Sunday, November 11, 2012

New York, on paper and in person

So much has been said about New York City, and yet . A few weeks ago, I was lucky to have gotten to see the city while visiting some wonderful friends. Mostly I walked around Manhattan and Brooklyn until I got tired. I took pictures, but not as many as I would have liked. I ate a ton, but there’s always more to be tried in a city of the world. I saw the city in beautiful light, from the Staten Island ferry, the 7 train, the sidewalks of Cobble Hill, and the High Line, but there is so much more I’d like to explore. These are some favorite places I explored thanks to my knowledgable friends.
    Windows along the High Line
  • Spa Castle - a multi-story Korean spa destination a shuttle ride from central Flushing. It was well organized (with a lot of rules, but they definitely make sense), most relaxing, but also brilliantly kitschy. You wear matching uniforms (a t-shirt and giant shorts-pink for girls and blue for boys) in the sauna areas and can order dumplings, a margarita, or steamed corn-on-the cob. A novel experience. 
  • Bluestockings - an self-proclamedly activist book store and organizing space in the Lower East Side. I found inspiration in every direction, buying one book but leaving with enough reading and gift ideas to keep me going for months. 
  • Theater for the New City - we saw a production of A Bicycle Country, which is now over, but the strong production, small theater, and ticket prices made me want to check out some of the other shows in these small cooperative spaces. 
  • Union Square farmer’s market - Many of you have been here or go regularly, but I can’t resist singing the praises of the quality of the available produce. The prices were even impressively good for the location.  
It was a treat to see how my friends live in this city and to imagine the life I could have there. The best part was getting to spend time with people I enjoy each day I was in New York. Thank you guys.

What does this city need?

New York stars in these two novels, both of which I highly recommend.

In Teju Cole’s Open City, a Nigerian-German psychologist explores his thoughts, past, and relationships while walking around the city, meeting with old friends and teachers and commenting on music and art. The result is a meditative but melancholy look at the city and at our thoughts with many  beautiful moments.

My brother and I heard Cole speak as part of a writer’s workshop in Moscow, Idaho in September. I was impressed by his ability to express complex ideas in artfully simple ways. His answers to questions regarding the writing process and about politics were equally poetic. He seemed like the kind of person who could talk about anything over a pot of tea.

My favorite book about New York (and one of my favorite books ever) has been Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. The book tells the interwoven stories of several characters surrounding the 1970s wire walk between the World Trade Center towers. I identified strongly with these characters, as different as they were from each other and from me.

What are your favorite books about New York or your city?

View from the High Line 
Seats on the Staten Island Ferry
A few more city photos here

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