CHRONICLES & PLACES
Lower East Side – East Village
Together, the Lower East Side and East Village occupy Manhattan from the East River to Broadway Avenue, and north from Canal Street to 14th Street. Unlike the rest of the city, this area has no skyscrapers and has historically been home to the immigrant working class. During the 50s, The East Village became home to the Beats -William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O´Hara. In the 60s, counterculture artists arrived and Punk Rockers came in the 70s.
There are two books about NYC that you should check out if you have a detective spirit or a romantic relationship with some political movements. The first one is Mystery Readers Walking Guide by Alzina Stone Dale. The second one is Radical Walking Tours Of New York City by Bruce Kayton. Following their steps, mixed with my own experience in the neighborhood, and trying to guide my friends, led to my discovery of this path. A Sunday. At sunset.
Deadly Dragon Sound System: Be sure not to miss the door to the basement at 102-B Forsyth Street. It is an intimate space where you can find kilos and kilos of vinyls made with 100% Jamaican reggae. That’s Deadly Dragon’s mission: “No white rockers records. This is dub, ska, and the most precious secrets from the hardcore reggae music. And for that, it has to be with the heart from Jamaica”. Deadly Dragon does a monthly podcast and weekly live session at The Delancey (168 Delancey).
Essex Street Market: For food lovers, at 120 Essex Street, you will find a market built in 1940. It offers typical food from different countries and is tended by independent merchants. It specializes in a wide variety of culinary products.
Heading north through Essex Street, you will find OBJECT-IFY. It is a petit art store where you will find souvenirs made almost entirely by local artists. It also sells indi-sado-snob books, which can be nice gifts for the artistic friend back home.
Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade: At 153 Essex Street take a break, drink a beer, and enjoy the 90s. There are about twenty video games, from flippers to arcades – a token costs 75 cents. And movies are always projected on the back wall.
Once you are done, you can say hello to Lenin, well, to his statue, who is looking at us from the rooftop of the red building on Houston Street, between Avenue A and Avenue B. He is honoring the neighborhood which hosted the socialist movement in NY. Beside him, there is a big clock, which is out of time and has managed to confuse more than a few New Yorkers.
Katz’s Delicatessen: If now your appetite is calling to you, try the best sandwiches in the world at 205 Houston Street. It is a family business with a Jewish-European tradition that has been open since 1888 – so much so that some words of the menu are kept in Yiddish. While their dishes are not as affordable – about 20USD -, they can be shared, fill your stomach, and get ready to follow the road.
Walking north, take your time to look at the CBGB’s (Country, bluegrass and blues) building, and wish for it’s doors to open again soon. This landmark building was not only home to punk, but it’s stage also hosted musicians of all genres. The Ramones, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Jay-Z, are just some examples. Right around the corner, check out the New York City Marble Cemetery. Built in 1831, it is the oldest public cemetery in NYC.
A1 Record Shop: Once you get to 639 6th Street, you will find this record store which sells a wide variety of vinyl records. Spoil yourself and find rarities in good condition for as little as five dollars. Also check their website and find mixes of sessions recorded in their store.
To end the evening with a cocktail and good music go to Bowery Electric. If you are not pleased with the sound on either of their floors -usually rock, punk or some electric DJ- try going to Rockwood Music Hall. Here the rhythms vary more -jazz, jam sessions, pop, rock, country- and the options among their three simultaneous stages are often very different. Go to their website and check the calendar and price of admission (some shows are free).
If you decide to use this guide, I recommend warming up with Joey Ramone and his song New York City:
East Village, West village, Uptown, Downtown
Round and around and around…
You might never come down…
You might never come down…
And I’m proud to make my home in New York City
6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue has several restaurants withIndian food and live music. / Shops like Strand Books and Forbidden Planet are mandatory if you are looking for comics, toys, books and more books.