I spent a hot, sticky day in Manhattan yesterday covering a lot of ground, both above sea level and below. The adventures began with a 55 mph drive south on the Henry Hudson Highway in my 2002 beat up Honda Accord. During the ride in, I notice the Hudson River looks steamy. When you can’t quite tell what color the river water is, then you know you’re in for a rough, hot, gross afternoon.
10:52 am – I park the car at a garage near 5th Avenue and 29th Street and grab my papers for an 11 am meeting. The garage attendant comments that the new Honda Accord is out, and asks me if I want to sell my car. I say I’m not selling and make a mental note to check under the hood when I return to ensure the engine and supporting parts are right where I left them.
10:58 am – Waiting for the elevator in one of those classic turn-of-the-century buildings on Seventh Avenue. Love that old New York City is still a vibrant part of new New York City. I live in the ‘burbs where nothing is past three stories high, so it’s been ages since I rode an elevator. I am oddly excited for the ride. As I wait for the elevator, I grab a shot of the ceiling. My ceilings at home are cracked and need repair. If this was what I walked into every morning, I’d be bursting with motivation and giddy with creativity.
11:31 am – Meeting is over, back in the beautiful lobby with the beautiful ceiling, and I need to figure out the subway system to meet a colleague for lunch. It costs $2.50 for a single ride uptown, so the car gets to hang out downtown while I venture north for an afternoon bite. I’m near Herald Square (the Empire State Building serves as my North Star informing me which way to go) so I make my way to Penn Station and grab the C train to Times Square.
11:46 am – Penn Station. Suitcases on wheels criss cross the corridor. I dodge a baby stroller. Street musicians have taken the day off. Normally you hear music everywhere, but all I hear are announcements. The subway platform is hot. Everyone looks hot and miserable. I am feeling more appreciative for the green suburban life at the moment and am missing my town pool. I’m also wearing flip flops. I did this intentionally knowing the risks involved, but the fact is, I can move quickly in flip flops. I’m on high-alert for my feet touching fluids and solids that they shouldn’t; dog poo, other people’s spilled iced coffee, a scoop of ice cream falling off a kid’s cone. I am vulnerable. I remember in 1996 wearing open-toed shoes at the West 4th Street subway station. I was coming home from seeing “Rent” and a bum was peeing out in the open and, well, let’s just say despite my best efforts to sidestep him, I got some splash.
11:52 am – On the C train enjoying the air conditioning. Managed to grab a seat and as soon as the train lurches forward, a mariachi band arrives loudly singing what sounds like old love ballads from the Mother Land. Unfortunately, they appear to be performing before a rather jaded group. No one is offering a dollar bill or even a coin. I only have 20s on me, and I’m too sticky to feel that generous. The band moves on to the next car.
12:33 pm – I’m uptown at 77th Street and Lexington Avenue. It’s a quieter neighborhood than where I just came from. I don’t recognize anything nearby except a Starbucks. I wander to Third Avenue, find a nice looking restaurant called Atlantic Grill, text my colleague my location, and a few minutes later, we’re sitting down at a clean table, with a crisp, white, heavy linen tablecloth, and a guy with spiky hair is offering us passion fruit iced tea.
12:42 pm – It’s Restaurant Week in New York City! I’ve done everything from dives to Daniel, but I don’t think I’ve participated in Restaurant Week before. The guy with the spiky hair is eager to sell me on the prix fixe lunch menu, three courses for $24.07. This is normally what I would spend on dinner, not lunch, but it’s been a hot, sticky schlep, I’m in a nice restaurant and am feeling entitled. Sold. $24.07 for lunch it is! (Quick aside: had the sexiest cantaloupe gazpacho ever at Daniel. Dinner at Daniel cost more than the rent for my studio apartment, but Mike and I both felt the food lived up to the price.)
1:05 pm – Course one arrives. It’s a peach, watermelon, feta, greens and sunflower seed salad. It’s awesome and I wolf it down and eagerly await the main course, which are fish tacos. The mariachi band on the subway had put me in the mood for Mexican. I hadn’t enjoyed fish tacos since Isla Mujeres, Mexico. When my New York City tacos arrive, they’re gorgeously plated so I take a photo and then wolf those down, too.
Here I am eating fish tacos in Mexico in April 2011. These tacos did not cost $24.07, but were just as delicious.
2:11 pm – Oh my gosh, look at the time! I’m still a lady who lunches and my kid is going to be home from camp in two hours! I need to get downtown fast, grab the car, and then go drive back uptown and get across the Hudson River and back to New Jersey. We’re only talking about 10 miles here, from my car to my house, but if you live in the metropolitan New York area, you know getting from point A to B is always an odyssey. Sometimes the shorter distances take longer. I polish off lunch with pineapple sorbet, air-kiss my colleague goodbye, and hop the 6 train downtown.
2:34 pm – Waiting for my crosstown train at Grand Central Station. Sometimes going east or west across Manhattan is harder than going north or south. There is a family standing nearby looking at the tracks trying to spot a rat. They seem really excited about this. They are clearly tourists because they’re wearing T-shirts and shorts that look coordinated, white ankle socks and relatively clean sneakers, and fanny packs. The fanny packs really give them away, but overhearing their enthusiasm about spotting a real New York City subway rat that they’ve heard can rival the size of a raccoon really gives them away. I’m rooting for them. I hope they spot their fat rat. I look at the tracks; they’re surprisingly clean and there doesn’t appear to be anything for the rats to rummage through. The train arrives and the tourists board empty-handed. No rat shot on the iphone. When I sit down, I see a couple reading a DK Eyewitness New York City tour guide book, and I wonder if there’s anything in the book about New York City subway rats.
3:31 pm – Back at the garage. The same parking attendant is there and asks me three more times if I would ever consider selling my Honda. Do I really need to pop the hood and inspect, and even if some small part was missing, would I recognize what was gone? I tell him I’ll never change my mind, my car has been paid off since 2007, and I’ll be driving this metallic oragami of Japanese efficiency into the ground until my flip flops scrape pavement. But this is New York City and he doesn’t back off, so while he trails off with his question, I grab my keys, crank up the AC, and get into the vehicular scrum that is 29th Street. We’re all heading to the Lincoln Tunnel, unfortunately. It’s Friday afternoon on an insufferably humid day and everyone wants to be somewhere else. Some place greener, bluer, cooler.
4:37 pm – I’m stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel. Maybe stuck is the wrong word. Think optimistically. We inch along. It’s going to be a long ride home. I call my friend and ask if she can meet my kid after camp; I’m just not going to make it home in time for the camp bus. I’ll be lucky to make it back to New Jersey before the pool closes. I vow to not return to Manhattan until fall, when temperatures are below 80, when the leaves are red and gold, when the subways won’t feel like steam baths with strangers. That said, I made it out of New York City in flip flops, feet unscathed, and I can claim I enjoyed Restaurant Week.
6:45 pm – Epilogue. Just got home. Traffic stunk. Too tired for the town pool, and it closes soon anyway. Kid looks wilted from the heat, too. We eat ice cream for dinner and watch the Olympics.