Saturday, August 20, 2016

back in NYC! – the night

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.

Friday, August 19, 2016

back in NYC! – the United Nations

So, the reason for my New York City trip had to do with meetings at... the United Nations! Frankly, I was so chuffed about the setting for my work meetings! When I was a kid, my parents took me to NYC, and I think we didn't visit the UN. On other trips, as an adult, it had also somehow escaped my tourist eye. But now that my work revolves around co-operation and development, it was just too good not just that I'd visit, but that I'd actually work inside, if only for a couple of days! 

Naturally, I took what seriously little free time I had inside to behave as a tourist, taking pictures of art pieces donated by countries... 

Of the architecture...

Of other events taking place inside, like the High-Level Political Forum! Sustainable Development Goals! Yay! 

And the odd technological piece that, because of its design from a different era, practically qualifies as art...

I did not have the chance to visit the General Assembly hall, unfortunately. But the idea that I was working in the very same dark, windowless corridors and rooms underneath where the real conversations and agreements take place was, oddly, way more satisfying than a visit to the GA hall as a tourist.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

back in NYC! – the people

Another highlight of visiting open, cosmopolitan, diverse cities like New York? People watching! For me, this is one huge pleasure, looking at people from different backgrounds interacting in the same spaces. I miss that from Toronto, a lot, so I can't help but notice it when I visit a similar place.

So, for example, during a concert at one of the city's parks, there was a bunch of non-straight guys... I guess I could say gay, but then again, who knows, maybe some were bi, or trans, or asexual... So, non-straight it is! LOL

And not far from them? A group of Muslim women, of course.

On a street not far from there, a group of Jewish men visiting a Chabad (an orthodox Jewish movement) building. 

Or how about people (mostly African Americans, at least the morning I passed by) playing chess on the street? Very cool! 

And I'm missing so many more groups and people I either didn't get to see or photograph because my free time was so limited. But did I see people from every shape, size, colour and attire there! 

So, there you have it, what I would call one of NYC's attractions - its people.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

back in NYC! – the city

After a few years of not visiting  and an eternity without doing it in summer  my work took me last month back to this unique, crazy, cosmopolitan megalopolis: New York! As is usually the case, travelling there for work meant very little time left for personal exploring. And as is also usually the case, I found the way to make the most out of my brief stay!

Now, NYC being such a complex place, and my touristing being so haphazard, I had to arrange my posts in rather strange categories. So here you have, for example, "the city":

- Space is extremely expensive, but I managed to secure an Airbnb I could actually afford and not far from the UN, where I had meetings. It was so NYC-style! Which means it was incredibly tiny. And you reached it via a narrow and dark flight of stairs that was barely wide enough for one person. And the door had three very stubborn locks. And my kitchen window faced, what else, another building right in front. A very curious experience... 

- World-famous steaks anyone? We had a work meeting at Smith and Wollensky. I was ready to order a salad, or maybe oysters, when I asked a colleague of mine  who had lived in NYC many years  if this would be the one place in all of New York City to try steak. He assured me this would be THE place if I was going to give it the one try. And unsurprisingly, the one steak he suggested ordering was the New York Steak. Funny and absolutely useless fact? This is the steak Miranda orders in The Devil Wears Prada.

Very nice resturant. Loved being able to see the kitchen through the window right behind our table. Really good steak. So glad I didn´t have to foot the bill.

- Subway. Who could forget to take a picture of the underground beast? Which I used extensively, by the way. And then a friend of mine explained to me the logic behind the colours and routes, and then it all made sense! I've forgotten most of it by now, I'm afraid. But it was fun to finally have a grasp of the system and make use of it.

- Architecture. There's no two ways about it  the city was and is extremely wealthy, it was also adventurous, and you can see that in the architecture. This is the second city with the most skyscrapers in the world (Hong Kong is number one), and wandering this steel, concrete and glass über-tall jungle is a cultural experience in and of itself. Definitely one of NYC's highlights.

- For a second, I wasn't sure why I had this coffee here, LOL. But then I remembered: New York City  the place where everybody makes it to eventually! During my stay I met with one friend from my second time in Beijing (2005-2009), and who was on a stopover on his way to Toronto. And I also met another friend from my first time in Beijing (1997-1999), who was living in New Jersey but who made an impromptu visit to NYC before moving away to Berlin! Talk about timing! And this is the espresso I had with her. Crazy place, crazy lucky encounters!

- I also made sure I tried stuff that is a bit harded to find at home, like oysters and a pint of draft Guinness! I had oysters from the east coast, oysters from the west coast... delicious! And blue diamond oysters displaced kumamoto oysters as my favourite. So flavourful! 

And to add to the unvegan sinning, I couldn't help having a corned beef bagel (with a big, delicious pickle!) at Zuckers, a Jewish institution. That was on my last day in NYC, and I enjoyed it so much.

- Super fancy ice-cream: There's this market at Grand Central Station. Really nice, delicious-looking stuff. With matching prices, of course. But in my last morning in NYC, which had this really hot summer weather, I went for what could be one of the best lemon sherbets I've ever had. Or maybe it was the heat. But still, it was incredibly good.

- The views from above. When leaving NYC, I was lucky to have some nice views of manhattan and, later on, of a gorgeous sunset. I guess these two shouldn't really be in this post, but "the city" is sort of a catch-all category, right? So some leniency here for me, ok?

It was a short, intense, fun trip. I really enjoyed it, both work-wise and travel-wise, and some 2-3 more posts will follow. Probably written as badly as this one, because I'm terribly busy these days. But gotta finish writing about NYC, 'cause then I can begin writing about our anniversary trip to Peru!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Annie Leibovitz's women

By pure chance we found out about this Annie Leibovitz exhibition (Women: New Portraits) running from July 8th to 31st at Proyecto Público Prim, in Colonia Juárez. 

Now, this being Annie Leibovitz, there's not much I can say about her work that hasn't been said before, right? This was an amazing exhibition, with women from all walks of life – politics, arts, science, sport... It was an utter delight to stand there and watch, especially in such a curious location – a more or less abandoned palace. 

Kudos to Annie Leibovitz and the organizers. We can certainly have more representations of women, in all roles, playing all genders, being what they want to be.

At the entrance to the exhibition there was a wall with a sign that read "Mi héroe es..." (My hero is...). You were asked to think of a female hero, write her name, have your photo taken, and share it on Instagram with the tag #ShareYourHero. Nice exercise, you know? Getting people to think of female role models and heroes? And realizing it's harder than if you try to think of male ones? Me, I decided to cross out "héroe" (male hero) and write "heroína" (heroine, or female hero) above it, as a reminder about sexist language. Also, and despite her flaws (we all have them, come on), I decided to write Kate Bornstein's name as my heroine, as an important trans and gender activist.

All in all, a very nice morning.