Today we went for lunch at New Green Bo, a much-loved restaurant in Chinatown that looks like it was decorated by people who spent their last dollar on a blindfold: industrial teal walls, circa-1970 posters of (Chinese?) landscapes, scruffy mirrors, grubby tiles, and dented metal chairs. They don't take credit cards, they don't have forks, and you might have to share your table with strangers. But there's a line out the door, because they serve deliciously salty sauteed string beans, wonderfully greasy lo mein, and vegetable dumplings the size of softballs. Most of the menu is under $8, and it's tough to complain about the unpleasant surroundings when you're eating this well for this little.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Yesterday we bumped into a photo shoot, not an entirely uncommon occurrence in New York (a few years ago we wandered onto the set of the Sex and the City finale). Several people had gathered to watch very tall models shed puffy coats (it was kind of chilly) to reveal slinky dresses. Then the women posed poutingly in front of a geometrically designed box, shiny brown on the side facing the camera and completely hollow on the other.
Taking the pictures was Karl Lagerfeld, absolutely imperious in a Blade Runner–esque gray trench coat, fingerless black gloves, and trademark high-collared shirt. His white ponytail didn’t move as he issued commands or strutted from person to person, different angle to different angle. When he motioned for a handbag to be removed from a model’s grasp, not one but two assistants rushed to remove it. When he got ready to take a photograph, another assistant held the camera so that Karl would only have to depress one finger.
This morning, as we rounded the same spot, we overheard a man ask his ten-year-old daughter whether she knew what the terms “sociology,” “trappings of the middle class,” and “luxury” meant. The photo shoot was long gone, but its effects lingered on.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Virtual home to some 822,452 New Yorkers (as of right now), the New York network on Facebook is one of the weirder corners of the internet. Many of the members have their profiles unlocked, so if you're in the network, you can click through and learn all sorts of details about total strangers that might just happen to live next door to you. G.F., for instance, went to college at the University of Alabama, likes Grey's Anatomy, and has a favorite quote of "Hellz Yeah Mofos!!!" Huh. And A.C. went to school in Korea and describes her religious views as "Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so." Thanks to Facebook, we share a virtual bond with G.F. and A.C., but of course, we don't really have anything in common except proximity. In some ways looking at the New York network page is an alienating experience--how could this person make the same choice we did to be here?--but on the other hand, it's perfectly reflective of what New York is: the place for people with nothing in common with anyone else to have in common.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Right before we left for Rome, we had an "only in New York" moment: unfettered, completely unadulterated access to the fifth floor at the Whitney, home to paintings, etc. from its permanent collection. We'd wandered up there from the kind-of-paltry members' only–continental breakfast, as a break from the biennial works on floors 1–4. And there we were, absolutely alone. No other patrons, no security guards. If only we could see all museums like that.
As for the biennial, it was quieter than in years past. Same emphasis on abstract sculpture and video installations, though. The best works explored the materiality of art: how it fades, how it's produced, how it's displayed. We also liked Carol Bove's The Night Sky over New York (above), because we really, really heart art about our favorite city.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Our absolute favorite restaurant in the world--Vatan--is currently being renovated and won't open back up until the fall. We were bereft for weeks until discovering Gaam, a new restaurant run by the same people with the same staff that is serving as a sort of hold-over until Vatan reopens. The food is Gujarati, vegetarian, prix fixe, and all you can eat, served by a costumed waitstaff that guides you through the 20 (!) different dishes that arrive at your table with these words of wisdom: "Watch out for the peppers. They can be tricky." While it's not quite Vatan, which is decorated like an Indian village, complete with a banyan tree and a well, it is delicious. Now we can stand to wait. But not for too long.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
Too often the International Center of Photography, located catty-corner from the main branch of the New York Public Library, gets overshadowed by the city's major museums, which also have extensive holdings in photography. That's sad and all, but having a multitude of museums from which to choose isn't a bad problem to have, from our perspective.
Anyway, right now the ICP has an exhibition of work by contemporary artists that explores the idea of "archive" in order to arrive at some deeper truth(s) about memory and identity and time and history. You might be wondering why the museum would mount a special exhibit of something photography does by its very nature: every photograph, contemporary or not, professional or not, always provides some commentary on memory and identity and time and history. Obviously there's nothing wrong with devoting space to highlighting something the medium does extremely well; we only wish the ICP had alluded to this fact somehow, rather than occluding the exhibition's various captions in layers of academic-speak.
The exhibition includes a series of family snapshots purchased by Tacita Dean at various flea markets (Floh), eerily removed from their context and blown up; images coupled with brief descriptions of victims of gunshot wounds during a one-week period in 1989 by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Untitled [Death by Gunshot]), printed on large sheets of paper and available to take home as a souvenir; a powerful display of the front page of newspapers from around the world on September 12, 2001, by Hans-Peter Feldmann (9/12 Front Page), the first time this work has been shown in one place; and a really neat group of fake photographs of a fictitious lesbian actor from the 1930s (The Fae Richards Archive), complete with gently aged typewritten labels, purportedly discovered in a basement by Zoe Leonard.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
The Museum of the City of New York is currently featuring a dual exhibition of work by the wife-husband artists Yvonne Jacquette and Rudy Burkhardt. Burkhardt's photos of New York street scenes are fascinating, but Jacquette's paintings of nighttime aerial views of the city are the stars here. The paintings are captivating, revealing the quiet spots of darkness in the midst of the energetic light of New York. The strange, almost impossible angles transform the city from a riotous public spectacle to an object of solitary and even peaceful contemplation. They make the city yours alone.
Image from artnet.com
Sunday, March 02, 2008
"All you can eat" is perhaps our favorite four-word phrase, particularly when it's followed by "Indian buffet." For many years it seemed every weekend began with a visit to Surya --- we were such regulars, in fact, that a waiter asked us to travel with him to meet his family in Goa.
We had to decline, sadly, and eventually stopped going (two entirely unrelated events). But we went back recently, and realized we'd been foolish to stay away for so long: pappadum as crispy as can be, cauliflower fritters with chick peas, saag paneer, tandoori chicken, daal, chicken tikka masala, spicy green beans, mango chutney. Yum, and yum.
At night, apparently, this West Village restaurant becomes something of a scene. Not so at Saturday lunch, unless you get off on gawking at us while we load our plates again and again.