Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goo Goo for Zooey

I'm all giddy. Almost skipped my way home. Why? I saw She & Him in concert. She is quirky actress Zooey Deschanel. Him is folsky musician M. Ward.

I caught the show with a friend who has professed a "big girl crush" on Zooey. And, you know ... I now understand why. Zooey has quite the sprightly presence. She's like a peppy girl from the 50's who isn't aware that she's in the 21st century. She's like Reese Witherspoon's character from Pleasantville, except likable. (Wait ... I mangled that. Reese's character was a girl from the 90's transported to the 50's. Let's try that again: Zooey's like Reese Witherspoon, except likable.)

I was supposed to see She & Him last night at Hiro Ballroom, but Zooey fell ill and lost her voice. At tonight's make-up show, Zooey was clearly still suffering from whatever ailed her. So distressed were her vocal chords that she refrained from speaking to the crowd between songs. Instead, she
pantomimed her gratitude and held up goofy homemade posters with messages like "Hi" and "Thank You New York." (Sprightly, I said.) But even with less than cooperative vocal chords, she sang with clarity. It's hard not to be enchanted by that joy-infused voice of hers, a few crackles and all. She could sing sadness with a smile and get away with it. I think The Times described her rather fittingly as "a natural hyphenate, an actress-musician-crafty girl."

I was happiest when they played "I Thought I Saw Your Face Today." I give the track my early nomination for most sway-worthy song of the year. My head seems to tic-toc reflexively like the needle on a metronome when I hear that bouncy little ditty. (And I know the professional critics mock comparisons of Zooey to Dusty Springfield as lacking in discernment, but it's pretty hard to listen to songs like "Sweet Darlin'" and "I Was Made for You" without thinking that Zooey could win quite a few karaoke contests with a rendition of "I Only Want to Be with You.")

I think I may now have a "big boy crush" on Zooey.

And as if the sundae of a night needed sprinkles to top things off ... I got a message from a friend letting me know that My Bloody Valentine will headline ATP New York 2008 in September! Woohoo!

And then She & Him showed up on Conan ... with Yo La Tengo as a backing band! Double woohoo!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

So which of your favorites are your favorites?

And speaking of high school redux ...

While I was out for drinks with a couple of friends last week, I was asked to name my three favorite bands. Actually, I started it by asking them to name their favorites. I should do a better job of following that rule about not asking questions that you wouldn't want to answer yourself.

I surprised myself with my first nominee: New Order. I mean, I rarely listen to New Order anymore. (The reason is the subject of a should-have-been-written-long-ago entry.) But I also hedged by saying that it's a "historical" selection. Kinda like a lifetime achievement award.

We moved on to another bar before I had to round out my nominations. Good thing. The fretting about what bands to choose may have caused more psychic harm than the beer. But I wonder. Who should get the other two spots? That'll have to be the subject of a should-be-written-soon entry. (As will the answer to one of the questions posed by one of those friends: If you were stuck on a desert island and could have access to only five albums, which would they be?)

I love Saturday, too.

While writing that last entry, I had I Say, I Say, I Say playing in the background. Definitely my favorite Erasure album. And "I Love Saturday" is definitely my favorite Erasure song. Haven't listened to Erasure in ages. Must be something about the wee hours that puts me in a nostalgic mood. (And now, I'm listening to The Smiths. Talk about high school redux ...)

A cutie pie and a tasty pie.

I spent the day hanging out in Brooklyn today (Saturday). I was out in Park Slope visiting friends and their 11-month-old daughter. Quite the cute little ... Hmm, I was about to say "booger," but I don't think my friends would appreciate that. (It's a term of affection! That's what I call my niece and nephews. And I guess that's what I've just called my friends' daughter in a roundabout way.)

I can definitely see the appeal of Brooklyn. And I can definitely see the appeal of Park Slope for those who have kids. I got out there just in time to head over to the playground at Prospect Park. The little one began her fun in the park on the swings, but she soon grew bored with the the sitting. She'd had enough sitting in the stroller, I guess. So, it was off to the slide, where she perked up. And after some debate between mom and dad, she was shuttled to the sand box -- her inaugural trip. There, she perked up even more. Funny what little it takes to amuse kids sometimes.

We scooted back to my friends' (very spacious) apartment before heading out for ... lunner? (It was 4:15.) This was my third dining experience in Brooklyn, and, like the other two, this one was wonderful. (Ooh ... I forgot about the rather crappy meal I had as part of a summer associate function in Brooklyn Heights last year. Okay ... all my meals in Park Slope have been wonderful. Let's keep the Brooklyn Heights episode in the dark corner of the memory bank.) We had pizza at Franny's ... and, oh wow! That was a tasty clam pie! Whole clams, parsley and chilies on top of a
crunchy thin crust. Simple, but flavorful. It was so good that I can't decide whether I like it better than the clam pie at Lombardi's. (And I love the clam pie at Lombardi's.)

While eating, I observed aloud how cheerful the little one was. Her mother enthusiastically advised, "You should get one!" I chuckled. First, because she said it as if I could swing by Target on my way home and pick one up. Second, well ... here's what I quipped in return: "Um ... there are some intermediate steps that need to be taken care of first."

Ah, Brooklyn. The more I go out there, the more I like it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Taking a Stand for Tapas

A friend suggested last week that I write about the restaurants where I've eaten. I'd thought about doing that on occasion. After all, eating lies just behind music among my passions. But I resisted for various reasons, the most significant of which is that I'm not the sort who snaps pictures of food at a restaurant -- not in NYC anyway. Reading about food without being able to get a taste or whiff is frustrating enough. But without even a freakin' picture so that you can take an imagined taste or whiff?

And then I remembered the primary reasons I started this blog. I write not so much to build an audience (although I do sincerely thank all two of you who visit this site on a semi-regular basis). Rather, I write primarily to record my thoughts for my own perusal, especially in the years ahead when the passage of time will surely mount an even more debilitating attack on my memories. So ... on with my first official entry about a dining experience in NYC.

I finally made my way over to El Quinto Pino on Friday night. It's been on my list of restaurants to try since it opened a few months ago. I had more reason to have been derelict than my Chelsea-residing companion: El Quinto Pino is in Chelsea, which is not my typical haunts.

It's a sliver of a space, even by NYC standards. No tables. Just a bar and a counter that lines the perimeter. We weren't able to find seats, but it was just fine to eat standing by the counter. Everything was bite-sized, so it was kinda like having a beer and munching on pretzels.

As usual, we got carried away with the ordering (especially since I had a rather heavy lunch at Lever House, which was quite the treat as well). Always seems to happen when I eat with this friend. We started with sandwiches of the uni and braised meat variety, cracklins, garlic shrimp and fried salt cod, which were all delicious. The Times called the uni sandwich -- warm uni spread like butter inside a toasty baguette -- the "Sandwich of the Year," and I certainly won't quarrel. I'm not even a big fan of uni, but that was a damn tasty sandwich. The second of the sandwiches reminded me of a Vietnamese barbecued pork sandwich, but with a more subtle flavor and bits of meat that are more tender. And the cracklins ... oh man. Like gourmet pork rinds. As best as I could tell, they were basically chunks of deep fried pork fat. (Recoil in disgust as you read, but roll your eyes toward the heavens when you taste.)

That wasn't quite enough for my friend, so we looked for more to order, which was a bit of a challenge. We'd basically exhausted the options on the short menu except for anchovies and vegetables. But we settled on Catalan head cheese. Not bad, but not really my thing. I prefer to eat my mystery brain parts warm.

And he was still hungry. So we asked the waitress to suggest something. She brought over an off-the-menu item -- a dish of broken noodles with bits of squid. After eating it, I could understand why that dish wasn't on the menu. Extremely salty and equally forgettable.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable dining experience (except for the silly noodles). I'd definitely go back.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Good to see you again, Balmy Breeze.

Oh, wow. Could it be? Why yes, it could! It's the first night of the year on which opening the window is a sensible idea! Woohoo!