Broke-Ass of the Week – Joshua M. Bernstein
Every week we feature a different person from the community shedding a little light on their life of brokeitude. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something about the human spirit'probably not.
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Joshua M. Bernstein is a total stud. When I was living in Brooklyn and doing research for my NYC book he gave me tons of advice and ideas of places to check out, especially in Chinatown. The way we met was through one of my Lonely Planet buddies Zora O’Neill. When I told her about the research I was doing, she answered that I had to connect with her friend Joshua because he does lots of cheap eats writing for publications in NYC. Once Joshua and I finally met, it was love at first pork bun…or maybe it was bowl of noodles.
Anyway as you can imagine, Josh has a ton of knowledge about all the best cheap shit in New York City, so after you’re done reading this interview, make sure to check out his website Gut Instinct. It’s like learning, but for your belly.
Name: Joshua M. Bernstein
Occupation: Food, drinks and travel journalist-basically, I get paid to drink beer and eat, then write about it
What neighborhood do you live in: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a ‘hood filled with loads of spicy Caribbean eats.
Best money-saving tip: Don’t ever, ever buy coffee. If you need the jolt, make it at home, champ.
What do you refuse to spend money on?: See coffee, above. Besides that, I refuse to buy umbrellas from those men who pop out on NYC’s street corners when it starts to rain. I’d rather get wet than shell out five irrationally spent dollars.
Most expensive thing you’ve ever bought: The first month’s rent, broker fee and deposit for my first New York City apartment, in Astoria. It was a railroad-style hellhole with equally frightening amounts of linoleum and cockroaches. Oh, and the total: nearly $5,000.
How’d that feel?: Terrifying. It left me a grand total of, oh, $11.72 to my name.
Favorite cheap eat: Pork-and-chive dumplings all the way, baby. At Prosperity in Chinatown, I can grab five freshly fried, crescent-shape treats for just one wrinkled dollar.
Favorite dive bar: In Brooklyn, there’s a dive called Moonshine. For five bucks, I get a metal pail, filled with ice and four beers. Out back, you can grill your own meat. On the jukebox, Johnny Cash. Bulldogs roam the ancient wooden floorboards. Toss in the pool table, and it’s pretty close to heaven.
Best deal you’ve ever gotten: A few weeks ago, I was spinning on a stool at Imperial Bikers, a dusty, musty clubhouse for an African-American motorcycle gang. They let me drink cheap Guinness there. Anyway, in walks a giant dude with a plastic sack slug over his shoulder. He’s like, “What size shoes do you wear?” I tell him. He produces a pair of gorgeous brown-leather Pro Keds, with bright-orange stitching. They’re stunning. I put them on and stroll around the bar. They make me feel pretty, so pretty. These shoes haven’t been sold in stores for years. They’re real vintage kicks. I don’t ask where the guy got them. I don’t want to know. All I want to know is the price: “Uh, 10 bucks,” he says, thinking that it’s highway robbery. I pay the 10 smackers and walk out the door, a new spring in my step.
Favorite free thing to do: Walk. Nothing irks me more than New Yorkers who say, “I can’t afford to do anything.” That’s a steaming load of crud. The city is living theater, with nooks and crannies waiting to be explored. I’ll walk for five, 10 miles, aimlessly exploring new quarters of this town. I’ve got this motto: “If you don’t have anywhere to go, then you can’t be lost.” I’ll follow strangers, alleys, animals, cops-it’s all an adventure.
If you woke up a millionaire, what’s the first thing you’d buy?: Some dignity. I think I lost it way back in 1998, when I ate lettuce off the ground in a north London tube station.
Despite not having money, do you still love your life?: I’m going to sound like one of those inspirational posters, like the ones with monkeys dangling from bars that read, “Just hang in there,” but dollars don’t equal happiness. I think I was happier when I was 22, paying for beers and hot dogs with nickels and dimes. Staying poor keeps you fighting-and hungry. So, so hungry.
Do you own my book? You gave it to me, so yes. Didn’t I give you tons of leads for your NYC book? Son, you owe me royalties. Or at least a beer.
Best hangover cure: Diet Coke. DC me ASAP, please. Those tiny bubbles work some real magic.
Are you a hipster?: Out of pure principle, I refuse to answer that question. Hipster is such an overused term that’s become a parody of itself, much like those youngsters who wear those enormous nerd glasses paired with boat shoes and cutoff jean shorts. Besides, a hipster isn’t self-defined: He’s branded. So you tell me, Stuart: Am I?