Wednesday, May 19, 2010

waiting in New York

...for the rain to stop. I know it wont, but I want an excuse to go outside, to walk and stretch myself, after a day of work while sitting on a rapidly deflating mattress.

Earlier, we did go out for breakfast. It was noon and when I reported this late start to my daughter she said – you’re becoming like me! Without a schedule, mealtimes get pushed around. Without a schedule and with Ed, they become random.

Our breakfast was at Café Borgia, a place noted for having daylong breakfast. Fine and hearty and very honest...


...but my eyes kept wandering to the store across the street.


It was one of those unusual moments when you know more about a place or person than what the world imagines you to know. I happen to have heard small details about the Vesuvio Bakery in these last weeks. A movie could well be made about the secrets of the spot. (Ed tells me that movies have been made, where the Bakery appears as a fleeting backdrop where a director needed a shot of Village life, but that’s not the same.)

Before I saw that we were in for a rainy (and therefore work-filled) day, I thought of going one last time on a circuit of childhood paths. But it would be like walking through a rebuilt city and trying to remember what was once there. So little remains of what I knew here as a child. My yellow brick apartment building, sure, there’s that. But my school building has been demolished (it had been condemned during all the six years I went there, so it’s good that they finally moved), the pizza place with the great take out pies closed decades ago. A&P, where I bought my first American powdered sugar doughnut is gone, Woolworth’s is gone, even the dreadful Korvette’s -- the place that spearheaded the drive to keep stores open on Sundays in America, the place where my mother sent us for replacement underwear, closed and eventually filed for bankruptcy.

New York doesn’t hold on to the inconsequential. And most places are terribly inconsequential.

There is of course, the consequential: I could spin around and visit the family for whom I au paired while in college. They still live in the same place they did when I was with them in the early 1970s. What’s left of them, anyway. The mother of my charge died a while back and the new wife of the father also just recently passed away.

But the thing about being an au pair is that you are just a tad more connected to your employer than the cook, no matter how much the family likes you and how well they treat you and no matter where you wind up down the road in life’s patchwork of interesting places. Once you leave, you leave.


The rain continues and I stay in my half reclining position.

Until I can stand it no more.

Outside, it is raining hard.


But isn’t it the case that in the city, you go about your business and ignore the weather?


I stay within the neighborhood. I wrestle with the umbrella, the camera, and occasionally I dart into a store to catch my breath. When Ed is with me, I almost never buy anything. We practice the religion of nonacquisition pretty steadfastly. I’m not as rigorous about it as he is, but I’m getting close. When I lost my watch last week, we studied every cheap replacement imaginable. My footwear is nearly as pathetic as his. My TV is the size of a cereal box.

But Ed is not with me today. He’s with attorneys and later with his aunt. And so I relax a little. I think about the graduation, a wedding, the foreign lectures I’m to give – all coming up, all requiring proper dress. I try on things. The familiar and unwelcome feeling of want creeps in.

New York is indeed a dangerous place. Even as it looks so childishly benign.


I finish the stroll with a return to a place Ed and I ate at back in October – Pearle’s Oyster Bar. Soft shell crab just started the season. Pan fried, with a glass of white wine, at the counter.


On the way home, I pick up Ed’s favorite cookies at the Italian bakery. Why do you like rainbow colored cookies? I once asked him. They have jam in between the layers.


The rain is quietly retreating. By tomorrow the sidewalks should be dry.