Month: July 2009

4th of July

Y’all this has been an exhausting weekend.  I’ll catch up on today’s antics tomorrow, for now I will catch up on yesterday’s antics.

I love the 4th of July, because it is all about eating delicious processed meat and watching loud shiny things explode in the sky.  I mean, awesome, right?  I spent the first half of yesterday sleeping, taking a lovely run in Central Park, running errands and then awaiting the arrival of my cousin Carly.  Carly arrived around 4:00–it was great to see her, even if it was just for a short time–and opted to stay in and relax while I met Ashley and her Wellesley friend Gabby in the park for an impromptu picnic of many hot dogs  and chips and salsa.  I decided to swing by Crumbs Bakeshop to pick up some cupcakes for the picnic; it was the smartest idea I have had in a long while.

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Crumbs mini-cupcake assortment.
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Yay new friend Gabby!

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I love hot dogs.
I love hot dogs.
Yay Ashley!
Yay Ashley!

The three of us had a lovely and relaxing picnic and consumed many hot dogs which are awesome.  We did our patriotic duty.  After a few hours of sitting and nervously watching two guys playing catch with a giant soft ball right over our heads we decided to head back to my apartment to check on my cousin.  Carly was happy being chill so Ashley and I left to walk to Herald Square to a 4th of July party and Gabby headed back to Brooklyn to watch the East River fireworks with her parents.

The 4th of July party was being hosted by a friend of Phil’s.  This friend lives in a really sweet bachelor pad that looks like it belongs in the ’80s.  Leather couches and a leather headboard on the bed, lots of clear plastic tables, a giant Transformers poster and odd Terminator trinkets and the like.  I mean I half expected Patrick Bateman to emerge from the bathroom in a clear plastic rain slicker and ask me if I liked Huey Lewis and the News.

Anyhow, this apartment is located in a high rise just off of Herald Square.  You can see Herald Square and Macy’s from this guy’s bedroom–he says he can see everything during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and enjoys simultaneously watching the action on television as he watches out his window.  This apartment has a roof, and the roof has a view of the Hudson river, as well as a really fantastic view of this building:

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Awesome, right?  Not the most typical view of the Empire State Building.  We had some time to kill on the roof, so we milled around and took many pictures of the Empire State Building and of each other.

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Macy's, who brings us fireworks and parades.
Macy's, who brings us fireworks and parades.
Another shot of the Empire State Building, after the sun went down.
Another shot of the Empire State Building, after the sun went down.

The fireworks commenced around 9:30.  We had a pretty decent view of most of them–a building blocked some of the lower fireworks, but what can you do.  I was behind this dreadful woman who was probably from Jersey and looked like she could have been anywhere from forty to sixty but I wasn’t sure.  She was wearing too-tight clothes and a too-short skirt and her ugly cheap weave was pulled into a pony-tail.  She would not shut up for the entirety of the fireworks.  She kept doing things like making her own firework noises alla “BOOM BOOM BOOM” and after every firework she would say “SUH-WEET” and snap some pictures with her flash camera.  We all kind of wanted to throw her off the roof.  We refrained, however, and I took some non-flash pictures of the fireworks with my camera. I love fireworks, they make me feel like I am five.

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Post-fireworks we went back inside and ate more processed meat (hot dog number three for me!) and milled around a bit more before deciding to take an impromptu trip to the Beauty Bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  Also, I took a picture of the apartment owner’s stuffed penguin.

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So a slew of us trekked out to Brooklyn and danced and drank for a few more hours.  I left the party a bit early because I knew it would take me awhile to get back into Manhattan (it took a little over an hour, I was correct, I am sad to say) but apparently the festivities went on long after my absence.  I wanted to get to bed at a semi-decent hour, however, because I was getting up early today to go to the Dia: Beacon.  I will tell you gentle readers about that tomorrow.  For now, I leave you with some photos of last night’s dancing in Brooklyn at the Beauty Bar.

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Hope that y’all’s 4th of July was as excellent as mine.

The High Line

I met Ashley, an old Pine View friend who just moved to the city for graduate school, in Madison Square Park around 6:30 and we headed west forever to see the new High Line Park.  We entered at 20th Street and 10th Avenue and ascended the stairs to a really lovely park suspended above the streets but still intertwined amongst the buildings of Chelsea. Phil met us at the park’s entrance and then we proceeded to walk along the freight line to the southern exist at Ganesvoort.

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You can count me as a fan of the park.  The evening was really beautiful, cool, and not humid, and there were droves of people walking around the High Line.  The track is really unusual: a mix of the modern with straight lines and colors from the palette of the Empire (yes the Star Wars Empire) mixed with large swaths of seemingly wild and untamed growth.  Yes I am sure the wildflowers were cultivated but they are still beautiful and poke randomly from amongst the park path.  Also, I love how the High Line snakes through buildings, as though it were a living thing amongst the urban grit of the West Side.  I think this park is a really bright light in the neighborhood; hopefully they will finish the other sections soon!

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The High Line has been under construction for forever, it seems, and I’ve been following it loosely over the years.  I’m really pleased that I was in the city for the opening of the first section of the park.  I was also extremely pleased to spend a lovely evening with two of my favorite people.

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After we left the High Line we cut through the Meatpacking District into the West Village.  We stopped at City Bakery (technically their “green” bakery called Birdbath) to split a pretzel croissant.  Apologies for no pictures, we sort of massacred it, just know that pretzels are awesome and croissants are awesome so a pretzel croissant is awesome squared.  Also awesome is the website devoted to the pretzel croissant.  You should really look at it–not only are there pictures of the pretzel croissant, but there are unicorns.  Unicorns people!

We then swung by Christopher Park so I could snap some photos of the George Segal statues, which I was unable to see during Pride last Sunday.

The park is located right in front of the Stonewall Inn.
The park is located right in front of the Stonewall Inn.

We were extremely hungry at this point and so went to the West Village location of the Hummus Place for hummus and, yes, those awesome green mojitos.  I got hummus with whole chickpeas and a hardboiled egg, and Phil and Ashley each got hummus with fava beans, pine nuts, and a hardboiled egg.  We split some stuffed grape leaves as an appetizers.  All insanely delicious, all extremely satisfying.

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So fresh so green!
Grape leaves in mint sauce.
Grape leaves in mint sauce.

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We left the Hummus Place and continued our night with a walk into the East Village.  We cut through Washington Square Park and, oddly, ran into some of Phil’s friends, including Nora and Barbara who I had met at the Prospect Park picnic from a month ago.  Washington Square Park was packed with people and musicians and potsmokers all milling about around the fountain.

The fountain in Washington Square Park at Night
The fountain in Washington Square Park at Night
Triumphal Arch
Triumphal Arch

We headed to the east village to Dessert Club ChikaLicious, the more casual sister of the nearby ChikaLicious Dessert Bar, which, according to SeriousEats, has the best vanilla softserve in the city–and you all know how much I love softserve.  I got a fudge sundae with chocolate syrup, little crunchy pastry thingers that they put in greek desserts, toasted pistachios and little chocolate crunchies.  It was fairly delicious: the vanilla softserve was delicate and flecked with vanilla beans, and of the perfect softserve consistency.  Phil got a vanilla bread pudding which was so-so, Ashley got plain softserve and seemed happy.  I’m glad I went all out: the chocolate crunchies were awesome and I really liked the texture of the pastry crunchy thingers.  The pistachios were an odd touch but they did give a bit of mild saltiness to the dessert.  Another dessert conquered–and after all the walking we did tonight I feel minimal guilt!

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We then headed around the corner to Kim’s Video so Phil and Ashley, who are both giant film buffs, could poke around the obscure videos for awhile.  While hanging out at Kim’s Video I was hit by a giant wave of exhaustion, so I decided to call it a night.  Phil and Ashley both went to meet some friends in the village and I went home to try to go to sleep early so that I will be well-rested for tomorrow’s festivities.  Of course it is now 1:15 but what can you do–I needed to provide my readers with oodles of pictures!  Tomorrow, the 4th of July, one of my favorite holidays, because it is all about hot dogs and shiny fireworks.  Awesome.  I hope that y’all have a great holiday!

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The Empire State Building, lit for the 4th of July.

Lazy Friday

Hi guys.

Today has been fairly dull.  I recovered from Brad’s party (see bottom of post), went to the gym, and then spent some time doing a bit of planning for an upcoming trek beyond the city and looking for possible jobs for my return to Chapel Hill.  Now I am getting ready to head out to meet Ashley Swinnerton and Phil Chernyak to do a High Line/dinner trek downtown.  However, I promised a recap of yesterday so here we go:

A representative from the registration department (my department) spoke to the interns yesterday.  Registration isn’t really a “sexy” department but the museum could not function without it.  Alongside maintaining/caring for/keeping track of the collection and loans registration also is in charge of getting works into and out of the museum (which can be tricky) and dealing with the odd logistics of contemporary art works.  For instance, registration must maintain the climate integrity of status quo of the galleries but that can be hard to do when artists are working with odd materials such as food.  Seth, the representative, actually made registration interesting and reminded me that even though my work isn’t the most exciting job in the museum it is integral to the operation and mission of the museum.

After the registration presentation, Chrissie Iles, the Whitney curator of the Dan Graham retrospective (it was at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and will be going to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis so there are curators at those institutions as well) gave us a tour of the exhibit;  it was immensely helpful.  Graham doesn’t like to use the word “performance,” a term that could easily be used to describe how visitors interact with his works.  Rather he prefers terms such as experience and is aware that the works are not fucntional until there are people within/among/around them.  A lot of what Iles said I’d learned from Graham at his talk, but it was still helpful to hear her explanation, particularly in terms of his early, extremely conceptual work, which is very based in language and advertisements.  Regardless, the more time I spend in the exhibition the more I enjoy it, so if you’re in New York City you should absolutely pay it a visit!

You all know about the rest of my day: cookie hunt, exhausting walk, rain, shopping, gym.  After a few hours of recovery I headed to the West Village to celebrate Brad’s twenty-fifth birthday.  Just the first of many twenty-fifth birthdays over the next year, including my own, good lord.  I left the party around 2:00.  I won’t say anything except that it was fun, and here are a few pictures of the quasi-debauchery:

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Okay.  Time to leave my apartment.

Surprise Thursday Sugar Rush: Levain

Diana gave Theresa and I the afternoon off (win).  Our morning consisted of intern activities: a talk from someone from Registration (Registration represent) and a tour of the Dan Graham show from a curator.  I’ll recap those in a future post.  I am sure you all are simply dying to hear more about Dan Graham.

I had some of the pizza bianca from Sullivan Street Bakery and edamame for lunch and then put on my gym clothes.  The weather outside is back to disgusting: off and on rain, heat, humidity, dreadful.  I decided just to dress to not impress.  I also had plans for a 2.6 mile round trip cookie trek.  Yes you heard me right: a cookie trek.  I decided to use my free afternoon to check out the chocolate chip and walnut cookies at Levain, a fairly famous NYC cookie shop made even more famous by an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network.  Levain is on the Upper West Side, at 74th and Amsterdam, and since there is no subway connecting the UES to the UWS I decided to walk.

Walking was a wise idea, considering the proportions and ridiculousness of the cookie I consumed.

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This wasn’t just a cookie y’all.  It was a six ounce gooey soft hockey puck of chocolatey goodness.  Levain’s cookie is my perfect consistency of cookie: a little crispy on the outside, extremely moist and gooey and melted chocolatey on the inside.  I prefer my cookies barely cooked, in case you can’t tell.  The messier the better.

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Levain was started by two triatheletes.  Evidently they were searching for ways to carb-load before/after workouts.  They found it. You will be happy to know that I didn’t finish the cookie in one sitting.  However, the cookie is now gone–so know that all six ounces disappeared this afternoon.  It was completely worth it.  Still, I am glad that I walked all over town today. Google maps listed the length from my apartment to Levain as 1.3 miles, but on the way home I detoured to 86th to do some shopping.  I am of the opinion, by the way, that H&M is sort of overrated–that’s just me.  Anyhow, that cookie was awesome, and walking tons and going to the gym post cookie is probably the only way I can actually justify/atone for said cookie.

If you’re ever feeling particularly gluttonous and in the mood for delicious chocolate chip hockey puck-sized cookie, head to Levain.

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Look at how melted that chocolate is! Seriously!

Contrary to all the posts on this site I actually do eat pretty healthily here–I bring my lunch to work and I just had chickpeas sauteed in olive oil with some garlic and red pepper flakes for dinner.  Regardless, I’m only in New York for the summer, and I have much reconnaissance to do for you, my devoted readers.

Tonight Brad turns 25.  Evidently there will be a podcast taking place in the bar at which we will be celebrating.  A barcast, Brad calls it.  I’ll let you consider that for yourselves.

Halfway Home

I’m halfway through with my summer here, isn’t that ridiculous?  How did July happen?!

Today was busy, though work was normal–I guess that’s what happens when you have a regular job?  Daily routine and all?  I left work in a fairly good mood because Diana (my supervisor) told Theresa and I to go home tomorrow after our group intern meeting from 10:00-12:00.  Early start on the holiday weekend?  Sounds good to me.  I am debating trying Kefi for lunch on the Upper West Side or shopping–tell me what I should do with my free afternoon!  Maybe I’ll do both (and go to the gym, of course).

After work I headed to Hell’s Kitchen for some pre-theatre grazing.  I decided to try dinner at Amy’s Bread though oddly enough did not get one of their sandwiches (which had been hailed as delicious by SeriousEats).  None of the selections that day really appealed to me, so instead I got a really delicious salad (whole and pureed cannelloni beans, pumpkin seeds, avocado, grilled zucchini, sun-dried tomato with lettuce and a really light, citrusy vinaigrette) which came with a yummy roll of my choice.  I went for rosemary, because it’s a classic.  Because I was being quasi-virtuous for dinner I decided to try Amy’s Outrageous Chocolate Pudding for dessert. Chocolate pudding is one of my secret favorite desserts, and I’ve been craving it ever since I saw a SeriousEats post about an entire mason jar full of chocolate pudding which is available at Sarabeth’s Chelsea Market location.  Chocolate pudding for the win: creamy, simple, chocolate.

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The salad was excellent.  The pumpkin seeds added crunch and salt, and cannelloni beans were really hearty and well seasoned, the zucchini wasn’t soggy at all and the sun-dried tomatoes added a lot of punch and flavor.  I always love avocado, so that was an added bonus.  I wish I’d shaken the vinaigrette a bit more so that the citrus bits were better distributed in the salad, but what can you do.  The roll was fragrant with rosemary, but I wish it had been a little softer.

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Apologies for the graininess of the pudding photo, I couldn’t get it to focus.  The pudding was also excellent and maybe a little too rich for the amount they give you.  Perfect pudding consistency.  The richness is cut with fresh whipped cream (I saw them whip it in front of me) and small pieces of dark chocolate.  I almost couldn’t finish the pudding but sometimes you have to take one for the team.  My craving is officially sated.

I still had a lot of time to kill post dinner so I decided to walk off the pudding by going to Sullivan Street Bakery and picking up some pizza bianca for the weekend.  However once I was there I saw that there was still some pizza patate (potato pizza) leftover and I decided to have a little after-dinner snack (it happens).

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Guys, this little slice of pizza was amazing.  I was only going to have a few bites and then save the rest for later but I ate the entire thing because it was that good.  The pizza is a room temperature slice of pizza bianca covered in potatoes and sweet, tangy onions.  The potatoes are crispy on the edges but gratin soft in the middle and extremely savory.  The onions add snap and bite, and I believe there’s some black pepper involved too because there’s an after-kick.  Rosemary, of course, is the finishing touch.  The pizza bianca at Sullivan Street is a fantastic bit of carb loading and a perfect pick-me-up snack between shows or while wandering Hell’s Kitchen.

I then walked, pleasantly full and extremely happy with the evening’s eatings, to the New York City Center to see the Encores! Summer Stars performance of The Wiz. The Wiz is a musical that was written in the 1970s as a soul-version of the Wizard of Oz.  Traditionally it is performed with an all-black cast, and that precedent was followed here.  I known and love The Wiz through the highly entertaining and fantastic (the critics hate it, go figure) Sidney Lumet film from the late 1970s, starring a too-old Diana Ross as Dorothy (they turned the character into a spinster schoolteacher), Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Richard Pryor as the Wizard and Lena Horne as Glinda.  Even though the current production of The Wiz received middling reviews, I decided to check it out.  Discount tickets didn’t hurt my decision either.

Ashanti, the pop starlet, plays Dorothy in this production.  Ashanti has a lovely, clear young voice, but Ashanti cannot act.  I could have told you that Ashanti cannot act.  She evidenced her non-ability in the seventh season Buffy the Vampire Slayer where, in one of the worst episodes ever, she played another demon on whom Xander developed a crush.  Ashanti played the demon in a very wooden, one-dimensional manner, which is fine for a one-episode monster-of-the-week character.  But she brought that same woodness to Dorothy, and since Dorothy is the emotional center of the show, that woodness extended to the rest of the production.

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I found the production curiously lifeless.  It doesn’t help that the orchestra, impressively situated on a platform in the shape of a cyclone, takes up half the stage.  This orchestra platform/set is revealed during the tornado which whisks Dorothy to Oz, in a really neat moment of theatrical magic, but I don’t think the “wow” moment was worth having half the stage unavailable for the rest of the show.  The orchestra, it must be said, is really fantastic.  The dancing was intriguing but didn’t necessary seem to have a purpose.  Rather than ease on down the road the characters sort of meandered along the stage, against slow-moving, contorted dancers with yellow gloves and yellow converse that were meant to represent the road.

A few performances do stand out.  LaChanze, who won the Tony for The Color Purple is excellent as Aunt Em and Glinda.  She has a really beautiful voice but unfortunately she was seriously over miked, to the point of painful loudness.  People, LaChanze has a strong voice, she doesn’t need a mic.  Actually the entire cast was over-microphoned, which led to some staticky feedback during the major production numbers.  City Center, you should know better by now!

Evillene (the Wicked Witch of the West) reminded me of Sister Patterson (New York’s mother) wearing a giant sparkly red dress House of Dereon will design in about fifteen years.  I mean all of this in the best possible way.

The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are all great–but I’m partial to the Lion, since he gets to sing some of my favorite songs.  I actually got Nostalgia Tears (my newly-minted term for my odd tendency to start bawling at songs that remind me of my childhood; this frequently happens during Disney Films and with anything involving Julie Andrews) during the fantastic song “Be a Lion.”  Nostalgia tears also happened during “Home.”  It doesn’t help that I was picturing the movie in my head as Ashanti and Co. sang these songs.

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The Wiz is played by Colman Domingo, who I saw as the “What’s Inside is Just a Lie” guy in Passing Strange.  Colman, I think, is filling for Orlando Jones who was originally slated to play the role–not sure why he isn’t in the final cast.  Colman is fairly awesome, he’s good at vast gestures and strange voices, and can make a tongue-click hilarious.  When he is in his wizard garb he wears a shiny green coat with epaulets, an unintentional tribute to Michael Jackson.

Speaking of Michael Jackson (of course) I have to say, I prefer the scarecrow song from the film to the scarecrow song in the show’s score.  Not sure why they changed the scarecrow song for the movie, but if you want to hear it (sung by the King himself), here’s the clip.

The show can’t help but have Michael Jackson references.  One of the dancers even did the crotch-grab hip-thrust thing.  It is curious to see the different audiences that come to different shows.  People want comfort zones, I think.  When my family and I saw Bombay Dreams a vast majority of the audience was Indian.  When I saw In the Heights much of the audience was hispanic.  Much of the audience at The Wiz was African American, and I saw several sporting Michael Jackson remembrance pins.  The audience loved the show–they applauded whenever Ashanti or LaChanze performed vocal acrobatics, and leapt to their feet for a standing ovation at the show’s end.  The production was entertaining but I have to wonder about the psychology behind why certain audiences like certain productions that clearly have major issues–such as a leading lady who isn’t fit for the role.

The Wiz, of course, has a major place in the history of black musicals.  I did a seminar project on Shuffle Along, the 1921 musical by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle which is widely considered the first African American Broadway success.  African American shows, particularly comedies, tend to tred a line of minstrelsy in order to pander to white audiences.  I felt that The Wiz tended to slip into that direction, though whenever characters mentioned their weaves or when the Scarecrow received a GED diploma rather than a regular diploma the audience laughed extremely hard (just a few examples of some dialogue that made me cringe).  Maybe I am reading too much into the musical, but I can’t help but note certain tendencies–or perhaps it is just that “thing” where you can make Jewish jokes if you are Jewish and you can make black jokes if you are black etc.

One last note about the show–I know it is late and I am not making much sense, so apologies/thanks to those of you who read this far.  Does anyone else read the song “Everybody Rejoice/Brand New Day” as a metaphor for slavery?  The song is sung by the subjects of Evillene after she is killed by Dorothy, and includes lyrics such as “Freedom you see has got our hearts singing so joyfully” and “Hello World!  We have a different way of living now!”  Also the dancers in this scene, both in the film and in this production, strip off their heavy working clothes (their shackles?) and perform joyful awesome dances.  I mean maybe this is obvious but why doesn’t anyone ever say anything about it?

So that’s The Wiz.  The production has a limited run (it closes Sunday), but considering the enthusiasm of the audience I saw tonight the production seems to be a success.  A flawed production, certainly, but as long as it is making theatre-goers happy–and introducing the many children I saw in the theater tonight to the Broadway musical–then I’m okay with it.