After all of the movies and television programs we felt we knew the city before we arrived. How wrong we were! Yes, it is big, yes, it fast...yet it can still feel small and intimate, like a familiar lover who can still surprise you!
Sadly, we learn that things are pretty bare in New York event-wise right now, with the current Mayor closing down clubs and clamping down on dominatrixes and several big dungeons closures at Christmas. The meat-packing district in the West Village once used to have the coolest leather clubs and is nowhome to fancy restaurants and apartments. They are great in their own right, however we feel a touch of regret at having never experienced NY the old guard way. Thankfully, it's business as usual for the Demask Ball, Kink in the Caribbean continues with their Miss Rubber World event(www.nyrubberball.com) and we also discover Paddles NYC club (www.paddlesnyc.com).
As our first stop, we visit Demask (www.demask.com) in the East Village, full of latex, leather and medical equipment. Staff are moderately helpful.... well, we don't have "Coffee, Cake & Kink" tattooed on our foreheads. Maybe we look too vanilla, lol?
We then pop in to a nearby "Toys in Babeland", love the sweet jars of lubes in particular. We notice differences in price structure of many product lines, notably Fun Factory costing more in the US than Lelo, which is the reverse of European pricing.
We love Blue Stockings (http://bluestockings.com) an independent and great community bookshop, featuring a great selection of books, and a fair trade cafe (we feel quite at home, funnily enough :).
Our visit to Big Apple would not have been complete without a visit to The Baroness (www.baroness.com). As it turns out, the lovely lady now known as Baroness, does indeed have "Baroness" in her passport. Something of a NY kink institution, and possibly the best place to get up to speed on NY kink when you arrive. This is also where we encounter the most friendly of staff, who even invite us to a private bondage party on our last night!
Even if kink is a little thin on the ground to our liking, you can't fault New York for queer bars! There are some great places in town especially in the Village and around Christopher Street, including the fabled Stonewall Bar(www.thestonewallinnnyc.com
), successor to The Stone Wall Inn. It is commonly considered the birth place of the the Gay Rights movement and original newspaper cuttings covering the riots now hang on the walls and make for a fascinating read. Since it ushered in the modern rainbow rights area, this is where we celebrated Obama's Inauguration back in 2009, with masses of complementarypopcorn and red, white and blue Em & Ems. Some years later, on a repeat visit, the vibe is just as upbeat, chilled and inclusive, with queers of allgenders super-friendly and great for playing with balls! (i.e. pool).
We spend some time at an amazing LGBT centre (http://www.gaycenter.org) (another good place to watch the inauguration was on the big screen). It seems New York is leaps ahead of London when it comes to LGBT services, many of which are organised by the centre and its library. Few are aware that we used to have a LGBT centre in London, too, which sadly ceased operations a few years back.
We have a stab at kinky research at The NY Public Library and and are fascinated by the story of a 17th century transgendered individual Thomasine AKA Thomas Hall. Baptised as a girl, s/he chose to present alternately as a man or as a woman depending on life's circumstance. With clothing already the apparent determinant of gender, the good citizens of Virginia went to some lengths to determine what was in his trousers / under her petticoats, with the Courts finally sentencing Tomasine/Thomas to the wearing of garments of both genders at once as her/his punishment. We also discover less known facts from American history, an existence of an early white settlement which was somewhat alternative and possibly reactionary to the Founding Fathers. In this unorthodox colony, free love and sexual freedom ruled, as did sex work, at least until its final demise on the hands of its outraged Puritan neighbours (just think how different today's America might be...)
We go in search of "Sex in the City" fashionistas and verify that, yes, NY is number one for shopping and making shoe fetishists happy (in just one day, we pick up 5 pairs of amazing heels at amazing prices :).
As we now have good cake and kink, all that is left is locating great coffee. We find a number of cool places, and particularly like Think Coffee for its bookish vibe and Jacks www.jacksstirbrew.com for intimacy and an unusual coffee-brewing vat. However, we can say we could not find coffee which we liked quite as much as our own, and we once again appreciated howlucky we were to have Monmouth Coffee on our Covent Garden doorstep, and now in our online shop.
We do find superb teas, though, which inspires us to re-think the insofar tea-bag approach - leaf tea is definitely the way for the future, and in next CCK, there will be no more tea bags! We stumble on the original Teeny tea shop, which we remember from its sadly short-lived Covent Garden appearance (Ex-Shorts Garden). Mc Nulty's in particular takes our breath away with the quality of their offering, and amazing vinatge tea bins.
The non-CCK things which we can heartily recommend to our CCK crowd are:
1) Heading over the river Hudson to West New York for a great view of the Manhattan Skyline or take the statin island Ferry (free). Both destinations will give you a great view of the New York skyline.
2) Taking a cable car over the Hudson to Roosevelt Island is a cool trip, especially at night, and flying above the streets and between the skyscrapers is quite an amazing thing (be sure to catch next one back, as not much life on Roosevelt Island itself.
3) Sammies Noodle Shop was a personal recommendation from a NY-based CCK customer and it delivered on all counts! It knocked our socks off when it comes to first-class reasonably priced Chinese!
4) an amazing little shop, with super-friendly staff, who helped to kit me out and so passed transgender-attitude test in flying colours, something I always bear in mind when gouging open-mindedness of locals (sadly since closed, hence no address).