The Observer’s eye was quickly drawn from the pavement of the Bowery to a furlong of female flesh in the form of shapely gams standing outside a velvet rope affair. The 6 inches of stiletto heel were delicately anchoring a delightful and lengthful spire that curved in just the right places, was elegantly lithe without being famine-ish and was free of blue veins, purple bruises and other visual imperfections. The Observer was drinking in perfect legs. As The Observer moved past this beautiful back side he stole a glance at the front side to find a most alluring countenance. Clearly this was a person who was paid professionally for her pulchritude.
Then the Bentley came into sight. The initials HHH adorned the license plate. The Observer paused to guess the name of the titanic owner of this cushy conveyance but could only muster thoughts of Howard Hughes. And he dead.
More models arrived, all taller than an NBA guard in their precarious pointy heels and frequently dwarfing the much older men escorting them. A gaggle of Gotham’s glamorous giantesses of was before The Observer and he instinctually liked what his reptilian eyes drew in.
But this gathering of the fashionable and financially unfeckless quickly grated The Observer’s nerves. This orgy of blaring music, $25 cocktails and increasingly taller blondes in increasingly shorter dresses escorted by men with increasingly abundant digits on their balance sheets transported by increasingly longer Escalade limousines was being held in the building of the BRC, or, Bowery Resident’s Committee – a homeless shelter.
And this was not a benefit for the residents trying to catch some Zs in the floors above.
The Observer was struck by how this patrician partying among the downtrodden drifters was not only grotesque but was a perfect analogy to our economy and the neighborhood itself. The Bowery, once the last refuge of the drunk, the addict and the deprived is now an avenue of glittering hotels where a single night’s stay costs more than the monthly disability check being cashed a few blocks away. Where posh partiers disrupt cantankerous citizens trying to live in stalwart defense of their ghetto era rent stabilized studios. And while the men of the BRC for this night endure the noise and the ostentatious displays that can only produce an aching sensation of never, at least, for one more noisy night, they have a refuge.
Are you sure it’s The Oberver’s hand that you want him to put in there? His hand. Just checking.
And what expression is your mouth going to make when The Observer sticks his whole hand inside this dark and deeply personal crevasse? This may be just a tad too deviant even for the likes of The Observer.
The Observer has been a long time customer of Big Nick’s on 77th and Broadway. Back when The Observer was a cheeky and snot nosed kid he would eat burgers and fries at this grimy institution when visiting his sister. While the rest of the neighborhood has become a suburban mall in a canyon Big Nick’s remains true to it’s UWS heroin days. The booths are torn, the tile is cracked, the bathroom is rank and it’s… beautiful. The Observer writes now to commemorate a business that he is sure will not survive the relentless rising rents of stroller country.
There is no need to bring reading material to Big Nick’s as this greasy spoon has more signage per square foot than a Calcutta market. “No Laptops!”. “Wine served!” “Chicken Gyro and Fries – $6.95″. The fake wood paneling is scarred with yellowed scotch tape and instructions, ponderings, marketing messages and obscure rules and regulations.
Big Nick’s has the best collection of “celebrity” 8 x 10s in Gotham. Many have no artist names or signatures leaving The Observer baffled as to vocation, specialty, schtick or level of fame. Look up beyond the sticky Heinz bottle and observe the couple’s headshot. He, in a afro jew mullet and a Member’s Only jacket, she, in a loud print dress and big 80s hair. They smile with the hope of fame and yet a casual glance can determine there is no hope of Page 6 notoriety for these brave “artists”.
On The Observer’s most recent visit he was called “my luffly” and “boo boo” by the middle aged waitress with an accent from somewhere in the old realm of the Hapsburgs. Was this Zha Zha’s lost cousin?
Big Nick’s plays 3 Stooges shorts on a constant loop. On a TV. Outdoors.
The menu is literally 20 pages. The Observer counted. There is not a creature on earth that is not served in some variety.
While the awnings are new and add some innocuous feel to the unique establishment the real Gotham vibe survives inside. Go. Now. Tonight. Before it’s a Commerce Bank.
The Observer has nothing to add to this.
The Observer would like to make a marketing suggestion to the purveyor of potentially painful pulling. Don’t use “hell” and “dental” in the same sentence. Or the same paragraph for that matter.
Another suggestion: The Observer wants his dentist to have hands. And I DON’T want him to use implements that look like a beat cop’s nightstick in my mouth that renders my head into a monochromatic martini olive.
The Observer spent a few hours taking the guided tour of Governor’s Island this week and recommends the experience to all comers.
The guided tour covers most of the bigger buildings and forts and does an adequate job of explaining the history of the island. The most interesting aspect for The Observer was the realization that New York harbor is about as impenetrable as a Catholic girl’s school dormitory. Either entering from the north through Long Island sound or coming into the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean the randy invader’s advances would be spurned by an angry nunnery of gunnery.
Forts Totten and Schuyler protect the East River entrance on opposite sides of Throg’s Neck able to blast withering “interlocking fire” at oncoming ships like an ambidextrous sister with a ruler in each hand. If some saucy sailors try to come up into the harbor’s business from the south they are going to encounter defenses at Sandy Hook’s Fort Hancock and Rockaway’s Fort Tilden. Should they make it that far the chastity belt of Forts Wadsworth and Hamilton glaring at each other across the Verrazano Narrows would make the most lusty lad’s spirits wither. On the odd chance the harbor is penetrated, inside harbor proper are Castle Clinton (Manhattan’s Battery), Castle Williams (Governor’s Island) and Fort Wood (Statue of Liberty Island) standing at the ready like 3 drunken older brothers ready to pound some sense into the horny Horatio Hornblowers who dared to covet our sweet, sheltering port of call.
Comedic props to our park ranger tour guide whose good natured valley boy retelling of history had me holding back my laughter. I shall paraphrase a story about why the Army built a 1/4 mile long barracks along the widest and windiest part of the Island.
“So, like, Fiorello Laguardia, who was like, New York’s mayor, wanted to build an airport on Governor’s Island. He was all persistent and stuff about it. So the Army built this 1/4 mile long building right in the best flight path to say like ‘Fiorello, dude, can’t have our island for your airport’.”
The Observer walked into Kelly’s Pub beneath the rattle and screech of the 7 line. An unimpressive dive bar with too many televisions came into focus as The Observer’s eyes adjusted from the bright afternoon sun to the dank confines of the bar.
Finding a seat and a cold beer The Observer began to note the assembled residents of Queens. In one corner were a half dozen Chinese men playing Mah Jong and talking loudly in Mandarin. Mandarin that was likely polite exchanges but sounded like a conversational cock fight to The Observer’s untrained ears. Further down the bar was the old Irish lady in her Sunday church clothes nursing a pint of Guiness. Beside her a drunken Chinese man who was sharing a racing form with a heavy set white guy in a NY Rangers jacket. They both stared laconically at the returns from Belmont and a hockey game beaming down from televisions above the bar. Next to The Observer was a table of men watching soccer. A Jamaican, an Indian and a Mexican. They ate chicken wings and chatted amiably in the way old acquaintances do.
They asked if The Observer would like some wings. The Observer accepted and the Indian guy brought a full plate from the grill smoking in the outside area where they kept the bulging black plastic bags of garbage. The Observer thanked him with a smile.
She appeared from the street. She hugged almost everyone in the bar as she made her way to a stool seemingly reserved for her ample rump. The Observer got the impression this wasn’t her first drink of the day. Her clothes were too tight and revealing for a woman who looked like she had been rode hard and put away wet. There were many nights spent in the back seat of a Dodge in the disco era past of this creature. Her voice was like a cheese grater run over piano strings. She flirted liberally with anything wearing pants.
Suddenly the fat man in the Rangers jacket yelled “shit!”. The Rangers just lost their playoff game. His inibriated Chinese compatriot looked up at the TV and joined in with an exclamation in his native tongue; “Mung Waa!” with great distress. The Observer made a cultural stereotype assumption; not a hockey fan, but a betting fan.
Local team loss aside, this was a happy place. A place where elbows of all flavors rubbed. A place where the diaspora of the world made its boozy home. Only in New York. Particularly in Flushing, Queens.
The Observer is thinking about going clubbing tonight. While The Observer’s date will be decked out in body sparkle, 4 inch heels and a silver Cher wig The Observer will be rocking his own unique look: Leon Trotsky as 70’s porn star.
The Observer has always wanted to know what this abomination of architecture is doing in Flushing Meadows Park. It looks like a War of the Worlds mechanical robot mated with a suburban office park.
A simple web search reveals that this monstrosity of Soviet era exteriors is in fact the world’s cheeziest place for the bridge and tunnel set to get hitched with over the top Louis the XIVth interiors. Grotesque in two completely different ways inside and out.
The Observer doubts this is a leftover from the early 1990s. Seems the venerable giant cum actor cum wrestler still captures the imagination of the public from beyond the grave. Che, Morrison, Stalin and of course, Andre the Giant.
The Observer’s post on Cat Shit Man has reminded him of the famous Collyer Brothers – a sad tale of Gotham history he wishes to relate to his 8 readers.
The Collyer brothers – Langley and Homer – lived in a Harlem brownstone for over 50 years. The father abandoned the family in 1909 and the mother died in 1929. Over the next twenty years the brothers lived in the townhouse as hermits rarely leaving. The hermetic and eccentric brothers begat rumors. Rumors of fantastic riches inside the house fostered break ins by local hoods. These crimes further intensified the reclusive nature of the brothers and they boarded up the windows and barred the entrances to the house. The brothers failed to pay the power and water bills and Langley was occasionally seen walking to the water fountain in Mount Morris Park to fetch pails of water. Langley was also spotted dragging various items of abandoned garbage into the home.
The brother’s fame grew outside local lore when they failed to pay their mortgage. In 1942 eviction proceedings began and an attempt to gain entrance to the house was foiled by stacks of garbage at the doors: bundles of newspapers, old tools and various flotsam and jetsom. After these attempts to take the house Langley paid off the full mortgage with a single check.
The rumors grew worse. The break ins and rock throwing by suspicious locals caused the brothers to engineer a series of booby traps that would crush intruders with piles of newspapers.
Homer began to lose his sight from poor nutrition and unsanitary living conditions. His brother fed him a concoction of oranges and black bread to help him regain his sight. It didn’t work.
In 1947 the smell of rotting flesh was reported to police. Several attempts by patrolmen were made to gain access to the house but they were spurned by the floor to ceiling garbage. New York’s finest did finally gain entrance by an upper story window and two hours of crawling through tunnels of garbage led to the discovery of the body of Homer. He had died of dehydration and malnutrition and ultimately heart failure.
Workmen began to excavate the house of its detritus. No sign of Langley could be found. A man hunt ensued and tips and rumors of his where abouts grew. They were all false.
Two weeks after the initial discovery of Homer’s body they found Langley. He was 10 feet away from Homer, crushed by the weight of his own booby trap. He had been bringing his blind brother food.
In the end over 100 tons of garbage were removed from the house. Some of the items included a horse’s jaw, human organs preserved in jars, 8 live cats, 14 pianos, a clavichord, various other instruments, baby carriages and 34 bank passbooks.
The Observer is feeling an intense need to clear out that closet in the hall.
Bartow-Pell mansion is tucked away. Driving around Pelham Bay Park (New York’s largest park) you could miss the entrance to this quiet Shangri-la. There’s an unassuming gate overshadowed by the surrounding woods to indicate by gone era grace is just down the driveway. Once you park the car and silence the engine all you can hear are cicadas and the quiet chatter of blue haired tour bus goers.
The manse is masculine in its meticulous stone construction. The small gardens beyond the solarium pleasing but in no way ostentatious. The interior is classic center hall federal design and it contains the usual assortment of antiques, wide plank floors and paintings of fox hunts and portraits of forgettable notables.
The Observer likes to swing a club. The Observer likes history. The Observer likes a cooling swim. If you’re like The Observer he can suggest a fantastic way to spend a Sunday. Walk the mansion’s grounds. Cross the street and play 18 holes at the Split Rock Golf Course. Nip down to Pelham Bay Park’s Orchard Beach and cool off in Long Island Sound.
Those who know The Observer personally will know that this is a dangerous combination.
Not since the time when the guy with the open jar of peanut butter and the girl with the unwrapped chocolate bar accidentally bumped into eachother and realized that they had one tasty combination have the flavor stars aligned so perfectly.
The Observer is hesitant to let the secret out as to where to obtain such a marvelous alchemy lest the supply be diminished for The Observer’s own copious consumption. Instead he’ll give some hints: Bette Midler, stone house, The Cloisters.
…He’s just itching to do it. The Observer is so close to doing it. It’s on the cusp. Get ready. Here it comes…….
The animatronic figure of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (designer of the Statue of Liberty) in the Liberty Island gift shop would have been creepy right out of the box. Nobody likes the Disney Small World ride, the pelvic gyrations of a battery powered Santa or a street performer pretending to be an animatronic robot. But when the herky jerky movements of a dirty rubberized humanoid are compounded with a head of wispy yak hair, an ill fitting neckerchief, a bad french accent and torn off fingers the result makes Freddie Kruger, Holloween’s Jason and Dick Cheney look down right cuddly.
Perhaps just a “fun” bathmat?
Was this the product of a nursing home arts and crafts class? The weavings of disabled child? A rug weaver high on Helmand province heroin?
The Observer cannot determine if this is a celebration of “The Terrors” or a sympathetic homage to that terrible day.
Either way, that (brown) peace dove is directly in the flightpath of the missle. Look out.
There are some solemn traditions in this world. England has the changing of the guard. Japan has the annual visit to the Yakusuni shrine to those who died in the emporer’s name. Gotham has the application of yet another layer of red duct tape to the booths at Rudy’s. The Observer was lucky enough to be in attendance for this hallowed event and had a crumpled bar napkin dabbling salty tears.
There must be a farm on Three Mile Island where a particular chinese supermarket in Flushing, Queens procures their vegetables. If we are to judge a nation’s strength by its vegetables the next century truly belongs to Big Red.
String beans 2 feet long. Radishes the size of handballs. Yams I wouldn’t want to start a fight with.
No wonder they have an overpopulation problem.
But, then why are the people so small?
The Observer has often wondered why many buildings in Manhattan have a ziggurat (step pyramid) configuration on the upper floors. Considering the expense of real estate in Gotham one would assume you’d build as straight and efficiently as possible. Aim for the stars, touch the sky, take the rent, reap the riches.
The answer lies in the Equitable building.
Upon its completion in 1915 the Equitable was the largest building in the world in terms of floor space. It rose almost 600 feet above Broadway and cast a shadow of over 7 acres. It’s immensity caused Gothamites pause. Worried that more buildings like it would result in a dark cave-like existance at street level the 1916 zoning resolution was passed. This law required that buildings of a certain height have set backs. Based on a mathmatical formula a building must either move back from the sidewalk (like the towers on 6th avenue around Rockerfeller Center) or have a retracement on the upper floors allowing for light and air to mingle with the buzzing masses below.
The tumbleweed blew off of the high chapparal. A dusty cowpoke enters the bar, his spurs clanging on the rough hewn floorboards, and bellies up to the bar. “What’ll ya have?” croaks the barkeep.
“Whiskey. And one of them Indian hee-na tattooeys.”
As all Gothamites know the MTA’s informational and PA systems are shambolic. But cheer up! There is one area where they excel – in telling you something that’s blatantly obvious. There’s two tracks. One’s empty. One has a train waiting with the doors open. I wonder which one will be the “next” train. Perhaps the only one visible?
Here’s a suggestion from The Observer. Why not put informational signs OUTSIDE the turnstiles? Perhaps informing the rider of delays or outages or what’s good on the menu at Katz’s Deli. Anything before I spend $2.50 and wait anxiously like the homely bride at the altar.
As The Observer was exiting the Harlem DMV he stood for a minute amidst the swirling cloud of plastic bags and candy wrappers. Before The Observer was a latina woman pushing a girl in a stroller. She stopped and pulled out her cigarettes and bent over to use the back of the stroller as a windbreak as she lit her Newport. Bending over pulled up the back of her quilted shiny black warm up jacket. Her lower back made a fleshy appearance and tattooed on that light brown canvas were the words “Fuck Me” and then another word below that looked like it might have begun with a capital “H” but was obscured by the straining waistband of her too tight acid washed jeans.
This got The Observer thinking about what that other word might be. Of course, the obvious ones popped into The Observer’s mind: “Here” or more likely “Hard”. The Observer wondered if it might be something more poetic like “Heroically”. A little piece of Lombardiesque encouragement to her baby daddy, or the baby daddy’s brother, the cable guy or just about anyone. The Observer then wondered if this woman ever went to the beach in a two piece. And if she did was the attention and comments she would most certainly earn be welcome or a shameful reminder of a wicked night of drinking and poor judgement. And if that little girl in the stroller would ever see this tattoo and what might her future be growing up in an apartment filled with mentholated smoke and a slutty mother.
The Blarney Cove is the kind of bar that opens when the streets begin to fill with morning commuters. Rumpled janitors and steelworkers slink in to build a foundation of beer and whiskey upon which the day’s drunkenness can be constructed. As Tom Waits once penned “nobody comes into this joint with anything small”. Big worries and big problems solved with small beer and short shots. Put down a twenty and leave the first round’s change on the bar until it’s all drunk up.
When The Observer walked in some weekday night he was immediately struck by the creature behind the bar. She had been rummaging in Morticia Adams’ closet and decided upon wearing a full length jet black dress with stretchy, clingy arms that matched the color of her hair. But to add an element of festivity a sparkling red rhinestone vest was thrown over the funerial smock. She had attitude for a woman in her middle 50s. She looked like she’s lived. Alot. Around her left eye an eyeliner pencil had drawn what looked like a willow tree’s roots. 3 inch long black tendrils snaked down her cheek seeking purchase upon the dry desert of her weathered face.
The heavy set latino man pushed upon the scratched and sticky surface of the bar to heave his corpulence upright. He waddled over to the juke box and put in the money better spent on cheap tequila. James Brown’s ‘Sex Machine’ began to thump it’s rhythm out of the speakers.
Our bartender was taken by the funky beats. She grabbed an implement with which to express herself. It was an aluminum ice scoop. And with the muses controlling her she produced this…
…because here he has an image of a grown man dressed as a beaver watching teenage girls in short shorts – and he cannot come up with a single decent joke involving the word “wood”.
And by the way this was shot in Hell’s Kitchen. That’s kinda funny. A little. It’s a stretch. OK, it sucked. Look, it can’t all be comedy gold. Get off my back.
Some cheeky provacateur (and most likely a filthy atheist!) has been tagging the discarded Christmas trees in an undisclosed neighboorhood that contains The Observer’s lair with a message that inspires consideration of our brothers of the flora. The Observer has also witnessed individuals (and most likely filthy Christians!) removing these tags. This battle has been played out for several days. By committing this image to the posterity of the interwebs is The Observer picking sides? Bet your sweet bippie he is.
And this leads The Observer to a historical factoid. The first Christmas tree market was opened in New York in 1851 in Washington Market on Greenwich Street by Catskill woodsman Mark Carr to cater to the pagan floral worship of the many German immigrants of old Gotham.
The Observer sometimes looks around the L train heading out to Williamsburg and wonders if he’s the only person in the subway car who doesn’t have a tattoo.
This item was suggested by the marketing geniuses at Duane Reed as a handy last minute stocking stuffer. The Observer wonders exactly where and when a bright pink camoflage bible might come in handy. There is but a singular conclusion: when you need the solace of the Lord’s Word while you’re deer hunting inside a giant vagina.
The Observer has noticed that since the subway adverts have changed from paper and paste to a sticky backed plasticized material a new form of defacement has evolved: the cut and paste. Personally, The Observer is most fond of chewing gum strategically placed as a booger on subway ads, but this is a close second.
Since The Observer moved into this building there has always been the slight odor of dirty by the mailboxes in the lobby. The smell never escaped the bounds of that wing of the lobby, never got it’s tentacles beyond the elevator. Today the smell permeated the hallways. As The Observer opened his 4th floor apartment door it sucker punched him in the nose. Descending the stairs this odor picked up force like a malodorous hurricane bumping up a strength category with each floor. By the time The Observer hit the lobby it practically knocked him down. It was coming from one of the apartments across from The Observer’s mailbox. The apartment door was wide open.
Seems someone in the 2 bedroom apartment off the lobby had died. The super and some Mexican minions were clearing the apartment out, they had removed the beds and dressers and the couch but they hadn’t gotten to the black plastic bag phase so most of the personal items remained. The Observer poked his head into the apartment, hand over nose and mouth. The kitchen was littered with empty Fancy Feast tins. Scores upon scores of them. They filled the sink. The bedroom had dozens of empty liquor bottles. No favorite brand or flavor, the inhabitant liked every thing from expensive Bombay gin to rot gut tequila. And the floors were caked in cat shit. You’d see a full turd every 2 or 3 feet but you also could see where it had been mushed into the . The Observer didn’t see a , but that doesn’t mean the suffering porters hadn’t removed it. Even though every window and door to this apartment was open to full hilt the smell was like a blanket. How someone lived in that stifling gas chamber The Observer has no idea.