Some of my boys from college proposed a big New York weekend a while back, when they found out the UW would be playing Duke at the Madison Square Garden. In the end, only a few of us could actually make it, and the game turned out to be awful.
It did turn out, however, to be a great weekend of catching up with New York friends. I stayed with Fancy S and Belgie, who are awesome, lest I don’t say it enough.
So I own a sock-monkey hat, which people are very impressed with. I remember watching Harry Potter and seeing Luna Lovegood’s enchanted lion hat. What is the point, I thought, of NOT owning a goofy animal hat?
Seriously? Are there drawbacks? Head: warm. ears: warm. Onlookers: impressed.
Fancy S agreed, to the extent that she bought herself a sock monkey hat at a booth on St. Mark’s. She was happy! And warm! And halfway down the street, a little black girl walking with her mama tells Fancy S, “I like your hat!”
I didn’t have too many food objectives when I went to New York, but I did want to get a lox bagel from Pick-a-Bagel. Here’s a photo from my memory… So I made my way down to Battery Park City, past the WTC (Freedom Tower is going up nicely, finally) and got to Pick-a-Bagel, and it was CLOSED FOR RENOVATION. Guh.
Now by this time my left knee was stiff; all that New York walking. And to compensate for the left knee, my right ankle was getting all stiff as well. So I was moving slow.
Add to that, hungry, and disappointed that my favorite bagel place was closed. My phone told me that Shake Shake was around the corner, in the old Lili’s Noodle spot. So I got myself a shack burger with cheesy fries, cheese on the side. It was ok.
I walked by the Whiskey Tavern on Saturday, but it was packed with dozens of slutty and douchey Santas. Apparently Saturday was Santacon, which is a shit show. Sunday, however, was Santa-free, and when I walked into the Whiskey Tavern, Rob immediately greeted me from behind the bar. A few minutes later, another bartender was finishing a conversation he was having with another customer, exclaiming, “I almost made out with that guy!” indicating Rob. I looked him in the eye and said, “yah, I can see the appeal.” The other customer laughed into his beer.
Then the bartender shook his head, despondent, saying “the other day I saw him with his shirt off….” Rob was nowhere in sight, so this performance was for our benefit.
Next thing I know, Rob is sitting next to me, shaking my hand, commiserating with me about SantaCon. Even when I was living in Manhattan, I was only an occasional customer over a span of about four months (March Madness until I moved away in June). Then I was gone for a year and a half, and here’s Rob, shaking my hand, remembering my name.
Rob came by a little later, to say goodbye, asked if I’d be around when he came back from his errand. I doubt it, I said, but it was great to see you again. I finished my drink, chatted with the other bartenders… and there was a moment when we were all throwing ice cubes into another customer’s cleavage. I ordered a pickleback for old times’ sake, and it was delicious. When I went to settle my tab, they told me nope, the pickleback was on Rob.
This man keeps buying me a drinks! Is he trying to get me into bed? It’s probably not going to work… probably… I’d definitely help him move, or pick him up from the airport. I told another bartender, a younger guy, about the man-crush I was developing for Rob, and he said, “yah, get in line!” shaking his head in frustration.
The next day, I couldn’t resist, I went back for another pickleback before my flight. Rob teased me about showing up two days in a row, and about my sore leg, saying I was out of New York shape. He was impressed by my thank-you gifts for Fancy S and the Belgie… I had bought some asian pears, persimmons, and a dragon fruit on Bowery.
The asian pears were bigger than my fists, and so were the persimmons. I was practicing my Chinese with the vendor: four persimmons, four pears, and a dragon fruit. Four of these? he asked… and four of these? And four dragon fruit?
No no, I said, one dragon fruit.
Oh, he said, oh good. I was gonna say, four dragon fruit is pretty 厉害。 “厉害” (lìhai) is a funny word, it means something like “intense, hard-core,” or as my kiwi friends would say “full-on.” It made me wonder if dragon fruit had some kind of erotic properties. In any case, I only bought them one.
There are other stories to tell about my weekend in Manhattan, and some to keep to myself. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back, but I hope it’s soon. I’m definitely a Seattlite, and even if my career takes off and I can live the jetsetting lifestyle I’ve always dreamed of having, I’m sure I will stay in the 206. But I sure would love to spend some more time in New York.
This is the third and final installment of my retrospective series of slideshows from my life in New York City. Hope you enjoy it!
Music: You Go To My Head; Oscar Peterson meets Louis Armstrong.
Here’s a video of some of my photos from July to November 2009.
- Locations: Shanghai, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York City.
- Music: American Boy by Estelle
I will probably have two more photo mashup videos coming out in the next few days, and should have another one after my big road trip.
Speaking of the road trip, some more details are falling into place:
- My mama might ride along from Las Vegas to San Francisco, overnight stop in Mammoth Lakes.
- Three nights in San Francisco with cowsins; mama flies home to Vegas.
- Solo trip to Sacramento, stay at G’s place over night.
- Open road the next morning with G, up the Pacific Coast; stop when we get tired.
- Late lunch in Portland with G’s friends
- Arrive in Olympia.
Haven’t yet decided if I’ll spend that night in Seattle or Olympia. G flies back to Sacramento after the weekend; me, I’m back in Seattle to start work again.
It’s been an amazing 3 year adventure since I left Seattle; I intend to make this last leg of the journey as epic as possible.
I lived in Manhattan for 11 months, and I got to know a few spots. 11 months is not nearly enough to build any kind of definitive list, but it’s my list.
Whiskey Tavern I love this bar. I first came here for an Unfogged meetup; I came back for a Husky Basketball game and was introduced to the pickleback by Rob, bartender/owner. The place is right in Chinatown, next to the city jail. In fact, when folks are released from jail and interviewed by local news, the Whiskey Tavern is usually in the background. The drinks are stiff, everybody knows my name, and there’s lovely courtyard seating in the back.
Mudville 9 Saloon This was my neighborhood bar in Tribeca; it was our 206 Mondays bar for a while. Look out for towers of beer, and firehouse fries with bacon.
Rattle & Hum This is a UW Huskey bar in Murray Hill. Lot’s of local beers, good pub food.
Japas 38 My friends took me here for my 37th birthday. The private karaoke room with a big plate of fritanga was fun; the bar was even funner.
El Idolo This is a taco truck on West 14th Street. It’s pretty good as taco trucks go, although they use grocery store tortillas and an inexplicably large amount of shredded lettuce. It’s not the greatest, but it is the most Mexican place in what otherwise is a desert of texmex punishment. Some Yelpers hate the place because the taco “shells” aren’t even crunchy. Ho ho ho.
Pick A Bagel I’ve never been a fan of bagels, but this place serves a monster lox on poppyseed bagels with cream cheese, tomato, onion, and capers. Note: wait till lunch, when they have the salad bar open, that’s when you can get capers…. the big kind. I like this sandwich better here than the large but overly orderly version at Zucker’s in Tribeca.
Jackson Hole Gourmet burgers on the Upper West Side. I don’t really get the Wyoming reference.
Waldy’s I met cowsin F here, and on the day I was fired I met F here as well. It’s a wood fire pizza; the pies are oblong, and they have spiced oil to drizzle… just like in France! I like it better than the traditional New York places, and even better than Artichoke Pizza.
The Tuck Shop I came here first with cowsin M for a mince pie and a Cooper’s Stout. It was great to be able to get an honest Aussie Pie every once in a while.
Gogo Curry Japanese brown curry is my favorite way to eat curry…with a piece of katzu, over pillowy Japanese rice. Garment District.
Aura This is a Thai place trying to be a pan-asian place run by Thai people. Obviously their Thai dishes were the best. Garment District.
Woorijip 24 hour Korean cafeteria and noodle shop in Koreatown. Garment District.
The Frying Pan. Fried seafood, beer, and drinks on a docked boat on the Hudson River. I went there with M and Dr. Jazz when he was in town. It seemed pretty douchical the day we went, but I see the appeal.
Yakitori Taisho The food here was delicious. When I came, though, it was the dead of winter, and people kept standing in the damn door. I was the belligerent guy sitting on the corner of the bar yelling IN OR OUT.
The thing about Japanese food in America is that Japanese people consistently try to maintain the Japanese standard of their cuisine. They, more than any other ethnic group–Asian, Latin, European–seem to be the most careful about not dumbing down their food for American eaters. That’s not to say I haven’t eaten dumbed down Japanese food, but when I do get dumbed down Japanese food, it’s not Japanese people who have prepared it. Thank you, Japanese immigrants, for bringing us the real deal.
Udon West Also delicious, very authentic, very comforting.
King’s Head Tavern A seemingly British pub with Mexican candles in the East Village on East 14th. I would have gone there more if it were closer.
Shanghai Cafe How do I know this place is authentic? Because it reminded me of Shanghai. Specifically, the sweet flavors I don’t like. It’s not a huge deal to me, but the xiao long bao here were better than at Joe’s Shanghai. I’m annoyed that both places use big baskets instead of little ones.
Jimmy’s Burger Shack The mini burgers are good, the jumbos are good, whatever. The real story is the tater tots.
Soup Spot They have 17 soups on a rotating menu, but all I want is the lobster/salmon bisque.
Meyers of Keswic English Pork Pie. West Village/Meat Packing District.
Yello Free karaoke in the basement!
Asia Roma I love empty bars; this one was empty with good music and a pretty bartender.
I’ll update this list if I think of anything new.
This is my last post from Battery Park City, Manhattan, New York! Thanks to everyone who has been part of my life here; I hope too see you all again soon!
Take care of each other, and wish me luck!
I went to Manhattan Samba rehearsal, my last. We sang Inaye again. There were tacos at El Ídolo afterward, I got some tamales. P gave me a sopranino ukulele, which was totally unnecessary but also totally awesome. I stayed up late that night looking up ukulele chords, and fantasizing about buying tenor and baritone ukuleles.
Met L, L, B, and Cuicaman at Brazil Brazil Restaurant. I didn’t see them at first, they were around the corner at the end. But once I did find them we played all the toys we brought to watch the Brazil vs. Portugal game. On our end of the restaurant, we were watching the Univision broadcast, but all the other TVs were watching the Brazilian channel, which was delayed by a few seconds… we’d scream at a big play, and a few seconds later everyone else in the restaurant would scream as well. The game ended in a tie.
There was pandeiro, tamborim, agogo, ganza, cuica, and the restaurant had a surdo. During halftime we did a rather significant samba performance in the entry of the restaurant. Here’s video, if you’re FB friends with the Cuicastan.
After the game, we went to Drummer’s World, where I bought a brush.
Later, I met A, a SpanishPod listener! We watched the Chile vs. Spain game at Mudville 9 Saloon, and talked about soccer, accents (he’s Welsh!), and travel over chicken wings and firehouse fries. Later we walked to Battery Park and then up the Hudson to the Marina, where he took sailing lessons.
Afterward, I met S and O for dinner at Congee. We ordered a clam soup, steamed chicken and mushrooms with acai berries, pea leaves, and seafood chow mein with crispy noodles (not too much sauce!). Nothing fancy.
We went to Whiskey Tavern after that–my favorite bar in NYC. Rob the Bartender asked me why I was leaving, and bought us a round of picklebacks. A showed up, as did S. We sat on the back patio until they closed it, and then left for the Watering Hole for karaoke. There we met roomie J, A, Broadway J, and Tribeca J. It was pretty hopping, and we got our songs in, but the closed at 2am! So we moved to Karaoke One 7, and took over the place. Cabbed home.
So this woman responded to my ad about the bike; her and her husband showed up bright and early at 10am to come pick it up. They were aussie J and kiwi M, and they were both very beautiful and bright and happy and a little giggly about meeting me, and very enthusiastic about speaking Spanish to me. Later they told me they had listened to SpanishPod during their extended travels in South America. So here are these happy, beautiful people in my messy moving-out bedroom they morning after a very late and slightly boozy evening, telling me they enjoyed my podcasts! I threw in the bike related items like the lock, the chain, the pump, and the light/reflector set and immediately facebooked them. I spent all year with no Commonwealth friends in New York, and on my last weekend here I meet three people! And two of them live in my building! Oh well.
I had to duck out early to get ready for Brazilia Grill. I went home, where I saw the rest of the game, and then changed into my samba colors and met L and Maracuja at the PATH train. When we got to Newark, me and Maracuja made a bee-line to the salad bar. When it was time to play, I played much, much better than the first time. Afterward we trained back home with G and YUC.
I bought a lox bagel for breakfast, and on the way to the train, I bought a clippy water bottle and a peanut butter bar cookie for later. I trained up to Penn Station and then walked to the NYC Pride Parade rendez-vous at 6th Ave and West 38th. By now, I’ve already sweatted through my shirt. When I got there, Maracuja told us that the van was way up at West 45th and 5th Ave. So we walked up to get the drums, and then walked back to the line up and then waited. And waited. And waited. I took some video of the hurry up and wait period; there were drag queens, drumlines, activists, and revelers. When we finally got onto the street hours later, I saw a few conservative Christians holding ironic signs about sin. Along the route, two churches had water stations, which was awesome.
I just want to note that o Mestre and his buddies refer to this parade as “The Gay Parade.” And they love it and have plenty of wild stories.
After the parade, we walked the drums to West Street to wait for o Mestre to bring the van around. We waited quite a long time. S, P, and I ended up sitting on the sidewalk, and S ended up lying down on the pavement and taking a siesta. Then hoards and hoards of people started passing by, and P commented that first they’d look down at S crashed out on the pavement, and then they’d look at me. Many people assumed S was passed out drunk, and I was his drinking buddy. Because of the way he was lying, people usually looked down at S’s crotch. S seemed to enjoy that; I suggested that he sell some advertising. Down there.
Finally o Mestre showed up with the van and we loaded it up and said goodbye. P, L, Maracuja, F, and I went to the Corner Bistro for some delicious burgers and not very much ice water at all. It was perfect, because Corner Bistro was the first place I went with my new NYC coworkers almost exactly a year ago. Bookends.
Tomorrow I will pack. Doctor’s appointment. Last Samba New York! rehearsal. Tuesday I fly out to Vegas.
It’ s my last 4 days in New York City, and if you’re in town, and you’d like to see me before I go, please join me! Here’s the plan.
- 10 am World Cup Soccer, Brazil vs. Portugal. Meet at 9:30 at Brazil Brazil Restaurant.
- 2:30 pm World Cup Soccer, Chile vs. Spain and Switzerland vs. Honduras. Meet 2:00 at Mudville 9.
- 7 pm Dinner in Chinatown. Llocation to be determined
- 10 pm picklebacks at The Whiskey Tavern.
- 12 am karaoke party at The Parlour (Upper West Side)
- 2:30 pm World Cup Soccer, USA vs. Ghana. Location to be determined.
- 8 pm Manhattan Samba gig: Brazilia Grill (Newark, NJ). Meet at 6pm at PATH Station (World Trade Center)
- 12 pm Manhattan Samba gig: NYC Gay Pride Parade. 5th Avenue. Meet 11 am at 5th Ave and West 38th St.
Monday is reserved for a doctor’s appointment, a Samba New York! rehearsal, and packing/shipping belongings. Tuesday evening is my flight to Las Vegas! Let me know if you can join me for any of the events above!
It’s a little disturbing to have to ask, “where are your shoes?” and, “where are your pants?” Usually, however, hilarity ensues. I’ve had to ask these questions to little kids, students, and one goofy New Zealander, and the explanations have always been funny.
Last Saturday, when the samba caravan arrived at the Cape Verde community clubhouse in Bridgeport, CT ahead of schedule, people decided to kick the ball around the street. I noticed immediately that o Mestre had kicked his sandals off, and was on the rough, dangerous blacktop with his bare feet. And no, it absolutely did not look safe; there was sharp stuff everywhere.
“Where are your shoes?” I asked, and he explained just what I would have guessed; he grew up playing barefoot in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, and he was used to it. In the short time I’ve known him, he’s fallen on his shoulder, torn his finger open on a drum… not exactly an injury-free existence. Oh well, I thought, he’s grown.
We were too poor, he said, we didn’t have shoes.
So another motif that I find entertaining was “how poor were you, exactly?” In my family, my parents’ generation often regales us with entertaining stories of their past poverty.
So I asked o Mestre, did you have a ball?
No, he said, we made a ball out of a bull’s bladder. We stuffed it with socks and then played with it on the street.
I pointed out that he could have put the socks on his feet instead of stuffing them into a bull’s bladder, but that’s neither here nor there.
O Mestre is familiar with this poverty-as-entertainment motif as well, because he smiled as he gave us other examples of how poor he was. He said he used to go to a local farm and steal eggs. Duck eggs, chicken eggs, ostrich eggs, whatever, he stole them. Then he’d give those eggs to the single chicken that his family owned (he is the youngest of 20 kids) and the chicken would hatch them, and then the family had more birds. O Mestre’s mother would be surprised, but the kids pretended it was a miracle.
The chicken reminded me of the time my uncles, my dad’s cousins, were talking about “remember how angry the prostitute got when her chicken was missing?” Note that the woman is referred to as “the prostitute;” it seems in Sto. Tomás there was only one of every character: mayor, lawyer, teacher, police, prostitute, and thief; these professional titles were as good as last names to the townsfolk.
Anyway, here are some grown men with teenage daughters, giggling about how they were once teenagers stealing poultry. “I did not steal that goddamn chicken!” says uncle B. To this day, he denies it. “But it sure made a good arrozcaldo…”
My uncles were also accused of stealing bangus (milkfish) from the town fishponds. To teach them a lesson, they were made to stand in the fishpond, as a line of townsfolk stood in a line at the edge of the water, and then in unison started walking toward the fish thieves. As the line of people advanced, the fish started herding toward my uncles, eventually jumping and slapping them, in a scene that was harmless yet terrifying.
“So was it worth it?” asked S in her shrill voice. “Did you learn your lesson? Was it worth it to steal those fish?”
Uncle B chuckled, unrepentant, “yah it was worth it… the bangus from Sto. Tomás is really the best. It’s sweet… the meat is sweet…”