Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friday nights at the Whitney

In the second blacked-out room I'm surrounded on three sides by the pulsing, the kicked cans, the whir of the Laundromat. I didn't stop to read the blurb, but to me it looks and sounds like the actor is doing some ecstatic adventuring around New York. For once I don't have to fake it. My mind is blown. Right there and then I vow: I'm always going to drink agave before looking at modern art.

The evening started in the exaggeratedly refined environs of the Bemelman's Bar at the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side. Named for the illustrator of the Madeline children's books, whose drawings cover all the vertical surfaces, it's a clubby, luxurious place which screams Our Place, Anniversary Drinks and Sugar Daddy. On every table was a little silver cake-stand of nuts and bite-sized cheese straws and a card advertising the man who was tinkling the ivories during cocktail hour. It seems he was Very Good. A matching pair of expensive blond mothers and daughters rushed up during the break in his set to tell him he was Wonderful and to shake the hand that shook out those glorious old show tunes.

I was more excited about the nuts and the cheese straws. When you're paying $20 for your agave-based cocktail you've got to get your kicks wherever you can. At one point the middle-aged waiter took the snack-stand away. He must have read my anguish on my face because he reassured me he was only going to fill it up for us. I wish I were less transparent.

The single cocktail proved surprisingly potent, and we lasted less than half an hour in the pay-what-you-will night at the Whitney. The colours seemed too bright. The surreal shapes too disturbing. The video installations made me feel like I was slowly creaking up a roller-coaster, my stomach screaming in preparation for the fall.

On Mondays Woody Allan and his band play at the Carlyle. Lock up your daughters.

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