(Last week I went to New York City to see my semi-favorite band Wolf Parade. Here's some stories about what I ate and drank there.)
I flew to New York midday on Monday. The big excitement of the airport was that Stan Rizzo from Mad Men sat two barstools down from me at Gene Simmons's bar at the Delta terminal at LAX. I tried to think of something vaguely interesting to say to him but the best I could come up with was, "Umm, I write a blog and we used to write about Mad Men and one time Ted Chaough RT'ed us?", so in the end I left it alone. I was drinking a pecan beer and a coffee and Stan Rizzo drank a Stella; we watched the video for "Don't Cry" by Guns n' Roses on the big Rock & Brews TV and then I left and bought a Kit Kat for my flight. Then he was on my flight. We still didn't talk. I ate my Kit Kat and watched Mistress America for the third time and The End of the Tour and I forget what else.
I got to New York at like 9 at night and took a bus to Grand Central and pretended I was Serena van der Woodsen making her secret homecoming from boarding school. Then I went down to the East Village and met Michaela and her roommate Erin; we drank margaritas and walked over to Max Fish and drank beer and then went to Brooklyn, to Joe's Pizza, where "Rock and Roll Music" by the Beatles was playing and I ate this beautiful beauty:
The next morning we went to Pies 'n' Thighs and I got the fried chicken and waffles seen up top; it came with cinnamon butter and strawberry jam and the radio played Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Mos Def and "Feel Me Flow" by Naughty by Nature. Kate and I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge and into the city and then wandered around the Lower East Side a long time. The day was gray and sometimes drizzly but I didn't care because I was on my Wolf Parade vacation. I drank a million-dollar iced coffee from some boring coffee place and bought myself a Life Thyme Natural Market raspberry tollbooth cookie, in tribute to the time LJ sent me a Life Thyme Natural Market raspberry tollbooth cookie in the mail like eight years ago. We took the train back to Brooklyn and got drinks at the top of the Wythe Hotel, and I had some kind of tequila drink and then some champagne drink but I can't remember much about either. The tequila drink had lime sherbet, and I'd expected some grand scoop of bright-green ice cream floating atop my tequila but: no. Later in the night we met Kate's friend Tania at Rye and I drank beer, an IPA, I think, and Tania's friend brought us down to the basement and gave us all this free Uruguayan wine.
For dinner we went to Dokebi, which is Korean barbecue. We got bibimbap and scallion pancakes and fried tofu and I had a Diet Coke and then champagne. I hadn't gone out for Korean in so long and forgotten how much I love all the little side dishes in the little white bowls, which I just learned is called banchan. One of the banchan things was anchovies and I really wanted to love the anchovies, but...I didn't. I think anchovies are a smart food to be into; same with sardines. Yesterday I bought a tin of La Sirena sardines in olive oil, almost entirely because I like the idea of peeling back the lid and plunking a sardine down onto a nice piece of crusty toast and eating my sardine toast standing at the kitchen counter, reading the business section of the New York Times, in the middle of some crazy workday. In this dream I'm wearing a button-down oxford and my high school track shorts and reading glasses, which I don't actually own or need.
Anyway, the music at Dokebi was so perfect, really draggy punk/post-punk/new-wavey stuff like the Dils and the Dead Boys and the Jam. Later on I downloaded half the Dokebi dinner soundtrack to my phone, and now I play it all the time and slide back into the mood of eating Korean BBQ on a drizzly Tuesday night in New York and half-listening to all this sexy dated music, with a bottle of Uruguayan wine and a raspberry cookie in my bag. My favorite is "Sound of the Rain" by the Dils; it's so snotty and mopey and sweet.
Now it's Wednesday, Wolf Parade Day. For breakfast we had my favorite New York meal, at a tiny little Dominican diner called Reben Luncheonette. It's my favorite diner since the diner down the street from my writers residency on Martha’s Vineyard, where I used to go eat linguiça and fried eggs and toast and read the diner copy of the Boston Globe and drink all of the coffee. Our server was the most adorable man, who laughed every time we laughed and who changed my name to La Rubia. For breakfast we all got fried eggs and toast and home fries, which were somehow bright-orange and I doused them in Red Devil sauce. But the real star was this drink called Morir Soñando. It's milk and sugar and orange juice and it's just like an Orange Julius, or a creamsicle that's melted and then been whipped into some icy-frothy milkshake scene. Its name means "to die dreaming." Drinking a milkshake called To Die Dreaming for breakfast must be some kind of apex of my existence.
After Reben Luncheonette we walked to Bushwick and did more wandering and then went back to the apartment and hung out with the dogs (this dog + this dog, Milly and Shorty, my loves <3 <3) and then I went for a solo walk down to the water, listening to Lemonade. Early in the evening we went to a place for top secret thing I'm not allowed to talk about and while we were there I hung out in the green room and took selfies in the dirty mirror and tried to make the vanity lights work but couldn't figure it out.
And then we went to the show, oh my god. Right now I feel like it was better than everything, better than when I saw Nirvana or the Replacements or my second U2 show or the time I made my boyfriend drive me from Boston to New York on a work night to see John Frusciante in this pretty church. It was as emotionally important as all that, at least.
Wolf Parade walked onstage to “Magnificent Seven”! By the Clash! Talk about starting things off with a bang. It was the most perfect choice of walking-onstage music since I saw the Strokes in December 2001 and they walked out to “Steppin’ Out” by Joe Jackson. I feel like no one even bothers to pick walking-onstage anymore. Which is a mistake. Make a show of it, guys. Be like the Beatles in Hamburg.
And then it all just got more amazing and I died, dreaming. The person who was right next to me all night posted this video of when they played "I'll Believe in Anything," which is a very lucky thing for me: it's rare to have a recording of a super-intense and beautiful, eyes-filled-with-good-tears moment in your life, shot almost from your exact perspective. I wish I existed in a reality where I could demand that everyone I care about on any level watch this video; I'd fire it up and be like: "OKAY GUYS, THIS IS MY HEART." I tend to get accused of playing it close to the vest, but I feel invested enough in "I'll Believe in Anything" for a four-minute YouTube video to seriously count as laying my own soul bare.
I love how happy everyone in the crowd is, and how happy the band looks. They were all so smiley all night! So many of their songs feel like the whole world is falling down, and there's so much pain to them it's almost physical, but everyone in that room was goddamn beaming. It's different from a lot of the music I love, like Big Star or whatever, where you sink into the melancholy and it's all soft and cozy and dreamy. Wolf Parade is violently joyful and magnificently sad, every single moment is life-or-death, and it always ends up on the life side.
And you know what else I love about Wolf Parade? They're exactly my age. When I was eight I saw The Breakfast Club for the first time and then watched it all the time for the next like ten years, and I totally bought into that "When you grow up your heart dies" bit. But it's not true. When you grow up your heart gets more and more alive and you fall in love with everything heavier than ever, as long as you're really conscientious about not boring yourself to death. Aging is weird and scary but you can make it all right. Get some good heroes and let them light everything up for you whenever you feel a little lost. It's not so hard, most of the time.
So: Thursday. Thursday was my leaving day, and my only alone day in New York. In the morning I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge and went to Veselka, which was in my head from the last scene in Mistress America, when Lola Kirke calls Greta Gerwig "the last cowboy, all romance and failure." I ordered the vegetarian plate and a raspberry lemonade; the meal came with matzo ball soup and a little salad and some nice boring bread. I had plans of eating my nice boring bread with strawberry jam, but I couldn't get to it; my potato pierogies and cheese pierogies and stuffed cabbage drowned in gravy were all I could handle. The cabbage was the winner: this big fat cabbage mountain and I sliced it open and poked my fork in to get to the wild mushrooms and rice, so then it was a cabbage cave. I want more food things to be caves. I want to spelunk as I dine. Everything I ate at Veselka was perfect and now I miss it every day.
After Veselka I zig-zagged around the Lower East Side forever. Before my trip I went to the library and took out two Frank O'Hara books; I thought it'd be fun to be like Don Draper, reading Meditations in an Emergency in a dark empty New York bar in the middle of a workday and maybe having grand revelations. But then I changed my mind. I just wanted to walk around and look at everything and everybody. I didn’t have any grand revelations, except that I should go to New York more. At one point I stopped at a coffee place and got an iced coffee and sat down a little while to charge my phone and took out my notebook, but all I wrote in it was the word "uncynical." Then I went to Confectionery because Jen May told me to, and I bought a chocolate chip walnut cookie, which Jen was right about being the best cookie in the world.
I walked to Grand Central to get the bus to JFK, and listened to the Clash, especially "Magnificent Seven," which LJ wrote a good thing about last year on Mick Jones's bday. I listened to my Korean BBQ draggy-punk songs and to Santigold and to Rolling Stones songs like "Monkey Man" and "Get Off Of My Cloud." I listened to Wolf Parade and thought deep thoughts like, "Wolf Parade are lifers, man, they're in it for life. To hell with everyone who can't get it up enough to be completely bombastic and romantic and life-or-death about everything all the time forever." And then I thought the thought I always think when I’m feeling exceptionally clearheaded, which is that it would be good to get a tattoo that just says MICK, in all capitals. I don't know where on my body I'd get it, but I still keep thinking about it. A Mick tattoo would mean two different things, and they’d both be about magnificence.