Thursday, June 30, 2011

New York City is Amazing

Becky reppin' 305; NYC doorman representing . . . 35

John Updike said, "The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding."  I don't believe people who say they "hate" New York City.  I refuse to accept their statement because it tells me we will have little in common, and finding common ground is what life's all about.

I've visited New York City natives a few times over the years, friends I went to college with who either came to Syracuse University from NYC or who moved there afterwards.  This last trip for BEA made me realize their limitations in playing host (and my own in bringing friends and family to Miami); they showed me their New York, but I never really experienced the city as a newcomer.  I wanted to wander, to find someplace and dip inside, to stand on the subway as a jangle of nerves because I could never quite be sure I'd taken the right route until I magically ended up where I wanted to be.

The first morning, Becky and I walked from the Holiday Inn to the Javits Center.  We stopped at a corner convenience store-cum-deli with a latin dude at the flat-top and a middle-eastern dude behind the registers, guys who only need to hear "a breakfast sandwich with egg and cheese" and "coffee with lots of cream and sugar" to give you a downright delicious meal to start your day, and the best bagel you've ever eaten.

Eating great for cheap is part of what makes New York City cool, more than the accents or the stories you hear strangers exchange in the street, yelling over traffic like they're not sharing something intensely personal (people from LA and Miami seem to think the addition of a cell phone makes them superior to New Yorkers, like yelling dirty laundry into a phone is more refined than yelling it into a face).  Even better, every place that catches your eye has a story.  Using the criteria that I can't stop myself if I tried, I realize I'm only truly addicted to two things - reading and writing; I'm all about story.

Becky and I stopped at a bakery on impulse, one with a name like Hilda's Bakery (I've searched the internet like Cyber Sam Spade but there are about a billion bakeries in Manhattan and I've delayed this post long enough).  We walked in and saw a big-boned black woman and a flamboyantly gay man behind the counter.  We assumed Hilda was a figure made-up to sell baked goods.

Then we saw three framed black-and-white photos by the register, and a fourth frame filled with long-hand notepaper, faded by time.  Turns out the woman in the photos is Hilda, and the notepaper is one of her original recipes.  All of the recipes they use at Hilda's Bakery are, in fact, Hilda's.  And the baby in photo number two?  That's the current owner, also known as Some Chick From CSI.

(You'd think with that much information, the internet would give up a name.  The BBBW who rang us up even flashed the actress's headshot, and I can't remember who it is.  Damn.)

How good were these cupcakes?  After stuffing our faces with cupcakes Becky and I tried to leave twice.  We returned both times to buy more cupcakes.  They were that good.  Meanwhile, passers-by kept ducking in to critique pastries they'd eaten earlier in the day.  The employees and the regulars knew each-other by name, and the employees obviously were having a lot of fun.  It made me wish I lived there so I could familiarize myself with Hilda's entire menu, to form opinions I could shout in passing on the way home.

"Hilda's Bakery," Carnegie Deli, Hell's Pizza Kitchen, that no-name corner store with a breakfast counter or the half-dozen other places we dipped into, we saw nothing but cheer amongst New Yorkers.  The New York Sneer - particularly post 911 - is like Big Foot.  It's legendary, told so often it must be true, but it's doubtful you'll ever see it in person.  Plus, the stories behind these places?  Forget about it.  Fuggedabboutit.  Fuhgeddabowtit.

Still, it's good to be home.

Miami, in the dead of winter, sans pants.     


  1. bacon wrapped shrimp!

  2. Never work a grill without a drink beside you. That's a law you know......

    nice post.

  3. Becky made shrimp last night. As I ate the first one I thought, I could wrap you in bacon, dip you in barbecue sauce, and grill you up real nice. Becky doesn't do pork, which pretty much means I don't do pork... but I do love a good bacon-wrapped shrimp.

    Al, if you look closely, between my spatula and the hood, there's a mostly-empty Corona behind the grill.

    I'm no scofflaw!