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NYC: Nerd’s Paradise

Posted by on August 10, 2012

A week ago I was in New York City, indulging in what has to be the nerdiest NYC tour ever embarked upon. Well, actually, that’s the beauty of the city, I’m coming to understand…you can be ANYONE and find infinite places of interest, details to charm, foods to obsess over.

But back to THIS particular nerd. Here’s what my latest (solo!) venture to visit my favorite Brooklynite, Brad, looked like:

Wednesday night: On the way to the airport with Joe and the boys, we call to make sure there hasn’t been a last-minute change for my flight. Turns out, there HAS been. CANCELLED. What?!? How do they even DO that? I still pull up to the drop-off lane and, exiting the car, kiss my family and tell Joe to take the boys someplace nearby for dinner, in the event I need to be picked up. I go in and, long story short, benefit from a severely-delayed flight to another NY airport (JFK) and try not to feel too happy as all my co-travelers are crabby from having been at the airport for hours and hours. The reason given for both my cancelled flight and this 5-hour delay? “Excessive air traffic in the area”, meaning in New York. I just…don’t understand airlines. I’m sorry, I don’t. I’m sure it’s all very complicated, but why offer so many flight options if it’s going to mean the planes have to play chicken to land in LaGuardia? Whatever. When I’m finally in-flight, I can’t help but notice that the women directly beside me AND the one directly across the aisle are both reading “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Ugh. Also, the businessman just in front of me across the aisle bought in-flight wi-fi and then proceeded to spend the entire two hours researching PENS on Amazon. Pens. I can’t make this stuff up. I land in JFK, get in a cab, and half an hour later I’m in Williamsburg. Yay, it’s Brad! And he has just enough “safe food” in his refrigerator for me to make myself a grilled-cheese sandwich. Yum.

Thursday: I awake on my super-deluxe air mattress in the kitchen area of Brad’s studio. The locking of the door behind him has signaled Brad’s departure for work, and I have a full day with no demands from anyone or anything. What is this weightless feeling I’m experiencing? The city beyond the patio greets me.

Also? This patio directly across the way from Brad’s is even better than it looks in this picture. I keep thinking of that epic rooftop patio in “How I Met Your Mother”, but I wouldn’t attempt to jump over there. It’s much further away than the one in that show. But, to its advantage, it boasts several shirtless Adonises during my stay.

I get ready at my own pace and, having settled on it the night before, chart out my subway route to the New York Historical Society. I write down precise directions from the nearby bagel place. I mean, c’mon.

Fortified, I set out and find that I am not as scared as I thought I’d be, doing the subway thing solo. Last time I was here with Maxwell, Brad just marched confidently ahead of us and said, “our stop!” to signal when to exit. I’ve been on many a subway worldwide, but I think the ones in New York are the most intimidating. There are just so many tracks. But having scribbled such detailed directions for myself, I know I’m fine. When I exit the station on Central Park West, I am able to enjoy my northerly walk, basking in the vibrant green canopy of the park on my right. The air, though, is already a stifling soup pot at 10:30AM. My hair doesn’t even dry from my morning shower until I’ve been in the museum for a half hour or more.

As for the museum itself, it has a NYC beer exhibit that is pretty interesting (takeaway: NYC used to boast the majority of the major breweries in the country, until a type of mold wiped out the local hop growth and the prohibition hammered the last nail into the coffin.) I especially loved this artistic depiction from the teetotalers’ propaganda materials:

I am in for a world of trouble, it seems. Next step is MURDER.

Anyway, I also learned some interesting things about the Puerto Rican immigration history, the smallpox vaccine and its development in NY and beyond, and looked at beautiful treasures from impossibly rich New Yorkers. They had a whole silver exhibit that had me momentarily convinced that I had been secretly transported to the Vatican or something.

It was a pretty visually overwhelming place, so by 2:00 I was ready to be done. I followed my precise directions back to the apartment, stopping along the way for some food. I ate a little, then decided I had so much time until I expected Brad home that I would just clean his apartment. Yeah, I have issues. It was fun, though, and done in a spirit of gratitude for his graciously hosting me yet again. When he got home, we went to a Williamsburg restaurant called Dumont Burger or something. They have a lovely little patio that we eat on, and melt away as the humidity is killer. On the way home, Brad gets a less-than-stellar shake and I want a piece of pie. We stop into this diner (Kellogg’s) and I ask for a slice of coconut cream to-go. When we get back to his apartment, I open my styrofoam box and find this:

No. NO NO NO. Why is there CAKE in my PIE? Look, here’s the thing: in this world, there are cake people and there are pie people. I am a staunch pie person. I dream of pie. I do not care for cake, most of the time. Like, if given a choice of cake or nothing I’d likely choose nothing. So for the love of all that is good, WHY CAKE in the PIE?!?

We went up on the roof where the breeze was a soothing balm for my disappointment. And so ended the first full day.

Friday: Upon waking, I again revel in the uninterrupted shower I am granted by an empty apartment. If I wasn’t a huge nerd, I might stay here in the solitude all day. Brad is working, and I could easily sit in the clean apartment and meditate. But alas, I have big, nerdy plans. First, I painstakingly write out my subway directions. On the way to the station, I pass my favorite neighborhood spot: the monument/bread store.

I take a subway and get off at Grand Central Station. Squeee! But that’s not my final destination. Instead, I join a tour and start Facebooking photos to see if people can guess my location. Can you?

I’ll start to make this easier:

Yes, I was at the Stephen A. Schwartzman Library, on a tour, having the time of my life. Fun facts about this library:

  • The book stacks are down where only (some, super-special) employees go, near the old aquifer wall. There are 88 miles of stacks.
  • Anyone can walk into the library and get a library card, no matter where you live.
  • If you want to spend time with a book, you look it up in their system, write down the catalog info, and bring it to the desk. The librarian sends it down to the appropriate “stack” and whoever’s working that section finds it and sends it up a dumbwaiter in a bin. The librarian calls your “number” (now serving #36 or whatever) and you go get your book. If it needs special handling, the stacks librarian also sends gloves in the bin with the book. WHAT.
  • One of the main architects who designed the library died in an accident just weeks before it opened.
  • The funders initially wanted the exterior to be red brick. The architects were smarter.
  • Tim Curry is featured in one of these corridor paintings. Okay, not really. But: doppelganger!

Man, I loved this library. It felt like Hogwarts, it was so majestic and magical. I also saw a cute exhibit here on Lunch in New York over the years. Just then, it was time to meet Brad (whose office was nearby) for our own power lunch. I cannot reveal the deal we brokered.

After that, I wandered slowly (again, SO HOT!) back to Grand Central. Well, hello there, gorgeous.

I spent awhile resting at the apartment and IMing with Joe (all the boys thrived without me around, haha.) Then Brad came home and yay, Friday night! We tried to go to some really small comedy club to see Janeane Garofalo but the line was a mile long. So we went to a wine bar (whatev, nothing special except for the odd music playlist) and then Brad was like, “Don’t you want to do something crazy? What’s the craziest thing you can think of doing?” I am not, by nature, crazy. But you might remember that I wished to sing karaoke in NYC. So I said, “Isn’t there some karaoke place or piano bar or something in this city of yours?”

“Oh God, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this…”

So we wound up here, and since you can’t read the sign I’ll tell you the place was called Marie’s Crisis Cafe. It was a gay showtune piano bar. I cannot even make this up. So I got to stand in a rainbow-lighted room for 3 or 4 hours, singing showtunes with a bunch of beautiful and talented gay men. To say it was a life-changing experience is putting it mildly.

“Brad…do they do this every night, or just on the weekends?” I asked as we walked away sometime after 2AM.

“They do it ALL THE TIME. Day, night, every day.”



Unfortunately, we had to leave before that elusive “one more song we both know” (as it turns out, we have very different knowledge of musicals, Brad and I) because it was after 2. And then we had to get home on the subway, which was running slow and it was SO HOT on the platforms and my feet didn’t work anymore. Never have I been so relieved to dive face-first into an air mattress.

Saturday: We woke up late. Went to a lovely brunch at some place that was 2 blocks from Brad’s apartment. Everything is two blocks from Brad’s apartment. Including eggs benedict and the most interesting home-style potatoes this girl has had in a very, very long time. We got hot just walking to the place and stayed hot though we were in air conditioning. We knew that an indoor activity that involved no walking (see: last night’s foot malfunction) was in order. So we went back to his place and watched too many episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” to while away the 100+ degree heat index afternoon.

Brad was on a sweet mission for me: find the best pie in NYC to make up for my first evening’s disappointment. He had looked it up on the wonderful internet and discovered that one of the top-rated pie places in NY was…you guessed it…within two blocks of Brad’s apartment. So for dinner, before heading down to Broadway for our show that evening, we went to the magical place called The Blue Stove. I…I can’t even. Everything about the experience of this shop and the pie they lovingly make leaves me without adaquate words. In fact, I just read more about them when I went looking for a website to link to up there, and now I love them even more. I ordered a small (individual-sized) strawberry rhubarb pie. My favorite. And a large iced coffee, which was served in a quart-sized canning jar. *swoon*

I took one bite of my pie, warmed for me in a real oven, and I cried. I do not exaggerate when I say that. It was so beautiful. The crust is, hands-down, the most incredible thing I’ve ever put into my mouth. I immediately hatched a plan wherein I abandoned my present life, moved into Brad’s kitchen, and begged to apprentice at this pie store until I was skilled enough to work there for the rest of my life, making this culinary wonderment with unabashed love. If you are ever in Williamsburg (or anywhere in NYC) and you do NOT run to The Blue Stove at your earliest convenience for a piece of their pie, I will punch you the next time we meet.

Bellies full of the best dinner ever, we made our way down to Times Square station and the odd but wonderful tent erected in the theatre district  for Spiegelworld: Empire, which was the show we’d purchased tickets to see. When exploring our theatre options, I’d stumbled upon a description of this show as “Cirque du Soleil meets Rocky Horror”, which is just about accurate. It was a circus of sorts, with nudity and cursing and drinking. We sat in a booth in the outer circle and watched people balance and move improbably. While nearly naked. It was amazing.

Tired, we went back to Brooklyn and then I kept Brad up too late talking on his patio. You know you’re in trouble when the Empire State Building turns out the lights for the night…that means it’s after 2. And you should really let your friend go to sleep now.

Sunday: Lame and boring, because it mostly was about leaving. But first: breakfast pie. Yes. Yes, we did. And I told the lovely Blue Stove people that their pie had made me cry the previous day, which they seemed charmed by. Or creeped-out by. Let’s go with charmed.

Our Lady of the Snow church had a kitschy, small-town-esque parade down the main street in the ‘hood, replete with this float and a prayer card souvenir for me. I pretended the parade was for my farewell.

Brad had to leave for a work trip, too, which made my leave-taking a little easier. My plane sat on the tarmac for like 2 hours not moving. All that “excessive air traffic” again, I suspect. Actually, they blamed it on regional rainstorms. Which: okay. I live in MN. Is it a tornado? A blizzard? Then shut up and fly, wusses.

But I did get back to my family, my boys who’d missed me. And they’d given me the gift of a remarkably clean house to come home to. MN knew I’d been in a sticky, dirty, smelly metropolis and rewarded me with a cool, refreshing 70-degree breeze and a night full of cricket-call. And as much as I’d like to be a New York pie-maker, I couldn’t quit these Ys.


11 Responses to NYC: Nerd’s Paradise

  1. Charlie


  2. Crazy Aunt Linda

    My dream trip…right down to the pie [I had no idea it was Strawberry Rhubarb!]
    I’d still be sitting at that piano bar with them begging me to leave.
    Love this blog, Court!
    Did I say, lucky you!?

  3. Crazy Aunt Linda

    p.s. PENS for 2 hours!? Were these, like, James Bond style pens that can also take pictures and instigate Time Travel!?
    one cocktail and I’d have HAD to say something smart to him…

    • administrator

      THANK YOU. And no, these were ordinary executive pens without flashy spy capabilities. If I would have had a drink (or even half of one, let’s be honest) I probably would have said something, too!

  4. Crazy Aunt Linda

    YESSSSSSS to the Dream Team of Sugar T***s and CALi on the next Dream trip!
    And, should snarky, un-called for but deserving plane comments possibly be the step on the bad behaviors attributed to alcohol use just BEFORE murder!?
    What IS that last level anyway? Can’t read it. Is it WORSE than murder!? Something to do with questionable wardrobe choices?

    • administrator

      It reads “Fatal Platform”. God only knows what that could mean…perhaps attendance at a Justin Bieber concert?

  5. Daphne

    Thanks for sharing your NYC experience. It is a unique perspective I would never have imagined. My personal NYC adventure consisted of a chauffeur-driven whirlwind tour on a Sunday before we boarded a plane for Barcelona and a Mediterranean cruise. (This was in 2000 when the Twin Towers were still intact.) Our driver had such a thick accent we had difficulty understanding everything he said. Fortunately, landmarks speak for themselves. Don’t know if I’ll ever get back to the Big Apple, but it was fun seeing the city through the eyes of someone much more up close and personal.

    • Carolyn

      Excellent reporting. The only time I went to NYC with Barbara and Rita, I totally loved the experience as well. It’s it’s own world where a few people speak English. I get why people fall in love with it.

  6. Erica

    I like the kid in the front row of the nearly naked, foul-mouth circus. Too funny.

  7. Manda

    Can we go on vacation together? Seriously, that sounded PERFECT for me – just perfect! I also don’t eat cake, love Broadway, love libraries (so fabulous – would you go again with me?) – we can wander and eat pie all the day long. Glad you had such a great time!

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