Over the weekend I went on a special bus trip to New York City. This trip included an overnight stay at a hotel so I was able to schedule a show in the evening. I was also able to do something in the morning.
The bus left Williamsport at 7:00 AM and we arrived in New York City at 11:00 AM. We were dropped off at the Skyline Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen. I was unable to check in until 3:00 PM so the bellhop showed me where to store my luggage in an empty conference room. I did not pack much because I expected to be bringing many purchases home in my one piece of luggage.
I did not waste any time heading to my first destination, the Chelsea Art Museum. I’m becoming more proficient at navigating the subway system. On this trip I went to the 50th Street Subway Station on 8th Avenue. It is much closer than the East 51st Street & Lexington Avenue that I usually use. I took a photo of the subway entrance under the Worldwide Plaza because I was unable to find any good photos of it online.
Before I reached the subway station I walked pass the New World Stages theater which may be a good place for a show on a future trip. The New York City subway is a bit of a mess right now because budget cuts have forced many route changes which add to the confusion. I took the C train to the 23rd Street Station.
On my way to the Chelsea Art Museum I walked pass the London Terrace Gardens, a massive apartment block. One of my guidebooks mentioned that Deborah Harry lives there so I made sure to take a few photos. As I neared the High Line Building on Chelsea I managed to take a photo of our Susquehanna Trailways tour bus as it drove by. However I did not even notice it at the time. I was quite surprised and pleased to find our tour bus in my photos as I prepared to upload them to Flickr.
The Chelsea Art Museum exhibition was the second edition of Open Portfolio at the Chelsea Art Museum. This was a lot of artists showing their portfolios on their laptops with a few pieces mounted on the wall behind their table. The artists were there to greet you and hand out their business cards. I found this to be slightly awkward so I did not interact with many artists. There was a concert upstairs that seemed to just be getting started. The Chelsea Art Museum is a very small museum with only three floors. I only spent a half hour there. On the way out I bought the book One Night on Broadway by Horst Hamann. This turned out to be a good souvenir because it is a book of photos taken at night all along Broadway.
I then proceeded to the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery. I knew exactly which subway trains to take so I got there by 1:02 PM according to my ticket. The New Museum of Contemporary Art was kind of disappointing. The most interesting piece of artwork was a McDonalds straw and soda lid which looked like it was picked up off the street and deposited into the display case. I took the elevator to the top floor and worked my way down. The top floor just has a terrace where you can take photos of the Bowery neighborhood and the Manhattan skyline. This was actually pretty cool so I took many photos. Another memorable exhibit was the Beat writer and artist Brion Gysin, an associate of William S. Burroughs. They even had his legendary dream machine which seemed very popular. A crowd was gathered around it trying to alter their consciousness by staring at the flickering lights. I don’t need such a device to alter my consciousness. Just being in New York City is sufficient to alter my consciousness. Unfortunately that was the only thing I found interesting at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. I was very thirsty so I bought an expensive little bottle of fancy soft drink at their cafe. Even their soft drinks were pretentious! Their bookstore did seem well stocked with many rare and interesting books. I was slightly impressed by the taste shown in their selection. I bought The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Depravity. This is a book I’ve been meaning to buy in preparation for my trip to Berlin.
After leaving the New Museum of Contemporary Art at 1:53 PM according to my receipt, I walked straight ahead down Prince Street which takes you into SoHo. I walked pass the landmark buildings Old St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Puck Building which I photographed. Using Google Street View to plan your walk is very useful for spotting nearby landmarks that you might miss. Then I stopped in at the McNally Jackson bookstore on 52 Prince Street. I’m beginning to dream about Italy now so I bought some Italian literature. I’ve been reading Midnight in Sicily: On Art, Food, History, Travel and la Cosa Nostra by Peter Robb so I bought Giuseppe Di Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard: A Novel which is described in Peter Robb’s book. They also had the Luchino Visconti DVD of The Leopard – Criterion Collection film so I bought that too. And I bought Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum which I’ve heard a lot about. I really spent too much money on this trip but it was mostly for things I was planning to buy eventually.
After that I took the subway back to the Skyline Hotel where I was finally able to check in. It was 3:00 PM by then. I had trouble finding my room. First I had to take the elevator to the second floor then walk down a passageway to another building and take the elevator to the third floor. Fortunately there was a soda machine just outside my door which I used frequently to stay hydrated. I took a cold shower because I was sticky with sweat and put my purchases in my luggage.
For lunch I walked five blocks south on 10th Avenue to Hallo Berlin. This was an excellent opportunity to get some German food in preparation for my trip to Berlin. And they had Berlin specialties like currywurst and Berliner Weiss. I sat at the bar and ordered a Sprite and two types of curry with red cabbage, German potatoes, and sauerkraut. Plus a side dish of two potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream. The restaurant was decorated with many German banners and advertisements for brands of beer.
I took another cold shower when I got back to my hotel room because even a short walk in the muggy heat was enough to make you sweat. I had a ticket for a show in the East Village but it was too early to head down there so I took the subway to 23rd Street again and walked south to find another bookstore, Idlewild Books. This bookstore specializes in travel and world literature organized by country so I thought it was worth a visit. I bought a copy of Time Out Shortlist Venice , A Hedonist’s Guide to Berlin (A Hedonist’s Guide to…) , and Strolling through Venice: The Definitive Walking Guidebook to ‘La Serenissima’ . After leaving the bookstore I walked further south until I found Union Square Park where I saw and photographed the statue of George Washington and that peculiar public art installation, the Metronome. Then I took the subway back uptown to 50th Street and walked west to the Skyline Hotel where I needed another cold shower.
Although it was still pretty early for my show, I then returned to the subway and went to the East Village. I still remembered the neighborhood from my previous NYC trip. I had two hours to kill so I revisited some places. First I ordered a Berliner Weiss at Wechsler’s Currywurst & Bratwurst because it is the one place where they won’t give you any grief for ordering it. I was thinking of having a tshirt made for my Berlin trip which would read, “Gib mir ein Berliner Weiss und Fresse!” After sucking down my Berliner Weiss through a straw I headed next door to Kim’s Video and Music where I bought a DVD of the Italian film Salvatore Giuliano, a film about the Sicilian Mafia.
I then bought an ice cream cone at Ray’s Candy Store. Ray’s Candy Store is a shabby little dive but it has become quite famous due to the owner’s struggles to keep his business and make rent. I saw a lot of photos of Ray’s Candy Store on a photoblog while researching my initial trip to East Village. I didn’t dare to enter the place on my first trip because there seemed to be a lot of low lifes hanging out there according to the photoblog. Anyway the ice cream cone proceeded to melt faster than I could eat it. Fortunately I was able to clean my sticky fingers in a water fountain in Tompkins Square Park.
Finally I headed over to the Vampire Freaks Store and got up the nerve to enter this time. I headed straight to the CD rack where I immediately kicked in the sliding door, making a racket. I quickly picked out three Clan of Xymox CDs to cover my embarrassment. My purchase was rung up by a dude covered in tattoos. He had big spikes of hair and commented on how quick I was. I feel too old to stop in at Goth and other alternative music stores now. I doubt that the goths will ever gain their immortality from an ancient vampire since they find old people too creepy to associate with. LOL. Clan of Xymox CDs are hard to find so I did want to buy as many as I could.
I sat in Tompkins Square Park until it was time for my show to start. This was meant to be the highlight of my trip, an actual Off-Broadway show that promised to be really edgy. And I was not disappointed as you will read in a minute. The show I selected was The Last Burlesque Show In The World at the Performance Space 122. I had taken a photo of PS 122 on my previous trip to the East Village but that was a lame way to honor the Off-Broadway scene. I bought my ticket online so I just showed them my printed receipt to get an actual ticket. This was something I was agonizing over so I was pleased they didn’t refuse to honor my online ticket purchase. The show was late to start so I joined a crowd that was kept waiting in the sweltering hallway of the second floor stage.
Fortunately it was slightly cooler in the theater. There was a pre-show bar where they sold beer, bottled water, and wine. At first I thought this might be part of the show but it was an actual bar they wheeled out during intermissions. I was dying of thirst after the long wait in the hall so I ordered a beer during intermission. After another half hour wait the burlesque show began. Although the show was not exactly a serious dramatic performance, I accepted it as a fine example of the edgy comedy Off-Broadway is known for, in the tradition of the Ridiculous Theater Company. There was some nudity but most of the performers wore pasties and thongs. Then something happened which was truly a WHAT THE FUCK moment! This was so shocking that I was impressed by just how daring Off Off-Broadway could be. A nude man came onstage wearing nothing but a top hat and sang Unforgettable. This was Mat Fraser, born with phocomelia of both arms, due to his mother taking thalidomide while she was pregnant. Mat Fraser had the biggest penis I’ve ever seen and seeing him nude with his flipper arms was pretty shocking. This didn’t gross me out but it was rather unexpected.
After the show was over I got a chance to see St. Marks Place at night. The street was crowded and had more of a street festival vibe than it does during the day. I took the subway back uptown to the Skyline Hotel and called it a day. The Performance Space 122 show was certainly memorable and fulfilled my expectations for high weirdness from the East Village.