My Last Weekend in NYC

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

At 2pm, roomie J and I went to Boss Tweed Saloon in the Lower East Side to watch the USA vs. Ghana.  We ordered Mikey Burgers, which are topped with corned beef hash, onions, and pickled mustard seed.

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.

Sunday

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.

Who wants a piece of me?

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.

FRIDAY

  • 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)

SATURDAY

  • 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)

SUNDAY

  • 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!

When We Were Poor

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…”

Glorious Weekend

I haven’t had this much sustained, consecutive days of fun since J, Cookie, B and I went to Taiwan.   (I miss those guys)

Project Friday

S texted me at 8:30 in the morning to meet at her house to watch USA vs. Slovenia.  As I was leaving I grabbed the full bag of maseca that C had sent me, to regift to S.   I was running late, so I took a cab there; I’m so fancy.  After the match, S, Belgie, and D all went to Jane.  D and I ordered the moules frites:

S ordered a big burger and Belgie had some crab something.  After lunch we stopped at the store for ice cream and then back to S’s place to watch the afternoon match (England vs. Algeria).

After that S and I went crazy… we decided to take on a project:  fresh corn tortillas.

We found a tortilla press at the kitchen store.  Then we hit Citerella for some supplies, and returned to the apartment.

We weren’t hungry, but we made a snack with a tomato and some fresh garlic that smelled like love.

After that, we made the tortillas.  There’s a photo series of the process here.  The final product looked like this:

We made tacos with some pan fried cod.  Oh yes, and with deep fried soft shell crab:

It was delicious.  Friday ended up being a glorious day, with a delicious project and very little hunger.  There was also some vodka and soda involved.

Saturday

I met P at the Chambers St. Station at 11am.  We got on the 2 train to Brooklyn and met Maracuja and L on the subway platform.  From there we took another subway to Sunset Park, and walked up the street to Pacificana and had dim sum.  I sat at the point position and put on my dim sum boss persona.  The dim sum was better than the place in Manhattan I had been to before; the shrimp wasn’t too shrimpy.  Most of the dishes were greatest hits, although L was pretty excited about some “jack fruit” cookies.  We worked out later that ‘jack fruit” is durian.  Later some durian pockets came by, and we tried a little plate.

Durian is funny.  One second I smell it, and it smells like fruit; the next second it smells like butt.  L said, “you know, sooner or later, everybody’s gotta eat a little but.”  I told her I’d write that down.

Anyway, the durian pockets grossed everyone out.  I didn’t finish mine.

After Pacificana, we took a long walk through Brooklyn.  We stopped at Sunset Park and pulled out our emergency instruments:

We continued our walk thorough Brooklyn, past the cemetery, where we saw some of the famous Brooklyn parrots.  L and P went on a mission for horchata and jamaica concentrate.  Later P, Maracuja, and I ended up in Prospect Park, playing pandeiro until our hands turned to claws.

Sunday

I don’t even know how to start to describe Sunday.  It started with a lox, cream cheese, tomato, onion, and capers on a toasted poppyseed bagel:

I got in the car with Rafaele o italiano, and Aussie Larissa, and we followed o Maestro in his minivan all over the Bronx to find o vadinho, all the while listening to the Italy vs. New Zealand match on the radio.

Finally we found o vadinho and drove up to Bridgeport, CT.  Our gig was at the Cape Verde clubhouse, where they had blocked off the street with a sound truck, set out a big screen, and then had the Brazil vs. Ivory Coast projected on the wall in the dance hall.  We started watching the game playing a little pandeiro, but once Brazil started scoring, the real drums came out.

Unfortunately the drummerazzi came out as well, and they followed us when we went outside and played on the street.

After the gig, I rode home with Rafaele o italiano, who explained an elaborate theory of how FIFA is totally fixed.  And that his name is really Ralph.

Later I had a pork chop noodle soup.

Later Maracuja confided in me that he was disappointed in the gig.  For me, though, it was another wild experience with these New York characters who I’ll have to say goodbye to later this week.

And that was my glorious weekend.

Today I scrubbed out the bathroom and tried to find a someone to sublet.  I went to Samba New York class, and thai food afterward, as usual.  I ordered crispy noodle, which was no longer crispy because they drowned it in sauce.

Finally, here’s a look at some feijao tropeiro, which is delicious.

When I Get To Vegas

Here’s what I’m going to do when I get to Las Vegas…

  • buy new socks and underwear
  • make fresh corn tortillas with my mama
  • buy new shoes
  • practice pandeiro a lot, maybe learn repinique
  • learn something new, maybe even take a class
  • whiten my teeth
  • learn ukulele… maybe buy a tenor or baritone
  • make Las Vegas friends
  • make feijao tropeiro
  • buy a loud pandeiro, either this one or this one
  • make pickles

What day is it?

Thursday, the day before yesterday, was the first day of my summer break.  I met F at La Superior in Williamsburg to watch the Mexico vs. France game.

After the game I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge, explored the Lower Eastside a little.  I even stopped for 小混沌.

Later there was rehearsal with Manhattan Samba.  I sold my caixa to P.  Had great tamales at El Ídolo.

Yesterday I enjoyed my the first Friday of my two month weekend.  It was glorious.  More later.

Leisurely

All we have to do now Is take these lies,
And make them true, somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don’t belong to you,
And you don’t belong to me!

Yesterday, I cleaned out my desk at the office and left the Innovative Language Office for the last time! I was happy to accept the severance package and have the rest of the summer off. The bosses expressed some concern for my future; they don’t know that I have a getaway car revving it’s engine in the alley.

I went over to the studio and said goodbye to Jake, and then met Fernando at Waldy’s for some ovoid wood-fire pizzas, as we caught the first period of South Africa vs. Uruguay.

Later I met P at Guitar Center to look at drums. We looked around there, and Drummer’s World in Times Square, and then decided, screw it, I’ll sell him my own gear. So then we were in Times Square and my hunger was telling me it was time for protein. Grr!

So P says, “Let’s go to Hawaiian Tropic, the girls are pretty there!” And I said, ok! What can I eat there? And P said, hmm, let’s go to the Stardust!.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner is where Broadway actors wait tables and belt out songs for delighted tourists. The place was packed with overweight small town Americans (like me), eating their burgers and salads. The wait staff worked hard, serving everybody while belting out the Broadway classics. It was a spectacle. If I’m ever back in this town with wide-eyed, white shoes-wearing, camera and water bottle toting tourist who wants to see some American razzle dazzle I’ll take them there.

Then I came home and bought a one-way ticket to Vegas, and found a spot on the calendar for my own going away party.

The coolest thing about yesterday was sharing the good news about my paid summer of leisure. I told my family first, then my closest friends, colleagues of course, and then finally Facebook and this blog. Some people in Asia and Australia found out before I was able to text some folks here in Manhattan. It made me realize how thankful I am that people from far away have kept in touch.

Anyway, all this is very new; people keep asking me about the plan, and the plan is I don’t know what the plan is. I liked New York to begin with, but I have a feeling I’m going to like it even better now that I’m not working 10:00 to 7:00.

That song above that I quoted, it came out in the spring of 1990, when I was graduating from high school, and has followed me throughout my adult life as a kind of victory song.

Tonight: dinner with friends, samba rehearsal, tacos after, who knows. I might go to La Superior in bBurg this afternoon for Mexico vs. France. It seems like a nice day to walk, actually…