Archives for category: restaurant

IMG_9691It hit 82 degrees in New York City this Monday, and while we’ll get blasé about such things eventually, memories of the long, cold winter still haunt us, and we welcomed the sun like starved things grateful for a crumb.

So out we went, to one of Central Park’s most scenic and private nooks, to enjoy our afternoon.

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Did the lawn around us really need the amount of care the two city employees tasked with mowing it seemed determined to give it? We don’t know. But my goodness, that grass got a thorough mowing, lasting from 1pm to somewhere near 4. At one point, they were reduced to mowing the rocks.

The lawnmower men aside, we spent a joyful afternoon unmolested by any human (an adorable troupe of tiny dogs descended upon us at one point, but we welcomed their company — and took the opportunity to educate their walker, a woman who seemed surprised to learn that it’s legal in New York for her to go topless anywhere a man can).

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For reading material we had new offerings from our friends at Hard Case Crime (including a new Lawrence Block book — he was the author we read at our very first event back in 2011!), Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and (for those with less sophisticated tastes, clearly) Tender Is the Night.

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And when the afternoon waned, did we pack up and go home? No! We walked a dozen blocks downtown and moved the festivities indoors, at a neighborhood cafe that kindly let us take over their wood-paneled, fireplace-featuring downstairs cocktail lounge.

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Not the best lighting conditions for photography, but perfect for other pleasures, and pleasures were there many. Including beverages courtesy of a good-humored mixologist who took our presence in stride.

God bless New York bartenders. Nothing fazes ’em.

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IMG_9306Thanksgiving is about family, not just genetic but spiritual. Kurt Vonnegut called the people who don’t happen to be related to you but who belong together with you in some more meaningful and fundamental sense your “karass.”

Well, we spent the day before Thanksgiving celebrating the holiday with our karass, the group of smart, confident, body-positive women (and two or three supportive men) who populate New York’s most unusual book club. There were books on hand, ranging from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin to Stop This Man! by Peter Rabe, but we didn’t get much reading done, not when there was wine to drink and truffle-laced pizza to nibble and chocolate fondue to finish things off; not when there were old friends and new to catch up with, some having come from as far away as Texas and California to be with us; not when there was the joy of lounging about in the warm environment provided by Ayza down on Carmine Street, while outside the giant plate-glass windows freezing sleet was coming down hard. (Ah, the looks we got from some of the startled passers-by! What must they have thought? An oasis in the desert couldn’t look more mirage-like than we must have on this cold, cold, wet day.)

It is a wonderful feeling to share the holiday with people you care about. Getting to share it naked in the heart of Manhattan makes it even better. We wish all of you could have the same opportunity, wherever you might be — if not this time around, then sometime in the not-too-distant future.

And to all the members of our karass, in diaspora around the world, we wish a very happy holiday season. Remember, if you ever find yourself in NYC, you’ve got friends who’d love to meet you.

(How? Simple. Just drop a note to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.)

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OCTPFAS_080814-8299Last time we went to Bryant Park, it looked like it might rain. Pour, in fact. And when we thought we might get rained out, we quickly called around to some restaurants in the area to see if any of them would be willing to take in a wet and bedraggled topless book club for lunch. A decent enough fallback, we thought.

Well, in the end it didn’t rain, and if you scroll down far enough you can see how much fun we had outdoors in the park that day. (Even the arrival of a Fox News reporter wasn’t enough to ruin the afternoon.) But one of the restaurants that enthusiastically said they’d have welcomed us was Ayza Wine Bar.

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Well, not being ones to pass up a good thing, we kept in touch, and this past week we took them up on it, gathering first in nearby Washington Square Park (photos from that part of the day to follow) and then walking the six blocks south to Ayza’s downtown location.

And it was spectacular. Better than we could ever have expected. First of all, the staff was all welcoming and friendly and supportive and warm, and totally game to accommodate what had to be, for them, a rather unusual event. Second of all (though it hardly deserves to come anywhere but first on any list of good things), the food was absolutely delicious — spicy glazed chicken “lollipops,” savory dumplings, pizza spiked with black truffle, artichoke…and then the desserts started emerging, including chocolate truffles hand-delivered by charming waiters and chocolate fondue with all the trimmings.

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Third of all (and it hardly deserves to come third), we had the benefits of a private setting (such as the freedom to get fully naked if we wanted, and a couple of us did) while the giant plate-glass windows enabled us to see the sun, and the world going by on the street outside. Could people see us too? Judging by the occasional startled facial expressions, some of them did, though when we sent ambassadors outside to try looking in, we mostly saw reflections. You had to be angled just right to get an eyeful. But some passers-by happened to look at the right moment, and the variety of reactions (confusion, delight, more confusion, stern tugging away of boyfriends by the sleeve) was fun to behold.

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To give just one example, this older woman came to the door to find out what was going on. “We’re the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society,” our emissary explained. “Well, I certainly appreciate it,” the visitor said with a big smile.

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The afternoon doubled as a birthday celebration for one of our two photographers, and one of the waiters (who got into the spirit of things by going shirtless himself) delivered some fireworks to her table.

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Did we get any reading in? Not a ton. But we did have several anthologies on hand from Rachel Kramer Bussel, and the editor herself there, joining in on the fun. Copies of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Hard Case Crime books also made an appearance.

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But this time was really about the food and the company and the venue and hoping not to cause any traffic accidents as drivers spied something like 20 women (and a guy or two) in rather less clothing than you normally see in a restaurant.

Happily, we can report there were no six-car pileups.

And Ayza was tremendous. We’re going to return for sure, maybe when it’s freezing out. Imagine people passing by outside in down parkas, when snow is coming down, and glancing in the windows and seeing this…

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MK003Several of you have commented on the antique cameras you’ve seen in some of our photos. We thought you might enjoy seeing the pictures we’ve taken with those cameras, in glorious black-and-white.

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Also, some we’ve shot with modern-day equipment, but still eschewing color for a classical look.

Eat your heart out, Ansel Adams.

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IMG_4726Today was originally going to be a park day for us, but the morning dawned dreary and forbidding, so we hit our favorite spa instead, for an afternoon of massages and steaming and sauna-ing (and reading: today’s books included The Hunger GamesThis is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, and our almost-finished copies of The Twelfth Planet and Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear).

Discussion topics included the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, how much we love the smell of books (sniffing of sample pages and bindings ensued), the pleasures of old-time radio shows, how many calories are in a red velvet cookie, and the pros and cons of clitoral hood piercings.

All in all, a decadent day of pampering, topped off by mimosas during and ramen after. Almost enough to make us not miss the park…


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IMG_3845Spring is almost here…almost. Oh so very almost. But not quite. It’s was still drizzly in the morning and windy in the afternoon. But we dauntless crusaders for pleasure in all forms did not let that stop us. We met in the private wine cellar of a female-owned Tribeca watering hole and sketched out plans for a summer of adventures, to be kicked off just as soon as the damn sun comes out of hibernation. Helios! We’re talking about you! [Taps foot impatiently, looks at watch.]

Not that an evening indoors is anything to regret, not when the libations are plentiful and satisfying, the food delectable (truffle mac and cheese! ceviche! churros!), the pulp fiction tempting us with its come-hither looks (check out this beauty, coming in May from our friends at Hard Case Crime), and the conversation wild and wide ranging. East of EdenMoby-Dick. “The Whore of MENSA.” Aristotle. Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra. How to pronounce “Targaryen.”

Glasses were filled, bottles emptied. Chocolate sauce intended for dipping churros wound up applied directly to the bosom. Gallant wait staff valiantly maintained eye contact.

Did we have fun? We did.

And do we have one hell of a fine summer planned?

Oh, yes.

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