Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Upper South of Lower West Houston

 Have you ever planned a trip to New York City? If so, than you have experienced the barrage of people demanding that you visit a certain restaurant, or theater, or street corner, for the sake of their nostalgia. Everybody is an expert on the hottest spot to visit: people who used to live there, people who have friends and relatives who live there, people who visited there once, people who switched flights in Laguardia, people who watched one episode of Sex and the City, once, in 2001. "I'll tell you what, you've just got to go to---" (Fill in the blank. Magnolia Bakery, the Margarita Mill in Mid-town, Crab Dungeon on lower 53rd in East Harlem.) And some of them get really pushy about it. "Call me when you're there! Call me! Ask for Louis, in the kitchen? Yeah, tell him I say hi and then both of you call me, together!"

I know it's just excitement, good intentions on their part. But I want to say, 'Listen, that sounds fantastic. When we go to New York together you can take me there. But on my own, the chances of my finding that place and eating that particular bagel at that particular window table are slim. Mischa Barton slim. Calista Flockhart slim. Not from lack of desire, but because I don't know my way around that place.'

I mean, I'm still trying to figure out what exactly a Borough is, and if there is any correlation between a borough and an island. To me, as to any New York rookie, all those villages sound like Ben Stiller's fictitious neighborhood where he throws his VIP Halloween Blow out,  SoWoHoBeLowHoWo. South of West Houston Below Lower Hoboken, Woah. Which, when found on a map, turns out to be in the middle of the Husdon river.

However, things are considerably different when you share an obsession with somebody. A few days before I left, I saw a show at the Intiman theater in Seattle Center called Build Your Own Musical. It's an improvised musical with choreographed dancing and singing numbers and everything. After the show I met the lead performer, Paul, who kindly offered to get together and give me the inside take on the Seattle improv scene.

It turns out that Paul used to live in New York as an actor. Among his many insights about life in the city, ("Don't try to throw a potluck. Nobody knows what that is.") he suggested that I check out the PIT- People's Improv Theater. Sometimes, he explained, they'd even pick a name out of a hat and call up a member of the audience to perform with them. (Don't get your hopes up, that didn't happen.)
 So, of all the recommendations I got from homesick East Coasters or disillusioned Ex New Yorkers who "Really can't stand that city except the cigarette shop on-----", the only one I held onto was the PIT.

When I arrived at Peter's apartment that first morning,  I mentioned offhandedly that I wanted to see an improv show while I was in the city. Peter said, "Talk to my roommate, he's an improv guy!" And on cue his roommate,  a clean cut Tarron Killam look alike, appeared at my side.

"My show is playing tonight at the PIT." He said, handing me his card. "There will be 2nd City guest performers and SNL writers there. I'll put you on the guest list."

I can't tell you how excited I was to hear PIT, 2nd City and SNL Writers in one sentence, and that the sentence ended with "guest list."

My first night in New York and I'm guest listed! VIP! Like a supermodel! Here that, all the boys who have broken up with me and old bosses who used to tell me I did a consistently bad job mopping the kitchen floor? Guess what! I'm on a guest list!

I don't see your sorry names on any guest list!

The PIT is a bar, lined with curtain and doors that all lead to multiple downstairs theaters. Different shows happen at all times inside the theaters. It made me think of a complicated bird house where all the birds are on different tracks going in and out at the same time. The bar was full to capacity, with loud music and people dressed in black and colorful drinks. You know, bar stuff. 

I met up with Julius Constantine Motal at the theater. Julius Constatine Motal could easily be the name of my fictitious photographer friend who's always available to go to shows with me on a whim. It's close to the truth, only he's a real boy. He writes for Soul Pancake, and we've been collaborating for a year and a half without ever having met in person. We saw the show together, a number of one act plays all in various styles of theater and authorship, all improvised.

After the show, Julius Constantine Motal and I went to a little upstairs Japanese place and drank beer and ate blackened quail eggs off tiny spears. It was past midnight, but the energy out on the streets seemed to just build and build and build. We talked about fiction and Soulpancake and writing and did a lot of banging our beer glasses down on our table for emphasis. After that we found a convenience store for ice cream which seemed bizarrely fun and spontaneous and hip, even thought it was just a convenience store. Then Julius saw me to the subway, and once again I shot through the city underground and got home at 1:30 in the morning.

When handsome, red-cheeked Peter came home from his Studio a little while later, we watched an old episode from Saturday Night Live in his bed and then I fell asleep. I don't remember exactly how, only that one minute I was laughing, the next minute I was dreaming, and I think after the TV was off Peter asked, "So how was your first day?" but I was already asleep.


Sabertoothali said...

It is a testament to your writing that, whilst reading your NYC posts I thought, "wow, NYC is so fun and interesting and lively. It would be really fun to live there for a while."

And then I remember that I lived there for six years and hate it with a fiery passion, (aside from Vanessa's Dumplings and the pink cake from Amy's Bread).

Melina said...

Pink Cake? Oh, please tell me more about this pink cake.....

Andrew said...

"But on my own, the chances of my finding that place and eating that particular bagel at that particular window table are slim. Mischa Barton slim. Calista Flockhart slim."

I'll be darned if you didn't just completely brighten my night with that one.

Melina said...

Yeah, well the flaw there is that those girls aren't slim. Slim I think implies some shape, some curves...maybe? Them girls are straight SKINNY.

Anonymous said...

I know it's just a sketch, but that last picture of the sleeping girl and the words is quite beautiful.