not seeing a show
Tuesday, June 9 2009
Gretchen wanted to see a show in Manhattan today, so we dropped the dogs off with our neighbor Andrea and drove down the Thruway. Parking somewhere in the East Village, we immediately went to Lula's, a new vegan icecream parlor in Alphabet City about which Gretchen was very excited. It was a little place with a steady stream of youngish customers and a variety of vintage snake oil and medicine advertisements on the wall, including several instances of the word "cocoaine." Most of the icrecreams were nut-based, meaning the "cream" had somehow been derived from nuts, usually cashews. Gretchen got to talking with the lovely woman who owns and operates the place, whom I was mentally trying to place ethnically until she said she was half-Vietnamese. Gretchen can be a chatty Catherine when the subject is things vegan, though the subject did stray at times into things more interesting to me, such as the superiority (on average) of East Coasters relative to West Coaster, and the mysterious inability of East Coasters to effectively assemble authentic burritos (how hard can it be). Still, the stools in Lula's aren't comfortable beyond the time it takes to devour a banana split, and I was eager to move on well before Gretchen was. And then both Gretchen and the owner would have forgotten that we needed to pay for our icecream had I not reminded them. As for the icrecream itself, it could well have passed for ordinary dairy icecream, although I don't think mint chocolate chip is an ideal icecream in a sundæ context (the way Gretchen and I had ours); mine ended up tasting a bit too much like toothpaste. I should have gone with the coffee or cake batter flavors instead (which I'd merely sampled).
With bellies full of icecream, we stopped for awhile at the Tompkins Square dog park to watch the antics of the dogs. The dog park was divided into a "big dog" area and a "small dog" area, and it was interesting to note that nearly all the "big dogs" were mutts (some representing absurd combinations). The mutts were chasing each other and playing or holding forth from the tops of picnic tables. The small dogs, on the other hand, were a dreary collection of purebreds, and they hardly interacted with each other at all. The kind of person who would take his dog to a dog park and then only want it to interact with other purebreds, that kind of person is the kind of thing that could make a less-stable version of myself go Columbine at a dog park. I can see the headline now, "Crazed Man Shoots Up Purebred Section of Tompkins Square Dog Park, Dogs and Mutt Owners Only Survivors."
The play we'd be seeing was up near Times Square, and (as we often do when we're in the City for the day) we simply walked there from downtown. Rain had been predicted, but we left our umbrellas in the car and the rain never came.
It's its own kind of entertainment to pass through a city the size of New York on foot. High among the pleasures of such a walking tour is the ready availability of great food and coffee. At some point we ducked into Ess-a-Bagel (Gretchen's favorite bagel shop) to get a cup of coffee and a single sesame seed bagel with scallion vegan cream cheese, most of which I ended up eating.
We'd started south and east and our goal was north and west, so at most intersections along the way we could always cross immediately, either going north or west. Towards the end there we were in a hurry, running past the dawdlers with their cameras in Times Square. Some workman unloading linens from a truck yelled at us at one point because we were dashing up the closed-to-pedestrians side of the street, saying, "Here in New York we call you people 'idiots.'" He must have thought we were out-of-towners spilling in bleary-eyed amazement out of Times Square's futuristic walls of moving images, though that didn't account for the urgency and directness of our walking.
The venue was on the fourth floor of some off-off-off-off-off-off Broadway building on 43rd Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. We got to the building but the guy working the desk knew nothing of the theater company we'd come to see. There was a directory (in stainless steel) of the building's occupants, but it didn't list the theatre company and neither did the sandwich board out in front. Maybe the venue was actually on 44th Street. So we ran up to 44th Street, but that wasn't right either, at least according to another unhelpful man at a desk. Gretchen went to the bar where the performers (whom we knew) would be going after the performance, but nobody there knew the location of the show. Finally Gretchen borrowed the web functionality on a stranger's cellphone to confirm the address, which must have been on 43rd Street. By now the hour-long show would be half over, so we decided to give up the search. We looked around in a cheap costume shop at fetishy shoes, buckets full of plastic severed arms, and fake facial injuries. In the end we went to the bar and grill where the people in the show would be meeting for a drink afterwards. There, we sat out in front and had our first alcohol of the day. A pair of white guys kept coming out of a nearby restaurant to smoke tiny little cigars, and one of them somehow entered a sneezing fit right behind Gretchen. The sneezes were so loud that we began counting them in Spanish and giggling to each other. After counting the last one, I'd repeatedly ask if there would be another by voicing the next Spanish number as a question, "¿Quince? ¿Quince?" and then the guy would sneeze and I'd say, "¡Quince!" The guy made it all the way to diez-y-seis.
Eventually the folks from the show arrived and we asked where, exactly, it had been. It turned out that the place we'd gone to initially had been correct and that the guy at the desk at the bottom hadn't known, and hadn't been given any information. The building's sign and sandwich board belonged to others. "Next time, maybe you should at least tell the guy at the desk at the bottom," I said, trying to be helpful. There were apologies all around and Gretchen even got reimbursed for her ticket. By this point it was late, and if we wanted dinner at the place we wanted to go, we had to get going.
So we walked to 7th Avenue and caught the Red Line subway down to Christopher Street and then walked to Soy and Sake, a Pan Asian vegetarian restaurant focusing mostly on Japanese cuisine. It was the best restaurant I'd been to in a long time, with excellent simulations of various kinds of sushi and delicious spring rolls. The prices were surprisingly low and the portions surprisingly large, and this was probably the reason the age and racial diversity of the customers was so high (the higher the prices, the older and the whiter the customers; this is true of many forms of accommodation services and the reason the cheapest options are often the most fun). My only complaint was that the fake shrimp, which looked exactly like real shrimp, was decidedly more rubbery than actual shrimp, which caused a moment of cognitive dissonance with my first bite.
All that walking around today was done in real shoes, and I have rarely worn real shoes since April. I'm mostly barefoot or, if I must wear shoes, I wear Crocs (which don't constrict my feet whatsoever). In real shoes, though, over time I can feel my pinkie toes being pressed inward from their natural alignments. This pressure is strongest on the nails of my pinkie toes, and by this evening I'd done so much walking in real shoes that my pinkie toenails were in constant pain, even after I'd taken the shoes off.
This is what I get for giving my feet the most natural experience available. Spending as little time in shoes as possible, my feet are visibly different from the feet of most Americans. Indeed, my feet are the freeest range feet one normally sees in a Western country. They are so natural in appearance, so straight in their phalangular alignments, that to some white bread baseball-cap-wearing Americans they actually look freakish.
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