Carl Khaler, 'My wife's lovers'.

New York’s Lesser Known Attractions

For a distinctly New York experience.


The Human Café
With the increasing popularity of cat cafés, establishments where city dwellers can interact with an adorable harem of adoptable cats, it was only a matter of time before someone took the next logical step.  In this case, that someone was a groundbreaking entrepreneur by the name of Lynne Hugo, who recently opened one of the East Village’s boldest new attractions, The Human Café, a place where patrons can come for non-sexual human contact. Entering the café, one is struck immediately by the soothing low light and the sound of moody, discursive guitar music coming from speakers that are situated discreetly among the café’s various piles of pillows. Hugo has made a concerted effort to avoid the more obvious forms of human contact (back massages, foot rubs) that have already been co-opted and rendered meaningless by the service industry. On any given day, the café’s “interaction menu” features such intriguing and often reasonably priced items as, “unbroken eye contact with a stranger while you touch fingertips,” or “pressing your ear to a stranger’s cheek while they chew food.” For the truly adventurous there is, “interlocking your toes with someone from a lower socioeconomic stratum.” If you’re wondering how Hugo and her staff can ensure that these interactions all remain non-sexual, a large placard posted toward the main entrance admits that they are forced to rely mainly on the honor system. The Human Café might not appeal to all, but for those struggling with the alone-in-a-crowd feeling that can be so common in a large city, it might be a welcome change of pace to visit this oasis of contact and pay the $22.50 it costs for the friendly, respectful staff to press the tops of their heads gently into your bare stomach.

The M21 Diner
While many patrons might mistake the M21 Diner on Houston and Broadway for a rail car-style diner that’s been cleverly refurbished to look like an M21 bus, the reality is that this new hotspot is an actual M21 bus that broke down in traffic early last year. What started as Albert Gardner, the bus’s driver, making a few emergency grilled cheese sandwiches on the engine for hungry passengers soon burgeoned into a culinary phenomenon. And while those original passengers may have eventually given up and walked home, New Yorkers are still turning up in droves for Gardner’s growing menu of Engine Melts. But if you’d like to try one, you better be sure to bring either exact change or a working MTA card, because perhaps one of the most charming and heartbreaking aspects of this dining experience is the fact that Gardner still seems to think that his restaurant is a working bus. As he sweats over his engine block grill, you can occasionally see him glance up to check for any movement in the gridlocked traffic on Houston. In his eyes there is the recognizable hope that one day he and his bus will make it to that final, elusive stop.

A groundbreaking entrepreneur by the name of Lynne Hugo recently opened one of the East Village’s boldest new attractions, The Human Café, a place where patrons can come for non-sexual human contact.

Staten Island Big Cat Sanctuary
Since many tourists are disinclined to include NYC’s southernmost borough in their tours of the city, few have noticed that all of Staten Island was converted into a big cat sanctuary in 1998. At the time of the transition, residents of the island were not notified about the borough’s change in status or about the 2,300 exotic jungle cats that were deliberately set loose around Dongan Hills. When asked to comment on the fate of the island’s human population during the press conference meant to unveil the plan, Mayor Giuliani remarked that it would be best to let the situation reach a “natural equilibrium.” By April of 1999, the cats had taken control of the island and New York City suddenly had the single largest animal sanctuary in the US. However, the sanctuary remains one of the city’s best kept secrets. For a third of the cost of a Broadway show, families can enjoy a Tottenville safari, which allows spectators a chance to see some of nature’s most majestic creatures as they take shelter in some of the city’s grandest Victorian homes. Keep an eye out and you might even catch a glimpse of one of the island’s few remaining human survivalists. But be careful. These men and women won’t be shy about accosting you for scraps of food and will be desperate for any information you might have about the fallout on the mainland following the Y2K bug.

NYPD Interrogation Tours
Any New Yorker can tell you that visiting a landmark like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty tends to be more trouble than it’s worth. The views might be amazing, but visitors are inevitably irritated by the crowds and the amount of time they have to spend standing in a line. That’s why the New York City Police Department has decided to offer an alternative for those who want to do more in the Big Apple than just wait around for an elevator to take them up to an observation deck. For a small donation to the NYC Police Foundation, officers will detain tourists leaving the landmark of your choice and allow you to watch through a two-way mirror as those tourists are interrogated about every single detail of their experience, giving you all the information you would have gotten on your own but in a fraction of the time. As long as no one asks to speak with a lawyer, the police might even manage to intimidate and coerce the tourists into handing over some of their souvenirs and cell phone pictures. All this will take place while you sit comfortably in an aluminum folding chair drinking lukewarm coffee and enjoying a variety of stale pastries, some of which, yes, will most likely be donuts. And once you’ve had your fill of watching people who stood in line all day to get a T-shirt with the Empire State Building on it finally break down in tears and surrender said T-shirt, you can turn to the officer next to you and say, “Alright, cut ‘em loose.” At that point, you and your detainees will be free to go, all of you having just had a distinctly New York experience.

For a small donation to the NYC Police Foundation, officers will detain tourists leaving the landmark of your choice and allow you to watch through a two-way mirror as those tourists are interrogated about every single detail of their experience.

The Most Dangerous Paintball Game in Central Park
Many are already familiar with the beautiful lake in Central Park, which has always been a favorite of sightseers. However, surprisingly few are aware that the lake contains an island where anyone interested in doing so can hunt human beings with paintball guns. The city opened The Most Dangerous Paintball Game in 1987 in order to service all the wealthy Manhattanites living along the park who were getting too old to make the journey out to their private islands but who were still drawn to the thrill of a good old fashioned person hunt. The $1,500 dollar rental fee might sound steep, but it is important to keep in mind that this amount will cover the cost of your paintball sniper rifle, tactical hot air balloon, 25,000 rounds of ammunition, and all the port you can drink. From the safety of your balloon’s basket, you can spend an entire afternoon floating over the island and picking off your quarry, most of whom will be interns for the Parks Department who are getting college credits for running back and forth across the island in brightly colored shirts. Though, due to a recent collaborative promotion, you may also come across customers of The Human Café who ordered the daily special without realizing that the interaction they purchased involved being hunted by a stranger who is drinking fortified wine in a hot air balloon.