Thursday, 31 May 2012

Isolation Exercises and Why They Don't Work

Photo by Okko Pyykko

This can be considered a continuation to Main Lifts, Great Results.

Don't Focus On Just Your Biceps.
If you want to focus your attention on isolation exercises then be my guest. But let me warn you, when you teach your muscles to work in isolation, you run the risk of forgetting how to work your muscles together.

Why Isolation Exercises Lead To Bad Performance.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Final Images of the Lost Lenox Lounge

Harlem's historic Lenox Lounge—Manhattan cradle of jazz and deco—closes on Dec. 31. A circumstance of infinite regret. If you didn't make it up there during the boite's last weeks, please enjoy these photos from my final visit.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Maybe They Should Keep It

Longstanding Carroll Gardens pizzeria Sal's was apparently part of a movie shoot last month that caused them to temporarily rename themselves "Salducci's." Guess the filmmakers thought that would make this very Italian joint even more Italian. The pasted-on awning is still there, as is the decal on the glass door. I kind of like the name better. Maybe they should keep it.

Monday, 21 May 2012

What is a Set?

Photo by Brett Jordan


Sets are a group of repetitions you perform one after another without a break. When searching for a new and different workout system, you'll find that a set can consist of one repetition to maybe even a hundred, but the most common are: 

Three to six repetitions.

When dealing with low reps like these, you'll realize increase in strength gains and some

Friday, 18 May 2012

Remembering Harvey's Chelsea House

Back in the early '90s, when I was a non-blogging, budding sentimentalist, I worked for a time at a horrible theatre trade magazine in the Flatiron District. (It wasn't called that at the time.) In my attempts to distance myself from my boss and duties, I would use my lunch hour to range as far from my office as possible.

I remember frequently passing an old restaurant at 108 W. 18th Street which has a grand, vertical, three-story sign that said "Harvey's." Peering in, I saw a long bar, high ceilings, tile floors, beveled glass and a dining room in the back. It was one of my first impressions of what was meant by the term Olde New York.

I didn't know much about the place, and soon thereafter it closed for good. I have been obsessed with the joint every sense. Recently I decided to find out more about the restaurant that still haunts my memory. It was worth the inquiry. 

When Harvey's Chelsea House closed in December 1991, it was 102 years old. A man named Dick Harvey had owned it for its final 16 years of its existence. He told the New York Times that taxes, insurance and utility costs, compounded by a bad economy, had forced him to close. 

Harvey's Chelsea House opened in 1889 as a kind of dark-wooded, manly eatery that was prevalent and popular at that time. It was finely appointed. It had a 40-foot bar of red, burled, Honduras mahogany, crystal cabinetwork, a brass clock and rear cabinets of bevelled glass. I'm not sure what it was called back then—it seems to have been called the Old Chelsea Restaurant at some point—but certainly not Harvey's Chelsea House. Dick Harvey took over the location in 1977. He, at the time, also managed 0'Neal's Balloon, had reopened the Landmark Tavern, and had a reputation as "the fastest bartender who has ever worked New York," according to The New Yorker. Harvey refinished the mahogany and added five chandeliers and an historic display of bar-and-res-taurant glassware. (That means that the "old" sign outside I admire so much was no older than 14 years when I saw it.)

After Harvey gave up the fight, the place remained closed for a while, then was reopened as Tonic by one Steve Tzolis, the principal owner of Il Cantinori, Periyali and Aureole, all restaurants in Manhattan. 

A newspaper described the new incarnation thusly: "I figured the owners would simply rip it apart and sell the fixtures and that if it ever reopened, it would be painted white. So it was a wonderful surprise to walk in on a recent night to find the place looking much as I remembered, only better. (It has been spruced up and is now a warm red.) It is also a scene. Young executives in pinstriped business suits, guys in white T-shirts and bikers’ jackets, lithe young women in jeans or black dresses were packed several deep at the bar, and they weren’t all just waiting for tables. The maĆ®tre d’ led me away from this merry throng into the room next door, which, although full and lively, seemed quiet by comparison. It was like being sent to sit with the grown-ups. My friends were already at the table."

Tonic didn't take. The building was torn down in 2006. What became of the beautiful bar, the mahogany, the cast iron, the glass, the brass? Junked or broken up and sold.

Monday, 14 May 2012

How to Review Landmark Restaurants, and How Not To

The events of this week provided an interesting object lesson on the tricky matter of how to review a landmark restaurant. Many reviewers feel that the same rules should be applied to all restaurants, whether 1 or 100 years old. If the food and service is bad or good, say so. No punches pulled. I find this perspective short-sighted. Historical eateries are not just places where people go to feed their face and have a nice time. They are part of the fabric and heritage of the city we dwell in. Their serve purposes well beyond culinary sustenance, just as City Hall is more than a building where politicians can get their work done, and classic skyscrapers more than a stacking of offices.

The other day, Pete Wells, the restaurant critic of the New York Times, reviewed the "21" Club. Everyone knows that the food at "21" is not cutting edge, nor is it meant to be. That is a failing, perhaps, but haute cuisine is not the point of this classic, speakeasy-era restaurant, and it's not the main reason anyone goes. Wells got that, and his review, which could have been a hatchet job in the hands of another critic, was a study in journalistic balance and grace. It was more an appreciation, than a review. Here are a few choice bits:
READERS who look forward to the dark thrill of a public execution on days when there are no stars attached to this column should turn elsewhere to satisfy their blood lust. This is going to be a kind of love letter to a restaurant where the food is largely forgettable and the prices are almost always unwarranted...
But to judge “21” as a restaurant is to miss the point of the place. Like Galatoire’s in New Orleans, “21” is at its best when you treat the food as a solid foundation for the liquid entertainment... 
I regret all the songs I could have belted out around the piano at Bill’s Gay Nineties. I regret the nights I didn’t tune in to hear the huge mahogany doors on Danny Stiles’s Art Deco penthouse swing shut as Mr. Stiles bid all his radio listeners “Good night, dear hearts.” I regret the rides I didn’t take on Checker cabs while they still prowled the avenues.
I don’t want to add “21” to the list.
That's not just a classy review. That a critique that, given the subject, approaches the task from exactly the right perspective. 

Meanwhile, up in Boston, the timeless chop house Locke-Ober, home based for Beantown power brokers, suddenly closed its doors after 137 years. WBUR interviewed Corby Kummer, the restaurant critic for Boston magazine, about the restaurant’s place in the city’s history. Kummer, who panned the place in a review in 2011, praised the business for its ornate bar and shiny silver and sense of history. But he also had to get his licks in and show, as a journalist, he showed no mercy when he wasn't happy:
Aside from the food, which was absolutely full of butter and cholesterol, it was ridiculously overpriced. It was very expensive for what it was. But what bothered me most when I re-reviewed it last year — and I wanted to like it, because I love historical places — was the lack of diversity I noted. It just seemed really conspicuous among the waitstaff and the clientele, and I thought: They aren’t keeping up with the times and they need to attract more people.
So, in Kummer ego-centric, dim-witted view, since Locke-Ober didn't serve food he liked or cater to clientele he politically approved of, it had to go. 137 years of Boston cultural history be damned. Then he had the gall to add this:
I don’t know that I felt that it was time for it to go because that magnificent bar downstairs should never go, and everyone who comes to Boston should have a chance to go in there.
 If you felt that way, Corby, then say it in your review, not over the restaurant's coffin. 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Stage Deli Memory From 1969

The Stage Deli in midtown Manhattan closed last Thursday after 75 years in business, the victim of rent hikes and a bad economy. To show how much New York character the place had, enjoy the New York Times write-up from July 5, 1969:
Jewish waiters—who are used to giving the orders—turned polite and deferred to astonished customers yesterday.
It was Independence Day, and the independent Jewish waiter marked the day in the most signal of ways, with a startling change of face.
It has been said that Israel won the Six-Day War by putting guns into the hands of Jewish waiters—but yesterday they laid down their arms. Snarls were out; smiles were in. Waiters grown irascible on endless chopped liver and chicken soup beamed with good nature. From every pore oozed the sour cream of human kindness....
At the Stage Delicatessen on Seventh Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets, a waiter tried earnestly to explain the startling change. "It's Independence Day," he said brightly, "and who could be more independent than the Jewish waiter?"...
But it was difficult. When a customer asked a waiter at the Stage why he wasn't wearing a name badge, he replied: "Why should I wear my name? Everybody calls me names, anyway."...
A policeman who walked into the Stage Delicatessen looked incredulously about him at the strangely happy multitude. Then the manage said playfully, "You're under arrest."
"All right," said the man in blue, "as long as you keep me in here."

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Heimesch Coffee Shop

The individuality of New York's many neighborhood is one of the City's great strengths. Only in Orthodox Jewish Borough Park (and maybe a couple other areas) would the coffee shop arm of a gas station be called the Heimesche Coffee Shop. For those who don't know their Yiddish, Heimesch (also spelled Haimish) means cozy or homey. This particular coffee shop doesn't look very cozy. But what the hell. It's the intention, right?

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Ghost of Sunview Luncheonette

As one of my regular objects of obsession, I have checked in on the Sunview Luncheonette at least once every year since the classic Greenpoint diner shut its doors in 2008, after an inspection from the Department of Health made things too cost prohibitive for the old Greek woman who ran it to reopen. The owner has left the interior untouched. I like to peer in and see how time is treating the old booth, telephone booths, stools, counter and menu board. But never once have I seen a flicker of life inside.

Last week, however, I was sitting on a bench opposite the diner, resting my feet, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a darkened figure slip in the front door of the diner and the screen door bang shut. I jumped to my feet and crossed the street. Maybe, if I asked nicely, I could gain access to the restaurant and ask a few questions about its future. I came to the window and peered in. No one was inside. I went to the door. It was locked. Strange.

I stood outside the diner for a good ten minutes. Whoever had gone in there was not making a sound or moving a muscle. I know I had seen someone. Had they slipped out the back? Or is the Sunview Luncheonette haunted?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Is the number of weight I'm squating, benching, deadifting important?

Photo by The U.S. Army

If your new to lifting then, weight should be of no importance to you. Beginners, don't worry about the number of  plates your stacking onto the bar, even if a 13 year is push twice the weight you are. You should focus more on technique, and safety --even if it means just using the bar-- then trying to impress the ladies in the gym. Once you have got the technique down