Entries in Open 24 Hours (3)


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.


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.