Tuesday, June 26, 2018

NYC Day 2: Looking for Pacino

Two sweet guys at Caffe Reggio
When we first started coming to NYC, I was excited to go to Caffe Reggio, 119 MacDougall Street, near Washington Square. I had read that Al Pacino liked to frequent the cafe. It is small, its walls covered with faux Renaissance paintings and an inordinately large espresso machine sits like a king on his throne in a corner (unused, perhaps broken). The tables and chairs are chipped and mismatched. It's heavenly. 

Now it has a garish lime green door (not at all fitting in with the dark, Italianate surroundings) which leads you into a very cheerful, pleasant cafe serving, among other things, lavender cafe lattes which the waitress urged me to try. Alas, we did not see Pacino that long ago day (or today) but back then on our first trip to the cafe we did see an older, less happy version of the Laugh-in comedian Ruth Buzzi who walked by our table on the street and we burst out laughing at the deflation of our expectations. 

The morning got much brighter on our second day in NYC when our son walked in. He had been staying with his boyfriend outside of the city and was spending part of the day with us. Proud to have navigated the subway on his own and the short walk to the cafe, he was in good spirits.

Spectral images at the ICP
We decided to walk to the International Centre for Photography Museum, 250 Bowery at Lafayette ($14 admission for adults). It had two exhibits that we were interested in - Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment and the RFK Funeral Train: The People's View curated by Rein Jelle Terpstra The second was particularly affecting as it included photos, audio and video taken by "ordinary people" of the train that bore the body of Robert F. Kennedy on June 8, 1968 on its way to Arlington Cemetery.

Afterwards, we wandered into a little shop on the Bowery selling "Asian" household goods - dishes, cups, pots, vases (I wish I had written down its name). I fell in love with four little dishes which I promptly purchased for 99 cents each. This was my most exciting purchase of the trip. 

Next was a walk to Mercer St. Books, 206 Mercer Street, an independent book store in the Village. Chaotic, poorly organized, non-air conditioned ... delightful. I bought a book on the Romanovs as I am contemplating writing a fictional book on the czar's sister, the Grand DuchessOlga Alexandrovna (1882 - 1960). By an odd coincidence, the grand duchess passed her last days above a beauty shop on 716 Gerrard Street here in south Riverdale in Toronto with a Russian family that took her in. Her path to Canada, and that little apartment, was painful and convoluted and she haunts me as a possible subject for a new fiction project.

Clearly, I have Russians on my mind as we have a 2 o'clock reservation at the famed Russian Tea Room, 150 West 57th Street, serving tiny sandwiches, caviar on blinis, seasonal scones, cupcakes and petits fours ... amazing but not inexpensive - $60 American (that's $80 Canadian my fellow Canucks).

Dark, mysterious, delicious ...
the Russian Tea Room
Feeling much lighter in pocket (but heavier everywhere else) we take a stroll through Central Park to the carousel. I can convince no one to ride the carousel so then we part ways with the offspring who is off on his own adventures. A kind woman takes a picture of the four of us. I return the favour for her charming family.  Walking south through midtown towards the Village,  I am reminded why I don't like visiting NYC in the summer: crowds, tourists, heat. We escape by subway to Washington Square and have a hearty, inexpensive meal back at Caffe Reggio. An "Italian" cheese plate that would feed the multitudes and two plates of pasta - more than suffice. 

The crowds are gathering for Pride ... the glitter and feathers and rainbow make up is in full force as we returned to Washington Square and catch a lovely solo by a musician playing the violin and singing All of Me. I start to tear up as it is one of our very favourite songs and his voice is so sweet. What a lovely way to end the night.

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