Alphabet City

The Year in Letters

j is for jerk chicken, the diaspora's culinary metaphor: originated as plantation food whipped up from master's leavings, spiced to high art by barefoot cooks, imported to New York via the phenomenal influx of Caribbean immigrants that began in the 1950s, and now served in a particularly evolved and searing form at the Jamaican Hot Pot in Harlem.

k is for "It'll ketchup to you," which Diane with the big black hair says when she shuffles over to your table at the Second Avenue Deli— Diane, who is probably the only waitress to have been on Letterman 17 times, which admittedly cuts into her serving schedule, thus leaving her no time to serve the matzo ball soup, which, by the way, when she does pour it into a bowl, comes with her suggestion that, "you be the richer, I'll be the pourer," al though by the time she gets around to actually serving, the soup has cooled and it's time for the check.

l is for Latino Fan Club, the foreskin-obsessed pornography outfit that brought the world the so-stereotypically-racist-you've-got-to-laugh Papis in Paris, Bodega Backroom, Back to the Bicho, and Spice Boyz 2. Is New York's population of male Latinos composed exclusively of horse-hung bicycle messengers? In the LFC worldview it is.

m is for six-foot-four-inch Richard Move chan neling Martha Graham monthly at Martha @Mother, and for all the moola needed to drink at Moomba and to eat at Monzu and to shop at Miu Miu and to have a big enough apartment so you don't have to rent a cubicle at Manhattan Mini Storage, where some peo ple try to live and where others actually operate stores. It's also for mooning at Mugsy's Chow Chow about things indelibly Manhattan like the Marvel Comics hero the Thing, who was embittered by the death of his brother in gang warfare on the Lower East Side and was later transformed by radiation into a monster. M is also, of course, for movies, of which there are more shown in Manhattan than anywhere else except Paris, and for the movie-mad bunch at the three-a-day MOMA screenings who clobber each other for making noises—a man once exploded at Susan Sontag for unwrapping a lozenge during Fantomas, and a woman who once tried to strangle an usher for tearing a ticket stub.

n is for news junkies and the pushers who supply us, a personal favorite being the ineffably attitudinous and scrawny punk chick Jackie Rivera, who makes Tower Books' Lafayette Street newsstand a must for urban ironists and niche readers. Where else in the world can you find The Nation next to Piercing Fans International Quarterly, Vogue alongside Numismatic News, I-D cheek by jowl with Holy Titclamps!, Town & Country rubbing semiotic shoulders with Bound and Gagged?

o is for the shape your mouth makes as you stifle a yawn while trapped in some never ending piece of theater or alternative dance.   

p is parties at the Puck Building, which all look the same—white cloth, white flowers, white wine—whether the fetes are given for poets or puppeteers or environmental persuaders or people with particular pets or Leonardo di Creepio's Pussy Posse or Ron Perelman (that most New York of billionaires, compulsively marrying, compulsively divorcing, compulsively turning up blank-faced and cigar-stuffed on Page Six) or even the New York Press.

q is for Quentin Crisp, philosopher-hustler-nonconformist, whose new one-man show you can actually catch the better part of most days as he holds shabby-elegant court at the diner at Second Avenue and 5th Street, regaling listeners ("Los Angeles is just New York lying down") with tales of living by his wits for eight decades (he just turned 90) for the price of a cup of joe.

r is for Duane Reade, which is rumored to be named for a Tribeca intersection, and where you can get the best discount drugs and cosmetics (fuggeddabout Sephora), not to mention Beanie Babies and Vagisil, at all unlikely hours, and where Dusty Springfield once said she makes her first stop whenever she comes to town.

s is for all the streets around Stanton and Ludlow, the world's hottest new intersection, where New York's heart pounds in the night, where the MTV News holiday party ended up at bOb, and where people go to the 205 Club after two or three Cosmopolitans at Void, and where a fact checker with glitter on her eyes recently had her birthday party and then went off in the night on the shoulders of Josh or Nathaniel or someone. And let's not forget the Lotus Cafe, where all the artists in the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center get their salads, and Trimland—holdover from an earlier time—where Bella Mirmovich sells lace and fluffy tulle, and the $2000 tenement rentals being snapped up by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who raised six kids in two rooms on potato soup and schmaltz.

t is for Tories, whom some people refer to as the British, the very people, you'll recall, that we once fought a violent revolution to put behind us. Six weeks ago, one arrived at your apartment with a letter of recommendation from the friend of a friend and asked to stay for two days. Since then the alien guest has read your mail, killed your houseplants, drunk all your liquor, had an affair with your husband, and fired the maid. And then gotten hired as an editor in chief of some rag at Condé Nast.

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