Bookmark This Bar

27 02 2009

Midtown Manhattan is, for the most part, a no man’s land when it comes to interesting places to dine or drink. I’ve recently, however, discovered Bookmarks, a smart little lounge atop the Library Hotel. I give fair warning now: when I visited this bar the other night the service was not so hot. But what it lacks in character, it makes up for in charm. Some may call the book theme kitchsy, but I, book nerd that I am, adored it. The list of unique (and extra strength) cocktails is long, and all bear the names of literary greats. Dickens has one, as does Hemingway (which, by the way, happens to be misspelled). I actually had my first taste of absinthe in a drink called, appropriately, the Oscar Wilde.

On the one side the mahogany-walled writer’s den has a working fireplace to defrost the brain on those cold winter nights. On the other side, the poetry garden invokes a seaside artist summer home, the type of retreat creative types need for relaxation and fresh ideas, if, of course, by retreat you mean a view up at the big buildings of Midtown. But somehow that is refreshing and idea-sparking in itself.

Bookmarks is located on the 14th floor of the Library Hotel, 299 Madison Ave at 41st St, (212) 204-5498





Unexpected Happy Ending(s)

27 03 2008

Today’s post was supposed to be the first of my book(s about travel) review series. It will be, but not in the way I’d intended. It seems I got sidetracked.

Yesterday’s New York Times UrbanEye email alerted me to the Happy Ending reading series, which held a reading last night at (surprise) Happy Ending Lounge in the Lower East Side. Yes, the bar’s name refers to its seedy past, when it was an “erotic massage parlor.” I’ve never been downstairs but imagine that the self-described “1960’s Las Vegas” vibe must pay more homage to its former incarnation than the sophisticated red velvet booths on street level. Either way its sign-less facade on a deserted street feels a bit speakeasy-esque.

But last night was about the reading series, which was not only phenomenal but particularly apropos given my upcoming (as in—yikes!—next week) writing group meeting, for which I’ve done nothing, except decide (another yikes! for good measure) that it’s finally time to let go of those novel chapters I’ve been hanging onto since college. But the evening was brimming with talent, and, as luck would have it, inspiration. Happy ending number two. But enough about me…

Amanda Stern hosts the music and reading series at Happy Ending on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month (summers off), where readers gather to sip complicated (but delicious) cocktails from Happy’s long list while singers sing and writers read. Each reader must take some sort of public risk while the singer of the evening has to get the audience to sing along to one cover song. (Supple-voiced folk singer Kelley McRae, whose own songs render chills, sang En Vogue’s Giving Him Something He Can Feel but the audience was a little shy—or just too entranced by her voice.)

Artist Matthew Bokkam read from his 2006 project “The New York City Museum of Complaint,” a tabloid/newspaper he created of letters of complaint compiled from the New York City municipal archives. The gist of his findings: New Yorkers complain. About everything. Just last night we heard from a man requesting that Mayor LaGuardia champion the right of burlesque dancers to be more, well, burlesque, and from a woman who had a list of complaints longer than my ever-growing to do list (odd thing was many of her would-be outlandish hardships—like not having heat—were things I’ve experienced). Bokkam’s risk, as an act of sympathy for said women, was to read her letter with a quarter stuck up his nose. Well done. (Un)happy ending number 4.

And now for the book review portion of this post, even if it’s not the book review I initially intended, nor even one I’ve yet read. Tod Wodika read from his newly published novel with the elaborate title, All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well about a mixed up historical re-enactor who takes his re-enacting a little too seriously. Not only well-written but utterly hilarious. I was so excited by the 10 minutes he read that I can promise a more thorough review to come. In the mean time, suffice to say it’s travel enough in its jumps from modern to Middle Age worlds. And if it has a happy ending, all the better.

And one last thought that proved to be an unexpected delight of an evening. I got to speak with Amanda afterward about my latest project, and not only was she excited but willing to partake. The project being that of bringing a part of my beloved Litquake, otherwise known as San Francisco’s amazing, stupendous literary festival, here to New York. More on that one later. For now, it makes yet another happy ending (so many that I’ve lost count).





Horsing Around

18 03 2008

Ginobli mingles with some furry friends on the way to the parade.
Ginobli mingles with some furry friends on the way to the parade.
It’s amazing how much joy a stuffed (pet) horse can bring. The horse, Ginobli belongs to Libby, and I’ve come to think of myself as his honorary aunty.

A few important things to know about Ginobli (or Ginobs as his friends know him):

  • Libby “won” him (but he’s a free horse so we don’t say that around him) at Dave and Busters two years ago and he’s been part of the family ever since.
  • He’s named after NBA star Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs. (Another fact of interest: Manu is from Bahia Blanca in southern Argentina.)
  • He’s not just a stuffed horse, and he’s certainly not a dog. He’s a Clydesdale.
  • His favorite song is Crazy Horses by The Osmonds. And…
  • He makes friends everywhere he goes.

Ginobli on the wall.

Ginobli meets his twin.
Resemblance? I think so.

Yesterday, Ginobs went to St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York. He started at the end, on 86th Street and worked his way down to the Met at 82nd, charming many a spectator along the way.

Ginobli and the big green hat.

He was so popular, grand marshal Tommy Smyth was probably jealous. He even acquired presents along the way, like a glittery green bowler hat from a kind lady whose child refused to wear it.

Ginobli’s Marach calendar shot.
The parade itself was your usual parade fare: walls of firemen and law enforcement marched, along with a few school groups, several bag-piping troupes, and ladies and gents in antique garb. Far more amusing were the crowds that populated its sidelines. We’re talking hardcore Irish here: giant green hats, gold sequined pants, green hair, necklaces, anything you might think of. These New Yorkers love their St. Pat’s.

But the parade is only the precursor to the massive party that followed in Irish pubs around the city (specifically, as I noted earlier, on Third Ave.) After all the crowd entertaining, Ginobs was tired and cold and insisted on having one beer, so off we stopped at Pat O’Brien’s. Almost immediately we were engulfed by firemen cheering for Ginobli, taking photos with him, and insisting on buying his mother and aunt (whom I think they felt sorry for since we’re both jobless) beers, so that ONE beer turned into three or four, and Ginobli found himself crowd surfing.

Ginobli and the crowd.

All in all, an eventful day for Ginobs. And Libby and I learned a few things too…

  • Wandering around the streets with a huge stuffed horse will get you some pretty strange looks, unless you’re at the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  • Horsing around gives you a whole new perspective on otherwise somewhat ordinary experiences.
  • Horsing around is a lot more fun with a real (stuffed) horse (er, I mean Clydesdale) around.




The Other Green Travel

16 03 2008

St. Patrick’s Day is not just a day in the tri-State area. The Irish set here really make the revelry last. As long as they can. The festivities start with the Hoboken Parade (usually the first weekend in March). Die-hard Irish and party devotees head across the river for a day of green beer and raucous parties. I’ve not attended myself, but have heard from friends that it’s chaos in the streets and there are lines to get into the bars.

Then comes St. Patty’s itself, which is marked by a whole weekend (whichever falls closer the the actual day) of green-clad Manhattanites, and many visitors, stumbling through Manhattan’s street at all hours of the night, and all hours of the day for that matter. These devotees aren’t messing around: the party often starts with beer over breakfast.

Though there are Irish bars and pubs all over the city, I’ve decided that Third Ave. between 18th Street and 30th Street is the Irish pub hub. Last night, decked out in my own green (and no, I don’t own green stilettos, nor even green shoes for that matter, though perhaps they should go on the list), I made my way up Third Ave. to meet some friends at the Mad Hatter. Along the way I passed Pug Uglies—where last year I saw a real Irish band, in full traditional dress, parade through the world’s tiniest (and most crowded) parade route—and several other Irish bars, all drenched in green lights and overflowing with the aforementioned green devotees, now barely able to walk due to the day’s long party.

The scene at the Mad Hatter was about the same as its pub neighbors, and after one beer my friends and I retired to the next likely St. Pat’s party place: Mexicana Mama’s, where we swapped guiness and U2 for the less traditional margarita and Mariachis. Somehow it was no less crowded, however. We waited an hour for our table, but the great food and the Mariachi serenade (we chose the ever-popular “De Colores“) made the wait worth it.

We ended the night with one last Guiness (which I only pretended to drink, ssh don’t tell) at O’Neill’s Irish Pub, also, remarkably, on Third Ave. but in the Forties (see, I must be onto something), where we listened to an Irish band and watched in rapture as the guy on the end gently tapped a large drum-like instrument (yes, that is the technical term). Over the crowds at this point, I didn’t enjoy the music for very long before I was ready to go home.

I’ll make up for it tomorrow when I visit the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade (the perks of not having a day job). It starts at 44th Street (at 11 a.m.) and winds its way up Fifth Ave., stopping near St. Patrick’s Cathedral where the Archbishop of New York, His Eminence Cardinal Edward Eaganwill watch and bless the parade. Given my penchant for partaking in parades, I’ll be avoiding the temptation this time around by watching closer to the end (86th Street), and then I’ll report back tomorrow.