Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Save Ray's [3/8/2010]

East Village ‘New’ Rallies to Save its ‘Old’

Since 1974, Ray Alvarez’s East Village store has been a safe haven for punk rockers craving cheese fries, small children seeking an after-school ice cream, and local residents simply looking for a chat after a long day. Even at 77-years-old, he still works the all-night shift—just as he has every night, seven days a week, for more than a quarter of a century.

Yet this winter, Ray’s future at 113 Avenue A has grown uncertain. He faces insurance complications, high utility bills and a steep decline in sales. As he struggles to make rent, his young, tech-savvy supporters, armed with Facebook, Twitter, and old-fashioned legwork, may be his only hope.

Today, the blogs are abuzz with news of tonight’s benefit concert (Theater for the New City). The ‘Save Ray’s! Facebook group has more than 2,000 fans. And don’t forget—it’s not too late to donate online via PayPal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

“Downtown Pix”

On a guided tour of “Downtown Pix: Mining the Fales Archives (1961-1991),” Director Marvin Taylor pointed to a Jimmy De Sana photograph of an egg coming out of a man’s anus and asked aloud, “Is this gay reproduction?”

Curious yet? Tomorrow is the last chance to catch this and over 300 other iconic images produced by lower-Manhattan’s artists from 1961 to 1991.

Now on display at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, the exhibit reveals historic, often-homoerotic works pulled from the NYU Fales Library -- the nation’s leading archive collection of Downtown New York. Yet even more intriguing than the work itself is the man behind these archives, Director Marvin Taylor.

So how did Marvin Taylor, born in 1961 in Cottage Grove, Indiana (population 109), migrate east and come to direct the Fales Library at NYU?

Marvin said he always found solace in books— he learned to read and write well before kindergarten, and by the fifth grade, he was shelving books at the local, grade school library. It was “an escape,” Taylor said, “for the one lone fag” in his small town.

He attributes his fondness for rebellion to his Quaker upbringing, which gave him a “predisposition to speak out.” In college, Marvin said that he hung mostly with the artists and the punk kids.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Poetry with a shot of adrenaline

Last Saturday, the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café opened its doors to young slam poets who showed up for the third night of the 12th Annual Teen Poetry Slam semi-finals. The dynamic, several-hour-long event featured 25 contestants who tackled themes ranging from family, pain, rape, politics and – everyone’s favorite subject -- adolescent love.

The audience was a mixture of about 100 writers, friends, family and slam poetry aficionados. When they felt a rhyme resonate, they oozed a honey-drenched "mmm," or snapped their fingers in approval.

“This is the best finals yet—the talent is incredible,” said Michael Cirelli, executive director of Urban Word NYC, the group that organized the event. Urban Word strives to help inner city youth find their voice “and the tools to use it.” Since 1999 the organization has provided free writing workshops to encourage the literary arts.

On East 1st Street, Go ‘Niche’ or Go Home

At the end of last week, Mirari, a dainty boutique with a shopkeeper to match, closed its doors forever. After a three-year run in the East Village, owner Mira Lee is headed back to Tokyo with her lace-trimmed dresses, silver baubles and feminine, antique furniture.

It’s easy to blame the economy for Lee’s financial woes— many New Yorker shoppers have less disposable income than in past years. Yet Mirari’s location at 70 E. 1st St. may be the true culprit behind her failure.

“This block is underdeveloped for general retail,” noted Marcus Antebi, who is renovating next door to Mirari for a business venture that he said he wasn’t ready to discuss yet. “Unless you have an incredible item, you’re not going to make it without a niche following.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Zach Goldman Cracks a New Egg

In the kitchen of his whitewashed “Bed-Stuy” brownstone, 21-year-old Zach Goldman tests recipes on friends as he contemplates aloud the merits of pecans (versus hazelnuts) and plays with the magenta hue of his freshly made pasta.

“How do I prevent butter from masking the flavor, while retaining the color?” he implores his guests, dicing the nuts with dexterity.

After refining the dish, adding pecorino, pine nuts and arugula, Goldman’s Beet Linguine found a home on the menu at Melt, the popular Park Slope eatery where he’s worked as a line cook for six months. 

In the past year, despite high rates of unemployment and a capricious job market, Goldman has rappelled into the NYC culinary scene with remarkable success. While many of his peers are staying in school, racking up degrees and student loans, putting blind faith in the imminence of an economic upswing, Goldman has chosen the kitchen over the classroom. If his career trajectory is any indication, this young cook exemplifies the possibility of success through nontraditional means... 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eloisa/ Beautiful Things-- [Republished in Baedeker Travel Mag]

This year’s 35th International Book Fair held annually in Buenos Aires, the largest of its kind in Latin America, drew over million visitors. The fair’s size is astounding— rows upon rows of vendor stands punctuated by mini cafés full of frenzied, coffee-sipping readers. Editors and distributors mull about the seven main pavilions, plugging their best sellers and competing for customers. Lines of eager visitors wrap around the auditoriums, waiting to hear their favorite authors speak. The most prominent, well-established publishing houses set up their stands, as well as the relevant embassies, media groups, and public and private institutions. It’s Disneyland for the literary inclined. However, an emerging house, one who could not afford the steep vendor fee was missing: Eloísa Cartonera.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

'Cold Polenta'

Una manzana entera pero en mitá del campo/ 
expuesta a las auroras y lluvias y suestadas./
La manzana pareja que persiste en mi barrio:
Guatemala, Serrano, Paraguay y Gurruchaga.
--Jorge Luis Borges

Alberto Diaz pauses to inhale his fifth Marlboro of the hour, and the smoke filters up through the Friday afternoon light, hovering around his salt and pepper hair that experience has rendered more salt than pepper. His office walls are a clean eggshell, bare, save for a towering bookshelf filled with Emecé’s latest titles and five framed black and white portraits. His hawk-like eyes, red around the rims from fatigue, become animated as he identifies the photographs, standing up to point to each as he goes—Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo next to a few of the Argentine greats: Ricardo Piglia, Manuel Puig, Jorge Luis Borges, and his dearest friend, writer Juan Saer (or Juanito, as he affectionately calls him).

Diaz returns to his chair and puts out the cigarette. “Juanito was asthmatic. And he wrote like an asthmatic… still, he could write like a god.” He smiles to himself and continues. “Juani used to call me from Paris and complain that he missed Buenos Aires. And I would say to him, Juani, its not like you’re in Asunción. You’re in Paris! I would even mail him mate. He loved his mate… He was quite a character, constantly arguing with Beatriz. She thought he was coarse.” I realize that the Beatriz to which he refers is Beatriz Sarlo— Argentine essayist and literary critic— and it becomes clear that the man in front of me won 2009’s Editor of the Year for a reason.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Last Night in South America

Yesterday morning, the sun rose behind schedule.

Concealed by the mini skyscrapers of capital federal, it proposed daylight, emitted just enough to hint that it would someday arrive, framing the sides of my world in half-light. The street-sweepers and taxi drivers moved down Avenida Santa Fe, their bodies only shadows that graced the storefronts and cafes not yet open, the air waiting for the sun’s warmth that didn’t come; the wind moving autumn’s starched leaves across the pavement as they crunched under foot.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Where the Purebreds Roam Free

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina— In the thumping, screeching, Capital Federal, a city where drivers race down the avenues as if blindfolded, ignoring traffic lights and weaving through the lanes, it’s a miracle pedestrians brave the pavement.

Even more remarkable, however, are the canines that accompany these pedestrians on their afternoon stroll. To an outsider, the well-groomed golden retriever who wanders, seemingly alone in this city, is surely a stray. To a Porteño, he is like every other argentine dog that travels sans leash: well trained and aware of his surroundings. In Buenos Aires, amidst the chaotic vehicular traffic, the sidewalk permits a calmer ritual as dog owners allow their pets to explore the rich aromas and curious objects that populate the block, without cumbersome attachments.

One could assume that this method of dog walking was related to the small size of the city’s canines. Not so. Hardly put-him-in-your-handbag Chihuahuas, these pets are of the German Shepard, brown and yellow Labrador persuasion. As Palermo native Olga Valls explains, the dogs here are like “caballitos,” or small horses.

In this laissez faire metropolis where ‘late’ is ‘on time,’ where endless dinners begin at ten, where getting mugged is a mere annoyance, the purebreds who roam free are not the exception, but the rule.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Asunción, Paraguay, Rants

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my host family that the school was taking us to Paraguay. I might as well have told them I was being hauled off to bathe in a landfill: (gasp) "I wouldn't go there if you paid for my trip, and paid me to go...It's hay nada."

I should preface this by first saying that Argentines do not consider themselves racist. They appreciate racial diversity, as long as the "diversity" describes the various European contingents who migrated south years ago and settled in this port city--Italian, German, Spanish. In the mind of the average Porteño, (a resident of Buenos Aires) (allow me to generalize), it's not racist if the discrimination is targeted towards: black people (though there are very few here), chinos (a group that encompasses all Asians, who own laundromats and supermarkets), and Bolivianos, a term that once simply described residents of the bordering country, but is now tossed around among the worst of insults.

If your skin is dark, you must be boliviano.