New York, Day 1

5-3-12

Still on West Coast time, I sleep till past 9. By the time Nick and I are showered and ready, the idea of breakfast has turned into a longing for lunch. Shoes still damp, we hop the subway to Carroll Gardens and meet my friend Ayun at Cubana Café. Ayun explains the Brooklyn neighborhoods to me – Park Slope, Bushwick, etc. – and I want to remember, but I know I won’t. I need a map, something visual beyond HopStop and Google Maps; my ability to visualize where I am has almost completely left me. Once the phone started doing the work, my brain stopped figuring out navigation.

My inability to retain geographic information matters little in the face of such fine company and delicious lunch. The molete sandwich consists of refried beans, cheddar cheese, roasted garlic and tomato salsa. I’m unsure about refried beans on bread, but the sandwich comes pressed and tasty. Ayun dispenses NYC guidebook advice while I bite and chew and nod.

The Freedom Tower

Next stop: Ground Zero. Or as it’s back to being called, The World Trade Center. Last year, when Kaylee and I visited, our trip coincided with the killing of Bin Laden. News vans and police lined the streets, celebration and tension permeated the air. Today is different. The Freedom Tower looks nearly done, the atmosphere differs little in front of the building than streets over. The temporary 9/11 memorial center is too crowded to enter. “Something really big happened here,” I tell Nick, needlessly and lamely. He already knows – and one cannot impart seriousness through words. It must be felt. For us, today, the construction, the bustle, overrides any sense of solemnity. We move on.

Next stop, the High Line. Again I’m impressed by the brilliance of repurposing unused elevated tracks into a parkway filled with greenery. I wish the people in charge of Humboldt’s nonexistent rail service had such spirit. We stroll for an hour, taking photos, enjoying the city views and foreign language conversation fragments. The air has enough of a chill to warrant a coat, but just so.

Birds on the High Line

I return Nick to the apartment, throw on some more make-up and a shorter dress, then head back out to meet Tag at a secret bookstore event. I can’t write too much about it – it’s secret – but suffice to say, sometimes a person loves books enough to collect them by the hundreds and sell them to people similarly inclined. Also, whiskey and, just as intoxicating, exchanges with people moved by words and ideas. Good books, booze and discussion – three of my favorite things – tucked away in a corner of New York.

The Comedy Cellar with MC Ardie Fuqua

We depart for the Comedy Cellar, a tightly run operation with more-reasonable-than-expected drinks and food (the falafel sandwich was $5 and quite good). Four comics and a funny MC had me cracking up for a solid hour. The place is small, maybe the size of the Alibi, with a low ceiling barely clearing the MC’s head. I’ve seen Todd Barry perform in San Francisco as part of a comedy festival. He was great then, but tonight he’s so much more intimate, seemingly less studied, looser. Being at the Comedy Cellar felt like being on the comics’ turf; we were expected to be good guests and in return, they lowered their guard and let us further in. (That’s how it felt. I could be romanticizing the whole thing. Which is fine, because I’m in New York, so I get to.)

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