Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Bowery Hotel: I'm speechless.

I'll let the rendering of the new Bowery hotel to be built speak for itself (at day, an ice cube tray; at night, "glowing red tumors," as the NY Observer declared). Photo from Curbed, NY.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Next Bowery Hotel

I follow a few New York blogs, some religiously (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, and EV Grieve). I like them because they're informative about changes going on in my Bowery backyard. This latest one has me extra bummed out: The Salvation Army building on East 3rd Street is going to be turned into a new, strange looking 74-room boutique hotel. Or to rephrase, the third hotel within a three block radius. More evening traffic. More red velvet ropes lining up models with cellphones glued to their ears. Another pricey restaurant.

I have let my curmudgeon out to play in this post, griping about How the Neighborhood is Changing-- but it's happening at such a rapid fire speed that I have trouble keeping up with it. As soon as one restaurant opens, it seems like it's papered up, only to welcome in the next failure. It's sad, really. For crying out loud, my new neighbor is John Legend, who bought a floor of the ugly new high rise (see above) that has blocked our lovely view of the ornate cornices on Bond Street. Can we retain even a speck of our neighborhood's historical grit? Or will the little that remains take on a strange Disneyland quality?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Missing Paris

I've been moving data over a new computer after my last one died, and I keep getting distracted by one little album on my iPhoto library called "France." If I had an ink pad and a stamp marked Heaven, I'd stamp it all over every photograph from this trip, across each of the six weeks that we stepped away from our life as we knew it. From Normandy to Marseille, from the Sacre Coeur to each and every curvy street whose pavement and cobblestones wore down two pairs of my shoes to practically nothing.

We're planning our second summer in Paris, and have found a lovely family to swap with. The mom has a post at NYU this summer, so our East Village apartment will be perfectly located for her. She and her husband have a three year old daughter who should feel very at home in Jamie's room. They live in the same neighborhood that we stayed in last summer, Monmartre, but are even closer to the little village at the top of the hill. I'll be casting my net far and wide for writing assignments to carry me through while we're away, because I'll need the work, for a multitude of reasons. I really enjoyed blogging about English bookstores last summer, so maybe I can drum up something similar- a regular gig. I'm also hoping to be in touch with English speaking parents over there to help me find something for Jamie to do where he can meet other children his age and make friends, beyond the chance encounter in a playground... a mini- day camp for English speaking kids? We'll travel much less and spend more downtime exploring the city and studying French (this is the plan, anyway). I may find a French class for us to take at the New School this semester...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ellen Stewart of La MaMa Theater, RIP

This week saw the passing of another Grande Dame of East 4th Street, the amazing founder of La MaMa Theater, Ellen Stewart. Ms. Stewart, who died at 91, was always a kind presence on our block; always friendly and engaging. Whenever I saw her, I knew I'd seen someone Great. She was a celebrity's celebrity. So many hugely talented people found their bearings under her supportive wing: Sam Shepard, Landford Wilson, Robert DeNiro, Phillip Glass, Bette Midler, Al Pacino, and countless others who passed through her open doors.

Ellen was beautiful. Even when she became so ill that she needed a wheelchair, she had a commanding presence, larger than life. A makeshift memorial has popped up on our block in front of her theater. It saddens me to think that the votives and flowers have been washed away by the three inches of slush we've accumulated in the last 24 hours. Certainly, there will be a beautiful memorial to her in the days to come. For those of you who haven't attended La MaMa, why don't you? We take for granted that we live in a city where people are creatively supported, but behind these Off-off Broadway productions are a stalwart few who consistently put their money where their mouth is, who show up, who contribute and support. Ellen wrote the book, offering struggling playwrights and actors places to live over the last decades.

For those of you with elderly patrons of the arts in your own neighborhoods, frequent their efforts. Without them, the support diminishes. Without the support, often the inclination to create. I'm lucky that because of Ellen there are now at least a dozen theaters on my block alone, and without her, I can say with certainty, there would not be. Thank you, Ellen. You will be missed.

You can read the New York Times's obituary of Ellen Stewart here (