24/7 NYC: Why Boredom Is Not an Option
By Nick Vivion
gay travel guru
The warmth of the vodka is settling nicely across my face, improving my complexion and adding a rosy pallor to my demeanor. I slide my keycard in the door and excitedly open it. A weekend in New York, how exciting, I mumble to myself privately. My brainchatter stops in mid-syllable as I drink in my temporary home: a two-story loft mini-apartment on the 18th floor of the W New York. It’s palatial!
Oh my goodness, it has two bathrooms!
Look at this view!
Built-in speakers connected to satellite radio throughout!
Did someone say party?
I drop my bags and do a little jig, because I have a weekend in New York and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. I used to live in Brooklyn, and left because it was a bit too much for me. Visiting for three nights is perfect – just enough time to get my fill and get out before it eats my brain.
But where to begin? It’s the age-old question, asked by travelers for centuries, as they begin to engage with a landscape that has so much more to offer than one mere humanoid can take advantage of.
My plan is simple: Do what I can, don’t fret the rest. It’s easy to over-plan and create a hellish schedule that shreds enjoyment to pieces. Quality over quantity, I will go to the places that I love the most, as well as some requisite tourist stops. Couple that with some of the best food and entertainment options on the planet, and it’s quite the potent recipe!
It’s easy to spend a small fortune on the myriad cultural attractions that the Big Apple offers, so I swing by the NYC GO information palace in Midtown and snag a New York City Pass. The Pass saves serious cash by aggregating tickets to some of the most popular attractions in one booklet. MoMA, the Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty, please!
A long jaunt down to the tip of Manhattan takes me to Battery Park, the launching pad for ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Being a gay male, I have a particular affinity for Lady Liberty’s androgyny and long-flowing robes, and have yet to make my pilgrimage.
After going through TSA-style security – long lines, unclear instructions, and strange rules – I make it onto the ferry, only to have my breakfast snatched by an unworthy seabird!
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMNT for silly foreigners: Feeding the birds might make a cute picture but makes them aggressive…and IT COST ME MY BREAKFAST!
I was absolutely livid that my piping hot, New York-style breakfast bagel was now scattered in disarray on the top deck, slimy with dirt. LIVID, I tell you! I am not a man you want to be around when hungry. Hangry doesn’t even do it justice. I will eat you alive.
Lucky for the French gentleman who was the ringleader to this Bird Feeding Circus, I had the foresight to also purchase a protein bar. Had I not had something else to nosh on, I would have said, To the heck with this French gift to the American people, YOU OWE ME A STEAMING BREAKFAST BAGEL!
The rest of the trip was far less eventful. I even made peace with the shorebirds by snapping a lovely photo of one taking rest atop the National Park Service welcome sign on Liberty Island.
I secured a Pedestal Ticket thanks to my NYC City Pass at the ticket office in Battery Park, and after waiting in line – and going through security again – I made my way up 192 steps to the pedestal. It’s a tight squeeze on the overlook, with plenty of wind pummeling the brave souls around me, but so worth it. Thinking of how much fundraising went on in two countries, and the countless hours spent on this project, I was very appreciative of its monumental place in our collective mythologies.
“The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” was the name given by designer Frederic Bertholdi. And in this city of many nations, where the world has come together in the quintessential, post-modern melting pot, Lady Liberty continues to enlighten and evoke deep emotions in people from all over.
Moving up the island of Manhattan, I take quick peeks from two of the tallest points on the island: the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building. I am partial to the Top of the Rock not only as a 30 Rock fanatic, but also because it is less crowded and more open than the caged-in feel of the Empire State Building. The top dog as far as height is of course the Empire State Building, which is so iconic that it’s hard to believe it when you are standing on top of it.
I end at the MoMA, which stuns, as usual, with its inspirational array of modern art from around the world. During my particular visit, two fans were positioned in the atrium with two circular ribbons floating between them. The ribbons never collapsed, riding the air column constantly. Such a visual presentation of a simple concept made me truly appreciate how the museum works tirelessly to educate and bring creativity to the forefront of everyday experience.
Night falls, and the city takes on a mysterious veil, a twinkle of the anticipation. There is naughty to be had on this Saturday night, and everyone knows it. I head out to meet friends at Boxers NYC, a tremendously popular bar that has capitalized on the gay sports bar trend.
The brand is clean, the vibe unpretentious, and the place packed. Boys who like boys who like sports are not the only demographic here, as Boxers NYC has quickly become the place to have a laid-back night-out.
I did the rounds, and quickly ducked out with friends: Drag was calling!
The Ultimate Drag Off, that is!
“I am known as New York City’s big t*tted, honky soul mama,” the green-sequined vision before me says mischievously. “I’m a diva with a heart of gold.” I’m sitting with Sweetie, the evening’s hostess-with-the-mostess, one of New York’s most revered and longevous drag performers. “I’m just a simple girl with a ukulele,” she continues, laughing, as I look confused.
“We’re so reality-based. With Drag Off, you don’t have to wait for the end of the season to see who gets voted off. You show up and it’s fur flying from the beginning to the end! It’s a really fun show to just sit back and relax, it’s beautiful eye candy.”
With Sweetie’s blessing, we take our seats early. It’s cabaret-style seating, so we pick a spot with a high vantage point – ostensibly for shooting video, but secretly to diminish our chances of becoming a pawn in what is surely Sweetie’s diabolical plan to turn me into Contestant Number Four.
When the show kicks off, it’s clear that this concept is a winner. It’s light, it’s quick and it’s damn funny. Three performers perform through three rounds, with the audience given ballots to vote for the winner of each round. At the end of the show, winner takes the Drag Off disco crown after all the votes are tabulated. It’s the Gong Show meets Survivor with a healthy dose of RuPaul’s Drag Race thrown in for good measure.
As the drinks stack up in front of us, the crowd gets rowdy, boisterously joining in the experience. One straight-suggesting girl in particular is committed to her participation – I cannot stop laughing at her contributions. “Yeah I like that,” “Oh yeah!” and “Hmmm hmmm” all tumble out of her mouth unfiltered.
Ultimate Drag Off is Off-Broadway for the next 4 months, so put it on your radar. And beyond the drag, New York has an unprecedented array of shows, plays, concerts, clubs and bars to keep a homo happy.
And don’t even get me started on the food.
It’s paradise, so go be entertained!