Monthly Archives: October 2007

The Beer Necessities

On the corner of Rivington and Ludlow Streets on the Lower East Side, Spitzer’s Corner is to beer what ‘Inoteca located opposite is to wine and cheese. I don’t know how many beers they have on draught, but it’s a lot. Most are local micro-breweries, and often have fantastic names: it’s fun ordering a Smutty Nose Ale or an Old Arrogant Bastard. The place gets busy but in a good way — nice crowd of young, cool professionals, no fratty types looking to hit or be hit on — and they open up the windows when it’s warm. Great fries, too.

Love Saves The Day

Love Saves The Day is a second-hand store on the corner of Second Avenue and 7th Street. I walk past it every day on the way to the subway. It sells clothes and toys and all kinds of pop memorabilia — it’s essentially a paean to 1980s fashions and culture. Today I discovered it’s the same store which featured in the Madonna movie Desperately Seeking Susan (1985). Some mix-up concerning a jacket and Rosanna Arquette if I recall. Probably the only half-decent film La Ciccone ever made, although it’s perhaps deservedly best remembered for this song:

Sunday Afternoon In Brooklyn

On Sunday I took the L train for a birthday brunch at Diner, an imaginatively-named eatery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, carved into an old restaurant car. Great apple pancakes, which I walked off wandering through the deserted streets off Bedford Avenue. Later in the afternoon, I paid my first visit to the now MoMA-affiliated contemporary art museum, P.S.1. OK, so there was (overpriced) beer and a (amateur) live band, but the overall experience was highly disappointing. Most of the work on display is what I would consider the worst of contemporary art, the kind of self-indulgent nonsense that unfairly gives Modern Art a bad name, and puts millions of people off visiting museums and galleries. I sometimes wonder if it’s just me, if I’m missing something huge, but as I watched a group of self-important Brooklyn hipsterati stare with painfully earnest contemplation at a video installation of shuffling feet I decided that whatever I was missing I didn’t really care, and I suddenly couldn’t wait to get back to Manhattan, where at least pretentious crap doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Taking The Plunge

On Friday night I joined some of the other interns from the museum for a birthday drinks gathering at a bar called Plunge, on the roof of the Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District. I’d been put off this venue having read the review in New York magazine (it’s hard to put a positive spin on the terms “over-priced”, “hellishly crowded” and “unbearable”), so I arrived expecting to find a plethora of sweaty bodies rubbing against each other to thudding music. So imagine my surprise to find the bar half-empty and The Pretenders playing. However, I’m sure Chrissie Hynde would have been as outraged as I was when my $16 glass of prosecco arrived in a plastic champagne flute. I struggled to take the place seriously after that. Nice views though.

“He adored New York…”

On Friday I took the 6 train up to the Upper East Side. I got off at 103rd Street, and walked from Lexington Avenue, under Park Avenue where the train goes over, and to Fifth Avenue. At 100th Street I arrived at the Museum of the City of New York, a somewhat awkwardly-titled institution which celebrates the history, culture and greatness of this city. The exhibitions ranged from jazz-age photos of skyscrapers to the history of theater to the glory days of New York baseball. It was fascinating and beautifully presented. The highlight however was a short film — narrated by actor Stanley Tucci — telling the moving story of how New York came to be and why it is like it is.

It was one of those lovely, drizzly autumn days, and so after the museum I walked down Fifth Avenue by the park. Eventually I cut inside and wandered over to Second Avenue. There are many beautiful blocks in-between, and many nice shops and restaurants in that neighbourhood. Among them is Elaine’s, once the hangout for the intellectual A-list and still catering to those celebrities who don’t go by acronyms and who are just old enough to remember a time when a BlackBerry was just a fruit. The first scene of Manhattan (1979) takes place at Elaine’s, where Woody Allen is fretting to his friends about his 17 year-old girlfriend. Later I walked down to First Avenue and under the Queensboro Bridge. I saw the spot where I watched the July 4th fireworks in 1999, and I stopped at Sutton Place to admire the view. This also featured in Manhattan, and on the movie’s iconic poster.

I like a Gershwin tune. How about you?

No Place Like Home

This weekend I experienced my first trip outside New York (not counting New Jersey, briefly), as I went to stay with Hillary’s family in Morgantown, West Virginia. I flew from JFK to Pittsburgh, where Hillary was waiting for me. There are three things I associate with Pittsburgh: Heinz Ketchup, the Steelers, and the movie Groundhog Day. What a thrill then to step off the plane and see a life-sized statue of ’70s Steeler Franco Harris, and a giant Heinz billboard. Hillary drove me around town, showed me her old house, visited the café where she used to work, before we eventually sat down to lunch at former Steeler Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36, in view of Heinz Field. I’d never seen such devotion to one team in a city before (perhaps Barcelona). Everyone was wearing black and gold, and as we walked the streets we heard the Steelers’ Superbowl anthem blasting from radios.

We were both amused by the new slogan which appears on a giant roadsign as we crossed the state line into WV: “WEST VIRGINIA: Open For Business.” This seems to have replaced the more fun-sounding “Wild and Wonderful” which still appears on the state license plates.

It was a strange feeling to be in an American family home. This felt like America — the country. New York doesn’t really feel like America, it feels like… New York. Morgantown is a very pretty town, and I spent the next few days enjoying the warm weather, drinking coffee at The Blue Moose Café, eating pancakes at Eat’n’Park, and marveling at the spectacular scenery of the Mountain State. On Saturday night we drove to Salem for an Applebutter Festival, possibly the most authentic experience there is to be had in West Virginia. I tasted funnel cake for the first time and admired the novelty license plates and belt buckles.

Last night I arrived back at JFK, where I was struck by the oddest sensation yet. I was now going home to New York, when just three weeks ago the very idea of going to New York at all would have thrilled me with excitement. Now West Virginia was a special occasion and New York was just… normal.