New York, NY

[Conor Friedersdorf]

Unlike Megan, a Manhattan native, I spent just 18 months living in New York City's oft-mocked Park Slope while doing a master's program at NYU. Prior to that I'd lived in Seville, Spain a couple times, Paris for a summer and otherwise hadn't lived anywhere other than Southern California for longer than a month. I am a man who likes warm climates, laid back people and Mexican food, so I can't say my departure took me away from the place I ultimately belong. Another Californian captured my sentiments on leaving better than I can render them, though I don't think I'd yet stayed at the party too long.

In fact, now that I'm living in Washington D.C., where the social scene more often involves hanging out at friends' houses and conversing over drinks, activities that I prefer to extravagant parties, I've got to say that I miss the New York scene, not for its pretensions, but for the sheer amount of stuff going on at any moment. I never imagined, coming from Los Angeles, that I'd be stunned by the offerings of any American city. I find it hard to communicate to anyone who has never lived there.

A sense can be got from flipping through all those pages in The New Yorker that most of us skip en route to Talk of the Town. Or by browsing the restaurant and bar pages on New York Magazine's Web site. (My parent's neighborhood in Orange County, CA and my Brooklyn neighborhood, Park Slope, are similarly mocked as places for people with expensive strollers. Fair enough, but Costa Mesa, where I grew up, offered maybe 5 bars within walking distance -- I walk long distances -- from my house, whereas Park Slope had probably 50 bars within a 10 minute walk of my front door.)

But I always get a kick out of Nonsense NY, a weekly e-mail I still get sent that lists events on the what I suppose is the hipster/performance artist social scene. To give you an idea of its niche, it notes that "Nonsense does not straight list rock shows in New York unless they occur in tandem with puppet shows or jump rope tournaments or in subway tunnels or in graveyards." I don't care for graveyard rock shows, but I wish I lived in a city where enough stuff was going on that they were happening.

This weekend, for example, here are some of the NYC events advertised:

Ultimate Adventure:

As the icy pre-summer season has melted, it's time to celebrate with rooftop adventures. Come and get lost in the giant maze, hang out in a tee-pee, ring around the rosie, dance, and have fun -- one or all of these. Cheap-o liquor, plus music by DJ Justin Kase and DJ John.

Come out and Play:

The Come Out and Play Festival takes over the city streets of the Lower East Side and beyond, providing a forum for new types of public games and play. Play a lost Olympic sport, smash piñatas, pimp and build bike lanes, battle for New Amsterdam, battle for Gotham, recreate famous NYC movie scenes, get cozy with strangers, wield walkie talkies, and more in a weekend of bizarre, fun, and awesome games. All events are free, some are family-friendly, and you can play as few or as many games as you can handle.


I thought you might like to list this polka show I'm doing on Saturday at the Bowery Poetry Club. It's a live concert by the Ja Ja Jas, the rough and tumble polka band I play in with Joe Exley, and we're recording it for a future album release. You know there's a Grammy for best polka album? There is, and we mean to win it. There's a lot of audience participation involved in these polka shows so the audience is really an extension of the band (sing-alongs, synchronized clapping, locked-arms swaying, you know the drill). Not to get all artsy on you vis-a-vis oom-pah, but it's much more of an experience than a standard rock show.

Slide Lecture -- The History of Bicycling in New York City:

Bike New York (the good folks who bring us the Five-Borough Bike Tour) and I teamed up to urge the Museum of the City of New York to host this slide lecture tracing the rich, but largely unknown, history of bicycling in New York City. Cycling historian and author David Herlihy will recount the bicycle crazes of the 1860s and 1890s, the Six Day Races held at Madison Square Garden, the pioneering campaigns by bikers -- not motorists -- for paved roads, and much more. Celebrate Bike Month by exercising your mind as well as your body.


Grub, a cheap, simple dinner for strangers and co-conspirators. Rubulad home base, 338 Flushing, at Classon, Brooklyn. G train to Flushing or Classon stations, J,M,Z to Marcy, B61 bus to Flushing. First and third SUNDAYS, 6:30p doors, 7p dinner; $pay what you want, and bring your own booze.

Williamsburg Spelling Bee:

Compete for bar tab at a real adult spelling bee, every other MONDAY, 7:30p; free, Pete's Candy Store, 709 Lorimer St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Drink N Draw:

Art. Nudity. Beer. We provide the beer and the model, you bring your drawing tools of choice. 3rd Ward, 195 Morgan, Brooklyn. Second and fourth WEDNESDAYS 8-10.30p; $15, or $20 for two.

Apron Making Workshop:

Are you the hostess with the mostest? Or is grilling more your game? Either way our Apron Class is perfect for you. In this class you'll make a full apron with contrast front pocket, neck ties, and waist ties. You'll learn to make edge stitched pockets and also tackle hemming both inside and outside curves. This class requires basic sewing skills. Preregistration required.

Introduction to Basic Divination:

Divining, or dowsing as it is often times called, is the ultimate sustainable battery-free technology for getting the latest information. It is an ancient practice that was used by many cultures and continues to be used today. In the workshop, participants will be given an overview of basic divining and learn how to make their own divining rods from wire hangers and drinking straws.

This is a mere sampling, more or less arbitrarily chosen. I'd probably not attend any of them were I visiting NYC this weekend. But I'd probably be doing something equally random and interesting.