On my recent business trip to New York, I was able to meet up with a dearly missed Ithica urban family member, whom I had not seen in over ten years. When the ever-fashionable Donna, who lives in Manhattan, found out that I was coming, she offered to shepherd me around during my stay. It was wonderful to be able to meet up with her and shoe-baru around the town on foot. At one point, she proclaimed that she felt she took her beloved city for granted some times, but that seeing NY through my eyes was making her appreciate it again. What’s not to love and appreciate about NY? It is easily one of the most well-laid out cities, and has some of the most famous architecture, restaurants, museums and people contained within a very small radius. I was quite shocked at how, if one really wanted to, everything could be reached on foot. Ah, to walk in a city again…
Donna and I covered as much ground as we could, from The Village (Greenwich-which is where we spent a wonderful couple of hours and some serious money at the Blue Ribbon Wine Bar, one of NY’s smallest bars), to SoHo (where we saw a movie being filmed-no one famous), the edge of Tribeca (former home of my deceased ex-boyfriend, John Kennedy, Jr.), Little Italy (smelled terrific, but too full of hipsters), the Bowery (which is the home of the famously loud, former apartment of Donna’s boyfriend, the Russian), St. Mark’s (haven for young runaways), the Chelsea neighborhood (which was my temporary neighborhood for the weekend), and Upper Manhattan (pure pulse of traffic, museums, and Broadway). One evening was spent at Mario Battali’s restaurant Otto, which was located in The Village, just a stone’s throw from Washington Square Park. There we shared the most delicate thin crust margarita pizza, a beautiful arugula salad, and a fabulously tasty vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso poured over the top (you know me and coffee poured over ice cream…yum). I was also able to finally meet the illusive Russian boyfriend, a handsome and graceful charmer who sported a perfectly tailored pinstriped suit-jacket, jeans and a man bag…and perfectly coiffed hair. He was only in for a moment, but for that entire moment, I knew that I was in the presence of a well-manscaped European man…he looked every bit the part. Immediately following our Italian meal, we hoofed it to the Brooklyn Bridge and, surrounded by the magic of a perfectly breezy autumn evening and lit up by the lights of the city (and the fine spirits we had consumed with dinner), we walked across the bridge and back. It was a moment to remember. Words of Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry carried on the breeze:
“And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence
are more to me, and more in my meditations, than
you might suppose.”
So Walt had been thinking of Donna and me all those years ago!?!
Donna and I ended our sadly short time together only hours before I was to be at the airport for my return flight. I met her outside MoMA, and she whisked me past the queing line of tourists, in the doors like a VIP. You see, Donna had a special privilege pass via her employer, a pass that would allow her and a guest free admission to almost all of the museums in NY. I had witnessed the full power of this pass only two days earlier when she had rather quickly gotten us into the International Center of Photography to see the frighteningly in-your-face and incredibly moving works of photojournalists Susan Meiselas, Cornell Capa and Eugene Smith. Getting us into MoMA was nothing for Donna. She sashayed up to the desk, flashed her ID, and bam! we were in. For the next hour and a half, I felt Warhol, Pollock, Duchamp, Monet, Picasso, Chagall, Klimpt, and Giacometti pumping through my blood like drugs. And not long after, I found myself on a plane, returning to the South. I left NY feeling invigorated by the good food, the good company and the healthy dose of art. And I left Donna seeing her city in a different light. It’s sometimes good to be a tourist in your own neck of the woods…
So yesterday, a friend and I found ourselves playing tourists in Birmingham…off on mini-holiday to see the Leonardo’s at the Birmingham Museum of Art. All the way from Turin, Italy, this particular collection of sketches was something that neither of us wanted to miss…it was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit. I have to say that it was a spectacular day, and not just because of the Leonardo’s. The museum was also hosting a collection of New Deal Farm Security Administration photos taken by Marion Post Wolcott. Her photos captured the social and economic extremes of life in the rural South during that time. An old share cropper sitting in a cane chair, railroad tracks of mending on his pants, fingers missing from his time in the field or mill; jars and jars of fruits and vegetables, canned and shelved, a poor woman’s pantry art installation; a row of well-dressed race spectators off-set by a row of legs clad in trousers made of down-on-your-luck, standing in line for…food? What a glorious collection of photos to see. And it was all free of charge. Imagine having such a beautifully cared for museum, a museum that tastefully houses meaningful art, and exist just down the road about an hour away…amazing that it took so long for us to make our way down there…no excuse. Mustn’t take such things for granted.
As a post script: I now own some Ras-el hanout, therefore I will be making some pork brochettes soon. I also have some other treats... And, if anyone cares to know, Turkish Delight really is delightful in a strange chocolate-covered-jelly sort of way. And as its packaging alludes, it really is full of Eastern Promise.