TODAY! 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
(On Messerole Avenue at Diamond Street in Greenpoint)
A reminder that today (Saturday June 8th) from 5p – 7:30p I’ll be hanging out at Cafe Grumpy to say hello and answer any Project Neon questions you might have. Stop by for neon & coffee, whether it’s a quick pick-me-up before you head out for a hopping Saturday night, or a cheerful end to a quiet day in. I’d love to see you!
PS: Hot dog! Nathan’s Famous at Coney Island has reopened after extensive post-Sandy repairs. I can’t wait to visit again.
You can now see photos from Project Neon (including the photo above of Block Drugs in the East Village) at the Cafe Grumpy roastery and cafe in Greenpoint! Thanks so much to Cafe Grumpy founder Caroline Bell for having me, to Liz Clayton for suggesting it, and to Joan Reidy for hanging the show with me.
So stop by and have a look while drinking some of the best coffee in New York. I’ll probably be stopping by to check on things some evenings this week, and I may add one or two more photos in the next few days. I’m also planning to hang out there next weekend, on Saturday June 8th, probably from about 5p to closing (7:30p), so please stop by and say hi.
The show will be up until July 15th.
The Beatrice Inn
On W 12th St between W 4th St & 8th Avenue in the West Village
I’ve been meaning to stop by and see the restored Beatrice Inn sign for a while now. The Beatrice Inn is too swank for me (especially on a Saturday night), but maybe some weekday I’ll switch out my Chucks for something more fashionable and slip in for a quick drink. And I do love the impossible-sounding address. The West Village can be so wonderfully confounding.
At any rate, the sign is lovely. Classic pink & green, and the patina was left intact (read more about the restoration by the very wonderful Let There Be Neon over on Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York). So the opposite of the Fedora sign, which I want to like — I’m always in favor of keeping neon aglow — but that was just replaced with a vaguely similar sign instead of being repaired & restored, and it shows.
I walked around the West Village last night, revisiting some old favorites (Casa Olivera is no longer animated, but the white horse on the White Horse Tavern’s sign is back to blinking off and on). All in all the West Village still has a good glow, though if you want to see it on a weekend, you’ll have to deal with a lot of hoi polloi to do it.
Those of you following along on Flickr may have noticed some big (for me) news: I saved a slice of my tax refund to buy a slightly fancier camera body (the rest went to paying down debt — so boring!) Last night was my first night out with it and I’m really, really pleased. The high ISO settings are really going to be great for dimmer signs. It’s a little heavier than my old camera and I still haven’t sorted out all the settings, but I’m hoping once I get the hang of it, there will be a noticeable increase in the quality of my photos. Plus I got my lenses professionally cleaned. Improvements all around!
Oh, hey, look — the beautiful Long Island Bar is hiring! I hope when it reopens it will be even 1/10th as special as it used to be (though maybe that’s too much to ask). At any rate, I’ll be so very extremely happy if I can see the sign lit. We need more good neon news!
(on First Avenue at 62nd Street in the Upper East Side)
I needed some solace today, both from the terrible news from Boston and from the day-to-day weariness of this and that. Milkshakes soothe both my soul and my stomach, so I stopped in at the Ritz Diner at lunch time for a chocolate shake to go.
The Ritz is, despite what the website says (“not just a diner, but a ‘ritzy’ diner”), a pretty classic diner (with pretty classic prices, considering the neighborhood). Counter, tables, grilled cheese, etc. — it’s all there. Most importantly, it is:
The main sign is pretty straightforward — just mazy channel letters spelling out RITZ DINER — but that seems about right for this place. I need to go back some time after dark and get better photos (these are old), though it’s a big tricky with the awning. For now I’ll just say I’m glad the Ritz is still keeping 1st Avenue aglow (along with Goldberger’s and others).
RIP Cork & Bottle
(on First Avenue between E 63rd & E 64th Streets in the Upper East Side)
Sad, sad news shared by Gary Wright: The Cork & Bottle neon was scrapped and replaced by back-lit plastic lettering this morning. This (together with Goldberger’s Pharmacy) was one of the first New York neon signs I photographed and those two signs were really what inspired the whole project. I want to believe it’s not true, but I know I’ll have to see it for myself on Monday morning on the way to work.
That amazing ampersand! That steadfast letter C! The classic vertical Liquors! There was also a tiny unlit “LTD” to the right of Bottle that I loved — a secret little addition I imagined getting relit some day. As I’ve said before, pink is not a color I like much in most of life, but pink neon is really wonderful.
The sign was always a tough one to photograph, with signs, trees, traffic, and the awning in the way, so I don’t feel like I fully did it justice, but it will have to do.
RIP Cork & Bottle neon, you will be missed. New York is a darker place without you.
Upper East Side Shoe Repair Shops
(For names and locations, see the Neon Shoes set on Flickr)
I’m dealing with a lot extra-curricular crap at the moment, including heartbreak and a dead fridge, so I’m a bit behind on everything, including Project Neon posts. I’ll try to catch up over the next few days.
First up: a couple of weekends ago I went on a photo walk on the Upper East Side. I was particularly hunting one of my favorite types of neon signs: shoe repair shop signs.
I know they’re probably off the shelf as often as custom made (and I usually vastly prefer custom neon), but there’s something so charming about the giant shoes, even when they’re anatomically imposible. I also love how New Yorkish they are — we need a lot of shoe repair with all the pavement pounding we do.
John’s, (which I made a proper visit to last year) above, is probably my favorite for it’s colorful minimalism, but Sam’s is great, too, especially when you see it together with the other half, also featuring curly eses. The giant Andrade loafers are also excellent. So many great neon shoes, boots, heels, and more.
I know there are a jillion more of these signs, both on the Upper East Side and elsewhere. I need to have more neon shoe walks to hunt down as many of these as I can find. Unfortunately as you can see above, many of them are behind bars by the time darkness sets it, so it may be next winter before I really get the photo set filled in properly.
Last night I bundled up, packed my binoculars, and subwayed over to Battery Park to see the comet. It was frigid, but the sunset was lovely, and I made the happy discovery that the Colgate Clock is back on over in Jersey. So an expedition there soon if I can work out the logistics. Or maybe I’ll wait until it’s a *little* bit warmer.
Excellent news, neonophiles! The iPhone app is working again! It seems to work with iOS 6.1 or later, though it didn’t work with 6.0. I AM SO HAPPY. Especially since I just spent all my money on an emergency vet visit (Scout is fine now, thank goodness!) and wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for rejiggering the app to work with Apple’s latest hijinks. Now I don’t have to. Yay!
I would really, really appreciate if any of you who have enjoyed the app would go back to the app store and give it a good rating, since a few people who had trouble with it & iOS 6.0 have given it a bad rap. Even if you already rated the original version, you can still rate the updated version (which just had minor changes) separately, since the most recent version’s ratings are what show up most prominently.
Thanks — you’re the best. I ask this not because I will benefit in any way, but because not many people are going to bother downloading an app with only 2 1/2 stars. Yikes!
I’ve been at a bit of a low ebb lately, but I’m finally over that terrible bug that’s been going around. Being sick is so depressing. I’m also doing a lot better on the fibromyalgia front — thanks to everyone who has sent good wishes my way. And since nothing pulls you up like a neon walk, I’m hoping to fit one in later this week.
Zenith Parking Garage
(near Times Square on W 49th Street between 7th & 8th Avenues)
Happy Valentine’s Day, neon lovers! I hope you’re all getting plenty of whatever it is that makes your heart sing.
As we all know, Valentine’s Day has a dark side, too, and the darkened neon around town has been on my mind:
* DNAinfo.com reports that Bruckner Bar & Grill remains closed due to a combination of hurricane damage and landlord dispute. I’ve tried to photograph their great sign several times with no luck (one evening I arrived to find the sign had blown out after a faulty repair earlier that day!) Here’s hoping it lights up again soon.
* Pearl Diner seems to still be closed — no word on when they might reopen.
* Hinsch’s is still for sale — no word on its fate yet.
* No word yet, either, on the fate of the Mitchell’s sign on the Upper West Side.
In other news, images of Tracey Emin’s neon art are on view in Times Square for the three minutes before midnight every night through February. I’m not a huge fan of this style of lettering rendered in neon, and it’s a little ironic to have neon art displayed on LED screens, but still an interesting public art project.
I need your help! Those of you with iPhones running iOS 6.0 or higher, can you let me know what version you’re running (Settings > General > About > Version) and whether the Project Neon iPhone app is running? I’ve had reports that although it doesn’t work in iOS 6.0, it does work in 6.1. Send me an email at heyprojectneon on Gmail. Thanks!
The image at the top is a recent re-shoot of the Zenith Parking Garage sign. It’s small and only lit on one side, but I love the way the blank brick wall captures the rich red glow. That’s neon at its best: a bright spot in the darkness.
in Bay Ridge on 5th Avenue between 85th & 86th Streets
I haven’t been to Hisnch’s Confectionery (is that the best name or what?) since it changed hands, and the new owners are looking to sell at the end of the month (*sigh*), so I thought I’d pay visit.
I have to admit I have a bit of a grudge, just a small one, against the current owners for using my photos on the web site and Facebook page without asking, and the vinyl baner blocking the window neon didn’t help, but once I was safely ensconced inside away from the cold with a vanilla milk shake (there’s not much diner food I can eat these days, but happily my ability to digest dairy has not suffered), my mood improved tremendously. Their wasn’t exactly a crowd (maybe 5 people total in the booths in back, and I was the only one at the front counter), but the guys working in the kitchen and at the front counter were cheerfully bantering in Spanish. The two TVs installed in back (ugh) were tuned to the Super Bowl, but the one up front by me was showing a documentary about Grand Central Station, that the front-counter guy was engrossed in and turned up the volume briefly before returning to washing up.
Oddly, the sound system was playing Eye of the Tiger when I came in. Next up sounded suspiciously like Rush, and then “Wayward Son” by Kansas. A little incongruous, but original, I guess.
Of course I’ve written about Hinsch’s before (and photographed it, too), and the giant pink script sign is one of the most iconic of New York. Sadly the vertical sign was a mess, completely dark with broken tubes dangling.
What will happen here next? As I finished my frothy shake and headed back out into the night I turned around to look at the sign one more time. Will I ever see that pink glow again? I hope so…
Gotham City Peep Show
(in Times Square on 8th Avenue between W 43rd & 44th Streets)
Top: 2012; Bottom: 2011
Have you noticed that the Gotham City lady has changed her hair color? She used to be blond, but I noticed recently it’s turned red and went out tonight to document the change. I like the new ‘do, though sadly her eye & mouth are out — I hope they get repaired soon. I suppose you could think she’s winking at you, but the lack of mouth makes her seem a little sad.
I love the details in the sign — the stocking tops, the fluffy hair, and especially the belly-button. I didn’t have the energy to check out the interior tonight, but Narratively did recently. Check out that link for more on what’s behind the neon lady.
A quick jaunt around Times Square gave me the opportunity to rephotograph Zenith Garage, a simple sign but one of my favorites. My walk also inadvertantly took me past the now dark Colony Records sign, a dismal sight. *sigh* I also saw Show World, which apparently Project Neon has overlooked until now. I like the festive circus tent.
In other news, I’m still working on verifying the fate of Mitchell’s. I’m cautiously optimistic that there may be good news in the end, though we may still need help. I’ll let you know as soon as I know more.