This winter, I have gotten a little…stuck. I moved to Queens, which is wonderful, but ever since I moved, I have not been interested in straying much outside of my neighborhood. It’s been a brutally cold few months and the spring does not feel like it will ever arrive. Over the winter, I didn’t have any interest in exploration of any kind. I preferred to get in my bed, watch a movie, and eat Nutella by the tablespoon.
But last weekend, my Israeli friend, Yael, who I met in Berlin last year, was in town with her friend. I—reluctantly—changed out of my sweatpants into some real clothes (my jeans barely button thanks to my Nutella consumption) and did my best to be a decent tour guide.
Through pouring rain (but thankfully no snow) we explored a bit of Williamsburg; they both wanted to browse through the antiques and crafts at the Brooklyn Flea.
Shopping isn’t usually my thing, but perusing the knickknacks at the Flea is like digging through gold to find a diamond. I wanted everything. I wanted the vintage patterned plates in my kitchen cabinets, I wanted the colorful stuffed owl on my bed, I wanted a big beaded costume bracelet that I would wear only once before deeming it impractical.
But I am an up-and-coming minimalist. I kept my wallet buried deep in my pocket and watched as Yael and her friend scrounged for treasures to take home with them.
In the midst of our shopping, we grabbed a bite to eat at Smorgasburg, which is a food festival being held indoors with the Flea until the weather improves.
Just before we left Williamsburg, we made a pit stop at Mast Brother’s to smell some chocolate (we were too full to actually eat any) and they bought some to bring home with them.
That night, I introduced them both to my favorite pizza place ever…John’s on Bleecker Street which has the perfect proportions of just-thick-enough crust, tomato sauce which I could and would eat by the spoonful, and a layer of bubbly cheese. This pizza has ruined all other pizza for me. (Who am I kidding? Even bad pizza is kind of good.)
Sunday night, I got invited to do something I’ve never done before: go to a jazz bar.
I wasn’t really interested.
I know it is one of those iconic New York things to do but a) I don’t really listen to jazz and b) if I’m going to buy a ticket for anything, it is for a flight to a warm beach or for a Broadway musical.
But, it was my last chance to see Yael before she left to go back to Tel Aviv, so I agreed
The Village Vanguard is a no frills, dimly lit, triangular, basement jazz bar in the West Village. In 1934, the bar opened. It was originally a space dedicated to poetry readings and folk music, but when jazz became popular, the focus shifted. Since then, some of the greatest jazz musicians have played there including Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
We reserved our seats ahead of time. I’m glad we did, because the show was sold out by the time we arrived. We sat at our little table with our cocktails watching all of the people cram into the tiny bar. It was the expected crowd of middle-aged to elderly people, plus a surprising mix of people in their 20s and 30s.
The band was a brother duo, the Heath Brothers, plus a bassist and a piano player. The Jimmy Heath, the tenor saxophonist, said he remembered playing at Village Vanguard in the 1950s.
I’m no jazz expert, so I can’t really attest to the quality of the music or the selections they played, but I can tell you that I had an excellent time. They entertained us for well over an hour, during which I felt like I had been taken back in time. The jazz bar is still run by the original owner’s wife and it hasn’t changed much over the years. The floor is well worn, the stage curtains look dusty, and the deep green walls are decorated with black-and-white photos and the body of a dented sousaphone. Clearly, no renovations have been done here nor would they be welcome. Instead of feeling stale and dusty, the bar felt lively and comfortable.
Afterwards, Yael said she wished they had a place like the Village Vanguard in Tel Aviv. This got me thinking about why I chose to live in New York, and why I chose to stay for three years, two years longer than I originally planned. I moved here to experience everything I could.
It is not often I stop to think about how fortunate I am to live in a place where so much awesome stuff is at my fingertips constantly. I focus too much on the negatives: high rent prices, high everything prices, the weather. But there is so much that I have yet to take advantage of and so many people that can only dream of living here. I want to take last 9 months before I leave for my RTW trip and make the most of them. I will use this time to cross everything of my NYC bucket list.
Bring it on, NYC!