It had probably been five or six years since I’d been to New York City. This fact not only stood as a betrayal of my east coast roots, but was severely depressing in and of itself. Last week that was all fixed, when I found myself on a plane to that proverbial city that never sleeps, which is the perfect place for a sleep-deprived dad who can’t manage to stay awake until the 11pm “Simpsons” rerun.
I was in New York to once again congregate with my fellow nerds at a comic book convention. Unlike the pop culture orgy that is the San Diego Comic Con, the NYCC has a different vibe, much like the city itself. New York City brings out the intensity in people like salt brings out the flavor in food. This was abundantly evident in the fans who dressed up for the show. Not only did they take great care in crafting their costumes, but many of them had developed signature super hero poses that were instantly struck whenever a camera was waved in front of them.
The costumed folk also created some interesting people watching. Unique parings popped up all over the convention center. Two wookies were being led by Snake Plisskin. Mario and Luigi hung out with Hagar the Horrible. Lara Croft strolled hand and hand with Indiana Jones. And in a scene eerily reminiscent of “West Side Story”, there was palpable tension between the wizards from Harry Potter and the Twilight vampires.
Thankfully I didn’t spend all of my time in the convention center. New York is a walking town, and even though I live in LA, where we are forced to sign wavers promising that we will drive everywhere we go, I walked and soaked in the city.
I never realized how much food there is in NYC. Just about every other storefront was a bodega or café or sandwich shop or fancy restaurant. This is so profoundly different from the skuzzy strip mall Chinese food and Donut emporiums that litter the City of Angels. I also took great pleasure in seeing more Dunkin’ Donuts than Starbucks.
While I ate in an excellent restaurant or two, I really enjoyed the street vendors. I grew up thinking that one should never eat food from a cart on the street. I think it may have been my dad who instilled this disdain in me. Hot dogs from carts were referred to as DWD’s (dirty water dogs). Though I had been to NYC many times with my family, we never got food from a street vendor. But here I was on my own in the big city and since I’m a grownup (at least this is what the kids in my neighborhood tell me), I figured it was time to take a chance.
Walking back to my hotel after a few drinks on my first night, I stopped at a cart and bought a dog. Turns out it was one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. It had been grilled on the same surface where gyros and kabobs had been cooking, probably all day, giving it an extra burst of meaty flavor. As a bonus, the bun was also lightly grilled on the same cook top, providing extra goodness. My only complaint about this dog was that I didn’t buy two of them. This was so far from the culinary abomination that I had been led to expect. I needed to explore more.
I ate some great food in New York. I was compelled to stop at the legendary Gray’s Papaya, which I’ve been curious to try ever since it showed up on an episode of “Seinfeld” along with its numerous appearances on the Food Network. I also made sure to by some honey roasted nuts from a street cart—the smell of which ranks up there with campfires and vanilla extract as one of my all time favorite olfactory sensations.
But this orgy of eating couldn’t last forever. I was soon on a very long flight back home, filled with a longing for my family, only to find WonderWife™ laid up in bed with a virus so nasty she could barely speak in coherent sentences. Sprout greeted me with a bunch of smiles, but really she’ll smile at an unplugged lamp if it’s placed in front of her. I was really looking forward to how the Bean would greet me, but he was engrossed in his 157th viewing of “Cars” and couldn’t be bothered.
Oh well, I’ll always have that hot dog.