Things that I forgot I love about New York

kanes diner

Before returning to the city after two years away, I made a list of the things I was looking forward to. Several important items didn’t occur to me at the time, but now that I’ve been back for six months, I’ve rediscovered them with delight. In no particular order:

diner tour

Decades old diners

I feel like diners are to New York what bistros are to Paris. At first glance they all look the same, but each one’s character is uniquely shaped by its history, the people who work there, and the clientele who frequent it. Many years ago, two friends and I went on a historic diner tour of northern New Jersey. This spring, we revived the format and spent the day eating one meal after another at various Bronx and Manhattan diners that have stood the test of time and gentrification. In August, we did a Brooklyn-Queens tour and blurred the boundaries to include a 100 year-old soda fountain and not one but two decades-old roast beef joints.

eddies sweet shop

It’s a shame to see so many vestiges of New York’s neighborhood past disappear year by year, but I’m trying to live it up in the ones that are left.

mets gameMets games

Without ever realizing it, I deeply missed the “green geometry of the playing field,” as former baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giametti called it. Being back in the stands on a blazing hot, crystal clear day and cheering my team on to victory during an otherwise (highly) lackluster season was heavenly. I wore the Mets cap I received for my tenth birthday (and which still fits because, as an optician pointed out at my glasses fitting right before I left for the game, “You have a tiny head.”) I was surrounded by people with thick New York accents, whose love for the team is intergenerational. I felt a deep sense of New York City continuity that I hardly ever feel anymore. On that note…

New York accents, fast disappearing

I read a prediction once that they will die out within one or two generations, replaced by Michigan standard, I suppose. Not sure if it’s true, but it saddens me.

Chowards violet gum and violet mints

Most people think it tastes like soap; I do, too, but in a good way. I have a thing for flower flavors and Chowards is no exception. Plus the packaging is both beautiful and vintage. And it’s a New York City original, since 1934.

general electric building

Excellent art deco and mid century signage and buildings

Design from the period between 1890s-1960s is my favorite, and in my angst about disappearing New York, I forgot how much beautiful typography and architecture the city retains from those times.

pocket park

Pocket parks

I most often think of New York greenery as within the purview of massive parks like Central Park and Prospect Park, but there are also so many tiny, peaceful squares of green dotting this city. They are lovely places to stop and sit amongst a tree and a flower or two.

murray hill

Magic in the everyday

I’ve stopped short several times at the sight of something blatantly apparent yet heretofore unseen by me in my millions of walks around the city. For example, I never noticed the ghost signage and old lettering on two buildings by Astor Place even though I’ve walked down the block they are on countless times. I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized there’s been a circa 1700s house (above) planted right off 3rd Avenue in Murray Hill this whole time. And I discovered a hidden-in-plain-sight cemetery a few months ago while walking a very well-trodden path in the East Village. These new-to-me, old-to-the-city gems remind me that there will always be places for me to explore and delights for me to discover in this city. It’s the embodiment of one of my all-time favorite quotes, by Roald Dahl: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Looks like it takes approximately two years away to jumpstart my NYC wonder.

Marseille

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When I arrived in Marseille I headed straight to the Old Port, where my friend Gilles met back up with me and offered to take me on a moto tour of the city. The mistral winds were blowing something fierce, and I had never been on a scooter before. This did not seem like a winning combination, but I said “pourquoi pas” anyway and off we went.  Continue reading

for the love of lettering

A roundup of some of the fabulous signs and storefronts I’ve wandered past in my strolls around Paris. IMG_1378

I would be willing to foot this store’s electricity bill and even throw in some replacement light bulbs if it meant I could see this sign in all its lit-up splendor.

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My second sighting of a hair salon named after Obama. (First was in Benin.)

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This sign is cool and also reminds me of the Godard movie, making it seem even cooler.IMG_2275

I just realized I’ve got three hair salons in a row. This one is housed in an old Art Deco dairy shop. The inside is super fabulous as well. IMG_1274

It’s a shame that I passed this bakery at a time of day when the brilliance of the gold-leaf artwork and lettering couldn’t be fully captured. It’s also a shame that it was closed for the summer holidays, as a peak through the windows revealed an interior seemingly unchanged since the Belle Epoque – pastel scenes painted on the molded ceilings, intricate tile on the floors, and lots of other beautiful details.

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More Art Deco magnificence. IMG_1340

More neon / hair salon magnificence. IMG_8521

Still more Art Deco magnificence.IMG_0349

And the one that takes the cake. I know it’s sort of cheating, since this building’s star power comes from way more than the lettering. And it’s not even a storefront, it’s a very famous theatre. I tried to get inside but couldn’t get past the not-very-ornate lobby since it was too early in the day. I’ll just have to come back some time. Maybe I’ll even see a show!

lo que hice en mis vacaciones de invierno

post_officeConsidering that my command of both French and Spanish is at a grade-school level, it seems appropriate to report on my vacations to French and Spanish-speaking countries with elementary school-style essays. Today I bring you the second installment: DF and Elsewhere edition.

Please note that I did not consult Google Translate or a living, breathing Spanish speaker for this. So what follows is not pretty, but it’s an accurate representation of where I’m at when I have only my brain and Spanish spell-check to rely upon:

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He llegado por la tarde en Cuidad de México (DF) y he ido a mi hotel en el barrio Condesa. La primera noche, he conocido a mi amiga de la universidad que vive ahora en DF. En el restaurante ella me dijo que puedo beber el agua además comer los vegetales frescos, si es un bueno restaurante, porque ellos anudan ‘iodine’ a su agua y limpian todo con este agua. Aunque el más importante reglo que he escuchado para México estaba de no beber el agua, decidí de crear en mi amiga y esperar por lo mejor. O sea que la primera cosa que he comido en México estaba la más prohibida: unos hojas de una verdura con agua no-de-la-botella (no-botellado?). Continue reading