I need to post this entry about our past weekend soon, or it will be the next weekend before I know it! Our weekend got off to a bit of a rough start, particularly for Sean, who had to work until 10 at night on Friday. While he works late a lot right now because of some sort of second tax busy season, this was extra-ridiculous. We had a sushi dinner at 10:30 p.m., and I was very thankful at that time to live in New York, where restaurants are not only open at that hour but are bustling.
The main thing I want to talk about is our Saturday evening because, thanks to the extreme generosity of a good friend, we were able to see the newish Broadway musical Once. We were given the tickets as a belated wedding present, and I think it might have quickly become one of my top wedding gifts, right up there with restaurant and money gift certificates we received for our honeymoon. We’re all about spending money on experiences rather than things, so this was right up our alley. Plus, we had both seen the indie film upon which the stage production is based and adored it, so we were quite excited to see the stage version for ourselves.
Before the show, we found a random Theater District Italian restaurant, Patzeria Family & Friends, which was delicious and affordable and almost completely devoid of tourists. (I have nothing against dining among tourists…it’s just that there are a lot of them here, and they can make the wait for a table difficult!) We ended up getting to the theater really early, and I’m glad we did, because we were able to catch all of the “pre-show,” when various secondary cast members performed different folk music selections. The entire show takes place on one set, a dingy Irish pub, with changes in lighting and chair arrangements to help you re-imagine a new scene/setting. For the pre-show, however, the set was all about being a pub, and audience members could go on stage to purchase outrageously overpriced drinks and watch the musical action up-close. We did not do this (see note about “outrageously overpriced drinks”), but we enjoyed our viewing from the mezzanine nonetheless.
As for the actual show, I cannot say enough how much I loved it. I have been fortunate to see several other Broadway shows, either here in NYC or on tour at my university (and I even wrote reviews for the student newspapers of a few, like one for Mamma Mia!, which I am not a huge fan of), but this was easily my personal favorite. Just like in the movie, which could also be classified as a musical, the music is not your typical big-band show tunes. In fact, there was no orchestra pit. All of the cast members played at least one, if not two or three instruments, providing the most beautiful instrumentation. If you are at all a fan of folk music, whether a classic Bob Dylan fan or a follower of more mainstream Mumford & Sons or an indie kid digging Radical Face, I think you would appreciate the music of Once. There’s acoustic guitars, mandolins, violins, accordions, and even a melodica! A melodica! Now you have to go, right?
Here’s a sample of the music, the song “Gold” performed by the cast members at the Tonys:
I would have loved Once for the music alone, but the story is pretty bittersweet and touching, too. I’ll warn people that the show does not have a typical Hollywood ending, so please don’t gripe like some of my fellow audience members. The story tells of a chance encounter between a struggling Irish street performer and a poor Czech immigrant in Dublin, and how their remarkable ability to craft lovely music together forges a strong friendship and maybe something more between them. The main character, Guy, wears a vest over a T-shirt, and his female counterpart, simply named Girl, wears leggings and boots. Enough said, OK?
As if the eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, it won this past June didn’t speak enough for Once‘s quality, I’ll urge you to go if you ever find yourself in New York wondering what show to see. Tickets are pricey, but they do have rush tickets and students standing room-only tickets available for much less, which is what Sean and I were planning on doing eventually. Or you could get married and hope someone kindly gifts you tickets, too! (Needless to say, we are writing this guy the magnum opus of all thank you letters.)
We spent the rest of our Saturday drinking wine at home, watching Modern Family, and watching our kitty’s silly antics until the wee hours of the morning. Sunday we decided to have a repeat experience of the Sunday before and went to brunch down the street. I’d always heard about how much New Yorkers love their brunch, and now I totally understand why. Brunch is perhaps the greatest dining invention of all time. Most restaurants here serve brunch items from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to accommodate everyone’s lethargy and inability to rise at a decent hour on the weekend (too many 11 p.m. sushi dinners, I guess).
We have gone to Le Moulin a Cafe on York both times. This is a darling little French-style cafe that feels like you just walked into some French woman’s large and airy country kitchen. There’s a shelf filled with empty French lemonade bottles for decoration. The wooden tables have flecks of worn-off turquoise paint on them. It’s charming. And according to the Times, real French people eat here, y’all. Both times I ordered the croque-monsieur, an exquisite creation that was included every. single. year. in my French textbooks, in the food and dining chapter, right between “les pommes” (apples) and “le petit-dejeuner” (breakfast). You know what my French textbooks said a croque-monsieur is? “A ham and cheese sandwich.” OK, um, nothing too exciting there…wrong!
A croque-monsieur is a buttery, cheesy, melt-in-your-mouth delicacy. It’s also probably not very healthy for you, which is why Le Moulin a Cafe serves theirs with a small side salad tossed in a light vinaigrette. Anyway, I wish someone had told me a long time ago that croque-monsieurs are THE way to start your Sunday. My life could be so different right now–me, I’d probably be a much more cheerful person, in addition to a much fatter one. Sean tried a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a croissant the first time, but the second time he tried the croque-madame (see how we played a gender-reversal game with our sandwiches), which is the same thing as the croque-monsieur plus a sunny side-up egg on the top. I was too scared to try something with runny yolk all over it, despite my willingness to try things like eel (delicious), but Sean loved it. The first time we went we also tried their pain du chocolat, which are little pastries filled with–what else?–chocolate! I would also eat pains du chocolat for breakfast, if they had a little more nutritional value. 🙂
Then we went to the Yorkville HousingWorks, a wonderful thrift store that aids those with HIV/AIDS. We bought a lot of our other furniture there, and it’s great because you are getting quality used furniture for a good price and helping those in need. Such a win-win situation. It turns out it was the perfect day to go to HousingWorks because we finally found a nightstand!!! This is one article of clothing that we simply could not track down, because the space between the edge of our full-sized bed (which is in a corner) and our doorway is all of 12″. So we were using the cardboard box our TV came in, standing precariously on its narrowest side, which took up a lot of room because the long side went halfway down the bed! And you could never rest a glass of water on top or anything. Lo, and behold, we found this little gem:
As you can see, it’s being used to hold laughably little at the moment, but the point is it fits! I am now inspired to buy a little table lamp so that I can read in bed in the evenings (my favorite). I’m not yet sure what all those little cubby holes will hold, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy at some point. It was only $16 and it’s remarkably 12″ wide, so I’m a happy camper. Also, this light bamboo material also matches the other two pieces of furniture we have in the room: an end table/filing cabinet next to the bathroom door and a wardrobe. Our bed is just on a metal frame and some risers, as you can see. It would be nice and homey to make one of those faux-headboards, but we’ll see when I find the motivation and skills to achieve that.
After Sean stopped to get a haircut in a little basement barbershop in our neighborhood, we took the subway out to Brooklyn and spent the afternoon wandering around Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Brooklyn has a lot more of a neighborhood feel than does Manhattan because there are no high-rise buildings and there are endless rows of mom-and-pop shops. We stopped in the Peter Pan Bakery on a whim and split a black-and-white cookie, a New York staple that we’ve recently fallen in love with. It was very yummy, but you should have seen the donuts they had in the place! Incredible–there were apple crisp donuts with baked apples and cinnamon streusel just PILED on top. If I hadn’t already had that croque-monsieur (literally translated from French to “Mr. Crunchy,” or more accurately, “Mrs. Fatty”), I would have totally gotten one of those. The bakery itself was adorable, an old-timey, diner-style joint with checkered linoleum floors, uniformed waitresses, and swirling diner stools bolted up against a sticky counter. The place was not even trying to be retro. It just was. Brooklyn is cool like that.
We also stopped in a few record stores because Sean is intent on expanding his vinyl collection. I created a monster out of him by giving him a turntable for this past Christmas. As a huge audiophile, he loves it and indulges it in new vinyls quite often. I like visiting the record stores myself because they always have interesting artwork and band posters plastered all over the place. Usually there’s a resident cat, too, for whatever reason. Although we did not buy any more records this weekend, Sean did purchase the nonfiction book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (what a title!) from one of those used book tables that pop up all over the New York sidewalks on nice weekend days.
We went back to the UES to split a pizza from Gotham Pizza, where a little girl sitting next to us sang “Hakuna Matata” while eating her cheese pizza. So weird to think that I was her age when the movie that song is from (The Lion King) first came out–and happy that kids still appreciate it. Then we watched Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, which makes me hopeful that one day very soon I can convince Sean to watch my namesake Hitchcock film, Rebecca.
Despite the rough start, it was a wonderful last weekend before I began my employment! It’s fun to be tourists in your own city.