The taxi dropped me off on a sidewalk corner. I stepped out, my 80 pound carry-on slung over my body. I reached into my purse for my cell, and a few rings later, her voice came on. “YOU”RE HERE?!”
“I’M HERE!!!” I did a slight spin on the sidewalk, glancing between the two street signs that made up the corner.
“I SEE YOU! I’m coming down.”
Two seconds later, a lovely, curly headed, shoeless New Yorker was bounding down the cold street at me. We tackled, screamed, swayed, squealed, jumped, ignored the crazy looks, and eventually went inside.
In the apartment there was cousins, french press, roommates that I felt like I already knew, Edith Pilaf, and Nutella. It was a good welcoming committee.
That first day was an officially declared day of tourism. We hit it all, Rockefeller Center, The Empire State Building, Chinatown, Times Square and more, refusing to let the 7 degree weather slow us down. Dinner was had at Stardust, a famous diner where all the waiters and waitresses would give their left (insert any appendage, cause they’d have given it to you) to be on Broadway. In between taking orders and running food they would sing numbers, walk along the tops of booths, throw straws and kiss cheeks. I imagine the diner has a pretty high turn over rate, as they were all exceptional performers.
Next we hit some bar that used to belong to Sinatra. This was one of my favorites. Owned primarily by Russians, a six foot something blonde woman informed us with a heavy accent the table we had snagged was fine with her. Along the bar were large glass jars backlit with red bulbs, the vodka in them swimming with peaches, cherries, apples and spice. They came in small carafes and were almost like a purée. A delicious purée.
The next morning was a much needed lazy one. Two nights before I flew out, Andrew had two of his best friends come down from up North to experience their first Mardi Gras. It goes without saying that I had some serious sleep to catch up on.
(One of my favorite parts of this whole trip was the way The Women in Apt. 10 treated most of their meals, namely breakfast. All the options were brought out onto the small kitchen table: raw eggs, steal cut oats, bananas, Nutella, bread, cereal and milk, all surrounding the backbone of the meal, a cylindrical french press in the middle of it all, sheltered by a British flag tea cozy. Everyone would then chose their meals, divvying up anything that was nearly gone amongst everyone. I don’t know how to describe why this was so pleasing. It all felt very old fashioned, and very British. That probably doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what it was.)
That day was Brooklyn. Brooklyn was, by far, my favorite sector of NY. I didn’t think it would be so visually different, but you could feel it and see it as soon as the train crossed the water. Apparently, it’s where all the cool kids hang. It was teeming with young indies, strange and expensive boutiques and third wave coffee houses. Even the graffiti was somehow artsier. Here we found The Blue Bottle, one of these “third wave” places. A barista stood behind the counter, elevating a silver teapot, swirling a light stream of hot water onto a filter with about a teaspoon of grinds on it. The filter sat on top of a shiny white coffee cup. He paused, let the water swallow up the flavor of the grinds and sink into the cup. With the concentrated look of an artist, he began again. There is no syrup of any sort to be found here, it would be an outrage. Intellectuals sipped single shots of espresso out of cups so small they looked like part of an American Girl set. Along the wall, giant glass bubbles clung to long glass tubes that twisted downward, dripping cold coffee that would take three hours to finish. It looked like something from a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide chemistry set. When I got my latte, a perfect leaf had been etched in the foam. No one wanted to go back to the 5 degree weather.
That night we hit Marie’s, a bar the girls were telling me over and over again that I would love. “I wouldn’t hype it up too much for fear of ruining it…but it’s impossible to hype it up too much,” Hutton, one of Hannah’s roommies, told me as we waited, chattering at a crosswalk. She was right. The bar was a few steps below ground level, with a very low ceiling. Against the wall in the middle of the bar was a piano. At the piano was Franka. A bodacious lady with an even more bodacious attitude; Franka leads the bar in singing show tunes. And when I say the bar, I mean the whole bar. And when I say the whole bar, I mean us and mostly a lot of gay men. And when I say singing, I mean eat your heart out Barbara Streisand singing. I began to pull my phone out during a booming chorus of “I Dreamed a Dream,” but was sweetly dissuaded by Nat. (other roommie) “If she sees it, she’ll kick you out.” We stayed for hours until Franka’s set was up. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.
Next was dancing, lots and lots of dancing. Those girls were too fun.
The next day we headed to the Upper West Side to have brunch at Lalo, the cafe used in “You’ve Got Mail,” when Tom Hanks stands up Megan Ryan. Except he doesn’t really stand her up because he’s got a double identity and he visits her not as the email Tom Hanks but as the Fox Books Tom Hanks and oh man do I love that movie a little too much…
The cafe was beautiful.
That night we hosted an Oscars party at their little apartment, where I got to meet some of their many fabulous friends.
On Monday, Hannah had to work, and so I braved the Big Apple alone. I have to say that with a little help, the subways were not half as confusing as they originally came across. I quickly learned how to keep my head down as most New Yorkers do, as to not attract the attention of at least one crazy riding in your same car. That day I explored Soho by myself. I found a brilliant little globally aware cafe called “Think Coffee,” where I ate sinfully good oatmeal and drew, uninterrupted, for hours. It was heavenly. Hannah met me for lunch, and we hit a small Taco restaurant that looked like it had been make shifted from a car garage, strung with ponchos and twinkle lights. It was so friggin good. The rest of the afternoon consisted of very responsible shopping…
Monday night was by far the best night, as Hannah and I departed for a little one on one cousin time. We walked down the street to a Russian bar in her neighborhood and sat at a small table in dark lighting, surrounded by handing tapestries and brick walls. We talked for hours over red wine, and I could have kept talking to her all night. It’s so wonderful to hear wisdom, I mean real wisdom, from a peer. There’s nothing like it. It was company that put air back in my lungs, put a smile in my eyes that is still there now.
I hated to leave. I know there was still so much to do and so much to see. I did feel like I had done so much, until people began asking me if I had seen this or that, and I realized that although the city never sleeps, there really is never enough time to see all New York has to offer. However, what I hated most was leaving the people. I wish so badly that I still lived just a few lawns down from my cousins. That we still carpooled, still slept over, still took ballet together. If I think about it too long, it makes my chest ache with unbelievable longing. I also hated leaving Nat and Hutton, who were both so instantly lovable, both in such different ways.
Hutton Visual: As we lay in bed, covers pulled up to our chins, Hutton walks about the apartment. In one hand, she balances her laptop as it plays the tuck-in song she has picked for the night. She walks to each person, and, in her best Indian accent, sings a blessing to them, lightly placing her tiny hand on their forehead. She is also known to absentmindedly rest her head on appendages of strangers while riding the subway, when engrossed in a good book.
Nat Visual: During our outing at Marie’s, an especially sassy man briefly attached himself to our group. He was a little fun, but little bit derogatory, one of those people who only know how to make jokes at other people’s expense. For some reason he chose lucky me! to be the center of this endlessly witty humor for a short stent. At first it was funny, we all had a laugh, but after a while he just kinda became an ass. After his millionth fashion oriented zing, Nat put the back of her hand into his chest, told him *ehem* where to go *ehem,* and somehow managed to box him out with her 90 pound body. Instant soul sista.
It was all marvelous. Marvelous.