Wednesday April 4, 7:30 PM
Very tempted to head back to New York for tomorrow nights' Habs-Rangers showdown. On somebody else's dime of course, so it's not happening. Will definately look at organizing some kind of Team 990 excursion, perhaps later in the baseball season when Pedro Martinez returns to the Mets rotation.
A decade ago, CIQC radio organized a contest/trip to New York to watch the Expos take on the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. I hosted my show from the pressbox but at 7 PM I left The Bronx to head to Manhattan. Six years ago I drove down with Shaun Starr for the Expos-Mets series that had been pushed back because of 9/11. Instead of attending all four games at Shea, I took the opportunity to spend thursdsay through saturday drinking/dining and experiencing so much of what the city has to offer. Starr, a big baseball fan himself, had never been to New York and quickly realized that Manhattan was more interesting than whatever the Expos or Mets were doing in Queens and decided to hang with me. We watched the friday night game from an Irish bar while finally making it to Shea for the series finale on sunday afternoon. Jeffrey Loria joined us for a moment, waving a copy of that nasty cartoon in Le Journal de Montreal.
Like the old slogan, I Love New York. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I actually lived there but I really don't think so. There's a rhythym and an energy to the city that I absolutely feed off. It's almost chemical. Maybe I lived a previous life in Greenwich Village but I believe I am more of myself when I'm there than anywhere else, except perhaps in a radio studio. It feels like home.
I have great respect and admiration for my late sister who was an aritist and aspiring actress. Not content to remain in Montreal she decided to move to New York while in her 30's and lived there, not without some difficulty, until the day she died in July of 1998. She too adored the city. Maybe it's in our blood.
I'm often asked how I can afford to head down as often as I do. It's not easy. But there are ways, especially with a small group of people, where you can enjoy the scene for less than you think. Here's a bit of a guide:
When I'm alone I stay in a small (closet sized) but very clean room in the Union Square area. I don't need space in a hotel room where I am only going to sleep and shower. It's a short walk to The Village and SoHo and so many of the places I like to hang out at including the Strand bookstore where I once ran into Willem Dafoe loading a crateful of used books into the back of a friends pick up truck. www.strandbooks.com
The Virgin Megastore is located in the heart of Union Square. Why wait weeks for a CD in Montreal when it's already on display at Virgin? And like The Strand you could spend hours browsing through cd's, dvd's, boxsets and books that you can't possibly find here at home.
If it's import, hardcore, punk or "special" recordings you're looking for than head a few blocks south to Thompson. I've spent way too much money in there over the years on many recordings that are becoming obsolete as Dylan and Neil Young are now releasing their own bootleg series.
Among the food places to hit in The Village are John's Pizza and Arturo's. The pizza at both joints are made in coal ovens, which no longer exist anywhere else in the city. It's the best pizza I've ever had. John's is on Bleeker Street (and in midtown) and is strictly about the pies (no slices). Arturo's is much more of a hang out with a variety of fabulous Italian food.
If it's a burger you want head to another legendary joint, The Corner Bistro on West 4th. If you're still thirsty head to Hudson and 11th where The White Horse Tavern awaits as it has since 1880, with a wall-sized image of Dylan Thomas who drank himself to death at the establishment in 1953.
If you're a music fan a stroll down to Prince Street in SoHo is a must. The Morrison Hotel Gallery features astonishing portraits of some of the greatest names in music history shot by some of the greatest photographers in music history.
Last weekend, before I headed to Woodstock, I attended a couple of small shows. Rocky Votolato is an interesting singer-songwriter who can remind you of early Springsteen or perhaps Jakob Dylan. I have a couple of his cd's but had never seen him. So I headed to The Knitting Factory in the TriBeca section of Manhattan. Jam packed and over heated I was hoping it was worth the trek. It wasn't. He sang in barely a whisper, played in virtually the same key the entire set and accompanied himself with a recorded rythym section. The place went nuts. I went up to the Rodeo Bar at 3rd and 27th to catch Elana James and The Continental Two. This was old time country music at its best with no cover.
Last friday in New York was a fabulous day. Sunny and 68 degrees. I decided to take the opportunity to do something I had never done before. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
It's a mile walk each way but there is a subway stop on site if your feet give out. Even without the World Trade Center the views on the bridge are breathtaking. I don't know why I waited so long.
Later that night I attended The Allman Brothers show at the Beacon Theatre. I'm a big fan of both guitarists, Warren Haynes and Dereck Trucks, but on this night my seats were too far off to the side to fully appreciate their work. Besides I had been terribly distracted prior to the show at Yogi's, another legendary spot, a block north of the Beacon. So prior to the end of the first set I headed back. And stayed until my empty stomach forced me a couple of blocks north to Big Nick's. After sampling everything in their kitchen I headed back to Yogi's and waited for the post show crush while dancing the night away to umpteen renditions of "Whipping Post" that poured out of the jukebox while Knob Creek was poured into me. A great night.
Closing time meant a 50 block cab ride to the Chelsea Hotel, made famous by the aformentioned Thomas, who collapsed in his room after his drinking binge at The White Horse; Thomas Wolfe, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin and countless other artists/writers and bohemians. The place is huge, filled with valuable and not so valuable artwork on every available wallspace with some surprisingly affordable rooms. The lobby itself is a show of eccentrics by eccentrics. And dogs are constantly being walked in and out. The staff is very friendly. And the room? By Manhattan standards it was almost earily quiet.
Woke up Saturday morning to a breakfast at The Empire Diner. Don't remember walking in. But I do remember sitting at the counter, waiting for an omelette while coming to the rescue of a waiter who couldn't figure out the name of a former Met who's picture he had taken the night before. It was Ed Kranepool. The Met, not the waiter.
Then it was up to Woodstock. The rest, as Red Fisher would say, you know.
Other NYC locations worth checking out:
Music: Irving Plaza, Mercury Lounge, Red Lion (live music till 4 AM), Joe's Pub, The Living Room, Bowery Ballroom, Town Hall, Supper Club, Blue Note, Iridium Jazz Club (Les Paul every monday night), BB King Blues Club
Comedy: Comedy Cellar, Gotham, Caroline's
Always be observant in New York. Among the famous I've seen and met:
Vinnie "Mad Dog" Lopez (original E Street drummer)
Steve Van Zandt
Barry Shenk (Simpson DNA lawyer)
George Recile (Dylan's drummer)
Charlie Rangel (Congressman)
David Dinkins (Former mayor)
Favorite NY Rangers:
1. Eddie Giacomin
2. Glen Sather
3. Bobby Rousseau
4. Steve Vickers
5. Dave Maloney
6. James Patrick
7. Nick Fotiu
8. John Davidson
9. Adam Graves
10 PJ Stock