So sore! I knew I would be. I walked all 59 streets of New York with a heavy purse biting into my shoulder. My purses. My constant, and painful, companions. While I am so glad I opted to put aside my cute shoes and wear my sneakers, I came to regret having chosen to lug around purses with narrow shoulder straps, rather that a good hefty knapsack. How do these New York women do it? They haul around the same silly purses, but also don spiked heels! Then again, no one really walks too far here. The subway eats the miles for them, and gives their heels a rest.
Aidan and I hit the Subway at 8:30 or so. He showed me the lobby of his conference, where I took the opportunity to use the hotel washroom. (There is somewhere to pee in New York City!!!) And then I was adrift--alone in New York. And five minutes in I wanted to run crying back to Ottawa. I stopped in a at the first Starbucks I found and made a very big mistake: I ordered a "short" coffee. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming. In Ottawa, when I ask for the size-that-dare-not-be-mentioned I am met with a sigh, as the coffee-person bends down to retrieve a "short" cup from the hidden stack, relegated to a dark cave in the shop. You see, the greedy Starbucks folk have been phasing out their "small" size. It is not advertised anymore. But I know it's there. So, when I ordered it in New York city-- a city that hands off it's leftover trend-tatters to Ottawa, I was outright gaped at. The girl pretended she understood me, then turned to her coworker with a wicked grin. "This lady wants a "SHORT" coffee." And then she snickered. The second coffee girl stopped in her tracks and hollered "a WHAT?!" And they both bent double with laughter. In time, I was handed a huge coffee. The girl passed it off to me with a look that suggested she thought I might be fragile-minded, or a creature to be pitied. Laughter follow me out the door. Hello, New York City! What else have you got to give me?!
I didn't dare enter another building for over an hour. I walked head down, into the wind, just waiting to be mocked or belittled. (And my coffee was cold comfort-- it was bitter.) I went from 34th street all the way up to 59th: Central Park. I spotted the trees from a few streets back. On any other day, a stroll in the Park might have been much more appealing. But it was very cold, and the park was very empty. Images of Home Alone II flashed into my mind: pigeon ladies emerging grim-faced from behind rock outcrops and the words; "no one goes into Central Park at night." Here I was, lone bumpkin, with an unwieldy red back stuffed with an expensive camera. Pass.I opted to make my way in just past the entrance, to a lovely gazebo. I stood inside and made myself stay put for a few minutes, earning the right to say I visited the park. But then I scurried back down the path to walk the pavement again.
Walking towards me in jeans and tan loafers was Robert Downy Junior. Because of a vow I had made myself years ago-- never to gush, pander or display any symptoms of star-struck(ness?), I simply watched him walk away. Pat on the back for me. Minutes later, I spotted a bird perched on some ornate gold stonework and struggled to extricate my camera from my purse. I gave up, once the bird flew away, but I noticed the 'P' engraved into the stone. I looked up and realized it was the Plaza Hotel. Movies are not to be trusted, did you know? Nothing looks the way it ought to to in real life.
The shops around the Plaza were not for me. I walked past their shiny windows, but didn't even pause to check my reflection-- which I am in the habit of doing. I did find myself in Rockefeller square, and was taken by the vibrant artwork on the buildings. I suffered another minor humiliation when I went to take a piece of metalwork. My lens is fixed, so I had to back up to fit the art in my frame. Whoa! Toppled backwards into some bushes.
Interesting tidbit. I spotted a golden impression of two swords and a plow in the side of one building: Isaiah 2:4. Back home, I did a bit of digging into the meaning of the art in Rockefeller square. The term 'Illuminati' came up a lot-- an elite secret society, bent on world domination. Apparently that art around the square was meant to represent man's dominion over God. (?)
I spotted a store that I had heard a lot about: ::Anthropology:: I was immediately gripped with envy. The store was a piece of art. Every wall was covered in beautiful panoramics. All the products were stunning, and arranged artistically. I wanted to wear everything. I stumbled about a girl working on the display windows. There was fishing wire strung up to look like ship rigging. This girl was attaching thousands of cork along the wire. She had a hammer, a knife and a huge box of cork. I grilled her. "It's for Earth Day," she said. "And don't worry, we recycle the cork." Guess what? There exists an alliance for cork. ::Cork Forest Conservation Alliance::
I eventually asked a girl where I should go. "You know, if you just walked straight down Broadway, you would see the best of New York." And so I did. I made my way from 59th street right on down to 4th, and found myself in Greenwich Village. I have since awarded this cozy burrow "top spot."
Greenwich Village is a humble neighbourhood, stuffed with little shops and really yummy places to eat. I meandered from street to street until I saw a place that beckoned: Cafe Angelique. Black trim, fuchsia walls, vibrant flower paintings, punched tin ceilings, burnt orange cafe tables, a heavenly smell. I parked myself at a table, thinking of my last experience with new York retailers, and hoped this one would be different. It was.
The waitress was one of those people you want to hug and ask to be your best friend. She called me "bebe" and "sweetie," and told me to just settle in and take my time. Over the next two hours, I ate mozzarella, roasted red peppers and pesto spread on mini ciabatta and sipped on a coffee. Then, with a high-five from the waitress, I ordered a chocolate souffle with fresh-whipped cream and gelato, along with the prettiest latte I have ever seen-- or tasted. My friendly waitress's enthusiasm was explained when she lifted up her shirt and showed me her tummy flab; "New York is such a delicious city, and I can't resist it." Book open, I nibbled and read, and read, and read. Bliss.
It was time to go and find Aidan. I walked back up from 4th towards 34th again. along the way I found a very moving display of hand-painted tiles tied to a long stretch of rusty fence. The community had decided to come together and make something that would last after September 11th. A few chips here and there. But the tiles have remained there for ten years.
Upon reaching 34th street I came face to face with a part of me I can't seem to defeat. The part that is unable to focus on important specifics like, for example, the name of a hotel, or it's exact whereabouts. Aidan was waiting in the lobby of a hotel somewhere in the vicinity of 34th street, and I had no idea which one. There are a lot of hotels in one New York block! But then I was saved by the part of me that has so often saved me. The part that never forgets something my eyes have seen. I found myself walking into the entrance of a hotel that just looked right and waiting in a lobby that just looked right on chairs that just looked right and spotted a man who looked just right.