Category Archives: Lower East Side

Curbed, Continued

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It’s been nearly two months since the Curbed relaunch. In my estimation, the site has been doing its best work ever. One example: if you missed Patrick Sisson’s deep dive into the history and culture of fire escapes and New York City: go, read, and enjoy.

The powers of a new publishing system have allowed Curbed to think even bigger. A few weeks after relaunch, the site dropped a giant package of editorial goodness called Home Sweet Home. To bring it to life, Curbed talked to 30 unique personalities across a bunch of industries to learn about where they grew up and what home means to them. I wrote a short essay for it about my years living on Rivington Street — the apartment where, as it so happens, Curbed was born. Certain parties will be pleased to learn that my famed floral print sofa does indeed makes a crucial appearance. The sofa is long gone; the nostalgia remains. (And check out the image for this post, which is also the image for the essay: it’s 110 Rivington in needlepoint.)

Also on the nostalgia front, I greatly enjoyed this reflection by Cory Schmitz on designing the new Curbed logo. (Literal lol: “When I lived in New York I was a devout Curbed reader so there is a soft spot in me for the old, extremely literal logo — representative of a lot of blog headers in the early and mid 2000s. In retrospect though the logo is somewhat silly and, now that blogs are media enterprises, rendering that logo in a broader range of applications must have been a pain in the ass.”) My thanks to Cory for crushing the new, less slightly silly, Curbed look.

A Defense of Schiller’s

Well, he was.

I am duty-bound to respond. Which I did immediately with a Schiller’s playbook tweetstorm. But the more I thought about it — and the more the Eater team prodded me — the more I realized I had more to say on the matter. So I wrote a blog post intended for publication in this space.

Under new terms and conditions recently negotiated with Eater’s Amanda Kludt, however, I offered right of first refusal on the Schiller’s blog post to the Eater NY team. They accepted. Which is why my Defense of Schiller’s now appears over there, my first blog post for the Big E since relaunch.

You mad? Stay mad.

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9/11/14

This may not be a year you want to reflect much on 9/11; that’s understandable. That’s been me on a bunch of 9/11s. In which case: check back here tomorrow. But I haven’t had an active blog in years, and I do want to reflect this year. So, this.

In the Early Days of Blogging™, one meme was that to know a blogger, you should start by seeing what they wrote on or immediately following 9/11/01. On this blog, it was my ninth post: “Two eggs.” It didn’t mean anything to anyone except me, which was fine, because no one but me was reading this blog in 2001.

Last Friday I had three old friends over to our apartment for after-dinner drinks. We’d dined in Chinatown and walked home to my apartment on the South Street Seaport underneath the Towers of Light, which are always tested for a few hours on a few nights prior to their 9/11 appearance. And whether that was the reason or not, conversation turned to 9/11. All four of us were in the New York area that day, and three of us had managed to meet up at Lucy’s bar on Avenue A. Three of us remembered that. From there, memory turned hazy. Two of those three of us recalled having left Lucy’s for a dinner at a restaurant that I think was on East 10th Street. Neither of the two of us who remembered that could recall the restaurant’s name, or agree on the specifics of the dinner, or how the night ended after that.

Thirteen years after 9/11, memory fades. I took photos that terrible morning, and for five years every year after, I took the same walk I did on 9/11/01, from my apartment on the Lower East Side down to City Hall. On that fifth year anniversary, I chronicled my repeating those steps. Those memories are cast in stone. But last Friday night, later, it occurred to me to look up 9/11/01 in my journal, which I kept on the pages of a non-digital handwritten journal, to revive my own memories of the day. (I never read my old journals; maybe I will some day, but pulling that era’s journal off the shelf even for a specific purpose felt monumental, and scary.)

What I found were ideas and feelings, not actual events. I was struck by the truth that, in a journal I frequently used to record the facts of my life, I’d recorded none from that week. I wonder if I thought I’d never forget; certainly, that was the clarion call and understanding of us all at the time, and now still.

On 9/11/03, I did blog about that day, and I recollected a sign I’d seen in Union Square a year earlier: “We smelled it. Felt it. Saw it. We need more time.” I know what that means, and why it was right. But looking back now, I’m struck by how memory fades. Never forget, yes. But how?

Fall Dining: Dirty French

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The hottest restaurant of the early Fall season is Dirty French. I know this not just because I read Eater — although its coverage certainly offers plenty of hints — but because of my inbox, which at this second contains emails from three separate friend groups all plotting ways to convene at Dirty French as quickly and frequently as possible. In this, I wholeheartedly support them.

The restaurant is the latest from the Torrisi/Carbone team of Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone; the duo are taking a divide-and-conquer approach to their expansion, so Rich is in the kitchen at Dirty French while Mario plans to take the helm at their long-awaited restaurant adjacent to the new Whitney at the High Line. Dirty French is situated inside Sean MacPherson’s new Ludlow Hotel, which finally animated the deserted high-risk husk of a building at the top of Ludlow Street that’s sat vacant and unfinished since the real estate downturn. The vibe is classic MacPherson, more similar to the Bowery Hotel than one might expect given his triumph at The Marlton; wood beams wouldn’t have been my move on the Lower East Side, but hey, this is the new new Lower East Side and if wood beams are the thing then wood beams are the thing.

I’ve dined at Dirty French twice, once walking in and sitting at the bar, and last night at a full-fledged, fuck-yeah-it’s-Tuesday-Night dinner. I loved both meals. The trick, of course, is getting in.

Though I am hesitant to contradict something Eater wrote just yesterday, it should be noted that the walk-in dine-at-bar move can be pulled off right now at Dirty French, if you know what you’re doing. (I dined in this manner on Saturday night, and had two friends successfully echo the move on Monday night.) The trick is to play nice with the front of house staff manning the podium by the door, then make your way past them with minimal fuss and settle in at the surprisingly uncrowded bar. Then ask for a menu — the barstaff seems particularly nice for a restaurant this hot, which is a huge bonus — and get going. Your bar order: the ham (served Momofuku-style), a plate of oysters, and then take it from there.

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If you’re amused that I explained the how-to-eat-at-Dirty-French move as essentially “dine at the bar” — well, you’ll see it’s not quite that simple or assured if you give it a whirl. And in a few weeks, when the restaurant is totally overwhelmed, it won’t even be a remote possibility. So now is the window. Go.

Having read (and loved) Lush Life and Oscar Wao over the summer, I find this almost too good to be true. Price: “I think the Lower East Side is the Star Wars bar. Everybody thinks it’s a done deal and it’s all yuppie. Man, that thing, I mean, there’s more afterbirth than rebirth. You go half a block, and you’re in China. You’re not even in China, you’re in Fujian Province. And then you go into the projects and you’re in black-and-Hispanicsville. And then you go over here and you’re in Orthodox Jewville. And then you got the kids that, it’s like they’re in Rent but they have credit cards. So they don’t have to say, ‘Ooh, light my candle.’ They’ll go to Restoration Hardware and buy a fucking lamp.”