New York in the spring time is deceptively cool what with Mother Nature shaking off the of excess April showers into the first week of May. The breeze is beguiling and inviting as you stroll about dodging a few drizzly drops from the overcast sky but underneath, a layer of warmth and humidity slowly creeps up on you and before long, all you want is a tall, icy glass of something. It’s a lot like San Francisco where the seemingly sunny days are ravaged by cold winds and warm scarves are year round accessories.
This was my first trip to NYC where where no work was involved. My only purpose was aimless wandering in search of simple pleasures and quite literally, soaking in the essence of being in one of the greatest cities in the world. As luck would have it, 100 degree heat and humidity broke down into bursts of rain and clouds as soon as I touched down at JFK. When I heard the lady on the bus to Grand Central talk to the driver in her Brooklyn accent, I knew I had arrived.
I spent most of my time around Greenwich, SOHO, and East Village. Compared to the more staid and polished uptown areas, downtown just pulses with the vitality of everyday life. For all that is said about Gotham as concrete jungle, NYC has more greenery than most places in the West coast. Nature just seems to blend in and I loved how the parks were blooming with flowers and trees drooped heavily with lush greenery with their branches extended as far and wide as possible.
Forget the gaudy glitz of Times Square and the lights of Broadway. The best thing to do when in a place like New York is to eat and people watch. Having heard so much about the Momofuku empire built by David Chang, I knew I had to stop by one of the places and grab a quick snack to go. Since I had just eaten lunch at Chelsea Market with college friends, I settled for a cookie from Milk Bar. Okay, okay, I settled on a cookie and a couple of pork buns. You can never say no to pork belly. Never!
I took my treasure-filled brown bag and trudged east a few blocks to Tompkins Square Park and found myself a bench across the doggie park and proceeded to savor every bite of the pork bun. Wow, it was so good. The fat on the belly was deliciously unctuous and although it was firm to the immediate bite, the morsel just melted in my mouth. I know that most of America only thinks of trimming off the fat from pork or only eating it on crisp bacon, but I pity the folks who’ve never known the pleasure of a piece of well-braised pork with its luscious skin. Sigh.
In between the pork bun and a chocolate cookie (the latter was just so so), I watched hordes of kids chasing each other about after gaining freedom from the school bell and the little yappy dogs starting a rumble in the park while the big dogs just stared quizzically at the interruption to their play. It’s always the small ones that think they are all badass. And I heard snippets of conversations of which I have no context, which was fine with me. Next to me some European guy was talking trash about the Italians regarding who knows what. Must have been jealous of their cheese or something. And a couple of middle-school kids walked past me with one questioning the other: “Did you just call that thing a man? There’s not a trace of a man on that, or a woman!” I would have liked to have seen the object of their incredulity. Then again, maybe not.
Since I still had time to kill before dinner at Blue Hill, I stopped by Tarallucci e Vino for a latte and to write a bit in my neglected journal. Normally, I don’t drink coffee but my sleep schedule was completely off kilter and I needed to stay awake for dinner. I sat there for a long while sipping my coffee and writing, watching people conversing as the staff milled about preparing for dinner. It was nice not to have to think of spreadsheets and powerpoints, or EBITDA and margins. Not to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Having been in the rat race for so long, I’d forgotten how pleasurable it can be to just sit and be and to know that time doesn’t pass too slowly or too quickly.