Saturday, June 14, 2008

Socks and the City: Erics visit Manhattan, go to some museums, eat at some restaurants, and discard used socks!

Yes, when I travel I usually take my old socks and underwear and then throw them out after I wear them. That way I have fewer dirty clothes to take home in my luggage. This isn't a very significant part of my trip but I had to mention it so I could use that stupid title.

[The new home of the Museum of Arts and Design, at Columbus Circle. The remodel is not quite finished but I was very interested to see it because I was so annoyed that they destroyed the original Edward Durell Stone building. Some people thought it was ugly but it was a landmark and I thought it was cool. It's not bad now but it's pretty sad when a museum, which is supposed to be a champion of art and culture, destroys a cultural landmark instead. Thank you to Other Eric for taking pictures. To see a picture of the original building, click here.]

Oh, by the way, did you hear that Tim Russert died? Apparently he's the first person to ever die. And nothing else has happened anywhere else in the world for the past two days. Seriously, I was watching CNN, CNBC, FOX, and other news channels and it was 24 hour a day Tim Russert-dead coverage:


But that's not all:




Oh, My God! Aren't there cities flooding somewhere? Can't I get some actual news? Sorry; I know his death was shocking and they should definitely report on it but they could give it a rest for a few minutes and tell us something else.

OK, so Eric and I went to New York. Eric was there on business and I went along for the free hotel room so I could check out the museums.

We stayed at the Essex House on Central Park West. Beautiful art deco building that was recently renovated and it has a great location looking over the park. The prices are outrageous so I was expecting a little more luxury. It was very nice and I know we got one of the cheap rooms, but it didn't quite live up to the advertised prices (Eric got a business rate, so I don't know what his company actually paid). We were on the 10th floor looking south and the city view wasn't too bad. The room was pretty small but there was a sofa, which was nice. The lighting system was ridiculous; it was controlled from the phone and we never figured it out. The refrigerator was packed with mini-bar items and had this tiny little space labeled "For your personal use" that was almost big enough to hold a Snickers bar. The bathroom looked fancy but it was not very functional. I have to say, though, they gave us plenty of towels except for the day they didn't give us any at all. The closet was WAY too small and the window blinds were hard to use. It was also hard to get anyone to answer the phone in guest services. Having said that, everyone was very friendly and it was a very nice hotel; certainly more luxurious than I'm used to but still not as luxurious as I was expecting.

We got in Sunday evening and it was about 95 degrees with thunder storms. Awful. We walked (stupid idea) to Mamma Mexico, where we had a nice meal and then we walked back in the rain and saw the Chris Burden sculpture at Rockefeller Center. Then we took three more showers and went to bed.

Monday we put on our Jimmy Choo's and went shopping at Century 21, where we both bought Pucci ties, and we went to Filene's Basement, where we got nothing. We walked by the World Trade Center site. Lots of tourists were in the church graveyard across the street from the site and they were taking pictures with the headstones. Really weird. We had lunch at S'MAC, which only sells macaroni and cheese. It did not sound at all appetising because it was so hot and humid out but it was actually really good! We stopped at H&M on Fifth Avenue on the way back and I bought a suit. We have H&M here in Los Angeles but we don't get the all the same items and I haven't seen the line of slim-cut suits here. They had a size 34 slim cut that fit me really well so I got it. I don't ever wear a suit but it's nice to have one that fits in case I have to go to a wedding, or something. My old Banana Republic suit doesn't fit very well, even though I've had it taken in. I should just have one made but I don't have the patience.

Monday night Eric had a business dinner so I spent the evening with the real New Yorkers: standing in line at Whole Foods. I think I saw the artist Kara Walker shopping there!

Tuesday I went to the Museum of Modern Art, which was only a few blocks from the hotel. The only problem is that it's closed on Tuesdays. Along with almost all the museums in the city. I don't know why I didn't know that. I think Monday is the closed day in most cities. So I walked through the park, even though it was so hot, and I spent the entire day walking like a zombie through the Metropolitan Museum. Most cities have one major museum that's open on the day all the others are closed and for New York it's the Met. I hadn't planned on spending the entire day there but it was actually pretty nice. The other times I've been there I've run through the museum in about an hour, just taking in a few highlights so it was really good to be forced to spend more time. Tuesday night, the weather broke; there was a terrible storm and the temperature dropped twenty degrees.

Wednesday was much more pleasant and I went back to MoMA when it was actually open. I had never been there and I was really impressed. I've been to MoMA Queens but the Midtown location was closed for renovation when I've been there in the past. The new building isn't actually that exciting but the collection is great and I was very excited to see the Olafur Eliasson show. He is an installation artist who works a lot with environments, light, and mirrors and there were some very cool works. I found out that the other half of the show, out at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens, had some more installations and not just photographs, as I had thought. So I decided I would have to go out there the next day. I had a nice three course lunch at MoMA. I'm so sorry I just missed the pre-fab housing exhibition they were setting up in the courtyard that will open this month. Wah! I love pre-fab housing!

Anyway, after MoMA, I went next door to see the "Dargerism" show at the American Folk Art Museum. I had seen a Henry Darger exhibition there in the past so I wasn't sure I needed to see another one but I'm so glad I went. It was mostly works by contemporary artists who are inspired by Darger's work and it was really good!

Wednesday night we had dinner at Beacon and I had the wood roasted oysters just for the hell of it and I actually liked them.

Thursday I headed out to Queens to P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. I was annoyed that I was getting such a late start to the day but when I got out there it wasn't open yet and I had to wait 15 minutes so now I'm glad I got such a late start. So, it really is an old public school building and they've left much of it intact so it's a very strange venue. They had videos set up down in the old furnace rooms in the basement, which was really creepy. There were a few interesting works by Eliasson, like the backward waterfall that has water going up and there were also more disorienting light rooms. But the major work, a thirty or forty foot circular mirror that hangs from the ceiling and rotates and pivots, was closed for repairs. That was disappointing.

After P.S.1, I got back on the subway and went to SoHo. I was hoping to meet up with Tom and Lorenzo of Project Rungay while I was in New York but they weren't able to get into the city this week. So the only Project Runway-related activity I did while I was there was to visit EMC2, Emmett McCarthy's boutique (Emmett was on season two, in case anyone doesn't know who he is). I didn't get to meet Emmett but his shop is very cute and the dresses are adorable!

None of the maps had the new location for the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Yes, the new New Museum of Contemporary Art. The new building opened a couple of months ago but the old location closed years ago so I don't know why it's still on maps. Anyway, I had the address so I was able to find the building, on Bowery, only a few blocks from the old location. The building is really cool; it looks like it's covered in mesh and like someone just randomly stacked different sized boxes on top of each other. Loved it! The exhibitions were OK.

Thursday night we went to Il Mulino, an amazing restaurant in the Village. It's a tacky-looking little space with amazing service and food! Apparently they have a location in Las Vegas but we can't figure out how they would transfer that hole-in-the-wall feeling to Las Vegas. Maybe lots of cramped little rooms? Then we went to Bar 89 for dessert. They have unisex bathrooms with transparent doors that turn opaque when you lock them. Which is OK for a guy, who stands with his back facing the door, but a girl we were with refused to sit down facing a glass door and I don't blame her; I don't think I could have done it. Fun!

Friday we got up early and walked through the park to the Met, just like I did on Tuesday but this time I wasn't by myself and the weather was lovely. I had spent the day there on Tuesday but there were a couple of things I hadn't seen because Eric wanted to see them. We had a limited amount of time because we had to go to the airport but we saw the Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy show, which was tiny but had some really beautiful pieces; it was a mix of actual superhero costumes from movies and some amazing haute couture outfits from the past few decades that were inspired by the superhero look. Then we went up to the roof with the amazing views of the park and an exhibition of Jeff Koons sculptures. We also went to the temple of Dendur and had lunch in the cafeteria, which was pretty good.

When I was at the museums all week I was amused by the tourists taking pictures of all the most famous paintings they've seen in books even though they already have the pictures in the book where they saw them and they could get better images on postcards in the gift shop. It just didn't make sense to me. Then, of course, when I was there with Eric, he was taking pictures of everything! But seriously, it wasn't the same thing because he was taking weird arty pictures of obscure objects or pictures with him doing the Egyptian and not really taking pictures just of the works of art.

Then we got our luggage and headed to the airport. We had a car service but the driver was completely insane and I actually think a taxi would have been more pleasant. I had four hours at the airport because Eric had an earlier flight but I got a massage and had a drink and the time went by pretty quickly. Unfortunately, my flight was then delayed an hour and then we sat another hour on the plane before we took off so I was at the airport a really long time. When I finally got in to Los Angeles, it was the middle of the night and Eric was asleep so I took a taxi home because I was too tired to deal with a van. I didn't know it would cost almost $100 with tip! That's outrageous! That's almost as much as I spent on airfare! I'll never do that again.

Anyway, I didn't do as much as I had wanted but it was so hot the first couple of days I just didn't feel like doing much. I saw five museums, had some great meals, and did a little shopping. The only thing missing was a show (I went to stand in line for half-price tickets to A Chorus Line but ended up not getting them). All in all, a pretty good trip!

Eric has more pictures and stories on his blog! Thanks for reading and I'll have my Top Chef finale post up tomorrow.


mumblesalot (Laura A) said...

It sounds like a great trip. Sorry you had to endure that miserable weather. I had never heard of Darger before so thank you for the tip.

Cliff O'Neill said...

Sorry you had to endure crappy weather. But, hey, it's New York in June, right?

And I kinda figured the incessant coverage would happen the moment I heard Russert died. Tuning in momentarily here and there since, I was right in my surmise that it's coverage beyond that of 9/11.

Can't wait for your TC finale blog!