I used to like to pretend I could be cosmopolitan but recent events have convinced me that this is a lie not worth the effort it takes to sustain it. In New York I feel hemmed in by all the buildings and the traffic and the noise, a sense of heightened anxiety that lends credence to the studies that find an as-yet unexplained higher incidence of psychotic disorders in densely populated cities than suburban or rural areas. But I digress. My New York journey began on Sunday, when a plane trip that should’ve taken 2 hours instead took 9 due to a winter storm and a several-hour diversion to Manchester, New Hampshire. New Hampshire looked nice from the sky- lots of barns and ponds and snow piled high. The airport, unaccustomed to such an influx of humanity, was small and friendly and a good place to stretch one’s legs, but the Quiznos where I ordered a sub had run out of turkey. We made it to New York about 9 that night and I retreated to my hotel room clutching a big bag of Skittles and bottle of water to soothe my jittery nerves. Next day began a day and a half of meetings at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine with a group of researchers I work with, and that was fun- meeting these people whose work I’ve been reading for years. Monday night was a big dinner at a Greek restaurant named Ithaka, where we were well cared for by a team of gracious, attentive waiters, one of whom called me “madam.” I enjoyed being called madam, it beats having some youngster call me “young lady,” which makes me want to punch them in the face. The waiters brought plate after plate of appetizers- spreads with pita, calamari, Greek salad- then dinner, then dessert, those doughnut-like balls sitting in honey and lemon. Yesterday we finished up the meeting and I grabbed a cab (feeling so cosmopolitan) to bring me to the hotel (or so I assumed) where I will spend the next few days at a conference. The route the cab driver took seemed odd, even though I’m not familiar with New York it seemed strange to get to Times Square via a route up the East River. Nonetheless I decided to relax and enjoy the ride and trust the driver knew where he was going- he’d said he did. He dropped me at my hotel and when I went in it looked different from last time I was here, bigger; I thought they must’ve done some major remodeling. The nice woman at the desk admired my name, said her mother was named Vivian and that she’d always said if she had a daughter she’d name her that; when she couldn’t find me on her list I told her my name is Vivia, thinking the “N” might be the problem; then she had me spell my last name several times. Finally I asked “Is this the Crown Plaza?” No. It was the Hyatt. Mystery solved. So grabbed another cab to bring me to the correct hotel, feeling like the rube that I truly am; I think that’s when I gave up trying to act like I belong here. The man at the desk here said that guests frequently get dropped off at the wrong hotel. I was grateful to get to my room and close my door against all the noise and confusion. But today I will head to the Metropolitan, I promised myself a trip there, and my friend Rose insists that I go, despite another winter storm heading this way. I will, however, avoid cabs. Later- Well, the singing bus driver on the way to the Met made up for the lousy cab driver, and more. And there is human drama everywhere you look. An old couple walking an even older woman at a snail’s pace along a 82nd street near the museum, holding her up between them. A story came to mind- maybe she’s in her last days and her dear friends are complying with final wishes, like one more walk outside. And at the restaurant the other night I saw a woman eating dinner by herself and later one of the waiters came and passed the time with her- this looked like her usual place, her social interaction for the evening. When she got up to leave I saw she was very thin, anorexic thin. Another story there. At the museum today I shared a lunch table with a man who does some sort of super secret trading. He’s been on a paid 6-month leave between jobs, so his former employers can be sure he has lost the contacts he had with them before he starts a new job – sounds like a strange world; he’s not even allowed to know who he’ll be woking with until he starts his new job. I saw the Thomas Hart Benton exhibit, the musical instruments, the Japanese painting, the 18th C. European art, and I was done. Enough to absorb for one day, and work yet to do before tomorrow. I will watch the next winter storm come in this evening after I venture out to find a bite- alas, no room service at the hotel. A few photos from today:
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
To the Metropolitan with the bus driver who sang the street names
John Brown, by John Steuart Curry, 1939 Goes without saying: July Hay, Thomas Hart Benton, 1943. I love the attention he gives the beetle in the lower left of the frame. And a delightful instrument named the Gyo:
Goodness! What an experience. I’m becoming less of a City Girl myself. The splendor of Nature feeds me. I hope your trip to The Met balances out your adventure. The Greek restaurant and meeting collegues was fun. I had to chuckle when you were delivered to the wrong hotel. I’m sure I’ve seen that played out in a movie sometime. Enjoy the Met!