Best of Manhattan 09: City Living

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best fashion trend that we're ready to see the end of: women's gladiator sandals

just like the inexplicably omnipresent beige burberry scarf that draped itself over every working woman from 1998-2000, or the boot that's reminiscent of a loaf of bread (the ugg), the gladiator sandal has taken the throne as the must-have accessory of urban professional females. and why not? these strappy numbers are versatile and go with just about everything, as long as you always want to look like a displaced roman centurion. quirky throwback couture has officially given way to a fashion choice that, depending on the given circumstances, ranges from odd to downright inappropriate. there has to be a "no open-toe shoe" policy that some of these women are violating. don't make us call hr. because we will. -jp

the best real-life fish story on broadway: jeremy piven's departure from speed-the-plow

was it the sushi? or just a fishy story? no matter. the producers steamed, and the press had a heyday last december, when leading actor jeremy piven quit broadway's speed-the-plow. piven was allegedly suffering from mercury poisoning, which may have been the result of large amounts of fish in his diet. true, piven had the medical reports to document his mercury levels, and his doctor insisted that the actor's physical health was at risk. but that didn't cool the tempers of producers or playwright david mamet. mamet responded to piven's departure with: "my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer." good exit line, indeed. -dd

best broadway boost: the first couple see joe turner's come and gone

when the first couple hit broadway on may 30, attention was paid big time. it seems that before the election, then-sen. barack obama promised his wife, michelle, that he would take her to see a broadway show in the new year. and being a man of his word, he did. beyond safeguarding his marriage, however, president obama sent out significant ripples when he bought the $96.50 tickets to see joe turner's come and gone. theater pundits, in fact, noted that he made a smart political move in seeing "jt." not only did our first african-american president keep it domestic with this show (he might have seen the british import billy elliot), but he shined a light on the late playwright august wilson, who chronicled the modern african-american experience in his oeuvre. symbolic, political, theatrical, romantic-the first couple's visit to broadway was all that jazz. -dd

best anchor to give sue simmons a run for her money: ernie anastos, fox five news

we knew what sue was up to when she accidentally let the f-bomb fly during a live broadcast of wnbc's nightly news. she was ticked that her co-anchor was apparently talking while she read a promotion for an upcoming segment (she thought it was being taped, not aired live). but ernie anastos, the jolly greek co-anchor of fox five's 10 o'clock broadcast, was definitely in another place when he advised weatherman nick gregory to keep doing something to a chicken that is frowned upon by most legal, religious and moral codes. the quip was apparently a reference to an old purdue chicken commercial. we're not sure why his brain dug into the ad archives, or how the expletive slipped in. but the look on dari alexander's face was priceless. -ce

best place to hang-literally: swing-a-ring

lower level of riverside park (hudson beach) at 105th street,

on a huge expanse of sand in riverside park, known as hudson beach, stands the only set of traveling rings east of muscle beach in santa monica, california. in fact, after reading about the california rings, dorlene kaplan decided new york city needed some too. kaplan, who generously funded "swing-a-ring," sold the idea to the riverside park fund and the park administrator. in place for three years now, the rings are by far the coolest place to literally hang out in riverside park or, if you're so inclined, to swing. there are two "swing-a-rings" now, one for adults and one for kids, with each metal support post holding eight to 10 hanging rings spaced seven to eight feet apart. volunteers ira gershenhorn and david scott, among others, are often on hand to help children, who stand on an upended trashcan to reach the rings. while the swingaring website talks a lot about the fitness value of traveling rings, one senses that people are drawn here because it's just plain fun-for the neighborhood yentas who sit gabbing on the stone amphitheaters to toddlers pawing in the sand and kids flying through the air "with the greatest of ease" (sometimes). the annual "swing-a-ring" day on the first saturday of may draws thousands to swing, juggle, sand sculpt, ride unicycles and try other circus arts. -njb

best celebrity construction project: madonna's upper east side renovation

as if the second avenue subway construction weren't already enough, gird yourselves: queen madge is moving to the neighborhood. she hasn't made public the extensive renovation plans for her new $32 million, 14-bedroom home at 152 e. 81st st., near lex. it'll be a tough job, though, since she has to make it habitable for her, the kids, various trainers, kabbalah gurus, coffee-makers, the security detail, chefs, agents, stylists, make-up artists and, of course, her rock-hard biceps. but something tells us it won't take as long as the new subway tunnel. -jg

best place to smoke indoors on the upper east side: lexington bar and books

1020 lexington ave. (betw. 72nd and 73rd), 212-717-3902

for a quick trip back to the good old days when civilized folk wore hats outside and smoked indoors, step into lexington bar and books. lighting is low, drinks are stiff, and the distinguished yet convivial vibe is as palpable as the pungent tobacco that pervades the thick air. as the name alludes, books stock the wooden shelves but, unless you brought a flashlight, they are just for show or the occasional talking point (read: pick up line). the sleek mahogany bar matches the dark leather chairs, where mostly suit-clad, 40-plus gentlemen enjoy an after-dinner drink and smoke while listening to dulcet jazz melodies. ladies are sometimes spotted in the company of their cigar aficionado hosts, and younger patrons, still lamenting the odious smoking ban, occasionally enter for the novelty. -cl

best new exploited image in lower income neighborhoods: michael jackson rip t-shirts

in the early '90s, "x" baseball caps suddenly cropped up in lower income neighborhoods across the nation. they represented malcolm x, of course, and they were a reminder of the struggle for racial equality, and how there's still a long road ahead. fast-forward almost two decades and dozens of fashion trends later, and those same neighborhoods are now drenched in michael jackson imagery. found at bodegas, street vendors and even target, these t-shirts represent the predictable, bland hum of the en masse, "i was a fan back in the day," that every super-idol gets post-mortem. someone's making a mint on these trashy tees, and it sure as hell isn't mj. if you're tempted to don a wearable tribute to the king of pop, put on off the wall instead and, as michael's friend in the white house once admonished, just say no. -jp


nancy j. brandwein, deirdre donovan, jordan galloway, christina livadiotis, josh perilo

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