Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday Night in Williamsburg: Slice Harvester and Womanimal Zine and Calendar Release Pizza Party at The City Reliquary

Last evening around 7 p.m. we walked over to the wonderful City Reliquary to drop by at the Slice Harvester and Womanimal Release Party and Weird Pizza Contest in the indispensible museum's cozy backyard.

Slice Harvester is a terrific blog in which "some schmuck" from Brooklyn (or according to the Daily News, "a Brooklyn man with no regard for calories or cholesterol") has set out to review every slice of plain pizza in every little pizzeria on Manhattan, block by block. He's also got a print magazine, Slice Harvester Quarterly,

and tonight he was releasing the third issue, featuring the Upper East Side (or at least slices of it).

As we expected, he was rather thin (no overweight person would have his avocation, or at least not be public about it) and disguised, kind of, in a toned-down Harpo wig and Groucho mustache and coke-bottle glasses that seemed so annoying he couldn't wear them for too long at one time.

He told us that he needed to preserve his anonymity just like Sam Sifton, Frank Bruni and Ruth Reichl did at the Times, which certainly makes sense.

After fourteen months and tons of reviews, the Slice Harvester is getting a certain notoriety among Albanians and other pizzeria proprietors. His reviews are usually lively and straight-forward, and he photographs the slice (when he remembers; sometimes he's reduced to taking a pic of what's about to be thrown in the garbage) and then sums things up with a rating of one to eight slices.

Most of his reviews seem to be less than three and he uses the word lousy and its synonyms a lot. The Slice Harvester told us most Manhattan pizza slices are bad, especially when compared with the glorious ones of his youth (he looks somewhere around thirty). We limit ourselves to maybe one slice a month after skipping all pizza for years when we lost over forty pounds twenty years ago.

We couldn't stay to hear the teenage supergroup Pizzarrhea and Singing Pizzas (featuring Mamma Celeste and Papa Jean), or his reading, but we do enjoy his reviews and bought a copy of the new issue. He was also selling Slice Harvester T-shirts.

Caroline Paquita, a talented local artist who lives on Lorimer Street (though in 11206), was also releasing two publications, the first issue of her new zine Womanimal and her 2011 calendar, both marvelously illustrated.

We bought Womanimal and were impressed with not just her elaborately daffy artwork and gorgeously tacky lettering but with the textual material, which combined a favorite old Carson McCullers quotation -- we actually read all of McCullers' books, even Clock Without Hands, years ago --

and stuff about broken relationships, overeating, good health habits (and punk health myths), and beekeeping (which can be fulfilling despite "Hamburger Helper hands").

Caroline told us she grew up in Miami Shores, a place we know well, and graduated from the University of Florida (obligatory "Go Gators!" although we probably should have stayed at The City Reliquary rather than go home to watch them play Alabama).

Publishing on early 1980's Risograph machines (think mimeographs) in her kitchen in Bed-Stuy, Caroline -- well, the publicity stuff says "combines feral visions and humor to create micro-environments in the form of small scale publishing," which sounds right to us.

In its second year, the Paquita Calendar features womanimals, elves and other mythical creatures for each month of this Gregorian calendar.

Both the full-length version, suitable for hanging, and a smaller calendar, were on sale along with Womanimal.

Pizza -- good pizza -- was delivered, but we didn't want to go over our 1850-calorie allotment for the day, so as usual, we abstained. Later on there would be a Weird Pizza Contest -- judged by the Slice Harvester and two celebrity judges, one of whom arrived as we were leaving -- with prizes awarded to pizzas in the categories of Most Savory, Most Sweet, Strangest Combination of Ingredients and Funniest Looking.

It's always great to visit The City Reliquary.

In the back room, they had a great exhibit of various old New York City lampposts and street lights, photographed by Bob Mulero and curated by the man who we knew could only be the one behind this, Forgotten New York's fabulous know-it-all (and he really does) Kevin Walsh.

We also were transfixed by a front-room video of the 1964-65 World's Fair, which we went to many times as a kid (on opening day, our parents took us kids and our cousin out of school to be the first on our block to see the Fair) but hadn't seen in such detail since.

When we went with our class 8SPE2 from J.H.S. 285 with our homeroom teacher, Neil Berger, we and Helene Berlin, both afraid of heights, were the only ones who wouldn't go to the edge at the either high circles at the New York State Pavilion.

Our favorite exhibit was GM's Futurama, which showed the flying cars and underwater villages of the year 2000.

The World's Fair was one of the first out-of-Brooklyn trips we took with our friends, from a special bus that ran from Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway.

The Unisphere is the opening shot of our bar mitzvah movie!

We're very grateful, as always, to The City Reliquary, for reviving our fond memories of days of yore and for all their amazing events like tonight's.

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