Category Archives: NYC

RIP: Keith Elam aka Guru, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal

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Keith Elam aka Guru passed away on Monday. Guru was the MC for the prolific hip-hop duo, Gangstarr. It would be too much to say Gangtarr changed my life, but they were definitely one of the major influences that led me to listen to much more East Coast hip-hop (along with Boogie Down Productions) than I had when I was in my teens in the 1980s. When I was 17 and 18 I was primarily listening to West Coast “gangsta” rap but the conscious sounds coming out of NYC spoke to me on a much deeper level. Gangstarr were part of that scene. While the scene has long since died, the rhymes, beats and memories remain. Rest in Peace, Guru. You will be missed.

Here is a touching remembrance written by Keith’s brother, Harry.

Also check this out, Jazz and Hip-Hop, Can They Really Mix?: Part 1 and II.

Below is a montage of Gangstarr videos. This is not meant to be some sort of definitive list, just some of my faves.

Manifest (from No More Mister Nice Guy, 1989)

Just to Get a Rep (from Step in the Arena, 1991)

Step in the Arena (from the album of the same name)

Take it Personal (Daily Operation, 1992)

Mass Appeal (Hard to Earn, 1994)

Next Time (Moment of Truth, 1998)

Skillz (The Ownerz, 2003)

It’s Gettin’ Hectic, from the Brand New Heavies, Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. I, 1992]

Loungin’ (featuring Donald Byrd). This is from Guru’s first Jazzmatazz LP, 1993.

Sights in the City (featuring Courtney Pine on alto and soprano sax and flute, Carleen Anderson on vocals and Simon Law on keyboards) from the same album.

25 Years Ago Today: A Hero Stood His Ground and Fought Back

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[Bernhard Goetz escorted from court by Guardian Angel Keith Johnson, AP Photo]

On this day twenty-five years ago, Bernhard Goetz pulled the trigger on four thugs who were about to rob him. For some, this made him an outlaw, a criminal, even a “racist”. For others, a hero.

The hero of myth overcomes outrageous odds stacked against him. He takes a negative situation and turns it into something positive.  Perhaps most of all, he transforms a personal tribulation into a universal aspiration.

Unlike the heroes of antiquity, heroes in the American context do not come from the elite classes. They are not demi-gods, blessed at birth. Rather, they are common everyday folks. What makes them heroic is not the facts of their ancestry but how they respond to adversity.

NYC in the 1984 was not only a different time, it was almost a different place. Sure I realize many of my friends recall the 80s for the punk shows at CBGB’s, the squats, and the LES before it became a magnet for yuppies. They miss the rough edges of the city. But for most citizens, the 80s were a time of grime, decay, and criminality, a city that was on the brink of throwing up its hands and saying “I give up”. Yet there were some who willing to fight back. As Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) stated in Taxi Driver, “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”

Enter Bernhard Goetz. He stood up and proclaimed “Enough!” He fought back. And for that courageous act he earned the praise of many working-class New Yorkers whether white, black, Latino or Asian.

It is crazy that people fail to realize what kept Bernie from getting robbed or killed that night. It was not the cops. It was not 911. It was not the next man. It was his desire to not be a victim. That makes him a hero. Don’t ever forget that.

More here.

Curry Hill Battle: Chennai Garden vs. Tiffin Wallah

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[Lexington Ave, NYC: Curry Hill]

When I first arrived in NYC I lived on 29th Street in Curry Hill. As you probably guessed, there are a lot of Indian restaurants in the neighborhood. They come and go fairly frequently. I think almost half of the ones that were there when I first moved to NYC have gone out of business.

One of my regulars (a major understatement) was a spot called Shaheen on 29th between Lexington and 3rd Ave. It was a total hole in the wall where  cabbies gathered to read the papers and eat their dinner. I used to join them for dinner practically every night before my girlfriend (now wife) moved out here. It was nothing fancy but the price was right and it was properly spiced i.e. not toned down for weak NYC pallets. Isha, the woman who operated the cash register and served up the plates, was really nice and always hooked me up. I was very sad when they closed down.

But this post is not about the lost wonders of Shaheen, it’s about two South Indian vegetarian restaurants, Chennai Garden on 27th St. between Park Avenue South and Lex and Tiffin Wallah on 28th b/t Park Ave So. and Lex. If you follow the links you can see the menus are very similar. So which one is better? Here’s the breakdown:

1) Ambiance: Tiffin Wallah wins. It has a sort of hip, loungy feel going on. Last time I was there they were playing Ananda Shankar’s cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” as well as some old soul and more recent down-tempo tunes.

2) Price: A draw. Prices are almost the same for buffet and a la carte.

3) Most importantly, the food: Each offers a South Indian veggie buffet but I prefer my food made to order. I ordered bhel puri and somosa chaat at both places and I have to say the bhel puri at Chennai Garden was much better. It had a lot more onion, tomato, cilantro and other ingredients that gave it a fresher taste. The somosa chaat is a closer decision. It’s hard to say which was better. My wife had a paper masala dosa at Chennai Garden and the buffet at Tiffin Wallah. She prefered Chennai Garden but paper masala dosa is her favorite food in the world so that may have swayed things a bit. Bro-in-law had the buffet at both places and thought they were both equally good. Like many South Indian veggie spots in NYC, both restaurants are kosher. So if you are observant, that’s a good thing to know.

The verdict? Wifey says Chennai Garden, bro-in-law says Tiffin Wallah for the vibe and my vote goes to Chennai Garden for the food. But go ahead and try both if you are in the area and judge for yourself.

I did not take pictures this time but here are some pics of bhel puri (above) and somosa chaat (below) so you know what I am talking about. Bhel puri image is from Chaat Street and somosa chaat image is from Yummy4Tummy.

9-11 Thoughts, Reflections and Rants

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Not a lot to write about this September 11. I watched television this morning and listened to the thousands of names of the dead spoken by their relatives. Even eight years later, it’s always so sad to hear and sad to see the people with photos of their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters.

I always find it strange when I visit my friends on the west coast how distant the events of that day are from their lives. It’s almost like we were never attacked. This is especially the case in the SF Bay Area. People seem to live in a perpetual mental fog in that part of the U.S.

In some case they are hyper-aware of what is happening (or what they think is happening) on the other side of the planet, but they have no clue what is happening in a neighboring community, let alone on the other side of their country.

Here is what some other folks are writing today:

Max Boot

Gallup

Sultan Knish

Ralph Peters

Rebecca Solnit

Storm King Art Center

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This place is amazing:

Storm King Art Center is a museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature. Five hundred acres of landscaped lawns, fields and woodlands provide the site for postwar sculptures by internationally renowned artists. At Storm King, the exhibition space is defined by sky and land. Unencumbered by walls, the subtly created flow of space is punctuated by modern sculpture. The grounds are surrounded by the undulating profiles of the Hudson Highlands, a dramatic panorama integral to the viewing experience. The sculptures are affected by changes in light and weather, so no two visits are the same.

I have wanted to go for a while now but it is a bit of a drive from the city. It was so hot! Spring and Fall may be a better time to visit.

Here are some pics:

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[Pyramidian by Mark di Suvero]

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[Gui and Knobs by Alexander Calder]

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[Black Flag by Calder]

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[The Arch by Calder]

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[City on the High Mountain by Louise Nevelson]

Cults: Dr. Malachi York and the Nuwaubians

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malachi york

I was watching Brooklyn Community Access Television (BCAT) the other night and came across a program promoting the cult of Dr. Malachi York. I previously knew nothing about York but he and his group are definitely bat shit crazy. He borrows heavily from ideas promoted in Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, David Icke’s notion of reptilians and the concept of a New World order controlled by the Illuminati or the Bilderberg Group. Sounds like they would get along well with the Paulistas!

Prior to his tenure as a cult leader, York was a musician and member of the Black Panther Party. In 1970 he embraced his own distorted version of Islam organized a cult called Ansaru Allah Community. The group transformed its ideology and changed names numerous times from Ansaar Pure Sufi, to the Nubian Islamic Hebrews to Nuwaubians. Tensions developed between York and the larger Black Muslim sects and he eventually took his group out of New York City and moved south.

York and his minions established a community on a 440-acre farm in Putnam County, Georgia called Tama-Re. They now called themselves the Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation. Patterning their new community after a Hollywood caricature of ancient Egypt, the complex contained grand gates, pyramids and obelisks. I was able to dig a few pics:

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TamaRe from air

Here is a small sample of York’s beliefs:

Africans or “Nubians” are not originally brown in complexion but green. The Earth’s atmosphere has “rusted” their complexion because the magnesium in their melanin has been replaced by iron.

York claimed to be an extraterrestrial master teacher from the planet Rizq in the galaxy Illyuwn and promised his followers in the year 2003 a spaceship would return from his home planet and collect 144,000 believers and take them back to his extraterrestrial homeland.

York told his followers that in 1952, grotesque extraterrestrial Andromedeans that resembled the Predator met with and frightened U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Other extraterrestrials have been trading with Earth since the Eisenhower administration, and are responsible for giving us technologies ranging from the polio vaccine to the hula hoop.

Each of us has seven clones.

Everyone is originally conceived as twins, but usually only one of the twins survives to be born.

Ok, you might be thinking dude and his followers are nuts but what’s the big deal? As long as they don’t hurt anyone who cares what they believe? Well, as is often the case with cults, the leaders abuse the followers. In York’s case, he is a convicted child abuser and molester. The first charge he was convicted of is raping a 13-year-old when he was 19. In 2002, he was charged with over 100 counts of child molestation and sentenced in 2004 to 135 years in prison. Tama-Re was razed by the authorities. York’s scheduled release date is December 15, 2119. I bet his followers have come up with some mystical significance for that date. Despite all evidence against their leader, they continue to profess his innocence.

Much more information available here.

[Comments are now closed. This post is five years old.]

ADDED:

To all the nuts, zombies and followers of Malachi York,

I have no problem with you leaving comments here at my blog but you must adhere to the conventions of written English. Also, if you do not have anything to add to the dialogue, consider posting somewhere else. For example, if you “know” that York is innocent of the charges he has been found guilty of, please provide some evidence.

–TNC