Thoughts on a New York State of Mind
After all the rain on Saturday and early fog on Sunday, Monday dawned bright and cheery. Preparing for a day in Manhattan was a careful process: what comfy shoes could I wear that looked “normal?” Which bag(s) could I carry that didn’t scream tourist? Should I wear normal headphones or my Pinkie Pie over the ear don’t f with me headphones? How do I figure out where I’m going without looking like I’m lost or a tourist?
In other words, how do I look like I belong so that I blend into the background?
The day started with me boarding the Long Island Rail Road at the Syosset stop to head into the city. The train was about half full of mostly commuters. Hipsters dressed in suits that still screamed, “I’m unique like everyone else dammit!” but still looking like they were wearing the grown up clothes mom bought for them for family events. Then came the corporate types in their serious clothing.
There was the scattered set of tourists and ladies who lunch types as well. Me, I was styling my jeans and middle aged fat girl “slenderizing” tunic top, NaNo Messenger bag and the don’t F with me Pinkie Pie headphones. Sitting next to a hipster on the train with the largest cup of Dunkies I could get my hands on, I kicked back and relaxed.
Of equal importance, my soundtrack for the day. Because of my mood, I started with Reel Big Fish’s “Hiding in my Headphones,” and hit the “radio” button to get the ska mix going that would be my underlying soundtrack.
Hipster boy looked up from his tablet long enough to see the headphones and go back to his electronic version of New York Newsday and I caught up on my email and social media on my phone as we rolled along. I also used that time to map my destinations. I knew I wanted to go to the Moleskine stores in NYC and just see what happened in between. The decision: start in SoHo or Columbus Circle? I was close to the end of my current notebook and needed a new one and I wasn’t sure if one would have more selection than the other. The train ride convinced me to start at Columbus Circle as they were open. Yes SoHo would be open by the time I walked there, but Columbus Circle was already open and it was at the entrance of Central Park.
As we rolled into Penn Station, I set up my map feature with walking directions so that I could discreetly find my way when Siri would pop on every so often to tell me when to turn or hold steady with no one else the wiser. As I started down 8th Avenue, I noticed a woman I dubbed, “Yoga Woman.” She was silver haired in capri length yoga pants and comfy shirt with the Gaiam bag and mat over her shoulder bustling down the street. I followed her down the street when I detoured into a Starbucks for a few minutes. As I started back down 8th, I noticed her just ahead of me still. I figured she was my guide, so I followed her almost all the way to Columbus Circle.
Arriving at the Time Warner Building, I was excited to head up to the Moleskine store where I met an enthusiastic clerk. He understood that Moleskine nerds came to visit all the time. He told me if I visited the other two stores, they had different stamps and that the company was negotiating on a property to open a Boston store. We talked about paper weights, he flipped through my watercolor sketches of Boar and Bunny from the weekend and helped me pose them so I could take a picture of them stamping my book. It was a fun experience before I headed off to explore Central Park for a bit.
Sitting at the Columbus Circle fountain, I sketched Boar and Bunny looking at the water towards the park and watched a commercial being made before heading across the street. Just inside the interest was the official map to Central Park, so I figured for $2 I could have some fun. The girl pointed me towards Strawberry Fields and I figure I knew how to avoid the parts Law & Order taught me to be scared of and meandered up the path. When I found the GhostBusters building on the west side, I figured I had gone too far and chose to walk along the street instead of in the park.
At Strawberry Fields, the tourist were lined up to take photos of the Imagine circle. A lone guitarist sat on a nearby bench playing Beatles songs with a sign on his case saying, “Out of work, anything helps.”
I took Bunny and Boar out of my bag and placed them carefully on the Imagine circle (much to the dismay of many tourists in line behind me) and took their picture. I quickly scooped them up and moved to a bench - unlike many of the disgruntled tourists who were upset at me setting up my shoot. Sitting on the bench listening to the guitarist, and the next person who declared it would soon be his turn to play, I quickly sketched out the photo I just took into my notebook and moved along.
I haven’t taken a pedicab since San Diego years ago, so I figured what the hell? The driver only charged $2 a minute and I knew it would only take him a few minutes to get back to Columbus Circle, it was worth it for me. I snapped Bunny and Boar in the “safety” net (more like a map pocket) and laughed at his thickly accented lame jokes tailored for tourists. He showed me photos he took of himself with celebrities like Susan Sarandon and JLo. As we rolled into Columbus Circle, I gave him $10 and an Asian couple sat there waiting and wanted to pay him for an hour.
It’s all good.
From there I hopped the C train down to the Village. The day before had been the Pride celebration and the Village looked like how most of the celebrants must have felt. Rainbow flags hung askew from windows and crumpled over sills or railings. The sidewalks waiting to be hosed down matched with rainbow smears of food and drink that made encore appearances after celebrating a bit too much. I carefully skirted the smears and wandered a bit past bars offering lunch choices as they aired out from the weekend and the overpriced luncheon options at the fancier places. I crossed the imaginary line into SoHo. I knew I crossed it because it was as if an imaginary “rainbow free zone” sign were hung at the border and the boutique shops of the well heeled began to appear one after the other in neat rows.
By now it was almost one o’clock and my stomach was making itself known. Stopping into a little lunch place, I grabbed a Proscuitto and talegia sandwich with a strawberry-rhubarb jam that was actually rather tasty. I was able to plug my phone in and recharge the battery and took a picture of Boar and Bunny with the oversized Linzer cookie (there’s always room for cookies).
It was time to move on and I found the SoHo Moleskine store. The two clerks in there were equally as pleasant and understood the nerd factor. They had some of the collectible notebooks that the Time Warner small store didn’t have. Bunny and Boar played with the stamps. Bunny loved the “I’m a traveller” stamp because, this adventure story was all about Bunny climbing out of his shy place to be more adventurous with Boar’s bolder temperament to guide him. Boar chose the West Broadway and Spring Street stamp because he was more about being in SoHo than traveling in the moment.
At least, that’s what their story will be about.
I spoke with the clerks about my paper issues. I showed them how my fountain pen now bled through the paper and why that sort of pissed me off. We looked at how my watercolors would shadow through a page as well. The best they could offer was that Moleskine had adopted an environmentally friendlier acid-free paper. The result was perhaps it was a bit lighter as a result. I selected a couple of limited edition notebooks, an Alice in Wonderland and a Hello Kitty, even though neither had a gridded option. I decided that Alice would be good for my summer notebook. I did a little holiday shopping while I was there too.
Looking at my watch, it was time to say good bye to New York and grab the C train back to Penn Station and wait for the Acela back to Boston.