Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Real New York [Primeburgers]

¡Hola! Everybody…
Last year, I started a series of posts on New York City which I quickly abandoned. I am a real New Yorker, one of the few native-borns who knows what ringolevio means and actually played it while growing up. I think New York has been invaded by too many yokels from Iowa or whatever Armpit, USA these hicks come from, and a lot of the flavor of New York has been lost. Look at that awful mess, Times Square. I actually think it’s more obscene now, than in the 70s. I’m hoping to give a sense of the real New York, usually on Saturdays…

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-=[ Primeburger ]=-

When you leave New York, you ain't goin' nowhere.

It’s unfortunate, but many people who reside here, live here wishing they lived somewhere else. What’s even more tragic is that most of those people actually never leave, they die here…

I. Love. New. York.

I live here by choice. No, I don’t give a fuck that the rents and homes are cheaper where you live, they’re cheaper where you live because, let’s face it: who the fuck wants to live there? That’s why your real estate is cheap. Duh... And let’s be sure: I live in the real New York. What is the real New York? Let's start this off by noting that when I refer to “New York” I mean most of the four boroughs (sorry, Staten Island -- or as New Yorkers refer to it: Stranded Island -- doesn’t count. Secede, motherfuckers, please). My sister, for example, lives in the nether regions of the Bronx, practically in New Rochelle. That too is not real New York. LOL!

Where was I… oh yeah… it’s all real, actually (with the exceptions listed above). But the real question here is: where does one get the genuine stink of authenticity, where does one sense the essentialness of The City. Of course, the answer depends on who you are. I remember as a young boy buying a Yankee bleacher seat for about 50 cents and then spilling out into the outfield after the last out was recorded and being chased down by irate ushers. That was real for me. But just as real would be the state women’s prison, Bayview Correctional Facility, on Manhattan's west side that sits right across from the decidedly unreal attempt at suburbia known as the Chelsea Piers. Almost no one knows it’s there. Or maybe it’s the Union Square bird lady I wrote about once. Perhaps the real New York is the attractive alcoholic woman, obviously going downhill fast, who stands by the entrance to my subway stop some mornings asking for spare change -- and who flirts with me, “Damn, you look hawt today, papi!” whenever I give her a dollar. Sometimes weeks roll by and she’s nowhere to be seen and I wonder. Then one morning, she’s there again, asking for change, that undeniable intelligence in her eyes, her fading beauty still there, a tattered paperback peering out of her plastic bag that serves as her purse.

There’s a lot of reality here in New York and I love it -- the unimaginably ugly superimposed over the sublime. It’s, literally, The Center of the Known Universe.

Sometimes the real New York is a restaurant. You can become a food snob in New York very easily. And I’m not talking about the overpriced, must-be-seen-in-wait-two-hours-for-a-table-trendsetter flavor of the month you saw on Sex and the City. No real New Yorker really would be caught waiting that long for a meal, I assure you. There are literally thousands of unknown eateries that serve some of the most authentic, delicious food on the planet. Some of these places serve what are practically home cooked meals at cut-rate process. These are the mom-and-pop places that are (unfortunately) becoming harder to find. These are the places you don’t find people like the vacuous bitches from Sex and City. In the coming Saturdays, I will share some my own faves.

Then there are the places that are smack dab in the middle of the city but still maintain “best-kept secret” status. There’s such a place called Primeburgers right across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Not a high class joint, but not a low class joint, either. Rather it’s a real old-time Manhattan luncheonette. The waiters are older guys who wear neckties and white jackets with their names embroidered in script. Hamburgers have been served here since 1938. It was last remodeled in 1965. You enter to a long counter on the left, single seats with what was apparently considered futuristic swing-trays on the left, a few crowded tables in the back. BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) and tuna fish sandwiches, layer cake a la mode, egg cream (a New York concoction that has neither eggs nor cream in it). The menu isn’t expensive. The basic burgers there, genuine, not the frozen pre-fab variety, are about five dollars. You heard right: $5.00 in midtown Manhattan. I used to go there to eat a tuna fish on toasted rye and egg cream, but mostly to indulge one of my favorite real New York pastimes: eaves dropping. Very few people do this, I think, but you hear some of the most fascinating snatches of conversation here in The Center of the Known Universe. Once, many years ago, I overheard someone in the Village talking about how the American public was ripe for a play about impoverished people struggling to survive. I can’t say for sure, but shortly after, the popular play, Rent, made its debut Off Broadway. I swear! LOL

Primeburgers is favored by gray-haired businessmen, some who likely fared well and the world forgot twenty-thirty years ago. These are men of habit, not only do they eat at the same time each day but generally eat the same thing, and thereby the reason why, when seeing them, the waiters grunt intimately at them, mouthing again the order that never changes, “Ham chee, Swiss’n’rye, Co-no-ice.”

Welcome to the real New York.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization.


  1. iamanmd aka James NJanuary 10, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    eddie, is this place on 2nd Avenue?? im tryng to remember if i have been there before.. shortly after i joined the air force. 1980-81  hmmmm 

  2. It's on 51st St. (between Madison and 5th)


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