New Orleans is one of those cities that’s known for its good times and parties. But I was able to attend a monumental event in an incredible city followed by another special occasion in another city for some wonderful people. Talk about Ambush on the Road. I was humbled and truly honored to attend World Pride in New York followed by the wedding of New Orleans bon vivant Cheryl Lemoine to Jim Delcano in Watkins Glen in upstate New York.
But before I get to my exploits in NYC, I had some fun in good ol’ NOLA before I left. I began the week walking with the NOAGE group at Audubon Park. The New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders do this exercise event every Monday starting at 6:45 (got to let it cool off). Meet people and get fit, two great combinations.
The following day, NOAGE held their monthly Potluck event at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. Attendees brought tasty dishes and broke bread with old and new friends. This is one of my favorite monthly things to attend ‘cause there are some great cooks in our community and I get to meet new people in a relaxed environment.
The day before my trip to the Big Apple, I went to a small reception for Boogie Booth at the Chicory. Boogie Booth Photo Booth Company is an experiential marketing company specializing in photo booths and event photos based in New Orleans that also covers the Gulf South region. Boogie Booth allows guests to instantly share their photos or videos on any and all of their favorite social media. They hosted the reception so guests could see the different options they offer which is numerous. They not only do traditional photo booths but roaming photo booths, gif booths and boomerang booths, and some kind of 360 degree photo booth that was way cool. It was an easy way to spend my last evening in NOLA before taking off on my adventure.
On Friday I was off to New York. I landed and cabbed over to my hotel Row NYC where I met up with Barrett and Beaux Church. I have stayed before at Row NYC which is centrally located in the Broadway District, one block from Times Square, near Hell’s Kitchen and many gay bars.
We had lunch at this great spot in Hell’s Kitchen called Ariba Ariba. It is a great little Mexican restaurant with lots of cute waiters and tasty margaritas. They need to work a little bit more on their service, but the food was very good.
Afterwards, we needed cocktails so we went to the gay bar Boxers located on 9th Avenue, one of two locations they have in the city. This one boats a rooftop bar. There were beautifully ripped bartenders which makes it easy to see why they’re so popular. I love a place with excited half-naked bartenders.
That evening I met up with some friends to go to a concert/theatrical event called the Origin of Love at Town Hall’s theater. John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the co-creators of Hedwig & the Angry Inch plus special guests presented an exclusive 50th Pride Celebration, performing songs from their groundbreaking rock musical and regaling audiences with stories from 25 years of Hedwig. We put on some make-up, turned up the eight-track and pulled the wig down from the shelf, for a sold-out night of post-punk, neo-glam memoir. Mitchell also previewed songs from his upcoming musical podcast Anthem, which stars himself, Glenn Close, Patti Lupone, Cynthia Erivo, Denis O’Hare, Laurie Anderson, and Marion Cotillard. The show and performances were outstanding; I mean who could not like Hedwig?
The following day was full of sightseeing, great dining and parties. We began by heading over to Hudson Yards to see the new architectural landmark The Vessel, the centerpiece of Hudson Yards. This interactive artwork is meant to be climbed, giving new perspectives of the city from different heights, angles and vantage points. It’s free but you have to make reservations which was very easy. While we waited to enter, we went shopping at the adjacent upscale mall which had some great stores as well as a fabulous art collection. We enjoyed the view from The Vessel which included hot men sunbathing on rooftops and a jet ski race on the Hudson River that was pretty amazing.
After climbing all those stirs, we worked up an appetite, so we went to Chez Josephine for brunch. The restaurant was owned by Jean-Claude Baker, the thirteenth of Josephine Baker’s adopted baker’s dozen children. The food was delicious, the atmosphere amazing, and the spirit of Jean Claude and Josephine ever-present in the restaurant. A great well-appointed (and romantic) dining spot.
After brunch, we went to a Stoli World Pride party at Rockefeller University to benefit the Research Foundation to Cure AIDS. They unveiled their new social media outreach #shoutcureaids. Because too many people have died and been infected by this disease, we do not need to be silent anymore. This was an incredibly fun event where we met lots of locals; the place it was held was awesome. The Rockefeller University is a private graduate university that focuses primarily on the biological and medical sciences and provides doctoral and postdoctoral education. For more information on this great cause, go to www.researchfoundationtocure4aids.org.
Next we headed to an art opening featuring new works by the Gay Gaston. Think Beauty and the Beast’s hot villain and you have the visual. The event was held in the Crossfit in Hell’s Kitchen. It seems that a hot half-naked artist is the only thing that will get me into a Crossfit facility. The artwork was sexy as were most of the guests. Guests enjoyed cocktails and were treated to a drag show while they met the artist who is totally dreamy. Beauty you chose wrong! I even bought some of his works. You need to follow him on Instagram. Talk about swoon.
After the gallery, we went to Pride Island for their World Pride party. One of the main reasons I attended World Pride this year was because New Orleans was promoting our city as a safe haven for LGBT travelers. One of the events we sponsored was Pride Island. This two-day live music event was incredible. On Saturday night, the headliner was Grace Jones and she brought diva realness! I mean this woman is 71 years old and she is a better performer than most people half her age. She even hula hooped for one entire song–now that is talent! She greeted the audience when she came out in a magnificent outfit with “Hello all my queens!”
It was magical dancing the night away under the stars along the river with an incredible view of the skyline. After that full day of excitement, I was exhausted and hungry, so on my way back to the hotel I stopped at none other than Shake Shack. They had a huge one right across the street from my hotel, and since we have one opening up soon in my building, I thought I should do a little research on their food. My assessment is great burgers, especially if you have been drinking all night.
Sunday was the day my friends and I had been waiting for, the World Pride Parade. We may have been exhausted but we were all up early in anticipation. We had a quick breakfast at Brooklyn Deli in Times Square where we had a few Bloody Mary’s. The food was good and our waitress was excellent.
We quickly went back to the room and changed into our Pride parade costumes and made it down to the line-up where we were to meet the float. We were lucky and very honored to be asked to ride on the New Orleans float in World Pride. Created by Kern Studios who also did the MAC and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy floats in the parade, our float was a riverboat complete with a rainbow paddlewheel. The city also sponsored a float in the parade.
My friend Beaux Church and I rode on the top deck of the float alongside Bryan Batt who was our celebrity emcee for the parade. Barrett Church walked in the parade wearing a costume brought up from the Krewe of Armeinius which had three costumes in the parade worn by Geo Melichar, Barrett and Fred Arocho.
The parade went through Manhattan and passed in front of Stonewall. It was truly one of the most memorable events in my life. Words cannot express how humbled I was to be part of the momentous event. To everyone in New Orleans or from New Orleans that made this happen, I congratulate you. Well done.
After the parade it was time to party. Our float just happened to end right by a great gay bar called Chelsea Belle that was packed with paradegoers. The DJ was on fire playing all kinds of retro hits from the 80’s till current. In fact I was having so much fun, I literally closed the bar down. I had made so many new friends, I lost track of time (and the free flowing martinis helped), that they turned the lights on and cleared the bar. I mean how rude. Either way, I made it back to the hotel via cab, elated and tipsy!
The next day, we decided to play tourist and started the day with a harbor tour which took us along the Hudson River. We went past the Statue of Liberty and saw all the landmarks such as Ellis Island, Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and the One World Building. It was a pretty informative and scenic tour and I highly recommend it to people who want to have a relaxing history of the city. After the weekend we had, a stress-free boat ride was just what the doctor ordered.
After that, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see their new Camp exhibition. Through more than 250 objects dating from the 17th century to the present, The Costume Institute’s exhibit explores the origins of camp’s exuberant aesthetic. There were some incredible campy costumes which reminded me totally of New Orleans’ Gay Carnival costumes. I mean we honestly do it better and with more theatrical flair. As you walk through the exhibit, Judy Garland serenades you with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I loved it and recommend everyone checking it out before it is gone. The exhibit will be up through September 8.
That evening, I took in the Broadway show Pretty Woman: The Musical which was nominated for five broadway.com Audience awards, winning three for Andy Karl (who I love) for Favorite Leading Actor in a Musical and for his wife Orfeh for Favorite Diva Performance and Favorite Featured Actress in a Musical. I thought it was a good musical, fun just like the 1990 movie on which it was based. After the curtain call, the cast came out and sang the Roy Orbison song that inspired the movie since it’s not actually part of the show.
The next day, I bid goodbye to Beaux and Barrett who continued on their way to Provincetown. I stayed in New York one more day before I continued my trip. I decided to do something different and went to one of the Met’s other locations, The Cloisters, which opened in 1938, and is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe and located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, on a spectacular four-acre lot overlooking the Hudson River. Elements from medieval cloisters and other sites in Europe have been incorporated into the fabric of this building. Think Game of Thrones meets King Arthur and you have this fascinating museum. I wandered through the stone buildings looking at these historic and gorgeous exhibits, then settled for lunch in their courtyard overlooking the Hudson River, just breathtaking.
That night, I met up with my friends Larry and David, who live in Hell’s Kitchen for dinner at one of their favorite Italian places called Tavolo. The premise for this new eatery, “table” in Italian, is based on regional Italian fare, mainly Puglian, Roman and Sicilian. Tavola was inspired by owner Nick Accardi’s extensive travels to these regions, especially the town of Castelvetrano, the source of Nick’s family roots. OMG, the food was simply exquisite. Their wild boar & veal meatballs and burrata were incredibly flavorful and their pastas are superior. If you visit New York City, eat here! Their wine list is also impressive as was their abundance of hot Italian waiters. After a great meal, my friends and I had one last nightcap at the gay bar 9th Avenue Saloon which has tended out to be one of my favorite LGBT hangouts in the city. I called it somewhat of an early night since tomorrow was an early day of travel.
The second part of my adventure began when I left NYC heading upstate to Rochester. Some friends and I met up at the airport and we were off to a spot of lunch. We stopped at a popular eatery called Swan Market. This restaurant has been a staple in Rochester for over 80 years and they serve the highest quality German style hand-cut meats and handmade sausages. Think old world delicatessen feel but with a family style atmosphere. They even have great steins of German brews. This is a must stop restaurant.
After lunch, we drove about an hour to Watkins Glen where I checked into the historic bed and breakfast Idlwilde Inn, an 18-room Victorian mansion built in 1892. This majestic three-story home stands atop a hill overlooking Seneca Lake. It has lots of land with a gazebo and wraparound porch with lots of picturesque spots to relax, read or have some wine. My room was on the third floor with windows overlooking the lake.
I loved this place and they have a wonderful story about Mrs. Rothschild who survived the Titanic and was a frequent visitor. Every morning for breakfast I tried to sit in the same spot as she would. She used to ring a bell in that spot for the servants to bring her food and drink. Little bit of advice, that may have worked in the early 1900’s but not in 2019. Just ask politely and all your wishes will be granted. The bridal party bought out the entire 15 rooms, so we pretty much had free run of the place which was very nice.
That night, more friends joined our group and we went to dinner in town to Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake restaurant. This seafood restaurant had gorgeous views of the lake and was absolutely stunning at sunset. The food was reasonable and excellent. The seafood was fresh and the service was wonderful and they had a great local wine and beer selection. This was an ideal place to start off a weekend of fun activities.
The 4th of July was a day filled with shopping, wine, Mennonites, Wieners and True Love. We started our day after a luxurious full breakfast by going to The Windmill Farm & Craft Market. The Windmill is the first craft market in upstate New York, located right in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine Region. Now in its 30th year, The Windmill plays host to nearly 200 local producers and craftsmen. OMG, this place was great, lots of food booths as well as wineries, distilleries and breweries where we sampled their products. So after a few samples, I was a shopping fiend. And anyone who knows me realizes I have never met a tchotchke I did not love.
Next we tackled some winery tastings going to Shaw, Hermann J. Weimer and Glenora Vineyards. Each of them was delectable and very affordable. Unlike Napa or Sonoma, the cost for tastings at these wineries range between $8 and $12 which is a deal since you normally taste 6 – 10 wines. I loved each winery, but Weimer was my favorite with me purchasing a case for my home.
After all this wine, we decided it was time to have a spot of lunch so we were off to this local hot spot called The Wienery (yes that is its name). This place was amazing and as you can probably figure, they’re known for their hot dogs (all styles of toppings and meats). But they’re also known for their burgers and sides. My hot dog with spicy onion rings was absolutely scrumptious. I highly recommend this place if you would like a good wiener in your mouth and I believe that everyone should have a good wiener on the 4th of July.
That night, we went for a lake cruise on the True Love, a 67′ schooner commissioned in 1925 that appeared in the film High Society in which Bing Crosby serenades Grace Kelly with the Cole Porter song True Love while they’re onboard the True Love. It’s a beautiful boat and a great way to see the lake. Unfortunately, our cruise was cut short (and the fireworks were cancelled) because of the weather. Still, hanging out for a little time on that boat was special.
When weather gets bad, a New Orleanian goes on to the next best thing, a bar to sit out the rain. We all went down Watkins Glen’s main strip to this fun, little place called Rooster Fish. Rooster Fish served great craft beers & food and is considered one of New York’s official First Farm Breweries. Great way to end the evening.
I kicked off the wedding weekend festivities on Friday with a brisk walk followed by another full breakfast at the B & B. Some of my friends and I piled into a car and drove to Corning which is home to The Corning Museum of Glass. Established in 1951 by Corning Glass Works as a gift to the nation for the company’s 100th anniversary, this museum is dedicated to telling the story of a single material: glass. Nearly 50,000 objects representing more than 3,500 years of history are displayed in the galleries; items range from a portrait of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh to contemporary sculpture.
This museum was nothing like I thought it would be. I was thinking I was going to look at lots of CorningWare bowls and dishes (they do have an exhibit with those). What I got was so much more in this fascinating museum. Your admission fee is good for two days and you need it; there is so much to see and they have one of the best gift shops. I am warning you, bring extra luggage if you go there.
After the museum, we took a free shuttle to their picturesque little Market Street filled with lots of restaurants and boutiques. It was like stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting. We had lunch at a great restaurant called Tony R’s Steak and Seafood. Open since 2008, the restaurant is in part of a building built in the early 1900’s as a bank. The food was delicious and the steak special for lunch was very affordable. After lunch and a spot of shopping, we were back in the car on our way to Watkins Glen for the rehearsal dinner/wedding party.
The event was held overlooking the lake at a lovely winery called Ryan William Vineyard. The party began with a wine tasting and some light snacks before we sat down for a family-style, four-course dinner that included wine pairings. Owner Ryan William discussed each wine and how they matched the farm-to-table menu.
After the dinner, we had a second reception with more little noshes and, of course, other wines, a great way for all of Cheryl & Jim’s NOLA friends to meet their New York friends and family. Soon I pulled out some glitter that I carry in my bag as an ice breaker and everyone was dancing and getting glittered face paintings. Hint–if you want to be the life of the party, bring glitter and start putting it on people. It’s contagious. Even Ryan, the winery owner, got in on all the fun. He had a fascinating story about his wine and history of the vineyard. I loved his products so much, I shipped a case back to NOLA. Also, Ryan is very easy on the eyes which always helps my purchasing decisions. After dinner, we returned back to the Bed’n’Breakfast for an impromptu dance party in their gazebo where we imbibed even more wine.
Saturday was the big wedding day and the excitement was palatable. I woke up and stumbled downstairs to breakfast, which once again was a delicious; made with all local ingredients from the eggs to the maple syrup. This area brings farm-to-table to new levels.
Some friends and I decided to do a little more exploring before the nuptials, so we hopped in a car and went to the historic St. Mary’s Cemetery. I love cemeteries; their history and architecture are fascinating. This cemetery sits atop a mountain. Heading up there, we saw gravesites and tombs in states of disrepair dating back to the early 1800’s.
In addition to its beauty, this cemetery has a historic figure buried in a majestic mausoleum located at the top of the mountain. Miss Elizabeth Jane Barrett Rothschild was born in 1858 in Watkins Glen. She boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a first class passenger with her husband. Mrs Rothschild was rescued in lifeboat 6 along with her Pomeranian, one of three dogs that were saved from the Titanic.
Every summer the widow, as her husband had not been rescued, would return to Watkins Glen. Residents of the city remembered that while Mrs Rothschild lived comfortably, she never forgot those who were less fortunate.
In 1921 Elizabeth helped to extend St. Mary’s Cemetery in Watkins Glen with the purchase, for $1,000, of an acre plot of adjacent land. She also contributed to the paving of the cemetery road. When she died in East Orange, New Jersey on October 29, 1943, she was buried at the impressive (and only) mausoleum in the tiny cemetery. The mausoleum also contains a memorial to her lost husband.
Adding to the atmosphere is a trail that goes alongside the cemetery that overlooks Rainbow Falls, a part of the Watkins Glen State Park at the southernmost tip of Seneca Lake, and the most famous of all the Finger Lakes State Parks. The glen’s stream drops 400 feet past vertical 200-foot cliffs, forming 19 waterfalls along its course. Talk about gorgeous and so serene. Being somewhat of a city boy, I forget just how beautiful nature can be.
This area of Upstate New York is filled with great spots like this, so we drove to a close-by little town called Montour Falls, a village located in Schuyler County. The waterfall which gives the village its name is located at the end of West Main Street. The name “Montour” is derived from Queen Catharine Montour, a prominent Native American woman of Seneca Indian heritage who lived at the village site in the 18th century. It is a cute, picturesque city.
Next, we went to lunch up in the mountains to Stonecat Cafe. This delightful restaurant is operated out of an old farmers’ market overlooking the lake. Owner Scott Signori has been the Executive Chef since the restaurant’s inception in 1999. He’s been a pioneer of locally grown and organically produced food. The food was simply delicious (his BBQ is outstanding and the cornbread was to die for).
After lunch, we freshened up for the wedding. We were picked up by charter bus and brought to Castel Grisch for probably one of the coolest weddings I’ve ever been to. Established in 1983 by a Swiss German couple, Castel Grisch Winery sits on a fabulous site with breathtaking views of Seneca Lake.
The entire evening was perfect and, at six hours, quite a marathon of fun. We began by having tasty nibbles and champagne upon arrival, then we went out to the deck for the ceremony which had panoramic views of the valley and lake. Cheryl looked absolutely gorgeous in her designer white gown and her Russian bejeweled floral bouquet was stunning. The ceremony was simple and sweet, officiated by her good friend and NOLA chef Glen Hogh.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a four-course dinner followed by dessert consisting of the cutting of the cake and then an ice wine tasting with different desserts. I mean this was a culinary experience. The remainder of the event was dancing the night away overlooking the mountain with a lively DJ. It was surreal to be boogieing to Dancing Queen under the stars on the side of the hill.
We ended the night with everyone releasing wish balloons. What I loved about this wedding and the union of these two people, is that love can enter your life at any age. What an inspiring and lovely way to celebrate love.
I ended my two weeks flying back on Sunday. After having one final delicious breakfast at the Idlwilde Inn, I drove to Rochester for the flight home and, after the high of the last ten days, it was nice to slow down and relax in an airport. FYI, the Rochester airport may be small, but it was a lovely place to hang out and have a few champagne cocktails with some friends who were also headed back.
Now it’s time to switch from a New York State of Mind back to the NOLA beat! Until next time, keep the party going.
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