Last night Stoli vodka brought Andrew WK to a shindig at the Pyramid Club – part of a marketing campaign celebrating/commodifying Avenue A that also includes a Tumblr highlighting institutions like Lucy’s and A-1 Record Shop.
The party was ostensibly to celebrate the Pyramid’s 35 years on the block (Lady Bunny was there to rep the club’s draggier days, and original Rent cast member Taye Diggs also passed through). So, of course, talk inevitably turned to the G word. (No, not Grunge — though there was a cocktail named Lithium to honor an early Nirvana show, in 1989, at the Pyramid.) We’re talking about Gentrification.
Andrew WK knows the neighborhood from his days working at Mondo Kim’s and eating at dearly departed Yaffa, and he insists that it hasn’t changed as much as some lament: “It’s maintained,” he told us as a server offered him some twee cupcakes from Prohibition Bakery. “As much as it has changed, the feeling I got [walking around] is that if I squinted my eyes and didn’t look too closely at any particular thing it might as well have been 17 years ago.”
Not surprisingly, the party messiah had still more posi vibes to dispense. In fact, it seems Michael Alig isn’t the only one who has come to terms with the IHOP-ing of the East Village. Here’s a snippet of our conversation.
It’s so painful I have to find some other way to look at it or feel about it or I’ll go crazy. I really will. There are so many places that have closed that I was upset about, that you have to find some other viewpoint. Whether it’s ‘they were good while they lasted’ or ‘the city is always changing and people were saying this 100 years ago about the city, let alone 15, 25,’ there’s different ways. Or, ‘Here’s the current era – I’m going to be thinking about this era 20 years from now in the same way.’ So I try very hard, without being ignorant of it, to at the same time not get bitter about it, which just takes a conscious effort to continue to really cherish what’s still there. For example this place [The Pyramid] – this just seems like a miracle. That’s one silver lining of so many other places going – we can really marvel at what’s able to stay together. And if you don’t like the way things are changing, then make your own place, or buy a place that’s going to close and save it. I’ve seen people do that – run to their favorite restaurant that’s going to close and they buy it and keep it running. Not that that’s attainable for everybody but we have to do the best we can to maintain a good attitude or we’re going to just get crushed.
What has opening Santos Party House taught you about making your own thing happen? Is it a realistic proposition?
It’s not, and that’s why it’s so intense. I don’t know that it was ever realistic. I don’t know that moving to New York City at any time was ever really realistic – that’s the whole spirit of it. In that way, it’s only intensified. Or at least that’s a consistent. Some people say it’s harder than ever because of the expense, but in a way maybe that’s a different version of the crime. It’s still just as hard and just as challenging, just in a different way. It’s an irrational place to be, but with that brings extreme opportunity to push past your own capacity and your own thresholds daily and create new ones. You literally feel your soul being stretched being here, and you get sore. Your spirit becomes sore from the amount of stretching you have to do. But it has to be a good thing at the end of the day.
Well, we were talking about one way I’ve been able to interpret that. For example, a lot of chain restaurants and businesses that I saw elsewhere in the country are popping up here, which was very intense. And I thought, hey, this is great, now we truly do have everything. You can go to a one-off oddball clothing store or you can go to Forever 21. You can go to one of the most exquisite and rare seafood restaurants or you can go to Red Lobster. Now we really get to experience everything.
I have to look at them until I feel good about them. I mean, I like those restaurants in general. It was frustrating to lose some place and have [a chain] open instead or have people not getting sandwiches at delis because they can get them at Subway, but you have to pick your battles. And I chose — not to give into it, but — to reinterpret the way I looked at these things. You look at it until it doesn’t break your heart, because otherwise you will die. Or your spirit will die. It’s not worth it.