Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On The Loisaida

Talk about contrasts!

I love the Hebrew-styled choice of lettering for this quiet little apartment building.

For people not familiar with the term, "Loisaidia" is a local nickname for the "Lower East Side", spoken with a Spanish accent.

I happened to be on the Lower East Side on Saturday morning (only an interview could get me out and down there that early on a weekend) before the snow hit and managed a few photos before the camera battery gave out from the cold. It's been a couple of years since I actively shopped there; a few stores endure from days of old, and although the street looks the same, it really has changed drastically. The many fabric places are mostly gone, replaced by chic boutiques and bars, though the luggage and mens-wear sellers are still there.

I used to shop at Beckenstein's Fabrics. There were two shops on either side of Orchard Street. The painted facade still looks as fresh as ever even though the store is long gone, and the men's store opposite, stocking woolen suit and coat fabrics, still sports its sign even though it too has closed. (The store has moved to West 39th street in the garment district) These shops were kind of drab and depressing to trawl through, and the location was a long way from the costume shops I worked for as a shopper, but I miss them for their variety now. The resources for fabrics have sharply diminished over the years; I have a swatchbox of fabrics that I collected many years ago and who knows when I'll ever see materials like those again. In those days it was no trouble to find novelty brocades from France, interesting sheer fabrics and velvets, metallics and intricate trimmings, and raw silks in so many varieties that one was dizzy.

I did a movie a few years ago, and we filmed at a few locations in the city that have since shuttered, like Lismore Hosiery, which had been there for about 70 years. Here's a great blog post about the closing of Lismore Hosiery from one of my favorite places on the web, The Sartorialist (see sidebar for places to visit). The area will never lose its tenement character (I hope) and I hope that developers leave it alone to evolve as it may. Thank God Ben Freedman's is still here - I love the old-fashioned clothing that one can buy for a reasonable price. I gave a Member's Only-style jacket from the film to the assistant cameraman after the shoot that I'd bought there for $20 - he was delirious with glee. That's the kind of stuff you'll find there alongside more fashionable styles - inexpensive dress shirts and belts, vests, and all kinds of haberdashery that you thought didn't exist anymore.

Naturally, I had to stop into my favorite Jewish food station, Russ and Daughters, where I purchased a couple of fun splurges. I've never been a fan of some of the delicacies that I grew up looking at - corned beef, gefilte fish, chopped liver, among others....but I do have an unhealthy love of smoked salmon for all of its salty goodness. That will explain these pictures - the orange color to me glows with the translucency of the finest jewels. I am always amused by the idea of "leftover" smoked salmon. Where? At the bris of a nephew, a huge platter of smoked salmon tortured me all morning long. Which was more delectable - the lox or the pink-cheeked, adorable 8 day-old baby? :O

The caviar cream cheese is pretty fabulous - if you have a salt tooth and enjoy caviar. :)

And what's life without a little dessert?

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