Empire State by John J. Custer in East Village, New York City, New York, USA

I had never visited New York City before I moved here. The only connection I had were episodes of Friends. So I packed up a suitcase and a backpack and moved in with an NYU student I had meet on Craigslist—the best choice of my life.

Why did I move? Why did I quit a salary-paying, benefit-coverage, full-time job in Dallas, Texas to move here? An internship. An internship that became the most self deprecating act I had and have ever indulged in. It paid $100 a day and I enjoyed gathering coffee and cookie orders for meetings in the Madison Square area.

Jaded after my internship I came to the conclusion that this place is not charming, but it’s not ugly either, it’s just another damn spot on a map. A spot that has icons that we have all seen over, and over, and over, and over, and over again—in films and on television. I know what they look like and where they are and I refuse to go see them.

Living specifically in the East Village I see the Empire State Building every day, on either my run around the park or a walk to the subway. It stares over me from the Tompkins Square Park like a disgruntled parent waiting for an apology.

Fuck off.

Name:John J. Custer

Independent Design & Illustration & Art Direction


Remembering to breathe.

Tell us about your hood, the East Village:

I live in one of the last standing neighborhoods in Manhattan. I know my neighbors: bars, restaurants, laundromat, and grocery store. I see the same people and know they care about this place as much as I do. The last neighborhood I knew of was, when I was in the 4th grade, in a suburb of Dallas where I would walk to Gamm’s house after school to play Pokémon cards.

This neighborhood is my home.

A perfect day?

Fall; no computer; no phone and a small fire in my smoker on the back patio with some pals.

What is the best thing about the East Village?

It’s surprising warm in cold spot.

What is the worst?

I don’t have a car.

What about NYC would be surprising to an outsider?

Its size—both small and large.

If your city was a person or character, who would it be?

My Mom: Doesn’t take your shit but will give you a hug.

Who are three of your favorite artists?

Dan Flavin, A.M. Cassandre, Ray Bradbury




Name:John J. Custer

City:New York City

Favorite place to eat:

Northern Spy Company, on 12th between Ave A and Ave B.

Favorite place to drink:

Drop Off Service, on Ave A between 13th and 14th.

Favorite shop:

Self Edge, between Rivington and Stanton.

Local Tip:

All the even streets, in Manhattan, go East.

Must Do:

Visit PTD, if you can beat all the Upper East Side people there…