Something crazy happens when I arrive in New York City. My blood pressure drops, and a calm sense of belonging takes over. All my petty little anxieties fade away, and I’m just one of the millions going about their business in the City. The great cloak of anonymity in that city is a warm shield. I never feel rushed or anxious, just always in the moment.
I flew in to the City for a quick three day trip. Every NYC itinerary is always overbooked and as casual as I’d like to say, mine was too, but with endless flexibility built in. My main goal was to attend the Defector.com Ideas Festival, the unofficial birthday party for a website filled with writers I respect. After that, there were dozens of art shows, museums and galleries on my list until I flew out a few days later.
Defector Ideas Festival
The Defector party was fantastic. Held in the lower east side at a hole in the wall creative venue, it was a small affair filled with good folks. The lineup consisted of various writers from the site giving presentations tangentially related to their work or the themes of the site. The tone of the site carried through the presentations 100%. It was hilarious, laid back and smartly produced. I got to meet and talk with a wide swatch of Defector writers and subscribers throughout the night that soon become awash in alcohol.
That day I spent a bunch of time walking through the Bowery and the Lower East Side. I visited Chinatown and ignored the pathetic nature of Little Italy’s dueling souvenir stands. The Bowery was super fun. It had a lot of graffiti and the smell of piss with plenty of little dive bars to jump into. There weren’t many tourists or traps to behold.
Seeing some art
Tuesday’s rain subsided and allowed me to run all around Lower Manhattan relatively dry on Wednesday. I snaked through Chinatown, visited galleries throughout the Bowery. I lucked into seeing a show of Hughie Lee-Smith at the Karma Gallery. The goal of the day was to get to the New Museum. It was there that I soaked up the absurd, crass genius of Robert Colescott’s paintings. I spent the rest of the day snaking through the Village and chilled out at my hotel for a bit.
I ended up heading over to the Comedy Cellar and saw a decent show. The host put everybody on edge by jumping right into crowd work. The comedians did their best against the unsettled crowd, seemingly losing the uphill battle. Colin Quinn worked through new material as the highlight of the night. After the show I devoured a delicious Berlin style doner kebab. They’re always my guilty travel pleasures. I wandered through the Village closer towards my hotel and breathed in the nightlife.
Drinking the night away
I ended up at a bar with cheap drinks in the Village. I watched two thirtysomething finance dudes hit on way too young for them twentysomething women with absolutely no success. Finally annoyed enough, the younger lady perfectly silenced the two men by asking if one was a cop. She struck a perfect insecurity that flummoxed him the rest of the night. He kept questioning his friend if his moustache made him look like a cop. Flanked by Yankees baseball and US Open tennis on TV, so I set out to find a new place. I ended up at the Art Bar, a haphazard environment filled with a young, brash energy. It felt like the perfect spot for the night. I ended up talking to a bunch of cool folks about all sorts of ordinary bullshit. I filled the jukebox with a dynamic playlist, and eventually, closed the bar.
Soaking it all up
The next morning I slept in a bit more than I thought I would. I missed my window to cross town and head up to the Frick’s temporary location. Plan B wasn’t so bad. I checked out and headed to the hotel’s exquisite cafe. I chilled out over breakfast and then headed up the High Line. Hungover as all hell, I wandered through enjoying one of those perfect sunny warm early fall days. With a light breeze at my back I ended up on Little Island. It was there crowds of tourists soaked up the views – with the towers of Lower Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty to Jersey City.
It was a moment. I headed further uptown to the end of the High Line. Starting to feel uncomfortable about my proximity to Times Square, I checked the time. On cue, I jumped on the subway, headed to JFK and soon enough, found myself back in Kansas City.