I’ve lived in the East Village for nearly ten years. Recently I found out that the creative type living in the strange building on my street was Walter De Maria. Once or twice I saw a man going into the building but that was it. No hullabaloo or nonsense over there.
Mr. De Maria died last summer and his home plus the vacant lot to the left is for sale. Do you have $25 million and need a housekeeper/cook? Adopt me! Do not judge this book by its cover because it’s amazing inside.
“When customers ask how someone from Nepal wound up serving lox,” he said, “I tell them I’m from Katman-Jew.”
I’ve mentioned my love of Russ & Daughters before. I always noticed this guy behind the counter and wondered what his story was. The NY Times did a feature on Chhapte Sherpa a few days after Hurricane Sandy. I love his story.
This other feature about kids messy rooms made me laugh. I thought of my sister and how messy her room was in high school and even now as a college student it’s scary. I should have sneaked a picture of her room and sent it in for this slideshow. Part of me wondered if these rooms are real. There’s a lengthy article about the psychology of kids and their rooms but the pictures are plenty for me. This picture is a mild example:
It also made me think of the 2007 installation at Deitch Projects that the late Dash Snow and Dan Colen did called “NEST.” 30 volunteers shredded 2,000 NYC phone books to turn the gallery into a hamster nest of sorts. Then with the help of friends they completed the installation:
“On July 3rd, Dan and Dash invited fifteen fellow artists including Aaron Bondaroff, Hanna Liden, Jack Walls, Nate Lowman, and Adam McEwan to Grand Street, and from midnight to 8am, rolled around together in the waist-deep shredded paper to create this piece. One night proved to be not enough to complete their creative destruction and Dash brought a group of compatriots four additional nights. With paint poles speared into the wall, bottles protruding from hacked-up sheetrock, and a pummeling of enormous wine, pee, and paint spit-balls stuck to the walls, it seems a great deal took place during these night-into-mornings.”
How funny that it took 47 people to create something that doesn’t look or sound nearly as shudder-inducing as these kids’ rooms.
Yesterday was a Treat Yo Self Day. Hopefully Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec would have approved.
Russ and Daughters is a short walk from my apartment and every now and then I like to treat myself to a bagel with salmon and cream cheese. Almost every time I’ve been there’s a wait, but it’s fun listening to other people’s orders and watch the guys behind the counter interact with customers. I waited 20 minutes which is not terrible. Once the bf waited 1 hour. It was New Year’s Eve and everyone it seemed was planning a smoked fish New Year’s Day feast.
It’s a treat getting a sandwich from Russ and Daughters because they can cost as much as $16. They don’t toast the bagels and the amount of cream cheese is appropriate not oozing out when you squish it down to take a bite. It’s the fish inside that counts. There are several types to choose from and depending on how busy it is they’ll let you taste it and judge if the thinness of the slice meets your standards.
While I was waiting I tried to remember the first time I ate a bagel. Growing up in South Carolina there’s not really a bagel culture. Biscuits yes but bagels are not as prevalent. I remember visiting my Dad in Columbus, Ohio when I was a kid and going to Bernie’s Bagels. Bernie’s was and still is in the basement of 1896 N. High Street the apartment building my Dad managed and lived in, directly across the street from the OSU campus. It was kind of dark with a warm, yeasty scent of beer and bagels. It may have been one of my first bagel encounters, that and the world of Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda. I don’t recall much about what I ate but just the feeling of hanging out with my dad in a place that clearly had another side (happy hours and bands happened at night when we weren’t there) and thinking how cool it all was. There was also a record store and a dentist’s office in the building that we would deliver the mail to. The mail for the whole building was delivered to my Dad. He would sort and distribute it to all the residents. We’d make separate piles for each apartment and then stack them in the order we would deliver them. I got to slide the mail under the doors. If someone had a lot of mail we’d put a rubber band around it. Sometimes I’d get to hear a story about the particular resident but most of the time we’d make the mail deliveries quickly and quietly.
To make sure no one from Bernie’s tried to come up into the residential part of the building we’d go around at night locking certain doors and making sure the fire exit doors were working. I loved being my Dad’s assistant.
I thought of all this while waiting for my turn to order at Russ and Daughters. My feelings towards bagels are different now. They were my go to hangover food for a while. Now I eat them knowing they’ll fill me up for half a day so I can run a lot of errands without worrying about getting hungry. When I want to savor them though I choose my source carefully and treat my self!
I also treated myself to “The Heiress” on Broadway, but that’s for another post!
As of this past Tuesday I live in the East Village Historic District. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has decided that the area from 2nd Street to St. Mark’s Place between roughly 1st and 3rd Avenues in addition to a little chunk from 6th to 7th Streets between 1st Avenue and Avenue A (my chunk!) has a worthwhile place in architectural history.
“The chairman of the commission, Robert B. Tierney, called the buildings in the district “an incredibly intact collection” that encapsulates the American immigrant experience — successive waves, from Germans to Eastern Europeans to Latinos, made the area their first home — and pays homage to the neighborhood’s central role in the history of 20th Century Bohemia.” –From the City Room blog
The Adas Le Israel Anshei Meseritz synagogue, built-in 1910, may not benefit though as their membership has dwindled to just two dozen and they lack the funds to maintain the property. Their effort to tear down the building, retain the neo-classical facade, and allow an apartment building to be built with a space for the synagogue may not happen. The churches and synagogues in the new historic district opposed the designation for this reason. Their property values could change and make it even more difficult for them to maintain their buildings and congregations, parishes, members.
As someone who has rented an apartment in the neighborhood for the last 8 years I feel proud and sad. I love my neighborhood. Many restaurants, bars and other businesses have come and gone. Some buildings do look rundown on the outside and the interior of my apartment falls into that category, maybe unfinished is a better description, so should they be saved or torn down for new shiny, glass buildings? If there was a way for things to get polished but still retain their original elements, then I’d be for it. I like the East Village the way it is because I’ve grown accustomed to it. When they built the new Cooper Union building on 7th Street and 3rd Avenue there were the usual lovers and haters. I fell into the like group. I like new buildings, and I like old ones too.
We will have to see how this new historic designation affects the neighborhood. My building was one of the first to go co-op so I already live in something historic but now to be in a whole little world, well the excitement hasn’t worn off yet.