After deciding I had had my fill of Brooklyn I got my bearings and headed up Flatbush Ave. to Dekalb Ave. which I recalled being a subway stop on one of my earlier forays into Brooklyn. My attention was divereted from finding the entrance to the subway platform by this remarkable building on the corner of Dekalb and Flatbush. The sign on the door read "The Dime Bank of Brooklyn". Sure enough, there was a bank inside; in a huge rotunda with gothic columns, gigantic bronze chandeliers, and ornate metal-work on the ceilings. This is what I love about New York the most. You can be walking along, virtually anywhere and come across some of the most amazing architecture. Sure everyone wants to see the Guggenhiem and the Empire State Building and St. Patrick's Cathedral, but there are literally hundreds of buildings all over this city that just got buried between the diner's and fast food joints. This particular building was situated behind a diner/bar and a galleria mall.
I finally caught my train back across the river. I was looking forward to it as this line would actually cross above ground over the Manhattan Bridge. On my other trips into Brooklyn I had always taken lines that went under the river, so this was new and neat.
I had decided that for my evening-time amusement I was going to check out Arlene's Grocery there on the lower east side. A college pal of mine who lives in Brookyln had recommended it to me a few weeks ago because they do an old-school metal/punk karaoke on Monday nights with a life band. I thought this might be fun, but I couldn't remember it's exact location so I rode up to midtown to the internet cafe on 42nd St. and looked it up.
It's actually not very far from some place I've been to a couple of times. It's on Stanton St. just a couple of blocks up from Chrystie St. Beastie Boys fanatic that I am - I know the significance of their "B-Boy Bouillabiase" sub-song "59 Chrystie St." It's an apartment they used to rent back-in-the-day. It's just up the block from where Stanton crosses Chrystie.
To kill a little time, and since I was back in midtown, I decided to go up to Rockefeller Center and check out the tree. The entire area is decked out in Christmas decorations as one might expect. Radio City Music Hall has it's tree on top of it's huge canopy and one of the plazas in front of one of the publishing building (I think it was McGraw-Hill) had these beautifl Christmas ornaments the size of... I dunno. They were huge. You know the colored glass kind that are balls with a big hook sticking out of the top. They were like those, just humongous and laying in the fountain.
I get over to the ice rink and there is a stage set up on the upper level surrounded by bright lights and TV cameras. Turns out it's Enrique Iglesias and they're shooting his segment of the tree lighting special for TV. Not my sort of music, but it was interesting to watch thte whole production aspect of it. Of course you noticed I said filming. They weren't going to light the tree until Wednesday night. Bummer.
By now it's maybe 7pm, so I go on down and slip into the bar at Arlene's. It's small with a fireplace; certainly no room for a band to set up. I later discover on a trip to the restroom that there is yet another bar off to the side where presumably the bands play. I eneded up not hanging around long enough to see, for the karaoke would not commence until 10pm and I was running on about 4 hours sleep with the prospect of driving a good 3 hours later that night looming before me.
I found a place at the bar and ordered a shot of Maker's Mark and a coke to chase it with. The first shot of bourbon is always the most interesting. I won't say it's the best or it's the worst, but it's certainly interesting. That bursting sensation in your nose and throat and the voice in your head which says "Just swallow it." You do and the the warm sensation of the liquor slides into your body leaving a sweet, woody aftertaste. I sat in the dimly lit bar and leafed through The Onion which, turned out I had already read most of online. I read some really bad reviews of music in some other magazine about beer that was lying around. The reviews of the music weren't bad, the reviews/reviewers themselves were horrible.
Apparently, on Monday evenings at Arlene's they also do something called "One Story", where a writer reads from his work for the small group that has gathered. The writer is introduced and I'm half paying attention and half ordering my second shot of whiskey when I hear the emcee state that he hails from northern Kentucky. (!)
I slurp down my second shot and move over next to the fireplace to listen in. He reads a chapter from a book he is either working on or is already published, I forgot which. I listen attentively. It's set in Memphis, where according to the emcee, he had spent ten years living before moving to NYC. I got thinking about how unique Tennessee and Kentucky are. They aren't truly in the south, or the east, or the midwest. They are a a big burgoo of these regions, with characteristics and nuances of all of them, but you can't really pin them to any of them.
After his reading I approach him and shake his hand. I told him about the friend from University of Kentucky now living in Brooklyn recommending this place, from which I got the immediate look of recognition - someone who knows what it's like to be from this part of the country. I added that I came expecting my shots of Maker's Mark to be my only taste of Kentucky that night, but as it turns out, I got another. We chit chatted a little bit. Turns out he's from Covington up near Cincinnati. But I'm not one big for chit chat and got out of it quickly and decided to go get some dinner.
I walked down Stanton and across Chrystie Street then up to Canal. I walked past the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, its granite arches lit up in the dark. I made may way up to Mulberry St. in Little Italy for a late evening snack of mussels at Il Fornaio. How I do love them.
It was getting late and I was getting more tired by the minute. I caught the next bus out of town and back to the truck. The drive through Pennsylvania was not fun. I hit my first real snow storm of the season. There's this mountain on I-80 just after you cross into Pennsylbania, on the other side of Stroudsburg, PA. The interstate split off into a spur (I-380 I think) which runs north into the Poconos. Right at that split, the road became a solid sheet of ice. There was a log jam of trucks who we sitting still, unable to get traction. They couldn't go forward and certainly not backwards down the hiil. Nor could they get to the side. Worse still, it was a battle just keeping in one place. When I finally came to a stop, after nearly jack knifing my rig, I found that due to the angle of the hill and the ice, I began sliding backwards and to the right. Luckily, the tires caught on something and I stopped sliding.
I eventually managed to get around onto I-380 an go down to the next exit and get offa that mess.
Yay winter. Word on the CB was that in the other direction at the bottom of the hill, somewhere around 9-12 trucks got tangled up in sideways/jack-knifing skating shows.
Note: I just found out today that I am going, yet again, to New Jersey this weekend. So seeing the tree will definitely be in the works.