Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips, Travel Writing, Uncategorized
The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches — e.e.cummings
The writing went pretty well, actually, but Broadway was shut down Saturday night, along with the tunnels, the subways and buses, the airports and then George Washington Bridge. If you wanted to get here you couldn’t and if you were here and wanted to get out, you’d better find a friend or a hotel room.
I’d gotten a great deal on my favorite little hotel in New York, so I was well taken care of. And right across the street is one of my favorite places to eat. I am sitting at a table there as I begin to write this.
I have been coming here to the Café Un Deux Trois since the 1970s when I lived another life in the advertising business. Few things have changed except that there is a still little shot glass holding crayons on each table, but no paper tablecloths anymore — at least not at breakfast. But the B&W French vintage photos are still here (even in the ladies’ room), as are the graceful Corinthian columns and large pitted mismatched mirrors. The crystal chandeliers and polished wooden bar are as wonderfully tawdry as they ever were, and the place is still largely frequented — and staffed — by foreigners.
As a traveler, I love that. I’m listening to Castilian Spanish on my left and plummy
British on my right. Yesterday my neighbors were Polish and French. And we’re all here in the blizzard together, a little anxious, but still laughing and sipping Cafe Au Lait. Magic.
I never did get to see Allegiance or George Takei (apologies, Mr. Sulu). But I did get to go out on Saturday afternoon and revel in Times Square with dozens of other exuberant folks. There’s nothing quite like New York City in the snow . . . even if I didn’t get up to Central Park to see the 30 inches coming down, the action on Broadway and 44th was invigorating. Flash snowball fights, lots of picture taking, window shopping and an overwhelming sense of being in this thing together. The last time I experienced this was in the ‘80s and I remember people cross country skiing up Madison Avenue (never mind the park) and just how wonderfully calm the city was with no beeping horns or air brakes scaring the hell out of you.
On Sunday the city came back to life, the way it always does. Museums re-opened, the TKTS booth was mobbed with eager theater-goers and the sun came out to make it all kind of sparkle. I did manage to get to my second show, the wildly creative Fun Home, the brainchild of Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori that is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The show was staged at the Circle in the Square, which is such an intimate theatre that you feel a mad part of everything. Add to that the fact that I was sitting on the aisle in the very first row next to the orchestra and you can imagine . . . I had a nice chat with Sunita, one of the ushers, who is as avid a travel fan as I am.
After the show, I walked back toward the hotel and stopped at a small restaurant just down the street. As I was reading the menu outside, a man came over and said, “It’s terrific. My wife and I ate here last night. Don’t miss it.” So I went in, and was ushered to a seat along the banquette in the back, next to two women a little younger than I am. Soon, a couple about the same age sat down on the other side.
Gentle reader, the thing about New York City is that when disaster or discomfort strikes, its people get real. They talk, they joke, they watch out for each other. And so it was at Osteria al Doge, a long-time fixture in the pre-theatre restaurant business in Times Square, although this was my first time there. The very experienced waitress, Ella, has apparently been there for a while and served us all with insight and humor.
I started, as I usually do, with a glass of crisp Prosecco. Then I ordered the Insalata Tricolore, a wonderful plate of fresh arugula, radicchio and endive with a very nice dressing and delicate sheets of shaved parmesan on top. On the recommendation of the ladies at the next table. I ordered the Mezzelune alle Melanzane, a gorgeous homemade ravioli filled with roasted baby eggplant, goat cheese and fresh tomatoes. They thought that a nice glass of Valpolicella should accompany my portion, as it had theirs, and so they quickly asked for another glass and shared their bottle of wine with me.
When it came time for dessert (Ella is evil; she brought each of us the dessert cart, holding all kinds of unspeakable choices), the folks on the other side opted for special Chocolate Mousse, and so did I. Not my usual choice for an Italian restaurant dolce, but I am very glad that I tried it. With a coating of dark semi-sweet chocolate, and topped with blackberries and fresh whipped cream, it was one of the highlights of this crazy weekend. As such, I returned the favor of the Valpolicella ladies and offered them some of the mousse, which they happily accepted. I left the restaurant well fed and feeling good about life, even though trains were bring cancelled for the next day.
The next day I made it out of the city, just about two hours late, which wasn’t so bad. Another New York City adventure behind me, another new folio of poems, another Playbill for my collection and more good feelings about my home town. If you’ve never been, go. If you have been, go back. The Bronx is still up and the Battery’s still down. But there’s no place like Manhattan.