Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The BEST 15$ deal in NYC

My seven weeks in NY had further convinced me that this city is pretty much about an over-rated title New Yorkers made up to feel better about themselves. That notion was then exported with the help of passers, who like to market being a part of that label. That is why half of my Facebook friends live virtually in NY and truly in Istanbul, Providence, Boston and else where.

I do not see anything extra-ordinary about this city but skyscraper full of extra-large egos who like to take pride in their self-claimed title, “New Yorker”. If you make it here, there is a good chance you still can't make it in Tegucigalpa. Sorry, Frank.

You pay around 1225 Usd per year to use the deafening and trashy subway, squeeze into dorm room size studios where you get only three shelves for the 500 dollar dresses you got at Bloomingdales on which a rat is sure to chew in a couple of weeks.

I have been here for Halloween, the NY marathon, Christmas market and Thanksgiving, all of which I really enjoyed but it wasn’t until Cotton Club I understood how NY can grow onto you.

After hours of reading a coffee can buy at Barnes and Noble, I composed myself a list of things-to-do before leaving NY. Carefully flipping the pages of numbers magazines so that they do not scare away real buyer, I stumbled upon the an article on ‘dine and dance’ in the city. I picked Cotton Club from that list and noted it in my self-tailored NY guide with my colored pens.

Convincing Frijoles to come with me was not a difficult task. I casually mentioned the Swing Mondays with a Big Band orchestra in this popular club from the days of prohibition. Tada, magic!

We took line 1 to 125th street and walked two minutes towards the West End. Past a super-stinky Mc Donald’s, there was Cotton Club in neon pink letters. We were greeted with a big black smile and ushered into the “cashier” where we gladly paid only 15 dollars for a great night..

Dimmed spots on the empty band seats made us think that the show wasn’t on yet, but we found out that indeed it started at 8.30. Happy that they are not trying to trick us into purchasing 5 cosmos each until the real music comes on at midnight like in most other clubs, we blended into the crowded setting.

As soon as the second half of the show began, the dance floor got packed with people. Most of them were regulars since the 60s, who remained fit by exhausting the parquet here. These wrinkled faces made this place more authentic. They danced with joy and grace. Everyone knew each other’s name. They clinged their glasses over the cheap red rubber clothed tables, did group choreographies, and reciprocated the happy vibes they got from the band. The more they danced, the more jubilant the orchestra played, the more jubilant the orchestra played, the more they danced. We were bombarded with great music.

Then, we had to clear the floor for an indefatigable tap dancer. He had amazing energy, watching him made me sweat. Sometimes tap dancing became inevitably repetitive but when he picked up the tempo and he was drumming with his feet with such energy I could not even follow, we were just spellbound. You know how staring at the sea from a deck makes you want to jump in the water? He makes you feel that way about dancing.

They have two singers whose voices unfortunately did not measure up to the performance of the band’s nor the guests’. Do not expect to hear anything like Duke Ellington who was once a resident of Cotton Club. Luckily, they sing only two songs each and it is not so bad that it drills into your ears. You can just imagine that they are quick commercial breaks in the middle of your favorite show.

The show ends at 12. Since it is Monday night, you are grateful that the night ends there because you can’t detach yourself from their magnetic music on your own. You are likely to be the only high-spirited passenger on the metro as most people are headed home after their long night shifts.

In my only 7 week-long experience, Cotton Club is one of the only three places with a character of its own I discovered that makes NY deserve its fame. The other two would be Blue Note (jazz club) and Balthazar (restaurant). Grand Central Oyster Bar is an undeniable NY classic but since it is massive, it doesn’t have the charm these other places have. Cotton Club is by far the most sincere and coziest of all.

I dare you to find me something better you can purchase for 15 USD in this city. I bet you can’t find.

PS: Cover charge at Cotton Club is 45$ except for Mondays. I highly recommend that you reserve in advance especially for Wed on.


No comments: