Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New York: The Last Stand: Days Three and Four

The next morning, Tuesday, Jeff and I started off with breakfast and coffee at Zabar's on the Upper West Side. They've got a little cafeteria style cafe next to their grocery store/ deli. I got a hazelnut-flavored cappucino and a cinammon roll and toasted everything bagel. Jeff got a triple espresso and a bagel and a pecan sticky bun.

Afterwards, we crossed the park to the Metropolitan Museum where we spent several hours. I loved the Temple of Dendur, one of the most amazing "museum rooms" in the world. I took a picture of a little alligator on guard in the moat surrounding the temple.

We went to see the Greek sculpture and the other impressionists, criss-crossing the museum several times looking for the way to the roof garden where contemporary Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang had installed one of his gunpowder conceptual pieces. We made it just in time for the 12 noon "firing" of a gunpowder puff into the New York skyline. Very sad and funny and evocative of the events of the past 5 years. I especially liked his alligators (do you detect a theme?) stabbed with knives and forks and nail clippers collected at airport security post 9-11. Like something out of a nightmare: the alligators still looked alive and stabbing it and stabbing it with these little tiny things wouldn't kill them at all. I've always been really scared of alligators: they have them at the beach where my family used to take us as children. They'd sit in saltwater ponds in the neighborhoods near the beachhouses, totally still like logs, all afternoon and then suddenly, terrifyingly quick and loud jump at a fish. Some of them were enormous. And there were always scary stories about their encounters with people, eating a kid or a dog or something. They still appear from time to time in my bad dreams! Anyway, long story short, I loved the roof top exhibit. Both for the view and the scary evocative work of the talented Cai Guo-Qiang.

After the Met, we crossed the park again back to the Upper West Side where we stopped at Scharfenberger's chocolate shop. I highly suggest you avoid this stupid shop. They were totally rude to us there (about six people seemed to be working behind the counter of this shop and service was still slow and desultory. the girl acted as if we were ruining her day by asking for something). Plus just about everything they had in the shop was something you can buy anywhere else. Even Kroger has Scharfenberger Chocolates now. Jeff and I split some truffles. they were good, but not great. I picked up a free photocopied recipe for Indonesian Chocolate tea. But I lost it.

We went back to Zabar's to pick up some bread and cheese for lunch back at the room. We got a loaf of GREAT sourdough (just a couple bucks) and some soy cheese for an INCREDIBLE $1.98 a pound. It was definitely the best soy cheese I've ever had, full of Italian herbs and sun-dried tomates. And the cheapest! It didn't seem quite fair.. I mean, it's one thing for New Yorkers to get the best of everything in their shops, but usually they have to pay more for it. But to get the best and then have it be LESS than it costs in Atlanta. Well, that's just excessive.

We took the subway back to the room where we had lunch and then headed back downtown to Chinatown/ Little Italy/ SoHo area.

Our first stop was a little thrift shop called "What Comes Around, Goes Around." I saw the window display and Jeff was all, "That looks like a neat thrift store." I walked inside and peered over the jeans and shorts. Everything seemed pretty cool. Then I checked out the prices. They had a rack of vintage concert Tee's from the 80s. you know, those ones people wear ironically: Poison and Iron Maiden and Duran and Duran: and also because they're super-soft and look great. Checked out the prices.... $298!!!!

Yes that's right. Almost $300. I saw some plaid shorts for $198. Strangely enough they were almost identical to ones I'd seen at a thrift store on 17th Street for $6.

I'd THOUGHT a couple days earlier when I was wearing my beat up, old Morrissey viva Hate t-shirt that I was attracting some interested and envious glances on 8th Avenue. Little did I know that I was wearing the most expensive, high-end street wear!! I was totally fabulous, wearing haute couture and I didn't even know it!

Next we found a little Japanese grocery where I bought a tea. It was fun to look at all the cool Japanese products, taking a walk down memory lane from when Jeff and I lived in Japan.

We didn't have any show tickets that night so we decided just to walk back up Broadway back to Union Square and then over to our hotel in Chelsea. We passed the wonderful Astor Wines on the way. Great place with awesome wines and booze at reasonable prices.

Once we got back to our hotel, we decided to make an early evening of it. Jeff engaged in his latest obsession: microwaving eggs. "They come out so light and fluffy." Our place had a kitchen so we went past all the Fosters-drinking Australian backpacking soccer hooligans into the kitchen where Jeff microwaved us a couple eggs. We ran them back to the room where we made egg-sandwiches.

We had some Vodka and we got some soda and lemonade from as nearby grocery store and just got wasted in the room and didn't go anywhere. It was like a our own New York nightclub. A nightclub with a private VIP room that's just for two people and is built to resemble a cheap hotel room. And the only thing they serve is vodka and microwaved eggs. New York is WILD, I'm telling you.

The next morning we had breakfast in the room. You guessed it. Microwaved eggs. We'd overcome our fear of the communal kitchen so we made some tea and coffee there too. It was Wednesday, our last full day in New York.

We went to the Guggenheim first. The architecture was amazing of course, but the price was high $18 a piece.. and the temporary exhibit of David Smith sculptures (yawn. excuse me) with one or two exceptions was boring and not really to my liking.

We had a much better experience at the Whitney where we were lucky enough to catch the Biennial exhibition, a exhibit displaying what the museum-selected curators believe to be the most influential, important and interesting American art of the past two years. Any exhibit that claims to display the "best of" or the "most important" is bound to come under criticism, and the Whitney Biennial always seems to get more than its share. But the truth is that we really loved it and had a lot of fun, exploring all the neat installations. The tape tour was excellent. Each piece had a number you could type into your headset and then you'd hear the artist give a brief intro/talk about his work. It really was like visiting the artist in his studio and getting a little peek at what they were doing. Colorfu, energetic, political (lots of anti-Bush, anti-war stuff), thought-provoking. Well worth it.

We were a little hung over so we decided to head back to the room for a nap and by the time we woke up it was time to start getting ready for the big event. What we'd come to New York for.

Rodelinda at the Met. We got there early so we stopped at Barnes and Noble so Jeff could get a triple espresso.

We were STARVING and we had no idea where around the Met to get something reasonable to eat. We stopped at a Chinese noodle shop called Ollie's. What a mistake.

I went up to the hostess and explained we were on our way to the opera and that we needed something in a hurry. Without saying anything she gave me a look as if I'd just held a turd up to her face, I tried explaining again, but she TURNED AWAY!!

We finally just went up to a counter ourselves and ordered takeout. We waited and waited and finally it was taking so long Jeff went up to get our money back and we ran to the show.

(I saw another branch of "Ollie's" on the way to the airport so it seems that shit-sore is a chain. Avoid it and all its insidious branches at all costs. I noticed on the way out that the place had a mock-up of one of the Chinese terracotta warriors. They were fearsome terracotta warriors built in ancient built to keep away intruders with their evil creepiness. Take the warrior's advice and stay away!!)

Fortunately, Rodelinda turned out to be a truly incredible show. Countertenor Andreas Scholl really stole the show, not an easy thing to do when you're performing with the likes of Renee Fleming and Stephanie Blythe! And we were there for his Met debut. His first aria literally brought tears to my eyes: it was so unnaturally beautiful. New York is very noisy in a choatic way. It was so wonderful to sit in a room and listen to organized, beautiful, detailed sound. It's a little hard to explain, perhaps. But it was just an amazing evening.

The sets were amazingly elaborate too, twisting and turning and rising and sinking to give all sorts of views, inside and outside, above and below (stables with a real live horse) of an Italian villa.

Of course at first intermission we were starving so we bought a roasted Eggplant, mozzarella and basil sandwich and a brownie from the bar at the Met ($11!) expensive. But it's the Met. What did you expect? It was actually totally delicious (the brownie was amazing, to tell the truth). and it did allow us to watch the rest of the (4 hour) opera without grumbling stomachs.

The next morning, it was--sadly--time to leave New York. It's strange when you arrive in a new place for a vacation the four days or whatever you're going to be there seem so full of opportunity, so open and vast. As much fun as you're having, those opportunities begin to close down one by one and the possible is slowly diminished until its' totally full of the actual, what really happened, and then it's time to pack up and go.

Jeff made us some microwave eggs and tea. I checked us out (fortunately much easier than checking in).

We'd had such an easy time getting around on the subway our whole trip that I decided to see if we could make it to LaGuardia on public transportation, instead of in a cab, the way seasoned New Yorkers do it: on the bus. We took the subway up to Broadway and 110th street and right away, i mean literally, right after we stepped out of the subway caught the the M60 straight to LaGuardia. It was so easy and cheap. (We'd paid 15 bucks apiece on arrival to take the private SuperShuttle van from LaGuardia to Penn Station. I just wasn't feeling brave enough to ride the public bus. I was afraid that someone would yell at us for all our bags or that we'd have to stand the whole way or that we'd get on the wrong bus and end up in a Connecticut field, or that we'd have the wrong change, etc). My fears were totally unfounded.

The M60 from LaGuardia was a total breeze. A bargain ($2 vs. $15?!??!) A total comfortable ride, that Jeff and I handled like old pros.

We left New York feeling like seasoned New Yorkers (salt, pepper, and a light dusting of red pepper and oregano, if you please), knowing we'll be back soon. Truly the greatest city ever. We just had so much fun.

To do again:
Chinatown, Little Italy, Thrift Shops, Whitney Biennial, Vegetarian Dim Sum House, the m60, Blossom Dearie, Astor Wine, the Strand Bookstore, Washington Square, Astor Place Hair Salon, the Met Opera, Met Museum, Zabar's

To be avoided: Scharfenbergers, SoHo "Thrift" shopping, Ollie's Chinese Noodles, David Smith works in steel, Chelsea Market, private shuttle from the airport.

Missed this time, but definitely next time:
Brooklyn bridge, at least a glimpse of the statue of liberty, some theater.


Anonymous Jenny said...

Awsome pics. I esp. like the profile one of Jeff with the city in the background!

7:52 PM  

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