Mildly Buffed Lower East Side

March 27th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

An overpriced bar and a hookah café on East 3rd Street? Odder than I, say I.

Walking two friends by my old Manhattan apartments included the Hells Angels’ block — 3rd between 1st and A. I had to count mentally  more than once as it was the same and different. Yes, it was the early 70s that I lived across the street from the club house.

Then we residents liked to note that it was the safest block in the five boroughs. No burglars or robbers bothered you, even on this seamy block. the two huge plate-glass windows of the Mike (Sr. and Jr.) Fiumefreddo butcher shop were clean and no one dared break them.

This week, the townhouses still look New York dreadful, but I hear they are a lot more expensive. There were five bikes on the curb of 77 instead of 20 or so on both sides when I lived there.

The butcher shop is now The Edge. Customer reviews online at Yelp say it is a dive bar that charges uptown prices (although they are quibbling over $7 craft beers they want to cost $6). Another site sums it up as, College-y meat market next to a Hell’s Angels hangout. A haven for neighborhood alcoholics during the day and a watering hole for NYU hotties at night.

To me the oddment is that there is a bar there at all. The Cafe Khufu hookah bar down the street seems stranger. Then I remind myself how long it  has been since I lived there.

The Angels I knew are gone or dead. For continuity, there house is still there, despite a failed retaliatory suit by the feds to seize the club building (lost in 1994). Amusingly enough, the club now has a website, replete with sales of calendars, collectibles and t-shirts. The latter includes the shibboleth often uttered by Vinny, the biggest, meanest, hairiest Angel and the one I spoke with most frequently — When in doubt, knock ’em out!

Suddenly I’m humming TMBG and hearing lyrics from Older:

You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older
And now you’re older still
Time
Is marching on
And time
Is still marching on

There was a time, boys and girls, when people who didn’t live on this block of East 3rd sensibly did not go there. That’s changed, probably for the better. An overpriced dive may not be as positive, particularly as it speaks to the Fiumefreddos departure and likely demise.

Mike and his dad were great butchers and kind neighbors. They’d cash checks and lend you money. They’d donate spring lambs each year for a block cookout the Angels would host, replete with lots of nasty red wine made in the basement next to me by an old Italian woman. It was a loud, seedy, colorful and safe place to live.

Today? It’s a little the same and a lot different.

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