Getting Familiar with Harlem

I got up late, but Ettice still later. She joined me for breakfast when I had almost finished mine. Well she has been out dancing last night, I was sleeping.

Today’s mission was getting familiar with my new neighborhood. I checked the two walks I found in my guidebooks, a literary one and a historic one and tried to combine them. I walked through beautiful Brownstone streets and along 116th and 125th street, the commercial hubs of Harlem, saw lots of churches (do they have one per family or one per block), the Apollo theatre and the former Teresa Hotel.
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Finally bought a pair of sandals. Harlem has all kind of stores that other neighborhoods have as well. There are supermarkets,pharmacies, banks, laundries, phone stores. Clothing stores are different though. Black people wear different clothes. There are African markets selling African groceries and there are African beauty salons offering hair braidings, Senegalese style, Liberian style, Jamaican style – all different apparently, but not for my European eyes.

I had to cut off my walk because my leg started to hurt. It was mid afternoon already and I felt a little bit hungry. I went to the supermarket and got some fruit and a couscous salad. Then I walked home and sat down on the front porch to eat. The upstairs neighbor came down and started a talk about last night’s noise. She told me she had just come back from California and was still suffering from the jetlag and then these people were partying all night. If she was one of those picky New Yorkers she would tell them… She asked me about my stay but was already well informed. Finally she got an air condition delivered what brought our conversation to an end.

I spent the rest of the afternoon working – doing soft work (reading and thinking about writing).

Finally I decided to have a glimpse at Bastille Day, a French street festival down on 60th street. I walked over to Lexington Avenue where the 4, 5 and 6 trains run and where Spanish Harlem begins. More neglected buildings and run down stores. The local train takes a long time to get to 59th street. When I arrived there, Bastille Day was over. They were just cleaning up.
I walked around Grand Army Plaza, the Southeast edge of Central Park thinking about what to do. Lots of food carts were selling Hot Dogs and Kebabs and made me feel hungry. But I resisted. There was no culinary reason for having Kebab from a food cart just next to Central Park.
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I had a closer look at Plaza Hotel – not a Hotel any more – and walked into the park and over to the West Side.
There I followed Broadway up my beloved Upper West Side. Passed the Met, picked up a bottle of Chardonnay and a slice of Pizza and took the train home from Verdi Square. It had got dark by then.
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Back home I reheated my Pizza and cooled my wine. Ettice told me there would have been plenty of food. She apparently had been cooking for the whole week. When I had left she was preparing chicken and broccoli, now there was something looking like lamb on the stove.
I invited her to a glass of wine and we got talking. Politics, social matters, personal stories. It got late.

What I learned today:
Americans like Angela Merkel

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4 Responses to Getting Familiar with Harlem

  1. Sadie says:

    You generalize too broadly when you say “Americans this or that”. As an American myself, I can safely say that random Americans on the street don’t know who the Vice President of this country is, much less anyone in Germany! But I hope you continue to meet I formed people. Your stay will be so much more interesting! Xoxo

  2. Sadie says:

    That last sentence should have been “informed” people. Xoxo

  3. Anne says:

    My ears perk up now when I hear references to NYC on the television. On a program about food and culture, the “Red Rooster” restaurant in Harlem was mentioned. Perhaps you will get a chance to try it.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Anne, the Red Rooster is very close to where I am staying. My hostess showed it to me. It is very trendy and noisy but the Chef is said to be famous. So I guess I will try it.

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