The Park Bench
Every Friday, we discuss, debate and dissect the week’s themes and stories here, on The Park Bench. It’s a place where we take you behind the scenes with our journalists and subjects; where we curate the comments that you post on the site, as well as your longer reflections that you send to us via email.
Michael Cervieri’s Built on Rust photo essay looks at the under-explored area surrounding Newtown Creek in Queens. Another perspective shows that the neighborhood is not all empty streets, rust and flocks of geese.
The Newtown Creek Alliance, a community-based organization dedicated to restoring, revealing and revitalizing Newtown Creek, points out that the creek is still the largest of the zones designated by New York City as Significant Maritime and Industrial Areas, with more than 15,000 people making their living here every day, on tugboats and barges, and at waste and fuel facilities.
View a slideshow about Newtown Creek’s working waterfront on the alliance’s website—it happens to be the perfect segue into next week’s Narratively theme, which will explore New York’s waterways.
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The “Matlock” of Porn
In his first-person exploration of the Midtown peep show scene, Stephen Robert Morse interviewed a septuagenarian pro-porno legal crusador named Herald Price Fahringer, who represented Hustler Magazine’s Larry Flynt at the time of the assassination attempt on him. Morse was lulled by Fahringer’s “farmboy tone, with a slow cadence like Andy Griffith on ‘Matlock.’” The lawyer’s voice, he wrote, “is a bit raspy, but soothing still. He would seem the perfect narrator to tell bedtime stories to children.” In case you missed it in Morse’s story, or were so engaged with his action-packed porno prose that you didn’t stop to listen, here’s a particularly intriguing and enlightening audio clip from their recent interview:
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Peep Show Outtakes
From blending in at adult bookstores to a full-speed chase through Midtown, Stephen Robert Morse gives us a glimpse into the process of reporting The Last Peeps.
While Gus is mopping up the ground floor bathroom, one of the less savory aspects of his job, but surely not as bad as cleaning the private viewing booths, I take the downtime to pretend to browse the DVDs while really observing the other clientele. I stake myself out in a section and feign interest in a DVD titled “The Tiger Scandal,” a not-so-subtle reference to Mr. Woods.
My first presumption is that this place will be populated by older men whom the wonders of Internet pornography have eluded. But I see all types of people: Businessmen, old guys, Asian tourists, even the odd woman.
Gus, mop still in hand, confirms these observations. “They’re young, old, rich, poor. They come from all walks of life,” he says.
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At one point, a schlubby guy in overly baggy jeans, with a goatee and a cheap knapsack departs from a peep room. I casually follow him downstairs and decide to situate myself on the middle floor, a place where I have thus far not spent much time. I watch as a businessman walks onto the floor, acting as if he’s just stumbled upon the place like it was a stall at the Brooklyn Flea. He nods with approval as he peruses through the costumes.
The only other person here is a 30-something woman, dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket, trying on shoes from the clearance pile in back, I assume to spice things up for her husband or lover. She tries on shoe after shoe, all of them with unmarked sizes. As Cinderella’s stepsisters knew all too well, if the shoe don’t fit, you mustn’t quit.
My head is down in my phone as I’m madly typing all of these observations.
“You work here?”
I’m startled, and look up. Yup, she’s talking to me.
“Yeah, you, you work here?”
I bite this bullet of insult and reply, “No, I’m sorry.”
I look at myself, wearing a black button down shirt, hospital green dress pants, and trendy red Clarke’s shoes. Oh well.
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More than one of the sources I talk to at Gotham City suggests I check out another adult store, Empire on 33rd Street, so I stroll fourteen blocks down to Koreatown.
There’s one man behind the counter and not a patron in the place. There are a whole ton of DVDs on sale for three dollars each, 85 percent off what I’ve seen at other places. I take a lap and observe the peep booths. Then, I walk up to the counter and ask the man behind it where the “girls” are.
He has a thick Indian accent. “No nude girls tonight, come back tomorrow.”
He points to a staircase that has a string-held sign over it reading, “Closed.”
I reply, “But why aren’t there any tonight?”
“Come back tomorrow.”
“But how do I know they’ll be here then if none are here now?”
“Why you ask so many questions?”
“I just want to return when I know there will be girls here.”
Frustrated, the man calls to the back of the store. A second Indian man, this one short but well built, and in his early 30s, comes sprinting toward me, and just as he’s about to grab me and toss me out of the store, I exit the premises of my own volition, with both men threatening to beat me up and shouting, “What the fuck do you want?”
I take two steps, pull out my iPhone, and attempt to video record this madness. Surely, shop owners can’t chase people out of their establishments for merely asking questions.
I attempt to record myself walking back into the store, when the two men again go completely ape shit, barking and trying to grab me, although I stay one step ahead, until the younger guy chases me at full speed three-quarters of the way down 33rd Street, past a couple of dozen curious onlookers. I continue at this Olympic 4×400 place until I’m safely in the Herald Square subway. I immediately check my phone to see how the footage turned out, and then realize that the camera was inadvertently in photo rather than video mode, so all I’ve got is a picture of the ground.
With that, I conclude my research into the underworld of peep shows.
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