Shortly after turning twenty-one, I treated myself to a bottle of Tanqueray. In the world of spirits, gin was my first, my only true love. Out in the world, I drank beer, tequila, or whatever was convenient or socially appropriate, but in my kitchen, upon returning home late after a long, uninspiring day of work and school, I would sometimes mix a martini.
I took to it with a youthful enthusiasm that made up for my lack of experience and equipment. I didn’t have one of those stainless steel hourglass things to measure, but I did have my trusty Pyrex measuring cup. I’d first pour in about 2.5 ounces of gin. Then 0.5 oz of vermouth. The vermouth was tricky because that measuring cup only had 2 oz increments, so it left something to the imagination. As I quickly discovered, a dry-vermouth-to-gin ratio that is too high will render your cocktail undrinkable. I was really deep down in the trenches. Next, I’d carefully drop in the ice. Let it melt. Sometimes, I would then scoop out the ice and use it to chill the glass (yes, I had martini glasses). Finally, I’d give it a good stir with a spoon, take out the ice if that wasn’t already done, pour it into the glass, and drop in three little green olives.
I had a lot of musings about the whole thing, as you can imagine. For example, I was against using Bombay Sapphire East, which has lemongrass and spices that are not always found in gin, in a dirty martini. So, considering how geeky I was about all this, it’s kind of shocking that now, only a few months later, I’m in New York and I haven’t had a single martini, let alone the famed pickle martini.
I had heard of the beautiful Bowery Hotel, so today I thought I’d have a looksy since it’s not too far from where I’m staying. I’d heard good things about their lobby bar and martinis. I fancied that I might have a drink there if I felt like it. I got a little bit dressed up, but nothing too fancy. I reapplied makeup and headed back out.
First, I needed dinner. I wanted a salad because, let’s face it, there hasn’t been a whole lot of green in my diet of late. And I didn’t want a grocery pre-packaged salad because the last one I’d gotten was gross. I went to a sit-down restaurant not too far from the hotel, alone of course, as one often does while traveling alone. When I went in, the waitress asked how many, and I said “one.” She seemed kind of surprised/saddened by this. This reaction is not uncommon, but usually it is concealed a little better. I always try to just ignore it because, as I have said before, you can’t have individualism without self-reliance. The truth is, life ain’t all slumber parties and picnics. Aloneness happens to the best of us, and it can be embraced rather than glossed over. She thought for a moment and decided to “put me” in the back because the tables in front were taken and the bar was busy. She wasn’t trying to be rude or insulting, but somehow I did feel insulted at that moment. It was dark and lonely back there, except for the waitresses walking by and the busboy coming up the stairs with ice, and I wondered what the hell I was doing in that restaurant and existing on this planet. It was like they put me there because they were afraid that my solitaryness would ruin the vibe of the laughing and chatting people at the bar. During this trip, I have been pretty successful in not indulging in negative feelings, but this was kind of a low point for me. I have been having a good time, I appreciate the opportunity to be here, and I do enjoy having the freedom to do absolutely whatever I fancy. But that doesn’t change the fact that evenings are a little harder than daytime. Luckily, I’ve had this blog to keep me occupied, instead of being out at some bar, feeling out of place and wishing that I had someone to talk to, someone who didn’t just want to sleep with me.
After dinner, which was nourishing if not much fun, I did take a peek at the Bowery. The lobby is very nice. I saw the bar, which was dark and rich, tucked away and empty save for the bartender. Then, I just left.
I don’t regret my days of having a drink or two by myself. Maybe some people don’t understand it, but it seemed like a natural and reasonable thing to do at the time. It just doesn’t anymore. It isn’t even that I care what people think about me, it’s just that I’m never in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. Without any significant distractions, the sensations that I feel as alcohol is first metabolized are overwhelming to me now. I don’t want to wonder how much faster my heart is beating. I envy people who don’t even notice or care about those things, and if you can help it, I’d advise you to take it easy too. I’m not saying that one should throw caution to the wind, but really, life is much too short to be going down some rabbit hole or another every five seconds. Take it from me.
I’d like to think that someday I’ll come back here to New York City, maybe with a good friend or my soulmate, and that we can go to some of the places that I didn’t want to go to alone. And yet, if I don’t, I feel like that’s alright too. Yes, this trip has been even more sober and responsible than I even thought it would be (some of the highlights of my day include geeking out over buildings and eating over a pound of organic seedless grapes), but I’m glad for it. I know that I’m not the quite the same person that I was when I came here, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s only for the better.
Well, enough about that. Let’s discuss Chelsea. I spotted this po-mo-looking building from the Highline. I guess it doesn’t show well in the picture, but the windows are frosted in such a way that when you look at it, you feel that your vision is blurred, maybe from being myopic or maybe from being high on drugs (come to think of it, the two aren’t all that different). The Highline is the site of old railroad tracks far above street level that were converted to a green space in the 90’s.
Reflections of new buildings and construction equipment, ubiquitous in Chelsea today as the charming red brick residences. I must admit, when I saw some “for lease signs” on apartment buildings in Chelsea, I imagined myself moving to Chelsea. Can you believe it? Well, the millennials gentrified and appropriated, but maybe us late 90’s kids will do things differently.
Then again, it is true that these parts of New York are safe now, which is good. People like to point that out. If you just see Chelsea today, you don’t understand why Elvis Costello evidently did not want to go there (anyone remember that song?), but if you imagine Manhattan in the 70’s… heaven above, I would stay the heck away from Chelsea too, and the street where I’ve been staying for the past week.
I don’t think a more adorable take on Noah’s Ark has ever existed.
Some more highlights from my brief, but enlightening, Chelsea art walk.
Chelsea has a kind of no-nonsense, unpretentious working people’s vibe, especially with all the construction going on. That feeling is more pronounced than it is in the Lower East Side. Then again, I didn’t spend that much time in Chelsea so it’s hard for me to compare. As such, one feels out of place, guilty even, for strolling around on a weekday looking at art with an iced matcha latte in hand. Even though there are a bunch of other people doing it too.
One tip I may share: go to Los Tacos No. 1 in the Chelsea Market. Unless you really know your tacos. Even then, I can’t imagine anyone being too disappointed by these juicy, street food style tacos with just the right amount of chopped white onions and guacamole. And a thin layer of some kind of queso sauce, I believe.
This is the Equitable Building. This office building from the early twentieth century was so high compared to the surrounding buildings that it blocked sunlight, and its many office dwellers congested the streets. As such, this single, gorgeous building was actually the catalyst for zoning laws that we know today.
Well, that was quite a trip. From the proverbial Main Street, to Wall Street, to the machinations of my consciousness. I think we’ve seen about as much as we can handle today. Or, at least I have. Who wants a martini?