Tag Archives: nyc

Ask A Local: Coming to NYC With The Family

One of the reasons I moved to NYC – aside from it being a great place for writers – was that I knew it was the kind of  place my friends might be likely to visit. I’ve gotten into the habit of fielding questions from those making trips, and a recent email from a friend made me think: maybe it would be useful to post this and other travel-related discussions online.

Feel free to add to this in the comments; if you have a question about NYC or other cities I’ve lived in, get in touch and I’m glad to help out when I have the time. 🙂

So, my inaugural edition of Ask A Local…

IMAG0026

Q: Hi Rachel! We’ll be in NYC from June 8-13. Since we’re driving we’ll need somewhere to park the car as well. I was thinking of maybe looking for somewhere in Brooklyn on airbnb. In terms of budget, we were hoping for $200-$250 per night, not sure if that is realistic? The hotels that I looked for seem to be either really cheap and really dodgy looking or really upscale and expensive! We’ll mostly be out and about so don’t need fancy just clean, safe, and somewhere to have breakfast would be good. The kids are small and can sleep in one bed together so we really just need two doubles/queens. Thanks for your tips. Excited to meet you too!

A: I had a quick look into hotels and I think Brooklyn would be an awesome option for a family trip.

Williamsburg has seen so much influx of $ the last few years that their hotels will be mostly new builds. I am slightly wary because I don’t know the bedbug situation in Brooklyn these days (i don’t say that with any alarmist intentions, it’s just a thing modern travellers must be aware of) BUT the solution to this is easy; you just look the property you’re considering up – a Google search like “[PROPERTY NAME] review bedbugs” should tell you everything you need to know, and if u aren’t sure how to interpret something, link me and I’ll give u my opinion. Williamsburg is very cool and relaxed now, lots of hip thirtysomethings and lower who can afford east villiage prices but prefer Brooklyn/the burger for whatever reasons. Cafes, meatball shop, good vegan/vegetarian, cocktail bars and beer halls. If u like video games and nouveau-retro and beer, barcade. Know where you’re going before you leave the house bc lots of blocks and poor signage generally; well-documented on yelp.

The other neighborhood I would feel confident recommending in Brooklyn is Carroll Gardens or park slope. Slightly older and more professional crowd. Kids probably in the range of 3-7 on avg? (based on math taking place in my brain, grain of salt.) A bit twee. Grocery stores (trader joes), bars, near downtown Brooklyn, excellent downtown Manhattan access.

Can you recommend other accommodation or neighborhoods for this friend, visiting the city with her family? This was all off the top of my head, so if you know the ‘hoods I’m talking about, or feel there’s something I left out…join in the discussion. 😀

THEATER REVIEW: “The Play About The Coach” by Paden Fallis

Watching Paden Fallis (writer and director) perform this one-man show about a basketball coach whose team is moments from either victory or defeat is a staggering experience in the tension felt on the sidelines of a major game, even though we already know that the big question post-game is whether the Coach’s decisive call was the right one.

3-p

With this central tension already in place, then, we are waiting to see which call it is that’s wrong – what’s the losing move – rather than being held in a state of suspense over the outcome of the game. That the play still contains tension and movement is a credit both to Fallis and his subject matter. Not being a basketball fan, I have to rely on my plus-one’s assessment of the accuracy of the game’s portrayal. The show passed this test without reservation.

It’s the small details that make The Play About The Coach such an authentic experience: the set, papered with templates depicting possible plays, the way Fallis contorts himself around his character’s experience and the specifics about his players – each of whom grows a personality and temperament before our eyes. Clearly a skilled performer, Fallis takes a one-man show about a single character and stretches its reality to encompass the personalities of everyone in that character’s life at the moment being portrayed.

There are elements of The Play About The Coach that indicate a longer version might be in the works: small plot spurs like the increasingly-frantic phone calls the Coach receives throughout this major game in his career, which present then fade away without real impact. The calls, as well as the Coach’s conflicts with his assistant could benefit from further elaboration, and in the play’s present form are something of a red herring, given their lack of resolution

Of particular interest is the fact that this production raised its funding through Kickstarter, perhaps offering a template for other plays needing to raise money for runs in NYC.

Playing at the 4th street theater until March 17, 2013.

What You Wanted When You Moved To New York City

I’ve had the last couple of days off, and yesterday I fell into what some like to call “the zone.” In addition to the stream-of-consciousness piece below, I also wrote several thousand words on a short story I’ve been chipping away at for months. It was a good day.

 

What You Wanted When You Moved To New York City

2013-02-15 15.40.49Here are the days you don’t want when you move to the city: the day you see a dozen cockroaches go scattering in your Bushwick apartment’s kitchen cupboard. The day you and your roommate, a childhood friend, wake up covered in bed bug bites. The day the train explodes down the track, leading to a panic attach so bad it gets you to the doctor for the first time in two years. The day you —

Anyway, those aren’t the days you want.

Today is the day you want.

You were tired and had been off all day the day before, so you went to bed at eight p.m. not feeling like you’d missed out on a thing. Thanks to that, you wake up, and it’s six a.m., and you’ve had ten solid hours of sleep.

The first thing you do is pee. Then you write. And you write and you write. And you write some more. And you’re just going over notes, just refining ideas, but it’s something beyond feeling what you thought you’d be feeling.

And then it’s the time you would normally wake up and you’ve already been through one revision and printed it, and you’re going to review it once more this morning, and after that, go for a walk.

And it happens just like that. And no one calls you and you don’t get interrupted and there’s not a problem with having your flow disrupted by anybody else’s drama, and when you leave your apartment it’s a little breezy, a little cool, but you just walk. And walk. And walk.

I cracked up when I saw this sign. Fantastic.

I cracked up when I saw this sign. Fantastic.

And when you get to the L train you just walk on board and take it out to Williamsburg and when you get there you walk up north eighth and a little down Berry towards Blue Bottle but you don’t really believe Blue Bottle exists on that strange, deserted hill, and anyways, all the coffee places in Williamsburg seem like they’d harsh your creative buzz at two on a Friday afternoon, so eventually you circle around back up Driggs and get back on the L and take it back to First Ave, where you were thinking of getting off the train on your way out anyway, but you didn’t.

And you think you’re going to Simone’s, at St. Marks and First. But you get there and it’s two thirty or so now, and the sign says that on Friday, Happy Hour doesn’t start till four, and the hell with it if you’re going to pay full price for a drink that would be half price any other day.

Besides, you’re outside and there’s sunshine and you don’t need to use the bathroom yet. You walk down First and as you pass the McDonald’s and the Duncan Donuts (and the small bar you never noticed before, in between) you think, that’s the spot where that guy and his girlfriend were sitting when I bought them breakfast that time. You felt guilty for being able to offer to buy them a bagel and a coffee each, when he reacted, but all you could do was do it. Afterwards, your family told you you’d been too soft hearted.

You haven’t bought food for anybody in a while.

You walk down first Avenue and a few times you want to turn down one of the streets; at sixth you think, it’s too early for dinner and at fifth and fourth you think, the streets there are shaded… eventually you hit a street with a development where you know there’s an outpost of Vselka, and you’re curious, so you cut across.

The shade is cooler now but it’s been about an hour and a half of walking – first around Williamsburg, now around the East Village – so you keep walking past the taco stand and onto Bowery, on westward to First, then south to Houston (not even half a block) and along the way.

A chance of timing at the lights sends you to the south side of the street, where overlapping shadows cast across the pavement. You’re thinking about a bloody mary now, the ones they serve at Lure with the little shrimp cocktail. It’s neither the time nor the day for Bloody Marys but you’ve walked enough to feel like it’s time for a sip, so…

You use the bathroom at Lure; it’s elegant and clean, and the servers are friendly (when you do drink there, you always make sure to tip well).

2013-02-15 15.31.14A bier hall in the West Village. A little piece of Brooklyn. Bigger on the inside. Something in the day’s perambulation finally clicks, and now it’s time to sit at the bar, sip a beer and write.

You have your notes with you, and something has shifted, everything is blocked out, beyond the paper and a pen made from recycled bottles.

A thousand words pass. Your phone battery dwindles to yellow, then red, and meanwhile you make your way down a strange narrative pathway that seems both inevitable and unnatural.

It’s been a seven-hour walk and there are still hours left in the day. Hours to fill, and reasonable achievement already accomplished.

You head home.

These are the days you wanted when you moved to New York City.

2013-02-15 15.22.49

Feminism on Valentine’s Day

2013-02-14 14.20.25A year or six ago, when I was studying in London, another single friend and I decided we’d take Valentine’s Day off and travel to Bath. We visited the Roman Spas and the Jane Austen museum – but that’s a blog for another day.

This year, I went to the One Billion Rising demonstration in Washington Square Park.

What’s One Billion Rising, you ask? Here’s a link to their site: http://onebillionrising.org/ – but in short, they’re an offshoot of playwright Eve Ensler’s V-Day Foundation, and work as an organization to demand an end to violence against women around the world. For the last year, they’ve been working to get out the word around the world and stage a women’s strike on February 14, 2014. ‘

More recently, they organized a way for women around the world to express themselves in solidarity with one another against violence: a worldwide dance.

And I do mean worldwide. Check out the organization’s website and the twitter tags #1billionrising and #reasontorise/#reasonstorise to see what’s being said about the action.

Here’s a video of today’s demo in Washington Square Park, NYC.

Burnz Night

A glass of 10 year old Laphroig Scotch whisky

What Would Ron Swanson Do? (On Burns Night)

I have no right to feel this awesome this morning. (Yes, I’m posting this at 1:38pm+, but I started it at ten minutes to noon.)

Back to how awesome I feel this morning.

Seriously.

I woke up, looked at my makeup-smeared face in the mirror, and thought, “Why the $*!^ don’t I feel like pukking my guts out right now?”

Last night was Burns Night. If you’re not familiar, it’s the celebration of the birthday of Scotland’s favorite (favourite?) poetic son, Robert “Rabbie” Burns. Traditional celebrations include a haggis, recitation of poetry, imbibing of Scotch (known as “whisky,” and yes, that distinction has fucked up my ability to read “whiskey” menus in America without disappointment) and general merriment.

We don’t do it quite like that in Manhattan. I mean, the general merriment, yes, and the strong drinks, of course, but as all celebrants of festivals far from their land of origin must, we had to make certain accommodations.

For starters, getting a haggis would involve either cooking one from scratch or having a Scottish friend mail one over, and for enders, the FemiNest (as @EmmyNash has christened our rather humble abode) will fit about four people comfortably, six in a pinch. Not the place for entertaining, nor for cooking complicated dishes.

Hello, Mustachioed Truck

Hello, Mustachioed Truck

Instead, our Manhattan Burnz Night involved incredible chocolates from Burdick’s

Did you know Robert Burns worked in Jamacia? So Red Stripe? Totally appropriate. Also: CHOCOLATE. REALLY FANCY WHISKY CHOCOLATE. It's in the box under the book of poetry. Which didn't include "Ode to a Haggis." WTF? Thankful for google and data plans.

Did you know Robert Burns worked in Jamacia? So Red Stripe? Totally appropriate. Also: CHOCOLATE. REALLY FANCY WHISKY CHOCOLATE. It’s in the box under the book of poetry. Which didn’t include “Ode to a Haggis.” WTF? Thankful for google and data plans.

(more on that when I get around to blogging my trip to Boston, though most of that will be about ROBOTS), Walker’s Scottish Shortbread, Red Stripe beer (as I was reliably informed by Ms. Nash that Mr. Burns worked on a plantation in Jamacia, I’ve decided both Red Stripe and Rum can be added to the list of Approved Burnz Night Beverages)…and then a train ride, through snow, to The Whiskey Brooklyn.

The place is basically magic. I won’t get into specifics, as that could be a blog unto itself, but the staff was friendly and understanding, our waitress took awesome care of us as our party grew and changed over the evening, and the food was exactly what was needed, for exactly the right price.

2013-01-25 17.53.00The company was great. A few friends I hadn’t seen in a while, some of @EmmyNash’s pals, and friends-of-friends mixed together to create the perfect party atmosphere, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

The evening ended at a late-but-reasonable hour, my cab got me home safely and quickly, and I woke up this morning feeling far awesomer than I had any right to (as noted above).

 

Definitely making this into a yearly tradition.

 

 

YUM. GREEN JUICE.

YUM. GREEN JUICE.

 

 

 

THEATER REVIEW: Midsummer [a play with songs] by David Greig at the Clurman Theater, NYC

David Greig’s protagonists sit on a park bench in his play Midsummer [a play with words], drinking and aligning themselves with a ragtag group of teenage Goths. It’s an example of how this play captures the strange, free-forming social constellations I will always associate with Edinburgh in the summer.

Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon), who started their association as participants in a raucous one-night stand, are now spending a wad of cash that’s fallen into their laps – a recurring theme, in Scottish drama, now that I think of it (Danny Boyle’s Millions and Trainspotting come immediately to mind). As their bender progresses, the audience is brought into the experience of the festival city’s summertime discombobulation, always maintaining sight of the wider beauty and spirit Edinburgh offers both residents and visitors when the weather is warm.

Midsummer premiered in 2007 – coincidentally, my last summer in the city where it takes place – and is therefore dislocated from its context in three ways during its current NYC run: in time, in distance and in theatrical context. To see a breathtaking production during the Edinburgh Fringe’s unceasing barrage of plays is a singular experience, particularly if one has already seen dozens of shows. Measures of quality warp over the course of three weeks spent viewing productions back-to-back, and to see a show that found success there performed outside of the Fringe is more like tasting whisky after cleansing your palate than not.

Midsummer is an example of modern Scottish theater in many ways. In its opening, Greig’s language is rich and rhythmic, poetic and intense. This eases somewhat as the production continues, and it’s missed, but perhaps appropriate that as we learn the characters of Helena and Bob, they and Greig rely less on words and more on the knowledge we’ve gained throughout the production.

Under Greig’s direction, Bissett and Pidgeon’s depiction of the physical nature of the production and the visceral emotion of connecting with someone else blend into one. The set – resembling a bed, though at times Georgia McGuiness’ design seems more of a jungle gym (Japanese rope bondage!) – features panels and flip-out sections that enrich the specifics of each of the play’s settings; since the set itself is featured throughout the production it’s no small feat to transport the audience with each of its iterations.

As a “play with songs,” Midsummer features interwoven verses and small choruses that lift the audience from the immediate action and into a space that contemplates the individual experiences of the two characters, as well as the nostalgia it brings to anybody who’s resided there through an Edinburgh summer. While the play may not offer deep social commentary or revolutionize theater, it’s a fair representation of professional Scottish theatre – and a high-quality one, to boot. It may not be Black Watch, but Midsummer highlights a far less flashy tradition of Scottish storytelling in a way that’s accessible to audiences in both Scotland and abroad.

“Midsummer [a play with songs]” can be seen at the Clurman Theatre, New York, NY, from January 9-26, 2013.

Story of a Hurricane

I started this blog on Thursday night; it’s now Sunday morning as I pick it up again. 

Thursday night:

It’s been a long week. Sunday night, the NYC Subway shut down in advance of Hurricane Sandy. Parts of New York City are getting back to normal, while other areas are still devastated. My electricity has been out since Monday night, but things could be worse. I have running water and my gas stove works. Since I work in midtown, getting supplies wasn’t too much of a hassle – although lines are longer than usual, everywhere.

Further downtown, things are worse. On Staten Island and in New Jersey, in parts of Queens and Brooklyn, things are worse. (Note from Sunday: The situation in certain affected communities is still not good, but efforts to get help to people in those areas seem to be getting more notice now.)

Sunday, October 28th, my roommate and I stocked up on supplies and prepared to be without the Subway. Monday morning, we went down to the water to look at the beginnings of the storm surge; the park was already closed off, and the pier that usually sits several feet out of the water already had waves at its edges.

As the weather got more intense on Monday night, we lost power and cell signals. My roommate and I stayed up until about midnight, reading aloud from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf and drinking beer and wine. Earlier in the day I made vegetarian chili, just before the power went out I made my grandmother’s recipe for pizza. “At least pizza will keep for a couple days,” I thought. Work had already been cancelled for  Tuesday, at that point. When the power blew, our frenzy of snacking came to an end: now the plan was to conserve the cold in the fridge in the hopes it would only take a day or two to come back on.

Tuesday morning I woke up before my roommate. No power, no internet. No hot water, though the cold still worked.

At this point in writing, the friend who’d taken me in Thursday night and I started chatting and I put this blog aside for a few days. I’d like to jump ahead, but instead I’ll pick up where I left off. The remainder of this blog is being written early Sunday morning.

I checked the windows: things didn’t look too badly flooded, but my phone wasn’t getting a signal. Without a battery-operated radio, there was just one thing to do: head outside and survey the damage in the neighborhood. I left my roommate a note saying I was going exploring, and headed outside with my cell phone and charger. I got to the corner and said good morning to a couple pedestrians; finally I ran into a man walking purposefully down the avenue and asked if he knew if anything was open.

“What kind of place are you looking for?” he asked.

“Just somewhere I can charge my phone,” I said.

He shook his head. “There’s no power below 30th street,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said. He continued on his way and I stood for a moment before deciding to head back upstairs. Once I got back to the apartment I asked my roommate if she’d like to come exploring with me, since we wouldn’t be able to communicate, or if she wanted to stay at home. She decided to stay in the apartment and I headed out.

I walked up to Times Square, through the West Village and Chelsea. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there were plenty of closed buildings and trees down along the way. It was a few blocks before I got my cell phone signal back. Everything was closed. Most stores had signs in their windows from Sunday night – closed from XX time because the subway was shutting down at seven. There were no traffic lights, but not much traffic (yet) either. Eventually I made it to the Marriott, where an upper-floor lounge had plenty of plugs and power – plus coffee. (The Starbucks downstairs was also, it seems, something of a post-hurricane Mecca for city-dwellers looking for a way to spend their time). I drank a coffee and charged my phone and called my parents and chatted with some of you on Twitter, and once I’d rested for a while, turned around and started back on my way home.

Tuesday night was quiet and dark. My roommate and I are both writers, so we set up our candles and projects and I got a bit further along in editing and rewriting Electalytics (by the way, once my mailing list gets 50 subscribers, I’ll be sending out a sneak preview of the first chapter of my novella project). Both of us had work in the morning. By the end of Tuesday, there were loose estimates of power coming back on.

Wednesday I went to work. I was the only one on my team who made it in. Limited bus service had resumed, but the bus stops were mobbed – this got marginally better as the week progressed and the subway slowly breathed back to its current (as of 5am) status of about 80% functionality. I came home Wednesday night and, with no power or internet to distract me, decided to wash my hair. This required boiling water on the stove, dumping it in the tub, and hoping I could finish boiling enough water to take a bath before it all cooled off. I joked to my roommate (over text – by now we’d gotten enough of a signal back in the apartment to be able to send and receive texts, though they were often delayed) that I was going all Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Wednedsay night was Halloween. Bloomberg had already cancelled/postponed the Halloween Parade, and with the power out my roommate and I decided to go for a walk before it got too dark out. We took a flashlight with us.

I don’t know about other New Yorkers, but for me, this was one of the first chances I’d had to experience the city in darkness – and as we walked, of course, it got darker. Pretty soon it was pitch black out, and we were glad to have the flashlight. Walking across downtown, it occurred to me: anybody – or anything (remember, it’s Halloween and my roommate and I are both writers) – could be hiding in the shadows. Once I said that out loud, our imaginations ran away with us and we beat a trail back to the city’s nearest main thoroughfare.

Cars were backed up from Houston to Cooper Square. Commuters were smushed into buses that weren’t moving anywhere (the featured photo from this blog entry was taken on this walk). The High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) restrictions hadn’t been put into place yet, so traffic was barely moving.

Walking back through our neighborhood, we found a cafe where the owners had set up a generator and had a full menu ready. It was an oasis of civilization. We ducked in, charged phones, had wine and split an order of bruschetta. Next, we wandered along to a cash-only place that had no power, but was still serving beer. We got to talking to the women who owned the place, and even got to watch part of the impromptu Halloween Parade that headed past – a thin line of costumed enthusiasts hanging on to a city tradition. Finally, we stopped at a bar across the street from the apartment and bought a bottle each of Corona before getting a stealth-upsold shot of Jameson apiece – “only,” as we found out once they were poured, nine bucks.

Thursday was when the frayed edges of the week started to unravel. I picked out the things that we needed to get out of the fridge and walked them into work, while my roommate made her second 100-block trek to work in as many days. I found a gym at lunchtime and had my first proper shower since Sunday night. Left work early to make my own (much shorter) hike home. But when I got here, the power still wasn’t on and the apartment was cold; by the time my roommate got home we agreed we’d strike out to stay with friends until things came back together – which was now looking like Saturday night.

Which brings us to Thursday night. We split a cab to Grand Central and parted ways, and I headed further uptown to stay with my old roommate (you may remember her, she was briefly on twitter as @mycoolroommate). I bought us a huge BBQ dinner, we stuffed our faces, and then we watched TV and hung out. Friday was full of silly movies – first NO STRINGS ATTACHED (which I have to say, I quite liked) and then TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL, which if you haven’t seen , you should make time for. Friday night we met up with another friend who’s a bartender, and she kept us in cocktails for the evening.

Saturday morning, the news came out via ConEd’s twitter feed that my network had been restored around 9 in the morning. I made my way home – the subway was already running straight through Manhattan to Brooklyn. I walked home from Union Square to survey the neighborhood, and spent most of yesterday alternating between cleaning up my apartment.

Now it’s Sunday. I woke up at three in the morning (technically four) after falling asleep early last night and spent the last couple hours writing this post and putting photos in the gallery below.