, Footlight Records, the Virgin Megastore, the Lit Lounge, Etherea Records, the All-State Cafe, Pizza Box, Future Legend Records ... and those are just the ones off the top of my head. The disappearance of most of what I’ve held dear about New York City has accelerated to such a point that I find it almost too dispiriting to try to keep up.
In the ten years that I’ve been writing about this stuff, I’ve been remarkably fortunate enough to meet a disarming amount of similarly inclined individuals. I’ve made friends and have become part of a veritable community. I’ve had people from all corners of the globe reach out to me to share their thoughts on stuff I’ve hastily typed here.
As time has gone on, it seems the novelty of blogging has rather sharply dissipated (witness the amount of links to broken or dormant blogs at left), but I’ve somehow managed to keep mine going. Barring a couple of self-imposed hiatuses and the pervading fear that each and every post may be my final gasp, I’ve endeavored to find something to say here on a more or less regular schedule for a full decade.
I’d sincerely like to thank everyone who’s managed to find the blog (especially with my cryptic and not-at-all intuitive URL), read it and — good lord — come back for more. I hope it’s been as informative and engaging for you as it’s been therapeutic for me.
I can’t promise you ten more years, but as long as you keep coming back, I’ll keep trying to serve it up.
I went to meet an old friend from college for a beer last night. He lives in Salt Lake City now, but was in town on business and staying somewhere “on the fringes of TriBeCa.” As such, I suggested meeting him at the age-old standby, The Ear Inn, over on the westernmost edges of Spring Street.
On my way over, however, I was very saddened to spot that the Emerald Pub — formerly on the corner of Spring and Renwick — had evidently closed up shop. I have no idea when that actually happened, but it makes me sad, although probably not for the reasons ya might think.
Truthfully speaking, there wasn’t anything especially distinctive about the Emerald Pub. I certainly drank a few beers there a time or two, although if I was ever on that particular strip, I was inevitably bound for the strenuously superior Ear Inn, or McGovern’s across the way (when it was still there) or raucous rawk club, Don Hill’s further down the block (also gone). The Emerald Pub was ultimately just a generic Irish bar … with a secret.
The Emerald Pub was still special to me, because it was the spot that Martin Scorsese used to stage scenes in “After Hours” as the Terminal Bar. You might remember it looking like this….
Not sure what’s slated to open there next. Maybe it’ll be another bar that seeks to pay homage to the address’ fleeting cinematic significance.
I’ve clearly been doing this sort of thing too long if I’m suddenly now doing it subconsciously.
Yesterday afternoon, I took the kids out for some ice cream (one does this a lot on hot days when the kids get out of school at 11:45). Afterwards, we found ourselves aimlessly wandering around the Village. On our slow meander home, we took a stroll down iconic Gay Street. Upon passing a pair of distinctive doors, I asked my kids to go sit on the steps.
I just thought it made for an interesting picture, but my old comrade Be Bop from the New York Review of Record days spotted it on Facebook and matched it with this sleeve from 1972 by American folk duo, Aztec Two-Step (who I cannot say I am even remotely familiar with).
A number of weeks back, photographer Matthew Weber hosted an image on his truly astounding photo-blog, Black and White Street Photographs of New York (really, if you’re an aficionado of my blog, you owe yourself a trip over to his), that caught my eye. Here it is.
While I indeed love the flyers plastered up showcasing then-new albums by Billy Idol and Alice Cooper, it’s the red building in the background that fired my imagination.
The Triangle II … or simply 675 Hudson Street off West 14th Street … always seemed like the centerpiece of the Meatpacking District. Like a slightly diminutive sibling to the Flatiron Building a couple of neighborhoods away, it stands perched on a dividing line between Hudson Street and 9th Avenue, not unlike the bow of a ship sailing north. Weber’s photograph above, shot in 1986, perfectly captures the gritty, weathered and not-just-a-little forbidding character of the surrounding neighborhood at the time. Today, of course, it’s a very different scene.
But even back during the less salubrious days of the Meatpacking District, 675 Hudson was a bit of landmark. It was featured in no shortage of significant films, notably “Single White Female,” “Fatal Attraction” and “The Hours,” and even made a cameo in the stylish clip for “When 2 Become 1” by the Spice Girls (of all bands). Here’s a shot of it circa “Single White Female” in 1992 (thanks to Jeremiah Moss).
Personally speaking, I’ve always been drawn to it — not just because of its interesting history and architecture, but because it also played host to a number of distinct concerns in its lower quarters. Back in the 80s and 90s, among its more celebrated tenants were sex clubs like The Hellfire Club, The Manhole and, most famously, The Vault.
On many an evening during my nights out on the tiles in the 90’s with similarly inclined cohorts, whenever someone asked “Where should we go now?” (invariably postulated after we’d been shown the door by one establishment or another), someone would jocularly and zealously exhort “TO THE VAULT!!” One night we actually went, but that’s a story for another post. Here’s a shot of the exterior I took sometime in the late 90’s.
On its southern side, meanwhile, was The Hog Pit (which I discussed at some length here). In this capacity, this stately triangular building was something of an oasis in the Meatpacking District. It was but a stone’s throw from other fabled spots like The Cooler (long gone), Hogs & Heifers (still there, somewhat astoundingly) and the Village Idiot (now a bicycle shop, if memory serves).
My very first time setting foot in the building, meanwhile, would date back to the summer of 1989. As discussed in this ancient post, I was interning paylessly and perilously at SPIN Magazine at the time, and one afternoon, my fellow intern Sam and I were dispatched to the apartment of estimably affable contributor and rock photographer extraordinaire Pat Blashill. I can’t remember what our mission was — to pick up some negatives or proofs or something?? — but off we went, darkening the already-somewhat forbidding door of 675 Hudson to procure whatever materials SPIN needed from Mr. Blashill. I remember his home being suitably funky, but endearingly homey at the same time.
Now 25 (Jesus Christ!!!) years later, I am back in touch with Pat Blashill, thanks to the world-shrinking services of Facebook. In thinking about this entry, I thought it might be fun to ask Pat — now living in Vienna, Austria, of all places — about living in the heart of the Meatpacking District during the bad old days. Happily, he was more than game to discuss it.
So Pat, when did you move into the Triangle II building?
I moved from Austin, Texas, to New York City in June, 1987. A friend of a friend was subletting his room in the Triangle II building—the address was 675 Hudson. Just before I left Texas, some friends helpfully informed me that the apartment I was moving into had once been a gay S & M club called the Toilet. So I knew I was getting into something. When I got there, one of the rooms in the apartment had a cage in the corner that was big enough for about three humans.
What was the neighborhood like at the time?
It was colorful. The meat markets were still quite active, and after the sun went down, our corner was another sort of meat market. Lots of very attractive African-American fellows in dresses and heels. And there was a great late night bagel spot called Dizzy Izzy’s in the middle of everything. Yummy white fish spread. I walked in there once and Susan Sarandon—dressed head to toe in black leather—was ordering half a dozen sesame bagels to go.
Were you aware of the businesses also in operation in the building (i.e. the Vault, the Manhole, the Hog Pit, etc.) Did you patronize them? Were they good neighbors?
Oh yeah, we were aware and proud of our cozy little historic corner. You may also know that Fatal Attraction was filmed on the second floor of the building before I moved in, and after I moved out, part of the Meryl Streep story in The Hours was shot in our apartment. The Ed Harris character jumps out of my bedroom window and kills himself in that movie.
I didn’t patronize the Vault, but I did go down there once because we blew a fuse and I needed to get to the circuit breaker box. The staff there were easily the palest humans I had ever seen. But very polite.
I didn’t ever go to the Hog Pit—I’m a barbecue snob, being from Texas and all.
What are your most striking memories (good or bad) of the place and/or neighborhood?
We had some really good drum parties in our apartment. We would tell everyone we knew to show up with a drum or something that could be played like a drum. People brought pots, pans, metal crates and industrial washing machine cylinders. We would start pounding out a groove, and just keeping banging until the police came to shut us down. Jon Spencer and one of the guys from Big Black showed up at one, and they were pretty amused by it all.
Eventually a hip hop club opened up nearby, so I also enjoyed being awoken at four-thirty in the morning whenever some of the more macho hip hop kids would decide to fuck with the drag queens. I once saw one of the transvestites chasing some of those kids with a two-by-four. Those club kids got so much more than they bargained for.
Why did you move?
We eventually got kicked out when we couldn’t prove that our apartment had been a residential space for long enough to qualify for rent control. So we had another big party a few days before we moved. A few walls got demolished. Sort of like when Black Flag left Los Angeles.
What do you miss most?
Oh, it was really fun, but I’m not that person anymore. I don’t think New York is that city anymore.
Have you been back since?
I’ve walked around the building a few times since then—at least one of our neighbors still lives there. I didn’t notice any cheap bagel spots in the vicinity…..
Anything you’d like to add….
A fond memory: after I’d been there for a year or so, my mom came to NYC to visit me. Naturally, she had been alarmed when I first told her I wanted to move to New York. But when she got there and stayed with us in 675 Hudson, she loved it. I came home from work one day, and she was just sitting by the window, watching the city buses, and the meat packing trucks, the transvestites and the Hassidic Jews who drove by on their way back to their homes in New Jersey. She looked back at me and said, “Oh Pat, this is just fascinating!”
I’d love to sincerely thank Pat for sharing his recollections with Flaming Pablum
Today, you’d never know the above shenanigans transpired at 675 Hudson. The sex clubs are gone, and the Hog Pit is now a Bill’s Burger Bar. The north end of the building plays host to a well appointed Italian eatery, and there’s now a Tango-themed dance studio on the third floor. I have no idea what’s in the space formerly occupied by The Vault, but I doubt it’s as exciting.
Here we see, of course, John and Paul of the Beatles hanging out at the Hans Christian Andersen statue on the western side of the Central Park Boat Pond. Here’s what Mr. Sessa had to say about the photo.
Paul McCartney, “Magic” Alex Mardas, John Lennon, Neil Aspinall - in Central Park, in front of Hans Christian Andersen statue, May 1968 (photographer unknown). John and Paul were in NYC to announce the formation of Apple and to appear on the Johnny Carson Show.
As New Yorkers, how many of us have taken similar pictures to this one? Having been raised on the Upper East Side, I practically grew up in Central Park. Like millions of others, I have vivid memories of climbing all over this beloved statue, as well as its larger sibling to the north, that being the iconic “Alice in Wonderland.”
I just love the idea that John and Paul also felt inclined to capture a moment there. Only last weekend, I was in that very same spot with my kids, and we also succumbed.
It's also just strange to see these seemingly larger-than-life figures hanging around such a familiar locale. That said, the Fabs aren't the first band to have been photographed around this spot. As I first spoke of in this post, here's Sonic Youth hanging out on the afore-cited "Alice in Wonderland"....
Taking a page from the Beatles (probably not by accident, given their aspirations), KISS were also photographed loitering manfully around this same area of Central Park.
I’d asserted that the park in the opening scene looked a bit like Father Fagan place, where MacDougal intersects with Prince at Sixth Avenue. Check out what Chung had to say beneath.
I am not totally certain...but this could be NYU with Judson Memorial Church in view. The peaked roof on right could be NYU law school at MacDougal and 4th St...but that would mean the open space on left side is Washington Square. The angle seems off for it tho. [Alex - I think this is certainly MacDougal. To the left would be what is today that shitty bar, Off The Wagon].
Building at MacDougal and Prince seen in 1977 Edmund V Gillon jr photo from Father Fagan Square.
Same building at MacDougal and Prince from Father Fagan Square.
Basketball court at 6th Ave and Houston...ad is on building at 260 Sixth Ave...will post another pic of it from 1972 next.
Basketball court at 6th Ave and Houston with ad at 260 Sixth Ave by Richard Greene in 1972.
I think that is Congress House (185 West Houston)...the fence is the basketball court at 6th Ave and Houston.
Convinced that we’d sussed it out, I was out for a walk with my kids again today, and sure enough we found ourselves briefly in Father Fagan Place, so I had the kids pose with the directive, …”do something funky.”
Following closely on the heels of this allusion to Amos Poe’s “The Foreigner,” I was out and about with my son Oliver yesterday afternoon, and we found ourselves walking east on Great Jones Street. As such, I was struck with an idea.
Just as a bit of backtracking, “The Foreigner” is this strange little film made back in the late 70’s during the gestation of all things NYC punk. Ponderous and stiff in parts, the film is sort of like a cross between “Alphaville” and “After Hours,” following bizarre protagonist/secret agent Max as he tries to navigate his way through the Lower East Side of the late 70’s on a star-crossed clandestine mission. Along the way, he encounters some notable characters like Debbie Harry and The Cramps.
While the film is sometimes ploddingly slow in its narrative, it's compelling in how it captures lower Manhattan (and the punk scene of the day) in a manner that is, of course, strikingly at odds with what’s here today. It’s tough to find, but worth tracking down.
In any case, at one point in the proceedings, Max is being chased through the streets by a carload of merry cutthroats, all the while gleefully chanting “We Love You, Mr. Zig-Zag!” (referring to the serpentine manner in which Max is trying to outrun the car).
The chase careens down the Bowery, hangs a left on Great Jones and then onto Lafayette Street. Back on this post, I took a couple of screengrabs. Below is our fleeting homage to poor Max.
2015... finding Oliver (in brand new red sneakers...yay!) in roughly the same spot....
Alas, I wasn’t entirely correct with my guess of Greene Street just south of Broome. Longtime reader/friend Chung Wong was technically the first to chime in with Greene and Grand Street, and Bob Egan of PopSpots also weighed in with the same answer. In typical form, Bob also showed his work….
Today, with the intention of going to pick up some items at soon-to-vanish Pearl River on Mercer Street (well, technically it’s on Broadway, but I prefer the Mercer Street entrance), I swung over to Greene to verify the sleuth work.
It looks indeed like Lynn Goldsmith shot this lovely photograph of Todd Rundgren in 1983 on the southwest corner of Greene Street at Grand. Here it was this afternoon.....
Usually, I have my kids star in the photo replications, but … they’re at school, so you’re stuck with me. In hindsight, squeezing my 47-year-old frame into a vintage, form-fitting Sisters of Mercy t-shirt and donning my requisite pair of sunglasses only serves to make me resemble Simon Pegg’s protagonist in “The World’s End,” but some things just can’t be helped, alas.
As I’ve recently been moaning, I’m still up to my neck in the sickly sewer of unemployment (and how’s that for evocative imagery?). And as is the case, much of my day is spent staring at the computer screen, paging through sites like Indeed , Mediabistro and such, looking for roles that fit the bill. Some days are better than others. Sometimes there’s a succession of great positions on offer. Other days, it’s a wasteland.
There are also certain points wherein I have to get out of the house. During times like these, I usually grab the laptop I share with my indescribably understanding spouse and repair to various locales around the city that offer free WiFi. Library branches are usually good for that, but some of them here in Manhattan just aren’t that nice (and by “aren’t that nice,” I mean they’re smelly, uncomfortable and … in certain instances … even possibly dangerous). Failing the NYPL, I usually hole up in any number of Le Pain Quoditiens.
Much like Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, Pret a Manger and countless insipid froyo outfits before it, Le Pain Quoditien set its sights on Manhattan a couple of years back and dispatched a veritable occupying force. There are now several locations of the coffee-&-croissant chain per neighborhood. And like every other chain, you can bet that the fare at one of their locations is EXACTLY THE SAME as at their next location. Such is the nature of these businesses. They thrive on their patrons’ need for the comfortable and familiar.
I should really hate Le Pain Quoditien, given that they’re helping homogenize the city, and invariably putting the squeeze on independent mom’n’pop coffee shops. They may look rustic and quaint and cozy — like you’re sipping a Latte in a bespoke French farmhouse in goddamn Provence — but don’t be fooled. They’re invariably just another ruthless corporate juggernaut.
But this is where they get me — free goddamn WiFi, AND….they leave me alone. Seriously, I can set up shop in one of these joints, and pretty much spend several undisturbed hours. My deeply engrained Catholic guilt makes me purchase cup after cup of hot chocolate (or, now that spring hath sprung, ice coffee), but I’ve seen people order something tiny and then spend the rest of the day in a PQ without given them any more money — simply exploiting their free WiFi and the permissive, comfortable environment. Like I said, I hate it, but here I am, typing at you from one of them right now (the Broadway & 11th Street location, if you’re curious).
I even have my favorites. I especially love the one on East 34th Street and Park Avenue, because it seems like a lot of folks don’t realize it’s there. They have a big dining room as well (although their electrical outlets are few and far between). The one on Broadway at 22nd Street is pretty good, too, but it does fill up with swarms of chatty folks.
On Tuesday, I found myself sitting in that one, next to a pair of ladies from some indie fashion website. The combined onslaught of the needlessly over-employed “like,” the inescapable vocal fry and the insistence on inflecting every sentence as if was a question was almost enough to drive me from the place and back to the pungent squalor of the nearest library branch.
As much as I’m really not proud of it, I’m now fairly versed in the Pain Quoditien circuit. Put me in a random neighborhood, and I can find one. From midtown to Meat Packing, Hell’s Kitchen to the Upper East Side — I know’em, and I use’em. It’s come to that.
Alright, great, so where am I going with all this?
Well, a lot of it comes back to something I said on this post. As New Yorkers — native or otherwise — we tend to almost take these streets for granted. We associate them with places and events from our own, ultimately limited frame of experience, often forgetting how many countless lives and stories have played out on these same seemingly incidental byways. In a way, that’s what makes it “our town.” My wife — who grew up in England — is always remarking about how I seem to have a significant anecdote about seemingly every other block. I’ve mapped out my own New York City through the prism of my life and experience. But, of course, mine is only one of the fabled “eight million stories in the Naked City.”
And this isn’t limited to New York City, of course. Hell, you could be walking down a street in goddamn London, and forget that people have been walking down that same street for literally centuries.
So, anyway, back to the Le Pain Quoditien on the northwest corner of East 11th and Broadway. I’d been sitting here for a while, fruitlessly flipping through job postings and reached maximum fatigue. I knew that once I spotted the same opportunity scroll by for the fifth time, I’d exhausted that particular site’s offerings for the afternoon. As such, I started to — as we used to say — surf, and found myself flipping through pictures on Shorpy, the truly amazing archive of vintage photographs. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s well worth your time.
So, as is my wont, I’m perusing through shots of New York City, looking to harvest a bit of future content for this silly blog, and I randomly come across a picture that stops me dead in my tracks. While I may blithely think of this corner I’m sitting on as “the one with that certain Le Pain Quoditien” on it, it comes screaming back at me through the screen that it’s been so much more than that.