As usual, being in New York has diminished my output, at least on the blog. Since I got a Facebook page for Victorian Chick on April 13th (my sister’s birthday, oddly enough), I’ve been posting like mad. This week I’ve posted more on that than on the blog itself. FB automatically provides “insights” (with Google, you have to do it yourself and it’s free but it’s a thing, which explains why I still don’t have “analytics”) and I am so gratified that after a mere six weeks, the “friends of fans [people who have "liked" the page] has reached 79,000, with a weekly reach between 1100 and 1500. But I find that my standards for writing are higher in New York than they are in Los Angeles and that I want to do justice to each restaurant, play, or outing and thus end up writing less.
It could not be a more perfect day after a fairly disgusting humid Saturday. Burger Heaven reserves the outdoor seating for parties of two or more but there is a small table by the back window so I feel like I am eating on the sidewalk though technically indoors. This is, of course, a special treat for New Yorkers, who can’t dine outside for over half the year. My father refuses to eat on patios, though Wilshire has one of the most beautiful on the Westside: “Animals eat outside. I am not an animal.” Particularly on Manhattan streets with landscaping, it really is extraordinary to think that this is the same stretch of concrete people traverse in winter, huddled in parkas, mufflers and gloves, hoping in vain to stave off the demoralizing wind chill factor.
I stayed up till 3:30 AM last night, not even returning home via subway until 2AM from Brandy’s Piano Bar on 84th, between 2nd and 3rd. That was my old hood in the year I lived on weekends in the city (1992-3), unable to tolerate living full-time in the closet that was my single in Berkeley College, however nice the view of Cross Campus. My father’s colleague had a large duplex in the Leighton House, 88th between 1st and 2nd and told my father he was happy for me to stay there when in the city.
Yorkville, as that part of the Upper East Side is known (the old Germantown), has changed a lot in 20 years. When you get off the subway at 86th and Lex, there is a giant Sephora and Snake Shack, but Hot and Crusty is still there. You don’t see those all over the city like you did in the 1990s. And HMV is of course gone: the chain of record stores once ubiquitous in the city, back when people still bought CDs. A Luddite without an iPod (or a smart phone), I still do, even though I now have a Macbook Pro from eBay and could buy iTunes. In fact, a man actually crossed the room when he saw my flip phone with 9 buttons, thinking it was charming. The bouncer at Brandy’s also said it was “cute.” I’m confident I would be able to strike up conversations even without the flip phone as an entree of sorts, but why chance it?
I wanted a low-key night and Brandy’s more than lived up to my expectations. It’s billed as the Cheers of the UES, with locals singing along with the man or woman playing standards as well as top 40 hits from the 1980s and 1990s. I met a great party of five, a gay married couple whose surrogate is two months from giving birth to twins. They’re New Yorkers recently relocated to Chicago, back in town for a baby shower. Two recent transplants to Minnesota, one of the coolest and happiest married couples my age I’ve ever met, were in town for the shower of the soon-to-be fathers, one of whom is the brother of the wife and mother of two toddlers.
Only one of the five still lives in the city. They have all known each other forever and you can just feel the history and love among them. I envy that. Only since Facebook and my new life in the Tri-State region do I have a real circle of friends and most of them only know each other on Facebook, if at all. But Facebook creates a cyber-circle of friends, one might say, and that’s very profound. I am always surprised when people get riled up at the prospect of having to pay for FB, 20 bucks a month or whatever they decided the market would bear. One can’t put a price on friendship, but if one could, it would be a hell of a lot more than 20 or 30 bucks a month!
I never had a real “circle” of friends living in the same city, even in college. Even in high school, I tended to go out with one girl (no boys at my school), two tops. The only time I was friends with two other girls with whom I regularly got together, it ended badly when allegiances shifted after one friend went to Salzburg for the summer as was her family’s custom. I became best friends with her friend and then when school started, they were best friends again and the whole situation was very awkward.
Of course I had literally no friends in Santa Barbara during or after grad school (from 1996 to 2006, roughly), just a couple of acquaintances. I still don’t have friends in SB. I don’t know if I will ever marry, but if I do, it’s going to be a very small wedding unless I marry in the New York area and friends can come from the New York to D.C. corridor. If I married in LA, perhaps a friend or two from Northern California would come, but I have only a handful of friends I speak to with any regularity in Southern California at all, probably half a dozen through Facebook and two or three pre-Facebook close enough to invite to my wedding.
In college, I tended to have several intimate friends (usually female), none of whom were friends with each other. Moving off-campus after three semesters merely entrenched that pattern of social interaction. Two of the group last night were roommates at St. John’s, which I learned is nowhere near as Catholic as it was in the old days. One of the guy’s grandmothers had gone there and she was very Catholic and I know an uber-religious right-winger my mothers age on FB in Los Angeles who went there (he’s Mom’s age). It has become a real neighborhood school, largely Irish and Italian, quite different from the population of the St. John’s of old, which tended to attract people across a wider geographical span.
Brandy’s has tables which take up roughly half of the small, dark room with old Broadway and other art deco framed prints, but you have to get there at 9:30 sharp to get one and the bar has no stools. There is a little padded bench under the front window, at which I was lucky to find a seat next to one of the soon-to-be fathers, originally from Kew Gardens, with whom I instantly fell in love. I click really well with gay men and always have. We started talking about Phil Collins during “That’s All,” and I expressed my profound gratitude that “Sussudio” was not on the set list. He assured me that such a musical abomination would not be permitted at Brandy’s.
We agreed that “Sussudio” has to be the worst Collins song in history, closely followed (for me but not him) by “Groovy Kind of Love.” My instant friend protested, “You don’t like that song?!” The answer is no on two counts: 1) the word “groovy” should have been outlawed at the end of the 1970s, or at least when Reagan was inaugurated, and 2) it’s corny and lame. When the couple with toddlers in Minnesota arrived, my new friend said, “Okay, so let me tell you who these people are, since we’re best friends now of course!” Sweet. Turns out he and the bouncer both smoke American Spirit Yellow. Even the bouncer said, “I cant smoke anything else. All other cigarettes taste like shit.” If I can’t get an AS Yellow, I simply won’t smoke. When I return to California, I am starting the V2. I don’t have a place to receive mail in the city and it was just too big a deal to coordinate transport to a friend’s house in New Jersey.
After Phil Collins, “Blue Moon” was followed by “My Girl” and the Oasis song, “Wonderwall.” Only today, did I realize it was not “One and All,” or Oasis for that matter. I thought it was Matchbox Twenty. This is not the first time I have misconstrued lyrics to songs I have known for years or just heard for the first time on the radio, like the country hit, “Angels and Cowboys.”
I’m not a big country music fan, but once in a while I hear a song I really like and look it up on YouTube. My FB friends were greatly amused when I wrote what a strange lyric the was the following : “You’ve got wings and I’ve got boobs.” Even my mother, neither musical nor interested in music except as it figures in musicals or film, was shocked at my obtuseness and inability to infer that “boots” was a synecdoche for cowboy (term in prosody which describes the use of a part for a whole, as in “all hands on deck”). My FB mother’s son, just 17 this week, laughs regularly at my father’s remarks which I post on FB, and she commented, “Laughing very hard now.” Her son came in a moment later and was equally amused.
The drinks are basic and my friend told the visiting couple, “They don’t have top shelf liquor, just basic stuff.” I was surprised to see more than a few bottles of white and red but would never order wine at such a place, even in New York. He used to come here every Wednesday and Sunday when living in the neighborhood and the two bartenders have apparently been there for ages, both very funny and friendly guys. One of them laughed a lot when I told him the therapist in the play I saw Friday night–Psycho Therapy: Couples Counseling for Three–was a borderline anorexic (not sickly looking, but a very obsessed size 0/2 at probably 55 years of age) who sniffed empty Godiva boxes and occasionally licked the outside of chocolates between sessions.
Nancy Winston, the therapist’s name, splurges on a cupcake from Sprinkles, about a block from “my” apartment (and, as it turns out Bloomberg, where the three people I met at the play and went out to Cuba with for drinks afterwards). The play, about which I will write a formal review tomorrow or Monday, is a farce about couples counseling and at one of the most farcical moments, Lila–the female lead with two men in her life unwittingly attending therapy with her simultaneously–walks in to the neurotic therapist on the floor with a dozen empty Godiva boxes and a large chocolate cupcake in her mouth.
I’m going to brunch with my friend Sharon Zaslaw, a mother of two great teen boys and a corporate secretary at Akin Gump, one of those law firms where lawyers work 75 hours a week and have no life but lots of money (though no time to enjoy it). A graduate of the Boston Conservatory, she is also an actress, dancer, and singer who teaches Sharqui (belly dancing) at Alvin Ailey extension. With her outrageously busy schedule, we’ve missed each other the last few trips and I am so excited to see her at 4PM at L’Oubleil Gourmet Bar. The menu looks phenomenal as well as reasonably priced: French tapas, specialty cocktails, wine and beer. I have to hop in the shower and get a clip for my hair, so I will post the food pictures tonight. Here I am outside the Cherry Lane Theater in the Village on Commerce Street, a tiny one-block curved street of which almost no one has heard outside the Village and whose precise location is unclear to most people in the Village.
Here is my drowned rat picture from Thursday’s lunch at Second Avenue Deli. I am grateful we have no Jewish deli in Santa Barbara. At 40, I have developed a love for chopped liver. It’s terrible for you so it’s good that I can’t buy it where I live half the month. It turns out, much to my surprise, we do have Jews in SB. But a New York Jew in his late 50s I met at Peabody’s told me, they are “hiding.” I was stunned to learn how many Jews lived in SB (the number escapes me presently) but only 1/10th of all SB Jews go to our only English-speaking temple (reform) so that the Jewish community is inconspicuous and not observant.