2 of my students here are taking writing/journalism classes at Columbia. Part of what they are being taught in their writing is to “show” their audience…to paint them a picture…not just to “tell” them facts. I realize this is something I do poorly is a blog. Or at least what I default to when tired, which, when traveling, is all the time.
Monday was my first visit to Soho. A myriad of travel magazines had recommended this little sweet-yet-out-of-the-way bakery as “best brunch in the city.” Of course this was a recommendation that could not be ignored. Hesitation always sets in when it is a series of train transfers and walks to find your location. The previous commitment to the plan prevailed though. And while we spent 30 minute on the wet stoop of a building trying to avoid the rain, the perfection of the mushroom bacon omelette and sweetness of the brioche french toast made every rainy minute worth it.
The day had barely begun and the pins, needles, stabs, throbs and other various unpleasant feelings were already taking over my feet. As a courtesy, it was Luke who forged ahead to the shoe store to pick some some new kicks he had reserved. In his absence I found myself strolling down Houston – walking the fine line between NoHo and SoHo. I was side tracked constantly by restaurant supply shops and graffiti covered buildings and string art donning the fences of the local parks. Getting lost in the city can be almost heavenly sometimes – and makes me wonder why I don’t plan more time, with no plans.
We left the artsy neighbourhood in Soho behind for the more expensive and publicly acknowledged art (because really, what IS art?) found at the Museum of Modern Art. Fourth trip and I finally got to step foot past the gift shop. Every dime was worth it just to see the thick brush strokes on Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I was also lucky enough to be wandering through with Luke – who know a few dozen more things than I about art. What I can say is that I love contrasting colours. I am drawn to sharp lines and anything with green or purple. I love symmetry, or purposeful and balanced asymmetry. I don’t like Monet. I can’t effectively tell you why – I just don’t. But because my feet were about to fall to pieces and in order to avoid keeling over, I may have spent the most time starring at Water Lilies just to ease the burden.
Post-MOMA found us picking up the students from school. It is such a different experience to travel in a way that has you responsible for others. It also a different experience not to be the “teacher” but the facilitator. And it’s vastly different doing it outside of the “school.” Sitting in the middle of the Columbia campus, feet away from Alma Matter and the Low Library, listening to students rattle off their days is probably the highlight of mine. They are learning so much, and I can see if permeating their thoughts and actions in each consecutive days. I wonder if they see if as strongly as I do… And thought I am always exhausted, it doesn’t begin to compare with how proud of I am of who they are and the growth I am seeing in them.
Ellen’s Singing Stardust Diner never fails to impress. Though kitschy (and what in Times Square isn’t), being serenaded by waitstaff while I enjoy my grilled cheese and strawberry shake is definitly the way to go. The point is to have fun. To laugh and to enjoy. And eat of course. The milkshake was gone in a heart beat (possibly at a speed that I should be embarrassed for) and the grilled cheese made me feel like I was at home. It’s the simple things that can be the most enjoyable.
There was so much begging and pleading that I had to give everyone (that means students….) and opportunity to get their shop on in Times Square. It was busier than I had ever seen it – and given my *love* for crowds this made for an interesting experience. It is easy for it to become so overwhelming – the smells from the food carts – nuts, hot dogs, pretzels, kebobs and falafels – all competing for domination of your olfactory senses. The crowds – pushing, shoving, sidestepping. The naked cowboys and hustlers making dollars dressed as Iron Man and hitting up poor unsuspecting tourists. However, I was overcome by brief moments of serene found when staying behind the lens. Seeing the world move and trying to capture the nuances of Times Square is probably next to impossible. There was a moment that I couldn’t wait to escape it – but it was followed quickly by a subtle moment, sitting on the red TKTS steps, where I was overcome with a sense of calm. In its chaos, it is also unusually beautiful. I sat there for 30 minutes with Luke, enjoying good conversation, listening, laughing and just watching in awe as the lights and billboards moved and changed and flashed. It seemed stepping away from the camera offered even more serenity than trying to capture it just right. The large crowds will never be my favourite. But I did enjoy the perfect temperatures offered by the late June, late night Times Square climate. It was wonderful in the end. I hope you can picture it.