And for now, a taste was all I needed.
A few weeks ago, I left The Big Apple and headed south. And while I knew I would definitely miss it, it’s fun to reflect on the time I spent there. For my last two weeks in New York (i.e. my two weeks notice), I stayed with a good friend, struggling to cram in a few last dates with the city.
I went out to dinner with friends where we spent one evening sharing a mozzarella appetizer imported from Italy at a rustic Italian restaurant in Alphabet City (or around there). One night we opted to stay in and ordered from Cafe Habana, the eclectic Cuban restaurant in Nolita.
A warm Saturday morning prompted a long walk through the streets of the city. Park Avenue shut down for Summer Streets, an event where New Yorkers are encouraged to walk their dogs, bike, run and just enjoy the weather as the meander up/down Park Avenue. I walked from the 30’s up to Central Park and the 70’s, meeting my friend Claire at MOMA for lunch and a surprise street fair.
One of my favorite things about New York is the surprises that spring up around every block. This street fair was only one block (avenue to avenue) and was in support of a dance studio’s 50th anniversary. People crowded around food stands, ordering gyros and fried mozzarella or smoothies and funnel cakes.
I left the fair and wandered up to Central Park, stopping in shops along the way. I settled onto a spot beneath a tree whose shadow spread over one of the many lakes in the park. I read there for a few hours, intermittently glancing around at couples and families picnicking, homeless men napping, and hundreds of singles walking dogs, checking Blackberries or reading newspapers.
As a final farewell, New York even threw me a bon voyage parade. Granted, my parade just happened to coincide with the Dominican Day Parade. Thousands crammed along the 5th avenue route as spainish music blasted from floats. On Madison avenue, running parallel, another street fair boasted my favorite kettle corn truck, KettleCorn NYC that offers free samples of exotic flavors like Chilli Lime, Coconut, Cotton Candy, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cheddar Caramel…all of which I find utterly delicious.
As I had done on many Saturday mornings, I spent my final Saturday wandering the stands at the Union Square Farmers’ Market. The outer perimeter of the park is lined with various vendors selling vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses, and grains. While I enjoy wandering through the stalls rooting through local produce, I much prefer the Union Square artists. An eclectic crew of struggling artists descend daily, setting up the rusting poker tables with all of the items they are trying to sell. One young black t-shirt, multi-pierced vendor hovers behind his table with his hands deeply rooted in his denim pockets. Photographs, digitally mastered, of the city are mounted on frames lined with masking tape and then dyed with the chemicals used in developing (the effect is a sepia colored border over the picture).
Beside him a woman sits in an outdoor camping chair as people scan the folded cartoon, slogan or political t-shirts on her table. A thin black man with hip-length dreadlocks slowly paces behind bongs carefully arranged to descend in height order. I stop at the next stand, where a hipster is arranging a framed print of the Empire State Building. Magnets are scattered over the table, like pick-up-sticks, with images of the City atop animal sketchings. I looked carefully at the prints, whimsically painted images of Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State, and the Chrysler Building. I couldn’t resist buying one, and haggled him down a bit. He included a few of the magnets for me as well. I finished my last date with a glass of wine and a nice dinner with a group of friends, knowing that in a week I’d be in Pennsylvania, unemployed (well…just a break until I started my next job the following week). But it’s fun to say, I’m currently unemployed and watch the reactions of the people I tell.
A week later, my bag packed and one-way ticket bought, I walked to Penn Station. Passing the Empire State and Macy’s, I dragged my loaded suitcase through the crowded streets of New York, hardly believing it had been a year and I was leaving for good. It was a goregous day. And the City made sure that when I pulled out of Penn Station, the sun glistened across the skyline and waited until it was night and I was gone before it stormed. New York and I parted ways on excellent terms, with an understanding that I might be back in the not-so-distant future, that this may not have been just a bite I took, that soon enough, I might be back to eat all the way to the core.