Gourmet Deli, 127th and Frederick Douglass, 75 cents, above average… and then I walked across the street and saw a candy shop-deli advertising their FRESH COFFEE 50¢. well, crap. it’s raining and while I drank my previous (unremarkable) iced coffee - “we’re out of hot, only ice coffee miss” (huh?) - I was stopped by an older gentleman named Sidu who told me a few depressing stories about our city’s out of control stop and frisk policies. I can’t explain what it’s like to have a 76 year old man list off the times this month alone when he’s been waylaid by NY’s finest for random and confusing reasons except to say that it sort of makes me want to vomit on Ray Kelly - but knowing you’re both impotent here and privileged is humbling and gross. I am so white I almost glow in the dark yet he still stopped to hang out with me when he had more than a few reasons to tell me to go fuck myself because of his myriad experiences with people with skin like mine and it’s 2013 and this is shameful and stupid. so what can I do but buy this gentleman a cup of coffee and thank him for keeping me company while the rain blew through.
I’m not even sure where I got this coffee (somewhere near Marcus Garvey Park?) but I’m sure it was 75 cents and I still don’t understand why it’s that confusing to order black coffee BLACK as in no, not with 5 sugars. HERE IS MY MAP AS OF YESTERDAY! I finished walking most of Harlem and can now confidently share that the best restrooms on the Eastern stretch of 125th are in the DMV and at Marshall’s, but if you go to Marshall’s you might accidentally realize you need to buy a bunch of socks or something. Anyway, before I left on my epic birthday roadtrip this past week, I was fortunate enough to have company along the way - Heather Zises spoke with me while we walked around East Harlem and checked out a particularly interesting bodega that had been shut down earlier for illegal gambling. Fun!
I JUST FINISHED EAST HARLEM HI CLICK ME BECAUSE I AM A MAP! Monday was exceptional in that I had a WILLING walking (death march??) companion for the whole day, my wonderful husband Justin. We started around 118th-ish, sticking East of Park Ave, and made our way Northwest to the brightly restored Keith Haring CRACK IS WACK mural over in a park on 128th. I was rather surprised that you could walk right up to the thing and, you know, play handball on a piece of Art History and NYC iconography. Kinda makes it seem like people should be allowed to play handball in the Sistene Chapel, you know, since it’s been renovated, too, and also because I think that’s funny. Ok I’m tired bye.
MY PROJECT IS IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. LANA BORTOLOT, I COULD KISS YOU (and Philip Montgomery, I could kiss you for taking such a nice photo of me standing in front of some hummus, and Jeremiah Moss, I could kiss you for interviewing me in the first place). So while I’m off shooting in Harlem, buying newspapers by the armload, and thinking about who else I could kiss for doing such lovely things for my work, READ THE ARTICLE (in case I already bought all the copies at your bodega).
This coffee is from Oxford II Deli on 104th and it is 50 cents and it is hotter than the fire of 1,000 suns. More importantly, WHOA LOOK AT MY MAP! I’m almost done! I…. kind of hate that! Someone please win the Powerball for me (or offer me a lucrative gallery deal/book advance COUGH COUGH) so I can do something like this again because I have so many more ideas. So many, many more ideas that will continue to open the floodgates for internet trolls to debate the meaning of the word bodega and insult things/people/concepts seemingly without provocation. SO MANY IDEAS. Also, this coffee was very good, but I’m still chasing the dragon that was whatever I got one day back when it was cold out and I was up around 207th and Broadway. I have a weird note in my phone that just says “207th Bway coffee what stop why.”
65 Nassau St.
HOLY SHIT, I HAVE FINISHED SHOOTING LOWER MANHATTAN. Yesterday, in the gloriously bizarre Fall-style weather, I walked the small section around Wall Street that comprised my final mission below 103rd Street. I’ve mentioned before that I was saving a chunk of Harlem for the end because it’s one of my favorite parts of Manhattan, but I somehow wound up saving a sentimental favorite for my last stretch of Lower Manhattan (albeit by misjudging how long it would take me to navigate the labyrinthine streets of Chinatown and the Financial District, and not considering the fact that I’d probably spend the better part of a day dodging surprise rainstorms inside the Battery Park Public Library). When I was finishing up the Art Education portion of my Master’s Degree at Pratt, I was a student teacher - part of the semester at a school in Alphabet City (which, frankly, inspired my bodega coffee obsession, because I took a new route and hit a new spot every day until I found THE BEST FIX), and the rest of the time at a newer facility at 26 Broadway, right across from where tourists line up to get their picture taken cupping a giant brass bull’s balls. AKA right across from where, during my time as a middle school art teacher’s lackey, Occupy Wall Street was kicking off in full force - and running right into the filming of the Batman movie which I think is best remembered for spawning this. Anyway, I did my last lap in Lower Manhattan yesterday, and ended up on the street where I found myself quite surprisingly sobbing after logging my final student teaching hours and prying myself away from several group hugs from 6th graders. It was nice to end somewhere nice…
…considering that attempting to wade through Wall Street and the WTC area at any rate of speed is depressing and frustrating and can make any reasonable person want to just start swinging at the next available masturbating homeless guy/woman blocking the sidewalk with her “NO AMNESTY FOR ILLEGALS” bullshit/herd of spaced out tourists stumbling 5 abreast/suit-clad businessman somehow managing to take up an entire walkway while having a drunk phone conversation/bike messenger with a death wish. What was I talking about? Oh right… the kids. I was so happy to close out that portion of the city somewhere I remember fondly and I’m still kind of deliriously giddy that I’ve actually come this far. On to Harlem!
280 Henry st deli. hey, it’s pouring, why not take a minute to show off my coffee.
9 to 9 Happy Store, 55 Chrystie St.
SO I UNDERESTIMATED THE LOWER EAST SIDE. Maybe it’s the hubris of having finished off the entire Upper West Side in a day back in March, but I genuinely thought I could tackle that innocent looking stretch south of Houston, from Chrystie to the East River, in a day. Look! I barely finished half!
The Upper West is kind of a bodega desert, from what I experienced back in March, unlike the LES. And honestly, March is easier outdoor weather than July - it’s been in the 90s this week, and walking in the sun feels sort of like walking ON THE SUN.
Anyway. What I’ve learned in the past two days - both of which have ended in me fully encased in a gritty film made up of salt from my own sweat, sunscreen, and city-dirt - is that the bodega is a more ambiguous concept in that patch of Chinatown where you don’t ever see tourists, and that it’s really important to use sunblock that won’t feel like a thousand needles of fire when it inevitably makes its way into your eyeballs on a river of perspiration. But let’s focus on point A - the ambiguous Chinatown bodega. I’ve seen meat shops selling soda and smokes, “Trading Companies” selling… everything, pharmacies with hot food for sale, veggie stands dressed up as dollar stores with a lotto counter - in fact, many stores have lotto that seem wholly unrelated to deli-style convenience pursuits in this neighborhood. So this is slow walking, since there is such a profusion of stores and many seem to sell a little bit of everything. But is it a bodega? I’m sticking with my guidelines that at least 2 of the holy trinity must be available - beer, smokes, lotto. I never thought I’d need to wander inside so many shops to survey the inventory - lotto and smokes but no beer (and no snacks) may as well just be a news stand anywhere else, but in this neighborhood that could mean it’s a travel agency or a pharmacy.
For me this area in particular has been a fantastic education in what the bodega IS, since these shops are so carefully curated to serve the unique needs of the immediate area. And, amazingly, I only saw one stupid 7-11, on Delancey by the Williamsburg bridge.