Thursday, April 22, 2004

New York was fun, but exhausting.

Tuesday was all focus groups, but we found ourselves with a 3-hour break in the afternoon. My colleague and I decided it would be fun to do some shopping, but we quickly realized that the only difference between shopping in midtown Manhattan and shopping on upper Michigan Avenue was the order of the high-end chain stores up and down the street. She wanted to look for girl things anyway, so we parted company -- and after almost an hour of exploring the retail generica you can find in any major city, I stumbled on a Jean Louis David that could take me immediately. And less than $100 later, I had fabulous new highlights and a much more under-control 'do.

After the workday was over, I cabbed to Arno's house to begin our action-packed 30-hour vacation. After showering and changing out of my monkey suit, we trekked over to Urge to make fun of the go-go boys. Urge is set up with a bar in the middle of the room, kind of like a race track. The go-go boys work laps around the bar, trolling for dollars and gingerly stepping around people's drinks. The trouble is, half the bar is a couple feet closer to the ceiling, so the boys have to either dance around all squatty or crawl around on their hands and knees when they get to that part. Either way, they look pretty ridiculous -- and the three dancers on Tuesday were pretty hot, so it's saying a lot that they came off as more dorky than sexy. To top it off, they threw fucking attitude at everyone there. Now, I'm not one to pay a buck to cop a feel of a guy no matter how amazing he looks -- and if he acts like I'm not even worthy to be in the same room as he is, he's not even going to get a hungry stare from me.

On Wednesday, Arno took me on an exhaustive tour of practically the entire southern third of Manhattan. We started at a diner on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, where Arno explained that Chelsea boys are so superficial that they even have a cool side of the street to walk on (the east side -- make a note of it now so you don't embarrass yourself if you're ever in the neighborhood).

After exploring the neighborhood a bit, we hopped on the subway and came up at Ground Zero. The site is much bigger than I'd pictured, and though the destruction has largely been replaced with the appearance of a standard-issue construction site, I still found myself choking back tears as I contemplated the abject pain and unfathomable suffering that so many people have endured in and around the site since September 11, 2001. We silently headed south from there for a sunny walk along the riverfront, stopping for a photo op in front of the Statue of Liberty and then making our way down to the southern tip of the island.

Our path north took us through the rugged, pre-Revolutionary War Fort Clinton, past an all-but-destroyed sculpture rescued from the World Trade Center wreckage and up Wall Street, where we stopped in a small museum dedicated to George Washington and the first federal seat of government in New York.

By then we were way overdue for lunch, so we stopped for some mediocre dim sum and then headed to Rice to Riches, the coolest niche restaurant in existence, which serves nothing but flavored rice pudding in funky bowls and an even funkier decor. For our post-dessert dessert we hit Ciao Bella, where I had a succulent pear sorbet that was the closest thing to sex on a spoon I've ever experienced.

We stopped at a bunch more boutique shops on our way home, where I quickly collapsed into bed for a restorative nap, and then we got dressed for dinner at Republic Noodles and Johnny Guitar, a hysterical musical homage to Joan Crawford's cheesy 1954 cult movie -- and I was surprised to discover that the new lead is my friend Richard's oft-mentioned ex-boyfriend.

We capped off our day of exhaustive vacation fun at the Eagle, a leather bar (but then again, what bar called the Eagle isn't a leather bar?) waaaay out in the middle of nowhere. The place held the endless promise of raunchy leatherboy fun, but the raunchy leatherboy crowd just wasn't there -- which may have a lot to do with the floor show: An aging, thoroughly unattractive man wearing nothing but boots and cheap underwear standing on a pool table painting an abstract, monochromatic figure study on two huge pieces of dirty posterboard held together with duct tape. If this is some new leather sub-fetish, neither of us found any excitement in it -- or in the crowd standing around watching with the same level of interest you'd expect from a bunch of guys with nothing better to do in a half-deserted bar. We left after a couple hours to head back to Urge, which was hosting its much-hyped Ass Wednesday, which featured an inarticulate, unfunny drag queen hosting a bare-ass contest. The winner had an amazing little honey-baked ham tucked away in his pants -- and his first runner-up was pretty well-assed as well. But by that time the vacation was over and it was time to head home and get ready for this morning's flight back to Chicago.

We have more focus groups here tonight, and then I'm looking forward to a long slumber in my own bed.

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