Friday, April 21, 2006

Manhattan Does Anapestic

You see, in the picture above, the sort of weather that follows V. and I whenever and wherever we go on vacations. In the slightly less than three years that we've known each other, we've gone to New York City, Paris, Cornwall, London, San Francisco, Puerto Rico, and New York City (surprisingly, there is enough to do in NYC that you can spend one weekend there and go back for a second short trip two years later without getting more than mildly bored), and the weather has been gorgeous, gorgeous, beyond gorgeous, gorgeous with one day of rain when we were seeing museums anyway and what do you expect in London, way gorgeous, gorgeous, and gorgeous, respectively. If you're the director of tourism for an appealing city, and you need to guarantee good weather, then you really should be offering us a free trip.

Which is not to say that our quick trip to NYC this week was without untoward incident. I have to say that the feeling that you get when you've just finished a horrific tax season, packed your bags, dropped off your children at school, ridden most of the way to New Jersey, parked the car at Metropark, taken New Jersey Transit to Penn Station, hauled your bags the last block or so, handed the desk clerk your acknowledgment from Priceline, watched the puzzled look on his face as he fails to find your reservation, and heard him say, "I'm sorry, sir, but this reservation is for next week" is really unlike any other feeling in the world. I'm sure that I could chalk up this oversight to having worked too many late nights when I made the arrangements, but at the time, I was definitely having a too-stupid-to-be-allowed-to-live moment. The hotel, of course, was fully booked, but the very kind desk clerk gave us the phone number for another hotel, and that hotel was also booked, but that very kind desk clerk gave us the phone number for yet another hotel, and that hotel had a late cancellation of some sort and said that we could check in at 8 pm. It was then 4 pm, but we trundled off to the new location (and, no matter what counting and/or maps tell you, the distance from 34th and 8th to 35th and 10th is a lot farther than three blocks), where they allowed us to change in the lobby bathroom and then checked our bags for us. They only had the room available for one night, but it was not much more expensive (after the AAA discount) than the deeply discounted room I had booked through Priceline, and for a very reasonable $2, they let me use a computer with an Internet hookup, and I managed to find, with moderate difficulty and rather greater expense, a room for the next evening.

Anyway, when all was said and done, both rooms were just fine, and it was no big deal the next morning to take a cab from 35th and 10th to 56th and 7th. After all, one does not go to NYC to spend time in one's hotel room.

The nominal purpose of our trip was for V.'s birthday, though it was at least as much a way for me to thank him for putting up with my schedule during busy season. I had wanted to take him to see something at the Metropolitan Opera on his birthday, but his birthday is next week (though it does not coincide with the days on which I'd made the reservations; it really was just a too-stupid-to-be-allowed-to-live thing), and on his actual birthday, the Met is doing Lohengrin, and, well, no man is worth Wagner. Fortunately, two evenings ago, the Met was doing Le Nozze di Figaro, which I have never seen live, and which V. likes a great deal.

After we had changed in the lobby bathroom and checked our bags, V. called a friend of his and arranged for us to meet him for a drink in a bar in Chelsea. After a couple of beers, I was feeling a great deal more relaxed, and V. and I went off to eat dinner at Mare, a seafood restaurant that his buddy had recommended to us. It was a beautiful evening, and we ate outside. As I frequently do at seafood restaurants, I suggested that we start off with an order of fried calamari, which was delicious. For my entree, I had one of the specials: a pan-roasted cod fillet with black olives and cherry tomatoes, accompanied with green beans and mashed potatoes. That, too, was entirely delicious, though I found it somewhat oversalted. V. reported that his seafood brochette was similarly delicious and oversalted. After coffee, we grabbed the subway uptown to the Met.

I won't go into detail about the opera, except to say that it was well acted and beautifully sung. The orchestra was terrific, and, well, it's Mozart. Since it was technically part of a birthday present, I had sprung for grand tier seats, and V. was suitably appreciative.

The performance, including intermissions, ran nearly four hours, and let out just before midnight. It had been a hectic day with some fairly stressful periods, so we were all in by then and headed off to the (first night's) hotel where we slept very soundly indeed.

The next morning we woke up (eventually), dressed, packed, grabbed a cab to hotel #2, checked our bags, grabbed a quick breakfast at a corner bagel shop, and headed off to MoMA, for which I had procured 11 am tickets. MoMA, not unlike NYC itself, has an awful lot packed into a relatively small space. We decided to start off with the Munch exhibit, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to know why Tuberculosis used to be called consumption. It's a fascinating exhibit, and a very telling illustration of how life influences art. After going through the first couple of rooms, you really don't need to be told that his mother and sister died from Tuberculosis. In fact, you'd be entirely amazed if someone told you that they hadn't.

By the time we had had all the art we could stand (most of the 6th floor and bits of the 5th and 4th floors; as we were heading out, we came across Wyeth's "Christina's World," which is entirely breathtaking), it was nearly time for the TKTS booth to open, but V. figured that the lines would be shorter and there would still be plenty of tickets available later, so we took a subway across town and another one downtown to Kalustyan's.

This is a picture of most of the honey selection at Kalustyan's, a store that I had not heard of before this week when I asked Bakerina to recommend a food-related destination for our trip to NYC. It's not easy to describe Kalustyan's, but let me say this about my visit there: I have been to the promised land. And, you know, it's not really a place for mere mortals, but I did my best. Seriously, there is something more than a little overwhelming about that incredibly vast array of goods in that small space. At first, I could do nothing more than wander around, with a big smile, and look at all the stuff. After a while, though, I grabbed a basket and started shopping. Danger Will Robinson! It would have been fairly easy for me to spend the next three hours and most of my life's savings in Kalustyan's. Fortunately (I suppose), V. was with me, and he does not share my joy of food shopping. Additionally, while he didn't actually say anything about what was going into my basket, I could see him comparing it to the available space in the pantry.

Anyway, in the end, here's what I walked away from Kalustyan's with (plus a watch that I got on the street corner for five bucks; I had really wanted a fake Rolex, but I was happy with what I got, and it's still running two days later, so I figure I came out ahead). It was not easy to narrow the field down to this point. I had to put back the rose syrup and the sour cherry syrup and the dried morels and the walnut oil and a number of other items. I think that if I lived in NYC (which, alas, I think would not really suit me on a long-term basis), I would have to go there every week to browse the shelves and pick out the one item that most spoke to me on that day.

The rest of the trip was also terrific. We got tickets to see The Light in the Piazza last night, and it was splendid. We ate too much at a deli. We had some very good marinated olives (with fennel seed) and cheese sticks at a restaurant bar where we stopped for a glass of wine. We rode the subway. We walked through the park. We bought souvenirs on street corners. We exhausted ourselves, and then we came home. We had a great time.


Anonymous lindy said...

You guys have a lot of energy. It would take me at least one more day to do all that. And I would want to do all that. Sounds great...I have never been to Kalustyans. Clearly, this must be remedied.
Happy birthday to V.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Sangroncito said...

New York..the center of the universe and my favorite city!

I had a similar experience in NY. I had a valid reservation but arrived at the hotel and they were overbooked. I had to go to another hotel--at five times the cost of the hotel I had reserved at--I was furious! And as a native Manhattanite who until a few years ago had a home to stay in (my mother's, until she died and I sold it, much to my regret today), it still feels strange to stay in a hotel in New York.

5:24 PM  

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