It’s funny that sometimes what becomes routine and normal is often stripped of its true magic. I have been visiting New York City since I was a child, but more frequently lately, since my sister Jenna and her husband, Mitch, have relocated to the Chelsea neighborhood. I never take New York for granted; you cannot ignore the beauty and brilliance of this place, but the last few trips have been a bit more … predictable, shall I say. I tend to escape to New York to have time to write, to visit my favorite bookstore, to pluck my eyebrows in their stellar bathroom lighting, to get a massage, to watch So You Think You Can Dance (my very well educated and professional sister is obsessed), and to paint my toenails. These are not New York trips I take. I do not take advantage of the 4:00 am last call, the all-night subway, or the endless bars and clubs. What I do spend my time doing, however, is eating the best food, wandering the parks, and pretending I live there.
This past trip reminded me of what this city is capable of, though. There’s no complacency anymore; I have been reminded of the city’s glory and am newly enamored with it. My decision to relocate here was not decided this weekend, but it was set in stone.
We popped into a tiny breakfast and lunch joint, just tripping distance from my sister’s front door, that had just remodeled and started serving dinner. There are about twelve seats in this tiny, modern space, so I’m wary to tell you of its location and name, for fear of us never getting a table so easily again. I’ll just say it sits unassumingly behind a pizza shop, has high stools and tables, windows that open floor to ceiling to the sidewalk, and a short menu of pizzas, cheeses (burrata included), cured meats, crostinis, roasted seasonal vegetables, risotto of the day, and more. I loved the space, the food was perfectly simple, and the wine selection made us all happy, even with incredibly different tastes. By the time we left we were the only patrons, and the walk home was quick. My sister is afraid she’ll go there too frequently now; it’s dangerous to have something so satisfying so close. I argue that this is just another incredible benefit to this city. We grab the dog and head to the park, where my sister and I do cartwheels on the Astroturf-covered pond. The park had just shown the US Open on a big screen, complete with bleachers and Astroturf seating. Thank you American Express, for sponsoring such a cool addition to the park.
I wake in the morning to Mokey, the big, black Schnoodle (I have no idea how to spell that, but it’s a Schnauzer-Poodle cross) climbing on the bed. After coffee, we leash up and head to Madison Square Park. She frolics with the other dogs in the dog park while I watch the dismantling of the installation that has been there all summer. Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s sculpture of the head of his neighbor, a young girl with a long braid, has been occupying the central grass for the summer. Completely white, it stood quietly and docilely while picnickers watched and photographed. It was called “Echo” and indeed, it seemed to echo the calm of the park back to the revelers. I watched as the crane picked pieces of the head up from the grass, placing them carefully on a truck for shipping to its next location. I also made time to flirt with a cute blonde man who liked my sister’s dog.
Mokey and I walked to Idlewild Books, a travel book store on W19th between 5th and 6th, where I purchased the newest book by Elif Shafak, a very popular Turkish novelist. I wanted something that focused the story on Turkey, since I’m about to endeavor on a great long trip there next month. Already I have had to exercise self-discipline to put the book away in order to write, the story has me enveloped so entirely, so quickly.
I accompany Jenna and Mitch to Serafina, where the pizza is as thin as cardboard but tastes like heaven, for a pre-show drink. They are seeing The Book of Mormon and I Am Jealous. The show is expensive and sold out, so I don’t see it as an option to go. However, Mitch, being the sly dog he is, reminds me that tickets are available on the street…the nervous, law-abider in me surfaces and I don’t believe it’ll be so easy. He’s confident though. We head outside and lo, with some wheelin’ and dealin’, I’ve procured myself an eleventh-row center seat. No joke, I hit the absolute jackpot. I cancel my dinner plans for Korean fried chicken with my friend Tasia, and settle in right behind Timothy Hutton. I passed Sigourney Weaver on the way in, too.
The show, written and directed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame, is everything you’ve heard it to be. Brilliantly sung, perfectly casted, and alarmingly offensive. Nowhere else on Broadway (or any other theater, for that matter) have I heard such swearing and graphic anatomical and sexual references. It was awesome; this is a musical, after all, written to poke fun of the Mormon faith by the South Park guys, of course it’s going to be offensive. Hilariously offensive, that is. I won’t give away any details, but to see a show getting such acclaim while it’s still running with its original cast is a rare treat, especially in the 11th row center. I also totally fell in love with one of the cast members; Jason Michael Snow, you’re the cutest thing ever. We took the obligatory and ridiculous Times Square photo from the middle of the street and hopped on the train.
We finished our night at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, a place getting as much praise for its farm-to-table, organic and seasonal fair. We sat at the back bar with Heather, an aspiring food blogger, drinking Reisling and Pinot Blanc, feasting on tomato and watermelon gazpacho, a warm, field green salad with crispy proscuitto and a farm egg, goat cheese and strawberry salad, and corn off the cob with parmesan and jalapeno. We finished with a peach and blackberry galette with sweet corn ice cream. Top that.
This was a dreamy few days full of promise and good living. This is how life should be, it turns out; full of family, great food, parks, art, and local theater … even if your local theater isn’t on Broadway.