(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.
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.
Mitchell’s Wine & Liquor Store
in the Upper West Side on W 86th St between Amsterdam & Broadway
Recently I received a tip from Project Neon reader Rob B. who warned me that the neon sign at Mitchell’s will be removed in a spring renovation. Noooo!
I really like this sign. It’s not the most elaborate sign in New York, but it dates from the ’40s according to New York Neon, and I find it appealing. I like the dark blue circle between Wines and LIquors, I like the odd tail to the Q, and I like the addition of the green vertical sign to the right. It all adds up to a nice sign I’d be sad to see go.
I stopped by on Christmas eve to pick up a new bottle of Marsala, my secret ingredient in many stews and sauces (and a great pick-me-up for the chef as well). The shop is lovely, and though small, packed to the gills with bottles of every alcohol around. Rolling ladders allow the staff to reach the upper echelons of the wooden shelves, giving the shop a ship-like feel.
The staff were friendly and seemed sympathetic to my inquiries about the sign, but alas my Spanish has rusted shut from years of disuse and the English of the gentleman I spoke to was a little tricky to make out. It sounds like the street level shops along the large building (200 W 86th Street) are all getting renovated, and with the renovation the liquor store is ditching the sign. That would be terrible!
The sign looks to need some repair — there were a few letters out and one letter on the vertical sign was missing its tubing — but that’s certainly no reason to scrap the whole thing.
I’m going to do a little more investigation and see if I can find the name of the shop owner and maybe get more of the story. In the mean time, if you would like to write the shop and tell them how much you love the sign, their full address is:
Mitchell’s Wine & Liquor
200 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024
I’ll let you know any updates as I hear about them. Let’s save this sign!
in Harlem on Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Blvd between W 124th & W 125th Streets
The Lenox Lounge is closing at the end of the month. There are conflicting reports about how radical the change will be when it reopens under new owners, but it will certainly change. I am, once again, kicking myself for not visiting an NYC landmark until the end of its era.
The Lenox Lounge is a gem inside and out. I didn’t go to hear music, just sat at the bar after work, surrounded by affable working stiffs who, like me, needed a stiff drink. Unfortunately a mild beer is the most I can handle these days, but at the happy hour price of $3 a bottle, it hit the spot well within budget. The crowd was congenial without being nosy or noisy, and after a stressful work day, nothing could have been better. But the city’s changing and the Lenox Lounge with it, and I have a bad feeling that it’s going to turn all fancy-pants, and not be the kind of place it’s OK to sit and drink a $3 beer for an hour in the company of regular people.
The neon sign is one of my favorites. I love the unique lettering, especially the crescent-moon Es. I can only hope the new owners love the sign half as much as I do, so it will remain as a memorial to the cool spot that once stood just behind it. I hope I’m wrong, I hope things will continue on at least mostly the same, but seeing what’s happened to similar places (like Fedora’s), it doesn’t seem likely, does it? Go while you still can.
RIP Lenox Lounge, 1942 - 2012
More sad neon news coming up in a few days. Help document the neon that’s still shining (and not just in NYC) in the Project Neon Flickr pool!
Oh, and I’ve been trying to post more to the Project Neon Facebook page if that’s your thing.
(On First Avenue @ 66th Street in the Upper East Side)
I’ve already written about Goldberger’s Pharmacy, but those of you who have been following along since the beginning may recognize that this is the first neon photo I posted to the Project Neon Flickr set, exactly two years ago today. Yep, it’s Project Neon’s 2nd birthday. Goldberger’s (together with the Cork & Bottle) was the original inspiration for Project Neon on a dark December night two years ago. Those weren’t the first neon signs I’d photographed, but they were the first signs in New York City, and so began this project.
I’d like to thank all of you who have been following along, everyone who supported the Kickstarter project, and all the shopkeepers and neon repairers and sign makers who make the city nights brighter. Without all of you Project Neon never would have happened.
(in the Upper West Side on Broadway between 105th and 106th Streets)
I’ve got a couple of posts I’m hoping to have time to get to this weekend, but first I’d like to say thanks to Lisa Hix, for the Project Neon interview she’s written for Collectors Weekly. Thank you, Lisa, for making me sound vaguely coherent!
The photo above from Riverside Liquor on Broadway is one of my favorites (as you may have guessed from its inclusion in the Limited Edition Prints). When I stopped by for a visit last weekend, though, the sign was looking a little the worse for wear:
It’s still a great sign, but I do hope it gets repaired soon. Speaking of repairs, I also stopped by Murray’s Sturgeon Shop, hoping that the removal of the scaffolding from the building meant they had maybe fixed their neon. Alas, no luck.
Riverside is a small liquor shop with an indecipherable (at least to me) cataloguing system. You’re best off asking for help, which was what I ended up doing. I was buying some blended scotch to try scotch & soda — believe it or not, I’ve never had it! — as part of a new project of mine, A Culinary Companion. (It’s a writing project, not a pictures project, about food & literature.) I was surprised to find both scotch & soda and brandy & soda very pleasant. Not as forceful and warming as the straight up liquors, but neither were they just watered down nothings. More just a gentler form of drink, refreshing with the bubbles. A pleasant accompaniment to a lazy afternoon.
Anyway, the staff at Riverside were friendly and helpful, and there was a steady parade of patrons from all walks of life. The sign is a bright spot on broadway, with the classic mazey infill that I love. I’ve said before that pink isn’t one of my favorite colors (I guess I’m not a very girly girl), but pink neon is just fantastic.
OK, I’ll be back later this weekend with more neon news, links, and photos. See you then!