Sitting on the Big Apple

New York, you make me like apples.

I love hitting the city for the simple pleasures of eating and walking—an everyday occurrence to New Yorkers but the stuff of travel to me. I could make a vacation of just looking.

You know what’s underrated in NYC though (and yet another gerund in this gerund-filled post)? Sitting. Sitting is immensely enjoyable after walking up 72,000 subway steps and switching from the C to the E to the 3 to the Z (did you know there was a Z?) and then getting on an express train by mistake and doubling back. Some savvy person should charge people to sit; I would have paid serious money for an extra wooden bench in the subway or for the privilege of stretching out on someone’s stoop.

Enjoy this slideshow (taken while walking and sitting—not simultaneously, silly) of things that interested me but will probably not interest you.

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Dear Hotel Manager

Dear Helmsley Hotel manager,

When the fire alarm sounds at midnight, while I am asleep after walking for miles all over Manhattan, and I scramble to find the light and my clothes and shoes and wallet (because the sleepy cynic in me wonders if this is an elaborate ploy to steal my belongings), and I stumble to the door wishing I had read the bloody floor plan that tells me how to crawl to the nearest exit, simultaneously cursing the hole in my pajama bottoms, and the alarm stops and a guy in security says over the loudspeaker, “May I have your attention please. May I have your attention please. Please disregard the alarm you just heard,” 1) there is no need to demand my attention (you have it), and 2) right, I’ll just disregard the bloodcurdling alarm that catapults me from deep slumber into utter nocturnal confusion.

When I grant you the fact that the hotel is under construction and these things happen (which is not to say I wasn’t swearing like the plumber who was apparently fiddling with some valve in the middle of the night), the alarm shatters my sleep again at 6:15 a.m. and I barely reach for my shoes when that voice comes on again, asking if he might have my attention and this time declaring in a thick New York accent, “There is no need to panic. This is a false alarm.”

But then, I suppose it’s only fair to have two false alarms in one night because some guests were out late and missed the first one.

Still, when I write to you complaining, you might at least write back.

Ungratefully,

Sleepless in NYC

Feasting on NYC

I love New York (that should totally be a slogan) and recently attended a conference in Queens (trees!) but spent a remarkable proportion of the trip eating—95%, I’d estimate. Eating is usually the point when I go to the city. The beauty of traveling alone is that you can walk past a dozen couples waiting at Momofuku and get a seat for one at the counter where you can slurp ramen with other solo foodies. The guy next to me picks up his bowl to drink the last drop of broth.

“I’m so glad you did that,” I say “because I’m so going there.”

At Ippudo there’s a half hour wait, but hold on, there’s one seat at the counter. When the waitress comes, I tell her I’ll have the pork buns, of course.

“And you, sir?” she says turning to the guy next to me. He looks confused.

“Oh, we’re not together,” I say. “Unless he’s paying.”

He is not.

I watch the chefs pan-fry slices of unctuous pork and nestle them into cloud buns, then eat with abandon.

Mostly though, I look to the sky.

Where the boys are

Uninspiring billboard

A billboard after my own heart

The High Line

Provocative exhibit made me feel all “Rear Window”

Neon half-marathoners in Central Park

While in Central Park watching runners exhaust themselves, I make do with a Belgian waffle with chocolate from Wafels & Dinges that runs a food truck at Columbus Circle on the edge of the park and one inside the park by the zoo. If you think two identical trucks within a few blocks is excessive, you’d be wrong; by the time you finish one waffle you need another. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’d be wrong again.

When conversation flags

Steve Martin was a guest at the 92nd Y in NYC this week to talk about his new book, An Object of Beauty, a novel that centers around the art world, so it was no surprise that the conversation focused on art. Turns out, though, that no one wanted to hear about the art world. Apparently, the attendees wanted to hear funny anecdotes from his Parenthood days or what it was like to make out with Meryl Streep.

A Times article describes how in the middle of the interview, organizers passed a note to interviewer Deborah Solomon asking her to broaden the discussion (Ask him about Bowfinger!); the Y even sent out email to ticket holders the next day apologizing for the dull discussion and offering a refund. Ouch.

Granted, if I had paid $50 for the event, I’d like to feel the evening had value, but was it really worth humiliating Martin and his interviewer, essentially saying: you were boring. Conversations are just that. They’re unscripted and ebb and flow by nature. Not every conversation is scintillating (see: dating); not every conversation is as revealing as those clips on TMZ. The guy wrote a novel about the art world, and you’re attending a talk in New York City that—shocker—may delve into the art world. Can you at least try to live up to the cosmopolitan image of New Yorkers and pretend to care about art?

For those of you who do appreciate art and Martin’s take on it, he was just interviewed by Charlie Rose (another conversation about art . . . yikes!), which I found interesting. Note to those who attended the discussion at the Y: don’t bother; you’ll be bored—and Charlie Rose does not issue refunds.

Steve Martin, all artsy

Update: Steve Martin wrote a piece in the Times in response to the Y’s shenanigans and you can read it here thanks to my alert blogger friend, Kim.

 

The High Line

The High Line was an elevated subway line that ran up the west side of NYC that stopped running in 1980. A passionate group of volunteers championed the idea for a park to be built on the long, narrow strip of land that’s been unused ever since. Almost three decades later, the first leg of the park is open, about 10 blocks, and it is just what a park should be: pretty with plenty of places to plunk down. In addition to benches there are some honest-to-goodness chaise longues that defy you not to sit for a spell with a coffee or book. 

Oh, there are views too. It is, after all, New York City. 

I started at Gansevoort St., happy that there was no pronunciation test. I found a charming little enclave of bistros and boutiques and almost didn’t make it to the park for all the distractions. But spotting the sign, I trotted up a few steps to a new, quieter perspective. As all good things in New York, the park is no secret, but I found plenty of solitude and places to rest amid the morning hustle of moms pushing strollers and tourists recalling the city’s yesteryear.

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About halfway down the park, you can run down to street level and grab something to eat at Chelsea Market and do what the locals do: lounge away.

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Railroad tracks, an homage to the subway of days past, were incorporated into the design, and great care was taken with the plantings, though I did find myself looking around as I settled into one spot. The prairie milkweed emits a scent that is, well, not for everyone.  

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Lion on the loose

In New York, there’s always a possibility of seeing something incongruous, like a vintage amusement park lion in the back of a truck in Soho. Begs a story, no? Where did it come from? Where is it going? How many heads could fit in its mouth? Is it trying to eat that statue? Maybe it was a water fountain at a zoo. I don’t know, but it makes me want to curl up inside its mouth and take a nap. 

Roar.

Roar.

Forget Autumn in New York

Remember that awful movie Autumn in New York with Winona Ryder and Richard Gere? No? Well, don’t see it. As much as I thought the whole fall New York setting could save that movie, it couldn’t. Instead, you should go to New York in the springtime. My boyfriend and I just spent a few days exploring the city (read: walking an inhumane number of blocks) and savoring this unfamiliar season that is suddenly upon us. I saw actual buds on the trees. 

The masses are restless now that the nice weather has hit and the weekend in the city is a mob scene, but we found that on a weeknight stroll through Central Park at dusk we had the park to ourselves—as much as you can have anything to yourself in NYC. Families streamed through Riverside Park along the Hudson, eager to be outdoors where things were—gasp—blooming, and outdoor restaurants were littered with people sunning and eating at tiny tables leashed to tiny dogs.

With great trepidation, I even ventured out for a full day jacketless and in sandals, a bold move given that I had been wearing a scarf the day before. In the park, despite throngs of people walking, picnicking, and taking pictures—saxophone music wafting in the background—there were moments of beauty and stillness to be found. Like this view of the park where not one person could be seen. 

Central Park, you're pretty

Central Park, you're pretty

Even this turtle took a moment to sun itself…or was just hopelessly stuck on a rock.

The water is so close. But I think I'm stuck.

Am I stuck? The water is so very close...

Food trip: NYC

Some people go to NYC for the nightlife and culture. They hit Broadway, tour MOMA, walk the Brooklyn Bridge. My boyfriend and I went to eat. And four glorious days of eating it was. We ate our way through the city like children experiencing chocolate for the first time. 

Best of the trip: The Doughnut Plant. I’m pretty sure you know how great doughnuts are. I mean, they’re bad but great. But these doughnuts blow other doughnuts out of the boiling oil they’re fried in. I spotted my victim right away: the Chocolate Blackout is made with Valrhona chocolate, sprinkled with cake crumbs on top, and is filled with, brace yourself, chocolate pudding. I may not be able to eat a chocolate doughnut ever again. Also on display: a crème brülée, a cashew, a tres leches—enough exoticism to keep you breakfast-happy for days. And after a trek through Chinatown to find the tiny shop, I wasn’t sure if they would measure up. At nearly $3 a pop, they were outstanding. Of course, once you have them, you’re willing to pay any price. 

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Sugary bliss at the Doughnut Plant

We’d heard a lot about In-N-Out Burger in LA, so we were thrilled to find an outpost of New York’s answer to the best burger and shake: the Shake Shack. The burgers were juicy, the fries crinkly, and the shakes made with a light custard. We thought about camping out for the rest of our meals here, but it was only Day One. Too early to give in.

Heavenly burgah

Heavenly burgah

Next up was the consummate noodle bowl at Ippudo in the East Village, which we tracked down after reading this review in The New York Times. The savory broth was laced with scallions, soy sauce, and a tiny heap of something red that I thought would be firey, but wasn’t. My chopsticks got quite a workout making my way through the bottomless bowl of akamaru modern ramen ($13). The waitstaff was so welcoming, we wondered if we hadn’t just stumbled into a surprise party. The food was delivered with fanfare, too, making you and your food feel special. Stuffed, we were crestfallen to see the couple next to us chow down on some of the fluffiest looking pork buns we’ve ever seen. We almost returned for dinner that same night.

Ramen in tonkotsu (pork broth). Very slurpable.

Ramen in tonkotsu (pork broth). Very slurpable.

We hit the wall after trekking all over Hell’s Kitchen to find an obscure location of H & H Bagels, which I gleaned from Chowhound were not to miss. Except they were. We found the outpost hidden amongst car wash places and warehouses by the docks. They sold bagels, alright, if you liked them untoasted and wanted to buy some cream cheese to smear them yourself and then eat them standing up. We had more luck at Barney Greengrass on the Upper West side, a charming throwback to the 50s, complete with gruff men behind the counter who prepared smoked fish in between customers. We grabbed a quart of fresh-squeezed orange juice and enjoyed the bagels on a shady bench in Central Park. Seriously, could a Broadway show be better than that?

Barney Greengrass: the place to go for bagels

Barney Greengrass: the place to go for bagels

Smile, you’re in the NYC subway

Opportunities for Kodak moments abound in New York City. Times Square, Central Park, the skyline…you could close your eyes and shoot and capture something good. But subterranean photography is where it’s at. On a recent jaunt to the city, my mom and I found cool photo ops jumping on the subway at 23rd St. and off at 28th. I’m sure the novelty has worn off for commuters, but if you’re an infrequent visitor to the city, even the subway art is something to behold. We took advantage of every ridiculous shot resulting in us wearing tiled hats and being eaten by birds of prey—even if people on the train looked at us strangely and kids were pointing. Whatever. It’s New York City. You’ll never see these people again.