Monday, March 31, 2008

New York Foray a Panoply of Experiences

Just back from the Big Apple after a three-day jaunt with my sorority daughter and friend for her spring break. Cold weather doesn't daunt the bustle or noise or commotion, as cab horns, sirens, hawkers, jackrabbit-starting autos and cell-phone yellers all compete to be heard.

It was tough to find a hotel, but after dueling between websites, Travelocity found us a place in the San Carlos Hotel that Orbitz, Kayak, Travelzoo and Expedia all claimed was full. A red-eye flight left the three of us zombie-esque upon our 10 am arrival, but a kindly desk clerk named Quron took pity and upgraded us to a one-bedroom suite with immediate entry. I plan to commend him.

Our first day in The City was frigid but sunny and we took the opportunity to
stroll with my NY daughter in Central Park. The benches in the sunshine were lined with bundled visitors, faces turned upward as ours were. Next to us was a young couple taking their 8-day-old baby girl, Mia, outdoors for the first time. Alice in Wonderland was alive with climbers; the characaturist sat sketching with a crowd of approving onlookers.

Though my school-break daughter was there for serious shopping, my secret agenda was to gain a peek at the life of my NY college senior. The biggest thrill for me was being surrounded by the lithe voices of six young women singing choral rounds in rehearsal under the sweet-voiced director whose lilting instruction was as melodious as the harmonies I heard. That a child of mine could reach notes as distantly ethereal as the far-octave pitch she achieved was in itself worth the plane flight.

Also leaving me flying was the chance to observe a dress rehearsal of her school
play, for which she ultimately switched her Northwestern normality for a thick Brooklyn accent. I happened to luck into also hearing the presentation of a veteran Broadway actor who had played for years in the same comedy my daughter helped stage; his insights into the struggles of actors just to survive were as startling as they were entertaining. Needless to say, throughout all my adventures, my paparazzi camera recorded it all.

The days of shopping, though, did have their amusements. Walking from 50th Street all the way south down Broadway to Canal Street gave me a slice of activity as diagonal as the avenue's slant. Macy's Flower Show was a breathtaking display of real blooms of brilliant hues stuffed in long troughs above all the merchandise, down the centers of aisles and forming astounding stands of creative floor-to-ceiling displays. If my inveterate shoppers hadn't rushed me on, I would have cooed over every blossom.

Canal Street, formerly for ferreting fabulous fakes, now brought every hushed mutter of "Coach?" the reply, "No more Coach," or, "No Coach, Police." The stalls just north of Canal on Broadway that once housed colorful Guatamalan boiled wool purses, rainbow-striped scarves, t-shirts and sunglasses were tarped-over and surrounded by a chain-link fence. One building that previously offered
obvious knock-offs in front but more convincing inventory behind rear false walls showed merely a plywood facade. I doubt the crack-down on counterfeiters has eliminated them; they've probably moved into new digs likely accessible with persistent surreptitious inquiries, though not to three ladies respectful of the law.

We left on a quest for the store "Joyce Leslie" (20 University Pl. between 8th and 9th Streets in Greenwich Village) in which the fashionista duo ultimately spent nearly four hours and a couple hundred dollars--while I escaped after a cursory and overwhelmed perusal. Racks of styles are arranged by color, the lemon yellow contrasted with black; the kelly green interwoven with white, jammed in a two-story labyrinth replete with dead-end cubbies and random rounders.

I just don't need more clothes. My closet is stuffed already with hand-me-ups, shirts, denim skirts, sweaters, tank-tops cast off by my youthful flaw-finders after a season or an unsatisfactory wash. I can't bear to discard something that could be worn; something I could combine with this or update with that or wear layered with the other--that I paid for! In most cases, my girls' pleas or requests or cajoles to purchase each of the items still echoes in my brain. I also too-clearly recall my own college days, when, (rather than walking both ways to class through snow drifts) I was forced by poverty (as well as lack of interest) to wear the same pair of jeans every day with one of my four tops (laundered every other Friday). This frugality has led me to jam my closet with unwearables impossible to abandon, denying some African citizens of desperately needed too-short tops and shrunken hip-huggers that would have been shipped their way jumbled in ton-sized blocks.

New York at this point seems a fantasy, a faraway hive of bumble bees buzzing and rushing and honking seriously in their separate world. The kosher restaurants were wonderful (though expensive; Gusto Va Mare's heavenly Peanut Butter Pie is pictured), the sights stimulating, the contact with my
NY daughter exhilerating, but I'm glad to be back home, even under book deadline, even with an every-weather weekend of snow, sleet, hail, rain, sunshine and overcast. Time to get back to work and stop procrastinating by basking in a dream.

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