On Monday afternoon, a week ago, my mother-in-law, the Girl, and I arrived in New York City. We risked the perilous adventure of a taxi cab ride (yes, I would be tempted to classify this as an adventure….but I won’t) that took us past incredible landmarks, eventually bringing us to our apartment on East 82nd Street.
The apartment? TINY. The owner listed it as having one bedroom. Nope. It was a one room. Not a separate bedroom. Just one room. But the bed was powerfully comfortable and given that I spent very little time in the apartment, I could care less. I will happily rent the apartment again, but, once more, next year’s summer vacationing might be eastward towards Germany. Or westward towards California. I don’t know.
I have a year to save, a year to dream, a year to plan and create my itineraries and then abandon everything and move towards doing something else and loving the beauty of life.
But, last Monday, we arrived in New York City and were greeted by our hostess and then, dropped our luggage and bolted out the door. We walked through the southern half of Central Park and down into the city where we eventually made our way to Times Square.
I have to admit….I really don’t like Times Square. For a person with ADD, this is a nightmare of constant distractions. On top of that, the fact that it is a glorious nightmare of a tourist trap makes me shiver. When I was a child, I mistakenly thought my parents called tourists terrorists and used to think they were one and the same.
Fortunately, I think New York City government read my blog from last year and the Creepys (the people wearing costumes in order to have pictures taken and then earn “tips”) were sidelined. Literally. In the pedestrian walkways, large sections of pavement had been painted green (or some color that definitely was different from tarmac black or concrete white-gray), and the Creepys were confined to the painted quadrants.
Thank God. I could follow my daughter through Times Square as she made her pilgrimage to the Disney Store without having to worry about Creepy-hands grabbing my arm and holding me hostage because I try to be nice to everyone. I know these people are trying to earn a living, but I really found them…creepy.
We made it to the Disney Store and the Girl bought a Stitch plush. In the Disney store, I swear I saw Micheal Cudlitz, aka Abraham from The Walking Dead. He might have been an amazing lookalike. I am willing to be wrong. I still think it’s funny, though, that a cast member of The Walking Dead might have been in the Disney Store…amazing. And ironic. We made it to the Lego store where the Girl drooled over the Ewok Village (I am so proud of her nerd-dom) and then made her own mini-figures. We stared at the golden statues in Rockefeller Plaza and I marveled at how tiny the plaza looked. And then we walked back to the apartment, retracing our steps through city streets and climbing the web back to our little corner of this incredible metropolis.
Tuesday, though, was art-day. After a delicious breakfast at Gracie Mews Diner (really, challah bread French toast….AMAZING), we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have to admit, I was a bit awed at the cost of the museum…until I learned that it was a “pay as you can.”
I love the Smithsonian museums because I can afford to go to them as often as possible…because they are free. I can walk under the masterpieces and stare at beauty and just love the gorgeousness of life. Therefore, when I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stood in the slowest line because the museum worker selling tickets was doing everything she could to ensure that non-English speaking Chinese citizens could understand that they didn’t have to pay the full recommended price. The young woman pulled out her iPad and typed up what she was trying to say and used a translation app in order to communicate with the guests.
She could have just charged them fifty dollars and called it done. They paid twenty. Because that was what they were comfortable paying. And I truly respect this young woman because she didn’t judge them; she didn’t swindle them. She was courteous and respectful and kind.
I love it.
As I was preparing for my New York City trip, my mom told me about a special art exhibit (on loan from a museum in Berlin) that was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a collection of Greek antiquities from Pergamon. I wish Mom could have joined me, but having my mother-in-law (Momil) with me was precious.
My Momil has taken several classes in Greek mythology and art that included a study abroad trip. So as we walked through the exhibits, she pointed out special details that I would have generally glanced over. She explained the purposes of specific statuary, the reasons why special details existed.
Together, we walked the Girl through the exhibit and she found a bust she decided was one of our ancestors (my maternal grandfather’s family is from Greece). I continually took pictures of the artwork (and the accompanying plaques) and sent them in groups of ten to my mother. Although she was in Germany, I took her with me through New York City, and, in a way, we were together in spite of the miles.
We left the Pergamon exhibit and I was dazzled by the sign recommending yet another guest exhibit, the Court and the Cosmos. The artwork spanned from the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries and came from the Middle East.
I confess, I was worn out by the time we hit this exhibit and I skimmed my way through the antiquities. But what I loved was that the people of the time period valued literacy and writing. Beside the astrolabes and statuary were books I wish I could read but could only marvel at. Beautiful calligraphy unfurled across the page and I wish I could read everything. Inkwells, pen boxes, golden writing outlined in reds and blues…I was living in a paradise in which the written word was currency and I was bartering in similes and metaphors.
We had lunch in the Met’s cafeteria. Nothing exciting…
And then we went to the final exhibition for the day…an exhibit on fashion and the usage of new textiles and fabrics, especially non-organic materials including “fabric” created by 3-D printers.
The anchor piece of the exhibit was a wedding (?)dress made from scuba-fabric; the train had to be at least ten feet in length…if my horrible depth perception is correct.
I am not one for fashion in terms of following fashion trends. But I love the artwork of fashion. For several years, I passionately followed Project Runway and loved watching how designers would construct wearable works of art.
Each dress was selected due to its construction and how it reflected artistry within a physical, tangible form. This was artwork that people were encouraged to touch…or at least the designers and the models. Two circles of alcoved galleries held dresses renowned for their embroidery, lace or leatherwork, their usage of pleating, electronic construction (two dresses were literally remote control operated…), beading, or other unique forms of textile construction. One dress had feathers arching over the shoulders, as though the wearer had just furled her wings. An Irish wedding dress was a wearable garden with fern leaf lacework along the bottom hem and flowers crocheted into the bodice, almost as though Eve had traded her extra rib for the Garden of Eden.
One dress I initially ignored…it looked like a designer had covered a little black dress with the plastic tags used to affix the paper tags to garments. I hated it, thought it was tacky. And then, as I walked past, I realized that the plastic tags were molded into flowers with long, filigreed stems.
Ethereal music, arching lights, projected images of closeups of beadwork or lace created a cerebral experience as we moved through a labyrinth of cloth and quilted plastic. And everywhere, it was beauty…beauty…beauty.
Eventually, we left the museum (about thirty minutes before closing), walked across the park, and made our way to Gray’s Papaya. Just before we left the park, we sat down at the Strawberry Fields mural memorializing John Lennon. While we listened to a man singing “Imagine” and watched people laying out a heart made of sunflowers, a pair of young men swigging pink liquor and smoking cigarettes worked hard at flirting with a young woman who continually cast glances and shy smiles in our direction.
My Momil and I decided we would not leave this young woman to the drunken flirtations of a young man carrying a clear plastic bag filled with bottles to be traded in for the nickel-dime deposits. So, when the man was sufficiently distracted (he was asking a man not speaking English how to grow a thick mustache), we invited the young woman to leave the park with us.
Grateful, she immediately joined us; as we left, she talked about visiting from Utah in order to work with a modeling agency. Pointing at her waist, she talked about how the cosmologists had cut her hair, dyed it bright red-orange. Casting nervous glances over her shoulder, she talked about going home…and I could hear the edge of frustrated defeat in her voice. She hadn’t received a coveted phone call…her adventure in New York was over.
We parted ways. And as my family and I crossed another street, we walked beside a mother pushing a pram with her one-week old baby within it. In the course of ten footsteps, we learned that this was the mother’s first walk following her c-section, that she felt ugly and deformed.
But, she was lovely. I wouldn’t have known that she was recovering from a c-section if she hadn’t said anything. In the space of four blocks, we exchanged pleasantries, talked about the exhaustion of giving birth, the instant love that is magically conjured the moment we are handed our children.
I think this is what continues to make me fall in love with New York City. In eight hours, I went from staring at artwork from Ancient Greece to eating a hot dog covered in sauerkraut and onions in a tiny, corner dive on the westside. I am not as aggressive as the average New Yorker, but when I am walking along the paved paths of Central Park and humming along to “Imagine,” I know that I am in a place where I belong.