Untapped Cities, a hip and witty online publication, gathered its best and brightest for a glittering event near Lincoln Center. The Historic Districts Council held a holiday celebration that featured New York architecture, classic film and gourmet goodies. Tenement Museum kept their brand new gift shop open into the night for a not-so-festive but fascinating look at the foreclosure mess. The monthly Stoop to Nuts storytelling at Cornelia Street Café promised wine, city lore and laughter in Greenwich Village.
The Untapped Cities party, where writers and photographers who reveal the hidden corners of the world met to celebrate, was my favorite choice. My best option as someone with a sniffling, achy, watery-eyed cold, was to find a tucked-away table at Cornelia Street Café and enjoy New York storytelling.
That best medicine, laughter, was plentiful as humorist Carl Kissen explained what it’s really like to endure Christmas as a Jewish kid growing up on the diverse Upper West Side, where there is no escaping the pang of Christmas Envy and yearning for the “forbidden conifer.” He reminded all that to children waiting for the dispensation of holiday presents, “Parents are the Warren Buffets and Bill Gates of the family…to children, parents ARE the 1%.”
Playwright Kelly Wallace-Barnhill shared single-girl adventures and tales of awkward dates that started and ended on her Lower East Side stoop, the often vomit-streaked “proscenium to home.” Elizabeth Rowe, the artistic director at N.Y. Story Exchange, brought the audience to stillness and tears with a mesmerizing true story of Christmas Eve in World War II trenches. With words she transformed the narrow, low-ceilinged basement at Cornelia Street into a battlefield at midnight where enemy soldiers met in a blood-soaked no man’s land singing Silent Night in German, French and English together.
Taking on the impossible task of following Ms. Rowe’s story, event host and master storyteller, Thomas Pryor, took the stage with a tale that linked holidays and hemorrhoids in a way that was both hilarious and delightful. Afterward, Amanda Thorpe and Mary Lee Kortes held the audience rapt with their vocals, guitar-strummed rhthyms and storytelling. The haunting, “When Winter Comes Howling In” should be on every radio station’s playlist during the holidays.
Clear your calendar for the second Tuesday in January – that’s when they will be celebrating the event’s 15th anniversary with more superb storytelling.