When considering the fact that New York City is a bustling metropolis of millions, it’s ironic how often you hear it’s inhabitants express feelings of loneliness. Or alienation. Or a sense of hopeless disconnection from their fellow denizens. These are trite sentiments, certainly, but that doesn’t make them untrue. Even Mark Twain, when chronicling his time in the The City That Never Sleeps, wrote:
“A man walks his tedious miles through the same interminable street every day, elbowing his way through a buzzing multitude of men, yet never seeing a familiar face, and never seeing a strange one the second time.”
New Yorkers know summer weather is great… until it isn’t. The stench of _______ in the city becomes unbearable (there are so many varieties, I’ll let you fill in the blank with your favorite). We lose half our ice cream cone down our arms before we have a chance to eat it. My personal breaking point? When my skirt and my thighs become a singular entity. And when that moment hits, it’s time to find some indoor relief. Movie theaters, it turns out, are the perfect escape.
One of the side effects of starting this blog is that our days off are now few and far between. But when we do take a day to relax, we often spend some part of it in front of the television, with our feet up and our hands reaching into a tub of snacks. It feels like our natural resting state. So when an event brings together television and food, we can’t say yes fast enough. TNT Supper Club did just that, and in a big way.
We share New York City with a lot of celebrities, which means on any given day you might run into Jonathan Groff on his way to Hamilton (which I did!). Or you might find yourself waiting in line behind Famke Janssen for your takeout (which I also did!). And you might spy Michael K Williams in your subway car (yup, totally happened). I even walked by George Lucas on his way to Starbucks. (No judgment, George.)
Have you ever been in the situation where you’re walking down the aisle of a grocery store, a certain song plays over the speaker and you find yourself overcome with emotion? Maybe it triggered the memory of your first boyfriend, or it reminded you of a particular place, or the lyrics were particularly relevant to a recent event. If you’ve ever stifled sobs in the dairy aisle while deciding between skim and 1%, you’re not alone.
“Hey, I’m a civilian. I’m not your lawyer anymore. I’m nobody’s lawyer. The fun’s over. From here on out, I’m Mr. Low Profile, just another douchebag with a job and three pairs of Dockers. If I’m lucky, a month from now – best case scenario – I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.”
– Saul Goodman, “Granite State”, Breaking Bad
These simple lines, delivered with gusto by actor Bob Odenkirk in the second to last episode of Breaking Bad’s final season, were an oblique, furtive promise. Though it was technically an end, it was also a beginning. That promise was fulfilled in season one of the spinoff series, Better Call Saul. The flash-forward opening sequence — ironically shot flashback-style in black and white — was set in a Cinnabon at a nondescript mall (presumably in Omaha). And so began the long, winding journey from erstwhile small-time attorney, Jimmy McGill, to the morally dubious Saul Goodman.
To say I’m a fan of Better Call Saul is an understatement. In fact, I would argue it holds its own pitted against its predecessor. In my humble opinion, it’s only eclipsed by The Wire for one of the greatest series of all time. Over its past two seasons, I’ve spent nearly every Tuesday morning around the figurative water cooler discussing the most recent episode and theorizing future plot twists with my coworkers. So when I heard that a pop-up of Los Pollos Hermanos was coming to New York City, I pretty much had an apoplectic fit.
This morning Chloe sat by her bowl, looked over at me and gave out a loud meow. I looked at her and said, “Is that really necessary? You just watched me mix your food and I am now walking towards you with bowl in hand.”
Yes, I talk to my cat. And she talks to me. Chloe has a series of meows for the different things she needs. She has a special meow for when she wants to get under the blanket and needs me to fluff it juuuuust so. There’s a special meow for when she wants to be rubbed. There’s a special meow when she doesn’t want to be rubbed. And there’s a special meow that specifically says “I know there’s food in my bowl but I find it unsatisfactory and would like you to replace it”. I think that’s what comes from spending 16 years together.
Before I’d ever visited New York City, my first introduction was through television. More so the late night variety shows than the procedurals. And none more so than the venerable live broadcast of Saturday Night Live, with its ever changing cast and crew of comedians and writers plucked, seemingly at random, from the inestimable local theaters, clubs and performance spaces found in every nook and cranny of the city. These establishments, where so much raw talent is skimmed off the top of a limitless, un-homogenized pool of hopes, dreams and aspirations, are the incubators for creativity, experimentation and collaboration.
But it’s not all roses, as they say. New York City is a place where you’ll find incredible successes but also abject failures. You may stumble across the blueprints for achieving unparalleled fame and fortune, but you ignore the cautionary tales of ruin and misery at your own peril. New York City is hard. It’s survival of the fittest. And you don’t survive long on your own.
We’ve touched upon these themes before, when we covered a screening of Don’t Think Twice, which you can find here. But watching a film or reading a synopsis is one thing, seeing it play out in person is entirely another.
First Comes Love: This Election Blows at Lynn Redgrave Theater gave us a bird’s eye view. First Comes Love is a series borne of Kyle Ayers’ ingenious idea to solicit pornographic movie scripts from a fake ad he placed on Craigslist. The response was overwhelming, providing him with so much material that he decided to turn it into a show. The unedited (and sometimes previously unread) scripts are acted out by comedians and actors with improvised costumes and props. Presented by CounterCulture, First Comes Love: This Election Blows was a selection of political election-themed scripts from the treasure trove.
While the idea of watching scenes from amateur adult movie screenwriters might seem a little raunchy, the essence of First Comes Love was far less about sex than one would expect. The atmosphere created by the close-knit band of comedic players was fun and lighthearted. Lynn and I laughed, and laughed hard, at various points throughout the show. The material was mostly weak (remember, these were responses to a Craigslist ad), but it was the intense expression of camaraderie between the cast, the contagious fun and enthusiasm they exuded, the blind trust they placed in each other, and the irrepressible joy they shared with us, the audience, that made it a unique experience.
You can stalk their website for a return visit to New York City, but First Comes Love is now also a podcast on Howl. Just maybe don’t play it during Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe do.
Pair it with:
Dinner at Minetta Tavern
I don’t really do “crawls”. And I don’t say that with disdain. There’s nothing wrong with them or with people who enjoy them. But I tend to feel going from one establishment after another over a single night numbs the palate. I do, however, pay close attention to “Best of” lists, and will, from time to time, methodically strike from the list different iterations of a culinary item over a relatively short period of time. Burgers are one such item. And I’ve tried many.
Until recently, Spotted Pig’s chargrilled burger with Roquefort cheese held the top ranking, unchallenged and by a wide margin. That is, until I visited the West Village and Keith McNally’s legendary French bistro, Minetta Tavern.
Steaks are excellent here, but let’s not waste time. The reason for this stop is the Black Label Burger — easily the best burger I’ve ever had. And yet, it’s the definition of simplicity: a beef patty allegedly consisting of a proprietary mix of NY strip, skirt steak and brisket, sauteed onions and a Balthazar Bakery seeded brioche bun. That’s it. And it’s incredible.
Opened in 1937, and purchased and renovated in 2009 by McNally, the space is filled to rafters with its charismatic ambiance. With the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’Neill, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, and Joe Gould, as well as various other famous writers, poets, and pugilist regularly frequenting the tavern over its storied history, it’s a special and unique place to share an incredible meal.
Living in a bustling metropolis certainly has its perks, and reading The New Yorker has always been an easy way to remind oneself of that. I can recall many quiet evenings on the secondhand futon in my tiny Cleveland apartment, thumbing through the pages of the magazine, a large Arabica iced mocha often within reach. I’d delve into the analysis of current events, read new fiction from distinguished authors and scour the pages for witty cartoons. Then I’d land on the listing of all the goings-on about town, and I’d wistfully make a list for my next visit.
I love movies. From the classics to the contemporaries, the small indies to the big blockbusters. We’ve been pretty open about that here on the blog where we’ve covered a film festival (here), attended an opening week screening (here), or most recently, just waxed poetic about one of our favorite directors (here). So when the weather warms up, it should come as no surprise that one of our favorite things to do is catch an outdoor movie screening.
New Yorkers are fortunate that there are numerous free outdoor movie screenings offered in many of the city’s amazing parks throughout the summer. You could watch The Omen at Bryant Park, Purple Rain at Hudson River Park, American Graffiti at Brooklyn Bridge Park or The Royal Tenenbaums at McCarren Park. But we’re not the only ones who love movies in New York City, and we’re definitely not the only ones who love free activities. City dwellers wait in anticipation for the schedules to be released at the beginning of the season and appear en masse for showtime. In order to find a spot most of us have to turn up hours earlier, often with blankets and refreshments in tow.