Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Helluva Town

James Scott Bell
The Bronx is up and the Battery's down. The people ride in a hole in the ground. – Betty Comden and Adolph Green, On the Town

I love New York. Last week I was there, teaching at the first-class 2011 Writer's Digest Conference. Great turnout despite the cold. How cold was it in the city? It was so cold I saw a lawyer standing on the corner with his hands in his own pockets.


But yeah, it was not walking around weather. At least not a lot. But my wife and I didn't let that stop us. We had a couple of meals with Mort, my former NY apartment mate (from my acting days) and with my agent, Don Maass. Stayed at a great boutique hotel on the East side, the Elysee on 54th, which I highly recommend if you're looking for convenient location (we took the Air Train from JFK, then the E train to within a block of the hotel) and complimentary evening wine and hors d'oeuvres.

We ended up doing a lot, though we didn't take in a show. We're not crazy about the gigantic musicals. We prefer Off Broadway. So we were tempted to go see Alan Rickman in John Gabriel Borkman at BAM, but decided traveling to Brooklyn in sub-zero weather to take in an Ibsen play might lead to intractable despair and pretty much cloud the rest of the trip.

We did get up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we were blown away by the wall sized piece called "Earth and Heaven" by African artist El Anatsui.  Also by the exhibition of photographs by Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand. I love photography from the early 20th century, when the art of it was just getting underway. Amazing the emotion Stieglitz captured with such primitive equipment.

They also had a Rodin exhibit that knocked me out. He's like Van Gogh with sculpture. Intense and riveting. You know, if you could write first drafts with the feeling of a Rodin, you'd be 90% of the way toward successful fiction.

Ah, the food. Here are places we ate that I would recommend:

Indigo Indian Bistro, 357 E. 50th Street. Family owned, pleasantly run and just the right spices.

I Trulli, 121 E. 27th. Wonderful Italian fare.

Rocking Horse Café, 8th Ave. and 19th. Excellent Mexican in Chelsea.

Also, the street hot dog guy on 7th and 52d.

Don't miss the High Line next time you get to NY. No, wait a second. Do miss the High Line when it's below zero wind chill. Cindy and I walked about a quarter mile of it before we cried for mercy and ducked for cover in the new Chelsea Market. Now that's a great place to hang out, in any weather. They've got upscale stores and markets and live music, all in the old National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) building.

I guess, at heart, I'm a city boy. I grew up in L.A., lived in New York and Chicago. I love London and San Francisco in doses. Nashville's a nice town. I'm down with Denver, too.

What about you? What's your favorite city to visit?  Or if the city is not your thing, where would you go with a free pass from an airline and a hotel?


  1. The post was worth it just for the lawyer joke. LOL!

    I'm soooooooooo not city-oriented. I don't even need a plane ticket. I'd be glad to live out the rest of my days at Faraway Ranch at Chiricahua National Monument. (or just about any isolated spot to be found in AZ).

  2. I've always lived on the outskirts of a city (grew up across the bay from San Francisco, live in Long Beach now), but I do love being in the heart of a city now and then. My favorite is Edinburgh, because you can walk to anything, and there's a castle in the middle of it. Pretty cool.

  3. Cities ain't my thing. I yearn for a tropical wilderness. Closest I ever came was northern Mexico, which really wasn't close at all. I have fantasized about those over the water chalets on Bora-Bora or sitting in a hammock high on a tropical oceans mountain snuggling with my wife. The other dream I have, well my wife's dream really, is to take one of those wine country hot air balloon rides. My dream is to fulfill it for her and see her bright smile with blue skies and puffy cotton hall clouds floating past.

  4. I was born in NYC and went to grad school there. I've always worked in cities, and visited, but prefer to live in the 'burbs.

    That said, Philly is a friendly city, where you can see the sky. If I had to live in a city, instead of commuting, I'd choose Philly.

    For visiting, I loved London, Athens and Sydney - you could stay in a nice neighborhood and easily get everywhere you wanted to go.

  5. i love to spend a weekend in a fav is chicago. but in the long run, traverse city, michigan is where my heart is. a lovely northern michigan coastal town, that over the course of the years has morphed into rural with a good shot of urban. it's a foodie heaven with mario batali [italian chef from the food network] summering there...michael moore [love him or hate him] is on his 5th year of a film festival that has gained a lot of popularity, vinyards, wineries, cherry orchards, sleeping bear dunes nat'l lakeshore and of course the jewel of lake michigan [no salt, no sharks, no worries]. we have interlochen nat'l arts academy if a need for symphonies, ballet or a great summer concert program. so, i'm with a lot of kill zoners...i'm a rural girl. p.s....anyone interested in it's beauty can google life on the 45th parallel and see that i'm not kiddin' you.

  6. kathy, I have a great aunt in Traverse City. It's as you describe. Cool (literally).

  7. Basil Basil in Bora Bora. And up in the air.
    Basil Basil everywhere.

  8. I went to journalism school in NYC, and never fell in love with the city like so many people do. Too crowded and impatient for me. My favorite city in the world is Paris--I'd love to live there in fact. It's crowded and impatient, too. So go figure!

  9. First of all, you're right, the WD conference was great, helped along quite nicely by your outstanding sessions.

    If I could live anywhere, I'd pick a remote lakehouse. Preferably somewhere out west. But if just for a visit, Dublin's the place to be.

  10. Having lived in New York for a couple of years I have a soft spot for the place but London is still the city I love the most. If I had a free airline pass I would go back there even though I have visited so many times before. I am a city girl deep down - hmmm so why am I now living close to the Australian bush?!

  11. I grew up here in Kansas City and have never been to NYC or LA. Chicago is the biggest place I've been. In the service I lived in San Antonio, Colorado Springs and Back to KC as a recruiter during Viet Nam. (Talk about a tough sales environment!)

    Kansas City has everything I need: Art, Theater, Libraries and Barbecue. And just enough city to count, while still being close to chickens that actually know what dirt is.

    My favorite getaway destination is Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, Colorado. I could live there...


  12. New York sounds like THE place to visit, and I hope to see it one day. Love your description of everything!

    I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada but have also lived in Toronto and Calgary. My favourite places to be, however, are at our remote lakeside cabin or even farther north, RVing in the Yukon. I love the rural life.

    Given a free airline ticket I'd use it to head for the Highlands of Scotland or Southern Ireland where our families originated.

  13. I love visiting Manhattan! It's only about 5 hours from my city, but really another world away. My favorite place to eat there is Cleopatra's Needle (it's the setting of a short story of mine) and my favorite place to walk there is--anywhere! It's all so interesting! I was last there to see Jude Law as Hamlet on Broadway. I wish I could afford to go more often. I wish I could afford to live there!