Saturday, February 6, 2016

How to Be Out All Day

"Do New York girls do that thing with their shoes that D.C. girls do?" JW asked me.
"Um, that depends. What do D.C. girls do with their shoes?" I said.
"Oh, that thing where you walk around in flats and carry your heels with you to work?"
"Oh yeah. Totally. Absolutely. 100%."

I have without a doubt carried my heels around with me, and sometimes I do it on a regular basis. Every New York girl has a giant, work-appropriate tote of some kind to throw all of her crap in for this purpose. Also because most of us don't have the luxury of going home to change for the evening or get something we might need for the second or even third part of our day. On the days when I'm busiest, I'll end up carrying my laptop, my camera, my makeup bag and my heels around with me because it's just too inconvenient to go home.

But I've seen girls carry even more than that. In fact, having dinner with ED just last night, she pulled a smaller handbag out of her giant tote, which she needs when she's hopping around the five boroughs, going to and from her office during the day as a lobbyist. Out also came a makeup bag, a sweater, and probably more. It's just what we do. One time I carried a wrapped baby gift with me; another time a footstool. Someone once called me Mary Poppins. It's a badge I wear proudly because it means I'm a New Yorker. Girls in L.A. have it easy--they just throw everything in their cars. But here in New York? We are our cars. I promise you, if you randomly stop any gal in the street and take a look inside her bag, there's going to be a similar assortment of items. Somehow our shoulders handle it (I find personally that the key is a bag with thick shoulder straps--preferably in more than one color so they're versatile!). 

When I know I'm going to be out all day, I usually live my day in reverse of most people. I exercise in the morning first, then shower and eat breakfast, putting all of the things I might need for the day on my bed so I don't forget them. Notebook? Tape recorder? Headphones? Camera? Laptop? Heels? Lipstick? Eyeliner? Pens? Checkbook? A magazine or book to read on the train? I pile everything on top of one another in a neat stack, building on top of my computer so one side of the bag will lay flat against me and the rest of the garbage flops on the other side. Then I pick out my outfit for the day. The giant bag I pack it all in will match whatever the outfit is.

AS and I actually made up a game for these outfit-changing puzzles called Style Challenge: Accepted. It could be something that has to go from hanging an art show to hosting a reading (though for that particular event I brought a change of clothes); or from a brandy tasting to working in a cafe to an evening concert; or from a meeting with a photography client to grocery shopping to dinner with friends. The more versatile your outfit and the less items you have to change, the more points you get. For example, I once went from working in a coffee shop to taking a dance class to a friend's holiday party: I decided to wear black shiny disco pants and a matching tank top under a black sweater dress, bringing along a flannel shirt and dance shoes for class (don't worry, I showered at a friend's in between the dance class and the party, which were in 10 blocks of each other). Minimal changes required for an outfit that serves multiple purposes throughout the course of 12 hours. Such an outfit is a busy gal's dream. I also win points for making fewer changes. Huzzah!

Being out all day sounds like it's physically and maybe even emotionally taxing--the word "schlep" comes to mind--but I really enjoy it. By the end of the day, of course, I am leaning my bag against whatever surfaces I can find just to get it off of my shoulder, but being out that long makes me feel like I've accomplished something. I have lived another day out and about in New York, and when I come home and crawl into my sweatpants and flop onto the couch that I've really earned it. And, of course, the next day I'll do it all over again.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Le Bookstore, Le Falafel, Le Boudoir

In yet another one of our very successful Monday evening gatherings, HanOre and I start at the Housing Works Bookstore in Soho. There's always some kind of rad literary event happening there, often for free, and all of the proceeds in the store go to helping the homeless and/or low-income New Yorkers who live with HIV/AIDS. Monday night happened to be a reading from three generations of New York Foundation for the Arts writing fellows: Phillip Lopate, Kathryn Harrison, Rajesh Parameswaran, and Catherine Lacey. It was a lovely experience to be able to sit in a toasty bookstore and hear beautiful words after such ridiculous, cabin-fever-inducing snowfall this past weekend. I really must get to Housing Works more often.

Our next stop brought us to Taïm, a falafel counter on Spring Street, for a quick bite. We dug into crispy falafel and Israeli salad (chopped tomatoes and cucumbers with parsley) as we talked about boys and work and pickpockets and blizzards while sitting on tall, bright orange stools staring at the darkened DeSalvio playground.

This was all an appetizer to the evening's main course (event-wise, not food-wise), however. You see, a couple of weeks ago I had gotten a press release for a new bar opening in Brooklyn. The bar was called Le Boudoir, and it was a Marie Antoinette-themed speakeasy located beneath French restaurant Chez Moi. I instantly forwarded the release to HanOre, knowing that she, whose affinity for high glamour and boss bitches I have always loved, would be the only logical person to take with me to such a place. And so we made the trek on the F train from Bleecker Street in Manhattan to Jay Street in Brooklyn, walking past both the Brooklyn Detention Center and a Barneys New York on the way there (oh, gentrification, what will you think of next).

Walking past a row of darkened storefronts, we eventually found it, the plastic letters of Chez Moi holding on for dear life to the glass on which they were affixed. The host inside slid open a faux door made to look like a bookshelf and guided us to follow the stairs around corner and down to enter. When I saw the stairwell was lined with ornately-patterned red wallpaper and a rash of gilded mirrors, I knew we were in for some fun. The space was quiet for a Monday night--there were only about three or four other parties in there with us--and we had our choice of white booths upholstered with shimmering red velvet, all outlined in that same gold gilt. We chose one near the back, next to a painting of baroque cherubs and more mirrors. While the cocktail menu was very extensive (all of the dessert liqueurs one could hope for, and more) we both chose the same house cocktail: The Dauphin. A combination of absinthe, chili liqueur, almond milk, coconut and cacao nibs (!!!), it was served in a glass inside a bowl of ice with a straw and a sprinkling of star anise. It was the best dessert cocktail a gal could ask for, and that absinthe made me toasty and fuzzy in the way that only absinthe can. I just didn't want it to end, but alas, it was a "school night" as it were and both of us had to skedaddle back to the island Manhattan. We wound our way out through the special exit door and trotted to the Borough Hall subway station, passing the gorgeous, swoonworthy brownstones on Clinton and Joralemon streets on the way. I decided I would gladly accept one instead of an engagement ring in case anyone decided to ask. It's the little things, you know?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rebel Rebel

Ate all your razors while pulling the waiters
Talking 'bout Monroe and walking on Snow White
New York's a go-go, and everything tastes right 

-David Bowie, "The Jean Genie"

I was supposed to be productive today. I was supposed to wake up, get to work, and hustle like I usually do. But then the news fell in front of my eyes and the rest of the day fell away.

I found out that David Bowie died at around 10 o'clock this morning. Since then, my insides have ached. As Hilton Als wrote in The New Yorker this morning, "This was not supposed to happen. Ever. Because he had been so many people over the course of his grand and immense career, it was inconceivable that he wouldn’t continue to be many people—a myriad of folks in a beautiful body who would reflect times to come, times none of us could imagine but that he could. He always got to the unknown first." Like Als, David Bowie was not a person I ever imagined dying. His death was not something a person even thought about. He was just...Bowie. And he always would be.

Yet today I mourn with people the world over the loss of an innovator, a creator, a paragon of talent and reinvention. As many people have written, without Bowie there would be no Madonna, no Lady Gaga, no Prince, and the list goes on. His commitment to curiosity and creation raised pop music to a high art, perhaps in ways that nobody did before or will do after him.

And even in the last 18 months of his life, the time when he knew he had the cancer that would eventually lead to his death, he had created even more lives: with the release just two days ago of his newest album Blackstar and of his off-Broadway musical Lazarus. His death, in the spirit of Als's thoughts, is merely another way he continues to leave us all behind in favor of another, probably better, life.

My first exposure to David Bowie came when I was in high school. I used to hang out at a record store in my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida called All Books & Records. It was a big, dusty place, lit by fluorescent lights above and covered in linoleum below. The clerks who worked there taught me about not just artists I should know, but the ways to find them. This was the time before YouTube, when I would log onto the website and had only 20-second snippets of artists to listen to before I decided whether or not I would go back to the record store the following week and purchase one of their albums.

The first Bowie album I found this way was Aladdin Sane. It was supposed to be one of his better albums, the site said, plus I liked the cover art, this bright, colorless figure with a magenta lightning bolt slashed across his face, metallic liquid pooling in the space between his clavicle and shoulder. I managed, also, to find the gatefold version of the album which, in the vinyl world, is said to be worth more. But putting the needle on the record gave me back whatever the album's "worth" was tenfold.

I sat in my parents' den, sprawled out on the beige carpet while David sang to me from my bright red record player. I stared at David staring at me from inside that gatefold. He was sexy, ethereal, somehow vulnerable yet impenetrable. From the album's opening with those delicious guitar licks, I was hooked and needed more; not just of the album, but of Bowie.

I bought Station to Station on a school trip to New Orleans. It was in a vintage clothing store near Tulane's campus and I couldn't wait to get back to Florida to listen to it. Luckily we were flying that day. I came home and put the record on, listening as Thin White Duke-era Bowie crooned "Golden Years, Golden Years" over and over.

The fellas at the record store gave me The Idiot, the Iggy Pop album produced by David Bowie that's considered the album where Pop went from gnarly gutter punk to refined gutter punk.

Time passed and I found myself with Heroes as well and, later, a 45rpm of Bowie singing its title track in French. Vinyl remains my favorite way to listen to him.

As a sophomore in high school, I watched Labyrinth and was entranced by his Goblin King, a purring evil in oh-so-tight pants. As I write this I can hardly remember the plot of the movie but damned if I don't remember that grey spandex hugging his hips and that burst of champagne-colored hair on his head.

My favorite thing about Bowie was his fearlessness: in dress, in combinations of musical influences, in lifestyle, in presentation, in career choices, in everything. And he appreciated talent and raised others up instead of bringing them down--see the aforementioned Iggy Pop example as well as Bowie's inclusion of a young, then-unknown singer and songwriter named Luther Vandross on his Philadelphia soul-inflected 1975 album Young Americans, among countless others.

And today, when I am supposed to be working on this freelance life, all I can do is listen to his other classic albums: Diamond Dogs, Low, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, among many others. I find myself totally unable to work. To me, David Bowie meant that there was still salvation from bad, corporate pop music and a thoughtless, money-driven art world; that popular music really could be a thoughtful art form; that there was a living example of the power of intelligent yet consumable creativity. While he was alive, those things were guaranteed. Now that he is dead, my fear is that they are not.

While I would never profess to have the Bowie prowess to consider myself a fanatic, I am merely an admirer, a casual fan who knows that we have not just experienced the loss of a man today, but of a creative force and spirit unlike any we may possibly know again. My heart aches, a magenta lightning bolt burning in my chest.

I'll leave you with some of my favorite Bowie songs. What are some of yours? Tell me below, and share your Bowie stories.




Sunday, January 10, 2016

Top Great Moments I Didn't Write About But Should Have: 2015 Edition

As ever, a list of some of the great moments from the past year that I didn't get a chance to write about as they happened.

To compile the list I usually go through all of my social media platforms from the entire year and I pick out the moments, later finding images and doing research (into my own life, which is strange and revelatory each time) about each to make sure they're accurate. The process usually takes longer than a) I think it will and b) than most of my blogs do, but it's the only year-end, or rather year-beginning, list I do so I might as well go big, no?

That being said, here they are. Enjoy!

The first time I saw it, it was a tiny little note on my Facebook page, but I don't think I made anything of it. Like everyone else, I get a lot of invites to a lot of events (and I send a lot of them myself). But then it was a link sent from HanOre via Facebook messenger. Did I want to go see a Broadgay, comedically staged, all-gay male retelling of an episode of Sex and the City? While I'm not the biggest Sex and the City fan, I live for a good gender bending every day of the week, not to mention one of my favorite performers and writers, Joel Kim Booster, would be playing Samantha. Yes. I was in.

Brandon Scott Jones as Carrie, Julio Torres as Miranda,
Sam Taggart as Charlotte, Joel Kim Booster as Samantha
Not too long after, Joel had tagged me on Facebook: the show's producer/director Bowen Yang needed a photographer for the show. Was I interested? I was! So HanOre and I arrived early to the Jerry Orbach Theatre and got amazing seats, from which I sat and photographed the show. I laughed so much my stomach hurt and eyes hurt as Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha--played with wonderfully over-the-top commitment by Brandon Scott Jones, Julio Torres, Sam Taggart and of course Joel, respectively--ran through the black box of fictional New York, brightly colored purses swinging and flowered brooches growing by the minute (Carrie's flower pin grows so big by the end of the show it is smacking people in the arms and chests, but still with perfect comedic timing). I was hooked. I think people forget how much work it takes to make good comedy--I've always believed that anyone can make you cry, but not everyone can make you laugh.

I had the pleasure of photographing the second Broadgay in August at Littlefield in Brooklyn, as well, with the same results. I had to, at points, prevent myself from rolling out of the chair and clutching my stomach in the beautiful agony of laughing so hard. And if you are in New York on February 25, 2016, there is no place else you should be than at Littlefield for what will likely be yet another evening of Broadgay brilliance. Tickets are only $8-10, and can be purchased here.

MV holding up RD's brownie birthday cake
RD's Birthday

If you told me I would end up behind a tree in on a weekend in June to celebrate RD's 30th birthday, that would have been okay with me, honestly. SA and MV had planned the event, a surprise party unofficially called "RD's Dirty, Flirty, Squirty 30," for months, making sign-up sheets for bringing things, sending out e-vites, securing a plot of land in Central Park with the Parks & Recreation department (!), assembling RD-related bingo, making bagged lunches for everyone (!), buying decorations, and so much more. They really did an incredible job, too, because when he showed up and tons of his friends were jumping out from behind a tree yelling surprise, he had absolutely no idea. We sat in the park all day until it got dark, laughing and talking and playing games, eating sandwiches, sipping from juice boxes, and occasionally snuggling with a giant inflatable stegosaurus someone had brought.

Medieval Times

I would say I have a love/hate relationship with Middle America, but it's mostly just a hate relationship. Typical suburbia--with its chains and parking lots and manicured gas stations--is the stuff of my nightmares. So when we were going to out to Medieval Times in New Jersey for SA and MV's joint birthday party, I was skeptical to say the least. I knew it would be rife with screaming children and tourists at the worst, historical inaccuracies at best, phrases like "ye olde" tacked onto things that wouldn't be invented for another 500 years, like plastic cups, photo booths, and light-up princess crowns. I was not wrong on either account, and when I walked in I needed a drink. It was...a lot of stimulation, a lot of light up swords, a lot of The King's Olde Photo Shoppe. But after ye olde chardonnay in ye olde plastic cup, I was having a great time. I cheered loudly for our knight in the jousting tournament, I happily dug my hands (because there was no silverware in medieval times, apparently?) into the giant turkey leg offered to us, I booed the bad knights, cheered for the good ones, and ambled through the torture chamber with glee. I chuckled at the placemat that begged me to call 1-800-WE-JOUST if I wanted more information for my corporate retreats. I left full and happy and just a little drunk, passing out on the air mattress at SA's house, the reigns of my urban snobbery loosened, at least for the evening.

The first time I went to Buvette, it was a hot Saturday night in early September. I had been working all day and needed desperately to get out of the house. I texted SJT: Did he have plans? Miraculously, he did not, and we resolved to meet for dinner. I had heard about Buvette on more than one occasion, and it was supposed to be excellent: French tapas and small plates by chef Jody Williams hailed by regarded publications like The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and Bon Appetit. Surprisingly, the menu is reasonable, as well. Would SJT want to give it a shot with me? He did.

That evening, around 8:30, we strode into Buvette in the West Village and, another miracle for the evening, were able to find two open seats together at the bar. The doors were open inviting the still-summery warmth into the restaurant. SJT was wearing shorts, which made me feel glamorous being with him: only a certain kind of person has enough grace and style to make shorts look perfectly elegant while in what's considered a high-end (yet still low-key) bistro/cafe of sorts. Get on my high-end shorts and gold-wire-rimmed glasses and polka-dot tote bag level, his visage seemed to say to anyone in the vicinity.

We started with glasses of rose, then made our way through foie gras with cornichons, then tartinettes topped with anchovies (he) and walnut pesto (me) sharing bites along the way, and finally sharing a dense, rich chocolate mousse topped with homemade whipped cream for dessert. It was a perfect, petite summer meal Ina Garten would have loved. We ended the evening with cocktails at the Duplex, a gay bar not too far away on Christopher Street, laughing and singing Eve into the night. 

The Broadway show Hamilton is virtually impossible to get tickets to for the next millennium, probably, but by the good graces of SD, I was able to score a ticket via an offer at her company. I had been excited to see it for ages, not just because of its amazing press but because my dear friend SW was the show's Beatmaster and had been with the production from the beginning, when it was still called The Hamilton Mixtape and when it was first making waves at The Public Theatre. Most of our friends had seen it already, singing its praises over and over, and it was finally my turn. By this time, I could have watched clips of it online or heard parts of the soundtrack or what have you, but I very actively made the decision not to do any of that. I just wanted to walk in and have a story told to me. I was not disappointed.

There were so many things I loved about Hamilton, but my favorite thing was the storytelling. There aren't a lot of fancy set changes or anything, but you don't need them: just by the way the show is written and rapped through by its diverse cast, you can see and experience what the characters were feeling along the way. To quote The Producers, a Broadway show can have lots of "dopey showgirls in gooey gowns," but if you can tell an amazing story without them, the work you've done is that much more powerful. I could say so much more about it, but you should really just get tickets as soon as you can, even if the first available date is in 2017 (which, at this point, it might be). 

After the show, SW was kind enough to take time out of his evening to take me onstage, where I was able to see the set up close, meet some of his colleagues, and ask him infinite questions about the show. Kerry Washington was backstage casually talking to Lin-Manuel Miranda about how much she loved it. I got to see all the costumes lined up for props and changes, and some of the cast were onstage talking to their friends in their street cloth
es, that is to say their non-revolutionary gear. SW and I took the train uptown, talking more about the show. I feel privileged to have seen it, and my belief and hope is that it will change the face and focus of American theatre going forward.

I began photographing concerts more frequently this year, and one of the best shows I saw not just this year but probably ever was Peaches as she came through New York's Irving Plaza on her Rub tour with Deap Vally. I've loved her badass, brash electropop ever since I heard "Fuck The Pain Away" for the first time, and when I had the opportunity to actually photograph her show I leapt at the chance. For just one person, she dominated the stage and put on an unbelievable show, complete with custom-designed costumes, salacious dancers and props, trips into the audience, and more. Not only that, but I was able to see the show pretty much from the front row the whole time, since after I was done shooting it (the first three songs only is pretty standard), I just stepped to the side of the stage. I was right in front of the speaker so it was definitely loud, but it was totally worth it. Check out more of my images from that night here on Impose magazine.

We're going OUT
SC and EH at The Ritz
My dear friend EH is a surgical resident at a hospital in New Jersey, and she's totally killing the game. She works hard, she's smart, and she also barely ever gets a weekend off. When she does, she likes to come into the city and blow off steam. Last time she came in, though, I dropped the ball: I was working weekends, waking up at the buttcrack of dawn to get work done, so I could just barely stay awake by the time evening rolled around. This time she came to visit I vowed things would be different. We. Would. Go. Hard. Maybe even harder than we used to in college, if that was still possible for two professional women in their late twenties? But I made her a promise, and I never, ever break a promise. The evening began with Turkish meze at Beyoglu on the Upper East Side, then a jaunt down to SC's apartment for pre-going-out festivities with B and R. Our festivities went a little longer than usual, and we didn't leave there until 1am, arriving at our destination, the delightfully trashy Ritz in Hell's Kitchen. We drank whiskey and we danced everything out--stress, work, bills, zits, dudes, you name it. That night there was nothing Lady Gaga and RuPaul could not heal. We shook til our bodies hurt and then we shook some more. All of us were a beautiful mess of sweat and alcohol. And we shut the club down, making our way across the street in what was almost a mass exodus to the Galaxy Diner. We ate french fries and eggs and R fell asleep at the table. At 5 am, we dove into a cab, shivering in the loud emptiness of the night and fell asleep by 5:30am. I had kept my promise. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What You Don't Get in New York

As a native South Floridian, I have never known a snowy or even cold Christmas-New Year's combo and every year I get more and more okay with that. In the winter, A1A, the beach road in Fort Lauderdale, is decorated with shells and starfish formed from Christmas lights. There's a giant penguin with a surfboard welcoming visitors to Fort Lauderdale Beach. I turn down Oakland Park Boulevard and breeze along with the windows down, blasting The Pointer Sisters' "Jump! (For My Love)" on the radio. The ability to do this is one of the things I miss most about South Florida, but I appreciate them so much more when I'm here.

But there are other things, of course.

Driving in JS's SUV to and from the Dadeland Mall while singing "Hotline Bling" and "All I Want For Christmas is You" at the top of our lungs. Waking up in her guestroom at 6am and looking at the view of Miami. Trying to take pictures of her dog that she calls a "lap giraffe" but failing because he doesn't stop moving. Sitting on the beach with her and wearing our big sunglasses, listening to her say things like "God help me if I see another sonogram on Facebook. Congratulations, you're giving birth to a fucking squirrel."

How JL's apartment, decorated in Jim Morrison posters and Grateful Dead wall hangings, always smells vaguely of weed. How she makes her mother's fudge every Christmas, occasionally throwing in walnuts or peppermint sticks. Drinking white sangria at the utterly epic I-Pic movie theatre and eating buffalo chicken springrolls while watching Sisters. How, even after 23 years of friendship, she still remembers things I've said even when I don't remember saying them.

When my mother makes potato latkes when I am home in December even if Hanukkah has passed. How every year I try to flip them at the right time but often end up burning myself with oil, taking them out before they're done or after they've been too done. Flipping them onto paper towels to sop up the oil so my mother has a chance to eat some herself. Watching my dad crunch into the ones that are especially crispy because those are his favorites. Doing all of this at a time like Christmas, a time when in the past we might also be out for Chinese food and a movie.

Sitting at the dinner table with my family for a meal, cutting into things I can't afford to eat in New York like steak and baked potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts. Laughing at my dad's jokes, complimenting my mother's cooking, and really meaning both of those things when I do them. How my dad always leaves a cup full of the diet soda he hasn't finished on the table when he clears his place. How my mother instructs me where everything goes in the refrigerator when we're done eating.

Tending bar on New Year's Eve, leaving out my tip jar imprinted with my alma mater for guests. I will make my dad either a piña colada or a white Russian because he's not a big drinker and only likes things that taste like dessert and are topped with whipped cream. My mother will have a Cosmopolitan in what she refers to as "my glass," her oversized martini glass spun through with turquoise. "Use the Grey Goose Orange," she'll say, "and make it VERY. COLD." And champagne. Lots of champagne. Preferably Taittinger, but Veuve Cliquot or Perrier-Jouet will do, to be drunk only by she and I from the glasses from my grandmother Evelyn's set, the short ones rimmed with gold leaf. Everyone else gets regular champagne flutes.

Sitting out by the pool in my bathing suit and reading the back issues of New York Magazine I haven't gotten to yet. Coming inside when it gets too hot and lying around the house wrapped in a towel, still in my bathing suit, then going back outside later only to repeat the process all over again until it's dark outside.

Staying up way too late with my mom watching movies on Turner Classic Movies. Going out to dinner with my dad and talking about marijuana reform, his past life in the Bronx, and "whether or not I'm seeing any men."

Brunch on Sunday morning where my mother will make something a little more complicated than cereal, like French toast or Ebelskivers. Sitting there at the table in my pajamas with my parents, looking out at ponytail palm tree in the driveway my parents have nicknamed "Maxx II," after "Maxx I" was replaced a few years ago.

Trying to turn correctly out of the curved driveway but having to instead attempt it two or three times, rolling over the grass and maybe even hitting the house before I do it correctly. Not getting it right until the day before I leave, rolling my eyes at myself at how terrible a driver I am. Being proud of myself for never hitting the mailbox, chiding myself for hitting the neighbors' bushes covered in Christmas lights.

Doing my laundry in my parents' washer and dryer and not having to pay for it. Wearing clean jeans on the plane home after folding everything else neatly in my suitcase. Making my bed, or doing my best to do it, before I leave so my mother doesn't have to reach too much. Kissing my parents goodbye, saying "Bye Maw, Bye Paw," before I head into the airport and come back to New York.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Good Dates, Part II

It seems to be that time of year where we are all doing our best to tide ourselves over with the drunken evenings or brunches that define our friendships before we're resigned to spending time with our families for the next week or two. Fine by me.


Having mistaken the time we were to meet for dinner by a full hour, I am a half-hour late to meet SJT and my brain is falling out of my head. I am many things but a flake is not one of them, so I am instantly forgiven. Nevertheless, we meet at a different restaurant than we originally intended, one closer to a train we'll need later in the evening, but it's just as lovely. We avail ourselves of Nepali soups (dal, a lentil soup, for me and chasha thang, a shredded chicken and corn soup, for me) and sha momo (beef and herb dumplings) at Cafe Himalaya on 1st Avenue and 1st Street and make it to our next destination, an opera house in Brooklyn, in plenty of time.

I have written this before, but perhaps one of my favorite things in the world is to go to the opera with SJT. A dramaturg, opera writer, and self-described "opera queen," he affords me deep insights into an arts field I'm not the most familiar with, so even if I don't particularly enjoy the opera, I've learned so much about it that the evening is never a waste. Such was the experience we had on this jaunt to the Gowanus-ish neighborhood in the wilds of Brooklyn, where we saw an opera in English of which I didn't understand a word. First I thought it was me, that perhaps I was so dense about opera and that my ears just didn't work. Thankfully, though, this was not the case--SJT shared with me there were incredible problems with the diction in the show and I was so happy when, during intermission, he shared with me the story of what was actually going on. I did like that the company featured performers with gorgeous voices who were our age--so often, SJT tells me, there are 50-some-odd year-olds who will play teenagers just because their voices are so much more well-developed and, well, they're stars so who wouldn't want to come see them. But the younger age of the cast I think lends itself to expanding the notion of who opera can be for. Next time they just need a better director, or maybe even a dramaturg like SJT.

On the train back, we are both feeling nibbly, so we stop into one of my favorite haunts, the Olive Tree Cafe on Macdougal Street in the West Village, for babaganush and chicken wings. By the end of the evening my eyelids are drooping, but that's how you know you've had a full, and fully marvelous evening.


On a Wednesday night at around 8:45pm, I see a text from MS. "What are you doing tonight?" he says. Having just come back from yoga, I didn't really have any plans other than to shower and lope around the house in my sweatpants. I wrote this to him. It turns out his parents had tickets to a gala at the Neue Galerie, a museum of 20th century German and Austrian art. It ended at 9:30pm. Could I make it? he asked. I hemmed and hawed probably for a little too long before I said, Oh hell, I'll give it a shot. Worst comes to worst, I said to him, we'll just grab a bite and have to actually talk to each other. I threw on a cocktail dress, smeared some eyeliner on my face and raced a razor over my legs before hopping into first heels, then a coat, then a cab to hustle to the museum. I got there at 9:35 and the girls at the front door were like, "Uh, I guess you can come in..." Thanks, guys. People were in line for their coats and the bar had closed. And I didn't really care at all because I'd still get to spend time with my friend just the same. MS got his coat and we hobbled (rather, I, in heels, hobbled) over to Bocado on 87th and Lexington for late-night vittles. We dipped bread in olive oil and I tried valiantly to stab a brussel sprout with a fork but to no avail, while we chatted about dating and MS's potential move to Nashville. We ended up shutting the restaurant down, the lights turning from dim to bright as the clock reached a certain hour and we parted ways.


"Wanna see a Broadway show with me?" RaGo asked.

There are few things that I will drop all planned activities for, perhaps none more than an activity like this. I was raised going to the theatre--when I was growing up, my mother got tickets to almost any show that came through South Florida: Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, Cabaret, Cats, you name it--but strangely, now that I live in New York, mecca of theatre that it is, I hardly ever go. I simply cannot afford the ticket prices, so I usually only go when my parents come to town because that's one of their favorite activities. But RaGo had a gift certificate to the TKTS booth in Times Square that was soon to expire, and she had been kind enough to think of me to accompany her on her theatrical sojourn for the day. I of course agreed, and we met on the TKTS line at 10am on a Sunday morning. A line had in fact already formed though the booth would not open until 11am. We were in line with many a backpacked out-of-towner, their Midwestern or Australian accents giving them away. I realize now that I may have appeared as a city dweller, as the woman behind me began asking me for recommendations while I was waiting for RaGo. This fills me with pride as I write this, and a small smile crosses my face. Anyway, once Rachel arrives we gossip and then decide what our top shows would be. It's her birthday present, and her top choice is An American in Paris which as a huge dance nerd I am more than excited to see. We luck out with a crisp, 60-degree weather day, so waiting is not an issue; though I can't imagine what it would be like in the summer or in the depths of winter. Sheesh.

Once the booth opens, we are in and out in 15 minutes, with incredible orchestra seats to a Broadway show for a relative pittance. We squeal joyfully for about a minute, then RaGo says, "Now let's get out of this hellhole." It's true, Times Square is most definitely the bane of most New Yorkers' existence, but it also allowed us to get these amazing seats at unheardof prices, so it's a give and take.

We go for coffee at Kahve in Hell's Kitchen and then brunch at the ever-delightful BarBacon, where we stuff ourselves with mimosas and bacon-laced treats like a corn torta (she) and a BLT with sunny-side up egg and avocado (me). Pleasantly filled, we then head over to the theatre and our fantastic seats therein. The choreography, by Christopher Wheeldon, is so beautiful I well up several times watching it. After intermission we just look at each other. I squeal and she goes, "I KNOW!" We are having a blast watching dance together, a sheer delight I only rarely get to share with my friends. The second half is just as swoonworthy, and I well up again, not only loving what I'm seeing but feeling honored that RaGo wanted to share this day and her birthday present with me. We hug and part ways and, feeling particularly sappy, I listen to George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as I walk down Fifth Avenue.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Good Dates, Part I

I've said it before and I'll say it again: sometimes the best dates you'll ever go on are the ones you go on with your friends.

RD and meet in Chelsea at around 4pm. We drink tea and talk about boys who kiss us, who don't kiss us, and who kiss us strangely. He slices an edge off of his almond croissant for me because I tell him I'm not eating dessert again until the holidays but he wants me to try it anyway. It's delicious, and I wish I could eat the whole thing.

We make our way to New York Live Arts, where one of my favorite modern choreographers, Sonya Tayeh, is exhibiting the piece she's been working on as a part of a residency at the space. The dancers wear black and the space is almost grey with low light. They flick their legs and arch their backs in time to interviews set to music, where Sonya talks about the aftermath of coming out to her mother, who has barely spoken to her since. Afterward, Sonya sits quietly for a talkback with the audience, musicians Jo Lampert and duo The Bergsons, and Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company. Sonya's hair is long and thick, shaved on the sides of her head. She wears pieces in long, draping black. RD notices how her gestures when she speaks are a dance on their own, long, lithe fingers moving perfectly in time to the music of her speech. I always like seeing dance with people who aren't dancers because they notice things like that.

After Sonya, we head to dinner at Mizu, one of the spots RD usually goes for lunch. We eat soup and sushi and talk about gender inequality in the workplace. I nibble at his black cod sushi in miso dressing and wish I had ordered it myself. He tries to get me to order dessert again, cocking his eyebrow at me mischievously. I want the green tea mochi, but I drink water instead. Somehow he forgives me, and we bundle ourselves into our coats for a brief stop at Flying Tiger. The store is originally Danish, and is kind of the Ikea of home decor--tea towels for $3, funny cocktail napkins for $1, a set of magnets for $2, and so on--where it might fall apart but at least it looks cute for a while first. It turns out we've arrived 10 minutes to closing, but the store's bright lights still welcome us and nobody shoos us away.  The store has a path you have to follow to go through it, so you end up seeing everything and snatching up what you like along the way. I end up with some kitchen cloths patterned with hearts and red lip magnets that I will immediately come home later and neatly place on my fridge.

We part ways soon after, each of us heading uptown on different sides of the island. "This has been such a nice evening!" he says. "I thought I was just going to do the requisite, 'Hi, I miss you, your hair is gorgeous' and then leave, but this is so much better."

HanOre and I always have a fantastic evening, but this evening was made even better by an adventure to a hole-in-the-wall joint for one of the best meals I've had since moving to New York. I had taken my Sunday slow, spending most of my time in my neighborhood, and wanted to explore. Someplace new, someplace unusual! Casa Adela, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Alphabet City, had been on my radar for a long time, but probably out of sheer laziness I never made the trek to 5th Street and Avenue C to actually try it. Sunday night, though, seemed like the perfect opportunity, so I asked Han if she wanted to try it and she agreed. What better way to spend the first night of Hanukkah, we reasoned. The restaurant is almost literally a hole in the wall, with only five or six tables and bright fluorescent lights. Signs behind the counter are all written in Spanish, and stacks of Goya juices still in their bulk cardboard containers sit right in front of it. We wait for a table, but as we'll learn it was well worth the wait.

The waitress asks us for our order in Spanish, so I respond in kind. We both order Pernil Asado--roast pork--yellow rice and cual tipo de frijoles, what type of beans? Frijoles negros, por favor. Black beans, please. Y a beber? Solo agua, por favor. Muchas gracias. My Spanish comes back to me in waves, often very rocky at the start then much smoother at the end. By the time the food arrives we are ravenous, and dig in almost immediately. We are each given a giant plate of yellow rice and a teacup of black beans to pour onto it first. Then shortly after arrive two small plates of roast pork. It has that gorgeous reddened exterior flecked with seasoning and I can tell just by looking at it that's juicy. I'm able to slice into it smoothly and when I pop it into my mouth, I realize part of my food life has thus far been missing. We both MMMMM audibly while we eat and just stop talking because it's taking away from the eating experience. It is, in fact, juicy--bursts of salt pop in my mouth and combine with the juices and I think this is the right time to use the expression "I literally cannot even"? We sit in stunned silence, continuing to eat, and then soon, sadly, it's over. At least for me. I haven't eaten since the early morning and have destroyed the plate of pork. I am envious of Han, who will have her leftovers for lunch tomorrow. But I will have my memories! *swoons, faints, dies, is reborn again as a plate of Pernil Asado*

Mouths still watering, we pop into Lois at Han's recommendation. It's a wine bar just a block away, on C between 6th and 7th. All of the wine is on tap--but don't worry, the taps have been engineered to prevent oxidation and maintain the wine's original tastes--and you can order in a variety of sizes: glass, carafe, and so on. What's interesting about Lois, named for its Avenue C (Loisaida Ave) location, is that it's also a no-tipping bar; the price of gratuity and tax are both included in whatever you get. The very friendly bartender allows us to taste a few varietals before we settle on our choices, too. We both choose something light, dry and fruity then sidle up to a corner booth and talk about the book Han is writing, the books other people are writing, and the couple next to us who we think are on a first date.

Pork and wine? Sounds like a good way to spend Hanukkah to me.