The Daily News
I am sitting in the Brooklyn coffee shop where I wrote my first sentences of my dissertation. I stumbled on it by accident while wandering in a daze down Fifth Avenue for the first time in 15 years and finding it unrecognizable. I couldn’t even tell you if this is the same location this coffee shop was in originally. But it feels pretty much the same. It seemed fortuitous on a day when I was planning to sit and try to make the last big final push on the diss that I happened to wander by the place where it all started.
That summer I moved into Cranky’s spare bedroom so I could do some serious archival research at the New York Public Library and a couple of other spots around town. The library didn’t open until noon, so I’d get up in the morning when Cranky went to work and park myself at a table at this coffee shop with my notes and laptop and typed the beginnings of my dissertation. Every afternoon, I’d walk up to the Grand Army Plaza station and take the subway to Rockefeller Center, then walk to Lincoln Center to work in the library from open to close, reading and transcribing materials that were too old and fragile to copy. It was a fairly monastic existence, but I enjoyed it . I still enjoy it.
Mr. Spy and AJ are on the plane on their way home now. I already miss them. It was great to have them here, so the two parts of my life don’t feel quite so separate. AJ had a blast. It helped that our hotel room, on the 20th (and top) floor, had a spectacular view of the Empire State Building.
Here it us by day:
And by night:
We didn’t actually go up it. The lines were daunting and we preferred to admire it from afar. Thursday we walked around, had a very late lunch at a French bistro near my office, and headed down to the West Village so AJ could see the apartment where I stay and we could all have dinner with the friend who’s letting me stay there.
Friday, while I was at the office, AJ and Mr. Spy went to MOMA and played catch in Central Park. AJ has been a little obsessed with the MOMA catalog since he was in preschool and it was his one real request. He apparently had a fabulous time, not the least because of a large interactive video installation. They came to visit me in the late afternoon. AJ showed up in a Yankee’s cap that his father had bought for him, even though as a die-hard White Sox fan, I’m sure it pained him to do so. AJ drank hot chocolate while looking out all the windows and smiled shyly as he was introduced to my many coworkers. After work, we all walked up to Grand Central Station so I could show him the stars on the ceiling of the Great Hall. He found all of our zodiac signs and then we descended to check out the whispering walls before finding a very noisy pizza place in the basement where the bartender was holding court using a lot of not-so-family-friendly language. On our way back, we stopped at the Morgan Library, which is one of my favorite places in the city. A violinist and cellist were playing duets, which floated through the space as we walked through the old building into the new exhibit areas.
Saturday morning, we got up and walked the High Line, which I’ve been wanting to do since I got here. And I was not disappointed. It is now number one on my list of places to go if you want to fall in love with New York.
Can you find the Statue of Liberty?:
Clock tower in Jersey:
Then we headed out to Brooklyn, where we had a fantastic lunch at a new Italian restaurant, checked out a school that AJ might attend, and stumbled on the 40th anniversary celebration of one of my favorite bookstores. AJ liked it there, as you can see:
After we were thoroughly exhausted, we met up with Cranky and Baby J and walked to the park, where AJ was immensely entertained by Baby J’s stellar repertoire of facial expressions. We came back to the hotel and collapsed for a while before heading out to dinner at the same French restaurant where our trip had started.
This morning we took the subway to Central Park (AJ told us how to get there – he’s already feeling like a subway native) where we wandered into the Race for the Cure, which was an impressive thing to see. And then it was time to pack and leave. I made myself a pledge to keep busy so I wouldn’t be too sad to see them go. I hauled my luggage back down to the apartment and then headed east toward the legendary Matt Umanov’s, where I got to play a century-old Fender mando, with a real tortoishell pick guard. It was a thing of beauty, both to the eyes and the ears, but, alas, very far out of my price range. But I did get some good advice and found a mando I liked that I should be able to afford before too long. I didn’t linger to look at the enormous cases of guitars, which took a concerted effort. Umanov’s has one of the biggest collections of top tier vintage guitars in the country. The shop was full of people trying them out. It was lovely.
And now here I am back in Brooklyn, despite the MTA’s attempts at preventing me from getting here – both first and second choice subway lines are down for repairs for the weekend. New York is feeling both smaller and bigger these days. Smaller because I am more comfortable getting around, but bigger because the more you know, the bigger it feels.