I love traveling to a new city with someone who already knows its charms and quirks. Sure we’ll follow protocol and go to Times Square and Central Park at first and they’ll let me drag them to all of the major museums, but then I follow them to any stop in the city they care to show me because, duh, they know what they’re fucking about. And how does one really learn about a city by stopping solely at the tourist traps surround by suffocating crowds of visitors and New Yorkers that hate their jobs there? So if you care I’m going to share some of the gems, but also some of the bigger destinations with you all, broken down briefly day-by-day.
Having got up at quarter to four to arrive at Laguardia Airport by 9:00am, I was a bit beat waiting in Penn Station for my friend Liz to arrive. Liz and Dreyka, my other friend I came to see, are two of my closest friends I studied in Florence with and hadn’t seen in almost a year; so while I was tired I was also excitedly walking in circles to focus this weird brand of energy that was a mix of delirium, anticipation, and giddiness. After she arrived we went to her friend’s work to drop off our luggage and grabbed a quick bite before seeing some of the main tourist attractions: Bryant Park, Times Square, and Central Park. All of these places need further devotion of explanation. I mean, they’re pretty self-explanatory, right? The two of also walked about 20 blocks down Madison, gazing into shop windows and wondered what it must be like to walk into one of those places without being tailed by the security guards and bird-like women pecking at us the whole time like some known hoodlums bound to make a scene. That night we stayed with Liz’s friend Lindsay at her place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where we had dinner at Chavela’s who served Campechana. That’s half sangria, half-tequila, aka a dream come true.
After a slow start and some mass confusion at a Dunkin Donuts counter, Saturday was sick because I finally got to go the Solomon Guggenheim Museum as well as finally see Dreyka for the first time on the trip. I was so prepared to talk on the Frank Lloyd Wright design, following the spiraling main exhibition up to the top level and then stopping in other rooms on the way down. In my head that sounded like the perfect plan, but in actuality faithfully circling up the halls of the building is truly anxiety provoking for a person like me. Passing the Kandinsky exhibition a third of the way up, even though I knew we would come back, caused a lot of inner turmoil. The main exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground was worth the dedication, though. The Gutai group is a postwar era collective of Japanese avant-garde artists, who emphasis process, creative freedom, and possibility. After a few hours of looking at modern art we were famished and Dreyka took us to one of the Ray’s Pizzeria locations where I had my first NY slices. And people always get into this whole Chicago vs. New York style pizzas, but really good pizza is just good fucking pizza regardless of the style and I refuse to descend into such a silly debate. But more on my pizza philosophy later. Next we got lost in Strand Bookstore. We were supposed to be there for just a bit before going to the MoMA for the film festival at 9:00pm, but once we started wandering through all of the aisles, leafing through endless pages, and sitting down in deserted corners to read just for a moment it was already quarter to the time once we became aware of each other again. So screw the film festival! Instead we explored St. Marks Place, which I loved loved loved. It was grungy, loud, cheesy, and unpresuming. There were vendors, karaoke locales, French fry shops, Ukranian bakeries, and so much falafel and booze. Dreyka, Lindsay, Liz, and I spent an extended amount of time at Bar Veloce, where we relived our days of drinking a lot of Italian wine and breathing in the scents of meats and cheese. Dreyka had to leave us at this point, but the three of us then continued onto The Smith for some damn good Macaroni and beer-battered green beans and Blood Orange Margaritas, etc. etc.
I am a very serious bruncher, so I tried to get everyone going to Sunday Brunch but…we all slept through it. Instead we ventured to Park Slopes at about 1:30pm to get some legitimate Italian food. Well, by legitimate I actually mean the executive chef is from Argentina, but Liz and I still concurred that it was the best Italian meals we had since, well, we were in Italy. If I could just have a bottomless bowl of that goat cheese and scallion ravioli with that tomato-olive butter I would be so fat and so happy. After lunch Liz and I went to The Whitney Museum of American Art, where there were two really cool exhibitions: Blues for Smoke and Sinister Pop. The former contextualizes contemporary art, lit, and film through blues, jazz, and hip-hop. The latter focuses on the dark side of Pop Art, critiquing the American Dream with representations of gender, pop culture, and politics in art. Liz had the leave that night, so we decided the last thing we should do before her flight was to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, a nice photo op to end the weekend.
That basically summarizes my first three days in the city. If you care to read about the rest of the food and art I experienced over the next three days, I’ll be posting about it over the weekend. Until then enjoy all these cool pics!