Taking the A train last week, dozing a bit, I am suddenly aware of the smell of….curry? Not yummy-like-you’re-in-a-restaurant curry, but that leftover, microwave overheated smell. Two women across from me are eating some stinky spicy wrap thing, lettuce shreds spilling out onto the floor. Frankly, after touching the turnstile and the grab pole, the last thing I want to put in my mouth is something my hand just touched. But New Yorkers are pressed for time. We have to rush here and there, so eating on the run is acceptable. Generally, though, on the train you want to avoid stuff that smells. Fritoes, for example.
I was heading to a job interview in the village on MacDougal street. A voice teacher and professor whose office is in his home, a third floor walk-up. Jose, the maintenance man let me into the building. I got to the third floor apartment and pushed the little gold doorbell. An arty looking older man with a shiny head welcomed me in. The apartment was bright, with a wall of windows. I thought it probably hadn’t changed since the ‘50s. Small, charming, with yellow walls. Not post-it note yellow, but a deep, warm color. Lots of antique rugs lay across the floors, which had developed a dark patina over the years. A cat scratcher was on the floor next to a baby grand piano, that was covered with an old violet-colored drape. It sat, too big for the space, in front of the white painted paned windows. I admired the iconic rooftop view of the back of apartment buildings with their retro, rusty fire escapes (these are called backyards in New York.)
The atmosphere was cozy, arty. I was in The Village in an apartment, I imagined, not unlike one where Willem deKooning or Mark Rothko might have hosted parties and readings, exchanging ideas and opinions, drinking wine and smoking cigarettes. I was lost in 1959…. My host offered me tea and we sat in comfy old chairs. One of his cats walked in, skinny and probably dying, he said. They don’t know why, but then, he is 15 years old so…..his voice trailed off. He showed me the small, cramped office and all the files and phone books and remnants of an earlier era. He needed help. Filing, among other things. We talked about the position available and he said he had two other people to interview. That’s usually the nail in my coffin. For some reason, I come off well in the interview but then some other candidate after me is perfect and I lose the job. I’m still waiting for a response from a job I interview I had in October (I know…but she hasn’t gotten back to me so I still see an ember on the ashes.) I have learned not to get my hopes up. I would rather think the worst and have a positive outcome than get all charged up and be disappointed. We said good bye, I thanked him and he thanked me.
Across the street a charming little coffee shop was calling to me. It was a chilly morning and I decided to reward myself with an Americano and a scone. I got a Rosemary currant scone, the last one, and a small coffee, and thought I’d hang around, but all the tables were taken. So I headed back home and ate my scone on the train – untouched by human hands, of course – my mouth buried deep in the little white bag I held with my gloved hands, possibly looking emotionally disturbed. But at least scones don’t stink. And I got the job.
I came to New York later than most young hopefuls who arrive here to fulfill their dreams. I’ve wanted to live here since I was 20 but, as the saying goes, life got in the way. So here I am, 40 years too late. I made it. I’ve got it all but now I’m not really part of it all. I have some of the same hopes and dreams I had at 20 when I should have come here, but new expectations, lower ones.
My body and my energy deny it, but I am in the sleep aid and reverse mortgage ad demographics. Being an old fossil means if people acknowledge me at all, it’s usually to give up their seat on the train. The sign in the train asks riders to please give up your seat to an elderly, disabled, or pregnant person. I acknowledge their courtesy but I prefer to stand. Nobody’s gonna tell me I’m old. Heading to my weekly lunch date in South Seaport, I saw a cute guy on the train. He stood with his back against the doors. Black jeans, leather jacket. Ear buds. Attractive. He was only 20-something, so my admiration was pure. But he made me pensive; why didn’t I have one of those when I was young? So afraid to talk to boys, I never gave myself a chance to know one so I didn’t date. Men only want one thing, I was told. What is that? I didn’t really know, only that it was bad. Well I got over that fear, luckily because New York is a city for meeting strangers and making friends. Be completely alone if you crave it, but the opportunity for meeting people is tremendous.
Meet Ups offer events every night of the week to get together with people who share your interests. Mindfulness, Walking Tours, Bizarre & Wonderful NY Food gatherings. There is a Greyhound Playgroup. I love greyhounds. I’d like to go but would it be weird to show up without a dog? I could meet a guy with a dog…but then, he’d be 30 years old. I just got an alert for a new meetup, Laughter Yoga – a Good Time to Have a Good Time. I have never once laughed while doing yoga. I went to one called The Secrets of Grand Central, very enlightening. After the tour, the group headed to an Irish bar to watch football. Since I don’t have a tv and I love football, I was up for it, knowing everyone there would be under 40. I like to hang out with young people, tho this group all seemed to know each other. I sat at a table with a couple of nice young guys who were kind enough to talk to me. It was really loud and I couldn’t see the game anyway because two young women with really big hair, were standing in front of the tv, talking and gesturing and not even watching the game. And the bartender was busy with the youngsters at the end of the bar. I’m going to stick to the Over 60s playgroups.
I’ve been here nine months now and making it my own place, like millions of (young) hopefuls before me who came and never left. I figure I’m in a whole different class of new arrivals: Applying for Medicare instead of grad school. No longer waiting for that ‘big break,’ I am still feeling lucky every day, overwhelmed – that’s a good thing – by all the possibilities that exist here, even for someone old enough to remember when movies cost $1.00.
I’m from Minneapolis. “Wow, it’s cold there!” people chuckle with a wide-eyed expression and clearly no idea where that is. They’ve heard it’s cold. Its close to Canada – it’s not in Indiana.
Minneapolis gets cold, and it gets snow. Sometimes lots of it. If you grew up in the ‘50s and ’60s, you remember walking to school amid 4’ snow drifts. We call those the ‘good old days’ because we didn’t know any better. Maybe because we didn’t know we were cold. We were kids. That kind of snow doesn’t happen often anymore, and I am grateful for that.
New York weather is much nicer, as far as I can tell in my short time here. But this past Saturday, Snowmageddon 2016, was a Minnesota day. It started snowing in Brooklyn Friday night and all thorough the night and the next day, finally tapered off around 9 pm Saturday. We were snug and cozy in our lair, watching movies with nachos and beer, looking at the blowing, swirling snow out the window. We were grateful we had someplace comfortable and warm for the night.
Since this snowfall was predicted, and The Weather Channel suggested it would end on Sunday morning sometime, it didn’t occur to me to ‘stock up,’ though apparently that was the order of the day on Friday. Friends from Minnesota called to make sure I had enough food, had I made it to the store for ‘supplies?’ Like firewood? Bottled water? A shotgun? I asked.
We all understand the need for toilet paper and beer. But on Friday, the line outside Trader Joe’s looked like the apocalypse was at hand, snaking down the block, all preparing for one entire day holed up inside with no connection to the outside world. Would they survive? No one, apparently, was taking any chances.
Photos surfaced on Friday, the day before the big one, of stores in D.C., all with totally empty shelves in the dairy aisle. They had all run out…of cheese. Every brick, every bag of taco shreds…gone! It’s good to know that, up and down the east coast all were cozy and safe, and all had enough cheese. Nothing takes the gloom out of the apocalypse like a plate of nachos.
A night in Chelsea with hundreds of art lovers
(and those who came for the free wine)
The Chelsea neighborhood in New York boasts many art galleries. The openings can be big events and are a fun way to see several in one evening, with wine, snacks and plenty of socializing. Many of the buildings are large spaces with a few galleries on different floors and from my short time here, I’ve noticed many of them seem to have slow, teeny, tiny elevators. And since there are several openings on the same night there’s be a big line just to get up to the second floor, since using the stairs is not allowed after 6 pm. Last week on a balmy January eve, I picked a block between 10th and 11th to see three gallery openings. After a long wait and a short ride to the second floor galleries, the elevator doors opened to an already large crowd, dressed mostly in black. Right there, standing behind a table of snacks a nice young man in a white shirt eagerly asked, “red or white?” Red was my choice tonight. Cheese cubes with toothpicks, and a few Triscuits in hand, I was off to enjoy myself. I wandered through the crush, feeling right at home dressed in my usual black.
Often during gallery hops, I have an inner discourse with myself, an ongoing discussion in my head. Your art is better than this, myself hisses to myself. Why isn’t your art hanging here? Talk to people! Hand out your card, you slug, you have the talent to be in a gallery. I had to ignore my left/right brain bickering for the moment. I had to move on.
I saw a series of 3 works that had large bleeding blobs of black ink on newsprint paper. I got closer. Perhaps there was something meaningful, deep, and not just something that looks like a big accident. I’m an artist – I love abstract, non-representational stuff, so I have a true appreciation for the mystery and wit of a good blob – but more like a Jackson Pollock blob. These pieces reminded me of the rejects I toss out when I paint. I should hold on to that stuff from now on. A price list wasn’t around, but I’m sure they weren’t cheap. The framing was top notch though, boosting the value of these mediocre pieces, and giving them an undeserved dignity.
Friends gathered around the artists, an appreciative coterie, taking pictures, proud of their artist comrade who somehow, for reasons completely beyond my comprehension, got into a group show. In a gallery in Chelsea!! Do I seem bitter? Maybe a smidge. It’s my own fault, of course. I think my work should be there. And yet I don’t do much to promote myself. These artists must have had an ‘in’, but more importantly, they networked and maybe hired an agent to promote them. I need to do more schmoozing. I need to be a self-promoter. I need to have what it takes. When I figure out how to do that, I’ll be here posing for pictures with my enthusiastic devotees.
It was too beautiful outside to go home just yet. The street was wonderfully alive with enthusiastic gallery hoppers. I headed over to the next gallery down the block to appraise more art. Maybe I’ll have white this time.
Christmas in New York. My first one, and I would be alone, family would be in other parts of the country. But it’s New York – no one is ever alone. In preparation for the big day, I checked out places guaranteed to host a swarm of tourists and fellow New Yorkers where I would pretend to be surrounded by lots of friends. I even prepared myself for a real New York Christmas: Chinese dinner and a movie.
Then I got the call from Minneapolis. My friend, Bill. So nice to hear from him. We hadn’t talked in months. So what are you doing on Christmas? I asked him, knowing he’d be with his family, or a girlfriend. Well, Midge…he paused, I was thinking of coming to New York and spending it with you, if that’s alright. Alright?! Woo-hoo, of course it’s alright, I assured him. What a gift! My Christmas ‘present’ arrived on a Sun Country flight the next day (delayed by fog and diverted to Connecticut.)
I had planned for an alone day, with lots of pointless activities to keep me busy the whole day and into evening, assuring myself that I’d be having tons of fun with hundreds of anonymous strangers. But now I could plan a very special weekend and see for myself what makes Christmas in New York so exceptional.
It was a warm but slightly drizzly evening as we hopped the F train. We went temporarily insane and got off on 50th at Rockefeller Center to ‘see’ the Christmas tree (gridlock on a massive scale but with the added pleasure of umbrellas in your face). I admit I did get my New York Attitude on, advising the out-of-towners on ‘Umbrella Etiquette!’ Fifth Avenue store windows were on the list of All That Is Christmas In New York and they didn’t disappoint. Saks Winter Palace was cold and icy and beautifully designed. Henri Bendel, Harry Winston, all were spectacularly appointed.
We headed up Fifth Avenue to the Plaza Hotel; the Palm Court for Manhattans in Manhattan, of course. Low key and yet slightly magical, the Plaza was decked out in its Christmas finest. Palm trees and Christmas lights. We lingered there for quite awhile and realized we best find someplace for dinner. And since it ’s New York everything would be open. But I was amazed to find many restaurants closed. We headed to a place on Third Avenue that was supposed to be totally overdone and decked out for Christmas. The website said, “Open Today” and in red letters, ‘Christmas May Affect These Hours.’ So does that mean they’re open? you ask? No, it means they’re closed. Trust me on this and remember it for next year when you Google map, “Restaurants Open on Christmas Day.”
Oh well, it was a beautiful evening for walking anyway, and we found a cool Irish bar with sawdust on the floor (I didn’t know they still did that) but the kitchen was closed at 10:00. So we meandered, finding ourselves down by the Flatiron. A vendor on the corner was still selling his fare and the delicious, spicy smells of chicken and lamb drifted our way. We looked at each other, smiling with the same thought. This might be it, he laughed..let’s have a New York Halal Christmas!
Thank you, Bill. I won’t forget it. Let’s have many more.
I know I’ve said it before but dang, New Yorkers wait in lots of lines. If you move to New York with an attitude that your time is precious, you can give that up. Because it takes an hour just to get where you’re going where you will wait in a line for 20 minutes. But I’ve gotten used to it. Yes, I embrace it. Was shopping on 6th Avenue trying to find a gift for a friend who has everything. He’s lived a lot of years and he has a lot of money so what can you get someone like that? I looked online and there was a website suggesting a “Fighter Pilot for a Day certificate” for only $999. Or a submarine camcorder that lets him check out the underside of a boat. That’s $6,300. I like the guy but that’s above my budget. Frankly, I don’t think I even made that much this year.
Luckily the family is having a no-gift Christmas. Which means you buy gifts anyway because, of course, people got them for you. I don’t know why families have a ‘no gifts!’ decree when nobody actually sticks to the rules.
Going to spend Christmas eve doing something different. Usually I’m with the family back home, but everyone is off to other cities this year and I’ve moved to New York, so I may venture into the City to see all the holiday decorations. Then maybe I’ll go with a friend to a bar in Brooklyn for a Christmas eve music celebration with all the other people who don’t have anyplace to go. I’m actually looking forward to it. This city doesn’t close down like some cities on Christmas eve. And there’s always the traditional ‘Jewish Christmas’ celebration: Chinese food and a movie.
I haven’t written anything on here in two months. Embarrassed, ashamed, how can I call myself a writer? Anyway, I’m drinking a tequila as I’m writing this because I heard it’s very healthy. That, and it’s really tasty. Agave and stuff, supposed to kill bad bacteria. Unparalleled health benefits AND a slight buzz? Of course.
Last September, I made an unceremonious exit from the job I’ve had for 15 years. No one was in the office. I left just in the same way I’d spent most of my days there–alone. Said good bye to a couple friends and walked away. It felt good at the time.
So after months, I finally got a small part time job in retail since no one will hire me for a real job. I keep tweaking my resume, taking out the years worked so I don’t appear to be quite so old and decrepit. Some of the dates on my resume predate the birthdays of the people reading it; they are reading the resume of their grandmother. Maybe this final tweak will do it, eliminating all those 1980 years – hey, I could be 35 years old. I did have one great hour-long interview but then she never called me back. It’s been over a month. Maybe she can’t decide how much to pay me and wants to make sure she doesn’t insult me with a lowball offer.
Last week I left my apartment with no key, no phone, no metro card, and no money. I bummed $5 from the coffee shop across the street, and a random stranger gave me a metro card – expired, but it was very thoughtful of her. I took the train a couple stops to my daughter’s office and picked up a key to get into our apartment building. I was really hungry. I hadn’t eaten and I’m pretty sure I was starting to halucinate (low blood sugar.) Checking out candy wrappers lying on the ground…perhaps a little something left inside? Walking through the tunnel to the train, I felt a real, albeit extremely superficial, kinship with the homeless guy living outside the station on a cardboard box. I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing. No id, no phone, no money. But I could call someone. What does Homeless Guy do when he’s hungry? Can he contact someone? Does he have a phone? Homeless people are all over, most I think are mentally ill, sleeping on cardboard boxes, surrounded by their treasures. I walk by but I don’t respond. They ask, ‘can ya help me out so I can get some food?’ What would a measly dollar do, I think. But yet, a dollar would have gotten me a snack. I’m guilty of ignoring them. I wish I could give them $20 when I pass by, but I don’t have a job. I’m not homeless. I’m lucky. And I don’t compare my 2 hour adventure to the culture of the street people who go it alone every night. It overwhelms me sometimes, tho I still love this city every day. I know the feeling isn’t mutual. I don’t care, I’m gonna stay for awhile.
Once you have lived in New York and made it your home, no place else is good enough. – John Steinbeck
I made it across Central Park yesterday* (cheering, fist pumps.) It usually swallows me up and I stumble down some dark path into middle earth. From the west side to the east, all those crazy but beautiful, winding paths – they all look alike. And I emerge a few short blocks from where I went in, somehow not making it from one side to the other. Some people like to get lost. Not me. It makes me anxious. But yesterday, on this quiet summer morning, I made it! Fifteen minutes, drifting mindlessly but with direction, enjoying the quiet beauty, from the west side all the way to 5th Avenue!
*(Full and shameful disclosure: I had a knowledgeable partner, a generous guy, who walked with me but I have no doubt I could have done it by myself.)
I stopped off at a tv shoot on the east side of the park. My friend was one of the many staffers and he invited me to the set. There were TV stars and delicious looking catering carts, but most of the crew wasn’t actually working all that hard. I guess there’s a lot of hanging around, standing, sitting, mostly waiting. The scenes are a few minutes long, then more standing and waiting, additional make up, lighting changes. New Yorkers, used to averting movie sets, are largely unimpressed by the hubbub. As a fledgling New Yorker I was a bit excited. Sitting on a stool two feet away from me, looking at a monitor and taking notes, was the creator of the show. She was wearing black converse all stars and cut-off jeans and a cap, looking like an ordinary person you’d see at Fairway.
Sometimes things happen and lives converge and you can’t believe you were in that place at that time. I headed east to Madison and down to 68th for an iced coffee. I sat on a shiny black bench outside and saw a Facebook post from a friend. It was about suicide and her life in the past year, her sadness and joy, ups and downs and the people who were there for her, including her little boy who misses his daddy. Tears rolled down my cheek and onto my white tank top. Big, huge tears like those giant raindrops in October that are actually more like snow. An attractive man my age asked if it was ok to sit down. He probably thought it best to ask, since I was sobbing. Sure, I nodded. He sat down with his raisin scones. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I was reading something very sad.” He nodded. His eyes were sympathetic. Then he said, “I’ll show you sad!” And he took out his phone and showed me a photo. A sidewalk strewn with clothes, and a body covered with a sheet. He pointed at the phone. “This person jumped from the 44th floor of my building this morning. I tried to walk in the park, but…I can’t..”
We talked. He was born elsewhere, now an American citizen and a very successful real estate broker. For an hour we sat and talked about death and taxes and Donald Trump and real estate and art. And what would cause a person to jump out a window.
His neighbors from the building came by, going to the cafe. The wife was still feeling distress: she saw the person jump from the window. She saw him crash onto the roof of an adjoining building and fall to the ground. The husband shook his head. “So sad,” he agreed. Our talk was somber, trying to make sense of this drama. Their friend, an old guy with curly white hair and a gold necklace, was on the phone making a big real estate deal.
I’d been on a nature walk through the park, to a tv shoot to witness the production of a television comedy, to sharing a bench with strangers on 68th and Madison, discussing the tragedy of a suicide they’d just witnessed. And it was only noon.
Thinking and trying to comprehend the eventful morning, yet feeling the need to get on with my day, I walked to the train. A thin young man in bike shorts was in the street, wheeling his bike by the curb and loudly shouting into his cell. “NO! LEAVE ME ALONE!! DON’T CALL ME ANYMORE! LEAVE! ME! ALONE!!”
“Just hang up!” someone suggested. Everyone hurrying in different directions, yet all sharing a chuckle.
Just another day in The City.
I got a walking app yesterday. It shows me how many steps I take every day. I didn’t start it until late and just walked to a store a little ways away. In terms of how much ground I usually cover in a day, this was nothing. And it was 2400 steps. If I had this app when I started traversing the city, I would have had 2400 million steps.
Went to the Met a couple days ago and saw the Sargent exhibit, portraits of his friends and commissioned work. I’m more a fan of the later work with broad, seemingly wild brush strokes. But these portraits were exquisite. The Met is a delicious gem, inside and out. It’s a treat to wander and get lost in there, and I like that you can pay what you wish. I met some ladies standing in line in the ladies room. “If a woman designed this building, there would be more bathrooms!” “Went to the ballet yesterday and it was ridiculous…and they won’t let you back in your seat if you’re even a minute late.” I’m not here to talk about women’s bathrooms, it’s a subject near and dear, but there will be no solution to the problem unless we can learn to pee standing up. But I do want to talk about lines. Whether one stands ON them or IN them. Because when someone says she is waiting ON line, I want to ask, where is this line? Because I don’t see a line ON the floor. There is actually some debate about this and I don’t know if it’s a New York thing or not. It’s not really worth getting worked up about, because this will not change, but it is curious and irritating to a Midwesterner.
New Yorkers stand in a lot of lines. At the bakery, at the bus stop, Trader Joes. I saw a line yesterday at a clothing store on 3rd Avenue. The line was winding around the block. It was a store that sells jeans, so maybe they were giving them away or something. People here are resigned to be in lines, nobody’s nerves get jangled. When I first got here, I was practically insulted that I had to stand in a long check out line at a women’s clothing store – a really long line. People were just waiting, chatting, looking through the little bins of crap nobody needs but they put them where you have to stand for 10 minutes. I was wondering why nobody was grousing (um…almost nobody.) Then the clerk would call out, “Next on line?”
Someone I know said when he arrived here he got so worked up over always having to stand in a line. When you’ve been here awhile, he said, you get used to it. It’s true. You head out knowing you will be standing in 4 or 5 lines that day. And one day you get to your favorite coffee shop and there’s no line AND the sticky buns are still there at 10:00. And you take time to appreciate those fleeting moments. I won’t be standing ON line, but now I’m resigned to being in one, however long. It’s New York.
I’ve learned a lot about Myself and The City on this amazing New York journey. I ask questions like “What do I want?” “What’s important to me?“, and “Why does the F train have a suspended weekend schedule?” I don’t have the answers, just throwing it all out there.
I’ve been both a tourist and a real New Yorker these last several months. Exploring every nook and crannie, I head out in the mornings sometimes without a clue as to where I will end up. But it is almost always alone. I like being alone, most of the time. Last week, with a visitor I will call Someone Special* (*name has been changed) from Minneapolis, I had the best pistachio gelato in little Italy. The day was perfect. I realized that, with Someone Special to enjoy it with, the gelato was so much tastier than ever; eating take-out in a park in Chinatown listening to street musicians was way more fun. While people are always around, I’m mostly alone. But I enjoyed that day so much (and the entire jam-packed, fun-filled week). I’ve been alone so much, I forgot how special even little things feel when you’re with someone you like.
Rarely are you ever ‘alone’ in New York. Walking in this city amid the throngs of other walkers, (most, irritating me with their slow pace) surrounded by timeless architecture and ceaseless noise, I say – to myself, since I am alone – “god, I love this city!” Each morning the sidewalks are bustling: dads walking kids to school, nannies with strollers, children on scooters, old men who shout, “Happy Holidays!” and the various people on their daily walk to work. I think, “Why do so many people want to live in this densely packed, expensive, sweltering hot and dirty city?” Trying to escape each other, we seek anonymity in our daily routine, earbuds secured, staring at our phones. Yet we all still long to be enclosed by our community, by one another, by strangers. We want to belong somewhere, and ultimately, to someone. I still like being alone, but I’m thinking about being enclosed sometimes, too.
Now about that F train…
I changed my Facebook ‘Lives In’ city to Brooklyn. I’m feeling like a real New Yorker. Had lunch in Chelsea with a friend and he, upper west side resident, remarked on my nascent noteworthy grasp of neighborhoods, train stops, landmarks, etc. I told him I like the challenge and discovering something new every day. Not that interested in the Statue of Liberty (except from the outdoor patio at Fairway) or popular tourist spots, I’m really more drawn to exploring interesting neighborhoods, architecture, pocket parks. Had a picnic on the grass in Central Park last week, a trio of jazz musicians played close by. You just can’t find that everywhere! Nature, architecture, music, good company, outrageously expensive lunch from Whole Foods…
Being a real New Yorker means taking the good with the bad. The sublime with the irritating. Irritating: my refrigerator leaks. And, on a similar note, my door buzzer randomly goes off and it seems to be attached to the refrigerator somehow. It’s gone off several times today, startlingly long and loud, and reverberating through the refrigerator. I’m serious. It’s 10:00 in the morning, I’ve had nothing stronger than coffee (Dunn Brothers brew, sent from Minneapolis by a wonderful friend…I can’t find coffee like that here. New York has everything except Dunn Brothers.) So, anyway – YIKES!! – just jumped out of my chair..buzzer, refrigerator thing.
Also irritating, I threw my back out yesterday morning. Ready to attend a film, I got up from my couch and something went pop. I know it’s related to the whole coughing thing from last month because I am out of align and my back is messed up. This did not prevent me from attending a party last night and Ubering back home through new streets and neighborhoods, ripe for exploring sometime soon. I’m feeling very positive about my new city and my decision to come here, despite not having a job yet, or creating any worthwhile art, the buzzing and leaking…these are temporary irritations. Tomorrow, something sublime will come my way.
There are none in Manhattan.
I was telling my friend this and he said, of course there are – they are labeled Starbucks, a term from the Dutch settlers meaning toilet. This welcoming chain has hosted many non-coffee drinkers seeking relief, and I know where almost every Starbucks is located. My Midwestern sensibility compels me to buy something, though, when I use the facilities.
Last week, stopping with a friend not for an iced coffee, but a beer from a store on Avenue C, I rediscovered one of my favorite places in Manhattan: Alphabet City, in the East Village – formerly home to squatters and drug dealers. The designation Alphabet City is kind of a throwback to the area’s former criminal activity, so it’s mostly referred to now as the East Village. I love the slightly seedy, old quality of some of the buildings and the untouched facades. It still has lots of charm, and new development is required to keep the low-rise character of the neighborhood. During the daytime, it’s not bustling with throngs of camera toting tourists, yet it’s bustling with daily life. Walk down most any block and tucked away between buildings you will see tiny, gated parks, community gardens with names like 2Bn2C, and Earth People Community Garden. Beautiful and well tended, sanctuaries amid the clamor of the city, the gardens are locked at night and managed by volunteers. I think there are at least 50 in the neighborhood. We spent the day on a shady old bench in one of them, enjoying the sights and sounds and a couple beers. The hours passed and suddenly feeling the..um..urge for a Starbucks, we bid farewell.
I headed back out into the hum of the city (with an iced coffee) before catching the train home.