While here for my short time, I continue to explore the streets, the communities, the neighborhoods, the retailers, the proprietors, the leashed dogs, the unleashed dogs, the bicyclists, the drivers, the mad homeless…even last night as I walked blocks south on W. Broadway home, I had many a howdy-do with the garbage men whose job, in the dark of the night, is to haul thousands upon thousands of trash bags into the trucks before the heat of the morning causes them to create an unbearable stench. Last evening was cool, so besides the stacks acting as obstacles on otherwise clear sidewalks, they hadn’t reached nightmare stage yet.
While Saturday and Sunday served as “personal research on foot” days and nights, I’ve allowed myself to be swept away by the advice of others. That and stacks of New York magazines. A friend of a friend and I met at the East Village’s The Beagle, a suggestion by my friend Mark, whose abundant lists sit in my “to do” box. During my cab ride there, my cabbie asked if I was having a good day, to which I replied an enthusiastic, “So far so good!” He said, “Did you bring home $2,000?” I said, “What?” He repeated his question. Laughing, I remarked, “This isn’t Las Vegas (and I should have added, I’m not a hooker, thank you very much)!” Mr. Cabbie looked back into the rearview mirror, deeply into my eyes and said seriously,”If you want to live here, you must make at least that much daily.” Either the universe is speaking to me in the form of a cab driver, or he is working for the “Only the wealthy are allowed to live on this island” Committee, probably formed by Mayor Bloomberg. Only he’d add “healthy.”
The Beagle, is small, cozy, intimate, dark, and a place where, should you want to have a one on one conversation and actually understand each other, do so at your own risk, or do it when there is pretty much no one there. We were accomplishing the latter at 7:15pm, he on the bench, me on the chair facing him, two empty tables on either side of us. It was a good “get to know you” conversation. He tried a beer he later said tasted like well, urine, and I had a gin drink, sweet and icy. Then we both went for red wine. Around this time, the crowd began to swell and swelled up to the empty seats and tables around us. A young canoodling couple on one side, a loud (and do I mean LOUD) and obnoxious group next to us. The girl or “mouth” next to him was so unnerving and distracting, I had to stop mid-sentence and just look at her, to really believe that she had to yell to her three table mates, who, as it were, were basically sitting on her lap the place is so small.
Leaving the adult romper room, we decided to walk a bit. I’d never been to the East Village, always had stayed on the West side during any visits. The energy was certainly different, more hipster, urban, young vibe, where starving performing artists could strum guitars, and belt out or croon songs, later to have dollars dropped into a hat for tips, then one day they are randomly discovered and bam, iTunes, here they come. The busy sidewalks were filled with drinkers, diners, Manhattanites smoothly moving from one venue to the next. Our own next was Desnuda, which if I thought the first place was small, this certainly trumped it. And could fit inside The Beagle. Three times. Consisting of a window bench, a long bar and a single bathroom (where was the kitchen? Right in the bar), there was no seating for dining, belly up eating only. The limited menu was fine for we wine drinkers (Tempranillo) but to munch, it was basically ceviche. Should I have eaten dinner before going, I would not have been able to fit past the 5 inches between the wall and the barstools to get to the bathroom. Tight squeeze. Very. Next thing we knew, the full bar had emptied and the tattooed chief/cook/bottlewasher kindly called out to let us know we could join, however we declined and decided to cab to the Lower East side and hit Pianos – aka the best burger in NYC.
At least that’s what my friend titled it. This was a dingy hole in the wall as industrial as you can get without even trying, filled wall to wall with artsy hipsters probably 10 years my junior, wearing bored looks as they sipped their beers and talked over the music. Was this a scene from some movie? We ascended the metal stairs to an empty second floor with a bar and REALLY LOUD rock music, which later was turned into ’80’s (including Thriller) and kids who looked like they were born in the ’80’s. We settled on a sofa, checked out the wildly weird fake animal display through the glass and ordered burgers. I, the turkey burger. It was literally the best burger ever. So flavorful, almost spicy, but just done to perfection, the buns were English muffins, soft and big and the cheese was overflowing. The fries were large, rusticly-cut, with a nice crunch (I loathe soft fries). Did I eat the entire thing? Well, I confess, I left only one bite. It was that damn good.
Our next and final destination was Rockwood Music Hall, yet another dark room with concrete floors, sparse seating (we grabbed the last two stools), and a bar. This place had a stage, hence music hall. I was told that about every 30 or 45 minutes, another singer is assigned to the stage. The schedule can be found online. Genres vary, but we walked into the middle of one of the most depressing, talented yes, but buzz-mood-killing guitar singers. By the time he was done, I was either ready to butter knife myself to death or just fall off the stool and find a corner to sleep until morning. I won’t have to take a sleeping aid tonight, I noted.
The evening drew to a close and we hoofed it back west and I south. Along the way, I watched kitchen staff throw trash bags onto the sidewalks, couples hold hands as they left last call, groups of young girls giggling and running down the street together, men lighting up cigarettes, talking in a foreign language intensely, only stopping to cat call me in French, and yes, I spotted a rat (or as my friend in DC calls them “urban night squirrels”). He/she/it seemed to be confused and scooted along the street, pausing for a moment to reflect on direction perhaps, because he did a 180 and shot back to where ever the better garbage seemed to found. Oh, need I forget, my friend almost stepped on a cockroach, the size of baseball.
Rats and cockroaches and hipsters, oh my! I’m really enjoying Manhattan…
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.