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The Secret Trachtenburg

Photo by Donald
Graham (Paper magazine)

Dear Free Williamsburg,

Thank you for your beautiful story about the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. It just hit me, if you are comparing them to Jesus, then I must be . . . well I must be Jason's dad and Rachel's granddad.

You captured the magic that makes up this act. They are not great musicians. The material is hokey, but put it all together and you have a show that gets audiences more involved than anything in this era. You either love them or . . .love them.

I quickly figured out why they captured both Manhattan and Williamsburg. New York has been overexposed to the sameness of the rock bands to a point of losing any sense of connectedness to the music and there was never a sense of connectedness to these musicians. You know that if you invited some of them into your home, they would defile it.

People have needed to come "home" since they stopped making space for three generations under one roof. The slideshow experience is like an afternoon at Aunt Bertha's back in the day when we were all small and needed the comfort of a family gathering. In the NYC scene, you can't gather much in an apartment that is smaller than a master suite bathroom in Tony Soprano's house over in North Jersey. And, the pseudo-sophistication that makes up the Manhattan denizens is simply a veneer that covers the knowing and still open-to-feelings Brooklynites and the midwestern flavor that is only a brushed-off hayseed behind most of them.

There is no such thing as a New Yorker in Manhattan. Most of them are from Kansas or Butte. They changed clothes and accents and stayed to make a living -- albeit a good living. But under their black clothes and hip or punk hairstyles lays the heart of a midwestern prom queen who yearns to be a Rachel whose genuine sophistication and worldly cool has them in awe. Usually, it is the nine-year-old who stands in awed though itchy silence and waits for autographs. Rachel holds court without pretense and it is the so-called sophisticated adults who ask her to sign everything from tee shirts to G-rated body parts.

Jason is everybody's special one that you would bring home to a family gathering and who would always be there for you. It is not an act. I've known him for 33 years and that is who he is. As a kid, he was the different one who had to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous morons but they are still morons and the best days of their life have already passed behind a horizon to which they can never return. His talent is something he always believed in and he may be overreacting to the frustrating years but that will settle out as he becomes comfortable with the acceptance he is now receiving.

It is writing like yours that encourages the myth of the TFSP. The myth sells tickets and keeps the engines of commerce churning out a living for them. My only fear is that they will start to believe the legend created by others around them.

Stay in touch. The fun has just begun. Galapagos and North Six have become second homes for the Trachtenburgs. Luxx could easily join that short list. If ever they get too big to play those special venues, I promise I will reveal the dark side of the band and bring them back to earth. Just kidding. Unfortunately, there is no dark side unless you'd like to create one. All publicity is good!

Reminds me on one of my leg-pulling routines at Galapagos a couple of weeks ago. During warm-ups and sound checks, a young couple came into the room ad sat down. I told them that I was sorry but that they would have to leave -- no guests during set up time. They promised to sit quietly. I told them, "You know how the music industry is? Sex, drugs, rock and roll? Well, the band is charging only for the rock and roll so . . . no visitors until the show starts." It took them a couple of beats to realize that I was pulling their leg.

--Lollipops and unicorns,
Milt Trachtenburg (the secret trachtenburg)

Thanks for the kind words and not that we know of

Dear Free Williamsburg,

Yeah, so I'm temporarily relocating to that Third World melting pot called Los Angeles for 8 months. I'm going to miss your website incredibly during that time. PLEASE, tell me there's a website at least half as decent as yours out there on the Left Coast.....


Thanks for the kind words and not that we know of, part 2

Dear Free Williamsburg,

I absolutely love your site...it's so thorough and unlike most sites with similar content, I spend a lot of time on it. Here's what I'm wondering: do you know of any sites based in Chicago that are comparable? Thanks!

--Name Withheld

Big Buck Hunter

Dear Free Williamsburg,

In your article "Ten (Almost) Hipster-Free Joints in Williamsburg," you write " the place touts the only Big Buck Hunter video game in the neighborhood." in reference to the R-bar... Not True! Carome 2 on Grand between Graham and Humbolt has Big Buck Hunter. Problem is.. you'll be the only non-gangster kids in the joint.. but the beer is cheap and you'll be the one's holding the shotgun.


--Name Withheld


Dear Free Williamsburg,

If the Raveonettes become the next White Stripes (see review) I will bare my arse in a shop window. Have you seen them live? They are nothing. Attack of the Ghost Rider is not bad.

--Name Withheld

Right Wing Pissbag

Dear Free Williamsburg,

I always laugh at people from places like Williamsburg or Park Slope who have to be so damn Rad Maaaaaaaannnn. Anything George Bush does or ANY Republican you Pissbags will sneer at because well, you can't be a hipster without being anti-system or at least liberal, Democrat, PC Know-Nothings. Bush could CARE LESS about left-wing New York City windbags. They are not and WILL NEVER be his voters. Please, all of these demonstrations in "safe" places like NYC or San Francisco are a joke. Go to Bush Country and do them. Hey, your site is still really good for drink specials though. Rad politics in the safety of America. Yeah, rad man.

--Bob Macron-bklyn

Why'd you go there in the first place?

Dear Free Williamsburg,

Rain Lounge sucks I got beat up there!!

--Name Withheld

Try the Vegetarian Dishes

Dear Free Williamsburg,

i really appreciate your website. especially the restaurant and book review sections. i have taken you up on many of your suggestions in the restaurant dept such as acqua santa, cheers, and planet thai, and have been very happy with the results. however, i would like to voice a complaint to the rave review of miyoko. i agree that the environment is nice and cozy, but my date and i spent $45, and we left hungry. the prices are high and the portions are small. i think it's unfair to say that it is the best williamsburg has to offer in regards to cheap thai.

-- jaime

Hipsters aren't known to be the brightest bunch

Dear Free Williamsburg,

The NY times decided to cover the Hipster-Handbook thing in a 'lifestyles'-type story yesterday. (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/06/nyregion/06HIPS.html)


Whatever happened to wink-wink, tounge-in-cheek, "get it?" humor? You'd think that the people at Spoonbill's would have at least explained it to the poor NYT reporter...or maybe not... *nobody* she talked to seemed to acknowedge it as a piece of humor. How bain-dead can you be? I'm starting to think it would have been far more fun for them to have said, "Many of us seriously resent Lanham betraying the hipster code, compromising our culture, packaging and selling it off to the general public. How COULD YOU!! TRAITOR!" Or something like that. Are jokes funnier when most people don't get them? I really don't know. Hey, can you please write an article called, "Old Navy releases line of vintage 'trucker' hats, featuring kitchy 70s and 80s designs - Spokesman and model for the product line, El-Pee says, "now you too can identify with the working classes in a stylish and tounge-in-cheek way" Or, "Study shows many people carrying skateboards do not actually skateboard"
--Brandon Pyle

Which artist panned by Keane are you fucking?

Dear Free Williamsburg,

why don't you read more about painting and art history before writing any more comedy bantor. I don't think you know anything about the principles of painting and where art is generated from. why don't you just go back to jersey and back to a local journalism class. New York fuckin City is going to eat you alive..... either get a real job, other then that free crap you work at or shut up.....bye...

--name withheld

Um, if you say so. Saying Ta is definitely fin though

Dear Free Williamsburg,

I'm certain you get lots of complaints about your hipster quiz, to which I was
directed by a NY Times style section article, but I'd just like to voice

Question 6.
You have an arts degree from a private college.

By predicating the hipster credential on a college credential, you leave out a
whole hipster subset: private liberal arts college drop-outs. As an Oberlin
(hippest of the hip, isn't it?) drop-out, I felt ripped off when I lost points
on the hipster scale for my 'false' answer to this question, when it is
unquestionably hipper to be an Oberlin drop-out than an Oberlin grad.


Another one misses the point (it's a joke!)

Dear Free Williamsburg,

Just failed your hipster test to my reserved relief(43). It seems like only rich kids can be hipsters (my Philosophy degree is from a PUBLIC college). I guess the same kids (trust funds?) now populating your hood may be responsible for driving some of the regular folk out of willieB- I mean, who can pay $600 to share a dank, rotting railroad with two others when there are college loans, DSL access, and all those other tech gadgets some of us increasingly rely on (server service?)to pay for? Not to mention the fascist undergrid of the very test design, which assumes answers are quantitative, and conformity is key.

I grew up in Queens, have great faith in BK and am looking forward to some hard piping thugs from Bed-Stuy (I know you are still out there!) roughing up a couple of you transplant folks as you attempt to score C for your next house party. I call that CONFIDENCE:)

Dr.Dre wants to square dance with me- Eminem's words, currently
radiating from my MP3player.

--Name Withheld

And another....

Dear Free Williamsburg,

I would just love to know who in the HELL came up with the hipster quiz and the handbook? I didn't bother to find out. Does who ever came up with these ideas and sayings--ex. cronkite? What the HELL is that? Who would actually say this? I hang out in Williamsburg quite a bit and have NEVER heard anyone talking like this. Another thing, the person or persons who came up with this----how long was this hipster stuff published after they had a lobotomy? I would like an explanation.

-- Name Withheld

White? We are all Native Americans

Dear Free Williamsburg,
After reading the review of your "Hipsters handbook" and looking at he
questioniare, wether tongue in cheek or not, you are completely deviod of
what was to be hip. Hip the most thrown around and misinteperated word that
we have in modern usuage, is not to describe the upper middle class, TFB,
white college dilletante, who lives in Wiilamsburg and dresses in bad

Do you even know the origins of the word hip or cool, if you did, then your
little fatuous observations would reveal something of more depth. Yea, What
is Hip. Hip ain't white trying to be whiter.

-- Dennis Reid


Disclaimer from the Editor:
Opinions addressed in Free Williamsburg are
not necessarily our own, godammit!


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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | May 2003 | Issue 38
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