Back in April, Anthony Bourdain visited some of his old stomping grounds (and new ones) in the East Village and Lower East Side for an episode of Parts Unknown, chatting with numerous local characters along the way. It’s unclear what will happen with this and other episodes Bourdain was filming prior to his unexpected death last week, so we spoke with some of the featured artists and business owners about their experiences with a reporter and raconteur who was known for keeping it real.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the East Village in the 90s? Junkies passed out on Avenue A while runaway kids hung out in squats on St. Marks? CBGB and other classic punk bars still going hard, only to be priced out of their leases less than a decade later? Punk heads and artists sharing studios in derelict tenements? For Tim Murphy, the New York-based journalist and author of the new novel Christodora, it was all of these things, but above all it was the home for a community of diverse people from different backgrounds, sexual orientations, and experiences who were searching for a place that would accept them just as they are.
As a young man who arrived to the city in 1991, the East Village represented a haven for an alternative gay scene that was way less polished and more grungy than the one in Chelsea and the West Village. “Courtney Love was the patron saint of the gay East Village in the ’90s,” Murphy told us with a laugh.
It’s officially feelin’ like almost-summertime, and you know what that means– more ice cream and more murders. We trust you’re all aware that higher temps mean an uptick in lickin’ that delicious gift of mother cow teat and an increase in violent crime along with “human conflict” in general.
So if you’re feeling an incident of bad behavior coming on, it’s best to preemptively repent and do something cute, cultural, and community-oriented to quiet your demons– this weekend, get thee to the Saint George Ukrainian Festival, aka the East Village-based Slavic block party to rule them all. It helps that a century-old Ukrainian Catholic Church will be cowering over you, which– no matter what your religious (or non-religious) affiliation– is guaranteed to make you feel far too guilty to commit any dastardly deeds.
This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
Anyone who wants Veselka’s famous pierogies, borscht and blintzes on December 25 will just have to wait. For the first time in more than 60 years ago, Veselka, the 24-hour Ukrainian restaurant at 144 2nd Avenue will close on Christmas Day.
Yesterday East Village OG diner Veselka set the clock back to 1954, when the restaurant was first opened by Wolodymyr and Olha Darmochawa, Ukrainian World War II refugees. To celebrate the restaurant’s 60th birthday, Veselka resurrected historical prices, including 10 cent coffee, $1.50 pierogi, egg creams for a quarter, and a bowl of borscht for just 50 cents.
I first met Stefan Marolachakis in 2010 when he was tending bar at Heathers, just a few blocks away from his apartment overlooking Tompkins Square Park. He still lives there, but these days he’s writing for ESPN, Nylon, and The Fader, and drumming for Caveman, which just released its self-titled sophomore album via Fat Possum.