Monday, November 15, 2010

a very New York kind of day

Every so often (maybe not often enough), I have a day off when I stay here in the city and just wander around. I do love New York City, but I also spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out places to go to get away from it. I'm the one who arranges to take her comp time on a Friday so that every other week, I have a 3 day weekend. Believe me, I can put together some amazing trips in that short a period of time and red-eye flights do not put me off. I have managed to spend my 3 days as far away as San Francisco and Seattle, leaf peeping in New Hampshire, and even hiking in Utah(ok, so that one required 4 days). But sometimes, I manage to stay put and it's then that I realize how amazing it is to live here.

So what does a Manhattanite do on a beautiful day with absolutely no plans? Well, Brooklyn seemed kind of exotic. I packed my book (find me a librarian that is ever without at least one book in their bag) and headed out to the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont Street. I'd never been there, despite the fact that a lifetime ago, I worked not far from there at the Metrotech complex. The museum is small, but powerful - and prominently displayed in the lobby is NYSL member, sculptor and poet Meredith Bergmann's HISTORIA TESTIS TEMPORUM: Pinky, 2010, a cast resin rondel of freed slave Sally Maria Diggs that she created for the museum's new exhibit Artist & Artifact: Re/Visioning Brooklyn's Past. I had hoped to see the work of the other 10 artists selected to create works for the exhibit, but they are across the street at the (closed on Sunday) public gallery BRIC ARTS/MEDIA/BKLYN.

While I am a terrific wanderer in unfamiliar places, I generally prefer to do it with a map in hand. On the just-in-case. But with the Brooklyn Bridge and the river in sight, I rambled at ease, down some very lovely streets towards the water. Fall leaves are a kind of fairy dust, don’t you think? I made my way down Middagh Street and found myself at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where I sat for a while watching the promenaders and the boat traffic on the river and noticing the partially completed park way down below. So I meandered through the streets again, following the bridge lines, and found myself at Brooklyn Bridge Park. I'm embarrassed to write that I only discovered the extent of the Hudson River Park a little while ago (on another "found myself in NYC with nothing to do" day), so this was another great surprise. I had already eaten a late breakfast or I would have had a lobster roll at the Ditch Plains Drop In or a carne asado taco at the Calexico cart. But then I discovered the Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar. I sat and read my book for a while, but was sidetracked by the police officers on the NYPD boat waving to the children, the couple taking wedding photos, and the Manhattan skyline itself, which despite its now gaping hole, is still breathtaking.

From my waterside seat, I watched tourists snapping photos from the Brooklyn Bridge and realized {gasp} that I'd never, ever walked it myself. Time to right a wrong. I'm a fast walker, and get agitated in crowds, and while the views in places are obstructed by sheeting I found that I understood completely why the bridge had inspired so many, from Vladimir Malakovsky to Hart Crane to Jack Kerouac and Marianne Moore. I will have to mark my calendar for next year's Poets' House annual Bridge Walk.

Across the bridge, I wandered north, past City Hall, Chinatown (next time I will plan ahead to make it to MOCA before it closes). Then I landed in Paris in New York. I might have been the only English speaker at Tartinery, where the delicious tartines are presented on Poilane country bread imported from France daily. Instead of negotiating a whirlwind 3 day weekend to Paris, maybe I could just read Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris with a glass of bourgogne and a tartine in front of me instead.

Around the corner, I stopped into McNally Jackson Books (bookstores are required stops for librarians. it's a sort of sickness) where naturally I bought two more books that I certainly didn't need. I continued my ramble into a leather goods store with a friendly shopkeeper; upon learning that I was a librarian she asked me where she could find copies of a beautifully designed art magazine she had recently discovered. I suggested that her best best would be the Periodicals Room at NYPL, and upon double-checking today, am relieved to report that they have nearly the full run.

I had a day full of literary inspirations and it had started with a Library member. It ended with a member too. Member Janet Dierbeck had invited me to a reading of her daughter Lisa Dierbeck's new book at KGB Bar. Lisa is an accomplished writer whose new publishing collaborative Mischief and Mayhem Books is releasing her The Autobiography of Jenny X. I had just finished and enjoyed One Pill Makes You Smaller in which she channels Alice in Wondlerland and the Jefferson Airplane in a story about a prematurely developed 11 year old in the anything goes 1970s, so it was a pleasure to be able to tell her in person.

Just as I was congratulating myself on a nearly ideal day, there was the MTA and an unexpected service shutdown as a stark reminder that my perfect Sunday was officially over.

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