Sunday, April 29, 2007

Chumley's R.I.P.

As the city evolves en route to 2030, some things will naturally be left behind. One of them is Chumley's, the old-speakeasy turned restaurant in the West Village. Located at 86 Bedford street, you had to know where the joint was in order to find it. It was tucked away in a non-descript building but once you found it, you were in a thriving hive of merriment. Pictures of writers from the past were prominently displayed (Scott and Zelda are supposed to have been regulars during the Harding administration). The seats were crowded together. The bar area has a door in the floor that opened up every so often. It was place of that fused past and present together -- and the food wasn't half bad either.

A couple of months ago a chimney collapse forced Chumley's to close. I've heard rumors in may reopen in late June but those are only rumors. Either way, it probably won't be the same place it was. It will be different. And a part of Old New York will have past forever.

PS. Did you know the expression "He/she was 86'd" originated at Chumley's? Makes sense to me!

New York 2030

Our visionary of a Mayor, Mr. Bloomberg the Billionaire, has proposed a plan for our fair city called New York 2030. In short, this plan will transform the city so that in the next 26 years we will be able to accommodate nearly a million more people. Our population is currently pegged at 8.2 million so we must prepare now for that magic day when we hit 9 million.

This plan includes building hundreds of thousands of more affordable housing units and using over 70,000 acres of city land more efficiently. For example, we will be building more housing on the Brooklyn waterfront as well building over the rail yards in Queens. Mayor Bloomberg also wants every New Yorker to live within a 10 minute walk of some kind of parkland, which is as lovely an idea as I've ever heard. Of course the big hubbub of the last week has been his controversial proposal for congestion pricing - charging car and truck drivers for coming into parts of midtown and lower Manhattan during key business hours.

Mr New York endorses this congestion pricing plan. Needless to say a new kind of tax will always engender opposition but the traffic problem in Manhattan has reached critical mass. This tax will reduce the number of cars in Manhattan and slash eco-unfriendly carbon emissions. Best of all, the money collected from this tax will be plowed back into providing even more public transportation which is really the only way to get around this town. People out in parts of Queens like Bayside, Fresh Meadows, and Flushing have barely an public transportation at all. It's time they did.

Also, and I haven't heard anyone in the media mention this, but won't less cars in Manhattan mean better safety? Less accidents, etc.? This is as good an idea for this new tax as any that I've heard. After all, with the Manhattan baby boom of the last several years, this is as good at time as any!

So, congestion pricing is good for NYC. More affordable housing and parkland is great for NYC. If future Mayors and city leaders stay true to the spirit of the 2030 plan, it may be that Gotham's best days are yet to come.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Brooklyn is Still Not Expanding: "Annie Hall" at 30

This past week will go down in history as one of the most awful in recent memory - campus and work-place shootings, an exploding death toll in a misbegotten war, a lying attorney general, an out of control celebrity - oy vey! as we say here. Madone. However, on a more pleasant note, this week also brings us the 30th anniversary of Woody Allen's masterwork "Annie Hall" -- winner of the 1977 Academy Award for Best Picture and an-all time classic.

It's the ultimate New York movie, and a flick that helps us appreciate the perpetual madness of relationships. Why do we keep entering into them when we know we are just setting ourselves up for heartbreak And what is it about the city that's so enduringly romantic? Woody doesn't give us any answers, and he doesn't claim to understand why. Instead, the brilliance of the movie is its appreciation of a part of human nature that we will never understand but will always keep trying to. "Annie Hall" is truly timeless, a movie that makes us love being in love.

Of course, the New York of 2007 is a much different place than that of 1977. We are no longer, as Diane Keaton said in the movie, "a dying city", but instead a thriving metropolis. Crime is way down and real estate prices are way up. We've gone from Democratic unionists Mayors to Republican billionaire Mayors. People are no longer fleeing New York but arriving in their millions. Much has improved but also some things have been lost. We've gone from rent-controlled apartments, mom-and-pop stores, and automats to Starbucks and Duane Reads on every corner and "Got Milk?" ad campaigns in the subways.

Got eggs?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Two for Eight

One more interesting thing: everyday, someone at New York magazine calls around to the hottest restaurants in town to find out which places have tables for two at eight that night. If you go to, the listings are usually up there by 4 PM each day.

Chat of the Town

A couple of very random and totally unrelated things, one quite plebian, the other quite haute culture. I will thank the New Yorker for not suing me for copyright infringement - I have simply "adapted" one of their department names for my subject line, not stolen it out right. Also, if you want to hear more about the most shocking news story in America right now -- the heretofore unknown fact that Don Imus is an offensive schnook -- please go elsewhere.

And now ... the rest of the story (thank Mr. Harvey):

This past week in New York, for the fourth time in about as many decades, ground was broken on the East Side of Manhattan for the Second Avenue subway. This is the Great White Whale of NYC, something the city has always been chasing but never quite catching. Basically, it is a new subway line that will run up and down the far East Side of Manhattan. This development is long, long, long overdue and will make getting in and out of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queen a whole lot easier. It will also be, one hopes, the latest, more technologically sophisticated subway route in town. Thanks for Congresswoman Maloney and all the other NYC leaders who never gave up on on this project. Hopefully our state's new governor, the Steamroller himself Mr Spitzer, will keep his eye on the ball and make sure the financing doesn't dry up and the shovels remain active. If not, let's sign a petition to have Mayor Bloomberg pay for it.

Now, onto my other subject: I quite enjoy reading the New York Observer, which is probably one of the best publications "about" NYC available. (If Mr New York could mutate into a weekly newspaper somehow, it would be a lot like the Observer). Anyway, NYC is one of the last places on earth that still has "socialites", ladies born or married to amazing wealth who make news by where they shop and eat lunch. I will not use the P word here to describe the kind of socialite that makes people hate socialites. Instead, I will direct you to the Observer piece about one Ms. Arden Wohl, an interesting socialite who seems to have a social conscience and who uses all of that money and free time to do good. I will note summarize the story here, instead please check it out yourself at

Perhaps some of my faithful readers (one or both of you) could educate me about socialites by answering the following questions:

1. How much money does the socialites family have to have?
2. Must the socialite or her family have a second home or private jet?
3. Does education matter at all?
4. What exactly are the duties and functions that a wealthy woman must perform in order to be considered a socialite?
5. Can anyone really be a socialite if they do not appear frequently in the media?

Please tell me!

All for now.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

How to Stand on a Subway Platform

Believe it or not, there are rules on how you should wait for the subway. First, try not to stand too close to anyone - otherwise you might find yourself getting breathed on. Second, avoid eye-contact with strangers (unless it's with attractive members of the opposite gender or your own gender, if you swing that way). Third, be on the look out for rats - those pesky creatures are a' scurrying everywhere. And fourth, most importantly, stay away from the track!

Oh, there are so many good reasons for this. The most obvious one is that you don't want to fall onto the track and get run over. This creates quite a mess. Also, you want to avoid any possible contact with the dreaded radioactive third rail - you touch it, you die (there's a reason why those who tinker with Social Security are accused on "touching the third rail" in politics - its fatal). But beyond all those good, sensible safety precautions, there is another vitally more important reason: you don't want to look like those people who lean over the track and stare ... stare ... stare down the tunnel ... waiting ... waiting ... oh dear God waiting for the train to roll in. Hint: you are not telekinetic. You are not going to pull in the train with the power of your eyesight. The train will announce its arrival with a blinding light and deafening roar. Risking your life by leaning over the track hoping in vain will not make the train come any faster. So please, hang back.

Fortunately, the MTA is doing its part to help: you may have noticed that the painted yellow lines on subway platforms (that used to be points of no return markers) are being replaced with big yellow bumps that make standing on the edge of the platform most uncomfortable. Heed their warning ... just chill.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Reviews and Theater Going Etiquette

This year my beloved and I went to two Broadway shows and we have plans on going to a third, ("Frost/Nixon") as well. In January we saw the wonderful revival of "Company" and in March the incredible "Grey Gardens." Both shows were delightful and very different: "Company" was a light-hearted, very funny "romp" while "Grey Gardens" was one of the best dramatic musicals I've ever seen. It didn't have any of that Cameron MacIntosh/Andrew Lloydd Webber BLARINGLY OVERMIKED synthetic music but instead told a sad, powerful story through spare, haunting songs. Both shows are definately worth seeing.

A few suggestions from this veteran theater-going that you may find either obvious or helpful:

1. How to deal with difficult audience members: It never fails that I'm seated in front of someone who insists upon talking during a show. At "Grey Gardens" some guy was commenting loudly about the action and it was very distracting. The way to deal with rude people like this is not to tell them to shut up since that just adds to the infraction. Instead, simply give them a death stare, a look that says "If you keep talking, I will kill you and every court of law will deem it justifiable homicide." This tactic, I have found, works wonders (the same goes for people who don't turn off their cell-phones although usually the entire audience registers dissapproval).

2. Join TheaterMania for ticket discounts. Do not even consider paying full price unless it is not listed on TheaterMania. The average discount ticket costs about $65 which is roughly equal to the price of Off-Broadway tickets these days.

3. If you like Chinese food, the best deal for dinner before or after a Broadway show is Ollie's on 44th and Broadway (right across from the Nokia). The restaurant is huge (so there aren't long waits) and the prices are dirt cheap for 'hood. Also, they have huge tables which can accommdate large parties. Most importantly, the food is pretty good so Ollie's is a MUCH better deal than those overpriced and mediocre joints on Restaurant Row. Ollie's closes around 11:30 so if you go to a show that gets out around 10, it's perfect for after-theater dinner. It's really one of the best deals in town.

If you've seen any good shows lately, on on or off Broadway, please post a comment and let everyone know.