NY in a nutshell

Bloged in TRAVEL by mark Thursday October 12, 2006

Mark’s official book long detailed story of the hundreds of fabulous people we met, theater, dining, will happen after our return. NO time to spare at the moment. But……….

Day 1 Sunday Oct 8
*Dept 0700 for NYC via Seattle on Alaska. No, the luggage didn’t make it
*Wandered Times Square and found “Don’t Tell Mama”
*Talked to people from OREGON who knew people in Vale, Maine, Boston, NY of course and made plans to meet up again

Day 2 Monday Oct 9
*Wandered the city with Rita seeing all her haunts and a favorite restaurant. A fabulous warm day.
*Back to Mama’s and met our Oregon gals again, plus new friends from London with their NY friends who we made plans to hear sing on Thu nite.

Day 3 Tuesday Oct 10
*Moved across from United Nations to millenium Hotel and then walked up through Beekman Place, Sutton Place and other posh places in the upper east side.
*Attended the MET w/James Levine conducting Il Domeneo

Day 4 Wednesday Oct 11
*Moved to our new “home”, Rita’s place, and escorted her to Grand Central Terminal for her paris departure. Fabulous coffee shop lunch.
*Attended “Wicked” at the Gershwin.
*Mammoth rain shower, we and millions of others were ALL soaking wet in and after rush hour. What a night.

Day 5 Thursday Oct 12
*Out to Queens for an adventure. Unexpected meeting a true classic NY Italian near Steinway factory who gave us history, stories about the area that were fascinating. Saw decrepid Steinway family mansion looking more haunted now…
*Dined at “Manducotti’s” with Mafia Don and his “guy”…. the BEST Italian Food in NY according to some. GREAT stuff.
*St Thomas Cathedral (Episcopal), St Patrick’s Cathedral (Catholic)
*Cabaret Jazz to see Shanee Rainbolt, met her entire entourage
*Shouldn’t have but DID go back to Don’t Tell Mama ….not leaving until 0300 and had another fabulous laugh filled evening with strangers who you feel like are your friends by the time you leave.

FRIDAY the 13th. Whew! Should we stay in?
* a fabulous fabulous lunch at Penelope at 159 Lexington, just a couple blocks from Ritas.
*Guggenheim for a few hours. Fabulous main exhibit was architectural celebration of master Zaha Hadid ! ! ! Fabulous
*Museum of Natural History. The most involved, complete, voluminous collection planet life since Earth’s beginnings I’ve ever seen.
*a more than packed subway required shoving, packing, pouring, squeezing into so we could get home.
*A musical cabaret splash of “Naked Boys Singing” seen, yes, from the second row, and it was all it was touted to be. It’s played here in NYC for 6 years so I guess more than just a few like a short spoof with cheap thrills. The songs were really written for a gay audience and that audience for us was about 90% gay. I think all the local New Yorkers have already seen this sometime in the last 6 years.

SATURDAY, Oct 16
*Going uptown to visit Cathedral of St John the Divine. This has been under construction for 100 years and has another 100 years of building to go before completion. It will be the world’s largest when it’s done.
*Going way out to the end of Manhattan Island to see the Cloisters Museum. *note: this breathtaking and astounding mideival collections of EVERYTHING .
*Coming back via/Central Park for a good visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. *note: this was astounding, I can’t imagine a bigger collection of world masterpieces. One should be giving this place about 3 full days as Nancy G told us before we left. But we were finally exhausted and had to go home.
*Dinner? Another slice of NY PIZZA.
*Nightime show of the gal we met the other night in Chelsea. A Tribute to Frances Fay with a 5 piece orchestra and piano with some minor noteables, ALL great musicians she gathered together herself….some friends from SF who’ve flown out for her 5 night show, and a couple here in NYC.
*We sat next to a gay couple of 30 years together who met way back when in the notorious Mineshaft Bar here in NYC. Frank was diagnosed 5 years ago with Parkinsons and is now involved in trying to raise some millions for research. he’s at his first point where the doctors are upping his meds and is experiencing lots of fatigue, and other symptoms. We hope to hook his work up with Karen who may be interested in following this….
**subwayed to our first gay gar experience, “Ty’s” and met an expert in equine tooth medicine and maintenance from Kentucky. Quite a strange character, and interesting.
*walked to the Duplex piano bar and met interesting family of Mom/Dad with daughter lesbian and her partner. The cubans……

SUNDAY.
Up early to make our way out to famous Zabars Deli. On the way ate at Eisenberg’s Deli (based on my web research…and it wasn’t good) Zabars is not big enough for the crowd there and it’s fun to see probably once. After that, shop online.
*Saw homeless guy showing a big moon bent over the Zabar garbage out front of the store with all the rich people watching….I guess he’s eating pretty good here.
*WALKED a long time back through, around Central Park by lakes, zoos, sea lions gardens, and other things. Whew!
*the MAC store on 5th avenue…. then FAO Schwartz where one toy (a big entertainment ride modeled after Disney’s motion simulators) is seeling for $300,000.
*Dinner at SARDI’s! Can you believe it? A little costly, but it WAS good, and charactures on the walls ARE fun. Jerry made me a fabulous Caesar salad!
*THEATER at the Schubert: SPAMALOT. Fantastic it was and is NOT to be missed. i can’t imagine this production being up to this quality anywhere else, but still, if a group CAN do that, it is hilarious for the entire show. Is Sir Lancelot gay or not? NO, we won’t tell you. This is the most fun telling of the King Arthur legends I can imagine. You’re ribs will hurt from laughing.
*home after getting mixed up once again on Subway rides, not our first time, but we’re getting pretty good at navigating the system. We just have to remember to take our metrocards
*
MONDAY October 16
*okay, the following isn’t a nutshell moment, I copied this from my little diary….and it explains how we come to have a headache Tuesday morning and getting up late at 10:00. Ah, yes, New York. The city that never sleeps. Here we go:

MONDAY October 16
*Circle Line tour, yep the 3 hour round-the-island do it all. Smoggy and hazy for part of this, but still a good way to see the city.
* Follow your circle line by riding straight up the street to Rockfeller Center and hit the Top-o-the Rock and see all those points you just cruised by from a new perspective. Some great camera shots. The view of Central park is spectacular.
*Tried the “ShackStack” in Madison Park since we’d seen lines of customers waiting to order the burgers and frozen custard there since Rita showed us the place. Well, the burger WAS notable, but accessories (fries and shake) were. So, on to new things.

Monday night? Whew! New York gets even.
*We headed out about 2130 hours to the Chelsea district where Shawn Ryan ((www.shawn-ryan.com) was to appear in his cabaret show and we would be joining Shanee, **frances fay** and group. We arrived a bit early (aren’t WE getting good on the subway connections!) so cruised the street a bit. We saw a bar called “Rawhide”. HECK! In the west, this would most certainly be a cowboy (well, I mean a “wanna be a cowboy” bar) so it appeared a place to relax comfortably for one drink. We were stopped at the door by a brutish looking muscled and bearded man who went into a rage when Rodger simply tried to make a joke about us being requested for ID. Well, we went in anyway. No, it wasn’t a “wanna be a cowboy” bar. It was a muscleman leather (ok, a “I wanna be a muscleman leather boy” bar with attitude. Nonetheless, by the time we left, a proper Englishman was giving Rodger instructions how to let go of how we’d been greeted at the door, the shirtless muscled bartender DID explain that in THIS place, the doorman IS brutish because strange weird characters show up here all the time. (Hmmmm…. Leather and muscle attracts who?) We got outta there very soon.

On to Helens Cabaret where we walked into a piano bar front room with 5 people in it and a horrible singer moaning by the piano player. We asked the maitre de’ about seating for the show and were told he wouldn’t be appearing until Wednesday night. So we left.

Since we were only a mile from the Chelsea Piers where Rodger believed “The Eagle” (every city has one including Portland) a leather kind-o-place where manly and “I wanna be manly” men go to explore the parts of their psyche that’s usually locked up tight while they are working in the office. So we took a cab ride to 12th Avenue and 28th street that was the wildest ride Mark has ever taken in a cab. We missed other cars by inches and went from lane to lane with gas pedal pressed to the floor! I couldn’t WAIT to get outta that car.

And that was the second time that day we had a wild ride. Earlier we were on a bus with the driver jumping from lane to lane, going as fast as a bus can go. Whew! NYC CAN be exciting even if you’re just sitting.

Anyways. We get out of that cab in a dark industrial district with nothing but dark warehouses, maintenance garages, a “few” loft apartments, and dark alleys around. Well….I was a bit nervous when we rounded a corner to see blocks of cars, taxis, limosusines all turning up 28th and stopping mid-block letting out all kinds of folk, mostly black, dressed to the nines at a record release party for P-Diddy. Lines of people everywhere. We walked around a while, Mark asked a very gay looking skinny lad if HE knew where the Eagle was (nope), and then Rodger finally asked the only kinda kewl looking liimo driver who was Caucasian if HE knew about the bar. With a wink and a smile he pointed only about 200 feet away and said it was there but probably unmarked. We strolled that direction and saw the door. A sign in glued letters (some missing) and in font about size 8 said “ea_le”. The entry was a walkup three floors. There were 4 people there but it WAS an interesting layout with a roof garden close to one of the rooftop water tanks, so it had its charm. Porno was being played inside, there was a back winding stairwell, so one could see that on a crowded dark lonely night, one could probably easily explore your daddy/boy fetish if you had been sitting home and just finished watching Taxi Driver with DeNiro (or something like that, right?) and needed to explore your disciplinary emotions. We DID ask the bartender about the lack of customers and he, in NYC fashion, said “Well, come back about 2:00 in the morning and we’ll be busy.” For about the thousandth time, Mark was reminded of Liza Minelli singing, “New York New York—- the City that never sleeps.” So we left there, snaked back through the record release crowd (and the cars were STILL lined up trying to get into this party) and walked back to 7th Avenue to board the subway.

By the way, next morning we read of a rapper named “Fabolous” being shot the night before. Are WE bringing back luck to NYC? We walk by this party, and someone gets shot before the nights over. Earlier on our trip, we explore the upper East Side and the next day, a plane flys into a building. Whew! We’re powerful, eh?

So. Here we were, our last night without theater commitments, it was 11:15, and we were wide awake. We debated going into the Village but feared the Monday night crowds would be slim (well, at least until 2:00 in the morning and of course, we have learned our lesson by now, haven’t we?) so we settled on going back to the theater district and once again going into “Don’t Tell mama”. How COULD we be so foolish?

So, we get to “Don’t Tell Mama” and not so many people there either, but of course, before the night’s over, we’ve had TOO much fun and pile into bed at Rita’s cozy lovely apartment about 2:15. Sleep, oh sleep. There will be NO MORE going to Mama’s. We’ve had our fill.

TUESDAY, October 17
*sleep in, up about 1000 hours and it’s now lightly raining with forecasters calling for “heavy” showers by late PM and evening. Oh no, not again? Another evening of showers like last week, and I’ll disappear like the Wicked Witch of the West. So we await our fate of being soaked to the bone getting into Avenue Q, right?

I’m beginning to think we’ve heard languages from every part of the planet, or at least, the every language general group. We have found in talking with LOTS of foreigners how we are almost ALL feeling powerless while the evil rulers here are bringing ruin to the entire planet through lust for empire, riches, and power. Specifically we have talked about this with Dutch, English, American Black, Latino, Caucasian, Australian, Ohioans, Michigans, Candadians, ……so far.

We decided on a brave venture into the bowels of the US Financial Power, Wall Street (via Chinatown, of course, for a second chance of excellent Chinese Food (since we only have ONE place in Portland we’ve ever found that is rated this high – by us – Wongs King Seafood on SE Division, 22 miles away.

Yep, bravely under light rain, we’re jumped on the #N Subway and got off at Canal Street, just a few blocks from the NY Stock Exchange. Without guard or other escort, we alone trooped into the heart of Chinatown with the ridiculous idea that two Oregonians can find 5 star Chinese food in this huge neighborhood without the ability to speak one or read Chinese in any form. We asked at the visitor center if THEY could recommend something, and she giggled a little and said, “Well there is a lot of restaurants on Mott St.” So we headed down Mott Street and began to study the menus, clientele on hand, and whatever, and whatever else we could think of like the famous rule, “Do NOT EVER Eat at a Chinese retaurant where they show their menu items in big plastic coated photographs”, or this one, “Do NOT eat at any Chinese restaurant that features “chop suey”. We finally noticed a place at 66 Bayard St, the Green Bo Restaurant whose walls were coated with writeups from every publication around NYC (one was “Best Cheap Eats”. We noticed that only Chinese People were eating inside, and yes, they featured our favorite item, “Walnut Prawns”. So here’s where we ate and as luck would have it, had a great meal (and now have leftovers at home). Items were presented as they became ready in the kitchen so nothing sat at all. The Steamed dumplings were light and full of flavor because of their making sure you had the food immediately. GREAT NY Restaurant. They took the last of our cash though since no credit cards were allowed.

Off we go for Wall Street. I can’t forget though the tiny Café simply called “Fried Dumpling” where we watched the little ladies making fresh dough, rolling them out, cutting, shaping, and then adding ingredients and cooking. The line of diners showed this was a favorite. Or was it the price? At $1.00 you get dumplings of your choice. You can take them home at 30 for $5! What a bargain. Yes, we saw lots of fascinating stuff in Chinatown.

Seeing the NY and American Stock Exchanges made more of an impression than I expected. They are certainly powerful, cleanly designed buildings. Just across from so many of these financial centers there was Trinity Church with a cemetery surrounding it dating back to the early 1800s. Astounding that here in the heart of money and finance, huge buildings, was this sight. The rest rooms in Trinity have Stained glass Windows! This was also moving. We then walked on down to the water and strolled seeing some nice home addresses plus a lovely yacht harbor just about when we realized we were at ground zero.

Ground Zero moved me more than I expected here 5 years later. The picture display area at the top of the new Subway Entrance there was very moving as was Paul’s Church across the street with yet another cemetery and 9/11 visitor’s center. Alexander Hamilton’s buried here for God’s sake.

Home again, and a quick nap then prepping for Avenue Q. We’re off. Stopped in for a quick bite of Hummous at a little Lebanese place and got to the theater a bit early so went in to Garvey’s Pub to hide from the rain. THEN, we finally line up for Avenue Q and get in our 4th row seats in the very little Golden Theater. On one side a plump happy red-headed girl from St Joseph, MO who’se thrilled o be here.

Avenue Q is NOT to be missed. It’s Muppets for Adults and yes, there is graphic sex hinted at here so it’s NOT Jim Henson. Yes, these little muppets & monsters cover sex, love, youth, immaturity, disillusionment, selfishness, loneliness, poverty, and all life’s questions with candor tears and laughs. Does Kate Monster find love? Is Rod able to face his demons and come out of the closet? Is Trekkie Monster addicted to Porn? Is that really Gary Coleman? I thought there could NOT be funnier theater than Spamalot, and now I can’t decide which I liked better. This was fabulous.

We wisely made it home to bed at a moderate 2300 hours, had a cocktail, relaxed, thought we had a solid night’s rest in store but jack hammers at 0700 had other ideas in mind.

The itinerary has just gotten more complex. We snagged tickets to martin Short’s “Fame Becomes Me” for today’s matinee. After continuing to read praise for his theater piece everywhere, we decided to go at the last minute. We now have 3 days left and 4 plays to see. So sightseeing has now taken a back seat, and that’s okay.

WEDNESDAY October 18, 2006
We went to Martin Short’s “Fame Becomes Me” . His cast was great and the play fun, but we’d recommend you make sure you see everything you KNOW you should see first. Short is Jewish and today’s matinee audience seemed bussed in for the purpose. Almost entirely an audience of aging Jewish ladies (& a few husbands) who this seemed almost specifically for. Our opinion hasn’t changed of Short in that he’s REALLY best when he does something unscripted. Today’s show only had a small part of that. He’s known in this prodeuction to have a celebrity guest show up and call them out of the audience “surprised” then interview them in his Jiminy Glick character. Today’s guest was Stephen Colbert from Comedy Central. This was howling funny and he got Colbert to admit funnily that Cheney scared him.

This evening we saw Gray Gardens. Christine Ebersole’s performance is fabulous and astounding. She’ll no doubt be nominated for a Tony in this role. The entire production is fabulous, a tragic story about the Bouvier family, Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin who ended up in their decaying mansion in desparately lonely lives. A tearful ending. You can see the actual documentary of these two filmed some years ago, and it’s hypnotizing.

We came home straight to bed.

THURSDAY, OCT 19:

Hard to sleep, knowing the “end is coming” for this trip that has become quite costly since we’re not holding back much on theater or food. Today NY got even with us as we tried to head out to an ancient jewish Cemetery in the lower east side and after being on a wrong bus that kicked us out at the last stop, we had to walk out of the neighborhood, and ask a couple of times to get back in the right direction not before passing through the edge of Chinatown once again. Our leg fatigue by now in this trip, is showing with blisters for Rodger.

I noted for about a third time, that some districts are pointed to specific business purposes. In our own neighborhood there are blocks of RUG businesses. Not wall to wall stuff, but Persian, woven, imported area rugs. Hundreds of them. In the neighborhood today, blocks and blocks of Restaurant Equipment Supply houses without ANY other kind of business there period. I LOVED this idea…… at home you may have cross the valley three times to research your product purchase. Not here. You park and find it all in one place.

We walked tiredly on, finally caught the subway and escaped to familiar territory where we intended to have that favorite Lune Bella NY Pizza once again. On the way though, we passed the “Comfort Diner” on 45th just off 2nd, and it was a diner Mark had researched from home. It was packed, so we decided to try it. The menu’s a mile long, so we had Roast Turkey Plate and it was flavorless. While eating that though, we saw that without exception all the locals packed in here were ordering beautiful looking sandwiches so we NOW know what they do well here. Learned that lesson too late today too.

So, to try to make up for the long morning, we subbed to “Serendipity” the one made famous for its desserts. Once seated in this cramped packed spot, we ordered the signature dish, “Frozen Hot Chocolate” which is like a cold cup of cocoa plus one piece of pecan pie smothered in a huge scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. Lovely way to end our diets in ONE fell swoop today,eh? It was delicious.

The Serendipity thing was made a little more fun when two delightfully tasteful and happy widow ladies from Chester, England drew us in curious about some things here, and, I think, just lonely for some conversation since they’d been stateside for 3 weeks. I had them taste the Pecan Pie, and before you know it, we were discussing Bush/Blair, politics, then England countrysides, Theaters, and their favorite part of the trip: Seeing Quebec in the changing of the leaves. They came back stateside through Buffalo who just had that freak snowstorm while they were there, so they thought they’d seen it all. A lovely pair…..just fun enough at about 70 to jump ship from the Tour Group they were with and stay on in New York for a few days.

After THAT meal and dessert, we headed straight home to begin to organize our return trip. Well, that was the intention. We got home and let the sugar sink into our system, grab hold of all the nerve endings, and lay down in a crash. We survived however, and are now preparing to leave to see George Bernard Shaw’s dark comedy “Heartbreak House” with Swoozie Kurtz and company at the Roundabout Theater .

It’s so well written I must include this comment from the new York times Theater section:
“Heartbreak House” provides a keen comic rebuke to cynicism, self-indulgence and detachment, those all too easy responses to the bitterness of the world, which is still too cruel after all, and surely as damnable as ever.”

update fri morning: Yes, this was well done. it’s Shaw, so a little quieter than other things we’ve seen, but a searing blast at the current world egomaniacs who seem unaware of the destruction falling all around them while they titter on and on about “freedom” and “money” and ……more quietely, “power”. Yes, this scenario been plalying out for a long time I guess.

FRIDAY, OCT 20

Looks like we’re going to have lunch at one of Lydia Bastianich’s restaurants, “Becco”. We loved watching her on Create TV (one of PBS HDTV channels) and even bought her book. A classic Italian woman, everything she makes makes us hungry, so we’ll see how that goes.

Than off to Michael LeVesque’s place to create a re-union for he and Rodger (they were High School friends in CA). Michael’s an actor here.

**UPDATE: Yes, we’re back home trying to clean up a dirty house, do laundry, restock, etc etc etc, and get the dog trained again. WILL HAVE to retell this NY Story in detail as I get time.

I’M thinking I will post a day at a time……….with pictures.

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