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RWA 2011, Part 2: NYC

First the conference, now, New York City.

Though I could have spent my time entirely closeted in the hotel, overdosing on workshops and networking, I had to get out and see a bit of the city. My usual destinations when I travel: museums, churches, food, and music.

St Patrick's Cathedral

Churches included St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Malachy’s (the Actors church) in the Theatre District, and a quick pop into St Mary’s episcopal church (the parish church of midtown). I’d been to St. Patrick’s on my previous visit and I knew I had to go back. Located near the busy Rockefeller Centre and Saks, it’s nearly always crawling with tourists. Fortunately, the tourists are generally quiet and respectful. Stepping into the cool, incense and candle-wax scented air is a welcome break from the noise of people and traffic just outside the doors.

St. Malachy’s is much smaller. In the middle of the block, it’s the sort of church that you might just stroll by, mistaking its front for yet another theatre in the Theatre District. I popped in on my way back from a run to the grocery store for breakfast items, and it was one of the loveliest churches I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. If I lived in NYC, I could see myself going there regularly just to enjoy the peace and quiet. I have no idea of its history, but it is billed as the ‘Actors Church’. Given its location, I imagine that it is more likely to be attended by actors.

The Birdland.

I didn’t visit a lot of restaurants on this trip. However, there’s one that is now one of my favourite restaurants ever. Zen Palate. Located on 9th Avenue at 46 Street, it’s a vegetarian restaurant with primarily Asian cuisine. There was so much on the menu that I had a hard time deciding, but I finally settled on a Portobello mushroom burger with yam fries. (No, that doesn’t sound especially Asian, but most of the rest of the menu was.) I wish we’d been able to stay and sample more dishes, but we were running late, having to get back to the hotel to get ready for the RITAs.

My favourite evening out was on Wednesday, when I had the evening to myself. A bit of googling found the Birdland jazz club on W 44 Street just past 8th Avenue. They have early shows on Wednesdays and I got there just in time to catch the performance of the Louis Armstrong Centennial band. They played a selection of tunes, all classic jazz, from Armstrong to Duke Ellington, and more. After the crush of people during the first day of the conference, I couldn’t have asked for anywhere better to sit and unwind.

The interior of the Birdland.

It’s difficult for me to explain exactly what it is that music does to me. Sitting on that bar stool, sipping my drink and listening to the jazz, I felt the stress drain away. The music takes over.

A flute of kir royale (with a twist of lemon) led to another, and then a full meal, including a very delicious mushroom risotto. If I could have stayed there all night, I would have. The interior of the club is dark, with a red glow from the stage-lights, and the gleam of the neon that encircles the top of the bar. Framed photos of jazz legends adorn the walls and half the club is taken up with tables, spread with linen, in front of the stage. The other half, on the far side of the bar, is bar stools along the window, and several small high tables. The bar seats come with a cheaper cover charge, so I sat there. The bartender (whose name I never got, and should have) was friendly, and the service was excellent.

Art at the Museum of Sex.

I managed to visit one museum on this trip, taking in the Museum of Sex with some of the other RWA attendees, Daisy Harris, Tiffany Reisz, Monica Kaye and Andrew Shaffer. There were three floors and a gift shop. The first floor highlighted sex in film, from the early silent era, through the Hayes code, and into modern pornography. The second floor dealt with sex in comics, vintage photos, and featured an entire wall of Disney characters engaged in sexual behaviour. (I’d love to know why Disney hasn’t come down on them, but I’m glad they haven’t.) The third floor was an exhibit on sexual behaviour in animals, sometimes with video footage. We’re really not all that different from the bonobo monkeys, apparently…

The only thing that disappointed me about the museum was its very tight focus. I would have liked to see a display of sex toys throughout the ages (ancient dildos, etc.), and just some overall greater depth. However, it was worth the visit.

Most of my other wandering was around the Times Square area, during breaks between events, so I didn’t stray too far from the hotel. Popped into the huge Toys R Us, the Hershey chocolate store, a music store, and a few other places. On my last morning there, I had a chocolate croissant (pain chocolat, to the French) and a glass of juice at the Blue Fin (normally a sushi bar, but it had a breakfast menu) before I went to the airport. On my next trip to NYC, I plan to take in more museums.

Sex? Yes please!

I was chatting to my mother about my novel, and she asked me if there was going to be any sex in it. I said yes, and she asked why.

Firstly, I’d rather have sex in a novel than violence. (I’d also rather have sex in a film, too.) Secondly, I think that people likely have sex more often than they experience violence. I’d like to think that, though I know there are people whose lives will have that reversed. I want to look at intimate relationships, and that often includes sex.

I’m not writing for an audience that only reads award-winning novels. I know that I’m writing for an audience that likes romance novels, that likes erotica, and that enjoys something a bit beyond the norm.