Lovely. Magical. The city-that-never-sleeps is aglow in twinkling lights, draped in mistletoe, holly and pine boughs. We haven’t slept much, and after bumpy flights and confusing arrival, my friend The Magician and I are starving. First things first. We head for Eataly’s Il Pesce where we savor Black Rice with Uni & Crab, unctuous and creamy. (We obsess over this uni all year long.) Our second course of grilled octopus is charred and gorgeous, tossed with yellow potatoes, roasted red peppers and festive green parsley. With a crisp Vermentino, it’s magico nero, black magic.
Regrettably, it’s also Santacon, with hordes of red-suited Santas wreaking drunken havoc in midtown. I ask The Magician to levitate us out of Santa-anarchy. “Abracadabra!” he says, hustling us off to the West Village where there’s nary a Santa in sight.
We head to Industria‘s multi-level loft-space for holiday magic with a backbeat: Exhibitionism–The Rolling Stones. The sprawling retrospective includes diaries, engraved guitars, hand-written lyrics, and some very distinguished album and poster art. For the fashion-obsessed, there are Victorian cravats and ruffled shirts, velvet frock coats, lacy cuffs and brocade that evoke swinging London at its best.
Exhibitionism follows the band’s trajectory from moody bad-boys to fashion-forward rock ‘n’ roll icons. The show pulls from private collections and from the lads themselves. An anthropological standout is the meticulously disgusting recreation of the band’s infamous digs in London, complete with olfactory magic of stale-beer and dirty-clothes whiff. Concert footage and audio put viewers in a blissed-out, nostalgic and occasionally hilarious place. Loved it.
We rock on, crashing Gowanus Music Club’s performance at Joe’s Pub where the assembled young rock bands and my niece Matilda put on a fab show — hip, youthful, vibrant, and whatever the opposite of ‘retrospective’ is. The magical multigenerational mojo works: “The kids are alright!” as Pete Townshend roared in the ’60s. Yes, they are.
From Aztec Lady to Linking Rings, Severed Ropes, a billion card tricks and Devil’s Torture Chamber, my friend The Magician is a wizard. He twinkles his way into The Illusionists while I enjoy the musical, Waitress. We both have supernatural experiences.
It’s Christmas, which to us means books books books. 192 Books is hosting a reading and signing with Zadie Smith, whose Swing Time is on my nightstand. Now that’s holiday magic. Synchronicity.
As always, shopping makes us hungry. Grilled “Murray’s Melt” sandwiches at the eponymous Murray’s Cheese Bar on Bleecker St. are a hot drippy gooey mess. Perfect. Even my friend The Magician is stumped by Murray’s secret cheese blend. Me, I think Murray ought to keep an eye on the magician, he’s a pretty canny fellow.
We head around the corner to the Pace gallery for the Mark Rothko exhibition, Dark Palette. Do see it and get there fast. It runs through January 7 at the PACE on West 25th Street. The exhibition is a small wonder, a dark jewel.
Yes. The Humans is quirky, funny, sad and heartbreaking — beautifully written, a little dark, and thoroughly accessible. As the wonderful actress (Mom!) Jayne Houdyshell said, “Audiences recognize themselves in The Humans.” I saw myself, my daughters and my mother. For more multigenerational holiday magic, see The Humans.
The Magician and I are delighted to conclude our holiday adventure in DUMBO with our luminous friend, Justin Townsend. We catch the last show of Longing Lasts Longer at St. Ann’s Warehouse with performance artist Penny Arcade—a feast of wit and snarky one-liners. Penny’s magic is that she is both a total badass and kindred spirit.
DUMBO “Down Under Manhattan and Brooklyn Overpass” is a gritty Brooklyn neighborhood that is so cool I suddenly feel completely square. I console myself at adorable Almondine Bakery with several delicate French almond macarons in hip flavors like blood orange and passionfruit. Better.
We reserve a last late-night bite at Babbo as is our holiday habit. The place is as welcoming and golden as always, but Mario is definitely having an off night. Tonight, beloved Babbo is uneven at best, disappointing at worst. Oh my. Old habits die hard on this trip. We resolve to tuck some nifty magic tricks up our sleeves in 2017, and perhaps consult Penny for tips on breaking some of our stale sorcerer’s habits in the New Year. Cheers! •
Happy New Year from EpicuriousTravelers.com