Saturday, July 28, 2007

Astoria Park Pool

It's a Republican's nightmare - a well run, well maintained public utility enjoyed by a diverse group of people. That, in a phrase, sums up the swimming pool in Astoria Park.

Take the N/W to Astoria Boulevard and walk west to the park and you'll hit it. (There's also parking spaces right nearby.) You'll get in a line behind some long metal bars and, upon entering, need to show the guards that you have two things: a swimsuit for each person and a padlock (if you need to buy a padlock, there's a little kiosk outside that sells locks and other swimming apparel). Once inside the complex, the men go left into the Men's room and the women go right into the Women's. You lock your stuff in one of the lockers and then take a quick shower before heading to the pool. Just before leaving the Men's/Women room, a guard will want to see if you have some kind of underwear or protection beneath your swimsuit. Once you get outside, another person will ask you to shake out your towel, to make sure you're not bringing in any contra-band. You can then safely leave your towels on one of the big decks and go swimming in the enormous, pleasantly heated pool. There are lifeguards and guards everywhere. Needless to say, since this is a public pool in NYC, security and safety are #1. But if you follow the rules, you should have a good time. Oh, and all of this doesn't cost you one red cent.

This is a great public service and it's one of the city's best kept secrets. The pool is open every day from June through Labor Day, from 11 AM to 3 PM, then from 4 PM to 8 PM. On weekdays, you can get an early swim from 7 to 8 AM and then there are "laps only" lanes from 7 to 8:15 PM. I suggest getting there early, at 11 AM, since the pool fills up quickly. However, since it is so big, there's plenty of space for you to swim comfortably. There are also places where you can sun yourself and there are sprinklers you can run under as well. There's even a snack bar!

On a hot day, this is a little bit of heaven brought to earth in Queens. Mr NYC, for one, is grateful it's there. The Astoria Park Pool is the crown jewel of the city public pool system and it's been there since 1936. And you thought you'd never get to swim in the shadow of the Triborough Bridge!

GoCitykids/Astoria Park Pool

PS. Above the pool, there's also a big clock, so you can easily keep track of time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"It's a City of Strangers": How to Check Out People on Public Transportation

Okay, admit it: every so often you find yourself on the bus or the subway and suddenly ... a vision walks on. A person of extra-ordinary beauty, someone "really hot" or "totally gorgeous", someone who clashes mercilessly with the kennel of people who usually rides the MTA. This person acts like a magnet for your eyes. Suddenly the ads for Dr Zizmor and the other passengers melt away ... and you lock your eyes on this person and stare ... stare ... stare. But ... oh no! Now you've crossed the line! You've gone over to the other side. You have become ... a creepy person! You're a creepy staring person! And now your l'object d'amour might whip out the pepper spray at any moment. You want to stop staring but you can't ... for the life of you, you just can't! So what do you do? Never fear, for Mr NYC is here to guide you through the art of checking out people on public transportation. Just follow these five simple rules:

1. When you first spot "the person", don't stare too long. Like Jerry Seinfeld once said, act like this person is the sun: you get a sense of the thing, then look away.

2. When you next look at the person, DO NOT STARE DIRECTLY. Use subterfuge. Pretend to read one of the ads above your head or, better yet, act like you're looking for one of the bus or subway maps on the wall. You can then check out the person who ... oh, you know, just happens to be in your line of vision. Make sure people think you are trying to look at something and not someone. Then you can more easily get away with looking at the person.

3. It helps if you have reading material. Then you can look up from it every so often to, you know, see what's going on and to, oh yeah, check out the hottie.

4. When the bus or train pulls into a stop, pretend to stare out the window. You know, you want to see what's going on outside, and who is getting on or off. This is a custom-built moment to check out "the vision."

5. If all else fails, and you just can't keep your eyes off this person, and you've done steps 1 to 4, maybe multiple times, then do this: pretend that, oh darn it, you have a crook in your neck, and you need to rub it and you gotta bend your head, oh, this way ... and then that way ... and you're just looking out ahead of yourself and ... oh wow, there he or she is! What a coincidence!

I hope you will find these steps useful. But please understand: Mr NYC does not, in any way, endorse any kind of harassment or talking to or touching of any stranger on public transportation. There is a galaxy of difference between "checking someone out" and actually trying to interact with another person. I hope this disclaimer is well understood.

And so I conclude with something by Stephen Soundheim, who in his great NYC musical "Company" observed:

It's a city of strangers,
Some come to work, some to play.
A city of strangers,
Some come to stare, some to stay.
And every day
The ones who stay
Can find each other in the crowded streets and the guarded parks,
By the rusty fountains and the dusty trees with the battered barks,
And they walk together past upholstered walls with the crude remarks.
And they meet at parties through the friends of friends who they never know ...

... And another hundred people just got off of the train.

Taxi TV

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, there was a TV show called "Taxi", about a bunch of cab drivers in NYC. Today, in 2007, there are TVs in taxis. At least, there are here in NYC.

Recently my beloved and I caught a cab, and upon settling in we were confronted with a TV screen snuggled into the back seat partition. It's not really a TV screen but a touch screen, one that includes an electronic fare meter and a GPS-like tracking thing (so you can see the streets you traveling on). The screen also includes several buttons where you can get weather updates as well as local and national news (in this case, the cab was "sponsored" by NBC so it was all Peacock network programming). We didn't have enough time to check out all its funky features but it was a cute if somewhat annoying new technology.

There's been some controversy about these in-cab TVs. Some people hate being forced to look at flickering images during their ride (although there is a button to turn it off). The cab drivers hate the GPS technology since they don't like being able to be tracked. I can understand why some people would love it and why others would loathe it. I say, if you like, have fun. And if you don't, just ignore it. After all, this is New York City, and if you can't stand putting up with new annoying things, well ... it's time to think about moving to the South.

Le Perigord

Tonight my beloved and I went to Le Perigord, the restaurant where tout le monde en NYC go when they want classic French food. This isn't Le Cirque or one of those places that serve nouvelle cuisine. Mais non! It's hardcore, real French cuisine, and it's quite good.

Even though we were going as part of Restaurant Week, upon entering, the French maitre'd said "Welcome home!" The service was good too. We had a delicious pate appetizer, followed by a delicious lambe au jus and their famous desert the Floating Island (a puffy meringue and custard concoction). It wasn't the greatest meal I've ever had but the elegant, low-key atmosphere and well-prepared food made for a pleasurable time.

Overall, I say Le Perigord's a good bet if you want a classy and quiet evening. It's part of classy New York, not "trendy" New York. And it's nice to know places like this still exist.

Le Perigord

Saturday, July 21, 2007

That Other NYC: City Island & Roosevelt Island

If you know New York, you can probably reel off its boroughs and most famous neighborhoods no problem: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Soho, Harlem, the Upper East and West Sides, Park Slope, Astoria, the South Bronx, Riverdale, even Flushing and Flatbush. But what about City Island and Roosevelt Island? Eh, not so much. That's because they belong to the other New York, the parts of the city you rarely see on TV or in the movies. These little chunks of land are part of this town but they really aren't integrated into it and they don't belong to any borough. They're like little enclaves, small towns within the big city. However, today, here at Mr NYC, we will give them their due:
  • City Island: This is what one might call a "nautical community." It's like the Nantucket of NYC, a little island floating off the coast - in this case, the coast of the Bronx. But this isn't the tough Bronx of the popular imagination. No, this small island, about a mile long, consists of charming little houses and seafood restaurants. It also has several docks for boats and you have to constantly remind yourself that you're in New York City and not in a New England fishing town. I was there last year and we had a pleasant walk along City Island Avenue, the main street that cuts across the length of the island. We looked at the charming little stores and had a lobster lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful view of the water. Getting there is a bit of a hassle (you gotta drive), but if it's a nice day and you're inclined to see a very different part of this town, it's worth checking out.

  • Roosevelt Island: okay, I'll be blunt, it's nowhere near as charming as City Island but it's a lot easier to get to. You can just get off on the F train or take the Roosevelt Island tram on East 59th street (it's running again after a most unfortunate snafu last year). The island - used to be called Welfare Island - consists mostly of small apartment buildings that look like socialist worker housing. There's also a hospital here. While there's not much of interest on Roosevelt Island, there are two very cool things to see: 1) the stunning view of Manhattan 2) the Ruin! Yes, like Rome or Athens, this city has a ruin - in this case, the Pauper Lunatic Asylum. It's at the very southern most tip of the island and while it's not the world's most attractive ruin, it's makes you think of Old New York, the city that was.

  • For more info of these parts of "that other New York", go to:


    Welcome to Roosevelt Island

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Inside Rao's

There are lots of "exclusive" joints in this town but there's one place that's so exclusive you can't get in unless you know someone. That place is Rao's, the legendary Italian restaurant in East Harlem (114th street and Pleasant Avenue). There are only about 12 tables that a few - very few - people "own" one night a week or a month. And if these people and their guests don't show, no one is seated there. You can't make a reservation and you certainly can't just walk in. You gotta know someone who owns a table and that person's gotta like you. Otherwise, tough. As Dick Standen wrote on City Search, "you can't really say you've arrived in this town until you've scored a table here." (An example of a person who owns a table: Ron Pearlman. It's also a celebrity hangout.)

Needless to say, the food is great. Rao's is famed for it's great sauces and lemon chicken and meatballs. Plus they have great cheesecake. And how do I know this? 'Cause Mr NYC has eaten there!

A friend of a friend of a friend was my source and we went several months ago. It was glorious. There's no menu. The owner and proprietor, Frank Pelligrino, sits at each table, tells you what they're serving, and takes your order. The meal is basically "customized" for each table. My table had the pleasure of being served wine by the legendary Nicky the Vest who regaled us with this stories about serving celebrities like James Caan (Nicky got his nickname since every night he wears a different vest jacket with a distinct insignia). The bread was served with a delicious oil and garlic and we had the great lemon chicken and meatballs (best meatballs I've ever had). The restaurant is covered with photos of the famous clientele and the atmosphere is raucous. We also had the pleasure of seeing Rao's most famous regular, legendary detective Bo Dietl, holding court at his big table. (I overhead him say that back in the day, on hot summer nights, they would open the front doors and people would eat by the stairs.) The nice thing about Rao's is that whether you're rich or famous or not, they treat you like a star. Because at Rao's, the biggest star is the food and fun.

PS. Check out the following link about how to get in:

So You Wanna get into Rao's?

PPS. If you can't be one of the 0.000001% of the population that scores a table at Rao's, you can find the restaurant's sauces and pasta in your friendly neighborhood grocery store.

New York Ain't So New

The steam pipe that exploded yesterday was apparently laid in 1924 and working just fine until yesterday. It's amazing to think that any part of this city's infrastructure is 80 plus years old - think, when that pipe was laid, Fitzgerald hadn't published The Great Gatsby, Hitler was still ranting in German beer halls, and movies were still silent. How much more of this city's physical make up, both above and below ground, is that old? Certainly there are buildings that have existed for more than a century - the Flatiron opened in 1902 (full disclosure: I once worked in it) and many of the more beautiful apartment buildings around town are nearly that old. With the exception of terrorists and arsonists and demolition crews and poor construction, the city's infrastructure has basically just hummed along, housing and supporting 8 million people and their hopes and dreams. What was so unusual about yesterday what that one tiny chink, one little sliver, one minute cog in the enormous wheel that moves this city, just said ... "I'm tired. I've had enough. I give up!" And so it did, causing panic and havoc and injuries and, sadly in one case, death. Yet after 84 years, could you blame it?

So the all of this begs the question: what can the city do? Can we do anything? Should we do anything? We can't rip up the whole city and replace it, nor does anyone really want to. But after yesterday (or more accurately, after 400 years), while grateful that our city hasn't totally fallen apart, we'll just be a little bit more cautious.

Thanks to those of you who viewed my first attempt at live blogging. Since this is not a news blog, it was more of a diversion than a general feature. But this blog tries to be relevant to the times (or more precisely the moment) so whenever the next city emergency happens, Mr NYC will be on the case.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


According to the Mayor and Homeland Security, this is NOT - repeat NOT - a terrorist act. However, it is a 5-alarm fire and there have been some injuries.

Please stay away from the area around Lexington Avenue and 42nd street.


Less than an hour ago, there was a steam explosion in Midtown, right near Grand Central Station. It's a developing story and Mr NYC will follow it.

Breaking News

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden

As our city sweats through the summer of '07, refreshment and fun can be found in the heart of Astoria. In the last few years, the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden has become the city's new hot spots (in fact, I'm behind the eight ball in talking it up here). I recently hosted an event there with my beloved and, if you ever go, you'll understand why its such a great place to have a party.

The Beer Garden is basically a big open space with lots of picnic tables where you can congregate with family and friends. A pitcher of beer costs about $14 and you can get one (or just a glass of beer) at one of the indoor or outdoor bars. Waitresses circulate and take orders for the fine Czech food they serve (best bet: chicken crepes). There's also a place you can line up for hot dogs and franks.

It's a fun place and people come from all the boroughs to enjoy it. People even bring their kids! Some advice: get there early. If you're going on a Saturday or Sunday, go there before 4 PM. Because it's so popular, there's crowd control. Go there on a Friday and Saturday night, and you'll find a nightclub-like line down the block, and you'll be forced to wait! But it's worth it. The Beer Garden's some of the funnest, least expensive, and unpretentious fun you can have in New York City.

Here's the link for their website:

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden

Also, find out what others in the neighborhood say. Check out the great blog Joey in Astoria:

Joey in Astoria

Some Questions for the MTA

  • Why are you so incompetent?
  • Why are there so many late trains?
  • Why do so many of them stall in the middle of tunnels?
  • Why are there always door problems?
  • Why are there so many red signals?
  • Why aren't there people on the platforms preventing overcrowding?
  • Why, when it rains, do the tracks and stations flood?
  • Why aren't people ticketed for blasting music in the cars?
  • Why can't you prevent track congestion?
  • Why have you been "repairing" the same stations for the last eight years?
  • Why can't the workers get a fair contract?
  • Why are you still run by the most dysfunctional state government in the country instead of the city?
  • Why do you engage in sleazy accounting practices?
  • Why do you humiliate this great city?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Restaurant Week!

NYC & Company, the city's tourism bureau, is launching Restaurant Week this month. Starting tomorrow, July 16, until July 27 (not including weekends), you can eat at some of the city's best restaurants for only $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner. This is for a three-course, prix-fixe meal. You should really check it out and try to go if you can. To get more info, find which restaurants are participating, and to make reservations, go to:

NYC and Company - Restaurant Week Summer 2007

Joan Hamburg

If you're looking for a great resource for New York City cultural info, then listen to the Joan Hamburg show each weekday morning from 9-11 AM on 710 AM.

Like Mr NYC, Joan's show has information on theater, restaurants, shopping, news and lots of other cool stuff that makes New York City great. Each week her daughter Liz does a segment called "New York Uncovered" that reveals the city's secret treasures. Also, Joan herself does a feature every morning at 8:25 AM where she shares even more city secrets. And unlike other radio talk show hosts who thrive on controversy, Joan's shows thrives on life.

Here are her links which include Podcasts:

Joan Hamburg
Joan Hamburg's Morning Feature

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Magnolia Bakery

Yuppie hearts were pounding last week when the famous Magnolia bakery had to shut its doors for a day. The Board of Health determined that it had one too few handwashing sinks so this was remedied quickly and now cupcakes are being scooped up once more.

Magnolia cupcakes are probably the most delicious you'll ever have. They are thick and rich and are a sweet-tooth's delight. But be careful: although Mr NYC is a devout cupcake lover and has a huge appetite, not even I can devour more than two at a time. Oh, and they cost about $2 a pop so you'll be doing both your waistline and pocket book a favor if you practice restraint.

Located at 11 street and Bleecker in the West Village, there are usually long lines out the door. Try going in the middle of the afternoon, at night, or on a weekend, and there'll be a good 15 minute wait. The best time to go, I found, is right after work, between 5 and 6 PM. People are usually not thinking about cupcakes at that hour so it's a good time to go and pick up a bunch.

Magnolia is also a stop on the "Sex and the City" tour. If you're interested in that, here's the link: Location/SATC

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dope-Ass Graffiti Part II

In one of my very first posts, I told of overhearing a young tourist on the subway indicating that she wanted to see some "dope-ass" graffiti, and I reflected on the social and symbolic importance of this particular art form. Well, the dopest of the dope-ass graffiti that I have found can be viewed on the #7 subway line between Queensboro Plaza and Vernon-Jackson. From this above-ground train, you'll see building upon building with some of the most colorful, artistic graffiti in town. In some cases, you'll marvel at the literal heights some of these "artistes" must have had to scale in order to create their work. It's really a sight to see, and unlike our $20 per visit museums, all it costs is a subway fare.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

4th of July

New York City is famous for Macy's 4th of July fireworks show above the East River. Here is a photo taken by a friend of mine.

Radio New York

Did you know that New York City owns its own radio station? It's called WNYE, dubbed "Radio New York", and it can be found at 91.5 on the FM dial. It contains a mix of NPR and local programming.

WNYE 91.5 FM

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reggie, Ed, Steve, Rupert, the Blackout, and Son of Sam: New York City in 1977

New York is a forward-thinking city, but in 2007 many a New Yorker's mind is turning backwards. Nostalgia is taking hold for the year 1977 - perhaps the most seminal year in the city's almost 400 year history. In life, sometimes everything happens at once: in 1977, so many things were happening, so many social, cultural and political events were occurring - that the city is still catching its breath today. Even those not yet alive or (like yours truly) not old enough to remember, will recognize what the New York of 1977 wrought. If you want the full, in-depth story, I highly recommend the excellent 2005 book Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning by Jonathan Mahler (now showing as a mini-series on ESPN called "The Bronx is Burning"). Here at Mr NYC, we'll give you a thumbnail of that remarkable year:
  • Long before he created the Fox network, and three decades before he tried to buy The Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch bought The New York Post. The Aussie enfant terrible acquired the old liberal broadsheet from long-time owner Dorothy Schiff and turned the paper founded by Alexander Hamilton into a conservative tabloid. The Murdoch effect still resonates today: he went on to create Fox News and helped to make American journalism more sensationalistic and openly partisan.
  • In 1977, little known Congressman Ed Koch stunned the city's political establishment by defeating Mayor Abe Beame and future New York State Governor Mario Cuomo in the Democratic primary. Koch would then serve as Mayor for the next twelve years.
  • Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager emerged from the outer boroughs to create the now legendary Studio 54 in April, 1977. The nightclub became synonymous with 1970s club culture and disco decadence - it was the place to be seen, the place no one could get into, the place where anything and everything was permitted. Today, every hot club in New York or anywhere else exists in the shadow of "54."
  • In 2003, New York and the entire eastern United States suffered a blackout. But it was mild in duration and chaos compared to the blackout of '77. In the broiling July of that year, riots and lootings and mayhem raged, and it looked like the world's greatest city was literally and figuratively melting. It stands in stark contrast to the relatively peaceful New York of today.
  • If New York City is remembered for one thing in 1977, it's the Son of Sam murders. The deranged David Berkowitz stalked women and couples at night and senselessly murdered them. He taunted the police with notes he left behind and he became the city's first serial killer in decades. Columnist Jimmy Breslin made his reputation with his breathless coverage of the Son of Sam case, and like the blackout riots, it became symbolic of a city literally destroying itself.
  • Two classic New York City movies were released in 1977. Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" transformed and defined the urban romantic comedy for the rest of the 20th century and also managed to win a few Oscars (including Best Picture). Also, "Saturday Night Fever" came out, capping the zenith of the disco craze, and making John Travolta a movie star and the Bee Gees chart-toppers.
  • Finally, in 1977, slugger Reggie Jackson joined the Yankees and gave the city its first World Series win since the Mets in 1969.

    It marked a glorious end to a rough but historic year in NYC. And the city hasn't been the same since.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Free Mister Softee!

Here in New York, summertime can test one's love for the city: the heat and humidity make for sweaty and grimy days, and the tourists flock in. New Yorkers crowd the parks and outdoor cafes, and the street merchants shamelessly hock their wares. New York summers are tough but for many years - nay generations - there has been one sound, one tiny jingle, that has cut through the summer glare and cooled us down: Mister Softee's ice cream trucks. Its music box sound entrances New York City children, telling them that ice cream is nearby. As I child, whenever I was playing in the park and heard Mister Softee coming, I would beg my mom for a dollar and run off to get a cone. Even today, as a weary adult, Mister Softee's sound is always welcome. It's as New York as Bloomingdale's, a lot less expensive.

Recently, Mister Softee has been having problems with the law and for reasons that appear silly. This past week in Queens, a Mister Softee driver was fined $350 for violating the city's new and tougher noise code. Apparently, he didn't turn off the jingle after parking at the curb. That's it, that's all. And it was in the middle of a hot Wednesday afternoon!

As a native, I understand that noise is a problem and that people should be able to live peacefully in their homes without blasting street music or honking horns or other things disturbing them. But it seems to me, that during the daytime, in the City of New York of all places, Mister Softee's jingle is the least of our noise pollution problems. After all, we chose to live here, and street noise is one of the compromises we make for the privilege. The Department of Environmental Protection, which enforces these noise laws, should spend more time going after these nightclubs and bars and street fairs that cause the real big noise pollution problems and not Mister Softee.

Mr NYC rests his case.

Review: "Talk Radio"

As promised, my review of the Broadway play "Talk Radio."

Written by Eric Bogosian, it centers around an outrageous late-night radio host in Cleveland named Barry Champlain. His show is about to go national and yet his life appears to be falling apart. Over the course of the play, which takes place during one show, he smokes, drinks and berates his hapless callers. At one memorable point, a nihilistic young fan invades the studio and steals the show (in this case, both of them). The miserable Barry manages to somehow keep everything going while also breaking his girlfriend's heart and diffusing a package mailed in by a fan that may or may not be a bomb. It is a breakneck, "real-time" play, and the action never stops.

The play is overwhelming and powerful. Liev Schreiber is one of the best theater actors of his generation and he makes you both love and hate his Barry Champlain. The supporting cast is equally remarkable and they hold their own with him. My only quibble with the show is that the "Big Point" made at the end, its raison d'etre ... doesn't seem so very important. Its insightful but ultimately a weak one. However, besides that, "Talk Radio" is great entertainment, a memorable night of theater.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

"The roller-coaster you and me": The Last Days of Coney Island

Perhaps the best thing you can say about Coney Island is that Lou Reed wrote not one but two songs about it: "Coney Island Baby" and "Coney Island Steeplechase." This is all the more impressive since Coney Island is not exactly a place that would steal the heart of many songwriters, let alone one as great as Mr. Reed. Coney Island it an expansive part of far east Brooklyn, consisting mostly of housing projects and old stores, and it is, to put it mildly, a bit run down.

But people still flock there during the summer, to visit Astroland Park, to walk along the boardwalk, to play and sun on the beach. Every July 4th, Nathan's has its world-famous hot-dogging eating contest where this year a new champion, Joey Chestnut, was crowned after he ate a record 66 dogs in 12 minutes. He bested Kobayashi, the man who had held the record since 2001. This was such a huge news story that even the BBC World News covered it. Wow.

Perhaps one of the most beloved Coney Island institutions is the Cyclone, one of the oldest roller coasters in the country. My beloved and I recently took a ride and, lemme tell ya, it was SCARY. You go way, way up and then, suddenly, drop like a rock in the ocean. Before you can catch your breath, up you go again and then ... well, you get the idea. Once you're done, you'll be shaking and sweating but also feeling grand.

Just some FYI: you wait on a roughly 10-minute line to get in and it costs about $6 a person. There is a place to check your bags and, I would strongly advise, your eyeglasses. You then stand in a small crowd of people and get on when able to. The farther back you sit, the rougher the ride, so try to sit in the front. Oh, and you will scream, even if you don't plan on it.

These are, however, the last days of the old Coney Island. While the cyclone will remain, Astroland park is being torn down and so are many new buildings. According to the Gotham Gazette:

"The city has a strategic plan for the Brooklyn neighborhood and plans to announce rezoning of the area within the next several months. With Thor Equities, the new owner of the Astroland property, envisioning luxury condos, indoor water rides and other year round amusements."

Like many parts of this city, it is changing, gentrifying. Coney Island will be refashioned. And while the neighborhood certainly could use a boost, the Gotham Gazette reports that, "some Coney Island aficionados wonder whether the area’s unique spirit can survive. Isolated attractions – the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, the Parachute Jump – will stay on but what will surround them?"

Who knows? We shall see. But hopefully its spirit will remain. And it's that spirit Lou Reed sang about in "Coney Island Steeplechase" when he crooned:

Would you like to go on the Coney Island Steeple
Go and have a good time
We'll take the subway right down to King's Highway
Gonna have a good time
If it's all right it would be so nice
If you come and go with me
The roller-coaster you and me
Just try

Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army: Visiting Katz's Deli

New York is the best at many things in this world - finance, fashion, publishing, theater, fundraising, take your pick. One thing this city is undoubtedly the best at is delis, and there are many great ones here: the Carnegie, the Stage, Barney Greengrass, Zabars. But perhaps the most beloved is Katz's, the 100 year-plus establishment on East Houston, right off Ludlow street in the Lower East Side. It is the ultimate for big sandwiches and hearty Jewish fair. Frank Bruni of The New York Times
recently had a great review of it and he summed it up well when he wrote that you go to Katz's:

"To revel in its pastrami sandwich, one of the best in the land, with an eye-popping stack of brined beef that’s juicy, smoky, rapturous. To glory in the intricate ritual of the place: the taking of a ticket at the door; the lining-up in front of one of the servers who carves that beef by hand; the tasting of the thick, ridged slices the server gives us as the sandwich is being built; the nodding when we’re asked if we want pickles, because of course we want pickles."

As Bruni indicates, when you enter Katz's, you are immediately given a red ticket that you must hold on to. Once you order at he counter (or, if you get table service, once you pay your bill on the way out of the door), it is punched. If you should lose your ticket, then you must pay $50. The deli has a huge and always busy counter. There are also a lot of tables where you can sit and a number of them include waiter service. The walls are lined with literally hundreds if not thousands of photos of the myriad famous people that have visited over the years. These faces include the famous and the infamous, the A-list to the Z-list, from Ed Koch to Joan Hamburg, from James Gandolfini to Jerry Seinfeld, from Ron Jeremy to (I kid you not) Mikhail Gorbachev! In the middle of the sea of tables is the table, the one where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sat in "When Harry Met Sally ...", site of the most famous fake orgasm in history. The table is indicated by an overhanging sign and, needless to say, it is always taken.

I recently visited Katz's for the first time. I went around 5 PM on a Saturday afternoon and had no problem getting a table (although not the "When Harry Met Sally..." one). Since Mr. Bruni suggested it, I had a pastrami sandwhich while my beloved had a Rueben. The sandwhiches were large and hearty but not unreasonably big. In addition, I had a bowl of matzah ball soup and it was delicious! (Just a friendly note: should you ever consume matzah ball soup, DO NOT mash the matzah ball into the broth. Instead, slice it down with your spoon.) Overall, we had a lovely time and hope to go back soon.

Oh, and when you're there, you'll see a sign that advises you to "Sena Salami to Your Boy in the Army!" It's a bit of Old New York sadly relevant today.

Mike the Independent

The big news around town last week was that our Mayor ditched his affiliation with the Republican party and declared himself a political independent. He did so, he said, because his views do not neatly line up with any political party and he felt more comfortable being free of one.

Mike only became a Republican in 2001 after he decided to run for Mayor. Realizing that a Democratic primary would be too crowded and unwinnable for him, the media tycoon switched his lifelong Democratic affiliation and became a Republican. This got him the endorsement of an insanely popular post-911 Rudy. This act, along with spending a record $74 million in his campaign, delivered Gracie Mansion to Mike (although he doesn't live there).

Mike's decision is totally understandable and, in the view of Mr NYC, long overdue. He has never governed in a partisan manner and he burnished his image as a competent CEO, not a party hack. His landslide re-election in 2005 was about his record (which was pretty good), not his party. He didn't run as a Democrat, Republican or anything else - he simply ran as "Mike!", and New Yorkers responded. And if he runs for President, well, maybe Americans will respond too.

Postscript: I actually met Mayor Mike in a restaurant about four years ago. This was when he was very unpopular, unlike today. I told him I thought he was doing a fine job and he said "Thanks! So you're the other one!"

Cheers, Mr. Mayor.