It’s a cool breezy Spring day, typical for this time of year on Long Island, one that finds me sheltering from the wind in the stairwell of the Long Island Railroad Station platform. My train is seven minutes late and I’m getting a late start to my adventures today. The morning found me scrambling to find an in-between coat to wear (which I don’t seem to own) so like many others I’m a little underdressed. Today I’m going in to New York City for a walkabout and to see “Red” an off broadway play about the artist Mark Rothko, particularly about the relationship between Rothko and his young assistant during the time leading up to the completion of the commission for the Four Season’s restaurant in the Seagrams Building in New York.
He was a tortured man who left an indelible mark on art and the rave reviews it got in London promise this should be a real experience. I have put some study into Rothko and his work but find myself unable to paint color field paintings in his style, I can’t contain my energy and violence, and sexual desire to paint dozens of glazes to achieve the pulsating glow of his master works. But I have also stood transfixed and stared at them in museums until the colors changed before my eyes. This is my birthday present to myself, it’s just 10 days away and so far no one has mentioned it to me, needless to say I’m a little hurt by this since I put so much thought into others gifts and parties. But as I’ll be turning 48 I’m not really sure I care to celebrate, I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in my life, only a windfall of money could solve some of the problems and put into place the things I feel are lacking in life.
A few weeks ago Anthony Bourdain was in Provence, France filming his Emmy Award winning Travel Channel show “No Reservations” and while dinning al-fresco with his guide he said “everybody in some childlike way craves a life of simplicity, where they have a garden, a beautiful sun, where they can walk into a small town and everybody will know them and wave”. This about sums up how I feel about France and although his guide Ann said laughingly that in his little movie there is no “sweat” and here is considerable work and sweat. The fact is that rural France was a hard place to live always, a rocky terrain not suited to vineyards and the growing of vegetables or livestock, but somehow they made it work. Today of course they survive on the tourist trade to a large extent and what makes downtown unbearable for the indigenous population is also what keeps many people employed, and since I started buying France magazine, I am beginning to be drawn into the desire to see the small towns and villages and less drawn to Paris itself…maybe it’s the thought of being an ex-pat in the future when I’m older and more settled or the thought of being in a town where everybody would wave to me as I make my daily rounds. The guide Ann was very appealing to me, mid 50’s with a full head of long grey hair and very stocky, she has a very provincial earthy appeal and a great personality, I guess you know you’re getting older when you start fantasizing about older women than yourself and less about the young girls in the seat in front of me. They are chattering away like magpies about everything and giggle incessantly as they talk about school, work , and friends. I can see the face and chest of the girl facing me through the opening in the top of the seat for the hand-grip. What a clean fresh face with a dazzling smile and perfect hair, she wears a peace sign necklace which rests on her chest, I muse on the thought that a child of the 90’s could hardly know what a peace sign entails, I mean she wasn’t even born yet. Heck, I thought that guys with long hair in army jackets were veterans back from the war who couldn’t stand having short hair cuts, at five years old the Summer of Love was as unknown to me as the student protests and the realities of the war. In back of me a young couple talk in hushed tones and also giggle as they hunch over a new computer phone and app away the time doing God only knows to their friends to cause such quiet hilarity. Oh to be young and in love. We descend into the tunnels and my ears pressurize and I yawn to pop them, soon the streets of N.Y.C.
I come up into Penn Station and make my way to the 8th Ave subway line, my first goal is to get to the theater and pick up my ticket for tonight, then lunch. The station is hopping as usual with tourists, workers, and people heading for a show like myself, I weave by the crowds like a motorcycle does through a traffic jam on the freeway and go upstairs to the uptown branch, but I don’t have to wait long as I approach the turnstile I hear a train come in and I hop on easily for the short ride to 42nd St station. It’s an easy walk up to ground level and up the 3 blocks to the theater, the wind is making me a little cold but the sun is out and the full spectrum of sound and color hits you as Time Square looms all around you like a giant robot encircling you with its arms and looking down on us all, its glowing eyes flashing and head spinning. I find the theater and see a line down the block for the matinée of Red in about an hour, a good sign I think as I pick up my ticket and turn around to go to my brunch destination for today.
Marseille is a NYC landmark combining French, Italian and Greek influences, and has been in Hell’s Kitchen for 9 years, I have always wanted to eat here but never got around to it. I go inside to get a table but it is packed and loud so I ask to be seated outside and am glad I did, the sun is warming now so I order two items, Soupe au pistou, a garlic vegetable soup I’ve never had and a scramble of eggs with Merguez, a spicy mediterranean lamb sausage with creme fraiche, potatoes rosti, and greens. I also order a decaf cafe au lait which is served in a bowl! This is about as traditional French as it gets. I receive a complementary plate of sliced rye and grain bread with mini carrot muffins and a small plate with jam and 1 pat of butter, I begin to tuck into this and hold my coffee bowl with both hands and smile into the hot creamy beverage as I take my first sip. If I close my eyes I could be in Paris or Marseilles, except of course for the English being spoken around me
When my soup comes it is a pleasure for the eyes, lots of colorful vegetables with beans and macaroni in a clear vegetable broth with thin slices of garlic and grated cheese, it is very good and just what I need right now. It’s all I could do to not gobble it up like a dog, dunking my bread and licking the bowl! When my plate has been cleared I wait for my eggs and I am not disappointed, the fluffy mound of eggs topped with creme fraiche and chopped tomato and crunchy onion is wonderful, if you read my post “The Case for Scrambled Eggs” then you know how much I enjoy real scrambled eggs and these were no exception.
They are soft and savory with the spicy Merguez sausage being balanced out by the sweet creme, the potatoes however were very greasy and decadent in a bad sort of way but the field greens were in a delicate vinaigrette that I still can’t seem to duplicate at home, altogether a fantastic meal. It’s a little hot in the direct sun but as I sip my coffee I think that this is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. Next tp me an upscale couple sits sipping bloody mary’s and eating goat cheese and asparagus tarts with field greens and lamb sausage, it too smells great. I pay the check after letting my food go down a little and walk back up to 42nd street station and take the subway downtown to the village, I am looking for some t-shirts to send to Mark and Sharon in England that I saw last year when I didn’t have the money to buy them. I hope the street fair in is full swing as I descend the stairs and hear the familiar rush of wheels on track as I zip through the turnstile and walk for the train doors.