Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Spots I know, spots I love.

Today was a day for making contact with people and places I know well: a current student and a venerable museum, a former student and a storied restaurant (family storied, anyway), a station, a skyscraper. Tonight I'm perched fifteen stories above the street, hundreds of blocks from where I perched last night. Today, I perigrinated. Tomorrow, more.

Though now I am not in a part of the city that I usually spend much time in, I spent most of my day prowling around in SoHo, which is the part of New York I got to know first. As I walked down one street, these men asked me to forge one of their signatures, as part of an art project exploring forgery and authenticity. I obliged, allowing myself to be filmed as I tried to reproduce this guy's signature just below the first four people who had done it, and then walked away. About halfway down the block, I remembered that I'm engaged in my own project and that they now owed me at least a photo. So, I went back. And here they are, with their next passerby participant:

Once the camera was out, I started shooting some more things. I'm still skittish about having my camera out in the open here all the time, the way I carry it in Gambier when I'm really using it as my eye. Chiefly, I think I'm worried that I'll get so preoccupied with finding photographs that someone will somehow manage to get my shoulder bag away from me. But the weather was so fine today in Soho, and rooflines are so interesting here:

Obviously, I tend to look up more than down. I've gotten used to these shots with lots of sky in them.

As the afternoon wore on, I started gravitating to the sites I try to visit every time I'm in town. First, there was Kate's Paperie (the one on Broadway). Then, a pilgrimage to the first café I ever visited in New York, a place that served iced coffee with anise flavoring. Black licorice and coffee? I would never have considered that combination, but it is truly heavenly. Alas, that café seems to be gone now.

Eventually, I made my way to one of my favorite places in the whole city, Grand Central Station. This place's hold on me is largely the product of an NPR story I heard in 1996, long before I visited the city for the first time. The story was about Grand Central's restoration and went into such glorious, amorous detail about the original plans for the main hall's ceiling--an indoor firmanent, a sea of clearest aqua, punctuated not only by gold-painted constellations but even by electric lights' standing in as major stars--and about how polluted and dirtied the ceiling had become over the years. Eventually, the reporter revealed that someone had decided to ensure that a small polluted space be left behind, so that everyone could see just how bad things had gotten. On my first trip to New York, one of the only touristy things I had to do was visit Grand Central, just to see that spot. It took a few minutes, but I found it. And now I try to visit it whenever I'm in town:

After I went to see the spot today, I realized (for the second time, I think) that Grand Central is a great place to see Orion in the off-season. Nothing within the station came out particularly well in the photographs; you need to visit if you want to see what my fuss is about.

(The day is catching up with me, so I'm racing the clock.)

The other great thing about Grand Central is that it's only a few blocks down from the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. I sat on the steps outside the library with the book I'm reading, and it was lovely. From the side of the library, once can see one of my favorite buildings, the one that gets namechecked in the musical Annie:

And then there was the Coliseum Books on 42nd St, which turned out to be a terrific place for browsing, and for acquiring yet more twentieth-century poetry.

And then, a dinner beyond fineness. Because my earlier outing involved lunch at a venerable Ethiopian restaurant, I can unequivocally say that I have eaten better today than on any other day of the summer.

And now, I have watched the quarter moon rising in the east, against a backdrop that looks like so from where I'm sitting. These are my constellations tonight.


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