Monday, January 12, 2009

New York City

On Thursday morning, Dec. 4th, Kyle drove me from Wilmington back to the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia so that I could catch a train to New York City. After a short train ride (I like the short Amtrak rides MUCH more than the longer ones) I arrived in NYC in the early afternoon. I hopped on the subway and headed to Brooklyn to check into the hostel I was staying at that night, which was located on St. Mark's Ave. The place was well-run and clean, but had a weird configuration as the room I stayed in was actually down and across the street from the hostel office, in a random apartment, in a random apartment building. When I entered the apartment I was staying in, I was greeted by a group of Czech travelers playing a rowdy game of poker and drinking Budweiser. The picture above is the view from the hostel office looking down St. Mark's Ave. towards the other building.

I got back on the subway and headed back into Manhattan for my first gig of the night, at the Sidewalk Cafe. There were several other local acts performing after me on the bill, so I was hoping that they would bring out some fans and friends, and they did... Unfortunately, I'm guessing they all advertised the night starting with their sets (at 9pm and after) and night with my opening set (at 8pm), and I had a total of 2 people watching me (plus the sound guy and a waitress!). Low and behold, as soon as I finished my 50 min.-long set the second act showed up with a considerable crowd, *sigh*.

Back onto the subway, I headed back to Brooklyn, where I was playing at a place called Goodbye Blue Monday. GBM is a really cool coffee shop/bar/music venue where literally EVERYTHING is for sale. I was playing last that night (I started around 12:30am), and played following an ironic country-jazz act and an experimental duo which featured a bass clarinet and a bari sax, both of which were running through various effects pedals and loop stations. As you might expect, the crowd gathered to watch those two groups wasn't really into acoustic folk music, and they quickly abandoned the venue when I started playing.

After I finished my set (with only a few people around still listening) I packed my stuff up and inquired with the bartender about getting a cab, since I had no idea where in Brooklyn I was in relation to my hostel. The bartender told me that there was a cab stand across the street, so I walked outside only to feast my eyes upon the "Puerto Rico Car Service" stand. Now maybe I'm just a naive mid-westerner, but when I think taxi I think, you know, a taxi, not a... Puerto Rico Car Service. I went to the counter inside of the small building and had them call me a... car. Within minutes there was a honk outside and to my surprise a maroon Buick that was completely unmarked, no "taxi" sign, not even the words "Puerto Rico Car Service" printed on the side. Now what would flash through your mind if you were being picked up by an unmarked car at a seemingly sketchy "cab" stand in the middle of Brooklyn? I'll tell you what my more paranoid side thought: "they are going to dump you in the East River after they rob you". However, upon entering the car I was impressed with the fact that they did have a radio to communicate with the base and a GPS system, and decided that they were on the up and up. It was actually a very quick cab ride, and the driver was quite nice. Upon dropping me off in front of the apartment building where my hostel room was, he inquired as to how long I had been living in such a "terrible neighborhood", and informed me that St. Mark's Ave. was a fairly dangerous place. I can't say I had a bad experience in the area, though, or ever felt truly unsafe. Oh, and before I end this "taxi ride section" of the posting, I highly recommend you check out the website linked above for the Puerto Rico Car Service, its a pretty good laugh. You'll find lots of pictures of fleets of taxis, or one of a very-professional looking woman with a headset on. I am fairly certain that those pictures were just pulled from a google image search, probably stolen from some other taxi company's site. But let me be clear, after actually riding with PRCS, I do endorse them and recommend their transportation services when in Brooklyn!

I woke up fairly early (early for being up so late the night before) so that I could get a bit of sightseeing in before having to catch the train back to Philadelphia around 3pm. I caught the subway down to the financial district around Wall St., as I hadn't been to that part of Manhattan during previous stops in New York. A photographer and myspace friend of mine named Amanda met me down by the World Trade Center site (pictured below) to show me around Manhattan for my last few hours in town. We took a whirlwind tour of the island, hopping on and off the subway from Wall St. to Chinatown to Washington Square to Harlem to Central Park and finally to the train station. The trip to Harlem was a random stop so that Amanda could check out an apartment she was thinking about moving to. It was actually a highlight of the day to check out a somewhat dumpy, yet artistic living space (the inhabitant was actually an artist moving to the Dominican Republic or some other Carribbean country). We practically ran through Central Park to get to another subway station as time was running out before my train left. With only 10 mins. until it was supposed to leave we had actually hopped on the wrong subway line, heading away from where we were supposed to be going. Once we got ourselves turned back around and to the station it was a mad dash to the terminal, and I literally got on the train, sat down, and it started moving. I'd have to say that spending a couple of hours that afternoon running around New York with Amanda was incredibly fun, and I'd highly suggest taking whirlwind tours around Manhattan with a foxy photographer to anyone!

While my excursion to New York on the mini-tour certainly wasn't profitable (I made a total of $2 in tips from both gigs), and it didn't even get me much exposure, it was time well spent. The college gig I had played in Pennsylvania the day before more than covered the trip, and offset the lack of money made in New York. I returned to Philadelphia with a smile on my face, ready to play the last two shows in Mount Holly, NJ and Newtown Square, PA.

Here are a few more pictures taken around New York. The big red square sculpture with the hole in the middle is down by the WTC site, where I met up with Amanda. The other is a picture of a sculpture adorning the Virgin Records store which sits next to Washington Square. Amanda tells me that it is supposed to be of God looking down on the Earth, or something like that...

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