Gifts, Food and Goodbye

My important todos today were about goodbye and about food. I was to meet Priya in the afternoon at Schmackary’s for cookies, “catching up” and to say goodbye. Afterwards Soh Ang took me to Nyonya, the Malaysian restaurant to have a last dinner together where we had our first one all the way back in July.

My serious intention was to get some errands done before meeting Priya at 3:30 in Hell’s Kitchen. I wanted to travel all the way downtown to go to Century 21 and to the nearby CD store. But like most days I didn’t manage to head out early enough to do that. So I changed my plan to doing errands on my way to Hell’s Kitchen. I made a first stop at Barnes & Noble and actually bought some gifts. A second stop was Lincoln Center where I bought another gift at the Met Opera store. They were just setting up a Christmas tree outside.
Then I walked to Columbus Circle to check out the holiday market there. I was looking for the woman who had made my big ring to get it better accustomed to my finger. I didn’t find her although her website says she should be there. But I found a stall selling German Bratwurst in a bun with toppings like on a hot dog, onions and sauerkraut. I think people who are selling German Bratwurst abroad should have visited Germany to see what a Bratwurst is served with – a crispy roll and mustard, nothing else. Otherwise they should not call it German.
I did not try the Bratwurst hotdog, nor the German gingerbread called Lebkuchen. I had a meatball slider instead and it reminded me that I still haven’t been to the Meatball Shop. How could I forget that. It is kind of a literary research. So I will still have to squeeze it in.

From Columbus Square I walked to Schmackary’s and found Priya there over a coffee and a Red Velvet Cookie. I got a Cappuccino and a Maple Bacon and for tomorrow a Peanut Butter. We were talking about one and a half hour, reviewing my time in New York and other things. Priya asked me what was the strangest thing I saw in New York. I didn’t find an answer to that. Maybe I will if I go through my Journal back home. It was so nice to meet Priya again. She called me a friend when we finally said goodbye and I asked her to give Astor and Pepper a hug from me.

On my way down to Chinatown to meet Soh Ang I made a stop at Kate’s Papeterie on Lafayette at Broome Street. It is by far the most creative paper shop I’ve ever seen.
Soh Ang was ordering plenty of food at Nyonya. We had two appetizers, very thin Malaysian pancakes with curry sauce to dip in and the local variety of a spring roll. And we had three main dishes: noodles with shrimps, coconut rice with chicken, eggs and pickles and sizzling tofu with minced pork and shrimp and vegetables. Unfortunately everything came together. Why don’t they serve the appetizers first and the entrees afterwards? So our table was totally packed with food. Everything was delicious. My favorites were the spring roll and the tofu, which had just the right consistency between soft and firm. We didn’t manage to finish our dishes of course. I rejected Soh Ang’s attempt to persuade me to an ice cream for dessert. I knew she would have taken a spoonful and left the rest to me.

On our way home Soh Ang asked me what I will miss most after leaving New York. I really don’t know. But there is a lot I will miss.

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A Trip to Egypt

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the few museums that are open on Mondays. I hadn’t seen Egypt on my first visit. Noel had told me I have to see Egypt, because of the temple they had brought from Egypt to New York and built up in the museum. So I went to see Egypt today and I have to admit it was impressive, even for people – like me – who have now specific interest in ancient cultures.

I walked from the West Side to the East Side along the northern shore of the Reservoir and down to the Met along the eastern shore. Central Park has become bare-branched by now and although it was a warm day again there were not many people around. Some joggers and some people walking their dog. A lot of ducks were sleeping on the water.

Maureen had advised me not to pay the recommended donation. No New Yorker would do that. So again I paid what I had paid last time and what I regard fair for staying about 3 hours. That was the amount of time I had planned to stay.
After scanning the main shop for little gifts that I still need I walked straight into the North wing, into Egypt. The collection is immense. There are statues, heads, coffins, jewelry, reliefs, hieroglyphs and many, many more artefacts.
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They even explain the system of hieroglyph writing. That was fascinating me. Simple in its structure, but complicated because it is so different to what we are used to. And there is the Temple of Dendur that has been relocated from Nubia to New York in 1965 as a gift to the United States for helping to save several monuments threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Unfortunately they were preparing an event around the temple, so I could see it but not go into or even near it.
Right behind the temple the American Wing starts. There I looked at some period rooms and a collection of American paintings and sculptures from the 19th and 20th century. Nice stuff. I looked for my painting, the one that I bought for my living room, but didn’t find it.

When I left the museum I picked up a Pretzel from one of the stands outside and tried to hurry home to get ready for maybe opera. I wanted to try to get a rush ticket for tonight’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Eugen Onegin. 200 orchestra tickets are sold for 20$ two hours before curtain. As I had no idea how long I would stand in line and if I would still have time to get home to dress properly after getting a ticket I decided to go home first and stand in line readily dressed.
It was the wrong decision. The crosstown bus didn’t come for a while and the subway just left when I got into the station. So I got home late and arrived at Lincoln Center when the sale had already started. I got in line that was not too long, but after 10 minutes the rush tickets were sold out. I will have another chance on Thursday. Then I will be there an hour earlier and go home to dress after I hopefully have a ticket.

Outside at Lincoln Square there was something going on. A Christmas tree has been set up in Dante Park and a band was singing folk songs like “Country Roads”. A big crowd was gathered. I listened for a while then got closer to see what this was about. It was Winter’s Eve, a music festival at several places on Broadway and the Upper West Side’s own Tree Lighting Ceremony. The singer was Arlo Guthrie, well known for “City of New Orleans”.
Instead of listening to a real Met Opera performance I had dinner at Malecon, a Dominican neighborhood restaurant that Maureen had recommended. Their signature dish is broiled chicken. I had a half chicken and a side dish of plantains, half green ones and half ripe ones. The chicken was very tender with crispy and well-seasoned skin. The green plantains tasted unripe. Well, that’s what they are. The ripe ones – called maduros – were soft and sweet. Men from the neighborhood go to this place and just get their food served without ordering. I guess they come every day and have a daily special.

In the morning I finally met Maureen’s husband. He lives in Bethlehem and leaves to go back there tomorrow. He has been Arafat’s chief of protocol. Now he is still working for the Palestinian government but as there is not really a government and nobody comes to visit officially he has not much to do. So what he mainly does now is organizing tours for international groups to visit Palestine, meet people, see historic sites and get an idea of what the problems really are. Sounds good. Maureen will let me know when there are tours scheduled next year.

What I learned today:
Egypt had a very highly developed culture in those ancient times.

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The Merchant’s House

The Merchant’s House is a museum in NoHo, showing a rich merchant family’s life in the 19th century. Since Friday it is decorated for Christmas. I went to see it on a guided tour this afternoon.

The house was built in the 1830s, when the family moved to what then was uptown because living conditions downtown had become noisy and unattractive. It has been constructed as a row house then but is now standing all alone on 4th Street between Lafayette Street and Bowery.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining. He told the history of the house and its time by the daily life of the Treadwell family, who built the house and lived in it with eight children and four Irish servants. Most amazing was the way business were supposed to be started. The man who wanted to start a business with another man would send his wife there. She would hand over a card. The way the card was folded showed what that visit was about. If the matter seemed interesting to the other man’s wife she was invited in for a brief visit, could sit in the parlor and get an impression of the other family’s situation. I’m happy I wasn’t a rich man’s wife then. This would not have been a proper job for me.

The weather has changed completely since yesterday. Sunshine greeted me this morning and warm air came into my overheated bedroom through the window I had left half open to be able to sleep.
So I set out in a skirt, light coat and sunglasses to meet up with Soh Ang for brunch before we went to the museum. We had it in Five Points on Great Jones Street. It is a very busy place on Sunday mornings but we got a table. I had a Breakfast Sausage Benedict and a Grapefruit Cooler. The Breakfast Sausage Benedict was a plate of two cheese scones with spicy sausage and Sauce Benedict on them and a bit of green at the side. I loved the contrast of the spicy sausage and the soft and slightly lemony sauce. The Grapefruit Cooler was Gin, Campari and grapefruit juice. Nice color, refreshing and not too strong. A great brunch drink. Even So hang had a drink with her Fish Tacos, a Mimosa. After we finished our food Soh Ang asked the waiter for one single Churro as she had seen a plate of Churros at another table. We shared a plate of Churros with Mexican chocolate then, as a single one was not available. The churros came very thick and soft but with too much sugar on them. She had the leftovers packed and handed them over to me, like always. No wonder I gain weight constantly.

After we left the museum we walked north. On 12th Street we came across a thrift store where I saw a picture of a little girl that looked so much like me as a little girl. If I had a little bit of room left in my luggage I might have bought it. We as well found a very nice dress – for 200 $, in a thrift shop. Ok, this is New York City and who knows whose dress it had been.
Having passed Union Square we walked further north on Broadway. We checked out the holiday stuff at ABC Carpet. Very beautiful and very pricey. At 23nd Street we parted. I walked over to Park Avenue to get some little gifts at Bath & Body Works and then took the subway uptown. I got off at 72nd Street and walked to Barnes & Noble on 83rd to look for Christmas CDs. They don’t have a great selection. I have to find another place.

All in all it was a great last Sunday.

What I learned today:
Brunch is a good way to start a Sunday – I should take that home.

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Last Move

My last move did not take me to another neighborhood. I stayed where I feel I would belong when I would live in Manhattan – on the Upper West Side – and just moved three blocks east and seven blocks south. However the neighborhood has a completely different face over here.

I am here now:

It was an easy move. I didn’t need any subway or bus but could just walk. Both buildings have elevators. So no carrying of luggage. Maureen, my new hostess, has a dog, Rosa. She barked at me when I arrived but soon was very friendly when I showed her that I like dogs. She as well has a husband who will be here until Tuesday, but I didn’t meet him yet.
After having unpacked what I will still need during my last week I went out to explore my new surroundings. I’m east of Broadway now, so I have other points of reference. I walked down Amsterdam Avenue until 71st Street, turned east to Central Park West, walked along Central Park West to 77th Street and up Columbus Avenue then. Amsterdam Avenue was pretty familiar already. I had a latte and a carrot muffin in an ugly bakery. I could have gone to Café Lalo again but I was looking for something new. I could have gone to Starbucks but their baked goods are boring, mass production. Amsterdam Avenue apparently is not so much a bakery place.
On Central Park West the stands set up for the Thanksgiving Parade were still standing. I passed the New York Historic Society and thought I should still go there. It looks interesting. When I reached Columbus Avenue it was dark already. I realized the Christmas decoration. I had not seen any around last week. Illuminated stars have been hung up and trees are wrapped in light like the ones in front of Café Lalo always are. When I left my old building a tree (plastic) had joined the Hanukkah table in the hall. And on the streets Christmas trees are sold now.

For dinner I chose Café Edgar where I had a kale salad – very healthy – and Penne al Vodka – very unhealthy – that didn’t taste like vodka at all. With my food I had a glass of kosher Argentinian Chardonnay that was close to horrible. While I was waiting for my food I tried to set up a schedule for my last week. It will be tight. Two museums and one opera (hopefully), the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock if there is a clear day after the tree is lit and maybe the United Nations Headquarters. Plus all those little errands that I could have long done, like buying small gifts. I decided not to buy any more food except for breakfast and eat out instead. Edgar Allen Poe watched me from the opposite wall when I was writing down my todos.

Last night Shoshannah had made dinner for me after I had spent most of the day catching up with my writing. We had a Korean vegetable soup, tuna sashimi and a tuna maki roll. She had prepared it all by herself. The fish was excellent. We had gone shopping together and I had contributed a bottle of wine – what else.

What I learned today:
I have to be alert not to waste any time now.

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Pavel the Pavo

Thanksgiving is the most important holiday in the United States. It is more important than Christmas because it is for everybody irrespective of religion. It is family time and there must be a turkey. In New York there is Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade as another major attraction.

The parade starts at 9 am. Not really my time, especially as it is not possible to just go and see. Getting a good view means to be out about two hours before it starts. Everybody told me it is much better to watch it on TV. So that’s what I did and what most New Yorkers do. I tried to use the TV in my room but did not get NBC there. So I used my laptop.
NBC was broadcasting from Herald Square, right in front of Macy’s. They showed Musical performances given there before the parade arrived – It started up on the Upper West Side, where the balloons were – and then views of the parade itself. It had not been cancelled, the balloons were flying. There were marching bands and popular singers in the parade as well, not just the balloons. The whole thing took three hours and the best viewing spots were not available to the public at all. Special guests only. So it was not a bad idea to watch it in a warm apartment on a laptop – even if the balloons might have been more impressive live outside. But I had seen them the night before, just not flying.

The turkey I was invited to share, Pavel the Pavo, was roasted in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Priya had asked her friend Toya if she could bring me over and Toya agreed. So I was supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving with Toya, her daughters Amira and Laila, Priya and Melanie, a friend. When I arrived late afternoon I found Priya and Toya working in the kitchen and drinking wine. The kids were happy about my gifts. They are very smart kids. I saw a world map hanging at the wall and offered to show them where I am from. Amira immediately showed me where Germany is. Of course she knew and wanted to know which other countries I had visited. Laila was writing Thanksgiving wishes on her huge blackboard wall in a very clear and precise handwriting. She is five and in Kindergarten. I was truly impressed.
Pavel the Pavo was a small turkey and he had been roasted with sage under his skin.
As he was not that big he was not stuffed but the stuffing – made with bread and artichokes – was baked separately in the oven. There was Mac and Cheese – southern tradition -, cauliflower in béchamel and roasted brussels sprouts. Cranberry sauce and gravy from the turkey. As a starter we had squash soup with horseradish and honey with little potato buns. Horseradish made it a bit unusual but it was an interesting contrast to the sweetness of the honey.
The dinner took an unexpected course when it was just set out on the table. Poor Priya, who had prepared most of the food, especially Pavel the Pavo, suffered a bad attack of sickness and headache, had to lie down upstairs and was not able to eat with us. Melanie arrived much later because she had to care for her mother first. So we were a small group eating, just Toya, the kids and me. There was much more food than we were able to eat, so Toya and the kids will have to eat turkey for about a week.
For dessert we had two pies, one apple an one sweet potato. We had them much later after Melanie had arrived and Priya was back. Amira had made the sweet potato pie and it was yummy. Laila fell asleep in her mother’s arms and it was not long before midnight when we all left. Priya and I both needed the A train and Melanie gave us a lift in her car. On the platform a rat was running around. I admit it scared me a bit. I don’t really appreciate the company of rats. It was the first time I saw a rat in a subway station. Priya said they are there all the time.
No train was coming for quite a while. Priya observed that most people were standing close to the stairs leading to the local platform. When finally a train approached downstairs everybody was going down. So did we – and it was an A train. The A runs local late night – they just don’t show that on the express platform. So without Priya I maybe would have waited forever and spent the night on the platform. However I would probably have fled the rat after all other people were gone.

What I learned today:
How to celebrate Thanksgiving

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Preparing Thanksgiving

I had no clear idea what to expect when Rachel and Noel suggested to meet up Wednesday evening to see the Thanksgiving Day balloons. The balloons will fly in Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. So much I knew. They had declared it a must see for me, so I agreed. My focus was more on seeing the two of them however. But why not see the balloons as well, especially as the inflating took place right here in my neighborhood.

I was supposed to meet Rachel and Noel at 6:30 pm in front of the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West at 81st Street. I planned to take the 1 train down to 79th and then walk over. On Broadway I turned into 80th Street and crossed Amsterdam Avenue. When I arrived at Columbus Avenue there was a police barrier. It was not possible to cross. I could only turn right, towards 79th Street. There crossing was possible but I had to pass a maze to do so. People were directed into the maze from both directions and we had to walk up and down half the blow twice to finally arrive at the crossing point. On the other side of Columbus Avenue again I could not turn left but just right. So I got to 77th Avenue, where part of the balloons were standing, readily inflated for tomorrows parade. It just was not clear yet if they would be allowed to fly. A storm was threatening to spoil their show. As I was late already I ignored the balloons, made my way to Central Park West and easily found Rachel on the stairs of the Museum. We hugged and she questioned me about my new place and my feelings about going home soon now. When I told her that I had spent no thought about possible difficulties to get here, she laughed and said “you really have become a New Yorker”. Noel was still stuck somewhere in traffic downtown. It took her a while to reach us. When she finally arrived we walked towards 81st Street where more balloons were parked. Spiderman was there, the Wizard of Oz as a Newcomer in 2013, a Smurf and others. The balloons are huge, really huge. A web with attached sand bags was holding them on the ground.
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Having passed the balloons on 81st we turned left on Columbus to see the others on 77th Street. At 79th Street we were not allowed to simply pass but had to go through the maze again. I understand that it helps to organize the masses crossing the Avenue. But we didn’t want to cross at all. So I didn’t understand that. On 77th Street we found Snoopy and Ronald McDonald and the toothless Dragon. For every balloon the year of its first flight was displayed. Looks like there is one new balloon every year. I admit seeing them was absolutely impressive.
Rachel and Noel had in mind to go to Café Lalo afterwards. I of course happily agreed. So we walked up Central Park West again but were stopped at 81st Street. There we were not allowed to walk straight ahead to 83rd Street. We had to pass the balloons and the masses of people on 81st Street again. I didn’t try to understand it.
Café Lalo was pretty busy although Tom Hanks was not standing outside and Meg Ryan was not sitting in there sipping tea.
We caught the seats at the window bar and ordered hot drinks to warm up. Rachel and I both had a quiche, Noel had a waffle with strawberries. The quiche was served with a small salad and was very tasty. But best was to chat with Rachel and Noel again. Both of them definitely belong to the people I will miss.

I had started the day writing yesterday’s blog post but was interrupted by a message from So Ang. She had half day off because of Thanksgiving and asked if I wanted to meet her for lunch. I still had to buy wine for the Thanksgiving dinner and gifts for the kids, so I knew this would eat up my day. But there are not so many days left to meet Soh Ang, so I accepted.
I stopped writing and walked to the wine store at 107th Street. There I asked for a wine to have with a turkey and got confused. I would always serve white wine with a turkey. They told me it should be red. I finally bought a bottle of white and a bottle of red but am still surprised about red wine with turkey.
Then I took the train to Times Square to look for kids’ stuff at Toys R Us. That’s hell. I didn’t find anything. It’s just too big, too crowded and too noisy. Soh Ang arrived when I just had given up. We looked at some menus around Times Square but agreed that we were not willing to pay tourist prices for our lunch. So I suggested to walk over to 9th Avenue where we would find all kinds of restaurants and they would offer lunch specials. We ended up in a Turkish restaurant where I had a plate of Hummus and an Adana Kebab. After lunch I showed Soh Ang my cookie heaven, Schmackary’s on 45th Street at 9th Avenue. I tried an Oatmeal Butterscotch, Soh Ang had the Maple Bacon. We both took home a Yogi Bare. My Oatmeal Butterscotch was rich and soft. Very nice, but the Maple Bacon will stay my favorite. Soh Ang loved it as well.
We tried to catch our trains at 50th Street subway station but it is a station with separate entrances – and we took the wrong one. So we had to go downtown one stop to 42nd Street to transfer to uptown there. The trains were super packed. We squeezed into the second one. At 42nd Street we parted and I walked over to Times Square to catch the 1 train there , being pushed in a mass of people going home early from work or on their way into a holiday weekend.
At 79th Street I got off to finally get my gifts for Toya’s kids. I first went into Zabar’s to check for kitchen supplies and lunch boxes. Zabar’s was pretty busy. The Upper West Side was stocking up for the holiday. Same thing at Barnes & Noble. I bought the kids’ recipe book I had seen on Tuesday for Amira and a card game with funny faces for Laila and as well found a suitable present for my goddaughter at home. So much easier to find and buy nice things there than at a multi-story toy and trash temple.

What I learned today:
I have become a New Yorker

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A Memory of the Seventies

I was a kid when ABBA won the Grand Prix and got famous. I became a declared ABBA fan and with it an outcast. While for my parents this kind of music was much too wild for the other kids around me it was too good, to well-behaved. But I liked it – and somehow still do. So I finally went to see Mamma Mia on Broadway this Tuesday.

The Broadhurst Theater is definitely not the most comfortable one. Seats are narrow and even my knees touched the backrest of the seat in front of me. Letting people pass always means standing up and grabbing one’s bag stored underneath the seat. Next to me a Chinese couple was sitting, much too young to really know ABBA. He was checking for emails, she was playing Candy Crush Saga. When the show began and the usher walked through the aisles to ask people to put away their cell phones she hid hers underneath her scarf. Half the row in front of me stayed empty. So I was happy to have a very good view. But when the performance just had started a big and tall guy with a square head arrived with a blond doll next to him and sat down right in front of me. Bad luck! So sometimes I had to look around him to see everything. But in general it was fine.
The show was not quite what I had expected – but it was really good. The story is sweet, like a soap opera. 20-year old Sophie grew up with her mother on a Greek island. Now she is going to get married and had invited her three possible fathers to find out who is her dad. What happens then is told using ABBA songs. The actors vere very good as actors. Not allof them were real good singers as well. The stage design showed a Greek island hotel. It was simple but very flexible to use for all different scenes. Sometimes a bed was rolled in or the cast brought chairs and tables. In the end, after the curtain, the main characters put on ABBA costumes and gave a great show, singing and dancing some of the best known songs. It was fun and definitely worth seeing.

The day started with a little surprise. When I finished my shower and opened the shower curtain I saw a tiny something running across the bathroom floor. A mouse. Remember I am not in a country house somewhere upstate but on the 8th floor of a time-honored apartment building on New York City’s Upper West Side. How did that animal get there? Shoshannah, my hostess, was still asleep and I didn’t want to wake her up because of a mouse. So I closed the bathroom door to prevent it from getting somewhere else and attached a note. Later Shoshannah told me she caught the mouse and flushed it down the toilet. Pacifists can be cruel.

It was a rainy day but there were things to be done. My first errand was getting the ticket. I knew the prices at TKTS and went to the theater to compare. I am a bargain ticket pro now. They had tickets available at the same price, so I bought it there.
Then, as I was close I had a look at the tree at Rockefeller Center. And guess what, they were just removing the scaffolding. The tree is ready to be lightened. The lightning ceremony will be on December 4th.
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Next I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond on 19th Street to buy last travel size supplies of toothpaste and other stuff. I grabbed a slice of 1$ Pizza and walked over to 7th Avenue to catch the 1 train back to the Upper West Side.
There I got off at 79th Street to look for Thanksgiving presents. For Priya and Toya I got herbal teas at Teavana. That done I went to Barnes & Noble to see if I could find something for the kids. A friend at home had provided me with some ideas and Barnes & Noble gave me some more. So first of all I was confused and decided to check out a toy store the other day.
On my way home I got a Falafel Sandwich at Jerusalem, a takeout restaurant right at my subway station at 103rd Street and Broadway. It was not bad but I had better ones.

The rain had gotten stronger when I left again for Mamma Mia. At the theater people stood in line with their umbrellas. But they did not open the doors until 7:30. As always when it is raining an umbrella seller was walking the lines. One umbrella for 3 Dollars, 2 for 5.

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