2016/03/27

Big city of dreams

New York is a city that draws me. When I was a musician in Boston, we always talked about moving to New York, a much bigger city with much more happening. Some did move. Some, like me, just visited with our friends who moved. Sometimes, I still feel a desire to live there. I make do with visiting often.

New York is now a long flight (or two) and an international border crossing away. I have spoken with people in Vancouver who have never been to New York. The flight is expensive and so is staying anywhere in or near the city. But still I am drawn, and for me it's worth all the 75-cent Canadian dollars that it costs.

Sweetie and I flew there last Thursday. Her uncle and aunt (who live just north of the city) generously picked us up at LaGuardia Airport and brought us to our hotel—on the Upper West Side, but a good deal via Flight Centre. Then we went to a restaurant not far away called Parm, a red sauce place in a former deli. Excellent Italian-American food, great service, and a fun place! We were even recruited by a woman at the next table to sing "Happy Birthday" to her boyfriend. I guess we seemed like people who would do such a thing. I guess our boisterousness was a giveaway!

Little by little we discovered the attractions of our neighbourhood, which included a French café called Maison Kayser where we had a light breakfast on Friday morning. We spent the rest of the day with the uncle and aunt. We always go to the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) with them (they're members), so that's where we went. We will never see all the wonderful exhibits there! This time we took in a special exhibit of (mostly) portraits by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, the first woman admitted to the Académie, as well as an exhibit of Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age and one of vintage timepieces. After a tour of a Fairway Market, which has absolutely every kind of food known to humankind, and Eataly, a collection of Italian-themed food shops and restaurants, we met Sweetie's cousin, her uncle and aunt's elder daughter, at Hill Country, as close to Texas barbecue as you can get in the north. Wonderful brisket, great sides, and the best company, as well as the beginning of a performance by Americana trio Underhill Rose.

Already some bloom even outdoors
On Saturday, Sweetie and I went in different directions. She met up with Facebook friend, now in-the-flesh friend, to go to the Museum of Natural History and to have lunch. I took the subway to Crown Heights in Brooklyn where I met a friend who had moved to Brooklyn from Vancouver several months ago. Jamaican brunch at Glady's was great! And then we walked around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, chilly but lovely even barely into spring. We also had an indoor break in the beautiful glass houses to see a bonsai exhibit as well as tropical, warm temperate, and desert plants. A most excellent afternoon in great company!

In the evening, Sweetie and I had an early dinner at a Spanish-Argentinian tapas restaurant called Ella before walking to the Theater District to see Fun Home at Circle in the Square. My first actual Broadway show, and it was outstanding. Funny, entertaining, and ultimately heart-rending, Fun Home might be my new favourite show after West Side Story, which has a similar emotional impact. And it was a treat to be in Circle in the Square where so many amazing actors have worked over the years.

Reminded me of a Heart Tree from GoT
Sunday was our downtown day. We met with good friends who were up from Philadelphia for brunch at Balaboosta in Nolita, a restaurant we have now been to four times—because it's fabulous! This was our first time for brunch, and I wished I could have ordered everything. More great company! We then walked to the Lower East Side to the Tenement Museum and went on a tour called "Sweatshop Workers" with a knowledgeable and engaging guide. Afterward, we met with the sister of one of our friends, whom we had not seen in decades, and her seven-year-old daughter, whom we had never met. We wandered around the Lower East Side and made a stop at Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, which specializes in cupcakes and—this is new to me—pudding! Tasty pudding. Later, Sweetie and I walked back to Little Italy, where we somehow managed to find a place with expensive, mediocre pizza (wish we'd been in the Village, which has great slice places), and then went to the Angelika Film Center on Houston, a wonderful art house, to see a French black comedy called Marguerite. It was snowing when we came out! We had planned to walk to the West Village, but the snow sent us onto the subway and back to our hotel, via a brief stop at the Amsterdam Ale House.

On Monday, we were lured to another neighbourhood attraction, DSW (Discount Shoe Warehouse), the place to buy shoes. Both of us had noticed a New York spring trend, cute booties, and yes, I bought yet another pair, along with some sandals for summer that I really did need. Later we walked across Central Park (for the second time) to meet again with Sweetie's uncle and aunt at the Jewish Museum, this time joined by their younger daughter, whom I had not seen since her wedding eleven years ago, and her nine-year-old daughter, whom neither Sweetie nor I had met. It was all delightful! We had lunch at a restaurant in the basement of the museum called Russ and Daughters (a newly opened third location, with great blintzes among other kosher dairy food) and then said goodbye to the family. We then took in a great special exhibit of Isaac Mizrahi fashion as well as some of the permanent collections of Jewish artifacts and art. In the evening, we took a subway to Midtown and then walked west to Hell's Kitchen, where we met my nephew and his wife for dinner at Taboon, a fabulous upscale Lebanese restaurant. More great food and great company, in a neighbourhood that was new to me.

On Tuesday, we were scheduled to fly out of LaGuardia in the afternoon. Sweetie was not hungry, so I found a gem of a local spot called the Eighty-Two for breakfast. We then packed up and headed up to Harlem to catch the bus to LaGuardia. Not long before our flight, we were informed that mechanical problems had prevented the plane from leaving Toronto. We were stuck. But while waiting in line at the check-in counter, I got on the phone with WestJet customer service, who did a fabulous job of getting us on the first flight to Toronto the next day and then on an Air Canada flight to Vancouver. So we ended up staying an extra night in New York, in the Queens neighbourhood of East Elmhurst. East Elmhurst seems to have a large Colombian population, and a Bollywood theatre and an Indian restaurant suggest that South Asians live there too.

It's always interesting, and a good reminder of our privilege, to walk around in a neighbourhood where we're the only Anglos. That struck us especially on the Upper West Side, where we were acutely aware of being well-off White people served in shops mostly by Black and Latina staff. I hope they are paid well, but no way to know. We're good tippers.

We flew out on Wednesday, a day late, well before the crack of dawn. And back to the Vancouver rain and spring bloom. With colds. Hard to fly on four airplanes, ride a lot of public transit, and be on a diet low in fruits and vegetables without bringing something more back from New York than clothes and shoes.

If you're interested in reviews of any of the restaurants and attractions we visited, I've turned into a TripAdvisor reviewing fiend.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Sounds like an awesome trip (but sorry you got a cold)!!