We have a day of no court proceedings. The witnesses for the respondent (the respondents being the bad guys) aren’t available until next week and so there you have it. A hush settles in. It’s as if it’s a snow day, only without the snow.
It’s our walking up and down Manhattan day. I can’t remember a visit to New York that doesn’t include it.
Fortified with a Bruno breakfast of lotsa eggs and breads and butter, we set out. From Bleecker Street...
...and, well, a few steps later, we stop. There is a display of photos of West Village homes (including a number of Bleecker Street brownstones) where artists lived and died at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
It would be a somber way to begin our walk, but for the posted quotes from the men and women, commenting in their final months on the worth of life and their pleasure at having lived it. (I am unfairly generalizing here, but the messages are quite beautiful and positive, without the bitterness that surely at some level these artists must have felt.)
And now our walk takes us to Washington Square. And we realize, as do others, that this is going to be a very warm day.
We continue north on Broadway. At 32nd street we stop for a couple of hours. I visit a friend who is recuperating at the Hope Lodge after a difficult medical procedure. She’s doing well and expecting to be back in Madison at the end of June. It's greatly reassuring to have this chat with her, as if it were any noon chat that we are likely to have on Bascom Hill.
Ed and I continue on Broadway, to the newly jazzed up Herald Square. You have to have somewhat mixed feelings here. Broadway becomes partly pedestrian and then almost fully pedestrian at Times Square.
Having lived with the Times Square of taxis and traffic nightmares, I should be thrilled to see this freshly created communal space. And yet, it’s only partly that. The cross streets still have traffic and the pedestrians still must pay attention to streetlights and cars. But the boundaries between sidewalk and street are fluid now. A bike path, weaving its way through the nightmare of people, cross streets and food vendors is trampled over by unseeing pedestrians, at the same time that brazen cyclists will give perhaps one warning, if that, and then speed into the crowd.
And so it feels like a loud and brutal place, at the same time, as so many have pointed out, it has also the aura of a mall.
Still, I appreciate the freedom of movement. The walk across Broadway, the easy access to better vantage points.
But it is also true that we are quite happy to move on. Many a stronger person succumbs to the exhaustion of merely being here, on Times Square.
We ramble on. And it is not necessarily a speedy ramble. Occasionally I stop with my camera... (I mean, who can resist recording ads referencing New York’s current plague?)
And very often Ed pauses to make a note. Because he’s not really taking a day off at all. He’s thinking of what still needs to be said at the trial. I know he wants to fill in gaps, his good narrative at the cross exam notwithstanding.
We’re at Lincoln Center now and I want to spend time at the fountain. I’ve read a lot about its recent installation (think Peter Kopik, fountain genius of the world, the man who gave us, on a smaller scale, the fountain at the Detroit airport). I watch its varying streams of water. Ed takes notes. His mind is now officially elsewhere.
Across the street from Lincoln Center, several dozen cooks and chefs are congregating on the sidewalk. A convention? No, actually a bomb scare, emptying out a local restaurant. This, too, is New York in the spring of 2010.
We walk up Amsterdam, and I pause for a coffee and cupcake at Magnolia Cupcakes. Expensive Magnolia cupcakes.
I’m surprised they don’t offer what I am used to seeing at (expensive) cupcake places in DC – fresh ingredients in strawberry cupcakes, or lemon cupcakes, or coconut cupcakes. I ask about the pink creamed one. Oh, that’s just our standard topping, but in pink. Ah. I settle for the blueberry crumble.
We’re ready for the park. It is so warm now that I am down to an undershirt. I’m hesitant, because I know it is an undershirt. Ed walks up to two women – brassy looking women, I have to add. Listen, this lady here – he points to me – thinks maybe she should not be parading in that undershirt. What do you think? Ed knows how to make me blush. Not because of the shirt, but because of the question.
Oh for God’s sake, this is New York! Wear what you like! -- they respond. Predictably.
I tell Ed that I think Central Park has changed. For the better. It’s greener, fresher, less trampled down. Attention is paid to directing people toward spaces that wont be smothered by their presence.
It’s a lovely afternoon. For dogs, men, women, children. For those who speak and look like they just stepped off the plane from the old country. For those (like me once, here in NY) who walk home from school with a book that needs to be worked on at home but who prefer, instead, to dally and eat a pretzel.
We are weaving south now. Past the dazzling and energetic street show of gymnastic movement.
Past crowds of Fifth Avenue tourists (and there are a lot of them), but we are hurrying a little now, because we want to get to the Museum of Modern Art's Friday evening special: free entrance.
Because we are there during the no fee hours, the museum is packed. But we don’t mind. It’s always cool to see people enjoying a museum and there is so much to love now about MoMA.
I had wanted to split our time between the special exhibitions (the photography of my absolute travel-with-camera hero, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the live art of Marina Abramovic) and the paintings of the early twentieth century, but the special exhibitions were far too wonderful to walk through quickly.
The photos – what can I say, photojournalism doesn’t get much better than that. And the live art, too is fully mesmerizing – much of it is bold, even by New York standards. Take the two very naked and very still women standing less than a foot apart, facing each other, inviting you with their presence in the doorway to squeeze through (a guard is at the side and discourages big people from attempting this). Or the artist herself inviting anyone to sit on a chair facing her, for as long as you want.
Most of this can’t be photographed. By the time we reached the regular collections (where you can take photos), we are spent. A few (far less crowded) rooms, and we are done.
We cheat after the museum. It’s not that we’re tired of walking, even though we’ve been more or less steadily on our feet for some six hours. But it’s Friday and we want to get back to the Village before the week-end crowds make eating dinner difficult. We take two stops on the subway and then walk to the bar at Fish.
For the oyster and wine deal. And for one small lobster roll. Because it looked so good on the plates of others.
In our Bleecker Street apartment, Ed goes back to reviewing court transcripts and taking notes. It’s not time for us to talk about the trial yet. I leave him to his work and take a midnight stroll around the Village.