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BY FACEBOY, SAINT REVEREND JEN MILLER & SCOTT STIFFLER | Has it really been a year since we liberated a hefty sawbuck from the office supply slice of this fine publication’s A&E budget and tasked two of Downtown’s most resourceful yet cash-starved Art Stars with purchasing decorations, party favors and gifts culled from budget-friendly Lower East Side stores?
Yes, Virginia, it has — and in the interim period (in a nod to our nation’s less-than-robust economy and our own evolving frugality), we’ve shown you how to have a $15 L.E.S. Summer and a $10 Downtown Halloween. Rich with good intentions but little else, our most recent excursion was a rock-bottom endeavor meant to take us beyond our usual downscale retail destinations (B&B Variety Store, Jade Fountain Liquor Corp.) while serving as a thrifty template for…
YOUR $5 DOWNTOWN CHRISTMAS!
Meet Your Hosts
Originally from Middle Earth, Maryland, Saint Reverend Jen Miller (revjen.com) does not contain the wearing of elf ears to December. She is an “Art Star, Troll Museum curator, writer, painter, Voice of the Downtrodden & Tired and Patron Saint of the Uncool.” Co-founder of ASS Studios, her new book “BDSM 101” comes out on Valentine’s Day. Rev. Jen’s Anti-Slam, which before its brief hiatus ran for 16 years, guarantees you six minutes of stage time and a judge’s score of “10.” The Anti-Slam has returned, still with the same cover charge ($3), but at a new home: Thursdays, 7-9:30pm, at Pyramid Club (101 Ave. A, btw. 6th & 7th Sts.). Stick around for “The Metro” — Pyramid’s 80s Brit Pop/New Wave dance party. It’s free with admission to the Anti-Slam. See? You’re saving money already!
Born and raised in Greenwich Village, Faceboy began a long friendship and collaboration with Rev. Jen when the two met in the mid-1990s — as he started what would become a 13-year run of “Faceboyz Open Mike.” Based on Rev. Jen’s dubbing her Anti-Slam performers as “Art Stars,” Faceboy declared Downtown’s emerging comedy performance circuit as the “Art Star Scene” (A.S.S.). Faceboy is producer and host of the monthly burlesque/variety show, “Faceboyz Folliez.” The next installment: Dec. 22, 9pm-midnight, at Bar 82 (136 Second Ave., btw. St. Marks Place & 9th St.). Admission: $10. Visit faceboyzfolliez.com.
A $5 Journey Begins With a Single Freebie
In an email dispatch filed just hours after our adventure concluded, a weary but reflective Faceboy recalled a false start — and a first stop:
Our smallest budget yet actually helped me to open up to ideas for free things one can do or procure. Early on the morning of 12/12/12, I eagerly headed out to our meeting place. I was excited, because I knew that by 12:12pm, we would have a nip bottle of rum and I could toast the 12/12/12 12:12 occasion with my co-writers and dear friends.
It would have been a good idea to check my calendar, because our meeting was actually the next day. Though embarrassed and slightly crestfallen at my mistake, I used the extra time to come up with a list of freebies. Calendars immediately came to mind, because many shopkeepers give them away. I got one for Rev. Jen at Pino’s Prime Meat Market (149 Sullivan St.) — a local family-run establishment that I highly recommend to all carnivores. The owner always greets me with a hearty, “Bonjourno!” and once shared a taste of his homemade grappa that he uses for his second-to-none sausages and other tasty meat treats.
When I gave Rev. Jen her calendar, she was horrified. Not because of being a vegetarian (the rack of lamb pic didn’t bother her at all). It was some of the recipes that caused her to recoil in fear. Note: said recipes are NOT what is sold at Pino’s. Again, this small historic enclave is a meat lover’s paradise.
One Calendar: Free
Sidewalk Christmas Tree Forest
Meat was still on the brain, as we turned our attention to a gigantic inflatable Frosty and a similarly oversized banner (“Fresh Cut Trees”) that harkened back to the neighborhood’s storefront glory days — when signage tempted passersby with the allure of “Live Poultry Fresh Killed.”
A string of garland, although appealing and reasonably priced at $5, mocked our budget — but a resourceful Faceboy rallied the troops by presenting a “tree” that Charlie Brown himself would have rejected as depressingly anemic. “I walked past a nearby tree seller,” said Faceboy of the journey from his L.E.S. dwelling to our present First Ave. location. “Looking for a fallen branch, I soon found the perfect one. For a moment, we were joyful. Though we had our tree branch and knew we couldn’t possibly afford an actual tree, Rev. was curious about the prices.”
“At the Xmas tree stand,” recalls Rev. Jen, “I asked about the smallest trees. They were about two feet tall and cost 35 dollars. I asked if they could be replanted, since they were obviously bebbehs — and the tree-seller woman said something like, ‘They are adorable but they are slowly dying.’ I said, ‘That’s terrible.’ And she said, ‘It’s like eating vegetables.’ This made sense somehow. They are both plants that grow out of the ground, so them ‘dying’ is no big deal.”
One Fallen Tree Branch: Free
East Side Dollar Inc. (73 First Ave., btw. 4th & 5th Sts.)
Recalling Stop #2’s double dipping of uneasy omens (a single tree branch and $5 garland), Faceboy noted that, “Much like Christmas itself, joyful anticipation quickly melted into crippling despair. We really needed a little Christmas cheer, and soon found it at a 99 cent store. There was a plentiful selection — but when we saw the box of 25 tiny Christmas present ornaments for $1.49, we knew we found our purchase.”
That they are empty boxes, observed Faceboy, “also serves as a Taoist gift.” To back up that assertion, he cited Lao Tzu — who wisely said of a clay pot, “The emptiness inside makes it useful.” And with that, we all shared a jolly laugh — secure in the knowledge that were he alive today and accompanying us on our December quest, Lao Tzu would surely cackle with impish glee upon recognizing the April Fools’ Day potential of these ornamental boxes. Hilarity would ensue, when our prank victims discovered that these beautifully wrapped boxes contain no treasure. So we vowed to save a few of our Christmas Elegance Classic decorations for use on the first day of the cruelest month.
Christmas Present Ornaments = $1.62 (including tax)
Manhole, at the corner of Orchard & Delancey Sts.
The fact that you only have a single bill sporting Abraham Lincoln’s gloomy mug should not prevent you from the simple pleasures of coining a new acronym or attempting to facilitate a nuisance lawsuit. Stop #4 on our journey provided ample opportunity for both. Invoking his own take on a term (SoSta) coined by Rev. Jen, Faceboy said that, “Being NoSta (North of Stanton Street) was disconcerting. Thus, we hurried back to our comfort zone, stopping to jump on a manhole cover. With fingers crossed, we hoped to fall through and sue the city. No luck there.”
Faulty Manhole Cover Lawsuit: $0.00
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum Shop
(103 Orchard St., at Delancey St.)
At the Tenement Museum, notes Rev. Jen, “The finger puppet we procured was a ‘finger monster,’ and it made a fabulous tree topper. My employee discount (I’ve worked there for 11 years) meant we were able to obtain it and still get the nip of rum!”
Packed with customers who had the unmistakable look of L.E.S. residents, the finger puppet we settled on was just one of many affordable “only in New York”-style selections. After a free trip to the in-store outhouse (no coin-fed locks here, thank you), Faceboy declared the L.E.S. Tenement Museum Shop’s facilities to be among the cleanest he’d ever seen in a retail establishment. Similarly bright and sharp: the staff!
“Despite being the day after their Christmas party, with hangovers abounding,” says Faceboy, “we were cheerfully greeted by the staff. Karolina was particularly helpful in making decorations for our tree and did a great job beautifying our branch. She even shaved a penny off the final price of the puppet! Paying it forward, we donated this to the museum.”
Tree Decoration = Free
Finger Puppet = 75 cents (minus Rev. Jen’s employee discount of 30 cents, plus six cents tax)
Local Deal: If you mention Karolina’s name, and can prove you’re a resident of the 10002 zip code, you’ll receive a 10 percent discount.
A Nearby Basement Liquor Store
Faceboy says, “With $2.63 remaining, we headed to a liquor store we hadn’t been to before. Trying new things had been a theme for us this year, and we were not disappointed with the nip of rum.
Rum Nip: 1.50 (no tax!)
Amigo Mini Mart (118 Delancey St.)
It was now time for our last and most anticipated stop: “The newsstand,” notes Faceboy, “where we’d purchase the scratch-off lottery ticket that would forever change our lives. In addition to a wide array of lotto choices, there was a potpourri of porn and ‘tobacco use only’ paraphernalia. We were definitely at the right place to start spending the soon-to-be windfall! I don’t know how to describe the pain of losing. How was it possible? What are the odds??? We had two out of three for $30, $45 and an earth-shattering $2,000. Scott had to rush off and I walked Rev. to her place. Sadness soon waned as we realized we really had fun on this venture. We weren’t rich but loved our tree, presents, rum, puppet and each other. Lastly, since for reasons I’ll never understand, we didn’t win the scratch-off, these tips on free shit to do will certainly come in handy. Enjoy!”
• Use a book of matches to make a Nativity scene. Be careful! Matches are highly flammable.
• Volunteer for the Trap-Neuter-Return program. Rev. chose this great charity, which we gave the money raised at the last Faceboyz Folliez to. Anyone pissed off that it didn’t go to people should STFU because people are the main cause of the global warming that’s creating all of this destructive weather.
• Visit your local public library. They will actually lend you books, CDs and even movies. I used to say, “Libraries are like Churches. They have big doors, I have to be really quiet and can never find what I’m looking for.” But now, you can check online to see what’s available.
• Cry. Crying gets the sad out of you.
Lottery “Holiday Hundreds” Scratch-Off = $1.00
Total Budget: $5
Total Spent: $4.87
With 13 cents left in our pockets (split, for safe keeping, into 6, 4 and 3-cent amounts), we vowed to dedicate the remaining funds to our Valentine’s Day budget — which several leading economists project as being in the range of $5-$7. Do YOU have ideas of where we should go and how we should spend it? If so, email