Even More Notions From Larry King Jr.

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On the weekends, certain Manhattan women go around in funny shoes that look like a mixture of hiking boot, slipper and something a French schoolboy would wear.

When I jog, I go too slow to make a breeze.

That New York Times multipart series on “class in America” sure is a riveting read. It turns out that rich people have it easier than poor people. Gee, I wonder if the series has a shot at winning a Pulitzer. I sure hope so.

It’s noble of Angelina Jolie to take on the problems of the dispossessed and hungry people living in horrible places. Maybe they can escape by using her lips as a raft.

The sight of that Saddam Hussein picture on the front of the New York Post stopped me cold-not because it was an example of tabloid journalism at its greasiest, but because I realized my body looks exactly like his. Same man boobs, same chest-hair pattern, same everything.

This is how low our society has sunk: The new Dunkin’ Donuts radio commercials highlighting their new flavored coffees-which taste like garbage, by the way-actually subject you to a slurping noise.

Michael Chabon is like a mango. He can be really good or really bad.

Just read two biographies of Paul McCartney. The man has smoked more weed than Cheech. Which explains “Silly Love Songs.”

One cool thing about Yoda: He never had to go to an office party.

Hell is the Duane Reade at 2 a.m.

Yeah, that Joan Didion piece on Terri Schiavo in the latest New York Review of Books really filled in the blanks for me.

Dave Chappelle, phone home.

Reality-TV shows will have no value in rerun form.

Apparently, Jim Cramer’s got a team of chimpanzees doing the camerawork for his new CNBC show. I thought the shaky-cam thing went out with mid-period Bochco.

Don’t give Windex the credit for the things you can clean with water alone.

Mike Myers blew it.

I have no sympathy for Ted Koppel. If you want to stay on the air, you have to show up for work. You think my dad enjoys interviewing Amber Alert bozos every night? No. But he’s out there, doing the job. That’s entertainment. What did Koppel do? He handed off Nightline to that media supernova Chris Bury-and then he blamed “the Man” when his ass got cancelled.

Julia Roberts is a mango, too. Which reminds me: Just got around to renting Closer. The problems of four nitwits in love would have been handled as light farce 200 years ago. Now it’s deadly serious drama. (Ya cawl that progress? ‘Cuz I sure don’t!)

Mike Lupica of the Daily News talks pretty tough on the whole steroids thing-but not long ago, he made a lot of money off the home-run exploits of a bulked-up Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in writing the bestseller Summer of ’98. How about a retraction?

I wish I was a Swedish businessman sending text messages to my lady from a plane.

Sorry, Mom, but the new book by that Secret Life of Bees lady just blows. As long as I’m being honest, The Secret Life of Bees blew, too. And Maeve Binchy? She’s not so hot, either, Mom. Hate to break it to you like that, but it had to be done.

Hillary’s run for the Presidency is making my head hurt in advance.

It comes down to this with Jonathan Safran Foer: He’s corny.

I honestly can’t figure out if Jay Leno sleeps with dozens of women a year or stays true to Mavis. I would believe either thing.

-Larry King Jr.

No Longer a Free Man

For heaving up a last-minute Craigslist prayer, I was damn proud of landing the apartment. No broker’s fee, and it was on a decent stretch of Rivington Street between Bowery and Chrystie, right across from one near-perfect excuse for a German beer garden. The fish stench that wafted up from Grand Street on windy mornings was a reasonable price to pay for being slightly removed from the hoppingest streets of the Lower East Side and Nolita.

Then, one night last September, I was taking a shower and heard the pitter-patter of four-inch heels in the alley below. It was accompanied by the kind of conspiratorial, high-pitched squawking you hear around the city when it’s “girls’ night out.” They were having a good time, it seemed, and they sounded hot, so I peered out the window in my shower. (There was nothing pervy about it! Just curious.) One of the girls was on a cell phone, barking a variant of a conversation I would come to hear at least a gazillion times over the next eight months:

“It’s called Freeman’s,” she said. “It’s in an alley, and it’s kind of funky-looking, so if you have trouble finding it, just call my cell, all right, girl?”

In retrospect, I can identify that as zero hour: the moment I realized that my entire relationship with this apartment had been irrevocably blown off one course and onto another. I was showering 100 feet away from the city’s biggest hip-kid “secret,” Freeman’s Restaurant, and my 23-year-old ass knew as much about the place as Rick Santorum probably did.

My cluelessness was a bit embarrassing: I had figured that the throngs of peculiarly dressed European-looking folks who I’d seen walking up the alley for the past few weeks had just been attending another party I wasn’t invited to, maybe a fête for a spa opening or a vodka company. Now, covered in soap in the shower, fully exposed to anyone who cared to look up from the alley, I realized that the clacking of heels was the beginning of a deluge. The next day, I bought a can of window frosting.

In no time, Freeman’s became the spot for those who wanted to be in the know-which, in New York, is basically everyone under 30, and those over 30 who have ornate stories about how they found their rugs. One night, I overheard one very drunk gentleman in the alley encapsulate what is apparently a thrilling sense of discovery experienced each time someone arrives here, no matter how many varieties of pseudo-this and pseudo-that have come before him: “I feel like the Columbus of this shit.”

My once-beloved grungy alleyway, a former backdrop to some of the street scenes in Law & Order, was becoming, as a friend put it, a “hipster hellhole” and “the part of Manhattan with the highest concentration of fuckers.” I braved dinner at Freeman’s once: a two-hour wait, grown men actually sporting the hoodie-and-sports-coat look, and the requisite Moby sighting. The customers were an inexplicable mix of urban caricatures: velvet dinner jackets, ironic white dress shoes and dynamic hair. I saw one guy tuck the wooden handle of his umbrella into his jeans’ back pocket. That’s just obnoxious.

Then there’s the matter of taking out my trash. My building’s dump is behind a thick red door, halfway up the alley. You haven’t lived until you’ve walked up the alley at 10:30 p.m. with two Hefty sacks, wearing pajama pants and your old college shower sandals as the haughty members of the Freeman’s set look on. My roommate and I have taken to keeping our bags of trash, no matter how odious, around the apartment until the next morning, when nobody’s out there. It’s pathetic, I know.

The rest of the block has started to change, too. Two art galleries are beginning to flourish; there’s talk about opening a cabaret with financial backing from Jude Law; and just two weekends ago, the Off Soho Suites-the one reliably tacky place on the block, which I always believed was some kind of Eastern Bloc cathouse-removed its monstrously conspicuous, bright red awning. Mohammed Aly, the hotel’s owner, said he was tired of its “sticking out like a sore thumb-and not in a good way.” Walid Mohamed, a housekeeping assistant, told me that he supported his boss’ decision because the hotel-which is also in the process of transforming its café into an art gallery-now looks like “it belongs with the rest of the block.”

Immediately, fake nostalgia began to kick in. I hadn’t even lived on the block a full year and I wanted the old days back, the days when my block didn’t seem like every other.

I decided to confront Taavo Somer, the impeccably sharp co-owner and spiritual center of Freeman’s. He wore the whole T-shirt-and-blazer-with-jeans ensemble, and over the course of our 20-minute discussion, he downed two iced cappuccinos and a liter of sparkling water, which he drank straight from the big, green bottle.

“Listen,” he said, “on Broadway and Prince, where the Prada store is now-20 years ago, that used to be a crack house. And when it switched over, I’m guessing the neighbors at the time hated it.

“You can’t have an opinion, or be happy or sad, about the evolution of a New York block,” he said. “It’s just the nature of urban change. It’s like the weather-you have no control over it.”

As I walked down the alleyway back to my apartment, I thought: “Yes, you can have an opinion about the evolution of a New York City block.” Your block is just like any other relationship here: It excites you, it comforts you, and sometimes it betrays you.

My lease is up in a couple of months. I’m looking into Staten Island.

-Greg Veis

Even More Notions From Larry King Jr.