Thursday, July 23, 2015

Scenes from a Summer

Merrie Cherry
Brooklyn drag queens are known for doing whatever the hell they want, pretty much. They'll arrive onstage with hairy legs and chests, they'll paint their entire faces as if they were applying warpaint, they'll have ripped tights, they'll throw off their wigs in fits of fabulousness. As famed drag king Murray Hill once said, they're a hot mess, but on purpose; the punks of the drag world, one might say. And they're glorious. I had never seen a Brooklyn drag show before but I made my way out to one recently. The annual festival of drag in Bushwick is known as Bushwig and it's held in September, where the borough's queens all come out to play; but the summer version of it is called Patwig. It was a day-long festival at Union Pool in Williamsburg, where ferocious queens like Merrie Cherry, Horrorchata, the delightfully named [untitled queen], Aja, and many others all came out to play in their own brand of drag. As if to say no, there's not one way to do drag, and anything I want to do, any choice I make will be beautiful. For the rest of my life, I will never forget seeing Merrie Cherry lip-synch Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," spinning on a pole, running across the stage and jumping onto a picnic table in giant red platform heels. It was sheer genderfuck perfection. I will without a doubt be going back.

Photos are from my iPhone. Incidentally, I am also on Instagram (@MissManhattanNY)!

Part of Merrie Cherry's "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Punk in Drublic
When it comes to drinking, I am a terrible lightweight. One drink, of any kind, makes me loopy, so when JW came to visit last week and we had a cocktail--yes A cocktail-- with dinner, I was done. And after dinner, around 11pm, we went grocery shopping because I had no food and it's New York so everything is open late (my grocery store is open til 1am. God, I love this town). So we were in this grocery store, giggling and wobbling through the aisles to find strawberries and yogurt and cookie dough on two different nights, and it was a completely wacky experience. JW accidentally made jokes about the phallic shape of cookie dough as we tromped through a crowd of people in the pasta aisle, my giant shopping basket filled with cottage cheese and yogurt for me, kombucha for her. They turned and stared and we burst out laughing in each other's faces. And I have to say, it was one of my greatest moments of last week.

I've probably written this before, but one of the things about living in New York is that you have to remember that it's just like living everywhere else. Yes, there are clubs open til 4am every night--trust me, I've been to them--but you know you're a real New Yorker, or at least on your way to becoming one, when you don't have to do those things or be chasing those things to have an amazing time. Sometimes you can just be punk in drublic in your local grocery store, shopping for cookie dough at 10pm with a friend. You'll simultaneously laugh and eat the dough on the way home with her, like you're still in college, as if nearly nine years have not passed since you first met. And it'll be awesome.

Nocturne Blues
It was rather toasty last weekend--easily in the 90s for a day or two, definitely. And over the weekend was the annual Nocturne Blues dance weekend here in the city (read more about what blues dancing is here). Blues dancers from all over the country and the world came to dance to DJs and live music, enter dance competitions, take blues classes, and much more. I had the pleasure of attending for two nights, both where I danced from about 10:30pm until about 3am. Hips swirl and grind, people are kind and considerate, and you leave with a warm body and a warm heart. (Not to mention you get to hang out and dance with two friends you never get to see and it's wonderful! Shoutout to the phenomenal JB and DL).

There is nothing like leaving a building having danced out your stresses and entering the dark, quiet streets of New York in the summertime, where a heated, humid breeze hangs in the air. That's the thing I've always felt about very hot weather--while it's unpleasant on the surface, on a deeper level it makes you feel alive.

Jazz on a Summer's Day
In 1959, the photographer Bert Stern arrived in Newport, Rhode Island to direct a feature film, but luckily he decided to abandon it and focus instead on the Newport Jazz Festival. The result is a documentary of a single day of the festival, featuring Stern's gorgeous cinematography and astounding jazz performances from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Big Maybelle, Mahalia Jackson, George Shearing, and many more. I hadn't seen the film previously, but what I heard about it was that each scene from the film itself was a gorgeous photograph, reflective of Stern's still work. Seeing it on Tuesday, this was without a doubt completely true. I had been invited to the beautiful Explorer's Club on the Upper East Side for a viewing of the film in one of the club's great rooms (to get to it I had to walk past a giant taxidermy polar bear!) and was utterly blown away. When you look at the film, you feel Stern looking at each of these images and understanding why he wanted to capture them, what story he was trying to tell. And it was, frankly, the perfect movie for a summer evening. As I left, I walked into the evening, dark but still well lit in the way that all New York evenings are, inspired to listen to jazz all the way home.

Check out the trailer here, but I highly recommend watching it in its entirety!