Named "New York's Wackiest Tour Guides" by the Travel Channel!

Levys Love to Party!

So as you might imagine, there are lots of opportunities to get down and “jiggy” with it here in the Big Apple. Throughout the five boroughs, one can jam to jazz clubs in Harlem, or salsa dance in the South Bronx. There are wild “artstar” parties in factory lofts in the Lower East Side and thematic soirees in converted garages in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. But sometimes the best parties are the parties you throw yourself.

Birthday Food spread - Meats and Cheeses and Banchan oh my!

The Levys recently had two excellent reasons to celebrate – Mark’s 60th Birthday, and the Student Youth Travel Association (SYTA) convention. Mark’s 60th birthday was a fun, raucous affair held at Casa Levy with over 60 family members and friends of Poppa Levy descending on the leafy green streets of Ditmas Park. We had a big stereo pumping out cocktail tunes, we had a healthy mix of Mark’s favorite foodstuffs – from East Village Cheese, sliced meats & spreads to banchan – Korean snacks and appetizers from Woorijip, Mark’s favorite K-Town resto.

Happy Birthday to the Big Man!

Add to this list a Jamaican Rum Punch handcrafted by Gideon and lots of beer and wine, and it was a solid party. We had friends from Mark’s years as a City Employee a decade ago, as well as members of the LUNYverse – our guides and business partners.

Jonah making nice with the Birthday boyIt was a big hoot, and after Mark blew out the candles on the cake and everyone sang happy birthday, there was a lovely couple of speeches by 2 of Mark’s sons and 1 of his business partners! Then it was back to drinking and dancing. A solid party all in all. More pictures on Matt’s facebook page. 

Just last week, the SYTA convention came to town. SYTA is the 700-member trade org that works with everyone involved in Student Travel – from State Convention & Visitors Bureaus (Come to Pennsylvania – we’ve got Hershey’s!) to restaurants (Eat at Hard Rock!) to Attractions (Check out Top of the Rock!) to Tour Guides (Us!). All these “Associates” meet with “Actives” – the Student Tour Companies that book school group trips. The convention skips around cities – last year was Sacramento, next year is Nashville. But this year it was held at the Sheraton Hotel on 53rd street in midtown, and WE threw a PARTY for our clients!

Dallas, Darla, Matt & Mark in the Madison Club

You have to understand, we only see our clients face to face once a year, at these conventions. All our business is done via email and over the phone, and our clients rarely visit NY with the school groups they send, since they’re too busy booking trips to actually travel. So with our clients all descending on NYC, we figured we’d throw them a party!

Mark and his marvelous fiancee Alisa, skyscrapers behind them

The SYTA Swanky Soiree was held in the Madison Club, on the 30th floor of Alisa’s apt building, overlooking Madison Square Park. Although the weather was mostly overcast, all who attended said that the views were the most stunning they’d ever seen, including the aforementioned Top of the Rock! (Sorry ToR! But when you’re 30 stories up on a balcony, so close to the Empire State Building you could almost reach out and grab it, it beats a 78th floor observation deck.)

Hildegaard, Gramma, Matt and MC enjoying a drink and chat

We had more meats and cheeses from EVC, a bunch of spinach pastries from Damascus Bakeries in Brooklyn, a full bar, and the aforementioned views, which were worth the price of admission (being a client of the Levys!) More pictures available on Matt’s facebook page. It just goes to show, whether for fun or for business, the Levys’ know how to throw a party!

By Matt Levy

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The Battle for Mau Mau Island

Jonah and Friends at the Dead Horse Inn

One of my favorite things about New York is the waterfront. As a tour guide, I pound pavement and strut the streets, but getting onto the water, with the Harbor breeze in my hair and the salt spray in my nostrils, thats the stuff. So when I heard about participating in The Battle For Mau Mau Island, two weekends ago, I couldn’t say no.

Last summer Flux Factory, an art collective based in Long Island City, organized a number of bus trips around the tri-state area. Then the bus got sold. And Flux Factorians learned how to build canoes. Therefore, this summer Flux declared The Summer of the Boat, with all sorts of funny boat-themed events, most of them taking place at Marina 59 in the Far Rockaways. When Swimming Cities, (another fantastic art collective who plans to sail to the Ganges in October) asked Flux to participate in the Inaugural Battle for Mau Mau Island, then they Swimming Cities asked me and Matt to MC, we knew it was going to be another one-of-a-kind NYC summertastic event. How could it not? Do-It-Yourself boat builders, toxic punks, ancient Rowman warriors (get it?) and art stars of all kinds came out to the southern tip of Brooklyn, in Gerritsen Beach to participate. They came with rafts, catamarans and real-deal motorboats for a day of water-based activities.

Boats prepare to race around Mau Mau (background, left)

Once we were on the anchored, engine-free Chris Craft, armed with megaphones, we opened our mouths and did what we do best – talked loudly. First up – a circumnavigational, 4 mile, row-powered race around Mau Mau. Competitors included an arty catamaran called “Good Enough,” an ancient skeleton revived as a canoe named “Lazarus Rex,” a go-nowhere raft entitled “Mermaid Sea Monkeys,” and a sad, barely connected batch wooden planks that went by the crafty title of “S.S. Botulism”. The winner was a no-nonsense team of rowers called “The Notorious G.I.G.”

Boat Joust! Boat Joust!

After the race, all participants came ashore for the event that everyone was waiting for…the Boat Joust! Just off shore, two teams of rowers in 15-ft canoes picked up as much momentum as possible while warriors, standing in the back of each canoe & clad in floatable armor aimed 10 ft long Styrofoam jousting poles at each other. Most of the time somebody fell off, but if you ask me, everyone was a winner!

Duke Riley pours a drink for a thirsty warrior

After the Boat Joust, it was time for a well-deserved drink. Where else to head but to a DIY bar installed underneath a Belt Pkwy bridge!? Duke Riley; artist, provocateur, submarine builder and mastermind behind a giant Roman-style aquatic battle undearneath the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows in 2009, built his bar out of driftwood and lined the “liquor shelves” with vintage bottles found on Bottle Beach, near Dead Horse Bay. Called the Dead Horse Inn, drinks cost a measly five cents and one could get any whiskey, gin, vodka or rum drink they thirsted for.

Views of the tiny isle of Manhattan from the Dead Horse Inn

Lit by tiki torches, with the sun setting over Manhattan so very far away, yet the outline of the Empire State Building still very visible. It was one of the more memorable moments in the bar, when all the day’s warriors raised a glass to celebrate NY’s aquatic culture and wondered aloud at this magical arty, marshy, reedy no man’s land, stil within New York City.

By Jonah Levy
All pictures courtesy of Marin Tockman.
So many more pictures here.

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