Tag Archives: New York City

Cornelia Meatpacking District

28 Sep

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For many years, the Cornelia Street Café was one of my favorite haunts in all of New York City. Situated on a tiny, quiet street in the Village, it burst with energy and innovation. “Minister of Culture, Wine Czar, Dean of Faculty” Robin Hirsch gave the stage to the exquisitely unique musicians and poets that make New York City so great.

Among the monthly guests was David Amram. Composer, author, veteran, he began his professional career playing French horn in the National Symphony Orchestra in 1951. A few years later, after serving in the US Army, he moved to New York and began playing in bands by jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Oscar Pettiford. A decade later, Leonard Bernstein selected him to be the New York Philharmonic’s first composer-in-residence. In between that time, he’d written the scores to such films as Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate. To host a musician of Amram’s caliber spoke to the esteem of the Cornelia Street Café, though both the Café and Amram always brought in up-and-coming acts as well. At his monthly Monday night sessions at “the Cornelia Street Stadium,” as he always called the tiny venue, Amram shared not just his music but stories of life in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the Village. He’d talk about the great international instrument shop he frequented and the poetry and music venues that have now shuttered.

And then just like that Cornelia Street Café became one of them. Opened in July 1977, the café closed due to rising rents on New Years 2019.

The news of Cornelia Street Café’s shuttering is a huge loss to the literary community and to New York City. While New York’s profitability is positive, its rampant gentrification destroys the very thing that makes the city so exciting, beautiful, and unique. If a city loses its artists, it loses its heart, its pulse.

It was also a loss for me. My editor and mentor introduced me to Cornelia Street Café, urging me to check it out. Soon I began attending Amram’s jams, Three Room Press’s Beat-centric events hosted by founders Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes, and a slew of other readings. I got to hear impressive poets like Steve Dalachinsky (who passed on September 16), Anne Waldman, George Wallace, you name it! It was also the place where Sopranos actor John Ventimiglia came in and sat across from me at the table where I was seated. Incredibly, more than once I found myself on stage. David Amram kindly invited me to read from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” coauthored with biographer Paul Maher Jr.,which is one of the highlights of my life. I also had the great pleasure of reading a section from my memoir-in-progress at the Greek American Writers Association, thanks to an invitation from the ever-gracious Penelope Karageorge. I, in turn, introduced many of my friends to Cornelia Street Café, and when the news broke that it was closing, we grieved because it didn’t just mean the loss of a venue—it meant the loss of a community spirit.

So, when my mentor emailed to alert me that Cornelia Street in Exile was heading to the Meatpacking District for a Sunday afternoon outdoors at Gansevoort Plaza on September 15, I had to go! I was also intrigued. Though there was a beautiful—and ohmygosh delicious—restaurant at the street level, to get to the performance venue you had to descend down the stairs into the cavernous basement. It was dark and narrow, lit by candlelight. Plush red drapes and mirrors perhaps sought to make the tiny room elegant and more spacious, but in fact the space felt womblike. It was, after all, a place pregnant with creative possibilities, where one grew, evolved, and was, in a way, reborn into the slippery city night. So how would it work to for Cornelia Meatpacking District to be out in broad daylight, on the street, for passersby to wonder it?

 

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Hirsch and Amram

Incredibly well, actually. When it was open, Cornelia Street Café often hosted a full day of events over Memorial Day weekend that spilled out onto the sidewalks. It felt very much like one of those events. Of course, that’s probably thanks to the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, who were a staple of the summer events and who helped create a seamless transition from one performer to the next at Cornelia Meatpacking District by stilt-walking from the stage to the crowd to perform between sets. That got people’s attention!

David Amram & Co. held the show together, playing many of our favorites and introducing—and even performing with—the other musicians and poets. It was a full afternoon of delight thanks to all the fun musicians and poets who read. As it was more performance-driven, I missed getting to hear David’s stories, which for me are always fascinating, but poet—and new dad—Frank Messina told how he’d met his wife at the Cornelia Street Café!

 

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Messina and Amram

The event also included Arturo O’Farrill Trio. Son of the legendary Latin jazz musician Chico O’Farrill, Arturo is a musician in his own right: the Grammy Award winning musician is known for his free jazz and experimentations with hip hop. There was also Rogerio Souza and the Billy Newman Quarteto.

The lively music soon had people dancing at the front of the stage! Proprietor Robin Hirsch, publisher Kat Georges, attendees in the crowd, and a bold young woman who seemed to enjoy the attention danced and swayed and moved to the music. The sun then began to set over the Hudson, and with it the show came to a close.

Though it lacked some of the intimacy of the basement and felt commercial because the corporate sponsors were profusely thanked between each set, the event was a success. It showed the resilience of the arts and captured the beauty of community. Many of the familiar faces were there, but so were new people, intrigued by musicians playing jazz on stilts, the charm of VickiKristinaBarcelona Band, and folk musicians singing of bad dates. Four hours long, the Cornelia Meatpacking District felt organic—and hopeful.

Next up, Hirsch brings Yom Kippur for Yogis to the Integral Yoga Institute for Cornelia Integral on October 3 at 7pm. Tickets are $20. FMI: iyiny.org.

fbp’s “Tomorrow Jams More”

30 Mar
#fbp’s ‘Tomorrow Jams More’ plus #OpenMic and #KatieHenryBand 
Nuyorican
SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 2018
4PM-7PM
#NuyoricanPoetsCafe (236 East 3rd St., New York, NY)
$15 door
See more info here.
Featuring:::
#ChrisBarrera vocals guitar songwriting 
Ciro Visconti II lead guitar
Jonathan Toscano bass
#KatieHenry vocals piano songwriting
Misia Vessio drums vocals
Jani Rose and sons poetry guitar vocals
Camille Schmoeker interpretive dance
Lorena Mnemosyne Cabrera belly dance
Rick Villa timbales
Angel Segarra congas
Elena Ridolfi vocals and social-media
Beatrice Pelliccia theatre and social-media
Lama John Heaviside poetry
Dana Steer theatre
Michael Oakes theatre
Elizabeth Botti opera
Stephanie Nikolopoulos reads #Homer in #AncientGreek and her original work
Virdell Williams opera and gospel
#JonathanFritz guitar
#AntarGoodwin bass
#AntoineAlvear keyboards 🎹
Adrian Norpel guitar
Ronnie Norpel comedy, theatre
RÁ #poetry #theatre harmonica tabla vocals

We’ll open with a jam of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and end with Chris Barrera sing-along jam of The Kinks’ live “Lola”

In between with the original songwriting of Chris Barrera, RÁ Araya’s new concept experimental script musical…. And other special guests yet to be confirmed

Produced by #flashbackpuppy #fbp #ElectricCupidund the one chord wonders

#Loisaida #LowerEastSide #Manhattan #NYC

https://www.nuyorican.org/event/1645891-ra-araya-s-music-poetry-new-york/

 

A Chance Encounter Leads to a New Book to Read

26 Feb

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I felt a tug on my shoulder. Startled out of my morning fog, I turned around. There was a woman I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We had graduated from the same women’s college but in different years. “How are you?” she asked. Then she asked if I’d read a certain book. I hadn’t and she suggested we read it together and discuss over a meal. It felt serendipitous. It’s moments like this that make me love New York City even more.

Have a Slice of Espresso Cheese for National Coffee Day!

29 Sep

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Happy National Coffee Day!

…Just don’t post a photo of your coffee or you might anger Rant Chic. Although, apparently there are coffeehouses that “print” your selfies into your latte with edible brown powder. The latte selfie is real!

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I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season on Sunday. Oh how I love my Barnes & Noble Cafe discount!!

What I really want to tell you about, though is that I discovered espresso cheese!! I road tripped out in Connecticut with two of my very dear friends whom I’ve known forever and ever, and we went out to Stew Leondard’s. Have you been there? It’s amazing. Maybe it’s all my city living, but grocery stores in suburbs amaze me with their wondrous wide aisle lit with bright lights showcasing jalapeño potato chips and refrigerated dog food. This one was one was particularly exceptional. They have cupcakes shaped like cheeseburgers and animatronic butter.

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The employees are all super nice too. One saw me pondering an espresso cheese. I was so curious, I immediately answered “yes” when he asked me if I’d like to try it, even though I normally bashfully say no because I don’t want to bother them or appear greedy. Let me tell you: I am so glad my eagerness betrayed me. Made by Sartori, Espresso Bellavitano is earthy and sweet, decadent, and complex. It’s the perfect cheese to impress guests. I’d pair it with red grapes, raisins, currants, and cherry chutney. A hearty red wine would go well with it.

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Here are a few of my past coffee-related posts to celebrate @NationalCoffeeDay:::

The Coffee Habit of Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Opened a Million Coffee Bars

Caffe Reggio is one of my favorite coffeehouses in all of New York City. I recommended their cup in my Beat gift guide.

Places to drink coffee in Grand Rapids

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

What’s Your Coffee Personality? Get Greek-American author Dean Bakopoulos’ take

Not to be outdone by my Greek side… The Starving Artist Gulps Down Konditori’s Swedish Coffee

A habit I got from my mother.

Coffee not your drink of choice?

Stir up Kerouac’s Big Sur Manhattan

Or toast to Ernest Hemingway with a Daiquiri Recipe

Take a road trip to Monterey and visit Bargetto Winery for an apricot wine

Or hop on the subway and try the orange wine (not orange flavored!) at Brooklyn Winery

Go Greek with Pindar’s Pythagoras Wine

Speaking of lemonade… How ’bout some Champagne Pink Lemonade Punch?

Want something sans alcohol?

Hibiscus Nectarine Tea: A Trip to Hawai’i in a Glass

Holla for some Jalapeño-Infused Lemonade

Or if you’re a starving artist, Jazz Up Your Tap Water

Christmasy Photos 2014

4 Jan

I love New York City during the Christmas holidays. Everything just sparkles! I spent a lot of time walking around the city this winter, taking in all the shop windows. It’s just about time to tackle the new year, and I’m fully convinced 2015 will be a great one, but I couldn’t resist posting a few photographs from the holiday season.

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What a Difference Five Years Make

4 Dec

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

~Lao Tzu

 

While looking for a receipt the other day, I stumbled across one of my old diaries. I knew better than to open it. Every time I clean or dig through my drawers to look for something, I come across a journal, a letter someone had sent me, or a box of old photographs and am quickly derailed. For the next hour or so, I was lost in the pages of my diary, caught in the past and thinking about the future.

I tend to start diaries on my birthday, and this particular one was from five years ago. It was a big birthday for me, both because it was a milestone birthday and because I was on the precipice of a new direction in my life.

The year leading up to it, I had spent an embarrassingly long time getting over a break up. I had also been quite ill for a long time, which made commuting from New Jersey excruciating. These two circumstances made me think a lot about where I was spending my time and where I wanted my life to go. I quit a bunch of low-paying freelance writing gigs and moved into Manhattan about three months before my milestone birthday.

That next year was one full of adventure and changes. What had seemed like a monumental move into the city turned out to be more of a convenience than a lifestyle change, since I’d been commuting for so many years from northern New Jersey and so much of my life was already there. Still, once I was there, I knew I could never go back to Jersey. My family had moved from New Jersey to Greece, and much of my vacation time up to then had been spent traveling to Greece to see them. Traveling is so fundamental to who I am that I decided that year instead to go to South Korea and Japan. That summer I also went to Minneapolis and reconnected with family, which made me understand myself better.

It was that year that I also recommitted myself to writing. It’s not that I had ever stopped writing. Far from it. I was always writing and even getting published in little publications here and there. But the writing wasn’t me. It wasn’t authentic to my voice. I decided to start writing for myself again. I began carving time out to write personal essays about growing up Greek American. I began reading the Beats again. I joined a writers group, where I learned the term MFA.

Then, right before my next birthday, I lost my job. I went to Florida for Christmas to escape and regroup. Being there was hard. It was the first year I’d been back to my grandmother’s place since she’d died when I was in college. Upon my father’s recommendation, I applied to only the best MFA programs (“anything less won’t be worth it”). While I wasn’t confident that I’d get in anywhere, I also didn’t realize just how difficult it is to get into the programs. I applied quickly to whichever programs were still accepting admissions and only later read how writers agonize over which essay to send and whom to get recommendations from. I ended up getting into the top creative nonfiction program in New York City. I also was rehired by my old company.

I often feel like one of those cartoon characters that’s running in place. You see the little puffs of clouds materializing under the feet, but they never seem to get anywhere. When you’re young, there are clear markers of time passing. You graduate from high school and then college. You get your first job. You rent your first apartment. And if you’re me, you go through a gazillion hairstyles. As you get older, there are fewer markers along life’s journey, and wildly changing your hair seems perhaps best left to young people and celebrities. Still, as someone who likes stability, I worry that I am too easily prone to falling into ruts.

Reading through my diary, I realized, though, how far I have come. I realized that change doesn’t always happen overnight, that many of the best accomplishments in life take time. However, the little choices we make today matter. They put us on a path.

Today is my birthday, and many of the dreams I wrote about five years ago have come true. The funny thing with dreams, though, is that they don’t always happen the way you think they will and they don’t happen without a few tears being shed. This past year has been another one full of change. I haven’t always embraced it. It’s been difficult and emotional. Great things have happened, but I’ve also faced challenging and sad circumstances.

I find myself again at a crossroads.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Friday Links: Best Indie Bookstores

22 Nov

Happy Friday! Flavorwire’s recently been doing an indie bookstore roundup, which has been fun to peruse. I thought I’d share those with you and also offer a few of my own picks, which are mainly Beat-related or New York City-bound.

Roundups

Beat Bookstores

New York City Bookstores

What are the best indie bookstores in your neighborhood?

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

[2/12/14: edit made to this post to fix a spacing issue]

Friday Links: Breathe In, Breathe Out

8 Nov

Oh, what a week, what a week. It seems like so many people I know are going through difficult times right now, myself included. I think this weekend we could all use a little nurturing. Here are a couple links to take you into what is hopefully a restful and enjoyable weekend:

Iconoclastic Writer penned a post entitled “Memory Babe: a writing exercise inspired by Jack Kerouac.” It’s an old post, but I think being in tune with our senses and learning to write resonate detail can be meditative

Sometimes just looking at beautiful, far-off lands makes me feel like I can breathe a little more

In an effort to drink less coffee (and ahem stronger drinks) and more tea, I bought a delicious champagne rose tea from Mitsua in New Jersey a few weeks ago

I’m also excited to try the new Teavana that opened up on the Upper East Side — it’s one of Oprah’s favorite things!

My doctor recommended this Upper East Side restaurant to me

I’ve been missing my mom a lot lately, which has made me crave macaroni & cheese, both a comfort food and one of her specialties. I might have to check out one of these places

I’ve been embracing my homebody side these days and reading and rereading the interior decorating magazine Domino — I’m so glad they’re back!

I like to light a candle when I write, and I see that Bath & Bodyworks — my favorite place to buy candles — is having their candle sale

Paul and I are holding a contest where you could win a one-of-a-kind tape that Carolyn Cassady personally gave to Paul. You can find the details and enter (or just vote for your favorite) on the Facebook page for Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”

 

 

I’m Giving a Free Reading Tonight at KGB Bar

2 Nov

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I’m reading at KGB Bar tonight! I’m super excited. I’ve been to a few readings here before, and it’s got a killer atmosphere. Not only that, but check out the impressive lineup:

With Professors:

Wang Ping

Miguel Algarin

Nancy Mercado

Carlos Manuel Rivera

Julie Patton

Everton Sylvester

At 6:30pm Professor Cornelius Eady reads and perform with his Rough Magic band’s guitarist Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate on the violin

And poets reading with or without acoustic musicians:
Carl Hancock Rux
Jeff Wright
Brian Omni Dillon
Ronnie Norpel
Susan Yung
Kate Levin
Sarah Sarai
Stephanie Nikolopoulos
R! on verse acoustic guitar & harmonicas

Und singing in German und mit monologue:
Leigh Martha Klinger

I’m listed as a poet, and I do in fact write poetry, but I was planning on reading an excerpt from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Specifically, I plan on reading about Kerouac’s Greek connection, his Lowell friend Sebastian Sampas.

The event starts at 6 and is free and open to the general public.

KGB Bar is on 85 East 4th Street (near 2nd Avenue)
New York, New York 10003

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Warby Parker Glasses for Halloween

31 Oct

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Happy Halloween! Though I tortured my sleepover guests with classic horror films when i was a preteen, I’ve never been real big into the scary stuff of Halloween. I do, however, think it’s a super fun opportunity to play dress and reinvent one’s identity for a day.

Then again, I’m a bit of a chameleon when it comes to my style and personality even on an average day. You know how in The Breakfast Club there was the jock, the princess, the brain, the basket case, and the criminal? Or how when you ride the L train you can always tell who’s going to get off at Union Square versus who’s going to Bedford Avenue? I’ve never really identified with one social group or another. One day I might dress preppy in pearls and a button-down shirt with a sweater over it and the next day I might wear lots of dark eye shadow and all black. Likewise, some days I wear glasses and some days I wear contacts. It would be fun to own multiple pairs of glasses to switch out depending on my mood.

Glasses are such a defining accessory/medical need. Certain glasses styles have become synonymous with certain celebrities. Think John Lennon’s little circles. Buddy Holly’s thick frames.

Warby Parker says, “There are plenty of characters to be channeled with the right pair of glasses.” They’re featuring costume ideas like Tootsie, and Dr. Strangelove, Alvie Singer (Annie Hall) on their blog, complete with the prescription glasses they sell. Oh sure it’s a gimmick to get you to buy their merch, but — and I’m not at all affiliated with them and not getting anything for saying this — it’s a rather clever idea. Because sometimes it’s fun to channel someone else for a day!

Also, I really like Warby Parker’s business model: for every pair you buy, they donate to someone in need.

Oh, and get this: their name is a Jack Kerouac reference! Here’s the story:

We’ve always been inspired by the master wordsmith and pop culture icon, Mr. Jack Kerouac. Two of his earliest characters, recently uncovered in his personal journals, bore the names Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper. We took the best from each and made it our name.

So what I want to know then is why they don’t have a blog post for dressing like Allen Ginsberg?! You can’t help but think of his glasses when you visualize him. Plus, with all the Hollywood attention on the Beats lately — characters based on Ginsberg or Kerouac’s alias for him appear in On the Road and Kill Your Darlings — you’d think he’d be a fun person to dress up as for Halloween.

Or maybe I’m the only nerd who thinks dressing like authors and literary characters is a perfectly normal Halloween costume?

And, for a story about the time Allen Ginsberg lost his glasses, check out Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” It’s available as an ebook and paperback.