Sunglasses at night: The Jungle

Once you’re in the concrete jungle, there’s no way out, especially with the opening of “Jungle,” a new underground spot in the heart of Bushwick/East Williamsburg that has so far earned a reputation as the go-to afterhours place for the city’s techno crowd. After 4 am on a Saturday night party goers still thirsty for more start trickling in relieved to find refuge in the dim green glowing walls of the loft’s spacious room that echoing boom of techno base can be heard throbbing from the outside. Since it’s opening the place has been a weekend hot spot consecutively, it’s opening night went straight to late Sunday morning and the following weekend the grounds shook with an intense rave style techno party, the first of a new monthly series. There’s nothing too glamorous about the place – no fancy bar or DJ booth – but its glossed wooden floor, glow from its neon green walls and dark corners give it a seedy underground vibe. Once you enter the Jungle, night life just lives on and on and on….just don’t forget to bring your sunglasses.

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Subway Etiquette

pole dance when you're tipsy.

DO: pole dance when you're tipsy.

For most New Yorkers, the subway is our only way of  transportation. It is not the most desirable option but neither is walking or driving, especially in the winter.  So, alas, the subway it is. I don’t mind it. It’s kind of like going on an amusement park ride every day – it speeds, it jolts and it swerves. And even if its unpleasant, you get on it again.

So fun or not, there are certain unspoken “rules” of how to behave on the subway. There are some people that “get it” and some that don’t and make the ride unpleasant or amusing, however you look at it. So since I have a lot o f time to kill on the sub, here’s a couple things I thought up to keep in mind next time you join along for the ride.

1. DON’T be that asshole who makes the flying leap from the turnstiles through the closing doors…then have to act like the Hulk and bust them open. The doors spasm and you just look like a fool for trying to make a dramatic entrance into the subway. AND you have delayed the ride by 23 seconds. And in a New York minute, that means you threw us way off schedule.  So chill out and accept your fate of being late, don’t bring others into your problem. You snooze you lose, baby.

2. DO hold it in. No one wants to know you ate a can of refried beans for dinner. Gas doesn’t pass on the subway. It lingers. then you smell of your strangers’ farts the whole day. Not cool.

3. DON’T pick your nose. I don’t encourage this as general public behavior, but on the subway? That’s like shitting in an un-flushed toilet. I want to get to my destination without gagging, thank you.

4. DON’T expect chivalry to make a come back. It’s first come first serve. Once a seats taken, it’s taken and it don’t matter if you’re a chick or a dick. If you’re an old lady, well, that’s a different story.

5. DO follow hot people into the subway car. If you see an attractive man/woman while waiting for the subway it is perfectly acceptable to move closer and pretend that you are going in the same car. Then proceed to check them out until you get off. And if the subway is packed enough, feel them up. They’ll never know it was your hand going up their shirt.

6. DON’T be the over-the-shoulder newspaper reader. There’s no point in trying to “not be obvious” about anything in New York. So be honest and ask your neighbor if they can hurry up reading the news and get to the horoscopes.

7. DO use your earphones for their purpose. If we all wanted other people to hear our music then we would all be carrying around stereos. The last thing I want to hear at 8:30 in the morning is the distant tap-tap of reggaeton. Keep it to your own ears.

8. DON’T touch skin. I’ve noticed that the slightest graze of skin on skin (pinky to palm let’s say) causes people to jump back as if they were just ass-groped. Apparently personal space does exist, somehow, in sardine packed subways.

9. DON’T block the entrance, whether you’re in or you’re out. And insiders should always be let out first. So don’t let me have to bust out the high kick to make my way out.

10. DO act unfriendly. Small talk is for Californians and tourists. Just because my nose is half way up your armpit doesn’t mean I’m interested in knowing you have two kids and made an astrological software for Mac computers. On the subway, we mind our own business.

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Sidewalk Philosophy

Outside Stromboli Pizza on the corner of St. Marks and 1st, there is a stylish garbage can, splattered with a blue-green-red paintjob and has the following quote boldly sprawled across it:


When I moved here in this summer, I remember this caught my eye. I could not relate to the quote but something compelled me to write it down and save it. I felt discouraged by the words. Pressure? Survival? Hang in there? What did I need to hang on to? I had a college degree under my belt, a promising internship to kick start my writing career, and most of all I was soaring on passion and ambition. I shrugged off the quote.  The “big city” did not intimidate me. I was never going to struggle. It was going to be a place where my dreams came true.

How fast time flies and how quickly my naivety vanishes. Six months later, I have returned to this quote, not out of curiosity but out of desperation for inspiration and comfort.

These words speak to me now. I don’t think De La Vega (who I have learned is a respected Harlem graffiti artist/photographer/ heralded for his inspirational quotes) meant “survival” in the context of danger we usually associate it with.

“Survival” in New York is a whole other idea. It’s about learning how to stay strong, keeping with the pace of things and doing everything to avoid getting crushed under the stampede of others running along on the same rat race as you. In New York, the competition is fierce. It is not a place for the mellow, for the humble or for a laid back Californian surf boy. People who come here are big dreamers; We are the passionate dreamers with a fervent drive and a set vision.

That is all peachy and invigorating, until you actually face the reality of merely living in this city. I feel everyone comes to this city with some kind of disillusioned fantasy of New York. Living in the city is not like any place I’ve had to live in before. It is a concrete jungle, the ultimate urban test for survival of the fittest. Just living – day to day to make ends meet – is exhausting. I get up, go to work, work, come home, and I’m tired. I want to crawl in my bed and forget about the day. But I do it over and over again because it takes a lot to maintain you in this city. I wonder how more than half the people, especially poor families, in this city who are less privileged and fortunate than me do it. The effort is tiresome and time-sucking. This is a city where dreams can come true if you have the time and don’t have the pressure of keeping your head above water.

It’s easy to get distracted by the city’s pressure and lose sight of your direction. But then again, New York has a certain magic that keeps you going, because on the worst of days you may stumble upon a dose of sidewalk philosophy to get you back on your feet…

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Mornings to Midtown

I love going to work in the mornings.  Let me clarify. I love the effort it takes to go anywhere in New York especially the path I take from my home in Bushwick to the suffocating streets of midtown. West side, that is.

I get up early to give myself enough time to drink my coffee, not slurp it down like a shot of tequila or a bottle of water after hot yoga (a skill honed in our on-the-go society). Yet in the mornings I like to drink it slowly so I can look out my window and watch my neighborhood wake up: kindergartners bundled up like stuffed pillows waddling after their mothers. People pacing impatiently at the corner waiting for the bus, their frosty breath following them as they move from side to side.  I can get an idea of how cold it is by the way people wait for the bus and how fast they walk down the sidewalk. There is one man who sits waiting for the B43 cocooned up in a large puffy jacket, his eyes barely peeking through. When I see him, I know it must be fluctuating around 20 degrees. Or less. If people walk in pairs and are chatty with each other, rather then stiffly iced in their coats, I know I don’t need my hat and earmuffs.

I take the L train to work. Some hate it, for its sluggishness between 8 and 9 am on weekdays and for the painful 30 minute wait on weekends anytime after midnight. But on those week mornings, I don’t mind it. I like that it goes slow. Although I’m showered, warmed up with oatmeal in my stomach and have my bag around my shoulder, I’m not ready to be in work mode just yet. I savor the anonymity in the morning. In the stuffed subway car full of strangers I feel most relaxed and myself. I can choose to look at my fellow riders, or I can choose to be totally detached, and catch up on my reading. When I’m in a curious mood, which is most of the time,  I like to watch the people on the train – what they are wearing, what they are reading, who they are talking to and how. I wonder where they are going, what they are thinking by the looks on their faces and what they did the night before by the way their eyes droop. I imagine. I wonder. To me, humans are the most interesting of species. And I cannot get enough of them.

By the time I get off the subway I feel awakened by my new curious thoughts or sometimes humorous incidents that frequently happen on the train. The other day I happened to be standing next to a teenage girl that was not having a good morning. She was sitting and the crowded train forced me to invade her personal space. You get used to that after awhile but she couldn’t tolerate it that day. She eyed me the whole ride with the unblinking stare of death. I tried to move away but stepped on her foot. I felt like I had just pulled a pin out of a grenade and it was about to explode. Fortunately I got off in the nick of time.

I get off at the Penn Station stop in midtown. It always smells of toast and breakfast aromas. It smells strongly of warm muffins on the C and E train side and more coffee and eggs off the A train. The smells make me want to get in my pajamas and sit around a kitchen table, like I used to do on Saturdays when I lived at home. Once I get outside, the midtown rush hits me and I put on a rough techno mix to get me going with the pace. I feel like I’m in a movie, living in New York, and I switch my music on to fit each scene. Mornings in midtown needs something that sings drama and mayhem, while a stroll around Rockefeller Center on a winter night is asking for John Coltrane.

Midtown is ugly but exciting, and the diversity is stimulating for my curious mind. You have middle class business people that buzz by puffing anxiously on their cigarettes, tourists that crowd the sidewalk path outside of the New Yorker hotel discussing their daily itinerary, Spanish workers that wait outside Dunkin Donuts and delis hoping to get work, hefty mail men striding by with large crates of morning mail, out-of-town dancers looking lost and late for practice and construction men perched on pickup trucks blowing on their $1.00 black coffees.

By the time I get in the door to the building I work in I feel awake and alive. What I see in an hour is enough stimulation and sights to fill a day. But in this city, everything is all packaged down to a New York minute.

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My ‘Hood

I am the minority white Jew in my neighborhood, which is strange for Brooklyn (or anywhere in New York) but understandable in my case because I live at the heart of the “Avenue of Puerto Ricas,” (aka Graham Ave). I am surrounded by senors and mama citas, a tough but lively group of people that keep Bushwick moving and shaking. There also happens to be a considerable amount of Chinese people who still outnumber me (every neighborhood needs their laundromat, right?).

Right now, there happens to be a massive parade rolling down my street, with floats and swanky cars and marching bands blasting salsa, reggaeton and some kind of choppy ghetto Spanish rap. A couple minutes ago there were llamas (seriously) and little ponies paraded outside my window…along with costumed men in Sombreros and lion masks, and school children wearing capes and crowns that looked like they were taken out of the Happy Meal box at Burger King.

Ah, that’s Graham for you. Never a dull day.

However this was a little more dramatic than usual Sundays on my street, and caught me by surprise  since I’m not subscribed to the Fiesta 411 digest or whatever it is that keeps the neighborhood in the Latin loop.

Apparently, I have witnessed the Kings Day Parade, an annual winter happening that shakes up the frostbitten grounds of New York in early January from East Harlem to Brooklyn.  This parade celebrates the “Feast of the Epiphany,” when, according to Latin traditions the day the three kings, Melchoir, Caspar and Baltazar visited the baby Jesus in the manger, bearing elaborate gifts. Something like that. Overtime, this has evolved into a present giving round two of the winter season, and an excuse to close down streets and have a party. I have no problem with that.

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For memory’s sake…

In response to an earlier comment about my post on “Stranded“…where are all the photos??

Check it out…

Shout out to Raul Coto Batres…great job!

Who’s that foxy lady with that spunky red hair…?😉

For some more pics…(thanks Chance😉 ):


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STRANDED: “Burn Night”…Brooklyn galore, how do I find the words…?

If you weren’t at Stranded on Saturday night, you missed out, I’m sorry. The party went above and beyond my expectations; it was a fun house, that glowed with a purplish-blue light throughout (psychedelic wonderland!), throughout 7,000 sq. ft of the Brainmixer Lab (special shout and big thanks to Shon ‘Chance’ Miller for the space). There were surprises around every corner: a huge, spacious dance floor, with sweaty, hyped party people pounding the cement, getting down to some of NY’s home-grown DJs, the best I’ve heard in a long time spinning deep house and break hits (from Fedde le Grande to Chemical Brothers), electronica madness, jungle-world dance music and some minimal techno in between. There was not a moment when the floor wasn’t packed, and throbbing with sexy bodies, and there was always someone just losing it with ecstatic energy. Of course, it always adds to the atmosphere when you’re dancing next to decked out stilt walkers boogieing eight feet in the air (how do they do it…?!) and a good looking, mixed crowd, some dressed as sailors, cavemen, in metallic costumes, or just plain naked (there were so many handsome asses I wanted to squeeze). Other rooms included a “carnival” room (I’m not sure if that’s what it was called, but that was my sense), with a pie-throwing booth, and a “beautification stand” where you could get decked out with an assortment of hand-made paper flower hats and necklaces, that worked for both men and women. Another room featured live musical performances, and an outside patio which I didn’t really check out until the very end, but it was always packed with people, and always some cheering going on and some fire-action (fire-dancing maybe?). I was too busy dancing my ass off inside…

Some highlights…

– Being in the presence of the most insane and amazing freak-show performance of my life (this beat watching some guy electrocuting himself and lighting a stick dipped in gasoline on fire with his tongue…): a man in a full body (head to toe) white leotard that went inside a balloon…you have to see it to believe it, but what I thought was impossible, is obviously very possible, in a hard-to-believe way…(shout out to Michael Saab Dirt, the man behind Modern Gypsies)

– When a million rose petals were dumped on the dance floor; people were tossing fresh, soft red, pink and white petals around, stomping on them, the smell of floral goodness wafting in the air…If Heaven were to throw a dance party, I’d imagine this is what it would be like; I had petals thrown at me, go down my shirt, and piles crushed beneath my heels.

– Dancing outside to the sunrise around a wheel barrow-bonfire to some raw drumming. I felt I was part of some tribal ritual, as people kept feeding the fire, the heat got hotter, the drumming got louder and faster, and the crowd went wild, women (including myself) circling around the fire, dancing full of energy to the beauty of the drums, the fresh-smoky-earthy smell of fire, to the warmth of the beautiful sunrise; everyone was just smiling, dancing, clapping, yelling hugging, for the music, for Brooklyn, for being alive, for being surrounded by people — good friends and strangers — who just want to give fun and have fun with all their heart and soul.

Special shouts out to…

– All the party planners of this event (Winkel and Baltick) and those who collaborated on decking out the place with creative aesthetics – two huge “immersive” padded screens (by NYC’s Jellie Collective) that hung from the dance floor ceiling with random old school TV show episodes projected (I think Gilligan Island episodes), a massive glittering strawberry (aka the “Discoberry” also by Jellie) suspended in the middle, and funky-glowing spider web designs that covered the ceilings (shout out to artist James Vogel).

– The dessert table with all kinds of sloppy but delicious treats (fruit salads, jello, pudding) and random corners with bowls of candy, and people walking around wearing candy buttons sheets to share.

Zack Hagan and 1050‘s wild electronic jam improvs – these guys were so good I swear my head was going to explode and my shins were going to shatter with the intensity of dancing and head banging I did…when you think they couldn’t do more…they busted out an even better frenzied trip-hop-electroacoustic-drum-and-bass set. Those assholes…

Zemi17‘s acoustcoelectro performance, starting off with some peaceful xylophone playing that created a mellow-magical ambiance (a good break from the sweaty dance floor frenzy). But then…he slowly and subtly switches gears to some intense compositions with that Zemi-only “Space Haus” electronic sound – airy and cosmic, with a hypnotic lure that gets bodies moving and minds in “the zone.”

– Anya Sapozhnikova’s spectacular mid-air acrobatics (one of the Lady Circus very talented performers), right above the dance floor crowd. She is one of my favorite performers – truly talented with an intriguing, professional stage presence and an inspiration behind my desire to take up aerial acrobatics…one day once I get my act together…

The best part of the crowd was that the people who come to these things aren’t your trimmed, superficial, pretentious Manhattanites who wait in line for some Meatpacking district club or are caught buying radioactive Hypnotic cocktails at an open bar night-frat boy infested place; this is the NY underground crowd; people who know how to let loose, get down, dress wildly and party hard; it’s uplifting to see strangers and friends, meeting, mingling, dancing with each other, smiling, talking, bonding over the wonderful nonsensical fun and mind-blowing imagination that made this happen.


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