Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New York - Day 2

For day one, go here.

Friday morning. Harry and I wake up around 10 am. The sun is out, the air is warm, it’s a beautiful summer day. We smoke a joint and roll two more for later on in the day.

We stop at the Starbucks on Broadways to grab a coffee and a muffin. We walk north to central park. On our way, we see a TGIF. Harry says he’d like to have a drink there. The French guys who taught us most of what we know behind a bar, worked at TGIF in Paris. I suggest we could try more authentic places since you can find these family restaurants along any highway in the states. He seems to really want it. I don’t want to play killjoy and what are 20 minutes and two drinks at a bar if it’ll make him happy? Plus, in the window, we see that they have 5$ long island iced tea for happy hour.

When we reach central park, we find a spot of lawn that’s not protected by a fence and that’s not too damp. We had brought our flair practice bottles and our shakers and we start juggling around for fun.

After a while, we smoke our joint, and just when we’re about to finish it, a bunch of teenagers, only guys, come near us with what appears to be their phys ed teacher… or something like that. We botch the joint and start to practice our flair again. The kids notice and they like it a lot. Some start filming us. We play along for a while.

Harry wants to see Central Park. I can barely stand up, let alone walk, so we decide to rent bicycles.

We go back to the park entrance, where we had seen guys with signs. We go see the first one and tell him we want bikes. He points to those man-powered tuktuk, the tricyles in which they take tourists around the park.

Sorry sir, there must be a misunderstanding. We want bicycles that we ride ourselves, not a stroll in what is basically the poorman’s version of the horse carriage. He says he’ll take us to the store, not too far away. Harry looks at me dead serious and says: if you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you.

And so we hop on the tuktuk. We try to make friends with our Turkish “driver” to ease off the weird feeling of being some old colonialists in early 1900’s Indochine. He’s a recently graduated architect, he shows us his favorite skyscraper. Can’t remember which one it was, didn’t care much for it either.

At the bike shop, we get two decent mountain bikes with front suspension for 2 hours for a mere 20$. Every one is so friendly, they give us a map of the park, tell us we can even bring em in 15 minutes late without a problem.

Riding a bike doesn’t hurt at all, actually it kind of relaxes the overly tensed muscles in my feet. The feeling is amazing.

I had NO IDEA how big this freakin park is. After a good 15 minutes of fast pace riding, we get to the boathouse. At this point, I’m pretty sure we reached the north end of the park and that we’re about to turn around. Hell’s no! We haven’t even crossed the third of the park.

We stop on the great lawn to do some more flair. Some people are juggling with pins, with balls, others are playing with Frisbees. We have a crowd of spectators, which is always fun, but we don’t look like we’re putting on a show out nowhere either.

Two of the very few pretty girls we’ll see all week-end walk by and decide to stop and sit on the grass to watch us.

I ask Harry if he wants to go talk to the two girls and ask them what they’re doing tonight. He doesn’t seem too sure about it and I don’t feel like limping over there all by myself. We rationalize our lack of balls: whatever, we’ll meet girls tonight wherever we go.

We bring back the bikes and go back to the hotel, to smoke a joint, have a beer and relax a bit.

Showers and nice clothes.

We walk on Broadway and stop at the first TGIF we see. We find a place at the bar. We order two long island iced teas. The barmaid disappears somewhere behind and comes back with our drink a little later. What the hell was that? What’s the point of having a bar if you’re gonna go behind at the barservice station to make drinks. During the whole time we’re there, there’s never anyone behind the bar. This truly sucks, and the drinks taste kinda weird. We ask for the bill. 24$. 12$ each

“Aren’t we still on happy hour?”

“yeah, but there’s no special on long islands”

Turns out every franchise can choose their own happy hours special.

Now I can understand a TGIF on Time Square and a TGIF in buttfuck, Alabama might post different prices, but I’d expect the two restaurants on broadway, located less then half a mile apart, to have the same freakin happy hour specials.

We decide to head downtown to go to PDT, a pseudo-secret cocktail bar. I met one of theirs bartenders at a cocktail competition somewhere and I wanted to visit ever since.

We walk down fifth avenue. At the corner of 41st, there’s a town car on the left hand side of the street, waiting at a red light. We hear a huge boom, coming from the car. Immediately we think it just exploded.

Actually, it’s the manhole right behind it that poped out of the ground, flying 15 feet into the air. A second later, two more manholes go up flying with a huge boom, right in the middle of the intersection. And then, a HUGE blue flame comes up from the first exploding manhole. It doesn’t go up in a mushroom movie way. It actually makes more of a thick fog just over the grounds, 3 or 4 feet high, and 20 feet around the manhole.

Vince is thrilled. I’m not. I pull him by the sleeve, we’re getting away from here. We keep walking down 5th, carefully avoiding manholes. A minute later, the whole exloding corner street is in complete lock down, with police, paramedics and firemen.

I can no longer stand on my feet, so we try to get a cab. We haven’t yet figured out how the signs on the roof work and what they’re supposed to indicate. So we just keep our arm raised all the time hoping one will stop. It doesn’t work.

But a towncar waiting at a red light horns at us, flashing its lights. We’re a bit confused, we thought you could only get these cars on calls. The driver tells us it’s 20$ to go where we want. I’m more than willing to pay extra to ride in style, if only once. Too bad we’re not going to some velvet rope club with a line-up.

Harry really loves the Lower east side. It reminds us of the hip and trendy neighborhood in our town, where 95% of the population is between 20 and 35.

To get in PDT (Please don’t tell), you have to get into Criff’s Dogs, some hipster hot dog joint, and go into the old phone booth. In there, there’s a phone with a single button “call”. You hit it, it rings, some guy picks up and tells you they’ll be right there.

Though we’re both normally confident in any situations, this whole setups makes us feel like some 8th graders trying to get into a 12th graders’ party. Will we say the right thing? Will they let us in? … Try to act cool…

Harry doesn’t like it at all and finds this to be a lot of hassle just to have a drink.

I go over to the phone. The hostess opens the secret door from within the booth, she asks if I have a reservation. I tell her there’s just two of us and we’d like to sit at the bar. She puts us on the bar waiting list. My phone doesn’t get any signal here so I just tell her we’ll go have a drink somewhere on the street and be back.

We go to some little pub right around the corner. It’s just ok. We go back to Criff’s Dogs and start to wait. Fortunately, there’s a tv with a surf and skateboarding movie playing. We see tons of people going to the phone booth, talking to the girl and walking away, but we hardly see anyone going in. After 40 minutes of this, I go tell her we’ll just come some other time. She asks my name. Tells me she’s been looking for me for a while. She says I’m next on the list.

She finally comes to get us 5 minutes later.

The place is small, dark and intimate. On the wall, just next to the bar is a stuffed rabbit head with deer antlers. Cool.

Once again we try to make friends with the bartender and once again it’s proving real hard. Bartenders keep to themselves and don’t seem to want to drink with customers here. I mean that’s precisely the two cornerstones of the profession: being outgoing and being able to drink. Why not become a librarian instead?

I order a variation of the manhattan. Instead of putting cubes of ices in my drink, the barman takes a huge block of ice, something the size of a rubic cube and puts it into a weird machine. When he opens the machine, there’s a perfect sphere of ice, the size of a snooker ball. (images here)

Harry and I can’t believe it and we go like: WHAT!, maybe a little loud.

The very pretty girl sitting next to us at the bar, one of the very few we saw all week-end, turns around with a curious face that says: Hey what’s this all about?

We try to briefly explain it to her: oh sorry, it’s just this machine produced a perfect sphere of ice, we’re both bartenders and we’ve never seen that anywh …

She interrupts and says, with such condescendence: I have no idea what you’re talking about and honestly I don’t care.

It’s only because she was sitting with a somewhat tough looking guy that I didn’t put her back in her place. “Listen girl, no one is pretty enough to be that big of a bitch Try being nice to strangers, it’ll change your life. Now you can turn right back around and have a nice night”. The guy would have had to step in and I really didn’t want to make a scene.

But that really bothered us. I mean we’re nice guys, we’re polite and tactful, we’re fun and won’t intrude, what the fuck is her problem. No wonder the bartenders keep to themselves if that’s what New York is like.

We keep ordering drinks, we don’t know half the bottles behind that bar. The cocktails are nice, very old school, but nothing blew us away. You can add the rarest and oldest bitter to your cocktail if you want, but if there’s only booze in there, it’ll taste like booze. I mean I like a straight bourbon so I can appreciate pretty much anything. But I also like the new kinds of cocktails, with fresh fruits, fruit purees, teas, jams… even the new molecular cocktails, but the whole old school thing, well… it gets old pretty fast.

The bitch and her date finally leave. Two nice people take their place. A girl who just moved to NY and her friend who knows the place very well. We become friends real fast.

PDT is really a no-fun bar. The bartender never exchanged more than a word with us, though I must admit he willfully did the whole Ice sphere thing again so we could videotape it. But at three different times, he told us to quite down. Yeah PDT is a bar where you can’t laugh, or if you do, you have to whisper-laugh.

I mean we were louder than the rest of the patrons, but we weren’t particularly loud. The four of us were the only ones who actually seemed to have fun in the place. But it was really weird. I mean in a bar where people are dancing on the tables, Harry and I will be leaning casually on the bar, talking to girls. We’re not rowdy people, we’re bar people.

Yeah, this guy definitely should have become a librarian.

I ask our new friend who knows the area for a good steakhouse. He tells me we need to try Azul, this argentinian grill. Sounds perfect.

We leave PDT, walk into the little park just at the end of the street, find a comfortable bench without too many people around and smoke a joint. We sit there for a minute, enjoying the warm night, and we get up to go to Azul.

We turn on Stanton, where the restaurant is located. I stop at a convenience store to buy cigarettes. Harry waits outside.

When I get out, he points to the restaurant with the big open windows, right next to the convenience store and tells me: Fuck Azul, man, I want to go to this place.

Whatever, this place looks fun and it smells amazing: a mix of smoke, lemon and rosemary. We look to the sign above the door: Azul. RIGHT ON!

We get a table just by the window. We order the mixed grill for two and nice bottle of argentinian wine. Everything is completely amazing. The restaurant is unique and authentic, exactly what we wanted. This night is perfect.

After dinner, we go in search of a bar. We find one and walk up to the doorman. “10$ to get in, there’s lots of women in there guys”.

That’s something a doorman would NEVER say in our town! Of course there are girls in there, probably something like half the people in there, no? But then again, we live in a city where at least 75% of the girls in any given bar on any given night are pretty. On any given night in any give bar, there’s at least one, but most likely 5 to 10 girls that could do the cover of Maxim. And these girls are fun and easy to approach.

We saw that things are quite different in NY.

There was not a single cute girl in this bar. And the weirdest thing was that mostly everyone in this club was asian. That’s not what’s weird, at home too the Asians all hang out at the same club. No. What’s weird is that asian girls are normally very very cute and very slim. In this club… not so much.

Whatever, we were leaning at the bar, the barmaid was the only cute girl in the place and the DJ was spinning old school hip hop. Good old music I know, drinks and a cute barmaid, that’s all I need.

We didn’t make it pass 1am. Drunk, still a little high, and way tired, we took a cab and crashed for a good night sleep at the magnificent Carter Hotel.

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