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New York blog diary, November 2002

New York/Philadelphia diary 2006:
Blog from my New York and Philly trip, December 2006

Sat 2nd December
Walk down to 14th/Union Square and caught the L train to Williamsburg for lunch at the Read Cafe.

Great to be back in Williamsburg, even if the terrifying rate of gentrification means that it's going to well and truly fucked soon.

Already neighbourhood shops are being replaced by Realtors (that's "estate agents" to us Brits), with other local business likely to get the elbow when their rents comes up for renewal.

Checked out the excellent City Reliquary which has moved to 370 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg and added a 'museum-type space,' staffed by friendly folks.

Grabbed a coffee at the Atlas Cafe (great bagels and free wi-fi) before heading back uptown.

With our favourite Lower East Side pub, the Raven, still a burnt out shell (and unlikely to ever return to business), we met friends at the Drop Off Service, Ave A 13th/14th - a bit bland and faceless - and then moved on to the bar with no name (ex Brownies) on Avenue A and E13th which was far more fun.

Got happily pissed on cans of the $3 Cerveza Tecate beer, a lovely Mexican number which was served with a bit of lemon shoved into the opening - rather a sophisticated touch I thought.

Earlier, I faced the unbelievable situation of being refused entry to several bars despite looking nowhere remotely, vaguely, not-in-your-wildest dreams-on-drugs under 21 - even in a thick fog with cloudy glasses - so I was forced to drag my passport out with me every bloody night from then on.

Even more ridiculous is the fact that some bars have been known to refuse non-US ID cards, so even a British passport isn't enough (although we never had this problem, to be honest).

It is, in effect, a way of forcing some people to carry ID out with them, whether they want to or not, and it stinks.

Good job the bars are worth the hassle!


Sunday 3rd December

Read Cafe, Williamsburg.
Walked again from 50th down to 14th and then on the L train back to the Read Cafe in Williamsburg.

Walked through the Polish neighbourhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn to a small Craft Fair at the 'Grumpy Cafe' on Meserole Avenue at Diamond Street.

The cafe was nice enough but seemed more than a shade too slick and sleek for the neighbourhood.

Much nicer was the Eat Records cafe a short way up the road, which was suitably down to earth, stuffed full of good records and served up a marvellous soup.

In the evening, we walked the 36 blocks back down to E14th (we did a lot of walking on this trip!) to meet our old chum and drinking partner Jim (aka DJ DandySex) at the Beauty Bar.

The DJ knocked out some ace punk rock tunes, but in the back room there was a woefully ill-advised 'Asian vodka' promotion going on which failed spectacularly to garner any interest from drinkers - maybe they also found the vodka's strap line, 'an elegant taste of rebellion,' as shite as us.


Monday 4th December
Gorgeous sunny day, but very very cold. Brrrr!

Walked down 6th Ave and took a trip up the Rockefeller Tower - incredible views across Manhattan and somehow more striking than the view from the Empire State because, well, you can see the Empire State!

There's several levels to explore too although it was unbelievably cold and windy at the top.

Cafe Cafe, SoHo, NYC
Suitably refreshed, we walked into SoHo and grabbed a late lunch at old fave Cafe Cafe on Greene Street, Soho.

It's still one of the better cafes in the area, but the prices had hiked up a bit.

As ever, checked out the excellent Pearl Paints on Canal Street.

Ambled around midtown while Em looked at a load of knitting places and I took pics on my shiny new Nikon D80.

Manhattan remains extraordinarily safe, although I did have some character come up to me on Broadway and whisper, "Psst! Wanna buy some pepper spray?," mhich made a change for what I get an earful of back home in Brixton.

Walked up to Dave's (6th Ave/between 16th and 17th) for some fantastically cheap Carhartt clobber (and with the pound worth nearly two dollars, the prices were even keener!).

In eve went for a Mexican at Blockheads 2nd Ave / 50th and 51st

Cheap and cheerful, but great food, fast service, truly enormous portions and colossal margaritas for just $3.50.


Tuesday 5th December
Walked up to York Ave in the morning to take photos of Sotheby's Institute of Art for a web job.

The brief was to find arty boho types hanging out around the building looking cool and hip, and maybe grab some photos of nearby cool cafes and hangouts.

Sadly, the adjacent hospital - and the freezing cold weather - meant that all I could see was a parade of old people in wheelchairs, people wrapped up for a South Pole expedition and a few odd folks clutching plastic bags and wandering around erratically.

And there wasn't a decent cafe/bar in sight. Oh well...

Central Park, NYC
Walked up to the Met Museum to grab some more photos and then took a trip through Central Park to meet Jim on 6th Ave for lunch.

Then on to the Folk Art Museum and Design Museum, walked through the BladeRunner-esque video displays of Times Square, passed the bonkers Macy's Christmas displays and then on to some knitting shop called School Products on Broadway/E29th (I got to see a lot of craft shops on the trip thanks to Em!.

Coffee at Barnes and Noble on E23rd (annoyingly, it was yet another of those Starbucks in disguise jobbies, but we were too knackered to go looking for a proper, independent cafe this time).

In eve got cab with Davina to Otto's Shrunken Head, a fabulously quirky bar on E14th, albeit one with a strange, lingering smell.

Checked out a rock'n'roll band playing to an, err, 'intimate' crowd and enjoyed the DJ rocking out to Iron Maiden afterwards..


Wednesday 6th December
Walked uptown to 63rd St - checking out the quirky Tender Buttons store on the way - to catch the F train to 15th/Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Walked through the pretty and surpringly empty Prospect Park - described as a '585-acre urban oasis located in the heart of Brooklyn' - to the impressive Brooklyn Museum

Saw the amazing Ron Mueck exhibition of super-realistic, massive people, as well as the work of ace photographer, Annie Liebovitz.

On to meet Matt at 54th/10th Ave to be in TV audience for the politcal satire show, The Colbert Report.

We'd never heard of the fella but he's apparently big news in the States so some people had flown in from miles away just to be part of the audience.

The audience were treated like cattle before filming (just like when I was a guest on the Jenny Jones Show), but the show was good fun to watch and Colbert came over as a likeable sort.

Naturally, we couldn't reach the required level of near-hysterical 'whoopage' before the show started, neither could we raise even the slightest titter for the dreadful warm-up guy, but we got most of the jokes in the actual show.

Afterwards, we caught a cab to the Sidewalk Cafe (94 Ave. A) for beers and dinner with Matt.

The cafe has been giving it the big one about it being the 'Home of AntiFolk,' but the first act didn't impress: a young bloke aiming to be the next Springsteen but only succeeding to sound like a wannabe rock strutter sans le band.

If it's a movement, there doesn't seem much solidarity between the fans either, with audiences emptying as soon as their friend had stopped playing.

More interesting was another solo act, the Friend Factory. We rather warmed to his outsider songs, even if the melody occasionally got lost amongst all the angst occasionally. But we like angst.


Thurs 7th December

Caught the V train from 53rd/Lex to 2nd Ave and then walked to Ludlow Ave and had lunch at the Cake Shop on Ludlow Street, Lower East Side.

It's a lovely cafe-cum-record store-cum gig. The bagels and coffee were cheap and tasty, while the dude on the decks played some great old vinyl.

Went on to the Tenement Museum on Orchard St for a fascinating tour and talk in an old tenement block.

Slightly odd - but in the end rather interesting - cookies'n'juice 'debrief' afterwards with a 'facilitator' (a what?!) who invited the visitors to talk to each other about the experience. Once we'd all ignored her 'rules of engagement' we all had a good natter together.

In eve walked to Lark Theatre to see Davina perform in the 'Bleeding Brown' and then off to trendy Vynl Diner (Hell's Kitchen) on 9th/51st


Fri 8th December

Really cold today!

Subway to 2nd Ave for lunch at the Cake Shop and some free wi-fi action.

Then walked to Battery Park and the Skyscraper museum which was - it has to be said - a tad underwhelming.

Took some snaps across the river in the icy blasts and grabbed a coffee at Borders before heading home.

In eve had a couple of beers at Davina's party before getting the V/F line to York St in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Dumba in DUMBO, arts collective and campaigning and activist center, 57 Jay Street, Brookyln, New York, NYC, US

On to DUMBA queer arts collective for Green Scare benefit with hilarious drunken hillbilly band, followed by the 20-strong Rude Mechanical Orchestra, featuring our chum Matt on tuba.

The gig was great and had a bit of a knockabout, grassroots DIY Cooltan vibe to it - an increasingly rare thing to find these days, sadly.

Back to Davina's to catch the end of the party and turf out uninvited slumberer on our bed.


Sat 9th December

Another crisp, sunny, cold morning saw us walking down 1st Ave past the United Nations building.

L train to Williamsburg for bagels and waffles at Read Cafe and on to Warsaw venue for Bust Holiday Craftacular on Driggs Ave.

The venue (The Warsaw) was an amazing place - I'd love to put on an Offline night there - but inside it was so jam-packed with craft-toting types that it was hard to see everything on offer.

Took the subway back to 1st Ave and walked down to Ludlow St for coffee and cake at the Cake Shop.

In eve met Jim on 1st Ave/L train and on to the Boulevard Tavern, in the bleak outskirts of Greenpoint for Offline in NY!

Central Park, NYC
Jim and George also DJ'd and Clare, Matt and loads of chums turned up. Much drinking, much fun! Home around 4.30am.


Sun 10th December

Eek! What a hangover! Met Matt, Jen and l'il Oscar for brunch at the Coffee Bar, Union Square. Loooong wait but the food was good and helped revive my booze-addled spirits.

Later on caught the PATH train to the squeaky-clean suburb of Hoboken in New Jersey.

Wandered about, took some pics and Em checked out craft stuff at Patricia's Yarns.

Back into Manhatten for a coffee and then up to E32nd to meet Davina at Hangawai for lovely Korean vegetarian meal.

Monday 11th December - off to Philadelphia!

Headed down to East Broadway in the morning to catch midday New Century Travel express bus to Philadelphia.

It's a remarkably cheap and cheerful service - just ten bucks either wsay - known to one and all as the Chinese Bus, and it whisked us past through the incredibly bleak industrual wastelands of New Jersey quick enough.

Met M at the coach stop and went on mighty wander around the town before going to their super-slimline 3-storey house and cracking open a few beers with S.

Walked to Gnocchi Restaurant on E Passyunk Ave/S 5th St for Italian and then more beers at the friendly For Pete's Sake neighbourhood pub for a few pints of Yards.


Tuesday 12th December

Got up a bit grumpy after a terrible sleep interspersed with whirring heaters and a dawn powertool chorus from the hideously early-rising workforce in the street outside.

Walked to the docks and checked out some of the architecture around the town.

Enjoyed some tasty bagels and coffee at The Bean cafe on 615, South Street - it's a really nice laid back place which had a lolling labrador, an old hippy artist at work, free drawings on a pinboard, and a bloke knitting when were there. Cool!

Came across the astonishing Magic Gardens, a massive mirrored, tiled and mosaiced set of buildings, walls - and even a garden shed - around South Street.

The inspiration of Philly artist Isaiah Zagar and his wife, they successfully fought off eviction and demolition scares.

Trucked miles up South St to visit Loop Knitting (another chosen Em destination, natch) and then met S at the town centre.

Walked to the Mütter Museum (in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia) to see an interesting but fairly gruesome exhibition of Victorian diseases and the bits of poor souls before catching the 4:30pm bus back to NYC.

In eve, headed downtown to Ludlow/Rivington on the Lower East Side. Couple of $2 Blue Ribands at the lively Johnsons bar (styled like a suburban family front room) and grooved to the blast of Brit rock sounds (Who, Sabbath, Smiths etc).

Living Room, NYC

Popped into an unfeasibly quiet Living Room to see a dreadful band play to an audience of one (we quickly retired to an equally empty bar.


Wed 13th December - last day
Pissing down - our first rainy day this trip! Subway down to 2nd Ave and then a long brunch at the Cake Shop on Ludlow. Checked my mail and wolfed down bagels and coffee.

Wandered around SoHo in the afternoon taking pictures. Saw Michael Stipe wandering by (I resisted the urge to invite him to play Offline).

Another coffee at the Housing Works Bookshop and then home.

In the evening, we met up with a shedload of chums for our farewell drink at the bar without a name bar on E13th and Ave A.

Many $3 Tacatas were swilled down with relish before we cabbed back late, already dreading our 5am wake up call for the airport....

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