Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Visit From The Coast

Today I had the wonderful surprise of palling around the city with my good friend Lauren Gucik, an IU alum and now San Francisco resident. We walked all around the city, covering the bases from Harlem to the Waldorf Astoria to Chinatown and the East Village. It was so, so nice to visit with her during this unexpected visit. We began the day on Lexington Ave, home of the many, many overpriced clothing and homewear stores. It's where the rich go to stay so sheik. It's also the area home to notable places like the Plaza hotel and the Waldorf Astoria. After a little powwow, we hopped on the train and decided to check out a strip of Harlem. It was still morning, so we thought we'd give it a shot, instead of getting shot. We popped out of the subway and passed by several little restaurants and tiendas before walking up to Marcus Garvey Park to eat our lunch. Funny, all the streets and parks had names like MLK or Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey Blvd, lots of the names of my AAADS education in college. At the park, we climbed this little plaza on the top of a giant rock. It was an interesting and beautiful place and had a nice view of the Upper half of Manhattan. We also got a little view of some 'local activity,' lots of single passersby, just sort of hanging out in the plaza. Now, perhaps they were all on their lunch break from work, though I think that was mostly the case of the many people on the park benches at the bottom of the rock. Our suspicion was that they were either drug dealers or some of the "down low" brothers looking for, well, their brothers. Needless to say, they didn't need anything from us. After descending the rock, which I was ready to do, we strolled down the street a little bit then decided to hop the bus to check out the historic Cotton Club. Once on the bus, we passed the historic Apollo Theater and several of the goings on of central Harlem. Off the bus, we scooted over towards the Cotton Club. On our way, there was tiny, tiny old woman scooting along the road with her walker. As we walked through an intersection, a great gust of wind rushed through the street and blew the little lady right over - onto Lauren! After a few moments, we got her upright and back on her way. It was very, very sad, to see the fear and embarrassment in her eyes, as she meekly said, "Thank you." I wonder who this little old woman was before she was a little old woman. Was she beautiful? Did she have a job? A husband? Children? And where was she headed? This is certainly a difficult enough city for the young and directionally challenged, I can't imagine spending my advanced years right in the city, yet many of them do, and live alone at that. It's one thing to think about the many senior citizens safely tucked away into little, gentle (well, for the most part) New Castle, and the troubles they surely face, but these senior citizens of the city are completely hidden from view and passed by by the army of young professionals on the fast track and busloads of tourists here to admire New York glitz and glamour. I'm glad it's not my job to take care of all these people, attempting to find them housing and healthcare. Surely Medicare and Social Security, flawed programs they may be, are deeper and faster than one really thinks.
We did eventually make it to the Cotton Club (ironically painted a very white-wash white). It is a very small place, maybe the size of the Ice House, but yet the such an iconic figure of the Harlem Renaissance and 20's and 30's culture in New York. We weren't able to go inside, but we found it! Next, we hopped onto a crowded 1 train to head downtown to Chinatown. We quite literally went from the top of the island to the bottom. Talk about a change up! Harlem is essentially a very homey neighborhood, not a lot of tourists and without a lot of the hustle and bustle of the city. Chinatown on the other hand, is overgrown with tourists and loud, tacky signs in both English and Chinese (or Korean or Japanese or Vietnamese or . . .), and street vendors (Louis Vutton? Fendi? You want a Fendi?). We walked around for a bit before finding a little restaurant to get some munchies. We had some wonderful dumplings and lo mein, for those are perhaps the basis of our friendship. After re-negotiating our bill with the waiter (he had some creative math), we walked around the neighborhood a bit more, then headed uptown to meet up with another friend in the East Village. After making the trek, in which we had to inevitably empty our bladders in the super nice Whole Foods, we arrived at our destination, The Crocodile Lounge. We chose this particular establishment because, with any drink purchase, you receive a free small cheese pizza. Yes, a legit, home made pizza. So, the rest of our afternoon consisted of bargaining with the bartender and eating little cheese pizzas. Who could ask for anything more?
Now, back in Astoria, I am getting for bed and preparing another day back to the audition circuit. Tomorrow, they are holding auditions for the Non-Equity national tour of Cabaret, one of my favorite musicals. It's also a little more in my personal ouvre, so I am looking forward to this audition a little more than It's a Wonderful Life from Monday (disaster). So, we shall see what tomorrow holds for me. For now, I am glad to be safe and warm at home, a belly still full of pizza, thankful for the many possibilities and opportunities in front of me.


  1. My dear Bradley, I miss you! I have begun enjoying your tales from the city and love catching up with the happenings in your life! Keep writing! I'll keep reading!! Love you bunches!! Muah!!

  2. I'm so glad you are enjoying my blog! I miss you too, it has been a long, long, long time! Let me know if the wind ever brings you East; I'd love to see you. You should become one of my 'followers' lol. Hope all is well in your camp!