From the Zola System


New York, New York, USA
January 30
I grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in the Zola System, my father’s philosophy of life. He taught my brothers and me the basic life skills: how to run a street hustle, perpetrate a con or recognize when you were being hustled or conned; information we needed so we could feed our families if another Hitler came to power. My father Aron Zola was a Romanian Jew, a holocaust survivor, a black marketeer, a gun runner, a successful entrepreneur, a true citizen of Detroit. When I was 18, I rebelled against the Zola System and moved to New York City. I was fascinated with cultural heroes – Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson and the aesthetic bohemian artist lifestyle that, in my naivete, I thought they lived. Now I see they were working their own hustles on the public, just like the Old Man. Even the Manhattan dating scene runs on the Zola System. To paraphrase Mark Twain, now that the Old Man is dead, I’m shocked how much he learned. I wrote reviews for SPIN, an unpublished brunch guide for New York City, covered the death penalty, reviewed books for the New York Law Journal and profiled sports stars for the Jewish Forward. I have two crime novels and a bartenders guide to New York City that I am trying to sell. After dabbling in so many genres, I finally realized I’d been running from my subject: my father and the Zola System. The Old Man is gone now and I am his eldest son carrying on as he wanted me to do. This was not supposed to happen.


Alexzola's Links

FEBRUARY 19, 2010 2:36AM

Knocking Up A Martini

When you sit at a bar, how do you order your drinks? Do you use a simple declarative sentence – I would like… Are you polite – May I please have a… Are you demanding – Give me a… I fall into the polite third. When I was 4 or 5, I demande/Read full post »

FEBRUARY 5, 2010 2:34AM

Busted By Stoli Gold

The following is a true story that occurred a few years back in a now defunct Midtown restaurant. No names have been mentioned because everyone is guilty as hell.

“No.” The suit said. “I asked for a Stoli Gold on the rocks.”

The bartender held up the SRead full post »

One of the songs I don’t like to admit I feel a kinship with is off of Richard and Linda Thompson’s 1974 masterpiece I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.  The song entitled, ‘The End of the Rainbow,’ is ostensibly sung by an adult to a baby lyingRead full post »

JANUARY 22, 2010 3:08AM

The Greatest Bar Gimmick of All Time


The Subway Inn is a modern rarity. It is a dark and decrepit monument left to the cheap drinking culture that once inhabited New York City at a time when rents, the economy and mayoral disgust are killing the other dive bars there were once part of Old New York. Read full post »

Mark McGwire came clean.

In a statement released to the AP and a near simultaneous interview with Bob Costas on the MLB Network, McGwire admitted to using steroids for over a decade. This decade includes the ‘epic’ chase of Roger Maris’s single season home run record of 61Read full post »

JANUARY 8, 2010 2:22AM

Profiled or Potential Suspect?

The car behind me was trying to act non-descript; low lights, dark windows, headlights dim. “Fuck,” I swore. “I can’t believe it.” I knew once I made my left turn onto Hayden Road, the police cruiser behind me was going to pull me over.  “Fuck,” I swoRead full post »

DECEMBER 18, 2009 1:40AM

Needed: New York Street Skills

There is something weird happening in New York.  The phenomenon is so odd it might not even register; New York’s traffic is on the decline.  I’d like to be able to tell you it’s because the city is going Green and trying to do it’s small bit to save the environment… Read full post »


The state of Ohio thinks it is taking the country into uncharted execution territory and the media is hopping mad. 



Tuesday, Kenneth Biros will be put to death in the Ohio death chamber for the February 1991 murder of Tami Engstrom.  The state of Ohio uses lethal/… Read full post »

DECEMBER 4, 2009 2:59AM

Sold For $583 K - A True Detroit Story



Times are very tough.



The city of Pontiac, Michigan put the Silverdome, the home of the Detroit Lions from 1975-2001, up for sale in 2002.  Back when the stadium was built in the early 1970’s, taxpayers laid out $55.7 million for the state of the ar/Read full post »

NOVEMBER 20, 2009 3:44AM

Now I Get It

Gambling was an accepted form of communication in the Zola home.  If the Old Man said something that was response provoking, say Mondale won’t carry a state in 1984, and one of the families thought otherwise, it was accepted practice to throw $1 or $10 or $20 on the kitchen table/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 13, 2009 1:56AM

The Rise of the Urban Rube

There is a new social class that is making its way into the fabric of New York City, one that used to be weeded out by the street tax of violence, threatened or real.  The time of the urban rube has arrived.

According to Merriman-Webster’s online dictionary, a rube isRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 6, 2009 1:05AM

The Dumpling Breaks Her Jaw

The episode began when Tom, our sommelier, opened one of the six bottles of 2001 La Tache we had in house, although not on inventory.  La Tache is one of top two, Richebourg being the other, Cru’s in Burgundy.  A bottle of this specific Pinot Noir retails for over $400 and… Read full post »

OCTOBER 30, 2009 4:44AM

My Bout With H1N1

My mother had it.  My niece had it.  My brother had it and now, I’ve had it – H1N1.  The Swine Flu.




For 36 hours, I ran a low grade fever, had some chills and no appetite.  I fell asleep for 12 hours and felt somewhat right when/Read full post »

OCTOBER 23, 2009 5:02AM

I Blame Lou Reed

I have mentioned alluded to and now will finally come out of the closet with this bold declaration: yes, I have left New York.  Currently, I am residing in the wilds of Scottsdale, Arizona while I make the decisions on my apartment, what to write next and how to sell wine to/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 15, 2009 2:13AM

John Desmond Ott

This item caught my eye as it came over the newswire.  In Western Australia, a family learned about the death of their daughter via Facebook.  The police were in the process of contacting the parents of the 16-year old girl.  The speed of the internet wins out again.  As social ne/Read full post »

OCTOBER 9, 2009 1:09AM

Miguel Cabrera - Asshole of the Month

Your name is Miguel Cabrera.  You are a 26 year old baseball player, a first baseman.  Your extraordinary talent with a bat has earned you an 8 year $152 million contract.  Your team is in the midst of a pennant race.  If you win one more game, you will clinch the/Read full post »

OCTOBER 2, 2009 2:59AM

She-Males Invade Gramercy Park

There is a Transvestite/Trans-Sexual night in a Gramercy/Flatiron bar.

Two and a half blocks away from my apartment, at 3:30am on a Sunday, I saw a gaggle of Asian T-girls smoking outside the Gramercy Tavern, one of the best and most popular restaurants in the City. The dichotomy struck meRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 25, 2009 3:02AM

Yenta Crack Fiend

New Yorkers have been portrayed as a neurotic strange breed in film and television.  We move into our elegant cells, close the door and become somewhat secretive.  Yes, there are those that come to the city to get away small town where everyone knows what everyone else is doing.  The l… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 18, 2009 2:26AM

Training The Old School Way

Bartending is simple work. Remember your customer’s faces, what they drink and the names of their kids. It has nothing to do with making drinks. Anyone can follow a recipe. There are seven gorillas that are better bartenders than I am. I know. I trained five of them.

I wasRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 11, 2009 12:07AM

Too Soon

Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the mood in New York is somber. There’s an odd consideration for your neighbor, the guy next to you on the street or the person in front of you in line at the deli.  Even the cabbies are staying out of the crosswalk when they stop fo/

Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 4, 2009 2:30AM

No More Badlands

Three of my co-workers kept telling me about a bar they found on 11th Street and the West Side Highway. 

“It’s great, Alex, just the kind of place you’d like to hang out in.  The Rusty Knot is sleazy.”  

My interest was piqued.  Ever since I/Read full post »

AUGUST 14, 2009 2:27AM

Drab Expensive Cells

For a city faced with budget cuts due to a bad economy, declining population and the loss of a major tax base on Wall Street, New York is still going through something of a building boom.  It seems that every avenue in every district of Manhattan has some sort of a residential/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 7, 2009 5:11AM

Bar Pimp

A bartender is a social director, a matchmaker for his customers personally and professionally. 

Gary, my first boss in the business, had a masterful touch when it came to introductions.  He was responsible for two marriages and one business partnership. “Remember to always/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
JULY 31, 2009 1:19AM

Closing New York's Poker Clubs

New York City poker clubs are an endangered species.

“This joint on 28th Street I was playing in a few weeks ago got raided,” my friend Steve told me “the cops came in, had us leave our chips on the table, questioned the players, detained the dealers and arrested the manager.&nRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
JULY 24, 2009 12:00AM

Walter Cronkite Meets Denzel Washington

It was the busiest Tuesday of the year at the Park Avenue Cafe. We did 220 lunches and were expecting 500 people for dinner. I was working an open to close double.

4:30pm. I was trying to clean and re-set the bar for dinner service. Due to the ferocity of the lunch service period,/Read full post »