Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Anna’s New York

Updated July 24, 2008

First off: some good news. It’s been a long time coming, but though my cough still prompts my boss to say it sounds like I’m in a ward for tuberculosis patients, final edits on the book were submitted one day before my taxes were. (Yes, it was a rather Proustian feat in the end, for those of you familiar with the circumstances under which In Search of Lost Time was written, but I’m trusting the fever didn’t interfere too much.)

As I slowly recover from both the writing and my bronchitis-that-was-possibly-pneumonia, I hope to finally resume a more-consistent blogging schedule. Due to some discussions that have bearing on what Sexless 2.0 may look like, I’m not quite ready to roll out the new version yet, but in the meantime I’ll probably post a few incidental things. This week’s topic (as prompted by a reader request for New York recommendations), a few of my favorite things in that city.

Top picks for espresso
  1. Cafe Regular, Park Slope, Brooklyn (SW corner of 5th Ave. & 11th St.)
  2. Red Horse Cafe, Park Slope, Brooklyn (NE corner of 6th Ave. & 12th St.)
  3. Hungarian Pastry Shop, Manhattan (west side of Amsterdam, north of 110th St.). So maybe the coffee isn’t quite as spectacular here (I don’t exactly remember), but the ambiance and pastries are top-notch. As a bonus, it’s also right by St. John the Divine.
All things French
In general, the west side of 9th Avenue in Manhattan from 22nd Street down to 14th Street or so (right around whatever Episcopal center it is that has such a lovely garden) has several excellent pastry shops and cafes, as I recall. Best crepes: Le Gamin.

Great walks
  1. Brooklyn Bridge, ideally at night.
  2. As much of Broadway as your feet can stand. Walk further than 10-15 blocks, and you’ll get nice sense of several neighborhoods and how rapidly the city can change.
  3. 22nd Street west from roughly 6th to 10th Avenues is a lovely, quiet stroll through historic Chelsea’s charming brownstones. Especially gorgeous in spring and summer and well worth going out of your way if you’re tempted to take 23rd Street instead (to and from the Subway, for instance).
  4. 6th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I used to pace this lovely residential street a good mile up and down almost every night in the heat of writing; there was one month in mid-spring (not long before it started to get so awfully muggy) when the perfume of the trees in bloom was divine. Pretty much from 15th Street north, you’re guaranteed a very fine stroll, and maybe a few good stoop sales besides (depending on the time of day). I’ve also known it to yield some decent furniture.
Favorite yarn stores
  1. P&S Fabric Company, Manhattan (west side of Broadway a few blocks south of Canal; to your right as you walk downtown). It’s not the place for exotic stuff, but this shop has a decent selection of reasonably priced yarns and is a great, cramped source for inexpensive Lion brand basics, needles, hooks and plenty of other wares, including a fabric section I never really explored. The business is Jewish-owned, though, so be prepared for funky weekend hours.
  2. Knit New York, Manhattan (NE corner of 14th St. & 2nd Ave.). The yarn’s a little bit pricey, and I was snapped at once for jotting notes on the brands they had, but there’s also a nice cafe where you can work, trade tips with other knitters, or simply get your joe for the day. I hear they also have quite a lot of classes, even for men.
  3. Brooklyn General (west Cobble Hill, past the freeway). Great little shop with very cool proprieters, several classes and an interesting selection of vintage buttons (not to mention, of course, the yarn).
Brunch standards
  1. Bubby’s in Tribeca. Expect a wait on weekends, but it’s always a nice place to pop in for that New York weekend ritual shared by secular and religious types alike.
  2. 2nd St. Cafe, Park Slope, Brooklyn (SE corner of 7th Ave. & 2nd St.) Also crowded on the weekends, but they have a mix of indoor and outdoor seating, both appointed with paper tablecloths that get pasted on the ceilings and walls if you leave interesting art behind. What better weekend therapy could you ask for?
  3. Dos Caminos, Manhattan (east side of Park Ave., just north 0f 26th St.). As I recall, the weekend brunch is roughly $15, including a cocktail and maybe even coffee. (Also great for dinner, if you’re willing to pay a bit more. I always loved the guac, chopped salad and flaming cosmo or whatever spicy cocktail they have that was so good. And tequila lovers rejoice: there’s quite a selection.)
  4. Coffee Shop, Manhattan (west side of Union Square). Perhaps the first place I brunched in the city, and still a decent spot for mid-priced diner food with a Brazilian flare, if you don’t the often-flighty waitstaff (clearly hired more for their aspirations to modeling and rather bohemian style).
The secret to a great dinner
  1. Freeman’s Alley, Manhattan (somewhere between SoHo and the Lower East Side; just google it for directions; it’s very close to Lorelei, the German bar). I never actually paid for the dinners I ate there, but this place is super-cool and always had an excellent menu. Kind of a hipster hunting lodge vibe, if you can get your mind around that.
  2. Dos Caminos, Manhattan (see above).
  3. Beet, Park Slope, Brooklyn (west side of 7th Ave., just south of the 7th Ave. F-train stop). Very tasty, inexpensive Thai in a very stylish setting.
  4. Magnolia, Park Slope, Brooklyn (NW corner of 6th Ave. & 12 St.). Has a small bar along one end and decent beer/food specials Monday nights, but also serves as an excellent, intimate restaurant with a very prix fixe menu (usually just over $20).
  5. Grimaldi’s, base of the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side. Local-favorite pizza place that always has a line out the door (even for those getting take-out), but offer great eats on a few steps from an even better view. Nice for a casual date, or chilling out on a mellow Saturday night.
When drink is the thing
  1. Rodeo Bar, Manhattan (NE corner of 26th St. & 3rd Ave.). Great Texas-style honkey-tonk with one bar set up in a trailer, and an excellent list of shows coming through every night of the week, always offered with no cover. Where I spent the twilight hours of the ’03 black-out. Favorite app: the Cowboy Kisses (don’t ask, just order, unless you can’t stand hot food).
  2. Cafe Steinhof, Park Slope, Brooklyn (NW corner of 14th St. & 7th Ave.). A very fun little Austrian bar that has $5 goulash, $6 fish on Monday nights, and often has a series of vintage films one night of the week (usually Sunday, if I remember right). One month it was a number of Sidney Poitiers, on other occasions, they’ve had Sound of Music sing-a-longs — yes, really. Very cool ambiance, and sometimes some excellent live music acts as well.
  3. The Campbell Apartment, Manhattan (inside Grand Central Station, toward the SW corner). Vintage cocktails and music in a slightly more chi-chi setting than some of the pubs and bars in the area. I can’t remember the history of the room, but I think it used to be someone’s penthouse or their library.
Bars to tickle your ears
Looking for some live music to chase that beer of yours? These settings were a few of my favorite.
  1. Arthur’s, Manhattan (on Grove St., just off 7th Ave.). One of my first discoveries in the city, and always guaranteed to have a rockin’ band on the stage (bluesy soul with some jazz and rock thrown in). It’s usually pretty packed on the weekends, but we could always shoulder our way in somewhere. If you do land a table, be prepared for the 1 drink/person/set minimum.
  2. Rodeo Bar, Manhatta (see above).
  3. New Living Room, Manhattan (east side of Ludlow, a few blocks south of Houston; check the website, since you’ll want to know what bands are playing anyway). The one-time home of Norah Jones, but still a place where you can hear a few friends of hers, as well as other solid acts like Julia Darling.
  4. Detour, Manhattan (NE corner 13th St. & 2nd Ave.). Inexpensive jazz bar in the East Village. Cover is rarely more than $5-10 as I recall, and most acts I heard the few times I went there always put on a good show.
Other shopping and such destinations
  1. The Strand, Manhattan (east side of Broadway, just south of 14th St.). Famous bookstore I came to love for the ease of selling books I’d found on the street in my neighborhood, and their excellent selection of picture-book day planners after the new year.
  2. New York Public Library, Manhattan (SW corner of 42nd St. & 5th Ave.). Even if you’re not much for books, the outside architecture is legendary (allegedly the lions roar when a virgin walks past), and it’s right on the edge of one of my favorite lawns in the city: Bryant Square Park. Especially nice in the spring and late summer afternoons.
  3. Brooklyn Bridge — a great walk at night, and my favorite of the city’s more touristy landmarks (probably because it’s equally used by locals).
  4. B&H Photo & Video, Manhattan (SE corner of 9th Ave. & 34th St.). Even if you already know this place for their very affordable prices on electronics, film and photography paper, there’s nothing quite like the interior of this Orthodox Jewish-owned business. Surely there’s some small gadget or battery you can buy, just to find your way along their version of the yellow brick road ... Just don’t forget the funky weekend hours.
Well, I think I’m almost getting nostalgic now. Good thing I’ve got another quick weekend trip there next month!

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