book party sans vino
Sunday, April 28 2013
location: Maritime Hotel, Chelsea, Manhattan
At the Maritime Hotel, one can check out as late as 1:00pm, so this morning we left all our stuff in our room and went across 9th Avenue to the Chelsea Market. It's like a big version of a shopping mall's food court, but also with grocery stores selling obscure items and specialty food shops selling just one type of product (bread, say, or coffee). It's all centered on a long hallway done up in an American take on the European "beautiful ruin" æsthetic. The floor is a shiny well-worn patina of bricks, concrete, and stone, and the occasionally-crumbling brick walls are covered with ancient cast iron pipes, cables, and the other necessary infrastructure that is unusually hidden away. Here it's all visible and visually-complicated, but also neatly tucked away behind gorgeous industrial ceiling fans and light bulb cages. The central hallway was apparently added to the building in recent times, and in some places it passes through parabolic-shaped faux-arches made by crudely eliminating existing bricks. After examining all the markets, we got coffee from the one place specializing in that (their coffee has that kind of strong coffee flavor I don't like, but it made a very good soy cappuccino, which Gretchen said was "the best cup of coffee I've ever had"). We bought some pickled spreads (artichoke and eggplant) at the little stand selling those and then a variety of breads from Amy's Bread (which caters to less of a Sex-and-the-City crowd than Sarabeth's Bakery) and had a sort of indoor picinic at one of the tables along the side of the Chelsea Market hallway, next to a store with signs reading "Last Day Only."
After checking out of the Maritime, we put all our stuff in our car (still safely parked across 16th Street), and then walked a few blocks to Williams Sonoma, for which Gretchen had a gift certificate given to her by her friend Marissa. We'd be staying tonight at Marissa's apartment on 17th Street, and she met us with her new
toe-headed tow-headed baby "Mushy" [REDACTED] as while we were looking for a way to blow exactly $200. (We ended up spending $40 past that, mostly because of the purchase of a KitchenAid handheld electric mixer.)
At our car, we swapped our new purchases for our bags and then went to Marissa's spacious place (it's a 2 million dollar apartment). Eventually Gretchen went off to get a pedicure and I went off to have some down time with a soy cappuccino at Le Pain Quotidien (where there is no WiFi, so all I could do with my netbook was write).
After Marissa had made up Gretchen "like a whore," it was time to head to the place where the book party was to be held: the Jivamukti Yoga Center near Union Square. Since we had boxes of books, packets of seeds, and a bunch of prints, we couldn't walk or take the subway, and because we didn't want to give up our sweet parking spot, we didn't want to drive. But flagging down a taxi proved difficult. Gretchen got a few to stop, but when they saw our boxes they'd just drive away. We were about to give up and drive there when Gretchen (trotting around uncomfortably in high heels) finally managed to get a cabby to stop and stay stopped. He was an east Asian, which Marissa (who has been performing a taxi driver demographic study for the past five years) says is unusual.
At Jivamukti we met up with Susan S. and her boyfriend David (she did the art for Gretchen's book and he handled the graphic design of the cover) and carried all the stuff back to the big yoga studio where the reading was to be held. It being a yoga studio, from there we had to proceed shoeless (thus Gretchen's pedicure).
Gretchen had paid Jivamukti to provide the vegan finger food, so there was a table of that, as well tables of the other things. About 70 people showed up for the reading, most of them familiar faces from the New York City area. Some of the people were only remotely connected to us, such as Rob, the guy who gave us Ramona, and some of the Oberlin alumni like crazy Eren G. Many of those more distantly-connected were actors or comics, the kind of people who know the importance of turning out to support a friend. I had a number of long conversations with various people, but the lack of alchol made smalltalk excruciating for me. I found myself not saying quite the right things as I made introductions (part of the problem is how terrible I am with names) and then obsessing about these failures for the rest of the conversation even if I was otherwise being charming and engaged. Still, it was a good exercise. If I really want to break all my psychological dependence of alcohol, I have to learn to socialize without it too. Sometimes, though, socializing was easy even if it was somewhat exasperating, such as when crazy Eren G. came over and completely monopolized the conversation with self-deprecation that was also somehow self-aggrandizing, exactly the way I remember her doing back in 1987[REDACTED].
As always, Gretchen's reading was great, so much better than these things usually are. Nevertheless she was unsatisfied with her performance because of a poem she forgot to read, her mention of her mother and not her father, and little glitches that nobody but her noticed. She was so flustered that when we finally went to leave Jivamukti for dinner, she forgot to say goodbye to her parents. In the end they joined a few of us at Peacefood, a sort of upscale vegan diner that doesn't yet have an alcohol license. That's right, on the big day of Gretchen's book release party there was no alcohol. If I weren't in a phase in which I am trying to break my psychological dependencies, I would have been outraged. As it was, I was mostly perplexed. I'd assumed I'd be doing some drinking tonight. The food at Peacefood wasn't all great, but some of it was. The chick pea fries and other fried gold-colored items were delicious, though their nachos and soups weren't very good. The latter contained unwanted weird Asian spices.
Back at Marissa's place, her husband (David) and I arranged the hide-a-bed for Gretchen and me in the living room. (It's a big apartment, but not big enough to have a guest room.) Then Gretchen and Marissa chatted like teenage schoolgirls on a sleepover while I absentmindedly surfed the internet.
From left: Crazy Eren G., Gretchen, and me.
At Peacefood after Gretchen's parents left early. I am with Gretchen nearest the camera. Marissa is in the back right next to her husband David.
The other two in the picture, Stacy and her husband Keith, visited us some months ago.
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