Experience | NYC Featuring John "Red" Shea Print
Arts and Culture - Experience
Written by Khalid "Bless" Bey | Editor In Chief   
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John "Red" Shea @ Williams Rogers Hotel | NYC

Ultimately... You are what you experience. Ask yourself; "Who are you?" If you don't find the answer to your liking, there is a simple solution. Do something different. -Bless.


I met with John at the Williams Roger Hotel; located at 131 Madison Ave., just blocks from the Empire State building. I’d taken the train into the city from my hiding place in New Jersey only to arrive in New York to be played by a taxi driver. I didn’t know exactly how far the hotel was from Penn Station, apparently walking distance, and the driver took $17 from me to drive a mile and a half. In my excitement to spend the weekend in NY my street smarts vanished. I was also in a rush as John had saw fit to reserve a table for us at the world renowned Nobu Japanese Restaurant in uptown. Before dinner I had arranged a photo shoot with HTM photographer Davy Pena who was waiting patiently in the lobby along with HTM loyalist Ginally.

 

 

The photo shoot went well. Davy performed as expected and John was the perfect subject. New York City and the Empire State building served as the perfect backdrop for John’s penthouse shoot. We managed to squeeze The Empire State Building in as many frames as we could. I might as well have been a tourist. We were nestled on the private terrace of the penthouse suite. Ginally handled the task of posing John, positioning him just so Davy’s camera could catch him at a flattering angle.

 

 

Nobu has several locations around the world. This is Nobu 57 (it sits on 57th street), Nobu’s first uptown locality. Before dinner we were to meet Michael Coffee of Publisher’s Weekly in the lower level bar… John had a cucumber martini and I a simple man’s rum and coke. Michael enjoyed a beer I’d never seen before while we conversed on the publishing world I felt like such a novice compared to John’s distinct taste though I’m as picky as they come. At this point life looks good, I’m loving my true friends and John in his own way is just that. He could have chosen anyone. The bar is how I like my surroundings; gently lit, not too dark. Lots of natural plane to appease my senses. I am immediately relaxed. On the way to the restaurant upstairs I search for words to describe what I see and I fail. I must come back I decide. Décor dangle from the ceiling, oddly shaped partitions separate designated areas, somehow I just find myself at our table.

 

Eating with John is definitely about the experience. Dining experience is exactly what this should be ultimately labeled, it was nothing short of. The food was served in stages, expertly executed by the Nobu staff. We had special treatment at the hands of the restaurant’s sommelier; a very polite Japanese woman with whom John was well acquainted-she was a personal friend. Though John has been busy, therefore unable to visit one of his favorite restaurants; she nevertheless remembered his palate. I was new to the environment which shaped many questions in my mind. When the time came to ask, I was directed to ask John by his acquaintance. “Johnny knows the menu better than me,” she says. So John proceeds to order. John ordered their signature dish: Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno served with cilantro. There is a ritual involved with this dish. With a selection of fish pinched in chopsticks, you drop it in the center of a piece of cilantro, roll it up and eat. I looked like a man who had lost the function of his hands as I struggled with the ritual, but I managed without fork and spoon.

 

With our meal John decided on a bottle of Volnay of France; a red burgundy wine as opposed to a white wine. John said it would be fine to pair with the rich fish and it would be like velvet to the tongue; and it was. I’m not much of a wine enthusiast but John has certainly opened my eyes to the art of pairing wines with meals. For a split second I felt privileged. Nobu’s general manager treated us to an assortment of deserts which we had along with a half- bottle of port, a dessert wine whose cork I kept as a memento labeled ‘Quinto Do Noval 2003.’ I was feeling nice by the end of the meal. After a meal like this and the time leading up to this moment being full of work, work and more work, a good night sleep was in order. It was back to the hotel for an early nightcap and then a dreamless night of sleep.

 

The next morning, with a cup of tea from the café across from hotel, Empire State Building visibly imposing and inviting at the same time, I appreciate having John as a friend. It is because of John that I now enjoy this moment. The sun is out inconceivably bright and surprisingly soothing to my heat soaked skin. Tonight we are having a promotional event for Hidden Treasures Magazine and John’s Bestselling Memoir: Rat Bastards. However, today John had lunch planned at a place called Lupa Osteria Romana, A Mario Batali Restaurant. John just happened to mention this. It is a small place, a New York commonality, very intimate and cozy.

 

 

When I’m out with John I have a safe food; lamb. Surveying the menu I see so much I don’t eat for various reasons, mainly their penchant for adding pork to the dishes. Then I see it; Sabato: Lamb Short ribs. I order. The waiter explains that the lamb comes with a helping of egg salad on top. Interesting combo especially since I’d only recently became a fan of egg salad. This... I had to experience and yes it was delicious. Unable to finish it all I left with a doggy bag: how ghetto of me.

 

After lunch and a short walk, unintentional as we were merely trying to hail a cab, we decide to rest up before the night’s event at The Empire Hotel. As tired as my body and brain was, I barely found sleep. Before you know it I’m awaken by John’s Southie accent. “You up?” “Yes.” I jump in the shower, from a rain dome style showerhead, a fine spray washed away some of the sleep and I looked forward to tonight’s festivities. Hesitantly and with good reason; John had finally come out.

 

We arrived early; John and I wanting to set ourselves up for book signing and giveaways. We’d found a spot just to the right of the entrance to the rooftop lounge. The elevator ride up was a little too cramped for my taste but the open air of the lounge more than made up for any prior unpleasantness. After our trial placement right of the lounge’s entrance, we eventually settled on the opposite side, left of the bar, seated in front of large windows that provided an superlative view of Lincoln Center. I noticed HTM photographer Clifton Prescod out the corner of my eye and called out to him. Soon HTM Marketing Manager Davin Intsiful and Jeff Brooks appeared and the night was set to start. Joined by a few angels, good music played and the drinks kept coming. John left early and I remained behind; for once I wasn’t socially awkward and my gift of gab proved to be quite a present. I flirted; I danced, and genuinely had a great time. Many thanks to my good friend, a friend anyone would be blessed to have and my HTM family. May these nights repeat themselves in locations around the globe for many years to come. ANGELS PLAYPEN. HTM.

 

*Khalid "Bless" Bey also appears in John's NY Times Bestselling Memoir: Rat Bastards.*

Available @ Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble

Photos: Davy Pena

Words: Bless Bey