NEW YORK – The best way to handle New York is to give in to it. Have a plan, sure, if you feel you must, but keep it loose. Start walking. Wiggle your way to your destination. Stop to look at the graffitti. Take a picture of the great store names – the pun is alive and well in America.
I’ve described New York City as overstimulating before, so in the spring, when it’s the barest bit less so, you take your stimulation where you can, perhaps with a trip to the Museum of Sex. It’s within walking distance of the East Village (where I stay with my friend Zon when I’m in town) because everything in Manhattan is within walking distance. I love the Lower East, with its wrought-iron fire escapes, corner-store psychics, restos and bars representing every country, culture and taste. I love it in the spring, when the trees are considering blooming and the crazy heat of summer hasn’t started to cook the alley garbage into retch-inducing piles of stink.
We got to the museum late because we don’t walk in straight lines and we never rush. It took us a while to leave the apartment since it was nigh-on beer o’clock and we knew a cold drink would fuel us for the hike uptown. And then, along the way, we were distracted by Good Beer. We spent an incredible amount of time browsing the mostly local, mostly organic bottles and nearly ruining a video podcast being produced in the back: “Okay, so what you’re saying is it’s got a front-end bitter and a back-end sweet … umn, can you move a little so you’re not right in front of the camera?” Front end bitter, back end sweet. I’ve got friends like that.
Good Beer wasn’t our only stop. We found a vintage shop – truly, truly vintage, with frilly chartreuse dresses from the ’70s and banded sweatshirts from the ’80s – a place that sold architectural details, a diner that served chicken fried steak and green beans on a TV-dinner-style plate, and a gargantuan Italian grocery where the old tiled ceiling was as interesting as the thousands of items for sale.
And so it was dusk when we bought our tickets and ambled into the den of iniquity. The Museum of Sex doesn’t ease you into things. The first room is a tribute to sex on screen and the soundtrack is damp with passion. There are screens everywhere. It’s hard to read the panels; your eyes are attracted to the platform where the first porn film, made in the early part of the last century, is projected, or to the small screen where strangers tape just their faces as they reach the little death.
Eventually a staffer approached us, warning us the museum would close in about 40 minutes and maybe we wanted to see the rest of the place? Not much time – what should we see? “Well, there’s the comics,” he said, “you know, if you don’t like the porn.” If we don’t like the porn? Because we’ve spent more than half an hour in this one room …
We headed up the stairs to the robot exhibit, where a diorama showed steampunky ‘bots inside and outside a porno theatre, tools well in hand. We touched the silicone love dolls, giggled a little, exclaimed over the falling-out-of-love artwork and The Nudie Artist: Burlesque Revived. I could have spent hours more in the Comics Stripped section, which laid out the evolution of nudity and sexuality in comics. But there wasn’t time, and we were spent.
What does one do after an evening of sex, when a nap isn’t an option? First a stop at Good Beer for a growler to take home – a large brown bottle we had filled with a smoky brew that left an intriguing bacon aftertaste. And then – “Coyote Ugly,” I said, even though Zon had warned me that its heyday was firmly in the ’90s, just before the film starring Piper Perado and John Goodman (!) bombed at theatres across the continent. There were bras hanging from pipes in the bar; the barmaid was cute and perky. We sat at a booth and I watched baseball, sipping Pabst and not thinking about whether my feet would explode when I took my cowboy boots off later that night. We were almost done our pitcher when the barmaid, moved by some mysterious cue or her own boredom, I suppose, hopped up on the bar and started to dance.
“Omigod, she’s going to hit her head on the ceiling,” I gasped, alarmed. She was bouncing quite vigorously. “She’s going to kill herself!” Dancing and danger, all in one. Plus the bounce. It ain’t the Cirque, but it was a great end to our day of moderate stimulation.
* I didn’t actually leave my bra at Coyote Ugly. I was too shy. Maybe next time.
This story was published in The Senior Times.