Back in 2007, the summer after I transferred to a new department within my company, I was sent on a business trip to New York City. Our headquarters are there and I had to go to a 2-day “Train the Trainer” seminar for a new application tool they wanted to roll out.
When I lived in Albany, Future-Ex and I had taken several weekend trips to the city and we always stayed around Midtown… Times Square, Central Park, Radio City Music Hall, etc.
Because I didn’t yet know the Belle of the City, Katie Ett of Unapologetically Mundane, I had to make do with my own planning.
For this trip, I would be going to a different part of town, Chelsea, which is on the southwestern section of Manhattan. I knew I was going to take the train up from Baltimore, so being me, I dove right into finding an appropriate hotel and planning my routes. (Hopstop.com proved to be very useful in finding the best methods of public transportation to get around town.) I decided to head up the day before the seminar. While I thought it was the best thing to do, I wasn’t the one footing the bill so I was happy that my company was OK with the extra night in a hotel, because goddamn, they’re expensive. The location I found that was the closest to the seminar cost over $300 a night. Surprisingly, it was one of our “approved” hotels, so I was OK’d to stay in the Hotel Gansevoort. Sounded all hoity-toity to me, so I figured I’d have me a nice little adventure. I decided to take notes on my trip, to better tell the story later. Gee, it only took me 4 years…
I enjoyed the train trip up there. I hadn't been on a real “train” train since I was a kid. I was thankful for all the legroom. The ride was much smoother that I remembered, but there wasn’t much to look at… mostly other train tracks. So much for the “romance” of that rural train track crossing small-town Main Street.
I enjoyed a comfortable solitude until we got to Philly and some smelly guy slid into the seat beside me. Probably a Flyers fan.
I was also a bit surprised by how short of a time the train spent in each station. It would stay there for about 5 minutes. You’re S.O.L. if you don’t have your ass on the platform when the train comes.
Upon rolling into Penn Station in NYC, I immediately jumped on a subway that would take me south a couple stops, to Chelsea. To tell the truth, I was pretty proud of myself for working it out and pulling it off and saving the company some money.
Subway fare: $3-something.
Cab fare: No idea, but I know it’s a lot more than $3-something.
Using my map, (subtly, so to not look like a tourist), I found the Hotel Gansevoort.
The Hotel Gansevoort.
The place was pretty ritzy, at least compared to the Marriotts and Hyatts I’m used to. There was an orchid in my room. And the bathroom was intriguing. I’d never pooped amidst such luxury.
“What the hell am I doing in a place like this?”
I especially liked the shower, which was like it wasn’t even separate from the room. It was like they just tacked a shower nozzle on the end of the wall and put a curtain in front of it. There was no barrier or wall on the floor; it was the same surface as the rest of the bathroom.
Yes, I admit that I’m easily amused.
After inspecting the room, I decided to inspect the grounds. They had a bar/pool setup on the roof, so I thought I’d check it out. I probably shouldn’t have.
OK, the view was interesting, I’ll give them that.
View from the pool side of the rooftop bar, 13 floors up.
This was the view from the other side, of what I think may be New Jersey.
It wasn’t the accommodations that made me uncomfortable, it was the atmosphere. What is it about NYC that all the trendy, expensive places make a regular dude feel like a rube? I felt like an infiltrator there, like they’re going to run my credit card and get a message back that I don’t belong there. “Poser! Poser!”
The rooftop bar was a meeting place of the beautiful. I was an intruder in my polo shirt and jeans surrounded by young models and business people wearing haute couture. It didn’t feel like the kind of place to sit quietly by myself. It made me feel very, very conspicuous.
Luckily, I’d planned for exactly that kind of contingency. I had a map with me of all the bars and restaurants within a comfortable walking distance, so I decided to go take a walk and see what I could see.
To me, Chelsea seemed like a kind of blue collar area, which was probably due to all the construction that was going on. I believe it used to be a big garment district, but there was also a high degree of artsy-fartsy that made for some interesting sights. Like this place:
A hotel, as if it was designed by Tim Burton. I presume that the interlacing effect is a nod to the area's garment industry roots.
Eventually, I found a place where I could feel comfortable, a bar called Hogs and Heifers. It reminded me of the small bars I go to when I go back to Ohio, only with a little more edge.
As someone that revels in kitsch, I loved all the special touches that made the place unique. Like the bumper sticker behind the bar that said, “I ‘heart icon’ ‘hand icon’ jobs!” Beside that was a sign that said, “FBL,” which stood for Fuck bin Laden. And there was this sign on the jukebox:
Welcome to New York.
The jukebox worked, they just didn't want anyone playing something lame.
Most eye-catching were the thousand of bras tacked up above the bar. I swear, they were up there thicker than grass, about 3 feet deep. Some were meant to cover teeny-tinies. Others you could parachute with. It was unbelievable. Here, look for yourself…
OK, the bartender was all “NO PICTURES” as I was snapping… like the whole thing is a big secret that no one in authority has noticed yet. There were bras up there from the Eisenhower Administration.
There were also about a dozen hard hats stuck up there too. No idea if they any of the bras and hardhats came from the same people.
So I sat at the bar and had a couple beers. I noticed someone else ordering $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons. We used to call that “Riot Beer” when I was a teenager. But for $2, what the hell? I filed that away for later, because I was already drinking my Miller Lites. (Don’t judge.)
Within minutes, I was talking to another dude at the bar, who was from right outside Baltimore. He had his little dog with him, who was sitting on the bar. Most of the people in the bar were kind of a countrified blue collar. I felt at home.
I realize that the jukebox actually did work when one of the (hot) bartenders turned it on to play some music so that they could dance up on the bar in their middie shirts and short shorts. They played some Skynyrd, some Charlie Daniels, some Johnny Cash, and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. It was like all of a sudden, the place turned into a scene from Coyote Ugly. It was great. If they’d served food, I’d have stayed all night. But since they didn’t I had to set off in search of a meal.
I really wasn’t digging any fancy-schmancy restaurant so I found a nice diner that fit my needs perfectly.
After dinner, I went back to the room to clean up a bit, then went back to Hogs and Heifers for round two. There were no dogs there this time, but there was a huge bro at the door, checking IDs with a scanner. I made a mental note not to start any bar fights.
Remembering the deal from earlier, I sat down at the bar and ordered a PBR. The (hot) bartender said, “What are ya shootin?”
I said “Just the beer for now.”
She said, “PBRs are $2.00… what are ya shootin?”
I said, “Crown Royal, please.”
There went half of the money I was going to use to drink all night. I should have said Evan Williams or something. But no matter. The place was filling up with a real cross section of humanity and I had a ringside seat. There were construction workers, bikers, jocks in track suits and executives in power suits. Everyone was carrying on like they knew each other.
There was one older guy in there with a long blond beard and wire-rim specs. I was like, “Shouldn’t you be on tour somewhere, singing ‘Tush?’” (To myself, I said this.)
I overheard a conversation between my bartender and another dude back there.
Bartender, who is trying to make her booty bounce: “Can I wiggle it like Beyonce?”
Dude: “Nah, she’s black from Detroit, you're Jewish from New Jersey. Give it up.”
I guess that explained the up-sell on the shot…
Anyway, the music was rolling by then and so was the crowd. The (hot) bartenders were singing into a bullhorn and leading the dancing on the bar. A (hot) bartender from Missouri was totally kicking the shit up there, dancing like the dude from Deliverance, only much more hotly. They drew 5 other women from the crowd up there to join them… one in jogging shorts, one in a power suit, with others in between.
I felt like I was in a duck blind, observing native cultures in their home environment. I stopped just short of going all Jane Goodall and naming everyone. Anyway, I had a tremendous time and stayed as long as I dared, knowing that I had to get up and actually function the next morning.
The seminar was fine… we all went out to dinner the first night and I didn’t really have sufficient time to hit the Hogs and Heifers again. The next day was a half session, so I caught an afternoon train home.
But I tell you, a bar like that was the last thing I thought I’d find in the cultural capitol of the country. It was like a down-home barbeque in the midst of a snooty French restaurant. The only thing missing was a bacon cheeseburger.
The Mojo Boogie
Steelers play at Arizona today at 4:15. I haven’t found a consistent look yet for away games so I’m trying something new. I’m pulling out another old jersey, my white Troy Polamalu #43. I’ve had it for quite some time… it used to be a #99 Levon Kirkland, then after he left, a #97 Kendrell Bell. When HE left, I had it made into the current incarnation, which it will remain hereafter. Good vibes with this jersey… it’s the one I wore to Super Bowl XL in Detroit. We’ll see if it still has any magic left.
White Troy Polamalu jersey, throwback long-sleeved Tee, plaid flannel Steelers jammy pants and the Hot Arizona Auntie-approved Steeler socks.Late Update
The tried and true jersey worked again as my Steelers won 32-20 in a game that didn't seem that close. Now I'm going to have to come up with some serious mojo next week, when the Steelers host the hated New England Patriots.