Friday, May 1, 2009

Power Trio

Here we have a mind-blowing performance of 
"Mary Had A Little Lamb"with Jack Bruce 
(bassist from Cream), Buddy Miles (drummer, 
notably played with Hendrix), and Buddy Guy
(blues-guitar legend). This clip was taken from a
1969 show in London, and I have been scouring
the Internet and every record store to find a 
recording of it. If anyone has any information, 
let me know. Bruce's bass line is super funky, 
Miles (always in a nonchalant manner) lays down
a fat beat, and Guy wails away. I think his face 
says it all--now THAT'S the blues. Enjoy.

'Living for the City'--SoHo, Part I

I came to NYC with what I essentially called my ‘Bucket List’—a sort of personal agenda to follow to remind me of what I wanted to see and do.  And, if you know me at all, you could surmise that most of my list consisted of restaurants.  I have a passion for seeking out janky, mom-and-pop restaurants that have evolved into city landmarks.  But it’s a bit difficult for me to actually pinpoint what it is that compels me—there’s certainly an aesthetic appeal, whether it's big cushiony red booths or carpet that hasn’t be changed since the 50s.  It’s this sense of belonging to a culture of the past, something that has withstood the testament of time.  And I think my appreciation of this arises from a deep distrust that anything will stay the same.  Or maybe it’s an anxiety from growing up in the Valley, in which case I have to rely on an establishment like Twain’s to satiate this desire.  Yes I know, a bit of a stretch, but it’s the best thing I’ve got.  It could also be a yearning to have my ‘own spot’, like the restaurant where the gang hangs out in Seinfeld.  I’m still waiting for the day where I can sit down at the counter, and some shlubby ol’ waitress will ask me ask me bluntly if it’ll be two eggs scrambled, rye bread, and a cup of OJ. I know, I’m weird.  So the point I was trying to make with all of this is that NYC a museum for antiquated, American culture, and keeps in tact a sense of tradition that can no longer be found.

Fortunately for me, one of my first stops in NYC was at a 114-year-old Deli off the corner of East Houston Street and Ludlow.  It goes by the name of Katz’s.  Just let that sit for a moment—how often do you hear of a restaurant being open for even 50 years?  The thing I love about Katz’s is that of course ordering the actual food is almost impossible.  When you walk into the restaurant there is a little podium to the right where a man gives you a ticket.  Now, of course, the ticket doesn’t have a number on it—no deli worker behind the counter yells out anything.  Remember where we are: in a New York Jewish Deli. Things just can’t be that simple, logic can only yield to such powerful forces. The guy who hands you the ticket tells you to follow the lines, but he makes it sounds so simple, as if the lines actually exist.  Instead of seeing any systematic formation, I was confronted with a disorderly blob of people.  The key was to just push your way through and pray that you ended up behind someone who was in line—pure dog-eat-dog.  I waited for a good 45 minutes, and in the meantime I had to fend off a hysterical Jersey woman from a friend I made in line.  I think the only thing that kept me sane during my wait was the fresh pastrami being passed around, courtesy of the guys working behind the counter.  When my turn finally came to order, I spat out the usual: pastrami on rye with coleslaw and a side of deli pickles.  The sandwich was monstrous, and after my first bite I had to re-evaluate my tastes. Before this, I considered Langer’s in Echo Park the 'Standard', but I’m pretty positive that Kat’z superseded its place.  As I walked over to my table an old woman who addressed me by my first name tapped me on the shoulder. “Justin”, she said softly, and I immediately thought I somehow knew her through my grandma.  “I have to admit, you have better hair than I do,” she said with a toothsome smile.  You just gotta love old Jewish women.  While stuffing the sandwich into my mouth, I looked around to

admire the place—I would’ve guessed the d├ęcor, the bright neon lights, salamis hanging on the side of the wall, and even the font style on the menu, had been that way for 50 years plus.  And I know it seems a bit odd, but it was at this moment that I felt a sense of pride in knowing that I was supporting an establishment richly embedded in NY’s culinary tradition. 

Side Note:  Just a block before Katz’s was a Bagel Shop called Russ & Daughters that has been open for 95 years.  The owner looked more like a surgeon behind the counter than a Deli man: long white coat that you usually see your doctor wear, latex gloves, and tiny specs.  And only in NYC can I buy a bagel for 13.00 bucks and not like it…


               The doctor at work

What the hell is a 'kapchunka'?