Friday, October 15, 2010

New York, New York, New York (Part 1)

I'm coming to you live from Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York, New York, New York, NEW YORK!  (It's worth saying four times--that's how glad I am to be here.)

For those who haven't been (or are still trying to map out the elusive, amorphous geography of greater Brooklyn), Park Slope is a highly residential region that's full of brownstones, baby strollers, and tweed.  It's very "Huxtablesque."  It's imminently snuggly.  I'm here staying with some gracious friends and so glad to be back.  As I type, I've got morning joe, "English Girls Approximately" humming along, and I sit one room away from a basket of apples recently picked from an upstate orchard.  It's one of those gloriously balanced days where no heat or AC is needed.  Crack a window--God's got the thermostat.

This whole scene reeks of high autumn.  If you're asking yourself, "is Chris wearing an unnecessary sweater right now," hi, I'm Chris, and we haven't met yet.

Don't believe me?  Here I am!

Anyway, I'm stoked to be back in NYC.  Since moving in June, I've certainly missed it: the frenetic pace, the crazy sports fans, the offbeat and unfiltered humor of New Yorkers, the idyllic hole in the wall you pass a thousand times and finally walk into...the wealth of possibility.  That's always been the power and mystery of New York to me: what's next.  For someone like me, always hungry for a surprise, it's a daily source of excitement.  What's next?  You never know.

Well, sometimes you do, at least a little.  Last night I played the first of three shows in three nights: Pete's Candy Store (Brooklyn), Cafe Vivaldi (the Village--TONIGHT!), Postcrypt (Columbia--Saturday).  For the sake of time and space, let's break the rest of this blog down in itemized fashion:

In My Ear(bud):
As you might expect, I made a playlist for this trip filled with new favorites, fall classics, and New York-specific gems.  Here are a few goodies:

1) Counting Crows, "Hard Candy."  No clue why, save residual fall associations with this title track and a stray Long Island reference.  I've had Hard Candy the album on constant repeat for the last few weeks.  It's unrepentant pop, which is the only kind for me.  Eight years later, it's still a favorite listen.

2) Simon & Garfunkel, "Bleecker Street."  Assist from Mad Men.

3) Belle & Sebastian, "I Didn't See It Coming."  Still diving into this brand new album, but Track 1 cozily hits the spot.

I also asked for some of your NY Playlist picks.  Here are a few from your earbuds:

1) Bruce Springsteen, "New York City Serenade."  Somehow, epic and understated at once.

2) Sammy Davis, Jr. "New York's My Home."  Bustling, melodic, infectious.  Like all the big band, Rat Pack classics, it doesn't just occupy a certain mood or style: it defines it. 

3) Ella Fitzgerald, "Autumn In New York."  Six of the most romantic minutes you'll find on tape.

The Taxi Driver Test (A New Theory):
New Yorkers argue on how long you have to live here to be official.  I don't know about all of that.  But last night I found my own rubric:

You can tell how long someone's lived in NYC by what they're willing to talk about in front of a cab driver.

For example, tawdry, unfiltered sex tales = a NY veteran.  We'll say Level 7 of 10.  Me?  I treat cab drivers with a bizarre level of deference, and filter my backseat conversations accordingly.  As if, for 20 minutes, this guy is the judge and jury of my life and/or has my family on speed-dial. "I need to get juice at the grocery store" and "looks like rain."  I never graduated from Level 2.  Here's the full breakdown:

Level 1: Sit in icy, awkward silence.
Level 2: Rudimentary, generic small talk.  "Wow, look at that building."  "Tonight was fun."
Level 3: Swearing.  "Wow, look at that f*cking building."
Level 4: Candid, interpersonal dialogue.  "Susan was being weird tonight."  "I think Tony likes Melissa."
Level 5: Confessions.  "Just between you and me [and the driver, who doesn't count???], I'm in love with Susan."
Level 6: Inanity/dirty jokes.  "That statue looks exactly like [fill in person's private parts].  Ohmygod, I'm [fill in mind-altered state] right now!  I should definitely call [person]"
Level 7: Sex.  "The sex with Todd isn't very good."  "I wish Susan would incorporate pancakes into our lovemaking."
Level 8: Politics.  "I'm voting for [politician here] and anyone who doesn't is an idiot!"  "Todd creeps me out--he's probably a terrorist."
Level 9: Therapy/Crying.  "[Sobbing] I need to call my mom.  I guess I'm just DESPERATE FOR HER APPROVAL, LIKE MY THERAPIST SAYS!" 
Level 10: You personally know the cab driver.

Favorite Part of Last Night:
Introducing "Memphis Queen" and hearing that some folks in the crowd were from Memphis.  I swear, Memphians are like Pittsburgh Steelers fans: there are way more of them outside the city than in it.  They get around.  Very fun crowd last night at Pete's and, as always, some fantastic bands playing.

Another Favorite Thing From Last Night:
Hearing a first-hand account of French-Canadian circuses, as told by a band of great French musicians who have past circus experience.  Evidently French circuses are really dark, and really impressive. Get down!

Ugh, as I type this, some crazy construction has started outside my window.  Substitute the fall idyll from an hour ago with a hellish din.  It's like I'm sitting inside a chainsaw.  New York giveth, New York taketh away. 

Check back tomorrow for another post, pictures, and some video coming soon!

Until then,

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