Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Mitali East, Indian restaurant.
Mitali East, the sister restaurant of one that used to be around the corner from the Friends' building.
The former CBGB is now an upscale clothing store.
315 Bowery at Bleecker Street, John Varvados boutique, formerly CBGB.
P.S. 3, diagonally across from the building.
The Friends apartment building again, with Central Perk on the ground floor.
90 Bedford Street at Grove Street, where the the gang lived on Friends.
The house across the street dates back to 1822.  Rachel briefly lived next door to it.

Two doors down, 86 Bedford, legendary speakeasy Chumley's is undergoing construction after a chimney collapse.
Chumley's main entrance at 58 Barrow Street around the corner.
The Washington Square arch, Greenwich Village icon.
W.U. 1883 can be seen carved at the peak.  Now a bank with luxury condos.
The 1883 Western Union uptown branch in the shadow of the 1902 Flatiron Building.

A high-tech port-o-san in Madison Square.  I don't know why I took a picture of this.
It's 5:00, that means Friends is on! It's become part of my routine ... watching the TBS sitcom lineup ... "Very Funny". I've always hated that slogan ... it's like calling yourself "Very cool" or something. Anyway, I've got to get these Lean Pockets in the microwave ... Friends is on! Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

They happened to be showing that last episode this evening ... where Chandler and Monica move out of the apartment on Bedford and Grove Streets in the West Village, up to a house in Westchester. I think the reason I'm into the show is specifically because it is a New York show, and I love to point out city locations. I decide to take a walk down to the building on Bedford and Grove and I'm feeling pretty energetic so I think it's doable. By the time I get down to Madison Square Park, I see that the park now has a state-of-the-art port-o-potty. An electronic port-o-potty of the future!

I also notice a small ornate building in the shadow of the Flatiron Building, on the southwest corner of 23rd and 5th. The peak reads, W.U. 1883. So that must be the year it was built, but what does "W.U." mean, I wonder. When I got home later that night, I found out that W.U. stood for "Western Union". This was the original office, and messages used to be sent 2 1/2 miles to a downtown office via pneumonic tube.

By the time I got to Washington Square Park, I make a right on Macdougal Street, and come across Bedford Street. From there I walk straight a few blocks until I come across Chumley's, 86 Bedford Street, a storied literary hangout that collapsed into itself in April 2007. There's been talk of it being repaired and reopened even this year, but now it is still just a construction site. The unmarked door, #86, was a secret entrance during Prohibition, and supposedly the expression to "86" something, meaning to get rid of it or end it, comes from the owners telling to patrons to "86" out the back door when police raided.

Often tourists want to know where the real Central Perk is, the coffee shop that the gang hangs out in on the show, but that's just a studio out in California. On the ground floor of the building there is a little red cafe called, "The Little Owl", but it is about a quarter of the size of what is depicted on the show, and looks nothing like it. I like how the show found this building, though, and used it for authenticity, considering it is on a rather narrow, hidden street in the village.

The closing credits of the last episode show scenes of the West Village, and I try to figure out where they are exactly. It's mostly just unidentifiable streets, but there is also the Jefferson Market Library on 10th and 6th, and Washington Square. I did see one place called Metali West, so I looked it up online. It's a Five Guys now, but there is still a Metali East in the East Village.

The other corners of the intersection are interesting as well. Across the street is the home of window-maker William Hyde, built 1822, where author James Baldwin often stayed. Diagonally across is P.S. 3, where the Marquis de Lafayette was taken when he wanted to see the best example of the New York public school system, while visiting the United States in 1824.

I go around the corner to Bleeker Street, and after finding the former Metali West, (which I'm pretty sure I came across before, months ago, coming froma another direction ... boy, the West Village is confusing) I decide to walk its length all the way to its end at the Bowery, the site of the former CBGBs. As the New York Songlines webmaster wrote, "All roads may lead to Rome, but Bleeker Street led to CBGB's.

My cousin's hair salon is around the corner, a little street, Elizabeth between Houston and Bleeker, which in the mid-1980s got the notorious nickname "Crackhead Alley". I told her this once and she said that now the street should be called "Pothead Alley". I also asked her if she'd ever been to CBGBs, a place I've got to admit I wish I had visited when I had the chance, and she told me it was just a overpriced bar with bad service, kind of overrated, like most things. When I'm down around here, I sometimes feel like I should stop in and say hello, but I know she's very busy so I don't.

Before I head home, I've got to find Metali East, hidden on 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue, and so I do, in a basement location with the same sign, even though it is the only Metali left ... no "East" needed any longer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Highlight of the Weekend

Archbishop Dolan saying goodbye before heading back uptown.
The Archbishop greeting the faithful.
Archbishop Dolan greeting the faithful.
Well, there's nothing good on TV, so I really ought to stop procrastinating and do another blog entry because I'm a blogger now, and no matter how strange it feels at first, I'm going to get into the habit of bothering people with my two cents on everything if it's the last thing I do. On Saturday, I decided to take a walk downtown, along First and Second Avenues, looking into the bars along the way to see how the action was inside. All bars were packed on Saturday for the much-hyped about USA - England game, a big start to World Cup fever.
By the time I made it down to 14th Street, I started heading toward Avenue A, and I came across Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, a church I had stopped inside a few times before ... it's open most of the time. These Episcopal Churches in the the city used to all have satellite chapels. St. Paul's on Broadway and Fulton Street, across the street from Ground Zero, was and still is a satellite chapel to Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street. St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral on Twenty-Sixth Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue was another chapel for Trinity for the growing community uptown. St. Nicholas of Myra Russian Orthodox Church on Tenth Street and Avenue A was a satellite Chapel to St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery on Tenth Street and Second Avenue. And this church, purchased by the Catholics in 1943, was a chapel and conjoined hospital for Grace Church on Broadway and Tenth Street. According to the New York Songlines website, it was unusual when it was built in 1896 because it didn't charge pew rent, a common practice among the rich Protestant families at the time so that they could preserve their spot for services. A plaque on the outside of the church states that the chapel was actually built specifically for the poorer of the neighborhood.
Anyway, I walked in and saw an important mass going on to a full house. The pews were all filled, and I, being rather late, stood in the back with some families with small kids and the Knights of Columbus, dressed in their full garb. Archbishop Dolan was at the altar giving his sermon, talking about the usual stuff -- faith, community, his abundance of gratitude to the people of this parish for all their hard work, and a little of the history of Immaculate Conception Parish on their 155th anniversary. (So that's what the mass was celebrating.) He mentioned how his predecessor, Bishop Hughes, was in Rome when Pope Pius IX declared that Mary was born without original sin, and promised that when he got home to New York, the next church he consecrated would be in honor of the Immaculate Conception.
Now, I knew that this church hadn't always been Catholic, or Catholic for that long, so I was hoping I wouldn't have to correct the Archbishop after mass. I got communion from him, and when the mass ended, he led a procession down the aisle to the auditorium of the school (the former hospital). There was lots of food laid out and a big crowd. I wasn't a member of this parish, but I thought, There's plenty to eat here and I'm starving. I didn't want to walk up to the Archbishop, though, because he seemed to be surrounded by all the big-shot families of the parish, and I thought if I joined that crowd everyone would be thinking about how they never saw this guy before in their lives. The Archbishop gradually made his way around the room to different circles of people, taking pictures, giving out handshakes and hugs, as the old Hispanic and Filipino ladies bowed to him. Over and over he said things like, "It's great to be here," and "I love being with you." I shook his hand when it came my turn, and as I briefly stood next to him, I said, "Thanks for coming, Your Excellency. It's a great honor, Your Excellency". He turned to me and gave me a rather hard pat on the back and said, "Thank you." He's a great big guy, kind of burly and about six-foot-four, and I don't think he knew his own strength. Egan is a big guy, too, while O'Connor I thought was kind of small when I saw him in person. He looked bigger on TV than he did in real life. With that he continued on, and I didn't want to look like a religious nut and follow him around the room, so I never got to ask him if the Archdiocese was hiring or where the parish's original church was. I later looked on the parish's website and found that it was on Fourteenth Street east of Avenue A, and was demolished when Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were built. Luckily the Catholic Church was able to purchase Grace Chapel and Hospital from the Episcopalians, because this church was nearly demolished as well.
The Archbishop got in an SUV driven by a priest and a cop car escorted them back to his residence uptown. He stuck his hand out and waved to the crowds as they cheered him. As people walked by, a couple asked, "Is that somebody famous or something?"
I continued on as I always like to check on the progress of St. Brigid's Church on Eighth Street and Avenue B. Right now the church is so covered in scaffolding that it's unrecognizable. I guess their really redoing it from head-to-toe. It's nice that somebody cared enough to donate $20 million dollars so that it wasn't demolished. I decide to sit in Tompkins Square Park for a while and take a load off, but after seeing one rat scurry by and being pretty sure I heard others scurrying in the bushes behind me, I decided that this park still is pretty gross and I should just get out of here.
It's amazing how much energy you have when your spirits are lifted. I got up and started to walk back to the Upper East Side.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The cooler outside Shake Shack in Madison Square offering free ice-cold water during the summer.
I guess I oughtta give this blogging thing a try. Everyone else is doing it these days. Living in Manhattan and having too much time on my hands, it's only natural that I end up doing a lot of walking. It's one of the few places left where you don't need a car ... in fact having a car is a big inconvenience if you live in Manhattan. But behind these streets, these tall buildings and these parks that try to preserve a bit of greenery in the concrete jungle, there's always a story. I love the hundred plus year old buildings from the Victorian era ... so much more ornate than anything we see today, and in the city that's constantly changing, I get a kick out of seeing what's remained over the years.
The recession has truly been rough on me, and so having to take care of me even though I'm pushing thirty has been rough on my parents, and in these tough economic times, its become clear that there just isn't any room anymore for a fat, handicapped, socially inept guy like me to make a decent living, and there probably won't be for a long time. I keep thinking that something will work out ... because I worked hard in school, because I was good and played it safe, because I deserve better than this. I deserve the simple things in life just like anybody else. What I've got to realize is that it might not work out. The outside world has denied me the simple things in life, and could very well continue to do so, and not God or anyone else will see to it that things work out in the end.
I think about this as I make my way up Broadway from Bowling Green through Union Square and up to Madison Square, leaving the latest bullshit "not really a job" interview in sales. In the past two years, every time I've gotten dressed up in my suit and tie, saw the huge beautiful office, and met the friendly, upbeat staff that thinks I'm a good guy and wants to give me a shot, it's turned out to be a goddamned pyramid scheme. It's incredible. The Shake Shack in Madison Square gives out free ice-cold water over to the side of the "shack" ... so much better than the warm metallic tasting water at the Union Square fountains. My feet are killing me, and so I sit on the benches and rest and rehydrate for a while, until I continue to march up to 65th and 1st.