Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chicken Takes NY by Storm

Hi World,

I'm in NY today writing from the Algonquin Hotel.  It has been snowing since I got here.  Thus the title.  I am not taking NY by storm, I just seem to have brought some northern weather JuJu with me. 

The Algonquin is a beautiful old NY hotel with a house cat named Matilda and a rich literary history.  For those not already familiar, the hotel was once the gathering place of young journalist types such as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Franklin P. Adams, Edna Ferber, and others drawn back regularly, as the legend goes, by the free celery sticks and popovers provided to them by the hotel's General Manager, Frank Case.  These gatherings gave birth to the NY legend of the Algonquin Round Table.

The tradition of generous freebies appears to live on as for two nights in a row my favorite bartender ever has contributed to my drinking habit with complimentary wine. He's a smart guy, that Christian, because I'm not sure I could ever come back to NYC without stopping by the Algonquin to say hello.  And I hear his bartending partner Phil, who is as unassuming and quiet as he is gregarious, makes the world's best mojitos.  I think this must be true because the platinum blonde sitting beside me had obviously enjoyed several.  Possibly one too many.  I'm just being mean because she looked at my Bjorn waiter shoes and made a smartass comment and then flipped her scarf in my face and ignored me.  I hate that.  But she did make one comment about Phil's Mojitos being the reason Columbus was delayed in finding America. That was kind of funny but you probably had to be there to truly appreciate the comment, delivered, as it was, with a soft slur.

Speaking of shoes, I saw a girl today at the travel show who had on the best snow weather boots ever;  Bright yellow, to the knee, with a fashionable wedge heel.  I would have felt like Donald Duck in them but she looked fabulous and I was in awe of her snow boot presence.

Tonight I had dinner with people much smarter than I.  I'm used to being able to hold my own in most social conversations but when the talk turns all Techie, I would be wise to order another drink and nod as though I have a clue.   Of course, this is not my way.  What I do instead is order another drink and announce, in general, "I have no idea what you people are talking about.  Can we please talk about puppies?"  They loved puppies, as it turned out, and the conversation immediately turned to springer spaniels, kennel behavior, breeding, puppies in Belize.....

Yeah, puppies...brilliant, Chicken.

"I have no idea what you people are talking about.  Can we please talk about wine?"  I thought I was safe with wine.  Then my host said what is your favorite wine? Do you like the California varietals better than the Chilean?.....

How to say, "My favorite wine is whatever happens to be in my glass".

Sometimes you just need to know when to shut up and nod.

In all honesty, I had a great time with an incredible family.  Tremendously smart and accomplished, but warm and welcoming.  They all headed up to their rooms after dinner to work on their power points and speeches for the next day.  I went to the Blue Bar to visit the bartenders.  Sometimes you just need to be around your own kind. 

And I leave you with this, not because it is deep or inspiring or has anything to do with this post, but because it is funny:

From the Algonquin Service Directory:

"On a summer vacation trip Benchley arrived in Venice and immediately wired a friend:  STREETS FLOODED.  PLEASE ADVISE."

You and I might think of something equally witty, but we would just text it on our phones.  Benchley had to go find an office somewhere in Venice and pay to wire it.   That's commitment.

Take care,


  1. Ah,
    Chicken at the literary nexus of the country, home of "The Vicious Circle." As shown in some of your entries, you must feel right at home at a place where witticisms and wiseasses ruled. And having found a good bartender on top. I'd call that a successful trip. Not a bad place to be snowed in. Enjoy.
    The Boss

  2. Puppies are good. Wine is better. Talking about puppies while drinking wine is the best. Though it sounds like you had a great time with your "smart" friends, here's some advice for when you are in the presence of mental giants. It's a technique that my mother taught me that has gotten me through many high brow dinner parties: she calls it spending an evening with "Mr. and Mrs. O'Really": whenever they say something, just say, "Oh really!" with big eyes full of interest. They'll think you're smart for finding them so fascinating and I find one never really has to give any more input than that on things one might not know about, yet the conversation flows like a magnum of vintage wine (Chilean, of course). You can vary the inflection to make it a question, an endorsement, a subtly skeptical comment, or just about anything you want.

    This technique has worked well for me during my 17 year old nephew's visit this week. He has a 140 IQ and I am having a devil of a time keeping up with him. It's like he actually remembers, takes to heart, and analyzes all those things we learned in high school - you know, the rise of the Third Reich, economic depression in the third world, and the decomposition of Ayne Rand's objectivism (huh??? what ARE they reading in HS nowadays!?) lol Glad to hear you had a good time.

  3. Bea, Oh Realllyyyyy?
    Ha ha ha. Can't keep a straight face!


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