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© 2020 by The Curious Uptowner

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Uptown Links: Bruno Mars plays the Apollo, "The Golden Girls"-themed cafe shutters, and mo

• Didn't catch the fun Bruno Mars special "24K Magic Live at the Apollo" on TV last night? There's still time to watch the full episode on CBS. And here's a piece where the pop star talks about why playing at the Apollo meant so much to him. (Photo: CBS) • Another jaw-dropping tale of Harlem gentrification: The owner of Paris Blues jazz bar and its building says brokers are asking him to sell it all for $10 million (he bought it for $35,000). • It's tough out there for a TV show-themed eatery: Washington Heights' Rue La Rue Cafe, an homage to "The Golden Girls," has closed its doors–and not even a year after it opened. • Kind people are all around us. Read how a Citymeals on Wheels volunteer

8 super easy and green ways to decorate for the holidays (that don't involve a big ol' tree)

I love holiday pizzazz just as much as the next person, but there's something–well, a lot–to be said for holiday decorations that are unfussy, good for small spaces, and add a natural prettiness to your home. That's why I went to one of my favorite plant stores in the city–the under-the-elevated-train-tracks East Harlem wonderland that is Urban Garden Center–to see what green options they had for the holidays. And boy did they not disappoint. (For all you traditionalists, I should add they also sell a huge array of full-size Christmas trees.) Here are eight super easy ways to bring some natural holiday cheer to your space. The rest–ornaments, bows, lights–is up to you: 1. Charlie Brown Chris

Gucci ad featuring Dapper Dan debuts on 125th Street in Harlem

In what may be a first, a Gucci billboard has sprung up on the corner of 125th Street and Lenox Avenue in the dead center of Harlem. The ad features Harlem design legend Dapper Dan on the neighborhood's streets, part of a series shot by Glen Luchford for Gucci's fall/winter men's tailoring collection. Of course, if you've been following all the drama that went on between Gucci and Dapper Dan this past year, the billboard might not come as such a surprise. The short version: Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele designed a puffy-shouldered jacket for the brand's cruise collection that looked an awful lot like something Dapper Dan designed in the late '80s. There was instant outrage on be

The Shop Harlem Gift Guide

For the next few weeks I'll be featuring unique gifts you can find all around uptown. Today's theme? Harlem itself. The following items highlight just some of the storied neighborhood's designers, shops and markets worth a visit this holiday season (and beyond). SCENTED CANDLES FROM Harlem Candle Company Each candle from this three-year-old line celebrates Harlem in some way, like the woodsy, limited-edition Ellington ($50), which comes wrapped in a vintage Harlem nightclub map by African-American commercial artist E. Simms Campbell. African Baskets from Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market Packed with vendors from all across Sub-Saharan Africa, this lively market on 116th Street is a great place t

125th Street really is turning into the new 34th Street

The holiday lights on 125th Street are shining brightly again, which can mean only one thing: the Christmas shopping season is in full swing. But don't let the familiar lights distract you. The transformation of 125th Street is moving at warp speed these days. As the months pass there are fewer and fewer reasons to head to midtown to hit the big shops and chains. The latest arrivals this fall include Aldo (it replaced American Apparel) and Blick Art Materials, joining big guns like Old Navy, H&M and T.J. Maxx. Retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters and MAC Cosmetics are sitting pretty already. And coming down the pike are Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works (they'll be adjacent to

Online shopping when you don't have a doorman: a plea to Amazon to add more lockers

The holiday shopping season is upon us, and, like many of you, I'll be spending a lot of it online. But I am one of the millions of New Yorkers who lives in a building without a doorman. So receiving packages requires some planning, especially since previous experiences have left me a little traumatized. In my last doorman-less building in the West Village, I once ordered a landline phone that was delivered to the lobby in a box printed with the phone company's name. By the time I got home, the package was gone. (Did someone think there was a cell phone inside? If so, the joke's on them.). Neighbors often posted signs about missing packages too. Since then I take as few chances as possible.

Here's how to help our neighbors in need this Thanksgiving

As we prepare to gather around the dinner table and give thanks, you might be wondering how we can help our neighbors who aren't as fortunate. The fact is there are many people who do need help–and many ways to give. Worried in particular about the families that were displaced by the six-alarm fire in Hamilton Heights last Friday? You can donate items like clothing, school supplies and toiletries at four drop-off points. Here's the notice that was distributed yesterday: Of course, many other people in the general community need assistance with food, and Thanksgiving is the obvious time to help. The office of Mark Levine, the council member for the 7th District of New York, offers a list of W

6 yummy uptown desserts to bring to your holiday dinner

Invited to a Thanksgiving dinner but don't have time to prepare something sweet? Why not bring a treat from one of these small-batch uptown bakers? From traditional fall pies to crowd-pleasing cookies, these desserts are a great way to support small business and share something made with love and pride. Listed in order from locations south to north: 1. CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES FROM Levain BAKERY If you're obsessed with chocolate chip cookies, then a visit to Levain Bakery is a must. Demand for their chunky, buttery treasures filled with ooey gooey bits of chocolate can be intense (there are other kinds of cookies too), but the Harlem location is thankfully much quieter than Levain's two outpos

Uptown Triple Date: Streetbird Rotisserie + Harlem Shake + Maison Harlem bathroom crawl

This Sunday is World Toilet Day, created to raise awareness of the fact that 4.5 billion people on this planet still don't have access to safe toilets (or any sanitation at all). Yikes! There are many ways you can get involved, starting with a visit to the World Toilet Day website, which is filled with useful information and links. (You can also donate directly to the World Toilet Organization, the non-profit that started it all. Or check out these two related charities, DefeatDD and Matt Damon's project, Water.org.) I'm doing my part by sharing Harlem's extremely stylish bathrooms on social media with the hashtag #WorldToiletDay. Why not join me? It's easy–and super fun. All you have to do

Uptown Links: a view of Spanish Harlem in the '80s, a hunt for Revolutionary New York today, and

• Step into 1980s Spanish Harlem through the astonishing lens of photographer Joseph Rodriguez. Go see his just-opened show at the Bronx Documentary Center or buy the accompanying new book. (Photo: from "Spanish Harlem" by Joseph Rodriguez, published by powerHouse Books). • Follow author Russell Shorto's search for remaining bits of 18th-century history in this present-day tour of Revolutionary New York–including a stop at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. • So the reason behind that "top secret" shoot of Colin Kaepernick in Manhattanville is finally out: the quarterback has been named GQ's "Citizen of the Year." Here's the slick behind-the-scenes video. • For the 11th year in a row, a mailman in Ea

An ode to Food Universe, my local supermarket (and 5 favorite things)

Call me a little crazy, but when I lived in the West Village I was always complaining about the price of basic groceries like milk. Well, especially milk, because not only did it cost a lot more there than it did anywhere else, it also almost always spoiled long before the expiration date. Now that I live uptown, the situation has improved in a big way. My closest grocery store is not some overpriced gourmet shop selling bloated milk cartons. It is called Food Universe, and I, for one, love it. No, it's not the most organized, nor is it stocked to perfection. But the milk is fairly priced–and often lasts much longer than the expiration date. What's more, the people stocking the dairy aisle h

Manhattanville Houses: modernism in our midst

Walking down Broadway or Amsterdam from Hamilton Heights to neighborhoods further south, I often find myself passing the Manhattanville Houses. At first glance, this public housing project seems like any other–a blah group of brick buildings that are an all-too-common sight in New York. But something about them always catches my eye.​ Maybe it's the unusual angles the six buildings create because of their Y-shaped designs. Or the modernist red, yellow and blue panels decorating the front of each building all the way to the top. They remind me of Le Corbusier's use of color in some of his buildings–or even a Mondrian painting. Turns out I'm not imagining things. I recently went to see the "Li

Thanksgiving shopping: Harlem's Big Two and a few others too

This is the first year that Harlem not only has a Fairway, but a Whole Foods too, which is really saying something. (A happy abundance of quality food? Gentrification? Both?) So if you've been waiting for a wider choice of groceries that are locally sourced or organic or just made with care, you're in luck. (Trader Joe's, if you can hear me, we here uptown are still waiting.) Both stores are rolling out the red carpet for Thanksgiving shoppers, giving them tons of options both in-store and online. Keep in mind that you'll have to pick up any Thanksgiving orders (turkeys, catering, etc) yourself. The Harlem Whole Foods, the real giant here, has a special Holiday Ordering Table right past the

Uptown Double Date: Malecon + United Palace of Cultural Arts

Two icons come together in this weekend's uptown mash-up. Malecon, the famed Dominican roast chicken restaurant in Washington Heights, has long been one of my favorites–even when I lived way downtown. One taste of their crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside bird and you'll be hooked for good. Sprinkle the garlic-and-lime mojo sauce over the meat for a citrusy kick and get the sweet plantains as a side. I have tried many throughout the city, and these are simply the best. Photo: Malecon My second favorite order is the mofongo, fried green plantains mashed with garlic and pork, shrimp, cheese or other options, then served with an addictive gravy. But the menu is endless and the dishes are

Uptown Links: Alex Katz shows in Harlem, Conan does the Apollo, and more

• Painter Alex Katz (who's 90!) has three floors' worth of mesmerizing new work up at Gavin Brown's Enterprise in West Harlem. • Conan O'Brien has been filming his late night show at the Apollo all this week, and tonight is his last night. Find all the funny Harlem bits on the Team Coco website, including segments where he works behind the counter at soul food spot Sylvia's and gets styled by iconic Harlem designer Dapper Dan ("We're going to Swagville!" proclaims the fashion legend). • Leave it to intrepid Eater food critic Robert Sietsema to always include an Upper Manhattan culinary gem or two in his food roundups–this time it's Harlem's Floridita in his list of standout Cuban restaurants

An easy, stylish weekend in a Harlem Airbnb–a great solution for out-of-towners

The holiday season is almost upon us, and if you have a small group of friends or family coming to town, they'll surely be asking for suggestions on where to stay. Those of us who live in Harlem have pretty much only one solid hotel recommendation: Aloft. (A Rennaissance Marriott will be coming to 125th Street in 2019, but that doesn't help anyone right now. Further uptown in Washington Heights there's also the nice-looking new Edge Hotel.) A few months ago I found myself making this tepid suggestion when friends from D.C. announced they were visiting New York with their 8-year-old. They briefly considered a room at the Aloft or even a midtown hotel, but quickly came up with a different solu

Barack Obama, (adopted) son of Harlem

Do you miss President Barack Obama? You might want to take a walk through the streets of Harlem. There may be a new president in the White House, but you wouldn't know it over here. Stroll across 125th Street, the neighborhood's main commercial artery, and you'll find its iconic street vendors selling African-bead necklaces with our 44th president's face, handbags with his wife's visage, and scented body oils named after both ("Barack Obama" smells something like Davidoff Cool Water; "Michelle Obama" is all roses). Order a burger at retro diner Harlem Shake on 124th Street, and an official-seeming photo of the former president–the kind you might see in a government office–casually hangs over

Tomorrow is Election Day–do you know where your closest wine store is?

We all know what happened last year on Election Day. Because of that earth-shattering event, I don't think I can go through tomorrow–hearing the pundits' predictions, voting, watching the exit polls, seeing the results–without stopping by my local wine store for some liquid courage. It's not that I think there will be any major surprises in New York City this year. But I probably have some sort of electoral PTSD. Plus, there is a very tight race for governor in Virginia that I will be watching carefully. So off I will go to get some wine right after voting. Happily for me, a great new shop called Hamilton Wine House has opened around the corner from my polling station on 144th Street since t

Uptown double date: La Chula taqueria + El Museo del Barrio (closing until next summer!)

Here are two reasons you must go to El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem now–as in, this weekend: It's not only closing on Monday November 6 for a months-long renovation, but this is also the last weekend to see the work of Belkis Ayón, a Cuban printmaker whose mysterious work feels like a portal to the depths of the human soul. The artist, who committed suicide at the age of 32 in 1999, stood out in a lot of ways: she was a black Cuban woman; she used an unusual technique called collography, in which various textures are collaged and run through a press; and she was obsessed with the all-male Afro-Cuban secret society Abakuá, which never let her join. Ayón's art is filled with enigmatic figur

Uptown links: Hamilton Theater renovation talk begins again, a Harlem-inspired art film debuts (down

• The old Hamilton Theater, a decrepit architectural jewel on Broadway in Hamilton Heights (photo above), has in recent years been used as a pop-up shop for Spirit Halloween and as a location for an Alexander Wang fashion show. The latest news regarding its rebirth: an architect's proposal was set to go before the New York Landmark Preservation Commission a few days ago (although it looks like it was postponed). • An unconfirmed tip from a construction worker about the renovations taking place on the southeast corner of Broadway and 145th Street: it's going to be a CVS. Blergh. • Filmmaker Kahlil Joseph's new art movie, inspired by iconic Harlem photographer Roy DeCarava, makes me think a tr

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