Monday, October 16, 2006

Miscellaneous: The New York Experience

The first order of business on this New York trip was acquiring a Mets home cap. The away one I’ve worn all season wasn’t fit to make the trip. A truck driver on the Upper East Side blasted his horn and gave me the thumbs up, then yelled that the hat looked a little new. No one accuses a Queens native of jumping on the Mets bandwagon, so I yelled back that it was replacing one I’d worn out. He found the answer acceptable. Wearing the cap on the street prompted several such conversations, including a few with disgruntled Yankee fans.

We were able to visit our friends Terry and Tom at their house in the country, the restoration of which I’ve been reading about on their blog. It was a treat to see the place in person at last. Fortunately, our hosts didn’t ask us for remodeling help. I only pick up a claw hammer to fight off hordes of the undead.

On this trip, Rosemarie and I decided to do a couple of things we’d put off for too long. I got into jazz through the recordings the Bill Evans Trio made at the legendary Village Vanguard. When I saw that Brad Mehldau, another piano player with a long Vanguard history, would be in town with his trio, I knew the time had come to make my pilgrimage. Mehldau played a terrific set, including a dynamic cover of Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ and a version of ‘Secret Love’ that would break your heart.

As for Rosemarie, she finally got to follow in the footsteps of her idol Dorothy Parker and enjoy a few cocktails at the Algonquin Hotel.

Visiting several of the city’s mystery bookstores yielded plenty of treasures. I snagged a copy of Damn Near Dead, the anthology edited by Duane Swierczynski. It’s signed by several of the contributors – but not, alas, by Bill Crider, Mr. Legible himself.

Friends provided plenty of suggestions for which Broadway show to see, but we arrived with our minds made up. We opted for Martin Short’s Fame Becomes Me, because we knew it would be funny. And we were right. Our celebrity mystery guest was none other than the former first lady herself. That’s right, Stockard Channing.

The cultural high point was the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which includes his immortal Nighthawks as well as all of Hopper’s studies for the painting. The culinary high points were too numerous to mention – although I have to single out S’Mac, which only serves macaroni and cheese.

Celebrities sighted: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Richard Belzer, both dining at outdoor cafes. The strangest encounter, though, occurred at the Whitney. Moments after leaving the gallery named for the family of Hollywood power broker Michael Ovitz, we passed the man himself - or a reasonable facsimile - in the museum’s lobby. Seeing such a rarified presence in the flesh was a bizarre, otherworldly experience, like spotting the devil at a pay phone. It raised the possibility that the world of movers and shakers was not as far away as you’d imagined.

Speaking of hidden universes revealed, here’s the secret to having a great time in New York: ask your best local bartender for recommendations on where to bend an elbow. The staff at the Zig Zag Cafe, Seattle’s finest, gave us a list of five spots and we hit ‘em all. By the time our trip was over we were semi-regulars. To be greeted like a friend by a roomful of strangers in the greatest city in the world is an experience like no other.

I’ve posted a few photos of the trip at Flickr, if you’re interested.