Sunday, June 3, 2012

In the Wake of Nick Carraway ...

Cindy Sherman in one of her famous "film still" photos
NYC: Friday, June 1, 2012

Much to our delight although it is raining in Toronto, it is sunny and warm in NYC when we arrive. We have to find a better way to get from Newark Airport to Manhattan. We fly from Billy Bishop Airport on the island via Porter Airlines and land promptly at 10am; however, finding the airport shuttle, boarding the shuttle and disembarking just outside the New York Public Library, finding a cab to the hotel ... all this takes two hours before we arrive at our hotel the Cosmopolitan. More about the hotel later ...

Starving, we wander down Chamber St. and hit upon Baluchi's Indian Food at 125 Greenwich Ave. We are in luck! We order chicken vindaloo, chicken tandoori, butter chicken, nan, rice and peas and a mango shake for less than $40. Our lunch is half price and mighty good.

We cab it to a retrospective of the photography of Cindy Sherman at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). We have been following Sherman's work literally since R and I met in university. Still find the b&w movie "film" still photographs captivating as well as newer photos of the aging, affluent matriarchs from 2008 just before the economic downturn arresting. The crazy clown photos (c. 2008) and the sex photos (early 1990s) do not appeal to me although I admit that I am a Philistine and appreciate the beautiful more than I do the hideous in art. R and J wander off to the photography section of MOMA. I sit and contemplate my new shoes meditatively. Even though they are especially built for comfort and walking ... they are new and require a bit to be broken into.

From the sublime to the ridiculous ... We promise the kid that we will visit M&M's World, just north of Times Square. For me, that place is a nightmare cocktail of very loud, bad pop music, chocolate, candy and tourists. I enjoy all of those things but not all at once.

And Times Square is really dispiriting. I really dislike the way they have created this big lounging space on the street for us dumb-ass tourists so we can schlub around in our flip flops and shorts stuffing our faces with junk food. I saw a 1938 b&w photo of Times Square at our hotel. It was really striking in that the huge advertising board that marks the centre was the most stunning image in that space. Now everything is set on stun, there are so many electronic displays that you are overwhelmed by the visual cacophony.
An old school image of Times Square
It excited me to be there, now it just plain annoys.

Cab home (after asking three drivers to take us, the first two declining our fares, what's up with that?) ... rest then take the subway to a great Japanese restaurant we found last time called Tataki, 3 Lispenard St., in Tribeca not far from the hotel. It's not beautiful or trendy but the food is very fresh and plentiful even if the staff is somewhat lackadaisical.

We walk north up Broadway. J wants to return to Yellow Rat Bastard, 483 Broadway for some T's and tank tops. I want to go back to The Strand Bookstore at 12th St. & Broadway. I pick up some lovely books: a new copy of Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway; I Was Told There'd Be Cake, a collection of essays by Sloane Crosley; Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and a slight volume entitled First Love by Turgenev. R and J are a bit worn out so they wait for me in a cute new coffee shop called The Bean, 824 Broadway,  across the street from The Strand. Cab home ... luckily for us, a taxi driver finds us worthy enough to take home on the first request.

P.S. The Cosmopolitan Hotel is a sad affair and deceptively photographed on its website; it has very small rooms and minuscule bathrooms in which only one person may stand (if that). No closet (just an iron bar to hang clothes on), no fridge, few toiletries (all of them cheap); the street outside is unfortunately torn up for construction and resembles a war zone; the window faces ... a brick wall (not uncommon in NYC). Oh well ... the only plus is the free NYTimes in the lobby and a pleasant staff.

NYC: Saturday, June 2, 2012

What a fabulous day! Sunny and warm with no hint of bad weather. We have a great, if slightly expensive breakfast at the Cosmopolitan Cafe, 125 Chambers St., which adjoins the hotel. Eggs, pancakes, brunchie items, orange juice, great coffee!
Weegee at work ... one of the photos included in the exhibit
We take the subway to the International Centre for Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street, to see two exhibits: "A Short History of Photography" and "Weegee: Murder is my Business". Weegee was a crime photographer who became famous for tabloid pictures of gangland slayings, homicides and accidents in the 30s and 40s - a disturbing number of slain gangsters whose names end in vowels - often in the most gruesome settings imaginable. Pretty intense stuff but the husband thinks the kid is up for it. They even have a recreation of Weegee's room complete with Corona, crime photos, magazines and bed.

Bryant Park outside the New York Public Library
There is a street fair outside along the Avenue of the Americas. We walk south down to the plaza at Bryant Park in front of the New York Public Library, 127 East 58th Street (between Park & Lexington Aves.) - a beautiful Victorian park filled with small ornate tables and chairs, chess sets, flower beds, a fountain, overflowing with people and goodwill on this sunny day! The park has been in existence since 1847 as Reservoir Square and then Bryant Park in 1884.

The original cover
We walk down to Penn Station to catch a train on the Long Island Railroad. J has a good friend, S., who lives in Babylon, NY, which is about an hour and a quarter outside of Manhattan. When we ride on this line it always reminds me of Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby riding the train into and out of Manhattan in the intense heat of that momentous summer.

We arrive in Babylon, which is a pretty little town with a great many historically preserved houses. Later I learn that it was the home of the urban planner Robert Moses. The girls, excited to be reunited, spend the first hour texting friends and posting images on facebook that they are together. Welcome to girlhood in the 21st c. ...

We had a pleasant afternoon walking around the town and then seeing S's recital at a neighboring high school in East Islip - it had a "cast of thousands" featuring some performers as young as three. Really adorable. Late night. Back at the hotel at 11.30p, munching on chips and watching SNL ...

NYC: Sunday June 3, 2012

R up early to buy us breakfast before we leave for the airport. He finds a great little bakery called Le Pain Quotidien around the corner. He nabs some delicious pain au chocolat for the three of us. We leave at 9am to catch the airport shuttle and make it to the airport by 10.30a. We have a 12.10p flight out of Newark. Even after coming to NYC for decades with R, I am still somewhat unnerved by the subway system. The system is still unbelievably dirty, chaotic and always seems to be a few degrees above the temperature of a sauna.The transit staff is rude and spectacularly unfriendly.

This trip wore me down a bit ... the city seemed dirtier, the streets were strewn with garbage. The cabbies were ruder. I've never experienced cabs turning down fares - are they doing that well? Construction is everywhere. I don't enjoy the crush of tourists and the chaos of certain parts of the city. I think I am falling out of love with the city a little bit or maybe I just shouldn't visit her when the weather is hot. But no worries, she is irresistible and I'll be back soon.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Sounds like you had a lovely trip. I felt the same way about Times Square and the crush of tourists seemed much worse than usual. We ate at Le Pain Quotidian twice in the same day -- breakfast and lunch. One in the Meatpacking District and the other in Soho...

I do think the warmer weather has something to do with the allure the city. I much prefer it in the early Spring or Fall.

But I, like you, will keep going back and now I have a new store -- the one J. suggested -- for cool T-Shirts. I love those!