New York City Travelogue

This is a rundown of a 2006 trip to New York, my third or fourth time in the city, but the first where I had more than just a weekend to run around. I had come up to see Zappa Plays Zappa at Madison Square Garden Theatre, and so I invited my friend Tara, who then invited her friend Joe.

It was also my first trip as a decent enough photographer to take pictures worth showing.

Saturday, October 28

I flew out to Chicago and then to NYC on American Airlines. For both flights I traveled in one of their tiny little three-seats-per-row Embraers. Queasiness abounded. My traveling companions from Austin, Tara and Joe, had their flights delayed out of Austin, so they arrived after I did. I only had to hang out at JFK for an hour or so, then we split a cab to the St. Mark’s Hotel. This establishment, I later found out, used to rent by the hour. And it showed: they were cash only. Conveniently located across from the front desk was a non-bank-branded ATM. Yeah, like I’m going to withdraw $140 every damn day from your shady ATM machine to pay for our room – a room which has a sink so small that washing your face means splashing your feet. We knew we were going to try to find a new place to stay but we procrastinated on that. But not for very long.

Our first order of business was getting to New Brunswick, NJ, to catch Spiraling’s HallowQueen show at Court Tavern. An hour of all Queen tunes. Rock on. We made our way up to Penn Station and found the 10:57 to New Brunswick. We got into town around midnight and found the venue, conveniently located around the corner from the station, and just as we arrived the guys were setting up.

Spiraling at Court Taven

The tunes included “Flash Gordon,” (a misty nostalgic favorite for me, it was my first 45) “Bicycle,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and of course “Bohemian Rhapsody” with all vocal harmonies and harmonized guitar parts intact. The show ended around 1:15, just in time for us to jet back to the station for the last train the Penn at 1:30. Whew. We had to get some food, though, and thankfully Around the Clock was there for us, just a block or so from our hotel.

Sunday, October 29

We ran some errands at K-Mart, and set out in search of food. Joe went off to meet some long lost family members and Tara and I wandered aimlessly around Greenwich Village. We eventualy landed at the Risotteria, where I had the greatest panini of my whole life and it’s killing me just thinking about it right now. It’s on Bleecker Street, the street that has the best of everything you could ever need: bread, produce, cheese, wine, guitars…. and then we walked by the former CBGB’s.

CBGB's

And we were sad.

And then we found Chumley’s, an historic writer’s bar hidden behind a vaguely Medieval, yet unlabelled door.

Chumley's

The walls are covered with the photographs and dust jackets of the writers who have visited there. It’s my new favorite place. Afterward we walked through Washington Square Park, and under the famous arch where Harry Met Sally. That night it was the famous arch where Will Smith met post-apocalyptic vampire zombies in the forthcoming I Am Legend. There were burnt out cars strewn about the place and gaffers aplenty, but this was the only picture that turned out decent:

Washington Square Park

After that we were invited to a Halloween party at the Brooklyn compound of Spiraling bassist Bob Hart. It went something like this:

party

Bob, me and Tom

Bob, me and Tom. I took off my sweaty Jedi costume for this, by the way.

Me, Tara, Frank

Me, Tara and Frank, our gracious host for several outings.

Aly

Aly!

Bill

Bill. Who used his tiny appendage to write this:

Wet

Spiraling

Tom, Bob and Marty of Spiraling.

Bob and Elizabeth

Bob eating cotton candy from Elizabeth‘s head.

Elizabeth!

Elizabeth and a girl I didn’t meet rocking it out.

Monday, October 30

We awoke to the sounds of our hotel’s fire alarm being tested sporadically between the hours of 8 and 10AM. This fueled our resolve to vacate the premises post haste. The St. Mark’s Hotel is not only dodgy, it’s also thoughtless and inconsiderate. So we stayed the night at Frank’s place off Times Square while we searched for a new hotel. After dropping off our luggage, we grabbed some lunch at a delightful Indian wraps joint down the street.

We decided to check out Rockefeller Center, which features the Top of the Rock observation deck, a place with a spectacular view of New York City. The scenery is in my opinon superior to that of the Empire State Building because it contains within its vista something that the view from the Empire State Building lacks. Namely, the Empire State Building.

Joe and Tara

NYC

The sun set quickly.

NYC

After that I split off from the group and went down to the Bitter End to catch Oz Noy. Opening for him were the Moth (spoken word storytelling), and Jenni Alpert.

Jenni Alpert. We have the same keyboard.

Oz Noy

Oz "Motherf*cking" Noy. One of the most fantastic new guitar players I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. Just another Monday at the Bitter End.

As per usual with my travelogues, you’ll find a selection of random, commentless photos. Here’s today’s sample:

Subway

Beer

Subway

Tuesday, October 31

At Frank’s the previous night, we found, after much research, the hotel of our dreams, the Park Savoy. For just $205 a night, you can have a working sink, room to walk, non-shady-Russian-mafia desk clerks, easy subway access and all of it just one block from Central Park. And they even had the necessary five-day vacancy. This was nothing short of a miracle, as finding a hotel in New York with a same-day vacancy is an incredible pain in the ass. We installed ourselves there Tuesday afternoon and set about wandering our new neighborhood. We had lunch at a fantastic French bistro where everything on the menu was too good to be true. Then we ambled our way through Tiffany’s, FAO Schwarz, and Central Park.

Model

Fashion shoot in Central Park South.

Bride and Groom

Bride and groom in Central Park.

Sunset on the Sheep Meadow.

After that, we donned our Halloween gear once again for the Zappa Plays Zappa show at the Theater and Madison Square Garden. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to hear Frank’s music performed live by a band of capable musicians. Frank’s music requires virtuosity, and Dweezil’s crew of twentysomething monsters were nothing short of stellar. As an added bonus, Zappa alumni Napoleon Murphy Brock, Terry Bozzio and Steve Vai came out for several tunes.

Vai and Dweezil

Steve Vai and Dweezil. I have to say I was a little disappointed that the audience was not more higly populated by freaky freakies. Costumes were the exception and not the rule, sadly. I guess the majority of the crowd were too old to get weird. I suppose for people who want the vibe of one of Frank’s annual NYC Halloween shows, there’s always Burning Man.

Afterward, Tara and ventured down to the Village, where the freaky freakies were out in force. It was like Mardi Gras down there, or at least a house party with no roof. Plus cops. And confusion. We sequestered ourselves at the legendary John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker to watch the world go by.

Wednesday, November 1

This was a personal day for me. Time to catch up with all my peoples. I met up with Arika at Chat n’ Chew for a huge burger lunch with mashed potatoes. We walked aimlessly around town in search of something to do, went to the Container Store, and had the world’s thickest hot chocolate from the City Bakery. It was like liquid chocolate mousse plus rocket fuel. We ventured back to her Brooklyn homestead.

Arika

Here were her family’s Halloween costumes. They were the Brooklyn Tron family:

Tron family

Copyright 2006 Antonio M. Rosario. Used without permission.

Julian

Arika’s delightful 2 year old, Julian, can not only operate the camera phone, but also the stereo and CD player. He’s insanely smart. His father is Chinese. That’s all I’m saying. After that I got a call from Elizabeth and we went to a diner to hang out, back near Union Square where I met Arika. After that I spent some time shopping at the Going Out of Business Sale at Tower Records, where I bought way too much stuff before my rendezvous with my common-law stepsister Elizabeth (not to be confused with the Elizabeth from earlier). We had soup at Republic, also at Union Square right where we bumped into Tara and Joe by complete and utter random coincidence. New York is funky like that.

Oh and here’s the cat from Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, where I picked up a copy of Jeanette Winterson‘s latest book, Weight:

cat

Thursday, November 2

Today was Music Day. By complete coincidence, the annual CMJ Music Marathon was in town that week, so Tara and I made our way to the Lower East Side, but not before spotting some lovely gang runes on the subway:

crips, yo

And then we passed Paul’s Boutique.

Paul's Boutique

Which wasn’t far from Moby’s shop, Teany, where we had several cups of tea. But before that, though, we ate the world’s largest, most delicious Reuben at the landmark New York deli, Katz’s.

MEAT!

Holy crap this thing was bigger than my head! Tara and I split one and still couldn’t finish the tubby bastard. It was amazing, though, and I don’t usually care for Reubens. Afterward we parked ourselves at Piano’s, where we saw Little Rock homeboys the American Princes, Jon Spencer’s new band Heavy Trash, Cities, and The Apples in Stereo.

American Princes

In the upper room, I struck up a conversation with a group of people who just so happened to hail from Springfield, Missouri, not far from where I grew up. Because New York is freaky like that. I wish I could remember their names so I could look them up on MySpace.

After that we had some decent Indian food in the Village and I dragged Tara over to The Lion’s Den to see my friend Ross Rice play with hardcore punk legends Darryl Jenifer and Dr. Know (formerly of Bad Brains) in their new dub reggae band:

Doc, Daryl, Ross

Ross is the skinny gray-haired white guy on keys, obviously. I shook Dr. Know’s hand and he complimented me on my Mos Def t-shirt. Could a music nerd get any higher I ask you?

After that, Tara and I went to the Comedy Cellar to catch the 11:30 show. I laughed so hard my face hurt. Good times.

Friday, November 3

I didn’t take many pictures this day. It started off with Tara and I shopping at H&M, which has two floors for women and one floor for men, so it only made sense that I shopped for an hour and Tara shopped for two. It took me awhile to find a pair of jeans because H&M has 6 kinds, and they’re all made for small gay men. I also bought some shirts. We caught up with Joe and went to Little Italy for lunch, which took forever because apparently Little Italy isn’t an especially amazing place to eat because its income is entirely tourist-derived. Arika met up with us and we all had a fantastically basic meal.

Arika and I went off on our own to Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

Manhattan bridge

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We stopped off at Economy Candy and Ludlow Guitars (my new favorite guitar shop in New York).

Later that night our gang got back together for dinner at The Jazz Standard, where we paid the most amount of money for food and music on the trip and it was still completely worth it! We ate amazing barbecue and watched the George Cables Project featuring Gary Bartz, Eric Revis & Jeff "Tain" Watts. Tain was Branford Marsalis’ drummer in The Tonight Show Band for many years, and also played the part of Rhythm Jones in Mo’ Better Blues. These guys burned it up for about 45 minutes of pure bliss.

They shuffle you out pretty quickly at the Standard, which was fine because Frank was waiting for us topside. We all met up with Joe’s cousin and her people and at a very expensive yuppie bar called 235 with an amazing view and absolutely silly prices ($250 for a bottle of Jack Daniel’s? Are you f*cking kidding me?). Still a neat place to hang if you don’t mind paying $10 for a Stella.

After that we adjourned to a much more reasonably priced bar in Alphabet City called B-Side, where we stayed until like 4AM or something crazy like that.

Saturday, November 4

We finally got moving around 2PM after last night’s long haul. We had the perfect hangover food at Great Jones Cafe.

Great Jones Cafe

Best damned Cajun food I’ve ever had. Best damned grits I’ve ever had. In New York City?? You damn right. And the jukebox featured all kinds of stuff you can barely get on CD: Ernie K-Doe. Slim Harpo. Memphis Minnie. The real shit, yo.

After that, though, we were at a loss for what to do. We only had a couple good hours of daylight, so we wandered back to Tower Records for a bit, and back to H&M and Rockefeller Plaza. I split off to check out 48th street where the big music stores are: Manny’s, Sam Ash, and Rudy’s. After a brief nap at the hotel our big happy drunk B-Side crew reunited this time at McSorley’s.

Beer

Rami and Kristin

Rami and Kristin. The deal at McSorley’s is that they only sell two types of beer, their own light and dark brews. For $3.50 or something, they bring you two half-pint glasses and they keep bringing you more as soon as they see that you’re done. Basically they force you to drink until you leave. It’s like a frat party but with good beer, minus the Greeks, plus the Irish. I stayed for a few rounds before I had to jet back to the Lower East Side for more CMJ goodness.

I caught the American Princes again, catching up with them and Katherine at Arlene’s Grocery before zooming over to Midway to see my heroes The Soft.Lightes.

Soft.Lightes

Ron and the Soft.Lightes put together some delightful slide shows, movies and animation for each of their songs. I can’t tell you what a perfect cap this was for a great week of music. And I owe much of it to the Soft.Lightes. Their first CD as The Incredible Moses Leroy was what led me to meet Jamie, who led me to Spiraling, who became my friends and a big reason I decided to take this trip. So it all came full circle.

Also at the show I met a photographer from Savannah, Georgia, named Marci who spent 4 years as a counselor at Kanakuk, a camp in the Ozarks where several of my hometown friends went. Because New York is freaky like that.

Afterward, I went to Brooklyn for Elizabeth’s birthday party. This is the only picture I took:

Jazz

I don’t know what it means, either. On the way back to the hotel I got to see some transit workers use the little cubby holes along the tracks:

transit workers

I got back to the hotel at 3AM. I asked for a wakeup call at 6AM. I did not get it. I woke up at 7AM, and rushed myself to Penn Station for the LIRR to JFK for my 10:30 flight. Got there with just enough time to eat one last bagel before my flight to St. Louis. But my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which meant that I missed my connection to Little Rock. Which meant that I had to stay the night in St. Louis. Which wasn’t so bad, as American Airlines set me up at the Holiday Inn, and I called my old high school chum, Lance, to hang out. I got to meet his new baby:

Durhams

So an extra day of very sleepy, jet-weary vacation. I’m still tired.