NEW YORK

Mary Help of Christians

Mary Help of Christians

This is the Mary Help of Christians on East 12th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A. It was built on the site of the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, took six years to build and was completed in 1917. Modeled on the Basilica di Maria Ausiliatrice in Turin, the new church immediately became the spiritual home for a multitude of immigrant families in the then largely Italian community, and has grown as a place of social and cultural significance in the East Village for almost a century. In 1953 it was the venue for the wedding of FDR’s daughter, Sara…

Insatiable criticism

Insatiable criticism

In New York, it’s often said that “everyone’s a critic.” The phrase may have had its origins in the theater world but these days is best applied to the city’s thriving restaurant industry. Every New Yorker seems to have a favorite neighborhood dining spot or an opinion on the hottest new place in town. So imagine the chance to try dozens of restaurants in one evening, all in the same location! Last night my wife and I attended “Best of the West”, the fifth annual edition of a culinary tasting event showcasing the finest restaurants on Manhattan’s Upper West Side….

Fare game

Fare game

As intrinsically associated with Manhattan as fire escapes and pretzel vendors, New York’s yellow taxicab’s icon is rivaled only by the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. But when Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled The Taxi of Tomorrow back in May, ending months of speculation as to the future of this ubiquitous presence on the city’s streets, he brought an untimely end to decades of sunshine-colored style and swagger. Of course, you’ll still be able to hail a yellow cab, but a few years from now it won’t be a Crown Victoria with aged tires and temperamental brakes. Sure,…

Afterthoughts

Afterthoughts

Before the cloud of dust and ash had even reached Brooklyn they were already calling it our generation’s “J.F.K.” We all remember it — where we were, who we were with, what we were doing. I’m not going to tell you my memories of 9/11 because they aren’t probably much different from those of most other people who weren’t in New York that day. Surely to do so would be to weigh in on an already over-saturated topic, to intellectualize other people’s all-too-real tragedy, and to appropriate their daily pain in an empty gesture of solidarity. I’m not an American,…

Some like it hot

Some like it hot

Summer’s here and the time is right… for freezing indoors? I knew summer was officially upon us as soon as I arrived at work last Monday morning. Two colleagues were perched awkwardly halfway up a stepladder. One was holding a drill, the other a raw piece of lumber, while each used his free hand to grip the large air-conditioner which teetered precariously between the window frame and the sidewalk six floors below. Beads of sweat sprung off both men, as if time was against them and their jobs (or very lives) hung in the balance. Before I knew it the…

All mapped out

All mapped out

A couple of years ago I purchased an original 1974 New York City Transit Authority Subway map, the kind that comes folded to fit into your pocket but when unfurled makes for a beautiful framed addition to one’s home. I won’t tell you what I paid for it, but let’s just say the same amount of money if converted into swipes of my MetroCard could have bought me several trips to Brooklyn and back on the N train. It may seem ridiculous to drop a significant sum of cash on something that was once handed out for free at every…

Island life

Island life

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” — Thomas Wolfe Last week, three years after moving to New York, and two and a half years after marrying my lovely American wife, I received my Green Card in the mail. According to the letter which came attached, I am now a Permanent Resident of the United States of America, although to me my new immigrant status still seems excessive. After all, I’ve only ever been to twelve of the fifty states, and generally never leave the island of Manhattan…

I’ll take Manhattan

I’ll take Manhattan

The other day I came across a tatty copy of New York magazine dated June 15, 1987. The cover story was entitled “The Buildings New Yorkers Love to Hate”, a list of the city’s most unpopular architectural landmarks which included the World Trade Center and the former PAN-AM Building. Most remarkable however, were the local listings towards the back of the magazine. The Restaurants section included just three eateries for the whole of Brooklyn. If you’ve been to Brooklyn lately this may seem hard to imagine, though if you were around in the late-eighties probably not quite so much. Indeed,…

Breakfast in America

Breakfast in America

In case you hadn’t noticed, the World Cup got underway last weekend in South Africa. For one month every four years, the planet’s greatest sporting event has, historically, had a tendency to consume my every waking second. This year is no different, although since Italy lifted the trophy in 2006 I’ve obtained United States residency, meaning I am experiencing the tournament from this side of the Atlantic for the very first time. This situation has led to some interesting observations, some more expected than others, as I grapple with the clichéd notion of being an avid soccer nut in a…

Empire State of Mind

Empire State of Mind

New York said goodbye to an icon this weekend. On May 14 the Empire Diner closed its doors for the last time — or rather, the first time, since this Chelsea landmark had until last Saturday night been serving locals and tourists, artists and cops, partygoers and insomniacs 24 hours a day since it opened in its current incarnation thirty-four years ago. In 1976, the diner lay closed and abandoned when it was purchased by three young New Yorkers — Jack Doenias, Carl Laanes, and Richard Ruskay — who transformed the Tenth Avenue eatery into the self-proclaimed “Hippest Diner on…

Spin City

Spin City

A few months ago, on the same day I turned thirty, I signed the lease to my first real New York apartment. To celebrate both occasions my wife surprised me with an unexpected gift: a record player, complete with amp and tuner. Nothing fancy (it had been donated to her by her boss) but perfect for a young couple looking to get its groove on in a one-bedroom third-floor walk-up. I owned only two LPs at the time, which I’d acquired in the vague hope that sooner or later I’d have my own turntable on which to play them. The…

Still making sense

Still making sense

When David Byrne took to the stage to greet the crowd in Brooklyn last night, he was accompanied by an unusual accessory. Not a guitar, nor even a tape recorder containing a drum machine backing track of “Psycho Killer”. Instead, the former Talking Head wheeled out a white bicycle, which had apparently been designed to match his outfit (and hair). While many of the 27,000 who’d crammed into Prospect Park had taken the subway to attend the free concert, Byrne, now 57, explained how he’d simply ridden his bike across the river. It was a typically quirky introduction to the…

Scenes from an Italian restaurant

Scenes from an Italian restaurant

Though I try to keep this website up-to-date with what’s going on in my New York life, there is one tale I have yet to tell. In fact, the subject matter is of such a dark and depressing nature I have had to wait until the onset of Spring to even discuss it. And after I write this, I hope to erase the entire experience from my memory. Here goes. Around mid-January, I found myself to my surprise, still in New York, but also jobless and soon-to-be-homeless. Having exhausted all other avenues of potential employment I became desperate, and began…

MoMA

MoMA

It was exactly four months ago when I discovered I’d be spending the fall of 2007 working at The Museum of Modern Art. I had long dreamed of the opportunity to live in New York City, yet never imagined it would arrive in the form of an internship at arguably the world’s finest Modern Art museum. A heavy application process (including three essays) had ended with a carefully coordinated trans-atlantic telephone interview with a certain Larissa Bailiff, MoMA’s internship coordinator. I was extremely nervous beforehand, and spent that morning researching extensively the museum’s current and upcoming exhibitions. Fortunately, Ms. Bailiff…

PERFORMA 07: A first-hand review

PERFORMA 07: A first-hand review

Through a colleague at MoMA, I’d become aware of something called PERFORMA, a performing arts foundation founded by Roselee Goldberg. I was offered the chance to volunteer for this year’s month-long biennial, PERFORMA 07, and without a real job and lots of extra time on my hands I said yes. At a meeting at the PERFORMA office I was gifted a red PERFORMA (you’ll have noticed by now that PERFORMA is always written in capitals) tote bag and assigned to assist with various projects, performances and what I guess they used to call “happenings”. Allan Kaprow invented the term in…

Welcome to the future

Welcome to the future

It was a humid evening when I arrived in New York last Friday night. Aching and weary having spent most of the day aboard a Lufthansa jet, I was immediately awoken by the series of advertisements which greeted me at JFK Airport. As I made my way through the endless maze of corridors leading to immigration, my eyes were bombarded with the repeated image of what appeared to be a sort of executive Etch-a-Sketch, but which upon closer inspection was in fact a device they’re calling the Sony Reader. Some very clever people in Japan had figured out a way…

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