Sunday, February 05, 2006


Before I began my recollection of yesterday's travels, I'd like to note that my former professor and local Hartford scholar/philosopher/celebrity/all-around smart dude Colin McEnroe has a wonderful account of his moderated discussion last evening. There are lots of enlightening tidbits in there. Nevertheless, I was off doing my own hell-raising and had to miss the event.

I've always been a train person. As a former Connecticut gold-coaster and current lost child of Fairfield County, I took the chance to take the train into Manhattan as often as I could. However, I've recently been converted by my friend Langarang. Whereas I previously thought it was ludicrously expensive and complicated to drive into Manhattan , Langarang showed me it was indeed cheaper and easier than taking the train. Old notions are often made to be shattered.

So yesterday I drove into the city with several of my friends. With the relative size and fuel mileage of my Scion, it made sense for me to drive. Plus, I seem to have the appropriate genetic markers to effectively drive into the city. Kim the librarian noted the not so subtle change in my driving demeanor as we entered New York. Unbeknownst to me, my posture switched to sitting perfectly straight, my hands roughly clutching the wheel. I also honked and yelled a lot. She and my other friends, rather than being terrified of me, were more in awe of my ability to transform into a New York driver.

After a relatively easy trip onto the island, we found a great parking lot on 86th street right near Lexington Avenue. I frequently am too cheap to pay for parking in Hartford, but Manhattan is an entirely different sort of beast. Parking on the street is just begging for trouble, especially with an out of state plate. So I was quite happy to find a good lot to stow my car.

Our first destination was the Guggenheim museum, which is going through exterior restoration. It's a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright building that sticks out on the "museum mile." I'm sure the restoration will make the museum look even better, but unfortunately all the scaffolding and plastic sheeting made it look sad.

Fortunately, the inside was still a sight to see. Even without the art, the building is quite a sight. The majestic spiral and different angles are amazing. Wright was truly a genius.

I really went to see Kandinsky, but we got lucky and found some brilliant David Smith sculptures. Smith was a working class machinist who found beauty in the industrial forms and shapes of metal. His anti-war bronze plaques were really inspiring, especially considering the current political climate.

After an hour or so (R-dogg claims it was more like two and a half hours) our youthful attention spans got the best of us and we left. This is where I made my major mistake of the day. I decided we could cross Central Park and take the C train down to 4th street. As we were walking on the reservoir path, the casual drops of rain turned into heavy balls of water. The fog drifting above the reservoir was interesting, but we were distracted by the intense need to move out of the rain.

My friend A-list said she had a fear of the subways, which I was determined to dispel. I've ridden the New York subways nearly all my life, mostly with great results. But then, I don't really see a casual conversation with a crack addict as all that big a deal. In fact, I live for bizarre experiences on the subway.

I was good though and followed strict Manhattan Subway rules. No talking, no looking at anyone for an extended period of time, only soft conversations. The ride was eventless, ending at the exact spot I wanted to take us. This may seem boring, but it's actually quite a milestone for me to get a group of people to exactly the right point in Manhattan that I was intending. Usually I fumble around with my knowledge of the streets until we eventually get there.

Being in the Village, we hung out at several hip places. The first was a really great tea place, with a wide variety of leaves. If there were a place like it in Manchester, I would be in serious trouble. Half my wages would have to be put into a "tea fund."

Of course we stopped at The Bourgeois Pig, and drank some expensive and delicious wine. R-dogg tried some expensive port, while I drank a tasty dessert wine. A-list drank Sangria, while Kim had a bold red wine.

The Pig has the coolest setup I've probably seen for a bar. The dominant lighting is the neon red sign that hangs from the door. The place is bathed in a heavy red. Instead of uncomfortable bar stools and chairs, it has massive couches and cool pillows that make you drowsy after drinking one of their fine wines. We were lucky, as we had the place entirely to ourselves and could stretch out and relax. However, we didn't have a dearth of time, as we had other plans.

We had reservations at The Comedy Cellar, Manhattan's best (and possibly least known) comedy club. You need reservations to go the club a couple days in advance, as it is often attended by well-known comedians. I made reservations the day before for the 7:30 showing, but like the clumsy person I am, only made them for three people. There were definitely four of us.

The Comedy Cellar is only slightly larger than my apartment and therefore space is extremely limited. While I foolishly thought there were would be no problem to having an extra member of our group, the stern lady at the entrance had other plans. She would not let us in unless one of our party waited outside. We conferenced, I had my own reservations regarding leaving one of us to wait for a table, but the group convinced me it was an okay chance to take. So A-list was left waiting while R-dogg, Kim and I nervously sat down.

It took some maneuvering, but A-list eventually was let in. The show was well worth it, as it included the very funny Andrew Kennedy, Kurt Metzger, DC Benny, Colin Quinn , Keith Robinson and Jim Norton. Every comedian was great but there were some real surprises. Andrew Kennedy, who I admittedly never heard of, had me crying with laughter.

The other surprise was that Colin Quinn had a really funny set. I've seen him before, and thought he was merely okay. However, he's stopped trying to jam his jokes in until their funny, and now quickly moves away from material that is seemingly not funny. His new stuff is really great.

After the show, we walked Bleecker Street until we found a great Chinese food restaurant on Canal. R-dogg, being the world traveler he is, ordered off the menu. We ate delicious and authentic Szechuan chicken and vegetables. We also ordered standard Americanized Chinese food, which had an extra punch to is. It was a great end meal to a wonderful night.

A good sign of how the day went was that the conversation on the car rode home was energetic and full of laughter. The day was really worth it. I'm lucky to have wonderful friends who are willing to explore and find unique experiences.

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