Stories From the LES, Stories from Brooklyn: Vol.1 Brooklyn @ RAC

1. J.E. Reich’s story, her beer, and Franzen-as-coaster. Sorry, Franzen. 2. Julia Bartz, Wisconsin, the man named Fernando. 3. Bryant Musgrove and the word “recockulous.”

I like Vol. 1 Brooklyn a lot. It reminds me of California. Besides being really smart, Vol. 1’s daily content includes regular appearances by punk rock, hand-aggregated literary links, and reviews of some of my favorite authors, delivered to me in a hang-out-on-the-couch voice that makes me want to eat tacos and read all day in patterned pajamas. Last night the blog had their first-ever event in Manhattan at RAC in the LES, with the apropos theme of “Stories from the LES.” It was a laid-back, mellow event that felt less like a proper reading than Vol. 1 inviting a bunch of lit peeps over to read to each other. Sweet.

1. Tobias Carroll, managing editor of Vol. 1 Brooklyn and Nerd Jeopardy regular, & Jason Diamond, founding editor and recent NY Times contributor! 2. Megan Berk, painter whose art was up on the wall, Sara Olson, of the non-profit Upwardly Global, & Amy Shapiro, comedienne, tweeter, homeowner. She recommended some hair spray.

A note about RAC: it’s a three-floor gallery and event space, with a beer/wine/tapas trifecta downstairs. They have a piano. And this microphone. I don’t venture to the LES in a social capacity much, but I’m glad this place exists. Attendees sit low to the ground around low tables and eat tapas and sip wine, and the walls are adorned with a rotating cast of artists. This is not the space I expected walking from the Delancey/Essex F, but had a welcoming, chill vibe. Spend your money there.

1. J.E. Reich raving, apparently.

The four readers detailed an appropriate version of the LES in their four tales, which boils down to anything and everything, really. Julia Bartz, a Brooklyn-based book stalker and writer, detailed her first NYC crush after moving from Wisconsin, whom she met at a sweaty Piano’s in 2008. Early 20-something Bartz’s weekends in NYC meant “getting shwasted” and meeting painters named Fernando. Fernando believed that kisses pecked all over Bartz’s face — except her mouth — were “gifts,” and that joints and movies in his Jersey City studio were a good way to entice Bartz to go home with him. Fernando did not last, though other brief romances were inaugurated at Piano’s, whose faces Bartz can’t remember. Bartz doesn’t go to Piano’s anymore.

Bryant Musgrove, fellow Southern California native and Vol. 1’s Sunday Stories alumni, reminded us that one thing recent relocators do is drink a lot in their first months and moments in NYC. Our narrator, whose hangovers “make him horny,” wakes up with morning wood on the last day of indoor smoking in bars. Musgrove’s story was a reminder of what young men in NYC, when left to their own devices, are capable of: using words like “recockulous” and failing to actualize sexual desire in hungover states, regardless of the drive. Excuse this, but I just want to use the word again. Recockulous.

J.E. Reich, fiction editor at Art Faccia, former Franklin Park Reading Series intern and all-around dope person, immersed us in her LES through several voices of a cult led by a man named King David, whose followers include Bangladeshi apartment dwellers, Chinese laundry ladies, and Frenchies. Reich punctuated her rhythmic prose with small gesticulations next to the mic, creating a noir-ish jazz lit reading that complemented the spooky, creepy LES presented. Reich dedicated the story to her girlfriend Liz in honor of their two-year anniversary. Reich wanted us to know her “intentions were pure,” and they aren’t in a cult.

1. Famke V.M., a Dutch anthropologist who’s doing her best avoiding Times Square. Good job. 2. J.E. Reich with her girlfriend Liz Feskoe, whose birthday went down at midnight. Yay!

Zachary Lipez, co-author of Please Take Me Off The Guestlist and vocalist for The Fresh Kills, closed the night out with his uber-quotable “Notes on the Lower East Side,” a wry, slightly dystopian vision of a future LES where users of an undisclosed new social media platform write posts like “RIP NYC” and “I can’t believe Piano’s is gone!” Lipez told us that “Chinatown will be replaced by one giant Thai restaurant. [He] will go there” and “If the Wu-Tang Clan didn’t happen [the skaters] would still be listening to Rollins Band, you athletes!” It was the best love letter to NYC one could imagine. Lipez simultaneously rejected claims that NYC was “dead” and, despite shitty bars cropping up and unlivable rents, showed us that LES was still the LES for Lipez, despite the RIP NYCers dancing the “typical death-avoid.”

Visit Vol. 1 Brooklyn for Morning and Afternoon Bites and general awesomeness. Go to their next event. Brad Listi’s podcast introduction seems apt for this ending, so: Vol. 1 Brooklyn is a blog, you can visit it, you can read it, oh my god.


— Ryan Chang is a writer and student living in Brooklyn. His work has previously appeared in Thought Catalog. He is in the internet here and here.

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