Manhattan 2010 Travelogue

Our flight to NYC on Thursday, Sept. 30, was worrisome.  Storms moving up the east coast caused havoc with flight schedules.  We were delayed three hours in Charlotte, NC, and had to settle for an additional change of planes in DC.  Miraculously, our baggage arrived with us.  We landed at Abingdon Guest House around 8:30, ate an easy supper at Tavern on Jane, and turned in.

The storms hit the Mid-Atlantic region in earnest.  The news that night was full of stories of flooding and fatalities.  Forearmed,  we hoisted our umbrellas and ventured forth into the Village, with a couple of bookstores as waypoints, Partners & Crime and Three Lives & Company.  Partners & Crime didn't open until noon, so we moved on to Three Lives, which sets a standard for what an independent bookstore can be.  Absolutely clean and fresh, with an amazingly well-chosen selection for its relatively small space.  No "bargain books" or remainders tables.  No dross at all.  I bought a Penguin edition of three novels, Loving, Living, Party Going by Henry Green, whom Anthony Powell admired.  R. bought Restless by William Boyd, and A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé.

From Manhattan 2010

R. shopped a little on Bleecker Street.  We had lunch at John's Pizzeria.  We continued down Bleecker to Laguardia Place, passing through a strange zone of Metal/Pirate themed rock bars, and up through Washington Square.  Back to Partners & Crime, where I recommended to R. Red Hook, Reggie Nadelson's revealing 2004 novel about NYC real estate speculation and the fetishisation of Bohemia.

Supper at Mary's Fish Camp, where the food was very good, but where we were put off by the cramped tables and the noise level.  Maybe we're getting old, but Tavern on Jane had been very loud, and at Mary's, we had a hard time hearing the waitress.

Breakfast at Café Cluny, which seemed an oasis of peace.  Two perfectly poached eggs with short-rib hash for me, a ham & cheese croissant for R.

North on Washington toward Chelsea to walk the High Line Elevated Park.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  That an inspired group of visionaries could make a neglected industrial site into a place of refuge and beauty seemed to me a miracle.

From Manhattan 2010

Back to our room to put our feet up, and then off to the Rubin Gallery, having lunch on the way at the Chelsea Gallery Diner, a reuben sandwich for me, french onion soup for R.  We saw the Photos of Bhutan and Sikkim taken by John Claude White, a British diplomat stationed in Sikkim, around the turn of the last century.

We are spoiled by the stunning color work of photographers like Galen Rowell.  White was one of the first to photograph a portion of the Himalayas on his surveying expeditions, hauling his enormous wooden camera and fragile glass plate negatives on yaks over formidable terrain.  He accompanied the Younghusband Expedition to Tibet in 1903.

Another floor at the Rubin had an exhibition of Himalayan sacred art, cast metal statuary and Thangkas, painted or embroidered silk "icons".  I was amazed to see it.  In my twenties I was attracted to Tibetan Buddhism, and I once attended a retreat at the Baton Rouge Dharmadatu Center.  I'm sorry I missed the exhibit starting this week, Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism.

We rested our tired eyes and feet back at the guest house.  We had some time before our reservation at eight for dinner, so we walked a few blocks to the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, sat on a bench, and people-watched as the sun went down.

From Manhattan 2010

Supper at Piccolo Angelo, around the block from the guest house.  I had pasta and sausage with broccoli rabe.  R. had lasagne.  The space was small, maybe 100 square feet, with 50+ diners packed in, and it was so loud that I had to lean across the table to hear my wife speak.  The food was spectacular, though, and we traded plates after a while.

We ate so much that our stomachs hurt.  Our ears were ringing from the noise.  Groaning in our room afterward, we wondered whether this might be our last visit.  I sipped scotch and read Green's Living, a tale of factory life in 1920's Birmingham, England.  It reminded me strongly of Alan Sillitoe's later novel of 1930's Nottingham, Key to the Door.  After several hours, feeling no longer in pain, but only full, I turned in.

We took a taxi up to Midtown, to the Church of Our Saviour at 38th & Park Avenue, in the Murray Hill neighborhood, for the 11 o'clock mass.  When I hear Pope Benedict talk about the patrimony of the Anglican Church, I think of Father George Rutler.  A former Episcopal priest, Father Rutler has made the Church of Our Saviour a synthesis of all that is best in the catholic tradition of Christianity: Roman, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox.  Worship there is an experience of an ecumenically catholic Divine Liturgy, ushering one into the heavenly temple, in the company of the angels and saints.

From Manhattan 2010

Again by taxi to the Café Sabarsky, a restaurant featuring Viennese food, in the Neue Galerie, a museum of early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design.  Thinking of my mother, I had an open-faced liverwurst sandwich with onion comfit, followed by a slice of sachertorte and coffee.  Yum!

Some of the works on display at the museum, however, particularly those by Egon Schiele, I thought were grotesque and unlovely.  We moved on up 5th Avenue to the Guggenheim Museum to see the exhibition, Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918–1936, as well as some side rooms with works by Kandinsky and others from the Early Modern period.  I was thrilled to view the paintings by Kandinsky.

To see a work like Blue Painting on the wall before me was electrifying.  Reproductions in books cannot impart the magic of such a painting.  Our visit to the Guggenheim turned out to be the high point of our visit, and a very satisfying way to end it.

It took us a few tries to get a taxi back to the West Village.  A couple of drivers wanted fares to Brooklyn, and turned us down.  Finally we found one who cheerfully took us back by way of FDR Drive along the East River, skirting busy Midtown with all its Sunday crowds.

We weren't sure where to eat supper.  We wandered along Bleecker, looking at menus in windows.  Everything sounded too heavy.  No more potatoes!  We found ourselves returning to Café Cluny.  It had been so pleasant and calming Saturday morning, and it was again.  We both had fish: pan-fried skate for R., and poached cod for me.

Walking back to our room, we stopped in at Left Bank Books, which has moved since our last visit from its old location on West 4th Street to a space two doors down from the guest house on 8th Avenue.  Left Bank Books is devoted to Modern and Postmodern literature, and to the Beats.  Its front windows were filled with collectible first editions:  Lolita, for example, in the 2-volume Olympia Press edition.

I don't collect rare books, but the last time I visited I found a really nice hardback reading copy with dust-jacket of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer.  I'd only had a cheap old paperback all these years until then.  I didn't see anything that I wanted, (apart from a pricey edition of Kerouac's Visions of Gerard that I had read years ago), but then R. spotted War Prose, a collection of pieces about the Great War by Ford Madox Ford, and I bought it.

Back in our room, we spent some time packing for our flight back on Monday, then settled in to watch a new Kurt Wallender mystery on PBS.  We'd had a fantastic visit, and fallen in love with Manhattan all over again.

From Manhattan 2010

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