Peter Marklund

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Tue May 04, 2004

A Week in New York

My intense week in the big apple passed by quicker than expected. Before memory fades further I'll take this opportunity to reminisce on the experiences I had there.

Ever since I visited New York for a weekend in the summer of 2001 I had wanted to return there. The city immediately struck me as fascinating and electrifying, intense, dense, energetic, fast talking, edgy, and ultimately very exhausting for visitors. To me it is really the city of cities and with its size and multi culturalism it justifyably considers itself "The Capital of the World".

Now that the dollar was so low and spring was coming I figured that the timing was right to revisit the city and examine it more closely. I was very fortunate to be able to stay for a week with my friend Alice on the upper east side and had midtown reachable by subway in 10 minutes or so.

Since I moved to Copenhagen almost two years ago salsa dancing has become quite a big hobby for me, and since salsa to a big extent originates from New York I was of course very excited about the opportunity to try out the dancing scene there. To guide me I found what is easily the best web site about salsa that I have found to date, namely the SalsaNewYork.com website operated by Steve Shaw. The site has great articles about salsa dancing and music and a calendar with all major New York style (aka mambo, or on 2 salsa) dance events in New York. As I arrived in New York on sunday afternoon I went more or less straight to the Jimmy Anton social dance. The place where the dance is held is in and of itself very low key and uninspiring, it's basically just a big dance studio. But when the huge dance floor filled up with loads and loads of good mambo dancers and excellent music was streaming from a good sound system the atmosphere rose to very high levels. That afternoon was my best dance experience in New York, and it makes perfect sense to me that the Jimmy Anton dance event is the favorite of SalsaNewYork.com as well. On tuesday I visited the salsa dance at the Coda club run by Tony Luna. The place was posh with a good atmosphere and a mixed crowd, only a minority of which seemed to be practiced salsa dancers though. I still had a good time there. Finally on saturday I managed to enter the China Club after having passed through a strict metal detector control, and having circumvented the $25 charge by printing a flyer from their homepage. I know $25 seems like a fortune but apparently by New York standards its a normal cover charge. The China Club has dancing on three floors: Hip Hop downstairs, techno/house on the middle floor, and salsa upstairs in the poshest part with the terrace next to the dance floor where you can go out to cool down and get a view of the night sky and the surrounding sky scrapers - quite impressive. The only thing I regret is not having visited the supposedly biggest salsa club in New York - the Copacabana - especially on the night when El Gran Combo (one of the most famous salsa bands) was playing there. I'll leave that for my next visit.

I listened to a superb latin/afro jazz concert at the Blue Note jazz club. I was sitting right next to the stage in this splendid candle lit jazz club with great ambience and service. The musicians (Mike Mossman, Conrad Herwig, Bobby Sanabria, Edsel Gomez, Mario Rivera, Ruben Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, and Xiomara Luagart) were all oustanding and the sound was great. I enjoyed the concert so much!

I had an amazing vegetarian dinner at the Red Bamboo Vegetarian Soul Café. I never realized vegetarian meat dishes (like chicken wings) could look and taste so authentic. We got huge portions at very reasonable prices and they tasted great. Highly recommended!

I went thrift and vintage shopping with Alice and bought a whole pile of sweaters and shirts of expensive brands at bargain prices. The shirts were like $5 each and would probably be at least $50 to buy in a normal store. I searched and eventually found a shop specialized in dancing clothes on Broadway where I got the UFO pants that I had been thinking of getting for a long time (at a much lower price than in Europe of course). I spent a lot of time exploring Manhattan on foot in the sun and never tired of photographing dazzling sky scrapers as I came around every corner. I had a nice dinner with fellow OpenACS programmer Vinod Kurup at a cuban restaurant and ate hamburgers at the Blue 9 Burger that were quite tasty. According to a review at citysearch the Corner Bistro is better so I guess I'll have to try that next time :-) I wonder though if it compete with Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage over in Boston (a place I visited a lot while I was working over there). I tried Chocolate Fudge Brownie and other wonderful tastes of ice cream at the Ben and Jerry scoop shops, had a Krispy Kreme doughnut, got in the habit of getting coffee and Bagel to go for breakfast. All in all not a very healthy food record :-)

One of the things I like the most about the US is how open, talkative, and positive people are. For me coming from a rather dull and reserved scandinavian social climate it's a quite refreshing change to be given such a friendly treatment by strangers. I of course also appreciate the nice service you get in restaurants and shops, people will really go out of their way to help you. When it comes to shopping the lower prices and greater selection is also appreciated of course. Also, I just love the Barnes and Noble type bookstores that they have in the US with their amazing selection of books at reasonable prizes combined with a cafe where you can read the books at your leisure.

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