Walking is great exercise, but if I were to burn up every calorie consumed since arriving in NYC, I’d be in Canada by now.
So it was time to hit the gym, and what better time to do that than a slightly drizzly Saturday morning. The Equinox gym by Central Park has a phalanx of treadmills, a pool, and a guest policy relaxed enough to let the likes of me through the doors.
After a few lengths, a little sauna and a shower, I undid all the good by popping next door into the Time Warner Centre and having a croissant on the 3rd floor by the window looking over Washington Square. Perhaps one of the best views in Manhattan, the further up you go, the more removed from the sidewalks you feel. I should think that decisions made at the top of the building are entirely disconnected with the world below them. But from the 3rd floor, with the green of the park on the left, the grey of the city on the right, the street stretching into the distance, you feel you are an observer, rather than a master of the universe.
Nice croissant, too.
I headed north, through the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts (there is a library there I intend to browse before this trip is done) and then up the side of Central Park to the Dakota Building, the last residence of John Lennon. Why is it called The Dakota? At the time it was being built in the late 1880s, it was considered so far out of town, ‘it might as well be in Dakota.’ And the joke stuck.
After the rain eased off, the sunshine was back, and it was a quick cab ride down to Chelsea Market, a jumble of shops, restaurants and coffee bars in the artfully unspoiled shell of a biscuit factory. Low ceilings, exposed brickwork, an emphasis on quality over quantity, and all sorts of goodies to be found within – from an enormous fishmonger selling everything from sushi to lobster, to a patisserie doing a line in character cakes from Sesame Street and Despicable Me. Rather unnerving to think of making a dorsal incision into Elmo’s head…
Lunch was at one of the laid back and fashionably distressed tables of Cull & Pistol, attached to the fishmonger, and there was nothing for it but to have the sampler platter. Different sorts of oysters, clams, crab claws, enormous shrimp, fresh enough to convey the impression they had willingly jumped into the ice moments before. When the waitress asked if I could move tables to let a couple with an enormous twin buggy get in, it was an object lesson in good hospitality. I don’t give star ratings, but if I did, this place would have Andromeda.
From Chelsea Market, it was but a short walk down to the Stonewall Inn, a little bit of living history which it wears proudly in black and white photos and press clippings on the walls.
The beer was just enough to knock me out for a snooze before showering and changing for The Jazz Standard. The place was packed, and with good reason: amazing ribs, astonishing jazz, courtesy of the Ron Carter Big Band. Arriving early, L and I snared a place right at the front, shared a rib sampler (again showing how incapable I am of making a decision) and some cornbread so sweet you could’ve iced Cookie Monster onto it and sold it as a cake.
I was exactly where I wanted to be: close enough to hear the valves clicking, and to see the beatific smile of Jerry the horn player as other band members took up solos… he looked like a man who was being paid to have the best seat in the house. Ron Carter himself introduced songs in a manner so laid back as to be horizontal, an octave or two below his double bass. Yes there was a double bass solo, jazz-haters, but when it riffed on the theme of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, I knew it wasn’t taking itself too seriously.
If you like ribs and jazz, then Jazz Standard is a must-see highlight. Horses for courses, though: as Ron admitted between numbers, if you really like Justin Bieber, it’s probably not your thing.