I <3 NY

Let me just start by saying how absolutely delighted I was that I got to see this current production of Spring Awakening. I’d actually first read about it during its initial run in Los Angeles and it sounded amazing. When I heard it was moving to Broadway for a limited run, I planned to get tix to go along with tickets to Hamilton – only to discover SA was scheduled to close a week before my arrival in NYC in January. Well, they extended the show by a couple of weeks – not only did I get to see it, I got my tix for half-price at TKTS.

Now the show was not without its flaws – having seen the roadshow of the original production back in 2009, I was so enamored of the music that I didn’t cast too critical an eye on the story itself which is a bit overwrought (though I suppose that this is an accurate interpretation of how teenagers view their own lives…) – but I noticed it this time. Also, I think they pared down a couple of the musical numbers – which I can understand, given that half the cast is deaf, but it was a bit of a disappointment for me.

With all that being said, I thought this particular imagining of the show was masterful. Pairing deaf and hearing actors who performed using voice and ASL was astonishing from a technical perspective but also added another layer to the story’s portrayal of the difficult and awkward transition from child to grown-up – especially for adolescents seen by parents and teachers as not measuring up or being different. The use of a pair of performers in the roles of both Wendla and Moritz – a deaf actor taking the lead, while a hearing counterpart also appeared on stage to sing and deliver lines vocally not so much as an interpreter but as an alter ego to the character – was really quite extraordinary.

Suffice it to say, this was a wonderful evening at the theater. And almost as wonderful? My Jewish deli fix post-theater at Sarge’s. Pastrami delicious as always and the matzoh ball soup saved me from the near hypothermia I’d suffered on the walk their…

Tuesday morning I headed back to TKTS at South Street Seaport – again, took advantage of the 11AM opening time AND the fact that they sell matinee tix the day before the performance rather than day of in Times Square. Got a great seat for Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” featuring jug-eared dreamboat Russell Tovey. Rowr…

Headed back uptown, including a blustery walk along the Highline, for lunch with my dear friend Ralph. Returned to Porteño, an Argentinian place we’d been before (and which was the shortest walk from his office) and had a delicious plate of empanadas, followed by a chicken cutlet for me and a flank steak for him. And we kept the conversation light – starting off with the lead poisoning of the entire population of Flint, MI and ending up comparing notes on various friends and family battling cancer. We did manage to avoid comparing notes on our aching joints and other maladies associated with aging – though I’m sure that’ll be next… But I had a lovely time. As much as I love NYC in and of itself, some of my dearest friends live here and I’m always so happy to see them.

Speaking of friends, dinner that evening was with Michael and Justin at Artisanal Fromagerie (warning: site will autoplay audio, which is annoying AF; scroll down to stop it) where we had charcuterie and fondue and cheesecake and some really sensational wine. It was a perfect meal on this frigid night. Afterwards, caught up with my friend Dawna – she’s my theater buddy for this trip and had flown in that afternoon. We found a great little cocktail lounge right up the street from my hotel called The Raines Law Room. Super yummy cocktails as we regaled each other with our latest stories and plotted our plan of attack for shows.

Wednesday we met up at 11AM for Swedish meatballs at Smorgas Chef at Scandinavia House. It’s Restaurant Week here, so the prix fixe lunch was a reasonable $28. Then, off to Broadway! “Misery” for Dawna, “A View from the Bridge” for me. Had a bit of lie-down that afternoon, a snack downstairs at the hotel, then back to Broadway for the raison d’être for the trip: “Hamilton”!

I really enjoyed the show – smart, funny and rather brilliantly performed. My criticism? The love story component felt a little tacked on – but maybe that was because I found the political storyline, particularly in Act II, to be so engaging.

Dinner nearby, a brisk walk home and another day in NYC came to a close. Tomorrow, back to South Street Seaport TKTS to pick out another show to see Thursday night. Fingers crossed for “Fun Home”…

New York, New York!

Sunday morning flight from SFO to JFK. Seems simple enough – save for the fact that BART doesn’t start running to the airport until 830AM, meaning no way to make a 920AM flight. Which is bullshit. But whatever. And let’s be honest – as easy as BART is, it’s certainly a lot more pleasant to take a Lyft.

Anyway, this was my first time flying out of Terminal 2 – and it’s pretty darn gorgeous! I was a little disappointed that security lines really weren’t any better designed than other terminals, given that the T2 re-do was done in the post-9/11 era (Never Forget™) – but the line moved relatively quickly, so no major complaints.

I had a pass for the Admirals Club, AA’s lounge, so made myself at home. It was pretty nice and very quiet. Helped myself to a bagel and cream cheese and as much free water as I could drink! A pleasant respite before boarding my on-time flight on Virgin.

Of course, the other problem with traveling Sunday is that it’s mostly leisure travelers, i.e. rubes. It’s really amazing (by which I mean infuriating) how a handful of nincompoops who don’t how to board an aircraft can bring the proceedings to a complete halt. But other than that, flight was uneventful – the absolute best adjective for any commercial airline flight.

Took the Airtrain to catch the E into Manhattan. As I alit from the train, I noticed someone, presumably wrapping up their own stay in NYC, had placed their MetroCard on top of the trash can. I helped myself to this karmic good deed – thank you, kind fellow traveler – and not only did I save the $1.00 new card fee, there was still $5.59 left on the card! Certainly a good omen for the trip.

No express E trains plus re-routing to F tracks in Manhattan meant for a longer-than-usual trip, but it was fine (well, other than the aroma of vomit wafting in from the next car. City living!). Besides being the cheapest (and really just about the easiest) way into to the city, starting off a week in NYC on the subway is great because it reminds of two things I love about this city: everyone (for the most part) looks good and not everybody is white. “Melting pot” may be a cliché but it’s such a refreshing change from the homogeneity of SF.

Checked into the Pod 39 and was given an upgrade from the miniscule room I’d booked to one that is merely tiny. Hooray! But seriously, I’ve stayed here several times and it’s great – comfy bed, spotlessly clean, great location and (during off-season in January) extraordinarily well-priced. I’m paying about $80 a night for a nice place a couple of blocks from Grand Central. It’s an amazing deal.

Dinner up the street at Le Relais de Venise, the NYC outpost of a Parisian chain that offers only one thing on their menu – steak frites along with a salad for $28.75. Decent wine for $8 a glass is also on offer. The steak was pretty good – tender and tasty – and the secret sauce (which I understand is chicken liver based) certainly made the whole meal delicious. It’s by no means a prime, aged piece of beef – but it’s price-to-value ratio is second to none. Oh, and that portion in the photo? Yes, it looks rather petite – but that’s only the first serving. You’re served sliced steak and fries – but the other half of your steak is kept warm by the waitress, who serves you when you’ve finished the first half, along with another helping of hot frites.

I skipped dessert (which I of course regretted when I saw the next table getting theirs), but I figure I’ll be getting plenty to eat this week, so why gild the lily..? Back to the hotel for a fitful night’s sleep, thanks to my still being on CA time.

Slept in a bit, but was up and at ‘em by about 930. Weather forecast repeatedly referred to the weather as “bitterly cold” – and they were not wrong! But no snow, so it’s all good. Stopped down the street at a very small bagel place, where I ran into a traditional New Yorker – a lady occupying a four top and making sure no one else could sit there by putting her coat on one chair, and two different bags on the others. I kinda wished someone had asked to share (the place was packed) so I could’ve heard her response of, “Go fuck yourself.” As for me, I squeezed in at a less threatening table…

Was down at South Street Seaport TKTS before they opened at 11 and was fourth in line. The benefit of this location versus Times Square location (other than the obvious one of not being in Times Square) is that they open at 11AM rather than 3PM, meaning I could get my ticket and have the rest of the day free. Happily got my first choice – the Deaf West production of “Spring Awakening.”

With the rest of the afternoon to kill, I made my usual stop at Moscot to check out new glasses – decided on another pair of Lemtosh – though I’ll have to order online, since my insurance benefit doesn’t kick in until Feb 1.

Next, I decided to check if Ben Sherman over in Soho was having a sale – I’ve gotten some good bargains on previous trips to NYC in January. WELL. Everything in the store – EVERYTHING – was at least 60% off OR MORE. Granted, the assortment, while large, was a bit picked over in terms of sizes, but I managed to pick up half a dozen button-front shirts, a couple pairs of chinos and a smart jacket – and all for a song!

Shopping had me all worn out, so had a bowl of ramen at Mr. Taka. It was decent – though as far as $15 bowls of ramen are concerned, I’ve had better.

And now, back in my little room, having a lie-down before theater. Really looking forward to an evening of teen angst and ASL!

It’s a Helluva Town

Legs2

Yes, that’s pretty much me in NYC (or, if we’re being honest, just about anywhere), which is where I’ll be jetting off this morning.

Anyway, my Christmas present to myself this year was tickets to see the critically-acclaimed production of The Glass Menagerie before it closes later this month. And as long as I’m there, I decided to squeeze in a couple of other shows… Well, OK, yes – I’m seeing four other shows (Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Kinky Boots, Matilda, Once – yes, I know: GAY) and maybe a fifth if I think I can fit a Saturday matinee into my whirlwind schedule.

And for those of you who may not have the same appreciation that I do for Broadway and American musical theater, here’s NPH opening last year’s Tony Awards and doing a damn fine job (in a mere 8 minutes!) of showing just why it’s so great to see theater – especially in NYC.

I ♥ NY

This is perfect. Yes, it’s funny – but also, in its way, rather moving. A great reminder that we are a nation of  immigrants – and that’s what makes New York and New Yorkers the best.

PREACH

I love a good rant – and I love Fran Lebowitz.

The worst thing about being around these people,  these students, is overhearing their conversations.

YES, THIS IS A TRUE FACT.

from The Awl

I wouldn’t go a penny over $20 million…

I love me some good NYC real estate porn – and this three-level penthouse in the  West Village is porn-a-riffic! The apartment itself (listed at $30 million) looks quite nice and awash in light – though frankly, nothing really out of the ordinary, other than being palatial by NYC standards. But the terraces (plural!), my god, the terraces. They  are just absolutely mind-boggling.

Of course, the floor plan might give one pause. As one of the commenters on Curbed NY pointed out re. traveling between the first and second floors:

oh yeah, and no interior connection to the first floor. Nothing says luxury like going through a common hallway to get to part of your apartment.

Truly deluxe! Though there seemed to be consensus that a spiral staircase (ugh) between the two floors is tucked away in a closet somewhere. Me? I’d sell off the first floor, convert the top floor great room into a full-floor master and then spend my days drinking champagne (LOTS of champagne – real champagne not that cheap cava that I happily get by on today) on my terraces (plural!) while bellowing “Let them eat cake!”

The maintenance/CC fees are $5675 – per month. Oh, and taxes are another $3666 – per month. Hilarious!

from Curbed NY

Girl, Please. (A GIF Is Worth a Thousand Words)

NYC GAYS is hands-down the funniest thing I’ve seen online lately. While it helps to have some familiarity with NYC gay nightlife (he says smugly), it’s certainly not a necessity… I will tell you this: Splash is a terrible, terrible bar that appeals to out-of-towners and NYC neophytes; there are go-go dancers and the crowd skews young and cheesey. That’s my recollection, at any rate. And apparently, it’s still true, since the NYC GAYS site uses this gif under the headline When You Get Invited to Splash:

Oh, Whitney – we miss you… And I will never ever tire of this gif. Or this one.

Also, here’s How Being at Splash Makes You Feel. I am adopting this as my new catchphrase (though I’ll have to adjust the age – only slightly, yes, but I’m going to savor the next 4 1/2 years of being not 52…)

Une autre bonne semaine à NYC

Arrived without incident at JFK on Thursday afternoon. Took the Airtrain to Jamaica Station, then the E to West 4th. Incredibly easy  and only $7.50.

As usual, Ralph had a feast of cheese, salami, bread, wine and other treats waiting for me at his place. He also introduced me to Tête de Moine, a wonderful Swiss cheese that is served with a special device called a Girolle. It was absolutely delicious – plus when it is shaved off with the machine, the cheese resembles chanterelles. It was lovely…

Friday was a work day for both Ralph and me, though I did find time to walk up to Murray’s for a bagel and cream cheese. That evening we saw Follies – and both thought it was a fantastic show, funny and moving and beautiful. And I think I’m starting to become a hardcore theater queen – I recognized Danny Burstein (who played Buddy) from when I saw him in South Pacific as Luther Billis.

Post-theater dinner at Toalache, where we had margaritas, guacamole and tacos. Perfect for an 11PM meal. Then our usual visit to Posh for a bit of dancing and debauchery – though Ralph was disappointed that I didn’t do the robot more. But what could I do? The songs just weren’t robot-y enough… Of course, I did still break it down.

First stop on Saturday was at a street vendor in Soho. Ralph had sent me a super-cool (and super-appropriate) robot t-shirt for my birthday. He’d also kindly guessed that I’d wear a size small, apparently forgetting that I am un gros cochon. I’m happy to report that I successfully exchanged it for a size medium. Oh, and did I mention that the robot print glows in the dark! Perfect for when I’m out at the club, sippin’ that bubb…

Next stop was Sol Moscot, purveyor of eyeglasses on the Lower East Side. I found the perfect pair – and my vision coverage for new frames kicks in in the next few months. A good excuse for another trip to NYC… Not to mention that when people want to know where I got my cool specs, I’ll be able to respond, “Oh, they’re from New York. You can’t get them here. It’s impossible…”

After that, we decided to sample the macarons from bisous ciao. The verdict? Mostly excellent, especially salt caramel (duh) and blood orange with chocolate ganache.

That evening, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life at Film Forum, an interesting movie about Serge Gainsbourg. Dinner at Po on Cornelia St. It was sensational – we both had a marvelous grilled lamb with cherry tomato salad, along with an excellent bottle of wine. Oh, and I might’ve had some panna cotta for dessert – and a couple of glasses of vin santo… So, yes, it was an excellent evening.

Sunday was  lovely sunny day, so we walked along the promenade on the Hudson down to Battery Park City. Spent an hour or so in the Skyscraper Museum – small but quite interesting exhibition about the world’s tallest buildings. We got a glimpse of the September 11th Memorial, but despite being open to the public (visitor passes are booked months in advance), it’s still surrounded by construction. But what little I saw reinforced my view that it is a great success as both a memorial and lovely public space.

We also saw the still-under-construction 1 World Trade Center. I have to remind myself that, despite it being a deeply symbolic structure, it is ultimately a commercial office building. Which is too bad, in a way. I still think Daniel Libeskind’s original design is superior to the current design. I don’t dislike the building that is going up – but to a large degree, it’s just another glass tower, albeit a very tall one. But who knows? It’s not finished yet and may surprise me.

Sunday night, Ralph got us tickets to see Arias With a Twist, Joey Arias’ show with puppeteer Basil Twist. I think it was described as a drag-queen-on-acid-journeying-through-space-and-time – which is pretty much spot-on. Funny, innovative, with great visuals. We both enjoyed ourselves – though I realized what an old man I am when I commented after the show that I found it rather loud. Oy…

A small dinner of grilled artichokes and pizza in the East Village, then chez Ralph to finish off the macarons. A perfect end to an action-packed weekend.

Monday, I took the entire day off (i.e. no working remotely – yay!) and was up and at ’em early. First nipped down to Broadway for my usual stops at Topman (stocked up on tees) and Uniqlo (underpants – saw cute pants, too, but didn’t have the patience to try things on). I also picked up a pair of shoes at Chrome – which seems ridiculous, as they are an SF-based company whose shop is a five-minute bike ride from apartment. But they were having a San-Genarro-Festival-inspired sale, and the shoes I’d been coveting in SF were on sale for $25 instead of $60. So what if I had to wear them on my hands for the flight home..?

Picked up a spicy turkey sandwich, broccoli rabe and cauliflower to go at Torrisi, then headed over to Ralph’s studio. We shared lunch on a bench on the recently-opened Phase II of the Highline. The weather was glorious, the food delicious, the views delightful, the company charming. The Highline seems like a place that one could never grow weary of…

Then off to the American Museum of Natural History to see frogs! Turned out to be rather a trek, as a water main had flooded the uptown A and C subway tracks. I eventually made it to 72nd St. on the 2 train and schlepped myself to the museum. Frogs were fascinating (though pricey at $22). Also spent some quality time with the wapitis in the dioramas (though really I just like saying “wapiti”).

Dinner that night with Ralph, Michael and Justin at Hudson Clearwater. I’d read about this place before my trip and it sounded interesting. It’s sort of hidden – the address is on a street corner in the West Village, but the entrance is actually around the corner and there is no signage. Of course, I was also nervous that it wouldn’t have much going for it beyond the “secret” location – and that I’d be blamed in perpetuity by everyone for taking them to some lousy restaurant.

Happily, this was not the case. I liked everything about this place. Obviously, the highlight was spending the evening with dear friends that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. As for the restaurant, the room was charming and lively, even though a bit cramped. The bartender was highly-skilled and gregarious. Our waitress was charming and helpful. And the food was excellent. I had a subtle and velvety vichyssoise, followed by a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin, with a salty crust and tender white beans. Shared a chocolate ganache with fresh fruit for dessert. A fine time was had by all…

Tuesday morning I worked in the morning, then headed up to the Metropolitan Museum after lunch. I have to say, this is probably my favorite museum in the world – walking up the Grand Staircase felt like meeting up with an old friend. The highlight of my visit was the Frans Halls show. Small, only a dozen or so paintings – but mesmerizing. I couldn’t tear myself away from Portrait of a Bearded Man – it is  sublime and, to my untrained eye, felt unexpectedly contemporary (something I noticed in much of his work being exhibited).

Strolled down Madison Ave. to another much newer but no less important temple of culture and beauty – Maison Ladurée’s just-opened outpost, their first in the United States. Framboise, fleur d’oranger, pomme verte, chocolat, caramel à la fleur de sel, pétales de rose, citron, et noix de coco. Plus, the store is like a jewel box, the boxes are beautiful, it’s like being in Paris, etc. Le sigh…

Once I was back down in the Village, I needed a snack (les macarons were for later…), so I had a dainty little sandwich from Amy’s Bread – and a not-insubstantial cannolo from Rocco’s. They are really the best cannoli I’ve had – and apparently now vermin free! On my last visit to NYC, the Health Dept. had shut them down…  Oops! But certainly glad to see them back in action.

Dinner that night at Smorgas Chef. I don’t know where I’d read about them, but the temptation of Swedish meatballs was too great to resist. Oh, yes – they were good. And the serving was quite large – sufficiently so that I had a serving leftover which I ate on the plane the next day (they were still delicious, too).

Finally, chez Ralph for les macarons and Prosecco. Ralph declared Ladurée the victor in our ongoing quest to find (and devour) the best macarons. I have already promised him a blind taste-test of local selections when he’s here in SF next…

And then, poof! It’s 545AM and I’m in a car on the way to JFK. Before I even realize it, I’m back in SF. And while it’s nice to come home (and to see my little kitty-cat), I sure do miss NYC… But I’ll be back soon – I need those new eyeglasses!

Back in SF

I’ll be writing a full report of the last week I spent with Ralph in NYC soon. Suffice it to say though, I had a fantastic visit and wish I were still there.

Anyway, here’s one photo from my trip. This was me after being advised I’d be sitting in a middle seat from SFO to JFK.

Every Flight I’m Shufflin’

JFK-bound today. Sadly, I’m not flying Virgin, but this is still how I roll at 35K feet. And I’m in a middle seat. You’re welcome other passengers!

Happy Pride!

Let’s not forget the debt we owe to the fags, dykes and trannies who fought at Stonewall almost exactly 42 years ago.

And this is an amazing photo, and captures just a bit of what I’m feeling tonight.

Une semaine merveilleuse à NYC

Four trips to NYC in the last six months – I was going to say I’ve fallen back in love with the city, but I don’t think I ever stopped. I simply wasn’t spending time there…  Now I just need to win the lottery so I can afford an apartment. Sigh…

Arrived Wednesday without incident and was welcomed with antipasti and a bottle of wine chez Ralph. A good night’s sleep and then a morning walk before work to Murray’s for a bagel with cream cheese and bacon (dairy and pork on a bagel – so many rules broken!). Swung by Rocco’s for a cannoli, only to discover it was being “remodeled” – at the demand of the Health Department. Quel dommage! If there were any rat feces in my cannoli last time I visited, I didn’t notice.

Dinner Thursday evening at Le Gigot. We sat at the bar and had a good meal – steak for me, boeuf bourguignon for Ralph. We had excellent wine and a very friendly bartender, who I regaled with jokes (“Would I? Would I?” “Hunchback! Hunchback!”). I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief once I’d finally left. Oh, and Ralph shushed me at one point, if that gives any indication of my demeanor…

Friday spent working hard – and discovered how to tether my netbook to my EVO. The 4G connection on my phone was WAY faster than a wired connection to Verizon DSL. Oh these modern times!

Took a lunch break and got a turkey sandwich at Torrisi Italian Specialties. I’d read that the pepper sauce on the sandwich combines with the mayo to create heroin. I would not argue with this hypothesis… Also had a quick stop at the New Museum to see Cronocaos. A fascinating take on the preservation of architecture in the modern world…

Friday night, Ralph and I headed to Lincoln Center to see War Horse. The story was perhaps not the most subtle or nuanced piece of theater – but the horses on stage were completely magical. There’s really no other word for the puppetry that brought these animals to life – they were the most engrossing, engaging and poignant characters on the stage. I’m honestly welling up with tears as I write this, just remembering how incredibly alive they were, whether they were galloping around the stage, rearing up on their haunches or standing nearly still, nickering while their ears twitched. It was a theater experience I will never forget.

Post-theater dinner at Rosa Mexicano, a really cool looking place just down the street from the theater. Guacamole made tableside, margaritas, giant slabs of beef – all was right with the world…

Saturday: le shopping! Made the usual stops at Uniqlo, Topman and Ben Sherman. I bought the most adorable pair of cropped khakis from Uniqlo – and they fit perfectly! Sadly, though, to quote Michael Kors, the crotch was insane, so I had to return them (by which I mean I told Ralph to return them once I’d flown back to SF since I’d forced him to pay for them – because I didn’t want to try them on at the store and figured he’d have an easier time returning them if they were on his credit card. So really, I was just being polite!). Also, a trip to K-Mart (in Manhattan – I know!) so I could pick up a beach chair. Priorities, people!

That evening we saw The Normal Heart. It was preachy, statistics-laden, heart-wrenching, polemical – and marvelous. Joe Mantello turned in an amazing performance. And Ellen Barkin (!) delivered a monologue in Act II that elicited sustained cheers and thunderous applause.

Dinner was going to be at Maria Pia, a nice little Italian place I’ve been to after the theater a couple of times. But the kitchen closes at 11PM! In New York! On a Saturday night! WTF?! Boo, Maria Pia!

So we wound up at Uncle Nick’s for some Greek mezes – roasted peppers, tzatziki, scordalia, etc. All really tasty. But the tastiest thing of all? Our adorable Greek waiter. Seriously. Handsome as the day is long, with a charming smile and a twinkle in his eye. He must rake in the tips from all the swooning ladies and dudes-who-like-dudes. Quel bateau de rêve!

Of course, since we were in the neighborhood, a visit to Posh for some drinking and dancing was in order. It was as fun as always…

So, Sunday. We didn’t arise quite as early as we’d hoped. But we still managed to make it onto the 1:30 ferry to Sandy Hook. A wonderful ride past the Statue of Liberty and then a lovely afternoon laying on the beach and walking along a huge and nearly empty expanse of sand adjacent to the main beach. The water was too cold for swimming, but what a wonderful afternoon. The boat ride home took us under the Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges – twice. It was a perfect day…

A late dinner in the East Village at Arcane. It was late and still delightfully warm out. Cucumber-coconut soup and pork curry for dinner, reggae music and a leisurely walk home. It was a perfect evening…

Monday was for walking. A subway ride up to the Armory to see the amazing Ryoji Ikeda installation, which was rapturous. A stroll down Park Avenue, where we debated which building was sufficiently lovely to actually warrant buying a co-op in the boring Upper East Side after acquiring winning lottery tix. A snack and a couple of glasses of rosé at The Drunken Horse, followed by a marvelous walk along the Hudson.

Dinner that night at Morandi, where I had a very delicious and dainty plate of hand-rolled pasta with lemon and parmigiano. Ralph had a veal cutlet that was larger than his head – and had no problem eating every bite. For dessert, I had a plate of excellent cannolini and some moscato d’asti. Another wonderful evening.

Home to pack, a brief but good night’s sleep (530AM pick-up!), on-time from JFK – and I was back in my office in SF before noon. And already plotting when I can make my next visit…

Morning in NYC

Before I started my work day (hooray for telecommuting!), I walked up to Murray’s Bagels for breakfast to go – onion bagel with cream cheese and bacon (yes, bacon – I never claimed to be kosher). Sadly, I once again neglected to order any rugelach for an afternoon snack. Oh well – I decided to stop by Rocco’s for one of their amazing cannoli.

Imagine my disappointment to find they are closed and undergoing extensive renovations – as demanded by the Health Department. Apparently, a more apt name would’ve been Ratso’s… Oh well. I read about a new French macaron place on the LES. Maybe I’ll take a walk over there this afternoon…

Burrrrrp...
The view from my "office."

Un Weekend de Printemps à NYC

Well! Spent a wonderful five days in NYC – it was a leisurely visit with Ralph that also seemed to end in the blink of an eye. Good thing I’m heading back next month!

I’m quite liking United’s “Premium Service,” offered on all flights from SFO or LAX to JFK. Coach is entirely “Economy Plus” with extra-legroom but no additional charge. Plus, with a very large business class section, there’s always plenty of room for overhead storage, even on a full flight. It’s not quite Virgin America, but it’s pretty great for United – and I’m racking up the miles…

Arrived without incident in the West Village on Wednesday evening and, after some snacks and a glass or three of wine, went for a very late dinner at Bar Pitti. Ralph and I shared some wonderful polpette and then I had a simple and delicious penne all’arrabbiata. And to cap the evening, I spotted Fran Lebowitz as she exited the restaurant and lit up a smoke before heading off into the night. My favorite NYC celebrity sighting ever.

Thursday and Friday spent working during the day, though I did go for a walk on Thursday for lunch. It was a lovely spring day, the dogwood in bloom everywhere. Dinner on Thursday night at Negril, a very lively Jamaican place in the West Village. Had a jerk pork tenderloin with sweet potatoes – spicy and yummy.

Friday night Ralph prepared an Italian feast. Antipasti of bresaola, cippoline and broccoli rabe, followed by saltimbocca, patates fritte and fagiolini. The pictures pretty much speak for themselves – but I can assure you that everything was molto delizioso. And for dolce? An amazing tiramisu – seriously one of the best I’ve had, due not only to the fact that it was homemade, but that ingredients included both Cointreau and amaretto.

Saturday was rainy and cold – but we still managed a nice long walk with stops at Chelsea Market, the studio where Ralph works and La Maison du Macaron (whose macarons were decidedly mediocre). We’d thought about hitting the town that evening, but the pouring rain, thunder and lightning changed our minds. We stayed in noshing on salumi, cheese and tiramisu while debating politics and concluding that the world would be a better place if one or the other of us were in charge (though obviously I’d be the best choice to be King of the World).

On Sunday, we joined the rest of the gray-hairs for a matinee performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. I’d actually never seen nor read the play – how lucky I am to have this production be my first! It was marvelous, most notably for Brian Bedford’s hilarious portrayal of Lady Bracknell.

A fine post-theater dinner of steak frites at Marseille, then home to pack, sip prosecco and get a moment or two of shut-eye before my 430AM departure for JFK. On-time departures, though I didn’t especially enjoy the screaming toddler kicking my seat most of the flight home. But I did get some much needed sleep. Then straight to the office from SFO. Was I even actually gone? Sigh…

NYC PDQ

Just completed my whirlwind trip to the Center of the Universe. It was all rather last minute – I got an invitation from my friend Justin to his partner Michael’s 50th birthday party. I’ve known Mikey for more than 20 years, hadn’t seen him or Justin in too long, so I decided to do my second surprise drop-in of the year.

Of course, the big drawback of such sneakiness is having to go AWOL on Facebook. Very difficult not to be blabbing my status updates every ten minutes per usual…

Arrived Wednesday evening and was quickly ensconced in the charming apartment I’d found on airbnb.com. It was half the price of a hotel, spacious and the location on East 7th could not be beat.  And it was a ten-minute walk to Katz’s Deli, which is where I had dinner that evening.

Explored some of the bars in the ‘hood and had a fun, early-ish night. Thursday did some shopping and had lunch at Balthazar – steak frites and vin rouge. It was expensive and worth every penny. And I must say, the service could not have been more gracious. The place was mobbed, even at 230 in the afternoon, but the hostess found me a table for one with only a five-minute wait.

Back home for a nap, then changed into my plaid-iest outfit ever before heading to the birthday festivities at The Summit Bar (a really charming place on the Lower East Side that makes fantastic cocktails). My arrival was indeed a big surprise and was well-received. So great to see Mikey and Justin – plus a bunch of folks I knew from my NYC days, nearly 20 years ago…  Made some new friends too… It was a really sublime evening, one that I didn’t want to end. Sadly, though, my picture-taking skills are inversely proportional to my booze intake – thus, every photo I took that evening was like a blurry shot of Bigfoot and thus not suitable for publication…

Slept in on Friday, did some more shopping (hey, it’s NYC), lunch at Pulino’s, then a night at the theater: Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. I loved it. And, despite the fact that it is rollicking rock-and-roll comedy, I still found myself getting a bit verklempt when the show started. There’s something really magical about seeing a show on Broadway – must be all that talent up on the stage…

Very nice dinner afterward at Maria Pia, a little Italian place on 51st – had a hearty bowl of homemade pasta with bolognese sauce, which was perfect on a blustery winter night. Had a few drinks at Posh before heading home.

Saturday was another excellent day. Brunch at Minerva with my new friend Ralph; late afternoon wine with my friend Teresa; then a very tasty dinner with Mikey and Justin at Cookshop on 10th Avenue, followed by after-dinner whiskeys at Colicchio and Sons. It was really a perfect day…

Got home late, hurriedly packed (always fun after wine and whiskey), arranged for a car to collect me at 630AM, slept (briefly), at JFK for an on-time departure at 815AM, back home in SF by noon. And I can’t wait to do it all over again – soon, I hope!

NYC : Win :: SF : Fail

I wrote this after my return from NYC in August 2009 and for some reason never got around to posting it… I think most everything still holds true – though SF is making some progress with the City’s bike plan.

At any rate, I must say, NYC and SF seem to have exchanged identities in the ten plus years since I last visited Manhattan. NYC used to be the scary, dirty, smelly city with peril on every block, while SF was a charming jewel of loveliness, an intimate metropolis of hills, fine restaurants and friendly people.

I was truly bowled over by the changes in Manhattan – despite it’s size and density, it feels absolutely people-focused. They’ve got bike lanes that are physically separated from auto traffic; they’re closing streets to autos to make them more pedestrian friendly; the streets are clean; the subway runs frequently and without incident.

Coming back to SF made me realize how little seems to be done right here: the City’s bike plan held up in the courts for years; streets are filthy; infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes; and the population of homeless and beggars on the streets is higher than ever.

Of course, I have mixed feelings about the two transformations. NYC’s “new look” is largely the result of over a decade of being run by autocratic Republican mayors who don’t really give a shit about opposing viewpoints. Giuliani is a horrible and corrupt individual – and he didn’t do anything to solve the problem of homelessness; he just made sure that the homeless were sufficiently harassed so as to get them to go elsewhere. But while I may disagree with these tactics, it’s hard not to find the results a vast improvement over the daily obstacle course of reeling drunks and crack-heads I encounter every day here in SF.

Broadway & 46th
Broadway & 46th

Frankly, SF could use a little autocracy. Every good thing the City proposes doing (more bike lanes; closing Market St. to cars; Healthy San Francisco*) gets shot down because everybody has to get their two-cents in (which generally results in nothing getting done). We could learn a lesson from NYC: they shut down a section of Broadway to auto traffic, essentially on the mayor’s say-so. Here in SF, a tiny little dot of a pedestrian mall at the corner of Market and Castro raised howls among the local merchants – and remains populated with cardboard planters and other temporary fixtures to ensure it can be quickly swept away.

NYC bike lane: Look Ma, no broken elbow!
NYC bike lane: Look Ma, no broken elbow!

Despite the huge and vocal biking community (and near impossibility of finding parking), the car is still king in San Francisco. The Market/Octavia entrance to the freeway remains the city’s most dangerous for bikers – but it took months and months for even minor (and still not completely effective) changes to be made to inhibit illegal right turns. NYC has large bike lanes that are physically separated from cars, making it safer for both.

In SF, there was a huge hue-and-cry from Union St. merchants when Muni proposed making a bigger bus stop at Fillmore – which would’ve meant eliminating five metered parking spots. And Muni caved! Has anyone seen walked down Union St. lately? Whatever it is those merchants are doing appears to be wrong – so why are they setting public transit policy? Meanwhile, NYC manages to close down seven blocks to automobile traffic in the middle of Manhattan – but SF can’t build a bus stop?

SF is densely packed, for the most part – though not nearly so much as NYC. And I suppose this is part of what leads to the rampant NIMBY-ism in SF. All the rich hippies and limousine liberals are happy to vote “yes” on building homeless shelters or drug treatment facilities – but God forbid one gets built in their neighborhood. In NYC, there seems to be some recognition that everyone is living cheek-by-jowl anyhow – so what’s the big deal if there’s a methadone clinic a block away?

Of course, I still love SF. I think it beats NYC food-wise (both food shopping and restaurants) especially in terms of price-to-value ratio. And the housing market in NYC remains more insane than here… I may need to live in a rent-controlled, ghetto-adjacent apartment here – but the apartment is spacious and well-maintained. Such a combination is much harder to find in Manhattan – especially for monthly rental amount that doesn’t elicit the response “are you shitting me?”

Nonetheless, if I get the chance (i.e. win the lottery or Chris starts charging Sally-Hershberger-esque prices** I re-marry well), I’d give very serious thought to heading back to Manhattan permanently…

* This is a particular pet-peeve of mine. I think restaurants should be proscribed from adding a surcharge for the city-mandated health program. Just like with increased fuel prices or more expensive ingredients, merchants must build changes in their costs into their prices. Why is health care different? Between tax, tip and surcharges, a diner in SF can be paying upwards of 30% over and above the prices listed on the menu. Grrrr…

** Well, this is awkward… As I mentioned, the post was originally written in August 2009…