Friday, May 19, 2006

Superstar in a Housedress: DVD Review

Andy Warhol's "superstars"--the strange mixture of misfits and the super-wealthy, the fame-seeking and the druggies and dragqueens who hung around him--are so often so overshadowed by the Warhol myth and fame that it's easy to forget that these were people and artists themselves, many who had interesting and succesful careers entirely apart--before and after--the Warhol phenomenon. Jackie Curtis is probably best known for her appearances in the Warhol/Morrissey films Flesh and Trash and as the inspiration behind one of the verses of Lou Reed's song, Walk on the Wild Side:

Jackie was just speeding away,
Thought she was James Dean for a day
But I guess she had to crash.
Valium would have helped that bash.

But as the documentary film Superstar in a Housedress (2004) reveals, Curtis was so much more, an artist whose medium was his own body, an accomplished playwright, poet and performance artist. Curtis wasn't exactly a drag queen per se: his goal was never to pass as a woman on stage, as with most drag queens at the time, but rather to play with gender roles every day, on stage or off. People who knew him say that when Jackie rang their doorbell, they never had any idea what they were going to see: Jackie in a torn Halston dress and giant red afro, dressed as Lana Turner or James Dean (According to the film Jackie dressed as James Dean for a year, not just a day). The film points out that if--among the Warhol's superstars-- Candy Darling was the beauty and Holly Woodlawn the talent, then Jackie Curtis was the brains.
The film offers a heart-felt tribute to the gender-bending artist, whose medium, his own body and style of dress and mode of behavior, by its nature didn't leave enough behind. The film interweaves interviews and period footage to create an energetic and entertaining (and sadly, ulitmately tragic) look at an underappreciated great.

The film includes some great extras, especially the footage of Jackie dressed as Frances Farmer, smoking a cigarette, reading her own poetry. It's casual, strange, cool, angry, generous, sophisticated and haunting.

FilmStocker Rating: B+

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Buddha's Delight: Recipe

For years I've seen these packets of dried vegetables at Asian groceries. I've always been curious about them, but never knew quite what to do with them. Inside the package is an intriguing mix of dried vegetables and pasta. They vary from pack to pack and from brand to brand, but usually they include something along the lines of: dried bean thread noodles, shitake mushrooms, dried seaweed, dried bean curd, dried red dates, lily buds, and dried tree ear mushrooms.

Thanks to a recent purchase of the book Florence Lin's Chinese Vegetarian Cookbook at the incomparable Strand Bookshop in New York City, I finally figured it out. The vegetables are the perfect, convenient mix for lots of Chinese dishes and soups that call for a mix of dried vegetables, but especially Buddha's Delight... It's a convenient way for the home cook to buy a little bit of each dried vegetable, without having to rush around the store, buying little amounts of each dried vegetable. The best part of all is that the packet of mixed dried veggies usually cost just around a dollar.

PS If the mix of dried veggies and seaweed sounds a little wierd to you, don't worry. The end product does not end up looking or tasting at all odd or strange. It looks and tastes exactly like the Buddha's Delight you'd get from your favorite Chinese takeout. Delicious and definitely not scary. Even Jeff who HATES mushrooms and sometimes turns up his nose at some of the wierd things I get from Asian markets LOVED this dish! Try it out. The following recipe is adapted from Florence Lin's Chinese Vegetarian Cooking.

Fermented bean curd is bean curd soaked in salt, spices, wine and water. It is very soft and is used to flavor dishes. The dish can be made without it if you're having trouble finding the fermented bean curd.

Buddha's Delight

1 pack of assorted dried vegetables (as pictured)*
Vegetable oil (such as peanut or corn)
1/2 cup peeled sliced carrot
1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots

1/2 cup baby corn, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups cabbage sliced
1/2 cup sliced "mock meat" such as seitan (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp fermented bean curd
1 Tbsp sesame oil

1. Separate the dried vegetables as best you can and place them in separate bowls.

2. Pour very hot water over the vegetables just to cover and allow them to soak for twenty minutes. The dried tofu will probably take longer and may even need to be boiled in a saucepan on the stove for a while to soften completely.

3. Drain the vegetables, reserving just the water the mushrooms soaked in. Cut off and discard the stems of the mushrooms and cut each mushroom in quarters. Cut any other remaining vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

4. Mix together the mushroom soaking water, the salt sugar and soy sauce, along with enough water to total 1 1/2 cups.

4. Heat your wok over high heat until it's very hot. Add a few Tbsp of oil the stir-fry the cabbage, bamboo shoots, carrot and corn for about 3 minutes. Remove them from the wok.

5. Heat another few Tbsp of oil in the wok then add all your dried vegetables. Stir fry for two minutes.

6. Add the "mock meat," if using and the cooked cabbage mixture. Stir.

7. Pour the soy sauce-mushroom water mixture into the wok. Mix well and lower the heat to medium-low.

8. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

9. Add the fermented bean curd and sesame oil. Mix well. Serve very hot over rice.

* Packages and brands vary, but look for one that seems to contain some dried bean thread noodles, dried tofu sticks, dried mushrooms, and dried tree ear or cloud mushrooms. Lily buds, red dates, gingko nuts, and other dried vegetables often round out the mix.

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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New York: Day Two

On our way back to the subway after the amazing Blossom Dearie show we walked along Broadway towards Times Square where we picked up some gifts for people at home... I "Heart" NYC t-shirts.... 5 shirts for $10. Total deal and everyone at home seemed to really dig them.

The next morning--Monday, our second full day in NYC--we got some coffee at Starbucks (yawn) and an awesome breakfast cupcake at Billy's Bakery in Chelsea. Billy's was so cute... All the fifties style desserts done up right. Coconut cake and refrigerator pies and pastel cupcakes that June Cleaver might have served to the Beave and Eddie Haskell back in the day. The cupcake was awesome, totally buttery and homemade tasting, with just the right amount of frosting.

We next walked across town to Essa Bagel on the West Side. On the wazy we stopped for coffee, bagels and pastry at a really nice Middle Eastern cafe called Medina's. It was really good, but Jeff said the hole and width still wasn't quite what he was looking for.

We didn't buy any bagels at Essa because we weren't really hungry after coffee and cupcakes (Plus Jeff STILL didn't think they were the right shape. And I didn't say anything but i thought the flavored cream cheeses and dried fish looked weird.)

Then we went to Union Square for the Union Square Green Market, a market of fresh organic local (as in upstate New York) produce. We bought some bread, goat cheese, tomatoes and fresh greens for sandwiches later. (Special Bonus Note: Later that afternoon Jeff saw the dude who sold us the cheese washing his hair in the sink in the bathroom of the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Only in New York.)

We walked back to the hotel via 17th street where we saw tons of cool-looking thrift shops. It was still too early for them to open so we decided to come back later.

After dropping the sandwich stuff off at the hotel we took the train down to SoHo/Chinatown and Little Italy. We sniffed around SoHo a bit...

We stopped at Jacques Torres chocolate shop, a warehousey type high-end SoHo boutique with the Willy Wonka style chocolate factry visible behind glass behind the shop. We got a hot chocolate which was delicious.

Jeff kept insisting we try one of the chocolate bars. I thought that at $4.50 they were way too pricey. But he was holding one up, waving it around saying what a good deal it was, considering that the little one ounce truffles cost $1 each. (I submit this little scene as evidence of the total warping effect that prices in New York can have on someone. Holding up a $4.50 chocolate bar and saying what a good deal it is. I knew that such happens, but it's still a total shock to see it occur in someone so close to me.)

The SoHo Dean and DeLuca store was pretty dumb. Waaay overpriced and too much jarred and packaged "gourmet" stuff.

We stopped at DiPalo's cheese shop, but it was way crowded and claustrophobic so I wouldn't go in. They're supposed to have really great Italian cheeses.

Chinatown was awesome. Definitely my favorite part of New York. there was so much cool stuff for sale and everything was totally reasonably priced or else a total steal. From giant glitter belt buckles to DVDs of just released movies like Mission Impossible 3 to crazy, colorful children's toys to Buddha statues. And of course the food. Candy stores with hundreds of types of candy I'd never even seen before, tea stores and grocery stores, selling in bulk the ingredients that are almost impossible to find in Atlanta. And we have to buy them packed in plastic bags. Amazing veggies at prices that were HALF what they were elsewhere in New York. If I lived in NYC, I'd love to get to know that part of town better, get to discover and get to know all the best stores. You could learn to make some awesome meals.

Speaking of awesome meals, Jeff and I were starting to get just the slightest bit hungry. And it was starting to drizzle rain. So we decided to duck into a restaurant, the address of which I'd found on the Internet before we'd left.

It was called Vegetarian Dim Sum House. I almost didn't want to go after our less than enthralling (and expensive) experience at the (unjustly) more well-known Vegetarian Paradise in Greenwich village.

The rain and my tired feet helped convince me, and we went ahead and went in for a meal in the tucked away shop on the quiet little Pell Street in Chinatown.

Boy, am I glad we did. The little meal we had there was the best one we had in New York. Possibly one of the best meals of my whole life. I loved everything about it. When I return to New York, a trip to Vegetarian Dim Sum House will be at the top of my list.

The place is a Buddhist restaurant and there was a feeling of calm and serenity to the sparsely decorated place from the moment we walked in off the rainy street. A little altar with incense was the first sight we saw when we ducked inside.

The restuarant was almost toatl empty.. (It was a strange time... around 3:30-4 pm, after lunch, but before dinner). The perfect time for Dim Sum in my opinion.

After Vegetarian Palace in Greenwich Village charged us extra for tea I was totally delighted when the waiter placed a huge pot of piping hot, brewing tea on the table. It was really nice, too, the kind that brews from loose leaves. It hit the spot after we'd had to duck through the rain to get there.

The menu was really cool, too, sort of like a sushi menu where you use a pencil to check off the items you want. For a vegetarian, going to a restaurant, even a good one, and ordering from a menu can often be simply a process of winnowing down choices. "Oh, they have pesto. Gee, I guess I'll order that. Again."

So when you get to a restuarant where EVERYTHING is something you can order. And EVERYTHING is something you've never tried before. And EVERYTHING is something that sounds totally exotic and delicious it can be really exciting.

We ordered steamed mock shrimp dumplings, steamed mock pork buns, taro root balls, and treasure vegetables.

Everything was delicious. AndiIt was so much food, too. The waiter kept bringing little dishes, about three or four items per plate, in little lidded pots or in baskets. And I was all "That must be everything." and then he'd bring another weird little dish.

Servings for dim sum are small--usually 3-4 rolls, dumplings, buns, etc per order--but surprisingly filling.

The meal was totally cheap, too. Each item was about $2.75. I'd printed out a coupon from the restaurant's site on the Internet. So the bill for the whole totally awesome meal worked out to be about $11!!!

The restaurant also has a standard menu so you could also order more traditional entrees. Everything is vegetarian, and everything we had was terrific.

Dim Sum literally translates to mean "touch the heart," tiny bites of delicious food meant to touch the heart, stimulating appetite and conversation, during tea. The food was so delicious. My heart was touched and tickled so much that it practically peed its pants.

Vegetarian Dim Sum is super highly recommended. If you are in New York do not miss the opportunity to try this totally awesome vegetarian experience.

After Dim Sum, it was time to zip home for a quick nap, cocktails in the room, a shower and shave before heading to the Met.

We were surprsied when we got to Lincoln Center to find attention-whore David Blaine in an aqua-bubble, trying to break some world record for holding his breath.

We had to weave our way through the crowds to get to Lincoln Center for our show, Tosca, which of course was totally magical.

Jeff and I snuck in (shh) a bottle full of pre-mixed cocktails which we drank on the porch during intermission, listening to David Blaine apologize for failing to accomplsih his pointless stunt. Jeff pointed out he should also have apologized for not dying, which is probably what most of the crowd in the courtyard of Lincoln Center had arrived to see.

On the subway platform on the way home, Jeff was cornered by two sisters who talked his ear off about how they'd both come to see David Blaine and met each other by chance.

Monday, May 15, 2006

New York Trip: Part One

Jeff and I stayed at the Chelsea International Hostel on West 20th Street. It's a very central location, close to everything, walking distance to Union Square and Greenwich Village, and a short subway ride to just about everything in Manhattan. The station was just a couple blocks away on 18th Street and it didn't take us long til we had the whole system figured out and were zipping back and forth around the city like old pros.

Check-in was a nightmare with about 30 people waiting in a "lobby" about the size of an 3 by 10 envelope for the cranky woman behind bullet proof glass to get organized and hand them their keys, etc.

After a quick nap we took a walk down to the Chelsea "Market" on 9th Avenue for some food. I put "Market" in quotes because it wasn't really a market, more of a "Festival Marketplace," food shops in a mall, once a historic building (in this case the converted former Nabisco cracker factory from the early 1900s). Way overpriced "Annie's Frozen Yogurt" and "That's a Wrap!" type places with exposed brick and aesthetically-placed factory machinery. We stopped at Amy's Bread for a slice of pizza and a caramel bar because we were STARVING though after the long flight. The pizza was pretty good--pesto with fresh tomato and cheese--and the caramel-cashew bar was excellent, but both were waaayy overpriced. I noticed that the Chelsea Market was somehow connected to a building where they film the execrable Emeril! show. I shoulda known anything connected with that guy would be bound to disappoint.

After took the subway down to Greenwich Village/Washington Square area where Jeff got a great haircut at the famous Astor Place. We browsed the Strand bookstore for a while, and I picked up a great out-of-print cookbook on Chinese Vegetarian Cooking by Florence Lin. I really loved the Strand. It's really what a bookstore should be: inexpensive books that look like something you'd want to read. Sometimes when I walk into Border's they have so much crap: self-help and non-book stuff and cards and horrible DaVinci Code spin-off that I just feel like I never want to read again. The Strand really makes you feel like there's so much interesting stuff to read, so many great writers. It's an entirely different experience.

The pizza hadn't really filled us up so we stopped at Vegetarian Palace 2 on 4th Street near Washington Square, I believe. It was just Okay. The Sugarcane Drumsticks were really good, and the eggrolls were fine. the appetizers were more filling than I thought they'd be so by the time our entree came we weren't that hungry for it. It was General tso's chicken which didn't seem spicy enough and the vegetables were pretty ordinary: celery, carrot and green pepper. Everything--except the drumsticks--seemed like something we could make at\ home. By the time we added tax and tip (they charged us extra for tea!), the bill was way more than I'd wanted to pay. And the bathroom had been totally tagged and graffited by NYU students and other "Trustafarians" (a bohemian with a trust fund) who hang out in the area. Not recommended, unless just to sample the yummy sugarcane drumsticks.

Lastly, we went to the famous Stonewall Inn for a ($4! ouch!) beer before heading home to sleep.

The next morning we headed over to H&H Bagels for breakfast. little did we know that the location we were going to on the West Side near the river was actually their factory. they sold the bagels but couldn't really toast them or slice them and didn't have a place for us to sit. We bought three and a pack of cream cheese, and went to look for a place to sit. We were right near the USS Intrepid Museum, a giant warship (with a McDonald's attached) docked right off of Manhattan. They have a McDonald's but no benches nearby so finally we decided to just walk to Central Park. On our way there we passed this guy on an otherwise empty street, happily yelling at the top of his lungs, "They're not shoes! They're not slippers! They're SHIPPERS! They're SLOES!" It was a little disconcerting and alarming at first, but it was hard not to laugh along with him. He just seemed so utterly pleased with the joke, and to be walking along yelling it at anyone who was within shouting range.

We made it to the Columbus Circle entrance to the park where we had our bagels. I liked the bagels, but Jeff was disappointed and spent the rest of the vacation looking for a particular type of bagel he had in mind with a particular width and a particular type of hole, which he never found. After breakfast, we spent the next few hours walking through the totally gorgeous park. It was still very early so the park was pretty empty. We saw the truck containing all the hot dog and ice cream stands ariving. After that we headed over to Zabar's, a sort of deli/ gourmet shop/ cooking store on the Upper West Side, which didn't disappoint at all. Prices varied of course, but it wasn't hard to find GREAT deals (better even than Atlanta) on some totally delicious food (gourmet cheeses, exotic olives, fresh breads, etc). I thought it was a really awesome store. We bought some lunch fixings and threw them in the bag before heading over to Bloomingdale's.

I had a gift certificate to Bloomingdale's which I'd been saving so I could spend it in New York. Jeff and I picked out a great LaCoste shirt before heading back to the room to make our sandwich fixin's into lunch.

After a brief nap, it was time to get ready for our show that night: Blossom Dearie.

If you don't know Blossom Dearie, you really should. You're missing out. She really is one of the jazz greats. She became known in the 50s and 60s for her totally unique spin on jazz standards such as Cole Porter's "OOh-La-La" and "I Walk a Little Faster." She might be best known to a younger set of people for her vocals on the SchoolHouse Rock Classics "Unpack Your Adjectives" and "Figure Eight." Her voice is still the same: an intriguing mixture of girlish innocence and worldly sophistication. I think the fact that she did a few "novelty" songs along with the SchoolHouse Rock things can sometimes overshadow the fact that she is ALSO a truly great jazz vocalist and pianist. Jeff and I felt totally lucky to get to see her, because, although she performs often in New York, it isn't a totally regular thing.

We got to the cabaret room at Danny's Grand Sea Palace (a Thai restaurant (of all things) near Times Square where she was performing) early because I wanted to get a good seat. We didn't need to worry because the performance space was wonderfully small and intimate. Her performance was great. She opened with Cole Porter's "Ooh-La-La" and moved on to do a set of all her well-known numbers. She introduced a number called "I'm Shadowing You" (ostensibly about obsessive love) by saying that it was written during the Watergate era, but things had come full circle. She introduced one of my favorite of her songs "Hey, John," by saying that it had been written for John Lennon after she met him.

The entry fee included two drinks apiece, which worked out kind of nice, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have sprung for a cocktail and it was totally nice to drink a couple Manhattans (what else?) while we listened to the show. If you get a chance, I highly recommend you check out this fantastic singer.