His first time: I visited with my dad when I was 13. I think there was something about New York that prompted my family to think about it as a boys’ trip. We stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel. One thing I’ll give my dad credit for, we didn’t just stay at museums or in Midtown, we saw every area from the Financial District to Chinatown to the Lower East Side. It was completely mind-blowing.
Con artists and helicopters: I ended up in Greenpoint, on Jewel Street, between Nassau and Normand. My favorite thing to do, believe it or not, was to take the subway into Manhattan and hang out in all the areas that I remembered liking the most from my time with my dad, visiting. So I would spend most of my time in Times Square. My dad was conned out of $160 [by scalpers] when we tried to see Miss Saigon. I never saw the show, and I’m pretty disappointed about that. I heard it had a real helicopter in it, and that’s really what I wanted to see.
Broadway nights:The first musical I saw was Chicago with Casey Spooner, from Fischerspooner. I just saw Cry Baby, and I would highly recommend that. I also saw Spring Awakening when [my parents] came and visited.
When it’s time to party: I’ve never been someone who’s really into going out. I would go out to see my friends play in bands, and for a long time, I felt that The Hook in Red Hook was the best sounding place, even though it was totally inconvenient to get to. I also really loved Irving Plaza. I saw Gary Numan play there on his really amazing Absolution tour in ’98.
Records and robbery: Coming to New York, I was blown away because Mondo Kim’s on St Mark’s was basically an entire store built out of what in [my hometown of] Ann Arbor would be designated to one or two small sections. I ended up working there. I got fired and got in a lot of trouble there, but it was also a very powerful experience. I got mugged during that time. Not at Kim’s but in the middle of the day at the Third Avenue L train stop. And once I was mugged, it stopped me from doing bad things and getting into trouble like I had been. But anyway…
The obsession:The place is called Big Nick’s [Burger and Pizza Joint]. One day my wife and I were walking up Broadway and we were in the mode where you’re very hungry and you’re very tired. We went in and the minute we crossed the threshold from being outside on the street to inside this place, it was like a revelation. It was like a physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological sensation. It was as though someone took me to a place I had dreamed about but I had forgotten that I had been having dreams about it. For me, Big Nick’s is as good as it gets.