New York State of Mind?

It seems as though I may actually get home tonight. Snow has been falling continually in Manhattan since 7am, so it was looking a little sketchy for a while. This morning, as I have the past two mornings, I walked a couple of blocks up the street to get coffee at Zibetto’s. They serve lattes in tall glasses drunk standing up at a narrow marble counter by Italian baristas. The words “ciao”, “buon giorno”, and “un altro cappucino” echo off the hard surfaces. I had no idea there were still so many native Italians in New York.

At first, I was unconcerned by the snow. It didn’t seem to pose any threat. The only difference between the rain of the day before yesterday, and today’s snow, was color. If possible, the snow was even wetter, or maybe there was just more of it. Not exactly a day to be out strolling, people watching, or taking in the sights, unless one enjoys the idea of getting soaked while watching others run to avoid that certainty. With a few hours left in my visit, I checked out of my hotel, stashed my suitcase and camera bag, shoved my camera in my purse and took the subway to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had wanted to see the exhibition of Bronzino’s drawings, and the last time I was at the Met was during a deluge a number of years ago so today’s weather seemed to indicate another visit was in order.

Upon exiting the subway, I headed toward Central Park. Or, at least that was where I thought I was headed. A block later, I realized my mistake and corrected course. I’m not sure why that always happens. There’s something about being underground that messes with my internal compass, which, as noted yesterday, seems to be susceptible to calibration issues.

In these kinds of situations, I actually refuse to ask directions. Its ridiculous. “Which direction is Central Park?” and with a map in hand? Are you kidding? So, I usually “waste” a few minutes reorienting myself fairly regularly in unfamiliar cities. My reorienting led me to the Met via Central Park, so I had to take a mini-detour and walk for a few minutes among the now snow-covered trees. They have mini-snowplows that remove the snow from the walkways. A number of people were out walking dogs and even jogging on treacherous pathways covered with a slippery, slushy coating left behind by the plows while fresh snow was rapidly accumulating.

Walking in the Snow

After a couple of hours in the museum, it was time to head back to my hotel to catch the shuttle. The traffic circulation still seemed unhindered by the snow, but it was unrelenting and if anything, getting heavier. I wasn’t worried, but in the back of my mind, I was starting to wonder if all was going to go according to plan. I didn’t mind getting on the shuttle to go to the airport earlier than I thought was necessary, but I did mind sitting in the shuttle hungry, pants soaked and clinging to my legs from the knees down, not having had enough time to grab some lunch or change to something dry before leaving. The guy was early, waiting for me at the hotel, so I had to dash. I asked if I had time to go grab a sandwich, but he said no, and told me he’d stop somewhere. After the shuttle was packed full of people he asked if I still needed to stop. He said he had forgotten. I could feel eyes on the back of my head. I was not about to make a shuttle full of people wait for me to go into a deli and get a sandwich, so I said I was fine, I could wait and get something at the airport. The last passenger, a woman also going to Seattle, said that her husband had made her two peanut butter sandwiches and she only wanted one. She reached into her bag and handed me a sandwich made on “Zabar’s health bread”. It ranked high on the list of peanut butter sandwiches that I’ve eaten in my life; somewhere up there with the squished ones pulled out of packs and eaten on mountain tops and at the base of climbing crags, for the same reasons.

In retrospect, what I should have done, is get a cab, ask the guy to take me to a good deli, buy some food to take with me and arrive back at my hotel dry and with food to go to the airport. Next time I come to New York, I’m going to remember that idea. We never take cabs in Seattle, so I don’t tend to think of them as a resource, but I would be willing to bet that a cabbie in New York could handle that mission.

I’m writing these last words, sitting at my own kitchen table having started this entry on the other side of the country. Having let my experience of the last few days sink in for a few hours.

I told a friend that New York is “not my kind of city”, and that’s true. But it is in a way that I hadn’t thought about until I was at the Met today. In a way, its a city for all of humanity. It is a temple to the loftiest creations of the human mind of every era. At any moment in time one can see and experience in various places in the city amazing works of the highest of culture from all over the globe. In this one visit, my own mind tracked back in time through Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu philosophy and art in Asia, through architecture and art in Egypt and Europe, the Surrealist movement in Paris, to the “Picturing an Ethical Economy” exhibition which held my photograph. The city itself is a Monument to different eras and to varying parts of our culture, with different areas representing art, music and theatre as well as various countries and ethnicities.

No wonder I felt a little overwhelmed. And no wonder I felt like I really didn’t do very much in three days…


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