Finding a place to stay in New York presents a special conundrum, as my aversion to looking like a tourist is well known. Most of the AirBnBs we looked at were either out of our price range or had a minimum stay requirement. The Chelsea Hotel has, in the past, been a great option. Not only is it reasonably priced, it has rock and roll cred (Sid and Nancy! Janis Joplin! Dee Dee Ramone!) AND is also home to a sizable population of residents you can blend in with. Unfortunately, the Chelsea is in the process of gentrifying and becoming an exorbitantly priced boutique hotel, which makes my poor little punk rock heart wither up and die a little. So what to do?
Enter The Pod.
There are two Pods – one on East 51st Street and one in Murray Hill (Showbiz!) on East 39th Street. We were at the one on 39th – called Pod 39. (Do you get it? Do you?) It’s a little like staying in one those “Look! This is how you can live in 125 feet of space!” mockup apartments at Ikea – the rooms are very small, but the space is used very intelligently, so you have everything you need without a lot of wasted space. It’s perfect if you’re not spending a ton of time in your room. Pod 39 also features the added benefits of a rooftop bar (closed during the winter, but the view was still nice) and Salvation Taco in the lobby. This last was especially important, because I am famous (by which I mean someone “liked” it on Twitter once) for saying that the only reason I work out is because of tacos.
Our room was on the 17th floor, at the very top of the building, and accessed by a black and white striped elevator, which I immediately used to pretend that I was on the cover of Blondie’s Parallel Lines album.
Our room faced the rear of the building, so our window overlooked the back of the buildings on E. 40th Street.
We had a tiny bathroom, separated from the rest of the space by a sliding glass door with a frosted area in the middle for modesty reasons. All the same, it’s probably best to either be fairly close to your traveling companions, or to make an agreement to head out to the rooftop terrace for a few minutes if one of you needs to avail yourselves of the facilities.
We also had a safe, which I can only assume was cunningly disguised as a microwave to fool burglars of the more clueless variety. One can only wonder how many times the concierge has been sheepishly called to retrieve a Hot Pocket a traveler has inadvertently locked inside.
To sum up, here is a brief room tour I made when I was high on Marky Ramone and slightly drunk on something called a Fly By Night, which is why it is shot vertically, which Mr. Lamarr tells me carries a penalty of death by a firing squad of obnoxious teenage YouTube commenters.
It poured down rain on Sunday, and if I was any other place in the world, I would have suggested holing up someplace with a fireplace to read Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone. But not this day. Today, we were heading to my favorite place in the city – the Lower East Side. I’ve always had great affinity for the Lower East Side. It started when I was about 9 and learned all about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and then spent an entire summer poring over the employee list and plotting out where they had lived (you know, before they died horrifically in a fire) on a map, which is an entirely normal, wholesome, and not at all morbid thing for a nine year old girl to do. And, as our visit to the amazing Tenement Museum on Orchard Street would affirm, is actually a quite valuable skill. The LES was, also of course, famously the center of the punk rock universe in the 1970s, so it wasn’t exactly surprising that this was where I wanted to spend my day.
One of our stops included the Strand Bookstore, which is undeniably a world class institution. If it’s legendary reputation as one of the world’s best bookstores doesn’t convince you, this should:
No trip to the Lower East Side would be complete without a visit to Trash and Vaudeville. This legendary rock and roll outfitters was the first place to carry Doc Martens in the United States, and, over the years, has clothed (and still does!) people like the Ramones, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, and tons more. If you visit Trash and Vaudeville, you will more than likely run into Jimmy Webb, the buyer and manager. Jimmy looks like a walking dictionary definition of the word “sinewy,” and, if you see him from a distance, it is not uncommon to mistake him for Iggy Pop – Mr. Lamarr did exactly this when we saw him the night before at Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg. He is also possibly the warmest, most enthusiastic person I have ever met. I think anyone who has met him would agree – in fact, Cracked has him at number 2 on their list of Four People Who Deserve to Represent NYC More Than Taylor Swift.
I also felt it necessary to stop in at 315 Bowery to pay my respects to the former CBGBs. It’s now the home of John Varvatos – a high end clothing store where, in addition to buying new designer garments and insanely overpriced records, you can also purchase beat up studded vintage leather jackets for $2,500. To their credit, they’ve left some of the walls and the memorabilia intact (no sign of the legendarily disgusting bathrooms, though), but its hard not to feel an overwhelming sadness that such an amazing part of music history is, for all intents and purposes, gone.
The most stolen street sign in New York City, the one that says “Joey Ramone Place,” sits at the corner of Bowery and E. Second St., about half a block from John Varvatos. The weather was way too crap to get a decent picture, but rest assured it’s there.
For a happier rock and roll experience, we headed over to Manitoba’s, the friendly neighborhood dive owned by Dictators frontman “Handsome Dick” Manitoba. Joey Ramone made his last public appearance here, shortly before his death. The drinks are cheap and strong, the walls are covered with photos by some of rock music’s best photographers, and the jukebox is a thing of glory. Unfortunately, the jukebox was out of order, but I did wind up engaging in some truly terrible hula hooping with the bartender. We both agreed to work on our skills and meet up again in a year or so for a rematch. If you want that to happen (and I know you do, because there will probably be video), you should head over to Save Manitoba’s and make a small contribution to their Indiegogo.
We finished out the night at the movies, where we saw Whiplash, which is a good movie with some truly great performances about very sweaty jazz drummers who bleed a lot. We recommend.
Then we headed across the street to Tuck Shop for some savory pies, which were exactly the thing for a cold, rainy day. We also learned how to stay alive in New York City. Steps are as follows:
1. Go to Tuck Shop shortly before closing.
2. Be entertaining by becoming overjoyed that the Shonen Knife cover of Sheena is a Punk Rocker is on the joint’s playlist. Also, explain your theory that the definitive sign that a great night out is over is when you see a crying girl on a cell phone sitting on the curb wearing only one shoe.
3. Have an enormous sack of all the leftover savory pies and sausage rolls handed to you for free.
Mr. Lamarr had never really hung out on the LES before. “Is it your favorite neighborhood yet?” I would ask him, after everything we did, every cool person we met. And, on our way home to take gloriously hot showers under the waterfall showerhead at the Pod, he finally answered, “Yes.” Because how could it not be?