"well, we could take a train to glacier."
chuck waits patiently for me to order chicken rings at the white castle in hinckley. i can only drive past this place so many times in a week before eventually asking the head cashier to scrape everything off the grill, put it in a supersized cup, and give me a straw. i avoided the jalapino cheeseburger, though, recalling a dangerous stomach convulsion prior to a flight to las vegas in 2007. an airplane bathroom is no place to be trapped with explosive anythings.
we got to our midtownish hotel on sunday evening: starved, sleep deprived and disoriented. that's the only way i can explain how we ended up at this thing that billed itself as a pub, but was suspiciously void of things that typically make a pub:
1. short drunken irishmen singing hearty limericks
2. burgers and/or cabbage
"i guess i'll have the smoked salmon," i told our disinterested waitress.
she put this in front of me:
pros: a hill of capers and a mound of onions and a dollop of horseradish.
cons: i felt like the salmon was licking me as i ate it.
i salvaged what i could from the side ingredients and deemed the whole experience a failure. for the price, i could have had eight weiners from the cart on the corner.
we considered going to bed after that. but it was about 9 p.m. and we were in new york city, and it was likely my food was still burping up me.
"let's just go out and have two drinks to celebrate our trip and then sleep," chuck suggested.
[this, along with the sentence "let's just see where the night takes us" is one of the most dangerous in our relationship. two beers turn me into a drooling ball of fun. the kind of fun that thinks 3, 4 and 5 would taste good. by then muscle memory takes over and i'm ordering no. 6.]
this is the face of exhaustion. this face will rally.
this is a face of a woman about to wipe her mouth kung fu style and say: IS THAT ALL YOU GOT FOR ME?!
we spent the evening at a bar close to our hotel. early in the night a woman pitched forward and threw up on the floor. her caddy covered the mess with a bar napkin.
"i'm done drinkin'" the barfer announced.
"you sound like some sort of hick from florida!" her caddy scolded.
the place cleared out. our bartender had taken to calling me "pumpkin" based on the pumpkin-flavored beer i was drinking. the bartender himself was liquified. head propped on his hands, waking up long enough to decide to make us shots. i'm guessing we didn't pay for a drink from midnight on.
"you gotta try this beer," the bartender slurred to chuck. "it's 10 percent alcohol. ... atta boy, now try this. ... this one's only 9 percent."
"what time do you close?" i asked the bartender.
he shrugged and said: "4 a.m.?" like he was asking if that sounded like a reasonable closing time.
i'm told we left before that. i'm told.
on monday i woke to great pain. the kind of pain that even melted velveeta cannot fix. i sat in the booth of a diner wearing sunglasses and moaning. chuck led me back to the hotel, hand propping me up at the armpit, concerned that the pumpkin beer had eroded the part of my brain that looks before crossing the street. i snoozed until 4:30 p.m. and tentatively made my way back into the world.
we began walking around: central park, times square, block after block after block.
near here we must have missed a celebrity sighting. a dozen people were buzzing into cell phones in a way that suggested a starlett.
"wha's she doin' wit dat guy?" said one bystander. "he must have a schwantz out to here! a pooooooorn stah!"
the word schwantz is so underrated.
somehow, in this grand city of new york, we had veered away from any sort of food. we wandered into an area where the occassional restaurant looked like just another pretty building where i could eat a plate filled with salmon tongues.
just as cannibalism was beginning to sound acceptible, we found a small french restaurant in the murray hill area called serge. hoping there was more bredth to the menu than goat brains and stewed arachnids, we cautiously checked out the menu. i was immediately sold on the special: pumpkin ravioli with a goat cheese sauce.
this was so lick-your-plate good. not to mention the place was very charming, with a waiter who took a table of french patrons hostage, grunting and gurgling in their native tongue with animated gestures and beeping so we could all follow his story at the most basic level. when a woman at the table next to our's pulled out an honest-to-god fan and began breezing herself, the waiter came over, stood on a chair and wafted air toward her with a menu.
we also had chocolate mousse.
one of the worst things about me is my inability to take photos. it seems like something i should be able to do at least on a passing level. this scene was so cool: big moon, chrysler building, wispy clouds. shakey hands, out of focus. this is actually the best photo i made. you should see the reject pile.
on this night we decided to go to the algonquin. drinking in literary history is expensive. when i told chuck that i'd never read any dorothy parker, he said: "that's like me never reading any bukowski." sold.
chuck's umpteen dollar manhattan, which he was surprised to find was made with seagrams seven.
for 17 dollars, i hoped my margarita contained the tears of a genuine mexican. it was tastey, this drink that costs the same as a month's worth of electricity in duluth, minnesota.
we arrived just in time for last call, so the bartender asked us to finish our drinks in the hotel lobby. ah, done! best news i had all day. although there was no sighting of the famed matilda, the hotel's live-in cat.
from there we wandered to another bar. the least-sports-bar-looking-sports bar in the history of sports bars. our waitress was a slinky russian woman who oozed like water from table to table. we sprawled out on the couch and didn't watch ESPN.
on tuesday we woke up relatively early so we could walk around some more. this is our room at the beekman tower and me in a shirt from the gap that makes me look a little like someone who would have a funny little talk show and marry portia derossi.
this shirt has ruffles.
our travels brought us to little italy, for the st. germain festival. pizza vendors, carnival games and a surprising amoung of mobster-celebrating. a tent entirely dedicated to the godfather I and II.
"well, i got the al capone one already," a teenaged boy said to his mother at a souvenir table.
chuck got the most fantastic slice of ricotta and pepperoni pizza.
i ogled canolli, but was still full from my second cheese omellette in two days.
taking the staten island ferry was about the best decision we had made in days. it was a relaxing little ride across water.
chuck catches the show.
obligatory shot of the city.
obligatory shot of the statue of liberty.
we learned that chuck klosterman would be reading from his new book just a subway ride away and decided to attend. i have complicated feelings about chuck klosterman that i try to explain each time his name crops up here on my site. i like him, technically. i like that he has found the level of success that he has. i think he is very smart, but the kind of smart where i don't want to get trapped trying to match wits with him at a party because i would lose. i tend to prefer his nonfiction to his fiction, but concede that his nonfiction is often writen in first person, which is not always necessary when, say, he is interviewing thom yorke. that said, i'll continue to read as much of his stuff that i can. i always feel like i am just one chance party from actually know-knowing him, as he knows many of my friends.
i spotted him a block before the bookstore.
"hey!" i said.
"hey!" he said.
"we're coming to see you!" i said.
"good!" he said.
i proceeded to ramble on and on and on about our one-degree of separation and how that one time after fargo rock city i'd sent him a very long email to which he responded with a very long email.
we parted ways with me feeling like a psycho stalking, word-gushing idiot. chuck klosterman is someone i, unfortunately, have not have a fake internal conversation with in my head to avoid such a strange and uncomfortable meeting.
we landed pretty deep in the crowd, snagging a seat on the carpet. klosterman read a chapter from his new novel and then opened things up for questions. when asked "would you ever teach in the US, and where would that ideally happen, he prefaced his answer with a long story that wound so far off track that i wondered if he'd forgotten the question. finally, he paused and said: so, in answer to your question, yeah.
thus proving exactly what i've always said about him.
i grabbed a book and got in line to get it signed. but first i saw rex from fimoculous and did another round of cheerleader-like antics that left me bright red. for some reason i forgot to say the words "from minnesota, too." or even "a blogger, too!" and so we shook hands awkwardly and i was so shaken by this stupid moment that it took me 10 minutes to realize i was the last person in line and that this line was not moving. i put the book back and we left. only at street level, when we had disappeared into that anonymous crowd, did my shame abate a bit.
it's hard being me. you probably don't know that i'm shy.
we went to five napkin burger, a restaurant in hell's kitchen and ate al fresco. one table away, a woman was loudly explaining the crapping habits of her new dog, right down to the texture and frequency. i could not tune her out. luckily, this burger was good enough that even her monologue couldn't ruin it.
bacon cheese burger, baby.
we found a bar in hell's kitchen and sat outside on barrels. i had an appletini.
on wednesday we had very little time for any sort of major entertainment. we ate pizza near the hotel, a take on the slice chuck had in little italy. this was so. damn. good. it made pizza man seems like it was made out of melted barbie dolls and iams weight control cat food.
... and not to mention pretty pizza.
our shuttle to the airport fell through so we took a car service. our driver seemed desperate to t-bone a school bus or at least trade paint with a cab. we arrived three hours early at laguardia, so i hunkered down with the wind-up bird chronicle and a backpack pillow.
i was getting bad glare from the sun.
we got back to minneapolis around 11:45 p.m. and brother pista picked us up from the airport. next time we go for a week.