List: NBA Superstar, or Member of The Israeli Knesset?

In high school there was a kid whose special talent was saying NBA players’ names backwards. We always thought they sounded like Israeli politicians. Can you tell which is which?

  1. Nadroj Leahcim
  2. Issawi Frej
  3. Semaj Norbel
  4. Avihai Boaron
  5. Enolam L’rak
  6. Aryeh Deri
  7. Sicnarf Evets
  8. Zehava Gal-On
  9. Yair Lapid
  10. God Shamgod
  11. Rolyab Nigle
  12. Yehudit Shilat
  13. Nakim Egroeg
  14. Yoav Galant
  15. Dlesnu Sew
  16. Shuli Mualem
  17. Rellim Eigger
  18. Nosrevi Nella
  19. Yinon Magal
  20. Ynohtna Olemrac
  21. Meshulam Nahari
  22. Erciep Laup
  23. Notyap Yrag
  24. Yrubram Nohpets
  25. Ayelet Shaked

1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24 NBA Superstars

2, 3, 6, 8,9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 25 Israeli Knesset Members

Pizza Quest

Lamenting about the cost of living in Lower Manhattan has become as futile as asking “Why isn’t fried chicken good for me?”  It is a simple, tragic, reality.  I am not here to lament.   Instead I’m here to voice my profound appreciation for one of the few, affordable, rays of light in the sprawl below 14th street: the dollar slice.  

During my vagabond months of last year, much of which spent in an apartment on Avenue D (a street that appears to have never received the memo about gentrification in Alphabet City) the dollar slice was a gastronomique oasis, an economic and culinary vestigial remnant of cheaper days gone by that keeps us afloat.  

 

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not my bicycle, but a kindred soul nonetheless 

 

 

Those of you who have read my writings are familiar with the Manga Scale.  It was with this ideal that I set off for the perfect dollar slice, a journey that would take me throughout south east manhattan, in search of the most exquisite marinara covered manna. Oh streets of New York, what perfection could you hold?  Acompanarme.  

All of these places are essentially called the same thing so I’ve listed their cross streets for the sake of simplicity.  I’ve not included the financial district because if you are hanging out in the financial district you probably can afford a decent meal.  The west village and washington square are not included because I don’t enjoy hearing about NYU freshman seminar essay topics while I consider what my life has become, which is what I think about when I’m eating dollar pizza.  Two Bros is not included because everyone knows them and I find their slices too sweet/capitalistic.  

 

Rivington and Essex:  

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A locale of decent quality and taste.  Located extremely close to my favorite watering hole (Welcome to the Johnson’s) this dollar slice purveyor is a treat whether preparing my stomach to drink fifteen budweisers and play pool against a group of aggressive yet untalented aging punk dudes, or stumbling out of the bar at close.  Adding to its allure is that the owner is supposedly a champion pizza twirler, and Turkish.  This is truly the American dream.  However, while one may be a great twirler of Bosphorian origins, I care significantly more about the taste of the actual pizza versus how high you can throw it into the air.  There are also a bunch of pictures of the owner side by side with celebrities of various caliber, ranging from the extremely creepy Akon to a visibly inebriated Keanu Reeves.  

The pizza itself is very decent: salty, a thick bed of dough, good consistency to the cheese.  This dollar slice loses points for two major reasons: The first is the lack of parmesan cheese.  True dollar slice connoisseurs know that the slice itself is more of a vehicle for the free toppings that will substantially add to the taste and value of the product.  What is at first simply bread, tomato sauce, and cheese, is transformed into a limited yet delicious spectrum of herbs, spices, and powdered salts.  Parmesan is a key amongst these.  Essex and Rivington’s lack of parmesan cheese serves to make them come off as cheap, and unsympathetic to the palates of the worker.  Bread and Roses, my friends.  The second cause for concern is the raise in price after 10pm to two dollars a slice.  The reasoning make sense. Drunk assholes will pay more for a slice of pizza at a later hour while leaving a public house of amusement and libations.  But once again, this airs more of exploitativeness than enterprise.

Despite all of these anti-lumpen proletarian measures, the dollar slice on Essex and Rivington is a very good place to eat cheap pizza and potentially see a fight start. The LES’s rocker past has very much transformed into bridge and tunnel dudes on the weekend who didn’t get enough hugs as a child.  Somehow, pizza and fluorescent lights only exacerbates their chauvinistic impulses.

 

Allen and Hester:

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Delve deep into the world of Chinatown/LES my comrades!  If you are in these parts the logic would be to patronize a superior proprietor of cheap eats such as Prosperity Dumpling (RIP).  However, to fully complete a Marco Polo-esque afternoon adventure of taste and cost, occasionally a good slice of pizza is what the tongue longs for (the mixture of Italian and Chinese cuisines is often overlooked.  It’s not that they mix well, it’s just that they are both cost effective).  

Given the re-appearance of drunk Keanu Reeves (this time in black and white!) at this location, I’m assuming Allen and Hester is owned by the same pizza tosser as Essex and Rivington.  This dollar slice scores major points for the fact that it has seating.  Just because we are poor and enjoy a thrifty meal does not mean we don’t deserve to rest our weary legs which tire from long days of sitting around writing emails in the offices where we are essentially glorified secretaries.  Ah, to be young and employed in New York!  What wonders our degrees in Caribbean literature have brought us!  In truth, the clientele of this location does thoroughly make one question what direction their life is heading in.  I’m not sure which opiate the patrons of Allen and Hester dollar slice prefer, but it is certainly one which has made them both aggressive and strangely joviale.  If you are okay with lots of neck tattoos, thoroughly worn down walking shoes, nonsensical mumbling, and the occasional drool, this is your kinda place.  In all seriousness, they are a nice bunch.  Share the hot flakes with them and you’ll be fast friends.  

The pizza here is made fresh often, and thus one endures the harrowing journey of wanting to eat the pizza right away while risking scalding your mouth instantly.  I imagine this is what Sade was talking about in “The Sweetest Taboo”.  “You’ve got the hottest slice, sometimes I think you’re just too glutennnyyyy…..”  The problem lies in that I prefer my dollar slices reheated.  This allows the cheese to congeal and become more substantive, with its hidden notes emerging.  The pizza here is a little too thin for my liking, requiring the purchase of more slices to feel sustenance.

However, once again, these are dollar slices, and you have to really fuck it up to make it not tasty/worth it.  So this is a perfectly good place to have a cheap lunch/breakfast while wandering around Allen street searching for your drug dealers car, or to hear about the latest methadone clinic gossip.  

 

Ave A and 2nd St:   

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Avenue A holds many delicious locales to dine.  Black Market’s cheeseburger is a revelation and GG’s has the most reasonably priced restaurant Tecate’s around.  These places are all well and good, but after blowing all my money at the bar it’s the corner of 2nd St and A that I find myself ordering slices in the hopes that it will miraculously pre-treat what will inevitably be a debilitating hangover.  

This location lacks seating, and it is incredibly small.  If more than two people are enjoying their slices inside it makes for some unwanted bumping and grinding.  What the store lacks in space it certainly makes up for in service.  Slices are served speedily and at a decent temperature, ready to eat instantly.  Further, the staff always calls me “Boss”.  This makes me feel weird given both them and I are partners in the great proletarian workers struggle, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Importantly, they have the full gamut of free toppings. Oregano, Pepper, Garlic Salt, Parmesan Cheese, Hot Flakes, AND Hot Sauce.  My my, what decadence.  The slices themselves are not extraordinary but are thick enough and leave you feeling un-famished after two slices, and for just 75 cents more you get you a can of soda.  The store is also a nice place to stop by and get out of the cold during the day.  They serve coffee as well but it looks horrible.  

 

Orchard and Delancey (AKA Pizza):

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I make note of the name of this location because I find it fascinating.  Is it called “99 Cent Pizza AKA Fresh Pizza”?  Is it just called “AKA Pizza”?  What else are people calling it?  Deep philosophical questions are contemplated at this restaurant.  “Is this Pizza?  Who am, I?”  I personally found myself being drawn towards nihilism by the end of my portion here, for what point is life, if I have found such a delicious slice?  Why go on?  Alec Baldwin was probably eating here when he decided to quit public life.  

There are a lot of great things going on at AKA Pizza:  A hand painted Fresco graffiti mural about the lower east side’s love for pizza, a clear homage to Diego Rivera’s work for the Ford Motor Company.  A deal on 14” pizza’s for five dollars on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Parmesan cheese, SEATING!  The only thing holding AKA Pizza from Manga Scale perfection is that their staff is sub par.  The young man behind the counter seemed less than interested in my request that my slice be made warm and not too hot, for he was on his phone throughout my order.  I understand that working at this pizza place may not be all that stimulating or rewarding, and a zen like stewardship of the oven is not required, however I would like to be at least acknowledged.  As we have discussed, New York is already treating me quite poorly with cost of living.  The dollar slice restaurant is supposed to be a place of refuge and solidarity, where I am not judged for my economic standing and love of low priced pies.

Despite the rough start this was a great slice.  Re-heated, bountiful, with ample amounts of cheese and dare I say the perfect amount of sauce.  The oregano here was also especially flavorful.  I was thoroughly delighted, and by the end of my second slice had forgiven the employee in my mind.  Pizza heals all wounds.  

(Note: Many moons after writing this piece, my bike was stolen from outside this dollar slice.  The house always wins in New York, for no great thing comes without a steep moral/economic/transportative cost.)

 

Avenue C and 9th:  

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Avenue C is a strange place.  It represents a sort of DMZ between the thoroughly gentrified Avenues A and B, which at this point are essentially part of the East Village, and the still somewhat “complex” Avenue D.  There are places such as Ninth Street Espresso and whatever that store is that sells 8 dollar grilled cheeses, and then there are places like AC Kitchen and the dollar slice that serve a less affluent clientele.  

The location of this restaurant is quite large, yet does not have seating.  There is ample space however to post up at a windowed counter and enjoy your cheese bread while seeing the eclectic mix of residents circulating outside, a neighborhood in flux.  The pizza is good and they have the full array of free toppings.  It’s nothing to get overly excited about, but a solid slice.  It’s like seeing Rocky IV on TV: you don’t cancel plans to watch it, but it’ll fill the time before your tinder match messages you back.  The staff here are incredibly nice as well.  Two years ago I was broke and living around these parts.  I ate two one-dollar slices twice a day and walked everywhere because I didn’t have money for subway rides (sorry I can’t meet you in Brooklyn!).  I lost five pounds and looked great.  This proves both that carbs aren’t caligula incarnate and pizza is delicious and takes a while to get sick of.  I’d say I’ve moved on but the inspiration for writing this piece is that I’m pretty much in the same position as back then.  I imagine that there is a sect of monks in Tuscany who practice a similar form of asceticism.  Hot flakes are a great inducer of self discovery, as is not being able to afford going out to eat with anyone.   

 

Everyone likes pizza.  It unites us in a way only rivaled by hate for Rudy Giuliani and/or whoever schedules MTA maintenance  By no means is the goal of this piece to disparage fantastic restaurants such as Two Boots, Motarino, and their ilk who are the producers of delectable slices with a cacophony of interesting toppings.  It is simply that the dollar slice is an institution, an idea.  A concept so simple, yet containing substantial depth and variance, often not even involving the pizza at all.  An ephemeral “experience” of austerity and joy.  

The Syrian American Power Rankings

 

Heyyyyy,

Guess what!  States are are barring Syrian refugees from coming to them despite the fact that legitimate presidential candidates don’t even know what the United States looks like.  This is because after the #ParisAttacks racists have seen an opportune moment to faux-legitimize their racism and drum up some anti-muslim rhetoric despite the fact that none of the Paris attackers were Syrian.  What happened in Paris is horrific, as were recent events in Beirut and Ankara.  However, barring Syrian refugees isn’t what will bring an end to ISIS and terrorism, in fact, it plays directly into what ISIS wants: a narrative in which their “caliphate” is the only home for Muslims.  If you want solutions to defeating ISIS style terrorism, there aren’t any immediate ones, and long term ones will take a dramatic policy shift by Western leaders.  Politicians calling for a ban on Syrian refugees fail to acknowledge that we actually have a tremendously and exhaustively effective vetting system for refugees, to the point that plenty of people who legitimately need to be resettled and could be valuable members of our multicultural nation can’t even get here.  

But here we are, with elected officials legitimately praising the Japanese internment camps and saying we should do this again.  The level of cognitive dissonance going on today is astounding, or maybe this is just a massive conspiracy to tear down the Statue of Liberty, that terrorist loving harlet.  Jemelle Bouie over at Slate says it best: as Americans we are a nation of immigrants that hates immigrants.  There will always be the other, and the other will always be feared and made to seem like the enemy.  

This is all complicated.  I could delve into how it is Europe’s bigotry and colonial legacy that makes its own cities the hotbed of radical terror, but I just want a simpler, more innuendo filled way to explain to the public that those from the Levant, particularly Syria, are, have been, and will be a pivotal and notable part of American society.  

I give you: The Syrian American Power Rankings: 

  1.  Steve Jobs:

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When I told friends about this half-assed list, they immediately said “Oh! Oh! Steve Jobs has got to be number 1!”.  False.  Steve Jobs is most surely a proud and noteable Syrian American, but I don’t really see what all the hubub is about him.  People treat him like a demi-god for making a computer and cell phone.  iMac’s used to be neon colored pieces of shit.  The iPhone is a scam that makes you pay six hundred dollars every two years then slowly withers away in your palm more and more after every “operating system update”.  I have a macbook and an iphone, and I use them simply because they are better than a PC.  That isn’t love, that’s settling.  Thank you Steve Jobs for helping me realize my romantic future in the form of electronic possession-hood.  But people like Steve, so he gets #10.   I hope you are happy America.  Please acknowledge that he is Syrian.  

 

  1. Kelly Slater:

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I know very very little about Kelly Slater besides that he surfs and used to date Gisele.  But surfing is iconically American.  Hell, there’s a whole song called “Surfin USA” about cruising for chicks and hanging out on the beach.  Those are up there in the pantheon of “Most American Things” along with war Mongering and our own hate of immigrants.  Let that settle in your mind palace.  

 

  1. Tommy Bolin:

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Tommy Bolin is an American of Syrian ancestry who played guitar in Deep Purple.  If you can’t recognize the contribution to Americana that is “Smoke On The Water” then you are basically an ISIS sleeper cell.  Fuck off.  Love you Tommy.  

 

  1. Abe Doumar: Inventor of the ice cream cone

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Abe Doumar came to America from Damascus, and found himself at the St. Louis World’s Fair.  One day at the fair he saw us savage Americans putting ice cream on pieces of paper.  Even worse, the ice cream stand closed down when they ran out of said paper plates.  Abe was a clever man, and went over to a nearby waffle stand, rolled the waffle into a cone, and told the asshat ice cream vendor to put the ice cream in the cone.  He even brought peace between the two vendors, who sold the cone/cream combo for the rest of the fair.  Well done Abe.  So remember: if you hate Syrians, you hate ice cream.  If you hate ice cream, you hate America.  

 

  1. Teri Hatcher:
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Just a couple great Syrian Americans about to make out

Timeless babe, and a woman who I imagine many a secretly-racist-unhappily-married-middle-american-man during the mid 2000’s fantasized about.  She also played Lois Lane.  So if you hate Syrians, then you hate the woman that SuperMan loved.  If you hate the woman SuperMan loved… you see where I’m going with this.  

 

5: Terrence Malick:

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If you speak Arabic then you’ll notice that the legendary director’s last name sounds a lot like the Arabic word for “King”.  It’s not a coincidence.  Someone way back in his family was Syrian.  Besides their deep commitment to cinematography, there’s almost no similarities between Mr. Malick and ISIS.  Without Syrian immigrants we wouldn’t have “The Tree of Life” or “A Thin Red Line”.

 

  1. Paula Abdul:

True Legend.  Full stop.  So renowned as a pop singer that her record label created a fictitious cigarette smoking cartoon cat to rap and sing along with her.  The fact that the cat was never heard from again only adds to the strength of her career and legend.  Paula, a Syrian Jew whose dad was born in Aleppo and moved to Brazil, is a true sign of why allowing Syrians in America isn’t just a good idea, but a necessity.

(as an aside, let’s think about the fact that there was a hit pop song in America about beastiality).

 

  1. Jerry Seinfeld:

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Another Syrian Jew!  I don’t really need to talk about Jerry Seinfeld.  I’m just pointing out that he’s got some Syrian in him and if you re-watch seinfeld it becomes wildly apparent how horrible his stand up routine is.  Those are two unrelated but true facts.  I love seinfeld though.   “What’s the deal with refugees!”.  

 

  1. Shannon Elizabeth:

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Born to a Syrian father, Shannon Elizabeth is responsible for an entire generation of American boys libidos via her role as “Nadia” in American Pie. Only god knows how many first erections and sessions of self love she was responsible for.  A true icon. A great Syrian American.  

 

  1. Tiffany:

Tiffany Darwish was one of the most iconic pop stars of the 80’s.  Her song “I Think We’re Alone Now”, is literally about waiting for your parents to leave so you can fool around with your high school lover, which is the singular most American of institutions, and one countless ISIS members surely wish they could experience.  The video for said ode to necking was filmed at a mall in Ogden, Utah, which is to Raqqa (ISIS capital) as Rand Paul is to Kruschev (although Ogden might have just as few bars as East Syria).  Singing this song at karaoke is the equivalent of getting a tattoo of a bald eagle holding an american flag machine gunning a communist to death with a woman on a motorcycle in the background running over Saddam Hussein while blasting Deep Purple.  Tiffany is the ultimate Syrian American.  Tiffany is the ultimate American.  

 

Syrians love making out, ice cream, art house cinema, and light teen movie nudity just as much as any other Americans.  These are the true cornerstones of our society, and thus more Syrians will only mean a more formidable and strong America.