Month: October, 2006
Tuesday night marked the 33rd Annual Village Halloween Parade in New York City. According to the parade association’s website, the parade is the nation’s largest public Halloween celebration, and the only major nighttime parade in the country. The parade was started in 1973 as a local, family-oriented promenade event for children — ironic, given how the event has evolved. Over the decades, it has grown to encompass almost 50,000 marchers, an estimated 2 million spectators along the mile-long route, and an audience of another 4 million for the televised broadcast — none of whom should be children.
Anyone in a costume is invited to join the puppets, floats and performers in the march up Sixth Avenue. This year’s theme was “The Village Hearth,” a reference to times when communities would gather around giant bonfires to mark the changing of seasons. Parade Grand Marshals Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS appeared on a KISS Float in full costume and makeup.
For old times sake, I went to observe the parade from SC’s and my former block. On the way downtown on the subway, we passed the usual assortment of ghouls and goblins, and the requisite saucy witches, Playboy-esque bunnies, sexy kitty cats and naughty nurses.
The parade had just started, and the crush of people at the intersections made it difficult to see (or photograph, or move) much. The excitement in the air was palpable, though, and I was happy to be out on this unseasonably warm night, taking small part in this NYC tradition.
I stayed only for a short while, apparently just missing out on RB, MP, BK and their band — bunch? — of roving bananas. Also somehow missed running into MB, her dad and L, who were watching the parade from a spot one block north of where I was. (And where a man was later stabbed — non-fatally — in the chest in one of those random NYC altercations. Some people don’t like to be asked what their problem is.)
We had dinner on Greenwich Street, from which we had a prime view of the rest of the night’s festivities. As we were leaving the Village, we witnessed a heartwarming moment on Seventh Avenue South when a man dressed as a giant penis passed a man dressed as a giant sperm. They called out to one another like long-lost friends, and posed with their arms wrapped around each other, as the flashbulbs of half a dozen cameras fired off to capture the magical workings of Fate.
Tonight: the culmination of the grand plans we made over filet mignons.
SYB and I went in for some liquid courage before the main event, pre-gaming at Cafetasia before setting out to meet AC and GK at Dean & DeLuca‘s University Place cafe across the street from Bowlmor Lanes.
Bowlmor has been a Village fixture since 1938. It was the site of television’s first bowling shows during the late 1950s. New York-based entrepreneur Thomas Shannon took over the bowling alley in 1997, after which his company, Strike Holdings, launched a multimillion-dollar renovation of the 42-lane bi-level space – later discovered to be funded in part by investments from Yasser Arafat. (Strike Holdings returned the money.)
Back in the pre-renovation days, my high school’s bowling class was held at Bowlmor, though one would hardly recognize it as the same space. There was no neon back then; no retro lounge, no plush booths, no DJ or swanky bar… and bowling there was an altogether grimier experience than it is today. Still, for those less athletically inclined — you’d have to be, to select a gym elective during which you could simultaneously eat cheese fries — it was a fun opportunity to hang out downtown with your friends once a week for school credit.
We picked up our rented shoes, and claimed our lane. AC’s “new friend” M joined us just as we were about to get started, and promptly established himself as the ringer of our group. Didn’t help that I bowled by far the most abysmal game I’d ever bowled in my life. Can’t even blame the T & T, since I was abstaining that night. I was the only one not trying to impress a potential love interest, though, so in the end it mattered quite little. I like to think that I fulfilled my job in making the others look far more talented and desirable by comparison.
SYB checked us out when we were done. Not for nothing is Bowlmor Lanes the world’s highest-grossing bowling alley… The popular Monday “Night Strike” is a far more economical option, offering shoe rental and unlimited bowling from 10PM to 3AM for $20 per person.
Afterwards, the five of us dined at Saigon Grill on summer rolls, eggplant, steak cubes and pho. AC and GK told some funny, if slightly disturbing, dating horror stories. I demurred from contributing, not so much because I’ve had such uniformly positive experiences, but because there was nothing I could say to top having contents from my refrigerator co-opted as souvenirs by a particularly bold overnight visitor.
So was the night a success? Stay tuned…
Chilly, clear Sunday morning. B met me at the apartment and as we stepped outside for brunch we could not help but notice the giant inflatable toilet that had taken over 68th Street.
Apparently the toilet slide was set up for DreamWorks’ new computer animated movie, Flushed Away. Voiceover stars Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman were scheduled to make trips down the 30-foot inflatable slide onto the red — actually: 2000 Flushes-blue — carpet for the afternoon premiere.
Our first stop: the Apple store on Fifth Avenue — my first time inside this shop, since its May opening. Quality photos abound of the $9 million 32-foot glass cube designed and paid for by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, so check them out on the Apple site. The entirely subterranean shop is located in the underground concourse of the General Motors building, opposite the Plaza Hotel, The store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
It is also the site of several marriage proposals. On opening day, James Lee, a Yale medical student, took advantage of the live timelapse photographs Apple webbroadcast that morning, arriving at the store in time for the 5:00AM launch. Once there, he held up three signs that read: “Uschi Lang. I love you. Will you marry me?” intended for his girlfriend, fellow Apple-devotee Lang, a student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. (It was no hoax, as some had initially speculated. She said yes.)
Among the weekend shoppers, I ran into PL and ML with their baby boy M, out shopping for a new computer. B took the opportunity to slip away, to scope out the sweet iPod nanos on display. Ooh — a surprise!
And now this is me – still firmly ensconced in Phase I, a.k.a. the “OH MY GOD IT’S SO SMALL AND SHINY” phase. (via Digg – thanks, B!)
B hadn’t yet seen Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror at Rockefeller Center — which I checked out briefly during openhousenewyork weekend — and we were unsure about whether it was still on view. As it happened, the mirror was scheduled to be taken down on October 27, two days earlier, but dismantling a 23-ton circular stainless steel sculpture takes some time, so we were able to get one final peek.
Finally, what we’d been anticipating all week: the Pier! Of! Fear!
This Halloween event was taking place on Saturday and Sunday at Hudson River Park‘s Pier 54 for the seventh year in a row. According to the press release:
Hudson River Park’s Pier 54 becomes Halloween party central for a two-day festival featuring Halloween activities designed to thrill and chill children and adults of all ages. Returning to this year’s Pier of Fear is one of Manhattan’s best haunted houses. This enormous and eerie attraction is a guided tour through the haunted hallways and rooms of the Maze of Horrors featuring live actors and spectacular special effects. As night falls, the maze becomes even spookier for adults and older children.
All of which sounded like good fun. We arrived at the windblown pier as night rapidly fell, fully expecting to find the festivities in full swing. Instead, we came upon the rather desolate docks, where a couple of sad-looking stands (and one gyroscope ride) were set up to entertain. It was bitingly cold and dark — which seemed to have no dampening effect on the enthusiasm of the many kids who had descended upon the pier in their costumes.
The haunted house looked somewhat more promising, but the long line to enter discouraged us. We quickly assessed that it would not be worth our while to wait, and left, disappointed.
We trudged over to Westville, for a deliciously comforting dinner, so our trip to the West Village was not in vain. Their “smoky mac n’ cheese” — consistently ranked one of the best in the city — warmed our stomachs and raised our spirits. Marring the experience ever so slightly was that the cafe ran out of B’s favorite dessert: German chocolate cake.
After a bit of research, I learned that German Chocolate Cake is nicht Deutcher. The “German” refers to German’s sweet chocolate — which is itself named for Englishman Sam German, who created the mild baking chocolate bar for Baker’s Chocolate Co. in 1852. After a recipe incorporating the bar was published by a Dallas newspaper in 1957, the chocolate-buttermilk cake with coconut-pecan topping became immensely popular. General Foods, which then owned Baker’s Chocolate, reported sales of their brand jumped 73 percent that year.
Today, of course, most supermarkets carry ready-made mixes for German (possessive “s” dropped) chocolate cake. The original recipe doesn’t look too complicated, though, so I’m keeping it in mind as the mercury drops and I’m more in the baking mood.
Less complicated still (and probably just as warming): the German Chocolate Cake cocktail.
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