For me, looking at these retouched photos from Ashkan Honarvar‘s fifth “Faces” series is like choking on a really tasty hot fudge sundae. The pleasure centers and the gag reflex are both firing at about equal rates. (More images after the jump.)
Brad and Cyndi run Hotsy Totsy Burlesque on the third Tuesday of every month at the Delancey, right there at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side. Cherry Pop Burlesque happens at the same place, the fourth Tuesday of every month, and I can’t recommend either show enough.
You can pay as much as you want in this city any night of the week for entertainment, but for eight bucks you can get right into something wild and weird that you won’t find anywhere else in the country for ten times as much cash.
The storytelling and burlesque scene have a fair bit of overlap in New York. Emotional nakedness and physical nudity are close relatives, and folks like Brad and Cyndi (our new bloggers) work hard at both. Ultimately, both communities are powered by passion and a love for the art form. Lord knows we’re not in it for the money.
That’s why I came to this town and it’s why I’ll either die here or leave a piece of my soul behind when I have to leave this magical, filthy island.
The ladies at Cherry Pop Burlesque were kind enough to let me photograph a show a few months back. What follows here is a loose collection of observations and photos from that night. You can see an expanded photo show here, too.
Seeing burlesque shows at the Delancey feels like something from the bad old days of New York that made me want to move here in the first place. It’s seedy enough to make any loving mother uncomfortable, but not so seedy that I wouldn’t take my girlfriend.
Even the sign for the basement gets me all excited. It’s at the end of a long, red hallway glowing like the understated gateway to hell. Or at least the world of sin that tent revival preachers used to warn against/advertise. This photo reminds me of the Pink Room with maybe a little less overt menace.
I was crossing through the Essex/Delancey subway last night at about 1, coming home from the incredibleCherry Pop Burlesque. One of the performers had done a stunning routine to Lou Reed’s version of “This Magic Moment” from the “Lost Highway” Soundtrack — which I’d never heard before. The routine and the song meshed perfectly in this grinding, menacing, but also sweet experience that had me all fired up and confused, just the way you should be when you see something amazing that you’ve never seen before.
And then I came across this guy playing cover songs on a ukulele:
He was on the natural stage there on the Uptown side of the F train, playing sweet, melancholy songs greatly aided by all the natural reverb down there.The singer/ukulelist goes by the name “Laustcawz.”He’s got a website here, and this is his theme song.
I got him to do a song just for me so I could share it with all of you:
I talked to a bunch of folks about it ahead of time, none of whom could make it out. Fair enough. Zach’s a nice young man, and was kind enough/self-promotional enough to post the video on Vimeo. Here it is, see for yourselves:
Do you ever make something and then just sit there looking at it because it thrills you so damn much? Maybe you can’t stop eating your own cooking — or listening to a riff you just recorded. It doesn’t have to merit a footnote in the history of all that has ever been created, but it tickles you in just such a way?
That’s how I feel about this photo of King King attacking my office, below. I’ve got a McFarlane King Kong toy on my desk, and I just snapped it against the view of the skyline from my office window. Ran it through a couple apps on the phone, then finished it off in Photoshop, and we now have a visual representation of my whole thing: monster movies, screaming giant gorillas, low-res output and a lot of love.
I love this kind of stuff. I have no idea if this is a legit piece of Congolese art or not, but I don’t even care. Stuff like this excites me so, so much. I read a lot about Congolese power figures back in college when I was majoring in art – they seemed so much more visceral and real to me than a lot of contemporary American work. One thing that really stuck with me was this:
Those nails aren’t acts of violence. They’re prayers for strength. It’s a holdover from a time when metal was precious and rare, valued for its strength and durability. So this could be a statue of a warrior, and each nail pounded into his spirit is a prayer that he stays strong, that he doesn’t flinch, and that he can take whatever gets hammered into him.
I like that a LOT. I don’t even know if it’s true in a literal sense, either. And I don’t even want to know. That’s how faith and myth get formed – you hear something that works for you and moves you in this way that you need to be moved. It’s something that confirms your sense of wonder and beauty, usually. And then it doesn’t even matter how it got into your head or why it’s supposed to be there. Your head and your heart don’t care, you make a pearl out of it all the same.
Have you ever noticed how some people put a pair of headphones in, and it’s like it’s the performance version of Thor’s hammer? Like by putting those buds into their ears, they are suddenly blessed with an incredible singing voice, perfect pitch and total invisibility? Put on some sunglasses and an iPod and all of a sudden nobody is on the train except Simon Cowell and Dr. Dre, and both of them are hiring. It’s kind of like having a low-budget version of Rock Band that only plays R&B.
You never hear anyone singing Coldplay or Dave Matthews, is all I’m saying. I prefer it that way.
And don’t get me wrong here — sure, sometimes the phenomenon is a little annoying. But other times it is completely the most awesome thing that can happen to your whole week, a beautiful, off-kilter accident.
Like this guy that sat across from me on the J Train last weekend singing Chris Brown’s “Winner.” Check this thing out, it’s beautiful. I love how he doesn’t let his performance stop him from pouring himself a little sip of something from his thermos, then gets his soul stole by the music before the cup hits his lips … and caps it all off with a shameless crotch scratch. Also of note is how quickly the guy next to him stops giggling and starts ignoring the whole thing.
Don’t let me spoil it for you, though – check this out for yourself. It’s stuff like this that reminds me that the world is alive and beautiful and full of strange surprises …
I saw this peeling, yellowed and filthy sign offering “Easy Credit” in a neglected storefront around the corner from my apartment the other day. I wonder if the store went out if business as a result of offering Easy Credit, or if it went out of business long before credit collapsed in this country.
Somebody came along with a marker and edited the sign to say “Easy Credit For Homicides.” I know there’s some serious gang activity in South Williamsburg – the wave of gentrification hasn’t created nearly as high as it has on the North side – but man, I hope that particular credit market has locked up, too. I just signed a yearlong lease by the Marcy stop on the JMZ …
My grandmother’s real name is Helen, but everyone in my family calls her Daro. It’s one of the first words I ever said, apparently — I just pointed at her and yelled it out and it stuck, simple as that.
Daro is 95 years old. She lied about her age her whole life until she turned 90, and then she started telling EVERYBODY. She’s a relentless self-promoter, a tireless artist, creator, and outsider poet. And man, she’s full of wisdom that she does not mind sharing at all.
Here’s some classic wisdom she shared with me when I visited her over Labor Day weekend:
We were sitting at the dinner table eating a home-cooked meal. Sort of. She proudly announced to me “I never use the oven anymore, Jeffrey. I just do everything up here in the microwave now, and it’s great!” We had some microwaved vegetable soup with a salad of romaine leaves covered with canned pears, and canned peaches. “Try some of the dressing I invented just tonight, Jeffrey,” she told me, all excited. “I came up with it myself. It’s mayonnaise with pineapple juice mixed in!” Read the rest of this entry »