Rockin’ and Shockin’: The New York City edition

Rockin’: Hitting up New York City for a few days.
Shockin’: That it’s my first time (t)here for two months: the longest I’ve been away from New York City since 1996

Rockin’: Getting my own room for once
Shockin’: It’s in Jersey City

Rockin’: Jersey City is the new lower Park Slope
Shockin’: I.e., the brownstones are thriving, there are coffee bars everywhere, and more cheap condo buildings in state of panicked semi-erection than bankrupting mortgage companies.

Rockin’: The Village Voice and New York Press have cover stories that actually interest me for once. (The Voice has an interesting profile on African runners moving to New York hoping for the big time but mostly competing in second and third-tier races for small change. The Press writes on the so-called death of the East Village, a subject of continual debate ever since the locale was carved out of the Lower East Side by realtors in the sixties.)
Shockin’: That the Press has somehow stayed in business all these years.

Rockin’: There’s still such a thing as a business lunch
Shockin’: All the talk is business, about how bad business is these days.

Rockin’: Getting taken out for lunch to a posh-looking hotel restauranton 57th Street called Opia.
Shockin’: I order the only vegetarian item on the menu – the grilled vegetable sandwich – and am served the steak sandwich. This is the thing, people: it looks good when the waiter appears to memorize the order, but when he gets precisely 50% of it fully wrong, it’s embarrassing. Especially when he doesn’t even come back to apologize. Don’t they want repeat business? Don’t they know there’s a recession on?

Rockin’: Having become so acquainted with the research libraries of the NYPL that I can be in and out of them in 30 minutes even if it means looking up a thirty-year old alternative weekly.
Shockin’: I always get too distracted by the intricacies of history to make it quite that quickly

Rockin’: Neil Young and Wilco are on at Madison Square Garden
Shockin’: Tickets are priced from $54.50-$150. Don’t they know there’s a recession on?

Rockin’: Ivo & Lulu on Broome Street is still BYO. Dinner is only $35 with tip.
Shockin’: That more people still don’t seem to know about this hidden treasure.

Rockin’: The food at Ivo & Lulu has actually gotten better. The stuffed “summer” squash was superb – even if it is now the midst of winter.
Shockin’: BYO invites self-abuse.

Rockin’: The PATH train runs all night.
Shockin’: Trying to get my sense of direction in Jersey City from the Grove Street Path station. (I end up taking a cab.)

Rockin’: Running from downtown Jersey City to the Colgate Sign by the river in the morning…
Shockin’: …In sleet

Rockin’: Oasis are in town.
Shockin’: They’re playing at Madison Square Garden. Pass.

Rockin’: The Happy Ending Music and Reading Series is still going strong after five years
Shockin’: It’s at least three years since I participated in it.

Rockin’: I get to attend the last night. (It’s moving up to Joe’s Pub in the new year.)
Shockin’: Me and a couple of hundred others. It’s corridor room only.

Rockin’: Great storytelling by Mary Gaitskill and especially A.M.Homes. And the Wingdale Community Singers write the song “Happy Ending” especially for the final night.
Shockin’: It only takes 11 minutes, door-to-door, from Happy Ending in Chinatown to my friend’s house in Jersey City. (That’s intra-state travel, y’all. And I guess that’s rockin’ as much as it’s shockin’.)

Rockin’: A friend loads me up with a DVD containing 83 of (his) 2008’s best songs.
Shockin’: I haven’t previously heard about 75 of them

Rockin’: Being taken to Franchia on Park Avenue for lunch
Shockin’: I had no knowledge the place even existed.

Rockin’: It’s is the best vegan Asian food I’ve had this side of Zen Palate – and maybe the other side, too.
Shockin’: That there aren’t more people having lunch here the week before Christmas. They must know there’s a recession on.

Rockin’: The tea list is the equivalent of an award-winning wine list: a full book to itself.
Shockin’: So is the menu. I’m used to ordering “the vegetarian item.” (E.g. the “grilled vegetable sandwich.”) I’m not used to having the menu as my oyster (mushroom). I ultimately plump for the “Tofu and roasted kabocha pumpkin in sesame soy sauce” and it is truly enlightening.

Rockin’: Making an effort on this trip to the City to catch up with friends I was otherwise falling out of touch with – and succeeding
Shockin’: The tourists spending big money for very little (quality) food (and drink) at PJ Clarke’s just outside the Lincoln Center. Don’t they know we’re in a major recession?

Rockin’: All the Obama posters still up around town.
Shockin’: That I wasn’t in New York City to enjoy the instant street celebrations when he was elected. Friends from Harlem to Park Slope tell me about the impromptu parties that night, and I wish I could have been there to join them.

Rockin’: The New York DJ for Tots party at Santos’ Party House features the Rapture, Eamon Harkin, Andrew W.K. and Gang Gang Dance all DJing for just the price of a new, wrapped toy. I’ve been looking forward to this one.
Shockin’: It turns out to be on the one night most of my Brooklyn friends can meet me in the old hood. Friendship trumps the dancefloor.

Rockin’: There are now three pubs at the bottom of my old street, the otherwise seamy 4th Avenue in lower Park Slope. And one more within walking distance.
Shockin’: They weren’t there when I was living there.

Rockin’: The Australian-themed Sheep Station. I liked the ambience, the décor, the fact that beers come in three sizes (glass, schooner and imperial pint) and that the place serves proper food, too. I assume my beer was Australian, too.
Shockin’: My friend and I only have time for one quick drink there before heading to meet others

Rockin’: Pacific Standard, our major meeting point, is rockin’. By which, I mean it’s jumpin’ when we get there. I miss this kind of energy.
Shockin’: There’s maybe 100 people in the bar, including a Christmas party, but there’s only one bartender. He’s nice enough and he’s doing his best, but he’s hopelessly over-worked, and it doesn’t help that the bar has run out of the first two beers we request. Someone is making out like a bandit running this place (in a recession) – and I don’t appreciate their lack of concern for customers by cheaping on the bartending. By the time we leave, two hours later, the dirty glasses have piled up everywhere, though the experience is certainly improved by the Christmas party hosts – the good people of Storycore – who walk around the bar offering us to sample their food.

Rockin’: Pacific Standard is billed as “a cozy, relaxed West Coast microbrew pub.”
Shockin’: Ten of the 18 beers on tap come from the east coast, and one from the UK. I’m not complaining, just pointing out that it’s not, in fact, a West Coast microbrew pub.

Rockin’: The Ithaca Flower Power IPA from Ithaca – in New York, the east coast – is a damn good pint.
Shockin’: It’s only when looking at the web site I realize it’s a solid 7.0% ABA. No wonder I felt tipsy after a couple.

Rockin’: There’s another bar over the street.
Shockin’: It’s the Cherry Tree, and it’s effectively a sports bar – big screen on the back of the room that you can see from the Avenue, big hair at the bar. We enter, turn around and leave.

Rockin’: There’s still the 4th Avenue Pub. I had a couple of drinks here back in the summer, on the back deck, and remember the high quality of the beer.
Shockin’: Of the 24 beers on tap, I make the mistake of ordering the Arrogant Bastard Ale – before I notice its strength. If you think there’s a tendency for wine-makers these days to opt for power over subtlety, you haven’t entered the world of the American micro-breweries. Much though I admire all the craftsmanship, it’s hard work just finding a nice IPA or lager or brown ale that’s a standard 5%ABA..

Rockin’: Ultimately, Sheep Station, Standard and Pacific and the 4th Avenue Pub are all beer-drinkers’ palaces, laden with choice of micro-brews on tap and in bottle, and at fair (by city standards) prices. It’s at times (and places) like this that I realize just how far American beer drinking culture has come, quite arguably to the point that it’s ahead of most European countries.
Shockin’: That we don’t have bars like these, with so much choice of quality independent beer, up in the Catskills. (And if we do, there aren’t three of them at the foot of my stret. Thank God.)

Rockin’: Friday night I have the option of Evan Dando at Southpaw, at the top of my old street, the DFA Christmas DJ party and the Loser’s Lounge in Manhattan. This is the kind of variety that keeps people in the big city.
Shockin’: There’s a major winter storm set to kick in straight after the morning rush hour – and I decide I want to get home before it gets bad.

Rockin’: I figure I have time to stock up on English goods at Key Food on 5th Avenue – HP sauce, Yorkshire tea, custard creams, Weetabix, and a plum pudding that I don’t really need, and probably don’t want, but hey, it’s Christmas.
Shockin’: The check-out assistants arguing amongst each other. I don’t miss this part of my old ‘hood.

Rockin’: Stocking up on Gorilla Coffee on 5th Avenue.
Shockin’: Even on a Friday morning, the place is so busy it takes 15 minutes to get served. I don’t miss that aspect of city life either.

Rockin’: There’s very little traffic in the City this Friday morning – the storm has gotten everyone scared – and I figure there’s time to pick up some wine from storage in Chelsea.
Shockin’: It takes an hour to sort out the wine during which time we go from overcast skies to heavy snow. That’s me in a nutshell.

Rockin’: I make it back to Mount Tremper after a harrowing three hour drive that includes the sight of several accidents, pile-ups and spin-outs on the Thruway.
Shockin’: It’s a snow day (of course), the kids are at home, the holidays are right around the corner. New York City and its endless possibilities seem a long way away. I love it down there. But I love it up here, too.

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Dwight

    23 December, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Sounds like you know how to have fun in the Big Apple. For great beer ideas, beer bars and beer events in NYC and Brooklyn (and gradually other places), check out

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