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December 18, 2006

Filed under: culture»america»usa

Live from New York

I've been to New York City a few times before, while I was in college. But visiting with Belle is different, because she packs our vacations full. Now, of course, it's all a blur. Good thing there are digital photographs, to preserve all my most embarrassing facial expressions!

Belle is a Sanrio fanatic. Total Hello Kitty overload. And ever since they closed the Potomac Mills store, I think she's been a bit in withdrawal. She claims that she was underwhelmed by the New York Sanrio Outlet, but I think she's just trying to make me feel better about it.

I, on the other hand, was definitely underwhelmed by the Nintendo World store in Times Square. Of course, I don't know what I was expecting: free Gamecubes at the door? Lots of white plastic and blue lights.

I think I'm scarier than the allosaurus, personally. But here's a funny story: neither of us had ever been to the Natural History museum before, and we started with the animals from Asia. We were looking at some kind of Indonesian deer when Belle turned to me and said something about how "lifelike" they were.

Well of course they're lifelike, I said. They used to be alive.

"What? No," said Belle. "You're pulling my leg."

Apparently she'd never really spent any time with taxidermy. We should all be so lucky. I think I like it better her way, though: I imagine teams of highly-trained artists carefully sculpting a life-scale model of incredibly banal wildlife, implanting each hair by hand.

I just liked this phone.

Before heading off to catch Almodovar's Volver (great flick, be sure to see it when it gets a wider release), we stopped off at this dessert restaurant, which we passed on our way to Lombardi's famous pizza. It's called Rice to Riches, and they only sell delicious rice pudding.

A lot of design went into it, obviously. You can't see them from this angle, but there were these elaborate Flash animations running on screens above the pudding bar, and all of the signs are a little sardonic. My favorite slogan hung over the bar was "Eat all you want--you're already fat." But this sign located outside was also a nice touch:

Shallow observation: New York is very different from DC or where I grew up in Lexington, KY. It always strikes me as three or four different cities that just happen to coexist over top of each other. There's the hipster New York where you can buy cupcakes at 11pm and then go eat at Moby's vegan restaurant. There's the grounded neighborhoods around the airport in Queens. And then there's the surreal sections of Manhattan like Times Square, where the city isn't just a hyperactive commercial parody of itself, but has actually become a parody of the parody of New York commercialism. The fact that all of these are only a few miles from each other is pretty amazing, as is the fact that they haven't declared war on each other yet.

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