Thursday, October 11, 2012

New York City Vacation

Beginning the descent into New York, clouds from above

I didn't take a lot of pictures when I went on vacation at the end of June. Strange, because I certainly had the opportunity; I brought my Canon camera with its two fancy lenses, and had my cell phone camera on me nearly the entire time. I'd like to think the reason for not capturing everyone we saw, everything we did, and everywhere we went was because I was just having too much fun to think about it. When I did take pictures, it felt like I was forcing myself. I wanted to have fun instead.

That may be forced thinking, but I stand by it, if for no other reason than there isn't much I can do about the lack of photos I came home with. I can, however, talk about how we spent seven wonderful days exploring, eating, and drinking our way through Brooklyn and Manhattan with friends.

Our last vacation together, Jon and I were completely on our own; no friends to keep us company and break up the monotony. This time was an entirely different experience. Our "home base" was the perfect little apartment of one of my dearest and oldest friends, Jessie, and her photographer boyfriend, Joe. (I have to pimp out his sites, since he's amazing. Here's one of my favorite shots of his, from a trip to Turkey; I'm a little bit obsessed.)

With Jessie and Joe as our guides, it really set the stage for an ideal "local" experience; if these two were the only ones we knew in New York and we had never left Brooklyn at all, it would have been just as incredible of a trip. Needless to say, they were the most gracious hosts with a keen sense of how to embrace debauchery with the utmost care and maturity. We're adults in our late-twenties now, after all.

Admittedly, there was a bit of lounging about. New York doesn't mess around with its humid summers, so Jon and I took advantage of our air conditioned homebase whenever we could; returning to Jessie and Joe's after a half-day of exploring, covered in an aura of city grime, was like Heaven. It was comfortable and relieving.

Did I mention they were fantastic hosts?

Our first day in the city, we had two things on our agenda: eat the corned beef and pastrami on rye with Russian dressing and coleslaw from Katz's Deli ( a must-try after seeing it featured on Adam Richman's "Best Sandwich in America") and explore the Museum of Modern Art.

Left: Monet (top), __ (bottom)
Right: Picasso (top), Picasso (bottom)

I've developed an intense love for Picasso. On paper he never really stood out to me, but seeing his work in person... well, there's been no artist like him ever, has there?

I won't go into boring detail about all of my favorite paintings from the museum like I normally would. There's just too much as it is... I'll just have to assure you that there were some amazing ones that captivated me. Perhaps I'll do a separate post to showcase them, so I don't forget. In exchange, though, here's a huge Monet:

It was drizzly outside, which was a nice reprieve from the heat. We waited Downtown for Jessie to get off work, then went to see a new play reading put on by a small company called Fresh Produce'd in which my dear friends Shannon and Starr were performing. (They were wonderful, as were the scenes showcased from the new plays.)

This is where I become surprised at how many people I know who live in New York.

One of my favorite girls on earth, Alex (henceforth: Gell) joined us for the reading, as did one of Jon's best friends, Lukas. Afterwards, the group of us trekked down 9th Ave to a bar big enough to hold us all, where we proceeded to catch up and drink many over-priced, mediocre cocktails. No matter though. The company was divine. (So far, all of the people I've mentioned in this post—save for Joe—went to UC Santa Barbara, though he did go to school in SB. You following me?) After a while, another dear UCSB friend, Sarah, joined the gathering and it turned into an unexpectedly wonderful ultra-mini-reunion.

Seeing all these girls, many of whom I hadn't seen since graduating four years ago, at the same time was a blast. There's never enough time to catch up. There is, however, always time to be really, really silly.

L-R: Gellner, Sarah, Shannon, Starr, me, Jessie

On Friday, Jessie took the day off of work to show us around the part of Manhattan that in three previous trips I'd never been before, most notably: "Ground Zero," or the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Jessie planned everything in advance (God bless her), so we were all set to see the recently-opened 9/11 memorial fountains and grounds. Security was crazier than any airport I've been to, but given the circumstances, I can't blame them.

It really was a spectacular sight. The sheer size of the fountains (which represent the original "footprints" of the Twin Towers) was astonishing, and despite the crowd of tourists, I found it to be a very peaceful place.

We spent the rest of the day on the lower west side of the city, walking along the water to see the boat docks, and grabbing lunch at PJ Clarke's on the Hudson where we could eat outside but stay dry and watch the summer rain.

A few glasses of wine at lunch started off the theme of the afternoon and subsequent evening: alcohol and good company. I've never met a happy hour I didn't like.

Drudging through rain and doing my best to admire the cobblestone streets of the West Village, we hurried along the edge of the city and found ourselves in what, I believe, is Jon's new favorite bar: The Rusty Knot, just south of the New School for Drama. It's a kitschy, tiki bar and we arrived just as happy hour got started. Well drinks were 2-for-1 (which meant $4 for two drinks -- a huge difference from their normal pricing), and they were delicious. (If you haven't had a conversation with me about the delicacy of making basic yet high-quality well drinks, then bring me some Maker's Mark and Coke Zero and we'll discuss this over a [dozen] drink[s].)

We stayed at The Rusty Knot, chatting away and watching the fish tank, until the rain cleared up. Then -- not at all drunkenly -- we moseyed up to The Jane Hotel to meet Joe and enjoy far more expensive craft cocktails.

You can't not love the bar at The Jane, despite the $14 cocktails. It's luxurious and open, elegant and very "adult." Jessie told us that this spot was popular with celebrities and the New York City elite -- fancy!

After that, we walked up to The High Line towards the Meatpacking District to a converted warehouse to see the hugely popular play, Sleep No More -- an interactive, 30's-era adaptation of Macbeth. It's hard to explain in words (I didn't know anything about the show before seeing it), but if you're interested in theatre and aren't familiar with it, take a look at this YouTube video to get an idea. (I very much wish I had watched it before going to the show.)

Sleep No More, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth // photo credit: Sara Krulwich for The New York Times

Joe, Jessie, Jon, and I -- hidden behind our masks -- were split up and sent into the "McKittrick Hotel" to explore and follow the story as we discovered it. I caught some great sequences (Macbeth murdering Duncan, for instance, and pregnant Lady Macduff doing a sensuous and beautiful contemporary dance with Macduff), but -- as I found out later -- I missed some pretty bad-ass moments: a nude Lady Macbeth in a bathtub, washing blood off of her body; a dance-tastic rave sequence which featured someone in a ram head; and a finale which showcased Macbeth's hanging, lifeless body.

I was already in the lobby enjoying a Manhattan when everyone else watched the show end. I had wandered and explored and enjoyed it very much, but after 2 1/2 hours, I wasn't sure what else to see. I'd love to go again, this time understanding the need to follow the actors (Macbeth would be the best choice) all the way through, and then eventually move on to someone else.

If you have the chance to go, do it. It's amazing, and a truly unique experience. Just remember to do your research beforehand...

Sleep No More, the Ballroom // photo credit: Sara Krulwich for The New York Times

The next morning I was, err, how do you say it... hungover, just a wee bit. I remember a painful-yet-necessary walk from Jessie and Joe's apartment to Prospect Park to have a picnic and sleep it off relax in the shade. The day was as lovely as a day could be when you feel like your brain is trying to squeeze out through your eyeballs.

On Sunday, we discovered the beauty of the pricier side of Brooklyn -- meeting my good friend, Reynosa, for brunch at Vinegar Hill House in (yep) Vinegar Hill, near D.U.M.B.O. This little restaurant was nestled on the quaintest little street; it was delicious, rustic, totally hipster, and mildly overpriced, which means I loved it. It reminded me of brunch in Seattle, and that's never a bad thing.

Soon after brunch we all parted ways; Jessie and Joe went home, Jon met up with his friend, Lukas, and Reynosa and I wandered around the neighborhood towards the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, and just chatted about life and work and love. It was a stunning afternoon..

Sunday proved to be the only time I could see my dear old friend, Chris Kong -- who is a wildly talented piano player. He was subbing at Silence! the Musical, a parady of Silence of the Lambs. Jon and I ventured to Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan for dinner and to see the show, which was... ridiculous and funny and weirdly enjoyable. Granted, I likely would have found it even funnier if I'd... you know... seen the full movie before. (Don't judge me.) The best part was that it featured cutie-pie, Randy Harrison, of "Queer as Folk" fame, so I couldn't have hated it even if I wanted to.

Afterwards Chris showed us his fancy Mid-Town condo, which was so perfectly Chris, and I marveled at the horrifying thought of living that close to Times Square.

I'm having heart palpitations just thinking about it.

The last few days of our trip, we rode the Metro, explored, and enjoyed spending time with our New York friends.

We visited Reynosa to see her apartment in Bed-Stuy and have lunch with her at a great little soul food spot, Maggie Brown, before she started work in Clinton Hill. We braved the heat and humidity to have Happy Hour with Starr and Jessica, catching up after far too many years of interacting only on Facebook. We met up with Gellner and her boyfriend, Chris, at The Grey Dog in Union Square for brunch, then ventured back to Brooklyn to see her apartment and grab a pint in Park Slope while gossiping about Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson's scandalous break up. We ate an incredible meal with Jessie and Joe at their favorite local spot, Lot 2, where Jon had the most delicious hamburger either of us have ever tasted.

Lots of food. Lots of friends. Is there a better way to spend vacation?

I wish we'd had more time to just relax with Jessie and Joe at their apartment and around their little sliver of Brooklyn. Maybe one more weekend dedicated just to that. I wish I could join them every once in a while after a hard day's work, grab two slices of pizza at Luigi's Pizza and enjoy the meal alongside a craft cocktail (or four) at Quarter Bar down the street. I wish I could meet Jessie on Saturday mornings at Southside Coffee for iced coffee, quiche, and very important gossip.

I miss being part of a neighborhood, like we had in Seattle, with access to a never-ending menu of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, and walking distance to friends. Old Towne Orange isn't bad -- we're lucky to have some great spots around here -- but there's no one close by.

All in all, it was an amazing vacation. It's taken me over two months to finally get it all down, but I forgive myself. This time.

Anyone have any favorite spots in New York? Someplace, maybe, I should put on my list for next time?


  1. That absolutely sounds like the most amazing trip to New York City/Brooklyn, which I, myself, have never had the chance to experience. My past 4 trips have all consisted of Musicals, Musicals, Musicals on Broadway. Next time? No way. All of these Brooklyn bars and restaurants are now calling my name, and seeing Jessie and Reynosa would simply be divine.

    Even though you spent monstrous amounts of money, I'm so glad you had the opportunity to do this. =) And even happier that you finally updated about it!

    1. You should definitely keep an eye out for plane tickets, and then never leave Brooklyn once you get there! Save your money for cocktails and food ;)

  2. AHHHH YOU WENT TO THE RUSTY KNOT!! you know one of my post-class hangouts now :) xxx