Just when I thought summer was on its way, we got hit with the most frigid weather since January. We had FROST! In May! Not in Fort St. John! I was scandalized. And I continued to be scandalized right on until today when it finally, after an entire week, seems o be showing some signs of remembering what season its supposed to be. We can only hope.
So besides freezing to death, what did I do all week? Well, it started on Tuesday with a trip to Columbia. I’d headed up north of the Park with expectations of a lecture theatre and an hour long lecture. What I found instead was a seminar room, a casual presentations, and a whole cast of interesting characters. I shared my elevator up with one of those rare, glamorous creatures that one occasionally finds in this city. A true old New York lady. It was impossible to tell her exact age but over 60 for certain and made up just precisely so. I have seldom seen a more carefully chosen lipstick shade, off setting a shade of red hair that could never have been natural but was so intentional as to seem that it could have been nothing else. In her ears she wore large gold stud earrings formed to look like decorative knots and sprinkled all over with rhinestones, or more likely diamonds. And the improbable red locks were slicked back so tightly and so smoothly, they shone. I don’t know who she was, but I think perhaps I was the only one who didn’t. Even the speaker, when he walked in, looked at her in surprise before duly paying his respects. Apparently he hadn’t expected her to come and the tone he said it in suggested that it was a great honour that she had. A grande damme of New York indeed.
After the seminar ended I rode the elevator with another interesting older lady, this one a professor emerita of economics who was involved in the class action suit levelled against CUNY for equal wages back in the 70s. Alas, I was in a hurry, so we took a rain check on the rest of the conversation and I set off collect groceries before the stores closed and get my butt back to the Lower East Side.
I stopped by a local grocery store and then headed for the train. Apparently Columbia is too close to Harlem for a blonde, peacoated girl like myself. I drew a shameful number of stares and was, if I heard correctly labelled an “uptown ho” by a passing local. New York, I love it to death and I’m not sure whether it’s despite (or perhaps because of) its grit.
The following day lead me much less far afield but provided challenges of a whole different variety, namely that of finding a suitable card. I’m endlessly surprised by how difficult it is to find an appropriate card when you need one. I mean I did eventually find one, but there were a lot of duds before I actually found a good one. Following that I was off to Wednesday dumplings—it’s becoming a bit of a tradition—before dancing the night away at Westie Cafe.
Come Thursday it was time to try (and fail, but hey at least I tried) to rally the troops for free salsa at the Brooklyn Museum. Once a month, Balmir takes over the atrium at the front of the museum and the night turns entirely to dance. It’s pretty darn street, but also a heck of a lot of fun and, for a floor that isn’t wood, it’s not half bad. Around 8:30pm the floor cleared and the performances started. It’s not the best venue for watching shows, but if you climb on a chair, it’s doable. So I climbed on a chair and watched all the rhinestones and feathers flutter enthusiastically across the stage. The kids team that performed nearly melted me, they were so adorable and enthusiastic!
And then it was Friday. I bounded out of work and into the city to meet Chuck and Stefan at City Winery. A well reviewed wine bar in Soho, it served fantastic happy hour wine and the tiniest tacos I’ve ever seen. We ordered the tuna tacos picturing a pair of regular size soft shells full of beautifully seared tataki and who knows what toppings. What we got were 6 tostitos curled into some semblance of a hard taco shell and filled with diced up sashimi. There may have been a schmear of guacamole on the side. I think if there was a meal for models, this $16 snack was it. We felt so cheated! So cheated in fact, that we soon bailed out of the wine bar and into a friendly little diner nearby: Lupe’s. It was proper hearty Mexican, their fish tacos were a massive improvement on the tiny tacos, and their quesadilla? Pure heaven. Rather than the usual greasy mess of cheddar, it was a gorgeous slice of tortilla filled with queso fresco, shredded chicken, and some heavenly concoction of herbs.
Once fed, I headed home to salsify, but not before a casual stroll past the gridlocked horror that is Broome Street on the way to the tunnels. I am so very glad that I do not belong to the bridge and tunnel authority, especially the poor sods with their own wheels. And New York drivers have this monstrous habit of contagious honking. Yes, contagious. They’ll all be behaving relatively well until one fool lays on his horn and then within seconds the whole street is alive with the noise of every imaginable make of car horn, because well, I mean, I’m just as angry, and important, and held up as everyone else here, so if we’re honking to demonstrate our needs, goddammit I’m honking too! Strangely, I love these people even if they are doing their darnedest to deafen me by 30.
Having gotten through the cacophony, I put on my fishnets and my face and set off to La Fuerza’s 3rd Anniversary party to see a friend perform and to get my salsa y bachata on. The shows (and competition) were at a separate venue from the party so I made my first stop there only to find, unsurprisingly, that they were nearly and hour behind schedule. Punctual salsa events are basically mythological, but the security at the venue was not as understanding as the crowd and, in addition to watching the shows on stage, I also was privy to the tiny drama at the back of the auditorium where one of the organizers (or helpers, it was unclear) did her best to fend off the frustrated security who had no sympathy nor pity for those who could not properly estimate the length of their event. A further intervention by one of the big boss organizers seemed to settle the security and we were allowed to stay until the end of the planned program, but not without a whole herd of security hanging around the back of the hall.
When we finally made our way over to the party venue, we found a ton of fun people, a very mixed bag of music, and floor so sticky they made my ACL cry. So I stayed for a few hours and then took my whiny knees off to bed.
The next morning we woke up to an impressive downpour which would stay with us all day. Fortunately, we spent most of our morning stuck on the A train as it slowly wound its way down the length of Manhattan. Fortunately for me, the mischievous A train was running the F line from W 4th, so despite the sheer length of the ride, at least I didn’t have to change trains.
Having finally made it home, I subjected my sourdough to its first round of mixing and folding, before venturing back out into the monsoon (though this time with an umbrella) to do my laundry. I dream sweet dreams of in-suite laundry while also accepting that there is no way I’ll ever swing that until I either win the lottery or leave Manhattan. So here’s to bringing your laundry home in trash bags to save it from the rain, and living a life of desperate quarter collection lest you find yourself in the laundromat with a wallet full of suddenly useless plastic.
As a reward for having actually done aforementioned laundry, I spent the rest of the day indoors reading, watching documentaries, and trying desperately and futilely to stay warm. I am so very ready for summer.
The following morning, the rain had finally ceased so I set off to the East River walkway where I sat beneath the Williamsburg bridge writing and reading in almost equal measure. The air was still cold off the water but there was sun! Blessed, beautiful sun and enough of it that I may have risked a bit of a burn. I was in ecstasy and honestly only gave up my bench as a necessity when I realized I was running low on time to get myself up to Columbia. Yes, the rain check had already been called in and I was on my way back up to Harlem for tea and cake with the professor emerita.
It was a fascinating chat that left me humbled, educated, and full of tea and cake.
Leaving her apartment, I stopped by the Cathedral on 110th and managed to catch the end of a service with the most beautiful choral music. It was stunning! It was unfortunately followed by another of New York’s inimitable delights, yes, the trains continued to torture me. This time, I had to ride one train north in order to catch the same train south. Let me tell you, after waiting 20 minutes for the northbound train, I had some serious opinions for the MTA. But I guess when the subway system is falling apart beneath the wheels, you can’t quite expect trains to run on time.
Sometime later, I met Chuck for food which rather accidentally ended up being pizza at the famous Lombardi’s. I guess they are special because they use a coal fired oven? Either way, we agreed that our respective favourite Manhattan pizza joints are better and this particular pie had way too much crust. After dinner we sat on the bench outside in the evening sun watching the world go by and totally creeping on everyone’s shoes. Somebody likes shoes and I mean, there is a certain satisfying elegance to a well made pair, so we sat and we chatted and we probably unnerved few passing pedestrians as we stared at their feet trying to make out the construction of their footwear. We might be nerds, but you mustn’t tell!
As the wait for the restaurant got longer and the crowd around the door got bigger, we decided to give up our bench to more needy bottoms and wandered off eastwards. As we strolled towards the LES, I suddenly saw a plume of smoke. Initially I thought it was coming from Williamsburg, but then I realized it was much much closer. It was, in fact, on Broome, suspiciously close to my own aging tenement. To say my heart broke into a gallop, might be understating it. You see, I’m weird about fire. I unplug almost everything when I leave my apartment, mostly to save myself from wondering if I left my straightener on, or if my laptop will get to hot as it charges and explode, and if any of you have ever seen me on an off day, you’ll know exactly how well I can torture myself with the old “did I leave the stove on” conundrum, and all of this is because I am petrified of causing a fire and being the reason that everyone loses everything. So you can imagine the force of will it took to keep myself from turning the power walk way up on my way to finding out whether it was me or my neighbours who’d left their gas on.
Fortunately, the answer was neither. It was a 3 alarm blaze in an abandoned synagogue about 2 blocks away. Blessedly the wind was driving the smoke away from my apartment so after a few minutes of circling the scene watching the flames licking out the windows while 4 fire engines emptied the hydrants upon it, we headed back to the East River. We sat on a bench staring at Williamsburg and watched as the lights on the bridge flickered to life. As the darkness thickened and the cyclists sped by with their boomboxes on their bicycles. It was so beautiful and peaceful; a perfect foil to what was to be the rest of the night.
We wandered back to my place and crawled into bed just in time for those charming New Yorkers to fall ill with another case of contagious honking. Who knows why Orchard Street was gridlocked at 11pm on a Sunday, but by god was it ever. I mean, sleep is nice, but why not honking!? Which may have contributed to my exhaustion today.
Tired as I am, however, I had every intention of going to an interesting sounding series of talks this evening. So much intention in fact that I spent half an hour in Delancey Street station trying to make sense of today’s delightful transit mess. The MTA had a notification up about southbound F trains, but said nothing about northbound which is why I stayed waiting on an F train for 5 minutes as it sat in the station until finally the conductor let us know there were signal problems at our station but we’d be going shortly. She would soon revise that to, we won’t be going anywhere until it’s fixed so I headed upstairs to the M train. Waiting another nearly 10 minutes for an M train I would be rewarded with another delightful announcement. The M train was foiled by signal problems at Broadway-Lafayette and so was running on the J line. They helpfully advised us to head back downstairs to the F train that still hadn’t moved an inch. Another ten minutes later, they announced that if we wanted to get to Manhattan we would need to ride to Brooklyn first. It was then that I threw in the towel and decided to just get rolled ice-cream and go home.
I’ve been eyeing the rolled ice cream place near my apartment for ages and this seemed as good a time as any so I popped in for matcha ice-cream topped with whipped cream and strawberries. It was a delicious $7 and the perfect entre to the rest of my evening which as finally devolved into blogging while watching Sex and the City. I’d never actually watched it before and I thought since I live here now I really ought to. It’s incredibly fluffy and sufficiently brainless as to provide perfectly adequate background noise for my writing. Let’s just pretend that I’m not going to binge watch the whole series.
The Salsa Girl