Sunday, February 20, 2011

Big Nick’s @9:50 pm
Upper West Side

Live, from New York, it’s Cheeseburger Saturday Night! Tonight’s host is Big Nick’s on the Upper West Side and featuring the ready for prime beef player, Marty Wombacher. Ladies and gentlemen...Big Nick’s!

That's right, I've decided to keep the Cheeseburger Saturday Night tradition alive. I just don't have to do it in a bar anymore, so I can go out later on a Saturday night and go somewhere where it's not crawling with drunken idiots. I've decided to go to a place that's legendary on the Upper West Side. It's restaurant that's been in business since 1962 called Big Nick's and they have over 60 kinds of burgers there. We'll take the 14th street subway up there. Jesus, it's freezing out here tonight!

And here we are, at least it'll be warmer down there.

It's a bit of a hike to get to the stop.

I stopped and took a break and listened to this guy play saxophone. He was really good, it's amazing some of the music you can experience down in the subways of New York. I flipped him a couple bucks and was on my way.

Holy shitballs, a train is pulling in just as I'm at the top of the stairs! What luck!

No waiting tonight! I love it when this happens.

The train's not that crowded for 9:30 on a Saturday night.

This couple texted the whole time I was on the train. God forbid they put those things down and actually talk to each other.

And here we are at the 72nd street exit.

This is where I first lived when I moved here over 17 years ago, my old stomping grounds, the Upper West Side.

Here's the Beacon Hotel, where my first apartment was located. It was a little shabbier when I lived there, they've fixed it up a bit and it's pretty nice now.

This is the newsstand where I'd buy my newspapers and magazines back in the pre-internet days.

Goddamn, it's cold out here, Big Nick's is just two blocks away, let's hightail it there.

And here it is, the legendary Big Nick's.

There's neon and signs plastered all over the front window.

And more signage over here.

Here's some more neon, Leon.

There's tables outside, but it's too freezing out here to be sitting at one of them tonight.

Some publicity for Big Nick's. I have to watch Midnight Cowboy and see if I can find it.

Okay, let's go in. I love the fact that they're open "23 hours." Ha!

The place is divided into two rooms. This is the front of the left room, there's wooden booths up front to sit at.

This neon light on the wall casts a magenta hue on the room.

Here's the back of the room, tables are packed in here close together and you get to know your neighbors in here. In addition to burgers, sandwiches,  a big breakfast menu, Big Nick's also has a wide variety of pizza, as the neon sign announces.

The walls are plastered with pictures and signs and it would take you days to look at all of them.

Here's the other room, off to the left. A waiter told me there was a single table, so I went off to get it. It's pretty crowded in here tonight.

Big Nick's is a friendly place and you're packed in close to each other, so it's easy to get to know your dining neighbors. Seated next to me is: Abe, Kristina and Melodie. I found out that Kristina had just gotten engaged. Congratulations, Kristina!

There's plenty of pictures back here as well. If you look closely to the right you'll see a vintage Allman Brothers poster.

There's tons of things to order here, the menu is like a little 10 page fanzine. Check it out online: Big Nick's menu.

And here's Jon, the pretty and friendly waitress who took my order. In spite of the fact she was busy, she still stopped to pose for the MAD camera. Nice!

Here's a view of the kitchen area from where I was seated.

And here's the counter in front of the kitchen area.

My vanilla shake was promptly served. The shakes here are out of this world!

I love the sign that just says, "TALK." Ha ha ha!

And here we go, Cheeseburger Saturday night! I got the cheddar burger and seasoned waffle fries.

It was delicious, but I have to confess I couldn't eat the whole thing. It was like a pound of ground beef!

The counter had cleared out by the time I was getting ready to leave.

And here we are, back out into the night, walking down Broadway.

Since it's Saturday night, I splurged and took a cab home and snapped this photo out the window. Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

Big Nick’s
2175 Broadway (77th @Broadway)
(212) 362-9238
Upper West Side

Going to Big Nick’s on the Upper West Side made me think about the the day I moved to New York.

On July 7th, 1993 I boarded a plane in Peoria, Illinois that was headed to Chicago and then I got on one bound for LaGuardia airport in New York.
I was 35-years-old, had quit my job as a film stripper where I had worked the last 13 years of my life, sold my car, my furniture, my stereo, my records and most of my clothes and cashed in my pension fund from my job and was moving to New York City that day. I had been so busy for the three months before I moved, I didn’t really think about the fact that I only knew about four people there, I had no job waiting for me and the odds of me getting a staff writing job in New York City were certainly stacked against me. One thought started racing through my brain like a hyperactive marathon runner on amphemines: “What in the living name of holy fuck have you just done?”

I had a few beers on the flight and calmed down a little.
When I landed in New York, I gathered up my suitcases and went out into the blazing heat (the week I moved there it shattered all kinds of heat records and was probably the hottest I’ve ever seen it in my 17 and a half years out here) and trudged to the cab stand. In the two minutes it took me to walk there I was covered in sweat. I believe it was over 100 degrees and the humidity was as thick as Sarah Palin’s gray matter.

Of course the air conditioner was “broken” in the cab, I soon learned that air conditioners “break” in cabs a lot in the summer, so they don’t burn up extra gas.
Anyway it delivered me to my new home, 2130 Broadway near 75th street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I had found a small studio apartment in the Beacon Hotel (back then about 10% of it was residential.) The room was about as big as a college dorm room, with a tiny kitchen and a bathroom about as big as a phone booth. The hotel itself was a budget hotel and was a little run down, they’ve since remodeled and it’s a lot fancier, but it wasn’t so when I moved in.

Anyway, I signed some papers and the hotel manager, Tom, a fortysomething man with grey hair and a moustache, gave me my keys.

“Welcome to New York,” he said shaking my hand, “if you have any problems or questions, I’m here till at least six every night, don’t hesitate to call or stop by my office.”

He was a nice guy and I thought I was getting off to a good start having just planted myself in the Big Apple.
I took the elevator up to the ninth floor and made my way to my new home: Apartment 915. I had looked for it and put a deposit down about two weeks earlier when the last tenant was still living there. I put my key in the lock, opened the door and found out I had roomates. There were cockroaches crawling everywhere, the room was infested. I hate bugs and stood there frozen watching the black bugs roaming around with the greatest of ease in my new home. I snatched my bags ran back into the hallway and locked the door. Within a couple minutes I was back at Tom’s office, bag’s in hand.

He looked at me, then at my bags and I’m sure I look freaked out. “You’re not moving back to Peoria, already, are you,” he said laughingly.

“There’s cockroaches all over my apartment,” I blurted out nervously. “I have a thing about bugs.”

I could tell he was stifling laughter as he said, “You’re going to have get over that if you want to live in New York.”

“Huh?” I asked, still in ful-tiltl freak out mode.

“Some buildings are infested with cockroaches and short of tearing the building down, there’s not much you can do. We have exterminators come in once a month and try to keep it down as much as we can, but it’s a problem,” he explained. “The reason there’s so many in your apartment is because it’s been empty for over two weeks, when you live here if you spray and put traps up, it’s not that bad, but you will see a couple every now and again. I really should’ve checked that out before you moved in. Here’s what we’ll do, I’m going to have one of the maintenence men set off a bug bomb in there and we’ll clean it out tomorrow in the morning. I hate to have you do this, but we’re all booked up here, and when we set off the bug bomb, it’s got to be empty for at lleast twelve hours. If you want to check into another hotel for the night, just bring a receipt tomorrow afternoon and I’ll reimburse you. Just do me a favor and don’t get a suite at the Waldorf Astoria? I’m going to have to expense this out through my boss and he’ll be pissed I didn’t think to bomb out your place before you got here,” he explained.

I smiled, feeling relieved he was going to take care of the problem and said, “There’s a budget hotel in midtown called The Wellington. I stayed there when I was here looking for apartments, the rates there aren’t bad.”

“Oh, look at the seasoned New Yorker! He already knows budget hotels in midtown!” He said laughing. “I know that place, if they’ve got a room that would be great, just bring the receipt tomorrow and I’ll take the amount off of next month’s rent, if that’s okay.”

I told him that would be fine, called the Wellington and got a room for the night. I took a cab there, I still didn’t know the subway system and checked into the Wellington. I put my bags in the closet of the modest room and turned the air conditioner on and layed down on the bed, soaking up the air conditioner and trying to relax. After about fifteen minutes I sat up and was just sitting there listlessy and I looked over at the wall and there making a beeline towards the floor was a cockroach. I grabbed a TV Guide off the TV and walked over and with one fell swat, killed the nasty cockroach.

Then I went to a hardware store and got some spray and traps and brought them back to my hotel room in anticipation of moving into my first apartment in New York City.

I’m not afraid of cockroaches anymore.

Further reading: New York Magazine, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, Grub Street (last paragraph), Associated Content.


Early in the morning, I ain’t got nothin’ no nothin’ but the blues.


Bonus Photo From Gene!

MAD commenter and one third of the BBC, Gene sent in this photo from his Saturday night out with Smoopy. Thanks for the photo, Gene! If you have an after dark photo of a place you’ve been to, feel free to send it in. And now, take it away, Gene!

Woody's Bar ... Savage, MD
Small bar behind a liquor store - that nobody knows that it even exists.
They only have Bud and Bud Light on draft ... made me think of you ! First time we've ever been here. Apparently the bar has existed here for decades ... real old school and 365 worthy. Me and Smoops have driven by here and mentioned that we should go in sometime ... and today was the day. This bar doesn't exist on Yelp, or even Google. An almost secret hideaway!



Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Apartment @12:39 am
Friday Night Midnight Movie—Glengarry Glen Ross

One of the things with this new blog that will be nice for me is I don’t have to go out if I don’t want to. I didn’t make any self-imposed rules like I did with the 365 blog, so it could be looser and a little more relaxed, because last year just about killed me. I am going to update it every day though and most nights I will go out and do something, even if it’s just some random photos in a section of town. But the one night I’m not going out is going to be the night I dreaded every week while doing the 365 blog. Those of you who followed it (and that’s pretty much everybody who’s following this one, and I thank all of you for being loyal and continuing to read MAD) know which night I’m talking about because every week I would go on a whining spree that would make Doug and Wendy Whiner blush. That’s right, tonight, Friday night.

I hate going out on Friday and Saturday nights. They’re the amateur nights of the week and everything is crowded, especially here in New York and every other person is blotto on booze or one thing or another. And on Fridays I don’t get out of work till around 11pm at the earliest, so it was a real nightmare going to bars last year and dealing with babbling idiots schlocked out of their gourds and trying to get them to pose for a photo. So what I’m going to do on Friday’s instead is watch a movie and take photos of key scenes and then put together a mini-still movie of the original complete with dialogue. Oh and if the movie is in color, I’m going to pull the opposite of what they did to “It’s A Wonderful Life” and take the color out of it to keep it true to the MAD black and white color scheme.

Tonight’s movie is one of my all time favorite films—Glengarry Glen Ross. The film itself reminds me somewhat of the movie, “Reservoir Dogs.” Both are dialogue-driven films and both of them have an almost exclusive male-only cast. The only female in Glengarry Glen Ross is the coat check woman at the Chinese restaurant. Plus both have a surprise twist involving a key character towards the end. So without any further whoop-dee-do, for tonight’s Friday Night Midnight Movie, I present: Glengarry Glen Ross.

Glengarry Glen Ross
Click here to read the NY Times review of Glengarry Glen Ross: NYT Glengarry Glen Ross review.

Further reading: Spark Notes, enotes, Culture Vulture.


The beat don't stop until the break of dawn.



Late Post Today

I'm having trouble uploading pictures today, my hosting site is a little wonky. They're telling me in an hour or so it should be fixed, so check back around three for today's post. Thanks and have a lovely Saturday!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Show World @12:27 am
Times Square

When I moved to New York in 1993, Times Square wasn’t as sleazy and skeezy as the ‘70’s or ‘80’s were, but it definitely had its spots. There were 24 hour triple-X movie houses, massage parlors, adult bookstores, strip clubs and one place had them all in one handy location: Show World.

Show World was the place I would always take friends who were visiting and had never been to New York and I wanted to show them a real slice of sleazy porno cheese. It was like a mall of porn. It was a multi-level building with peepshows, X-rated magazines, X-rated videos for sale, sex toys, sex dolls, and on one floor scantily clad women were standing outside of rooms divided into two with a wall of glass dividing the space. For a fee you could go in the room and then instruct the woman via a two-way phone to do whatever you wanted her to do with herself. I don’t know if you had to tip extra for really weird things, because I never employed the services of these women, they were too scary looking to even be in a room with a solid glass wall between the two of you. Half of them had needle tracks running up and down their arms and they looked like spaced-out zombie skanks, with dark grey circles under their glassy eyes.

It was always interesting and kind of creepy hanging out in there and seeing the different kinds of customers and bathing in the sometimes uneasy and awkward amibiance of a sex mall. It was exclusively male customers, I never saw a female customer in there once. But there were guys from every walk of life: High rollers in custom made suits, construction workers taking a break or indulging in some X-rated action before going home to the wife and kids out on Long Island, out-of-towners looking for some quick action in the Big Apple and even homeless guys who had managed to panhandle enough to afford a token for entry.

Well, in 1994, Rudolph William Louis “Rudy” Giuliani became the 107th Mayor of New York City. And he vowed to clean this city up. And XXX marked one of the spots that he decided to take his lily-white mop and bucket to and scrub it all away and turn Times Square into a sea of G-rated candy-coated glop. Strict city zoning ordinances were put in place and the porn and strippers and sex stores turned into a Disney Store, a Hard Rock Cafe and the world’s largest Forever 21 store. All of a sudden those track-marked skanks are looking pretty good to me.

I was thinking about this today and I remembered that one of the last hold-outs in the porno market in Times Square was Show World. I remember when the shit was going down and everything was being shuttered and turned into shiny new family-friendly outlets that they had escaped through a loophole back then. If I remember correctly they turned the top floor into an actual theater that hosted plays, music and comedy. This gave them status as a theater and I read the other floors retained the porn and the skeezy vibe. I haven’t been near Show World in years, because I try to avoid going near Times Square and seeing things like the world’s biggest Red Lobster restaurant and a Hershey Store as big as Macy’s, but I thought it might be a good destination for MAD. I’ve heard conflicting stories about whether it’s still open or not, so now my curiosity has got the best of me and so that’s tonight’s after dark destination. It’ll be really dicey getting photos inside (if by chance I get a picture with someone’s face, I will blur it out to protect identities), but at the very least I can get some photos of the outside and document it that way.

Okay, here we are at 30th and 8th, just about 12 blocks up and we'll be there.

Goddamn, these dollar pizza joints are really starting to get on my last nerve. And, yeah, I admit I eat at them now and again, but it always feels like you've raped your stomach when you're finished eating this slop.

Oh boy, now here's a welcome sight, Gray's Papaya. I love their hot dogs.

Hell yeah! And there's a little Papaya man working here that's really nice, and was really friendly, I'm going to eat this dog and see if I can get a photo of him.

I asked him for a photo and he stood up and posed for me. I kind of felt like we bonded at this moment.

Franks For Your Business!! Love the Grays Papaya!

40th and 8th, just about two more blocks and we're there.

Bright lights, big city, but is there still a Show World? Only about a block away and we'll find our answer.

Holy mother of bologna! It's alive!

Private booths, great, I know in there I can take photos. Looks like a promising evening indeed.

The burned out lights are perfect.

I found a little crack in the windows where I can take a picture inside at someone fishing through the porn. And if you look closely on the left: Unintentional Show World windw reflection shot!

I'm pushing my luck a little and taking a shot from the front door. This guy looks like he's really stocking up. He's going to really hand it to himself when he gets home tonight. Okay, I'm a little nervous to go in. I'm afraid I won't be able to get any pictures and that hotdog left me a little thirsty. I think I'll have a beer and put together a game plan.

Ha! I've walked less than a block and ran into one of my old 365 spots! Let's stop in and see if we know anyone in here.

There's a seat at the end of the bar with our name on it. Let's snag it.

And look, there's Tracy and John, looking even better than the last time we saw them! It was great to see them and I had a beer and worked up a game plan for Show World. I'd go to a viewing booth first, take some pictures in there and then try and take some pictures of the outside room.

And awaaay we go!

Okay, I made it into one of the viewing booths, that's the good news. The bad news is your dollar to watch a movie goes here, and there's...well...stains everywhere. Stains of what I like to call manonaise. This isn't an easy moment.

In fact I just had a flashback of this and I feel just a tad bit queasy. But, as they say, the show must go on. Luckily, even though it was warm outside today, I still have my gloves in my coat. I'll put them on and put a dollar in the machine and see what happens.

Okay, the movie has started but there's four going on at once and it's a little nerve-wracking.

Oh, I looked over here and see you have to pick which movie you want to watch by pushing a button. Boy, I really don't like touching stuff in here, even with a glove on my hand.

But these four movies all going at once are driving me insane. Okay, time to push the button, I'll throw the gloves away when I leave, winter's almost over anyway.

This is the one I chose.

She's cute, but a little bit of a trash taiker, I have to confess.

The plot line was a bit confusing, but I'm in agreement with these two fine fellows, she sure is one saucy vixen! Right after this scene the movie stopped. You only get about two minutes for a buck and that was fine with me, I really wanted out of this room. The stains and close quarters were starting to creep me out big time.

Okay, now I'm out in the main room. Show World has turned into a sad and dilapidated place of what it used to be. Just rows of X-rated DVD's, some magazines and a wall of sex toys. It was tough taking pictures because there's couple of security guys watching everything. I took this one with the camera at my side while pretending to browse.

Here's another shot, yeah I know it sucks, but what am I supposed to do under these conditions? At least I'm trying.

Here's a shot of the back of the room and some of the viewing booths back here. Oh shit, just as I took this someone yelled, "Hey, what are you doing?" Maybe they have wall cameras or something. I jammed the camera in my coat pocket and a burly Hispanic guy came running over to me. "What the hell are you doing?" he screamed at me. I just smiled, pointed to my mouth and ears and then gave him some fake sign language with my fingers, pretending to be deaf and dumb. "You get out of here!" He screamed, while pointing to the door. At least I got a couple photos, so I scrambled out the door and lit out into Times Square.

I walked aimlessly for a block looking at the pictures on my camera and laughing about what had just happened and when I looked up, what did I see but this. Holy smoking Jesus, there's just no escape. To quote Richard Hell: "Please kill me." Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

I once pitched a Show World idea to my editor at Time Out New York when I used to do some freelance writing for them. They usually have some sort of theme to the issue (the first piece I ever wrote for them was about working a night job, I should’ve included that in yesterday’s post!) and one of the upcoming feature sections was going to be about the worst jobs in New York City. I laughed and told him I had a great idea.

The first time I ever went to Show World was about a month after I had lived in New York. I had heard about the place and walked by it, but felt weird going in alone. I was brand new to the city and was still in a little bit of a state of shock about living in New York City. But my older brother Jim came to see me after I was here for about a month and we tore the town up during his visit. One of the first spots we hit was Times Square and we went to all the sleazy joints. There used to be one store that billed itself as the largest XXX video store in the world a couple blocks from Show World near 8th avenue. The place was huge and we went in and started laughing at all the porno film names like: “Backsides to the Future,” “On Golden Blonde” and “Sperms of Endearment.” My personal favorite was one that simply billed itself as, “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Subtlety at its finest hour.

Anyway, we ended up at Show World half in the bag and we were goofing around.
We started watching guys going into video booths. They’d run in and then in a few minutes they’d run back out again all red-faced and heading towards the door, hoping good neighbor Sam didn’t see him after he had just polished the pope in a public pulpit. We noticed that as soon as a guy would rush out of the booth, a little guy with a mop and bucket would run over and mop the inside.

“Holy shitballs,” I remember saying to my brother, “that guy’s a fucking cum-cleaner!” And we both fell over in laughter.

Now if that’s not the worst fucking job in New York City, I don’t know what is.
I mean can you imagine meeting someone at a party or a bar and they ask you what you do? And you have to answer, “Oh, I clean up the cum over at Show World, but I just do it to pay the rent. I’m really a writer, honest, I’ve got a blog!”

So I pitched the idea to my editor to either go there and try to talk to a cum-cleaner or better still, maybe apply for the job and do an undercover piece about being a cum-cleaner at Show World. I told him if I could pull it off it could be a cover story.

I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of, “You’ve got to be out of your fucking mind.”

Maybe that’s why I never got a staff-writing job there.

Show World
303 West 42nd Street
(212) 247-6643
Open 24 hours

Further reading: CBS News, City Room, Racked, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.


Never mind the forecast cause the sky has lost control,
cause the fury and broken thunder's come to match my raging soul,
now I don't believe I want to see the morning.



Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Night Shift Workers At Penn Station @11:28 pm

First off I want to thank some fellow bloggers for helping to spread the word about MAD. I got a shout out from Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York and I thank him not only for that, but for the mention about the 365 blog and the Q. and A. he did with me last year, he’s got a great blog and it meant a lot to me to be featured on there. And speaking the 365 blog, if you followed that last year you’ll know both these nest two bloggers: My buddy Tim "Clacky" Clack just started his debut blog and it’s called, Tales From The Bunt’s Side, which refers to his exclusive bar he just built in his back yard. down under in Australia. He wrote me up yesterday in this post and I thank him for that! I can’t wait to hit Bunt Custer's Bar someday, but in the meantime we all have this wonderful blog. And last, but certainly not least my friend Fat Al over at the fine blog The Half Empty Glass also devoted a post about MAD along with a video. Which video was it? Well, you’ll just have to check their post right here: THEG. Thanks to all three and if you haven’t seen or read their blogs, you should do so right now...and then come back here of course! Okay on with the blog.

I started working the night shift in 1986. The day before I started I wondered how much I would hate it. After a couple nights I realized I loved working nights and I vowed never to work the day shift again. And I haven’t, except for a few weeks out of the year when I have to fill in for someone on the day shift who’s on vacation. And believe me, when I do have to work the day shift it’s as painful as a Tabasco sauce enema.

I don’t know why more people don’t want to work at night, especially here in New York where there’s so many places to go to at off hours. I’ve never been a morning person and I don’t know how most people stand getting up anywhere between 6 am and 9 am every single day for work. It’s so early and bright...sunshine...echh! When you work nights you can sleep in, drink at weird hours of the morning, it’s usually quiet in apartment buildings and the whole mood at work and everywhere else is a little looser and kookier as the night rolls into morning and the hours turn from big to small.

In a way I’m glad most people don’t want to work nights, it makes it that much easier for me to get a job. Although when you request to work nights, you usually get a weird reaction at the start. When I’ve told prospective employers that I want to work the night shift, they usually do a double take and then squinch their eyes and give me a look like I’m the second coming of Travis Bickle. I once had an interview with the owner of a pre-press print shop and he told me that he’d hire me, but he said, “You have to realize one thing, I don’t foresee you getting on the day shift for years.”

I promptly replied, “Well if you put me on the day shift, I’ll quit. I don’t want to work daytime hours.”

His eyes got narrow and he gave me the son of Travis Bickle look and said almost in a frightened tone, “What? Are you some kind of a fucking vampire or something? Nobody wants to work the night shift!”

Anyway, that brings me to tonight’s after dark journey. I thought once a week I’d go somewhere and take photos and talk to people working the night shift right here in New York City to give some credit to kindred spirits of the night. Tonight I thought I’d wander over to Penn Station to take some night shift portraits. It’s open all night and there’s a good variety of places open late to go and when you’ve got a variety of places, there’s a variety of people, which is just what I want.

Tonight we're going in the opposite direction of the last two evenings, so you get to see the other side of the sidewalk outside of where I work.

This is a couple doors down from where I work. I love how they keep the "On Demand Printing" sign on while they're closed. Irony at its finest hour.

And we turn the corner and Penn Station is just a block away.

And here we are, Penn Station at 11:28 pm in the evening.

Okay, I wrote about this on the 365 blog, but I'm going to write about it again, because it's something that has bugged me ever since I moved to New York and have been traveling here at Penn Station. See the woman on the left? She just pushed me aside as she hurriedly runs down the escalator. What's wrong with that, you may wonder, she's just in a hurry to catch her train to Bumblefuck, New Jersey, why be upset over that? Well normally I wouldn't be, but there's a full set of stairs right next to the fucking escalator! If you want to run to catch your stupid-ass train, take those and leave the escalator for those of us who aren't in such a goddamned hurry!

And what kills me is the stairs are more than twice the size of the escalator. Yet it never fails that people choose the escalator to run down. Life is never easy.

Most of stores on the first floor close early, so we'll go to the lower level. Thankfully this escalator is people-free.

And here we are in the underground of Penn Station.

Here's a crew of Long Island commuters all staring at the Long Island train schedule in commuter zombie style.

Whenever someone from Long Island asks why I choose to live in the city when I could live there a lot cheaper, I think of standing in Penn Station and staring at this every night and I'm happy to pay Manhattan rent and live in a tiny apartment that I can to walk to work from.

Okay, here's a long string of stores open late. Let's go meet some of the night shift workers at Penn Station.

I like the fact that Penn Station has a late night book store, so I thought that would be the first stop.

This is Ryan who runs the cash register here. He told me he's worked here for 8 months and he gets off work around midnight, so his shift was just about over. He said he likes working the night shift because that's when all the manic depressives come out. He read me like a book, which is why he probably works there.

After leaving Penn Books I ran into Brian outside. Brian's worked as a custodian for Penn Station for 10 years. He's a nice guy and said he's happy to have his job.

Here's the Papaya hot dog counter, let's see who's toiling away in the midnight hour here.

Meet Medhat, he's a true overnight worker who told me his shift ends at 6 in the morning.

just a few doors down is the Rose Pizza and Pasta restaurant, let's check that out.

Samuel and Crystal work behind the counter at the restaurant. Their shift ends at 2 am and they, like everyone else I've met tonight said they like working evenings here. Nice to know I'm not the only person who prefers to work on the other side of the workday.

Hellooo...what have we here? Why it looks like...a bar! Deja vu!

There's a decent crowd in here, but I spy a seat, let's go snag it. Holy shit, I'm reverting back to the 365 guy!

And here's Nev, the friendly bartender who happily serves me up a beer. Nev told me he's worked here for five years and said he loves working nights. His shift ends at one in the morning. He told me he sleeps in every single day. Ah, that's the beauty of the night shift. Sleeping during rush hour.

After my beer I went outside and this gentlemen had just started performing for a crowd of travelers.

He's a great musician and was playing a reggae tune.

After I took this shot he finished the song and I bought one of his CD's for five bucks. His name is Jahstix and you can check out his website here: JAHSTIX.

Okay, that's all for tonight. Time to take the escalator up...

And back out into the night. Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

Penn Station
Between 31st and 33rd St. and btw. 7th and 8th Ave.
Open 24 hours

Further reading: Transit Hub, New York Architecture, The Bowery Boys, City Room


I’m just about a moonlight mile down the road.


Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

53rd and 3rd @ 12:37 am

Before I start tonight’s After Dark episode, I really want to thank everyone who stopped by and those of you that left comments. It was really a nice way to start this blog. I hope you continue to enjoy it. I got a couple shout-outs yesterday, EV Grieve and the Neighborhoodr both put links to MAD and I thank them and everyone else who’s helped to spread the word. Speaking of the Neighborhooder, Matt Rosen who runs and curates that East Village blog also helps Ray from yesterday’s post with his online presence and asked if I would put up a few links for people to check out. And I’m happy to do so. If you enjoyed yesterday’s post and would like a memento from Ray’s Candy Store in the East Village, you can get one from: The Official Ray's Candy Store Clothing & Accessories Shop on CafePress. All the profits from sales in the store go to Ray’s and will help keep him in business. You can also follow Ray’s Candy Store on Twitter, just click the link right here: Ray’s Candy Store on Twitter. Okay, now on to tonight’s destination.

Certain circumstances happen in your life as you get older and it can change your whole perspective about something.
The Ramones first album did that for me, it completely changed the way I listened and heard music.

It came out when I was a senior in high school. And I had just turned eighteen-years-old, the perfect age for an introduction to all things Ramone. I remember I had read a review of their first album, probably in Rolling Stone or Creem magazine, my two bibles at the time and if I remember correctly, the review said something like they sounded like the Beach Boys cranked up to the gills on speed. Well, I liked the Beach Boys and I loved speed back then, so I was sold. Then I looked closer at the album cover that was printed with the review. This band looked like a combination of back-alley street thugs and four guys who’ve just been sprung out of the looney-toon bin. They had long dishbowl haircuts, black leather motorcycle jackets, ripped up and falling apart jeans and tennis shoes. And the tallest one had a certain Lurch-like quality to him. They didn’t look like any other band I’d ever seen.
I immediately ran downstairs and asked my mom if I could use her car to drive over to the record store. She said okay so I zoomed to the store, found the album, bought it and raced back up to my room. I peeled off the shrinkwrap and breathed in that new album smell that I loved. I put the album on and about 23 seconds into “Blitzkrieg Bop” my mouth was hanging wide open. I had never heard anything like this in my fucking life. The songs were fast and short and the music had a rat-a-tat-tat quality that was really catchy. While it definitely was a unique, new and original sound, there was something vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Finally, after about ten spins on my turntable it hit me: It sounded a little bit like vintage ‘60’s/70’s bubblegum music. And I love ‘60’s/70’s bubblegum music. Of course once I turned 15 or 16 I pretended to hate it because it wasn’t cool to like it, but I always have had a love for that genre of music and I still do. I also liked hard rock and garage rock and this was like a marriage of the three. This thinking was confirmed when I read the book, “Please Kill Me,” and Joey Ramone is quoted as saying that the Ramones’ goal was to be as good as the Bay City Rollers.

The other thing that was great and different about this album was the lyrics.
They were different and they were funny. Some of the subject matter included Nazi’s, sniffing glue, being afraid to go down to the basement and one song called, “Beat on the Brat," which had the lyric, “Beat on the brat with a baseball bat.” It was like the equivalent of a musical dead baby joke! I loved it and that album turned me on to punk rock and really changed the way I thought about music. Let’s just say I filed my Emerson Lake and Palmer albums away and never listened to them again.

One of the songs from the album I didn’t really understand at the time and the name of it was “53rd and 3rd.” I got the Vietnam reference in it and that the character in the song kills somebody with a razor blade but I didn’t really get what it was all about. Years later I read that Dee Dee Ramone wrote it and it was about a section of Manhattan called the loop, where young male prostitutes also known as chicken hawks hung out trying to turn tricks for cash. This area was the corner of 53rd and 3rd. I don’t think Dee Dee ever admitted it, but it’s been widely reported that back in the day he would prostitute himself out for drug money and that the tune was semi-autobiographical.

I was listening to the song the other day and realized that I’ve lived here for close to 18 years now and I can’t ever recall being at the corner of 53rd and 3rd. So I thought it would be a fun after dark journey to walk there after work and see what’s happening over at the corner of 53rd and 3rd these days. So...hey, ho, let’s go!

And here we go, off into the night. I'm going to take pictures along the way because sometimes the journey is just as much fun as the destination.

O'Reilly's Pub, memories from a blog gone by! Hard to believe that was over a year ago. Time flies when you go to 365 bars in 365 days.

This one's for you Gidget. (Inside joke.)

Become your future you...well, I just got a mental picture of me at 85-years-old in an adult diaper, so thanks, but I think I'll just stick to the regular aging process.

Wow, it's really deserted out, I can't wait for the weather to get nice, this is a little creepy walking around New York when the main streets are empty. It looks like a parade of zombies could appear at any moment.

Porn star name on a luggage store alert!

I don't know what's multiplying faster in New York, bedbugs or these 99 cent/$1.00 shitty pizza joints.

And here we are! The infamous corner of 53rd and 3rd! I brought along a picture of the Ramones and I thought I'd get some characters hanging around the block to pose with it on this corner. Let's go find some people.

Hmm, nobody over here...

Just a lot of cars and traffic over here...

Got nothing on that corner...

There's Duane Reade, but he doesn't have any arms to hold the picture, so that would be a little awkward. That's the danger of doing something like this, sometimes nature works against you and you have to improvise. Let's keep looking.

Hey, hey, hey...what's this behind me? It's a late-night Halal food cart, you know somebody's in there, let's go check it out.

And sure enough, I found this nice gentlemen setting up his cart. His name is Abraham. Let's see if he'll pose with the photo.

Abraham said he knew of the Ramones and would be happy to pose with the picture, but shit, that light got in the way...time for take two...

This one's a little better, but it's a little too far away. As you can see from the look on Abraham's face, sometimes it's a little painful to work with me.

And there we go, a winning shot to close the night on. Abraham is at this corner every night and he works all through the night to the morning, so when you're close by 53rd and 3rd, stop by his cart and get a bite to eat. Alright, from Abraham, Martin and the ghost of the Johns on 53rd and 3rd, goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark!

Further Reading: New York Magazine, Wikipedia, Super Seventies.


53rd and 3rd
You're the one they never pick
53rd and 3rd
Don't it make you feel sick?


Bonus Jaws Art!
MAD commenter Jaws sent in this welcome back art to mark the start of this blog. Very nice, Jaws, thanks buddy! If you’d like to wear some of Jaws’ art, check out his online store here: Jaws The Cabbie Store.


Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Ray’s Candy Store @12:03 am
Lower East Side, NYC

Well, here we go with the debut post from my new blog, “Marty After Dark.” Anybody out there? Or did I lose everyone with my month absence? I know how fickle everyone on the internet can be, so we’ll see who made it over here. Anyway, the explanation for what this is all about and what I’m going to be doing can be found right here: What’s Going On. If you’ve stumbled here and don’t know who I am and are curious, you can read all about me here: About Me (I’m a legend in my own mind!)

Big thanks to “Boris” for a spectacular job on designing the Marty After Dark banner. As always, “Boris” was able to put together an iconic piece of art that really makes the page come alive, thanks, Daddio! And my friend and the coolest DJ in the world, Gidget, once again set up a facebook fan page for the site and she and “Boris” will be maintaining it. You can click on the button over on the right, or just click here to be part of the fan page—Marty After Dark on facebook  And you can check out Gidget and “Boris” on Woody radio, here’s the schedule page: Woody Radio Schedule.

So now that you know what’s going on, it’s time for our first late night adventure. Since today was Valentine’s day, I thought it only fitting to venture out to a candy store that never closes. And this isn’t just any candy store, it’s a place that’s been on the block on Avenue A for over thirty years—Rays Candy Store, right across from Tompkins Sqare Park. The owner is Ray Alvarez a man who just celebrated his 78th birthday, sadly I missed that party, check out the photos here: Slum Goddess at Ray’s birthday party. So since this being Valentine’s Day, I thought we’d make a late night visit to Ray’s candy store, wish him a belated happy birthday, a happy Valentine’s Day and maybe get an egg cream soda. Come on, let’s get out there in the dark and get this blog moving already!

Okay, here we go off on the maiden voyage of Marty After Dark.

We'll go up 6th Avenue to 34th Street to catch the F train to the Lower East Side. Goddamn, it's windy and chilly out here tonight, I can't wait for spring to be sprung.

A lonely street vendor waits for customers that probably won't be showing up on this cold and windy evening.

And here we descend into the bowels of the subway system in Manhattan.

Hi asshole!

Hot damn, only about a three minute wait and here's the F train.

Hey look who's our neighbor, the asshole who can't stop texting. He never looked up once during the whole trip.

And we're here. We'll exit on Houston Street.

There's not a lot of people out tonight, even though it's Valentine's Day. For me, February is one of the worst months in New York. Kind of a cold and lonesome month. I bet there's people at Ray's though, let's soldier on.

Katz's deli is closed for the evening, but the sign is still lit.

And here we are, Ray's Candy Store, there's ATM here if you're still with us Joey D!

Another angle of the quaint candy store.

Here's some of the outside signage.

And here's some more.

I chopped off the bottom of this sign, but it says, "Everything Made With Love." Nice.

Let's go in and check it out.

And here he is, the man himself, Ray Alvarez. Ray's a really nice guy and personally greets everyone who comes in. He just turned 78-years-old and works the candy store from 8pm to 10am seven days a week. He told me it keeps him young. And he is the youngest and friendliest 78-year-old I've ever met.

There's plenty of drink choices in here, but I already knew what I had to try, one of Ray's famous egg creams.

As soon as I order Ray fly's into action. He pours...

And he mixes.

And here's the frothy final result and it's delicious!

Here's some signs and the hot dog cooker in the front window of Ray's Candy Store.

And some people have gathered inside at the counter. The crowd changes every five to ten minutes in here and it's an eclectic mix of people that pass through the door.

Here's Bob with Ray. Bob said he's been coming here so long he's not sure when he first started venturing to Ray's. He got a hot dog to go.

This couple got a small order of fries.

And here's Ray serving the fries up. Yeah, that's the small order, I can't imagine what the large one looks like!

Here's some of the candy housed behind the front counter.

As you can see from the signs, there's about anything here that your appetite desires.

Obligatory Ray's mirror shot! Some things I just can't let go.

More signs in the back of the store.

Here's a sign you could eat off of. How handy is that?

Here's some "Save Ray's" pictures. About a year ago, Ray was almost evicted from this space. He fell behind in rent and the landlord was ready to boot him out. The neighborhood rallied around Ray and raised some money to help him with his rent and thankfully he's still here.

Ray's garnered a lot of press through the years and it's plastered on the walls in between the sandwich signs.

Here's a piece from the Villager on a benefit for Ray's.

Here's an article on the wall about photographer Bob Arihood who's documented Ray's and the neighborhood with his photography. Check out his blog here: Nadie Se Conoce.

A couple of girls shouted hi to Ray in the window and asked if he needed any helpers for the night, so he invited them in.

And here they are, from left, Molly, Ray and Ilana.

They took off their coats and Ray taught them the fine art of making an egg cream.

Ray shows them the next step.

And here they sample the finished product.

Now Ray let's them try to make one on their own.

And here they are with the fruits of their labor, some fries and an egg cream. After this, they helped wait on people that came in the store.

Including Shivan and Molly who got an order of fries.

Paul and Claudia stopped in as I was getting ready to hit the road.

And a parting shot of the loneliest wiener in town. Goodnight everybody, see you tomorrow, after dark!

Ray's Candy Store
113 Ave. A (Near 7th St.)
Lower East Side

When you enter Ray’s it’s a little bit like going into a time warp. It’s a small shop with a well-worn light blue counter to lean into and suck back an egg cream and chomp into a hot dog with cheese, onions and mustard. It’s got an old world clubhouse atmosphere to it that couldn’t be duplicated if you tried. And of course there’s Ray, a charming, likeable one-of-a-kind guy running a one-of-a-kind store. There’s no menus, you have to look around at the hand-painted signs that hang on the walls in between faded newspaper items and assorted bric-a-brac to decide what you want to order. I like a place that makes you look around, it’s a reminder that you should do that more often in life. While I was in there nobody was talking on a cell phone or texting and it brought back a memory I had while doing the 365 bar crawl last year. I had approached a couple who were seated at a table and were busy texting while I told them what I was doing.

They put down their iPhones to pose for a photo and I gave them a business card and the twentysomething woman looked at it and made a face and said, “Eww, you’re on Earthlink?”

“Yeah, why, something wrong with that?” I asked wondering why she would care who my email provider was.

“It’s, like, so yesterday!” She said laughing and picking up her iPhone. Her companion smirked and was already back to the texting.

“Well, I’m all about yesterday,” I explained, “I’ve seen the future and it’s one long text that says, ‘nothing’ a thousand different ways.”

I don’t think they heard me, they were too deep into their texts to care, their faces were colored with a whiter shade of blank. I went back to the bar and had a beer. If you’re all about the yesterdays, stop in at Ray’s and get a sandwich, some fries and an egg cream and help keep a slice of yesterday alive and well on Avenue A in New York City. Ray will love it if you do and so will the neighborhood. Me too.

Further reading:EV Grieve, NY Observer, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York and Nadie Se Conoce.

And you can help support Ray and his candy store by buying one of the fine products emblazoned with his logo at his online store, check it out: Ray's Candy Store Online Cafe.

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