After three weeks here I’m finally starting to feel a little less like a tourist gimp from nowheresville. Our new apartment is a pre-war building in Hell’s Kitchen on a picturesque, tree-lined one way street in Hell’s Kitchen, a couple of blocks from Times Square in the Theatre District.
Times Square is truly spectacular at night, no matter how often you visit
Hell’s Kitchen is so-called because until quite recently it was run by Irish and Italian gangs (the latter of which incidentally, apparently run all the garbage collection for Manhattan). These days it’s better described as a pretty Soddom & Gomorrah, given the prevalent gay population recently ejected upwards from Chelsea and the Meatpacking District by increasingly turgid housing costs.
Our apartment building, Fall 2009
I have so far collected the take-out menus of around 40 different restaurants within a couple of blocks, and I doubt that’s half the joints. There’s heaps of pizza and Mexican of course (praise the gods), including Ethiopian, Indonesian, Turkish, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Italian, French, Japanese, Greek, Dominican, Spanish, Brazilian and more. Incidentally, this week I happened across a tiny Mexican grocery / bodega called Tehuitzingo that reviewers have raved about as serving “the best tacos in Manhattan”. Rest easy that I’ll investigate this claim further for you. All the restaurants deliver for free, including the convenience stores, and almost everyone has lunch specials for less than 10 bucks.
Our entire apartment is the size of an average living room. Comfy though.
In bleak news for my liver, the mom & pop convenience stores on every corner (they’re called Delis here) usually carry a better beer selection than specialty liquor stores back home, and often make custom sandwiches of every description a la Subway, only so much better.
Twilight in Hell’s Kitchen
I’ve also landed next to not one but two phenomenal brewpubs. The Irish pub House of Brews on 46th Street (also known as Restaurant Row) boasts a selection of 80 different craft beers both local and from around the world, while Pony Bar on 10th Avenue has a fairly unique shtick: there’s 20 different American craft beers on tap, and every time a keg runs dry they replace it with a different beer, so the beer menu changes daily. Did I mention that I love American craft beer? Americans have been leading the world in craft beer for a while now so I am busy having nerdgasms every day.
(Pony Bar image www.NYbarfly.com)
To top off this awesomeness there’s also an amazing beer and cheese craft store on the end of my block. Beer. Cheese. Together!
I am so unsophisticated.
I think the thing I love most about Manhattan at the moment is just walking the streets. There are literally people from everywhere here, and from every socioeconomic level. I find the amount of homeless people quite unnerving, but then I also think, ‘hey, you’re a homeless guy in the greatest city in the world. Better than being homeless in Wanganui.’ And because it’s so flat and compact everyone walks, so there’s always a certain frisson. And incredible architecture. It’s a buzz.
I’m also loving the street art and advertising, which is everywhere, and has high production values and / or incredible originality.
Poster hoarding ads for a $1 New York lottery had a certain Kiwi ring
Street art in Greenwich Village
You can do amazing things for free, like go to a live taping of The Daily Show (only a few blocks from chez Mitch), so that’s what I did with a kiwi photographer friend who’s married to a New Yorker. Bit of a fluke as it’s usually booked out a year ahead. You have to queue for about 2 hours and go through pretty heavy airport-style security, but it’s quite fun once you’re in. The only way it could be more fun is if there was free beer. Serena Williams was the guest (full episode here) and Jon Stewart was quite taken with her charms. I’m off to a Colbert Report taping in January after being smiled upon by the ticket reservation gods once again.
Spot the guy who likes beer & cheese outside the Daily Show studio
Incidentally I also had a lot more fun during Halloween than I usually do back home, owing to 4 out 5 New Yorkers dressing up for it, and virtually every store getting into the theme of it as well – it really adds to the atmosphere on the streets. It was incredibly hot and sticky, real sub-tropical weather, and I went as Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Economically I only bought a fake butcher’s knife and some fake blood for my suit to round out the package before setting off for Brooklyn and Queens for a couple of parties; good times.
Needless to say, I highly recommend New York. For everything.