Guess where I am?
That's right, you jealous beyotches, New Friggin' York.
(Perhaps you are not jealous. My guess is that's because you already live here, and you are reading this post whilst taking a leisurely soak in your bathtub which is in your kitchen which is separated through clever use of planters and an Ikea Expedit bookshelf from the other side of the room, which is the rest of your apartment. If so: hi! And, if you're the one I accidentally tripped when I failed to jaywalk on Christopher St. this morning, sorry.)
I hit pause on LA and put down my mighty picket sign for a couple of days in order to come here, for sundry personal reasons I won't bore you with and one reason that sounds glamorous - so let's go with that one: because I'm on strike, I finally have time to work on a labor-of-love project I've been too busy to even contemplate whilst writerproducering what averages out to a script about every 6 weeks. A trip to the big city was necessary research for said project. I have decided that a room in a funky-hip hotel over a fantastic Italian restaurant that provides 24-hour-a-day room service is also absolutely vital. What can I say. The muse, she is demanding. Also, I recently discovered, she's partial to a complicated cocktail called "The Bowery," which involves gin, champagne and brown sugar and retails at $18 a glass.
(Is it possible that I've already discovered the key to feeling comfortable in Manhattan - order a drink, and it will make cab fare seem positively frugal?)
While I'm in the hizzy, I plan to seize the opportunity to wander around and get more lost than seems possible on an island where the streets are numerically labeled, and perhaps scope out some interesting ways in which New York Jews stick it to Hitler.
For my first few hours in the blustery city, I concentrated on walking fast; the pace around here couldn't contrast more sharply with the beach-bum gait we sport 'round Santa Monica. I guess my newly minted big-city-stride is fairly convincing, because several people tried to ask me for directions. Satisfied that I didn't look like an utter tourist douche, I pulled out my camera and started doing what I do. Which is less snapping pix of iconic landmarks, and more of this:
This is a photo of the strong Irish coffee I drank whilst sitting in a lovely little cafe brimming with NYU students, jotting. (Though the "good morning" you can read on the page is from the breakfast spot I'd visited earlier, which was empty save a glowy couple in matching Fraggle Rock t shirts who had gotten married twenty minutes earlier; those newlyweds had good cause for whiskey at nine in the morning, but even on the road I do wait till noonish to start spiking my beverages.) I have to admit, I take pictures of my food all the time when I'm traveling alone. It's kind of like... having a conversation with myself. It keeps me amused. Maybe it's boring to you, but I suppose if I were that interested in entertaining other people I would bring them along when I travel.
As you may have heard, you can take the girl out of the Equity-waiver 99-seat theater, but you can never quite take the theater outta the girl. Put another way, I feel instantly at home in any city's gayborhood. I knew immediately when I'd hit it. The men were hotness on a stick and groomed to a Seacrestian level; ads admonishing people to fuck safely appeared at subway entrances. Soon enough, I was deep in rainbow-flagville, vehemently missing my dearest friend, a Very Hot Irish-American who's straight as a three dollar bill. Because when you find yourself in the very nest of fabulosity, you can't help but wish to be there with a companion who totally gets it when you deadpan, "You shoot an arrow, and if it goes real high, hooray for you." To commemorate the moment, I ate a creampuff. No, I'm not making double entendres at you, silly. Look:
It was vanilla custard. It was the best creampuff I've ever tasted. The bakeries in Chelsea rock.
Though I was decidedly traipsing the traipse of the fresh-faced foreigner to this exotic shore, I didn't shirk my blogsponsibilities. I knew I'd need to report back to you, my Disturbingly Fine Reader. So, I've been doing my Jew dilligence, as it were - scoping for synagogues; it's refreshing to see some religious architecture not constructed entirely around walls that fold back for High Holidays. I spotted this:
I admit I dallied at the Hotel Chelsea like any old tourist shmoe, reading the plaques and wondering if I should quit my digs at Chez Swank and move in here, ideally to the room where Arthur Miller wrote All My Sons. Maybe some form of artistic awesome would soak into my pores through the mattress. Maybe I'd breathe one or two leftover microscopic particles of Leonard Cohen's shed skin cells, which doubtless still held at least a smidge of creative mojo. Maybe someone would give me head on the unmade bed; did Leonard ever tell us where they were supposed to be going in that limousine that was waiting in the street while they got naked and flaked on that evening's plans?
And, hey, remember way back in the day when I went to Esalen and easily coulda been stuck with a bitter aging hippie roommate who snored like the reverb at a System of a Down concert? But instead, I got to room with this shiksariffic Manhattanite chickie, "P"? Well, P and I met today, far enough uptown that I took the subway and yes, I saw rats, and no, I ain't scairt; I used to live in the wilds of Van Nuys.
P, a VHJ reader as avid as she is stunning, was keen to provide me with East Coast-specific blog fodder. She was literally jumping with excitement to take me to one of the most Jewlicious spots on planet Earth: Barney Greengrass.
All I can say is, our people really know how to do a nice piece fish. When P attempted to order the pastrami, our delightful waiter, a poindextery lad with a smattering of zits that couldn't detract from his startling charisma, politely informed her that Barney didn't win the title of Sturgeon King for his way with garden-variety cow meat. "There's a reason," our Mysteriously Attractive And Quite Possibly Hebraic Waiter told us, "a real good reason the sturgeon's fifty three bucks a pound. Trust me on this."
We bent easily to the waiter's will, ordering exactly what he recommended, right down to onion over plain in the matter of bagel flavor. He delivered the goods - a generous plate of sturgeon and salmon galore - and we constructed architecturally sophisticated stacks of fish, fixin' and schmear, and we bit in... and...
Just kidding, although that would be the way I'd go with the story if I were writing a TV script and needed to put in a twist that led to a development more interesting than us rolling our eyes in delight and stuffing our faces with orgiastic gusto. But I am on strike, so I shall not devise compelling drama; if you want me to think up clever Act Three reversals, send some pencils to the moguls so I can get back to work. Till then, I will refrain from professional embelishment and merely report my findings. The report is as follows: holy Christ that was some good goddamn sturgeon. Are you Jewish? If not, try the fish plate; you'll convert.
So, New York: so far so good. I have top secret mission type shit to do while I'm here, so blogging may be spotty. (Like that's anything you aren't used to.) But the cool thing is: over the next few days, when I'm not blogging, I'm failing to blog on the streets of the Lower East Side, where millions of Jewish immigrants (my own folks included) have walked. And chatted, and haggled, and fallen in love, and adjusted to their new, Ellis Island-ed surnames, and perfected this city's signature cuisine. Pretty sweet, right? 'Kay, go with that. I'm off to imbibe a Bowery or three. L'chaim, yo.