Cat Power Takes a Tour of ‘Manhattan’

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Cat Power’s latest album, Sun, was a sonic wonderland, and one of the best tracks was a love letter to her adopted home of New York City. Naturally, the second single from the album gets a lovely video. Watch as Chan Marshall roams the Manhattan streets by foot, by train, and by the roof of a car. There are a few amazing sights on display: the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Max Fish on the Lower East Side, a busker in the Union Square subway station, and even a Cat Power billboard. 

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Charlotte Ronson Redux, LES Crime Call

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There were more photographers than actual humans in attendance at the launch party for Charlotte Ronson’s beauty line at Hotel Chantelle. In between posing at the step-and-repeat, guests dined on rigatoni bolognese and other treats and retold their Hurricane Irene experiences. In fact, save for Irene and sister Samantha who couldn’t get there because of the storm, all Charlotte’s girl pals were there to support. Drea de Matteo, Shoshanna Gruss, Dani Stahl, Eleanor Ylvisaker, Becka Diamond, and mom Ann Dexter-Jones made the scene. The retractable roof remained open, and the cooperating weather was all the rage.

We left and caught that Paul Rudd movie, which surprisingly wasn’t bad, and returned for the afterparty in the downstairs lounge. A good time was had by all. Talk of how exhausted everyone was with all the hurricane drama and how lucky we all were that the event could actually occur. Everybody, especially Vanity Fair’s George Wayne (surrounded as usual with a bevy of beauties), were just happy to be there to support Charlotte’s new adventure.

I received the following late last night — names have been deleted to protect the presumably innocent:

On friday night, Saturday morning, around 3 AM – 2 men ate a meal at El Sombrero – the popular Dominican restaurant with Mexican style home cooking located at 108 Stanton @ the corner of Ludlow and Stanton. After eating the 2 men left without paying their bill – a game called dine and dash. One of the cooks, Adolfo Batista, and a friend chased the men and caught up to them in front of 110 Stanton, across the street from the open San Loco. The thieves got away and Mr. Batista ended up getting serious beating. He was taken to the hospital and later released.

The block between Houston and Stanton is heavily patrolled. A patrol car parked at the corner of Houston stops all traffic from entering Ludlow. The police put 2 powerful kleg lights just north of Max Fish which lights up the block like a Hollywood set. It is not unusual to see the 7th precinct Captain himself sitting in a car on the block The Captain seems fixated on closing Max Fish. No arrests were made. The thieves got away.

Stabbing-murder arrest – Police arrested Charles Meredith, 46, on Fri., May 13, and charged him with the May 11 stabbing death of Stewart Rhodes, 50, in Stanton House, the treatment center at 190 Stanton St. An argument between the suspect and the victim turned violent at about 3:20 a.m. when the suspect pulled a kitchen knife and plunged it several times into the victim’s torso, police said. Rhodes was taken to Beth Israel Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The suspect fled but police found a discarded kitchen knife at the scene. Meredith, a Brooklyn resident, was said to be a recent patient at the center and a roommate of the victim. He is being held on a charge of second-degree murder.

Held in girlfriend’s murder – Police arrested Miguel Peña, 58, on Tuesday night, June 28, and charged him with murder after the body of his girlfriend, Felicia Cruz, 49, a home health aide and mother of two sons, was found wrapped in a plastic sheet inside his Stanton St. apartment.

Police were called about 1:30 p.m. after the victim did not show up for work, and discovered her body in Peña’s apartment at 101 Stanton St. at Ludlow St. Her younger son, Eric, 14, had been looking for her because she hadn’t been seen since Monday, according to friends.

The victim had been dating Peña, a neighborhood ice cream vendor, for about five months, according to neighbors. The suspect was said to be extremely jealous and had been trying to convince her to move with him to Florida, neighbors said. Nevertheless, Cruz had been planning to leave him because of his jealousy, relatives said. Peña was being held without bail.

And so on.

I called the sender and asked him how these random ravings fit together. He explained that real crime is happening all over the neighborhood while the police seem fixated on closing Max Fish and other area hotspots. He referred to an article I wrote regarding this action. Although I agree that the real crimes mentioned should have precedence over the policing of the bars on the Lower East Side strip, I must say that the hood has been out of control for a while, and I welcome fair enforcement of common-sense noise regulations.

For too long, bars have had doors and windows wide open with music blaring and patrons literally screaming, getting sick, and breaking glassware and beer bottles with no response from city officials or recourse from residents. I have been told in the past that when someone called the precinct to complain, little or nothing had been done. One resident told me that when the Environmental Protection Agency agents did show up, on occasion, noise levels coincidentally were muted — implying a tipoff.

Police Captain David Miller, newly in charge of the area, seems so far to be dealing with this situation even-handedly, balancing the needs of those who live there with recognition of the vibrancy of the hood and the jobs and revenues generated by the night economy. Many are nervous that a sweeping police enforcement will eventually change the landscape and make the LES a bedroom community devoid of its historic and essential culture. If the policing is done because of impending new construction with the enforcement spurred by real-estate interests who are developing a nearby hotel and lots of etceteras, then scandal is indeed the word for it.

Where Have All the Creatives Gone?

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Amy Gunther’s birthday bash got me down to the still-purring-like-a-classic-car Motor City. Amy is the proprietor of Williamsburg’s KCDC Skateshop. She is a reverse cross-commuter living in the L.E.S. and working in BBURG. As Manhattan slowly loses its luster, and chains like Starbucks, Duane Reade, and other stores cater to the needs of its yuppie/NYU/condo set, more and more people have migrated to the hipster ghettos of Brooklyn. It’s the only place to be for creatives. Still, L Train Brooklyn and its other enclaves no longer define it as the second city—that happened at the start of the decade. When I went apartment hunting in September, I found the rents in the East Village and Brooklyn comparable. Amy will soon be joined by many artistic/creative types who can’t – or don’t want – to work in the increasingly gentrified Manhattan, but find sleeping in rent-controlled or long-leased apartments in hipster oases like Chinatown and L.E.S. affordable. Amy, still stunningly beautiful after yet another birthday, had Shawn Regruto DJing and it was grand time for all.

I walked these same streets on New Years Eve, popping by Max Fish, now squarely into its death throes. It was poignant seeing the crowd at the 20-plus-year-old dive Mecca try to celebrate. The atmosphere was laced with the sad and desperate, despite the NYE requirement to have fun. Everyone was giving each other hearty hugs and handshakes, and saying brilliant things like, “I know, it sucks.” $20,000 dollars a month is a reality that can’t be staved off selling PBR at a reasonable rate. There is a mindless mindset to NYE, and there’s still a few weeks left for the Fish. I’ll wait for the end of the month closing soiree to say things like, “I know, it sucks.”

Just a few blocks away, I was told Gaga, her boyfriend, and special friends brought in the new decade at Saint Jerome’s. The defining icon of the last half of the 2000’s was dressed in black and uber-friendly, my source said. It was strictly a friends and family affair and super hush-hush. She was where she began, surrounded by those who supported her before the world wanted to feed at her tit. The new album come springtime will tell the tale. Already the focus of all our attention, a monster record will hurl her into a stratosphere reserved for Madonnas and Michael Jackson. Let’s face it: she has come far, but it’s really just a handful of tracks compared to the legends. It’s refreshing to hear that she wasn’t headlining some Vegas casino or popping the cherry of the new decade in Times Square. She could have done anything, made mega millions, but instead was in a dive bar with her beau and pals. She is more human than the rest of the queens. She is absolutely wonderful, just for that.

Yet, in that image I have of her at Saint Jerome’s is the sadness of the loss of the cauldron of ideas that was downtown Manhattan. A girl at a yogurt counter overheard my conversation with my friend lamenting the end of Max Fish. She chimed in that they were “really, truly going to open real soon and nearby.” Alas, rents aren’t getting any cheaper, and the crowds attracted by the new joints geared for the higher rents will be different. It will be uptown girls slumming with handbags more expensive than the old rents. It will be frat boys and dressed-down investment banker-types seeking the edge. If there is anything those huddled in Saint Jerome’s and Max Fish knew that night, it was that the edge was long gone. Telling people to keep quiet about Gaga’s hanging won’t hide her or preserve the areas relevance. Max Fish may somehow find a way to remain close, but the edge has edged itself someplace else. In an internet/cellphone/twitter/tumblr world, edges will be discovered and dissected and will dissipate even faster. A door policy at a dive bar to keep out the tourists and gawkers isn’t going to work.

In Which I Wonder About the Future of the LES

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Today I fawned over a collection of old New York imagery from the late 1800’s through the end of the last century that The Museum of the City of New York recently released, wondering what corner bar now stands where an old city tenement had endured. The cache of images left me feeling wistful about the latest on the Lower East Side’s kill list, as it was recently announced that on top of Max Fish and Pink Pony’s imminent closings, Mars Bar will shutter in 2011 as well. Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable was famous for her outspoken 1963 New York Times article on the demolition of the original Penn Station in favor of Madison Square Garden, called “How to Kill a City.” She wrote: “Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.” It’s hard to be both a New York nostalgist and also feel positive about change and progress in the city, but are the cookie-cutter developments set to replace Mars Bar things that we really want?

image (Via Curbed). The current plan in place for Mars Bar is a 12-story, 60-unit building by BFC Partners (shown above), who have solidified relocation agreements with the current Second Avenue residents, though they have not yet negotiated such a contract with Mars Bar. Plans may include a 2-year closure for the ramshackle bar, only to reopen as a glossy version of its former self.

While many have expressed concern for such a loss, one person gung-ho for the development is owner Hank Penza, who told the Times: “They won’t choke me, I didn’t get off the boat yesterday with a pound of spaghetti in my hand,” noting that he was likely to “ultimately get a space that’s three to four times the size.”

When explaining the lure of Mars Bar, Nate Freeman of the New York Observer states it best: It’s a bit of a sore thumb on Second Avenue. Mars Bar is garish and gross; it’s on a street that’s so clean you could have a blanket-less picnic with your tofu from Whole Foods, which is conveniently located right next door. Mars Bar is loud, dirty, and full of unapologetic malcontents, seemingly of another age; outside people pass by, quickly and looking down, on their way to buy a bottle of Riesling and some organic kale for the night’s salad. Mars Bar serves up cheap whiskey and cancer; directly around the corner, Daniel Boulud serves up House-Made Pappardelle “Gourguignon” at DBGB. Mars Bar is not a nice place, and this is what makes Mars Bar one of the best.

image

It’s one of those places I made sure to pass while walking with people who had never been south of 14th Street (or to New York in general) so I could get a decent read of them by their reaction (usually either “What a cool building,” or “Is this a safe area?”). Many people could never understand what a perceived eyesore like Mars Bar could mean to a neighborhood, but the loss seems more about the principle—a hallmark of change that belongs to every generation, whether they’ll learn from it or not. Demolishing Penn Station in 1963 proved to be so traumatic to New Yorkers that a preservationist spirit overpowered the modernist aesthetic of the time inspiring Mayor Robert Wagner to sign the 1965 New York City Landmarks Law, creating the Landmarks Preservation Commission we know today.

I’m not saying that Mars Bar should be preserved; I’m not one of those people who claims that the Lower East Side is dead, either. There is no comparison between tearing down one of the greatest Beaux Arts buildings in New York and shuttering a few crumbling venues—but a collection of these institutions add up and amount to the overall feeling that pervades a neighborhood, and ultimately, a city. I’m just wondering if we can experience hindsight, if the ongoing battle between preservation and modernity will once again influence how proactively New Yorkers become involved in envisioning the future of their ideal city, like they were once inspired to do (post-Penn Station projects that were halted by concerned New Yorkers included a parking lot in the middle of Central Park, and plans to build a Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have paved over Greenwich Village and what is now SoHo). As one blogger writes in regard to the supposed modernity of Penn Station reconstructed all those years ago: “I’d like to go back in time, drag the architects into the present, and ask them: what, you thought we would all be wearing George Jetson jumpsuits, queuing patiently for the Atomic Express? The reality is a waiting room with insufficient signage, a great hall that isn’t, and a Hudson News thronged with balding guys, ties askew, furtively paging through battered porn mags.”

Culture Clubbed, Communities Bored

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As I look at things from across the river, it becomes more and more obvious that downtown culture will merely be a warm, nostalgic conversation piece in just a few years. As rumored and reported everywhere, the closing of such places as Max Fish, Pink Pony, and the threat to Mars Bar are just a few more nails in our cultural coffin. At this point, downtown nightlife doesn’t seem to be doing much more than going through predictable motions. Even though it fell way short of it’s dreams, life as we (creatures of black leather and forced sunrises) know it probably had its last fling when Collective Hardware roared. At least they tried. News comes of a return of Culture Club, that Jersey-Shore-in-Manhattan, theme-scene nightspot. This joint, famous for the hair do’s and don’t of its patrons and it’s classless kitschy décor, will occupy the former 39th Street home of Speed, a club that couldn’t close fast enough. Over the years I’ve looked at the space with operators who saw it as a gay club, a dance club, and a hybrid model/bottle house space. One gentleman caller saw it as a sort of midtown Soho House. In the end, a combination of high rent and community board frowning tempered interest.

Robert Watman is the main man here. He was reported to describe the Culture Club experience as follows: “Good, clean fun” and “It’s a safe, easy place, non-threatening.” Having opened 30 joints in 30 years, Mr Watman says, “It’s not my first rodeo.” His liquor license was approved unanimously by the Public Safety Committee of Midtown’s Community Board 5. It’s ironic that the loudest objections come from the neighboring Elite Day Spa. A day spa complaining about a nightlife spot seems to be a reach, as the two should be operating at very different hours. Maybe it’s the “elite” thing, as Culture Club promises to be anything but.

I have no objections to Culture Club. It’s a sort of “is what it is” place. The problem is that the Disneyfication of Times Square, hotly debated years ago, has become a city-wide cancer. Good clean fun in safe, easy, non threatening places is getting fast-tracked, while anything edgy is struggling to survive, or get a license to operate. The same goes for the new Bowlmor in Times Square. It’s absolutely wonderful, and is to be celebrated, but it must be understood that they are paying a rent equal to my neighborhood. They are, to their credit, providing much needed jobs, and are excellent at providing good “clean fun.” With 50 lanes and a better location, Bowlmor seems to be in a position to take out Lucky Strike Lanes on 42nd street and 12th (or is it 16th?) Avenue. It’s so far west you feel like you’re in Colorado. Bowling at the new Times Square Bowlmor will cost me and mine about 70 bucks an hour on the weekend, and 60 during the week. A cheeseburger will run me 13 bucks. You do the math. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Vegas everywhere I go. Except in Times Square, where the hookers have been banished. New York seems destined to become a Disneyfied Vegas.

Both the Culture Club and Bowlmor are banking on the bankers and other normal, routine types that live in the hampster habitats built for them over the last decade. The crossing of our great river divides all the peeps who used to be called “Bridge and Tunnel” into the high-rent high rises in our beloved hoods. Over time, franchise stores that catered to these non-trendy types displaced low-rent boutiques and mom-and-pop places that made our streets quaint and hip and unique. The chain stores followed the Starbucks, and soon Brooklyn was our only hope. The tantrum thrown by locals over the new Duane Reade, which opened on Bedford Avenue, seems silly until you realize what it will eventually bring.

The opening of Culture Club shows New York culture in its worse possible light. Tourists, a revenue stream that will keep this joint, Bowlmor, and the entire city afloat, will get their “New York experience” without ever meeting a New Yorker (who isn’t serving them). From their hotels, to Broadway shows, to the landmarks, they will be hanging out with people from all over the world, but none from here. We are designing our “New York” to cater to their needs, and losing our edge in the process. Just as buildings have a Landmark committee, culture certainly needs one. Maybe developers must preserve the Mars Bar just as it is, with its wonderful warts and all, if they are going to be allowed to build up 12 stories. Maybe the community boards must realize that if they don’t allow the edge to survive, they’ll just be left with communities bored.

The Writing on the Wall: Max Fish

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image Max Fish.

The Tourist Trap Escape: New York’s Alternative Agenda

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Friday’s – yeah, that Friday’s – is coming to Union Square, and we’re scared. For us, yeah, but especially for tourists: every year, hundreds of thousands pour into New York, and hit the same, godawful places everyone else does, or worse, the ones they could hit at home. You can’t (entirely) blame them: they don’t know any better, besides which, doing touristy things in New York isn’t the worst way to see this city! Some things – like hitting up a deli, roaming New York’s parks, trying to get a good view of the urban landscape, or taking in the epicenter of the action in midtown – really aren’t to be missed, or begrudged. But why waste away at the same spots, doing the same things that’ve been done time and time again? They’re generally mediocre experiences. We polled our staff panel of self-proclaimed Manhattanites, and came up with a list of alternatives to the turns many a tourist takes wrong. We’ve consciously omitted Brooklyn and Queens, who deserve their own list; for now, here’re your 2009 New York Tourist Trap Alternatives.

Financial District Excursions

Overrated: South Street Seaport. Glorified mall and chain restaurants on Pier 17 overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge have a nice view, but are the same things you can get anywhere else. Take pictures with the big boat and leave. Though the cobblestone on Fulton Street may at first appear quaint, the tweens regurgitated from the mouth of a nearby Abercrombie and Fitch are dealbreakers. Overpriced food, drinks, and tourist friendly boat trips are as disingenuous and quintessentially New York as, I don’t know, Tyra Banks.

Underrated: Staten Island Ferry. 25-minute boat trip services the daily commute for Staten Island residents, and also provides awesome views of the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. Turn around and get back on as soon as you get to the other side for a total of 50 minutes of fun. And thanks to our egregiously high taxes, tourists, you get to ride this moving bar for free. Yes, they sell beer, along with a few snacks, as well. Take it at Sunset: it’s one of the most underrated experiences you can have (and creative dates you can take someone on) in New York.

image The best booze cruise in town. Just don’t get marooned on the other side.

Manhattan’s Best View

Overrated: The Empire State Building. $20, average waiting/trip time is two hours. The Observatory is on the 86th floor, where the views look just about the same as they would from any midtown office complex, except you have a giant, grated gate in front of you. Final verdict: anticlimactic. And if you’re going to go to the top of an annoying building, at least make it Rockefeller Center.

Underrated: The Cloisters. Medieval Branch of the Met in Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan. Recommended donation, so admission price is up to you (i.e. free…for assholes) and getting there is straightforward: you must take the A train. The monastery gardens are straight out of some majestic childhood story about a girl in a secret garden and a handsome prince, or something. Either way, it’s an incredible Metropolitan Medieval Museum with a terrace offering unparalleled views of the Hudson and city below it.

The Midtown Epicenter Experience

Overrated: Times Square. Ah, Times Square: hell. Yes, it looks exactly the same as it does in every cheesy chick flick you’ve ever seen it in. No real Manhattanite ventures into the Times Square perimeter unless (A) you got comped a pair of Broadway tickets, (B) in-laws are visiting from Wisconsin or (C) you’re a Summer Intern, lost on your way to the Conde Nast building. Tourists walk slow, the food uniformly sucks, and people are wearing fanny packs. Fan. Ny. Packs. ‘Nuff said.

Underrated: Grand Central. Campbell Apartment and Oyster Bar are valid destinations on their own. New York’s main train depot is also one of the city’s most magnificent architectural masterpieces. The towering, vaulted ceilings of the terminal hold more prestige than the first episode of Gossip Girl gave up. Campbell Apartment has décor of a Florentine palace, even when full to capacity, feels like a hideaway. Oyster Bar boasts an incredible oyster roast, a great place to get clam chowder on a rainy day, and some of the city’s freshest bivalves. Don’t forget to find the “whispering gallery“, where you can talk into one of the curved walls and have the sound go directly to one of your friends, on the opposite side of the room: one of many of Grand Central’s nice little secrets.

image Yeah, dude. We’re sick of this Broadway shit, too. Tell Mom they have Bas-kee-aht at Rose Bar. She’ll be down.

Luxe Manhattan Boozing Spot

Overrated: Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel. The design’s one part David Lynch, two parts Alice in Wonderland. Though the space might be worth a look, the overall effect gets sullied by a cheesy Euro-crowd, Heather Locklear doubles, and “ballin” popped collars. Uncomfortable chairs, and awkward seating arrangements also detract from this Ian Schrager “gem.” You can do much better.

Underrated: Rose Bar & Jade Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Concession: yes, it gets the celebrity crowd. Yes, the doormen, after a certain hour, turn into Bridge Trolls. And yes: the drinks are pricy. But hands down, no question, the better Schrager alternative is farther downtown, as is everything else these days. Here, the unfaltering velvet sex appeal makes Hudson Bar look like a bad acid-trip. Go before 10 to get a glimpse of the big art (Basquiat, Twombly, and…Schnabel), and why no one gets past the velvet rope thereafter.

Downtown Park Experience

Overrated: Union Square. The history of Union Square is unquestionable: just steps from its bad teenage skateboarders, and its incredible greenmarket, Andy Warhol once kept his factory. Unfortunately, the remnants of this culture dissolved into touristy, bland, and “faux” downtown restaurants like Blue Water Grill and the Ford Model farm team that is Coffee Shop. Shopping, like Babies ‘R’ Us, Whole Foods, and Barnes and Noble make this place no better than your average suburban strip mall. Pile that all on an excess of never-ending construction, the fact that you can barely get on the grass, and the rats running rampant through the parts you can walk? You have absolutely every reason to avoid it.

Underrated: Madison Square Park. Less than ten blocks north of said terrible tourist pit, Madison Square Park sprawls in unmatched serenity, and brims with culinary attraction. Comfortable lawns are cared for, though not overly manicured. The classic New York 45 minute-wait-for-lowbrow-food experience – Shake Shack – supplies afternoons with perfect park bench meals, even at night. For an upgrade, the recently four-starred Eleven Madison Park, Danny Meyer’s haute Indian cuisine destination Tabla, and one of New York’s best BBQ experiences, Hill Country, are just steps from the quiet park.

image If you think this is great, wait until we show you Cherry Tavern. Seriously.

Romantic Central Park Date

Overrated: Horse-buggy rides. It’s a cruel practice, horses smell, they’re expensive, locals will stare at you, it’s cliche, it’s not exciting, and you might as well just take a taxi and tell him to drive slow. Or walk. Also, karma could come around, and one day, those horses might be taking a human-buggy ride. Wouldn’t that suck?

Underrated: Rowboats on the Central Park Lake. It’s cheap, for one thing: $12 for the first hour, $10 for every hour after that, and a refundable $20 deposit, assuming you’re not stupid enough to capsize the boat. You can bring booze (and other assorted libations), and drink them (or smoke them) in the middle of the lake, or under a tree in a “cove.” It’s beautiful, and you can explore parts of Central Park you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. You’re in control, and have you ever been on a rowboat? It’s fun! Go during the week and you won’t experience a wait (unlike every other tourist trap in the city). This is also the best way to catch some sun in the park not on the otherwise overcrowded Sheep’s Meadow. And if you really want to go all out, have their resident Italian take out a Gondola for you: $30 every half hour, but he’ll serenade you in Italian if you ask nicely.

Downtown Punk Dive.

Overrated: Max Fish. Who the hell goes to Max Fish? So many people. Again: who? We don’t know when everyone decided this place was punk, or who they heard it from (Vice, like, four years ago?), but they need to know better: this place is about as pedestrian as the Lower East Side gets. Jersey’s second-rate hipster imports afraid to make their way to Billyburg mix in with kids on teen tours with good fake I.D’s. The pool table’s occupied by LES sleaze trying to take home some of the fresh meat. We’re having none of it.

Underrated: Cherry Tavern. You want sleaze? How about a jukebox that doesn’t even pretend to be remotely interesting (The Strokes, Taking Back Sunday, The Cars, Talking Heads) or drink deals (a $6 Tecate and shot of bottom shelf tequila: the famous Tijuana Special) concieved with the intention of possibly killing the shithead patrons who dare step in here. Bankers, lawyers, punks, assholes, pool sharks, cokefiends, deliquents, outlaws: for some reason, the Cherry Tavern’s managed to keep attracting one of the worst – and most interesting – crowds in town. The later you stay, the younger (and brasher) it gets, so stick around until the wee hours, especially on weekends. Oh, and: on the off chance you’re drunk enough to get a number here, write it down somewhere safe, and make sure you never call it, unless you’re fishing for STDs.

image You are what you eat. Or sometimes, who you’re served by. In this case: bad tongue and dicks.

The Great New York Deli

Overrated: Carnegie Deli or Stage Deli. The service is awful: old New Yorkers who think dishing out contrived attitudes bigger than their deli’s respective tastes? Bullshit. Same goes for the crowds, who enjoy being bossed around by the fake attitude, and the bush-league, overpriced preparations that sold their souls long ago to keep paying the rent and maintaining the brand. Avoid at all costs.

Underrated: Katz’s Delicatessen. In a classically Jewish neighborhood, a classically Jewish deli, one based around ritual and almost pathological habit, where none of the attitude is contrived, the meats are hand-sliced, the Cel-Ray flows freely, and fake orgasms alchemize into epiphanies. Grab a pink ticket at the door, know what you’re going to order at the counter when you get there so you don’t get growled at. Speak it loudly, be confident, and get the only thing – and seriously, the only thing – you really should order: pastrami on rye. Don’t balk when they offer you a taste of the meat on a plate as they slide it down the counter, and when they ask you what kind of pickles you want, you’ll take both, thanks. Get some Cel-Ray, sit down, make sure you don’t lose that ticket, tip graciously, and pad out into the Lower East Side. Breathe that fresh air: you’re still surrounded by tourists, but at least the fanny pack wearing families are far removed from some of the excellent bars in proximity. Hit them, and drink away the New York you wish you knew, and – against all odds – are still trying to find.

[Reporting by Eiseley Tauginas, Cayte Grieve, and Foster Kamer.]

Moby: “I Don’t Advocate Sobriety for Anyone Who Can Drink Successfully”

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Who would’ve thunk that demure electronic music superstar Moby was a self-proclaimed raging alcoholic? We spoke to him to talk about his Last Night Remixed album, but somehow talk degenerated into drunk Lower East Side tomfoolery, timing cocaine use just right, and why he’s just not that into the debauchery at the Box.

Can you tell me about the Last Night Remixed album? The original one is a very eclectic dance record that on one hand looks at my last 20 or 25 years in New York nightlife, and the new one is all remixes done of the songs from that album.

Why did you decide to remix it? When we were putting out singles, in order to make them more club friendly, we got different people to remix them. And the way I chose the people was by picking those whose records I was playing when I was DJing. We ended up with a lot of really good remixes, and rather than let them languish on the shelf, we decided to mix them together and put it out as one cohesive record.

Let’s talk about New York nightlife. What is a typical night out in the Lower East Side like for you? It depends on if I’m drinking or not. A sober night usually sees me home by midnight or 1, and a drunken night usually sees me getting home around 6 or 7.

How often do you go out? I’d say on average at least three times a week.

Is that three drunken nights a week or just three nights in general? I’m currently enjoying a period of sobriety, but for the last 15 years that hasn’t been the case. And so I guess, a night out — in a weird way they’re all kind of the same, but sort of slightly different. Max Fish has always been a standby since 1991, especially on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. And the Mars Bar, I really love Mars Bar, on the corner of 2nd and 1st.

Yeah, I’ve met some colorful characters there. It’s even better in the afternoon. I have a friend who was working at a strip club in midtown, and she would get off work at like 4 or 5, and we would meet for a drink, I mean an after-work drink. The LES north of Delancey is a little too overrun for me. It’s like spring break meets Mardi Gras. For a weekend, the only place north of Delancey that I would go to would probably be the Slipper Room. It’s sort of like a burlesque theater, but its just has really interesting shows, and the people who run it are really nice. I’m one of the owners of the Box, but I don’t really go there too often. I like degeneracy, but for the Box you really need to be in the right frame of mind. I’m pretty comfortable with debauchery and degeneracy, but the things that go on there don’t make sense to me.

What are some of the things that happen? The last time I was there, there were live sex acts on stage, and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but just suffice to say lots of crazy things. I’ve traveled around the world, and I’ve been to a lot of degenerate places, and rarely have I seen the level of degeneracy like I’ve seen at the Box.

How did you get involved with the Box? My old friend Simon [Hammerstein], well Simon and Richard [Kimmel] are the two main guys who own it, and when they were first renting the space they were looking for investors, so they went to old friends, and I thought to myself, it was right around the corner from where I live, it’s a place to go. And after I invested in it, I don’t actually go there that often.

Are you one a sobriety stint on purpose? If there were no consequences to drinking, I would drink all the time, but as you get older, the hangovers get worse, and I’m just tired of losing entire days to hangovers, so I’m enjoying some healthy sobriety for awhile to see how that works. I don’t advocate sobriety for anyone who can drink successfully.

Did you perform shows while being smashed? You know what’s funny? I started a rock band with some friends, and we’re all hardcore alcoholics, and whenever we play we all tend to get very drunk, and when I DJ I drink a lot, but whenever I do my own shows I never drink. Playing with the rock band, I just play bass and stand on the side, but with my own shows, there’s just too much going on, and if I was drinking I wouldn’t be able to do a good job.

What about other spots in the city? It sounds like a cliché, but going out in Williamsburg is still pretty fun. There’s Studio B, they have a lot of good shows there, and there’s a few new clubs in Manhattan that are pretty good, like Santos’ Party House where the DFA guys do parties, and there’s another one called Le Poisson Rouge. That’s put on by Justine D, who used to do the Motherfucker parties, which I think he’s involved it that.

Tell me about those. The Motherfuckers were started by Johnny Dynell and Chi Chi Valenti who are old old friends. He was DJing at Area in like 1982, 1983, and so they started this club called Mother. Mother was like this weird transgender thing, tons of drugs, and just craziness, and so the offshoot of that were like four times a year — these Motherfucker parties.

When you were younger, were you doing a lot of harder drugs? Everybody in this world dabbled. I have so many friends who were drug casualties. I knew people who were heroin addicts, people who smoked too much crack, people who did too much crystal meth. I mean you can’t swing a dead cat in New York without hitting someone who at one point wasn’t addicted to cocaine. I like drugs, but I never liked them enough to do that much. The main thing I liked about cocaine is that it made me want to drink more.

Would it sober you up? Yeah, so when I was doing coke, I would time it so that I would do the coke just when I wanted to start drinking more, which is not very healthy. But the opiates — I mean opiates are fun, but they’re not social. I’ve never really liked psychedelics and opiates, you don’t want to be on Vicodin in a nightclub.

So foodwise, what foods are good in NY? I think that the only reason I don’t look like I’m a 130 years old after a lifetime of touring so much and living in hotel rooms, and drinking too much, is that I’ve been a vegan now for 22 years. Normally friends of mine, when they wake up and they’re hungover, they go out and have bacon and eggs and smoke cigarettes. When I wake up, I have a smoothie and vegan burritos. So for anyone who plans on drinking a lot or taking drugs, I do advocate a vegan lifestyle to try and offset it a little bit.

Why did you first decide to become a vegan? I first became a vegan for the simple reason that I love animals and I just didn’t want to be involved in any process that made animals suffer. But then the more I found out about it, I realized it was good for my health, it’s good for the environment, and now at this point I don’t judge how anybody chooses to live.

Are you feeling healthy these days? When I’m on a serious drinking tear, my health kind of suffers, so that’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying this period of sobriety. But I have to say, New York is a difficult place to be sober. I walk from my studio to my apartment, and I literally pass 40 bars in a 10-minute walk, and they’re all open until 4 in the morning, and they’re all fun, and they’re all filled with interesting people. So I’m sure there are much easier places in the world to be sober

Are you able to go out sober at all? Sometimes it can be fun. When I’m drunk and I’m around other drunks, it’s the greatest thing around. But if I’m sober around other drunks, they’re just annoying. Drunk conversations when you’re drunk seem filled with realizations and epiphanies. Drunk conversations when you’re sober are just tedious.

Do you hate being be sober around drunk people? Yea, I just get home a lot earlier. I get home a lot earlier, and I don’t have nearly as much sex.

A hot sweaty club is completely different world when you’re sober as opposed to drunk. Well, it all depends. I went to a hardcore show, because I grew up in the hardcore punk scene, and it was hot and packed and sweaty, and everyone was beating the shit out of each other, and being sober for that actually was good. If someone took me to someplace like Marquee, if I was in there at 1 o’clock on a Friday morning, I’d just want to shoot myself in the face.

Would you go to Marquee if you were hammered? Oh, if I was hammered it would be the best place on the planet. If you’re drunk anything’s the best place. When I’m drunk, the only place I don’t like being is home.

Who are two people you would love collaborate with? My ultimate dream would’ve been to have been in Led Zeppelin in like 1973 when they were touring, and they had their own private plane, and they were making a million records, and they just really knew how to tour. In the world of dance music, I’m pretty content letting other people make their records, and I get to play them and take credit for them.

Touring must have been really fun for you. There was a period when it was amazing. There was a period around 2000, 2001, 2002, where I had an assistant on tour who’s sole job was throwing after-show parties. We would walk offstage, and every night there would be 100 people backstage getting fucked up, and every night was a party. And that was really fun, until the hangovers got so bad that I couldn’t do it anymore.

What’s your favorite city in Europe? If I’m going out, my favorite place is Scotland because in Edinburgh and Glasgow, people are out of their minds. I mean really, they eat ecstasy for breakfast. They go out the way New Yorkers go out, but even a little more hardcore. Like a good night in Edinburgh doesn’t end until 9 a.m. And I have to say that Los Angeles can also be really fun if you have friends that own bars and clubs.

What are some bars and clubs in Los Angeles that you like? My friend Anthony has a place called Dragonfly in Hollywood. It’s a rock and roll club. He and I have been friends for 25 years now, and so he keeps it open pretty late for his friends, and there’s this other place that his girlfriend works called the Burgundy Room, which I really like, that’s right around the corner in Hollywood as well. I like weird, sort of dirty degenerate rock n’ roll bars. I tend to not like bigger, slicker places. The moment I hear about a place having bottle service, that means I absolutely do not want to go there.

Have you ever been to Beatrice Inn? Yea, Paul [Sevigny] and Matt [Abramcyk], the two guys who own it — Paul and I grew up together, I had my birthday party at Beatrice a year ago, and I hear it was an amazing party.

What kind of drunk are you? I’m very gregarious. I’m just always the last person to leave the party, without question.

So you were blackout drunk at the Beatrice? Oh, sure. After my birthday party there, for the next two weeks I was getting emails from people saying what a good time they had, and God as my witness, I don’t remember any of them being there.

You grew up in the 1980s. How has New York nightlife changed? Well, it’s become bigger than it’s ever been. There are more bars, more clubs, more people going out. It’s a lot safer, that’s a huge part of it. In the late 1980s, because New Yorkers were ravaged by the crack epidemic, you took your life in your hands just walking down the street after midnight. In the early 1980s when I first started going out, you would not walk through Union Square after dark, and no one walked through Central Park. Tompkins Square Park was a homeless camp. Everyone would have all these locks on their doors to keep the drug addicts out, and then the drug addicts started cutting through the sheet rock next to the door.

People say they miss the old New York. Do you like it better now? Only the things that I miss. It was cheaper. When you went out, you never expected to spend a lot of money, so this whole bottle service thing — when someone goes out and has to spend $1,000 for a good night out, that’s just absurd. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, everybody could afford to live in the East Village, so everybody lived and worked and went out in the same neighborhood, and it jus made everything a lot much nicer. So now, its almost like the New York diaspora has happened where some people live in Bushwick, some people live in Redhook, some people live in Jersey City, some people live in Inwood — so the good old days where everybody lives on top of each other, those are gone. New York is always going to be big enough to accommodate anyone who wants to live here. There’s always going to be some new derelict neighborhood where 20-year-old artists are going to move to. That’s what Soho was, that’s what the East Village was, that’s what Tribeca was, and that’s certainly what the Lower East Side was.

Industry Insiders: Erik Foss, Lord of Lit

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Lit co-owner Erik Foss talks about his art, his new bar in Philly with the best name ever, and why the city needs less yuppie cocksuckers.

Favorite Hangs: Max Fish! Max Fish! Max Fish! I also like Beatrice Inn because my bro’s Paul Sevigny and Andre [Saraiva] own it. It’s the first place I DJed. I dig Motor City because they are real there. Otherwise I don’t drink anymore, so my bar days are kinda over. Santos’ Party House is sick too. I love Spencer Sweeney, and he’s a dope-as- fuck artist!

Point of Origin: I graduated from Chandler High School in Arizona in 1991. I never went to college. I was accepted to Cooper Union, Stanford, and Art Center in Pasadena, but I was too concerned with skateboarding, making my own art, and running my T-shirt company (Dope Cloze). I made up my mind to sell the clothing line and leave. I moved to New York on Halloween of 1996. I came to New York because this is where all the artists came to be seen and make the best work of their lives. Once I got here, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

My first job here was at the French Roast in the West Village. I got fired from there immediately. Bartending jobs are impossible to get. One of the bartenders who worked at Odessa became my friend … or so I thought. I was dating this crazy woman from San Francisco at the time, and we would go there to drink. She was very sexy and had a flavor for the dark side of things. My bartender friend ended up sleeping with her and felt so bad about it he got me my first bartending job there. I worked the slowest shifts until one of the bartenders quit and I got Saturdays. Boy, shit changed then. I had that place fuckin’ raging! I’ve always been able to get people goin’ — it’s kinda my specialty.

Occupations: I co-own Lit and the attached Fuse Gallery. One day I stumbled across this hole in the wall called Sub Culture Gallery, which became my home. David Schwartz was the grump behind the desk and owner of this wonderful place. David made emerging artist’s dreams come true. He provided us with a space to work and show. He had the gallery till about 2001 before the lease ran out and they doubled his rent. At that point, he looked at me and said, “Do you want to open a gallery?” So we went out and found Lit and Fuse Gallery. We had to raise a retarded sum of cash to do this. So we got partners, and that was a whole other issue. What a nightmare. Oh yeah, we also signed the lease one month before 9/11. Imagine that one.

We worked construction building the bar for six months with the help of our friends. I bartended seven days a week while also building seven days a week. I thought I was going to die. We opened on 02/22/02 and have been killing it ever since. Do-it-yourself is the way we did this: No benefactors, no grants, no nothing. This bar was built by artist, for artists. Call it a throwback, but when we did this, I never heard of anyone else doing this in New York City. I also just opened a bar with David Schwartz and Chicken Head in Philadelphia called Kung Fu Necktie.

Side Hustle: I am an artist. When I came here I wasn’t of a pedigreed art background, nor did I come from money. So I showed my work in bars like a href=”http://bbook.com/guides/details/max-fish/” title=”Max Fish”>Max Fish, Luna Lounge, and Life. I work 7 days a week and have since I was 15 years old. I paint and make art in my studio, which my bar pays for. I curate and show artists I like, and that’s it. I buy art I like. In fact, I spend all the extra money I make on other peoples’ art. I do have a solo show in San Francisco in November this year at Gallery 3. My website is erikfoss.org. I know it’s a nonprofit URL, but hell, I never sell my work anyways!

Industry Icons: Steve Lewis is one of my heroes. For a while I had a job at the Bowery Ballroom. They hired me with no résumé. I put the first dollar in that register and worked for the Bowery family for almost five years. They run the best-run venues in New York City. I learned most of my club knowledge through them. Michael Winsch [owner of the Bowery Ballroom] is kinda my surrogate dad in New York.

Known Associates: I am very protective of the celebs that frequent my place. I believe in protecting them because they want to hang with us and come up to our level. That’s rad! I say let ’em and leave ’em be. My whole staff rules! They are all artists and musicians; creative people.

What are you doing tonight? Hangin’ out with my boys Carlo McCormick and Daze then going to the studio to paint a cop arresting a clown. I think the city is going through a transition, and it’s going to get real fun now that the economy is shit. Bye-bye yuppie cocksuckers. I just want our neighborhood back. Oh yeah, my favorite band is Slayer!

Photo: Leo Fitzpatrick