It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Category Archives: Travel
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
So I’m sitting on an express train bound for New York and it’s a nice day…real nice. I am armed with both cameras intending to do a photo shoot and I am also pondering whether or not to go downtown and cover the Occupy protest. I sit down across from a pretty girl with a backpack, I am busy admiring her whilst trying not to leer (that would be creepy) when she pulls out a camera so big if a puma attacked her she could kill it! This is of course a real camera with a lens as long as my forearm, it makes mine look like child’s play. So much for the ego of the great shutter-bug. Today is all about the art project I’ve been working on lately but I’m bothered by the feeling that I should visit the Wall St protests. This kind of thing is happening all over the world, people are fed up with the government, the corruption of the politicians and are taking to the streets. But I can’t help feeling like something bad is going to happen, maybe not today but soon. The rumors of jails being built to house the creators of dissent with videos to match on You Tube are possibly true. People have been arrested by the dozens and New York’s finest have even herded women into penned areas and pepper sprayed them at close range! I think it’s gonna get ugly real soon.
I predicted all this would happen years ago and the revolutionary in me wants to be there standing up for what I believe in too. But I worry, what if some idiot does something stupid and incites the police? I could easily find myself in a situation. This is one of those times when I wish I was free to do whatever I wanted. If I get arrested and wound up in jail and missed work I’d be in real financial trouble. I have people depending on my income for their life too. But this is what the government and our employers count on-fear. This is how they keep us in line and make us work like slaves. I’ll see how I feel later but at my age I’m a little tired and sore from a busy week at work, I’m getting too old to be doing the grunt work I do.
I head straight for the Lunch Box Buffet, an Asian place right near Penn Station. They are rumored to have the delicious egg tart the Chinese are famous for but when I get there they have none, the only breakfast they have is the ubiquitous NY bagel and rolls or pastry. I was never a pastry for breakfast type so I pass up the chocolate croissants and move on in search of something better but cheap. I start walking in the busy hustle of the city just before the shops open. The problem with the city in the morning is the blinding sunlight, if you’re walking east your blinded-even with sunglasses on! But I forge on shading my eyes and zig-zag to stay on the shaded side of the street. I hit 3rd Ave and head south. There’s many Indian and Thai eateries here as I walk through Gramercy Park , it’s a busy built up area but as you go south it gets quiet and quaint in ti;s own way. I see many places are not open yet and I make mental notes on shoot locations. I pass a new restaurant where a nice old French cafe used to be, I wish I had eaten there just once. Soon however I come to the industrial part of town, it’s busy and loud here, this area has many restaurant supply shops and metal works fabricating those shinning steel counters where are food is made and sold. Recently on his new show “The Layover” Anthony Bourdain gave a quick tour of such a place, showing viewers how one could cheaply buy the same saute pans they used at Les Halles for $18.95, in fact he got a whole bag of stuff for under a hundred dollars. I also read online that the people in these shops on Bowery are really helpful and nice to walk-ins so I will make it a point to go over my kitchen inventory and buy my next pans at such places instead of high priced department stores. I turn off the avenue and go down Prince St into the heart of Little Italy. By chance I turn on Elizabeth St and walk right by Albanese Meat market to see Moe sitting inside, I go in and greet him and chat a little about business and the weather. He’s in early on Saturdays as he supplies the restaurants before shutting down for the weekend. He’s always cheerful and happy, I often wonder what his secret his?
I move on to get my breakfast and wind up at Cafe Duke, a fancy name for a place that serves every kind of food you could want in separate stations- both hot and cold can be had. This place also doubles as a cyber cafe and has the mix of cuisine to please everyone. I order a bacon,egg and cheese on an everything bagel with utility coffee and wait for my order as the smells begin to drift about from various stations that are firing up the days offerings. It smells real good in here as food is being cooked in half a dozen places, who would have thought a place that’s not very attractive could be so appetizing. This is the kind of place that amazed my relatives from England in 2008, they have no English equivalent over there. I suggested they open one up and hire people to run it but they politely declined. My egg sandwich is nothing special but it’s still good and compared to a sign I saw advertising a $9.00 egg sandwich with truffles on it I think mine for $3.50 is as good as it has to be. I leave full and in search of my reason to be here today.
The sun is making today’s walk a little hotter than I would like but maybe it will burn the head cold out of me that hasn’t taken hold yet. I walk in the direction of the west side but stop when I see a girl getting off a Vespa, I walk over to make a little conversation about scootering in the city. I ask her about the safety issues of driving a scooter on NYC streets and she tells me that she’s had hers for years and never feels like she’s going to get mowed down by a truck, but also confesses that she stays away from big avenues at rush hour anyway. Big avenues really aren’t needed to get around in her orbit. She suggests that I look into buying one and tells me that it was a gift to herself for her 26th birthday. I wish her a happy birthday and she excuses herself to go about her business at the Vespa dealer nearby. I decide to move on without looking at them, I can’t afford one right now and of course the vintage one that I would like is the most expensive and hardest to find. I would like to go to Rivoli’s Pizza and have a slice, having just finished the painting of the storefront but I actually don’t have the address. It was weeks ago that I took that photo and I don’t remember. So I wander through familiar streets till I come to Broadway and see a strange and wondrous sight.
There are crowds gathered on the sidewalks watching dozens and dozens of skateboarders go south on Broadway! Each green light releases another group in all shapes and sizes and colors are coming in waves right alongside the traffic. Many are wearing their cameras taped to helmets or carrying small sticks with cameras running to video their run. The run of their lives! I don’t know why they are doing this but it is but I love it! I snap a few pictures and videos as they pass and am amazed to see some older guys in the mix and girls too. Up ahead a young guy stops and leans over, he’s sick and throws up a little bile. He apologizes and moves on but stops about six feet behind me and throws up for real. It’s pink in color and I figure he has a smoothie for breakfast, I wait till he done and offer him my unopened bottle of water. He gratefully accepts and begin washing out his mouth and drinking water to rehydrate. I ask him “What’s this all about?” puzzled.” Were going down to Wall St.” he says. “Oh to join the protest?” I ask knowingly. “No we just love skateboarding.” he says as he catches his breath. “I mean some are going there for that too.” he says. “Oh I see…where did you start out?” I ask curious. “Ah 116th street.” he says plainly. “Ah hundred and sixteenth street! I repeat astonished. That’s basically three quarters of the length of Manhattan! He offers me a few bucks for my water but I refuse, so he thanks me and turns off to join the ride again. It is then that I think the arrival of hundreds of young skateboarders could turn the protest into a free for all. So I decide to sit it out this time. The sad fact is that I could only stand around impotently for a few hours and go back home. I would then be protesting equivalent of a teeny-bopper from the sixties, spending the weekend as a hippie then going back to my real life. Essentially with all that’s going on at home and at work I could never live the life of a real political activist. The reality is that we can only muster a few signatures on a petition or two and then the powers that be just do what they want anyway. I am no advocate of violence but the only way to achieve change is through total rebellion, like the Star Wars saga. We would have to be funded, armed, organized, and military-like in our actions. Lets face it, a bunch of hipsters, latter day hippies, low level office workers, and housewives are not going to change anything. That might be a cop out but it’s the only one I got. I walk away to find refuge in my work.
I continue my walk and soon find myself on Laguardia Place by a happy accident. This is near where the French pastry shop Mille-Feuille is located, there is no way I’m not going in for a Macaron or two. I walk down a few streets and find it there between Bleeker and 3rd. Once inside the small shop I seek consultation on which is good today. The salted caramel and a rose are my choice with a decaf coffee-the caramel is the best. I excitedly tell the young staff about the skaters and between customers show them the video I made on my cell phone. They are suitably impressed and happy about it and I leave the shop in search of more pictures. It’s not easy to find good shots, either the lighting is wrong or there is a truck in the way but I persevere. I stop in a Spanish deli and look around, there is an amazing array of oils, olives, sausages of every kind and a whole Serrano ham being sliced paper thin for a customer who talks and waits as his meat is lovingly arranged on butcher paper. The owner offers me a tiny piece and it is magical melt-in-the-mouth good, but a $28 dollars a pound I’ll have to pass this time but I will be back to make some serious purchases some day. By now it’s getting on to about two in the afternoon and I’m hungry again. I wanted to try and find Rivoli Pizza after finishing the painting I felt it would be only right to be able to say I had eaten there once. But I can’t remember where it’s located exactly, so I go around the block to a place I passed before. Roma Pizza is doing one thing and doing it well, pizza on artisinal bread in the tradition of Rome. This is a slab of thinner crust pizza made in long rectangular pans, it’s nothing like Sicilian or Neapolitan or anything else I’ve seen in my life. I go in to a long counter bar with a dozen different pies, I’m greeted by the hipster pizza chef and he tells me what each one has for toppings. I pick the potato and sausage with hot pepper flakes and an imported Italian beer. The pie is cut into two large pieces with “chicken scissors” and brought to me at a small table by the wall. The bread is really nice but too soft for me I like my pizza crunchy, but at this point I just want to eat. I’m actually very hungry after hours of walking and taking pictures. The flavor of the toppings is very good, meaty sausage and cracked peppers provide a salty sharp counterpoint to the mild potatoes and smooth olive oil. It’s good but as usual I went for something I never saw before and I really should have gone with a cheese and tomato slice instead. By the time I was done however there was no room for a second slice. I paid my check and went to the back for a loo break before leaving, there was also an outside dinning area past the actual dinning room. I chatted with a couple from Pittburgh while waiting for my turn and after went back outside to walk the pavements once more.
I spent the rest of the afternoon so wrapped up in shooting that I didn’t actually write any more notes on the trip, and by the time I got on the train going home I was too tired to even try to remember all the places I’d been. This is very unusual for me and I regret now not being able to finish the story of today correctly. The pictures I took offered up about six good choices for my project, so on the whole it was a very good day.
It’s a gorgeous day as I wait for my train on the platform bound for New York City. I’ve just finished a light breakfast of a coffee and a light airy pumpkin muffin. The first sign of fall is not the solstice on the 23rd, but rather the arrival of pumpkin products in the stores and eateries. This does not depress me as usual, in fact I will go so far as to say I welcome it. It will mean meat cooked over an open fire while me and my bro ponder the meaning of life and hold a meeting of “The Office of Separate and Collective Endeavors” a geeky name for some quality time spent together over food and alcohol.
But today I am on a special mission in New York, I mentioned that I put brush to paper for the first time in almost four years, after three abortive attempts to paint a cafe scene from the instructional book on watercolors. I finally got a finished piece on the forth try, I learned much about watercolor painting but have miles to go. I wrote in “Doing A Slow Burn” that I have to find good pictures of Paris cafe’s on the net to use for watercolor paintings. But I had a genius attack the other day in the city, and decided that my own pictures taken in my travels would be a better choice. Most good pictures on the net are copyright protected or you pay to use them, the last quiet trip to the city only yielded one picture good enough for a painting. So today I will be taking multiple shots of every scene that catches my eye, different angles will be tried and the element of chance will be invited to come along. I have found out that I can make my own watercolor block at home using home-made glue and sheets of watercolor paper cut to size and pressed together. This will save me lots of money, block is expensive. Especially the superior French Arches Blocks that cost arms and legs for the large sizes.
I am very excited about this new reason to go into New York, I stand at work and think about how I will sit and listen to Pandora Radio and create art later. It takes the idea of being stuck in for the winter a happier thought, and at the same time it ties together all my interests into one. It’s all here in a nice package Art, New York City, Food, Photography, and Writing. It’s been a quiet ride so far, but in Woodside, Queens things change. A big guy in shorts and t-shirt with a baseball cap get on the train and sits down in front of me. By all accounts he’s very normal looking. But after the train pulls out he starts talking to himself in a high-pitched nasal voice. I wonder if he’s nuts or if he’s practicing lines for a voice over in a commercial or something, either way it’s a little annoying. We slow to begin the descent into Penn Station and I fill with anticipation for the day. I emerge from the station and decide to walk to West 10th st and head south. I am looking for film for my Advantix camera which I haven’t used since I got the Samsung from my English relative in 2008. I don’t find any in two places I stop in so I start walking west. What I don’t know is that they stopped making the film and I will have to find it online. By the time I write this however-ten rolls are sitting in my fridge and I will buy more when I can. I will not give up on those beautiful wide-angle shots, some of my best pictures were shot using that camera!
I’ve never gone this way before and it turns out to be a good decision, as I begin walking south I stop after a few blocks and notice people walking towards something. I turn and see the entrance to the Highline, an old elevated railroad that used to be the carrier of freight trains into and out of the city. But for many years it was the haunt of the homeless, junkies, and crazy kids looking for some free fun in a shrinking economy. Of course it was illegal to be up there but with dozens of ways in, people found a way to do it. It’s kinda like the sewers and catacombs beneath Paris, you’re not supposed to be there but no one really has the time to enforce the law. The powers that be in New York decided a few years ago to turn this space into a public park, so I go up to investigate. There are stairs leading to walkways that have been built over the tracks, and on either side are planting beds with a wonderful array of trees, shrubs and flowering perennials. There are nice benches along the way, special seating areas and viewing platforms that jut out into space. The park police patrol to keep things cool and emergency call boxes in case of an accident.
There are times when the buildings rise up around you and others when you are open to the sky, it almost feels like your flying as you look out over roofs where only pigeons walk, they stare at you unable to fathom the invasion of their domain. This is a truly wonderful space, you can see the contentment on the faces of the native New Yorker’s and the delight of the visitors is apparent too. I hear a man say to his fellows that the time to come here is in Feb, when it’s not too cold and there’s no one here in the early morning. I can imagine how tranquil that might be especially if it’s snowing. I will have to remember that for the future. I walk some three miles to the end, along the way I encounter common areas where events are staged, a place where the children can splash about in an inch of water while mom and dad sit in chairs big enough for two, and a roofed-over area near the bathrooms where the kids can play with giant wood and plastic Erector set pieces and build small contraptions. I make my way to street level and start for the West Village, walking down Greenwich Ave again for the first time in two years. I pace myself slow, taking pictures, reading menus, and find myself down by the waterside-just a short walk away from the piers. I pass a huge meat distributor and wonder how many millions of dollars of food are inside, then doubling back to civilization to find lunch. So many good places to eat, but I can’t afford them, I need to spend under twenty dollars today so I walk on looking for a sandwich and a beer.
I find it at the Fish on Bleeker St, a small place that has been here since the fifties I think as I look around at the decor and the pictures of the old days. I order an Oyster PO-Boy sandwich and a Stella Artois and relax at the old wooden bar and watch TV. I see a huge pyramid of shellfish go by and is laid down on a table in front of six people, they immediately go at the crab legs, lobster’s, clams and mussels with a vengeance. In fact all you can hear is cracking and the banging of small hammers to break shells to get at the wonderful treasure inside, along with corn on the cob and boiled potatoes it’s a meal fit for a king. My sandwich is taking a long time but I watch the prep chef at the raw bar set up his mise-en-place a few feet away. He’s setting up dozens of oysters and clams, making sure he has plenty of sauces and lemons. He stops to put orders together which spit out of a gadget that looks like a credit card machine, then after setting up a plate he rings a bell and it’s picked up and delivered. When my sandwich arrives it’s a big plate. There’s a bunch of fries and a nice side salad with greens, sliced tomato and pickle with a tangy sauce. The po-boy is another matter. It is light on soft bread, the crunch comes from the oysters that have a delicate flavor that deepens as you chew, they taste of the sea and the stones where they grow. It’s altogether a delicious and filling meal, but I can’t resist going down the street for dessert. So I sit and let my food go down and then after paying my bill I go to a place called “Cones” an ice cream shop like no other.
I know I have seen this place on the Food Network or the Travel channel as soon as I walk in. There are many different colors of gelato in the case and as others get theirs I look past them to see many strange flavors. There is Yerba Mate,made with a South American tea. There’s kumquat with Johnnie Walker Black Label which costs a dollar to try a spoonful. Zabayone, based on an Italian dessert with cream and sweet Marsala wine-amazing. But I go for the Corn after the pretty Argentinian woman behind the counter gives me a taste. Made with real corn and cream and with a dash of cinnamon on top, it is a thing of beauty for the tongue. Imagine a piece of corn bread with butter and cinnamon and you’ll get the flavor profile. I talk a while with the waitress who is also Italian, we chat about living in her home countries, life in the city, and especially about Cones. They have been featured in articles in the New York Times, New York magazine and Zagat’s. They are number four in the top ten places making the best “corn” dish in New York City. I am sure I’ve seen this woman on TV. I finish my treat while she helps other customers and I bid her farewell and head out again. I’m on Bleeker St in the West Village so I decide to head east arriving on 1st Ave. This is the exact opposite of where I started so I think I’ll walk up 1st Ave and see what happens. I feel the heat and humidity more now after eating as the afternoon heats up. This is a fast paced area sporting many Italian, Latin and Indian eateries but not many good photo opportunities. So I begin to work my way back to the center of things and find brassiere Les Halles on Park Ave and a few others. Then I cool off inside a Greistede’s supermarket for a few minutes with a cold bottle of water. I retrace some of my steps from past trips but I always walk down a street I’ve never been before. I always find something new and today is no exception. Mille Feuille is a French bakery on LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village featuring its namesake dessert and the bright Macarons that thrill and delight children from Paris to Provence. I order a coffee and a Mille Feuille and sit at the bar against the wall. The pastry cream is delicious and the crispy layers make it difficult to eat but oh so worth the effort. I see a mom coming with a stroller so I get up and open the door for her and two kids and her husband follow. They thank me and they are French, looking for a taste of home. The adults order Espresso’s and the kids are so cute asking for “Pain de Shokolat” as they loudly look at everything asking so many questions and running around the small space. I decide not to get into a conversation about France.
I continue my long walk back to Penn Station and think it’s been a almost perfect day. The only way it could have been better would have been to have a little more money to spend and if it had been about ten degrees cooler, but that will come soon enough. The final act of the day is a stop in tracks for a wash-up and a drink. It’s been a hot walk back and my french dessert was burned up hours ago. I ask for a St Germain cocktail and the Irish waitress says to me “What’s that?” so I order a glass of Harp instead. I didn’t really want a beer but when in Rome…
It was a crappy week at work so I really needed a good day out, I am tired and happy. Tomorrow will be a rainy day and I will work on pictures and remember today.
It’s a cloudy breezy morning, warm but nice as I feed the birds on the train station platform and wait with many others to get the next train to Penn Station. I saved some of my crummy low-fat blueberry muffin for the sparrows that live here but one gregarious pigeon got the lions share. I am especially happy that my far off friend and fan Maureen is okay and out of the hospital and back home, although I don’t know all the details. I have to assume she dodged the bullet and will be okay, I hope so at any rate. If I ever find the means to leave the ground again and fly to far away places we have a date, not a romantic one but a culinary tour of Thai and Indian food that would make Anthony Bourdain proud. It is a date I intend somehow to keep.
That in a way is part of a bigger picture that my thoughts will be on today as I wander. Issues great and small will be my slow burn for today. I am lucky to have a job and my health for the most part is good. Where I see myself in the next ten years is the key issue. I have to form some sort of plan for my transition to another career, I don’t want to sell parts forever and I can’t see myself driving around a forklift in the snow at 50 let alone 65. The improvement of my health, if I want to make 65 I’d better find the discipline to work out and lose weight and keep it off! The acquisition of love and an active social life with my own kind, I have to find a circle of artist/writer/foodie/francophiles to hang out with or else I will never meet that special someone. I do sometimes feel that maybe I do a little better on my own, like the character of Scobie in Graham Greene’s novel “The Heart of the Matter”. But then again I haven’t met the “other” yet so I can’t be sure of that.
My creative life is another matter, last night I put brush to paper and worked on a watercolor scene of a Paris cafe out of an instructional book. It took an unfortunate row to lock me in my apartment and forced me to sit down, listen to music and paint slow. Despite the fact that I have had no formal training in watercolor, and have only painted two others in my life (which came out great by the way) I found out something very important. I can still paint. Even after a nearly four-year hiatus and after two abortive attempts at this scene. I finally hit my stride and found that which lies within every artist, the something that happens when you find your way. I have to try to find some more good pics of Paris cafe on the web that are not copyright protected.
It’s a sleepy kind of day, except for one kid and his dad everyone is quiet, lost in thought. There is an Asian beatnik on my left up a seat. He asks the conductor if the train stops at Mineola? “No, this is the express- I announced it three times.” the conductor said matter of factly. “What do I do now?” asked the deflated hipster. “You’ll have to get out at Jamaica and go back.” said the conductor as he punched his ticket and moved on. The beatnik in the beret with his Lennon glasses and his Fu-Manchu mustache busied himself with texting and avoided eye-contact with anyone. I smile inside but I feel for him all the same. Just when you think your cool and in control is when you slip on a banana peel or get on the wrong train. The train meanwhile is getting crowded, everyone is going in for some fun. It’s hard to believe the summer is half over.I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I do have some restaurants written down and I would like to see the green market again.
I’ve started to wonder about writing a proposal to the Travel Channel about a show in New York City, in it I would do what I love to do…this. It would be better perhaps for NYC TV but not so big an audience as TC. If I knew a little more about the night life in NYC and had a lot more confidence in myself I think I could pull it off. Maybe a book based on my experiences so far would be a better lead in to a show. The one thing I do know is that somehow I have to capitalize on my art, writing, and New York travels while the food and travel boom is on going. If I don’t I’ll miss out like I did the computer boom. It’s amazing to think that the kid who didn’t want to be in the school play now wants his own TV show now…I certainly have changed. We descend underground and soon I’ll be on the street or subway.
I decide on the subway and take it down to 23rd st coming up on busy 8th ave, I try to walk slow and takes things in nudging over an ave or two as I head south. People are swarming like bees enjoying a field of wildflowers, the warm breezy day has all of us walking on air. I find myself at Union Square with no effort at all. How can I describe the green market any better than I already have in so many stories. I can’t, you just have to come and see for yourself. This is a place where you need a French market basket and a whole day. You walk slow, sample the foods and see what is good, then walk back and buy what you need from the vendor with the best product. Too bad it’s only here half the year. I am sold on a pint of fresh blueberries by a slick tongued salesman, then after tasting garlic/rosemary jam and talking with a vendor about heirloom tomatoes and blossom end rot, I move on and wander a little. I eventually wind up at 5th ave and see something I’ve never seen before. It’s closed to traffic, bicycles, skaters and foot traffic only! I find out later that it’s part of a program called “summer streets”and goes on for many blocks to allow folks to enjoy the summer without having to go far. The quiet is almost deafening but there’s a magic to it as well. The walkers, joggers, skaters, and bicyclists are all moving at different paces in a kind of modern ballet. I loop back around after buying a lemonade from kids selling outside their apartment building and head west, I spend too much time on the lower east side so it’s time for a change.
I am thinking as I walk that maybe I should start using pictures I take in New York as a basis for paintings. I stop to rest on the service entrance steps of an Italian place on Bleeker and eat my berries for a snack while I write and practice my relaxing and people watching skills. Many people pass by as I write, all types from locals out shopping to vacationers and across the street two tour groups pass while the guide tells the same story he told a hundred other times. I could use a loo and a wash-up so I reluctantly get up and begin the search for a clean bathroom, not an easy task in Manhattan unless you eat at a restaurant. But I find one at a place called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, which is actually an old historic bar with a fireplace and a door marked “The Dungeon” opposite the front door. I didn’t ask why. I order a Stella and settle down to read an article in the Village Voice about people who are distilling moonshine in the five Burroughs today. It is actually an appropriate place to read about moonshine, the old wooden floors and the fireplace and mantle tell me that this place has seen some bathtub gin back in the day. The article is fascinating, I didn’t realize so much went into the process and that the authorities are still prosecuting those who distill without a license. But to get a license you have to pay huge fees and taxes and must pass rigorous inspections and limit your production as well. No small wonder where the government is involved, pain follows. Which is the whole idea anyway, they probably really don’t want anyone making their own Hooch and would rather we all just work, spend, sleep…repeat and repeat. The place fills up with a bunch of loud mouth out-of-town types that sound like it’s their first beer so I head out to find some lunch.
On the way I pass the Jefferson Market Garden, a small garden that has benches and pathways that is planted with a wonderful assortment of perennials and roses and scrubs, the beautiful building for which it is named is a branch of the New York Public Library but was built between 1874 and 1877 as the Third Judicial District Courthouse. I walk the trail and see many of my own garden planted here too. Black-eyed Susan’s, copper bells, butterfly bush, azaleas and more are here. I sign the book and donate a few dollars and move on. Soon inevitably, I find myself at Washington Square seeking a food truck. The only one here is the Cambodian Food truck, these folks are former restaurant owners who are victims of a greedy landlord and the system of things in general. They have all the court documents and letters made into a poster set up outside the truck for all to see. It’s too much to read but the little I read makes me feel for them. Now that Kampuchea is gone, this is the only Cambodian food in New York. I order spicy curry chicken with potatoes, bean sprouts, onion over angel hair rice noodles in a coconut sauce and Thai Ice Tea. It takes about six minutes for my food to be made and I sit on a bench inside the park area and eat very carefully, it’s hot and the sauce is right to the top. This is delicious, the chicken is tender and the potatoes are just right and the thick sauce is creamy, savory and spicy. This is a great meal washed down with cool sweet Thai ice tea, for eight bucks with tip it doesn’t get much better. There may be some kind of advantage to austerity eating after all. I sit and listen to live jazz behind me in the distance, the park is full of families, couples, students, and tourists. Everyone is enjoying the weather in their own way, pretty girls in bikinis lie out getting a tan, others crash out on the grass fast asleep with I-tunes playing in their dreams, the readers read, the dreamers dream and everyone else is just thankful to be out of the rat race. Unfortunately, it’s time for me to start heading for home.
I walk back to Penn station at a slow pace, not wanting to go underground or spend money on a taxi, this is good for me anyway. I stop to get money at an ATM inside a drugstore, enjoying the cool air. There’s an attractive woman dressed up behind me about my age. I say “You know I can remember when, if the bank was closed you couldn’t get any money!” She laughs and says” Me too”. and I get out of her way and back on the street. I guess I really didn’t figure anything out after all. There is too much to occupy the senses here, anyone who doesn’t live here isn’t used to it and won’t get any thinking done till they are at home. I wander in Penn Station to kill time before my train comes and get a water instead of a beer to save money. My train comes and it’s also an express, three stops and I’m home. I feel a little lonely and isolated from my family right now, but the city is always ready for me when I need it… and it never lets me down.
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The dreaded hurricane is a done deal for us, off to wreak havoc on other poor unfortunates to the north. I would say on balance that we were extremely lucky in that the two large trees we have on our property are still standing, and the garden needs just a minor cleanup of green leaves ripped from the trees to call it a day. The neighbor down the street had the tree in front of his house fall and take out a street light, but that’s county property so no cost to him.
Many others were not so lucky, the storm claimed 16 lives so far, my prayers go out to their families. Many people are dealing with large uprooted trees which have landed on their houses and some have blocked major roads. The main road by my house was almost completely blocked by a large tree and when I ventured out for a walkabout this morning, I saw many trees felled right behind us.
My brother took out his car around noon and found many downed trees in the area by our house and I too found lots of blocked roads when I took a drive a short time ago. There is flooding in many areas, the Belt Parkway in Queens is shut down due to flooding and many residents in low-lying areas are trying to pump out basements and businesses.
Most of the stores are closed, as is the mall and almost all restaurants and diners are closed. So tomorrow begins a new work week and a big cleanup will continue, by next weekend this will be a fading memory. But I can tell you, it was a scary night and I stayed up till 4:00 AM listening to the wind expecting the worse. The whole region is relieved however, it was supposed to be much worse than it was, so as I said…we got lucky.
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A chilly breezy morning on the platform of the Long Island Railroad and I’m a little under-dressed for a city trip. The temperature is supposed to go up to sixty today so later I’ll be comfortable, but right now I’m cold. The Old Farmers Almanac is calling for a wet and colder spring followed by a cooler summer except for August, followed by a September that will require an Ark to be built in the backyard. But right now the English Sparrows are busily engaged in selecting just the right twigs on the embankment of the tracks, they rummage through the brush and will probably nest along the tracks in the underbrush which never sees human feet, too steep to walk on without tumbling to the sidewalk below. I guess I’m pushing the season a little but this winter was long and hard, it practically seems like another life now, which reminds me I have to run the gas out of the snow blower and put in the fuel stabilizer this week and put it away proper.
I’m a little glum because of the weather and also because I must start looking for a second job, I need to make more money. It’s the only way to get out of my debts and begin to save for the future. I know I’m a pessimist but when your government almost shuts due to lack of funds, then the future doesn’t look very bright. The great middle class in the US has bailed out the banks and now we will bail out our government too, I can feel it coming like a distant train that starts out lonely and quiet-then roars by as it flies through the station with a great rush of wind and garbage trailing behind, only this time it will be our tax dollars trailing behind. I saw a piece this morning about the tax situation over here with the deadline to file taxes only days away, the last President to balance the budget was Bill Clinton, since then George W. Bush and his wars for profit and Obama’s train wreck politics have it so loused up it will take a miracle to fix it. Perhaps they just needed a young intern to help them to think clearly, I mean after all it worked for Bill didn’t it? I can’t imagine how much money I’d have if the near crash of 2008 never happened, especially if I didn’t dip into it. I’m spending my 401k money gradually which I’m also paying back each week so eventually it’ll be back up to what it was, but we will never make up what was lost to us. The fat cats however are enjoying the trickle up economy that has been intentionally put into place ( in my opinion) to separate the haves from the have-nots.
I’ve always had that good christian “There but by the grace of God” adage shoved down my throat, and have been made to feel as though my complaining was selfish and childish. But every positive thought I ever had about what I wanted to happen-never came to fruition. Yet every negative thought about what could possibly go wrong-did go wrong.
This year I’m going to grow a few vegetables I’ve never tried before, French breakfast Radish, Globe Zucchini, and Frisee, as well as some fresh herbs and of course Heirloom Tomatoes and anything else I can fit. I am really worried about them because my dad doesn’t remember to water the garden. If I’m out at my second job the garden will suffer and with all the zones it’s a big job, I wish we had gotten lawn sprinklers installed years ago. Maybe I can find an online job so I can look after things and make money when the sun goes down.
Behind me a little boy asks his mom about everything that he sees out the window. “Is our train bigger than that one?” or “What is that yellow thing there do?” I love it, I can’t remember when the world was full of so many innocent questions.
I get off and make my way to the 123 line of the subway to get downtown and decide to get off at 14th St. But I walk through the subway station to the 12th St exit and go topside into the bright sunlight. I make my way easily down the streets and hustle through the taxi’s jammed up at the intersections and find The Little Owl with no problem. It’s not open yet so I scout around and find another place called “Moustache” a few doors down-also closed. This is a little Middle-Eastern place with a good write-up in the paper posted in the window. The prices are reasonable and the menu is interesting, they make “Lahambajin Pitza” the Turkish pizza that I had one night a few years ago. Hummous, Tabouleh, Lentil Soup, Merguez and an array of sandwiches are featured. I make a note of this place but I am here for the whole wheat pancakes with fresh fruit that The Little Owl has to offer. This (according to Chef, TV host and culinary scientist Alton Brown) is the best breakfast he ever ate. He had a show for years on the food network called Good Eats which was part cooking show and part science class, he explained what happens to food when you cook it in an informative fun way, kind of like Julia Child meets Monty Pythons Flying Circus. I have the first two coffee table books that cover the shows with color pics, tips and recipes, plus pics from the show and little bits of trivia about the episodes with anecdotes. But this breakfast comes with his recommendation on a show called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, where chefs and TV food personalities and critics talk about their favorites, broken down by category each show is a treasure of eye candy and can bring new experiences, even if some of the places are very far away. It’s still fun to watch.
I wait chilly with a noisy police tow truck fixing to tow a car that has been abandoned, while delivery trucks bring cases and bushels of food. They take the food delivery through the side door and down the stairs, and bring a huge steaming pot of meatballs in sauce up and into the restaurant to the delight of the dozen or so people gathered around this corner eatery. The tow truck shuts off his engine and all is very quiet, save for an occasional car or truck passing by and the conversation of sparrows with their cheerful chirping and gregarious mating habits, like people they are ready at the drop of a hat! They were brought here from the UK ages ago and have spread like wildfire taking over North America and Canada I think too, so along with the people gathered talking I have an ear full as I write and wait. Finally, the doors open and I sit down in the corner facing the window and get my menu and order a coffee. The menu is pretty diverse, Meatball sliders, vanilla French toast, bacon and eggs, fried oyster omelet, oatmeal, etc. I of course order my pancakes and Irish bangers on the side, then go to the loo to wash-up before breakfast. The bathroom is behind the little bar area and is about the size of a closet, before me on the wall are two different color framed silkscreen prints by an unknown artist from 1996, and to my right is a long framed picture of Neil Diamond on stage from the 1970’s! He is dressed in white like Elvis and striking a pose like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I wish my mom could see this, she would get a kick out of this for certain.
Seated again-I scan the room, it is small and quaint and also trendy and rustic. There is a wall mounted wine rack, which is accessed with a small ladder. The ceilings are painted steel filigree tiles and the floors are ancient wood as is the bar and white linen covered tables. The staff is friendly and courteous and in no time my steaming plate of whole grain flapjacks are in front of me. These are beautiful, thick and fluffy-nothing like the rubbery things I make from a mix which are best suited for taking off stubborn jar lids. The flavor is not like whole wheat either, these taste better than any other I’ve had. They are served with real maple syrup, no synthetic fake corn syrup flavored with chemicals, and my Irish bangers are top-notch! They are a different kind of good, lean and finely ground pork with just the right seasoning. If there is one complaint, it’s in the relatively few pieces of real fruit on my plate compared to the TV show which featured four kinds of berries. Soon after I finish my meal and enjoy another cup of coffee I decide to pay and give others a chance as this place is packed with more waiting outside, not a bad brunch for about $18 with tip and I am full too.
I leave and start walking toward W. Houston St heading for the East Side but as usual I get pulled toward things. I pass several small eatery’s I haven’t seen before. There is 12 Chairs which is packed, Rouge Et Blanc which has an A rating but is closed unfortunately. I find myself sitting on the corner of 6th Ave and Charlton and watch the world go by a little. I listen with envy to a woman talk about settling in an apartment in the lower 60’s, pricey I’m sure. She’s telling someone who she has to put three months rent in escarole just to secure the place to go to contract. Then goes on to talk about a date she had the other night so I move on, it’s noisy here anyway. I pass The Dutch, a new place I read about online, a man is hand painting the inside of the glass windows with an accent stripe. I ‘m passing Ward Nasse Gallery, this kind of place used to draw me right in, no sadly I walk right past it, feeling like I no longer belong. I stop and think about it and as I do, miss lower 60’s passes me with her head held high loving life, she is followed by another woman who seems to have just had a fight with her man. She’s walking fast talking to herself and you can just hear her saying to a friend later “And then he said blah blah blah!” so I said “Blah Blah” and then he said “blahhhh blahhhh Blah” so I told him to” BLAH BLAH” and left, at least that’s what I think. So I turn around and go in the gallery, forcing myself to relax and let go of negative feelings. The featured work is by Tove Hellerud, Nature and Culture is fantastic abstract work that reminds me of Robert Rauchenbergs late work if not in style then in definitely in dialogue. The prices are astounding! There is one I admire for $14,000, it’s about 36 x 48 deep gallery wrapped. I’m greeted by an older man who is hanging work who goes about his business and lets me slowly walk the creaking floors. There is surreal work that Dali would have been proud of that catches my eye. I make my way around the room and see impressive work of all kinds, sculpture, found objects, paintings, drawings. I speak with the owner briefly and he tells me this is a co-op, a not-for-profit gallery that has been here 32 years and represents 700 artists world-wide. He asks me if I’m an artist and I tell him I used to be years ago, but then started writing. I get the feeling if I was he would have asked to see my work. I say goodbye and a young foreign couple comes in to browse, I grab a card and hope they buy something as I continue my journeys.
I pass my old haunts in the village, I see a few more fast food joints have invaded, I hope they fail. The old cafes should be saved by someone, at least we still have the Minetta Tavern. I decide to go in and have a lunch. It is pretty packed so I wind up at the bar-not very comfortable. I already know what I’m going to have, the much-lauded Black Label Burger. The burger that Anthony Bourdain himself recommended to me a year ago, so I order a good imported beer and watch the show as I wait. The bartenders are busy as bee’s making drinks to keep the patrons happy as the place fills up with more and more people. The beer is good and the music is too, the stool is not the best and I really wish I had a table but soon my burger arrives, it is massive and served with a mountain of frites. The burger is good-don’t get me wrong, this has to be the highest quality meat I’ve ever eaten. I guess I was expecting the top of my head to be blown off, or to wake up slouched against a wall in an alley saying “Gilligan…where’s the coconuts?” or something other than feeling like I just spent $26 on a trendy burger that wasn’t as good as Shake Shacks was last year. I finish the meal and my beer and pay the check with my plastic money and hit the street a little wiser for my experience. I have to remember that just because Tony said so, doesn’t mean it’s right.
I pass the Kimchi Taco truck parked right down the block from NYU, I wish I was hungry. I have heard about this trend to mix Korean traditional food with the Mexican Taco. This is the biggest thing to happen to tacos since the Taco Bell chain brought the taco to white Americans decades ago. These are made with Korean style barbeque pork, chicken or veg and three for seven dollars is a steal! There is a line of people waiting for a delicious lunch but for me it’ll have to be some other time. I walk a little further to find Salon De Tapas has moved around the corner from its old location where I confused so many people while eating squid cooked in its own ink.
The work is still going on in Washington Square Park, it won’t be done till 2012, just in time for the end of the world if the predictions are right.Right now though there are so many people out on the streets, everybody is hungering for the nice weather and a chance to be comfortable in less clothes. Some girls are already wearing shorts and on the grass in the park one girl was in a bikini on the grass. I don’t get it, I’m chilly in my button up denim jacket and scarf! I pass an older guy who works hard playing “A Hard Rains Gonna Fall” and tries to get the few people around him to sing the chorus. He plays guitar better than me but it’s hard to take him seriously. I mean really, how can you even try to capture that emotion 40 plus years later?, when the rain’s been falling hard for so long? The sand man is doing his thing as usual as I pass the Arch and head west to 9th Ave. I’m looking for any organic fruit stalls I can find on the street, I recently discovered I can eat nectarines, plums and probably peaches and apricots too, as long as they’re organic! If not then I get an itchy irritated mouth, a friend assures me it’s the pesticides and I should just wash my fruits in a little peroxide and water but organics are better for you anyway. I am so happy to be able to eat fresh fruit mixed with plain Greek yoghurt, topped with honey-that’s lunch some days. It may not be low in calories but good for you in so many ways.
I arrive at Chelsea Market and sign a petition outside to keep the powers that be from building a double skyscraper over it. The developers want to make every block of this city a congested, loud, fully developed urban blight. Inside it’s a hive of activity and I make my way to the information desk and ask for the loo. The guard says “On the left just past the waterfall.” The waterfall? They have a waterfall here? I start walking through the crowds past Amy’s Bread, the Butcher, the wine shop, produce market, and a hand-full of eateries. I find a fenced off area where a large pipe in the ceiling opens at a 90 degree angle to allow water to drop into a well below, and it is here that the bathroom line ends. I don’t know who designed this place but they should be throttled once a week-just on general principles. There is a long hallway with 5 single occupancy loos, but the first door is just a few feet away so the long line has people standing right next to this waterfall listening to running water! It’s absolutely diabolical. No one even bothered to tell us there is another loo at the far end of the market, I would find this out myself later. I resume my trek through the market to find a bookstore, kitchen supplies, a portable knife sharpener stand, and a Middle Eastern housewares seller going out of business, selling everything at 50% off.
I take a fascinating spin through the produce market seeing things like wild ramps and fiddle head ferns, many things that Emeril picked up for his old show. The wine shop was offering a tasting but the prices of many of the wines was enough to drive me off to the butcher. They are offering pork rillettes and a tongue and leek terrine, so I buy a little of both and go across to Amy’s Bread to get a baguette. I run the gamut of hand crafted baked goods in the display case that are enough to make you drool, pay for my baguette and reluctantly leave the market. It is indeed one of my favorite places, other that the open air market at Union Square. This has been the best part of the day other than my morning meal, and with a mental nod to CoBa as I pass I head up 9th Ave in the warm sun of the late afternoon. By the time I get home after my long walk back to Penn and my train ride I will be ravenously hungry again. I will enjoy this simple supper of meats and bread with some Dijon mustard, cornichons, and a nice glass of Rose!
Sunny and cool today on Long Island as we crawl painfully to the promise of Spring as February draws to a close. I am waiting with a few others on the long Island Railroad platform for a train into New York City. I am going to see another eclectic indie band tonight at the Highline Ballroom called Rasputina. They are a cello based band. That’s right… See Eee Ell Ell Oh! Melora Craeger has created a trio of classically trained musicians, a drummer and two cellists who play original music and rock covers. They are steeped in history as they are dressed in bawdy period costume from the 1800’s, and much of the songwriting is rooted in history which Melora relishes in presenting in unique ways. The new cd is out but I haven’t heard it yet, I will be buying it at the show I’m sure. This is the seventh cd for the band which has been around for twenty years and has seen a few lineup changes and solo projects from various members.
But throughout it all the music has remained the same. Classical – but not stuffy and pompous, folksy – but not annoyingly so, at times hard-edged but never heavy. One could say they are a happy marriage of The Dresden Dolls and a chamber music quartet. So as the express rain heads into NY I write with chilled fingers and listen to students talking about school life and current events. They talk in that modern post valley-girl twang that seems so attractive to young people these days. Several people are sleeping in this mostly quiet car and I find myself envious of them, but tired as I am after a busy day – I never sleep on the train. I just don’t trust the world well enough for that, it’s my suspicious Taurean nature.
Speaking of such things as the world, it seems to me that we are hurtling toward destruction at an alarming rate these days. I try to stay apolitical in my writing but it’s hard not to side with any people interested in free speech and personal liberty, as long as they are not blowing up buildings to get their point across. I am scared for the future of the planet, in my darkest thoughts I imagine how much some people want to use nuclear weapons against us and other U.S. allies, and what it could do to the face of the globe. What surprises me is how easily the same people could find their own lands adversely affected from such actions and yet are going on with the planning and other activities like it won’t go down that way. They seem to me like children playing with matches who haven’t been burned yet. We can only hope that cooler heads will prevail, but right now it feels like too many Darth Vaders are cutting the hand off too few Luke Skywalkers. The next few weeks will be very interesting.
I am considering the merits of a long walkabout as opposed to the subway. I need the fresh air and exercise but I also want to make some time after getting a later train. The Highline Ballroom is on W 16th St at 9th Ave which is eighteen blocks away and two avenues over as the crow flies or in this case pigeon flies and I don’t want to rush through dinner to get to the show on time. I guess I’ll just play it by ear when I get off. I am also thinking about tonight’s meal, I had a late breakfast so this will be an early supper, and I’m undecided about the choice. It will either be French or Vietnamese, and damn if I can’t find both within a few blocks of here! I just need to get a pen to write more, the two I have are both low on ink. My ears pop as we begin to descend and people begin to pack up and prepare to disembark. No nerves this time after a long absence, I’m ready for New York like a man is ready for a woman…it takes a lot out of you but oh so worth it.
I come up in Penn Station and am immediately greeted by color and movement, people on the move. Walking briskly the commuters go about their business, you see little scenes – a dad and his little boy sit on the floor sharing snacks-couples walk close oblivious to the world around them – a homeless man searches in the garbage can. Cold blasts of wind rise up from the tracks below each stairwell as you pass carrying the faint smell of machinery replaced quickly by cooking food. Grilled meats, pizza, strong coffee, bread. A quartet of musicians plays pop songs on classical instruments at one end of the station while a rhythm and blues band plays at the other end. I grab a pen at a kiosk and go up to 8th Avenue and quickly find a pub called the Irish Times for a quick beer and a loo.
The pub is a nice but typical place with wood tables and bar, well-lit for lunch and playing sports on the tv’s and mix radio, I settle for a Spaten instead of a Harp, huh some Irish pub – at least the bartender was Irish. So I rush to the loo and wash up and go back to my spot where I’m listening to a German man talk with his American handler about business and wax philosophic about the economy, I imagine he’s here for a meeting as he is asking the American about what to do nearby at night. I don’t have time to put my two nosey cents in and besides the guys getting paid to be a fixer for the man anyway so I finish my brew and go outside. Walking down 9th Ave I note again how relatively quiet it is compared to others like 7th or 8th, and that’s not for lack of businesses here, there is a whole bunch of pizza places, vegan eateries of all kinds and sizes – from nice restaurants to a guy in a kitchen the size of a closet boasting the fastest vegan food in town, you get your food in 30 seconds or less or it’s free! Just kidding. I quickly make the walk downtown, it’s nice here and the weather is fine. Soon I’m standing outside Co Ba only to find it’s closed, the waiter comes as I enter and tells me to come back at 5:30 for dinner but I need a loo again and I ask if I can and reluctantly he lets me in after I promise to be back for dinner.
So with 45 minutes to kill I walk down to the Highline and go in to the box office to get my ticket but they are not giving them out till 6:00 pm! I mean come on, can I get a break here or what? The only consolation is the Chelsea Market is a block away so I walk down to check it out. The studios above the market is where Emeril Lagasse’s show Emeril Live was filmed for many years and the market was featured a bunch of times. I walk in and am greeted with a welcome sight, there is a Anthropologie store here! Let me explain, Anthropologie is a womans clothing store, at least 60% of it is clothing for women and girls which means that there is plenty of eye candy for a man here to see. But the rest is an interesting eclectic mix of housewares and decorative items that you will not find anywhere else, as well as books and a fantastic selection of music playing . Which I would buy on CD if I could, I have heard songs that I wanted while in the store but no one knew the band. The buyers go all over the world and bring back pieces of furniture too that are used for display but are also for sale! There are dressers and marble-topped kitchen cabinets with drawers and they are beat up and look as if they were purchased at an estate sale in Provence, Tuscany or Barcelona! Did I mention the beautiful girls? This store is twice the size of the one near my house which is becoming all clothing gradually so I am absorbed as they have two floors. I walk out into the market and see a wonderful array of bread on racks at Amy’s Breads, a huge bakery with glass walls so you can see the operation, opposite that is a butcher shop I won’t even walk into, the smell alone would have me blacking out from the pleasure. The selection of charcuterie is jaw-dropping! I have never seen so many types of bacon and the terrines, pate’s and rillettes make me want to get a baguette and a bottle of wine and make a picnic lunch on the floor. I don’t even bother to go in the wine and cheese shop…I would have to be carried out on a stretcher. Besides I’m hungry and it is time to eat dinner, I will be back and make a proper expedition here again, armed with a cooler bag or perhaps a mule team to take it all back home!
I come back to Co Ba and the young waiter waves me in as I stand outside looking in and sits me properly, after I go to the loo again. I advise him to enjoy being able to drink gallons of beer and hold it while he’s young because it won’t last, he laughs and I study the menu. This is an extensive menu for a small place and they are doing God’s work (as Anthony Bourdain would say)! They have twelve small plates, six Banh Mi sandwiches, six noodle dishes, beef three ways, a fish of the day, and four clay pot meals. I ask the waiter how much food you get with the small plates and explain that I want to eat as much as I can without being a pig because we don’t have Vietnamese food by me anymore. So he advises on portions and I go with Chim cut roti: five spice quail roasted with small rice cakes as an appetizer, a small Pho Bo, the ubiquitous noodle soup that I first learned about in a book called “Rougue Warrior” by the former leader of seal team six, and for my main the much-loved French inspired Banh Mi, a toasted baguette with an assortment of luncheon meat, house made pickles, honey plum – glazed pork, cilantro, jalapeno, and mayo and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
I gaze out at the street and wait while I write about the day so far, my waiter brings my wine which is good and soon another brings my quail. I wanted to try this because of my experience with it at a Spanish tapas place last year, to compare flavors and textures. This is far superior, this is tender and spiced just right. Next my piping hot Pho comes and is just what I expected, good ox tail broth with shaved eye round, noodles, bean shoots and mint leaves, with Hoisin Sauce and Sirrachi to taste and a twist of lime. I relish every drop. But the jaw – dropping taste of the Banh Mi is what I came here for and I wasn’t disappointed. The crunchy baguette (which is cut in three pieces and served on end) filled with the different textures and flavors of meat and veg is a revelation another dimension of good, now I know why Tony went nuts over it in Saigon on No Reservations a few years ago. This is needs no other accompaniment, I could have eaten just this and been perfectly happy. If you eat this…you’ll never want a ham and swiss on white with mayo again!
My waiter was a gem of a guy, I made conversation with him about the food and how people who wouldn’t try this (like the guys I work with) are missing out on flavors you can’t find in any other cuisine. I ask about his accent and find he is of German/Swiss origin and we talk about his father in Germany, growing Heirloom tomatoes, and he tells me of the ease to travel in Europe where three hours in any direction can take you to a whole different country! He listens with interest about my writing and later will ask me for the web address to read some. A solitary traveller like myself really appreciates the momentary friendship of one such as he, and even though he and his co-workers probably joked about the strange guy later, it’s okay I was much the same myself. It’s important to treat your waiters and waitresses as friends rather than servants, the first glass of wine I got was a typical house pour, the second was much larger. The point is treat well and tip well and you will enjoy the experience of dinning much more, and will be remembered when you go back. I pay my bill and shake hands and grab a paper menu to take with me and go off towards the Highline.
I am surprised to see a line still, but when I try to go to the front and get my ticket at will call I am stopped and told to wait at the end of the line. So I wait and freeze a little in the windy street for about 45 minutes. Finally we get in, and can enjoy the zany music and antics of Voltaire, a top hat wearing, guitar playing Goth troubadour with a flair for comedy. He is the opening act and explains at one point that it was Rasputina that first inspired him to buy a guitar and learn how to play. He was actually using his old student guitar that night!
He is very entertaining and as there are tables right up to the stage for those who want to sit all night, he does play with the audience including a beautiful black transsexual? ( I don’t know if she was or Voltaire was just joking) that provides comic material for us. Just as a sidenote, the he or she (as the case may be) was asked to leave because of her drunkenness. So her tall, bald, white Vin Diesel looking boyfriend had to help her out of the ballroom followed by a phalanx of security.
While I wait for Rasputina to go on I buy the new CD and also a live CD that I don’t have, then I make my way to a good spot to stand and scan the crowd. There is an eclectic mix of types here, a few that dress a little period like the band, men in top hats and 3/4 huntsman’s coats, girls in bodices and floor length dresses, a few “Johnny Depp” types in overcoats with the appropriate facial hair and glasses with hat, and some who look like they got dressed in a costume shop in the dark! The mix is fascinating to me and I am more than a little envious of the cool look that some guys can pull off that I couldn’t even when I was young.
Finally the band comes out and the lineup is yet again different from on previous albums. The fans roar with enthusiasm as they take the stage and two cellists and a drummer begin the play some of the most unusual music you could ever hear. I know they use effects to add to the music just like guitarists do, but you wouldn’t believe the blinding speed that they can move their hand up and down those strings while the bow must hit every string while the pressure is on the string at the same instant. These cello’s sound like heavy metal guitars at times and other times like synthesizers, they play soft and classically on some songs and others like Jimi at Woodstock! Melora runs a tight ship as she calls it and the “Recital” is fantastic, they even played “Barracuda” by Heart! Then after a three song encore they go off and I wait around hoping to get an autograph from Melora but she doesn’t show up at the tables. I do however shake Voltaire’s hand as he walks about selling CD’s and making new friends. I move downstairs through the crowds and outside the clubbers are lineing up to go down to the basement club for the night life. Their evening is just starting as mine is ending, which is good for me because if I make good time I can be home in time to watch Saturday Night Live and get to bed half-way early, and let me tell you that’s a great plus for me these days. Isn’t it funny how time can shift your priorities to sleeping all night instead of being out all night!
I walk back along 9th Avenue at a brisk pace and at one point hear the sound of a loud gunshot somewhere nearby, in the city such noises echo through the canyon like walls of the skyscrapers. No one seemed to take any notice so I didn’t either, if it was actually a gun I’ll never know but otherwise the trip back to Penn was uneventful, I grab a beer and dash for the train that is leaving in three minutes. Not much time but I make it OK and even find a seat, I could have waited for the next train but that was an hour wait. So I sit and write and sip my beer entirely thrilled with my trip and all I experienced. Everything went off without a hitch, another great meal and more great music. I’m lovin life right now, the way it should be. I am excited to see what the summer concert and play season brings as I drift off on cello harmonies.