Notes on New York

I'm making a tradition out of traveling for my birthday, after a few consecutive years of high expectations followed by disappointing celebrations. Last year was a brief visit to Southern California to visit my brothers, with a couple days of sightseeing in Los Angeles. As soon as I got back I began making plans for New York, which I hadn't seen since 1994.

I was prepared to shell out for a stay in a hotel — but hooray for internet social networking, which, long story short, got me an invitation to stay in Brooklyn. Joshua was my gracious host, knowledgable tour guide, and subway navigator for eight days in the city. Thanks Joshua!

In no particular order:

- I relaxed my drinking ban and had a beer at the Dugout, and later at Ty's, where I ran into a couple of guys I recognized from Portland (small world, etc). Other bars visited: the Eagle (surprisingly low-key), the Cock (good DJ, but perhaps the $5 cover was to blame for the lack of patrons?), Nowhere ("Bear Essentials" drew a good Tuesday night crowd), and the Phoenix (chill place with a nice make-out bench).

- I got a couple of invitations (more internet social networking) to the Assume Vivid Astro Focus opening party at Deitch Projects, but couldn't make it, which was fine I suppose, since I didn't have an appropriate outfit to wear anyway. Instead I wound up at a crowded party at a fancy Soho loft which I was told was owned by the owner of Gawker. I met Paul, who was friendly, but most of the other people there seemed pretty boring, and since it was too loud to start up a smalltalk conversation with strangers, I was unable to test the assumption.

- Joshua and I rode the train upstate to Dia:Beacon, an old Nabisco factory converted into a museum which is installed with extravagantly large and very highbrow art. A museum visitor warned Joshua about entering one of the gargantuan Richard Serra sculptures, "don't bother, there's nothing in there." We went inside anyway:


If there is such a thing as extravagant minimalism, this is the place for it. Mostly, it left me cold, but I did enjoy the gallery of Bernd and Hilla Becher photographs, and the exhibit of creepy/sexy Louise Bourgeois sculptures.

- Visits to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, Die Neue Galerie, MoMA, and a rainy day zigzagging between 10th and 11th Avenues in the Chelsea gallery district. The exterior of the Guggenheim was hidden behind scaffolding, and inside was a zoo, packed to capacity with visitors literally tripping over Cai Guo-Qiang's installations of arrow-studded tigers and broken crockware.

- Spent way too much money shopping for new clothes at Nom de Guerre, Odin, Uniqlo, and especially Dunderdon. They make sturdy, simple workwear-inspired clothes for people like me, who don't have the burly shoulders to fit into actual workwear made for actual blue collar workers.

- I'm not a new-ager but I want one of these crystal lamps:

- Bekah is my only high school friend who I still keep in touch with. We met for lunch at a diner in her neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Not the most flattering photo, but keep in mind that she had gotten no sleep the night before — busy working on a research project for a demanding Hollywood director, and also preparing to host her extended family who were on their way to see her Ph.D. graduation ceremony. Yes, she's a bit of an overacheiver.

- Prospect Park is lovely, especially the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. This plant is called 'Banana Cream Allusion':

- I got my hair cut by a Russian lady at an untidy barbershop that had the ambiance of a small factory.

- I noticed a disturbing number of parents pushing strollers with children who looked completely old enough to walk on their own.

- I think my favorite building in New York is the Central Public Library. Check out the hot typesetter.

- It took a bit of searching, but my craving for an authentic knish was satisfied at Yonah Shimmel's on E. Houston on the Lower East Side.

- Other good food included highbrow amuse bouches at WD-50, the kind of place where the staff spoke with foreign accents, the clientele was a mix of expense account types and snooty Europeans, and the menu is intentionally "provocative". But damn, those bone marrow and foie gras appetizers were tasty.

Pork buns at the trendy noodle shop Momofuku (cross-cultural observation: the arms of New York foodservice workers are surprisingly free of tattoos; here in Portland a chef won't be taken seriously unless he's got at least one full sleeve).

Comfort food at the uncomfortably crowded Westville.

Organic cookies at Birdbath Neighborhood Green Bakery, where the "sustainable" ethic reminded me of home — except that in Portland you'd never see a group of several fashionably dressed black ladies in high heels buying hippie food.

Hopefully it will be less than 14 years before I visit New York again. And Joshua, I'm already making a list of things to do for when you come to visit me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John, I really enjoyed reading this blog entry. I absolutely LOVE NYC, and try to go as often as I can. I'm in Georgia. One place you have to visit next time your there is the Frick Museum. It's my favorite place to go, and I think you'll enjoy it. I agree with you about the knish. Shimmel's is my favorite too. Check this out, you should get a kick out of it.
www.savetheknish.org
The other restaurant you have to try some time is Cite'. It's a "wine dinner" kind of place, and I have always had a great dinner there. It'll surprise you.

Thanks for the nice stroll down memory lane.