Of course, I had to leave for last the most fun part of my super brief work trip – NYC nights! For one of them I must really thank one of my buddies from my time in Beijing, who just happened to be in NYC for a layover and who took me for a night out (he's from New jersey and knows the city well).
After taking me to a place where I could have my very first slice of New York-style pizza, and since we were not far from the Village, we decided to pop by the Stonewall Inn, at which neither of us had ever been. Now, why this bar? I'll try to be as succinct as possible:
Raids of gay bars by police were a common thing in 1969 in NYC. People would be subjected to ID checks and those without ID, men in drag, or women without at least three pieces of feminine clothing would be arrested. On June 28th, though, at yet another police raid, at the Stonewall Inn, people had had it. While police waited for vans to arrive to take away the people they had arrested, a crowd began to form. When the police hit a lesbian on the head for complaining about tight handcuffs, the crowd reacted and what is now known as the Stonewall Riots began, riots that repeated in the following days, riots where LGBTQ people demonstrated against their treatment as second-class citizens. And this is considered the beginning of the very long battle for equality of LGBTQ people in the US.
So, no way I was going to miss entering this historic place, right? A place at which, nowadays, nobody even thinks they could be "arrested while gay". Where people openly display their same-sex affection in public. Where gender-neutral restrooms are not an issue. And where I saw the fiercest, bitchiest, meanest drag queen I had ever seen (very fitting it would be in NYC, right?) – Logan Hardcore. She pulled no punches, and said stuff that had my bud and me in shock at times. Which was great fun! Really, if she ever performs in your town, you must see her! And if you're ever in NYC, you should really pay a visit to the Stonewall Inn, whether you're straight or gay or whatever.
After that, my friend took me to another place – G Lounge. Well, that was a wholly different experience alright! Hispanic super buff go go dancers, a sort of sensual lounge-y atmosphere... And strangely, the perfect setting for my bud and me to talk about life in Beijing, Mexico City, Hong Kong, about love, multi-culturalism and whatnot, fuelled by draft Brooklyn Lager (I always make it a point to drink local beer or spirits).
My friend had a flight to catch the next day, so I walked him to his hotel, and I walked to my Airbnb. Which was a good 45-minute walk. But I was feeling energized by the whole experience. And I didn't mind seeing NYC at night. So off I went, got myself a pretzel half-way there (note to self: I definitely do not like NY pretzels), passed by Times Square, through Grand Central Station, and finally to my bed to rest.
Now, this was one of my two nights out in the city. The second one, the day before I left, was incredibly fun too! Firs, I headed to Nowhere, a bar that advertised as attitude-free. Just my kind of place. And as advertised, people there were easy-going, very personable and approachable, there were beards, some people with long hair, all sorts of body types... Perfect! And in the hour or so I was there, a couple of guys chatted me up and we talked about politics, music, Mexico... And one of the bartenders even gave me a free shot of whiskey!
I was really enjoying all the friendly attention, and the music was very nice, but the atmosphere was maybe a bit too relaxed and I was too tired, so I asked around if there was somewhere busier or louder lest I fell asleep. I got two recommendations within walking distance – Phoenix Bar and Easternbloc.
I arrived first to Phoenix Bar. Went in. And saw a mostly white, clean-shaven, lean and muscly, Tommy-Hilfiger-esque crowd. I turned around and left right away. So I kept walking until I found Easternbloc. The moment I walked in, I loved it – dark, with a nice air of forbiddenness, with some kitschy communist paraphernalia, good music, and a more alternative-looking crowd. Plus some ridiculously hot dancers who also happened to be very friendly. All in all, just the right place for my last night!
That kept me going until about 4am, at which point I was just exhausted and decided to go back home. But not without having another one of those famous NYC 99¢ pizzas!
It's a shame my free time in the city was so limited, and that I didn't get to visit any museums. But the food, the partying, the people-watching, seeing friends, and the work experience totally made up for it. A fantastic experience, I'd say.