Where To Break Your New Year’s Resolutions in NYC

As kids, it was pretty easy to break things, whether it was your bones, your grandma’s vase, or that ceramic dish sitting on the living room shelf. As adults (or something like it), we expand our repertoire with the steady breaking of our New Year’s resolutions, which generally happens somewhere between their announcement and the second week of the year. But before I provide all of the best places in NYC to break these resolutions, let me first take a moment to commend us for even trying to resolve and better ourselves in the first place. (moment of silence). Alright, now let’s get to it.

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Literary Raconteur Nick Tosches Discusses Rimbaud, Addiction, And His New Novel

“My entertainment,” author Nick Tosches tells me, his voice a curious mixture of resignation and glee, “is watching the downfall of civilization.” As he says this, he glances out the window as if it offers the perfect vantage point for observing the End Times. It takes a moment to sink in, but as I take my next sip of coffee I realize, this motherfucker isn’t kidding.

During his long career, Tosches has earned a reputation as a writer who doesn’t mess around. Hellfire, his 1982 biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest rock and roll biographies ever written; he’s responsible for the definitive boxing deconstruction, The Devil and Sonny Liston; and novels like Cut Numbers and In The Hand of Dante are uncompromising works that offer a dark worldview radically different from what passes as capital-L Literature these days.

I find Tosches in the shadowy recesses of Circa Tabac, a bar that is also a central location in his latest novel, Me and the Devil. We are in one of the few stalwart holdouts of a whitewashed Manhattan, and I am talking about Rimbaud with one of the city’s last great literary pugilists. His graying hair swept back

over his head and his sleepy blue eyes still flashing behind smoke from a fat cigar, at 63 he’s every part the louche of legend.

“Rimbaud always intrigued me,” he says. “He went off to the most forbidding place on the earth at the time”—referring to the poet’s time spent in Harar, Ethiopia during the 1880s—“to deal in coffee and guns. And Ezra Pound…” He stops mid-sentence and shakes his head. “Anyway, they’re dead. They don’t need the money. Write about me.”

Me and the Devil is Tosches touching his outer limits. It’s a compulsively readable tale of sadomasochistic obsession and Faustian misbehavior: a meta-rumination on aging, sex, and the nature of art. In it, “Nick Tosches”—a writer of advancing years with a drinking problem—discovers that consuming the blood of young virgins is turning him into something immortal, something much like a god—a revelation that culminates with the appearance of a man who may or may not be Beelzebub himself.

It wasn’t an easy book for Tosches to write. “At times I just felt so exhausted by it,” he says. “I’d think, ‘This is the last book. I don’t give a fuck, but here it is.’ ”

He was so disturbed by the extremity of the material that he stopped work on it twice before finally pulling strength from a mysterious darkness— was that sulfur I smelled on those galley pages?—and pushing himself to finish it. He puffs contemplatively on his cigar and says, “The world being what it is, and people being what they are… I just figured this was a good point in time to strap them to the electric chair, ya know?”

We riff a bit on the subject of drugs, specifically baclofen, which is claimed by many to be a silver bullet cure for even the most trenchant addictions, specifically alcoholism. It’s something that Tosches writes about at length in the novel. He tells me he attempted to cure his own craving for alcohol with the drug and admits that it may have had a retroactive effect, saying, “I have no taste for alcohol now.”

Turning to the state of publishing, Tosches feels it’s becoming harder for novels of substance to find a readership these days, despite the best efforts of authors to try and engage readers via avenues like social media. It’s in part, he muses, because publishers are still struggling to adapt to a quickly changing landscape. I mention that in this brave new world it seems that sapless books like Fifty Shades of Grey benefit the most. “There’s a certain gift in being that perfectly… mediocre,” he says.

He straightens up, takes a gulp of beige coffee, and looks out the window where the sunlight is bathing the streets of Soho. “I’m telling you, it’s the absolute truth, Tony. My entertainment is the downfall of civilization. This is it. This is definitely the worst species that has ever occupied the planet. For every one of its glorious achievements there’ve been millions of other people who’ve left nothing but a legacy of stupidity and destruction. People who no longer even have the attention span to read.”

He turns back to me. His expression softens, and that sly grin reappears. “I mean… those are the same people I usually hang out with in bars. So I’m not getting down on them. I’m just saying, that’s the way it is.”

DJ Uncle Mike’s New York City

Smells like teen spirit! Actually it smelled like a million cigarettes. My travels and travails took me to Circa Tabac, where my pal, DJ Uncle Mike, was offering Smoking Lounge Sundays. Circa Tabac is one of a handful of NYC places where smoking is permitted — and therefore celebrated. Located on Watts Street by that umbilical cord that attaches Manhattan to the hinterlands (otherwise known as the Holland Tunnel), it is the cutest little spot. Sitting there, listening to Mike’s varied tunes, it felt like the old days—before regulations took the edge and threw it over to Brooklyn and other exotic lands.

It was a time when, upon returning home after a night on the town, it was required to have a quick rinse to get the gray residue of a thousand cigarettes out of your hair before passing out.

Many people say that losing the freedom to smoke took the edge out of nightlife. There are, of course, places where determined or irreverent scenesters still light up, but the city did go ape shit over enforcement of this rule. Smoking has basically gone into club extinction, or at least the endangered list, much like the cashier booth or the Drag Queen dancing on the bar. Circa Tabac does have smoke filters and in the warmer months they open big windows, but the place is infused with the familiar smell. The place packs out on most nights, and Mike and others are trying to boost the off nights. It felt good to hear the music, sipping a drink under low lights while whiffs worked their way to the ceiling. Smoking has it’s drawbacks, but it does make a place seem sexier.

Uncle Mike is a familiar figure to Bungalow 8 veterans. He lit up that joint for 4 years, playing everything that ever mattered. Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals nicknamed the bearded Michael Schnapp, who was at the time working as an A&R guy at EMI records. Mike told me he had a scout who brought him “a ton of shit and nothing worked. Everything sounded the same to me, everything was the same thing. There was a tape left and I asked my scout what was that and he said nothing, just some guys I work with over at Limelight. I said let’s hear it. It was different: strange, good, magical. I liked everything. It was weird hearing something so new that I liked so much. So I took them to meet the boss, and he asks them if they want to make a record. They agree, and he tells me to make sure they don’t starve.” Fun Lovin’ Criminals went on to success, although mostly in England. Huey and Fast (Brian Leiser) were no longer employees at the Limelight, rather celebrities in their own right, but there was never a change in demeanor. They remained true to their school, friends, and the streets they spoke of in their music.

Then Michael—Uncle Mike—became a full time DJ in ’95. “I’m like one of the guys who went the other way. Most DJs leave to become producers, or music company guys. I went from A&R to DJing. He showed me his setup: a laptop with a Serato computer program, his Rane Mixer, and the special case that he carries them in. He smoked while he mixed and told me the people at Circa Tabac are real nice. On Saturdays, he does the early set from 4PM to 9PM over at Brooklyn Bowl. “Anything can happen, from a Pink Floyd cover band to original artists. A couple weeks ago they had this performer, April Smith, doing original rock. Keep your ears open about her. She can really sing.” After the Brooklyn gig he eats and heads to White Noise, where he spins from 11 until close. He tears it up. Next Sunday he’s pushing the First Annual Brooklyn Springtime Guitar Show at Brooklyn Bowl from noon to 6pm. Admission is free. He says it will be “like a combination of 48th street—you know, where Sam Ash and Mannys are located—hipster Williamsburg, and high-end, out of state guitar collectors. There will be rare guitars that go for 10K, plus to everyday beat up rockers stuff. Like a cool guitar strap that Keith Richards would love.” The after party at Circa Tabac will be a smash. A week later he’ll celebrate his birthday at the spot. He is ageless, celebrating a number somewhere between Justin Beiber and me. DjUncleMike.com will tell you more.