Sunday, June 05, 2005

Travelogue: NY, NY

Whew! Am waiting to board my Jet Blue flight after my 36-hour junket to NYC. It's been a whirlwind weekend and was pretty much everything I had hoped it would be: galleries on Saturday and celebrating Clare's 40th birthday then Chinatown today and the reading of a play.

Just getting into NY via subway early Saturday morning was an adventure, one I was very glad to do on my own. It has been nearly 8 years since I have traveled by myself and it was nice to have minimal baggage and only myself to look after. All my senses were immediately heightened as I navigated the Air Train to the subway and tried to decipher that peculiar subway-speak of the train conductors and the body language of fellow passengers. The first train, for some garbled reason, stopped, so I got off and crossed a platform to another waiting train. And then there was not knowing where I was or where I was going or where I should transfer until the subway stops became more familiar (Lexington, 5th Ave, Rockefeller Center). The trains seemed to get nicer, the ads in them more upscale, and the people more diverse as I got closer to the heart of Manhattan. I made some lucky guesses and a quick exit from at least one train that turned into an express, and in the end found Jen's parent’s apartment without a hitch. It was gorgeous, like walking into a movie set. Special surprise was that Bart and Kate and Cuillin and Clare were all there to meet me along with Jen and Tanya (whom I had been dying to meet).

Of course they had bagels waiting. After breakfast and a latté excursion, I took the best shower of my life in the amazing old shower. Water sprayed out in a deluge on this parched Coloradoan, not only from the top, but also, when I wanted it to, in from the sides. Wow.

That was followed by another subway adventure, this time with two strollers, down to the galleries of Chelsea. The first show we saw, by a friend of Jen's sister, was an intricate sculptural collage of all kinds of found objects arranged around a grid of string that covered the gallery from ceiling to floor. (Hard to describe, guess you had to be there.) It was fascinating and tactile, but fragile. Kate had to keep a close eye on Cuillin in between getting messages on her cell phone from potential buyers of their RI house.

Next stop was Nina's exhibit. First, a genealogy of the grocery store: a family tree of the De Cecco Pasta woman, Mr. Clean, Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, etc. A humorous regrouping of familiar brand-name personalities. Then behind, in a hallway, a sampling of found video tape that had been restored. And in the back room, videos of Nina interviewing her parents about their background and unique accents and language history. The best part was video of Nina and her parents working with a speech coach to learn each other's accents. Then you saw her doing the interviews again in her parent's respective accents and their attempts to answer back in her accent.

The kidos fell asleep at this point (or woke up, it's all a blur, Tanya being an easy, contented baby), so we surveyed the adults present to determine desires for lunch. We met all desires at a small Italian place and had a peaceful, relatively inexpensive lunch. Peaceful as far as kids went, that is, but Clare showcased her mediation and debate skills with an intense, in-depth discussion with Bart and Kate of children and religion. After lunch we saw Laura Wulf's exhibit of etched photograms in rich colors and pleasing shapes.

Clare wanted to see more photograms (images made on photographic paper without camera, film, or negatives) so we hit one more exhibit before returning to Nina's again for closer inspection. Clare and I got unusually fascinated by one particular video clip, which made us late to Clare's apartment. She had specifically told people to be there right at 4pm. Oops! We grabbed some food and a taxi and hightailed it across town.

Clare’s exquisite, wonderful, small apartment was filled with fantastic food and people and a harpsichord. Most amazing was the best chocolate I have ever had. There was a crème brulée truffle that needed to be eaten right away. The freshest most fantastic cream taste possible. Then there was a sesame truffle with sesame seeds toasted to their peak of flavor. Fresh and clean and delicious. A small taste of the black tea truffle transported me to China, and the pistachio truffle was creamy and divine. I heard rumors of a balsamic vinegar truffle and a Thai curry truffle, and though I didn't get to sample them, I am sure they were equally amazing.

EVERYONE was at Clare's apartment, many people I hadn't seen in years and some I met for the first time, they included (but were not limited to): Jane, Michael, and Mario, Maggie, MJ, Ashley and Fred, Bill and Diane, Liz and Alex, as well as Bart, Kate, and Cuillin, Jen and Tanya. I'm sure I have forgotten some! Great, great to see old friends.

We returned to Jen's parent's apartment and, though exhausted, stayed up a bit, talked, and watched part of Sling Blade.

This morning we slept 'til 8, made another latté run, cleaned up, packed up, loaded the cars, and Jen and Tanya headed back to Boston while the rest of us headed downtown to pick up Clare and visit Pearl River. It was a quick jaunt to SoHo (thanks to Kate's excellent city driving skills) where we found parking in the nick of time and enjoyed nearly an hour in Pearl River, an Asian imports department store.

I grabbed a sandwich for the train and Clare and I headed back uptown to see a reading of a play by Jane Wulf, Laura's sister, whom I had met the night before. Jane's haiku for Clare's birthday:

From mud pies to now
I'm sorry I broke your leg
You're great, I love you

(Not sure I got it totally right, especially the last line, but you get the idea.)

The play, about couples and careers and parenthood, was insightful and thought provoking. Laura Wulf and Tessa (another old friend from Brown) were also at the play and we all went out after for an iced tea (it proved to be a very hot day), a quick update of lives, and a discussion of the play.

Then it was time for me to head back out to the airport. Trip was, in the end, uneventful, but once again I was never sure when I would need to quickly hop off a train and change to another. At one point, the conductor was shouting, "Listen up, and listen up good, this E train is becoming the F train. If any of you want to go to Jamaica center or the airport, you need to…clattering… transfer… tunnel noises…shuttle…static… If you don't understand, now is the time to ask questions." Hmmm. Something about "union?" I get out my map. Yes, there is a station coming up called Union Turnpike, I gather I should get off this train there and find out what next. My experience is that even when you think you've got it made, there is always a new wrinkle and always a possible new plan that might arise, a detour, a better way to go, a better train to ride. Never a dull moment to be sure, and this was just as true for the drive down to Clare’s this morning when there was a change of plans a minute. Got off the train at Union Turnpike and sure enough, got on an E train shuttle to Sutphin Blvd., my desired destination and the Air Train.

I arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare, have a nice dinner, and am happy to find one Oasis Day Spa, with locations at 108 East St. (Union Square), 1 Park Ave, the Affinia Dumont Hotel on East 34th St., and, miraculously, JFK Airport, Jet Blue terminal. How lovely! And yes, after a hot sweaty day of walking around New York, I can have a pedicure before I board my flight. This is the best.

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