Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New York Report

Empire State Building 2
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
It was a busy, lovely New York visit, for the most part. The seasons changed the week I was there, which was very special--hot and humid on arrival, air feeling like a gray dome sealing in the city; turning slightly crisp as I flew away just days later, the cover whisked away with a flourish, opening us up to a breathing atmosphere, skyscrapers pointing the way to the infinite blue above.

But I’m glad to be home. During the final walk on my last day there, I fantasized not just how much I regretted choosing my footwear for looks and airport security ease over support, but how wonderful it would be to have my hips replaced with titanium, allowing me to bionically stroll the streets of Manhattan and beyond. I walked a lot when I lived in NY and the days there certainly were no ambulatory match for my time back then…but my body was a decade younger, sigh. It’s hard to acknowledge that while railing against the dying of the light, but I suppose I should just get used to it. So, recap:

Arrival was fairly uneventful, though it felt like there was too much time spent getting from Newark airport into the city, and the traffic funnel into the Lincoln tunnel was an interesting experience. I wondered at the motorcyclists and how they managed to avoid being turned into cartoon-flat vehicles by the time they came out the other side.

My first night in town was the aforementioned deeply summer day. Bags thrown onto my hotel bed, I betook myself to the streets, striding, sweating, down the avenues to Union Square and on to Washington Mews, then cross town to Cooper Square, along St. Marks to my old ‘hood: First Avenue, searching for that elusive dish of cold sesame noodles. I couldn’t locate Mee Noodle Shop, where long ago I ordered take-out of a Friday night and while it was prepared by steam-faced cooks, chose a chick flick from the video store and can of beer from the corner bodega to kick off my weekend of solitude. So I resolved to pick up whatever version of cold sesame noodles I could find on my way back to the hotel, weaving my way back uptown and west, past my old apartment on 15th Street, through Gramercy Park and along Sixth Avenue til at ten minutes to 10:00 p.m. I found at last a Chinese takeout joint dank and unsavory, but open for business. I ordered the dish with relief and triumph. Back in my hotel room, I shoveled it in while watching TV…and it just wasn’t the same. Of course.

Day two: Work begins. I make my way west west west to Javits, that icon of 70s construction looming like a greenhouse for conventions along the Hudson river. After a day of sitting at a table in the staff office which overlooked both 11th Avenue and the expo floor (this is a good thing), I packed up, changed at the hotel, then caught a cab with coworkers to a dinner in preparation for another of one of our events, which will happen in February. A conference having to do with the financial industry. On a day when that industry officially descended into controlled chaos. And despite that, it was fairly successful. But it went late-ish.

Mom was in the hotel room when I returned. The suite had a kitchen and two whole rooms, an enormous amount of real estate in Manhattan, which was good. We chatted for five minutes then turned in. And I was up and at ‘em the next morning, the first official day of the conference, and I can’t recall for the life of me any stand out moments of that day, which I think was a good thing. That evening, I hit SoHo before our staff celebratory dinner, picking up MarieBelle chocolate to bring back to the office and searched unsuccessfully for pashmina shawls. You’ve seen a photo of the dinner. It was pleasant, if long. My special dinner was coveted by others, always a good sign.

Wednesday arrived. My birthday. Mom wished me a sleepy happy birthday as I headed off to the conference. Throughout the day I received kind words from colleagues, which was so very unexpected and welcome. Just after lunch a cake was wheeled in and a coworker whose birthday is two days after mine stood with me to hear the slightly offkey strains of “Happy Birthday to You”—very sweet. I slipped away early and headed uptown to my cousin’s place, a refuge of five-year-old twins’ energy and home cooked pasta. I drank champagne with mom, aunt, cousins, opened lovely and unexpected gifts, ate wonderful food, held a happy child in my lap. So very much what I needed. (M, I won’t say anything about how you forgot it was my birthday!) Took the subway home with Mom, got to bed at a reasonable hour.

(Pix by Nick)

Thursday. Another long work day of unremarkable yet tiring hours. Met mom and aunt for a dinner of dosa in the Indian neighborhood on Lexington Avenue in the 20s. My Indian-food-loving co-worker was there too. Slipped into a cab and hied me to Webster Hall, a fairly legendary NY club, for a work party, though I had made sure to invite friends from NYU and Martha Stewart Living days to make it palatable. In true march-of-time fashion, the club smelled worse and seemed smaller than last I’d been…but I had a wonderful time catching up with my MSL buddies over the course of several hours. The only downer was coming back to the hotel room to find I had managed to spill red candle wax on my best black slacks! (I’ve frozen some of it off, and fervently hope an ironing will remove the remainder.) Oh, and I neglected to visit the unisex bathrooms at Webster Hall, always a treat. That was a late night. And mom’s last in NY. That was probably the least time we’ve spent together on any trip.
Friday morning she packed up to head out to the Long Island airport, mercifully getting up early and bringing back an enormous latte to revive me. I detoured to a deli-ish spot to pick up fruit salad and baked goods, arriving early to the Martha Stewart Living offices to await the arrival of my friend. It was so good to see her, so good to stand in the shadowy stone-tiled hallway watching New Yorkers enter elevators, head to work. After chat and gossip with MSL friends, off to my last day at Javits. The final day of the show wasn’t quite as “I love you man!” as I had hoped, and that’s all I’ll say about that, but the event was considered a solid success. It was wonderful to stroll back to the hotel with happy colleagues, trailing cares along with my rolly-bag behind me, dodging the going-home-for-the-weekend crowds in Midtown. The hotel room felt a little bereft without mom there. I changed and headed down to wander the Village and shop a scoche before meeting my NYU friend for dinner. We had hoped to get in at least a drink before dinner at Babbo, haha. No luck. So we settled for Market Table. The food and wine were good, the service wonderful. I heard her tale of heart woe, she advised me on office politics strategy. We headed out to another establishment and imbibed more delicious wine. We parted after Madison Square, where she mentioned that “Ugly Betty” was filmed, which made me happy to know.

Saturday morning. My last day in New York. I awoke earlier than I thought I would, made bad coffee in the hotel room kitchen, drank it in bed letting the early light and noise of New York wash over me. I packed while watching the Laurence Olivier version of “Pride and Prejudice,” then took the subway downtown, determined to relive the joy of pierogi, NY style. I popped out at Union Square, amid the canopy sheltered piles of cheese, flowers, tomatoes and squash of the Saturday farmers market, more glorious than I’d remembered. Already sore, I strolled slowly to Little Poland and enjoyed the proprietors’ Polish conversation while waiting for my Very Special pierogi. But it took almost a half-hour for my breakfast to arrive and I admit to becoming grumpy. Like the cold sesame noodles, it didn’t live up to my memories. I resolved not to even try to bring back any fresh mozzarella, preferring to keep its taste sacred in my memory. Making my way back through the farmers market, I subwayed back uptown, bought the requisite quota of pashminas, checked out of the hotel, then took another train downtown to Canal Street. Up I wandered, first disoriented through Chinatown then through the feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, a former birthday celebration ritual for me, amazed by the piles of torrone candy, the throngs already streaming along Mulberry Street though the feast was obviously just waking up and building its fires for coils of sausages and piles of onion. I filmed against the rules in Kate’s Paperie. Saw amazing decorative things done with zippers in a young designers cooperative. Sat trying to relax in the tiny Liz Christy garden hard by loud Houston Street. Peered through the bars into the Marble Cemetery on Second Street. On Second Avenue, I satisfied myself that two of my favorite haunts, an Italian restaurant and the frites stand were still in business. Back along St. Marks and thence up Broadway, lured by the siren steeple of Grace Church. Inside, the musty stained glassed atmosphere was just what I needed for a short respite before lunch with cousins. I sat at a small bench near the back and tried to commit to memory this tribute carved into the marble wall. I was in despair for lack of a writing instrument until I remembered…my cell phone! Text messaging to the rescue!

In gratitude to God for the memory of
Edith Gorse Evans
Who in the midst of life
Gave herself for others on the Titanic
Trusting in Him who hath made the depth of the sea
a way for the ransomed to pass over

Love is strong as death

Then up to Rosa Mexicana for a very lovely lunch with cousins, capped by a visit to Engine Company 14 and the friendly fireman. A quick detour into Fishs Eddy where I netted mostly unneeded decorative items but also a lovely soup ladle. By then my legs were aching, feet flat, hip joints aflame, but I made it up to the hotel a bit earlier than needed—and was ready to just get to the airport and home.

But there was still time for one last adventure: While repacking my bags with various loot, the bellman mentioned that he could get me a town car to Newark airport for $65 plus tolls. Cabs would charge me double the meter and who knows how much that would be! I told him I would think about it. A woman nearby approached me and said with a slight accent that she was also going to Newark, could we share? Perfect! We headed out to the street escorted by the bellman and lo and behold, a white stretch limo! Down at heel, sure, but a limo! I told our not-much-English driver that she was going to the international Continental gate, I was United, domestic. My fellow traveler and I had a lovely time chatting about Amsterdam (she was Dutch) and our NY experiences while on our way to the Garden State. She gave me what she thought would be a fair half and got out at the international terminal—I was a bit worried when I didn’t see a gate for Continental, but knew that shuttles went between terminals so she’d be OK if a mistake had been made. We rounded the terminals again and I got out when the driver stopped, met him at the trunk, looked up and... “Where is the United gate?” “No, Continental!” “No! She was Continental! I’m United!” A few more rounds of this, my bags were shoved back in the trunk, and we were again in the terminal loop until… I heard him swear. The terminal traffic transformed into turnpike traffic. Wrong turn! Driver exited at long term parking, whew. But why was it taking so much longer to get back to the airport? Where were the exit signs? Wait a minute… He finally pulled off the turnpike and we began cruising the streets of a squat, modest residential neighborhood. Very narrow streets. Very un-airport like He finally pulled over and asked two ladies for directions. They didn’t know, but another, on her phone on the stoop, did. “Turn back. Left at the first light, then another left.” Fairly straightforward. If you spoke English. Two blocks later Driver managed to execute the turn, easing the loooong limo into a three pointer and holding up traffic in both directions. Who cared about honking? Back the way we came. The turnpike appeared alongside us. One more request for directions from the man asking for handouts on the street and we were heading back, in the right direction. Newark Airport, behold! And what terminal did Driver pull up to (cue Twilight Zone music)—Continental! Who cared, I was there. Out came my bags, out came his tally, about $20 more than anticipated—thank goodness I had shared the cost. The kind porter, puzzled about why I didn’t insist Driver take me to the proper terminal became sympathetic when I gave him the digest version and directed me to the shuttle. I arrived at my gate in plenty of time, grateful to be there. One last travel tale—I was able to embark on the plane early, and switched seats so a cute young couple could sit together. I could sure use the good karma, I thought to myself smugly. Moments later, with growing horror, I watched as another young couple with an infant, aaiiyee!, made their way slowly to the two seats next to me. Five and a half hours of torment awaited me, I was sure. But after just a few moments of howling and assorted fussing on his part and two orders of bad Chardonnay on mine, Baby and I made peace, and sure enough the good karma came to pass.

Though I may not have shown it through my exhaustion (sorry, honey), I’ve never been so glad to see M as he pulled up to the curb at SFO to take me directly home. (OK, well maybe when I pulled up beside him to exchange wedding vows, but other than that, this takes the cake.) Sunday was mostly for sleeping and recuperating, and now I’m back into the grind/groove.

Some other NY things I remarked: the thin, elderly woman immaculately attired in a gray suit and matching porkpie hat, gray scarf trailing behind her, darting like a fragile , determined deer across a street and against traffic to Penn Station. The look of sadness on a woman's face as she entered the subway to completely filled seats, changing to relief as I offered up my seat to her. The young couple making out with abandon in Gramercy Square, he sitting on the trunk of a car, she standing on the street before him, The diversity of cliques clustered in the bar of the Coffee Shop, as though a sampling of the whole world were there drinking overpriced alcohol served by sullen barkeeps. The crowds sitting in tiny Greeley Square, pots of plants provide green and a bit of intimacy, while traffic roared up and down both sides. The chocolate colored police horse being led unsaddled back to its stable through street traffic. The lady tending the fruit cart in Midtown whose zebra-print skirt flew up Marilyn-style as we zipped by in a cab, her embarrassed laugh as she smoothed it back over her black panties. More bike lanes. Once again, the feeling of illogical happiness as I entered the Martha Stewart Living office with my friend Suzie. Why wasn’t I still here?


Happy blogiversary to me! It was four years ago today that I started blogging. Thanks for reading!


At 3:48 AM, September 25, 2008, Blogger K2 said...

Happy Blogiversary Suzanne! We've enjoyed it.

At 6:20 PM, September 25, 2008, Blogger Nancy said...

Happy Blogiversary. It's always a pleasure to come by. :-)

At 5:05 PM, September 26, 2008, Blogger elm said...

Thanks for your blog Suz. I look for it every morning and am entertained or/and informed. your loving a.j.


Post a Comment

<< Home