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 I wrote reviews for SPIN, an unpublished brunch guide for New York City, covered the death penalty, reviewed books for the New York Law Journal and profiled sports stars for the Jewish Forward.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

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 24, 2008 1:17AM

Opus, Uncle Duke and All Snark, All The Time

On Sunday, November 2, the last panels of Opus will parade across the nation’s newspapers and Opus the Penguin will be retired permanently.  First seen in Berkeley Breathed’s seminal comic strip Bloom County, Opus has gone on to have the sort of career that I really admire.  He/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 22, 2008 3:02AM

My First Trip to New York

There are moments in life that allow men to weep without society branding them as weak. The death of your mother, father, spouse or beloved pet are the most common. However, there are scenes in certain films that fall into the same category: Shane, Field of Dreams, Great Expectations, Rudy allRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 20, 2008 12:26AM

Dragging The Calvary Cross Through Union Square

Wall Street has been on a volatile path this week, up 900 points, down 700 points and today up after going down 380 points to begin the session, the Dow finished up 400.  For the average investor, it is the beginning of a bear market that threatens to drag the country/Read full post »

OCTOBER 17, 2008 12:26AM

Asleep at the Wheel

I rarely, if ever, blog on political matters but Tuesday, I awoke to a couple of items on WCBS that made me think both parties were getting over on the populous.  I feel the need to mention it now as they just pissed me off and had me wondering how I/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 15, 2008 1:21AM

Post Urban Culture

Cell phones are lovely things when they keep you in contact with the proper people.  Bill collectors, politicians looking to get elected and the occasionally crazy family member who wonders if now would be a good time to talk about some arcane piece of family fiction I don’t care about areRead full post »
Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 13, 2008 12:13AM

I Beg Your Forgiveness

Tonight at sundown began Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Observant Jews will spend this day fasting while in meditation and prayer while asking G-d for forgiveness for their sins and misdeeds of the previous year.  However, this isn’t like a Catholic’s trip to the conf/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 10, 2008 12:24AM

KO'd By Freud in the Fifth

Last year, I almost married a woman, with whom I had forgettable sex. She was my 'type,' the kind of woman who makes me drool: brown hair, dark eyes, olive skin. When we were having sex, it just wasn't very good, and I was still thinking of marrying her until theRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 8, 2008 1:53AM

The End of the 40 Year Old Bartender

The panic is just beginning to set in.  It seems no one knows what is coming next, the paranoia over bank closings, unemployment and the possibility of unrelenting inflation has fallen squarely from the skyline to the streets of Manhattan.  The first segment of the economy to take the hit i/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 7, 2008 2:05AM

On the Subject of Curses

The most fun I have had in the past week was watching Michael Wilbon suffer on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.  I admit my shame.  Grown adults shouldn’t get any pleasure out of the suffering of another human being.  Admittedly, it is our lot, to suffer and to gather what h/Read full post »

The streets of New York are almost empty, night and day, almost like it’s a holiday weekend.  The rush of humanity blustering around, next, through, by you, fierce in it’s determination to get there first, wherever that maybe, has become shy and timid.  The last cabbie that blew/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 1, 2008 12:17AM

Darwin Leaves New York

 New York used to be a town full of grit.  From Wall Street to Inwood at the tip of Manhattan Island, the arrogant swagger New Yorkers are infamous for was busy being beaten into its residents.  Whether that attitude came from being living too close to your neighbor or the generalRead full post »
Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 29, 2008 3:27AM

The Definition of Insanity

Like millions of Americans, I am currently under-employed.  The supposition that I should feel lucky to have some sort of job in these tough economic times keeps running through my mind.


“Any port in a storm,” my friend Roddy O’Hare councils and he’s right.

 … Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 26, 2008 10:42PM

The Art of Copping

In May of 2007, I made the mistake of Googling my first love Amanda, now an attorney working for a firm in Midtown. I was in the midst of negotiating the final stages of the break-up with my latest girlfriend as well as other major life changes. Well, it turns outRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 24, 2008 2:06AM

Talking to a Fed Ex Guy in Detroit

Last Tuesday, I got a chance to catch up with my buddy Jimmy Fallon at our local bar.  He’s been finishing up his film commitments before he begins working on the precursor podcasts to the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon.  I found it touching to hear someone else wax poetic, other/Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 12:03AM

Sherman Did

This is a story about a story, an urban myth, and a tall tale.  This story wasn’t earned, as Sgt. Brad Colbert said in Generation Kill (miniseries).  It was a gift given in a game of calling bullshit and I have been re-telling it as my own for 12 years.

Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 19, 2008 12:39AM

Touting For Dinner

In your average family, there are a couple of coming of age moments, usually revolving around a bar/bat mitzvah, a confirmation, graduation, sweet sixteen or having your first legal drink with your parents.  In the Zola family, there were three of these moments: your bar mitzvah, the first time/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 17, 2008 2:46PM

You Can go Home Agin

The Detroit Lions are a team that never disappoints.  They find new ways to lose on a seemingly momentary basis.  Yesterday, however, may have been the greatest meltdown American football has ever witnessed.  The Lions threw in the towel on the whole 2008 season after the first play fr/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 16, 2008 12:10AM

A Brief History of Snarky

I thought I learned about arrogance from the Old Man.

"Your father admired your arrogance," Jerry Stein said during his eulogy for my father. I sat back and nodded, filled with self satisfaction.

The Old Man was absolutely contemptuous of the surroundings and people in Bloomfield Hills. At theRead full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 15, 2008 12:48AM

A Moving Carnival

A buddy of mine was telling me why he broke up with his latest girlfriend the other day. “I took her to Coney Island. First the aquarium, then we went to the freak show, the original Tontino’s and, of course, for a ride on the Cyclone. She seemed weirded out theRead full post »

SEPTEMBER 12, 2008 3:13PM

Just Hop Away

One Sunday in May found me aimlessly walking the streets of the Lower East Side, nibbling on a knish and sipping on a coffee.   I turned onto Third Street and saw five or six people crowding around a happening of some sort.   Ever curious, I pushed into the middle of the/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 6:51PM

Back To The Gold Standard

Rents in New York are outrageous, true.  Not a day goes by I don’t hear of another friend, acquaintance or just one more horrible story of someone losing their business or apartment because the rents have tripled.  Just two weeks ago, rumors started to swirl around Barfly, a mainstay/Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 10, 2008 8:58PM

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

After depositing my stuff at my dorm at 10th Street and Broadway back 21 years ago for my freshmen year matriculation to NYU, my parents took me to the South Street Seaport for lunch and parental advice.  Start a checking account, create a budget for yourself, study hard, don’t try to/Read full post »

The office building at One Hudson Place is a part of the city most people don’t see, at least from the street.  Tucked into the corner of Varrick and Watts Streets right where the Holland Tunnel receives cars to speed away to New Jersey, there are only two reasons to be/Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 4, 2008 9:39PM

Perceived Purgatory

I have found purgatory.

(If you are afraid of blaspheme, being struck down by lightning or are convinced that I have completely lost what was left of my sanity, you want to stop reading right now.  Otherwise, please read on.)

It was 1:30amish and restless as always, I startedRead full post »