19 January 2016

Hello Brooklyn (Part II)

It seemed to be warmer out on the streets, even with the waning light. Although, that could have been the beer flowing though my veins. The streets were still full of people walking everywhere, in that brisk and determined pace you only see in a large city, and Rita and I linked arms as we walked up 3rd Street to the Duane Read. Finding a bottle of contact lens solution, we made our way back her car and I managed to give my lens a cleaning and it felt marginally better. We decided to get more food, to try something different, and Bedford Avenue seemed to be the place to find a meal as it was lined with all manner of shops and restaurants. We took our time, laughing and talking about this and that, window shopping and people watching, it was a Saturday night and there were people everywhere. Although, this being NYC, I think it would have been busy no matter what day it was. Knowing that there are at least eight million people within a few miles of us (that’s the population of Kansas, Oregon, New Mexico, and Montana combined), it’s nearly incomprehensible that so many people can be concentrated in such a way. Groups of young kids wandered by, more couples here and there, girls out on the town, mothers with young babies making their way to the corner stores, all of them passed us by as we casually walked down the street, arm in arm, deeply engrossed in our conversations, laughing at the stupid things only old friends laugh at. We decided we needed a drink, of course, before we found food, and our focus was now on finding a little bar somewhere. As luck would have it, we found Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern. Walking in, we were immediately struck by the riot of red that covered every inch of the place. Valentine’s Day had exploded in Rosemary’s and there wasn’t an inch of the place not covered by a heart or Cupid or red ribbons and red garland. Combined with the red lights, I felt like I was in a rather irritated vagina. There were two seats at the bar, but a young woman sitting there told us one of them was taken, and Rita and I shared the single stool left. The bartender had to be Rosemary, she looked as if she’s been bartending there since the place opened, many decades ago, tough as nails and still rocking the double teased, over processed hair. Informed that it was Happy Hour (four dollar cocktails!), we ordered our usual drinks. Rita had to use the ladies room so I sat minding our drinks when a rather hairy gentleman came in, promptly sat next to me without so much as a how-do-you-do, and ordered a beer, pulling crumpled ones out of his pocket and paying with that. I wondered if that’s who the young girl was waiting for but, when she pain him no attention, I was glad to see that she wasn’t that desperate. Rita returned and we decided to move to the little tables in the corner and we sat there, talking about how tacky/adorable Rosemary’s place was. Hairy guy left as soon as he finished his beer, leaving our girl sitting there alone and Rita and I mused that maybe she’d been stood up, and we decided we felt sorry for her. Rosemary poured a strong voddy and tonic, and I sipped it slowly as Rita and I gossiped over the patrons there, as if we knew their lives. Lonely girl’s friends came in a short time later, and that made Rita and I happy that she wasn’t stood up , and we decided we were hungry again and finished up our drinks and I took them back over to the bar, finally having to squeeze in between some patrons to put our empty glasses on the bar. It’s an industry/courtesy thing, anything to make the bartender’s job easier, that way Rosemary didn’t have to leave the bar to clean up after us. Back on Bedford, we passed restaurant after restaurant but couldn’t decide on a place. We ended up turning down one street and then making our way down Grand Street where Rita saw a dim sum place and we settled on eating there, even though I’ve never really had dim sum before. As with most places here, the restaurant was long and narrow, clean, with a modern look. The menus were hung on the brick wall at the tables and, before I could even begin to figure out what I wanted, Rita had pencil in hand and began furiously ordering our dinner. I deferred to her knowledge of Asian cuisine and her Asian heritage, and let her take charge. The waitress came over to explain things but when she saw Rita had already begun without her, she smiled, poured our water, and then took our order after a few questions from Rita about some of the items, all of which went right over my head. Actually, I was glad she took charge because my contact lens began acting up again and I was having a hard time concentrating on anything, let alone focusing on a menu. I decided to take care of this once and for all, and excused myself to use the loo in the restaurant to properly clean my lens. I had slipped the bottle of cleaning solution into my pocket when we were in the car, thinking ahead, something I’m usually not known for. The restroom was big and bright, with a nice big mirror, perfect for me to get this job done, and I cleaned my hands and took out my lens, scrubbing it in my palm, taking great care to get it clean and free of debris. I go to put the lens back in my eye, leaning over the sink and looking in the mirror when it fell off my finger. Ugh, now I’m half blind and I have to look all over the sink to find it. And I can’t. It’s not on the sink. Where did it go? In a panic now, I frantically look on my hands, my jacket, the sink again and again, when I face the realization that it must have hit the floor. Great. Here I am taking great pains to get this lens properly clean and now it’s on the floor of a bathroom in a restaurant in the middle of Brooklyn. Just great. On to my hands and knees I go, looking all over for this damn lens, and I can’t see it. There are water droplets everywhere, all looking like a contact lens, so I’m reduced to swiping my hands along the tiles, hoping against hope that I don’t rip the lens. Yes, the ironic grossness of the situation was not lost on me. Finding it, I place it on the sink. scrub my hands again, clean the lens again, and pop it into my eye, finally able to see clearly and cleanly, it was heavenly to not feel it in my eye anymore. Back out with Rita, I started laughing at the whole situation in the bathroom, but our close quarters with the other patrons in the restaurant held my tongue and I couldn’t tell her why I was giggling. The food began to arrive as it was ready, and everything was really tasty. My favorite had to be the soft-as-marshmallow dough balls filled with some sort of meat, it was so good I could have had ten of them. The spareribs were good but, with chopped pieces of bone attached to the meat, it was a little hard to eat without spitting out bits of bone every few minutes, especially with chopsticks. The dessert was delicious, warm balls of poppy seed pastries with a fruit center. I noticed my mobile had some messages, they were from Robert. another of my acting buddies from Boardwalk Empire, saying he was in Brooklyn looking for us. After a little back and forth, I finally determined he was at Radegast Hall so, Rita and I finished up our meal, paid the check, and made our way back. I was eager to see him, our days on the set were fond memories and we all bonded over that experience. Back in the Hall, it was still packed and still noisy and still fun, we walked around looking for Bob finding him right at the bar, where else. It was so great to see him, we hugged and I introduced him to Rita, and we ordered a round. Bob and I caught up, he was disappointed he missed Matt, who had gone on to some unknown place by then, we told him how great his band, the Sunnyside Social Club was and talked of Matt’s upcoming gig on the cruise ship. Bob and I talked about the other guys from the Boardwalk crew, what they were up to and what was going on, who we saw and how they were, what they were working on. We agreed that there was something about that time together that forged our friendships, even though we are such a diverse group, we will always have that shared experience to bond us. I told him I was jealous of all the work he’s been getting on Gotham but I’m truly happy he’s been working so much. By now, though, Rita and I decided it was time to go home, we had a long drive ahead of us and Bob was ready to go, too, we all finished our drinks and walked out together, said our goodbyes to Bob and walked down to our car. We still couldn’t believe we lucked out getting such a great parking spot. The navigation took us on a different route out of the city, one that took a half hour off our time, and Rita and I talked about this and that before my car-quiet took over and, with apologies to her, I passed out for a bit. Well, along with that last beer, I was feeling rather sleepy and couldn’t keep my eyes open. But, once I heard ‘Teenage Dream’ from the Glee soundtrack, I woke right up and we both sung it at the top of our lungs in our own version of Car Pool Karaoke. Perfect ending to a great day.

17 January 2016

Hello Brooklyn (Part I)

Radegast Hall was heard long before it was seen, the music was pouring from it’s walls and windows as Rita and I walked down 3rd Street, where we lucked out getting a parking space a short block away. We crossed over Berry Street, dodging the busy traffic and weaving through the young couples and groups of friends all bustling about on this unseasonably temperate day. Entering the Hall, we were both carded, the doorman giving me the usual extra long look of surprise when he glanced at the date on my ID. I smile at him, knowingly, and follow Rita into the bar, and was immediately overwhelmed by the crush of people everywhere. Waitresses and busboys dashed by with determination and skill, darting in and out of the crowds with practiced ease. Rita and I took a moment to orient ourselves and try to make sense of the ordered chaos going on around us. I grabbed a waitress and asked her if we had to be seated but I barely heard her answer through the noise although I did catch the ‘sit in any open spot’ part before she ran off to take care of her customers. Anxious to find Matt, the reason we were there, I began to follow the source of the music into the next room and saw him with his band, The Sunnyside Social Club. smack in the middle of a rather cavernous hall, lined on either side with large, rough-hewn picnic benches, each full of boisterous twenty-something frat boy types, and young families with infants and toddlers, gay couples, and the occasional hipster. Beer steins and pitchers were in abundance, cluttering the tables, and the smell of food was intoxicating, more so than the promise of alcohol. I couldn’t get Matt’s attention from where we were and our way was blocked by the crowds milling about trying to find a seat so Rita and I made our way back through the bar area to try our luck at the other doorway towards the back of the room, closer to the band. My years of working in the casinos and the Studio Six gave me an edge, as I easily made my way around the bar with Rita in tow. As soon as I got to the entryway, Matt and I caught each other’s eye and he waved, I loved seeing the smile on his face. Since he was still in the middle of his set, I figured our priority was to get seated, get to the bathroom, and get some of whatever they were cooking, we were close to the open kitchen and the pans full of sausages and bratwursts were creating a rumble in my empty stomach. An adorable waitress with a red Mohawk saw the confusion on our faces and, through a half-screamed conversation, was able to find a seat for us at one of the picnic tables in the back, next to three pretty young girls to the one side, and two guys on the other who were intensely engaged in a conversation. We ordered drinks, me an unpronounceable dark beer and Rita a voddy and Sprite, and we looked over the food menu to see what they had. I settled on one of the brunch menu fares, and Rita decided to get her own from the little open kitchen behind us and we were both very satisfied with our selections, delicious and fresh. The sauerkraut was really excellent and it took a lot of willpower for me to not dive into Rita’s plate to eat all of it myself. Whilst we were eating we both had a chance to absorb our surroundings, watching all the people around us and listening to the band. Rita and I agreed that it was nice to get out of South Jersey and do something different, I know that personally needed another getaway to recharge my batteries, so to speak. It’s always good to go and see other faces, look at different buildings, be in different spaces, changing your perspective every once in a while gives you a new look on your life at home. Soon, Matt finished his set and came over with a pretty friend with her long dyed green locks piled on top of her head, and we hugged and said hello and introductions were made all around. I teased him that it took so long, and his going away party, for me to finally hear him play the accordion. He used to have it with him occasionally on set when we filmed Boardwalk Empire but wouldn’t play it for us, no matter how much we begged. We chatted about his upcoming gig on the cruise ship, what he was looking forward to and when he would be leaving, and for how long. He’s rarely been out of NYC and this is an exciting adventure for him. Rita and I complimented him and his band, they are very accomplished and you can tell they have spent some time together, they are tight and raucous, a good combination and they seem to be having fun even with the smattering of attention that this particular crowd was giving them. He and his friend ran off to talk to more people and Rita changed her mind and decided to have a beer, a proverbial when-in-Rome moment since we were in an urban biergarten. She tried to decipher the menu and chose one of the beers and I ordered another round and we cheered to our little New York adventure. Eventually, a couple was seated opposite us, he had a vaguely German accent (or Germanic in origin) and he asked what we were drinking and eating. We told them and they ended up getting the same beers as us but slightly different food, they both opted for the open-kitchen fare. Of course, the smell of their sauerkraut made me crave it again. We made small talk with them and the band started their next set, another bluesy-swing band-New Orleans tinged collection of songs and they sounded great. I noticed that the guy sitting next to Rita bore a resemblance to Steve Buscemi, he was short and wiry like Buscemi, and had on all black. I jokingly declared that he was Buck Buscemi, Steve’s son, which had Rita and I laughing. At one point, some of the toddlers began to dance in the aisle, delighting not only the crowd but the band as well, and they nearly stole the show. Rita and I were amazed by how many young kids and small babies were around us, her doctor instincts taking over and she fretted about such young ears being exposed to this loud music. But many of them were blissfully sleeping and didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Conversations and beer flowed continuously over the next hour or so, the Sunnyside Social Club started their third set with Matt back on the accordion and Rita and I watched the people around us, although my gaze became a little more hazy with each glass stein. Compounding my hazy vision was a little bit of what I call ‘contact drama’, my right contact lens began to bother me relentlessly. I must have gotten something in it and the irritation would not stop. I managed to pull out the lens and use Rita’s drops to clean it a bit, reinserting it with care since I would definitely lose it on the floor of the room, especially with all these people milling around us. I had thought to use the men’s room for my little emergency cleansing, but after my last visit there, the open trough for the gentlemen to pee in (reminded me of the Brass Rail a bit) made me think that the beer hall was an ever-so-slightly more hygienic option. It worked... for a few minutes. I ended up pulling it out and storing it in my pill case until we could hit the Duane Read and get some proper cleaning solution. Now I was truly hobbled, losing my depth perception, comically trying to reach for things and slightly missing them on the first try. It also took me a few minutes to focus on our check, sixes and eights are not easy to tell apart,and it took some skill to fight through the beer haze and the missing lens to sort it all out. I managed, somehow. With the end of their last set, Matt was done for the evening and Rita and I were feeling very nice. We decided to change our venue (and get to the drug store) and said our goodbyes to Matt, and wish him a bon voyage on his upcoming trip, and off we went through the never ending crowded bar to the street to see where the evening would take us.