Saturday, May 16, 2015

Well-Heeled

"There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."
-Madeleine Albright

I had been living in New York for about a year when the show 2 Broke Girls first came out. In one episode, the character Caroline arrives in a chic uptown apartment building and promptly removes her flat boots, takes out a pair of shiny, white and gold platform heels and changes her shoes, putting the flats in her bag.

Her friend Max stands next to her, befuddled:"You always have those with you?"
Caroline responds: "Yes, I'm from Manhattan."

Though I haven't watched the show since then, I still think of it every time I bring a pair of heels with me somewhere. After all, in my old apartment I lived .75 miles from the train; in my new one, I live .8 miles away. I don't mind the distance in flats, of course, but heels are not an option unless I want to arrive at my destination a cripple. And I do like wearing heels personally, so I bring them along. In a city like New York where walking is an integral part of getting anywhere, it's better for your health this way.  Learning this is "the way" is also a rite of passage. You're taught by your foremothers (or sometimes your actual mother) that you pop your heels into your bag; I remember teaching a friend this who was staying with me and going on job interviews. We like to feel good in heels but we also need walk long distances, so this is how we do it.
Melanie Griffith changes out of her sneakers and into
heels in this scene from the movie Working Girl (1988).
Yesterday was another day of heels-in-the-bag, for a morning art gallery preview. It simply was not a time when I wanted to wear flats. The shoes I chose for today were terracotta wedges with a peep-toe and laces. Definitely not shoes in which I could walk long distances, but short distances, like around a gallery, are just fine. I changed into them on a bench in front of a French restaurant across the street from the gallery, gingerly stepping off of the curb, tottering across 10th Avenue, and tip-toeing across the crags of a Chelsea sidewalk. I even took out my headphones so I could concentrate on the task, much to the chagrin of the Amy Winehouse radio station I had previously been enjoying. You really don't notice how jagged and treacherous a New York sidewalk is until you're called upon by the fashion gods or just your own masochism to brave it in platform heels. Why bother with the heels at all? you might ask. Well, that's how I wanted to wear my outfit, and that's what made me feel good this morning.

Ultimately I arrived safely at the gallery and had a look around at the exhibition. Then found my seat for a discussion the artist would be having with a curator from a local museum.

I should mention the gallery preview was of a feminist artist who, in her 40-some-odd year career, has chosen to examine sexuality, gender, and power. Her new work on display featured nude paintings of men and women in a variety of footwear, many in high heels.

In the discussion, the artist remarked, perplexed and perhaps even disappointed, on the absurdity of young girls wearing heels. It was modern-day corsetry, modern-day footbinding, she said, self-imposed for the desires of men. She may as well have shaken her head and looked down in shame, worrying what to do about the younger generation. I stared down at my wedges, and caught the eye of a girl sitting across the aisle from me. She was wearing fabulous bright silver stilettos. We stared at each other and raised our eyebrows, smiling mischievously at each other in unapologetic bemusement. We were easily two of the youngest people in the room. I stared at the artist's shoes: black, rubbery clogs worn with green and black striped socks. I stared back at my shoes and then the girl's shoes. It was funny, I didn't think when I got up that morning I would be using my heels as a metaphor for feminism by lunchtime.

We could get into a lot of discussions here, about feminism; about personal style and taste; about the politics of fashion; about the practicality of fashion; about podiatry, and the list goes on forever. Each of these conversations has been beaten to death. At the end of the day, the thing I love about my favorite New York women is how tough and powerful they are in and out of four-inch stilettos. They conduct business meetings in heels simply because that's how they like to conduct meetings. They don't do it for men, they do it for themselves. And if you can be a CEO or an editor-in-chief just like a man can AND do it in high heels, doesn't that make you all the MORE powerful? Being a woman wearing rubbery clogs doesn't make one any less a tool of the patriarchy than being one who's casting judgment upon other women, especially for their appearance.

I gave the girl across the aisle a thumb's up. 

Later, on the street, I caught sight of myself in my heels in a glass storefront. Damn, I thought, I look good. And I carried on with my day, running my own business, as usual.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Awkwafina's NYC and Me

It was a late March afternoon in 2013, and SC had come to visit me from Boston. We were sitting at my dining room table scrolling through Facebook and watching YouTube videos. A Facebook friend, the wonderful Oriana Leckert of the blog Brooklyn Spaces, posted the video "NYC Bitche$," featuring a hilariously loudmouth girl with long dark hair and giant glasses bitching about New York City transplants. We thought it was hilarious and I needed to know more about her. Who was she? A short rabbit hole into the internet later, we figured out she was Awkwafina, a rapper based in Brooklyn. She also had another hilarious video called "My Vag," a parody (though much better) of Mickey Avalon's "My Dick." Apparently she had already been written up in The Hairpin, Bust, and a few other lady-centric websites for "My Vag," a song she would later call simply "a crass celebration of having a vagina," with no feminist agenda. I liked her. She was not afraid to make fun of herself, and I couldn't remember the last time I saw a rapper reading a Joan Didion book in a music video. I knew I had to write about her. I pitched New York Magazine's The Cut and my pitch was accepted. I had been wanting to write for the vertical for years, and after many rejected or unnoticed pitches, it was my first big story there.

I met Awkwafina, whose name I would learn was Nora, at a coffee shop in the East Village. She had a deep, throaty voice and red lipstick and lots of take-no-shit native New Yorker attitude. She was more badass than I could really ever hope to be, and I instantly liked her and admired her. After the interview, we took some pictures outside, which I hoped the site would publish with my piece. I was overjoyed to find out later that they would. The piece came out and became one of the most-read articles on the site that week. My editors were happy with it, Nora was happy with it, and that's really all that mattered to me.

After that, Nora was kind enough to invite me to her birthday and to be in a music video she recorded that summer. And then, a few months later, she emailed me to tell me she had a project for me if I was interested, and to call her. Intrigued, I picked up the phone. She had a book deal, she said, to write an anti-tour guide to New York, and she wanted me to take the pictures. Yes, I said, my brain flying through space, wondering how this was possible. We would be working on a book together.

The next few months were a whirlwind of things like early morning trips to the Staten Island Ferry; accidentally walking down the Brighton Beach boardwalk with a woman who wanted to show us her home, though by home it turned out she meant a suitcase on the beach; trying not to get caught taking pictures with giant bags of durian in a mall in Flushing; and taking pictures of Nora taking selfies on top of the Empire State building. From the heat of August to the wild, frosty winds of December, we threw ourselves into the five boroughs. And I loved absolutely every second of it. I would not trade one alarm clock buzz for any day we spent laughing and taking pictures with a variety of hosts all across the city. Not only that, but I got to see parts of the city I maybe still would never have gotten around to seeing otherwise.

And now, there's a book to show for all of it, Awkwafina's NYC. The ever-hilarious Nora wrote a phenomenal guide to New York City that can show even native New Yorkers what's rad about their hometown but literally makes my laugh echo through my apartment and has me clutching my sides in agony from laughing so hard. I am so proud to have my pictures in her clever, thoughtful book. Awkwafina's NYC is available on Amazon, in Barnes & Noble, at The Strand Bookstore, and everywhere else books are sold, pretty much. It was a crazy experience to walk into the Barnes & Noble in Union Square and find a book with my name in it on sale; also McNally Jackson, one of my favorite independent bookstores in the city. 

The book cover and the inside title page
Finding it at McNally was especially funny because the clerk at the information desk said of Nora, "Oh yeah, she went to high school with my friend." I love that Nora's gotten to this point where people are saying their friends sort of, by extension, maybe kind of know her. And why wouldn't they? She's part of the cast of MTV's Girl Code; whenever her videos come out they're on the likes of Jezebel and BUST; she's on the radio; and I've even overheard "My Vag" (perhaps appropriately?) at a burlesque show. Whenever someone (wrongly) names Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York" the song of the city, someone somewhere on the internet (rightly) points them to Nora's "NYC Bitche$." AND she's a verified account on Twitter and Facebook. If that isn't making it in our digital age, I don't know what is. I'm just happy I could even remotely be a part of the journey.

This Thursday, come on down to the official Awkwafina's NYC release party at Baby's All Right in Williamsburg. Tickets are $15, and they're available online here. Festivities start at 7pm and end at 9:30. Nora will be signing books, there will be DJs, videos, hilarity and, to use Nora's phrasing, general ratchetry. So stop on by and say hello! And buy the book, dammit :)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My New York in Two Hours

Sometimes you have only a short time to spend with a dear friend to show them your New York (because there is no one New York experience and the city is different for everyone!), and you don't want to monopolize their time. So if you come to visit me and ask me to show you my New York in two hours, here is one sampling of what we might do together--and feel free to use this brief (yet lovely, in my humble opinion) travelogue for yourself!

Meet at...

Staley-Wise Gallery
560 Broadway at Prince Street, #305
20 Minutes
Price Range: Free!

The Staley-Wise Gallery is one of my favorite galleries in New York. It has a focus in fine art fashion photography, with the likes of legends Herb Ritts, Horst P. Horst, David LaChapelle and infinite others in their collection. There's currently a fabulous show on featuring images from the archive of Bert Stern, the photographer who did the legendary last sitting with Marilyn Monroe. I had the pleasure once of meeting Mr. Stern before he passed away, and you can read about that here. The gallery is beautifully curated and small but specialized, making it perfect for your mini-intro to my New York.

Walk 6 minutes to...

Brunch/Lunch:
Lovely Day
196 Elizabeth Street between Prince Street and Spring Street
45 Minutes
Price Range: $9.50-$17

I found Lovely Day by accident while out for a walk one day with EH. We were going to try another joint, but there was a line out the door and no place to sit! I couldn't have been happier that this happened though after our meal at Lovely Day. The restaurant serves foods that infuse Thai cooking into a variety of international comfort foods, resulting in things like an egg white fritatta with shiitake mushrooms or buttermilk pancakes with lime palm sugar syrup for brunch. The space is small, with shabby-chic floral wallpaper, a lunch counter with red barstools, and red booths. The staff is friendly and when you ask if the man who was sitting next to you was Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, they'll say no, that wasn't him, but he does come here a lot and he did look like him, though. Lovely Day is an  unpretentious neighborhood staple serving delicious, inexpensive, and unique dishes. I can't wait to take you there!

Walk 6 minutes to...

Think Coffee
1 Bleecker Street at Bowery
5 Minutes

We're just stopping to grab a coffee/tea at this branch of thoughtful, social and environmentally responsible, independently owned coffee franchise Think Coffee. I chose this branch because I will want to show you where legendary punk club CBGB-OMFUG used to be, right across the street at 315 Bowery. It's now a John Varvatos store but the location is important to be because the DIY, fuck-you spirit of the CBGB scene is one of the reasons I moved to New York.

Walk 13 minutes to...

101 Astor Place
25 Minutes
There's nothing really special at this location besides the fact that it's a new plaza with lots of seating and great people watching. We'll sit and stare at the folks leaving St. Mark's. On the way here, I'll tell you about Cooper Union and the Village Voice office, about the horrible yuppy bars and what the East Village used to be like in the 1970s. Then we'll sit and talk and catch up and drink our coffee and/or tea. Shortly you'll have to leave--the 6 train is close by, and so is the N and the R, so you can get to the east or west sides of town with no problem. But it will have been so lovely to spend even two hours with you and share part of the city I love so much, and thereby part of myself, with you. Maybe next time you come back we'll be able to see each other for more time, but even if you don't I promise to have something just as lovely planned for you then, too! I'm always happy to see you, even if for a short while. Have a safe trip home!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Noreetuh: A Playground for Your Mouth

Not too long ago, a headline from The Village Voice online included the phrase "Hawaiian food." I was intrigued, and clicked to find images of bright yet minimalist presentations of the creations from Noreetuh, a new restaurant in the East Village. Always excited about food that veers away from the ordinary, I added it to a mental list of places to try.

Last week I had the pleasure of being able to partake in an evening at Noreetuh with SJT. I was excited that the menu appealed to him and we made our way there. The restaurant opened last month at 128 First Avenue, between St. Mark's and 7th Streets. It defines itself as "casual Hawaiian," and features a menu created by Chef Chung Chow, a former sous chef at the legendary Per Se, who grew up in Hawaii and spent time in Japan. Chow and his partners Gerald San Jose and Jin Ahn all co-own Noreetuh, which means "playground" in Korean, and which SJT and I would learn fits the cuisine so, so well.

We were welcomed by the host (who I'd later find out was San Jose himself) at the door with a warmth that carried through with the rest of the staff the entire evening. I felt like I was talking to an old friend! Interestingly, that made me even more excited about the food. SJT and I sat down at a sleek wooden table for two and began casting our eyes about the menu. We resolved to share all of our courses, but we had some questions for our waiter (food appreciators though we are, we are not experts). What is musubi? What is a torchon? He answered knowledgeably and kindly: musubi is sushi-like, in that it involves rice wrapped with seaweed, but their version is more of a handroll. I've since learned that Spam musubi is a common Hawaiian snack, though at Noreetuh they prepare it with brined corned beef tongue, cilantro, and peanuts. We will have that please! And torchon, it turns out, is a kind of pate; in this case, made from the liver of a monkfish, served with pear, cilantro, and passionfruit with toasted King's Hawaiian roll slices for spreading. We will also have that, please! For our main course, we decided on the mochi-crusted fluke served with bok choy, kabocha squash, and black bean.

The corned beef musubi was salty, but in a fantastic way--the blend of the seaweed, the brine and the natural meat flavor with the cilantro was killer, and that extra crunch of those slightly sweet crushed peanuts took it to a more thoughtful level and broke up the salt. In the order there were two pieces--I don't know about SJT but I may or may not have actually licked my fingers when I was finished.

The queen of my heart this evening was far and away our next course, the monkfish liver torchon. And to think, at the beginning of dinner I didn't even know what torchon was! The pate was smooth and, to use the waiter's words, "oceanic," in that it tasted slightly of ocean water, but wasn't at all fishy. The buttery King's Hawaiian bread, even as an inside joke of sorts, was a perfect compliment, as were the acidic sweetness of the pear and passion fruit. I had visions of SJT and I popping in there on an evening after work to have glasses of wine (from their extensive wine list curated by General Manager Jin Ahn) and monkfish liver torchon as if we were ladies who lunch having caviar and champagne. But really, the former was just as good as the latter, and at least the torchon had a sense of humor! I found myself carving the plate with my fork so none of it would be left uneaten. Thankfully SJT didn't judge me.

The mochi-crusted fluke was light and slightly crunchy, and it was lively dipped into the subtle squash and black bean drizzles. All of that together on a fork with the tangy bok choy, though, was the best--loud and quiet flavors (and sounds! Ha!) all in one mouthful. "Come to me, bok choy!" SJT said as he scooted a stalk to his plate.

We didn't know if maybe we'd have another savory dish after the fluke, but we decided on something sweet instead, in the form of a brûléed Hawaiian pineapple. Served in a quarter of the fruit, leaves and all, the flesh was scored and topped with lime zest and 'alaea salt. 'Alaea salt is often referred to as Hawaiian salt, and is unrefined sea salt mixed with red alae volcanic clay. We cracked into the top with spoons as if it were creme brûlée--sour, sweet, and fun!

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend checking out Noreetuh. I love how they take Hawaiian traditions and the cuisine's Japanese, Korean, and Filipino influences and make them their own--for example, there's aformentioned corned beef musubi, but there's also a Spam tortelloni. And honestly, I'd normally be turned off by the sound of anything involving Spam, but after seeing how they look at and prepare food, I'm not scared anymore. I'll even try the tripe, for goodness sake! Noreetuh has earned my trust, my tastebuds and definitely my loyalty.

Noreetuh
128 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10009
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Here's to You, Pam

Standing on the 4/5 train subway platform at 86th Street, she was a petite woman with a light brown pixie cut. In front of her eyes sat emerald-colored frames and around her lithe, little frame was wrapped a puffy raisin-colored coat that, well, also made her look kind of like a raisin. Her skin, toned perhaps a shade darker from the sun, laid in soft creases on her face and hands. She wore jeans, and funny little black, squarish, leather mary janes on her feet.

She waited for the train next to the poster for BAM's The Iceman Cometh starring Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane, and then a man walked by, to stand on the other side of the poster. He was tall, with whitish-silver hair that ran down his neck. His eyes, like hers, creased behind a pair of frameless glasses as he turned to look at the poster. She saw him turn to look, and after a few seconds she said something like, "It looks good, doesn't it?"

"Yeah!" he said. He was visiting from out of town and was looking for some things to do on his trip. He had lived in New York for 30 years, he said, but then picked up everything and moved to Los Angeles and has now lived there for 30 years. He likes the weather much better there, he says. On a frigid winter day like this one, as I stand under the ground with a bunch of other people clutching their arms in desperate attempts for even miniscule warmth, I cannot blame him.

She moves closer and asks more about his trip (for business), and how long he is in town. By this time, I'm guessing she has already noticed he is not wearing a wedding ring. They chat, converse easily, and the train comes. We all get in the same car, and I try to cling to the last gasps of wireless that make my music come through my headphones, but to no avail. Instead, I listen to their conversation. Like a real creep, maybe, but I'd argue it's really more of just being someone whose work regularly involves observing others. At this point, it's not something I can just turn off. I'm really happy this time I didn't. I stared straight ahead, pretending not to listen, every so often turning my head to see their faces.

They hold onto the same pole. She asks questions and he responds, and vice versa. "I'm Pam, by the way," she says, holding out a slim, wrinkled hand. I forget his name now, but let's call him Phil. "Phil," he says. "Very nice to meet you, Pam." Pam guides the conversation deftly, never an awkward "Um," "Ah," "Er" or what have you. She is from Brooklyn, born and raised. He is from Manhattan originally. Chat turns back to The Iceman Cometh. He was thinking of going, he said. It might be nice to have something to do one of the nights I'm here.

"I hope you don't think I'm too forward," Pam says without missing a beat. "But I'd love to go with you if you happen to go."

Flustered for a moment, he offers a non-committal, "Yeah, well, I really don't know what I'm doing, so..."and I sort of hate him. I have a moment of stepping out of myself and realizing how invested I am in Pam's conquest. But she appears completely unphased by the comment and stands there confidently. Seeing her, and almost embarrassed by his own attempt at nonchalance, he fumbles with his phone, a silver Blackberry-looking thing he says he still doesn't know how to operate very well and says, "But let me get your number and I'll let you know." In my brain I think, "Go Pam Go! Go Pam Go!" She recites her phone number and he types it in diligently as we zoom between the 42nd Street and 14th Street stops.

At 14th Street, Pam says this is her stop and that she has to go. "Maybe I'll see you soon," she says to Phil, calm and cool. I also have to get off at this stop, and while I'm waiting to go up the stairs, Pam happens to be next to me. "Good for you!" I say to her.
"You heard that entire thing?" she laughs, slightly embarrassed.
"Yeah, it was awesome!" I said. "I haven't had the nerve to do something like that in my entire life."
She smiles and laughs.
"I'd call you!" I say, smiling back and walking away from her to catch the L."Have a good day!"

I don't know if Phil ever called her, but I hope he did. I have visions of them wearing black turtlenecks and slacks and bundled under their coats walking in to see Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy fully immersed into O'Neillian misery. But more than that, I have visions of Pam walking through the Union Square train station smiling a little to herself and thinking, "I still got it!"

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Galifornia, Part III: A Mission, A Castro, An L.A. Woman

I'm gonna narrate this one in photo form...enjoy!

My last day in San Francisco brought us to the Mission. We began with a breakfast at Boogaloos, a neighborhood staple since 1994. This brunch joint is decorated with album covers all featuring some variation on the phrase 'boogaloo.' Over polenta with eggs and french toast, we discussed gentrification in the neighborhood. You can learn more about that here. The Make-Out Room, above, is a club and concert venue in the area.


Walking through the Mission, there's a host of wonderful independently owned businesses like secondhand bookstores, traditional bakeries of all ethnicities, and an old-school coffee joint or two. There are also those tell-tale signs the aforementioned gentrification--overly minimalist coffee houses serving $5 cups, farm-to-table bistros serving $5 slices of pie (really? come on, guys...), and juice bars. Just like the East Village in New York became the playground of one too many yuppie types who have little to no regard for its punk roots, the Mission is feeling the beginning of a similar heat. Residents regularly speak out against the changes through a variety of community efforts, sometimes even through murals on the neighborhood's main streets. A number of murals like these also appear down Balmy Alley (photos below), where residents have created artwork depicting their dissatisfaction (to say the least) with the skyrocketing rents and loss of community and history.






After visiting Balmy Alley's bright and powerful murals, we went to Dolores Park to meet up with SC, who I hadn't seen since high school. He invited us to join a crew of his hanging out there that day. Dolores Park is the San Francisco equivalent of Sheep's Meadow in Central Park, where it feels like every 20-something within a five mile radius has set up camp for the afternoon. People sit on blankets, drink beer, hang out with their dogs, listen to music, get really stoned after both taking a hit of the biggest joint they've ever seen and eating half a weed chocolate truffle. You know, the usual. I'm told this is a very San Francisco experience, especially when you follow it up with giant burritos from the classic Taqueria El Farolito as we did. 



Making our way home, we ended up caught in a giant crowd watching--but mostly just shoving their way through to get elsewhere--the Chinese New Year Parade. AS and I tried to hold on to each other tightly, but we got separated at some point after my shoulder popped in and out of its socket (don't worry, this happens to me relatively often because my joints are crazy). Eventually, we found each other at the end of what seemed like a tunnel of people and found our way inside. We had a pretty sweet view of the parade from up above, like this dragon!


We relaxed for a bit and then found our way to meet up with the incredible JH in the Castro, San Francisco's gayborhood. On the way there, JH texted me to ask if I would like to be greeted in heels or light-up sneakers. I thought he was joking, but when I arrived he pulled his four-or-five inch heels out of his bag. Long and lean, he and his fabulous legs towered over us, a smash of blue eyeshadow on his face and a Virgin Mary tank top over his chest. Stick a fork in me, I thought, because I am DONE. I had just deliciously died and gone to heaven and JH was at the Pearly Gates to let me in. But then we took the dance floor--nay, JH took the dance floor and made it his bitch, swirling his luscious legs as we danced to Kylie, Madonna, Beyonce, Britney and of course Mother RuPaul herself. I doubt I will ever see anyone drop it and pick it up like that ever again in my lifetime.

We briefly visited the sex toy store next door, called Does Your Mother Know, where we had intellectual discussions about the safety of glass dildos and what color bandanas we should wear in our back pockets (AS and I decided we should wear lavender in our back left pockets because we like drag queens).




The next day I was off to Los Angeles, but not before we took a brief trip to the rather hilariously named Ocean Beach for view-having and milkshakes. 

 

Arriving in L.A. the wonderful GD picked me up from the fucking crazy airport at LAX. Fun fact--there are no taxi lines and all the cabs fight with each other and with regular traffic to find customers. It is quite literally a shitshow. There was no way I was letting her take me back there for my return flight to New York. 

Before heading to GD's home we dined at the lovely Black Cat. Veggie tapas and gossip were the order of the day. Both tasted delicious, especially the burrata with haricot verts. It's really lovely to catch up with GD in person and hear about all of the amazing stuff she's doing in Los Angeles. You should check her out too (here and here). We've now been friends for nearly 11 years and now that she lives far away I value the time I get to spend with her even more.

Post Black Cat, we hang out with a grey cat, the love of GD's life, her cat Alabama Worley (so named, of course, after Patricia Arquette's character in the Tarantino classic True Romance) and watch the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix.


The next day I hang out with GD at her office at Buzzfeed Studios. The company converted an old grocery store into an entire soundstage with several sets and prop storage. Most of the Buzzfeed sketches you see online are filmed here. Below is their bar set and one portion of their costume/prop area.


Visiting an office is fun, but after a while, of course, you just don't want to be in the way. So I was happy, as I had planned to make a visit to LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The building takes up space on a campus that's just as sprawling as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, if not more so. The museum was built in 1965, so much of the architecture reflects that sort of space-age 1960s vibe. While the exterior and its sculptures were in themselves rewarding enough to make the whole museum trip worth it,they also have a rad modern art collection and when I was there there was an entire exhibition dedicated to German Expressionism in film. I was happy to get my art nerd on and take a ton of photos.

I should note that to and from the museum, I took my very first Lyft rides. Lyft allows qualified people to sign up to drive their cars around L.A. (there's Lyft here in New York, too, of course) as if they were cabs. They're very safe, and if you're lucky like me, your Lyft drivers will be very attractive, kind, sweet men who chitchat with you about L.A. on your rides to and from the museum. Lyft also gives you $20 free when you sign up (it amounts to about $5 off each trip you take until you use it up) and it's way less expensive then a cab. In New York it's a bit trickier because the pricing can be about the same if you don't get any money off or get any free rides. But I highly recommend it in L.A., especially since public transportation and walking are not really a thing there.






My biggest goal in coming to L.A. was really to spend time with GD. I knew I didn't have too much time there, so I wasn't going to explode if I didn't really get to explore the city, especially since I had been there before and I didn't have a car to get around. But luckily, I got to spend time with some other amazing, rad people like the very awesome SV (check out her film, Fort Tilden, which will soon be in theatres all over the country!) at Sage in Echo Park for rad vegan food and perhaps the most extensive vegan menu I've ever seen.


I also got to see the newly implemented Los Angeleno SB and his friends for wine at a very informative (if you tell them what flavors you like, they'll bring you several bottles and do a taste before you make your selection!) and cute wine bar in West Hollywood called V Wine Room. Actually the building itself looks like a 1930s Hollywood cottage, so I was instantly smitten. Our waiter threw all kinds of adorable sass and shade when hearing I came from New York, which I found amusing! Actually, in L.A., and not at all in San Francisco, I found New York getting flack left and right. But to me, New York's still the greatest city in the world so they're welcome to do as they please :) Post V, we went on to laugh loudly and smoke cigarettes and drink drinks that were way stronger than I thought they would be (seriously, if you ever need a really strong gin & tonic head to Trunks in West Hollywood!)

I was happy to see the sun the next day on a trip to Santa Monica Beach with CD. It was a bit cloudy, but I was honestly so psyched to be on the beach I didn't care. I knew once I went back to New York (which, when I left, I narrowly missed a snowstorm) it would be months before I would see sand again, so I was happy to take whatever I could get. We received a visit from MK, too, who was in Los Angeles doing some shows for a few weeks. He was squinty so I gave him my sunglasses to wear.


I'm grateful for everyone who took the time to hang out with me, drive me places, and take care of me while I was in L.A and San Francisco. Especially since I was mostly there during the week, when everyone has less free time. Even so, I felt I was really able to see the city through the eyes of the people who live there, which is always the goal. It may be a long time until my next big vacation, but the experiences from this time around will last me awhile, to say the least.

When I came back to New York, I shot the new Rockettes show at Radio City Music Hall. Arriving there, I was bundled up in a leather jacket, a knit hat, and cowboy boots. I probably should have been wearing gloves, but I wasn't, as usual. It was a far cry from the 90-degree Los Angeles weather I had been in not too long before. But I saw this show, I saw the Rockettes dancing in all of their sparkly, leggy glory; I saw an animatronic Statue of Liberty; I saw dance reenactments of all of New York's sports teams; I saw clips from a ton of movies made in the city. It was cheesy and glittery and obviously meant for a certain kind of audience. But what I loved most was how much it made me love New York over again--maybe not the New York they shared, which was a very touristy one, but the New York I created for myself. There are sometimes when I wonder if I just came here too quickly, if I didn't spend enough time checking out other cities to live in, if I could live a better or a different life somewhere else. But the show finished and I left Radio City and I walked down 50th Street, past Rockefeller Center, past St. Patrick's Cathedral, past Saks Fifth Avenue, past the Waldorf-Astoria. I stared up at the skyscrapers, I felt the chill in the air stinging my nose, and I thought to myself, this. This is where I belong.

California is lovely to visit, and thank you so much to GD and AS for hosting me. But it's no New York ;)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Galifornia, Part II: Suburban Mouse and City Mouse

Our calves were indeed laughing at us the next day, but thankfully we would be spending our time (read: hobbling about) in the suburbs of Palo Alto, where AS lives, because she had to work in the evening. You'd think that coming all this way across the country I'd be disappointed by *gasp* a day in the suburbs, what people mostly move to big cities to escape, but I wasn't at all; I've learned that you have to make adventures in your own backyard first and foremost (I think this blog is nothing if not that!), so I was quite looking forward to the suburban experience that I often missed living in New York. A big part of our Palo Alto Day, as it became known was, strange as it may be, going to Target. This is nearly impossible to get to here in the city, even less so if you imagine yourself schlepping more than a bag or two (which I often do). I submitted my formal request for Target, and it was happily accepted by the powers that be (read: AS herself). I don't know just what it is about Target that I love so much, but I think it mostly relates to how my best friend and I used to go there on weekend afternoons and buy crazy, cheap stuff when we were in high school and had nothing else to do. Before Target, however, we took a trip on over to Stanford University.

Stanford. Go Cardinal!
Ever the nerd, I love a good campus walk-through; especially if it's a campus I didn't apply to and thereby didn't get rejected from. Having graduated college quite a few years ago now, it's nice to be in a place where so much learning is happening and all the people are young and stupid enough to make me feel better about my place in the world. After a jaunt through campus and the college bookstore to snag some Stanford swag, AS took me for my first In-N-Out Burger experience.


 An East Coaster all my life, I had never had one of these burgers before, but they had been raised to practically mythical proportions by everyone I knew who tried them. I was interested to see what all the fuss was about. We had cheeseburgers and fries 'Animal style' from the 'secret menu' and...they were quite tasty! I liked that nothing was frozen and over-processed like it is at other chains, and that was a difference you could taste. At the very least I can now say I've had an In-N-Out burger! Do I sound like such a New Yorker when I say that? You can take the girl out of the city...

Our Target experience was next where I got not only a cute dress, but some leggings I had been needing for a while, hand lotion, and some juice. Where else can one do such a thing? Target is really one of the few things I miss about the spread-out, driving-heavy lifestyle. Don't get me started on SuperTarget.

Evening came and AS went off to work, which left me to nap (praise RuPaul!), write, grab some food, and then meet up with our friend SB. We went off to the lovely little Guild theatre--it shows just one movie at a time!!-- in Menlo Park, a short drive away, to see What We Do In The Shadows, the new vampire mockumentary. Not too bad for a day in the 'burbs, eh?

**

The following day took us back into San Francisco proper, specifically to The Haight. We took a nice long walk there from Union Square (about three miles), then lunched at a restaurant a woman told us about on the bus two days earlier, called Cha Cha Cha. Taking suggestions from strangers is one of my favorite pastimes, so it seemed like a natural fit. We dove into no-frills Mexican tapas in this joint decorated with shiny polyester fabrics and plastic beads, quenching our three-mile-walk-induced thirst with a giant pitcher of sangria.

Then we made a stop at a vintage store I had read about called Static. It was, by New York standards where a vintage concert t-shirt will easily cost you upwards of $50, reasonably priced. I found AS a stunning maxi dress printed with brightly colored fans that looked like it was made for her, and I walked out with a 1988 Michael Jackson BAD tour t-shirt, very, very happy and still a little drunk from the sangria. SF folks, if you like Static on Facebook you get 10% off your purchase!

Personalized ice cream at Smitten
Our long walk back of course took us to the famous Haight-Ashbury corner, which I was dismayed to find was, on one corner, occupied by a Ben and Jerry's, of all things. But I learned that the hippies had moved away long ago (on another corner was a RVCA), and the area read now a little like St. Mark's here in New York, full of people capitalizing on what it used to be. Not too long after, we rewarded ourselves with a stop for ice cream at Smitten, recommended to me by SD and SW. Smitten was founded by ice cream lover Robyn Sue Fisher and will prepare a personal scoop of ice cream for you on the premises by using liquid nitrogen alongside all-natural ingredients. I had brown sugar ice cream with cinnamon cookie crumble, strawberry prosecco syrup and homemade whipped cream. I forgot how many miles we walked almost instantly. That's not true, I had a blood blister and fiery calves that made me remember pretty quickly, but it was still really, obscenely creamy and excellent.

The Emerald Tablet
The evening brought a change of shoes, a purchase of Bengay from the Walgreens across the street, and a swipe of red lipstick for an evening out in North Beach. We met up with AS's friend who took us to a gallery opening at a space called The Emerald Tablet. This particular event featured not only artwork, though, but a 7-9 piece (depending on the whim of the musicians) band playing salsa, cumbia, and merengue tunes. A little old woman with bright cherry curls and a matching top shook her whole body joyfully offbeat while I attempted my best cumbia with one of the other girls in our gathering. Young men danced with old men danced with young women in front of tall vibrant paintings and we worked up a sweat. This kind of thing, after all, is what I really love to do when I travel--to see a place through the eyes of the people who live there. And if those eyes happen to be on a dance floor and surrounded by vibrant paintings, then I'm all in, baby. When we left, the vintage neon signs of North Beach lit our way back.

Green Street in North Beach