John Wilson’s new HBO show, How to With John Wilson, captures the specific strangeness of street life in the city — the snippets of documentary film range from a woman tucking a pigeon into a Duane Reade bag to two men dragging a disjointed mannequin around Brooklyn. The 34-year-old Wilson was born in Astoria and has lived a couple of miles south in Ridgewood (which shares a border with Bushwick) for the past eight years. “On an industrial street with five other people for six, and in my own place for two,” he says. “At first, it was just price that kept me here, but everything is just the right height. The buildings aren’t too tall.”
When he’s filming, Wilson says, he “darts around as chaotically as possible to mimic the route of a deliveryman” in order to find interesting things — like a vendor near his house who sells sanitizing wipes and drones exclusively. If he ever feels blocked, though, he has a reliable route: down Myrtle Avenue, up Fresh Pond Road, and west on Metropolitan toward Forest past Ridgewood’s sole strip club, Vixen. Here are his favorite camera-repair store, pupusa spot, and thrift shop for bric-a-brac in the neighborhood.
Camera Repair Store
60-18 Fresh Pond Rd.
“I love the two guys that work at this old analog camera shop near my place that’s just called Camera Repair Store [pictured above] on Google. They’re really witty, and always tell funny jokes. I recently bought an autobiography of Eddie Cantor from them.”
865 Woodward Ave.
“Super Pollo is my No. 1 spot for a mindless meal. Their chicken is incredible. I get the Bandeja de Pollo, which is a half a chicken — it’s cheap enough to get just for myself, but big enough that if I want to share it with someone else, I can. I don’t know what they do to it, but it’s so dang good. They also have a funny fleet of smart cars that are always darting around the neighborhood with their logo on them. They know how to advertise.”
71-20 Fresh Pond Rd.; @pupusasridgewood
“There’s this spot that makes really nice pupusas. They’re pretty cheap, too. I usually get chicken and cheese, but everything is good. I’m really glad it’s there.”
58-19 Myrtle Ave.
“There’s a funny dollar store near me that has a shoplifter-shaming flat-screen TV. It shows pictures of all the shoplifters, along with an insult about the items that they stole. So if it was deodorant, it calls them ‘Smelly’ or something. Otherwise, it’s just a normal dollar store — just with a very strict theft response.”
62-20 Forest Ave.; 917-909-1547
“I get a standard cheeseburger at Burger City. They’re pretty good. Nothing really special, but it’s not some heartless chain.”
788 Woodward Ave.; toposbookstore.com
“One of my favorite places in New York is Topos. It’s a used bookstore, and I know all the people who run it. Mark Freado, specifically, is a real cinephile. Once, he told me about this great documentary called Cul-de-sac about a guy who destroys his town with a tank he stole. It’s my coffee spot, too.”
60-07 Metropolitan Ave.
“I often walk Metropolitan toward Forest, where I pass this strip club called Vixen. It’s closed now. It’s Ridgewood’s only strip club, and I really hope it reopens. Before the pandemic, I’d go once or twice a year on special occasions.”
59-29 Myrtle Ave.
“I try to walk past the Flowerama Building as often as possible. Right now, it’s an amazing Asian grocery store, but it used to be the florist in Queens. My parents got their wedding flowers from there. Even though it’s not a florist anymore, the signage is iconic — it’s on the spine of a beautiful, pizza-slice-shaped stucco building. The O has a heart in it, which is really nice.”
Fresh Pond Road
“Fresh Pond Road has a handful of stores with nice old signs like the Paradise Aquarium (66-16 Fresh Pond Rd.) and Cardinal Shoe Repair (68-07 Fresh Pond Rd.), both of which have been there for decades — it’s relaxing to see them still operating.”
Gotham Thrift Shop
61-01 Myrtle Ave.; @gothamthriftny
“Gotham Thrift Shop always has something quirky. I look for bric-a-brac. Old posters, funny patches. Candles that were rejected from the factory with a sticker on them that says why they were rejected. Once, I got a cassette there for my friend Andrew where the subject of every song is Andrew.”
Grover Cleveland Park
Stanhope St. and Grandview Ave.
This spring and summer I’d meet all my friends at Grover Cleveland Park. That was really nice. It’s right next to the strip club. You get a beautiful view of the city up there. The trees are really old and pretty, and it’s nice to sit on the grass and watch the sunset over the skyline.
*This article appears in the January 18, 2021, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!