Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.
― Teju Cole
We were lucky to have the well-appointed Park Hyatt serve as our home base for the second half of the trip. The best thing about staying at luxury hotels isn’t the luxury bathroom with Japanese soaking tub, the heated marble floors, the rain shower, the fancy bath products (in this case Le Labo) or the built-in mirror television. Nor is it the plush king bed with Italian linens, the Japanese pears, or a “mini-fridge” that begs you to partake of wine and champagne, artisan nuts and other goodies you know you shouldn’t (it’s rumored the value of the contents is in the $1,000’s). It’s not even the remote panel that controls the room’s ambiance within arm’s reach on your bed. No, the best thing, is the level of personalized attention you receive. It’s this, that separates exceptional hotels from good ones.
The Park Hyatt is one of 175 hotels in the world to carry a five-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide (one of eight in NYC). They’re also a five diamond rated hotel by AAA, a distinction awarded to just .4% of approximately 28,000 reviewed hotels by the travel authority.
Our visit was a stone’s throw from my birthday, far enough that I had no expectations of recognition. Nonetheless, the guest relations team at the PH welcomed us with a warm birthday note, bottle of Prosecco and gourmet chocolate. Each query of the guest relations team included a response that addressed me by name and they are familiar with any personal preferences you may have should you provide them ahead of time. That level of personalization, attention to detail and service makes the stress of dealing with crowds a distant memory. All you want to do is grab your wine glass, relax in the building designed by Pritzker Prize winning French architect Christian de Portzamparc (the PH is housed within One57) and relax with a book, or hang in the comfort of the lounge with its art installations and tony furnishings.
With all this, plus the promise of complimentary treats during the happy hour timeframe (something chic among hotels these days), it was damn hard to will ourselves out of there, but will ourselves we did.
This area of town is known as “billionaires row”. Walking around the corner we were met by a notorious building bearing a five letter, anti-immigrant surname across the front. I find it ironic that that name was, in the past, reworked to Anglicize his grandfather’s own German immigrant history, (self hatred is a bitch). I stopped by to pay my regards.
My middle-fingered salutation had me feeling a little famished so we dipped into David Chang’s Fuku+ for a late lunch. This outpost of the popular fried chicken concept was in keeping with my theme of giving birds. We had the sweet & spicy fuku fingers, fries and a couple of pre happy hour cocktails. Some Compost cookies later we felt better about the world. We were also fueled up for what was to come.
London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.
― Dorothy Parker
From canny, dialog driven and witty short stories (“Here We Are” is a favorite), to her support of the struggle at a time when it was convenient to look the other way, Dorothy Parker was not only a titan of literature, but a damn cool lady as well. As we headed up 5th Ave, I noticed we were hurrying, even though we had nowhere to be. The sheer pace of New York impels you to walk faster, think quicker. No doubt we were headed toward that something good of which Ms. Parker wrote.
When Ralph Lauren debuted his Fall fashion show in September he did so in his garage, amidst his personal collection of insane classic automobilia. Walking into his flagship men’s store on Madison we were met by the first of two choice, Bueller like vehicles: an extremely rare 1944 Owens Special Midget Race Car with a caramel leather seat.
This was my second visit to the Rhinelander mansion, a structure that dates back to the late 19th century. Of French Renaissance revival construction, the mansion was modeled after a chateau of the Loire Valley in France and the interior architecture is exquisite, featuring balustrades and ionic columns of fine wood with intricately designed molded plaster ceilings. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and last purchased in 2005 for $80M.
This is how I convinced Wonderhoney that we were actually sightseeing instead of shopping (though I let her know the Fidel II’s were going on my wish list).
We headed across the street to the women’s store, which architecturally speaking was no less impressive than the mansion. Like the men’s counterpart, we were greeted at the door with another boss vehicle, a 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa Spyder in candy apple. With these whips as background I imagine it was difficult for the show’s attendees to focus on the F/W line but as always, both Mr. Lauren’s Men’s and Women’s collections were somehow comfortably modern takes on sharp, heritage-driven classics (knit cashmere blazers, some herringbone, the requisite nod to the American West and spot infusions of purple and yellow).
We lingered in the Home décor section, test-driving a club chair here, a sofa there and an oversized pillow I got way too excited about. There we met an elderly fellow who mentioned that he usually comes by the Home store at least once a week to get some coffee, browse and generally just kick it with the staff. Our new friend suggested they bring us some champagne, which they graciously did. We sat talking with this gentleman for at least an hour about family, his upbringing in New York during the 50’s and the luxurious home décor that enveloped us. It was a great memory to make, and definitely something good.
I would love ‘Awkward Black Girl’ to be on television, with the right team of people who understand and get it. If ‘Awkward Black Girl’ could make it to HBO starring a dark-skinned black girl, that would be revolutionary.
The thing about champagne is you can rarely have one glass. If you do only have one, it must not be very good champagne. As it happened, we met the same friend we spent dinner with in Harlem, only this time it was for drinks at the Met’s Cantor Roof Garden. They were due to close for a private event so we had 20 minutes or so for the breathtaking, open-air views of Manhattan.
We were lured away from more champagne by craft cocktails or some such, but the art by sculptor Adrián Villar Rojas on display was inspiring. Titled the Theater of Disappearance, the installation featured numerous figures that seemed transported in time but also, somehow, right at home. Noticed admiring the work was rapping and acting impresario – as well as Wonderhoney’s celebrity crush – Riz Ahmed, who made his way toward our group. While the debate about approaching him and becoming those people began to take on a life of its own, I became that guyand gave him much deserved props for his work and Emmy on the The Night Of. Faster than I could get into a discussion about hip-hop (and the blog among other things), he was gone, along with the daylight. But the night was yet to come.
There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?
― Woody Allen
Our group of seven met for dinner at Le Coq Rico in the LES. Helmed by Chef Antoine Westermann, a multiple Michelin star recipient, the ethos of the poultry focused NYC outpost (his original Le Coq Rico is in Paris) centers around sustainably raised and wild poultry. For chicken lovers like WH and I, our dinner there was more like a pilgrimage. Apparently Mr. Westermann’s roast chicken recipe is a favorite of the newly engaged Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
There’s a particular emphasis on the location, heritage and age of the birds (some of them have been aged upwards of 130 days, almost three times as long as the birds you’d get in the supermarket) and all of which yield different flavor profiles. The featured dish is a Baeckeoffe cooked bird in an earthenware pot (a style traditional with Alsatian cooking) with savory vegetables. The meal was impressive and we all left as stuffed as Chef Westermann’s Brune Landaise.
We lost a few of our soldiers after dinner and a stop for a drink. The rest of us, raging against the dying of the light, made our way to Nancy Whiskey on Lispenard. One of my favorite bars in NY, it’s a bullshitless, unaffiliated (except in name) sister to a bar in Detroit we also dig. There were shots, there was Journey, there were more cool memories into the morning.
This is the city, and I am one of the citizens/Whatever interests the rest interests me.
– Walt Whitman
When I read the story behind Kitsuné (Japanese for “fox”) I felt an appeal toward the brand. When I saw their clothing it cemented that appeal. There are really cool dynamics at work for the fashion and music label brand that was founded by a French former manager of Daft Punk (Gildas Loaëc) and a Japanese architect (Masaya Kuroki). Their company aesthetic of versatility, connected to the Japanese characteristic of the fox, is represented in the fusion of backgrounds, music & fashion, locations (Paris and Tokyo) and a style sensibility, which is based on beautiful detail and finish.
When I learned Kitsuné’s first and only US shop debuted in Soho a few short weeks prior to our arrival I knew I wanted to see this shop up close. Designed by Mathieu Lehanneur, who also designed a café at the Louvre, the store is minimalist with white background, which serves to enhance the primary colors, creams and charcoals of the apparel. The clothing nimbly spans from streetwear to a more casual look that includes some neat cardigans, blazers, virgin wool trousers and preppy overcoats. The theme of the 2017 F/W collection is “Formidable Courage”, although you won’t need it to wear Kitsuné; I found myself leaving with a pair of those trousers.
The brand also recently collaborated with Eastpak on a line of bags, duffels and luggage. The 65 year-old backpack company began as a favorite of students (my friends and I) in the 70’s and 80’s and more recently collaborated with Raf Simons and A.P.C., before working with Maison Kitsuné.
On our last night in Manhattan (!) we went to see director and filmmaker Ava DuVernay speak at the New Yorker festival. Ms. DuVernay has directed the films Selma, 13th, the soon to be released A Wrinkle in Time, and several small screen projects. I’m a big fan of hers, specifically of her searing documentary, and BAFTA award winner, 13th. She didn’t disappoint, sharing her views on the industry, her start in film and her views on life. She spoke of the importance, and surrealism, of making a film like Selma – DuVernay brilliantly re-wrote most of the original script, but agreed to a non-credit for doing so as part of a legal arrangement (and in order to get the movie released). She spoke of integrity, and how making that professional decision has weighed on her as a regret, but also as a very keen life lesson. One that, you may argue, propelled her to bigger things. Stories and novels circle around drama like this. But then again, also not surprising as a part of show business.
I remember thinking the festival organizers must have been happy with selecting such a compelling speaker. Her stories were relevant for all people, but particularly for women (and black women). This was underscored by the line of mostly hipsters, each of whom stepped up to the mic for post-session questions. The subject matter ranged anywhere from breaking into filmmaking to “fix my life”, as if she were Iyanla Vanzant. She emerged from the building and headed toward her Land Rover, the sponsor for the event, as we stood by outside. She made a point to stop, thank us for coming and to ask my name. The experience seemed like an everyday one, in New York.
If you missed pt. I of our New York visit, check it out.