New York City: eating, touring, reading

by anneMoore on June 28, 2018

More travel, this time to New York to enjoy family and friends and to bury my mom in Northern New Jersey, beside my father. I’d been dreading the burial — another round of public grieving — but the day was unexpectedly joyous.

I stayed on in New York to see family and friends, see art, go to a show, walk, eat well.

Of course I read: on planes, on the Path train to Newark, on the subway, late at night in my chic little room within my sister’s glamorous loft. (Thank you, Mary Beth.)

First, books I enjoyed:

You Must Change Your Life, the Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin, by Rachel Corbett 

Two of my favorite artists’ lives in one book? Yes, please. Rodin was studying forms instead of school books from early childhood and never stopped looking, drawing, sculpting, destroying. His motto: toujours travailler. Adopting the same ethos was Rilke, who came to Paris as a young man to write about Rodin, and stayed on to become the sculptor’s secretary and and on and off life long friend. Corbett seamlessly weaves their work, lives, loves into a smart read. 

A Month in the Country, by J.L. Carr 

Ah, Aristotle’s unity of time, place, action: that is this slender book, set in summer, in a Yorkshire village, where a psychically wounded World War 1 veteran has arrived to work uncovering a medieval mural within a church (he’s so poor he sleeps in its bell tower). Yup, he’s restored by work, nature, people. It reads like a gentler Hardy, a sharper Trollope. I didn’t want this story to end. 

Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata 

This is another short read, delightfully subversive. Keiko has been working in a convenience store since she was a teenager; she’s an odd duck, but very good at her job. Now in her early 30’s, her family wants her to move forward in life, to find a man to marry, to have children. (If they knew her thoughts on punishing childish behavior, they’d think again.) Enter a ne’er do well employed at, then fired from, the convenience store. His slovenly ways repulse Keiko — the two hate each other — but they end up living together in her apartment. Rumors of Keiko’s relationship with a man delight her family. But this is no love affair; memorably, he sleeps in the bathtub to avoid Keiko. I read a lot of Japanese literature in translation; it’s a hoot to read fiction about conventions up ended. 

The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner 

I don’t even like prison stories and yet this is my new favorite read. Kushner is so steady in her telling of the tragic life of Romy Leslie Hall, California state inmate W314159. It’s never in doubt what she did — clubbed to death her stalker — but we root for her, because she’s smart and spirited and was a loving mother to her young son. She makes a life for herself even with a life sentence. Another memorable character is Gordon Hauser, a Berkely graduate who teaches literature within the prison. This is not a preachy read but one comes away knowing that many women are imprisoned because of abusive men, or the poverty endured once they become mothers. The ending was not unexpected but how it played out broke my heart.

In New York, I enjoyed morning walks to the Christopher Street pier (thank you, Annabella) and also to the High Line. They’re magical any time of day but early is best to beat the heat and crowds.

My sister and I sought out Calatrava’s Oculus, a marvelous structure that looks like a giant bird or the bones of a whale, which holds a train hub in lower Manhattan. Beside it are the 9/11 memorial pools, appropriately dark and solemn, their falling water cooling the air. We wanted to eat French food — Les Halles had closed! its gate a tribute to the late great Anthony Bourdain — so we wandered back to her neighborhood to Le Midi, where we were happy to eat and drink well, at the bar. 

I took myself to Newark, via the Path train (clean, easy) and had a delicious Portuguese lunch in the Ironside neighborhood (thank you, Dave Brooks).

I took a crowd to the SoHo Playhouse for TJ & Dave’s  long-form improv show (wonderful, and completely made up!) We’d dined first at Tamarind,  a high-end Indian restaurant in Tribeca: divine food and service. Another night we saw the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel (1945, but oddly current, especially with black actor/singer Joshua Henry playing Billy Bigelow). What a production!  Dancing, staging, and –indelibly — the opera star Renee Fleming singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, a once-in-a-lifetime event which I’ve likened to seeing Baryshnikov dance, Michael Jordan play basketball, John Malkovich act. Worth braving the 42nd Street crowds, which are as thick as protest marches. We had another good meal at Marseille,  a haven of civility and good French food within that neighborhood.

My last day we went to the Morgan Library to see the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit (so much more than pie paintings!) and the Monsters and Manuscripts show. A beheaded saint continuing his good works? More images of St. George and the Dragon? Yes, yes, yes. Finally, a short L ride to Bushwick to see my son’s photography and Solarium Swim design studio and dinner at Faro,  a Michelin starred spot. Inventive pastas, yes, but so much more, especially excellent service. 

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