Helluva town

Let's begin with another little glimpse into my flawed character, shall we? All week it has been sneakily freezing, which is to say, beautifully sunny with a cruel icy wind. During these chilly days, I've been peevishly at work, doing little and writing nothing. Today is Saturday. An extravagantly summery Saturday. The world is my proverbial oyster. So I opt to stay in my cold apartment in front of the computer. A device in front of which, to recap, I've been sitting all week. Conclusion: I am ridiculous.

This time last week I was in New York. I feel a bit glamorous just typing that. New York is that sort of place. Every time I get home from NY, I have to talk myself out of the NY fantasy. I remind myself that if I actually lived in there, I would have to suffer through the winter, be weary to the point of nausea every time I had to get on the subway, and exist in a state of abject poverty. On vacation, none of this is true. On vacation, NY is a grand adventure. I am all proud and excited when I take the subway and actually emerge where I intended to go; I eat out at ridiculously charming restaurants; my friends are terribly glad to see me because it's been a year or so; I blithely spend hundreds of dollars on theatre tickets; I stay up till it's early and sleep till it's late.

Last week, after being seated on the red eye in front of a screaming seat-kicker (who to be fair, was a small child, not a deranged adult, not that that made me like him any better), I emerged into an unseasonably warm NY day. I dropped my suitcase off at the hotel waaayyyyy downtown and then went uptown for tea at Alice's Teacup, home of hearty scones and horribly spoiled little uptown girls. Throughout the city, trees were in full bloom. Warning: If you want to avoid falling in love with a city, do not go when its trees are in full bloom. I walked to the park where tulips and daffodils were onnly slightly more numerous than visitors to the zoo. I lugged my massive winter coat around and resisted the urge to go up to strangers and say, "I'm not crazy. Really. The weather report said it would be cold." I tried to take full advantage of the lavish beauty of the afternoon, but, feeling increasingly delirious, I headed back to the hotel and pleaded to be allowed to check in early. The kind man at the desk told me that my reserved room was not yet ready, but he could put me in the Junior Suite for no additional charge [mind you, the only reason I'd gone at all was because of a Hotwire deal of $130 a night]. Oh, all right. If you must put me in the suite, I suppose I can accept it.

Up to the 50th floor. From the hallway, there is a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall. From the, ahem, living room of room 5002, there is a view of the Statue of Liberty; from the bedroom an expansive view of the Hudson. I stand there laughing. The room is larger than the some friends' NY apartments. I set an alarm clock and crawl into the king-sized bed. The front desk clerk calls "Miss Kiernan? Is everything satisfactory?" Um...yes. Yes, it is. Actually, is it okay if I live here forever?

That night I went to see Jailbait in the West Village (more flowery trees), which was brilliantly performed. In order to make it in time, I ate a very hasty meal at Philip Marie. In fact, I'll bet no one has ever eaten there quite as inelegantly as I did. But I made it, damn it. After the show, I hunted fruitlessly for West 10th Street for the better part of an hour. Apparently, from Bank Street, W. 10th Street is basically a figment of one's imagination. At the point I was going to give it up, it popped into view, so I had a sangria at Alta beside a young woman who became increasingly wasted and eventually drew conspiratorially close to me and inquired whether I had any painkillers. Because I am me, I initially interpreted this to be a request for aspirin. It wasn't. I didn't.

On the way back to the hotel, I had a train misadventure in which the A capriciously began pretending to be an F and took me to the very edge of Chinatown where my fellow passengers urged me to get off before heading into Brooklyn. Sigh. I had to go back to where I started and wait for the E, which is what I ought to have done in the first place. Valuable lessons all around. I left the curtains open and looked at the view until I fell asleep (about seventeen seconds later).

Friday, brunch with the illustrious (which to me is a brilliant illustrator joke, but probably not to anyone else) Sara Varon at Bubby's Pies. She agreed to split the banana cream even though she really wanted the chocolate peanut butter. She's nice like that. Then I got to see my cousin Dan in his new fancy NY life. Sunny Upper West Side apartment with a view. He was giddy with spring fever and on our walk through the park, he pointed out almost every flower individually and greeted them all like the long-lost friends they were.

By the time I went back to the hotel, my dear friend Talya had arrived from Amherst and was gratifyingly agog at our lavish accommodations. Actually, I think she feared I'd gone insane and got the most expensive room on earth, her children's college funds be damned.

We had dinner at Jules Bistro, which I love and which is convenient to the Public where we saw the first preview of a bad play by Craig Lucas called The Something Forest. The Screaming Forest? The Way Too Long Forest? The Is There Really Any Reason For That Man To Be Naked Forest? The Why is Freud a Character in this Stupid Play Forest? Something like that. For me, dinner also featured the first of a great many opportunities to speak French. And you know how I like that. Seriously though, are there any French people in France? Or are they all eating in NY? Not a day went by that I didn't have some French chat.

Oh my, how long this is. You can stop reading at any time.

Saturday it rained, but (Ha! Take that precipitation!) we had matinee tickets, so it made no difference. If The Blah Blah Forest perhaps presented the hypothesis that very long dysfunctional family dramas might be a terrible idea, August: Osage County immediately disproved it. The rain had stopped when we emerged.

In a bold departure from our usual theatre-glutton ways, Tal and I did not go to an evening performance. Instead, we spent many hours over dinner at Barmarche in SoHo. We ate at the bar, which I think is actually the very best place to be if you plan to talk and talk and talk to your friend because, heck, she's right next to you and she can hear everything you say. After dinner, we shared rice pudding at Rice to Riches, which features signs that endlessly highlight the fat content of their product. Things like: "Eat whatever you want; you're already fat." Um...okay. Thanks, I guess. A curious marketing technique that seems to hurt them not one bit. Feeling that our caloric intake was not quite what it might be, we then each had a whiskey at some random bar, before heading back to, ahem, the suite.

Tal left Easter morning, but I had a few hours before I had to go to the airport. I had intended to wander around, but there was a relentless icy wind blowing, so I was delighted to stumble upon what, for me, was a perfect cafe. Doma Cafe on the corner of 7th Ave S and Perry, is a place I would go constantly if I were a local. It is quite small, but crammed with tables. Even though every table was occupied, it was strangely quiet--no one forced to yell at their companion. The house rules are posted on hand-written signs by the counter. "Absolutely NO to-go cups in the cafe. To-go means to go. Slow down." "Please no cell phones in here." "You're welcome for two hours, then it's time to leave." I had french toast at a table for one facing the corner where two huge windows met. A long blossom-covered branch reached into view of the nearer window and was more Eastery than any number of bunnies would have been. I pulled an ancient hardcover copy of The Bobbsey Twins in the Great West off the bookshelf, ate my breakfast, drank my tea, spoke to the requisite French people at the next table and was perfectly happy. The wind had died down when I left (before the two-hour limit, you'll be relieved to hear) and I was able to amble about a bit.

Finally, it was time to go back and fetch my suitcase. But first, I walked over to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge to say hello. I realize I'd never actually seen it outside movies. It actually does exist. People walk over it in droves. I had a soft-serve ice cream cone, smiled at the people and the fountain in front of City Hall, and then, back on the trusty E, suitcase in hand, went back to JFK.

Now, home in my prosaic real life, I remind myself that somewhere in a fifth floor walk-up, some girl in Manhattan is dreaming of San Francisco.