Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hello, again, New York

My old subway station, W 72nd St.

God, I love this city. It had been so long since I'd been here, I'd forgotten how much I love it. Since I got sick almost as soon as I got there, I didn't manage to do ALL the things, but I still managed to pack in quite a bit. 

Of all the options I had available to me, I chose to stay at the YMCA near Lincoln Center, and I am so glad that I did. I got lucky with room placement again. The rooms aren't exactly dirt cheap, even with the bathrooms down a very long hall, but it's a steal compared to what a decent hotel room costs in NYC. And I seriously don't know where else you could get this view for a hundred bucks a night.

The location can't be beat, it's literally just steps from Central

Park and an easy walk to Columbus Circle where multiple subway lines run. The building is quite nice.

The hallways are a little prisony, though they tried hard to counteract that with sunny yellow paint and cool lighting.

The bathrooms aren't bad at all, and the staff does a great job keeping them in good shape.

The bedrooms are more convent-like, than prison-like, and I was extremely comfortable the few days I was there. Plus, the view was so awesome to wake up to and to see as I waited to fall asleep.

Still, there are cheaper alternatives, so I moved over to Brooklyn as soon I finished up all my plans in Manhattan. I'm meeting another friend in several days, and I've got a really bad cold, so I can't go too far away and I don't want to go back to hostel dorms quite yet. Plus, Brooklyn has become all kinds of trendy, too, since I was last here. So I want to take a look at what that's like. After I recover a bit from what feels like the plague. I've had practically no voice whatsoever for days now.

Back to Manhattan...

First a little bit of back story, for those who are not privy to relevant information from my past. I moved to New York soon after graduating from college in New Orleans. Martha and my mom came to help me find a place, and our friends Charlie and Maureen came to visit family at the same time, so they were able to help me find a place and move in. Charlie even helped paint my walls!

I knew their son Andrew as a baby. Fast forward to last October, when Martha and I moved into Charlie and Maureen's home until it was time to leave on our travels, staying in Andrew's rooms downstairs.

Andrew is now an accomplished director of stage and screen with a lovely apartment in Harlem. I decided to end my travels when I did, and come to New York on my return, to see a play Andrew was directing for the Fringe Festival. I didn't know that Charlie and Maureen would be in New York at that time, as well. Because when I was making all of my plans, they were touring the country with Martha in her RV!

And thus ends our little lesson in serendipity.

So, first thing I did was arrange to meet up with Charlie and Maureen in Harlem, which has also become all kinds of trendy since I was last here. On the way to the subway, though, I passed right by my old apartment. 200 W 70th Street. It's become a bit more posh than it was back then. There is marble now, where before it was plain old brick. 

And that Luxembourg restaurant? It was called the Pelican when I lived there - which happens to be the state bird of Louisiana. Also, they served grits at breakfast. Talk about serendipity, for a girl fresh from Louisiana.

After I made it - SO easily - up to Harlem, and we'd visited
and reminisced for a while, we went out for drinks and snacks at Harlem Tavern. They have a guacamole and pita bread dish that was fabulous, in case anyone ends up in the area.

When Andrew got back from work, we all migrated over to
the Cantina, which had some of the best soft tacos I've ever had anywhere. It was hard to decide, the pulled pork and chicken tacos were all very tempting in the original way they were offered, but I went with a brisket one and a crispy fish one. The food was great and we all loved the place. Harlem definitely has no shortage of good places to eat.

After tacos, we headed downtown to see Something Rottenwhich is a musical with nonstop laughs and clever references. This is a flawless production; story, sets, costumes and cast were all amazing. It was the perfect ending to a  lovely day. This show was so much fun, it was a powerful reminder of how much I love the theater.

I can't believe I never made it to a show in London. I once went to London with my mother and we saw 5 shows in 3 days. But I was either too tired, or the time just got away from me with those long days when it didn't get dark before 10 o'clock. I did go to the theater one night in Bath, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, but there should have been way more performances. I made up for it here, though.

Sunday night, we went to see Hand to God, which I'm pretty
sure is the weirdest thing I've seen on stage. (And I saw Divine, in Women Behind Bars, in the Village.) Still, it was a unique and fascinating story in the hands of an outstanding cast, so I'm very glad I got to see it. Well, up until the hammer came out, anyway. I have to admit to covering my eyes for most of the last several minutes. But who would have thought that puppets...

Well, never mind, you kinda had to be there. And I'd still recommend it to viewers who weren't too sensitive about somewhat graphic sex and violence. All in good fun, of course. ;)

Still, I preferred Straight Faced Lies, the play Andrew directed for the Fringe Festival. It was basically about a family gathering for Thanksgiving with a bit more stress and secrets than are usually associated with the holiday.

I am in absolute awe of how they managed to stage such a gripping production with practically no resources whatsoever. Purely through creative use of lighting, set and staging, a whole world was filled around a handful of furniture on the stage. Each of which was used for maximum impact, I might add. 

I laughed, I cried, I gasped in surprise. I was moved, not just by what was happening on stage, but also by the chords it struck in my own experience. Which is pretty much what art is supposed to do, right? I am so glad I got to see that, it was an excellent work and everyone involved deserves to be commended for it.

Other than visiting with old friends, and gorging on theater, I didn't do much besides walking around and admiring skyscrapers. Considering my great love for old architecture, I was surprised to find how much I liked a lot of the towering structures. 

Of course, there were plenty of old buildings to admire, as
well. One in particular, was so outstandingly gorgeous that I took the time to look it up. All of that busy design work is terra cotta. Unfortunately, it's a little delicate, so it's had to be repaired and replaced multiple times. And they have to cover the sidewalk whenever some of it starts falling apart, so the pieces don't fall on people walking below. The liability insurance for the owners must be a killer.

Naturally, there were still some major FAILs. There was one curvy building I saw from various perspectives that I really liked, until I actually walked in front of it and saw that it was just plopped on top of a perfectly fine traditional looking building. 

Why? Why would anyone take away from two buildings which would be fine on their own and make this abortion of design? Gah.

And I'll tell you something else I am not happy to see, and that is more street people in three days than I saw in 5 months of travel across 11 countries. 

These guys are laid out on their benches by 6:30 pm, when it's still light out. And they may be chased away early in the morning, but they are sitting around on the benches again by mid-afternoon.

I don't know what other countries are doing to keep their homeless populations so low, but maybe our government could just fucking ask? Because it's obviously not an unsolvable problem if it's only happening here.

What a sad and pathetic reflection on a fabulous city and our country as a whole.

But I don't want to end on that note, since I love the city and had such a wonderful time. So I will leave you with a photo of these $5,000 monkeys I fell in love with. 

Not that I have any place to put them, even if I was so inclined to be that frivolous with my funds. But they stole my heart as I walked past them, so I snapped their photo. And that's probably all I need, after all, rather some heavy piece of shit I would need to carry all over and move around.

Okay, I probably don't have the plague, but it feels like it. So I doubt I'll be doing much over the next few days. I'll probably take a trip or two to some of the more fashionable and trendy parts of Brooklyn, which is not anywhere near the cheap part of town where I'm staying. And if so, then I will post about it. 

In the meantime, though, there's still a whole bunch of stuff from abroad I haven't touched on yet. So I'll start getting some of that up. A little of this, a little of that, you never know what you'll find here. It'll keep you on your toes.

Y'all come back, now.

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