Bronx and bands (Labor Day II)

I really love going to the zoo. There’s always a risk, however, that the enclosures will be outdated, fully made of concrete, with a large cat pacing back and forth out of boredom—and that’s just too sad. But if given the chance, I’ll always take a day at the zoo. I grew up going to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal park: my mom and I would frequently go down to stay with my Aunt and Uncle on Coronado Island, and to visit the parks. If you’ve been to the “World Famous” San Diego Zoo, then you know this
means the bar has been set high, but I’d heard that the Bronx Zoo is wonderful and Aron and I have both been eager to check it out.

30 minutes on the subway, a 10 minute stroll, and there we were. The park is huge—265 acres in all—with the Bronx river flowing through it. It was extremely hot in the sun, so we were grateful for all of the mature trees lining the paths—it’s a particularly woodsy zoo, and it was opened in 1889. The highlight of the day would be hard to single out:

the giraffes were awesome, we were both thrilled to see the grizzly bears, I loved seeing all of the baby animals, like the newborn rhino, but I’d have to pick the Congo Gorilla exhibit. They were amazing. The silverback pressed his back against the glass, only occasionally looking over his shoulder to make eye contact, while two young gorillas wrestled, mouthed one another, played in the water—all within feet of us. I could’ve stayed for hours.

Actually, we did stay (at the zoo) all day. We left after a monorail ride through the Asian Mammals region of the park and realized it was 6pm and that we had hoped to make it to a music show that evening in Brooklyn at 8.

The New Yorker had a blurb about a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a band called Phosphorescent that played “a distinctly American version of bleary-eyed folk.” We figured it sounded like something we’d enjoy. Not sure if tickets were still available or not, we skipped making dinner in favor of hopping on the L train to Bedford from where we could walk to the box office. Turned out that the band would be going on at 11, with two opening acts—one at 9 and Tune Yards at 10.

Tickets in hand, we decided to check out Juliette, a restaurant whose glowing roof deck had captured our attention since we moved to New York but which we’d never gotten around to sampling.

It was pretty perfect—exactly the sort of space I have in my New York fantasy. Panzanella salad with tomatoes, fava beans, and burrata; a squid salad; more scallops and corn; and pan-seared dayboat cod. I definitely think we’ll return. I’d like to go and sit in the main dining room in the winter; it was lovely and votive-filled as well.

We caught Tune Yards’ entire set. Merrill Garbus is the one-woman band playing tenor Ukelele, looping tracks with sort of a World Music bent, and she had some truly great songs. At times she sounded a lot like Ani DiFranco—maybe too much at times, but she was clearly a talent and had a great way with the crowd.

Phosphorescent is the project of Matthew Houck, its lead singer and songwriter. They were

great—folk, country, rock… I thought they had a bit of a 1970s, classic rock sound at times, but not in a retro sort of way. Apparently they’ve been compared to Iron and Wine as well as Neil Young; Houck put out an album of Willie Nelson covers, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise that Nelson would fit on a list of influences. So The New Yorker scored again; great show! We bought their LP, Pride—interested to hear Houck’s studio-sound and intriqued by the use of a choir. That said, I’ll miss the live performance of the band’s keyboarder. His floppy hair, the way it seemed his head was bouncing dangerously close to the keys with every frenetic beat kept me smiling.

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