The Hurricane That Wasn’t: Williamsburg Responds

I’m taking a break from cleaning up the mess I made preparing to prevent a mess that never happened. For me and mine, Irene seemed to be just a come-on, as it never quite delivered the promised apocalypse. I’ve been told of tragic deaths and power outages and floods, but little hit near my home in Williamsburg. I spent my hurricane night taking walks to delis to pick up even more food that I didn’t end up needing. The walks through the wind and rain were beautiful and not too treacherous. A group of shirtless hipsters screamed to the rain gods and offered us boisterous “Hell Yeah’s.” A car with a concerned citizen offered us a ride, deli owners offered fair deals, and smokers in rain gear in doorways offered us smiles and good lucks.

We were soaked to the bone in seconds. We were loving it, and at least we weren’t home watching those fools on NY 1. They were so wrong. The shots of their crews running around to find a tree limb that had fallen became tragically comical. We should all sue them for their hysterical incompetence. CNN and the Weather Channel added to the misinformation. The only service that had it right was my Droid Weather Bug application, which forecast the more manageable storm we actually had. Next time I’ll believe them, and it will be eons before I turn on NY1. The crowds at local pubs were celebrating the storm. Union Pool was a blast.

On Sunday we were told of the felling of the famed Vagina Tree in McCarren Park. A candlelight vigil became an unlit candlelight vigil as high winds blew firesticks out. The air was fresh, the sidewalks and gutters washed clean, every dog was looking for butts to sniff, and all the hipsters were looking for brunch. Every place was jammed. War conditions were in effect. We ate at Lodge, weathering the hour wait at their General Store outlet. Some of their staff walked three hours from Jamaica, Queens to serve us eggs.That’s the spirit.

Everybody in the hood was friendly and helpful. Retailers and restaurateurs were doing their best to understand the needs of their flock, who had gone stir crazy watching old movies, staying in for a whole Saturday night. The only exception to the helping-thy-neighbor rule was at Acqua Santa on Driggs, which denied one of my crew bathroom access with a cliche “bathrooms are for customers only.” It was no small wonder that they had two tables working while the rest of the hood was standing room only. They should be arrested.

Just before she scurried to safety Friday, my editor noted that this Saturday’s Junior Vasquez Birthday bash was postponed until October 8th at District 36. Webster Hall tried to open, but thought better of it. The Nightlife: The Art Exhibition opening at the Keeley Gallery on Bowery did not happen this Saturday, and has been rescheduled for this Wednesday. I’ll be out and about again tonight unless it takes me too long to get the duct tape off my windows.

The Most Ridiculous Parts of the New York Times’ Bebe Zeva Profile

Yesterday, The New York Times published a profile of teenage Internet personality Bebe Zeva. “Who?” some of you are hopefully asking. Zeva, an 18-year-old from Las Vegas, is friends with Tao Lin and the Thought Catalog crew, and is the girl who models t-shirts on Hipster Runoff. And that’s it. She is not a “journalist,” as is claimed in this article’s lede. I could maybe look past that little fib, but the absurdity doesn’t end there.

It starts out at Lodge, the restaurant in Williamsburg, where Zeva and the Thought Catalog squad are assembled. Notes are mine.

“‘I wore flared jeans and tight-fitting crewneck T-shirts from the likes of Hollister and Abercrombie up until my second semester of freshman year,’ [ed. note: the horror!] Ms. Zeva wrote in an e-mail after the night at Lodge, ‘when I made the conscious decision to pursue the hipster lifestyle.’ It was around this time, Ms. Zeva recalled, that she went through a period of ‘relentlessly’ Googling the word ‘hipster.’ On the Web, she discovered the party photographer Mark, the Cobra Snake, and the blog Hipster Runoff, whose author goes by the name Carles. Both men have since become mentors of a sort.”

Carles and the Cobra Snake should be no one’s mentors, especially not young teenage girls.

After the meal, the diners were choosing between two parties to attend, one given by Ms. Alexander’s musician friends in Bushwick and another at the offices of Verso Books, in Dumbo, to which Mr. Lin had been invited. ‘Which party will have the more relevant people?’ Ms. Zeva asked. ‘Verso publishes Slavoj Zizek,’ Mr. Lin said. Ms. Zeva is an admirer of the Slovenian philosopher [ed. note: really?]. ‘Will he be there?’ she asked.

Welcome to a world where people at restaurants with their friends actually talk like Carles writes. Tao Lin and his wife Megan Boyle made a documentary about Zeva, the premiere of which was her reason for coming to New York. On the way into the premiere, Zeva ate chicken wings.

“Walking into the premiere eating wings is perfect for my personal brand,” she said.

And the personal brand thing? People say that out loud, too? Not trying to be unnecessarily mean to Ms. Zeva, who, after all, is still a teenager (here’s the part where we all shudder collectively at the thought of what we were like at 18), but you kind of have to find it disheartening that a newspaper of record is now running pseudo-celebrity profiles of people whose main distinction is being friends with bloggers.

Michael Alig’s Year of Solitude, My Brooklyn Home

The “Party Monster” was not released, as many had expected. Instead, the powers that be in Albany have decided that Michael Alig will walk amongst us next November—provided that he behaves himself. Although this has been viewed by many as an unfair outcome, it was expected by me and mine. Alig, who was sentenced to serving ten to twenty years for the murder of Angel Melendez, has almost reached his “due date.” The date that peeps serving that sentence are normally set free, with a big “unless” attached to it. This particular “unless” has to do with behavior and “good time.” Michael, always good at showing people a good time, violated a rule here and there, and experienced a loss of “good time,” totaling six years. You do the math. That six year loss brings him up to his twenty. However, (another huge word) inmates have opportunities to earn back their “good time” by doing extra work, and completing programs.

Michael’s violations were all drug-related. Except for that one really bad hour with Freeze (Robert Riggs, who has been released), and Angel (who was no angel), he never was a violent sort. So Michael did his required penance. He took drug programs, and even ended up leading, and helping others. He turned it all around. The brain trust in the State’s capital thought that good enough for five years out of the bad six he had accumulated. As I told Larry Seidler—a pal that Alig and I share— in the car on our way back from our last visit with “iron bars” Mike, they probably thought they were doing him a huge favor.

Although disappointed that he will not spend Christmas— or even Independece Day—on the street, Mike must embrace his fate, and prepare in earnest for his now defined release. He must stay sober, and despite what he believes, he hasn’t been sober all that long. He must not get in any trouble, and get used to that. He must focus on that release date, and be prepared for it. He has a book in him, and it is almost done. He is painting and getting good at it. He has film and TV crews biting at the bit to chronicle his life and his transition from that marvelous, maniacal, Warholian wonderkind-turned evil-doer, who’s now turned all-around-swell-person. Few — very few — leaving the joint after so long have any support groups, friends, or relatives anxious to help them. Michael’s blessings cannot be counted on fingers, toes or any body parts. They must be counted on that year, plus a little bit more calendar that suddenly has a real date on it. Freedom is no longer just a theory. Michael will cry, and whine, and complain, which is his way, and he can’t be blamed for it, but it all seems fair, and he must get used to the idea that after one more year he will be free.

I am still writing out of internet cafes, mostly from House of Small Wonder in Williamsburg, where I still live. I must admit, I do love it, but there have been a few moments where I have nearly gone postal. The early mornings at other coffee/internet spots, amongst the hordes of plaid hipsters, when I must insist on cow milk rather than bean — or nut milk — have been close calls. House of Small Wonder is simply wonderful. Yesterday, running into former Top Chef contestant Josie Smith-Malave and event planner Kevin Crawford at the park, while picnicking with puppies, made it all feel right. McCarren Park with huddles of happiness, sports, and babies from young parents was a flashback to Washington Square Park circa 1972. It is out of such convergence of creative youth that movements spring forth. As a poet once said, “it was deja vu all over again.”

At night, I was whisked to the Polestar Poetry Series at Bruar Falls. Melissa Brewer usually hosts these shindigs at Cake Shop, but held it at Bruar’s last night. There seems to be an affiliation between the two joints. Again, I’m new at this Brooklyn stuff, so I’m just feeling my way around. This event had the blog Electric Literature entwined in it, and I was tagging along with writer, Julia Jackson, as she was covering it. I ran into hardcore icon Jimmy Gestapo (from the iconic hardcore band, Murphy’s Law) as I neared. He was shocked to see me in BBurg. He wasn’t feeling the readings and told me to join him across the street at Trash. I promised I would after I caught a little bit of the poetry thing. I too, lack the patience for the spoken word thing, unless there is something being said that I can relate to. The old banger cashier machine drowned out great gobs of words from seriously crunchy sorts, and I was quickly at the point where I wanted to go see Jimmy, but needed to support Julia a little.The falling ice, pinball machine, and unrelated laughter joined the banger in drowning out very important words. I knew they were important because the readers paused for affect, for applause that would never come. There were few emotions in the words. All were a single beat, a monotone relay of mundane events, or relationships. Realizing that I wasn’t bright enough to get it, I joined the crew watching Miss Piggy and the Muppets closed-captioned on the bar TV. This too fell short of satisfying my urges, so I dashed to Trash with my gal.

A jukebox Jello Biafra tune got my blood flowing and then the Ramones got me straight. I wondered if the poets across the street could pick up something from the poets on the jukebox. I wondered if it would all be good if they just shouted 1-2-3-4 in between tomes. Felipe, the barkeep at Bruar kept the diet cokes flowing, but I left anyway, missing the band Sweatband, which was promised. The place was jammed with a pleasant crowd and I’m sure I would have loved it.

My weekend was more misses than hits. I missed my pal Oleg Vibe’s birthday bash at OPM. I missed Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and Kenny. Dinner at Taco Chulo and cocktails at the Lodge were swell, but I need my cable and maybe a place to crash once in awhile in Manhattan.

Tiger Bombs, Brooklyn Balls, Leo’s Rocks

He really does have a tiger in his tank!. The continuing saga of Tiger Woods and his friends will get sadder. As I mentioned Monday, people are telling me that the Rachel Uchitel “scandal’ is just Tiger’s toe in the water; the media will keep running with this story, and by the end he might be in over his head. Apparently a second gal has come forward, and where there are 2 there are often 200. And now, Tiger says, “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.” There you have it. I don’t do gossip, so I traveled out to Brooklyn to attend a Fader magazine party at Brooklyn Bowl and to meet up with some journalist types who wanted to get some names of some dames that tell tales that make Rachel look like Mother Teresa in comparison. I’m just trying to figure out who’s going to give Rachel a club to run so she can cash in on her “good” name, which suddenly became great.

My weekly excursion to BK took me to Lodge at 318 Grand Street in Williamsburg where I hung with my pal, manager Jamie Lynn Rowe, and owner Dan Cipriani. I ate turkey pot pie while I prepared for a serious skee-ball competition next door at Full Circle. Three months ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead in Brooklyn, but now it’s one of the few places where I feel alive. Full Circle was kicking as part owner/manager/bartender/all around nice guy Michael Doherty assured me that his supply of Powers Irish would not run out this evening. I took him at his word while attempting to prove him wrong. Barkeep Amy was on hand to keep my shot glass relevant, while Michael and everyone else in the joint took turns beating me at skee. A close friend has proposed to me that if I am to seriously write I must take drinking more seriously. This morning I do feel a bit more like Hemingway and Fitzgerald — like I have been dead for 50 years. The skee-ball was fabulous … I lost every game. Jamie was amazing at it. I asked her how, and she told me, “I’m from New Jersey!”

My search for the right night took me to West Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, over the long weekend to find antiques for Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva’s 14th Street supper club and to visit a couple of pals I went to school(schuyl)with. I met Goobs and my pal Leo at Leo’s Roadhouse on Route 11. I dodged a big buck — Goobs said it was a 10-pointer — just outside the joint. Leo’s is a no-nonsense hole in the wall. Some bright crooner once said, “The fundamentals still apply as time goes by.” At Leo’s it’s the basics: friendly bartenders, loose women, and cheap booze. A blue collar good time was had by all. The sign on the door said “Miller Lite bikers welcome, please remove colors,” and the jukebox which made the girls sway had a sign that said “No hip hop, no rap, no R&B unless specifically requested, or you will be tossed.” The bar hangs in the middle of the room with no back to it or barriers to stop peeps from going behind. They keep it simple at Leo’s.

I often listen to complicated schemes as nouveaux owners try to re-invent the wheel. If you get the fundamentals right, the rest tends to happen. The roadhouse floor was plywood stained only by last drinks, and I was surprised to see the Christmas lights up so early. I was told they were up “from last year … or maybe the year before.” They all thought it was great that I wore a plaid shirt to fit in, and all I needed was a trucker’s hat. There are few trends noted out in West Nanticoke, but they get it right. The place makes money and provides a home away from home and a living for many. In a place where bottle service is Rolling Rock, Bud, or Miller Lite, and they don’t charge extra for the table, chair, or the friendly smile on delivery, you could see how the booze business simply works. This saloon was rocking, and I had a blast. Next time I go, I’m going to dig up my John Deere hat and really impress them.

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