Sunday, February 11, 2018

New Year, New York

This year for my birthday and New Year's, I flew the coup and headed to NYC to stay five days with Shawn while Letizia and her boyfriend Olivier were visiting for the first time from France.

Kicking off the trip, Shawn took me out to lunch at Sakagura for my birthday.  It's hidden in the basement of an office building in midtown, but once there, you step right into Japan.  We seriously enjoyed our sake pairing and multi-course lunch, featuring incredibly fresh sashimi and the best shrimp tempura I've ever had (how does shrimp become as smooth as butter?).  As illustrated in my obnoxious smile, I was very happy.

That afternoon we met up with Letizia and Olivier!  It was their first time in New York City, in fact Olivier's first time in America, so we spent the days we had with them playing tour guide (ok, mostly Shawn did).  We started at the NYC Public Library, and spent the rest of the afternoon meandering around town, taking in the Christmas trees at Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center, walking through Times Square, that kind of thing. 


We spent at least an hour at Levi's 
personal shopping for the boys in Times Square


For dinner, we made our way to Red Rooster in Harlem, which was super hip and fun.  The highlight of my birthday dinner was when they brought out an entire fried chicken with a huge sparkler in it! At first I thought this was a special birthday treat just for me, but before we knew it there was lots of fowl play. After dinner, the hostess sneaked us downstairs to the live music club where we enjoyed the musical stylings of a hip, James Brown-esque young man who rolled soul, funk, and even the Beatles and Christmas ballads all up into one incredible vibe.  I realize I've used the term "hip" twice to describe this place, which makes me sound ancient, but really it could be in Webster's to define the word. 

The next morning Shawn and I got a late start, and as the snow fell, we made our way to ramen at Nishida Sho-ten.  This was some seriously good ramen, people. 

For good luck, she filled the sake glass to overflow into the box, 
the box onto the plate.  #nodropleftbehind

The rest of the evening included Washington Square Park, trying on furs at a vintage shop, visiting the Oculus at the World Trade Center, dinner at Eataly, and a stop to see the Wall Street bull (but more importantly the tiny feminist!). 

At the end of this night we caught the train back up to the Bronx and experienced my favorite public transit story to date, now called The Dollar Story.  If I can transcribe it accurately, I'll give it its own blog post, but if not, please just ask me to tell you in person next time you see me. 

On New Year's Eve, Letizia and Olivier came into Manhattan again and regaled us with stories of their Baptist mass over burgers at Harlem Shake. 

Before I go on, let's talk about cold, baby.  The weekend I was there the temperatures were breaking all kinds of record lows; in fact, it was the coldest New Years Eve since the early '60s.  Word on the street was that as midnight marked the new year, crazies at Times Square were ringing it in at -4 degree wind chill.  In diapers.

Doors swing open into restaurants and wind-shook customers shoot a stink eye at the newcomers to close the damn door and make it snappy.  During a desperate cafe break from the elements, one hot beverage doesn't afford enough time for one's toes to thaw.  And God forbid you don't know exactly where you're going and have to de-glove your brittle blue fingers to use Google maps on the street.

Walking the highline that day felt like a scene from a dystopic novel where a mismatched group of survivors has to walk the train tracks through what was once NYC to make it to the rumored remains of civilization on the other side.

The setting of our Apocalypse
Finding shelter in a subway station

I found this accidental photo (below) on my phone and it perfectly captures my bomb cyclone (whatever that means) experience.

Things I have taken for granted living in CA:
  1. Feeling my face
  2. Wearing only one coat
  3. Thinking eyeballs don’t get cold
  4. The ability to romanticize winter

In fact, when I returned home and relayed my apocalyptic experience to Brittany, she was rapt, confessing she'd always romanticized the east coast winters too, but hearing my story she knows now that she could never do it.  I'm glad I can share my story and save other Californians from the perils real winter.  I know understand why real estate out here is the way it is. 

Letizia's someone I'd like to have around during the apocalypse

 Finally saw STOMP!
Trivia: it opened in London in 1991-older than I thought!

Dinner at Ngam, innovative Thai fusion
Think Iron Chef "Thai pot pie"-so good!

That night, Shawn and I decided to skip the crowds and instead reserved a private Korean karaoke room for ourselves.  We drank prosecco, lazed on the couch, and belted our hearts out mostly to divas like Celine and Demi.  At one point Shawn surprised me and put on a song called "Saturday Love" that became one of ours a long time ago when we heard it a handful of times on the radio in one weekend.  By chance, we sang out 2017 to “O-o-h child, things are gonna get easier,” and sang in the new year with “You can go your own way.” We had a great time and didn't have to put up with the drunken, freezing masses.  It was definitely a 30-something kind of New Years. 

On New Years Day we got brunch and walked through the park before I took the train from Harlem up to Larchmont to visit with Letizia and the family she was staying with.

My incredibly auspicious, New Years Day Hamilton 
found on the streets of New York

Walking through Central Park, we noticed that the northern-most lake was completely frozen over. Dauntingly, there were multiple sets of human tracks from one side of the lake to the other.  Seeing multiple emergency ladders around, we presumed that these people don't always make it all the way across.  Circling the lake, we found a shallow area where visitors were trying their luck out on the ice. A small constituency of nine-year-old local ice skaters walked by on their way to the approved rink. A precocious, wise-beyond-his-years nine-year-old boy saw the precarious explorers and called out knowingly, "Thin ice…wouldn’t recommend it!"  Now we say it all the time.

Larchmont, about 40 minutes north of Manhattan, is a gorgeous waterfront town filled with historic mansions, and I got to stay in one.  Check it:

Letizia and Olivier made scallops and duck for dinner, and we just enjoyed the company, food, and wine, not to mention the beautiful home (I think there were nine rooms?!).

 Exploring Larchmont the next morning

Taking a forever Uber ride back into Manhattan, we had the most entertaining driver who said he writes music.  If you ever hear an Ariana song called "Light it Up" or Rihanna songs titled "What I do" or "Love in the Sand," well that was our Merecco.  He said I should be a writer in the music industry.  He said a lot of things.

On the Ikea ferry to Brooklyn
A Parisian (or two) in America
Hometown BBQ in Red Hook, Brooklyn

That is queso mac and cheese!  My mouth is watering.

Brooklyn bridges

That evening we met up with Shawn for dinner and to see Ghost Train Orchestra at Dizzy's at Lincoln Center.  My God, the talent in NYC is unparalleled!

On my last day, I met up with Letizia and Olivier to visit the Museum of Natural History, and then we continued through Central Park, which Letizia simply could not get enough of.

And as is always the case, this wonderful weekend had to come to an end.  While I was ecstatic to come back to California and only wear one set of things (like pants, coats, socks, hoods, sweaters) at a time, I'll miss the little NYC winter wonderland the four of us got to experience together.  Happy New Year, everyone! 

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