Saturday, March 25, 2017

Miss Manhattan in Paris




I found out I was going to Paris nine days before I got on the plane. It was for work, to write about different aspects of the trip (more on this after the articles come out!), but I also ended up having a nice amount of time to myself to wander the city aimlessly, which is usually my favorite thing about traveling.


My first day there, we landed at about 9:30am, and my free time began shortly after that. I set my sights on a touristy option first, a visit to Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank, and then resolved to amble about in hopes of not looking like an annoying American after that. Visiting the English language bookstore,  named similarly but not actually related to the one in New York, would cross another literary establishment off my list, right behind City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.

I resolved to take the Metro there, as it was a shorter trip than it would be from my house to Union Square, and huddled in front of the ticket vending machine, hoping I did not look like a tourist. But the line I used, Line 1, was very easy to understand, and I shoved my tiny Metro tickets into the entryway like a non-tourist (I hoped, anyway). Shakespeare and Company was a lovely space, with a practically ancient staircase, twisty, turny bookshelves, a piano, a designated bookstore cat, and spaces for their legendary Tumbleweeds to sleep.


I had asked HanOre if she wanted me to bring her back anything from Paris (she lived there for a semester while in college), and she had only one request: "I would like you to leisurely eat a fresh baguette, preferably in some garden or park, and have the time of your life." So, after Shakespeare and Co., I discovered by way of the website Paris By Mouth (recommended to me by another gal on the trip), that the baguette voted the best in the city in 2016 was a mere seven-minute walk away at a bakery called La Parisienne. I walked in and waited in line for one of their baguettes, asked in French for un baguette, s'il vous plait, and was answered in English. Well, I tried, at least. I got a traditional white baguette for about 1.2 euro, and wandered out of the store. It was a Monday when lots of things are closed, so unfortunately the nearby fromagerie was not available. I bit into the baguette and it crunched under my teeth in a way that no attempt at a baguette in America ever had. Its insides were fluffy but chewy and just a little bit eggy in flavor. It was nice to know what a baguette was really supposed to taste like.

I made my way past Notre Dame, crunching along as I went. It's funny, but at the time I forgot that the French actually sit and eat their meals in places like humans, not like Americans who want everything on the go. So I perhaps looked my most American as I crunched over the bridge past the famous cathedral and through Ile St. Louis. To my credit, there was a gentleman walking out of La Parisienne crunching on a baguette as he walked down the street when I got there...but hindsight is 20/20 and he may have been American, too. Le sigh.

I decided I was finished crunching my baguette as I found myself in front of the The Hôtel de Ville, which is not a hotel, but the Parisian city hall. If only New York's city hall could be such a feat of architecture, people might actually want to go. I was on my way to Kilo Shop, another recommendation by HanOre, where consigned and vintage clothes are sold by the pound. Miracle of miracles, I ended up with an '80s hot pink leather jacket for 16 a mere euro, a feat which would never, could never happen in New York.

Time before my evening engagement was winding down, I had a baguette in my purse, and a plastic bag filled with a leather jacket, so I made my way back from whence I came. Not before sitting and enjoying a latte as the French do...though if I'm honest, I was jonesing for a hot take-away beverage all day. They don't do those in France, silly American, unless you go to Starbucks, and j'ai patently refusé. Coming all the way across the Atlantic just to have Starbucks, can you imagine? My soul was crushed simply thinking about it.

*

The next time I had a moment to myself, I went to Jeu de Paume. Though 'jeu de paume' actually was a ball and court game that was a precursor to tennis, Jeu de Paume is a museum that's set up in a former 'jeu de paume' court outside of the Tuileries gardens. It's dedicated to modern and post-modern photography, video, and cinema work. While I was there, I was able to see the work of surrealist and documentarian Eli Lotar and video artist Peter Campus.

As I left the museum as the sun was setting, the Eiffel Tower and Roue de Paris in the distance. I stared and whipped out my camera, not worried for once about my tourist tendencies. I watched the blue sky fade to orange, then hopped back on the Metro.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Véronique Hyland


Véronique Hyland’s pants are splattered with paint when she walks into the lobby of New York Magazine’s building at 1 Hudson Square. They’re a relic from high school she tells me, and she ingeniously wears them with with a coordinating cadet blue furry coat, brightly colored sneakers, and a black t-shirt. It’s a fitting look for a fashion editor, especially in the middle of Fashion Week.

Véronique has been the Fashion News Editor at New York Magazine’s The Cut since 2014, having previously worked at both ELLE and Harper’s Bazaar. Her writing, into which she has sprinkled her sassy, dry wit, has also appeared in The New Yorker, W, and The New York Times. During New York Fashion Week she bounces from show to show in between meetings and more writing and emails and lunch and more shows.

When the day begins, Véronique is at her desk, surrounded by a drawing of John Cheever, a standing cut-out of Barbie as Karl Lagerfeld, a button that says “Taste is Bondage,” and a Last Supper image designed by a friend starring Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and Taylor Swift. She is working on an article she’s especially excited about for the site, about the brand Chromat using models of all sizes, backgrounds, and genders at their show that day.

After a few updates, it’s time to head meet with designers of a new brand called Vaquera. Vaquera, which means “Cowgirl” in Spanish, is based out of Brooklyn and blends traditional work uniforms with high-fashion influences and a sense of humor. This means in their latest collection there are baggy, army green work pants with an attached corset and a Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour -style bustier. Véronique understands them and likes that they have a sense of who they are and something to say about the place of their designs not just in fashion but in culture.

Then we’re off to a presentation of Water Clothing in a suite at the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca, braving the February ice and slush on our way there. Upon our arrival, the excitable co-designer of the collection talks about the pieces in the line, casual, loose fitting cotton and velour pieces meant to “make a Parisian wear a pair of sweatpants.” Véronique takes his excitement in stride, calmly asking questions and nodding to his responses. Toward the end of the meeting, we’re given hand screen-printed bandannas, and we head out into the cold, back to the office.

Véronique will have two more shows that day, the aforementioned Chromat and later, after a light snack at the nearby Ear Inn, Jeremy Scott. On the way to Skylight Clarkson Square, home of many Fashion Week shows, she tells a story about being starstruck when meeting Tom Ford, all the while expertly maneuvering throes of people trying to take and be photographed for street style photos in  front of the venue. She brushes her hair out of her face and pulls her sunglasses over her eyes, unfazed.

Follow Veronique on Twitter and Instagram.


















Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Bowen Yang

When I meet Bowen Yang at Konditori in Park Slope, he is watching Britney Spears videos on YouTube behind the sleek geometry of his black glasses. This is not his usual state—his diva of choice, I will learn later, is actually Lady Gaga—but tonight the comedian is representing Ms. Spears at the monthly Diva Battle at Union Hall, a show defining itself as “if Roast Battle and Debate Club had a super gay baby.” Hosted by comics Matteo Lane and Christi Chiello, performers go head to head, presenting their hilarious and deliciously wicked cases for the divas they stand for that evening. Bowen’s competition tonight is comedian Matt Rodgers, also his best friend, who will be presenting the case for Christina Aguilera.

By day, Bowen is a graphic designer, but…also by day, he’s a performer, writer, and producer of shows all across New York, like the laugh-so-hard-I’m-in-pain “Live on Broadgay,” which features gay comedians performing an episode of Sex and the City. Bowen was also named one of the 50 Funniest People in Brooklyn by Brooklyn Magazine and a comedian on the rise by Time Out New York, the latter which praised him for “his signature arched-eyebrow cleverness and gleeful camp.” He has appeared on Broad City and The Outs, and has a successful podcast on iTunes with Matt called Las Culturistas (which they will be performing live at Littlefield in Brooklyn on March 21).

Bowen and I soon head to Union Hall, where he continues prepping his Britney presentation, “It’s Godney, Bitch.” After adding to his slideshow an image of Britney in a sparkly, rhinestone-covered nude bodysuit from her video “Toxic,” he grabs a glass of white wine at the bar, chit-chatting with the hosts.

Soon, the show begins, and Bowen and Matt execute ferociously cheeky tongue lashings against each other’s divas. Bowen is stern and forceful but in his signature campy way, as serious as anyone could be when arguing for the validity of a singing, dancing, now Las Vegas -based pop confection. Both he and Matt at one point cause their hosts roll around on the floor laughing in tears, thrusting a bundle of balloons to the ground and stabbing them into bursts in celebration of their sauciness.

Ultimately, though both receive rousing cheers from the audience, Matt wins, and Bowen graciously applauds. The room empties and they say hello to friends, then search for a place nearby to eat. The two have known each other since performing in comedy troupes as students at NYU and have been hustling their way through the comedy world since then, creating work for themselves and others whose work they love, and really getting noticed in the process. It seems like Bowen is always producing a show, always performing somewhere, never stopping, which is in some ways what being a young artist is all about.

We head to Calexico nearby in time for free margaritas on what is apparently National Margarita Day. Thank goodness, I think. These guys deserve a drink. 

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Cheese and Sugar

RaGo's birthday was four months ago, but I didn't have a chance to celebrate with her until this week. There are few things in the world the woman loves more than cheese--especially gooey, melted cheese on top of, well, whatever you got--so I gave her a list of options of places I'd like to take her that might feature such an experience.

From the list, she chose Raclette in the East Village, where they do the real deal raclette thing: the edge of half a wheel of cheese heated and bubbling then scraped with a special knife onto your plate of potatoes, meat, salad, vegetables, you name it. I had never had raclette before, but I once flirted with a man on the train who was from Switzerland and told me it was huge there. Just cheese on cheese on cheese scraped for your life onto your plate. It was the perfect place to take RaGo.

What's interesting about Raclette is that they only do reservations online--I've become aware, at my old age, that this is not in fact unusual, but this was my first encounter with the experience. I even tried to call and there was a message saying the equivalent of "nah, you can't do that here" but, you know, a lot nicer than that. The other interesting part about this is that, though RaGo and I made these plans literally weeks ago, I did not find out until the day of that you even needed a reservation (though, to their credit, it does say so rather largely on their website, so the onus is totally on me). So there I was, hours before we were supposed to meet, frantically perusing their website for reservations and trying to call, but to no avail. I saw that they did, in fact, accept walk-ins, so I resolved to go down there early--like, way, way early--to see if I could snag us a table. I had made a promise to RaGo and there was no way I was going to mess it up. Just in case, I scoured Google for "fondue east village" and "melted cheese east village" only to find the most consistent recommendation was still Raclette. And I gathered my life together and headed down, arriving at about 6:45pm (we initially wanted to meet at 8). I explained my plight to the gal at the hostess stand, inhaling the scent of pungent cheese as soon as I walked in. She asked when we wanted to come in, looked down at her iPad, and found us a table. And that was it! I had done it! Praise RuPaul.

The evening was brisk, and I walked over to The Bean to have an iced tea and read from my book for a while. I returned to Raclette later and our table was ready, and they even let me sit down though RaGo wasn't there yet, something I find more and more is a rare occurrence these days. Shortly she came in through the door, though, and we began staring at the piles of cheese gliding onto plates, mouths watering in anticipation. We both decided on the Suisse plate, which included roasted potatoes, pearl onions, cornichons, arugula, and a meat of your choice (she chose prosciutto, I jambon de Paris). And what sort of birthday would it be without a bottle of wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, which we split.

Soon it was our turn to be cheesed, and our plates came out followed by a gal holding that giant half-wheel we both stared at lovingly. We watched as the waterfall of cheese fell first on my plate then, after another heating session perhaps, on her plate. The waterfall somehow expertly fell over the whole plate of food, and we began digging in, mouths somehow still watering as we continued to eat. We drank our wine, we ate our cheese, we chitted and chatted and after the bottle was finished (don't worry, mom, my liver is fine) we had spent nearly two hours in the restaurant, perhaps in true European style.

But RaGo's birthday was not done yet, and we made our way to Chikalicious, a dessert bar where you can get a prix fixe dessert menu featuring an amuse bouche, "entree," and petit fours (there's also the Dessert Club across the street where you can get funky a la carte items like black sesame ice cream in a churro cone). The menu changes every day, but we got the Warm Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream and Red Wine Sauce, preceded by orange and brown sugar sorbet and followed by a teeny coconut marshmallow, teeny alfajor (Argentinian caramel cookie), and teeny vanilla ice cream on top of a teeny chocolate cookie. Praise RuPaul yet again.

Everyone deserves a little bit of luxury on their birthdays, I think. Whether that's in the form of melted cheese or not is entirely up to you.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Hannah Orenstein

Hannah Orenstein’s navy pleated skirt swings as we walk down Avenue A in the East Village. She eases a pair of circular tortoiseshell sunglasses onto her face then gestures toward a curio shop with a red leather -sleeved arm. “Have you ever been to Obscura? I love it here!”

Today, the Assistant Features Editor at Seventeen is taking me on a tour of some of her favorite spots in the neighborhood, the quirky and unusual places she has been known to frequent since moving to New York in 2011.

Hannah knows who she is down to the velour Juicy Couture sweatsuits I loathe but she loves without even the smallest trace of irony. Even if I hated her guts I would tell you she’s a great writer and a rising star in magazine publishing, with eloquence, elegance, and panache beyond her years. But I don’t, so I’ll also tell you she recently sold her debut novel, Playing With Matches, to Touchstone Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint. I’m delighted to be able to call her a friend, one with whom I continue to bond over a shared, undying love of New York, 1950s style, and good magazine writing. 

We walk into antiquities and oddities store Obscura and my eyes dart from torn-apart baby dolls to vintage postcards to human skulls that may or may not have once been real. While my brain shivers at the thought of the latter, Hannah seems at home. 

Traveling south, we go first to Enchantments, New York City’s oldest occult store, to peruse various candles and herbs and pet their pair of black cats. People ask sincere questions about the correct ingredients to use in spells and receive sincere answers. 

Next we enter to Flower Power, a healing herbs store run by women who identify as Green Witches, to sniff more concoctions. Hannah picks up a jar of their Love Potion No. 9 mixture and inhales. 

“Would you ever use a love potion?” I ask. She laughs, then considers. “Would I?” 

We leave for coffee at The Bean on 1st Avenue. Her red lipstick sticks to the drink’s white lid between sips as we head down East 9th Street to Dusty Buttons, a vintage clothing store that has since closed. Hannah purrs with delight as she runs her hands over the cinched 1950s waists of sequined and plaid dresses while urging me to get a vintage Black Sabbath t-shirt. I chuckle. Hannah knows who we both are. 

Peckish, we avoid the looming rain and duck into Cozy Soup N’ Burger, one of Hannah’s favorite haunts from her NYU days. In the unadorned diner, there since the 1970s, we order omelets—hers her usual Ranchero, mine mushroom—and chit chat, trying to avoid the going back into the rain. We do have to leave eventually, and as the downpour continues we jump into a cab, where she checks email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat as we motor across the East Village. An umbrella just doesn't go with this outfit.

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