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Driving to Long Island in a 13' tall camper means traversing the BQE, which has to be -- I swear to god -- the bumpiest patch of road outside Mongolia. Throw in the height restriction-necessitated detour through Brooklyn and Queens, and Google Maps' stated 2 hours and 24 minutes of driving time (including traffic!) became almost 5 1/2 hours. Not that I'm complaining though, because I actually enjoyed taking the scenic trip through a pair of outer boroughs, neither of which we would have time to see again for the rest of our stay.
We parked the camper at Katie's aunt Gail's house in gorgeous Bayport, and for a good hour or two I gave it serious consideration as a place I might want to live someday. But then Gail told us about its rampant youth drug problem and the recent spate of racially motivated stabbings (in the Mayberry-ish town of Patchogue, no less), and I reconsidered. Gail was a fantastic tour guide, taking us through the Hamptons and on to Montauk, the farthest point on Long Island, where I tried to get a job playing piano at the Shagwong (sounds like the sort of thing a Brit does to their Asian roommate, no?) to no avail -- it seems knowledge of shucking clams was a prerequisite.
A few days hanging around Bayport catching up on work, then we planned a trip into Manhattan on Friday. Katie's childhood friend Karen was around and offered to give us a tour of the city, and we saw a good chunk: hiked through Central Park (for coffee), Chinatown (for lunch), Little Italy (for pastry), and Gramercy (for envy).
I was scheduled to play the next day at a newish art bar in the LES (that's Lower East Side -- I'm so cool now that I've played there I can call everything by its acronym), and I was pretty nervous. The thought of driving into the country's least drivable city at night and playing a show in the country's (admittedly self-professed) cultural nucleus had me quite intimidated. Add the email I received a few hours before the show saying the New York Times was going to be there, and, well, I was ever so slightly overwrought. It turned out to be a fairly relaxed gig though, with a good turnout and chill vibe. The Times photographer stayed for my entire set and photographed me throughout, but I ultimately didn't make it into the article (which came out on Black Friday) and that's okay -- I'm still good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.
Monday we were back in the city for a pair of photo shoots -- the first for a baptism at St. Patrick's Cathedral, followed by one for amazing NYC artist Michael Marsicano (I neglected to mention a third shoot Katie did in Astoria before the show on Saturday. She shot local musician Linda Laporte, who booked us the gig and is an all-around awesome person and musician). We headed to Katie's friend Denise's (one half of the baptismal parents) posh suite afterward for a stroll and dinner at a hidden burger joint (literally called Burger Joint and stashed sans sign behind the lobby of the Le Parker Meridien hotel), then took a quick hop through FAO Schwartz and the 5th Avenue Apple Store before catching the train back to Long Island.
Great few days, and I actually liked New York City a lot. I think I could live there -- at least when it's 60 degrees and beautiful outside. It also helps that I had the best cup of coffee in my life from a street vendor in Times Square. For $1. That pretty much sums the city up right there: nauseating $14 bacon-infused cocktails from a hidden speakeasy in the East Village, craveworthy $1 cups of coffee from a friendly North African in Times Square, and everything in between.
I <3 NY!