Happy Friday! Continuing on with our car week theme, today we’d like to bring you an automotive public service message. Before you head out for the weekend, double-check to make sure the spare tire in your car trunk is filled with air. If it is not filled with air, it is not terribly useful.We also suggest that if you happen to get a flat tire at the entrance to the Verrazano Bridge ($15 to cross Staten Island!? WTF) that you determine the viability of this spare before you take the flat off and put the spare on. If you do not, there exists the possibility that when you jack the car down on to a flat spare tire you will feel stupid/frustrated/cosmically thwarted.And when you finally limp your way to your local quik-repair tire shop, take pains to arrive before the dude who shows up to get all four of his purple Nissan Altima’s tires changed out with all new phat rims. Or whatever those are called. If not, chances are you may be sitting there a while. But on the positive side, at least then you’ll have plenty of time to write a lame post for your website.
June 1st of 2014 will be an historic day in motorsport. 22 drivers from all over the world will line up on a grid and race 59 laps equaling 188.8 miles at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour and g forces pushing five in carbon fiber, open wheeled rockets with 800 horses under the lid and hundreds of millions tuning in for this earsplitting, malodorous and exhilarating spectacle. Where, you ask, will this be taking place? Right across the river, friends, in Weehawken, New Jersey. That’s right, Formula 1 is coming to New Jersey and our iconic skyline will serve as its back drop.Now, now, we know that going to a car race isn’t top-of-mind for most New Yorkers and is likely looked down on as a beer-swilling, gut-busting event that most of us will leave to folks to the up, the down or the over there. But, Hipsters, Dilettantes, Intellectuals…this is not NASCAR or sprint car racing….THIS is Formula 1. The pinnacle of money, sport, athleticism and technology wrapped up into nearly two dozen races all over the globe over the course of nine months. From Australia to Bahrain, Germany to Russia and now Brazil to Weehawken. I, for one, cannot wait! I’ve been to four or five of these truly amazing races and can tell you that you will never see cars and their drivers perform quite like they do in F1. The noise, the acceleration. The deceleration. The noise! The noise! The noise!But don’t take my word for it, allow yourself two hours and an open mind to check out the new film Rush from Ron Howard and his continually apt clan. Rush is a ’70′s romp of a story that will give you a little back story and history on this, the world’s second biggest sport and its legends. It’s the account of the rivalry between F1 greats Niki Lauda and James Hunt battling it out for the 1976 World Championship. One of two men clawing their way to the top via severely contrasting paths. It’s an incredible human portrait that digs to the very core of what drives us to succeed. A dude film for sure, Rush is well written, well shot, well directed, damn good and worth seeing. It’s full of thrill, obsession, drive, love, sex, cars, models and fiery crashes. If that’s not enough for you, my hands are in the air. But if it is, go spend the 11 bucks to see Rush and then I’ll meet you in Weehawken on June 1st where we’ll both spend way too much money to see the greatest show on earth. Sorry, Mr. Ringling, but you have been served.
Is there anything that ISN’T made better when sandwiched between a hot flakey buttermilk biscuit? It’s a universal truth, and one the folks at the Orchard Street sandwichery called Cheeky’s are down with. The sandwich artists at this tiny hole-in-the-wall shop slap a perfectly crispy fried chicken breast covered in crunchy, briny red cabbage slaw and luscious brown gravy in between a halved biscuit to make for a freakishly excellent breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night snack.It manages to scratch a deep itch in the soul you didn’t even know you had. It’s like a Southern fried hug. It’s the best sandwich we’ve had in a long time. We’re eager to try some of the other amazing looking sandwiches on offer at Cheeky’s but there’s really no way to not order the damn chicken and biscuit. It’s a culinary tractor beam and we are powerless to resist.
Webster defines scrappy as having an aggressive and determined spirit and there is no shortage example of scrappy in this week’s interview with this dude we’ll call Scrappy T. You see, Scrappy T grew up in the 70’s on Long Island with a hard-ass commercial fisherman for a father. He figured out early on how to have a little fun squarely in the grey areas of illegality and make some money doing it. While we here at On the Real can not, will not, dare not condone the activities mentioned in this rollicking hour of tales from the sort-of-dark side, we did have a devious chuckle or twelve with our buddy, Scrappy T. And in most of the words of the boys from Jackass, “ WARNING: The following show features stunts performed by professionals or under the supervision of professionals. Accordingly, On the Real and the producers must insist that no one attempt to recreate or re-enact any stunt activity performed on this show.” But, please do enjoy it.
Portrait of Scrappy T. by Craig LaCourt for On the Real.
The only reason you should be wearing that spandex outfit with advertisements printed on it on the New York City streets is if you are training for the Tour de France next year. Otherwise, you are a dipshit.
Don’t you dare give me a dirty look as you hurtle towards me going the wrong way down a one-way street. I’m in the right here, you have no moral authority.
Don’t you dare give me a dirty look or tell me I’m going the wrong way as I hurtle towards you going the wrong way down a one-way street. I know. I just have to get to that place on the corner so stop being such a tight ass.
To the food delivery guy downtown who manages to smoke while biking. Well done, sir.
To the a-hole who is texting while biking. While I know it’s wrong to wish you immediate bodily harm, just know that I am debating whether it is wrong to wish you immediate bodily harm.
To the delivery van driving 50 miles per hour down a side street and missing me by and inch. Come on, dude. I have kids.
To the pedestrian standing in the bike lane, kindly step 17 feet forward into the middle of the avenue. Cars and trucks will get the job done far more quickly and with less pain than a 148 pound hipster on a ’58 Raleigh will.
And, finally, to the new mom standing in the aforementioned bike lane with a newborn in a stroller…respect.
My dad is an aficionado of classic greasy spoons, and as sometime happens, some of the parental oddity has worn off on the son. I, too, delight in the simple pleasures of a bottomless cup of black coffee served in a lip-worn chipped mug while sitting counterside to some frying homefries. Back when I first moved to New York, there was a legendary joint I frequented called the Cheyenne Diner at 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue, right near my shitty apartment. Sadly, it has since closed but I’m always on the lookout for that kind of sensory experience.But I accidentally stumbled upon a gem the other day, unironically titled Cup and Saucer. It’s on Canal Street (no, seriously) over on the east side and I had high hopes from all the way across the street. Classic 50’s luncheonette period exterior? Check. Cramped seating, with bar stools? Check. The sounds of a mound of bacon sizzling rising over the din of regulars discussing today’s NY Post headline? Check, check, check.I got a seat at the counter and I asked the patron to my right (clearly a regular) what was good for lunch. Dude didn’t so much as take a breath: “Get the fish onna roll.” Done. One fish on a roll and cup of coffee, please. Five minutes later I was presented with crispy deep-fried cod on a hard Kaiser with lettuce, tomato, side of tartar, and French fries right out of the fryer. Simple, no fanfare. No garlic rémoulade. No port wine reduction. Not friggin’ organic. Just tasty food served well, and fast. My mug was never less than half full the entire time. I was happily vibrating with caffeine by the time I left, and dammit if I don’t have a new favorite greasy spoon in town.
Here at On The Real, we love a good independent bookstore. Small shops like McNally Jackson, BookCourt, or 192 Books are favorite haunts of ours due to the abundance of lovingly curated literature as well as the comfortable friendly book-nerd environments. Recently we stumbled across the “weekend only” shop called Freebird Books on the waterfront in Red Hook, and in so doing, we did a little dance. Billed as “a general used bookstore specializing in New York history and culture,” the only question we had was how the hell did it take us this long to find it?The place is small and densely packed with used titles of all shapes and formats. It’s not dusty but it is certainly redolent of old books, with just the right amount of worn-in couches and reading nooks. Can air be sepia toned? If so, they managed to nail that. The overall effect for me was like walking into the rambling, rent control apartment of your wonderfully eccentric old uncle who is an author (and maybe a swinger in the ‘70s?) on the Upper West Side. It was just awesome. And true to form, there were fantastic titles I’d never seen before on New York City history, culture, architecture, as well as all kinds of pulpy goodness. The proprietors have a solid sense of humor—shelves are organized into quirky collections like “BAD TITLES” and “UNFORTUNATE AUTHOR PHOTOS.”You could easily spend a Sunday morning poking around this place and finding strange and arcane stories about your hometown for your collection. We did just that. Alas, no books for kids, but the place is honestly magical enough that even a person who prefers their books with pictures can find entertainment aplenty.
Had a completely delicious sandwich the other day at a shop called Black Tree on the Lower East Side. A serious winner. It’s called the Summer Pig Sandwich. Shoulda called it the Wilbur, because this is Some Pig. It’s a beer braised pork belly with cheddar, mint and spiced blueberry jam, topped with a farm fresh fried egg on a crusty baguette. Whoa.I partnered this robust bad boy with a delicious Southern Tier Double Milk stout, causing tears of joy to run unchecked down my face. “I’m OK, thank you, I’m just so happy eating this sandwich,” I said to no one in particular. I’m guessing the other patrons probably understood.We suggest you sit belly up to the bar there and chat with the restaurant’s owner/chef Sandy Dee, as we did, because he’s an interesting guy who can chat about the inventory of ingredients like a farmer. Much of the menu availability is, in fact, based upon what’s gathered at the Union Square or Brooklyn Greenmarkets. So you know it’s fresh, and the menu changes all the time as a result. And it’s really tasty. Finish one of their sandwiches off with one of their home-brined pickle pots, too. You must. Because you can smell like homemade pickles, but you can’t go back to work smelling like a stout.
We recently sat down in the studio to talk with a man called Schatzie. He’s a kick-ass, pure butcher by trade and the very definition of a New York character. Schatzie’s been slicing, carving and pleasing discerning palates for 50 years, and by die-hard carnivore standards, is akin to royalty. You see, Schatzie’s father was a butcher. And Schatzie’s father’s father was a meat master in the Old Country. So friends, this is a man who knows everything there is to know about prime meat. And having observed his customers from behind the butcher block for half a century, he also knows a thing or two about psychology. A self-declared old-school New York original, we had a blast rapping with Schatzie about everything from his days growing up on the Grand Concourse to butchering bear legs…the RIGHT way to cook a steak to his appreciation of broads…yeah, them…and don’t get him started on how so-called celebrity butcher “burger blends” are fulla crap …but have some damn genius marketing. Oh, and we also got schooled on the majesty of Sinatra b-sides and why they’re, hands down, the bomb. When Schatzie’s holding court, you definitely want to sit back and shut up. Don’t be a schmuck and miss this one! Press play below, or download on iTunes for free on the go.
Portrait of Schatzie by Craig LaCourt for On the Real.