Recapping my NY trip hasn't happened yet because the idea of it was daunting. I was gone Feb 23-27 and the whole thing was, as my host with most, Lauren, said, "a fever dream of fun." NY is just the best place for wandering around with minimal plans and that's pretty much how it went down.
Every time we wanted to get on the subway, a train showed up. Everything was so freewheeling and unplanned and fun! And not in an aggressive sceney way, because I’m not like that and neither is Lauren. It was just fun. I got to walk miles and miles. I packed almost the perfect amount of clothing (I probably had one outfit too many). I didn’t spend an excessive amount of money. I managed to get some sleep even though I was on a couch in an unfamiliar place with a very assertive kitty who has developed the bad new habit of meowing loudly at 7 AM.
Those are just the practical bits. Apart from all that, the trip was invigorating. I used to go to NY a lot. For several years I was in a long-distance relationship with someone who lived there, and I'd be there every month or so, on the fringes of the opera world. And then after we split up, I was still there regularly for auditions and visits. But that was a long time ago. The people I used to stay with don’t live there anymore. I’m not in the operatic milieu. This time, I made a spontaneous decision to chase Bjork to a NY concert, and that was the whole reason for the trip's timing.
So Bjork was one theme of the weekend but the other was Treat Yo Self.
Those are the three words Lauren and I probably said most over the weekend. Should I get these potato chips with my lunch? Treat Yo Self! These earrings are ridiculous and will probably turn my earholes green. Treat Yo Self! Rooftop bar? Treat Yo Self!
It was about 60 damn degrees when I got to NY. I stood next to my luggage on the subway platform in just my dress and boots while everyone else huddled in coats. HEY, HARDY UPPER MIDWESTERNER HERE. The weather meant that we spent a good chunk of the afternoon looking for a patio to sit on, but when that failed, we got some okay Tex-Mex and then walked alllll over Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo. It was beautiful. Beautiful Cobble Hill and covetable brownstones, this adorable yellow carriage house that I referred to as my house all weekend, the Brooklyn Promenade, the amazing view across the water, the new bike paths, the old old neighborhoods down by the water and near the bridges, the carousel, the VIEW.
We got ice cream, we met her man in his office, we walked some more, we topped off the day with like 6 hours of conversation and a couple of beers.
The next day the weather turned colder and drizzlier and generally crappier, which was too bad. We had delicious Middle Eastern food and popped over to the Brooklyn Museum, which is so cool and which I'd never seen before. We weren’t there for very long, but we got to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party which, while VERY 70s, is also very important and I’m glad I can say I’ve seen it in all its completely vulvic splendor. I honestly don't think I've ever seen the word "vulvae" printed so much, but maybe I just haven't spent enough time looking at feminist art of the 70s. There was also an exhibit juxtaposing Rodin with a modern ceramicist named, I think, Rebecca Kneebone, which was pretty interesting, and then we just blasted through some other exhibits, American art and decorative arts and, best of all, the visible storage room where everything not on display is more or less on display. It was fabulous. So much to explore. Like this futuristic bike.
Also, this happened:
Fuck your Noguchi coffee table.
After that, we were dragging ass, so we got coffee at a tiny shop around the corner. It was wee and narrow, but had a lofted seating area and a great, chatty, flirty barista who brought me an excellent cappuccino. The coffee, in fact, helped us to rally for like another 6 hours. As we were heading back to the train, we spontaneously decided to go into Manhattan and make Babycakes bakery our main destination, and then wend otherwhere from there. So we went there and had pretty dang good vegan gluten free goodies: a carrot vanilla cupcake and a lemon coconut cake that was donut shaped but in other ways not like a donut. From there it was just schlepping. Up and down the LES, stopping in a vintage shop to marvel at what passes for fashion and at the price tags. There were a few legitimately fabulous things, but the prices were fabulous also. And apparently now every daggy floral calf length skirt from the 80s is a vintage treasure.
Late in the evening, we finally parked ourselves at a restaurant in Little India--we basically could have stopped at any of the restaurants along that row and it would have been fine, I think. Saag paneer, samosas, giant Kingfishers, salty mango ice cream. It wasn’t shockingly good or anything, but there was a chill in the air and we’d been walking forever, and it felt great to come into the warm cave of the restaurant, where a sitar player was playing along with a drum track on an elaborate homemade dais.
Saturday was for more adventures. There were 50 mph (evidently) gusts of wind, but we went out to walk the High Line park anyway, and I’m so glad we did because it is a fabulous and unique thing in the city, and obviously new since the last time I’d been there. First we did Chelsea Market, wandering back and forth and sampling (and buying) chocolate from one of the vendors. Then we went up the stairs at about 16th St, and walked all the way to the end of the High Line. There was great, moody light up there, beautiful views, crazy wind.
We stopped at a gallery to see an exhibition of Weegee’s photography and looked him up on Wikipedia to figure out why so much of his stuff was late-night, nightclub, crime scene stuff--and it turns out that’s just what he did. He had the 30s equivalent of a police scanner and was always showing up on the scene at the same time as emergency services. His seeming prescience about where shit was going down is what earned him the name Weegee (=Ouija). It’s compelling stuff. And macabre, at times. Pictures of people participating in group life: dancing, spectating, at the beach. I can’t believe I’d never gallery-hopped before (though I guess one stop doesn't qualify as "hopping"). It's such a fun, low-pressure thing to do. 10 minutes, or a half hour, or however long it takes, but there’s always another thing to move along to, and it's free.
Saturday was also Bjork.
We got to the venue, the Roseland Ballroom, a little under an hour before the show. I was amazed at how small the place was--and the room was set up in the round, so there really wasn’t a bad space in the crowd for those of us who got there reasonably early.
It was fucking amazing. AMAZING. I love Bjork so much. We had watched a Vespertine concert DVD to get in the mood, and I was so totally in the mood that I practically cried when she came out. I was beside myself with joy and other emotions for at least the first three songs. She used this Icelandic young women’s choir, Graduale Nobili, for the record, and they’re on the tour as well, so there were all of these women onstage at all times. And they weren’t there to be decorative or to be sexy or to be fly girls or anything, they were integral to the MUSIC, to the stage show. They were choreographed but without any sharp edges.
It was a beautifully constructed show, with the big angled flat screens all around the stage, showing the animations for each song on both sides of the screen, so that everyone could see them. There was a Van De Graaff generator making goddamn lightning right over our heads! There was recorded narration by David Attenborough! There was a nerd playing a wall of four iPads (and doing other programming/sequencing/nerdy stuff)! There was something called a gravity harp, made out of pendulums! Then there was just a regular harpist and a drummer, who were also very cool!
The orange-fro blob up there is Bjork, also sporting some serious platforms and an electric blue Jetsons dress with like inflatable nautilus whorl boobs. And she was so close to us! Why have I never gone to see her before?? I won’t make that mistake again. I wished I could see it again. It was major. Completely worth it.
And when we left, the night was still young! We went to get a bite at Zen Palate, which was weird and not as delicious as I remember, though maybe that’s because I couldn’t help ordering the Tex Mex Moo Shu, which was essentially a burrito with no spice. Then Lauren and I headed to the UWS to meet one of my old opera friends, someone I hadn't seen in about 8 years, at Dive Bar. We had good barstool karma, securing a place right after we got there, and then my friend showed up looking all ripped and wonderful, and we just kicked it for several hours. Thank goodness for facebook and texts, y'all. They make it so much easier to keep from losing contact with people, and SO much easier to reach out, at least for people like me who hate the phone.
We got on the train a bit drunky-drunk and full of fellow-feeling and made it home by 3. Epic!
Sunday we went in search of baked goods and had a fabulous chocolate almond croissant and cappuccino at some very artisanal bakery, some very Brooklyn place where the barista apologized for the wetness of the cappuccino and said she'd make me another if I prefer a drier cappuccino. It was all damn good so I didn’t mind the sceney-ness. You have to see that stuff sometimes. Especially if you want deliciousness. Then we went back to Manhattan in fruitless pursuit of loungepants, at the Daffy’s in Herald Square. Then more wandering! We went into several blingy cheap jewelry stores and somehow I dropped $45.
Hilariously, one of the pairs of earrings didn’t even survive the trip back to Brooklyn without breaking, which made Lauren laugh more than almost anything else over the weekend. But that was some very entertaining browsing, man. More sparkle than you can shake a stick at.
We went to the NYPL and tried to see the Mary Shelley exhibit but couldn’t figure out where the fuck it was, but seeing the building was pretty great. We walked through Bryant Park and ogled the skaters. We snapped pictures of the Chrysler Building, in various lights.
Then we went up to Little Korea to get a drink in a clandestine rooftop bar at the La Quinta Inn, of all places. It was a strange thing to do in February, but they turned on a heat lamp for us and brought out fresh popcorn and it was happy hour so the drinks were cheap. There was a convergence of the moon and Venus and Jupiter happening behind us (though we could only see one of the planets), and the Empire State Building loomed in front of us. Old school jazz standards, mainly vocalists, were piped out to the deck and we warmed our heads under the lamps and chatted. Later, we walked over to a diner to meet another opera friend from the old days--this time it was someone I hadn't seen in 10 years, who is still awesome and so fun and easy to talk to. Vegetarian chili cheese fries and more good company.
We also saw this:
I was so sad it was closed.
On Monday we had another long walk down the promenade (after a seriously solid ballast of pancakes) and decided to go up on the Brooklyn Bridge before I had to take off for the airport. This was another first for me. It was so excellent. Impossible to take a bad picture, very beautiful, and very New Yorky.
And that was the trip. Lauren walked me to the subway and I got a little teary behind my sunglasses and thanked her profusely for all the fun. It was nonstop, non-frenzied, non-hectic fun, really. I can’t imagine a better trip, unless it had included loungepants acquisition.