Almost back from NYC – perhaps by the time you read this, I will be safely back in Alabama.
Speaking of Alabama, it occurred to me today in walking around Manhattan that, even taking it proportionally, the number of men I’ve seen walking around shirtless in the middle of Alabama towns pales to the number I’ve seen in Manhattan. Today.
I would post a map of my walking over the past three days, but it would be nothing but a blur of blue lines over a map of the island. I try to walk five miles a day back home for part of my exercise, and I don’t think I’ve failed to meet my quota this week.
The boys haven’t been with me. They have been with their Florida family. I have been of two minds about this all week. It’s been pleasant to be able to eat what I want without concerns about the more selective palates of other members of my family, and it’s also been good to just..wander on my own. Not going to lie about that.
But I realized early on that I missed them. Not only did I miss them just because I missed them, but I guess I am so deep in my Travel Guide/Educator/Facilitator mode at this point in my life that I actually found it a bit difficult to adapt to solo sightseeing. What is there to see when I don’t have someone else to show things to? It was quite revealing to me, and gave me much to think about regarding my own instincts and motivations. I need very much to see life on my own, but also to tell others about it and help them see as well…and then more time alone to process it all. Then it’s a complete experience.
The New York Historical Society. Interesting exhibits all around, but of special interest is their Bemelmans/Madeline exhibit – very sweet, in one respect, and inspiring in another. I love to learn about the creative process, whether the creators be artists, writers, scientists or builders. I find the dynamic of inspiration and creativity endlessly fascinating. The exhibit on the European-born but ultimately New York-based Bemelmans took three rooms in the museum, with a generous selection of original artwork, manuscripts and some of his earlier work, and much about his life in New York – most of which concerned hotels for one reason or another. As a person who grew up with Madeline and who has read it aloud so many times over the past thirty years that she has most of the first book memorized, this was a lovely treat.
Related – the New York Pubic Library’s exhibit on children’s books. Well done with some omissions. Of course, not a religiously-oriented book in sight (lest you think I’m being picky, they did feature various educational books for children, and what books have educated more children up to the 20th century that religious, mostly Bible-related books?) and, I realized after I left, no mention of N. C. Wyeth. I responded to myself that, well, this mostly about picture books, and Wyeth illustrated mostly novels for older children and teens, but I have to say that there was one wall – pictured below – dedicated to Edward Stratemeyer, the originator of the syndicate that produced the vast majority of super popular series books for children and teens from Nancy Drew to Tom Swift – look at the number of series (each square represents one).
So..yes..I think Wyeth should have been given a case!
Finally, the Museum at Eldridge Street – a gorgeous Orthodox synagogue built in 1886, essentially abandoned by the 1950’s, rediscovered in the 1970’s and restored over the past twenty years. It’s so deep in Chinatown that I kept walking and walking, convinced that Google Maps had done me wrong once again – but then there it was, standing tall between the noodle shops and foot massage services. I was led on a mostly individualized tour by a sweet intern named Luna, who adjusted her talk down a notch when she learned I wasn’t Jewish, explaining to me what the Torah was, and such. That was okay – I appreciated her enthusiasm.
She emphasized over and over again the poverty of most of the congregants who contributed to build this lovely place of worship and community – that it was an expression, not only of their devotion to the Lord, but also of their own strength and sense of community, as they worked hard to construct something beautiful and lasting.
Speaking of such things, I made a particular effort to visit all three of the churches in the current controversy involving potential closures of certain NYC parishes: Holy Innocents, St. Francis and St. Michael’s. I was at Holy Innocents Tuesday evening during Adoration, then today during the noon Mass, St. Francis yesterday and St. Michael’s today. More on that tomorrow, when I’m not quite so tired.
Lunch Tuesday: Tapas at Boqueria
Dinner Tuesday: Hospitality hour at my hotel – they are working really hard because they just opened, and it was substantial!
Lunch Wednesday: Grazing at Broadway Bites: Arancini, Empanadas and summer rolls.
Dinner Wednesday: Gennaro’s
Breakfast Thursday: Pain au Raisin from Eric Kayser. Eric Kayser is one of the more chi-chi bakeries in Paris. I only went to one once, just to try the bread, which was said to be THE BEST – it was fine, but I was content to stick with one of the three normal, not-chi-chi but truly excellent bakeries on my block when we were in Paris. BUT – I do adore Pain au Raisin – it was my favorite pastry during that month. So of course, when I saw that Kayser had crossed the Atlantic, I had to go – and yes, it was just the same, and was wonderful.
Lunch Thursday: Fantastic Falafel at Taim, consumed a park across the street from the tiny restaurant, a park where children played on the climbing bars and in the water spraying from the ground, where a crew of old men played dominoes, where another man slept on a bench and a young woman, seated and wrapped in a proper salon cape, was getting her hair cut and styled by another young woman there under the trees. An excellent slice of life. I thought, “Why don’t I live here?” But then I thought, “Because it costs a zillion dollars and they have winter.”
Thursday gelato – at the famed and trendy il laboratorio di gelato. It was nice, but nothing spectacular. In particular the rosemary was so subtle as to be almost undetectable. Yes, you would have to be careful, but I once made a rosemary lemon sorbet that was a knockout, with the rosemary coming through loud and clear, but still softly.
And after dinner, a stroll down Madison down to the Hotel Carlyle with, appropriately enough, a drink in the Bemelmans Bar – a charming (and expensive) place – the walls all painted by Bemelmans himself. It was really the perfect way to wind up the week.
One more food related take: One of the oddest things I saw over the past few days was today in Chinatown. A woman at an outdoor food market was crouched in front of a tub of water, which was in turn, teeming with live eels. Her purse and shopping bag next to her, she had a plastic bag sheathing her hand, with which she was reaching into the bin of eels. She worked for several minutes, but in the time I stood there watching her – probably about five – she could never actually get one. I thought at first she was simply being selective and trying to find the eel that was just right, but I don’t think that’s what it was – she just couldn’t grab one, proving that “slippery as an eel” is more than a metaphor.
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