It is strange to feel like a tourist in a place that has been home, or near home, almost my entire life. But I've spent so much time in Rhode Island lately that when I come into Manhattan I have to maintain the frantic pace of a first time visitor. There is so much to see and do; I've got a folder full of tattered clippings from arts listings. I've been covering miles between museums and shops. Today, there seemed to be so much to taste and savor. All the walking this week has made me hungry.
One of my meetings happened to be near Union Square, so I found myself in the middle of the thriving Farmer's Market. It is one of life's small and annoying ironies that there is more--and better--fresh, organic produce in the middle of a big city than at most rural farm stands. In Rhode Island, I'll be lucky to find some Brussels sprouts along with three kinds of squash; in Manhattan there are so many different kinds of vegetables on sale that I don't even recognize many of them. And of course, the market offers its own peculiar brand of street theatre; everyone is haggling, laughing, arguing, pushing, squeezing, pinching, finger-wagging, and generally doing what New Yorkers do so well--acting out.
One fellow was selling honey made from bees that are gathering nectar from the city's roof gardens and parks; well, who knows where those bees are going. This guy was media savvy. When I approached with my camera, he straightened up and gave me a nice smile.
"What are you, a blogger?" he said. "Yes, actually," I said. "Imagine that," he said. "A blogger in New York City." Imagine that, a wiseacre in New York City. Still, he wasn't so media averse--I noticed he had a large sign propped up on his stand telling visitors about an upcoming appearance on Martha Stewart's television show. Imagine that.
Around the corner from the farmer's market at Union Square is the kind of place you find only in a large city, a chef's supply store.
This one was higgledy piggledy the way they all are, stacks tumbling here and there, and, probably because they have to deal with cross chefs all the time, the staff was cranky and obnoxious, but I took pictures anyway. I love to wander through these shops wishing I were the kind of person who knew what, exactly, to do with an icing sieve, for example. But I do know what to do with a cupcake.
The other evening, I had been feeling a bit glum and tired, so a kind friend offered me tea at the Plaza. I got out of my pajamas in a snap--though, I might add, that there seems to be a preponderance of pajama wearers in the streets these days, or perhaps that is part of what we must now think of as a fashion trend.
Then I went upstairs to check on the jewel box of a bookstore, Assouline, and I was delighted to find that our new book has arrived! Living Architecture: Greatest American Houses of the Twentieth Century is the result of a project I had commissioned while at House and Garden. It had struck me that so many of us talked about iconic houses such as Fallingwater, or Farnsworth, but we hadn't really seen evocative pictures of them, much less visited them.
The tea at the Plaza, subpar though it was in substance, turned me the rest of the way around, as did a walk home through the southern end of Central Park.
I am always amazed at how bucolic the place feels. I stopped for a few minutes in front of my favorite waterfall. So what if none of it is "natural"? It is still real, and still transporting.
Today I could not stop walking--I had booked so many appointments during my short stay that they were stacked one on top of the other. After I left the farmer's market, I headed to the Upper West Side for yet another meeting.
GROM, a gelato place at Broadway and 76th Street? I have never tasted such smooth, rich, delicious stuff, and I am not too embarrassed to confess that I went back for seconds. I can report that the Bacio flavor, dark chocolate with chunks of hazlenut, has real staying power. As in, it is staying on my waist. And so is the pistachio ice cream. GROM now delivers, but you definitely do not want to avail yourself of this new program.
GROM carries the most delicious hard biscuits, Battifollo Cookies, from a traditional bakery in Piedmont. They are made of five different old cultivars of stone ground corn; they are crunchy and grainy and impossibly seductive. I bought a large bag to take home with me. "Due to their light recipe they are only 50 calories each" says a reassuring sign but they do not tell you that it is impossible to eat one, or even five, to be frank. (Even their website is enticing.)
Tea Gschwendner, here from Germany. This place takes tea very, very seriously, but it also goes in for the new trend of adding exotic or simply weird spices to teas. I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to tea; I like mine white, or green, or black--and they do sell straight tea. Once in a while, I'm up for Hu Kwa, especially in the fall with a crisp green apple. Still, it is nice to see a tea shop in the neighborhood. It is nice to see anything new in the neighborhood; I'm struck by how many empty, boarded up shops there are all over town.
Meetings done for the day, I slipped past another favorite place, the Hayden Planetarium of the Museum of Natural History, said goodnight to the moon and whatever else is glowing in there, and walked briskly, stoutly, determinedly, home. And so, to bed.
I offer the diary of this day to those of you who cannot be in New York for a while, so that you might have a taste of it--and to those who do live here, that you might be reminded to get out and enjoy life in the city. I wish I had been more of a tourist when I was actually working here; I ought to have taken frequent breaks to visit museums, or simply walk the streets. Now I know that you have to make appointments with your city--and with your soul. We have to give ourselves permission to refresh--take a break, and feed our heads. Most of my friends who live here miss pretty much every important exhibit; they all note the event, tell themselves there is plenty of time, and before they know it, the show is closed. Guess what? There is never plenty of time, and we should all make a point of being tourists in our own neighborhoods. We have to learn to appreciate what we've got--before it is gone!