I heart New York.
I've wanted to live there since I was a kid. I'd turn on "Sesame Street" and watch the segments shot in Central Park, or on rooftops in Queens, or sidewalks in the Bronx, and think how lucky those kids were. They got to live in a place where right outside the door of your apartment were shops, and theaters, and libraries, and all different sorts of people.
My parents thought this was little strange (New York, to them, was place where you had to rush down streets paved with trash and lined with muggers). So did just about everybody else. It's noisy! It's crowded!
Yeah, it is noisy and crowded. It's New York. What the hell do you expect?
All I know is that from my first visit, as a college freshman, I found the vastness and the pace invigorating, not frightening.
We lived on a succession of Air Force bases that were pleasant, and safe, but about as exciting as your typical American suburb. Which is to say, not exciting at all. Nothing but row after row of identical houses. The base library was usually too far away to get to without a parent to drive me and there was never anything interesting to see or explore within walking distance. Not even a park or a playground.
Yet all these years later I've still not lived in New York. I'm not much of a gambler, and I've always felt I'd have to be going there for something in particular, most likely a job. Temperamentally, I'm not one to just move to New York and see what happens next.
This latest visit was to celebrate C's birthday and goof around with his wonderful friends Lila and Alex. Lila and Alex live in lower Manhattan and are the best hosts you could ask for.
I'll come right out and say it. New York yarn shops beat the living hell out of Chicago yarn shops.
I got to visit two: KnitNY and Purl. I didn't expect to see Purl, but Lila needed to make a stop at Murray's Cheese Shop in the West Village and so we stopped in on the way.
This is me outside of Purl:
See that smile? That is the smile of a man who, for the second time in one day, has been to a yarn shop where he was greeted politely and treated with respect, and was able to buy excellent yarn at prices many dollars cheaper than can be found in his own city.
Chicago shops justify their incredible mark-ups by citing high city rents. So why are the regular prices for yarns like Manos and Rowan lower - often by 50% - in New York? Because retail space in the Village is an absolute steal compared to the same square footage in Lincoln Park?
The service was also sterling at both shops. Purl was busy as heck, but the saleswomen found time to help me out. One of them even got excited over my "Middlemarch" t-shirt - turns out she's an Eliot fan, too. At KnitNY, I got to work a ball winder and swift for the first time. I think I'm now qualified to be a "ball guy" like Jon.
Of course, I can't go to New York without visiting The Strand, the most incredible used bookshop in the United States. They have something like 8 miles of books for sale, a length slightly reduced after I'd had a go at their photography and needlework sections.
While I was scoping out the knitting books, the lady standing next to me saw the copy of the Vogue knitting reference I'd pulled off the shelf and said, "That's a lucky find."
We started chatting and who does she turn out to be? Marion Edmonds, one of the designers whose work appears in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Good grief!
Happy Birthday to U, C
Lila is studying at the French Culinary Institute and arranged for us to have dinner at L'Ecole, the school's restaurant. But first she put out a wine and cheese course at the apartment that nearly made me crumple to the floor with delight.
It was all dreadfully Noel Coward, as you can see:
Maybe Noel Coward mixed with a little Tennesse Williams. Lila's roots are Southern.
It just kept getting better. At L'Ecole we got a kitchen tour and a private dining room. We ate a great deal of excellent food and drank a shocking amount of good wine. Note the line-up of glasses. Most of those are from one person's place setting.
This may explain my red face and the incipient mania in my eyes. I drank in sips but it still must have added up to a full glass, well over my usual safe limit of 1/4 glass per calendar year.
C got a surprise with his dessert. He won't tell me what he wished for, but after he blew out the candle I was still at the table. That was a relief.
Occasionally as we walked around I noticed we were being stalked by Edward Hopper:
It made a nice change from Chicago, where one is more likely to be stalked by Diane Arbus.
Speaking of art, we spent a large hunk of Sunday at P.S.1 in Queens. I got shivers from the place - good ones. If you've never been there, it's a sort of MoMA satellite, housed in an old school building. A lot of the works are site specific, and the cumulative effect of the place is surreal. You step from what still looks like a fairly standard school hallway through what looks like a normal classroom door, and discover the room is full of human-sized, animated yeti. You walk down another hallway and notice a tree with paper leaves is growing out of the wall. And on and on and on.
Not even a preponderance of bad video art installations could kill my buzz.
We finished up the weekend at the Guggenheim, where there was a good Mapplethorpe exhibit on display. I had somehow never been to the Guggenheim before, so now I've got one more Frank Lloyd Wright building crossed off my life list.
Not pictured is the noted gay porn actor we saw wandering around the exhibit.
Ah, New York.