diary

The Festival Of Sophie

This weekend was Sophie's big 30th birthday celebration. I decided to make it a full-scale festival, complete with fancy restaurant lunches, impromptu boat-rides, and one-too-many dive bars.

Day 1: Boats, Cigars & Jazz.

Friday afternoon, we dodged the summer rain storm and tucked into some grub at The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, overlooking the lake. You never know what you're going to find lurking in these New York lakes...

 

After a couple of martinis, le wife felt confident it was in our best interest to jump into one of the rickety old boats and row our way through the duck-poop to kick the weekend off with a sweaty, humid bang.

 

I paid the gentleman the $15 boat fare, along with a $20 deposit. When I asked "Why the deposit? Are you afraid we'll sink the boat?" He glared at me and said, "You'd be amazed how often..." then trailed off to a severe mumble.

We clambered aboard the rusty old dinghy and attempted not to capsize. Within 2 minutes, a mutiny had upended my role as 'rower', and I was told to sit quietly and enjoy the view as le wife rowed us erratically through the reeds and roots of Central Park Lake. 

We passed an old man sitting on the shore who looked thoroughly disgusted that I, an able-bodied man was the only one not rowing out of the cluster of romantic dinghy dates surrounding us.

Upon noticing his gaze, Sophie leaned over and yelled "THIS IS WHAT FEMINISM LOOKS LIKE, SIR!" and angrily started flapped the oars around, leading us directly towards an embankment she couldn't see on account of her facing the other way.

We passed a small island of water birds, one of which looked remarkably familiar. Weird.

 

By some miracle, we returned to dry land without sinking and tapped the office window to get our $20 deposit back. The man handed it back, somewhat disappointed. I think he was hoping we'd have perished. 

The day continued to Act 2 as we stomped through the grass and across the road toward the Carlyle hotel: a New York institution. We perched ourselves at Bemelman's Bar, surrounded by the artwork the bar's namesake created in return for nothing more than a few nights' stay at the hotel. Bemelman famously drew for The New Yorker, Esquire and of course created the children's character, Madeline.

We made fast friends with Sharif, the bartender while Sophie tapped away on her laptop answering work emails before enjoying the sights and sounds of happy hour. A singer+pianist began playing the baby grand in the middle of the room as bodies flooded in. We were lucky to have arrived just before the rush, as the scene soon resembled the regular Monday nights when Woody Allen plays clarinet here with his band. 

We clocked off and wandered across the road to Bar & Books on Lexington for a sneaky cigar, whiskey and a long chat about the wonders of 30, and bidding a fond farewell to the frivolities of one's twenties. After nearly setting fire to my entire face, I decided it was time to move on to Act 3.

We flagged a cab and zipped down to Columbus Circle to wander into Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Jazz @ Lincoln Center to see the incredible Kurt Elling sing his lungs out with his quartet. Le wife nearly had a conniption as it was the first time she'd ever seen him perform live. 

After the show, she approached him and said something to him in her Australian accent, which both baffled and charmed him. He shook her hand and smiled.

 

To take the edge off the adrenaline rush, we knocked over a couple of whiskeys at the Irish bar around the corner and capped off the evening.

Not a bad effort for Day 1.

 

Day 2: Gym, Spa & More Jazz.

Saturday morning we decided it was a wise move to start the day in the gym to pretend to work off Friday's indulgences. We arrived at the gym to find it was closed, inexplicably. Oh well... TO BRUNCH!

We spent the morning people watching at Lexington Brass, diving straight back into the booze pool with a couple of Bloody Maries and a Grapefruit Negroni. Who knew you could ruin a perfectly good drink so easily? The food, however, was incredible. Le wife did get one surprise in her eggs benedict that she hadn't ordered, but she didn't want to make a fuss.

 

We closed out and wandered around the corner to Le wife's surprise spa treatment. I didn't realise, but there was a huge street festival all the way down Lexington Ave that day, so it took a sweaty hour and a half to get home.

 

By the time I'd walked in the door, she was done.  Two disco naps later, we were up and about, Ubering to the wondrous Upland restaurant for more boozing and dinner. The place was packed, on account of its wondrous menu and incredible cocktails.

I was served a glass of champagne with what I thought was an olive in it, but on closer inspection found it was something far more sinister.

 

It was time to leave and Facetime the family back in Australia, so we wandered down Park Avenue talking to our nephew, Harry as he dressed up and ran around in his Superman costume. Finally a better Superman than anything DC has made.

Super-Harry!

Super-Harry!

 

Moments later we found ourselves in a bar called Turnmill, which we had all to our very own! Well... almost:

 

 

We took full advantage, before heading around the corner to The Jazz Standard to see Azar Lawrence in his quartet see us late into the late night.

We concluded with a whiskey nightcap at Old Town Bar on 18th and Park. I ordered a familiar looking tap beer before collapsing at home, ready for Day 3...

Day 3: A Hotel, A Park & Yet More Jazz.

After a lengthy sleep-in, I surprised Sophie with the final day's events for the #FestivalOfSophie... a stay at the Surrey Hotel on the Upper East Side: A gift from my family.

The uber driver we had on the way was telling us all about his custody disputes with 3 of his 13 children. Fun.
We checked in, and upon entering the elevator were presented with a giant, terrifying face on the wall. What a start.

 

I found the room, entered the key card and flung open the door saying "Surprise!!" only to see Sophie's confused face...
Turns out the surprise I'd organised was conspicuously absent.
Not to worry... at least we can get a drink at the bar!

We peered around the empty lobby bar to realise it was not open... When we brought this to the attention of the receptionist, she said we'd just entered through the wrong door. 

She showed us the same door we'd just walked through, and was as surprised as us to find the bar completely deserted- not a single bartender to be seen. 

She called out for someone, but to no avail. Eventually someone resembling a staff member arrived. We ordered a couple of bloody marys and I went off to investigate as to the whereabouts of the aforementioned 'surprise'.

Our dear friends, Anthony and Lauren arrived bearing grins and gifts to lift the day. We knocked back a couple of drinks and proceeded up to the room to find the 'surprise' had magically appeared, hours after I'd arranged for it to be there. Perfect.

Champagne was drunk, gifts were opened, rooftop mirth and merriment ensued. 
I won't go into the specifics of it, but due to the fact that the hotel had been split up and sold off, it was impossible for us to order drinks on the rooftop bar, or food, or.. well, anything really, so we once again descended to the now staffed lobby bar for some food.

Great view! Bad vibes...

Great view! Bad vibes...

 

Eventually, the time came for us to pile into a Gett and drive deep into the wilds of Astoria to watch Le Wife sing and perform on the piano at The Astor Room. More cocktails and dinner were had as still more friends joined us in celebrating the #FestivalOfSophie. A great big book of New York Jazz -a gift from Heather and Ed- was passed around for people to sign before they became to paralytic to write.

 

We closed out the Astor Room and had the generous Gary Leli drive Le Wife, Ethan Hall and myself back across the bridge for a nightcap on the rooftop of The Surrey... sadly, both the downstairs bar AND the rooftop were all closed off... I'm not entirely sure why, or how, but it was a bit silly... We decided to relocate. 

I asked the receptionist if she wouldn't mind having Sophie's gift sent up to our room so we didn't have to carry it around. She said, "But I can't until the morning, it will wake up the guest!"
I said "...What guest?"
She said, "The guest in room 410."
"But... Wait, you mean me? I'm right here. I'm the guest in 410."
She blinked.
"You won't be waking me... I'm standing in front of you." I said.


We stared at each other for a moment before I walked out shaking my head and trying to process the gross idiocy I'd just been part of.
As I walked away I heard the penny drop "Oh... " she said.
Cool.

We wandered across the road to the Carlyle for some cocktails and enjoyed the jazz, capping off the weekend how it started at Bemelman's Bar. We wandered through Central Park, scaring ducks and nearly getting arrested before returning to the least-hospitable hotel in New York to retire for the evening.

 

The room service birthday cake I'd ordered ahead of time to have ready in the room had mysteriously not arrived, but I wasn't in the least bit surprised. A less than perfect way to cap off the #FestivalOfSophie.

 

A Botched Audition, A Hand Dryer & The Hunt for Piña Colada mix.

Friday, 10th June 2017

 

Dear Diary,

This morning I awoke with a throbbing frontal lobe, the after-effects of an extended evening of copious imbibement at The Boathouse with my pal, Anthony. I cursed the glorious sunshine streaming through the windows as I limped to the bathroom. My right heel is still riddled with plantar fasciitis, so I now resemble my 97 year-old grandfather when I first wake.

I had to shower, badly, but not before re-recording a voice audition for a TV commercial for Paul McCartney's Australian tour. I sounded a bit scratchy, but they asked for 'a bit more gravely' so I think I pulled it off -and in my pyjamas no less!

Post-ablution, I wandered down to Remedy Diner where my dear pal Ethan Hall was sitting in a booth, scrawling madly in his journal (No doubt about how late I was to our weekly 12pm Friday coffee date we've held for the last 2 years and counting.) I had texted him while I was walking, asking if he could order my usual, but with a side of sausages.

He texted back, "What's your usual, Sweet Yoghurt?"
I replied, "I told you not to call me that."

I'm the funniest guy.

I sat to find he'd ordered precisely what I usually get, but with a side of sausages. If I could marry this man, I would. But sadly, I'm already taken. And I'm sure same-sex marriage will be outlawed by Thursday if Trump/Putin has his/her way.

We discussed mostly politics, as is our usual agenda. I'd met the head of PR for the Hilary 2016 Campaign the night before and had some fun stories to regale him with. We both admitted we'd been listening to Sam Harris' The Path To Impeachment episode of Waking Up, for comfort.

The Comey hearings had held the nation captive the day before, and we'd both watched in anticipation of some definitive articles of impeachment. No dice. 
Speaking of dicey, I ate all of my sausages. Immediate regret consumed me, and my digestive tract.

We meandered back towards our neighbouring apartments on 3rd street, taking in the sun and the accompanying smell of ripe dogshit. Summer in New York is a wild symphony of stenches.

I realised I'd left little time to do anything else but panic, as I was running late to head to the depths of Brooklyn to record the Let's Talk About Sets podcast with Jeff McBride and Harrison Tweed.
I drew their podcast artwork.

letstalklogo1920.jpg

At the conclusion of the 1.5 hour recording, Jeff hit the 'save' button only to be met with a frozen laptop screen. His face mimicked the screen, frozen in an expression I can only describe as sheer terror, as he waited for the progress bar to move past 4%...

After what felt like the length of an entire Comey hearing, the progress bar kicked back into gear and saved the episode. Jeff, however, had shaved years off his life from stress. The giant vein on his temple was still throbbing, adding an extra 2 inches to the circumference of his skull.

With the poor fella now 1 part relieved, 2 parts pure cortisol, we shared a car back across the bridge to Manhattan while I learned my sides for a commercial audition.

We hit traffic on the FDR, leading to me now taking over as the stressed-out, vein throbbing sweat gland with a face. The audition was in the Financial District, but this car was headed up to the East Village, and Lyft being Lyft, I wasn't able to change the final destination.

Jeff jumped out at my apartment and started walking the wrong way down 3rd street. He reappeared moments later with a gunshot wound to his leg, realising he had ventured towards Avenue D instead of Avenue C. It happens.

I asked my Lyft driver if I could request a job and see if he could accept it, with me standing right by the car. He said he didn't think so.
(Isn't technology marvelous.)

So I just flagged down a passing cab and hurtled South back down the FDR towards Wall street.

I checked in for the audition and filled out my particulars. A small Asian woman pulled me aside, pushed me against a wall and took my photo with the flash less than 10cm from my face. Now permanently blind, I wandered into the audition room.

The director was reclined on the couch. He'd had a day, and I was between him and happy hour. Perfect conditions for success.

"Just be yourself." he said. "But, you know, be the character we wrote."
"Oh... yeah, of course. Totally." I nodded, not understanding what the hell that meant.
"I mean, don't Act, but when we say action, act out the things we wrote."
"Got it." I said, confidently.
"And... Whenever you're ready."

"Sorry." I stopped. "I just - one thing before I.."
"Yeah." He said, annoyed.
"I'm Australian. Do you want me to do it as me, or me as an American?"
"You." He said.

"Okay. So, okay. Good."

He paused. Sighed deeply then said, "Aaaand... whenever you're ready."

I took my time reading the sides, attempting to memorise them on the fly.
I stared down the barrel and said,"Hi." being careful not to act.
"I'm Guy, and I... hate soda."

"Okay, stop." The director interjected.
"That was a little too "Big". You know?"
"Oh, yeah. Totally." I said. Not knowing what the fuck he meant.
"Just, do it again, but not so "Big."
"Okay.   Cool."

"Aaand... whenever you're ready."

I took a breath. Sat down and looked at the camera, then at the cup sitting next to me. Then back at the camera.


"Hi." I said, less Big, "I'm Guy, and I hate Soda."
"Okay, we're good. Thank you for coming in."
"We're done?" I asked. "I can do it differently if you want?"
"No, we're good. Thank you." he said, anxiously wringing his wiry grey beard and adjusting his transitions lenses. "Have a nice night."

I walked out, realising I'd blown $14.13 on a cab to come and look like a gormless moron in front of a frustrated director who certainly didn't envision his career directing soda commercials. I needed a drink.

Luckily for me, my trusty companion, Sophie, was just finishing work and also in need of some refreshment. 
"Drink?"
Almost immediately, she texted back, "See you at the Ludlow Hotel. 30 minutes."

I zipped up to the Ludlow on the packed, terminally delayed subway and arrived 45 minutes later. Sophie still hadn't appeared, so I ordered a Negroni and a Gin, betting both ways on what she'd want.

She arrived and ordered a gin martini. 

After a couple of rounds, I said it was probably time I went home and showered before running out to do my 8:30pm spot at Dangerfields. I was wearing a hat, you see, and had chronic hat hair. I looked like I'd stuck my head in a food processor.

We closed out our tab and made our way toward home. On the way, I mentioned I needed a coffee to perk me up before my 8:30pm show at Dangerfields Comedy Club. We were just passing Yerba Buena on Avenue A when Sophie said, "Oh! We can just go in here. They have coffee."

We walked through the door to find a bar full of gentleman who had enjoyed a few too many happy hour lemonades, waxing lyrical about the wonders of green energy and the evils of high fructose corn syrup. Between our ordering two espressos and receiving them, the German man at the end of the bar had begun a TED Talk-style lecture on American organic food and how the FDA is the devil.

The stress of the situation led us to exit the building and immediately push the door open to 2A; the bar next door, to wash away the crazy with a whiskey.

As we sat, swilling the devils drink, a lanky old man sat behind us at the window, listening intently to his walkman and downing copious amounts of booze. He looked like he was made of wind and sinew.

At this point, time was creeping up on me and I didn't think I'd have time to get home, shower and get back out to head up to 61st street for my Dangerfields spot. Sophie said, "Why don't you just use the bathroom here to wet your hair, dry it, and style it using the product that's already in there!"

"Genius!" said the whiskey.
I jumped up and headed to the bathroom as Sophie ordered us another round.

I turned on the moldy old tap and shoved my birds-nest of a head under the water to soak it, before turning on the hand-dryer and attempting to find an angle where I could get my head under it without breaking my neck. I cupped my hands to redirect the hot air towards my hair, like some kind of Macgyver pro hairdresser.
I styled it with my hands and strolled out of the bathroom feeling like I'd gamed the system.


I knocked back one more whiskey before whistling for a cab and zooming North towards the club.

I walked in to the club with 10 minutes to spare, fist bumped the owner and was immediately asked by Chario, the waiter who'd been working there for 47 years (not making that up), to come and help him carry a bunch of bottles of piña colada mix from up the block back to the club.

 

We went searching up and down the Manhattan streets for a liquor store that would stock piña colada mix, but to no avail. Chario grumbled about how much the neighbourhood had changed, and finally settled on buying one bottle from a random store before marching back in to the club, plopping the bottle on the bar and saying "There. Thassit. Thass all they got!"

I then put down my bag and walked on stage to do a 20 minute set to the Friday crowd that consisted mainly of people who had got lost coming in from Jersey. I did fine, but then Patty Rosborough arrived and showed us all how it was done. A masterful set to watch at the oldest comedy club in the world.

It was then that I was informed by one of the waiters that the entire time I'd been on stage, I'd been sporting a gigantic birds nest on the back of my head, courtesy the blowdryer at 2A.  

 

'til next time,

 

Jason.

A Day in The Life...

A lot of people ask me, they say "Jason. You do so many things. You're a cartoonist. You're a comedian. You're an unlicensed veterinarian. What is your day even like?"

Well, rather than write it up like some kind of typewriter monkey, I thought I'd just show you in video form! This is what a regular old Wednesday looks like for old pal Chatfield.

You're welcome.