home is where the Hungarian is

Hungarian Pastry Shop

Tonight, in a mood, I abandoned my more ambitious plans for an idea that sprung to mind last minute, as I was walking to the subway from work. Instead of heading downtown, I took the train to my old college neighborhood, where I drifted down a familiar path to my once-favorite cafe to do my Spanish homework.

Hungarian Pastry Shop would have delighted me even if I were walking into it for the first time. It’s a miraculous vestige of a bygone era, when individual shops had individual styles, when cafés were authentically warm and cozy instead of corporate. It’s bohemian without being crunchy, perfect for both studying and socializing, a community hub that is somehow also off the beaten path.

The objective amazingness of it was enough to warm my heart, but not enough to account for the visceral sense of goodwill, sentimentality and promise that washed over me when I sat down and took it all in. The fact that this place continued to be here day after day, unchanged, while I went away and came back years later, much changed – and having accomplished much of what I daydreamed about doing then, in this place – that was the fairly overwhelming thing.*

I started this blog for my love of the foreign, but at moments like these I’m well aware that there’s no place like home. (Especially when home is New York City.)

PS I wrote this instead of doing my Spanish homework.

PPS I’m now turning to eavesdropping on two underclassmen on a cute first date. The girl just said, “You never hear of a pet squirrel.”

* disclaimer: hormones may also have had something to do with it.

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