A walk on the wild side

Why doesn’t my head hurt more? I’m not complaining. That said, I am a little run down and the rain is steadily dampening my enthusiasm to go anywhere.

Tea and a bagel at what is a populous Amrita this morning. The usual eclectic bunch of souls are here meeting up, working or breakfasting. I’m earwigging four people by the front door. There’s a Hollywood actress who I think I recognise but can’t name, plus a film director. They are probably C-list but its another indication of the mix of people who call this neighbourhood home.

The morning comes and goes. It would be easy to spend the rest of the day on a tea drip working my way through the cookie selection but the big city awaits and I hate to miss an appointment.

Fast forward to the early afternoon in a grisly damp Lower East Side. This is one of the older areas of Manhattan that provided squalid living to early immigrants coming into the city. Today the area still has a working class feel to it. There’s a mix of retail and dining in the area with a number of Jewish businesses in evidence and a puzzling quantity of hat shops. Amidst the more affordable shops there are some really exclusive boutiques selling high end clothes and accessories. The sort of places where if they sell a pair of socks the manager puts up the “closed” sign, locks up and jets off to the Bahamas for a week with the proceeds.

My stroll up to East Village has a subplot. You see I am on a rather curious and arguably pointless mission of sorts. Right up my street then. I home in on the Sidewalk Café which has a significant place in musical history as a focal point for the Antifolk movement. One of the noted performers during this period was New York musician Thomas Truax who is reknown for his unusual artistic style plus the fact he makes and plays a bizarre range of instruments. Here’s a sample of his genius on YouTube.

Thomas is based in the UK now and he is performing at the CogMachine charity gig in Derby on Friday 28th May with proceeds going to MacMillan Cancer Support (please do attend – there’s a genuinely amazing line-up and it’s going to be a great evening of entertainment – plug plug). Anyway, the notion of plugging his appearance at the venue where he cut his teeth appealed to my surreal side and so here I am on a wet afternoon in a semi deserted café/bar with a poster for the Derby gig.

Tim about to flypost the Sidewalk Cafe
Tim about to flypost the Sidewalk Cafe

The venue has real presence and I sneak into the back room where the stage sits and take a few photos, though I’m not really supposed to be there. Just for good measure I leave the poster on display on the piano on the offchance somebody is tempted to jump on a plane and see him in Derby.

This sign is actually on the ceiling
This sign is actually on the ceiling
Mission accomplished
Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished it’s back to the streets. It’s 3:30pm, I’ve only had an apple at noon and I’m ravenous. But if I eat now that’s neither lunch or tea. Dilemma! I resolve to poke around the streets for a couple of hours before eating and get a measure of the East Village. And what of this suburb? It is an area for music, artists and above all, attitude. I sense that much of the “attitude” on display is commercially motivated by businesses wanting to cash in on the local brand but there’s a few genuinely rough feeling punk shops and grungy bars.

East Village attitude
East Village attitude
This, surprisingly, is a functioning bar
This, surprisingly, is a functioning bar
East Village shop front
East Village shop front

In amidst the manufactured hype sits the real thing, tucked away down a side street. McSorleys Ale House is the most famous tavern in the city. This Irish drinkery has a long and notorious history and by all accounts it hasn’t changed from the old days other than reluctantly admitting women to the bar after a long enforced ban. Even the landlady didn’t used to be allowed in the pub during trading hours.

The infamous McSorleys Ale House
The infamous McSorleys Ale House

By now I have eeked out time long enough to call the next meal tea and I have another iconic New York establishment up my sleeve. This time it’s Katz’s deli (where they filmed “that scene” in “When Harry Met Sally”). It reeks of atmosphere despite being a major tourist draw and I have to submit to the classic gargantuan pastrami sandwich.

OMG
OMG

My life span diminishes slightly in the face of a processed meat and cholesterol overdose but what the hell.

Katz Deli
Katz Deli

It’s still grotty out and I haven’t the willpower to trudge around any more so a low key evening should enable me to catch up on the sleep I’m still owed from last night. The B train takes me all the way uptown and it’s an informative journey spent listening to a couple of MTA workers talking about the redundancies proposed by the city in a much reported bid to save costs. Public transport here is as educational as it is transportational.