Saturday, July 21, 2007

New York I

An amazing trip...

Thursday was Stamford day. Thursday night karaoke at Bradford's is a tradition with my brother-in-law (Bron) and his mates so I couldn't say no. Besides, why do I carry a list of "do-able" songs in my phone if it wasn't for this opportunity to take my show on the road and perform out from under the safe warmth of Armida's? The crowd was young and Bradford's song list was relatively shallow - two qualities that tend to make me less comfortable at a karaoke bar - but I knew I had to step up and represent for the posse. I introduced myself with a familiar standard I'm still trying to dial in: Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass. One quality of a great karaoke bar is the crowd knows its role. Bradford's was exceptional. After a handful of singers (and corollary drinks), the entire bar was singing just about all of every song. It was easy to set 'em up and knock 'em down. Bron slayed with Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby. I followed-up with a heartfelt rendition of Santeria by Sublime (because there is no other karaoke rendition of that song). At one point, the crowd was so loud that I wondered if my mic was on..! So it may sound strange that Stamford Connecticut was a highlight of my New York trip but it definitely was. Stamford is like a small Midwest town that got big - kind of like a Madison - and I really appreciated that I got to experience it. And a tip-o-the-cap to the Bradford's crew... don't stop believin'. Then to bed at 3:30 in preparation for our big day in the city.

My first taste of New York began with chili and sangria in Grand Central Station. There's obviously more culture and atmosphere outside of the train station but it was a nice choice to start the long journey. And although it wasn't recognized formally, I had to stop for a moment and take in as much of the grand terminal as I could - it may have been the greatest indoor space I've experienced. As we exited the terminal onto 42nd street, Bron pointed out a pretty amazing event that was taking place. I estimate 20-25 police cars with their lights and sirens on "sweeping" 42nd going about 20 mph. He said the first time he saw this he estimated roughly 100 emergency vehicles. He said the sound was deafening. Bron has a close friend (Deanne or "Dean") who's lived in the city for some time - she said this "parade" happens nearly every day in different random parts of the city. Our common belief was that this is a show of presence and force by soldiers in the trenches. I've never seen anything like it and I believe it creates its intended effect.

Our goal for the evening was dinner with Bron's second cousin Alex and his wife Marie. Between Grand Central Station and then was filler for the city to provide - wandering was our goal. So we wandered into the public library and (I'm ashamed to admit) wandered out without seeing the great reading room. We wandered through Times Square which I believe had less of an impact on me since I had already experienced London (but hey, it WAS Times Square and it WAS amazing). We wandered through FAO Schwarz, which I very much appreciated as a retail experience, and wandered into Apple's incredibly cool glass box storefront. From there we wandered along the south edge of Central Park, catching great Friday afternoon street acts along the way. And finally made our way to Greenwich Village for drinks, dinner, and a museum.

Alex grew up in Greenwich Village and has been there his whole life. We ate dinner at a sushi place across from the White Horse Tavern - a place Alex and Marie call the best value in the village. Alex is a retired day trader who spends a lot of his time reading, especially about spirituality. We took the long way to the restaurant so Alex could give us some history about the neighborhood. After sushi, we made our way over to the Rubin Museum of Art - the first museum in the Western World dedicated to the art of the Himalayas. Friday evenings are free. It's a very cool space filled with beautifully intricate mandalas backed up with the subtle east-Asian sound of a live DJ. We had to cut this visit shorter than we wanted though because of an impromptu invite to Deanne's.

Deanne went to high school in Michigan with my wife and Bron. She's worked with a financial and banking services firm since college, with most of that time being served in Hong Kong. Suffice to say that Deanne has managed her finances well and owns an incredible apartment in the Tribeca neighborhood. Deanne's was the first time I've ever greeted a woman with a double-sided cheek kiss... or whatever that is. Deanne had a couple friends over for drinks, the first of which I met was a 42 year old retired Aussie who lives in Hong Kong and who had just sailed a 70-foot yacht from Australia to some other island that I can't recall... mostly because I couldn't help thinking I have nothing to add to this conversation! He did say some nice things he's heard about Denver, so I guess that was something. We did manage to acquire an improbable invite to a rooftop party that next night so we held onto that as a backup plan. Deanne and her group were off to see an "edgy" show at 11:30, so we decided to depart and call our Friday journey a complete success. Back in Stamford in bed at 1:30 to refuel for another adventure in the city.

Saturday's plans were set to begin with Lucie's 30th birthday party later that evening so we were pretty laid back. We took a little time to find a great burger for lunch in SoNo - South Norwalk (kind of a sleepy Pearl Street). The drive was nice and I got a good feel for Connecticut's beautiful country. We got back in time to get dressed and drive to Manhattan. Bron's favorite driving motto is "the goal is not to drive into Manhattan, the goal is to drive into Manhattan without paying a toll." And that he did with a series of roads that I cannot accurately describe other than we drove past Yankee stadium and crossed some bridge that is the toll-less key to whole journey, I think leading into the city near Harlem.

The celebration began at Medina. We simply found a parking spot without a meter and walked. If I had to guess, I'd say we were around the Chelsea neighborhood and Meatpacking District. I was impressed with the way women were dressed in heals and somehow managed to navigate those cobblestone roads. Once at Medina, we settled in with our group of 22 enjoying great conversation, great drinks and hookah smoking, and fabulous belly dancers mixed with (yet another) smooth east-Asian sound coming from the DJ. My clique included Bron, Carla from Brazil, Helena from Russia(?), and Kevin from China. Medina turns to dancing at some point and at that point we settled our bill ($140 worth of mojitos for Bron and I) and walked over to Earth to continue our evening with some dancing.

Earth was cool but I've been more impressed at other clubs, including here in Denver. My first impression as I walked in was "this is all Asians". I navigated the entire club to the restroom and back to the bar and again thought "this is all Asians". As I was standing at the bar, Kevin (from China) walked up to me and said, "you know what I love about this place? The mix of people!" I said, "really man? Because I thought this place was all Asians." and he said, "oh no. There are places here where it really is all Asians." I loved it. It's funny because I was actually slightly overdressed with black dress pants. The standard man's uniform was nice designer jeans, nice button-down shirt with rolled up sleeves (tucked optional), and nice designer shoes with maybe a nice watch thrown in. I was under the impression that jeans Saturday night were out. In many ways, I've thought Denver does Manhattan better than Manhattan! Maybe this was just another example of a flat world. Then again, it was hot and people are probably just tired of dressing in uncomfortable clothes.

Anyway, shelling out $12 for a beer really started to lose its charm so we decided to pull the rooftop party invite card. Somehow Bron got us to the building and the doorman did the rest. We found ourselves closing Saturday night down on the 11th story rooftop of some amazing lower west-side apartment building - looking out over the river at New Jersey and back at Manhattan. Unbelievable. Back in Stamford at 4.

So it maybe wasn't the typical first trip to New York. But I don't know that I would have had it any other way!

I feel so incredibly fortunate. One, to have a wife that decides to send me on adventures. And two, for the incredible people that surround me and enable these adventures.


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