The Downtown Adventures of an Underemployed Urban Elf

Photo by George Courtney Nacho Crawls are fun, fun, fun.
Photo by George Courtney
Nacho Crawls are fun, fun, fun.

Rev. Jen, on how to have fun in these hard times

BY REV. JEN (revjen.com)   |  This month’s column is all about fun! Why? Because “fun” is the most underrated virtue on the planet. Cleanliness might be next to Godliness — but when you are lying on your deathbed (if you are lucky enough to have a bed), you won’t look back and wonder, “Was I clean enough in this lifetime?” More likely, you will ask yourself, “Was my life fun?”

In this article, we will examine just a few ways one can still have fun in New York City. During the transit strike of 1966, as Mayor Lindsay walked four miles from his hotel room to City Hall, he remarked, “I still think it’s a fun city.” The New York Herald Tribune then sarcastically coined the term “Fun City” — but Lindsay was right. As my BFF (Faceboy) pointed out, when you live Downtown, transit strikes are fun because they limit the number of bridge and tunnel d-bags screaming “woo-hoo!” outside your window at 4am. And even when there isn’t a transit strike, a power outage or some other excuse for not going to work and regaling in debauchery, New York will always be “Fun City.”

It’s a mistake to think that even though one is lacking funds, it’s not possible to have a good time here. Look at the rich — they are just as miserable as the rest of us. Given my funemployment was just denied and I now have to go to funemployment court to collect back wages, I’ve kept this in mind. So buck up little campers, roll your coins and get ready to par-tay. Here’s how to have fun during these hard times. No waiting behind velvet ropes required! (Though it should be noted that stealing velvet ropes is fun.)

I am eternally grateful for the existence of dogs. They love us humans even though we start wars and destroy the planet. Some days in New York, I will be walking around, chronically depressed and then I see a mutt or bulldog or some other magical canine just playing in a puddle and my heart sings. Walking my Chihuahua, Rev. Jen Junior, and witnessing her smelling the aromatic filth of NYC, is a reminder to stop and smell the roses or the Georgi bottles or whatever else might be strewn across the sidewalk. Of course, having a dog is a big responsibility and if you’re not sure you’re ready, fostering a dog is a great way to save a critter’s life and gain canine companionship. Years ago, my friend Holly DeRito rescued a Chihuahua named Taco Waggytail, who’d been previously abused then dumped at the pound’s “Dog Death Row.” She was so inspired by him that she started Waggytail Rescue, a small dog rescue. If you are interested in fostering or adopting, check out waggytailrescue.org.

What’s almost more fun than adopting a dog? Throwing a dog wedding! Two years ago, Taco and Rev. Jen Junior (who’ve been in love for 10 years) wed in the backyard of Luckydog bar in Brooklyn. Witnesses called it the “best wedding ever.” No bitchy relatives, bad bridesmaid dresses or attitude to contend with.

Photos by George Courtney Too much lettuce? These nachos won’t make you feel like you need a defibrulator.
Photos by George Courtney
Too much lettuce? These nachos won’t make you feel like you need a defibrulator.

Switching gears, to food (another fave topic), my Uncle Jim once stated that bread is “simply a device that holds butter.” I feel similarly about nachos. They are little fried devices that hold awesomeness, be it in the form of cheese, guacamole or salsa — and Downtown is a Mecca for nachos. Their versatility makes them the most fun food there is. Since my friend Scooter Pie is also unemployed, we oft times feel like The Real Housewives of New York minus the houses and husbands — and have therefore spent many hours gossiping, chatting and generally trying to cheer ourselves up over plates of nachos. We realized it would be impossible to review all of the nacho-serving establishments below 14th Street, but it was certainly worth a try. Our photographer friend, George, came along to capture the highlights.

We started at El Sombrero (108 Stanton St., btw. Ludlow & Essex Sts.), which was cheating because I already know their nachos are awesome (not to mention their margaritas). Humans have figured out how to put a man on the moon, but no one has figured out what’s in “The Hat’s” margaritas. What we do know is that one should not operate heavy machinery after imbibing one. But back to their nachos. The best thing about them is that they heap guacamole on them — and if you order nachos tradicionales minus beef, you get more chicken (and if you get them veg, you get more cheese and guac). Also, the nachos are delightfully soggy given they are bogged down by cheese.

 Rev. Jen (foregournd) and Scooter Pie look longingly at their dream home.

Rev. Jen (foregournd) and Scooter Pie look longingly at their dream home.

Directly across from El Sombrero one can find San Loco (111 Stanton St., btw. Ludlow & Essex Sts.), where they serve Ballpark Nachos. These are exactly as described — cold, and coated in a squeeze cheese similar to what one gets at a ballpark. While their nachos are great for soaking up a hangover and at $4.50 are half the price of The Hat’s, San Loco has better options (like their Guaco Loco Taco, which has a hard and soft shell, making it the shampoo plus conditioner of Mexican food).

Moving on, we wandered into Casa Mezcal (86 Orchard St., btw. Grand & Broome Sts.) — where Scooter has performed burlesque. Sadly, they did not serve nachos. However, they do serve $6 Happy Hour margaritas — possibly the greatest margaritas I have ever had, though Scooter noted that the “Hibiscus Salt” around the glass’s rim looked like “period clots.” She also mentioned Casa Mezcal’s bathrooms were clean and private, but that “they shouldn’t place their individually wrapped toilet paper in such obvious locations,” lest someone steal it (Scooter did). I noted that they served grasshoppers and was immediately intrigued.

“How do you make them?” I asked.

“They fry it,” the bartender answered.

“While it’s alive?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never cooked them.”

We left Casa Mezcal, the unsolved mystery of how one cooks grasshoppers burning inside of me — and headed south toward La Flaca, stopping to gaze at the Pepto-Bismol pink building that was formerly the home of Ridley & Sons Department Store. It will someday be my dream home (when I win Publisher’s Clearing House).

Finally, we made it to La Flaca (384 Grand St., btw. Norfolk & Suffolk Sts.), where I have had great meals. The fish tacos there are savory, but the nachos left me disheartened. There was simply too much lettuce, and the cheese was hidden under the nachos. If just looking at a plate of nachos doesn’t require a defibrillator, something is wrong. Scooter was so angry about the healthfulness of these nachos that she stole yet another roll of TP from the bathroom. Our karmic payback? A crazy woman in a muumuu soon began staging an “Occupy movement” in the bathroom without locking the door and George and I were therefore unable to pee. This necessitated a pit stop at Old Man Hustle (39 Essex St., btw. Grand & Hester Sts.), a little bar where I am now hosting my long-running open mic (“Rev. Jen’s Anti-Slam”) every Wednesday at 8pm. Admission is free, they provide chalk with which to draw on the walls, the drinks are cheap and the bathroom is clean and free of crazy people in muumuus. They have even allowed me to bartend there on occasion.

Feeling adventurous, we left Old Man Hustle, decided to cross Houston Street (given we had our passports) and walk “Uptown” to Benny’s Burritos (93 Ave. A, btw. E. 5th & E. 6th Sts.). I noted Benny’s now has a Health Inspection Grade “A.” Months ago, I was pretty sure I saw a “B” in the window, but I told a friend they could get an “F” for all I care. In fact, a rat could actually be serving the food and I would still eat there — that’s how much I love Benny’s. They have six varieties of nachos, all heaped with cheese and enough guac to fill a kiddie pool. “I love these nachos so much,” Scooter said, “that I’m not even going to steal their toilet paper.”

Finally satiated, George, the “Toilet Paper Bandit” and I headed home. We wanted to cover Barrio Chino, Taqueria LES, Molé and more but were without funds and the ability to walk in a straight line or eat more. This led to:

How? By doing things that don’t remotely resemble exercise! Nacho indulgence left me feeling just a bit bloated, so I decided it was time to burn off the 8,000 calories ingested during the taste test. I tried to get friends to meet me at East River Park for “ridiculous exercise,” which would include “TV Tag,” “The Blob” and “Freeze Tag.” Unsurprisingly, everyone was too lazy to meet me in extreme heat for the adventure. Instead, I turned up the AC and did “it” with my old man. When it comes to personal trainers, you can’t do better than the “Kama Sutra.” Another accidental workout happened soon thereafter — carrying ice-cold beer up my six flights of stairs. Someday, I will have Mrs. Deagle’s Stair Lift from “Gremlins” (possibly when I own the pink building). But until then, my legs will have to do the work for me. (Note: If you take two stairs at a time, you work your glutes. One at a time works your hamstrings and calves.) Finally, lifting the beers to one’s gullet works the biceps!

Reading can be fun, as long as you are reading something chock full of sex, crime, revenge or madness. My latest book, “BDSM 101” (available everywhere books are sold except for, I’m guessing, religious bookstores) is a how-to guidebook on all things kinky. If you’ve never seen the word “flagellation” printed in Comic Sans font, now is your chance! Better yet, the austere leatherette binding means it kind of looks like a bible so you can read it on the subway without shame. If your sex life has been lackluster and you are tiring of the ole in-‘n’-out, I highly recommend grabbing a copy along with some chips, dips, chains and whips. And if you think the funfest ends there, I have more good news — the book party is coming soon.

Starting at 7pm on August 5 at Cake Shop (152 Ludlow St., btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.), guests will witness the most debauched book launch in history. It’s free and everyone is encouraged to wear ridiculous S&M outfits, even if they have to make them out of tinfoil. There will be bands, mimes reenacting filthy scenes from the book, a male wet T-shirt contest, whipping demos and more. I will even be premiering my new band: “Rev. Jen & Friends aka Led Zeppelin.” (we were just gonna call ourselves Led Zeppelin — turns out, that had already been taken). But don’t just come to the party! Support a local bookstore (and your favorite underemployed elf) by picking up a copy. Flip to a random page and I guarantee you’ll have fun.

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