Christmas Trees Losing Christmas Spirit?

Tree in Bethlehem. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Tree in Bethlehem. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

As the true meaning of Christmas continues to be lost in the relentless onslaught of media messages to buy, buy, buy, another tradition has come up for re-evaluation: the Christmas tree.

In at least one place in Manhattan a tree can set an individual or family back about $1,000, including delivery. For the same $1,000 the same family or individual could feed at least 600 homeless people at the Bowery Mission.

Trees in Greenwich Village are commanding the steep price of $77 per foot if the buyer needs help getting it home and installing it. One seller explained the price breakdown: a 13-foot white fir is not a traditional tree, so its harder to get and therefore more expensive, at $750 for the tree; the stand costs $200; delivery and set up is $25; and the three or four men needed to do the legwork charge $20 each.

Not everyone has been sucked into the need to have the tallest, rarest or most “amazing” tree. Many Christmas tree buyers stuck with smaller trees saying things like, “A tree is a tree, and there is no difference.”

This man bought his 6-footer for a more reasonable, affordable, $80. Another couple could be seen dragging their 5-foot tree home themselves, which they acquired for $100, including the stand.

Another shopper noted that back where he is from in Connecticut a tree this size only costs $20.

Logan Hicks Completes “The Story of My Life” on a SoHo Wall

It has already been a few weeks since Logan Hicks’ mural was completed at Houston Street and the Bowery, but the crowd is still there.

Process shot from the mural Logan Hicks did in Hollywood Florida during Basel. Photo courtesy of Logan Hicks.

Process shot from the mural Logan Hicks did in Hollywood Florida during Basel. Photo courtesy of Logan Hicks.

That’s because the crowd is the mural. This must-see painting depicts a large, realistic looking crowd of people converging on nearby Spring and Greene Streets, all in a bluish hue. Hicks called the piece “Story of My Life,” and it is. The painting explores the “past, present and future here in New York City, telling the story of his life through the people who have touched him.” The artist photographed dozens of his friends and acquaintances on the SoHo corner, and then used those photographs to reconstruct the amazing city scene beautifully rendered on a wall on Houston Street.

Earlier this summer, at the end of July, the painting already suffered erasure after the artist spent three days putting the painting up on the wall. Due to the poor condition of the enclosure, combined with extreme heat and lots of rain, a layer of black paint ended up covering the painting.

The mural was created via the amazing technique of stenciling, which Hicks has mastered way beyond any ordinary ability.

Unfortunately, and despite the employ of a 24/7 security guard by building owner Goldman Properties, the mural has been “tagged,” or more accurately, defaced twice already, but quickly scrubbed clean.

We hope this masterpiece can remain intact and available for the enjoyment of New Yorkers.

ICP Moves to New Downtown Quarters

International Center for Photogrpahy

International Center for Photography

New York’s esteemed International Center of Photography is partnering with downtown’s New Museum as it evacuates it former home in midtown.

Not only is the museum in new digs, but its entire image has been transformed. Not only is it just a few steps from the New Museum, it is in the midst of some of the photography world’s best galleries; over 125 of them on the Lower East Side alone.

“There’s a much more creative community that’s walking around that lends to the energy,” said ICP’s executive director Mark Lubell.

The ICP was founded in 1974 by Cornell Capa. Since that time there has been a game-changing shift in photography, which is a feature of the museum’s first exhibit: “Public, Private, Secret.” The show explores the issues of privacy, surveillance and the effect of an image on self-identity, going back to the time of Sojourner Truth and her intimate 19th century prints.

“We’re getting to now live our lives through image-making and perceiving images, with everything from politics to climate issues to our own self-identity,” Lubell explained.

VK Nagrani Coming to the Bowery with a Men’s Lodge, Boutique, and Bar

Men's Brown Lace-Up Shoes

Men’s Brown Lace-Up Shoes

Rent hikes were the most likely cause of the demise of two Bowery business back in January 2015. Bowery Coffee and antique shop B4 It Was Cool,Since closed because, as one employee said, “it was no longer economically feasible” to stay in business. Since then the spaces have been empty, but action has been noticed recently at 87 East Houston, the former home of Bowery Coffee.

VK Nagrani, a combination luxury men’s boutique and bar, known as a “lodge,” is taking up the challenge of the $18,000 per month rent. Contractors have been dragging in bar stools and vintage furniture to fill the two-story space and create just the right ‘lodginess’ for the brand.

The Wall Street Journal has described the VK Nagrani Lodge as a “speakeasy retail store where, before arriving, customers are asked what they like to drink and what they like to listen to.”

The brand used to operate out of a gallery on the Upper East Side, but shut down in anticipation of its opening in the Bowery, scheduled for June 1st.

Vivek Nagrani explained the store’s philosophy in an email:

We are creating an experiential men’s boutique featuring luxury men’s clothing, custom clothing, bespoke jeans, handmade shoes and organic men’s grooming products (hangover recovery kits, post flight rejuvenation kits). Everything is made by artisan workshops in Italy, Peru and here in New York. The space is more theatre than traditional retail. The focus is taking the gent through time to an era when luxury was reserved for those who took the effort to discover it.

Mayor de Blasio Co-Names 42 Places Throughout the City

It is a long tradition in New York to honor those beloved residents who are no longer with us. There is Joey Ramone Place, which is part of the Bowery; and there is Jerry Orbach Way on West 53rd Street at Eighth Avenue. Now there are 42 more such places.

"Evacuation day" and Washington's triumphal entry in New York City, Nov. 25th, 1783.

“Evacuation day” and Washington’s triumphal entry in New York City, Nov. 25th, 1783.

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a law so that the present names of the existing streets and public places could share their names with an honorable co-name. When the mayor signed the bill he said that the action honors “individuals, cultural icons and entities that made lasting contributions to New York City.”

Manhattan will receive seven of the 42 new names. Here are just three:

  • 1783 Evacuation Day Plaza will be the new co-name of Bowling Green Plaza to honor the lowering of the British flag and raising of the US flag at the end of the American Revolution on November 25, 1783, known as Evacuation Day.
  • Normal Rockwell Place is the new co-name at the intersection of 103rd Street and Broadway.
  • Ms. Aida Perez-Loiza Aldea Lane is the new co-name of the southeast corner of East 105th Street and Lexington Avenue. A native of Puerto Rico, Aida Perez-Loiza Aldea was an activist for Puerto Rican culture.

Fashion Week: Men’s Putting on a Show or Two

Backstage at the Richard Chai Fashion Show for Men's Fashion Week in New York. Photo by Aveda Corporation

Backstage at the Richard Chai Fashion Show for Men’s Fashion Week in New York. Photo by Aveda Corporation

February 1st marks the beginning of New York Fashion Week: Men, so expect to see some male models wondering around town to and from all the exciting events.

The men’s wear company Public School is hosting an event at the Whitney Museum on February 1st at 5pm. The first 50 people in attendance will be given a specialty wristband.

At a more downtown location the men’s fashion designer John Varvatos is asking the question “Rock is Dead?” above his storefront at the former location of CBGB, 315 Bowery. We were made to believe that the bran will be doing some kind of an “installation” of its most recent collection, however, the event is strictly by invitation only.

Iconic Bowery Storefront to Close

After fifty years of trading in some of the most avant-garde garb, Patricia Field is closing down. Throughout the years this store has served one of New York’s most outlandish, creative and iconic subcultures; it was a meeting place for all that is wacky and wonderful about New York.

Shoppers who were either designers or stylists could rely on Patricia Field for unusual furry sweaters and wild costume jewelry, not to mention wigs, Daniel Palillo and leopard print cover-ups with batwings.

Field was also among the first to hire drag queens and transsexuals, way before anyone else was willing to take that step. While clad in sequins the careers of many designers, musicians and artists got their wardrobe boost within these walls.

A few years ago field expanded the premises to two stories, giving her much more room to exhibit her wares. Now the shop is scheduled for closure this coming spring.

“I started my store when I was 24 years old and it has led me onto all the wonderful professional roads I have taken,” said Field.

“My purpose was to begin my own life/career and to answer to no one but myself to be independent. After 50 successful years of being able to do just that, I decided it was time to close this chapter and make more room for all the branches that have sprung directly from that tree; continuing my film and television work, styling, designing, and pursuing brand-new projects that have been offered to me that I have not had time before to develop.”

Performance Artist Mixes Crime with His Passion

 Looking south in the evening from intersection of Mott Street and Canal Street (Manhattan) in Chinatown, Manhattan. Photo credit: Chensiyuan

Looking south in the evening from intersection of Mott Street and Canal Street (Manhattan) in Chinatown, Manhattan. Photo credit: Chensiyuan

Claiming he was engaged in artistic pursuits, performance artist Joe Gibbons could not convince the judge of that, and was instead sentenced to one-year in jail for robbing a bank.

The artist and former lecturer at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree robbery. He stole $1,000 from the Chinatown branch of Capital One Bank in Manhattan.

Apparently the robbery was part of, or all of, a performance, and was filmed by Gibbons on a pocket-sized video camera, taken by the artist himself.

Gibbons was arrested on January 8, 2015 at the Bowery Grand Hotel, only a short walk from the robbed bank. The police found Gibbons and arrested him based on a tip they received about his whereabouts. When the police entered his hotel room Gibbons was found lying on the hotel bed, holding the camera.

Thanksgiving Day has a Long Tradition at the Bowery Mission

After 135 years the Bowery Mission is still helping people, and this past Thanksgiving they were certainly still at it.

The Bowery Mission photo by Beyond My Ken

The Bowery Mission photo by Beyond My Ken

One mother from Queens, Jenny Vargas, together with her 6-year-old daughter Lian, were just two people who benefited from a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, in addition to the other benefits they receive from the Bowery Mission.

Although Vargas, a 37-year-old immigrant from Peru, works as a house cleaner, she often finds it hard to put enough food on the table on her income alone. “Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes it’s not enough,” she explains.

Vargas comes to the Bowery Mission on the Lower East Side from her home in Queens to fill up on essential supplies when she just can’t afford them herself. When she heard that the mission was hosting a traditional Thanksgiving meal, she wanted to be on hand with her daughter; not just to have a great meal, but to also show that she understands the meaning of this quintessential American holiday.

“I want to say thank you, because we have everything — health, food, she’s going to school. We don’t need a lot,” she said. “I want her to know what we do for Thanksgiving — and why. This is a time to give thanks.”

As it has during the past century plus, the Bowery Mission served thousands of meals to those entering the premises as well as those getting their meals delivered all over New York.

“We’re trying to provide a Thanksgiving meal for folks who otherwise wouldn’t have family to be with,” said James Winans, the chief development officer.

Celebrating Diversity: The Fabulous French Fry

Sir Kensington's French FriesWe certainly know that New York City is hard to top when it comes to diversity, but what you probably did not realize that this description of our city goes way beyond ethnicity and culture.
Apparently, at least according to the curators of a new pop-up art exhibit called “Fries of New York,” there are no less than 85 different types of fries served around town.

In order to showcase his specialty brand of mayonnaise and ketchup, Sir Kensington’s co-founder Scott Norton decided to put together this exhibit of New York’s fries.
“Our No. 1 focus was to show the diversity of French fries there is in the city,” said Norton, the curator of the exhibit. “We wanted to get a selection where every fry was different from the other.”

Beginning this past July Norton and his business partner Mark Ramadan began traveling the width and breadth of the city scouting out unique styles of fries. Some classics were chosen, as well as a more unusual taro fry from Boahaus restaurant, a pomme soufflé fry from 21 Club, and a cocoa and chili-sprinkled waffle fry from Max Brenner.

A total of 85 different kinds of fries were selected, and last week were retrieved and brought back to the Guild’s studio, the production company that is helping Ramadan and Norton with their project. The workers then took each fry, covered it with a special resin to prevent spoilage and to maintain their fresh-out-of-the-fryer look.

Finally the fries will be place in small glass cases. No fries will be on hand to taste but those who do stop by on either November 7 or 8 will be offered free samples of Sir Kensington’s organic ketchup, mayo and mustard.

“You can’t be obsessed with ketchup without being obsessed with fries by association,” Norton said. “Today we have Mediterranean restaurants making fries with zaatar, which are Middle Eastern herbs, we have restaurants that boil their fries in truffle oil… We wanted to show that diversification.”

“Fries of New York” will be on display at 168 Bowery on Nov. 7 and 8 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.