20 April 2006
New York Post
Sadly not posting from NYC, but from back home in Brighton, where I am eating the remains of my last black and white cookie for awhile. I only managed to eat 2 the whole time, not the one-a-day I'd strived for.
On the cab ride in from JFK, M. and I talked about how instantly at home we feel anywhere in the US. We love parts of the UK, and are probably more "OF" the UK (after living here more than 7 years) than we give ourselves credit for, but there's something familiar about the US that puts us both at ease.
We stayed at The Hudson, a giant "boutique" hotel near Columbus Circle. It's a lovely-looking place: a neon-coloured escalator leads to the ivy-covered sky-lit lobby, and the hotel bar has neat floor lighting and transparent furniture (and lovely cocktails), and a nice outside area. The problem with it is how try-hard all the guests seem to be! Loads of hipster PLUs (People Like Us, as M. aptly named them) were wandering around trying to too look low-key-trendy in their American Apparel and Converse, and we don't need that shit. We were also surprised that extras like Internet access and stuff wasn't free, as they might be at other hotels with slick ambitions. I guess that's what the promotional website meant by "shabby chic." But it suited our needs fine, especially since we could walk to the Park easily.
Our first night we headed out to Williamsburg where we met our friend Jonathan for a "media cabaret" event at this place called Monkeytown. However, first we visited Barcade, which is just what it sounds like. I was so jet-lagged there was no way I even got close to beating my own record at my fave game Centipede, but M. did pretty well at the old Star Wars game (pictured).
Monkeytown itself was lovely. Nice people and drinks, and the back-room space of the cinema/performance area was lovely: a white square room with screens and low white couches on each of the four walls. I wish I could screen something there! But the show itself...not so hot. The idea is that people do various acts--comedy, music, etc--while thematically appropriate films are screened on the walls around the room. I think all three of us were pretty much wishing the "performers"--who included a couple of just-post-college girls who watch way too much SNL bouncing around telling raunchy jokes--would leave and let us get on with watching the films. Most of the audience seemed to be friends of the performers, so at least everyone else enjoyed it. And there's something sort of nice about knowing that you can put on some shit, and you're going to have some trendy W'burg audience come and enjoy it--even if they're just the people with whom you share your loft in Lorimer Street.
Friday was shopping-day. We decided to go Bendix Diner to start the day like we used to lots of weekends. We took a cab downtown to save time, and then spent the next hour wandering 1st and 3rd (we knew it was on one or the other) looking for it. But it is no more, as we found out later. So we headed into one of the many little tacoria's that have sprung up around the area and had the best huevos rancheros ever, made with a fab black bean sauce. We then went to the expanded Kim's in St. Marks' Place and bought dozens of DVDs, then to a bookstore where we bought too many movie-trade mags, and a few books (though every bookstore I visited was lacking in Southern lit--it was like being in the UK where asking for Walker Percy gets you a blank stare). We wandered around the shops of SoHo then down to Chinatown, and I stocked up on writing accessories at Pearl River. We somehow ended up in the after-work crowd at Century 21 downtown. Not a good place to be, though M. scored some nice designer-y shirts and I got some short-shorts. We had a dinner reservation at OysterBar in Grand Central, where we dined years ago just after I found out about scoring an Overseas Research Award that would eventually cut short my NY life and bring me back to the UK. Then we headed to to see this film CSA, a moc-doc about what might have happened had the South won the Civil War, because we thought a movie would be a good way to round out the night. Mistake: I squirmed at its badness, then promptly fell asleep. Review of this terribly onerous (and just plain historically incorrect) film to follow in another post!
Saturday we had a nice overpriced breakfast at the hotel and wandered over to MOMA where we couldn't be bothered to wait in the long queue. It was too nice a day for being indoors anyway. So we strolled over to the Upper East Side to check out my old workplace, Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center. It was weird to see it again, and not much has changed (though I hear women workers have to wear pantyhose with skirts now. Ugh.). Then it was on to Central Park, where a huge Easter fair was happening.
Tiring of kids and Peeps, we then did MORE shopping and I got a lovely seersucker jacket that I will undoubtedly stain before it's even warm enough to wear it in the UK. Then it was out to Queens to see Jonathan and his wife Monica's new place. For dinner, we all headed back into town to go the The Cajun, one of the last bastions of old school jazz in the city. We had some passable southern food (and I had a lovely martini made with jalapenos) and listened to the Red Onion Jazz Band, comprised of men in their 70s, one younger Hasidic Jewish guy, and an elderly female singer whose beautiful voice sounded like it was being projected from the 1920s. Lovely to hear some Dixie jazz! We decided to go over to the Meatpacking District for a final drink, and I was hoping my old fave, The Village Idiot (a sort of honkey tonk institution with $1 PBR), would still be there. No such luck. And what a shock--how could something so right have suddenly gone so wrong? The Meatpacking District is no longer comprised of trucker bars and gay s&m basement clubs sprinkled among meat warehouses. What we saw was pseudo-slick bars filled with preppy young men in Polo shirts, and ditzy, coiffed girls in J. Crew kitten heels clacking along the pretty old brick streets. We shuddered collectively and quickly passed through, and Monica told me that actually drinking PBR is a real trendy thing in New York these days anyway; I noticed later it's on tap at the Knitting Factory. Geez. We went to this Belgian bar we used to like instead where the waitress ALMOST dropped a beer on my new seersucker jacket. But not quite.
Sunday we woke up early and walked further uptown to brunch at @SQC, where I couldn't get a bloody mary from their amazingly extensive bloody mary menu because they don't serve them before noon! And I couldn't get a virgin mary because they couldn't get their drinks freezer unlocked. Nice food, though, and the place was packed when we left. It was a beautiful day, so we bought the paper and headed over to the park, where we saw robbins and starlings and a thrush, the guy who goes everywhere with his lovebirds, a few of the usual rollerskaters, and lots of people in absurdly huge Easter bonnets heading to the bonnet contest at Tavern on the Green.
After getting blissfully sunburned, it was time for the highlight our trip: Moscow Cats Theatre! The show is now a proper Broadway show, having moved to 44th St due thanks to its popularity. But it shares a space with some kind of evangelical church, and the theatre itself is quite small, with a stage decked in this lovely rainbow lame' curtain, so there's something a little seamy and old-school Times Square about it. The show itself--what can I say? It's this Russian clown and his many cats who run across the stage at odd intervals, do backbends on their front paws in the clown's palm, push baby buggies across the stage, and shimmy their way across broom handles using only their front legs. It's hilarious and weird. Highly recommended.
Last thing we did was dinner at the lovely Empire Diner in Chelsea,
where I finally got my bloody mary
and some mean homemade pig-in-a-blankets!