Extreme Makeovers

The Fine Art of Picking a Shtick

New York is the city that never sleeps. College is the place where nobody knows your name. So now that you're an anonymous insomniac, it's time to take some of that book allowance and spend it on crafting the new identity you always wanted. After all, authenticity is just another commodity. * Here are a few personas to try on for size: where to go, who to read and listen to and watch, and of course, what to wear.

Original 1970s Punk Rocker

THE BASICS: Black clothes. Complicated hair. Dive bars. Anarchy. Unsigned bands. Unrestrained hostility.

illustration: Nathan Fox

VENUES: Contrary to appearance, Astor Place (Cooper Square and 8th Street) is not ground zero for the Blank Generation (an essential 1977 record by Richard Hell and the Voidoids). That's CBGB and OMFUG (315 Bowery; 212-982-4052), the storied hole of a club that broke Television, the Ramones, and Patti Smith back in the '70s and is still a completely respectable hard rock/punk destination. On a slightly more modern tip, catch an all-ages hardcore show at the unrepentantly divey Continental (25 Third Avenue; 212-529-6924), which has also hosted the likes of Iggy Pop and various Ramones, but more often features bands like Assrockers and Sabbra Cadabra (a Black Sabbath tribute).

FASHION: For the eternal anti-fashion that is punk, a pair of scissors (for making patches out of your favorite band T-shirts and cutting holes in your black jeans) and a 100-pack of safety pins are all you really need. Trash and Vaudeville (4 St. Marks Place; 212-982-3590) carries the rest of the basics: plaid pants with zippers, ugly T-shirts, and a back room full of scary, scary boots. Also, don't forget New York Hardcore Tattoos (127 Stanton Street; 212-979-0350) for the ultimate in Mom-horrifying accessories.

PREREQS: The list of essential punk albums is long, though the songs are short. Try the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks . . . (Virgin, 1977); the Clash The Clash (Epic, 1977); the Damned Damned Damned Damned (Stiff, 1977); and the Ramones Ramones Mania (Sire, 1988). Also worth a read is Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (Grove Press, 1996), co-edited by original punks Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.

MISC./NOTES: Punk comes in many flavors, including vegan/straight-edge, goth, skater, and anarchist, not including Avril.


THE BASICS: Film. Video. Installation. Performance. Ennui. Post-postmodernism.

VENUES: Beyond your school's darkroom and digital video lab, the city is paved with artsy destinations. The P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City; 718-784-2084), in a cavernous former school, is perhaps best known for its Saturday "Warm Up" DJ series, which continues through August 30. Mondo Kim's Video and Music (6 St. Marks Place and a Columbia location next to the Broadway Residence) is more than an ultra-hip media store; both the uptown and downtown locations have sections of student film. DV Dojo (310 Bowery; 212-477-2299; dvdojo.com) has classes on film and documentary making, screening rooms, and equipment for rent, as well as an all-night café.

FASHION: Depending on one's particular aesthetic, the Artiste's wardrobe might come from such rarified sources as Kirna Zabête (96 Greene Street; 212-941-9656), purveyors of Imitation of Christ, the fashion-as-performance art line that has held shows at a metro station and a funeral parlor, and Diesel (1 Union Square West, at 14th Street; 212-255-6603), where jeans have names like Kuzko and Zathan; or alternatively, you could buy vintage at Brooklyn's Beacon's Closet (88 North 11th Street; 718-486-0816), customize a Hanes T-shirt yourself, and finish the look with multicolor tights from the Sockman (27 St. Marks Place; 212-529-0300).

PREREQS: Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings 1938-1940 (contains the classic theory-nerd essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"); I Am a Camera: Photos for Saatchi (anthology with works by Tierney Gearon, Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol); Quimby the Mouse (by Chris Ware, the baroque graphic novelist who brought you Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth), out in August.

MISC./NOTES: On Tuesday, October 28, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., as part of a show at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, visitors will be able to compete in a big game of Counter-Strike, the subject of a multimedia project by Marco Brambilla.

Serious Activist/Sex Radical

THE BASICS: Dreadlocks. Birkenstocks. Anti-Occupation. Slogans. Raptivism. Gender ambiguity. Resuscitating democracy.

VENUES: The Bluestockings bookstore (172 Allen Street; 212-777-6028) is a venerable gathering place and resource hub for New York City activist-feminists and others.

ABC No Rio (156 Rivington Street; 212-254-3697) is an artists' and activists' community center hosting exhibitions, experimental open mics, and a panoply of leftist activities including Food Not Bombs. Gobo restaurant (401 Sixth Avenue; 212-255-3242), owned by the sons of fellow veggie destination Zen Palate, serves vegetarian world cuisine, almost all vegan.

FASHION: Yes, even you must occasionally be a slave to consumption. Terra Verde (120 Wooster Street; 212-925-4533) sells the finest in organic cotton, hemp, and other virtuous wearables. The Housing Works Thrift Shop (143 West 17th Street; 212-366-0820) donates its proceeds to help homeless people with AIDS.

PREREQS: The reading list is long for an anti-Bush soldier. Try linguist-leftist luminary Noam Chomsky's 9-11 (Seven Stories Press, 2001), Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), and novelist-activist Arundhati Roy's War Talk (South End Press, 2003).

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