Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mermaids IV

One of my favorite parts of the Mermaid Parade happens before I even get there, on the subway. Once you get on a train that takes you to Coney Island, for me this time it happened to be the Q, you'll start seeing people in either full mermaid regalia or assembling it on the actual train. On my subway car, three girls were pasting themselves with gold leaf temporary tattoos and contouring their makeup. Though it's fair to say this might happen on any train in New York at any time (man, I do love this city), on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice on a train out to the beach in Brooklyn, it's definitely for the Mermaid Parade. Then, once you get off the train at Coney Island, it's a veritable mini-parade of bodies cloaked in a variety of crowns and glitter and paint and costumes all making their way out of the station in a mass exodus toward the parade route.

It's the world's largest art parade, and accordingly people's creativity never fails to amaze me. This year there was a Frida Kahlo mermaid, Andy Warhol mermaids, a Mondrian mermaid, Prince mermaids, David Bowie mermaids, and countless others sporting wigs and papier mache and nets and all manner of aquatic accoutrements. I also had the pleasure this year of discovering the parade's annual ceremony, which officially welcomes summer to New York. A giant procession follows Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island, to the beach as he beats the giant drum strapped to his chest. Then the king and queen mermaid (the parade's grand marshals), this year the latter was Sports Illustrated model Hailey Clauson, cut the ribbons of each season on the beach and then run into the water. A man carries a basket of fruit into the ocean while people dressed in all white dance in a circle and bless those around them by spitting peach schapps on them (yes...). If you're lucky, you catch people still in costume just hanging out on the beach watching it all happen. "The parade is fun," my friend DL says. "But this is ritual, it's tradition! This is the best part."

As ever, take a look at some sights and scenes from this year's Mermaid Parade, below. Click to enlarge!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Miss Manhattan's Day Off

We had planned the day probably two months in advance

"I'm dragging you with me to the new punk exhibition at the Queens Museum," I said to my friend AR. I had no particular timeline in mind, just that I wanted to go see "Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk," which had opened on April 10.

"Fine," he said. "We're gonna go to a baseball game afterward." He asked me to pick a day from three consecutive ones in the middle of June--the day his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, were playing the Mets at citiField, a short walk from the museum--and then we would go. But the days were all in the middle of the week. We would miss work? He wasn't concerned.

"It is a beautiful day in Chicago. Temperatures in the upper 70's."

It wasn't exactly a beautiful day like the one bestowed on Ferris Bueller when he took his day off, but I was happy nonetheless to be playing hooky from work. Rain clouds loomed ominously above, but I wasn't worried--if it rained, it would rain. There was no canceling our day off! I simply shoved my umbrella in my bag and made my way to meet AR for lunch.

We started our day at 1:30 with Bloody Marys and Mexican-ish food and Depeche Mode playing in the background. Drinking in the middle of the day on a Thursday? I thought to myself. Who was I? Because normally with work I tend to be rather Cameron-like--if you try to mess with my work, I get "so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up [her] ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond."

But today I was happy to not feel stressed from leaving work: I had managed my time to a tee this week, waking up early and going to bed later to make sure I would get all of the work done I needed to, really earning that day off on Thursday. I would not be the Cameron to AR's Ferris today; perhaps I would be some version of Ferris on my own.

We made our way to the Queens Museum, getting stuck in a little rain on the way. Eventually it subsided but I'd learn later we'd need them again, next time for reasons a little different. 

"Um, she's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Miss Manhattan pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious." 

Walking to the museum
The Queens Museum is located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in, of course, Queens. Flushing Meadows was home to both the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs, so it is sprinkled with a wealth of sculptures, beautiful, tree-lined walkways, and occasionally some decay porn from once-used pavilions that have since been abandoned. It's also home to the Unisphere, the giant silver globe sculpture surrounded by a circle of fountain jets spraying water zillions of feet in the air, that you'd probably recognize from more than a few films taking place in New York. Over 897 acres, it's also home to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the New York Hall of Science, citiField where the Mets play, the Queens Theatre, and more.

Getting off the 7 train at Mets-Willets Point Station, we crossed over a quite unexpected
The Unisphere
boardwalk--what is this, Brighton Beach?-- and into the park. One of my favorite things about this was that we never used our phones, just following park maps and the visual of the Queens Museum to get ourselves there. It's not an incredibly difficult park to navigate as there are lots of clear pathways, but it felt nice not to have my face jammed in my phone when I didn't need to. Shortly, after a long tree-lined path, we came upon the Unisphere and its necessary accompanying photo session. We had to skitter into the museum quickly after that because we'd have just an hour until the gallery closes.

"The place is like a museum. It's very beautiful and very cold, and you're not allowed to touch anything."  

You might wonder what a Ramones exhibition is doing in the Queens Museum, but it really makes quite a lot of sense once you learn the Ramones were from the Forest Hills neighborhood in the borough. They (like my mother!) went to Forest Hills High School, they saw shows at Shea Stadium, and their parents owned businesses in the area. In the exhibition, their ticket stubs from local venues are on display, as are their gym shirts from high school, all of their album covers, some of their leather jackets and amps, infinite posters and photographs from CBGB, their world tours, and so much more. Sometimes you forget these were just "kids from the neighborhood" who my mother maybe even crossed paths with as she moved around Jewel Avenue as a teenager.

At the museum, we also had the pleasure of seeing my friend Magali Duzant's work on display as a part of the 2016 Queens International exhibition, which is a biannual exhibition of artists working in Queens. Magali's work is Golden Hours: Live Streaming Sunset, for which she set up webcams around the world to stream sunsets in real time. When we arrive, we are viewing Iceland, is blue waters turning white under the rays of the setting sun.

We dawdle in the gift shop until the museum closes and are ushered out the back way. This brings us closer to the decay porn I mentioned earlier, remnants from the 1964 World's Fair that just didn't have any use after it ended. I had the pleasure of being here before, while I was photographing for Nora Lum's Awkwafina's NYC, and still, somehow, it was just as entrancing. Who walked here before us, and what did they see? Probably not several 'Danger: High Voltage' signs that prompted me to sing Electric Six as we tried to find an entrance to the pavilion. There were several people inside, and we figured they must have gotten in somehow. But, it turns out, they were part of a tour and their guide wouldn't let us in with them. He was friendly, though, and mentioned the space would be open for viewing later in the year.

The view from inside the Unisphere
We find our way back to the Unisphere, where there's a Mister Softee truck waiting for us. A soft-serve vanilla cone rolled in rainbow sprinkles is another perfect antidote for a grey, humid day like today, not to mention practically a necessity if one is going to play hooky correctly. AR decides he would like to eat his cone inside the Unisphere fountain and promptly opens his umbrella and walks inside of it, doing some fancy footwork to avoid its massive puddles that could swallow one's feet whole, a quite unpleasant feeling to experience when there's so much walking left to do in the day. I know it's unpleasant because I did not master the footwork so well, and got my feet soaked coming and going. However, it was an awesome feeling to sit inside the fountain, dry except for my feet and a splash across my back from a rogue spray of water, and eat this ice cream cone while staring out at the splashing water. What I also loved about this moment, and the day overall, is that I was never a teenager who skipped class or did anything that might get me in trouble really, so to be actively doing things that teenage me should have done to better take advantage of life was incredibly rewarding.

We stroll around Flushing Meadows a bit more, mostly because we are in search of coffee. Instead, we find playground animal sculptures perfect for climbing and taking pictures on, as well as the New York Hall of Science and its corresponding Rocket Park Mini-Golf (which is, sadly, closed by the time we arrive). Then we walk through Corona and ultimately end up at citiField for the Mets game (read: Pittsburgh Pirates game).

You realize if we played by the rules right now we'd be in gym?
I remember when we find our seats that I haven't been to a baseball game in about 10 years, at the old Joe Robbie Stadium in South Florida for a Marlins game. The stadium was this old, circular cement structure that was basically one giant ramp going higher and higher. Citifield, however, is gorgeous: so clean and new, with everything from Nathan's Hot Dogs to Pat LaFrieda filet mignon sandwiches in the offering, vittle-wise. We found our seats and AR proceeded to explain baseball to me, giving me an old Pittsburgh Pirates hat to wear. Even though we were surrounded by Mets fans in royal blue, orange, and white, nobody gave us any agita which, AR tells me, is pretty typical of baseball fans especially when the teams playing aren't rivals. Good baseball is good baseball, after all, and even though I was supposed to be cheering for the Pirates I was happy to see really wonderful catches by the Mets when they were in the outfield. We chowed down on sausages and ultimately watched the Pirates lose, but it was great to be spending a summer evening in this sort of nostalgic fit of Americana and we walked away happy.

"But still, why should she get to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants? Why should everything work out for her? What makes her so goddamn special?"

The 7 train was running not just express but 'super express' back into Manhattan, and the journey took almost no time at all. AR and I parted ways at Court Square and high-fived, our Day Off a grand success. The only thing that could have made it better was a visit to SE for a delicious Old-Fashioned cocktail, so of course I found my way there. Sipping on sweet bourbon with bitters, an orange peel and a brandied cherry, it was also the figurative cherry to what is perhaps the ultimate Day Off.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Scenes from a Summer II

On Tuesday night I am leaving Phoenix, a gay bar in the East Village, because of course I am. SJT has just given one of his 'How to Opera' sessions, in which he highlighted some of the operatic points of interest happening around New York this summer. He sipped a greyhound or two or three and rolled up his cranberry-colored shorts to cool off his legs in the back room of the brick-laden bar. Pushing his long sleeves past his elbows in hopes of a similar result on his arms, he nonetheless said "I hate short sleeves," though the fact that it is now very much summer in New York does not seem to phase him. He asks me for feedback on the session though I have trouble issuing it because I could listen to him talk about quantum physics or the many uses of canned tuna and I would still be enthralled, words always elegantly and eloquently floating off his tongue whether they are about opera or about Bob's Burgers. I hope he will teach the class again.

Outside, the air is cool and though it is past 8pm the sun has not yet set and the sky is a blissful lavender hue. I can almost see the sunset down 13th Street, the sun a creamsicle-colored orb slowly descending into the horizon. I contemplate taking the bus uptown, but decide I want to be outside a bit longer and walk to the train. Back near my home, I stop to get a salad and decide I will sit outside and eat it on a stoop. Ultimately I decide my own stoop will be serve just fine, so I continue the journey home. I set myself down on the brick stairs in front of my building and crack into my salad, the soft night air brushing against my face. My roommate comes up the walk not too long after I sit down, smiling and raising an eyebrow at me. "Why are you eating out here?" she asks. "I thought to myself, well, we can't really do this in our apartment and I wanted to eat outside so I just said, 'fuck it,'" I laugh. She smiles back and laughs too, heading inside. Sometimes I forget what weird can look like to other people because I live in New York.

I miss this time of year the rest of the year. Maybe because I stayed inside far too often as a child, or because the nature of living in this city is that you are just exposed to its elements all the time and eventually you are bound to pick your favorites. I love the soft dew of humidity on my face, the kiss of the sun on my shoulders and face, the flutter of sundresses around my knees when I walk on the streets. I love the hum of the fan in my room when I fall asleep, wrapping myself in just one thin sheet as opposed to my usual piles of blankets. I love the coconut smell of the sunscreen I bought and the way sand sticks to my suntan lotion's orange grease gel when I go to the beach. I love the promise of rooftop parties and ocean visits and open windows that allow breezes to float in. At certain times, the city is emptier in the summer and I feel my thoughts flow a little slower, that I have more time to listen to them.

Friday night BK and I meet for dinner in Crown Heights. We go to Glady's on Franklin Avenue, a Caribbean restaurant. The restaurant, done up with glass shutter windows that remind me of homes in South Florida, is across the street from an organic grocery, and I had to walk past a Starbucks and a Citibank to get to it. I remember five years ago when the street was all bodegas blasting dancehall music, plastic lawn chairs for sale in their storefronts, with only the bar Franklin Park plopped at the end on St. John's Place.

Nevertheless, Glady's is delicious. BK and I sit and eat and discuss writing, relationships, the length of his new beard, and when we are going dancing next. We have the jerk chicken and bok choy and plantains and a bowl of curried goat. Never in my life did I think I would have the opportunity to say 'More Goat, Please,' but now I have proven myself wrong. They cap off the meal with complimentary servings of of deliciously cool non-dairy coconut ice cream in tiny metal cups and it's perfect.

I am dismayed to learn later that it is run by hipsters who are from absolutely no form of Caribbean descent and I have mixed thoughts about going back. But I'll be damned if I did not inhale that curried goat, practically licking my fingers until it was gone.

After dinner I head to a rooftop in the Crown Heights historic district. AR throws me down the keys and I let myself in and up the stairs. People sit on lawn chairs and look up at the now-dark sky, the only lights a string of Christmas bulbs they've brought up the line the wall. We migrate back and forth between the roof and our host's apartment, listening to records with his friend D: Grace Jones, Tracy Chapman, Savages, as the three of us sit and bullshit together, talking about how terrible Vangelis is though AR bought one of his albums that day. We slowly become covered in cat hair from the host's hilariously overweight pet, a fluffy white cat named Beans.

Back upstairs we sit and dig into dirt pudding, accented with deliciously mushy Oreos and rubbery gummy worms, treats I do not allow myself to eat too regularly these days. The pudding floats fluffy in my mouth and I take another serving though I definitely don't need it and am almost sure I don't want it, but I am doing my best to hold on to the food memory for posterity. I will doubtlessly need it since I have been subsisting off oatmeal and Lean Cuisines for the last few weeks and in this dirt pudding-ensconced moment I am in food bliss. At 1:30 in the morning, AR, D and I take the train back through Brooklyn. Once they depart at their stop I read Patti Smith's M Train until I get back into Manhattan, the air cool enough that I wrap my arms with the cardigan I've been keeping in my bag for such an occasion.


Saturday I have brunch with DL, a happy treat since I have barely spent any real time with him in many months. At Bar Corvo near the Brooklyn Museum, we dive into a fish sandwich (me) and a foccacia bread pudding (he…though I helped, probably more than I should have…). We walk all over the neighborhood, making our way around and then through Prospect Park and down into Park Slope and then by Barclays Center, chatting about the weirdness and wonderfulness in our current lives. He is older and wiser than I and I value his insights, doing my best to remember them for when I move forward. The sun is hot on our limbs but we press on, listening and overlapping speech naturally and never disrespectfully. Our stories bend and twist and our conversation sparks new topics at every turn, as it always has. By the time we reach Atlantic Terminal, we have walked several miles but, a mark of true friendship, I have barely noticed. Hugs and goodbyes are exchanged and I feel that same tug at my heartstrings when I leave all of my friends, that leftover ache of being an only child and going home to my empty room filled with stuffed animals that won't talk back to me. But as always, I know I will see them again, and with that I descend into the Q train to make my way back to Manhattan.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Graham Home for Old Ladies

Every so often when I'm in Brooklyn, I'll get ambitious when I have time to spare and walk to disparate parts of the borough. One such time was yesterday, when I traveled from the Lorimer Street stop on the L train to the Annex Cafe in Fort Greene, a 2.8 mile walk. While I usually doubt the pacing of the Google Maps walking figure because I have short legs and don't like to rush anywhere, the 58-minute trip time was very accurate given the aforementioned details and the fact that I was also schlepping maybe five pounds of camera equipment on my shoulder.

My trek began down Marcy Avenue in Williamsburg, populated by its banks and sandwich shops and unusual interior design stores, which later turned into Williamsburg Street West. My jaunt down this street became a tour of the Hasidic part of Brooklyn. Even in what was nearly 90-degree heat yesterday, the men still wore shtreimels, large black circular hats surrounded by fur, with their long black jackets, longsleeved white shirts, and black pants. Women had their arms and legs covered, their heads topped with wigs. I trotted past them in my linen pants and tank top, my hair in a bun at the top of my head, chattering to my mother on my phone, every so often receiving a look from them as if I were a mohawked punk with my hair a shade of something like neon pink and spears hanging from my septum. What on earth are you doing here?, they seemed to say as I walked past their school buses and apartment buildings and flyers pasted to streetcorners all printed with Hebrew phrases. Gentile, goyim, I must have seemed in comparison, though they wouldn't have known my own Jewish mother was on the other end of the phone.

Williamsburg Street West turned into Park Avenue and then a left onto Washington Avenue where the real fun began. I had never walked through Clinton Hill before, and was unaware of its proliferation of 19th century townhouses and mansions, many of which today have been converted into multi-family homes. Some, however, are just straight houses smack dab in the middle of Brooklyn, with curling wooden porches and staircases, some even with the original glass the buildings were constructed with when they were first built. The street was part of the Clinton Hill Historic District, which features many homes of similar structure up and down its streets. While the area in the 19th and early 20th centuries was an escape from urban life for wealthy professionals, by the end of the 20th century it became quite the opposite. Patti Smith wrote of an apartment she and artist Robert Mapplethorpe shared in the area in the 1960s, writing "its aggressively seedy condition was out of my range of experience. The walls were smeared with blood and psychotic scribbling, the oven crammed with discarded syringes, and the refrigerator overrun with mold." Today, though, it has experienced a resurgence, with many parts of the historic district clean and tree-lined, young people and families milling about.

My favorite spot on Washington Avenue, however, was a building that read "The Graham Home for Old Ladies" and was built in 1851. The plaque stopped me in my tracks: were our forebears so blunt as to call a female retirement home such a thing? No, as it turns out. According to The New York Times, the building was originally built as the "Brooklyn Society for the Relief of Respectable Aged Indigent Females," by a wealthy lawyer named John B. Graham. Ladies had to have a certain level of manner and propriety to be admitted to the venue in the era, though once the area and the building went into decline in the 1980s, far less was required when it became a brothel. It became empty in the 1990s, however, and was redeveloped in 2000 to be condominiums. Its plaque is simply a modern nickname for a building full of apartments that sell for over one million dollars.

Shortly I turned down Lafayette Street, which was more familiar to me as the home of Brooklyn Flea, and found myself in the familiar territory of Fulton Street after turning down South Portland Avenue. I holed myself up in Annex, a coffee shop populated with a mix of modern tables and chairs that were still somehow friendly in light tones of wood. One of the edges of the space featured a raised area populated by spiky green plants and luscious, sloping leather chairs that looked lovingly broken after the shop's opening just five years ago. I was supposed to meet friends next door in about 45 minutes, so I sat in one sipping an iced coffee and reading Joan Didion's The White Album while I let my body relax. It's funny, I had walked past Annex so many times on jaunts through the neighborhood and I never actually had the occasion to go in, but I would go back in a heartbeat.

Time flew quickly and soon it was time to pop next door, to Habana Outpost to meet AR and his friend C. We would grab sandwiches and head to Fort Greene Park, where the Alamo Drafthouse was showing a free screening of Best in Show. Cuban sandwiches in tow, we made our way to the park and found a perfect spot on a hill so nobody of the hundreds of others in attendance would block our view. Night fell and the air cooled and we watched Jane Lynch and Jennifer Coolidge and their standard poodle Rhapsody in White compete against other dogs in Christopher Guest's 2000 film. , We ended up making friends with an Italian Greyhound behind us who would give us all kisses and cuddles throughout the movie, though we suspect he was really just after the pork from our sandwiches.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Weeknight in the Life

I've been finding more often than not that all the nights of my week are jam packed. There was a time when I eschewed any activity in favor of yoga, but I seem to have deviated from this path in the last few months or so (don't worry, I still exercise during the day) in favor of a host of other activities. Below is a sampling of what this looks like from this week:


SC, B, and I gather at Boxers in Chelsea for the season 8 finale of RuPaul's Drag Race. The evening was hosted by she of the towering hair and perfect hourglass figure, drag queen Alexis Michelle. We were supposed to meet at the delightfully grungy Boots & Saddle in the West Village, but it was sadly closed due to flooding after a rainstorm. The next best option was Boxers, which is always packed for Drag Race, and we knew it would be especially so tonight for the finale, perhaps even more than it would have been because people who were also going to Boots & Saddle may have also ended up in Chelsea that evening instead. The venue was swarming with people, but B managed to find us some real estate in the center of something like five different televisions. This, after all, was our playoffs, or World Cup, our Super Bowl of Drag. Not only that, but I had been in the house all day so it was nice to be out interacting with other humans. Our beloved Bob the Drag Queen was in the top three representing our city. Hashtag #TeamBob was everywhere, and Alexis told stories of performing with Bob around town. And at the end of the hour and a half finale, Bob won! The bar let out an enormous cheer followed by bursts of applause. We walked out into the night, pretending to "walk into the club purse first" as Bob had done on the show.


"I expected to be running into people and high-fiving them!" SC said as we made our way down a rather quiet 20th Street. "But I forget not everybody watches Drag Race." It's an insular world, maybe, but it's ours.

TuesdayI had the distinct pleasure of being asked to be a judge at The Prose Bowl, a monthly literary event at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn. Founded by writers John Hague and Christopher Green, the premise of the series is that four people, all of whom enter their names in a hat at the beginning of the evening, are picked at random read a work of fiction that's 900 words or about five minutes long. The story is then judged by a panel, and the top two writers enter a lightning round, where they tell a story that's about as along as a tweet. The winner is decided by audience applause and given a free drink and a "doo-dad of infinite impracticability." 

On the judging panel with Green and another regular judge Jordan Zolan, I was worried I would be too mean, the Simon Cowell of the group, if you will. Listening to the stories, immensely creative for a few short minutes, I really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a (somewhat? hopefully?) insightful critique to share at the end. I did at one point say "more fangirling, less sadgirling" in one of my critiques, which rather comically ended up on The Prose Bowl's Twitter later. The winning story was a hilarious tale about purchasing a couch from a Craigslist ad that ended up covered in cat pee. It included the wonderful line "She stays thin because she lies so much," in reference to the seller of the couch, who vehemently denied the cat urine incident. If you love free, interesting literary events, it's definitely one worth checking out. You can also read a recap of Tuesday's event on their blog here.


I actually did go to yoga.


SE knows I love surprises and though he doesn't, he managed to keep a secret our plans for Thursday night for a few weeks.

"Meet me on the corner of 45th and 8th at 6:30pm sharp!" he said.

We met on the southeast corner, and he pointed to a pizza joint across the street. "I thought we could go and check out some of this amazing Times Square pizza," he said, possibly joking but I wasn't sure. I raised my eyebrows and said okay, befuddled yet amused. "But first I thought we could go see American Psycho." Ohhhhhhhhh!
We had discussed the musical previously, so it was fun to be surprised with tickets.

During the show, SE told me he had made reservations at a restaurant uptown, but apparently the kitchen closed at 10pm and if the show got out later than 9:30, he wasn't sure we'd make it. It didn't matter to me, I said, that I'd be happy with Papaya King, but I knew he wanted this evening to be special. Magically, as we were making our way up 8th Avenue after the show amongst throngs of other people, a cab stopped right in front of us to let two women out. We got in and made our way very quickly uptown, to 70th and Columbus. "Ye of little faith!" I said, patting his shoulder as we got in the cab. The restaurant, it turned out, was Parm, one of my new favorite spots that now had a location on the Upper West Side as well as in Nolita. We had walked past it one evening and I had told him about the amazing eggplant parmagiana sandwiches and he had remembered. We arrived at Parm with about 10 minutes to spare, maybe less, before the kitchen closed. Our waitress, perhaps eager to leave, came over and asked for our order quickly--two eggplant parmagiana heroes, please--and soon we were chowing down into the crispy, tomato-y goodness on perfect sesame-covered bread. It was heaven. And SE, who isn't really even an eggplant or tomato fan, loved it just as much as I did.


I am on deadline, as ever, and I am a little late to meet SJT and L at Le Poisson Rouge, where we will shortly see the goddess, the high priestess, the Divine Miss P, the one and only Patti Smith. I realize that this is the fourth time I have seen her royal radness in person, and I am just as excited as I have been every other time. The evening is a benefit for a retreat community upstate and Patti is the star act, with her daughter Jesse on piano and her son Jackson on guitar. She is a warm and funny presence onstage, and sometimes when she's speaking I feel like she's my mom, too. She covers Prince's "When Doves Cry," and it's incredible, as is everything else she does with her voice. The stage lights turn a slight purple and bounce off of her silver hair, making it look purple too. Afterward she simply says "Prince!" with a smile, raising her hands upward to the sky. I could listen to her sing, talk, recite poetry forever while she wears one of those black blazers she always wears and her custom boots made for her by Johnny Depp to look like those he wears as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's films.


After the concert, we head to the Olive Tree Cafe for sandwiches, hummus, and a carafe of wine. We gossip and discuss theatre and SJT tells a story about when he accompanied a singer at a synagogue and really enjoyed the deli platters afterward.

Eyes heavy with wine, we part ways and I traipse into a cab and then, eventually, my bed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Little Cinema

I should have known that something inside of a venue whose exterior was covered in vibrant splashes of blue and yellow paint would have knocked my socks off, but now I know for sure.

The event was Little Cinema, a movie and live performance series, and for starters it was at The House of Yes. Though I realize this is now sacrilege, last night was my first time at the venue. I can say for certain it will not be my last.

The House of Yes is a creative events space in Bushwick, and its current incarnation is actually its third. The first space was in East Williamsburg, built with the desire for "a true creative live/work space that could host an occasional dance party or circus class," as the venue writes. But it grew into so much more: today the venue hosts aerial dance performances, concerts, comedy shows, dance parties, film screenings, and so much more. 

Entering the space, AR and I were greeted with a wonderfully wacky visual stimulus package of subtle tile flooring in front and a disco-mirrored bathroom in the back lit up with bright red lights. We were there to see Little Cinema's production of 1970s New York cult classic The Warriors. People were dressed in brown leather vests a la Warriors, some even wearing feathers in their hair; others were dressed up as Furies, the facepainted, baseball-attired, batswinging gang that comes at the Warriors in Central Park. Tiny tables stood to our right, where you could sit and order Mediterranean food from Queen of Falafel next door.

As a first timer at The House of Yes, I could feel the creative soul of the place even when in the bejeweled bathroom (AR and I traded notes on this--the men's bathroom features a mannequin sculpture that sprawls above the urinals) and on the patio attired in ivy and funky, wonderfully mismatched sculptures. We met up with the lovely Oriana Leckert of the blog and book Brooklyn Spaces, who was rightfully agape that we had never been there before. "This is what my soul looks like under X-ray!" I said to her as she nodded enthusiastically. My experience of it was more like "House of YAAAAAAAAAS!" than just "House of Yes," to say the very least.

And then we went inside the theatre, through a door covered in a beautiful, almost art deco sunburst of wood and mirrors. We found some high-top seats and buckled ourselves in (figuratively). We sat in the back of the house, the 22-foot, HD projection screen waiting for us. Every Little Cinema experience includes performances matching the theme of the film interspersed throughout the screening.

So, if you're not familiar with The Warriors, a brief synopsis so you'll understand. The Warriors are a gang from Coney Island. They head all the way up through Manhattan to the Bronx for a meeting of all the gangs from around New York. While they're there, they're blamed for a murder they didn't commit and spend the rest of the film trying to get home without getting murdered by (mostly) all the gangs who were at the meeting.

Little Cinema then awesomely accented the film with accompaniment of gorgeous, improvised rock and roll from their house band, Black Lodge, as well as performances by some of the city's subway dance crews, Waffle NYC and It's Showtime; an aerial performance by women dressed as girl gang The Lizzies; and an actor from the film itself. Happily, the performances seamlessly blended in with the film and were never a disruption, only an enhancement--perhaps it makes sense, then, that the event was called The Warriors Remixed. It shouldn't have been a surprise that this was done well--this was Little Cinema's thirteenth event, after all. Other showings included Purple Rain, Labyrinth, Donnie Darko, American Beauty, and Basquiat, among others. They all feature performances themed around the films and then have a themed dance party afterward that's included in the price of your ticket. The event is every Tuesday at the House of Yes, and costs $10-$15 depending on when you get your ticket. You can also reserve a table or even their famous clawfooted bathtub, which comes with butler service, free wine, and dinner.

It was a fantastic way to watch the film, its scenes of '70s New York with graffitied subway cars and murky, gritty streets, with a giant room of people who appreciate it and also love that it's been made into a fun, new performance. I'm curious to see what Little Cinema does with other iconic films, too: they won't have to do much convincing to get me to "come out to play-ay-ay...."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Aspirational Sconces

For so many of us, apartments are just boxes we live in but for others, they're adorned with the trimmings of a non-transient life. Not just a poster on the wall, for example, but sconces. Not just a couch, but an armchair and matching side tables. I found that I've always been somewhere in the middle myself. I have framed and unframed artwork on the walls, a smattering of tchotchkes on my bookshelf, a weird shortening tin that I use as a side table.

As much as I love New York and I don't foresee myself leaving ever, I notice there is a detachment to the way I approach decorating and perhaps thereby living my home. I have never had champagne-colored chiffon curtains or sculptures or painted my walls like SD; I do not have a mirror decorated with sheet music or a spice rack or a mug rack like M & S do. I don't have incense waiting at the ready or teas displayed in glass jars or the pale white of Christmas lights warming a dark room like S & J. I tell myself it's because I don't have the patience to get in-depth into interiors when I've already hung all my stuff I've wanted to hang on the walls--vintage Rolling Stone magazines and my Marilyn canvas and my photos from backstage at Fashion Week--but really I fear having to uproot myself from a place that doesn't actually belong to me.

Yes, of course, I have wanted to paint an accent wall a deep crimson like Pantone 3546 C  so my home resembles the titular character's bedroom in Along Came Polly, but I always think about how long I might stay in one spot. What if, after spending all of this money and time to paint my wall red I have to move because of something out of my control like the rent going up or my building going condo like last time? I wonder if I stopped spending time thinking about what my dream home would look like because I am already in my dream city and that is enough? 

I was talking with HanOre recently about what we might like our apartments to look like. Her dining room table departed with one of her roommates last year, so there has been a big, open space in her apartment for some time. I mentioned SD's sconces to her as something I aspired to. Not necessarily the same style, but to live in a home where sconces looked like they belonged. Aspirational sconces.
"What kind of sconces would you have?" she asked. I paused to consider.
"Something a 1930s lesbian in Hollywood would have, I think," remembering photographs of homes of stars like Alla Nazimova and Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, metallic art deco accents lining the walls.
"I understand. We will have these when we are roommates," she promises me. Then I wonder, how does one even decorate with a sconce? Are there nails and hammers or drills involved? Do you space them evenly or just do whatever the hell you want?

But I also wonder if my home really does look like a place where a non-transient human lives, and I'm just in it too often to see otherwise? Or I'm just not all that into clutter besides that brought on by books and magazines which populate probably far too much surface area of my home? I sit on my couch as I write this, staring at my bookshelf. When I moved into this new place, I knew I had to get settled quickly or it would take me months, if not years to do it (I was not wrong...a piece of artwork I got probably two or three years ago only at the beginning of this year finally found itself a home in a frame) so I set up my apartment the exact same way as the last one. This time, though, I decided to change up my bookshelf a little--wild, I know. What will she think of next?? I arranged the books by color instead of just randomly by size. I have more tchotchkes now than I used to, too--a piece of wood from Norway that SP gave me before she left that smells like an entire forest; a bag of coffee from Guatemala given to me by a nomadic writer from my reading series; a 35mm Nikon film camera my aunt gave me that once belonged to her beloved boyfriend. In many ways, my bookshelf feels like the most homey part of my apartment. It looks like something that holds life.

But there are also the bears, Randolph and Matthew, the two four-foot long, massive creatures who keep the living room safe; and Mistress Veronica, a pillow handmade by artist Al Benkin from a screenprint of her friend, a dominatrix of the same name. A poster from the legendary City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco,  a photograph gifted to me by the artist Elaine Hargrove of a couple kissing in the ocean, and so much more that I've brought in here or has in some other way entered my living space that makes it my own, this box I call home inside the city that is more home than any box could be. I still aspire to sconces, but perhaps in the meantime I need to give myself more credit.