Having roamed the halls and galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 5th Ave. Tel: 212-535-7710. www.metmuseum.org) throughout my entire life, I am constantly amazed by just how much I have yet to see. I decide to enlist the help of Professor Andrew Lear who leads LGBT tours of the Met. Lear, the founder of Oscar Wilde Tours (www.oscarwildetours.com), offers private and group tours of not only the Met, but of New York City. He is also a fountain of knowledge and has a storied history as a professor of classics at world-renowned institutions like NYU and Harvard. His love of teaching, history, literature, and travel have all found a home in his new company.
That day, he guides us from Picasso’s “Gertrude Stein” and Michelangelo Buonarroti’s “Young Archer” to Rodin’s “The Vanquished” and the Asmat people’s bis poles from New Guinea. Of course, Lear’s indefatigable excitement about each pieces’ place in LGBT history has us floating through the museum’s gorgeously curated galleries.
When the tour concludes, I drag Tom to one of my favorite places in all of New York City, the Met’s Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar. Your passes will get you into the Met for free, but know that the Met works on a suggested donation, so the $20 price tag is, well, just suggested. So if you want to just pop up to the roof, no need to pay. After hearing the stories of the LGBTs of yesteryear, we raise our glasses to the sun setting over Central Park and toast next to an installation by French artist Pierre Huyghe.
Afterward, we walk across Central Park, blindly meandering paths lined with cast-iron gas lamps and watching runners getting in their late-evening exercise. In the distance, light twinkles from the iconic Tavern on the Green (67th St Central Park West. Tel: 212-877-8684. www.tavernonthegreen.com). Unbeknownst to Tom, I’ve secretly booked us a table after hearing that the latest reincarnation of the restaurant and bar is thanks to Jim Caiola and David Salama. The married couple, who have two adopted children, have added much-needed TLC to this deserving historic venue. Inside the glass-walled dining area, we delight in our entrées. Tom’s over the moon with his roasted chicken breast with fennel potato purée (and side of potatoes that he says rival his mam’s in Ireland). The candlelight twinkles in the glass window and the outdoor scene of couples strolling makes for an unforgettable experience.
As it’s nearing fall, the city is already preparing for the holiday season (the concrete jungle turns into Miracle on 34th St. earlier and earlier every year). While we’re on our way to brunch at the reopened Rainbow Room, we pass the just-being-decorated Radio City Music Hall (1260 6th Ave. Tel: 212-465-6741. www.radiocity.com), where a crowd is eagerly waiting outside. It turns out we’re just in time for a behind-the-scenes tour of the art deco landmark. Thankfully, our New York Pass gets us free access to the 75-minute tour that leads us through the secrets of the Great Stage. Inside we get to see the gorgeous interiors (it’s a whole different perspective when the building is empty). It’s our luck that the Rockettes are already practicing and one gladly takes photos and demonstrates the perfect kick. Grabbing me to be the holiday guinea pig, she disapprovingly grunts at my first attempt and tells me to lift my leg like I was aiming at someone’s face. “Ho ho ho,” I laugh at her directions while giving my best Street Fighter. “Now that’s the spirit of the holidays,” she says with an angelic smile.
The recently reopened The Rainbow Room (30 Rockefeller Plaza. Tel: 212- 632-5000. www.rainbowroom.com), which has undergone a major transformation after being forced to close in 2007 for the first time in its 73-year history due to the financial crisis, is back and under new management (and as a newly anointed New York City Landmark). The circular restaurant, with a gorgeous chandelier-adorned dance floor, was the first restaurant ever in a high-rise building, and its timeless elegance, superb food, and sweeping views of Central Park and the Empire State Building give it that New York, New York feel. The brunch, only served on Sundays, is buffet-style with an upscale selection of roasts, eggs, crêpés, and an assemblage of tasty baked goods like the blueberry tarts. Live music accompanies the meal and after eating and, I suspect, a few cocktails, the eager brunch crowd twirls the afternoon away.
While Broadway is on most tourists’ bucket lists when visiting the City, creative spaces abound throughout all five boroughs. Don’t limit yourself to just the Great White Way, check out shows at Joe’s Pub, the Duplex, Here Arts Center, Dixon Place, La MaMa, New Ohio Theater, and countless more. Great resources to find what’s going on in the theatre scene include Passport’s The Broadway Blog (www.thebroadwayblog.com), TimeOut New York (www.timeoutny.com), and The Village Voice (www.villagevoice.com). We choose Ars Nova’s (511 W 54th St. Tel: 212-489-9800. www.arsnovanyc.com) monthly show called Showgasm that’s hilariously host- ed by up-and-coming gay comedian John Early, with biting commentary by drag queen Hamm Samwich. We see some crazy acts, including dance comedy troupe Varsity Interpretive Dance Squad and drag personality Sweetie. There was even a surprise performance by SNL legend Ana Gasteyer! Also, the theater, located in Hell’s Kitchen, is a nice pit stop before a night out at gay bars like Posh, Atlas Social Club, Boxers, Therapy, Industry, and many others located only a few blocks away.
The next morning, as I end my week exploring New York as a tourist, we’re aboard the brunch sail. I take a look at the City that is my home, and as the buildings shimmer like rainbow fish I see things in a new light. It’s no longer the place where I’ve both failed and succeeded, where I’ve sweltered and froze, where I’ve praised and complained. This week, taking the time to actually experience New York and viewing Gotham from a new perspective, changed my perspective.
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