When I was growing up, my main objective was to expedite youth as quickly as possible. If I had gotten an electric shock every time I engaged in under-age drinking, smoking, and driving, I could have fit into an ashtray. The desire to dress like an adult was part of it, and I couldn’t wait to ditch my Keds for my dad’s handsome Florsheim wing tips.
As middle age sets in, I’ve avoided the desperate impulse to recapture lost youth or get jiggy with the kids by adopting their generation’s footwear. Sneaker culture never grabbed me, though I bow to Run-DMC and what they ignited with “My Adidas.” Other trends, such as Allbirds sweater shoes, On running shoes, or any “performance” footwear—which people seem to wear mostly when not performing—elude me. Then there’s the popular fat-cat slip-on hybrid with a loafer upper and a white-sneaker sole, which just looks like a tragic-identity-crisis shoe that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It all leans into a hyper-casualized mode of shapeless, sexless dressing, as if one must be always ready for an emergency pickup game, a nap, or a trip to the gym that clearly isn’t happening.
There’s a lot to be said for well-made dress shoes, though. They have a trend-proof versatility that goes with a nice suit, a good pair of jeans, and many things in between. My preferred shoes are plain bluchers, chukka boots, and, thanks to my father’s influence, my beloved wing tips.
In my experience, the best shoes for the money are made with Goodyear-welt construction, enabling them to be re-soled repeatedly for a lifetime of good wear, if properly cared for. The most reliable brands are Alden in the U.S., and Crockett & Jones, John Lobb, and Church’s (now owned by Prada) in the U.K. You will pay more for their offerings, but quality is in their DNA, and it’s not inconceivable that they’ll outlive you—have you seen King Charles’s ancient, patched Lobb oxfords?
Like many during the pandemic, I upgraded my home-entertainment setup with a nice new television. Combined with my Sonos speaker system, it made for fantastic viewing in my intimate Manhattan quarters. But as much as I love my hotel lifestyle, I also love to break out. It’s no mystery that the cinema is the ultimate escape.
The past two summer-blockbuster seasons made for genuine thrills at the multiplex: Top Gun: Maverick, Nope, Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One, Oppenheimer, and Barbie. Recently, though, some of my most enjoyable times took place in smaller movie houses.
This summer, the wise curators at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater showed a new 70-mm. print of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 masterpiece, Boogie Nights. The movie itself was superb—no surprise there. But the audience was what really set the experience apart from trudging to AMC or Regal. They were there for it. There wasn’t any texting, talking, or nonsense. We were all there to fully enjoy this movie together, and we did. It’s worth noting that the 268-seat theater was nearly full. Not bad for an old movie on a summer Tuesday night in Manhattan.
Another delicious moviegoing experience I’ve been repeating is at the newly reopened Paris Theater, at 4 West 58th Street, next to Bergdorf Goodman. Purchased in 2019 by Netflix, New York City’s last remaining single-screen theater was just updated with 70-mm. projection and Dolby Atmos sound. The Paris celebrated the improvements with a series called Big & Loud, featuring titles such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lawrence of Arabia, Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, and Once upon a Time in Hollywood. I’ve gotten to see Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and Ridley Scott’s final cut of Blade Runner—none of which I’d ever seen on the big screen.
Like other art houses, the Paris draws cinephiles who know how to keep their phones off and their mouths shut. And it’s nice to sit in a comfortable movie-theater seat that isn’t a BarcaLounger, which just makes me want to sleep. And the concessions? Old-school. Fresh popcorn in a box, fountain drinks in normal-size waxed-paper cups, and classic movie candy you know and love. The most exotic offering is a fresh coffee, espresso, or cappuccino, which is a nice touch. No nachos here.
THE RESTAURANT SCENE
Every Sunday, I meet a group of friends for a casual dinner at our usual spot. One recent Sunday, after the restaurant’s Instagram feed blew up due to a story in New York magazine, we showed up at our regular haunt, where we couldn’t get a table. The following Sunday, they had been so busy during the week that they ran out of too many menu items and closed early. Nothing ruins a good restaurant like too much popularity.
New York is well known for a thriving and unmatched restaurant scene. The Hunger Games–level quest for the newest and now-est can feel like a blood sport in which the feral and fickle foodies of our urban jungle crawl over one another to see, be seen, and prove it on Instagram and TikTok.
I’ve had some exceptional meals in my day, but I’ve never been physically or socially hungry enough to exert the energy it takes to elbow and fight my way into a hot spot for the sake of saying I’ve been there. And the ones that are superhot right now, catering to the moment? They generally don’t last. The worst offenders are those that try to re-write or re-invent the restaurant experience with “new” ways of serving food. Pro tip: Don’t. (And pro tip No. 2: It’s a restaurant, not a nightclub. Dial down the music.)
A real test of a restaurant’s worth is whether it still fills its tables with satisfied, repeat customers long after its debut. The best ones are those where the food and the service are consistently good, where the ambience and energy look and feel effortlessly cool, where you stand a good chance of running into people you know, where you can have a conversation without yelling, and where you’re likely to return with people you adore or want to impress. There’s a sweet spot between the crazed, overrun, and new and the middling and faded. We call such places “institutions.”
Where are these places around New York? I’d tell you, but word could get out, which might ruin it.
George Hahn is a humorist, entertainer, and writer living in New York