Sunday, July 22, 2018

365. A Spotted Pig, the Chupi, Living Gray Water, a Beaux Arts Masterpiece, a $500 Perm, and an Art-Filled John.

Giveaways will resume after Fascinating New Yorkers is released on July 26.  To get word of them and other news, sign up using the form in the sidebar on the right.  And notice this blog's five most popular posts of all time below the sign-up form on the right.  Four of the five are included in Fascinating New Yorkers.  Coming soon: the release of the print book and, a week later, the e-book, the e-book to be offered briefly at a bargain price.

For my other books, see BROWDERBOOKS below.

Fascinating NYers eimage.jpg

A collection of posts from this blog.  Short biographical sketches of people, some remembered and some forgotten, who lived or died in New York.  All kinds of wild stuff, plus some stuff that isn't quite wild but fascinating.  New York is a mecca for hustlers of every kind, some likable and some horrible, but they are never boring.

To be published July 26.  You can order it here from the publisher and get a discounted price (plus postage), but it won't be shipped before that date.  Also available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, minus the discount but with the delay.   Signed copies are available now from the author (i.e., me) for $20.00 (plus postage, if needed), but very few remain.


     The AARP Bulletin of July/August is full of interesting facts, some of them even relevant.  It is addressed to Golden Oldies and entices them with gizmos to make life easier, frauds to avoid, and ads featuring dynamic oldsters smiling radiantly as they cope -- triumphantly, of course -- with life's ravages.  It also offers statistics, and this is what got my attention.  To help retiring seniors find decent places to live, it lists the Most Livable Big Cities (population 500,000 and up), with New York in place #6.  So who beats it?  San Francisco, then Boston, then Seattle, then Denver, then Milwaukee.  As for the Most Livable Small Cities 100,000 to 499,999), no. 1 is Madison, Wisconsin, followed by Arlington, Virginia, and St. Paul, Minnesota.  (St. Paul?  Well, be prepared for snow and cold weather.)  Finally, the Most LivableTowns (25,000 to 99,999): Fitchburg, Wisconsin is no. 1 (I confess I've never heard of it), then Sheboygan, Wisconsin (I once cycled through it long ago), and La Crosse, Wisconsin.  How the AARP arrived at these conclusions I don't know, but Wisconsin does seem to be "hot." 

     Just across the page from these lists the Bulletin offers The Heavenly Blessings Christmas Tree, 3 feet tall with 50 movable figures for a Nativity at its base: "Not available in any store.  Act now!"  In the heat of July I confess that I'm not remotely tempted.  

     But one other item caught my eye.  Though oriented toward seniors, the Bulletin chronicled the unlikely but true adventures of a 20-year-old Colorado youth who managed to get bitten by (1) a rattlesnake, (2) a black bear, and (3) a tiger shark.  Not all at once, to be sure, and in different locales: the snake in in Utah, the bear in Colorado, and the shark in Hawaii.  The odds of this happening to one individual in a lifetime are calculated at one in 893.4 quadrillion, but it happened.  The young man is described as an outdoors enthusiast.  Maybe a little less enthusiasm is in order.  As for me, I'll stick to quiet walks in Greenwich Village, as described below.

A Spotted Pig, the Chupi, Living Gray Water, a Beaux Arts Masterpiece, a $500 Perm, and an Art-Filled John

         New York is inexhaustible, especially if, without a mobile device to distract you, you look about.  I have walked down West 11th Street to the Hudson many times, but no two walks are identical.  Recently I did the walk, going first along the south or downtown side of the street.  Between Greenwich Street and Washington I noticed, once again, on the other side of the street, a row of small enterprises that I have always vowed to chronicle and somehow never did.  Making mental note of this little mini mall, I promised myself to have a look at it on my return.  I have always felt the odds were against them, since they are far removed from busy Hudson Street, with its constant stream of pedestrians.  If the three most important things for a small business are LOCATION, LOCATION, and LOCATION, West 11th between Greenwich and Washington is far from ideal, though no doubt offering lower rents.  Significantly, a nice ground-floor location at the corner of West 11th and Greenwich has remained vacant now for many months.

         Going toward the river, I passed two restaurants.  At the corner of West 11th and Greenwich, across from the vacant retail site, is the Spotted Pig, with a spotted pig hanging over the corner, and an array of flowering greenery in pots outside.  It offers seasonal British and Italian food, using local ingredients whenever possible.  I have never dined there, but in spite of the less-than-ideal location, it has always seemed to be doing a good business.  Alas, the owner has been accused by ten women of sexually harassing them and maintaining a coercive and sexualized atmosphere in the restaurant.  How this will all play out I have no idea, but the #Me Too Movement is leaving its mark even on my quiet West Village walk.

         One block farther along, at the corner of West 11th and Washington Street, is another restaurant, Wallsé, offering Austrian food.  I have never dined there because, like the Spotted Pig, it seems just a bit pricey. Though its menu is posted outside, on this walk and the previous one I found it closed tight, which surprised me, since it used to do a lively business on Sunday afternoons.  Another crisis, matching the Spotted Pig’s?  Not at all.  It is now open on weekdays but closed on Sundays.  The only thing I’ve ever held against it is its name, which I’ve never known how to pronounce.  No matter, it enjoys an excellent culinary reputation.

File:033 Palazzo Chupi.jpg
No palazzo here.  This is what you see at ground level.  Elegant it ain't.

         Crossing Washington Street, I left the Greenwich Village Historic District behind and passed below the monstrosity known as the Palazzo Chupi, the architectural folly of a self-styled Renaissance man who, on top of three drab floors of an old building, planted another eleven stories in Italian palazzo style whose Pepto Bismol pink, offensive to the eye, has gradually faded, making his inspiration a bit more bearable for the neighbors.  Smack next to this monument is a small Greek Revival residence, fortunately landmarked, which, unlike the Chupi, is totally in keeping with the Village.  Enough said of the Chupi, which I have chronicled before.  Just beyond it, going toward the river, is a glass-fronted residential entrance at 366 West 11th Street, followed by several more elegant entrances, no doubt giving access to apartments with fantastic views of the river at fantastic prices.

File:032 Palazzo Chupi.jpg
And this is what you see, if you look up.

         Ah, the river …!  I sat on a bench near the water, watched the gray surface rippled by a gentle breeze, a vibrant, ever-changing pattern of gray that I had never seen before, perhaps because, on an overcast day, I had never looked for it; I christened it the living surface of gray.  Manhattan was overcast, with the sun trying to burn through, while New Jersey was bathed in sunlight under a clear sky.  The dancing dots of silver that I have often seen on the river’s surface were missing, on this cloudy day, but then I saw them, the tiniest I had ever seen, in the near distance, barely visible from where I was sitting.  Next to my bench was another that I called the Lovers’ Bench, since one couple gently entangled there got up and left, and were  almost immediately replaced by another.  But I was looking at the river, and as the sun at last burst through, bringing light and heat, the river’s gray ripples acquired a faint tint of blue.

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The Hoboken Terminal, as seen from a water taxi.  I saw it from the Manhattan side of the river.
Joe Mabel

         Just across the river I could see, on the Hoboken waterfront, the old terminal of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, now called the Hoboken Terminal, with a tall, thin tower fronted on all four sides by a clock and topped by a conical roof topped in turn by a spire.  Here the old railroad’s trains stopped, transferring passengers to ferries that crossed the river to Manhattan.  The railroad suspended service long since, but the terminal survived.  Online research tells me that this is a Beaux Arts masterpiece dating from 1907.  Over time the interior had deteriorated, but in 1997-1999 it was renovated, with restoration of its stained glass signage and a great skylight made of Tiffany glass.  Online photos show that it is indeed an architectural masterpiece, and used today daily by some 50,000 commuters.  For years I had thought it a neglected and decaying relic of the past, but now I know better, for it serves PATH, a number of local rail lines, a light rail line that I have used to reach Jersey City, and a diminished ferry service.  I have traveled that way many times with PATH, but since the PATH tracks are underground, I never suspected that a Beaux Arts masterpiece loomed above me.  Luckily, that masterpiece  escaped the fate of Manhattan’s demolished and much lamented Penn Station.

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The Hoboken Terminal's waiting room.  Compare it to the Penn Station of today.
Bob Jagendorf

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Another view of the waiting room.
King of Hearts

         Returning from the river, I passed the series of shops that I had noticed earlier on the uptown or north side of West 11th between Washington and Greenwich.  First, at 327 West 11th Street, was the 11th Street Café, which describes itself as a neighborhood coffee shop with coffee made in  Brooklyn plus dairy from upstate, and fresh bagels, free wifi, and beer, wine, and mimosa.  And also at #327 is SAVOR, a beauty salon offering “KOREAN BEAUTY RITUALS … in a New York Minute.”  Online it promises “five-star attention for your gorgeous glow, inside out.”   Who could resist?

         Next, at 325 West 11th, is the Robin Rice Gallery, run by photographer Robin Rice.  I discovered it late last winter, when it was displaying the subtly homoerotic photographs of Leonardo Pucci, whose work sometimes reminded me of Hopper’s urban scenes with only a small human figure or two somewhere in the work.  I meant to attend the opening, but a winter storm prevented me.  Later I learned that the opening had even so been well attended, and was given a tour of a back room and the john, the walls of both of them jammed with art.  And also at #325 is Orient Express, a cocktail bar.  Hey, guys, what better place to spend some time and money with your girlfriend, once the Koreans have fixed her up?

         Next door, at 323 West 11th, is Turks & Frogs, a wine bar offering Turkish fare and an impressive wine list in an atmosphere heavy with antiques.  Their window shows a big wicker-clad jug, the gaping mouth of what looks like the speaker of an old gramophone, and a big glass jar full of corks.  (Wine bottle corks, I’m sure.)  Also, in gilt letters, the one word WINE.  Their online site shows a model sail boat next to bronze candle holders and other small decorative objects, suggesting a charmingly quaint, unique, and slightly oddball setting.  I have never patronized Turks & Frogs  because I pass it on Sunday walks following cheese and wine with Bob, followed by lunch, which leaves little room for more wine and a snack.  The name intrigues me.  “Turks” I can understand, but why “frogs”?  Someday, I hope, I will be enlightened.  And of course there’s another enterprise at #323: Garden, New York, a hair salon offering haircuts from $70 to $90, a bang trim for $15, a roots touch-up for $85 to $100, and for a smashing climax, a “Japanese Straight Perm” for $280 to $500.  Well, I could manage a bang trim, but I don’t have bangs.

         Finally, at 321 West 11th, one comes to my very own dear laundry, the Village Dry Clean Laundromat Service, whose sign WHY RUSH? suggests that clients leave their laundry in the morning and pick it up that night, which is exactly what my household does.  This genial suggestion, and the sodden atmosphere of a laundromat, mark the end of my West 11th Street mini mall and a return to the humdrum and familiar, which is also reassuring, since it's nice to know one can, when necessary, get one's laundry done.

          A spotted pig, a much deplored palazzo, the living surface of gray, a Beaux Arts masterpiece, a mini mall offering a café with bagels and free wifi, next to a skinny gallery with an art-crammed john, next to the winy pleasures of Turks & Frogs, next to a $500 perm – not bad for a short summer walk from Hudson Street to the river and back.  New York is inexhaustible.

Coming soon: Weird Facts about U.S. Presidents.  Which one got stuck in the White House bathtub?  Which one executed people in person?  Which one fathered an illegitimate child?  And so on...


All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  In her Reader Views review, Sheri Hoyte called it "a delightful treasure chest full of short stories about New York City."

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you.  An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017 and 2018.


"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.


"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. 

Browder - Cover - 9781681143675-Perfect - 2
The back cover summary:

New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, taking slaves from Africa to Cuba, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  Chris has vivid fantasies of the suffering slaves on the ships and their savage revolts.  How could seemingly respectable people be involved in so abhorrent a trade, and how did they avoid exposure?  And what price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?

Early reviews

"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

New release; available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, if you like, but no porn (I don't do porn).  Women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)


"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

©   2018   Clifford Browder

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