It’s a cloudy breezy morning, warm but nice as I feed the birds on the train station platform and wait with many others to get the next train to Penn Station. I saved some of my crummy low-fat blueberry muffin for the sparrows that live here but one gregarious pigeon got the lions share. I am especially happy that my far off friend and fan Maureen is okay and out of the hospital and back home, although I don’t know all the details. I have to assume she dodged the bullet and will be okay, I hope so at any rate. If I ever find the means to leave the ground again and fly to far away places we have a date, not a romantic one but a culinary tour of Thai and Indian food that would make Anthony Bourdain proud. It is a date I intend somehow to keep.
That in a way is part of a bigger picture that my thoughts will be on today as I wander. Issues great and small will be my slow burn for today. I am lucky to have a job and my health for the most part is good. Where I see myself in the next ten years is the key issue. I have to form some sort of plan for my transition to another career, I don’t want to sell parts forever and I can’t see myself driving around a forklift in the snow at 50 let alone 65. The improvement of my health, if I want to make 65 I’d better find the discipline to work out and lose weight and keep it off! The acquisition of love and an active social life with my own kind, I have to find a circle of artist/writer/foodie/francophiles to hang out with or else I will never meet that special someone. I do sometimes feel that maybe I do a little better on my own, like the character of Scobie in Graham Greene’s novel “The Heart of the Matter”. But then again I haven’t met the “other” yet so I can’t be sure of that.
My creative life is another matter, last night I put brush to paper and worked on a watercolor scene of a Paris cafe out of an instructional book. It took an unfortunate row to lock me in my apartment and forced me to sit down, listen to music and paint slow. Despite the fact that I have had no formal training in watercolor, and have only painted two others in my life (which came out great by the way) I found out something very important. I can still paint. Even after a nearly four-year hiatus and after two abortive attempts at this scene. I finally hit my stride and found that which lies within every artist, the something that happens when you find your way. I have to try to find some more good pics of Paris cafe on the web that are not copyright protected.
It’s a sleepy kind of day, except for one kid and his dad everyone is quiet, lost in thought. There is an Asian beatnik on my left up a seat. He asks the conductor if the train stops at Mineola? “No, this is the express- I announced it three times.” the conductor said matter of factly. “What do I do now?” asked the deflated hipster. “You’ll have to get out at Jamaica and go back.” said the conductor as he punched his ticket and moved on. The beatnik in the beret with his Lennon glasses and his Fu-Manchu mustache busied himself with texting and avoided eye-contact with anyone. I smile inside but I feel for him all the same. Just when you think your cool and in control is when you slip on a banana peel or get on the wrong train. The train meanwhile is getting crowded, everyone is going in for some fun. It’s hard to believe the summer is half over.I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I do have some restaurants written down and I would like to see the green market again.
I’ve started to wonder about writing a proposal to the Travel Channel about a show in New York City, in it I would do what I love to do…this. It would be better perhaps for NYC TV but not so big an audience as TC. If I knew a little more about the night life in NYC and had a lot more confidence in myself I think I could pull it off. Maybe a book based on my experiences so far would be a better lead in to a show. The one thing I do know is that somehow I have to capitalize on my art, writing, and New York travels while the food and travel boom is on going. If I don’t I’ll miss out like I did the computer boom. It’s amazing to think that the kid who didn’t want to be in the school play now wants his own TV show now…I certainly have changed. We descend underground and soon I’ll be on the street or subway.
I decide on the subway and take it down to 23rd st coming up on busy 8th ave, I try to walk slow and takes things in nudging over an ave or two as I head south. People are swarming like bees enjoying a field of wildflowers, the warm breezy day has all of us walking on air. I find myself at Union Square with no effort at all. How can I describe the green market any better than I already have in so many stories. I can’t, you just have to come and see for yourself. This is a place where you need a French market basket and a whole day. You walk slow, sample the foods and see what is good, then walk back and buy what you need from the vendor with the best product. Too bad it’s only here half the year. I am sold on a pint of fresh blueberries by a slick tongued salesman, then after tasting garlic/rosemary jam and talking with a vendor about heirloom tomatoes and blossom end rot, I move on and wander a little. I eventually wind up at 5th ave and see something I’ve never seen before. It’s closed to traffic, bicycles, skaters and foot traffic only! I find out later that it’s part of a program called “summer streets”and goes on for many blocks to allow folks to enjoy the summer without having to go far. The quiet is almost deafening but there’s a magic to it as well. The walkers, joggers, skaters, and bicyclists are all moving at different paces in a kind of modern ballet. I loop back around after buying a lemonade from kids selling outside their apartment building and head west, I spend too much time on the lower east side so it’s time for a change.
I am thinking as I walk that maybe I should start using pictures I take in New York as a basis for paintings. I stop to rest on the service entrance steps of an Italian place on Bleeker and eat my berries for a snack while I write and practice my relaxing and people watching skills. Many people pass by as I write, all types from locals out shopping to vacationers and across the street two tour groups pass while the guide tells the same story he told a hundred other times. I could use a loo and a wash-up so I reluctantly get up and begin the search for a clean bathroom, not an easy task in Manhattan unless you eat at a restaurant. But I find one at a place called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, which is actually an old historic bar with a fireplace and a door marked “The Dungeon” opposite the front door. I didn’t ask why. I order a Stella and settle down to read an article in the Village Voice about people who are distilling moonshine in the five Burroughs today. It is actually an appropriate place to read about moonshine, the old wooden floors and the fireplace and mantle tell me that this place has seen some bathtub gin back in the day. The article is fascinating, I didn’t realize so much went into the process and that the authorities are still prosecuting those who distill without a license. But to get a license you have to pay huge fees and taxes and must pass rigorous inspections and limit your production as well. No small wonder where the government is involved, pain follows. Which is the whole idea anyway, they probably really don’t want anyone making their own Hooch and would rather we all just work, spend, sleep…repeat and repeat. The place fills up with a bunch of loud mouth out-of-town types that sound like it’s their first beer so I head out to find some lunch.
On the way I pass the Jefferson Market Garden, a small garden that has benches and pathways that is planted with a wonderful assortment of perennials and roses and scrubs, the beautiful building for which it is named is a branch of the New York Public Library but was built between 1874 and 1877 as the Third Judicial District Courthouse. I walk the trail and see many of my own garden planted here too. Black-eyed Susan’s, copper bells, butterfly bush, azaleas and more are here. I sign the book and donate a few dollars and move on. Soon inevitably, I find myself at Washington Square seeking a food truck. The only one here is the Cambodian Food truck, these folks are former restaurant owners who are victims of a greedy landlord and the system of things in general. They have all the court documents and letters made into a poster set up outside the truck for all to see. It’s too much to read but the little I read makes me feel for them. Now that Kampuchea is gone, this is the only Cambodian food in New York. I order spicy curry chicken with potatoes, bean sprouts, onion over angel hair rice noodles in a coconut sauce and Thai Ice Tea. It takes about six minutes for my food to be made and I sit on a bench inside the park area and eat very carefully, it’s hot and the sauce is right to the top. This is delicious, the chicken is tender and the potatoes are just right and the thick sauce is creamy, savory and spicy. This is a great meal washed down with cool sweet Thai ice tea, for eight bucks with tip it doesn’t get much better. There may be some kind of advantage to austerity eating after all. I sit and listen to live jazz behind me in the distance, the park is full of families, couples, students, and tourists. Everyone is enjoying the weather in their own way, pretty girls in bikinis lie out getting a tan, others crash out on the grass fast asleep with I-tunes playing in their dreams, the readers read, the dreamers dream and everyone else is just thankful to be out of the rat race. Unfortunately, it’s time for me to start heading for home.
I walk back to Penn station at a slow pace, not wanting to go underground or spend money on a taxi, this is good for me anyway. I stop to get money at an ATM inside a drugstore, enjoying the cool air. There’s an attractive woman dressed up behind me about my age. I say “You know I can remember when, if the bank was closed you couldn’t get any money!” She laughs and says” Me too”. and I get out of her way and back on the street. I guess I really didn’t figure anything out after all. There is too much to occupy the senses here, anyone who doesn’t live here isn’t used to it and won’t get any thinking done till they are at home. I wander in Penn Station to kill time before my train comes and get a water instead of a beer to save money. My train comes and it’s also an express, three stops and I’m home. I feel a little lonely and isolated from my family right now, but the city is always ready for me when I need it… and it never lets me down.
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