I had never used a Laundromat. But it is an essential part of NYC life, so I had to do it not only because my clothes needed washing but for the experience as well. Ettice had provided me with a Laundromat card for the one next to the supermarket around the corner. She had shown me another one that she is using but there I would have to pay with quarters. So I would need to save lots of quarters first. I stuffed my laundry into my spare travel bag and took two books. On weekdays a small load is just 1.95 with free soap and 6 minutes dryer use is 12 Cents. I apparently looked a bit lost and the black woman at the counter asked if she could help me somehow. I told her that I was here for the first time and if she please could tell me what to do. She showed me the machines where I can buy cards and put money on and then the washing machines. There she left me. How to use it was my problem. But American washing machines are easy. You just select the temperature. Not in degrees but cold-warm-hot-delicate So I put me laundry in, turned the knob to warm, put my card in and – wow!- it started and showed me it would run 22 minutes. I sat down on one of the blue plastic chairs in a corner and tried to read, distracted by two TV screens and a load of colorful sneakers banging against the door of the machine in front of me. On one of the TV screens a woman was interviewed about whatever. On the second one somebody cut somebody else’s arm with a knife. After 22 minutes I grabbed one of the carts and went to my machine. It was not ready yet. The last minute took about 10 minutes. But still this is pretty quick. I waited patiently, finally took my laundry out and pushed the cart to the dryer next to my seat. There as well I had to choose temperature and just put my card in. I had no idea how long it would take, so I stayed with the standard 6 Minutes and checked then. Surprisingly after just half an hour everything except the towels and one T-Shirt was pretty dry. So I took my stuff to one of the folding tables, folded it neatly, refilled the card with what I had used and went home. Not too bad.
As the Laundromat had not kept me for hours a good deal of the day was left. I decided to examine Spanish Harlem. I googled some restaurants I wanted to check out and set up an itinerary. Spanish Harlem begins right at the end of my block at 5th Avenue. So I might walk just along 130th Street to Harlem River and then southwest down to 96th and Lexington where East Harlem ends, the Upper East Side begins and the 6 train runs downtown.
Getting over to the river on my street is not possible. It ends on Lexington. The walkway along Harlem River ends south of the toll bridge to Randall’s Island and to Queens at 125th street. I came through a lot of pretty ugly housing until I reached Pleasant Avenue, the closest one to the River. A lively and friendly Avenue with Brownstones, restaurants and shops. The language has turned to Spanish here. You find restaurantes, mercados, carnicerias and farmacias. And lots of young Hispanic mothers pushing young Hispanic babies in strollers.
I reached Lexington on 106th street and was flabbergasted to see that it is going steep uphill between 103rd and 102nd Streets. The street scene looks totally funny, as if something had grown underneath and bulged the Avenue up.
The area is interesting and very lively. I found a cozy café, a wine bar, a promising Mexican restaurant and a fragrance shop selling all kinds of fragrance oils, having names like “African Black Love”, “Arabian Knights” or more simple “Guave Papaya”. There are pretty old buildings as well as newly constructed luxury condo towers. I climbed up the hill. To the east it is falling down again, towards the river.
A little side trip on 97th took me over to Park Avenue, where Metro North is running upstate. There I found a Mexican restaurant again where I had eaten years before, but forgotten name and location. I just remembered the proximity to Metro North.
Scenery and language change one street further where the Upper East Side begins with Carnegie Hill. Beautiful old fashioned and tree lined side streets.
I still had time and walked further on Lexington, where I came across one of New York’s most adorable bookstores. A shop completely dedicate to books about food and wine from all over the world. I found what I had been looking for: A New York cookbook, having recipes from all five boroughs, from restaurants as well as from the street. Not even expensive, just thick –so I just took a mental note. The storeowner gave me a card and assured me they ship to everywhere. When I reached 86th street station the first raindrops were falling. So I took the train downtown from there.
When I arrived at Astor Place it was pouring. Like most people I waited in the station for the rain to stop. In fact it did stop after just some minutes. I walked over to the West Village and enjoyed a dinner before I went to my class: Blackened Catfish Po’boy. Now I finally know what a Po’boy is. A southern sandwich. Mine was a brioche-like bun with two slices of spicy catfish in it, served with fries, coleslaw and two sauces. Was yummy!
What I learned today:
How to use a Laundromat