Saturday 18 July 2009

A final New York post..

written in England, sadly.

But all good things must come to an end and my time in New York is up, for now. Much to the relief of my bank account and probably my knees, who will appreciate a little less pavement pounding.

I promised I'd blog about my final week in New York and I figured it would be poor form to renege on my promise.

During my last week I took a trip over to the Tenement Museum for an interactive murder mystery event I'd seen advertised in Time Out magazine. The Tenement Museum "tells the stories of immigrants who lived in 97 Orchard Street, a tenement built in 1863 on Manhattan's Lower East Side" and for one night only a crowd of visitors would try to solve the real life case of 'The Ryans'; a brother and sister who were found murdered in 1873. The event seemingly captured the imagination of many a New Yorker, as when I arrived 40 minutes early (by now having got the hang of these free events!) a line had already formed and the email reservations we had been asked to make were scrapped as too many people had replied. The event attracted more then twice the usual turnout, but luckily I was one of the 100 people who were able to participate.

The murder mystery was lead by actors playing the parts of residents and when split into groups of 25, it was down to the visitors to interrogate the suspects we found lurking on the street or in the Tenement itself. The experience was fun, the actors really inhabited their roles and certainly in my group we enjoyed speculating over the identity of the murderer and asking questions to the suspects. It was my own slice of C.S.I New York, but just a century and a bit earlier.

The most entertaining part of the night was unscripted though and happened right at the beginning of the event. My group were 'interviewing' our first suspect on the stoop of an apartment block around the corner from the museum, when a resident of the building became a little enraged by the insolent, strangely dressed man talking about the Ryans on his stoop. What ensued was a confrontation straight out of a sitcom. The resident walked into the lobby and then returned to the actor three times, each time becoming more irate at the actor's perceived offensive comments about him and his fellow Lower East Side residents. Obviously our 'suspect' was trying to stay in character and props to him that he only let the facade drop once when it looked like he may take a blow to the face for his art. Even when the reason for our gathering was explained a verbal volley addressing film crews, tv programs and performance art continually consuming the street was unleashed. Irrelevant to us, simple as our motive for being there was; to enjoy a fun evening. But the resident raised an interesting point, what to us was a fun piece of performance was, to him, one of a series of daily intrusions into his life when all he wanted was to get into his home after a long day at work. A hazard of living in a a desirable location for films and tv programs (I had in fact been here the previous week on the Gossip Girl tour) or a valid point?

The general consensus seemed to be that he had overreacted and certainly his aggressive behaviour was completely disproportionate to the crime committed, especially as the actor in question did actually live in the same building. But it provided a slice of real life drama and demonstrated just how easy it is for passions to ignite and tempers to escalate in a densely populated small space, which seemed perfectly apt in relation to our reason for being there.

A photograph of 'The Landlord' taken at the event organised by Carlo d'Amore.
Photo taken by Greg Scaffidi see the original blog post here

Whilst on the Lower East Side I knew I had to pick up a cupcake from Babycakes. The very reason for my earlier experience of Broome Street (said store features in Gossip Girl series 1, the Thanksgiving episode, for those who care..) I had only managed to have a shot of frosting (yum) so this time with free hands and a few spare dollars in my wallet I popped into the all-natural, organic, free from many allergens bakery to see if a healthier version of the sweet treat could taste as good. Answer = yes. My choice was a delicious chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, which of course looked as good as it tasted. So much so that I couldn't resist posting a few pictures. Yum.

Also on a food related note, I had to post this picture of Tom's Restaurant

I found this on their blog, and it was added by Kit Kaplan a Brooklyn photographer who I think captured this slice of Brooklyn history (the diner has been around since 1936) perfectly in the shot. This is where I had the most delicious breakfast of Pancakes, Eggs and Bacon washed down by fresh O.J. The diner was packed and it seemed everyone left with a full stomach and a happy face. If you're ever in Brooklyn and want a great breakfast in a place brimming with history this is my recommendation.

I rounded off my exploration of New York with a subway ride down to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. It was fun to seemingly leave the city behind and hit the sand and also to be in an area where very few people were speaking English and the signs were often in Russian. The area is filled with immigrants who have found a new home and life in Brooklyn, subsequently it is a melting pot of cultures, but definitely with Russia as its heartbeat. The Village Voice talks about this more here But with it being my last weekend in New York I'm only slightly ashamed to say that my interest was more rooted in hitting the beach and relaxing with a book, rather then exploring extensively. I apologise for the touristy nature of these last few paragraphs, but as it's my last real post on my trip I want to milk it! This is a picture of Brighton Beach, with Coney Island in the distance:

Then one of the Promenade at Brighton Beach.

I enjoyed it down there, although it was definitely surreal to walk past the fur selling stores just a few metres from the beach, not your usual seaside fare.

Finally I did a little bit of shopping in Soho, with of course a foray onto Canal Street to pick up a New York trinket or two. Whilst I was enjoying the hustling and haggling of Canal Street I looked up to notice this advert for Grand Theft Auto.

It's probably been around for a while, but I was struck by how completely fitting it was to see that there (and not just because the game is based in Chinatown). Maybe I am a horribly commercialised, advertising influenced example of my generation. But rather then see it as an intrusion on the natural environment I thought this was a perfect example of outdoor advertising at its best. A product that so befits the environment it is shown in, in terms of attitude not just locality. Despite its tourist attraction status Canal Street definitely carries the scent of the underworld, but for the tourists in a slightly distant, thrilling way rather then in an obviously threatening fashion, which is something the Grand Theft Auto franchise totally exploits. It presents this dangerous, crime filled, violent world to people who rarely encounter it and allows them to run riot. Of course it also works because the game is based in Chinatown, but it wasn't that connection that first caught my eye. The image also appears to be spraypainted onto the building, though I imagine it is some sort of vinyl wrap, but again everything is just so and fits perfectly with the environment.

So that's my justification for snapping it. Plus it does look pretty damn cool!

In summary (on this exceedingly long post) my trip to New York was an action packed, adrenalin fuelled cultural adventure that, in terms of my own work, has been highly beneficial. I managed to do a lot of promotion, which was great, but I also replenished my mental store of visual reference by spending so much time watching and observing. It was great to get out and do that and I am hopeful that I can squeeze some of the amazing events I observed into personal work over the next month or so.

Thanks for reading and I hope I haven't bored you too much with my tales. Normal service on the blog will resume shortly, with more work orientated posts returning. Until then...

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