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NY Trip Retroblog: Thursday July 5th

Walk like a Newyorkian

On Thursday morning, Jon took me on a walking tour of his neighbourhood. We meandered through the East Village, NoLiTa ("North of Little Italy"), the Lower East Side, SoHo ("South of Houston") and over to the South Street Seaport. It was interesting to get an insider's perspective on the various areas, and Jon makes a knowledgeable guide. His analysis was as follows:

  • NoLiTa: Overpriced shopping, formerly Italian
  • Lower East Side: Overpriced shopping, formerly Jewish
  • SoHo: Overpriced mall, formerly artists
  • South Street Seaport: Overpriced mall, formerly mafia
I bought a cheesy emergency sunblock hat (very Groove Armada) and shot a few photos, some of which even came out. Found that we'd just missed (by a week) a Shepard Fairey exhibit at a hip little clothing / knick-knack boutique, but they still had some limited edition postcard sets for sale - that was Dave and Anita's present sorted out, then. Also spotted a number of Giant stencils on walls and lampposts as we strolled around - Obey!

The South Street Seafront mall was rather nasty. The shops, clientele and food court upstairs all served to remind me of the Harlequin Centre back in good old Watford; semi-smart clothes shops, nothing too adventurous, alternative or leftfield. Loads of Japanese shopper tourists, young Tokyoite girls in their eighties spray-on jeans and three-inch wide slanted belts.

Admittedly, Watford has far fewer day-trip parties of six-year-old Hasidic Jews being marched in and out of its shopping centre restrooms by exasperated rabbi supervisors ("Get in two lines! Is that a line? Do you call that a line?" etc). We were sitting outside the restrooms, nursing our respective digestive systems (Jon: "I can't go in there yet. Give me five minutes.") when the first party of twenty or so went in (Jon: "Damn") followed by a second (Jon: "Double damn. I'm going in. Now.") and then a third. I caught myself idly speculating how much care goes into maintaining their sideburns, and had to laugh at myself. Confronted with this image of devout orthodox religion, and I wonder how they do their hair. I'm such a valley girl.

Wound up eventually at Wall Street, from whence Jon left for a CrossPathCulture meeting and I headed up to the World Trade Center. The queue for the southern tower observatory looked fearsome (later heard it would have taken about one-and-a-half to two hours) so I tried the other building instead.

The only-slightly-overpriced restaurant on the 107th floor was more than adequate, and had the advantage of being totally queue-free. The only downer was the visibility (not great) and the fact that there was no north-facing view, ie up towards the Empire State building, Midtown and so on. Still - excellent views of Brooklyn across the East River. Tried to work out which rooftop we'd been on the night before, with very little success; one converted warehouse condo looks pretty much the same as the next from a mile-and-a-half away.

Back up to Jon's to rendezvous with him after his CPC meeting, which went well. He appeared to have escaped without having physical injury inflicted upon him, at least - unlike the previous meeting. One of the artists whose work CPC are showcasing creates what could charitably be described as "3D latticeworks of pointed sticks". These things require careful hanging lest your lawyer stand up from the conference table too fast and impale his forehead on one of them. Of course, they know this now; a pity for Jon they had to find out the hard way. Proof, if proof were needed, that culture is bad for you.

From there we swung up to Union Square to see De La Guarda, which I was massively looking forward to. Bethany and Morgan had agreed to come along as well so we sat on the steps of the theatre, waiting for them to arrive and watching the New York crowds pass us by.

A trio of very impressively pierced gothpunks walked by, and here is the snatch of their conversation we couldn't help but overhear:

guy: " mouth."
girl (shouting uneccessarily loudly): "WHAT?"
guy (shouting REALLY CLEARLY NOW): "I WANT you to PISS in my MOUTH!"
Which would have been funny enough even if the huge black bouncer sitting on a folding stool behind us hadn't then lamented, out loud to the world in general, "WHAT in God's NAME is the goddamn world coming to today?" I just had to smile.

De La Guarda was simply superb, frenetic, awesome. Performance art the way it should be; inventive, powerful, irreverant and involving. With a techno soundtrack. And lots of running up walls. And Eric Stoltz (well, he was in the audience that night, but your mileage may vary). I cannot recommend it highly enough, so I'll stop trying. Go see it; my work here is done.

Pizza was next, followed by a patented Swerdloff beats crawl, ie a pub crawl of DJ bars. I was on autopilot, following Jon; I can say without a shadow of a doubt, however, that the East Village has far too many excellent bars to be entirely healthy. The three we sampled were, I am reliably informed, Standard, Drinkland and, finally, Plant. And then there's the ones that we didn't go to, specifically Guernica, NW3, Parlay and somewhere called Orchard.

I also didn't go into Coyote Ugly. I noticed it a little way down the street - hadn't realised it was actually a really real place and not just a really bad film. I peered in through the window to see, sure enough, a bartender in a low-cut top striding along the top of the bar.

bartender (seeing me outside): "Come on in!"
me (having a quick scan around the practically empty, bad-rock'n'roll-saturated room): "No!"
All three we did go to were nice, and the music was starting to get really good at Drinkland, but winding up at Plant was definitely a wise idea. The four of us installed ourselves on an intimate curved sofa in a back corner and continued to get the drinks in while the DJ did the deed.

Conversation topics that night included, but were not limited to: the gymnastic possibilities of dating someone from De La Guarda, the sexual predilictions of Tory MPs (and Republican congressmen), the films of Eric Stoltz, nuances of British and American vowel sounds and handy shorthands for pointing out to your friends attractive members of the opposite sex. I favour the versatile clockface-range-rating system; Andrew's version, now that I think about it, was impressively binary: point at member of opposite sex and say "0" or "1". Who said that geeks were awkward or clumsy around women? What rot.

Jon was wondering if a Dominican girl he knew was going to show up; I got chatting to Marcos, who showed up briefly to say hi, and Morgan and Bethany were busy inventing new variations on the "slap that ass" dance. The three I remember were "support that ass", "buff that ass" and, worryingly, "shock that ass" ("Clear!"). Buy me a drink sometime and I might be persuaded to recreate the actions for you.

As the night flowed, a few people started dancing... christ knows I can't talk (or dance, actually), but there were definitely some rather odd movements going down on the floor. It all made for excellent people watching, anyway - especially the chap who appeared to have his knees and elbows wired up the wrong way.

After an unexpected sojourn in the restroom (stoppit, nothing kinky, it just happened to get a little crowded at one point) we moved onto Tribe for final nightcaps. It was late, so I have but the vaguest memories of the music... George Michael and Michael Jackson... or was it George Jackson? Actually, come to think of it, the two guys Swerd met there were also called George and Michael. One each, rather than the two of them both being called "George and Michael". That would just have been odd - "Hi, I'm George'n Michael." Anyway.

It was an excellent evening, all things considered. Jon is of course ace, Marcos was a riot (and totally unlike how I expected him to be) and I got on really well with Morgan too. I also had a great time talking to (not to mention flirting with) the superb Bethany in particular; Jon, you have fine friends.

Yellowcabbing through the streets of Manhattan, blurred handheld camera footage of street scenes, Massive Attack and bed. I happen to love New York.

Posted by chris at July 12, 2001 05:03 PM | Permalink

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