It’s that time of year once again when, on its best days, the public transit system is relegated to a crude pneumatic tube belching hot air through the bowels of the city. We can add to that the now frequent occurrence of trains being delayed or stalling for prolonged periods of time. And then, of course, there were the three frightening derailments that have transpired since March. The truly incredible obsolescence of this integral system has been laid bare, the ugly truth plain for all to see. And no amount of half-measures–duct tape or bubble gum–can fix the mess. Andrew Cuomo’s “Summer of Hell” is in full swing.
There is a Confucius quote that says:
“True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.”
Shortly after we started blogging we realized what we didn’t know could fill an ocean. It’s been a journey, one we explored more thoroughly in our year-end review after our first full year of blogging. But we’ve received a lot of help and inspiration along the way, and no small part of that has come from other New York City bloggers that we’ve been fortunate to become acquainted with.
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.
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.
113 Macdougal St
5:30pm—12am (Sun – Wed)
5:30pm—1am (Thurs – Sat)
Four years and twenty-six days ago, I lost my cat Felix. Everyone thinks their cat is special, but calling Felix “special” would be doing him a huge disservice. He was uncannily shrewd. He figured out how to open doors and drawers. He manipulated timed feeders into futility. And he orchestrated cover-ups: he’d once gained access to a large bag of food in the pantry, but continued to pretend he was hungry at feeding times so we wouldn’t get suspicious. Felix gave me fourteen years of laughter, frustration, pride, annoyance, and lots and lots of love.
I’ve never shied away from the “cat lady” moniker, but it turns out maybe I should have. The term is often used in a derisive manner, with images of unattractive women destined for eternal singlehood attached. So Fresh Step set out to dispel the negative connotations with its first ever Fresh Step Feline Fashion Lounge and Adoption Event during New York Fashion Week. In a space located just off the High Line, Fresh Step and actress Katie Cassidy (of Arrow, Gossip Girl and Melrose Place fame) played host to a Hot to Adopt event, where models walked the runway in fabulous fashions and the hottest accessory in town: a cat.
From the linguistic dexterity and poetic brilliance of the late George Carlin to the rapid-fire, quick-witted, rage-filled rants of the inimitable Lewis Black, I’ve been lucky enough to witness comedic genius in action on quite a number of occasions. As stated in a previous post, storytelling — of which, as I see it, stand-up comedy is a specialized subset — is, in it’s highest form, an art. And Neal Brennan’s inspired performance at the Lynn Redgrave Theater served as a stark reminder of this fact.
Storytelling, at its apex, is an art. It requires the philosophical contemplations, critical observations and the communicative dexterity of a writer, coupled with the intuition and instincts of a performer. It has existed from mankind’s earliest days, long before the first written word, as the primary narrative mode to disseminate ideas: communicating historical accounts, outlining philosophical theories, expressing ethical concerns, and challenging cultural norms.
Though much of my exposure to the social significance of storytelling originated with an elective class on folklore I explored at university, it wasn’t until my first trip abroad, to the United Kingdom, that I began to truly appreciate it as art. From cabbie to bartender, a newly minted acquaintances on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow or on a bus in Dublin, the wit and mirth of the oral tradition were on full display in all its grandeur.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This proverb is often used when discussing art (let’s admit it, usually when we see something we don’t enjoy). Art appreciation truly is a subjective, personal experience. We’ve definitely seen our fair share of pieces that have induced that squinty-eyed, cocked-head pose, with a virtual question mark poised neatly above our heads. While we may not all agree on what constitutes art, whether it’s good or bad, or where it’s headed, we can (hopefully) agree that there’s an abundance of it and we’re better off for it. We’ve featured street art as well as the more conventional kind found in museums here on the blog, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also talk about another way to access great art in the city: private galleries.
Although there have always been arguments about culture being only for the elite or art being corrupted by the super-rich, we (who are neither elite nor rich, much less super-rich!) have found no such barrier to entry, and we regularly enjoy visiting the multitude of galleries here in the city that have allowed us to get up close and personal with some stunning pieces of artwork. For free. There are bigger players like the Gagosian Gallery who have featured such heavy-hitters as Takashi Murakami and Roy Lichtenstein, but we submit that smaller galleries should not be overlooked. Gems can often be uncovered in these more experimental spaces. Such was our experience recently when we visited the Not a Photo exhibition at The Hole.
New York City has mood swings. Really, really bad ones. One moment it can be sweet, seductive, nearly—dare I say it!—tranquil and the next it can be capricious, defiant, and impossibly, impenetrably aloof. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that you have a better statistical chance of winning the Powerball Jackpot (1 in: 292,201,338 in case you were wondering) than predicting which mood you’ll encounter on any given day. This can make planning an infuriating exercise in futility.
Such was the case during one of our recent excursions. We set out late on a Sunday morning with an established agenda: a whimsical visit to a nearby gallery, followed by a properly gluttonous brunch. So easy! And yet the City, from the get-go, simply wasn’t having any of it and wasted no time gesticulating a spirited rendition of it’s signature, passive-aggressive response: thumbs in ears, fingers splayed, eyes glaring, blowing a raspberry.
To start, not one but two buses jumped the schedule. Then, once we descended the steps into the subterranean depths of the station to switch to a train, we immediately noted the ubiquitous MTA Service Advisories, with their prosaic, Helvetica-esqe typeface, haphazardly posted along the platform declaring numerous “service disruptions”. Finally, when we reached our destination—significantly later than anticipated, mind you—the door to the gallery was locked.
Peering through the glass into the dimly lit space, with only the faintest light penetrating the threshold and illuminating sparkling flecks of wafting dust particles, there was the reception desk, with its seat pushed in, empty. We read the stenciled hours of operation on the glass: Wed-Sun, 12-7pm. Then, we revisited their website on our smartphones. Same hours posted there. It was Sunday. It was past noon. What gives? Only after L. (clever woman that she is) called the gallery’s number, was it revealed on their voicemail that they had abruptly changed the days and hours of operation: Sunday—Closed.
We skipped ahead to brunch where the massive number of calories soon extinguished the fire of exasperation in the pits of our bellies. We emerged somewhat pacified, but as we made our way through the East Village down into SoHo, we discovered the following masterpieces along the way:
The term “Fashion Icon” can conjure up so many varied images, and nowhere is that more true than in New York City. New Yorkers have long had the privilege of having an array of unique style idols to look up to, and Patricia Field is an undisputed member of that class. Best known for dressing Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, she taught legions of style mavens to mix the high with the low, the hard with the soft, the masculine with the feminine. And it’s that keen eye and sense of whimsy that you can find on full tilt in the unique store that bears her name.
I’ll confess: I’m a planner. I download maps and menus. I read reviews. But you know that Yiddish proverb, “You plan, God laughs”? That’s what this city does too. You’ll be walking through Central Park on your way somewhere and be mesmerized by a group of a cappella singers. Or you’ll be heading to a favorite dinner spot and be pulled into a small little cafe you’d never noticed before. This city seduces you with its endless possibilities. And Moth StorySLAMs very much embody this sensibility.
For those of you who may not be familiar, The Moth is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling. They host competitions all over the country where, similar to an open-mic night, people get on a stage and tell a story. Each event is assigned a generic theme (for example, “betrayal” or “joy”), and the stories are tied to the theme. The stories have to be true, and they have to be yours. And boy, some of them are fantastic.