Monday, July 30, 2012
We already know that Saturday was spent concocting a Plan B on the run, when my meditation instructor called in sick. When I got home late-ish Saturday afternoon, I half-watched some of the Olympics on TV but then gave up and retired to my air-conditioned room to make a me-sized dent on the bed and watch an episode of "The Hollowmen" on DVD. I swear that show is freakishly accurate.
I was seized by a bizarre compulsion to go out and despite the weather threatening to turn bad, I texted Westo and said it was up to her to devise a social plan. Yes, I outsourced the planning but I knew that if one of us was going to have a clue what people did on Saturday nights in this town, it would be Westo. You know it's true. And I wasn't totally mean, I dictated the night's parameters: we had to have pasta and red wine, and we had to stay in Westo's neighbourhood. Ever the good sport, my friend accepted the challenge.
So fast-forward an hour and we were standing on a street corner in the West Village, waiting for a table to open up at the gorgeous Malatesta Trattoria. The little restaurant was packed, and had opened up all its side windows to usher in the fresh air. Every now and again, fat droplets of rain splotched us, and the heavens were truly threatening to open up, so we had wimped out and decided not to take one of the (many) empty outdoor tables. Instead, we alternately gave pleading looks and vicious stink-eyes to the diners inside, willing them to stuff in the last of their tasty morsels and surrender their tables to us.
The meal was incredible - simple, yet hearty and plentiful. We had the Chianti, as planned. And we split an appetizer of four assorted crostini (prosciutto & mozzarella, goats cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and tomato). We shared a basic mixed side salad that complemented our respective pasta dishes beautifully. We rounded out the meal with a rich, decadent chocolate mousse. I didn't spill anything down the front of me, which was doubly helpful as I was wearing a new, sequinned top (operating on the assumption that wherever we went for dinner, if I dressed like the human disco ball, I'd be so dazzling that the hostess would give us a table faster).
Come Sunday morning I was up again, this time to head to brunch in NoHo (local speak for the area "north of Houston"). Shars had booked us a table at the popular "Five Points" restaurant. As I had a coffee at home beforehand, I looked up the restaurant to make sure I knew how to get there, and a took a peek at their brunch menu. Huevos Rancheros, kids! I was so excited. You know how I feel about this dish - it's fun to say, AND fun to eat. I was sold. Brunching is very popular here in New York and even though we had an early-ish reservation by the city's standards, as we enjoyed our meal in leisurely fashion, the restaurant filled up quickly and pretty soon there was a crowd of people waiting for tables, milling around in the bar area at the front. My huevos did not disappoint, and I can't tell you how lovely it was to just shoot the preverbial sh*t with the girls and not be in a rush to go anywhere or do anything.
After our meal I could feel a food coma setting in, so we parted ways and I headed to the air conditioned sanctuary of my local cinema to soak up the new Batman movie. It's a bit disconcerting to notice the NYPD presence outside of the movie theatres these days, but I guess we can't do much about that. The only thing we can do is to enjoy the movie and I totally did. Tom Hardy playing Bane was a great choice - even though you could only see his eyeballs. That dude is a TANK. I read afterwards that he put on 30lbs to play the role, and wore 3" shoe lifts, AND he did martial arts and other fighting training. Ding ding ding! Genius. Even Anne Hathaway didn't make me want to vomit, so that's a good thing.
When you read my weekend back, I don't sound incredibly social but believe me, this was a jam-packed weekend by my usual standards haha. I really had a wonderful time and I'd forgotten how nice it is for someone else to make your meals for you, and enjoy them in a restaurant setting. I might have to make a bit more of a habit of this.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Having finally established with myself that it was, in fact, the weekend I took my time making some breakfast and getting myself organised. Then I took the bus to Central Park, but this time just to kick back and enjoy storytime. I know it's supposed to be for kids, but I enjoyed it there last week and with no other pressing engagements yesterday, I figured why not?
Sunday, July 15, 2012
So after a morning spent pottering around, I met up with JoHa at lunch time and we headed out to Brooklyn - her first visit there. Earlier in the week Stokesy had told us about the big Bastille Day celebrations in Brooklyn, and we wanted to be part of it. This article explains really well how the party has come to be so big out there - but even I wasn't prepared for the crowds and the heat and the craziness.
First of all we wandered up and down Smith Street, pausing to especially enjoy some of the petanque games going on in little makeshift sandpits. This video was taken a couple of years ago, but shows you how well the Petanque championship is incorporated into the street party:
As we got closer to the really cute Bar Tabac (on the list for a return visit in less-crazy times) we could hear some music playing and so we grabbed a sandwich, found a spot to sit (in the gutter, no less!) and enjoyed the show. We didn't enjoy it as much as our acid wash jean-clad friend here, but we were grooving on the spot, trust me.
Some of the local vendors were out keeping people hydrated with what looked to be JUGS of sangria, but neither me nor JoHa partook. Instead, we enjoyed a couple of delicious sandwiches prepared by Bien Cuit - the Smith Street Bakery. You have to visit their website - just LOOK at the breads and cakes on offer...yummo!
For a change in culture, we then took the train to Coney Island. The sun had stopped shining, but the heat and humidity continued unabated. It was altogether rather unpleasant, but I was buoyed by the hope that maybe - just maybe - by the time we reached the boardwalk, the ocean breezes might improve conditions a bit. On the way up to the boardwalk, we saw the famous Nathan's hotdog stand and THIS fantastic billboard:
Last weekend I went to see "Macbeth" at the Rose Theater, which is part of Lincoln Center but is located off-site, at the Time Warner Centre, opposite Columbus Circle and Central Park. The best part is, its location affords you views like this, while you're waiting for the show to start:
See? Gorgeous. Now I'm a huge Shakespeare fan, no question. But I'm not a purist in the least. I love it when people mix Shakespeare up a bit and do funny, silly, or just different things with it. So I was totally on board with the National Theatre of Scotland's production of "Macbeth", not least of which because it stars the super-talented and charming Alan Cumming. This production is effectively a one-man show, that takes place in a mental institution. Alan Cumming basically plays all the major roles of the play, and slips in and out of the characters pretty seamlessly. If you know the story well, you can tell what character he's playing by where you're up to in the plot. But if you don't, Cumming's characters have "tells", just like in poker, so you can tell who he's playing by his mannerisms. (smoothing his hair, eating an apple, talking all pompously-British). The way he breathes life into the three witches is especially eerie, with slitty eyes and malicious grins - one step away from an all-out cackle. With no intermission, the performance is pretty intense (to watch surely, but certainly to perform too). I thought it was a really interesting take on a fantastic play.
In a similar vein, I seized an opportunity on Tuesday night to be Kell's "plus one" at a performance of "End of the Rainbow", a Broadway show I'd been wanting to see since I was in London and the play had been taking the West End by storm before coming across the Pond. The musical drama takes place in London, and focuses on a string of comeback concerts that Judy Garland gives, three months before she is found dead of an accidental drug overdose. The play is punctuated by beautiful songs (that are often painful to watch, when you realise what it took to get her out on stage in the first place). Of course I cried, particularly when she closed the show with "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", but sang it so full of bitterness and pain, with her eyes full of tears, that it was a far cry from the innocent black-and-white Dorothy Gale on film. The play was brilliant, and I'm so glad that Kell thought to take me with her.
My rather rotten week rounded out last night with an absolutely beautiful dinner with K and her aunt and uncle, at The Water Club, right on the East River and just a stone's throw from our apartment. I had delicious bluefin tuna for my main meal, that was served with a crunchy rice cake, some freshly-roasted corn and some cool, refreshing tomato salsa. Dessert was a butter pecan and toffee parfait (cause everybody likes parfait!), that was sitting on top of espresso coffee icecream. Yummo! But the prize for theatricality definitely went to K's aunt and uncle, who cleverly ordered the Bananas Foster for dessert. Our waiter prepared it table-side, and the heat that came off that explosion of rum and banana liqueur warmed my cheeks for minutes afterwards. Whoa. I almost had to check I still had both my eyebrows attached! And despite the little slip-up in my Dry July fundraising campaign on Friday night (one glass of white wine, for which I paid my $25 fine), I climbed back aboard the rickety ole wagon and did not have a sip of alcohol at all yesterday - no matter how tempting the cocktail list looked. An opportunity for another time, for sure!
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Central Park NYC
Originally uploaded by Ronaldo F Cabuhat.
I stood Buddha up again today. I think that's twice I've missed the weekend meditation class. But you know what? The jolly old fella will forgive me because I have had the most beautiful Saturday morning just hanging out in Central Park.
The week just gone was pretty rotten, to be honest. I had been looking forward to the meditation class for the rare opportunity it afforded to sit still, put the week's events in perspective, and decompress. Then it occurred to me that if I got up early on Saturday morning, I could go back into Central Park, walk for a bit, and THEN get to the class. A double dose of meditation, if you will.
I got to bed early last night and awoke this morning in a really good mindset. Bagel and coffee for breakfast, huge bottle of water chugged, and I left the house by 8.15am. A quick cab ride to Central Park and I set off on my 10-mile walk around and around. The Park looks so different now than when I was last here - back on NYC Half-Marathon day in March. Green trees, fluffy squirrels, lush grass - it was just gorgeous. And so many dogs off their leashes - and young kids off theirs too - everyone, human and not, seemed in great spirits.
From behind my chic sunglasses and full face of make-up (of course!), I sweated it out up towards Harlem Hill. As I approached the ascent, I bumped into Flock from work, who was jogging down the hill in a super-fit style that put my strutting to some shame. We chatted for a bit and then went on our merry ways. I was rocking out to my iPod music list and trying very hard not to mouth the words along the way.
10 miles in, I found myself back at the Central Park boathouse and I grabbed a large coffee. I walked a little way to the little lake by 5th avenue and watched a family floating a little electric boat along the water. A few more sips of coffee and I figured I should probably start heading for home.
Rounding the little lake, I saw some chairs set up by the Hans Christian Andersen statue (did I even know that was there before??). Sure enough, the clock was almost striking 11am, and I realised I was just in time for Saturday Storytime. Kids and their parents were settling themselves onto the folding chairs, so I sat on a public bench close by and the story-tellers told their tales. The kids were completely spellbound even though some of the stories were a bit more adult than I thought would have been appropriate. Storytime Saturdays take place at 11am every week between early June and September, and I am sure they are very well-attended. Being a big kid myself, I certainly enjoyed it and would like to come back.
Storytime ended at noon so I figured I would head home. It was already clear that I wasn't going to make the 1pm meditation in Chelsea, so I didn't rush myself at all. I walked most of the way home, but grabbed a bus for the last 20 or so blocks, when my Boathouse coffee and chugged water started to catch up with me.
I really enjoyed my solitary morning, and I don't even care that the longest conversation I'd had out loud was when I ordered my coffee. My morning in the Park was quite enough to erase all the bad feelings and stress of the week that was. I may not have been doing guided meditation this morning, but I think this is what zen feels like anyway.