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New York Now

May 2010 magazine

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New York Now

contents6 City Spotlight

Ivanka Trump’s Stalker, Robert De Niro’s Accent Coach
Reveals All, Men Dare to Wax, $15 Dollar Naps

11 Renting Designer Handbags
13 When Your Office is the Coffee Shop
15 New York’s Greatest Pillow Fight
17 Mannequins Lose their Heads

18 Over the Edge of the Grand Canyon
20 London’s Fantastic Markets
22 Milan’s Apertivo Hour
24 Seeking ‘Sabor’ in Mexico
26 Hidden Jamaica
28 Drinking Tea with the Natives
29 Burning in Chengdu

New York Now / May 2010 3

30 Orthodox Jewish Hip Hop
32 Expanding the Definition of ‘Gallery’
33 Country Music Fans Fight for their Rights
34 Storytelling Makes a Comeback
35 Cuban Musicians Defy Travel Ban

36 Finding A Little Japan in New York
38 Sensational Sake
39 Za’atar: A Middle Eastern Spice With a Political Bite
41 Eating Local in the Colder Months

43 Rings with Bling
45 Wedding Rings that Tell a Story

46 Downturned: A Salesman Wrestles with Unemployment
48 The Generational Clash Over Corporate Dress
49 Hard Times for Master Goldsmiths
50 Too Many Shoes, Not Enough Space

51 Dancing Bollywood-Style for Fitness
53 Philosophy Not Freud
54 Seniors Hit their Stride with Ultramarathons
55 Deadly Bottles in the Medicine Cabinet

56 The Big Business in Baby Beauty
58 Green Preschools on the Rise
59 Raising Foodie Kids
60 The Mom Who Knew Too Much

61 Bleecker Street’s Amazing Rise

Editor and Publisher Sascha Brodsky Contributing Editors April Brucker, New York Now is published 12 times annually by New York Now Magazine, LLC,
Kevin Finn, Jane Huff, 188 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013, (646) 807-8153. Copyright
Chief Financial Officer Leonard Manson, Ben Postman, New York Now Magazine, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material in
Luke Sadowski Mara Siegler, Luis Vazquez this issue is expressly forbidden without permission of the publisher. Unsolicited
manuscripts and photographs are welcome on an exclusive basis but must be ac-
Associate Editors Fiona Sack, Photo Editor Amanda Wilson companied by a self addressed stamped envelope. New York Now Magazine LLC
Ted Van Zandt Art Director Alexey Katalkin is not responsible for unsolicited materials. Printed in the U.S.A.

4 New York Now / May 2010


Would You Pay $15

For A 20-Minute Nap?
By Jessica Scott

New York may be the City That Never Sleeps, but no one said
it couldn’t use a cat nap.
Over-worked and under-rested, Americans are sleeping less
— almost a quarter of people are getting six hours or fewer per
night — than ever before. And some New Yorkers are counting
sheep and grabbing their zzz’s whenever they can. But this is not
George Costanza crawling under his desk at Yankee Stadium, al-
though some workers (this one included) surely have pulled that
move as well.
For the past few years, “powernapping” has been gaining pop-
ularity as a spa service — a reprieve from the restless streets, a
place where one can actually pay for something that’s inherently
free and accessible to everyone. Shuteye is among the scarcest
and most valuable commodities in our sleep-deprived nation. Now,
sleep can be bought for less than a dollar a minute.
Juggling a full-time job and attending school several times a
week, my days, like those of thousands of other New Yorkers, begin
at 6 a.m. and end around 11 p.m. I eagerly sought out a sleeping
spa to determine if it could help with my own sleepiness.
For $15, I bought 20 minutes of naptime at Yelo, a small spa
and “wellness sanctuary” located near Central Park. The space
looks much like a tanning salon, with individual pods called
YeloCabs, honeycomb-shaped, sound-resistant rooms with soft
lighting and pale yellow walls.
Still skeptical of the pay-for-powernap theory, I climbed up
and onto a custom piece of furniture called the YeloChair, locat-
ed in the middle of the room. It’s something that looks straight
out of the dentist’s office, but thankfully this chair elicits comfort
instead of dread.
I was surprised to feel drowsy the minute I lay down. Certainly
the heavily lavender-scented room, which is claimed to be a sleep
aid, and the soft patter of raindrops playing over the sound system,
helped put me in the snoozing mood. (Among the other sound op-
tions available were animal noises and tribal chants, neither of
which are exactly relaxing or common sounds for city dwellers.) The YeloChair helps tired New Yorkers catch
I took off my shoes, adjusted my pillow, cuddled underneath a some mid-day rest. The zero-gravity chair
cashmere blanket and reclined the YeloChair so that I was paral- reclines 90 degrees, the room goes dark and
lel with the ceiling, my feet elevated even higher above my head. then it’s lights out for a quick siesta.

6 New York Now / May 2010

Times owner Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is rumored to have a new girlfriend After an argument at LaGuardia
airport, Robert De Niro’s driver allegedly sprayed a paparazzo in the face with pepper spray. A 27-year-old •
Nevada native named Justin Massler has been arrested.s for stalking Ivanka Trumps

New York Marijuana Delivery Services Generate Plenty of Green

By Emily Mathis 

Jeff, a college student living in Manhattan, is in a predicament “Delivery services are a stoner’s dream,” he said. “You don’t have
faced by thousands every night. His favorite TV show just started to hunt down an unreliable dealer. You just pick up the phone,
and the couch might as well be quicksand. All would be right and an hour later you’re getting stoned.”
in the world if one thing magically appeared. For some, Jeff places a phone order with an operator at “Sunsets”
that’s a Ray’s Pizza, for others, a Sam Adams. For Jeff, it’s —who, for all he knows, is in Amsterdam. An hour later,
a nice, fat joint. And in New York City, the mecca of de- a clean-cut, twenty-something deliveryman shows up
livery services, illicit drugs are just a phone call away. at his front door and unzips a backpack. A buffet of
Over the past decade, scoring weed in New York has weed billows out before Jeff’s eyes. The marijuana is
become a lot like ordering pizza – if one has the right separated into containers labeled with brand name,
connection. Since the delivery services are of course price and type of high.
illegal, buyers must be referred by other customers. “The delivery guys can normally refer me to a partic-
Jeff, who spoke on the condition that only his first name ular strand of weed for the kind of high I’m looking for. If
be used, said being invited into a network was like hit- I’m looking for “perma-grin” [supposed to lead to non-stop
ting the pot jackpot: zero paranoia, myriad flavors and 24/7 giggling] I’ll take Blueberry Cush. If I want a mellow stoned
availability. with slight hallucinations, I’d take Bubblegum.”

Warming Up to Hot Wax

New York City men dive into the beauty pool
By Koryn Kennedy

Last summer Giovanni Grella took a risk. He dropped

his pants, lay down on his back, raised his knees to his
shoulders and, with more than just a little doubt and
fear, allowed a female spa technician to put the cold
metal tip of a white laser hair-removal gun where the
sun don’t shine.
“The next thing I heard was this heavy Russian accent
saying, “Van, two, tree…” said Grella, 27, an architect’s as-
sistant who lives in South Brooklyn. “The implication was
basically, ‘Listen, this is going to hurt.’”
Grella was prepared to suffer. For the past five years
he has been seeking out various hair-removal methods
in order to achieve what he considers the right amount
of masculine hairiness. While women have been remov-
ing unwanted body hair for centuries, men have generally A Sustainable Jewish Deli? Oy Vey.
limited their grooming rituals to the morning shave. But a By Rachel Stern
new a day is dawning, as more and more men join women
on the beauty bandwagon, taking their grooming to un- To many, the Jewish deli is synonymous with heart-clogging gluttony, conjuring im-
charted male territory. ages of corned beef stacked 10 inches high on rye bread, and plump meat- and potato-
“I laid there with my pants still bunched around my an- filled knishes.
kles for about 45 minutes while she proceeded to laser my Yet Jewish delis around North America have recently been going in a healthier, more
shoulders, back and ass,” said Grella, as he searched for the environmentally friendly direction. In doing so, they are aiming to adhere to principals of
words to describe the experience. “I felt this dual sense of sustainability: Trimming their product sizes to reduce waste, and relying on mostly fresh,
gratification and humiliation.” local items to lower gas use and boost taste.
Waxing has become so popular among men that most “If we don’t create an incentive, the deli’s going to die,” said Noah Bernamoff, 27, a for-
salon and spa menus include a separate list of services just mer law school student with a knack for smoking meat who opened the Mile End delica-
for them —often at a premium. tessen in January in Brooklyn.
In beauty parlor parlance, male waxing below the waist Owners are making these changes in hopes of breathing new life into delis, which
is referred to as the “ass, crack and sac” waxing, the equiv- have been waning in numbers as Jews move out of cities and Americans shift to healthier
alent of the women’s Brazilian, where the genitalia, but- fare. These sustainable delis have won some praise and loyal customers, but they’ve also
tocks and pelvic area are stripped of hair. The cost ranges alienated some of their longtime clients by eliminating classic foods and raising prices.
from between $25 at Randee Elaine and upwards of $75 Mile End, which often has lunchtime lines jutting out the front door, has a one-page
at Shobha, with results lasting from three to six weeks. menu — kept short because it uses mostly local meat, cheese and condiments. The furthest
The average price for a back waxing is approximately produced item is the poppy seed bagels, made from scratch 460 miles away in Montreal’s
$55, the chest $60 and the full buttocks about $45. “Mile End” neighborhood from which the deli receives its name.

New York Now / May 2010 7

After 15 years of legal wrangling, a court has ruled that the late Anna Nicole Smith’s estate has no
right to more than $300 million she claimed her late billionaire husband, oil magnate J. Howard
Marshall, promised her from his $1.6 billion fortune.

Celebrity Death Pools Make a Killing

By Victor Li

Elizabeth Taylor hasn’t been this popular since be the only name the site’s co-founders got right
“Cleopatra.” The Rev. Billy Graham, who was recently during its initial foray into celebrity death pools in
ranked the most influential preacher in the world, has 1990.’s first game took place on paper in
another No. 1 ranking – one that he’d rather not have. 1993, and it went online in 1996. This year, its pool
And Fidel Castro, after many near misses in the past, has more than 1,100 entries, a shade off the all-time
might finally accomplish this year what many have high in 2005. The entry fee is $15, and the top prize
long hoped for him. is $3,000.
Strange as it sounds, people are rooting for them to Players list 10 celebrities they think will die within
die this year. the calendar year, ranked by the likeliest to die. Points
Celebrity death are awarded based on the number of correct choices.
pools have be- (The rankings come into play only in case of ties.) It
come extremely even has a fame committee, made up of the commis-
popular in recent sioner’s friends, family members and acquaintances,
years, offering its to determine whether someone is famous enough to
players a macabre merit being included in the game.
hybrid of fanta- Another site,, has more complicated
sy sports and ce- rules, taking into account the age of the deceased
lebrity watching. and cause of death. Drug overdoses, for instance, are
March Madness, worth 15 points; suicides are worth 20; and acciden-
meet Cadaver Cra- tal deaths, such as “drowning, choking, accidental gun-
ziness. shot, overprescription of prescription drugs given by a runs doctor (a.k.a. the Michael Jackson Rule),” are worth 25.
the 12-month Lee “I came up with different rules because I wanted there
Atwater Invita- to be more skill involved” so that players could be re-
tion Death Pool, warded for their hard work, said Rich, the 44-year-old
named after the salesman who runs Ghoulpool and asked not to have
late Republican his last name printed because of the nature of his
political operative work. “The people who do the research, those same
who happened to people place in the top five year after year.”

A Speech Coach to the Stars

By Jodi Xu

Sam Chwat, is the man to see about accents.The Wil-

liamsburg, Brooklyn-born grandson of Russian Jews
helped Julia Roberts shed a southern Georgia accent. He
coached Andie McDowell, and Shakira.
Sixty percent of the clients at his company, New York
Speech Improvement Services, are actors and profes-
sionals trying to change their accents, or improve their
speech. Chawat has coached actors on the TV show “Law
& Order.” He helped Robert De Niro prepare for “Cape
The other 40 percent are foreigners, trying to sound
more American.
He says he’s been prospering for the past decade, with
revenues rising 10 percent each year.
“People [in New York] are used to different cultures,” he
said. “But if you don’t sound the same, we are afraid that
you might not understand us or understand the culture.”
People rely heavily on accents to judge others, agreed
University of California, Santa Barbara communications
professor Howard Giles. “It’s a social disease,” he said.
“People make hasty judgments by how a person
sounds, and decide who to hire or hang out with.”

8 New York Now / May 2010

Indian officials are considering banning starlet Lindsay Lohan from visiting their

country due to visa violations. Former Us Weekly editor-in-chief Janice Min, who
resigned last summer, is selling her Soho loft.


London luxury goods firm Dunhill has just an-

nounced the opening of the new bespoke and
custom tailoring floor of its Madison Avenue
flagship store.

Rush Limbaugh has listed his pre-war Fifth Avenue penthouse for sale
at $13.95 million. The gaudy 20th-floor penthouse at 1049 Fifth Av-
enue, which Limbaugh purchased in 1994, features 10 rooms with
expansive Central Park and Reservoir views and four terraces, two of The Exchange Bar & Grill restaurant is a new restau-
which face the park. rant where the prices for food and drink can change at
any minute. The restaurant in Gramercy Park has a ticker
tape menu flashing prices in red lettering as demand
forces them to fluctuate. Prices will rise and fall in 25¢

Limited edition Bottega

Veneta NYCabat bags
are woven in the sig- Chocolatier François Payard is opening the François Choco-
nature BV hand-crafted late Bar on the fourth floor of Parisian jeweler Mauboussin’s
leather and then hand- Madison Avenue flagship boutique. Described by Payard as “a
dyed yellow and black. chocolate jewelry shop,” the Chocolate Bar is entirely devoted
$7100. to chocolate and features signature pastries from Payard as
well as a new line of verrines, macaroons, and the “François
Quatre Quarts” (pound cakes), along with hot chocolate, tea,
coffee, and cappuccino.

Apple’s iPad is winning hearts

and pocketbooks. Starting at

New York Now / May 2010 9

©Frederick Charles

“It is possible to be awestruck by the exotic

splendor of this meticulously restored sanctuary.”
Edward Rothstein, The New York Times

Visit the Museum at Eldridge Street

Based in the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue
A National Historic Landmark
12 Eldridge Street between Canal and Division Streets
Sunday through Thursday from 10 am to 5pm
Rentals Let Women
Bag a Deal

By Catherine Jhee

W hether you call them totes, purses,

clutches or satchels, it’s no secret
that women love their handbags.
They’re more than just functional accessories;
the right bag can convey unspoken messages,
like how stylish or successful a woman is.
And just as “It” bags are growing ever more
popular, thanks to the celebrities who are
photographed carrying the latest by Prada
or Marc Jacobs, these must-have accessories
are becoming more and more expensive. So
what’s a woman to do if she doesn’t want to
drop $3,000 on every handbag that strikes
her fancy?

New York Now / May 2010 11

Enter the designer-handbag-rental service. Christian admits that designer handbags are an addiction. “It’s not
good for my pocket,” she said. “It’s easy to get suckered in to this high-

wo men inspired by watching their wives, mothers and sisters class world of luxury, in which all of our favorite celebrities belong.
borrow handbags from one another decided to launch Bag Bor- Sometimes carrying a $2,000 bag makes us feel like a star, like we’re
row or Steal, based on the idea that women enjoy the chance to famous.”
try on a luxury item for fun. That same year, Kara Richter opened From If she or any other customer falls in love with a bag, the sites offer
Bags to Riches. Both companies have become known among the fashion- buyout programs that allow them to pay off the cost of the bag on a
conscious set as outlets for renting high-end designer bags. payment plan. Richter says that at From Bags to Riches, a fair amount of
So how does it work? A shopper browses a site’s collections and women do choose to keep their rentals. “They’ll rent for a few months to
selects the purse she’d like to check out. At Bag Borrow or Steal, visitors test the waters to find something they want,” she said. “But a lot are just
pay a monthly membership fee of between $5 and $9.95. “Borrowing” die-hards and trade constantly.”
a Louis Vuitton Neverfull tote that retails for about $665 costs an addi- But while many women agree that renting designer purses is a great
tional $38 a week or $113 a month. At From idea, there are some true handbag enthusiasts
Bags to Riches, the same bag is available for who are wary of rented bags. Robin Kassner,
$140 a month, including up to $100 worth of a beauty and fashion editor in New York City,
damage insurance and shipping. From Bags has a wardrobe of more than 200 handbags.
to Riches doesn’t charge a membership fee She giggled as she reached into the back of
but offers some perks to those who sign up her red Mercedes to show off some of her
for a frequent-renter plan. favorites, including a blue vintage Hermes
For women like Bonnie McClory, a reg- Kelly bag from her grandmother. “I’m crazy
istered nurse and small-business owner in about bags the way ‘Sex and the City’ ’s Carrie
California, sites like From Bags to Riches Bradshaw was crazy for shoes,” she said.
offer the perfect opportunity to indulge an “I wouldn’t be embarrassed to use those
obsession with designer handbags without sites if I did,” she said. “I’m just a germo-
the commitment of buying. “My closet’s phobe and hate the idea of not knowing who
already full of designer handbags, but this wore a bag before I did and how they treated
lets me try on some of the trendy bags that it.” But for Kassner, wearing her grandmoth-
I wouldn’t necessarily buy,” McClory said. er’s vintage bags is different. “She took such
“I’m much more likely to buy classics that immaculate care of them, they still look very
I love, like Coach. But I also love bags from new.”
Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Burberry, Bag Borrow or Steal’s Hambrick said that
and sometimes I’ll rent a fun Juicy Couture all of the bags are carefully inspected both be-
bag for my youngest daughters, who are in fore and after each rental, assuring that each
college, so they can just try them out.” bag is delivered in the best shape possible.
For McClory, renting bags is a fun diver- “A little wear and tear is to be expected,” she
sion that lets her experiment with different said. “But our members take great care of
styles. “My daughters and I are very much their bags.”
bagaholics,” she said. “It’s the ultimate And the sites are careful to let their cus-
accessory--and it doesn’t matter whether tomers know that their secrets are safe with
you’re having a bad hair day or you gain any them. “I think the biggest thing with women
weight. You can look fabulous, and it shows who rent our bags is that they feel it’s their
that you have some style.” own secret treasure,” From Bags to Riches’ Richter said. “They don’t
Patricia Hambrick, chief marketing officer of Bag Borrow or Steal, says have to share--and they usually don’t--unless it’s a close friend.”
the site has 450,000 members, most of whom are affluent, professional “We have a fair amount of high-profile clients,” she continued. “And
women who are passionate about their handbags. But the appeal of because of the nature of their careers--they’re being watched all the
handbags reaches beyond their target demographic to women of all ages, time--they have to carry designer bags that look great. So they can rent
including students. without worrying about the financial dent of owning a fabulous ward-
Alyssa Christian, a 20-year-old junior at Denison University in Ohio, robe of bags.”
says that her interest in designer bags was piqued just this year--so But at Bag Borrow or Steal, Hambrick says, members often tell their
much so that she started Bagoholics Anonymous, a Facebook group that friends to join the site. “Women know that celebrities have been borrow-
has more than 200 members. “I just started seeing them everywhere: on ing from designers forever,” she said.
random people when I was out and about, in magazines, online,” she Another benefit to renting, Hambrick pointed out, is that during the
wrote in an e-mail. “They just grew on me, and before I knew it, I was busy holiday season, a woman can rent different bags to go with differ-
sucked into the luxe bag world.” ent outfits. A woman who wants a fabulous bag for a special occasion on
“Renting designer handbags is a pretty amazing thing,” Christian said. a Friday night can have a different bag the next week.
She joined Bag Borrow or Steal about six months ago. “Although it’s And even though she doesn’t rent handbags herself, Kassner under-
by no means cheap and cost me $34 to rent a Gucci tote for one week, stands the appeal. “When people see shows like ‘Sex and the City’ or
it was definitely worth it--you definitely feel popular and trendy when ‘Gossip Girl,’ they want to be able to carry great bags too,” she said. So
you’re carrying a bag that you wouldn’t normally be able to afford.” So without having to spend $2,500 for a Chanel bag, they can borrow one.
far, she’s tried on three bags--two by Coach and one by Gucci. “It’s a cheap way of getting a little piece of Hollywood.” NYN

“Borrowing” a Louis Vuitton Neverfull tote that retails for about $665
costs an additional $38 a week or $113 a month.

12 New York Now / May 2010

New Yorkers take to coffee shops as substitute offices
By Jill Colvin

ntony Seeff, 25, sits with his MacBook and BlackBerry in a he’s usually forced to take his drink to go.
Starbucks on the Upper West Side. It’s a Friday morning, and Baristas say it’s not unusual to watch workers come in with laptops
the location’s already buzzing with workers tapping at keyboards in the morning, set up shop and spend entire days typing, taking phone
and scrawling on notepads as a line of customers snakes to the door. calls and holding meetings in their stores. By late afternoon, tables are
“Only in a recession are there this many people in a Starbucks at 11 littered with empty cups and discarded food wrappers as workers pack
o’clock,” Seeff says with a smile, taking a break from the new social up and move on.
media site he’s designing after losing his job at a hedge fund earlier this While numbers vary by location, most estimate an increase of 15 to 30
year. percent.
Despite Starbucks’ reputation for $4 Frappuccinos and overpriced Though working from home may be cheaper, psychologists say that for
pastries, employees and regulars there and at other Wi-Fi hot spots have laid-off workers confronting a massive lifestyle change, rebuilding a rou-
noticed something unexpected: Branches are actually busier since the tine and finding ways to be around others can be extremely beneficial.
recession began. And while the growing legions of laid-off workers like “Maintaining a sense of structure and routine is crucial,” says Ethan
Seeff who’ve turned to freelancing and entrepreneurship because of the Seidman, a licensed psychologist and clinical instructor at the Harvard
crash are not the only ones crowding tables and hogging chairs, cafes Medical School in Cambridge, Mass., who deals frequently with those
have become prime office space, providing normalcy and a sense of com- who’ve lost their jobs.
munity—all for the price of a coffee, or less. “It just got so claustrophobic,” says Seeff, describing the days he spent
Even before the economic downturn, the nation’s independent work- working from home before venturing down the block. “It’s depressing
force was growing, with more than 10 million independent contractors, spending the whole day in your apartment,” he says. “You need to see
consultants and freelancers in February 2005, according to Steve Hipple people and get out.”
of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in recent months, their num- Veterans of the coffee-shop-office lifestyle tend to choose one or two
bers have soared, with Web sites such as oDesk, which matches employ- cafes based on proximity or furniture and return again and again, form-
ees with independent contractors, reporting an increase of 450 percent. ing bonds with those with whom they share their workplace. (Most also
“Coffee shops are literally packed,” says Paul Benedetto, 40, a Seattle- have a favorite table and can become highly protective of their chosen
based freelance accountant who left his corporate position for self- spot.)
employment last year. While he always brings his computer along on “The whole problem with the Internet is people’s lack of communities
caffeine trips just in case he finds an available seat, it’s so crowded that and interactions,” says Doug Lange, 51, who’s been running his online

Doug Lange, 51, has been run-

ning his online business from
the same Starbucks in New York
for the past year. He usually
spends four to six hours a day
working from his favorite spot.

Photo by Jill Colvin

New York Now / May 2010 13

Formerly employed at a hedge
fund, Antony Seeff, 25, has
discovered he prefers design-
ing his new social networking
site at his local Starbucks more
than at home.

Photo by Jill Colvin

business from the same coffee shop in New York City nearly every day for people who are concentrating on their own work, so it makes you go
the past year. “Starbucks has become a community.” back to yours,” she explains.
Before the days of Wi-Fi, he says, he would “sit inside like a veg- These social cues are one reason it’s so important to establish a clear
etable.” Now he lounges comfortably for four to six hours a day, in gray separation between home and work, says Illinois Institute of Technology
woolen socks and a white T-shirt, on a red velveteen sofa behind a table sociologist Christena Nippert-Eng, author of “Home and Work: Negotiat-
stocked with his laptop, newspaper, phones, headsets and notebooks. ing Boundaries Through Everyday Life.” The simple process of getting
While he and other regulars at cafes across the country don’t typically up, getting dressed and traveling to a social environment can serve as a
consider themselves close friends, they nod hello, stop to chat and are trigger, telling the brain that it’s time to produce.
ready to offer advice when asked. “It’s sort of channeling the sociability of the environment to help you
Some, including Lange, have also made business contacts from ran- transition into that work frame of mind and to be able to sustain that
dom encounters. through the day,” she explains.
“I feel as if this is my office,” explains Rick Eisenberg, a public rela- But just because these shops are buzzing doesn’t mean they’re profit-
tions specialist who has been ing from their popularity. At
working out of coffee shops for Starbucks, for instance, domestic
about 10 years and comes to the These cafe “workistas” also say that sales have slumped, down an
same Starbucks, another location additional 10 percent in its last
on the Upper West Side, “just being out and about helps them stay fiscal quarter, and the company
about every day.” says it will close more than 900
“Isolation is not good for any- focused on their projects when they stores.
one, not good for me,” he says. That’s in part because, even if
“I just like to know that when I have little other supervision. they’re there all day, workistas
walk out the door and come here, report purchasing only one or
maybe there will be some type of adventure.” two drinks per visit and often benefit from free or discounted refills, not
Just then, Eisenberg sees Randy Schein, an actor and business owner to mention Internet connections. Some customers have also developed
who works from the same branch two to three times a week. Eisenberg elaborate strategies for spending as little as they can at the counter.
waves at his “office partner,” who stops by for a brief chat. The two have
collaborated on projects in the past. One Starbucks barista, who would not give her name for fear of losing
Sociologists say this type of interaction is important. “People need her job, describes how some order single espresso shots and add lots
to feel that they’re part of larger communities,” says Penny Gurstein, a of milk, creating knockoff lattes for dollars less. Others buy only a tea
professor at the School of Community and Regional Planning at the Uni- bag—cheaper than a cup—or bring one and just ask for hot water. Some
versity of British Columbia who wrote a book about the then emerging spend the day consuming free samples of food and drinks. The chain has
world of “telework” in 2001. a “Just say yes” policy, the barista says.
These cafe “workistas” also say that being out and about helps them While some companies have imposed minimum ordering rules and
stay focused on their projects when they have little other supervision. even covered up power outlets to curb this sort of straggling, others,
Natasha Levitan, 32, a multimedia producer in San Jose, Calif., who including Starbucks, have thus far refused to do so. “It’s clear Starbucks’
usually alternates between cafes Bar Code and Crema, has been free- company has the attitude that it’s OK,” says Lange, who orders a single
lancing for about five years. She says that being surrounded by others tea or latte or doesn’t bother at all, bringing a cheaper cup of joe in from
provides the social pressure needed to keep her on task. the street. But he pays for Internet access every day.
“If you take your eye away from the computer, you can see other “The place is expensive,” he says. “I don’t feel bad.” NYN

14 New York Now / May 2010

Pillow Fighters
New Yorkers use pillows and mp3 players to turn city into playground
By Jonah Engle

Feathers fly at the annual pillow fight in New York, one of 120 cities that participated Photo by Marie Claire Andrea

in International Pillow Fight Day on April 4, 2009.

y the thousands they streamed out of the subway entrances and experience in human whimsy that is taking off even at a time when it
through the streets of New York’s financial district until Wall seems there is little to be joyful about.
Street was so packed no one could move. A few police officers While events like these have been happening in a few cities for years
tried to shoo them away but were overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. Bracken says the “total saturation” of social media outlets has driven up
At exactly 3 p.m., the signal was given, and the battle commenced. attendance at events around the world.
For more than half an hour a furious fight raged on. It was every man, Bracken is a 22-year-old DJ and party promoter in Brooklyn who
woman and child for themselves as people screamed and attacked each co-founded Newmindspace (, a group that
other. No one was hurt, however, and when the dust–or more precisely, organizes everything from giant Easter egg hunts through Toronto’s
the feathers–settled, the combatants were smiling. Kensington Market to the recent pillow fight on Wall Street. He coined
On Saturday, April 4, also known as International Pillow Fight Day, the term Urban Playground Movement to describe the playful, artistic
this was the scene that played out in 120 cities on five continents from and participatory spectacles that seek to reclaim public space from corpo-
Raleigh, N.C., to Reykjavik, Iceland. rate control in favor of free expression.
Kevin Bracken, who coordinated the global event, says the number of Until a few years ago, such gatherings were relatively isolated affairs
cities participating more than tripled from last year, the first time Inter- limited to in-the-know teenagers and 20-somethings in a few cities, but
national Pillow Fight Day was held. sites like YouTube changed all that. The ability to record these events and
With all the current anger aimed at the financial sector, the event on post them online is key. “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t really hap-
Wall Street was also a playful protest for some. Anjoli Anand, a student pen,” says Rick Abruzzo, a 33-year-old ad company employee who orga-
who traveled from Philadelphia, joked that she’d devised a scoring sys- nizes many of these events in his native San Francisco.
tem, “One point for a banker, five for a CEO.” Bracken says he received more and more e-mails from people in other
The spike in the number and size of these events highlights the rap- cities who wanted to do their own events, so he posted a free how-to-
id growth of what’s been dubbed the Urban Playground Movement, an guide, “Metromorphosis: The art of city transformation,” on the New-

New York Now / May 2010 15

With all the current anger aimed at the financial sector,
the event on Wall Street was also a playful protest for some.

mindspace Web site to help them get started. formation sharing that has spread these events around the world has its
In addition, organizers in dozens of cities are connected by an e-mail drawbacks. “I really liked the difficulty,” Cummins says of the pre You-
list through which they share ideas, post photos of past events and plan Tube and Facebook days. “It’s far too easy now.” And greater cultural
future public escapades. Not only has the number of groups proliferated, currency has meant creeping commercialization.
but so has the number of people participating in these events. The Banditos say they have been approached by and resisted major
When a Boston group called Banditos Misteriosos staged its first corporations who want to sponsor their events. But rejecting corporate
event, a pillow fight at the end of 2007, 150 show up. At the April 4 pil- interest is not a simple matter. “We’ve just been bastardized by T-Mo-
low fight, organizers counted 1,500 participants. As the movement bile,” says Cummins. This year the company produced an ad centered on
spreads, different cities are putting their own stamp on things. mobile clubbing (
Last August, Banditos staged their first revolutionary-style water gun eature=related) in the very place, London’s Liverpool street metro sta-
battle. On the eve of the event, participants were divided into redcoats and tion, where Cummins first unleashed his idea on unsuspecting commut-
revolutionaries and told to meet at two separate locations. At each site, ers in 2003.
an actor was brought in to play a general—the American recited Patrick Beyond the commercialization, Cummins is worried that the ads will
Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. The two armies faced undercut the power of actual mobile clubbing events themselves. People
off on a huge field and marched toward each other to the sound of fife and will think the real thing is not as cool as the advertisement—the ulti-
drums. After 45 minutes a “robot army” appeared and everyone started mate defeat for a movement founded on the concept of reclaiming public
blowing bubbles, after which the water gun battle picked up again. space for creative expression in the face of growing corporate dominance.
The Banditos have used every tool imaginable to spread word of their Cummins says he’s thinking about scaling back and finding new ways to
events. “We try to hit up everything,” says one co-founder of the group, a do his work.
school counselor from Boston in his mid 20s. In keeping with the group’s But some cast doubt on the political claims made by the urban play-
moniker, its members don’t give out their real names publicly. The co- ground movement. Andrew Potter, co-author of “The Rebel Sell: Why the
founder says the movement has exploded “because no one really owns culture Can’t Be Jammed,” says while these events are fun, they don’t do
the major event mechanisms anymore” unlike the days when print me- anything to undermine corporate control of civic space.
dia was the normal conduit of information. “Forty years of this kind of playful nonconformity” he says, harkening
In addition to a Web site (, the Banditos back to the Yipee movement of the 1960s, have only strengthened con-
have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. They use other networking sites sumer capitalism, which thrives on new styles and rebellious non-con-
like and formity.
In Britain, Ben Cummins—who invented the hugely popular con- But Bracken believes strongly in the potential of the growing move-
cept of mobile clubbing in which people show up in a public place like a ment which he says is both “free and freeing.” As he sat drinking a chai
train station with mp3 players and have a dance party —is working on a latte in a Williamsburg cafe the week after International Pillow Fight
feature on his Web site ( Day, Bracken was dreaming big. He hopes to take pillow fighting to the
MobileClubbing/Display/Home.aspx) that will allow people around the ends of the earth. “Next year we want to get one at like Fort McMurdo in
world to plan and announce their own mobile clubbing events. Antarctica,” he said, “and we want to get one in the International Space
But many, including Cummins himself, are worried that the ease of in- Station.” NYN

Thousands filled Wall

Street for International
Pillow Fight Day on
April 4, 2009.

Photo by Marie Claire Andrea

16 New York Now / May 2010

Off With Their Heads!
Mannequins Get Chopped
By Kate Balch othy’s house. Multiple pairs of legs covered in neon pink running tights
are cleverly positioned, their feet pointing in all directions. Munchkin-like,
they’re only half the size they should be, but with all legs and no torso.

anging arms and legs. Detached heads. Pumpkin heads. The Lululemon Athletica’s designers want their inanimate models to be dis-
storefront last Halloween at the Ralph Lauren men’s store in creet and abbreviated, says Cindy Lecomte, the brand’s strategic merchan-
New York City’s West Village looked like a scene from “The Leg- dising manager in Vancouver, British Columbia. With less emphasis on the
end of Sleepy Hollow.” But while the spirit of the attraction screamed, mannequin, they believe that their creations get more attention. Body parts
“Boo!,” its theme of dismemberment alluded to the latest trend in visual are strategically positioned so torsos showcase the nylon tops and sports
merchandising. bras, while legs don the yoga pants and running shorts. Lecomte says the
Once so lifelike that you might mistakenly ask one for directions, many hope is that the athletic garments the company sells will be more appealing
mannequins today are piecemeal: a pair of tai- to customers if they can easily spin, turn, touch
lored trousers on a lonely set of legs, a lacy bra and feel the product on a smaller model.
strapped to a severed torso. The model in the Clinton Kelly, fashion expert and co-host of
window hasn’t always been so disjointed. Elon- the Learning Channel’s “What Not To Wear,”
gated, abstract mannequins of the 1920s were agrees. He says you have to downplay manne-
a reflection of the art deco movement. Short- quins to show off the product, and “the only
er mannequins after World War II reflected the way to do that is to chop off all their heads!”
scarcity of the time. Money saving and universal appeal also
Now, in the midst of new economic woes, explain why retailers prefer headless mod-
the contemporary look is more akin to evidence els. Mannequins with heads age faster from
at a murder scene, with multiple body parts po- wear and tear; a noticeable chip of paint on
sitioned in different places and heads nowhere the cheekbone can be a ticket to the dump-
in sight. ster. With no head, there is no need to touch up
Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Mad- their makeup or restyle their hair.
ness in San Francisco, a national supplier of Another incentive for going headless is to
these fiberglass doppelgängers has noticed a appeal to as many potential customers as pos-
significant increase in the sales of headless sible. A headless model cannot be accused of
mannequins over the past 10 years. Not only is looking typical — Caucasian, blond and blue-
it cheaper to buy one leg versus an entire body, eyed. “If someone doesn’t have the money
stores also find the headless breed accentu- to get more diverse mannequins,” says Judi
ates the clothes, requires less maintenance and Townsend, “then they can get more bang for
helps customers think, “I would look great in A mannequin chopped at the neck falls to its knees. their buck with the headless mannequins.”
that outfit,” rather than, “I don’t look like that Photo courtesy of Adel Rootstein But some retailers are unwilling to cut cor-
mannequin.” But some retailers are rebelling ners — or limbs — preferring instead to pay
against the trend, trying to make the full-body mannequin chic again. top dollar for the full body. “Fashion today isn’t the clothes, it’s the
It’s ironic that most mannequins mimic females, when the Dutch root whole look,” says Kevin Arpino, creative director for Adel Rootstein in
word, “manneken,” literally means “little man.” Since the 19th century, London, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of mannequins.
when department stores became popular, these “little men” have been For Arpino, who has been at Rootstein for 27 years, designing man-
decorating display windows and intriguing customers with their wares. nequins is an art form, from head to toe. He has to anticipate fashion
Even in the late 16th century, Henry IV sent miniature mannequins to trends 18 months in advance to prepare his models for the latest styles.
Marie de Medici to keep her aware of the latest French fashions. But the Arpino’s customers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Zara have a unique look,
true origins of the mannequin have been traced back to King Tut’s tomb, which he completes with a head.
where a wooden torso was found. “A headless mannequin to me makes no sense,” he says. He doesn’t
Today, customers are lured to a whimsical window scene inspired by understand why some designers will spend millions of dollars on high-
“Alice in Wonderland” at the fashion boutique Mariel, in downtown Den- paid, skinny models for their magazine advertisements and then use a
ver. Two-foot feathers shaped like butterflies and blue hydrangeas accom- cheap headless mannequin for their display.
panied with white, purple and pink flowers create a miniature garden in Bargain retailer Old Navy apparently got the message. Its “SuperMod-
Mariel’s front window. As a tribute to Alice, a blue Sue Wong gown shines elquins” advertising campaign features full-figure mannequins that not
on a mannequin without a head or arms. Denise Snyder, who owns the only model clothes but also talk.
24-year-old boutique that she named after her daughter, offers a practical Launched last year, the television ads show off the SuperModelquins
reason that the shop’s 30 displays work best without heads. in all shapes, sizes and colors. Whether they represent children or a par-
“We have people trying on our stuff all day, and the mannequins I ticular ethnicity, the SuperModelquins may mark the return of more re-
have are really easy to get off in two seconds versus the ones with heads, alistic mannequins. They act like real people but speak without moving
arms and torsos,” she explains. their mouths, typically to joke about their plastic bodies. In one ad, the
At the fitness clothier Lululemon Athletica, near New York City’s Lin- arm of the athletic mannequin, Rec Tech guy, is lying on the ground. One
coln Center, another alluring window looks like the scene from the “The of the other mannequins yells, “We need a cleanup in menswear!”
Wizard of Oz,” in which the Wicked Witch’s legs stick out from under Dor- At least he hasn’t been guillotined by the fashion police. NYN

New York Now / March 2010 17

Over the Edge
Staring down death in the Grand Canyon
By Giacomo Maniscalco

e are now ready to start our way down to the great some disturbing news: 109 degrees F.
unknown,” the explorer John Wesley Powell wrote in We ate our melted cheese sandwiches.
1869, as he stood by the banks of the Colorado River “Hey why don’t we try that tuna fish stuff that we found as we were
at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. “We have an unknown distance yet hiking down earlier?” someone suggested.
to run; an unknown river yet to explore.” This statement for some reason did not sound so ridiculous at the
One hundred and thirty six years later, I stood on the only rock around time. Jon and I briskly devoured a package of Starkist Lemon Pepper
where my phone would get reception, and told my father back in Brook- Tuna Fish that some wiser soul had discarded on a rock. Carlo shrewdly
lyn: “Dad, we’re going to try to hike to the bottom tomorrow.” refused to touch it.
“Just don’t get yourself killed,” he replied. “Don’t be stupid.” I wanted to hike back up via the closer south rim. But my friends in-
Powell, a one-armed sisted that we return to
Civil War veteran, was the the further-away north
first American to explore rim, where car and tent
the Canyon. His crew prob- awaited. Outvoted, I wor-
ably faced more dangers riedly but ungrudgingly
than any group of adven- lifted my backpack, gazing
turous young bucks look- up at a scorching 12:45
ing for a cool hike. p.m. sun, and out to the
But even though the seemingly endless trail
Grand Canyon is Ameri- heading straight into it.
ca’s most-visited tourist My morale dropped as
attraction, too few people we trudged along the nar-
know, or possibly really row path. An hour later, I
understand, what awaits regurgitated all the lemon
them down there. Dr. pepper tuna fish. I was
Thomas Myers, a physi- overcome by dizziness,
cian and Grand Canyon and Jon had basically lost
buff, can tell them: it’s his speech. Dehydration
heat, heat so intense it can plus food poisoning - with
kill, through heat strokes a straight-up eight-mile
and dehydration. climb in front of us.
“The biggest risk comes Out water was undrink-
when folks overestimate ably hot. My mouth felt
their ability, and underestimate the canyon,” says Myers, who lives in like it was stuffed with dirt. My head was like a half-deflated hydrogen
nearby Flagstaff, AZ. “It gets pretty toasty down there.” balloon.
Myers’ book, “Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon,” tells sto- Why hadn’t we listened to my Dad?
ries of tragic deaths and ironic predicaments. He was inspired to write it I was never happier to see any sight than the “Roaring Springs: 1.8
after a 10-year-old boy collapsed into a creek, and died of heat stroke. He miles” sign. We had heard of this mythical location of waterfalls and
wanted to help other hikers avoid such a gruesome fate. shade. Collapsing, hallucinating, we staggered there. We drank, ate and
“No child should die that way,” Myers said. “That was a decent family, slept on the cool rocks for hours.
just ignorant of heat.” Yet our adventure, one of the most beautiful and traumatizing expe-
The trouble is, hikers can quickly and confidently trek down early in riences of my life, wasn’t over. With the sun setting, we hunted for and
the morning. The far tougher climb back comes in the hottest part of the found a campground called Cottonwood. In the dark we ate cold soup,
day - and this “reverse mountaineering” is dangerous. Twenty-two peo- cursorily checked the ground for unfriendly venomous entities, threw
ple have died in the canyon in the canyon in the last five years, Myers our sleeping bags in the dirt and reclined under the stars. I assure you
told me later. the setting was not as romantic as it sounds.
But we didn’t know anything about that then. Later I asked Dr. Myers: should people be stopped from hiking the
Canyon at all?
Into the Canyon “I wouldn’t support that,” he said. “This is America, a free country.”
Anticipating dawn by an hour, my companions Jonathan Fromm and So I say, do hike to the bottom, and enjoy the Colorado River rapids,
Carlo Canetta and I wolfed down a cold oatmeal breakfast and set off the vast canyon walls and the layering of ancient rocks. But before you
for what was, for us, definitely a “great unknown.” We intended to hike set foot on the trail, check out the books, and take seriously the warnings
down and back in a day. That’s eight miles down, a drop of 6,000 feet. about water, emergency supplies and hiking farther than your body tells
The scenery was fantastic, featuring the winding river making its way you you can. And don’t get any bright ideas about picking up mysteri-
through the immense and multi-colored canyon walls. And we made in- ous food. Or you could end up like us — nearly candidates for Dr. Myers’
credible time. But a thermometer hanging silently in the shade presented next edition. NYN

18 New York Now / May 2010

everything s t a r t s w i t h t h e v i e w.

The pink hotel on the boardwalk.

Olive Avenue & the Boardwalk ✦ Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

(800) 33 BEACH ✦ (302) 227-7169
Black leather and mohawks are part of the uni-
form for some Camden Markets employees.
Photo by Diana Rosenthal

A Tale of Two
Fashionistas, designers and celebs are flocking to London’s
once-humble outdoor markets
By Michelle Del Rio and Diana Rosenthal

By Michelle Del Rio non Antique Market, one of the oldest arcades, offers rare and authentic
collections from Amour to Art Deco (The professional dealers begin the

lea markets, whether in humble parking lots or exotic bazaars, Saturday Antique Market at 5:30 a.m., so the best selection is available
draw shoppers practiced in rummaging through junk in search before noon.) Credit cards are accepted some stalls, but others only take
of jewels. Every Saturday, London’s Portobello Road flea market cash.
draws thousands of treasure hunters to its mile-long strip. With more Even for the non-collector, this area worth a stroll. The antique shops
than 2,000 arcades, the Road is a maze of chaotic stalls. It’s easy to get give way to stalls selling less pricey bric-a-brac, paintings, stamps, and
lost in the pushy crowds - but well worth the visit. coins. Visitors can come away with inexpensive -- and unusual -- souve-
The market began in the 1880s, selling everyday necessities and inex- nirs, such as ivory-handled magnifying glasses or silver-plated frames.
pensive products. Antique stalls were introduced in 1930. Today, Porto- By 10:00 a.m. the market is bustling with locals, who shop for fresh
bello is hip, drawing fashionistas, chic businesspeople, and families. produce and baked goods near Lonsdale Road. Meat, fruit, and vegeta-
The top of Portobello Road is home to celebrities, like Stella McCart- bles stalls fill the middle of the market, and the aroma of sizzling falafels
ney and Elizabeth Murdoch, and to some of the best antique stalls, too. and sausage tantalizes. Elderly men and woman steadily drag their carts
Polished 1920’s typewriters, bright blue Victorian china, vintage cam- along the same street where they’ve done their daily shopping for de-
eras and equestrian items whisper sweet nothings to collectors’ credit cades. A boisterous fruit seller yells: “Best bah-nan-as and cherries at the
cards. Furnishings and tableware are crammed next to boxes of spoons, best price!” Behind the blurs of red and orange fruit stalls, outdoor caf’e
dented keys, and once-cherished family photographs. The Admiral Ver- tables fill with patrons breakfasting on coffee and eggs.

20 New York Now / May 2010

Flea markets, whether in humble parking lots or exotic bazaars, draw
shoppers practiced in rummaging through junk in search of jewels.

A few blocks away near the Ladbroke Grove tube stop is a vintage Just as colorful and diverse is the display of food from all nations.
clothing mecca. This popular flea market, in a cluster of tents beneath These stalls sell food from everywhere -- Italy or Vietnam, India or In-
an elevated roadway, also sells designer castoffs and jewelry. You could donesia -- at less than $7.50 a dish. On Camden High Street we found a
see Kate Moss; you’ll definitely see the fashionista crowd. Victorian small stand called The Chocolatie Zone, a place to stop for chocolate-cov-
brown boots hang next to blue floral Indian dresses and sheer blouses ered strawberries and strawberry shakes.
imported from Japan. Rare pieces from Biba, Zandra Rhodes, and Vivi- Weekends are predictably busiest; Striker recommends visiting on less-
enne Westwood hide in these collections. This is serious hunting terri- crowded weekdays, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. , when Londoners typi-
tory, and shoppers should bring cash and a large shopping bag, and come cally shop. Most of the stores in the Market and Camden Lock are open
early Friday morning, for the best selection before the frenzied weekend during the week, but the Electric Ballroom is closed.
crowds arrive. Pointing to the stall selling Dr. Martens shoes for $28 a pair, Striker
described this as “the best bargain around.” As music and merchandise
Funky Finds in Camden Markets swirled, he added “[It’s] like a carnival all the time.” NYN
By Diana Rosenthal

utside the tube stop, two young blonde women wearing back-
packs and sunglasses pause, refer to a map, and walk toward
the crowds gathering outside the shops. They are American
20-year-olds in search of sparkling jewelry, black platform boots, flow-
ered dresses from the 60s and dusty, rare records -- all available at Cam-
den Markets, increasingly a magnet for hipsters.
“We were here last night looking for music, but today we’re just look-
ing for something funky,” said Amanda, a student at Iowa State Univer-
The Markets, located off Camden High Street between the Chalk Farm
and Camden Town tube stops, are London’s capital of “funky.” With
its vintage clothing, used records, international food, and “alternative”
clothes -- including Goth, fetish, and raver -- and eccentric salespeople
to match, teens, bargain-hunters and fashion fiends find the place espe-
cially appealing.
“There’s just a completely different atmosphere,” said Striker, an at-
tendant at a T-shirt stand that sold cotton shirts of all colors, adorned
with catchy sayings, rock star silhouettes and portraits of George W.
Bush. “The teens love this scene, especially the different types of music
blaring from the different shops.”
The sounds provide a guide of sorts to the merchandise found in more
than 350 shops. Clothing, music and souvenir stores are located on Cam-
den High Street, while the most eccentric of the shops are inside nearby
Camden Lock. Soft oldies mixed with unrecognizable and beat-driven
instrumentals leak out of Rockit True Vintage. Manned by tiny girls in
layered dresses, colorful dreadlocks, and at least three beaded necklaces
each, this shop offers vintage clothing for both men and women. Wom-
en’s blazers are priced from £13 to £20 ($24 to $37) and dresses from the
dollar equivalent of $28 to $65. Rockit also stocks an unusual selection of
vintage armed forces jackets, all under $55, and impressive Luis Vuitton
and Fendi knock-off purses, at $65 to $93.
Just across the street from Rockit is the Electric Ballroom, the most
popular weekend attraction. A converted Irish ballroom associated with a
club that showcased London’s Irish music scene, the indoor vintage mall Getting to London’s Markets
includes many rooms of second-hand clothing, sorted by style, as well as Portobello Road Camden Market Electric Ballroom
used records and CDs and new T-shirts. Closest tube stops: Not- Closest tube stops: Market
“You see designers here, sketching, getting ideas,” said Wendy, a long- ting Hill Gate or Lad- Camden Town and Open Sunday only.
time employee. “Designers will buy the older pieces and use them in broke Grove Chalk Farms The website has a map
their fashion shows.” Open M-Sa 8 a.m.-6:30 Many businesses open and guide to the main
A native of the area, Wendy said her own teenagers come to shop in p.m., except Th, 8 a.m.- 7 days, 10 a.m. to 6 regular stalls.
the Markets, drawn by the sheer magnitude and high quality of the mer- 1 p.m. Closed Sunday. p.m. http://www.electric-
chandise. The website has a http://www.camden-
Next door is one of two locations of the Music and Video Exchange. comprehensive guide tricmarket2/
These are popular spots for local teens to hunt for the work of their fa- to shops.
vorite musicians. The Exchange boasts large selections of Beatles records http://www.portobel-
and 1960s music, including rare treasures like a recording of “Eric Clap-
ton and The Yardbirds Live With Sonny Boy Williamson.”

New York Now / May 2010 21


Dipping and nibbling, Italian style

By Jenna Weiner

ILAN, Italy — In a kingdom where fashion is king and wispy
models its princesses, the all-you-can-eat buffet is the last
kind of dining experience you’d expect to find. Yet the two co-
exist in blissful harmony, for Milan is the home of the aperitivo—a tradi-
tion that raises the buffet to a new level.
Aperitivo, rich uncle of happy hour, is the beloved Milanese tradition
of pre-dinner drinks accompanied by complimentary stuzzichini, or ap-
petizers. Derived from the Latin aperitivus, to open, aperitivo is meant to
stimulate the appetite and tease the taste buds, previewing the delights
of dinner. Spreads can range from modest olives, cheeses and potato
chips to awe-inspiring pastas, pizza, bruschetta, meats, sautéed vegeta-
bles and fruit salads. Drinks come with unlimited admission to the food
bar. The aperitivo starts at 6 or 7 p.m., and lasts until 9. As little as one
drink—alcoholic or not—can be your ticket to the best-kept secret in It-
Although you can easily make a free dinner of aperitivo, the real chal-
lenge is to learn to act like the Milanese, who delicately graze through
the line, giving the food the respect it deserves.
As an American student in Milan, amazed by the delicious food and
blindsided by the dismal exchange rate, I was not so sophisticated. My
fellow expats and I would dash to the buffet table as soon as the waitress
walked away with our drink order, and return with our hands guarding
our heaps of food, poised to catch the last piece of focaccia from falling.
The Milanese, in their crisp and stylish work attire, would watch us
with amusement as they nibbled the vegetables and cheeses.

22 New York Now / May 2010

Of course, they’ve had time to perfect their technique. Aperitivo is a friends you haven’t seen in a while.”
well-established Italian tradition, particularly in the north. By the 1920s Aperitivo has spread throughout Italy, and has cousins in Switzerland,
Milan was known as “the capital of aperitivo.” Bargoers sipped Campa- France, Austria and Germany. But Milan won’t relinquish its title with-
ri or similar bitters, accompanied by olives or nuts. In subsequent years out a fight.
both the food and drink selection expanded, though aperitif liquors—bit-
ters, prosecco, martinis and white wine—are still the most popular choic- Where to Graze
es. Most popular is the Negroni (1 part gin, 1 part Campari, 1 part sweet Head to Brera, the artsy, bohemian district, where you’ll see the effort-
Vermouth). lessly hip in colorful scarves lingering over their white wine in patio cafés
But the social essence of aperitivo has stayed pretty much the same. decorated with climbing ivy.
“Aperitivo offers a moment of relaxation at the end of a day at work, Or, for the most elaborate spreads, try Milan’s Venice-inspired Navigli
where you can allow yourself the pleasure of conversation paired with district, where the canals—designed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1842 to im-
the pleasure of good food,” said Grazia Mannozzi, author and profes- port wine, food and the marble to build Milan’s Duomo—still wind along
sor at the University of Insubria, near Milan. “It is especially success- the narrow streets. Step into one of the houseboats docked in the canals,
ful due to the pleasant climate of our country, and the Italian passion where aperitivo is often accompanied by live music. Most Navigli hot
for socializing.” Mannozzi goes to aperitivo about once a week, but says spots morph into dance clubs later in the evening.
she knows of many people who go far more frequently (“especially those For the classic aperitivo experience, visit one of the more expensive
without children to make dinner for!” she added). bars around the Piazza Duomo. (Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean bet-
“It’s certainly a traditional part of the workday (or school day) for ter or more food.) Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini used to hang out
lots of Milanese, both young and old,” said Jenna Walker, a young Ital- at Zucca in Galleria after performances at La Scala next door. Soak up the
ian professional who moved to Milan after studying in the United States. historical ambiance as you gaze at the Duomo’s magnificent spires, lis-
“It’s a great way to wind down at the end of the day, on the way home tening to the clicks of heels echoing along the marble floors as the shop-
from university or work, either with colleagues or to catch up with pers pass by with their new Gucci and Prada treasures. NYN

Where to Enjoy Aperitivo in Milan

Bar Tender Slice Radetzky Café Caffè Miani Zucca In Galleria

Piazza Morbegno (intersection of Via Via Ascanio Sforza, 9, Navigli Via Largo La Foppa, 5, Brera Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, in Piazza
Varanini and Via Venini) Such an impressive food selection One of the trendiest bars in one of Duomo
Prompt, friendly service, with a that you probably won’t notice the the trendiest neighborhoods. The Zucca aims to revive the golden
legendary food selection – some burnt orange walls, animal prints party flows out into the cobble- days of aperitivo. The keyword is
say the largest in Milan. American and knick-knack decorations. Word stoned streets on warm nights, as classic: classic old-fashioned dé-
pop plays softly in the background. about the free focaccia, cold cuts, crowds drink and smoke around cor; classic, simple food (olives, po-
Drinks cost $8-$12. Servers help- pasta and French fries is out; ar- the picturesque bar. Aperitivo is the tato chips and nuts); and classic,
fully bring the plates of focaccia, rive by 7, before the line gets out standard spread, and drinks aver- original aperitivo drinks (Negroni
pizza and pasta to your table, so of hand. age about $12. and the classic Milanese martini).
you won’t miss seconds. At nine, all Watch the crowds pass through the
is cleared to make room for the de- Galleria as you gaze at the Duomo
licious desserts. and remember a simpler time.

New York Now / May 2010 23

On the Trail of Nopales and Nata

One woman’s quest

for true Mexican
By Sarah Wolff

ou like carnitas?” asked Mario-Alberto,
my taxi driver.
“Yes,” I lied.
“You like barbacoa?”
“Yes,” I lied again. I only had a vague notion of
what those dishes were (carne means meat, so carni-
tas must be meaty?)
While Mario-Alberto changed the topic to how to
pick up girls in English, I dwelt on my fabrications. I
was in Mexico City. Why hadn’t I tried barbacoa and
“Señor? Where do you like to eat carnitas and bar-
“Very good restaurant, Arroyo. In colonia Tlalpan.
Is expensive, pero, is good.”
Mario-Alberto writes down the address while driv-
ing, making me wonder if I will even live to see Ar-
royo – or any other restaurant.
Guidebooks offer the same restaurant advice, each
stylish boite more cleverly designed than the next. If
you are lucky, you might pick something authentic off
the list. But even those restaurants are full of tourists
trying to discover the “real Mexico.” So I started ask-
ing Mexicans: where do they find true sabor?

Vivid flavors, bright colors, and the occasional dish

you might try only once.

Photo by Boris Kester,

24 New York Now / May 2010

My hostess Helen and I zoom toward the southern outskirts of the
city, passing what looks like a straight-from-Cleveland mall and an un-
kempt Alcohólicos Anónimos.
But once we turn on to Avenida Insurgentes Sur, the longest road in
Central America, things begin to look up.
It’s obvious from the tree-lined streets and smooth roads that the gov-
ernment has poured money into this area. Revelers from a nearby rodeo
cram the pyramid of steps to the restaurant, which looks like a Mexi-
can theme park. Six rooms, some of them open air, can hold 2,000 hun-
gry patrons. Rainbow-colored papel picado flags hang from the ceiling,
and giant chicharrón (pork skin) fryers dot the tile floor. Roving mariachi
bands and caricaturists go table to table, and small children take over the
stage area. Helen and I are dwarfed by long rectangular tables of 12, 16,
20 people out with their families for some tequila and barbacoa-fueled
The sopes, thick little tortilla rounds piled with refried beans, cheese,
chicken and lettuce, are freakishly good. Arroyo’s barbacoa, (tender Where to Eat Like a Local in Mexico City
roasted meat), is served with stewed cactus, called nopales, and corn tor-
tillas. It has a bit of a wild flavor. The meat falls off the bone. Arroyo Restaurante El Cardenal
Virgina Lopez, a manager, comes to speak with us. Spanish deficien- #40003 Avenida Insurgentes Sur, #23 Calle de Palma, near Avenida
cies lead to a surreal moment where Helen, Virginia and I are all mooing Tlapan, Mexico City. Tel: (55) 73- Cinco de Mayo.
and baaing at one another. For the next two days, we think we’ve eaten 43-44. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven Two other locations:
goat. Finally we figure out that the word Virginia used, carnero, means days. #70 Avenida Benito Juarez, in the
ram – a sheep with all its manhood intact. Sheraton Centro Historico Hotel, and
El Tizoncito #215 Avenida de Las Palmas, in the
El Tizoncito #3 Aguayo, Coyoacan and #122 Calle Las Lomas de Chapultepec district.
In the famous open-air market in Coyoacan, I spot a tiny tent filled Tamaulipas at the corner of Calle Sunday- Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.;
with handmade jewelry, including leather bracelets and evil-eye protec- Campeche, La Condesa, Mexico City, Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11
tors. The two women in the booth look as different as night and day, so it one of 14 locations. p.m. Tel: (55) 21-88-15-17.
surprises me when they say they are sisters. Tel: (55) 52-86 -78-19. Open24/7.
Eugenia Lopez-Garza has bleached blond braided pigtails a la Pippi
Longstocking and wears a pair of red-rimmed glasses that look like a gi-
ant version of Sally Jessy Raphael’s specs. Her older sister, Adriana Lo-
pez-Garza, has long flowing dark hair, deep almond eyes and claw-like
nails that clutch a cigarette. Though the food is purposefully homey, the service seems the oppo-
Eugenia says her favorite place to eat nearby is the taquería El Tizon- site. Staff run around with walkie-talkies and headsets, barking orders.
cito. An elevator takes diners upstairs, or to the basement. It all feels a bit Big
El Tizoncito is actually a chain, owned by the Escalante family for the Brotherish.
past 42 years. Though they have eight taquerias and six franchises, only Maybe that’s why it’s so popular with Mexico’s political elite. El Carde-
a few trusted people know the family recipe for the seasonings in their nal is where President Felipe Calderon and his predecessor Vicente Fox like
trademark tacos al pastor. to eat breakfast. The two broke bread there a few days before the July 2006
These are made from a giant hunk of seasoned pork, revolving upright presidential election. When the media hordes descended upon, Fox said all
around a rotisserie like Greek gyros — except with a chunk of pineapple he knew was that he loved the restaurant’s hot chocolate, concha pastries
atop, and an onion underneath. The meat is then sliced off along with and nata, the creamy layer of fat that rises to the top of whole milk.
little bits of onion and pineapple onto corn tortillas, served with cilantro El Cardenal’s founders, Doña Oliva Garizurieta and Señor Jesus Briz,
and salsas. El Tinzoncito sells them in pairs, but two aren’t enough. married and came to Mexico City in the late 1960s, to revive native Mexi-
The open-air restaurant features high, rectangular tables under a can- can, pre-Spanish cooking.
opy, without walls or bulky window frames to obstruct the fabulous peo- I tasted other excellent dishes, like huevos revueltos, served with black
ple-watching. Since it was chilly, Helen and I positioned ourselves next beans, corn tortillas and roasted tomato salsa. But the nata and the con-
to the revolving pastor. The pastor was really all there was in the way of chas, shell-shaped pastries that taste like madeleines, are what most pa-
interior decoration, but its campfire-like qualities and delicious roasted trons (and Mexican presidents, evidently) come for.
aroma easily made up for the restaurant’s plainness. Mixed with almond paste and eaten with a spoon, nata tasted like
English clotted cream gone bad, and looked like baby spit-up. We tried
El Cardenal hard to like it, but our gringa taste buds prevented us.
A beautiful sandwich shop manager who looked like the flamenco “In Mexico, we have a special relationship with food,” said Tito Briz,
dancer Joaquin Cortes recommended El Cardenal. son of the owners. “Our restaurant is trying to rescue the cooking of the
We note the 70’s décor: stained glass windows and dark wood spiral ancients.”
staircases against cream-colored walls. Two musicians are serenading the And so it goes in Mexico City, land of vivid flavors, bright colors and
crowd. And there is a crowd. nata. NYN

But once we turn on to Avenida Insurgentes Sur, the longest road in

Central America, things begin to look up.

New York Now / May 2010 25

Beyond Bob Marley
and Beach Resorts
The Jamaica beyond your beach chair. hen Americans hear that I’m from Jamaica, they smile and
do bad Bob Marley imitations. I cringe. Even though we’re a
By D. Nicole Clarke diverse country built by slaves and indentured servants from
Africa, China, India and Wales, we seem to be known mostly for the leg-
endary reggae musician and breathtaking beaches. However, there’s a
more complex and authentic Jamaica to see.
Originally populated by the Arawak Indians (Tainos), Jamaica was
claimed by Spain after Christopher Columbus sailed here in 1494. In
1655, the British captured the island from the Spaniards and turned it
into a British colony.
Exploring Jamaica is easy since it’s a small, but driving the rugged,
winding, potholed back roads can be exasperating. To bypass the pe-
destrians, goats and cows that tend to dart into your path, take the new
highway that was completed in 2000.

The Wicked City of Port Royal

For the best seafood on the island, Jamaicans go to Port Royal, a small
fishing village that’s a short drive or a 20-minute ferry ride from Kings-
ton. In the 17th century, so many brothels, gambling dens and pubs
sprang up in Port Royal that the Roman Catholic Church condemned it
as the “the wickedest city in Christendom.” Pirates led by Henry Morgan

26 New York Now / May 2010

Exploring Jamaica is easy since it’s a small, but driving the rugged,
winding, potholed back roads can be exasperating.

brought their ill-gotten gains to trade. In one for the Catholics, Jamai- The splendid Georgian mansion sits atop a hillside eight miles east of
ca’s only earthquake sent the heathens to a watery grave in 1692, killing Montego Bay. It has beautiful original antiques, and its well-manicured
2,000 people and sinking all the ships in the harbor. lawns sweep down toward the sea. The house was occupied by French-
Plans are underway to develop the town for divers, and as a port of woman Annie Palmer, who was known as the White Witch of Rose Hall.
call for cruise ships, complete with actors in period costume. The town Palmer was supposedly a voodoo practitioner who murdered three of her
can be explored on foot; sites include the impressive Fort Charles, where husbands. She was strangled by one of her slaves, and local legend says
cannons point out to sea. There’s also a maritime museum, which houses that her ghost haunts the house. Herbert Lisser told her story in fiction-
artifacts dredged up from the sunken city, and a naval hospital from 1819 alized form in his 1958 book “The White Witch of Rose Hall.” Rose Hall
made of stone and cast iron. is located across the highway from the Wyndham Rose Hall resort.
The Ruins of New Seville
New Seville is one of Jamaica’s most significant historical sites. The Calabash Literary Festival
Founded in 1509, it was Jamaica’s first Spanish capital. Columbus’ son The only international literary festival in the English-speaking Carib-
Diego lived there. His great house, now a museum, contains Spanish bean, Calabash aims to nurture world-class writing. The three-day spring
carvings, ceremonial Taino bowls, African pots, agricultural tools and festival of readings, music and other forms of storytelling is an annual
other relics. literary extravaganza. Recent attendees include V.S. Naipaul, Diana Abu-
Jaber, Robert Antoni, Lauren Saunders and Francisco Goldman. Calabash
Walking the Maroon Trail is earthy, inspirational, daring and diverse. It’s held at Treasure Beach in
When the Spanish came under attack by the British in the early 17th St. Elizabeth Parish. All festival events are free and open to the public.
century, they freed their slaves and fled the island. The former slaves be-
came the legendary Maroons. You can visit their old haunts in the Blue Less Touristy Beaches
Mountains. This preserve is one of few wild areas in the West Indies, For some good beaches not overrun by tourists, head to Port Antonio,
with a terrain of caves and sinkholes carved by nature in limestone. Take and choose Frenchman’s Cove, San San beach or the Blue Lagoon. French-
a tour to Accompong, a Maroon village in the Cockpit Mountain. Descen- man’s, a spectacular little beach with an emerald and azure ocean, is sur-
dents of the first freedom fighters will guide you through a day in a Ma- rounded by rocky cliffs alongside a cool mountain stream. It’s ideal for
roon’s life, and feed you a buffet lunch. picnics. Nearby are San San, a narrow strip fronting a broad bay with de-
cent snorkeling, and the Blue Lagoon, where lush foliage surrounds the
Rose Hall Great House stunning aquamarine ocean. Haven’t you heard of this place? You have:
Rose Hall Great House is a famed 1780s Jamaican plantation house. It’s where Brooke Shields came to shoot the movie “Blue Lagoon.” NYN

If You Go
Port Royal information: 876-929-9200
New Seville: 876-972-9407
Maroon Trail:
Rose Hall Great House: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., admission $15.
Calabash literary festival:

New York Now / May 2010 27

Drinking (Tea)
with the Natives
Skip Britain’s stuffy hotel teas, and follow the people to the real thing

By Elizabeth Valerio The Old Bank of England

In the heart of Fleet Street is The Old Bank of England, converted
from bank to bar in 1995. Its beauty is far too great to treat it like just

very London guidebook has a section devoted to afternoon tea. another pub. Its afternoon tea is a little-known fact. Only a few couples
The authors gush about the pastries at Harrods, the finely-cut were there the day we went, but after gazing up at the high frescoed ceil-
sandwiches at the Brown Hotel, and ing and tapestry-covered walls, we were sold.
the delicate scones served with clotted cream High tea is served for about £16 ($30) and
at Kensington Gardens. Is this what London- can be shared by two people. A typical tray
ers do in the afternoons? Sit, decked out in includes tea sandwiches with turkey and
Chanel, prim and proper, on satin cushioned pesto mayonnaise paired with garlic hum-
chairs, shelling out fifty bucks for a tier of pa- mus and roasted sweet peppers; warm rai-
tisseries? Unfortunately, the hotel scene is an sin scones with clotted cream and raspberry
overstuffed way of enjoying London’s oldest preserves; and small chocolate pastries sur-
ritual. In short, it’s a tourist trap. rounded by fresh fruit, dusted with powdered
The good news is that you can soak up the sugar. The tea comes in bags, but is none-
deliciousness of teatime sans confining attire theless delightful when poured from its own
and inflated prices. The English tea tradition pewter pot.
is carried on in quite a few restaurants and After tea, reading in the tiny courtyard
cafes. So, hang up those heels and take a look garden is a must, until the working locals are
at these alternatives: set free at five and take over the well-stocked
bar. The Bank provides delectable food and a
The Bramah Museum of cool, quiet haven to while away an afternoon.
Tea and Coffee
The Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee, The Kandy Tea Room
located just south of London Bridge, looks Just west of Kensington Gardens, The
as if a home for grandmothers exploded, Kandy Tea Room offers a Sri Lankan twist on
and the remains were collected in this room. tea, specializing in Ceylon teas and delicious
With tea pots from every decade, pink and Tea for (at least) Two: Traditional tea includes a spread quiche. Cream tea is served with scones and
white lace linens, and cookbooks on display, of sandwiches, scones and cake. a personal pot of piping hot tea for £7 ($13)
it’s hard not to be reminded of old ladies Photo by Michelle del Rio a person. But we found the cakes in the win-
playing cards. dow too enticing to pass up. A pot of tea and
Full tea is a mere nine pounds (about $17) and includes a choice of a slice of cake is just £5. Teacups hang on shelves mounted on flowered
sandwiches (the cucumber and cream cheese are yummy), plain scones wallpaper, giving this intimate tea room a homey feel.
with clotted cream and berry preserves or fresh crumpets, and a large
piece of cake. The staff will recommend a tea to complement what you Patisserie Valerie
choose. It is second nature to coo at the bone china cup and saucer, and Patisserie Valerie is almost too cute, with vintage movie posters plas-
fondle the three-tiered platter that the sandwiches are arranged on, out tered on the walls and tiny white tables in clusters around the main
of sheer love and appreciation. floor. With six locations around greater London, customers become loyal,
The enthusiastic silver-haired pianist, Roger, greets arrivals by thrust- and gladly shell out £15 ($28) for tea and pastries. You’ll nonetheless see
ing his laminated café music request menu, with songs by Gershwin and starving artists and hungry students. The adorable Victorian teapots are
Aretha Franklin and everyone in between, politely demanding a selec- well worth the £4. NYN
tion. He’s then move from table to table, blabbing with guests until it be-
comes apparent that the room needs music to soothe it.
Where Real Londoners Take Tea
Roger has worked at the museum for over a year, and enjoys the vari- Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee Old Bank of England
ety of customers. 40 Southwark Street, London, 194 Fleet Street, Holborn, London,
“We get some locals and a ton of tourists, what with The Globe and SE1 1UN, 44-20-7403-5650 EC4A 2LT, 44-20-6430-2255
The Tate just around the corner,” he explains, referring to the Shake-
speare theater and the famous art museum. Patisserie Valerie
The café produces over 20 blends of tea and coffee, all available at the The Kandy Tea Room 44 Old Compton Street, Soho, London
gift shop, in addition to books, coffee tins, pots, and cups. The piano is 4 Holland Street, Kensington, London W1D 5JX, 44-20-7437-3466
soothing and creates an atmosphere suitable for reading and relaxing. W8 4LT, 44-20-7730-1234
The constant refilling of one’s teapot doesn’t hurt, either.

28 New York Now / May 2010

Burning in Sichuan
Summer in China’s steamy southwest means close quarters,
fiery hot pot and general sensory overload.

By Leaya Lee

o walk down any street in Chengdu, the capital of China’s south- Sichuan is famous for its giant pandas and for its spicy food. One of
west Sichuan province, is to feel it on every inch of skin. On sum- better-known dishes of the region is Sichuan hot-pot. To welcome the
mer days, the heat rises from the dirt-caked roads and sidewalks, summer English teachers, two of the program coordinators, both Cheng-
and the sun slicing through the smog is unforgivingly bright. A sweaty, du residents, generously treat us to dinner at a hot-pot restaurant. Each
sticky mass of bodies competes with endless lines of bicycle riders for table holds two inset bowls full of scalding, pepper-red soup brought to a
slivers of walking space. Ghostly, orphaned high-rises dot the city, cour- boil with the twist of a knob. The fiery broth is not replaced for each new
tesy of developers who constantly start new buildings, then run out of customer, but sits in the bowl all day to be repeatedly reheated.
money to finish them. Most of old, traditional structures have been torn Long tables heavy with raw tripe, tendons and unidentifiable meats
down to make way for these new buildings because like most of urban and vegetables flank the restaurant’s walls, waiting to be cooked in the
China, Chengdu is experiencing a boom. bowls at the table. At one end of a table, dozens of people line up to pile
I am teaching English at Sichuan University for the summer. It’s my their plates with little burgundy-colored hunks of meat. Moving closer,
first trip to China, and what I’m feeling is sensory overload. I see they are sauce-covered rabbit heads, with eyeballs and spiky teeth
Young Chengdu women step daintily over the ubiquitous spit scattered still intact. The program coordinators say that the rabbit heads are a deli-
across the ground as they clutch parasols to protect their milky complex- cacy, and they both dig in. None of us English teachers are adventurous
ions from tanning. In East Asia, whiteness is next to godliness, at least enough to try them. The hum of eating and conversation is periodically
for the ladies. Not one native eye widens as bare-bottomed children pee punctuated with the sound of people hocking spit onto the floor.
in the middle of the busiest downtown street. A tour guide on a later trip After about a week of ultra-spicy meals, blisters form inside and
explained that Chinese parents dress their children in these crotchless around my mouth, and my stomach is a mess. It hurts to smile, speak or
pants for easy relief. eat. I am taken to Sichuan University’s hospital. The place seems eerily
The lack of personal space is daunting at first, as is the dearth of West- empty, quiet and in desperate need of a good scrub. Drops of what look
ern-style toilets. In the English teachers’ dormitories where I stay, the like dried blood are speckled across the floor on the way to the doctor’s
toilets are squat-style holes in the ground, and the showers are directly office. The doctor is a plump, middle-aged woman. After a brief examina-
above the toilets. After losing few bars of soap down the toilet, I soon get tion, she says that because of the spicy food, my foreign constitution and
over my awkwardness, then am humbled by visits to some of my stu- the humid weather, my body has shang huo. Literally translated, that
dents’ homes. In one apartment, the toilet is in the kitchen, right next means “on fire.” She prescribes a few mysterious medications that work
the stove. immediately. NYN

New York Now / May 2010 29

Yo! Oy! W alking through Brooklyn’s Borough Park
neighborhood, one of the largest Orthodox
Jewish communities outside Israel, Yitzchak Jor-

It’s global hip-hop,

dan immediately stands out. Aside from the tra-
ditional beard and long side curls tucked behind
his ears, there’s nothing distinctively Jewish or
Orthodox about Jordan’s appearance.

Orthodox Jewish style Where the Hasidic passersby wear tall hats
and long jackets, Jordan, a devout Jew, sports
a beret and an untucked jersey. But what really
distinguishes Jordan from others in the Jewish
community is the fact that he is a black rapper
known to his fans as Y-Love. His first album is
called “This Is Babylon.”
Y-Love is part of a new school of hip-hop rev-
olutionaries who are trying to raise social con-
sciousness and spirituality through their music.
Even so, he may be the rap scene’s most uncon-
ventional act. Substituting profanity with reli-
gious rhymes in Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin
and Arabic, Y-Love takes hip-hop away from the
thug culture and into a spiritual realm. He de-
By Christian Taske scribes his style as “global hip-hop” that aims to

30 New York Now / May 2010

Where the Hasidic passersby wear tall hats and long
jackets, Jordan, a devout Jew, sports a beret and an

untucked jersey.
promote unity and tear down social boundaries. But in the orthodox community, where new political and religious taboos by warning of the
“I’m using the holy languages to show that technologies and modern types of music are sus- dangerous direction towards which the world is
anybody who is on a spiritual level, wherever pect, not everybody agrees that hip-hop and Ju- heading. His song “6000” suggests that the world
they are in the world, chances are they’re going daism match so perfectly. Many argue that rap is at its worst, and it’s time to turn it around.
to be on relatively the same page,” Y-Love said. and Judaism don’t belong together because hip- In other tracks, Y-Love promotes peace and ac-
“Hip-hop is some type of music that brings peo- hop was created in America by non-Jews. ceptance by quoting from both Torah and the
ple together.” But for Y-Love, orthodoxy and progression Quran and inviting a Palestinian rapper to join
But Y-Love doesn’t just rap about breaking don’t contradict each other. “I started rhyming him in song.
social boundaries, he does it. As a black convert in yeshiva, so there was no disconnect,” said Y- Y-Love continues to send a message with his
to Judaism, the 29-year-old computer program- Love, who defines himself as an “ultra-modern, new album. Its title refers to the third chapter of
mer epitomizes the cross-cultural. His music re- ultra-orthodox Jew” who happens to be a rapper. the Book of Daniel where the king, Nebuchad-
flects his religious conversion, which started 22 “Orthodox Judaism puts so much stress and em- nezzar, sets up a statue in Babylon to which citi-
years ago. phasis on learning Torah and on learning how to zens must bow if they hear a musical instrument.
Growing up with his Ethiopian father and better oneself. So, it can’t be contradictory to Ju- Y-Love sees this as a metaphor for the growing
Puerto Rican mother in Baltimore, Md., Jordan daism, because I used it in such a way.” influence of the media, which he believes turns
occasionally attended Baptist church. At age 7, Y-Love occasionally sends lyrics to his rabbi for people away from God and toward earthly idols.
however, he developed an interest in Judaism spiritual authorization. This rabbi, said Y-Love, Babylon, as the first place of Jewish exile, became
after watching a “Happy Passover” television once explained that the musical genre is unim- the epitome of an unholy place, which is where
commercial. He doesn’t remember why the ad portant if the content adheres to Jewish beliefs. Y-Love sees society heading.
intrigued him, but soon after seeing it Jordan “As long as the content stays kosher, the mu- In this light, Y-Love’s ultimate goal is to ele-
began trading his lunch money for Hebrew les- sical form is kosher as long as it elicits kosher vate his listeners’ spirituality regardless of their
sons from a Jewish classmate. His curiosity grew emotions from the listener,” Y-Love said. He also religion. He sees his music as part of a larger ed-
into faith, and at age 14 he began attending syna- makes sure to observe the Sabbath and sched- ucational campaign. He hopes eventually to do
gogue at Johns Hopkins University. Much against ule his performances accordingly, which can be political radio commentary and teach.
his Roman Catholic mother’s will, at the same a hassle in the summer when the sun sets late. “The same people who buy hip-hop CDs are
time he approached the rabbi with plans to con- Staying within his religious framework, Y-Love the same people who feel most disenfranchised
vert. He was turned down because of his age. is not afraid to speak his mind both on and off- with the political process,” he said. “I’d like to be
“I knew I wanted to be Jewish ever since I was stage. He once tried to unplug another band’s somebody who can speak to a younger commu-
a little kid,” Y-Love said. “Through a lot of time, microphones because he objected to their vul- nity, speak to progressive thinking people who
I was just waiting to convert.” gar language. His profanity-free lyrics challenge want progressive music.”
While his family suggested he would never
be accepted in the Jewish community, Jordan
remained determined. His conversion finally be-
gan when he moved to New York City at age 21.
Thirteen months later, Jordan traveled to Jerusa-
lem to attend Ohr Somayach, a yeshiva catering
to converts and Jews with little religious back-
ground. His learning partner there, David Singer,
happened to be a Jewish emcee known as Cels-
I. The two discovered that rapping the Hebrew
words helped them memorize Jewish scripture.
Thus, Jordan’s approach to hip-hop was born.
“When we first started rhyming in yeshiva,
people were like, ‘Why would you bring such a
non-Jewish type of music into a holy place,’” Y-
Love said. “But I can still open up a Gemara to
the cases we learned in 2001 and remember what
was going on.” The Gemara is a part of the Tal-
mud, a book of rabbinic commentaries.
At the yeshiva, Jordan also met Erez Safar,
who later founded the Jewish music Web site Sh-
emspeed and the Modular Moods Records label.
Back in New York, Safar, also known as DJ Erez
Handler, became Y-Love’s manager. He produced
“This Is Babylon.”
“He’s a genius as an individual, an incredible in-
tellectual and a diverse person,” DJ Handler said.
“He’s just a great rapper. With that sort of brain
and voice, I thought he had the whole package.” Y-Love’s first album is called “This Is Babylon.”

New York Now / May 2010 31

The rooftop at Junto Gallery in Bushwick.
Courtesy of Valeria Forster

Matsushita pays his rent by making models

for architectural firms. He has managed to estab-
lish himself in the Manhattan art scene–a couple
of years ago he worked at Museum of Modern
Art doing art installation and he has had two
solo shows at Christopher Henry Gallery in the
Lower East Side–but he likes the grassroots feel-
ing of Bushwick.
“I wanted to promote young artists, to show
their work,” he said.
Matsushita publicizes shows using postcard
fliers and on the gallery Web site, but the people

Home is where
who attend generally hear about the event by
word of mouth.
The artists initially funded the Bronx Blue

the art is
Bedroom Project but now the project has a grant
from the Bronx Council on the Arts and other
arts programs in the city, to encourage home gal-
Faced with a space crunch, New York artists expand the definition This month, at the Bronx Blue Bedroom Proj-
ect, Michelle Frick has made bird’s nests out of
of galleries intravenous cord and placed tiny eggs that have
the names of different heart diseases imprinted
on them. There are syringes and other hospital
materials strewn about the room and the sound
By Laura Cameron of birds chirping is playing on a stereo.
Blanka Amezkua’s lifestyle changes accord-

B lanka Amezkua didn’t change anything

about her home when she began displaying
artwork in her bedroom. The shabby linoleum,
lyn. “It just seems genuine, we’re not doing it
for money.”
Four years ago, Matsushita, a Japanese-Ameri-
ing to what work is being exhibited in her home.
At the moment, she’s sleeping on a futon in her
living room because she doesn’t want to disturb
the bare light fixtures and the robin’s egg blue can artist, had to move out of his studio in SoHo. the fragile nests.
walls are all still there, but now every month an They were tearing down the building and he had Amezkua said the project is a huge commit-
artist comes into Amezkua’s apartment in Mott one month to find a new space. He came across ment for the artists and for her, but she finds it
Haven neighborhood and installs a work of art. a listing on Craigslist for two lofts side by side very gratifying. She is almost maternal toward
There’s an opening on the first Saturday of in the basement of an apartment building in the the artwork. Every night she covers each one
every month, and on Thursdays and Fridays the gentrifying neighborhood of Bushwick. He now of the nests with fabric to avoid getting dust on
public is free to wander in to view the work. uses this space as both his home and to showcase the eggs.
Amezkua sleeps with the art at night, and dur- his artwork and the work of people he knows. The informal events in these spaces–some-
ing the day, she rolls the mattress up and stores The walls, the floor, and the exposed ducts on where between a private and a public venue–
it in the closet. the 13-foot ceiling are all painted white. The only have made the artistic community more inclusive
Artists have always come to New York City to furniture is a rectangular table, and four chairs, “Sometimes I call people up and say I’m hav-
make it, but with real estate at a premium, there in the center of the main room. The other room ing a dinner party, bring over a painting so we can
isn’t enough room in the galleries in Manhat- has a bar with a refrigerator and a movie screen talk about it,” said Jason Andrew, who displays
tan for many artists to show their work. These hanging from chains bolted into a wooden beam. art in the windows of his ground floor apartment
space limitations have led artists to expand the Matsushita describes the space as minimal, and in Bushwick. The gallery, called Norte Maar, is
definition of a gallery by opening their doors, of zen-like–a nod to his Japanese roots. He explains a perfect square, with all white walls, and lots
those of friends or sponsors, to the public and that the clean, white space is like a blank canvas. of natural light. Andrew said that a painting is
displaying artwork in their homes. Not only do The minimalist aesthetic allows the work he ex- finished when the public sees it, and his home
these not-for-profit galleries give artists a place hibits, done by local artists, many of whom live completes the circle.
to showcase their work, but the emphasis on in the same building, to speak for itself. Andrew said he is not opposed to the main-
collaboration, rather than competition, also nur- Collaboration is the overriding theme at Junto. stream galleries, which do something very dif-
tures artistic communities outside of the main- Matsushita describes the lofts as a multi-creative ferent from what he is trying to achieve. He
stream art world. space. Two modern dancers currently live there describes his home as a relaxed setting that facili-
“It is difficult to show in Chelsea or SoHo with him. They sleep in the tiny living quarters tates conversations about art in the community.
galleries. This space is less intimidating,” said that lie behind a white curtain at one end of the “It’s way off the beaten path of the critics and
Hayato Matsushita, who curates a gallery– room and they rehearse in the large room while collectors,” Andrew said, “the driving machine
named Junto–at his home in Bushwick, Brook- Matsushita stays in another loft next door. that is the art world.”

32 New York Now / May 2010

No city for country fans
Country music aficionados bond in a city that ain’t no Nashville

By Edmund DeMarche

C ooper Boone thinks you need to come out

of the closet.
Yeah, you.
ture. “Oh, but people have iPods. They can listen
to those,” says Rachel Ochse, 27, a project coordi-
nator for an environmental consulting company.
You, the 30-year-old city slicker who traipses But she’d better not say something like that
into Lincoln Center and says things like, “Isn’t to a country fan here who’s sick of one sissy of a Garth Brooks sang, “Some of God’s greatest gifts
the new Alice Tully Hall just marvelous?” then station competing with another sissy of a station are unanswered prayers.” From that point of view,
watches a performance of Symphony No. What- to see who can play the most Britney in an hour. country music fans living in New York should
ever in B-minor until you and your little lady These souls without songs are the outcasts feel downright enchanted: Their prayers for a
waltz across the street to a fancy cafe and indulge of New York, forced to congregate in tiny, dark country music radio station have remained utterly
in red vino and “cultured” conversation. bars across the city listening to the ballads of
Boone knows. Deep down you want to take off men done wrong by their women and women
those fancy pants and throw on a pair of Wran- done wrong by their men told through the twang first-generation immigrants.
glers. You want to be riding a horse instead of of a steel guitar and the warble of voices filled “In focus groups, they told us that the lyrics
hailing that cab. You want to be able to ride off with pain. were easier to understand than in rock songs and
into the sunset and not just watch it disappear You won’t catch those folks without a swagger, that the themes of home, family and patriotism
from your apartment window. though. Revelers in Rodeo, a bar in Manhattan resonated with them,” says Salamon.
He sees the way you tap your pretty little lace- that celebrates all things country, remain un- Some in the industry are surprised at the city’s
ups when he performs at some honky-tonk in ashamed. The bartender taps beer under a stuffed shortsightedness.
the city. You know, the one you don’t talk to your life-size bison standing on a cliff. Peanut shells “The thing that shocks me most is that coun-
friends at work about. litter the floor, buffalo horns adorn the walls and try acts always sell out in minutes when artists
It’s as clear as day. You’re a country music fan. country music fans find solace in one other. go to New York,” says Lisa Christie, a morning
“You have no idea how many guys come up to Garth Brooks sang, “Some of God’s greatest show host and program director at KSTAR 99.7,
me and say, ‘I don’t tell many people this, but I gifts are unanswered prayers.” From that point a country radio station in Houston. “You would
love country music,’” says Boone. of view, country music fans living in New York think New York would capitalize on that.”
Boone, 38, is a country musician who lives in should feel downright enchanted: Their prayers Christie says country music is thriving in most
New York City and Nashville. He, like many other for a country music radio station have remained areas, and she’s sure advertisers would find a
urban cowboys, is still coming to terms with the utterly unanswered. specific niche market in New York.
fact that he can scroll through 44 FM frequencies In May 2002, WYNY-FM (107.1), New York’s Not everyone, though, thinks that country has
and almost never hear Hank, Waylon or Willie. only country station at the time, rode off into the a place in the city. Lisa L. Rollins, a country mu-
“I’m telling you, if I had the money, I’d start a sunset to make room for a Spanish Top 40 station. sic journalist in Nashville, says, “There is a dif-
country music radio station right now,” he says. “How can we live in the most culturally di- ference in views in the message of country music
Yes. New York City, the place where culture verse city in the U.S. and not have a music genre and the ways in which the populace of the city as
supposedly flows like Tennessee whiskey on a that is so popular in the rest of the country?” a whole perceives the world around us.
summer’s day, has not one single, solitary coun- asks Andrea Greco, 34, the bartender standing “Country music and the values it espouses, in
try music radio station. Country music, of all under the bison. general, are conservative, and New York City citi-
things, the steak and potatoes of American cul- Ed Salamon knows a thing or two about coun- zens, overall, are liberal.”
try music in New York. He was the program direc- Amber Taylor, a radio host for South Central
tor of WHN when it became the most-listened-to Oklahoma Radio Enterprises, scoffs at the very
country radio station of all time right here in the idea of NYC-country. “I just don’t think coun-
big, bad city. He was there when WHN ditched try music and New York City goes together,” she
the format in 1987. says. “Country needs to be felt, and I’m not sure
“Country music now has even a wider appeal New Yorkers, in general, can relate.”
than in the ’70s and ’80s,” says Salamon, who Then there those who insist they enjoy the
was dubbed country radio’s most influential pro- fact that there’s no country music in New York.
grammer. “The target audience of country radio Take Gail Collins, a columnist for The New
is young females, a very desirable demographic York Times.
for advertisers.” “One of the reasons I think I came to New York
Salamon says potential New York country lis- was to rid myself of country music,” says Collins,
teners are typical New Yorkers: not from around who is originally from Ohio.
here, making home on a strange range. WHN But the New Yorkers who are cursed with this
was the choice of many turbaned taxi drivers and foot-stompin’ gene are left to ponder: Did our
parents take the advice of Willie and Waylon,
who sang, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow
Amber Taylor, left, with country musicians Blake up to be cowboys,” too seriously?
Sheldon and Miranda Lambert. Taylor is not sur- So Boone and his urban cowboys are left to
prised New York City has no country radio station. wander, alone together. But would a true cowboy
Photo courtesy of Mike Manos have it any other way?

New York Now / May 2010 33

Story time at the Moth
Storytelling Nights Find New Popularity

By Jessica Scott

O n a night in early-January when

the wind chill in New York City
is 10 degrees below zero, three dozen
Storyteller Adam Wade tells a story
during “The Adam Wade From New
Hampshire Show.”
frozen bodies descended the dirty,
dingy steps at the Theater Under
St. Mark’s in the East Village. With
brick walls, concrete floors and ex-
posed pipes, the small room looked Not all of the stories at The Moth
more like a storm cellar than a per- shows are funny.
formance space. “I told a white trash story about
They’re here to hear Adam Wade. hooking up with the world’s worst
He personally greets each audience guido in New Jersey, then the guy
member, opens additional folding after me told a story of pulling chil-
chairs as seating quickly vanish- dren from a burning building,” Leit-
es. More than 40 people paid $5 to man said. “He won.”
see the inaugural “The Adam Wade Watching unprofessional enter-
From New Hampshire Show” — two tainers is why storytelling shows are
hours of an entertainment smorgas- so alluring, said Andrea Shores, 27,
bord. Wade and his guest perform- an audience member at Wade’s show.
ers will tell stories, both funny and “It’s nice to see someone who isn’t
touching, show embarrassing old so polished that they seem fake,” she
home movies and wrap up the night said. “The realness of the stories and
with a live band — equal parts jam the people telling them are the best
session and improvised story-telling. part.”
Wade begins a charming tale That’s the magic, said Wade, to-
about falling in love in fourth grade, night’s headliner, “making people
with sixth-grader Mary Ellen. laugh by telling an awkward mo-
“At recess I would always watch ment in your life. If you’re honest
her — not stalk her — but just watch and show your vulnerability, people
her because I was in love with her. can identify.”
After a few minutes her pretty boy Storytelling shows also help catch
boyfriend would go play kickball, and the attention of industry brass who
then it was Adam Time!” could someday pave the road to star-
The crowd erupts in laughter as dom. Wade, for example, was ap-
Wade, with an uneasy, nervous, stut- proached by a director after a show
tering tone to his voice, continues. “I and asked to audition for a role in
was very petite but a little chubby … “The Wrestler.” Leitman stars in
very short … I was like a ball … you commercials and television shows
could bounce me. But I was going to and will soon begin shopping her
talk to her!” memoir to publishers.
At 33, Wade is a writer and television produc- monthly show “Strip Stories,” now in its third It’s back-to-basics entertainment, and audi-
er. Named one of 2009’s Most Promising Young year, is routinely standing-room-only. ences around the country are getting hooked to
Talents by Time Out magazine, he is the face of “I feel like I’m part of an artistic movement, the authenticity and humanity of a simple tale.
a growing movement in New York, Los Angeles of something big,” Leitman said. “In this day of The enduring art of words is alive and well, even
and other metropolitan areas across the country technology, it’s great to just stand up and tell a if at the expense of a young love lost.
— the shift from prepackaged stand-up comedy story and have people be entertained.” “Sadly,” Wade said at the end of his set, “Mary
acts to a more casual storytelling session. The first stop for many aspiring storytelling Ellen graduated sixth grade and went to junior
“Everyone thinks it’s so innovative when ac- stars in New York is The Moth, a nonprofit city high and nothing ever happened. Now I’m 33
tually it’s the oldest art form, aside from prosti- organization started in 1997. It serves as a minor and unemployed and kind of a loser.”
tution,” said Margot Leitman, a former stand-up league for writers and performers to practice But, he said, the best feeling in the world is
comedian who made the transition to storytelling new material in a casual environment. With 85 meeting someone who remembers one of your
four years ago. She now teaches three weekly sto- shows this year in New York and Los Angeles, stories, like the woman who mentioned a story
rytelling classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade, The Moth has gone nationwide, expanding its he told about his grandmother more than five
instructs corporate storytelling workshops and shows to 10 additional cities in the next few years ago.
works for private clients who’ve got a tale to tell. years. Other satellite shows that did not exist “I asked her how she remembered it when I
She said she’s noticed an explosion of interest before The Moth are now popping up every- didn’t even remember telling it,” he said. “And
in storytelling during the past couple years. Her where, said Wade. she said, ‘Because it was a good story.’”

34 New York Now / May 2010

Septeto Nacional became one of the first Cuban
bands to perform in the United States, after the
Obama administration began relaxing entry

requirements for Cuban cultural groups in 2009.
Here, they perform at the Hostos Center for Arts
and Culture in New York.

Photo by Roque Planas

ees of the state, they were deemed to be Commu-

nist or anti-American or whatever, I don’t know.”
Likewise without announcing any shift, the
Obama administration began approving Cuban
cultural exchange visas in October 2009. The U.S.
State Department approved Cuban folk singer
Pablo Milanés’ visa to play a concert in Puerto
Rico. Singer Omara Portuondo became the first
Cuban ever to come to the United States to receive
a Latin Grammy award, after her album “Gracias”
was awarded “Best Tropical Music Performance.”
U.S. government officials have not clarified
whether these changes augur a broader reevalu-

Cuban Musicians
ation of U.S. policies toward Cuba.
“We are neither actively promoting nor ac-
tively impeding these artistic exchanges,” a State

Department official told The New York Times
last fall.
Cuba, with Iran, Sudan and Syria, is one of

U.S. Performances
four countries on the U.S. government’s “state
sponsors of terrorism” list for allegedly support-
ing rebels in Colombia and Spain, and for re-
fusing to extradite U.S. citizens wanted by U.S.
The Obama administration appears to be quietly relaxing a five- authorities.
The blacklist status makes applying for a cul-
year Bush-era ban on Cuban cultural exchanges tural exchange visa tedious, according to a report
music scholar Ned Sublette produced for the Cuba
Research and Analysis Group (CRAG), a group
By Roque Planas that supports U.S.-Cuba cultural exchanges.
Cuban musicians must first present an applica-

N ew York City recently hosted its first Cuban

band in five years, after the group Septeto
Nacional became the first to win a visa that al-
music, “ he said. “The best music comes from
“I don’t see any reason why we should keep
tion to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana—the
diplomatic mission the U.S. government main-
tains in Cuba instead of an embassy. The sponsor-
lowed it to accept a booking there. them out of the country,” listener Jim Buoie said, ing venue generally pays $1,000 to expedite the
The group performed at the Hostos Center for of Cuban musicians. “The music isn’t dangerous; process, though it can still drag on for months.
Arts and Culture in the Bronx in early November. it’s not a threat. So I think that’s one way to build Then the application is turned over to the State
It was the first Cuban band to play in New York up understanding between the two countries.” Department for security clearance. Since 2004,
since 2004, when the Bush administration began Thaw? most such applications have died there.
systematically denying Cuban musicians cultural In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cuban mu- San Francisco attorney Bill Martínez, who
exchange visas. The concert kicked off a month- sicians like the Muñequitos de Matanzas, the ushered through Septeto Nacional’s visas, called
long tour that was taking the band to Puerto Buena Vista Social Club and Los Van Van played the group’s approval “a breakthrough.” But Mar-
Rico, Chicago, Miami and California. regularly in the United States. The Hostos Center tinez, who has specialized in Cuban cultural ex-
Politics seemed far from the minds of fans as brought “maybe 10 groups” from Cuba between change visas since 1983, is cautious about what
they sang along to the Septeto Nacional classic 1996 and 2003, according to Director Walter that augurs for future visits.
“Echale Salsita” and clapped to the beat of the Edgecombe. Clubs and theaters are reluctant to promote
clave, the percussion instrument that anchors Then, in early 2004, the Bush administration shows that might be canceled if visas are denied,
Cuban rhythm. Indeed, some in the audience stopped approving cultural exchange visas for or approved too late. So, despite apparently thaw-
made no connection between politics and music. musicians, without ever announcing an official ing U.S. policy, Cuban bands aren’t seen as likely
“Forget about that stuff, Bay of Pigs and all policy change. The measure coincided with gen- to flood into the United States any time soon.
those things, come on man! Give ‘em a break,” eral tightening of the half century-old U.S. trade “I think that the Obama administration has
said an energetic retired music teacher who asked embargo against Cuba. Cuban-Americans’ ability made it clear that they would like to see more
to be identified only as Papa Frita, or French Fry. to travel to Cuba or send money to relatives liv- cultural relations,” said Sublette, in a telephone
Though no fan of longtime ex-Cuban leader ing there was restricted, and long-ignored laws interview. But until the “arcane system” of ap-
Fidel Castro, he credited Castro for investing in prohibiting the Cuban government from circulat- provals is changed, it will always be financially
music education. ing the dollar began to be enforced. hazardous for U.S. venues to work with Cuban
“Here we’ve got all this rap and people don’t “After that, we didn’t bring any Cuban groups musicians, he added. “One can only hope that it
know much. Over there people know how to read up,” Edgecombe said. “Since they were employ- will get a lot easier.”

New York Now / May 2010 35

Where to Find Manga I t’s hard to come down to earth after the other-
worldly thrill of a trip to Tokyo. Giant towers

for Your Kid, Fugu

filled with secret stores press up against Shinto
temples, with their lit paper lanterns and prayer
letters. Rock star wannabe schoolgirls, complete

for Your Daredevil

with uniforms and pink hair, clutter the other-
wise orderly sidewalks.
Instead of watching the movie “Lost in Trans-

Spouse and Ramen

lation” on an endless loop, try Manhattan’s East
Village neighborhood instead. It’s home to some
of the most authentic Japanese establishments

for the Whole Family

you could ever hope to find outside of Harajuku.


(Without leaving Forbidden Planet NYC

Forbidden Planet is an introverted teen’s

New York)
dream come true. Manga, the animation books
or films made in Japan, crowd the shelves of this
slightly creepy store. If you can get up the gump-
tion to ask one of the goth-looking salespeople,
they’ll be happy to help you find a copy of manga
classics geared toward your demographic.
840 Broadway (corner of 13th Street)
By Sarah Wolff

36 New York Now / May 2010

Toy Tokyo staircase to this basement sake bar, especially space, order a pitcher of beer. That’s an essen-
Lighten up at Toy Tokyo. You’ll feel like godzil- after you’ve sampled these offerings. And what tial part of the meal, because it enhances the

la in this tiny place — a sensation many West- offerings! Decibel serves over 50 types of sake, sweet-smoky flavor of the grilled meats, and pro-
erners have in Japan because everything seems the fermented rice wine that’s Japan’s nation- vides the carbs to fill you up in this super-Atkins-
to be Lilliputian-sized. Shelves and cases hold al drink. Some sakes are heady and wine-like. friendly restaurant.
figurines, collectibles and of course, manga. Kid Some are sweet and mild. Some, like the fugu The best items are the chicken meatballs (balls
Robot figurines or plain old action figures are hire, are possibly lethal. Decibel serves a roasted again, yes, but they taste great). The grilled rice
all here. Just be careful not to knock anything blowfish fin, or fugu, in hot sake. Fugu is known triangles, called onigiri, made atop the grill after
over, Gulliver. for causing hallucinations from its poison, and the meats, have been cooked, so they absorb the
121 Second Avenue, 2nd floor (between St. Marks Place people who eat it usually get sick. However, it is flavor. The ramen is also good for sharing. It’s
and 7th Street) considered a delicacy in Japan — and where else served in a large bowl with extra crockery and are you going to find hallucinogenic fish sake in spoons — so your fellow diners can take as much
New York? as they want from the pot.
SNACKS 240 E. 9th Street, between Third and Second Avenues 5 St. Marks Place (between Third and Second Avenues)
Tel: 212-979-2733
Bamn! looks like a glowing pink neon UFO SUSHI-FREE RESTAURANTS Minca Ramen Factory
that landed on the street. It’s set up like an over- The noodle soups served at this ramen shop the
sized vending machine and serves small bites After the “how to order sushi like a CEO” skit size of your thumbnail (notice a trend here?) are
and flavored ices. Feed your money into the slot on Saturday Night Live back in 2006, raw fish lost not meant to be shared. No worries: you’ll want
next to the item you want, and order ices at the some of its cool. Now it’s associated with snob- to hog your own bowl of tastiness. The most pop-
counter. There’s a dearth of 7-11 stores in Man- bish yuppies, and tycoons who don’t care that ular, according to a server, is the “plain” ramen.
hattan, so Bamn! fills in nicely with classic fla- they’re overpaying for undercooked fish. But “plain” is actually a flavorful pork-based broth
vors like cherry and cola. But it also offers treats Here are two authentic cooked options, usu- and noodles, with pork and other toppings like
with a Japanese twist, like mini teriyaki burgers. ally packed with Japanese expats — definitely a seaweed, egg and various legumes. There is an ex-
It wouldn’t be hard to envision Bamn! on a Tokyo good sign. Plus, you won’t have to worry about cellent vegetarian option, made of miso broth and
side street, in all of its Bladerunner-esque glory. anyone mocking your entrée. topped with tofu and corn. It sounds odd, but with
37 St. Marks Place (corner of Second Avenue) a sprinkling of red pepper available on request, it’s Yakitori Taisho very filling and warming. Minca also offers at least
What a revelation: Japanese people will wait one “experimental” ramen each night.
Otafuku not only for octopus balls, but grilled meats on a There are a couple of side dishes too, like pan-
Who would have thought that a storefront stick too! Half the fun of Yakitori Taisho is wait- fried gyoza, or dumplings, which are fantastically
snack shop selling mainly octopus-filled fried ing outside for the staff to “creatively” pronounce fresh and crisp in all the right places. But the rad-
dough balls would be a success? A traditional whatever English name you’ve given the Maitre ish salad is just a ton of radishes julienned and
nibble in Japan, the main attraction here are D’ , and people-watching on St. Mark’s Place. piled into a bowl, suitable only for those who re-
these takoyaki. You can also get them plain, or Punks, businessmen, creative types and a ton of ally, really love radishes.
with cheese filling. The other few items on the homesick Japanese people mill around on the Be aware that watching the chefs will stop
look-and-point menu are okonomiyaki (a fried sidewalk. Taisho also has an outpost in Tokyo, all conversation between you and your dining
egg and cabbage pancake that plays host to sea- gratifyingly called “New York Taisho.” Are they companions (you’ll be transfixed and start ask-
food, meat or corn toppings) and yakisoba, sea- playing it both ways to accumulate street cred ing yourself what those brown things are). But
food fried noodles. The takoyaki are served in in both cities? No way to tell, but after a few it’s a distinct pleasure to see these noodle artists
packs of six, but there isn’t any place to eat them pitchers of Kirin with some tasty yakitori, you at work — don’t miss the experience.
inside. Hope for a sunny day or breezy evening won’t care. 536 E. 5th Street (between Avenues A & B)
and plop down on the bench provided outside. Once you’ve settled into the dungeon-like Tel: 212-505-8001
The line can get extremely long and the orders
take awhile, since everything is made to order.
For whatever reason — perhaps because every-
one is hungry? — the line proceeds silently. It
would be ill-advised to chat on your cell phone.
Stick to text messaging and hope your octopus
ball six-pack arrives quickly.
236 E. 9th Street (between Second and Third Avenues)
Tel: 212-353-8503


Decibel Sake Bar & Restaurant

A visit to Decibel is a real trip, and not just to
Japan. You’re likely to take a spill on the mini


It wouldn’t be hard to picture the automat-like
Bamn! on a Tokyo side street, in all of its Bladerun-
ner-esque glory.

Photo by Sarah Wolff

New York Now / May 2010 37

Sake Sensation

It may come in a gorgeous bottle, at several temperatures and in a variety

that rivals the wine list at a good French restaurant

By Justine Sterling

“K anpai,” says Jessie Nelson, the bar-

tender at Satsko sake bar in Alphabet
City, as he clinks his small sake glass to mine,
nights and weekends, looking to find something
new, something different than a beer.
Different occasions and types call for hot,
then to the bar, and sets it to his lips. I do cold, lukewarm or room temperature sakes.
the same, shakily hitting the bar, wonder- While Nelson would not have hot sake with
ing if that is tradition or just an odd tic a meal—he would rather nurse it on a cold
he has. Tradition, it turns out. By hitting night — some sake sommeliers will use the
the bar with the glass you show rever- same bottle at different temperatures for
ence to the house that is serving you. We different points of the meal. Changing the
both sip. What I taste isn’t what I was temperature can endow one bottle with
expecting. Far more complicated than many different flavors and mouth-feels.
what my younger self had dropped into In Japan, “in certain local sake pubs,
beers and gulped down, this sake was there are people whose specific job it is
light, floral. This was something to get to warm the sake to a specific tempera-
excited about. There is a world of sake ture for that sake and also for a particular
beyond the house bottles most of us have customer,” according to Smith. Beginners
come to know. should take the sommelier’s temperature
Sake, or Japanese rice wine, is growing recommendation– and maybe wait until
in popularity in the United States. Sales they are regulars to start asking for it hi-
have nearly tripled in this decade, accord- tohada (lukewarm).
ing to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Another hurdle: remembering what you
Sake bars are cropping up, and demand has drank, without having to learn Japanese.
produced several sake-only stores: True Sake “The main way in which you get to know these
in San Francisco –the first – followed by Sake things,” Smith says, “is the same way you get
Nomi in Seattle, and Sakaya in Manhattan. Japa- to know wine; you just build up a reservoir of
nese restaurants are handing patrons sake menus experience.” He even suggests “taking pictures
that rival the length and variety of wine lists at with your phone, or writing down things about
expensive French restaurants. it that struck you as being pleasant or unpleas-
Yet Americans don’t know much about the ant.” There are also usually translated names un-
“drink of the gods,” as it is called in Japan. Let’s derneath the Japanese title: Heaven’s Door, Otter
say you’re ordering fish, a dish you might pair Fest. Nelson has simpler advice. “The only way
with a white, fruity wine. Sake virgins might do to really know this stuff,” he said before finish-
well with Nigori, unfiltered sake, Nelson sug- ing off a glass, “is to drink a lot of it.”
gests. If you want to drink something bigger, A bottle you buy is lovely, perhaps even arty.
dryer and more like a red wine, then you choose The tiny cups are used in Japanese culture to
a Junmai - pure distilled rice without added al- encourage sharing, Smith said. “The small cups
cohol, or a Shokubai. Nigoris aren’t filtered, the saccharine liquid was are made that way with the intention of being
But it gets more complicated. Sake, like wine, almost thick, like corn syrup. In contrast, the high- refilled over and over again,” he said. “What you
has different levels of refinement and class. er-tier sake Kamoizumi, a Nigori Ginjo, is much do is you fill your companion’s and they in turn
Grades are determined by how much of each more refined. Though still opaque and white, it fill yours. It’s meant to encourage bonding and
grain of rice is removed. “You have fewer impu- is subtly sweet at first taste, then dry at the end. be a sharing experience.”
rities; [the fats and proteins that surround the A young couple walks in. They order a tasting My sake tasting at Satsko ends with a glass
starchy center] tend to contribute to flavors that of three hot sakes and sip cautiously, pulling the of Wakatake (in my notes, walkie talkie, which
are undesirable,” explained Sakaya owner Rick clay bottles out of the perfectly warmed water makes me like it even more). It’s floral, oaky and
Smith. The house sake at your local sushi bar is and pouring generously for each other, just as creamy, much more complex than anything I’d
usually domestic, and served hot – to hide its im- it should be done. They talk about friends, jobs, drunk with a sushi dinner. “Kanpai,” Nelson and
perfections, and strong alcohol taste. and then agree they prefer the middle one, the I say together, and this time I deftly clink my
As an example of sweeter sake, Nelson pours same higher-quality sake I tasted. These are the glass to his, then clink the bar. The couple in the
first the house, a Nigori Shochikubai, which came people who are starting to discover sake. Nel- corner looks at us with curiosity, probably won-
in a green bottle bigger than a bowling pin. Since son says that this is the crowd that comes in on dering if we both have odd tics.

38 New York Now / May 2010

A Palestinian woman in Israel
gathers za’atar from her orchard.
Photo by Melissa Muller Daka

The Spicy Politics of Za’atar has been celebrated in the poems of the
late Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish

a New Food Trend

and has been equated to “a symbol of the lost
Palestinian homeland,” according to Omar Khali-
fah, a Palestinian-Jordanian Ph.D. candidate in
Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University.
Amidst the ruins of a historic Palestinian vil-
lage near Jerusalem, za’atar and prickly pear
By Melissa Muller Daka grow in the wild.
Palestinians still forage for the herb in the wild

I n the fertile, tree-lined hills that surround

Zemer, an Arab village in Israel, an aging Pal-
estinian matriarch, Fataheyya Qaedan, has for-
that overharvesting has nearly denuded Israel
of wild za’atar, and offenders risk fines of up to
$4,000 or six months imprisonment for picking
because it remains an important symbolic role
in their identity, said anthropologist Nasser Far-
raj, director of Palestinian Fair Trade, a company
aged for wild herbs with her female relatives commercial quantities. based in the West Bank that exports za’atar spice
since her youth. Among the edible delicacies that In the U.S., as the popularity of za’atar is on mixture. Farraj says the ban is a form of discrimi-
grow in the Levant, one aromatic shrub, called the rise, and the spice is being revered for its nation against Palestinians that has nothing to
“za’atar” in Arabic, occupies a special place in distinctive taste. Little by little, za’atar is going do with protecting the plant. “It is a political
her heart. But every time this grandmother treks mainstream. But in Middle Eastern homes, issue, definitely not an environmental one,” he
up the hills to collect this coveted herb, she is za’atar has a political significance that doesn’t says. The ban is a “land control and land access
breaking Israeli law, as she was unpleasantly re- cross borders. issue,” that has transformed the traditional for-
minded recently when bundles of za’atar were Prior to the ban, za’atar already played an aging and consuming the iconic herb into an act
seized from her car by the police. She was fined important symbolic role in Palestinian identity. of resistance against Israeli authority.
500 shekels, nearly $135. Since the prohibition was imposed, the za’atar
Za’atar is a shrubby plant of the Labiate fam- spice mixture has found its way into the Israeli
ily, with soft, fuzzy leaves that have a pungent, marketplace, where it is sold to a Jewish clientele
earthy flavor; it is described interchangeably as under the name “holy hyssop,” which appears re-
a type of wild oregano, thyme or marjoram. It is peatedly in the Hebrew Bible, most importantly
also the name of a spice mixture made from its in Exodus and the Psalms. Za’atar is now an in-
dry leaves mixed with a variable mixture of salt, tegral part of Israel’s own culinary culture and is
sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Throughout used by Israeli chefs and matriarchs alike.
the Arab Levant and in some areas of North Af- Israeli native Snir Eng-Sela, chef-de-cuisine
rica, it is renowned for its distinctive taste and, of Commerce Restaurant in New York City, uses
according to folklore, is a strong memory booster. fresh za’atar in everything from ceviche to mari-
Za’atar spice mixture made from dried leaves nades for lamb and fish to salads with parsley,
of the za’atar plant, toasted sesame seeds, sumac
and sea salt. The spice mixture is also referred to
in Arabic as dukkah. (Photo by Melissa Muller
Za’atar is a shrubby plant of the Labiate family, with
In Israel and the West Bank, za’atar also has a
sociopolitical resonance far beyond culinary and
soft, fuzzy leaves that have a pungent, earthy flavor;
nutritive realms. It has been a protected plant it is described interchangeably as a type of wild
since 1977, when Israeli legislation made it ille-
gal to pick it in the wild. Environmentalists claim oregano, thyme or marjoram.
New York Now / May 2010 39
lemon and pomegranate. He considers za’atar
an “integral part” of the region’s food culture “in

both Israeli and Arabic cuisines.”

Elsewhere in the world, the political or cultur-
al significance of za’atar simply doesn’t translate,
even as it gains popularity among celebrity chefs
and on the Food Network. Andrew F. Smith, au-
thor of the books “Eating History” and “The Ox-
ford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America,”
notes that while every food item is entwined with
culture, ethnic foods transported to a new envi-
ronment tend to lose their original symbolism. He
points to turkey, which in the U.S. has long been
associated with our forefathers and national iden-
tity. Everywhere else in the world, it is “just an-
other kind of meat to use for cooking,” he said.
While celebrity chefs across the nation from
Emeril Lagasse to Jean-Georges Vongerichten
now incorporate za’atar into their dishes, Smith
points out that chefs are usually “not interested
in culture and politics,” they merely want to dis-
And za’atar fits that bill as a hitherto little-
known Middle Eastern spice. Food trends in the Lebane Dressing
U.S. result from a “culture of experimentation” 2 cups whole milk plain yogurt Juice of 1 meyer lemon
and a “hunger among foodies” for “innovation 1 teaspoon fine salt 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
and authenticity,” says Louise Kramer, commu- Salad Sea salt to taste
nications director of the National Association for 1 cup fresh za’atar leaves, stems removed 1 teaspoon wildflower honey
the Specialty Food Trade, the non-profit that runs 1/2 cup red onion, very thinly sliced 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
the biannual “Fancy Food” trade shows. Za’atar, 8 radicchio leaves, 4 finely julienned and
she posits, has all those ingredients. 4 left whole
But with za’atar, even its authenticity can be 1 head of Boston lettuce, torn into 2-inch
subjective. In Los Alamitos, Calif., Alicja Lombard pieces
runs a spice business called Awaken Savor. She 1 cup pomegranate seeds
produced her own mixtures after interviewing 1 navel orange, peel and pits removed and
“what seems like hundreds” of Levantine matri- cut into bite-sized sections
archs, but quickly discovered that “every grand- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
mother has their own secret recipe, which they 2 tablespoons dried za’atar spice mixture
claim is the only real way to make the mixture.”
As a result, she has five mixes: Syrian, Israeli, To make lebane, mix the yogurt and salt. Put yogurt mixture in a cheesecloth and place in a strainer
Jordanian, Turkish, North African and Lebanese, for 24 hours, or until crumbly. It should resemble the consistency and appearance of goat cheese.
each tweaked a bit differently. In a bowl, mix fresh za’atar leaves, red onion, julienned radicchio leaves, Boston lettuce, orange
Palestinian bakers sell round loaves of bread sections and toasted pine nuts.
topped with za’atar and olive oil, called mana- Prepare dressing in a separate bowl. Dissolve salt, orange blossom water and honey in meyer
keesh, at a bakery in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. lemon juice, then slowly wisk in extra virgin olive oil.
But no matter the recipe, Lombard learned Add dressing to salad mixture. Place whole radicchio leaves in salad plates and use as a cup to
that the dry spice is consumed daily in most hold the salad mixture.
homes of these regions and usually in the same Top each plate with crumbled lebane and sprinkle with dried za’atar.
way: It is served at breakfast in a small sharing
dish, alongside some olive oil, with warm bread; Yield: 4 servings
it is also mixed directly with olive oil and rubbed
onto small rounds of dough, then baked in wood
burning ovens, resulting in a savory bread called ZA’ATAR TOAST BITES
manakeesh. Fresh za’atar leaves also are used as
a stuffing for flat bread and also in salads. 1 cup olive oil
Soufiane Lailani, a New York-based producer 1 cup dried za’atar spice mixture
and importer of Moroccan food products, is in 1 pound sliced crusty Italian bread (can sub-
the beginning stages of bringing za’atar to the stitute pita bread), cut into bite-size triangles
U.S. and expects that his firm, Alili Morocco, will Mix za’atar spice with olive oil, stir well.
carry the spice later this year. He is confident that
za’atar is a “winner” not just because of its unfor- Brush a thick layer of the za’atar and oil mix-
gettable taste, but because of the buzz over this ture over the top side of the bread pieces.
new Middle Eastern spice, even on the Food Net- Place in a tray and toast until crispy. Serve
work. Within five years, he predicts, za’atar will hot.
“without a doubt” be a staple in “supermarket
spice shelves around the country.” Yield: 25-30 pieces

40 New York Now / May 2010

How to eat
rector of education at Sustainable Agriculture
Education, says such foods integrate environ-
mental health, economic profitability, and social

SOLE food and have

and economic equity. So meat, produce or sea-
food it must be raised and harvested with an eye
toward current and future health of the land or

fun doing it
water from which it comes as well as the eco-
nomic and physical well-being of the farmers.
The “O” is for organic. Organic farmers do not
use pesticides, herbicides or weed-killers and
By Melissa Muller Daka organic meat means that animals are fed a veg-
etarian diet without hormones or unnecessary
antibiotics. However, not all farms that follow
organic farming practices are certified organic

F arra Korshin drove two hours to Vernon, N.J.,

from her home in Queens to visit Bobolink
Dairy, a family run farm that sells wood-fired
that is sustainable, organic, local and ethical.
Sole foodies are taking heed of such advocates
as chef Alice Waters, who has championed natu-
by the USDA, so getting to know your local farm
and its farming practices is imperative.
The “L” refers to buying local food rather than
bread, raw cheeses and pasture-raised meats at ral ingredients for decades, and author Michael goods that must be transported long distances,
their farm store, online and at farmer’s markets. Pollan, whose book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” thus consuming a lot of fossil fuel from farm
She trekked there to meet the farmers and after deconstructed the American way of eating and to table.
a tour of the farm, she bought some cheese, pork caused many to lose their appetites for packaged, The “E” is for ethical, referring to how farm
liver and fatback to try. industrial farm made food. workers are treated.
A onetime fan of junk food who learned to As a trained chef, I’m often approached by Now, take stock of your diet. Cut back on the
cook only recently, Farra is now “on a mission,” friends, customers and others seeking advice on obvious no-no’s like soda and processed snacks.
to eat food that is good for both her and the how to find such “good” food. While I agree with Then, rather than focusing what you shouldn’t
planet. Her new lifestyle is not always easy, Farra the SOLE food model in an ideal world, it’s hard eat, think of how you want to eat, and then plan
says, but “it’s a fun challenge, a hobby even,” in- to follow a strict SOLE food diet. But it’s not im- on doing some homework.
volving some trial and error. Turns out, she’s “not possible if you put in a little effort, and here are The broad food categories listed below are a
so fond of pork liver,” but will surely buy Bobo- my suggestions on how to do that. good start. Look at each one before focusing on
link’s cheese again. First, a primer on what’s meant by SOLE. The individual food items. Don’t consider it a chore
Korshin is part of a new culinary trend, SOLE “S” refers to sustainable agricultural practices but rather a challenge, even an adventure. Make
food, which encourages people to eat fresh food used to grow or process foods. Sibella Kraus, di- visiting farms an entertaining road trip. Or like

New York Now / May 2010 41

Deborah Eden Tull of Los Angeles, organize them organic. genetically modified.
“green” dinner parties, as a way to foster a rela- Be sure to read the labels, though. Don’t buy

tionship with food, as she outlines in her forth- asparagus in January if it comes from Peru, not BEVERAGES
coming book “The Natural Kitchen:Your Guide just because the voyage is not sustainable, but First off, drink local water — as in from your
to the Sustainable Food Revolution.” such distantly produced produce can lack flavor. tap — but filter it.
You also can start your own organic vegetable If you like sweet drinks, make your own with
POULTRY AND MEAT or herb garden, or pickle or preserving your fa- a juicer or citrus squeezer, and you can make
Ignore marketing slogans and vague super- vorite fruits and veggies. healthy drinks that will taste better than any-
market labels like “all natural” and “free-range.” thing you can buy. You will rarely need to add
Keep only these two words in mind: pasture- BEANS AND GRAINS sugar, unless you are making lemonades.
raised. Grains, like rice, flour and whole grains, can As for coffee and tea, there are numerous or-
That usually means the animals were 100 per- often take you off of the SOLE food path. When ganic options on the market. Brew them at home,
cent grass-fed, or had a grain diet, ideally organic you see them at a farmer’s market, grab them whenever possible. Like all beverages, carry them
and pesticide-free and one that avoids geneti- up. Otherwise, buy them from the supermarket with you in a reusable container. For that after-
cally modified seeds. Then, look for local animal or online, but make sure they are organic. Non- noon coffee break, have your container refilled
farms and visit them. Ask questions about their organic grains such as wheat and rice are often at your favorite coffee shop.
farming practices. Or buy pasture-raised meats
from select butchers in your neighborhood or
online at or at www.heri-
To keep the cost down, I often buy inexpensive
cuts of meat, like neck and shoulder, which are
luscious when braised to perfection. Or just eat
a little less meat. Pasture-raised animals are not
only healthier, but according Jo Robinson, au-
thor of “Pasture Perfect,” “their meat is signifi-
cantly more nutritious for humans than feedlot
meat,” containing higher levels of vitamins and

Cheese, milk eggs, and yogurt are not only
healthier, but tastier when they come from pas-
ture-raised animals. Search for local dairy farms;
many of them even deliver direct to your home.
SOLE food resources
SEAFOOD on the Internet: A educational website about food-related issues
Eating “good” seafood depends on what sea- United States seasonal growing chart: and works to build community through food:
food you choose, whether it is over-fished or
going extinct or how it is caught or farmed. Cer- alcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap
tain methods of catching wild fish are bad for USDA Nationwide Farmer’s Market Info: Recommended Reading List:
the sea floor and kill other types of seafood. Fish “What to Eat” by Marion Nestle (North Point)
farming methods may include feeding antibiot- Online listings of SOLE food resources by Zip “Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Poli-
ics to the fish, which could pollute surround- code, including restaurants, co-ops, stores, CSAs, tics of Local Foods ” by Gary Paul Nabhan (W.W.
ing waters. and more: Norton & Co.)
More information on the ins and outs of sus- “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan
tainable seafood is offered by a nonprofit organi- Seafood Guide; what to buy, what to avoid: (Penguin)
zation, Green Chefs, Blue Ocean. It is available at “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop While this Watch/web/sfw_regional.aspx Spending and Love the Stove” by Cathy Erway
Web site is geared toward chefs, it is appropriate Facts about Grass-fed meat: (Gotham)
for all seafood lovers. “Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of
Slow Food’s list of foods on the verge of going Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to
FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND HERBS extinct: Get It Back” by Ann Vileisis (Island Press)
Ideally, it’s great to buy vegetables from local “The End of Food ” by Paul Roberts (Houghton
farms, farmer’s markets or by joining a local details/ark_of_taste/ Mifflin)
Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA), which An Online Store for Organic and Heritage Seeds: “Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from Amer-
helps consumers support nearby farms with ica’s Farmers’ Markets” by Deborah Madison
freshly picked seasonal agriculture every week. htm (Broadway)
This option is not always practical, though. A national nonprofit dedicated to reintroducing “The Revolution Will not Be Microwaved” by San-
If you live in a cold climate, there are few veg- Americans to their food the seeds it grows from, dor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green)
etables available in the winter other than root the farmers who produce it, and the routes that “Real Food: What to Eat and Why” by Nina Planck
vegetables and squash. I can’t go a whole win- carry it from the fields to our tables: (Bloomsbury)
ter without some of the winter vegetables com- “Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be
mon in the Mediterranean climate of my roots. An award winning cartoon worth watching about Good, Clean, and Fair” by Carlo Petrini (Rizzoli
So, yes, I “cheat” and buy things like citrus fruit American factory meat farms: Ex Libris)
and leafy greens from California; I just try to buy

42 New York Now / May 2010


With This Bling, Many modern brides are planning premium bridal
showers and extensive registries, despite the falter-
ing economy.

I Thee Wed class women who sought to outfit their bride-

to-be with a dowry of all she would need as
a “cook, housewife and sexual partner.” Sha-
By Katherine Olson ron Naylor, author of over 35 wedding-themed
books, including a bridal registry workbook and

P iles of impeccably-wrapped presents and cus-

tom-made favors. Mile-long wish lists and
food, flowers and cake for a hundred. Shining
ding-related events and expenses.
Friends and families of the bride-to-be shelled
out nearly $430 million for showers in 2008
a budget wedding guide, confirms that “it’s long
been a tradition for relatives to give the marry-
ing couple the comforts of home, and items to
flatware and crystalline chandeliers. These are alone, according to The Wedding Report, a wed- build their chances of happiness and prosperity.
not the whims and wants of the rich and famous; ding-industry research firm. That same year, brid- Years and years ago, that meant bolts of fabric to
they are the modern pre-wedding preparations of al showers out-priced bachelorette parties (about make their own clothes. A few chickens so that
some of today’s young and betrothed. $390 million), bachelor parties (about $360 mil- they can have eggs and make their own com-
The majority of weddings in the U.S. are held lion) and engagement parties (about $325 mil- fortable beds.”
between May and September. If conventional lion), second in cost only to rehearsal dinners, the Showers have evolved with the times, she
wisdom holds true — that bridal showers must value of which towered at $1.2 billion. says. “Now, we have egg-shaped vodka glasses
take two months to two weeks before the wed- Authors of “Cinderella Dreams: The Allure and Tempurpedic pillows on brides’ and grooms’
ding — then bridesmaids throughout the coun- of the Lavish Wedding,” Cele Otnes and Eliza- wishlists.”
try are checking their datebooks and eyeing their beth Hafkin Pleck place bridal showers’ origin If a dowry started out as a mere shower, today
bank accounts for the coming onslaught of wed- in the U.S. in the 1890s, among upper-middle it has developed into a thunderstorm. Yet the

New York Now / May 2010 43

Sure, you can have china and crystal—it’s wonderful Despite the recession, showers are on an up-
swing, says Richard Markel, president of the
to have for special occasion — but it’s OK to have Association for Wedding Professionals Interna-
tional, a wedding service group and referral agen-
lots more stuff in an affordable range. cy. “Even though there is a budget crunch, this
is something that the bride does not have to pay
for,” he says. “It’s another way for brides to be
able to garner gifts without necessarily invit-
ing everybody — second cousins, etc. — to the
couples who choose chicken over filet mignon, or a top-brand vacuum or steamer, load them up! wedding.”
DJ over cover band, and satin over silk are the Groups of friends and the bridal party now look In fact, many bridal showers have increased in
same couples who grow trigger-happy when the for these big-ticket items so they can divide the size and scope in relation to the economy. “More
scan gun — the inventory scanner used for tag- cost. … When the gift is revealed at the shower, and more brides are integrating traditional show-
ging merchandise at department stores from it impresses you and your guests.” ers with a sort of lace-covered sweatshop, where
Bloomie’s to Bed, Bath & Beyond — is placed Emily Gerhardt, 25, a legal assistant in Phila- beloved friends and family members agree to
in their hands at the Registry desk. One doesn’t delphia, has planned five showers for friends and come enjoy food and drink while performing
have to look much further than a conversation family members within the last year and a half. various wedding preparatory acts such as fill-
chain titled “Most Expensive and Least Expen- Each of the fetes took at least a month of plan- ing out name-cards to assembling invitations or
sive Registry Item” on, a popular ning. One of the most elaborate was an extrava- party favors,” says Jeffrey Sumber, a psychother-
wedding-planning Web site. Among the $399 ganza that mixed a bridal shower and Mehndi, a apist who runs a premarital-counseling practice
Swarovski crystal champagne flutes, an $800 dig- traditional Hindu pre-wedding ritual, for an Indi- in Chicago. “So the value is not just emotional
ital SLR camera, a $700 Miele dog and cat vacu- an bride and Chinese-American groom. Gerhardt any longer, but serves a truly economic func-
um cleaner, couples also added a USB drive, $7 called the planning “intense. Two different cul- tion as well.”
potholders and a set of tea-light candles. tures that they mixed into one big party!” Of the Recession or no, the bridal shower and its ac-
These days, chick flicks like “Bride Wars” gross cost, which she almost always covered out of pock- companying modern dowry seem to prosper, and,
over $58 million at the box office despite con- et and in full, Gerhardt says it “can get expensive many believe, with good reason. “I think every
temptible ratings. The New York Times reported because people notice details. At all the parties, I girl should have a shower, if it’s possible,” says
in October that celebrity Ivanka Trump listed, made sure there was fresh flowers. I didn’t want Lichota, the newlywed who enjoyed the dazzling
among her three bridal registries, some inex- someone to say something like ‘They skimped ten-grand pre-wedding get-together. “It is the
pensive William Sonoma spatulas, Crate & Barrel out on the flowers!’ I made sure the napkins co- best way to get started on your new beginning
glasses and placemat sets … and a $1,350 ster- ordinated with the forks and knives and bowls.” with your soon-to-be husband.”
ling silver Tiffany bowl. “Platinum Weddings,”
a reality show on the WE (Women’s Entertain-
ment) Network, chronicles the preparation of
weddings with 1,100-plus guests and million-
dollar budgets, while “Bridezillas,” another WE
hit, spotlights the manic demands and desires of
women as they prepare their walk down the aisle.
Such coverage cultivates a desire for the ex-
traordinary in those who are not reality TV stars.
Christine Lichota, a 27-year-old construction
company office supervisor, was married in 2009
at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Manhattan’s Fifth
Avenue. Before the wedding, her mother and
future mother-in-law threw a $10,000 shower
at Russo’s on the Bay, a columned, Romanesque
catering hall in Howard Beach, Queens, that fea-
tured all the trimmings, from an attendant pho-
tographer and DJ to a pre-party cocktail hour
and ceramic flower favors for each guest. Of her
favorite registry picks, she says “I was and still
am pretty much obsessed with my china. I got
literally every piece that they make.” Their fam-
ilies, she said, “made sure I had the whole col-
lection, and doubled and tripled some pieces in
case they break.”
Some experts feel stocking a registry with only
the premium gadgets, goods and trinkets is poor
strategy. Wedding author Naylor says “Guests
get angry when all you have on your registry is
the pricey stuff. Sure, you can have china and
crystal—it’s wonderful to have for special occa-
sion — but it’s OK to have lots more stuff in an
affordable range.” However, she does suggest
brides should still include more expensive items.
“Luggage sets, cookware sets and bedding sets,

44 New York Now / May 2010

The shapes cut into jewelry artist Sakurako

Shimizu’s “I Do” wedding bands represent the
sound of the human voice in waveform.

Photo by Sakurako Shimizu

Wedding bands begins designing the ring. Working out of her

apartment, Shimizu, who holds a degree from

record couples’ vows

the graduate program in metalwork at the State
University of New York, New Paltz, uses a jewel-
ry saw to cut a strip of the client’s desired metal
from sheets she purchases from a metal suppli-
er—in addition to gold, silver and platinum, she
By Danielle Blundell works in white gold and palladium, a grayish el-
ement that doesn’t tarnish—and then delivers

J ewelry artist Sakurako Shimizu’s “I Do” wed-

ding bands send the same signal all wedding
bands do—the person wearing one of them is
the strip and sound file to a laser-cutting service
in Manhattan. Once the design is successfully
transferred onto the ring, Shimizu measures the
off the market. But Shimizu’s rings drive home client’s ring size on the strip, heats the metal
the point by signaling marriage with both sight with a handheld torch and forms the band. She
and sound. They contain waveform shapes rep- files the edges and shines the surface up with a
resenting her clients’ voices that she laser-cuts very fine polish paper. Prices depend on the metal
into gold, silver or platinum. used. Shimizu charges $395 for a basic silver ring.
“A lot of people relate to sound,” Shimizu says. “I do” is the obvious phrase for couples ex-
“The whole process of a couple recording their changing vows, but Shimizu can carve in “I love
own voices and making wedding rings for each you,” nicknames, inside jokes—anything her cli-
other is a unique experience—something they’ll ents want. Shimizu says the phrase “I do” makes
never forget.” And it’s something the Japanese- Patrick Lyons, a Web developer and artist in an especially interesting pattern, a kind of but-
born Shimizu, 37, who now lives in Brooklyn, Stuart, Fla., was searching for this kind of cre- terfly shape, because it’s short and its syllables
N.Y., hopes to capitalize on with her conceptu- ative, personal gift for his girlfriend of five years. sound different, a fact she discovered while ex-
al designs. When Lyons, 36, stumbled on a mention of Shi- perimenting with the sound waves from human
Even in this economy, couples are spending mizu’s rings on a technology blog, he wasn’t giggles and yawns. Shimizu also works as a cura-
more time and money on their wedding bands planning on proposing. But her rings were un- tor and an apprentice to other jewelry designers.
than in previous years, according to the Wed- like anything he’d seen before. All he needed to From start to finish, her rings take her about
ding Report Inc., which researches trends in the get started was access to a computer with a mi- four weeks to create. Her clients tend to be art-
wedding industry, and the popularity of person- crophone, an Internet connection and Audacity, ists, sound engineers, music geeks or fashion
alized wedding jewelry is increasing. According an editing program that renders sound into vi- enthusiasts fond of her work’s machined, mini-
to a Brides magazine survey, the average cost of a sual patterns, which he could download for free. malist aesthetic. She has received inquiries from
wedding is about $23,000, and 9 percent of that Lyons recorded himself saying, “I love my pup- people around the world, including an Icelandic
is spent on wedding bands. pet,” his nickname for his girlfriend, Lauren. The clothing designer and a 22-year-old Iranian man.
“Instead of seeing the wedding band as just Audacity sound file of this phrase resembles a “Diamonds are beautiful, and gold is beauti-
something else to pick out, people are making it series of inkblots with vertical lines running ful,” Lyons says. “But with this ring, my girlfriend
a priority,” says Amanda Gizzi of the Jewelry In- through them. Lyons put his own twist on the de- can look down at it and say this is him—his ac-
formation Center in New York City. “We’re see- sign by lengthening the waves ever so slightly in tual voice—saying that he loves me.” Lyons is ea-
ing more customization, personality and identity the program Adobe Illustrator. He then e-mailed gerly awaiting the arrival of his girlfriend’s ring.
because it’s the one thing customers know they’ll his sound file and Lauren’s ring size to Shimizu. “I think she’ll love it,” he says. “Our taste is
be wearing every day.” Once she has a client’s waveform, Shimizu about as nonmainstream as it gets.”

New York Now / May 2010 45

“That’s all I’m looking for,
a chance at something better”
An unemployed furniture salesman, at the end of his resources, is forced into a shelter.
But a new kind of employment office gives him hope.
By Ryan McLendon and Robert Johnson

46 New York Now / May 2010

F or ten years Anthony Hicks made an annual
Middle-aged men, wearing ties and eager smiles,

salary of $60,000 selling furniture, but now
he is broke and spends his days standing in lines.
Each morning he waits for a computer at the
hold briefcases and joke with one another, but in
unemployment office in Harlem, to update his re- whispers.
sume and look for jobs. In the evenings he stands
outside a midtown shelter, waiting for a place to
sleep, sometimes for hours.
Despite his tough knocks, Hicks, 48, believes
the unemployment system is the only way out of and asked for a job.” Martin Kohli, regional economist for the New
the shelter system. After responsibility for pay- The Workforce1 office, at 215 W. 125th St., is York Bureau of Labor Statistics, said city em-
ing benefits shifted upstate to Albany in 2005, on same block as the Apollo Theatre. Vendors sell ployees are losing their jobs less rapidly than in
the unemployment office on 125th Street was re- tubes of incense and takeout containers of Shea other sectors.
branded Workforce1, part of a 2003 cost-cutting butter, clay busts and Grecian statues, bootleg “I would think that during an election year,
initiative by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that films and dog-eared movie scripts on the street the city isn’t likely to have massive layoffs,” Kohli
aligned the city’s training and small business below. The buttons in the building’s elevator light said, speaking before the November 2009 mayor-
services. The new entity is operated collectively up when they are pushed but the button for the al election in which Bloomberg was elected to a
by the city’s Department of Small Business Ser- sixth floor is burned out. third term. “The city did hire a number of people
vices, the New York State Department of Labor A sign displaying the Workforce1 logo sits over the summer with stimulus money.”
and the City University of New York. above a receptionist’s desk. A black velvet rope From August 2008 through August 2009,
“Workforce1 has given me hope,” Hicks said. stretches out in front; anyone waiting for an ap- 42,000 New York City jobs were added, with the
“Sometimes it feels like New York’s gotten the pointment must queue behind it. The waiting help of about $5 billion in federal stimulus funds.
best of me, but this helps me through. Because area is divided into two sets of chairs facing each But the unemployment rate has continued to
of them, I know there are opportunities and that other, both four rows deep. rise. That’s not unusual: New York unemploy-
I can take advantage of them.” There is little conversation, but whatever ment is traditionally above the national unem-
Each time Hicks goes to the Harlem office, words are spoken seem friendly. Young men in ployment rate.
which has around 25 full time employees and sport coats sit around with legs sprawled out,
may serve as many as 300 newly jobless people wearing baseball hats. The older women are OLDER WORKERS ALSO
each week, he hopes to find something substan- made up, with their hair done, while a few young TAKE LONGER TO GET BACK IN
tial in his field of expertise, furniture sales. But mothers and fathers are easily overwhelmed by Workers age 45 and over were out of work for
as the process stretched from weeks into months their children. Middle-aged men, wearing ties 22.2 weeks on average after a job loss, against
and months into years, lately he has been forced and eager smiles, hold briefcases and joke with 16.2 weeks for those under 45, according to the
to consider other options. one another, but in whispers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It’s a new thing, but I’m rethinking my skill Gary Burtless, the Whitehead Chair in Eco-
set, thinking of giving up the career I hoped to BRANDING WORKSHOPS nomic Studies at the Brookings Institution, said
stick with the rest of my life,” said Hicks, who For those like Hicks, who may have worked for New York State “is hurting as bad as I expected.”
is divorced, and lost his sales job two years ago. a decade or more in the same job, revamping and Burtless said the culprit behind both the
“But it’s a new environment out there. I might circulating a new resume can be overwhelming. state’s woes as well as the nation’s economic
have to make some drastic changes; I’m talking But they must do it. decline is the concentration of the financial sec-
culinary arts or accounting, but I feel like I can “You can’t just walk into a company with a tor in New York City, which translates to plunging
do either.” resume and a smile and expect to get an inter- property values and wages all over. Nationally,
Many other unemployed people are open to ca- view,” Sullivan said. “It’s all automated now. lower wages and high unemployment are symp-
reer changes. Workforce1 is the city’s solution to So we have to work on interviewing skills, re- toms of New York’s illness, he argued.
the problem of changing labor demands. sume writing and, believe it or not, branding “What was destroyed was the value of stocks
At 10.3 percent, unemployment in New York workshops.” and corporate bonds,” Burtless said. “What was
City is higher than the statewide average of 8.9 The transition can be daunting. Cynthia Ed- destroyed was the net worth of houses ⎯ they
percent, and the national average of 9.8 per- wards, 52, a former home care specialist for the disappeared like water on a hot August sidewalk.”
cent. Of the 860,000 or so residents of New York city, stops by the Workforce1 office a few times At 9 p.m., Hicks arrives back at the midtown
City who are jobless, unemployment is running every week, hoping that each job listing means men’s shelter, and waits three hours for a cot and
higher among the young, while those age 50 and a new chance. Fired after 20 years of service, just a bowl of cereal. When he first entered the shel-
older, and those with long tenure in specific in- one year before she would be eligible to receive ter system in October 2009, he gave his mother
dustries, have a more difficult time finding work her full benefits, Edwards is in a tough situation: all his remaining possessions. He keeps a little
after a layoff. Compounded by the fact they are she needs a city job in order to claim her full ben- money in his underwear for emergencies or a can
likely to be out of work longer, the outlook is grim efits when she retires. She must secure a new city of beer, and the money is always the last thing he
for older city dwellers thrown from the occupa- job before June 28, 2010. But from what she sees, thinks about before catching a fitful few hours
tional train, labor reps pointed out. the city isn’t hiring. of sleep. Those same folded bills are his first con-
Judy Sullivan, a supervising labor services rep- “I feel a bit lost,” Edwards said. “I had a rou- cern in the morning. The men around him are
resentative who has worked for the Department tine for 20 years, and they took it away right not gentle people.
of Labor for more than 24 years, believes Work- before I could collect on my benefits. I’ve been After he wakes, showers and breakfasts, Hicks
force1’s approach is working. going to workshops and programs to get up to checks his underwear and sheepishly asks the
“The market has changed,” Sullivan said. “At speed, but I need a city job, and when they’re staff for carfare to head 95 blocks uptown to the
Workforce1, we focus on longer-term needs, like not hiring, what can I do?” Harlem office.
upgrading their skill sets. We want to get the Edwards’ situation is particularly difficult, “This is something I’ve got to do. Each and
older generation prepared for a working and in- since public sector jobs might be one of the few every day until something better comes around,”
terviewing environment that may have totally beacons of hope in an otherwise gloomy employ- Hicks said. “That’s all I’m looking for, a chance
changed since they last shook someone’s hand ment forecast. at something better.”

New York Now / May 2010 47

Punk or professional? Job counselors say
companies are less tolerant of hip or expressive
dress during downturns.

Photo by Lorenzo Novia

to fit the new work ethos, Huntley writes in “Y.”

“They are going to have to keep a long leash on
Generation Y employees, or risk losing them al-
together,” she writes. Whether or not that means
loosening company dress code from “business
casual” to “business anything goes” is still un-
Alexandra Levit, author of “They Don’t Teach
Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s

The Punk and the

Guide to the Business World,” sees a trend to-
ward casual dress.
“Regardless of the work environment, I think

that millennials are more likely to wear what
is actually considered very casual (jeans, tee-
shirts) as opposed to the more traditional casual
of khakis and button down shirts,” Levit wrote
The generational clash over corporate dress in an e-mail.
But she advised young employees against
By Amanda Kersey wearing mohawks to work.
“Look at how everyone else is dressed, and

J ournalism major Eddie Ebbert, 21, wore a

mohawk to his interview for an internship
at Esquire. His mother had suggested he get a
“The people who are going to be successful
are those who respect the culture at the corpo-
ration,” she said. “In the creative industries, it’s
aim to fit in as seamlessly as possible,” she said.
“In the business world, the goal is not to make a
statement with your dress.”
new, more conventional haircut, but he refused. a different story, but in more formal industries,
“If you’re not going to hire me because of my there are presentation standards that need to CORPORATE CRACKDOWN
hair, I’m not going to work there,” he said. remain in place. It’s hard to trust someone who Just as Gen Y was getting comfortable wearing
Three interviews later, no one had mentioned his looks like a punk.” jeans at the office, the recession has turned dress
hair, and he got the position. The first day of the in- expectations and behavior more conservative.
ternship, Ebbert, his mohawk still intact, showed THE NEW PUNK PROFESSIONAL “I have seen organizations cracking down on
up in a button-down shirt and pressed pants, fol- Daniel Martinez, a stylist at Astor Place Hair- all sorts of behavior that they let slide before, be-
lowing the example of his 35-year-old boss. stylists in New York’s East Village, has cut mo- cause they feel more in control now,” said Levit.
hawks for many young professionals. Young people today should look conservative
GENERATION “BE YOURSELF” “Because it’s trendy, you can be taken seri- in order to get or keep a job in corporate Ameri-
Since Gen Y entered the workforce, conflict ously,” he said. “You can look punk rock but keep ca, said Gretchen Neels, the founder of Neels &
over casual or self-expressive dress has been a your nine to five.” Company, a business etiquette consulting firm.
major issue for older managers, for whom the Mark Heiner, owner of New York’s Slate Salon, “In this new economy, it’s folly to express your-
depoliticized mohawk might still appear coun- said clients who requested mohawks were men self by [wearing extreme hair] and tick off your
tercultural. Millennials – as those born between aged 20 to 40. During consultations, Heiner asks employer,” she said. “For the past 10 years, em-
1980 and 2000 are sometimes called — may bring clients where they work and how extreme he ployers have bent backwards for the millennial
creativity and enthusiasm to the office, accord- can cut their hair. generation. Now, employers are less inclined to
ing to experts. But they also show up in flip flops, “Guys in this area want to wear it conserva- accept an employee who looks so different so as
jeans and “extreme” hair. tive for work, and funk it up for night,” he said. to be disruptive.”
These under-30s value self-expression at work Different definitions of “extreme” might ac- Still, some millennials, like intern Eddie
more than any earlier generation, according to count for some of the conflict over appropriate Ebbert, disregard expert advice and pull off ex-
psychologist Nicole Lipkin, co-author of “Y in the appearance at work. Older employees distinguish treme hairstyles at work.
Workplace.” “This generation has been taught to punk from professional based on whether a can- After wearing his mohawk for several months,
express themselves no matter what.” didate wears a mohawk or a crew cut. But for Ebbert tired of it, and got a buzz cut instead.
But self-expression through clothes or hair Generation Y, the group a few years older than “Every six months I try something else,” he
shouldn’t overshadow the dress code at work, millennials, that distinction isn’t so rigid. said. “With the mohawk I had style, but now
Lipkin added. Employers have to change management styles I’m classy.”

48 New York Now / May 2010

Goldsmiths ing summer breaks at her father’s booth.

See Their Ranks

“I have an idea of what happens on 47th
Street,” she says, “but I can’t physically make

Bukucuyan understands why Kimberley
wouldn’t want to join the business, especially
during a recession when wages are unsteady and
there are no pensions or health benefits. “It’s not
Cartier,” he says. “Small mom and pops can’t af-
By Alexandra Waldhorn ford that.”
Like Bukucuyan, most Armenian jewelers

R ichard Kradjian pulls out a tray of handcraft-

ed gold and diamond rings. These works of
art, many made by Kradjian’s father, Jack, have
of Armenian jewelers compared to Armenians in
other industries.”
Membership in the Armenian Jewelers As-
learned the craft from their fathers and family
friends. “When you were 10 or 12 years old, your
father would send you to do errands for friends
sustained their family since 1963, when Jack sociation, a national organization that includes and you’d pick up the trade,” says Richard Krad-
emigrated from Syria to New York. Following the goldsmiths as well as jewelry dealers, is 350, ac- jian. His father, who lived in Syria before moving
lead of other Armenian goldsmiths, he set up a cording to director Garbis Kazangian. No precise to New York, was making and selling jewelry by
booth in the jewelry district on 47th Street and statistics are available on the number of Arme- the time he was 12 years old.
got to work making custom pieces, doing repairs nians working in the jewelry district, but those Much of the dexterity required by goldsmiths
and selling his own designs. in the trade agree their numbers are going down. like Kradjian is now becoming obsolete. Auto-
Sitting at that same booth, Richard holds up Vartges “Victor” Bukucuyan, 55, a versatile met- cad software and machines have replaced the
a gold ring laced with diamonds in an intricate alworker and partner in Pico Jewelers on 47th long hours spent
floral pattern. “It’s all about craftsmanship,” he Street, says it’s the end for small Armenian jew- making molds for jewelry by hand, and mass-
says. “People forget that.” Unlike many of the elry makers — specifically those who do the re- produced pieces, which sell for much less than
mass-produced pieces imported from abroad, pairs — when his generation stops working. “The handmade, have won over many customers look-
the ring feels solid and heavy. “It won’t break,” fathers will retire at 50 or 60, and then there is ing for better deals.
says Richard. no one to take their place on the bench,” he says, “Everything is changing now, it’s a business,”
At age 31, Richard is one of the youngest Ar- sitting behind a large desk in the basement floor says Janian who urges his students to experi-
menians in the jewelry district to follow in the of one the jewelry exchange buildings. “I don’t ment while also teaching them ancient jewelry
family business. But while he buys, sells and de- think I’ll ever retire. They’ll take my body away designs. “It’s not an art anymore.”
signs his own line of jewelry, Richard doesn’t from here.”
know how to create or restore the pieces himself. After arriving in New York in 1972 at age 16,
“When my dad retires, who will I give my mer- Bukucuyan couldn’t go to school, because he
chandise to for repair?” he asks. didn’t speak English. Instead, he spent his days
It’s a reasonable question. Over the past cen- on 47th Street, watching the husband of his
tury, as a series of calamities have chased Arme- mother’s cousin set diamonds. By the time he
nians around the world, more than 1.5 million knew enough English to go to school, he had
settled in the United States. Many were skilled opened his own jewelry business and was earn-
in a craft that dates back thousands of years to ing good money. “Business didn’t let me go to
a time when artisans created vases and amulets school,” he says.
from silver and welded elaborate pieces of jew- But today, Armenian-American children rarely
elry from gold. “Armenians make things with pick up the trade by observing their parents. “I
their hands,” says Mher Janian, 30, who immi- have two girls, and they go to college,” says Bu-
grated to the U.S. five years ago from Lebanon, kucuyan. “My brother-in-law, he has three sons,
and teaches jewelry making in New York. “They and none of them are interested. We tried a lot.
have that talent.” They didn’t want to be part of it. They think it’s
But these stewards of an ancient art form now a dying business.”
see their ranks thinning. As fewer parents pass Bukucuyan’s 22-year-old daughter, Kimber-
the trade on to their progeny, the craft is at risk ley, who is currently getting a master’s degree in
of disappearing in the U.S. education, says she never considered taking over
“There’s a long tradition in metal work,” says her father’s trade. The field is too male-dominat-
Barlow Der Mugrdechian, a professor of Arme- ed, she says, and she has always been more in-
nian Studies at California State University at terested in studying education. Growing up and
Fresno, “But today there are a very few number through college, Kimberley spent a lot time dur-

New York Now / May 2010 49

So Many Shoes, So Little Space

By Cilia Kohn

T ricia Loughead makes her way to the gym

before work, carrying workout shoes in her
bag. She wears boots for the journey, as the snow
For designers, this requires a careful balance
of colors, lighting and furniture that will suit the
needs and preferences of both sexes. These make-
their cars.
“We have a small coat closet connected to our
desk,” and employees store shoes in the bottom
lies fresh on the ground this February morning overs echo societal trends, says Sally Augustin, of that too, says Nicole Nachazel, marketing spe-
in Denver. an environmental psychologist at the Michigan- cialist for Select Comfort. Others keep a bag of
Loughead, a marketing professional for an en- based architecture firm Haworth, where design- shoes or leave a couple of loose pairs under their
gineering company, has a pair of closed-toe shoes ers are focused on gender-neutral, flexible work desks.
in her car. She’ll slip them on at work. Sitting spaces. Among the items she mentioned: a chair For Alexa Talcik, disorganized shoes turned
in a secluded area of her office building, she is with wheels, adjustable shelving and more op- into a near hazardous mishap. One morning, she
not too concerned about fashionable footwear, tions to personalize your work space with photos was rushing to finish a project at her desk be-
but she still wants her shoes to match her outfit. and mementos. fore a meeting. She was feverishly typing her last
Two time zones ahead, in New York City, Coed offices lead designers to steer away from words while simultaneously trying to switch out
Brooke Rinehart settles in at her desk of her commuter flats into heels. About
at a PR firm in midtown Manhattan. 10 steps down the hallway, Talcik no-
She’s kicked off her flip-flops, which ticed feeling off balance. She looked
she wears religiously to and from work, down. She was wearing one flat and
even in winter. She hunts under her one heel.
desk for a pair of suitable heels among Talcik has made a career out of
the pile of shoes and pulls out a pair of women’s changing heel heights by de-
black pumps. signing cityclips, a nifty device that
Rinehart commutes from Pennsyl- hooks inconspicuously to pants, al-
vania, so she knows to stockpile a mix lowing women to raise hemlines when
of footwear for any occasion. Running they wear flats. But her shoes still live
out to grab a midmorning coffee she’ll in a heap in a cardboard box. “A desk
switch to flat boots, or, if it’s raining, a with a shoe drawer would be amaz-
cheerful pair of yellow rain boots. ing,” she says.
For modern, working women like At the Hearst Tower, the Manhattan
Loughead and Rinehart, life can some- headquarters for the Hearst magazine
times revolve around shoes. High heels division, office management heeded
elongate the leg when they’re wearing the call for less of a shoe mess and re-
an office-appropriate pencil skirt but vamped usually dead work space to
can easily get caught in a grate on the accommodate women’s lifestyles and
way to work. Flats are easier to drive in wardrobes.
but leave the hemlines of a dress pant “For the women … there’s always
grazing the floor. A stiletto makes a some event they’re going to, and we
confident statement but leaves tired noticed a preponderance of shoes. They
heels aching. While men can stand were thrown everywhere,” says Nora
comfortably in the same pair of sturdy Grenier, project director for Hearst Real
dress shoes all day long, women must Estate and Facility Planning.
constantly adjust shoes according to To solve the wardrobe disarray, the
their schedules. Like many women, logistics analyst Shu Mei is company installed 48-inch-tall workstations
What to do with all those shoes is still largely forced to improvise storage for her shoes. She bookended by adjustable storage spaces that can
an unanswered question. And for many women, pulled out her bottom desk drawer to show her be used as mini-closets, just large enough to store
it’s an unheard plea for help. collection of work shoes. a cardigan, an evening clutch and a makeup kit,
“I wish I had a shoe rack under my desk,” says Grenier. A handy mirror allows for quick
says Nan Lung, a merchandise planner at Macy’s Photo by Hanna Lopez touch-ups before running into a meeting or out
in New York, who keeps a handful of shoes in a of the office.
pile beneath it. She echoes the sentiments of her Katherine Olson, an editor housed in the
peers: women who have countless obligations in gender-specific design elements like shoe stor- Hearst Tower, travels in Ugg boots and changes
a day, all with separate footwear demands. age. Anything else might be perceived as work- when she gets to work. She praises her revamped
Today, women make up 46.7 percent of em- ing against equality in the workplace, according work space: “I always wear heels at work—for a
ployed Americans over 16, according to the U.S. to Augustin. But for women who like to change meeting, for lunch, for anything. I feel more com-
Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the numbers are their shoes at work, a shoe drawer might be just fortable in heels, and I think I look better in them
on a slow but steady upward crawl. Over half are what they need. So they improvise. but don’t like wearing heels during my commute
in jobs classified as managerial or professional. In Lauren Borish, a divisional director of sales for because they slow me down.”
other words, most working women spend their intimate apparel brands at Carole Hochman in Underneath Olson’s desk, in that vast space
days in an office environment. As women have New York, has turned a couple of ordinary desk that’s usually reserved for a tangle of computer
stepped into almost half of the jobs in America, drawers into shoe drawers. Some of the female wires, long-lost pen caps and crumbs, sits a shelf
more and more work spaces are getting a gender- employees at the Minnesota headquarters of Se- about one shoe box deep and three shoe boxes
related makeover. lect Comfort stash all their shoes in the back of wide. On the shelf, there’s a neat row of heels.

50 New York Now / May 2010

Bollywood at the gym: “B alle! Balle!” Sarina Jain shouted during a
packed session at a Crunch Fitness gym
in Manhattan on a recent Tuesday night, call-

‘Slumdog’ dance is
ing out the rough equivalent of “Whoo!” in the
Punjabi language. Nearly forty women and one
man thrusted and stomped and jabbed the air in

now a fitness craze

the exercise studio in sync to the hit Indian pop
song “Jai Ho,” which blasted from the speakers.
“Feel… the… beat of the drums!” Jain ex-
claimed through her headset. “Shoulders! Shoul-
By Amy B Wang ders!” and then “Turn those lightbulbs!” as the
dancers bobbed their arms and twisted their
hands in unison.
So exuberant was Jain’s sweat-drenched class
that the Crunch cleaning staff gathered to watch
The high-energy number that takes place at the them through the studio windows.
end of “Slumdog Millionaire” has inspired an You may remember “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog
interest in learning Bollywood-style dancing, Millionaire”—specifically, from the film’s high-
including bhangra. energy train station dance sequence that enlivens
the closing credits. The movie and the number
Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures have inspired a growing interest in bhangra, a

New York Now / May 2010 51


Right now everything related to India is on the top Bhangra music and dance originate in Pun-
jab, a diverse state in the northwest of India,
because of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ below Kashmir, that was divided between India
and Pakistan when the two countries were par-
titioned. Farmers there once celebrated harvests
by dancing in the fields to the syncopated beats
of a dhol drum and the repetitive plucking of the
traditional Indian dance common in Bollywood just makes you want to move.” tumbi, a stringed instrument.
films. Bhangra classes are popping up across the “For me, it’s the music,” says Carine Desir, The distinctive sound has seeped into Ameri-
U.S., where “Slumdog,” which won eight Acad- who upgraded her Crunch gym membership so can popular music, especially hip-hop. Rapper
emy Awards, including Best Picture of 2008, has she could take Masala Bhangra. “You’re feeling Missy Elliott sampled bhangra beats in her song
grossed over $125 million. the drums. You let it lead you. After my first class, “Get Ur Freak On,” as did Jay-Z in “Beware of the
Jain, who teaches Masala Bhangra—“spicy I said, oh my God, that was awesome.” Boys.” Jay-Z recorded a remix of the song with
bhangra” —at several gyms in Manhattan, says The trend is spreading to some unlikely cor- Indian musician Punjabi MC.
some of her class sizes have doubled since the ners. At Springstep, a dance and music studio in “I have been so emotional—in a good way—
movie was released. Medford, Mass.s, the bhangra class filled past and proud and amazed by how this movie has
“When people see that scene in the movie,” capacity for the first time this year, according to rejuvenated the appreciation for Indian culture,”
Jain says, “they’re like, ‘Honey, that’s what we programs manager Allie Fiske. Sarina Jain says.
do in class! That’s what we do every Tuesday!’” “Right now everything related to India is on Renu Kansal, an Indian-American dance in-
“You burn over 500 calories” in a 45-minute the top because of ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” says structor in Denver, wasn’t sure if this apprecia-
session, she adds. Mary Pirela, a fitness instructor in Minneapolis. tion had gone mainstream when she added three
Jain, who is Indian-American, decided 10 Pirela has arranged for Jain, who has certified new bhangra classes to her roster last October.
years ago to combine fitness instruction with her Masala Bhangra instructors from Maplewood, Colorado, she says, is “not exactly the teeming
native culture by creating the Masala Bhangra Minn., to Elk Grove, Calif., to fly in to give a mas- hotbed of the Indian community.” But one class
workout. She’s since trademarked the term and ter class in April and certify local instructors. filled up so quickly she had to find a larger stu-
had her routine certified by the Aerobics and Fit- Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the dio space. Kansal plans to start bhangra classes
ness Association of America. The “Jane Fonda of American Council on Exercise, says bhangra’s for children.
India,” as Jain is known to some, has her own different jumps and side-to-side movements “People get the hang of the steps really eas-
line of exercise videos and has appeared on Fit TV. make it an effective and relatively low-impact ily,” Kansal says. “You feel very quickly on that
“The only reason I joined the gym was for form of training. He likens the cardiovascular you’re good at it.” There’s no baseline fitness
this class,” says Kristin Carey, who credits the benefits to running on a treadmill at a moderate level required for bhangra, something she thinks
bhangra classes at Crunch with everything from pace, with a lower risk of repetitive strain inju- will contribute to its appeal and staying power.
greater stamina on the dance floor to newly glow- ries. “It’s a great way to train the entire body at “I mean, gigantic, hairy Punjabi men do it,”
ing skin. “I never worked out until now, but this one time,” he says. she says. “So basically, anyone can.”

52 New York Now / May 2010

Fed up with Freud?
old golf professional, into traditional therapy.
But after four months, she grew tired of “going

and telling the same God-awful story and having

Give Philosophy a Try

them stare at me and tell me it’s OK.”
So Christine tried Tillinghast and has since
radically changed how she approaches romance.
Now she analyzes why she likes someone and
By Mary Johnson whether that person is good for her. “It’s been
such fun thinking about morals and values, and
I realized they were all over the map, and they

T he woman came to Lou

Marinoff with a dilem-
ma. She was in her early 30s
were never really defined,” Christine said. “She’s
good at opening the mind.”
Sometimes, however, philosophical dilemmas
and had a lucrative career in are more complex than a relationship gone sour,
finance, but her dream had says Samuel Zinaich, a philosophy professor at
always been to go to med- Purdue University Calumet about 30 miles out-
ical school. She had to de- side Chicago. Zinaich offers philosophical coun-
cide whether becoming a seling to inmates at the Jerome Combs Detention
doctor was worth disrupt- Center in Kankakee, Ill., where he employs Ar-
ing a well-established life. istotle’s practical syllogisms to help prisoners
Marinoff, a pillar in a make decisions that will enhance self-control or
growing area known as self-worth. “It’s been quite an eye-opening ex-
philosophical counseling, perience,” said Zinaich, who claims that several
suggested that the woman clients have made significant progress.
consult the I Ching, an an- Across the Atlantic, Dr. Richard Levi, a phy-
cient Chinese text that uses sician and the chair of rehabilitation medicine
a system of coins and hexa- at Umeå University in Sweden, has been using
grams to offer answers to philosophical counseling for patients with spinal
life’s puzzles. The book cord injuries. To help them cope with the emo-
helped her determine that life as a doctor would Lou Marinoff takes time in between classes at the tional distress of physical devastation, Levi and his
be worth the trouble. So she quit finance and em- The City College of New York. Marinoff wrote “Plato, team offer individual counseling and a philosophi-
barked on a career in medicine. Not Prozac!”, which aims to teach people how to cal “cafe,” which allows for group discussions on
That woman did not have psychological prob- use philosophy in their daily lives. topics such as what freedom or health means for
lems, Marinoff said. “To begin with, our clients the wheelchair-bound. “We know that life is not
are functional and rational,” he said. Philosophi- Photo by Mary Johnson like Disneyland. Now what can you do with this
cal counseling, he continued, is “therapy for the insight?” Levi asked. “It’s not psychological. It’s
sane,” when the sane need a little help with day- that focus on the present and future. “We’re not not psychiatric. It’s a fact of life.”
to-day life. excavating,” Marinoff said. “It’s got less to do However, not everyone shares his enthusiasm.
While the theories of Sigmund Freud have with childhood and more to do with how you David Kaplan, the chief professional officer of the
dominated the mental health arena for the past see the world now.” American Counseling Association, warned that
century, Aristotle, Plato and Socrates are gaining Another important distinction lies in seman- anyone who fails to meet the group’s exigent ac-
in popularity among those burned out on psy- tics: Practitioners don’t like the word “patients.” creditation requirements cannot claim the title of
choanalysis or put off by its stigma. The expand- “Clients!” admonishes Lauren Tillinghast, counselor. Kaplan added that state certification,
ing client base includes ordinary people as well as when a visitor drops the p word. The preference currently elusive across the nation for the philo-
high-powered businessmen, doctors and lawyers. goes beyond the personal; philosophical coun- sophical set, is a lofty goal. “There are dozens of
Marinoff, 58, the chair of the philosophy de- selors aren’t recognized in any state as mental groups that want official recognition from the
partment at The City College of New York, wrote health professionals. state,” he explained, adding that the process can
the seminal work on the subject in 1999. “Plato, Lauren Tillinghast, 41, launched her own prac- take up to 20 years to receive a first state license
Not Prozac!” has gone on to be translated into 27 tice in 2006 and says she now sees about 15 cli- and then 40 more years to gain recognition in all
languages and has sold almost 1 million copies ents a week. Most are women in their 20s and 30s states. The American Art Therapy Association, for
worldwide. The same year his book was released, seeking greater assertiveness and self-confidence, example, has been trying to get a license for de-
Marinoff and several colleagues established the for whom Tillinghast espouses “thinking well.” cades, with no luck.
American Philosophical Practitioners Associa- She analyzes beliefs and actions, and helps to so- Plus, Kaplan added, many counselors who
tion, which offers voluntary certification pro- lidify moral values. She supplements her philo- have received the accreditation of his group al-
grams and now claims to have more than 300 sophical probing with the words of 13th century ready employ philosophy in their work. “How
certified philosophical counselors in 32 states and theologian Thomas Aquinas or early 20th century is what they’re doing different?” Kaplan asked.
17 countries. That number doesn’t come close to philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. But Libby, another of Tillinghast’s clients, ar-
the 110,000 licensed professional counselors in Christine, a client who requested to be iden- gues otherwise. “I probably would have been
the United States alone, but adherents contend tified by first name only, is particularly fond of better off talking to the walls than to the psy-
that growth has been steady. one quote by Geoffrey Warnock, the late British chologist,” she recalled of her experience in tra-
Philosophical counselors are generally aca- philosopher, who said: “To be clear-headed rath- ditional therapy.
demics who see a practical application for the er than confused; lucid rather than obscure; ra- In contrast, 10 months with Tillinghast have
thoughts of Friedrich Neitzsche or Immanuel tional rather than otherwise; and to be neither helped her conquer issues related to sexuality,
Kant. These practitioners can’t prescribe medi- more, nor less, sure of things than is justifiable by self-confidence and anger. “She works with me
cation, and they shun open-ended therapy that argument or evidence. That is worth trying for.” to help me to learn and look at things in a new
dredges up the past, in favor of short-term goals A bad breakup had driven Christine, a 46-year- way,” Libby said.

New York Now / May 2010 53

Run 100 Miles? No late milk and water along his runs and took elec-
trolyte capsules, which he said kept sodium and

Problem, Say Older

potassium in his system and prevented cramp-
ing. Regular trips to the sauna were also part of
his routine.

Hewitt, meanwhile, maintains a diet rich in
protein and carbohydrates, trying to stay in con-
sistently strong health.
Bob Struble, 59, started running when he was
26, settling into a regular routine by the time he
By Rachel Stern was 39. The Pittsburg resident runs six days a
week beginning at 4 a.m., and completes mara-
thon-length runs every weekend. He prefers trails,
Don Fallis running Badwater in 2007. as they are easier on his knees than concrete.
His race number was his age. When it comes to the race, Struble makes sure
to pace himself. In 100-milers, he walks uphill,
Photo courtesy of Don Fallis for example, rather than trying to sprint it as he
notices younger runners doing. Instead of taking
a nap, Struble likes to keep blazing a trail through
ultramarathoner who has direct- the night — replete with headlights and caffein-
ed the 70.5-mile Laurel Highlands ated beverages that he carries in a pack.
Ultra race in Pennsylvania for the “At my age, I don’t think I’m going to win the
past 10 years. He’s seen an increase race,” said Struble, who competes in the Laurel
in older runners, particularly in the Highlands Ultra every year.
100 mile-plus races, over the past Still, all that running isn’t easy, particularly
couple of years. on an older body.
The runners “have been in good Struble, for instance, will often wake up with
shape, and running for a long time,” pain saturating his feet and arms. He finds he
he said. “The young guys still like doesn’t recover as quickly as he did when he was
speed races, and setting personal younger. For him, the best cure is just running
bests.” again. Once on the road, the pain slowly allevi-
There are about 200 official ul- ates on its own.
tramarathon races in North Ameri- Kevin Shelton-Smith, 49, an ultra-runner from
ca each year, such as the Grasslands New York City, nearly fainted when he arrived at
50 Miles Trail Run in Texas and the mile 95 of the 145-mile Grand Union Canal Race
350-mile Iditatrod Trail Invitational in England last May, falling into a boat beneath
Ultra Race that Hewitt finished in the towpath where he was running.
seven days, 14 hours and 40 min- “I just lost all balance and I could see myself
utes. A couple of years ago, organiz- going but couldn’t do anything about it,” said
ers such as Freeman were scrambling Shelton-Smith, who persevered to the finish line
for participants. Yet now the ultras after resting for five minutes.
— which usually charge entry fees For many ultra-runners, the thought of get-

L oreen Hewitt won her first “ultramarathon”

running race at the age of 52. It was 350
miles long and through the Alaskan wilderness
ranging from a couple hundred to a thousand dol-
lars — often fill up within a few minutes. They can
last from around six hours to more than a week,
ting in better shape was what prompted them to
start running in the first place.
Despite suffering from Type 2 diabetes, Fallis
in the winter. depending on the length of the race. In the more still wanted to compete in the notoriously diffi-
Ultramarathons “are a different mindset,” said grueling competitions, some participants take cat cult Badwater ultramarathon in July 2007.
Hewitt, 53, a self-described slow runner from naps along the way, as Hewitt did for a few hours “You’ll be pushed to do things you never
Greensburg, Pa., of the races she feels are more for every 24 hours she ran. thought you could do,” said Fallis, who made it
about endurance than speed. While there are no official statistics on the 122 miles of the race, which is held in 120-degree
Hewitt is among a growing number of runners demographics of ultramarathons, half of the 26 weather, before the 60-hour time limit arrived.
who sign up for these races, which are longer runners who signed up for this past June’s Lau- For shorter races, however, he has persevered to
than the typical 26.2-mile marathon, after age rel Highlands Ultra were over 40, with only one the finish line.
40. Undeterred — and sometimes motivated — runner in her 20s. Some 80 percent of the 231 Some older ultramarathon runners — such as
by their age, they stick to training routines that participants signed up for the 33-mile High Des- Hewitt, whose husband is also an ultrarunner —
will allow them to build the endurance needed to ert Ultra in Ridgecrest, Calif., in December were have experienced dismay from their friends and
compete physical feats many athletes half their over 40, with 53 percent over age 50, and 16 per- family about their athletic feats.
age can’t. Many suffer back aches, foot pain and cent over age 60. About 40 percent of the 54 run- “There are a lot of our friends who do think
diabetes but still persist at the sport. ners in last September’s 62-mile Lost Soul Ultra we’re a little crazy,” she said. “My parents don’t re-
Though their family and friends don’t always in Alberta, Canada, were over 50. ally understand, and my mom worries about us.”
understand what spurs them, the feeling of sat- The process of training for an ultramarathon, But Fallis saw a shift in his friends’ and fami-
isfaction they gain at the end of every race, cou- not surprisingly, is an individual process. Hawaii lies’ attitudes after he ran Badwater.
pled with the health benefits they receive, often resident Don Fallis trained for the 135-mile Bad- “At first I think they were confused and wor-
makes their efforts worthwhile, they say. water ultramarathon in Death Valley by running ried,” he said. “But now they’re proud. That’s
“In ultra-running, you almost don’t hit your 75 to 100 miles a week in the summer in all black another reason to do ultramarathons; it makes
feet until your 40s,” said Rick Freeman, 53, an attire. The 65-year-old frequently chugged choco- people proud.”

54 New York Now / May 2010

Unused pill bottles are too large to flush: Maybe
it’s a sign of what not to do.

Photo by Kate Balch

The Silent Killer

women and children.
But keeping unused drugs in the family med-
icine cabinet can be equally dangerous. “When

in Your Medicine
we look at the different avenues that prescrip-
tion drugs get in the hands of young people,
the medicine cabinet is the main avenue,” says

Kerlikowske. Recently, Kerlikowske, who is also
known as the drug czar, listened to a group of
seventh-grade girls talk about their “pharm
party” – a get-together where everyone brings
prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine
By Kate Balch cabinets. Since overdose deaths have exceeded
those from gunshots, Kerlikowske says, the main

Y ou read the warning stickers on the side of

your pill bottle: “This drug may impair the
ability to drive or operate machinery.” You hear
to classify controlled substances. These include a
slew of drugs from narcotics like codeine to hal-
lucinogens, which are separated into different
goal is to take unused drugs out of circulation in
a way that respects the environment.
How to do that has proved particularly vexing.
the voice-overs on television commercials: “Talk classes and regulated by the federal government. A bill now pending in Maine proposes to burn the
to your doctor today and ask if Viagra is right for Pharmacists must account for every milligram drugs. A hazardous-waste burn, says Anne Perry,
you.” But no sticker or 60-second ad tells you of a controlled substance on their shelves and, a state representative who is the sponsor of the
that the pills you don’t use are hazardous to your in most places, are prohibited from taking them current bill, controls the emissions of chemicals
health and safety. back once they have been sold. from the pharmaceuticals and takes care of unused
What happens to those extra painkillers your Meanwhile, when it comes to disposing of drugs with the least impact on the environment.
lower back didn’t need, or the penicillin that ex- unused pharmaceuticals, several agencies have Under Perry’s bill, the drug manufacturers
pired before your kid got sick again? Well, if you a stake. “When you look at it from the feder- would be responsible for collecting the drugs
followed the recommendation of the federal Food al level, you have the DEA with their authority, and disposing of them at a special facility where
and Drug Administration, you treated them the you also have the EPA with their authority, and they would be incinerated. They would also have
same way you treated the passing of the family of course you have the FDA with theirs,” says Gil to develop a way to educate the public about the
goldfish. But now, unlike the flushed goldfish, Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office need for proper disposal. It would be the first law
those medicines are coming back out of the faucet. of National Drug Control Policy, referring to the to place such burdens on the drug makers, and
A 2008 investigation by the Associated Press Drug Enforcement Agency, the Environmental they have strongly opposed it, taking out full-
found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Ad- page ads in newspapers across the state warning
24 cities across the country. As many as 41 mil- ministration. that the cost of drugs will rise if the bill is passed.
lion people in these areas unknowingly gulped For years, the Food and Drug Administration Maryland has a program that allows people to
down antibiotics, mood stabilizers and anticon- has recommended flushing some pills to help donate unused drugs to the needy. Begun in 2007,
vulsants with their tap water. keep them off the street. (In certain cases, it has it designates certain pharmacies and health care
But contaminated drinking water isn’t the suggested mixing the unused drugs with coffee facilities as drop-off sites. The unused drugs are
only side effect of the improper disposal of drugs. grounds or kitty litter in a sealed container.) Sci- then taken to repositories where they can be made
Other hazards include harm to wildlife and eco- entists are unsure exactly how much flushing con- available to patients who cannot afford their own.
systems, accidental poisoning and drug abuse. tributes to the contamination of drinking water. There has been some attempt to get the fed-
But no federal law dictates how unused drugs Many medications are not fully digested by the eral government on board with new legislation
should be properly disposed of. Indeed, three body, so they enter the waterways through sew- that would encourage take-back programs and
different federal agencies have jurisdiction, and age. For instance, 80 to 90 percent of amoxicillin, proper disposal. The Safe Drug Disposal Act of
they each disagree. which treats bacterial infections like pneumonia 2009, which is sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-
That has left the task to the states, which are and bronchitis, leaves the body after it is ingested. Wash., would allow patients and caretakers to re-
designing their own approaches. Thirty-eight now Another source of contamination is animal waste, turn controlled substances, a practice that is now
have some form of legislation dealing with the “re- since many farmers treat livestock with antibiotics illegal. It also seeks to prohibit flushing recom-
cycling,” “repository” or “redistribution” of unused that then enter the waterways via runoff. mendations on drug labels.
medications, according to the National Council of “Every city has a mix of different chemicals,” “We’re very hopeful that Congress will be able
State Legislatures. But with so many different ap- says Mae Wu, a program attorney for the Natu- to resolve this,” says Kerlikowske, the drug czar.
proaches, there is still no clear solution. ral Resources Defense Council who specializes in But until these bills make it to the top of the pile
The problem is complicated by the fact that the drinking water. “We have a lot of information on and the competing federal agencies acquiesce to
unused medications include both over-the-coun- how the drugs are supposed to act individually, one ultimate authority, consumers are largely left
ter and prescription drugs. Since the Controlled but we don’t know how they act together.” The on their own. Which leads to some final advice:
Substances Act of 1970 was passed by Congress, effects from this “soup of chemicals,” Wu says, If you choose the kitty litter, think about using
there have been strict guidelines and definitions are a dangerous threat, especially for pregnant some gloves.

New York Now / May 2010 55

The Big Business in T he prospect of a kids-only salon, offering
manicures, pedicures and other mature beau-

Baby Beauty
ty services to four-year-old girls, raises the ghost
of JonBénet Ramsey. The proprietors claim they
offer fun, and harmless spaces where girls can
experience the adult world of the beauty parlor.
How the beauty industry sells to kids But critics say they prematurely ritualize beauty
regimes and induct girls into lifetime careers of
insecurity about their appearances.
By Alexa Tsoulis-Reay Dimples Kids Spa, in the affluent New York
neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, offers make-
up, manicures, pedicures and novelty facials,
Michelle Plair (foreground) pampers her tiny in addition to haircuts. The salon is white and
clients at Wonderland Kids Spa in Brooklyn. bright, decorated with toys ranging from Barbies
with wild hair to a large stuffed elephant that
Photo by Alexa Tsoulis-Reay dwarfs many of Dimples’ customers.

56 New York Now / May 2010

On a recent day, a mother struggled in with a
grizzly toddler who resembled a cabbage patch
But some salon clients are boys, brought in by
mothers who want to emulate Maddox Jolie Pitt’s

“Daddy doesn’t like Dutch girl bangs, and
daddy doesn’t think we should be getting hair- “faux hawk,” or ask for the “Wall Street” a severely
short haircut.
cuts, so something natural is best,” the mother
instructed stylist Latoya Jackson, who snipped a
few strands from the girl’s bangs.
Some parents visit Dimples because they can’t
cope with their children’s tantrums, the stylists
said. But during birthday parties, the energy and BABES IN WONDERLAND Both Dimples and Wonderland are popu-
excitement among the girls is infectious: The ste- Michelle Plair, 38, likewise thinks there’s lar party venues. One recent afternoon, the six
reo blasts tween anthems and partying kids are nothing wrong with serving this niche. Notic- guests of Tiffany, 10, were treated to manicures,
treated to facials, manicures and pedicures while ing few kids’ spas in New York City, she teamed pedicures and facials. One girl with beautifully
they feast on fistfuls of candy. up with her goddaughter, Daniela Richardson, braided hair chomped on marshmallows while
“I love all the giggling and girl-talk,” Jack- 25, and the two opened Wonderland Kids Spa soaking her feet in a footbath. Plair lovingly mas-
son said. in Cobble Hill, to offer manicures, pedicures and saged her legs and toes. The girls received flip-
facials for children aged three and up. Plair, who flops, plush pink robes and headband shaped like
grew up in foster homes, said Wonderland ex- princess crowns.
DEAD SERIOUS presses her love for children. Tiffany’s interest in hair and nails prompted
Make no mistake: there’s big business be- Their spa, with its fluorescent pink and green the idea for a spa party, according to her aunt,
hind the pampering and play. In October 2009, walls, looks like it was decorated by a munchkin Marie Desforges, who said: “She’s a little girl, so
over 250 excited tween girls converged at a hotel on a sugar high. Popcorn and cotton candy ma- of course she likes that stuff.”
complex in Washington D.C. They were told chines pump out fairground treats. One salon
they would meet some of their favorite celeb-
rities, grab a stash of free beauty products and, GOING FOR THE TODDLER MARKET
most importantly, have the opportunity to voice But some salon clients are boys, brought in
their feelings and experiences of being a tween by mothers who want to emulate Maddox Jolie
girl. Girls were allowed to write on the “White Pitt’s “faux hawk,” or ask for the “Wall Street” a
House Wall” (a message board where they could severely short haircut. One Saturday morning at
air their thoughts about what matters to them), Dimples, the mother of a four-year-old instructed
and participate in “body image” workshops. Jackson not to ruin her son’s sideburns, which
This was the inaugural AllyKatzz Tween Girl she called his “little something-something.”
Summit, an event designed to gather information The distinctly feminine 21st century identity
about the tween market for a report to be sold to category, the tween, was developed in an adver-
marketing firms and brands across America. Al- tising boardroom. Since the late 1990s, a girly
lyKatzz has clients with vested interests in this lifestyle that involves coloring one’s hair and sit-
age group, like Disney and Dove. Tweenage at- ting in hot tubs has been translated to toys for
tendees enjoyed the girl-themed festivities, while very young girls. Mattel and MGA both offer sa-
a team of marketing professionals observed their lon-themed dolls, and MGA’s Moxie has a magic
every move. makeover hair salon, with tools for makeup and
The event promised girls that their voices hairstyling.
would be heard. But their thoughts and opin- Sandra May, a mother of two who owns Get
ions were to be released only to organizations Spa’ed Girl! has been hosting mobile girls’ spa
that paid $12,500 each for the subsequent re- parties across New Jersey and New York City for
port. the last five years. She says her clients are get-
Denise Restauri, head of AK Tweens, the mar- ting younger: she recently hosted a party for 20
ket research firm that organized the event, is four year olds in Manhattan. The spa party, which
surprisingly critical of the practice of marketing initially attracted upper-end clients, has become
beauty products to girls as empowerment. a mainstream concept, May said, perhaps driv-
“It’s as shallow as the days are long,” she said. chair features butterfly wings, while the other en by mothers seeking novel ways to entertain
“Makeup for children? No. And with the whole sports a large furry teddy bear head. their kids.
manicure and pedicure thing, we are raising a It’s an escape for local kids, Plair maintained. “I used to think that kids are too young to get
generation of divas…. What we are seeing now is Amanda, a tall 13-year-old with curly black hair, their nails done…I never do my two-year-old’s
that girls are getting their hair dyed at a young- has been a loyal client since the salon opened in nails or toes,” Plair said. “But my three-year-old
er age. Now you are seeing girls with highlights August 2009. “Amanda, you’re slimming down!” loves it. Not all the time, just for special occa-
when they are eleven years old.” Plair said warmly, as she covered her client in sions. The same with our customers, they come
AK Tweens’ research indicates that girls don’t purple plastic cape decorated with miniature gui- in for special occasions.”
want to use makeup or beauty products, she said. tars. Prior to Wonderland, Amanda went to an Party girl Tiffany was certainly making the
But they live in a culture that tells them that they adult salon to have her tresses tamed. She says most of her birthday treat. She proudly displayed
need improvement: she doesn’t think kids spas she is pleased to have found a place where she her glossy manicured fingers.
should be dismissed. “If you get all the girls to- feels comfortable. “It’s so pretty,” cooed her Aunt Marie. Tiffany
gether and [they] say, ‘oh lets go get our hair “Kids like it here, because it is something dif- returned to the nail dryer. She chatted with her
cut and we will go to a place that is really cute ferent and it is something fun which is just for friends, who had started to help themselves to
and pretty,’ then it is kind of like going to have them,” said Plair, maintaining that her clients chocolate fondue, as they excitedly awaited the
tea in a way.” weren’t wealthy or spoiled. next step in their beauty regime.

New York Now / May 2010 57

Students at Le Petit Paradis roll out play dough
that they made from all-natural ingredients.

Courtesy of Le Petit Paradis

ens,” she said. “It’s a crunchy, progressive place.

People here feel that our school is a pretty natu-
ral extension of what they are doing at home.”
Children’s Garden Preschool in Minot, N.D.,
was named the first licensed eco-friendly pre-
school in the state. The school received its license
from Early Development of Global Education, a
nonprofit organization that promotes environ-
mental awareness and education.
School founders Sara and Shaun Bentrup
practiced recycling and used eco-friendly clean-
ing products in their own home. When they start-

Eco Kids
Le Petit Paradis incorporates the idea of en- ed the preschool, it only seemed natural that they
vironmental education—a movement grow- would apply their green philosophy to the school.
ing across the United States—into many of its Those are values Houri of Le Petit Paradis
daily activities. The school’s 25 students are a shares even though the eco-friendly aspect of the
Green preschools on the rise small group compared with the thousands of school is not the chief concern of all parents—
students who attend 127 certified-green schools a fact she said suggests that going green may
in 33 states, according to the U.S. Green Build- be part of the wider, unspoken appeal of these
ing Council. kinds of schools.
By Brenda Iasevoli In 2007, the council, just one organization that Being eco-friendly is as natural as speaking
certifies buildings as eco-friendly, launched the French for the children at Le Petit Paradis, said
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Houri. So natural, that some parents may take

A t first sight, Le Petit Paradis resembles many

preschools. On a recent weekday, a girl in a
blue smock stood at an easel, her lips pursed in
to certify schools. For a school to acquire certifi-
cation, it must meet certain requirements, such
as ample natural light, water conservation and
it for granted.
Tara Filipacchi’s twin 5-year-old daughters,
Mia and Illia, attend Le Petit Paradis primarily
concentration. She brushed broad strokes of red efficient heating and cooling. Such schools often to practice their French, which is their father’s
paint over a large white paper. follow a curriculum that teaches students about native language.
“Madame Michele!” she shouted, pointing the environment and how to protect it. “I’m not the most green mother, but I do recy-
to the painting. “Rouge!” Michele Epstein, the Valerie Werstler, an administrator at the Na- cle and I try to save electricity, said Filipacchi. “I
lead teacher at the school, looked at the fat red tional Institute for Early Education Research at like that the school is teaching my daughters to
strokes. “Très bon, Lina,” she said. Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., said be more aware. They always want to turn off the
Across the sun-filled room, boys sat at a table that building green schools is the “educationally lights and use the back sides of papers. It’s cute.”
juicing an orange. Nearby, children rolled play appropriate thing to do.” Alexander Ploss sends his 5-year-old daughter,
dough into flat ovals. They sat in specially crafted “Now is the right time to teach kids to care Helena, to the school for the same reason. That
chairs and pressed flower-shaped cookie cutters for the environment before bad habits develop,” the building is eco-friendly is an “added bonus.”
into the dough. she said. Filipacchi, Ploss and others, who pay thou-
But this bilingual French preschool on the That philosophy is spreading. Wild Lilac Pre- sands of dollars for their children to attend such
Upper East Side of Manhattan holds the addi- school opened in 2006 in Portland, Ore., and has schools, tend to be progressive in their attitudes
tional distinction of being eco-friendly. 45 students this year. The children learn their and are often highly educated.
The red paint Lina used was organic. So were lessons in two former homes that were built in While the organic snacks at Le Petit Para-
the oranges that the boys pressed into juice and the early 1900s: Students ages 3 to 5 go to the dis were not a main draw, Ploss, who practices
sipped from tiny cups. Teachers and children Iris House and the 2-year-old students go to the healthful eating with his daughter at home, said
made the play dough earlier in the week using Daffodil House. it would definitely be a problem if anything but
all-natural ingredients: flour, salt, oil, water and Helene Hanson, its founder, said that the healthful snacks were available.
cream of tartar. The school’s tables and chairs are school’s kitchen is totally organic. That means ev- Ploss said that he and his wife never thought
made from wood harvested from healthy forests erything kids eat there—oatmeal, bread, broccoli of explicitly teaching their daughter about the
in a sustainable manner—and so are the toys. or potatoes—fits strict standards. The students environment. It’s just a habit.
“The idea for a green preschool just came to have their own backyard garden that supplies “It’s not always a conscious choice,” he said.
me one day,” said Christina Houri, the school’s some of the fruits and vegetables they eat while “I don’t have a car because I don’t need one. It
founder. “I saw the Al Gore movie and I liked his at school. takes 45 minutes to walk the 30 blocks from my
ideas. I thought that kids should benefit from Hanson said the green aspect of her school is home to the school. When I think about it, it’s
this. They are the ones who will suffer if we don’t a big draw for parents in the area. definitely better to spend a quiet time walking
teach them today to care for the Earth.” “A lot of families have composts and chick- with Helena.”

58 New York Now / May 2010

Pass the Prosciutto: “One lunchtime in Mezes (a fantastic little
inland port on the Bassin du Thau)” Yeomans

Foodie parents
wrote, “she nailed three of the beauties plus half
a portion of calamari a la Romana. Daughters
and expensive (if good) taste—I guess they go

attempt to raise
But for some parents, getting kids to eat any
food, never mind a beady-eyed crustacean, is no

foodie kids
easy feat. Garvy and Yeomans know this; that’s
why they started, which includes
recipes and tips for the frustrated foodie parent.
There’s also a “Gastrokid” cookbook due out in
By Brenda Iasevoli August.
Don’t expect sneaky recipes that hide veggies

I n the garden dining room of a New York City

restaurant recently, a 5-year-old boy with spiky
brown hair sawed cherry tomatoes in half with
coli risotto.
“My kids will eat foods you’d never expect tod-
dlers or a 6-year-old to gobble up (salad, even)
in mac and cheese a la Jessica Seinfeld’s cook-
book “Deceptively Delicious.” Garvy and Yeo-
mans scoff at such underhandedness. A mac and
a plastic knife. because they’ve made it,” Kelby Carr, founder of cheese recipe on contains pro-
“Tomato one, tomato two, tomato three,” he, wrote in an e-mail. “There are sciutto, tomatoes and sage.
said, as he plopped the halves into a stainless foods my kids have refused to even try until they “Why would we dumb down our cooking just
steel bowl. Then he wiped his hands on his white prepared it themselves.” because we have children at the table?” said Yeo-
apron, leaving pink streaks behind. Carr said she started be- mans. “Kids are naturally adventurous. They are
Nathan Steinfeld and four other chefs-in- cause she realized that many other mothers out keen to trying new flavors, like pickled garlic,
training were preparing crustless quiches made there care about good food as much as she does. that you’d never dream they’d eat. If you can
with egg, fresh mozzarella, heavy cream, toma- She wanted to create a place for them to share teach children the language of good taste, of eat-
toes and dried herbs. The venue was Mini Chef, a tips and recipes. ing well, then hopefully that’s an appreciation
cooking program for kids in New York City where “There are many fellow moms who actually they will carry with them throughout their lives.”
classes are $40 a pop. take their kids to restaurants without coloring Garvey takes this one step further. Not only
“It’s such a great sensory experience,” said books,” Carr wrote, “who don’t ask ‘Is this kid- will his kids eat the prosciutto, but they know
Alyssa Volland, founder of Mini Chef. “You smell, friendly?’ when preparing dinner, and who cook where it came from. On a trip to a farm in the
you touch, you feel. And because kids are making with their kids, and who want their kids to un- English countryside with his wife, 4-year-old son
the food from scratch, they’re more likely to try derstand the value of fine food prepared and en- and 7-year-old daughter, Garvey insisted they all
it. It’s fun and rewarding for them.” joyed slowly.” come face to face with their dinner.
Foodie parents—those with an ardent love for Hugh Garvey, a features editor for Bon Appé- “Meeting the piggies didn’t keep my little ones
and interest in good food—are trying to cultivate tit magazine, and journalist Matthew Yeomans from eating them at lunch,” Garvey wrote in an
the same refined taste for food in their little ones. founded to share with parents article for Bon Appétit about the trip.
Such parents refuse to subject themselves, or their success raising kids with sophisticated pal- The kids at Mini Chef in New York City were
their kids for that matter, to eating chicken nug- ates. Their blog was born out of the frustration invited, but not pressured, to try the mini quich-
gets and fries just because these are deemed kid they felt over not getting to go out to fine restau- es they made.
foods. Instead, they help their kids to develop a rants after they had kids. “Yuck,” one boy said after smelling the quiche.
taste for more adult fare. In a September 2008 post, Yeomans bragged “You know what?” said a girl with pigtails
So, how are foodie parents living in a fast-food about his 3-year-old daughter Zelda’s taste for after picking off a tiny crumb from the quiche
world to accomplish such a seemingly impossible langoustines (large prawns, to the uninitiated). and popping it in her mouth. “I don’t like this.”
feat? They’re blogging about their experiences,
writing cookbooks and, yes, sending their kids
to cooking school.
To help parents cultivate in their kids an ap-
preciation for fine food, cooking schools for chil-
dren as young as 3 are popping up across the
country. There aren’t any recipes for bagel pizzas
at these schools. The mini chefs make their own
dough from scratch.
At Young Chef’s Academy, which has more
than 80 schools in the United States, kids prepare
dishes like Southwestern tortilla soup and Mary-
land crab cakes. Kids Culinary Adventures in San
Francisco, teaches kids to grow their own basil
for pesto. And during a recent class at Kids Cook-
ing Co. in Dallas, young chefs prepared steamed
tilapia with carrots and zucchini and lemon broc-

Young Chefs Academy, with more than 80 locations

across the U.S., teaches kids to make pasta from
Courtesy of Young Chefs Intl.

New York Now / May 2010 59

Online Grades:
The Mom Who Knew Too Much

By Amanda Chan

I n an era of online social networks, online

scheduling for doctor’s appointments and on-
line restaurant reservations, it only makes sense
ents, and then it just adds more stress on your-
But Maria, Raechel’s mom, sees it a slightly
“I’ll usually check it after a test and see how
much it brought down my grade — I mean, or
up,” Duncan says.
that the dissemination of a student’s grades different way. Maria says that being able to view Duncan says most of her friends also track
would also take place online. her daughter’s grades online helps give her a full- their grades online, which is especially useful
Enter Parent Link, Parent Portal, SnapGrades, er picture of what’s going on in school — like if around finals time so they know how much they
My Gradebook and a bevy of other online student her daughter complains about a teacher or a class. need to pull their grades up. “But then I also
report card systems. “You can see if she’s missing assignments or know some kids who know they’ll get grounded
These electronic report cards, used by Miami- an assignment she didn’t do well, and it tells her, sooner rather than later” once their parents see
Dade County Public Schools in Florida, Gilbert ‘This is why your grade is what it is,’” Maria says. their scores online, she says.
Public Schools in Arizona and the Clark County “She still doesn’t particularly care for it, but she As with all newfangled technology, some
School District in Nevada, among many others, looks at it, and it’s a way for her to be aware of teachers are reluctant to change their grade input
have enabled parents to access their child’s miss- her own grades.” routine, especially teachers who have been doing
ing assignments and quiz and test scores before it their own way for years.
the quarterly or semester report card even hits Marc Elin, principal of Windsor High School
the mailbox. in Windsor, Calif., didn’t mandate that all his
But with new technology comes a new dynam- teachers use an online report card system. How-
ic between students, parents and teachers. Stu- ever, parents actually started to put pressure on
dents who may not usually do so hot in school teachers to adopt an online system.
are kept more accountable and, depending on the What ends up happening is, if your son or
parent, may have a shorter leash now that their daughter has seven teachers, and three are using
grades can be accessed at any time. For some, the online grade book, “you will ask the other
it’s the scariest and most annoying thing in the teachers why they don’t use it,” he says. “It’s
world. For others, it’s an incentive to improve or kind of a peer influence for reluctant teachers.”
a way to monitor grades before getting in seri- Most teachers at Windsor embraced the new
ous trouble. system because it cut down on e-mails and phone
Legacy High School freshman Colton Malich’s calls from parents who wanted an answer to the
weekends are dependent on his grades. His mom, eternal question of “Where does my kid stand?”
Tammy Malich, checks his grades three times a he says.
week, and always on Fridays. “When you think about it, in the world of a
“We have a deal in our house that he’s not High school senior Jessica Duncan checks her teen, they’re tired of parents nagging them for in-
allowed to see his girlfriend, not allowed to do grades online on the evening of March 11, 2010. formation,” Elin says. “Kids don’t mind because
extracurricular non-school-related activities un- Photo courtesy of Shawn Duncan they’re not being nagged, and it helps parent-
less he has no missing assignments and all of his teacher communication because now everyone’s
grades are higher than a C,” says Malich, who Ramirez’s high school uses SnapGrades, which knowledgeable.”
is also the principal of Legacy in Las Vegas. “He has about 500 schools using its services. The sys- Stephania Rasmussen, a teacher and princi-
knows that’s the rule.” tem enables parents to sign up for automatic alerts pal at Faith Baptist High School in Canoga Park,
Colton, Malich says, has always needed an when assignments are missing or if a grade drops Calif., says the online report cards increase her
extra push to excel in school. But because of this below a certain preset threshold, says SnapGrades accuracy with grading as well as eliminate the
system, the 14-year-old has wised up and checks founder David Hundsness. He says this makes stu- need for parents to constantly be checking in re-
his grades himself to make sure they’re up to dents more accountable for their actions. garding their child’s grade.
par before even asking to go out. Also, because “Because students can see their own grades “We’re still human,” she says. “If I make a
he participates in sports at school, she says, it’s anytime without having to ask their teachers,” mistake on a student’s grade, I know he’ll tell
easier for him to stay on top of his grades to re- he says, “they’re much better at keeping their me because he can see every assignment. There’s
main eligible to play. own grades up, regardless of whether their par- many eyes looking at your grade book, versus
“I check my grades every other day now, and ents are checking.” just my eyes.”
I like that I can fix things before my parents find He says people assume that students hate hav- Even though online student report cards may
out,” Colton says. “I make sure I’m on top of ing their grades online for their parents to see, mean a headache to some students, more and
my stuff.” but a lot of students say they prefer it so that they more school districts are adopting them as a
Raechel Ramirez, a sophomore at Mesquite can improve their grades before their parents find means of open communication — something
High School in Gilbert, Ariz., doesn’t like the on- out — kind of like taking preventive measures to that isn’t going away in this age of immediacy.
line report cards. The 16-year-old admits that avoid being grounded. Jeff Hybarger, a principal in the Clark County
they are convenient, but she doesn’t like the fact That’s the case with 17-year-old Jessica Dun- School District, explains that with the increased
that her parents have complete access. can, a senior at Desert Vista High School in Phoe- transparency of teachers’ grade books, parents
“My parents check it all the time, and they’re nix. Duncan says she usually does well in school, can be more involved in their child’s academics,
always on my back about what’s not turned in, so she’s not worried if her mom goes online to which teachers often appreciate. Now “both par-
and ‘Why are you getting a bad grade on that?’” check out her grades. In fact, she says she proba- ties can benefit by this cool means of communi-
she says. “And that adds more stress on your par- bly checks the Web site more than her mom does. cating,” he says.

60 New York Now / May 2010

Au Revoir, Bohème. upper middle class, so it is in the process of gen-
trification, and that means that you have to sat-

Bonjour Lauren!
isfy modern, commercial needs,” she said. “It is
not Bohemian any more.”
Some independent shops still thrive, especially
those selling hand-crafted, vintage or imported
Upscale fashion retailers trail “Sex and the City” to merchandise. Lori McLean, whose jewelry shop
is located on nearby Grove Street, finds that her
an iconic New York street delicate charm necklaces and funky bracelets are
By Christos Gavalas still desirable for heavy wallets, bridging the old-
hippie face of the neighborhood with its wealthy

I n its artistic heyday, Bleecker Street was

home to smoke-filled cafes packed with cul-
tural heroes of a contemplative bent. It stood for
“Our goal was to take advantage of the huge
concentration of young people who flooded into
the area, especially with the Sex and the City
Woe betide any merchant, though, whose
wares have been dubbed passé.
Greenwich Village, the Beats, Dylan, rebellion. show,” said Debbie Lee, a Marc Jacobs assistant For Sani, the 62-year-old Indian owner of
Out-of-towners who visit New York still hope manager. “Fabulous,” the new climate is simply a plunge
to soak up a little of that countercultural spirit. Now Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic and Ab- over a cliff.
But nowadays it’s easier to find a $500 outfit ercrombie and Fitch have glommed on to Bleeck- “There is no tomorrow for me, I can’t make
than a painter in the park. Vying to capitalize on er too. plans for it,” he said melancholically. ” I take
the street’s renewed popularity, major fashion The short, pedestrian-oriented street of 19th this hard road day by day.” The shop has been
retailers are elbowing out the old cafes, butcher century brownstone and tenements still exudes in his family for 30 years, and the traditional In-
shops and fusty antique stores. an image of hip, young and free - but not poor. In dian clothing he sells there was once gloriously
“Bleecker is becoming the Madison Avenue of a parallel explosive demand for downtown apart- famous locally. Now his solitary saunter in his
downtown,” said John Brod, founding partner of ments, some of the newest residents are well- empty-of-people store is like that of an old man
PBS Realty Advisors, an advisory firm for com- heeled young people and families, realtors say. on a deserted street.
mercial real estate. which conducts the largest survey of Manhat- “After 9/11, things got even worse for us. I
Fashion businesses are in search of “branding tan real estate sales. think people now prefer to shop from the big
opportunities” and strong retail performance per “The Village has become a very desirable place names and not from me,” he said with finality.
square foot, Brod said. Over the last three years to live,” said Betul Ekmekci, an agent for the “But it’s my home. If I close that will be it. I’m
average Bleecker rent prices have risen sixfold, residential brokerage Halstead Property. “Young not moving out.”
from $50 to $ 300 per square foot. Soaring New people feel that they will have freedom of expres- Toosh, another local clothier, has posted prom-
York real estate prices are a factor, but so is the sion here, so they choose to live the Village myth, inent signs offering 50 percent discounts. “My
skyrocketing popularity of a Bleecker address. even if that will cost them more.” boss says the business is dead right now,” said a
TV’s discovery of Bleecker is one big reason. One sees fewer artists around, Ekmeckci worker there, adding that the full time staff had
After Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker ate noted. been cut from four to two.
a creamy retro cupcake at a beloved local land- “Now they have moved to Williamsburg and Outside, pedestrians rush along the sidewalks
mark, The Magnolia Bakery, the tour buses began Staten Island because they can’t afford the rent.” as the sun sets, far more likely to be toting shiny
circling. The lines outside the tiny bakery swelled Elaine Abelson, a history professor at the New shopping bags with embossed logos than pro-
into inhuman queues. Soon, upscale clothing School, a university located nearby, sees the shift test placards or poetry books. After all, New York
retailer Marc Jacobs, salivating over the youth- the same way. never sleeps. Maybe it’s way too busy reinvent-
ful crowds, rented a shop right across the street. “The area is having its face reclaimed for the ing itself.

New York Now / May 2010 61

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