New York Insider: Harlem Writer Jozen Cummings

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A few important things to know about writer Jozen Cummings: He can be wooed by the free Wi-Fi of Harlem's cozy, trademark coffee shops. He once witnessed a robbery uptown that unsettled his peace. He accidentally dates women who live in the same building as each other. Harlem, as Cummings says, is a small world. And with all of its charm, grit and dichotomies, it's the only New York neighborhood that he would ever call home. Here, the Until I Get Married blogger sounds off on the obstacles of dating uptown, explains the beauty of living in one of Harlem's historic residences and anoints the best fried chicken in New York City (hint: nobody named Sylvia has touched this recipe.)

Name, Age, Occupation: Jozen Cummings, 28, Writer (Vibe, The Wall Street Journal, UntilIGetMarried.com)

Neighborhood: Harlem, New York

Abode: One-bedroom, walk-up apartment on the fourth floor in the Dunbar apartment complex.

Why did you choose to live in a Dunbar building?
Besides the reasonably priced rent, one of the reasons why I chose it was the charm of its historic air. I know it was built in 1926. I know it was funded by a Rockefeller. I know its intent was to be a complex for the black middle-class of the Harlem Renaissance. Having gone to Howard University, I really appreciate history as being a part of the charm of a place, where you go to school, where you live, and the Dunbar has a lot of that. It stretches from Adam Clayton Boulevard to Frederick Douglass Avenue, from 149th to 150th street. There's a huge enclosed courtyard. In the spring and the summer, when the complex is in full bloom, every single area has a garden. It's a really beautiful space to walk through. They also have a good balance of young people, family and kids who live there.

Is Harlem conducive to bachelor living?
It's a small world up here for bachelors. In terms of dating, you can find yourself in a situation where you date one girl for a while, you two break up, and then you date another girl who, as it turns out, lives in the same building as the girl you've dated before. I've had that happen more than a couple of times. Also, with me living all the way uptown, it's not the easiest thing to invite company over after a certain hour. If somebody doesn't want to stay, I don't want to kick them out at 1 a.m. I don't feel right about that. So my place is one where if you come, you're staying -- which means now I have to decide whether I really want you to come.

How would you describe the women in Harlem?
The women I've met have always been cultured women that appreciate history and upward mobility while also having some roots about them. That kind of balance is what you find in Harlem. To me, there's nothing like seeing a woman walking to the subway and she's dressed in a nice coat or business suit and she's navigating through the traffic of people -- crack heads, other business folk, young kids getting out of school. Anywhere else, that woman would blend. In Harlem, she cuts through all of that.

Where do you take a woman like that out in your neighborhood?
I could take her to Shrine to check out free music. I've seen a show there. The venue has an open-air feeling to it. There's a great Italian food spot, V&T Restaurant, on 111th and Amsterdam Avenue. I got their spaghetti and meatballs and I was in love. 67 Orange Street is a good place to drink. It's located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. It's very speakeasy and dimly lit. And Nectar between 120th and 121st street is a great wine bar.

Care to weigh in on the best kept secret in Harlem?
I would say the best kept secrets are the coffee shops. Cafe Latte's food is delicious, especially when coming for brunch. But all day you can find me at Society Coffee Lounge. It has its fair share of problems -- it's a tight space with an open-air kitchen, scaffolding has been over the shop for a while now -- but it's without a doubt the place where I spend the most time. The staff is small, it's black-owned and they have free Wi-Fi. I really go for the free Wi-Fi.

What's one gripe you have about your hood?
If you always eat within the 5-10 block radius of where I live, you'll have a heart attack. Having said that,Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken is literally one block away from me on Frederick Douglas Boulevard between 151st and 152nd street. They have the best pan-fried chicken in New York City. White people go there and the neighborhood isn't really one where you see white people. You have to love fried chicken to come. I've taken my friends from all around the country to Charles' and everybody always says, "this is great fried chicken."

On your blog, you do a pretty funny job at breaking down the mentality of a bachelor in the city. Would you still live in Harlem after you got married?
I'll put it this way...for as long as I live in New York, I'll live in Harlem.


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