Exploring Hell’s Kitchen

Tuesday 2 to Thursday 4 April

We arrived after long day time flight from Zürich via Iceland. A passenger had been quite disruptive on the flight, so before we could disembark typical New York emergency vehicles descended on the aircraft to remove the passenger. It was quite a performance (by them).

We were very pleased to see Ev and Steph at the bus stop on 42nd street. We were to learn our way around a new part of New York – they had moved from Harlem up on West 127th Street to Hell’s Kitchen on West 47th Street, in the neighbourhood of Times Square. They had also thoughtfully prepared a vegetarian stir fry, a welcome meal after a lot of meat-oriented meals in Europe.

Evan and Steph are the most accommodating hosts, sharing their tiny one-bedroom apartment with anyone who visits. They had improved the offerings with a day ‘n’ night couch rather than the air mattresses, making it very much easier to pack up the night bed and fold out the day table and chairs.

The configuration of this apartment is nearly identical to the one in Harlem. The kitchen and bathroom layouts differed slightly and there was a dishwasher and more cupboard space.

On Wednesday our first priority was a laundromat and a SIM card for the travel phone, which we happily accomplished along with a long walk along the Hudson River to stave off the jet lag.

Another quiet evening, this time with another vegetarian. Ev and Steph will eat meat when they go out but seldom cook it at home.

We spent Thursday getting to know the ‘hood. First stop was the New World Stages theatre to learn about last minute tickets. We chose an off-Broadway show called Avenue Q. It had been running for 15 or 16 years and was in its final days. It was a puppet show with Sesame Street characters with a bit of rudeness and a bit of philosophy. Most enjoyable with a glass of wine!

We then wandered through Times Square and down Broadway as far as the flatiron building and returned on 7th. We stopped for coffee and a visit to the famous B&H Photo Video and Electronics and Camera store to check out camera lenses for Bruce and buy another travelling mouse for me – I haven’t seen such small ones at home.

The theatre was fun. Unfortunately, Evan got held up at work so we ran out of time to eat a meal first. This famous New York City that never sleeps had very limited offerings for a meal at 10pm on a Thursday. It seemed our only choice was Moma’s where we were treated to some New York cross dressing, kitchy entertainment. I thought it was more than appropriate, considering Hell’s Kitchen is now a vibrant, gentrified part of town, popular with theatre people who make their living on Broadway.

Hell’s Kitchen has had a checkered history. It was originally settled by Dutch immigrants who called in Bloemendael – Valley of Flowers.

Irish and German immigrants who worked on the Hudson River docks moved in during the 1850s.

In the 1920s prohibition era it became gangster land for the likes of Mikey Spillane. It boasted more speakeasies than children in the Irish Catholic area.

After World War II, low rents drew Puerto Rican arrivals and the turf wars with their Irish neighbours, made famous in West Side Story.

At the end of the 20th century music was made at the legendary Hit Factory recording studios.

Gentrification commenced in the 1990s and brought in young professionals, bars and good restaurants.

We certainly found good coffee for our daily startup, next door