August 15th, 2016

storyteller doll

New York Weekend, Part 1: Death, Trains, and Gelato

Celebrity Death Watch: Pete Fountain was a jazz clarinetist. Joani Blank was the founder of Good Vibrations, the San Francisco store that made vibrators mainstream. Michel Richard was a celebrity chef and one of the people most responsible for making Washington, D.C. a major culinary destination.

Fyvush Finkel is probably better known nowadays for his television roles but, of course, he was a huge star in the world of Yiddish theatre. And he showed up in movies all the time – more or less whenever somebody needed an old man with a Yiddish accent.

Glenn Yarbrough was a folksinger and, in particular, the lead singer of The Limeliters. I grew up listening to their albums and some of their songs, especially some of the comic ones, were major influences on my musical tastes.

I should note that I make no claim to be comprehensive in these items. They happen to have caught my attention for one reason or another, which is not necessarily correlated with how famous or how important they were. I usually write a little bit more about people who I felt more of a personal connection to for whatever reason, but there’s no guarantee.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: My evil twin, Holly Stowe, passed away last week. We got friendly back in the early usenet days largely over shared viola-associated trauma. (That is, the whole bit that lets you play only three notes every ten measures.) We met in person at a weekend event in Indianapolis that included a Halloween party in which we did a tandem costume as Velcro. Her death was not a surprise as she had been dealing with late-stage kidney disease for some time. But I’m still sad.

Another Death Story: I had a reminder that depression is all too often a fatal disease. It isn’t my story to tell, so I will not elaborate, but I will plead that if you are having issues with depression, please, please, please, do all you can to get help.

New York Gelato Tasting: I was up in New York over the weekend, primarily for Lollapuzzoola 9, which I will write about separately. In the evening, I went down to the Village to go to the theatre (which will also merit its own write-up) and, having asked for ice cream advice on facebook, sampled two places. The first was Victory Garden, whose gimmick is that they use goat milk. I tried a flavor called Black Magic, which consisted of a black tahini (i.e. sesame) and cocoa base with salted caramel and chocolate chips. It was quite good, with a nice creamy texture, but possibly a bit too intense in flavor. At any rate, I would certainly go there again and try other flavors of their ice creams.

I also tried a place called Cones, where I got a small cup with two flavors (and, also, sampled a taste of their mascarpone which also had some sort of berries). The two flavors I opted for, however, were the zabayone [sic] and ginger. I was a bit disappointed in the former, though that may have been the influence of their spelling failure. It’s zabaglione, damn it! The ginger was, however, excellent. (Bear in mind that I have a particular fondness for ginger, so may be biased.) I’m actually less inclined to go back there than I am to go back to Victory Garden, mostly because it wasn’t necessarily any different than gelato I can get at lots of places.

The Waldorf-Astoria: Due to some Hilton Honors promotion, it was actually cheaper to stay at The Waldorf-Astoria than it was to stay at a normal chain hotel like a Hampton Inn. So why not? In fact, they upgraded me to a room in the Waldorf Towers, which mostly meant that the room was huge. Given how little time I spend in hotel rooms for anything but sleep, that wasn’t significant. Anyway, it was perfectly fine, but if you are going to stay somewhere fancy in NYC, I preferred the time I stayed at The Algonquin. Even better (but much harder to get a deal at) is The Library Hotel, where they ask you "fiction or nonfiction?" when checking in.

Trains: I had good train karma getting up to New York with snort waits for both the yellow and red lines and Amtrak being on time. Although Union Station was its usual Friday night chaos, made worse by most of the info signs being out. (I now know they use Windows XP for their displays. That is not a reassuring thing.)

The train karma did not, alas, continue for the trip home. Amtrak was having various delays due to a train stuck in an East River tunnel. So we started out a half hour late. And then there was a power outage affecting signals in part of Maryland, so we were moving very very very very very very slowly. A 10 minute wait for the Red Line wasn’t too bad. But, of course, Metro had a screw-up on the Orange Line, so I had almost a 20 minute wait at Metro Center. So, overall, I got home too late to really do anything but collapse.