Monday, October 21, 2013

La fin de New York

"Life is measured by its intensity, not by its duration."
-Avicenna

TodaySaturday was my last day of my New York sojourn. Not quite a chapter, but an interesting period comes to an end.  I spent the day soaking up in my own Gotham glory.

I made my way up to the Brooklyn Bridge, and meandered my way across the expanse that connects Breukelen (Eendraght Maeckt Maght- In Unity There is Strength) and New Amsterdam.  Pink women wearing bras externally battled cancer as they crossed past me.  Save the tatas.  The overcast sky burned just a tad lighter shade than the pink walkers.

I crossed the bridge, and made my way to the Belgian waffle cart (Waffles & Dinges) just over the bridge.  Since I would be far from accouterments of the brave little country, I went for the Throwdown Wafel, a hot Brussels brick slathered in speculoos (Gingerbread nutella-esque spread) and whip cream.  It was a delicious mess, with gooey dripping gingerbread and whip cream everywhere.  Yum.

I headed northeast to get a Chinese foot massage in Chinatown.  My usual place with the $22 hour-long foot massage with my usual masseuse named Helen.  We chatted in Mandarin, exchanging new words as she kneaded my feet.  The nerve points in the foot correspond with all other parts of the body, and as she dug into my soles and toes, I felt sensations in other points in my fair corpus.  There is one part that she hits just under the ball of my big toe that makes my throat moisten.  I feel it every time.  Other points too.  The Chinese spent millennia mapping the nerve points in the body, and this nexus I think they figured out well.  I let Helen listen to my headphones (Nina Simone- Sinnerman) as she worked to save my sole(s).

I left into the street to grab some cheap veggie mei fan.  I ate down the thin rice noodles and chatted with Rabbi Yossi.  We chatted about deals around town, and halakhic questions.  Apparently, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall denied a blind man the right to pray at the wall with his guard dog.  The Chief Rabbi of Lesotho, Tajikistan and La Mancha would have ruled differently.  C'mon, there is no fire hydrant around, and let's be honest-- it's a freakin' wall.  Any rabbi who comes up from Cooney Island to have veggie mei fan on the streets of Chinatown is my type of rabbi.

I wandered over to Little Italy for an espresso.  I plunked down at Caffe Roma, on a pillow-covered wicker couch under a colorful mural of Audrey Hepburn.  I sat across from a lovely couple, and we got to chatting and sipping cappuccinos.  They happened to be from Belgium.  Actually, he was from Chile but they were married and lived in Belgium.  We chatted in Spanish about New York and otherwise for a long while.  This was their first time in the Big Apple, so I sent them to Smalls for some real jazz (they had been looking, and appreciated the suggestion), and to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday.  We ended up chatting for a solid hour or so, before they headed off.  They were kind enough to pick up my expensive cappuccino.  I protested, saying that theoretically since they were guests in my fair country I should be the one picking up the tab.  But they just smiled, and said I could get the next round in Belgium.  I would gladly.

They left and I pulled out my laptop to work.  An elderly lady sat down across from me, and we got to chatting.  Eventually her son, Paul came out with coffees for them.  They had come down from New Haven on a food tour.  They had come on a bus that would drop them off at different foodie points around the city.  It had refrigeration so they could bring a cooler for their purchased fare.  I chatted with them for a while before they caught their bus away and back to New Haven.

A third and final fellow sat down across on the wicker bench.  He was chatting loudly on his cell about college football.  He was a proper Italian-American, the perfect personification of an Italian New Yorker.  Part old country, part new world.  I listened to my head phones and tapped out this fair blog, as he chatted away on the cell.

Intermittently, I smelled the faint hint of sambuca.  I looked around for the anise ouzo but saw nothing.  But I sincerely smelled it and looked behind me as well to see where this olfactory trick was coming from.  Nada.

Sitting across from me was a rather boisterous Italian-American fellow named Tony, who was chatting loudly on his cell.  Eventually, he got off the phone and we got to chatting.

Tony was the source of the sambuca.  He was bootlegging sambuca in a water bottle, and was kind enough to fill my water glass with the anise liquor.  He explained that while his wife and daughter went shopping, he would drink espresso and sambuca at the cafe.  All parties were kept happy.

Tony also told me a story about being in Paris that made me cringe. He mentioned that he and his wife were in a store, and that the clerk was being rude.  He said to her: "Lady, I'm an American.  If it wasn't for us, you would be serving wienerschnitzel."

I peered out from behind the fingers covering my face, and stared at him.  I said: "You do know that if it wasn't for the French, we would still have the Queen on our money."  And took a swig of my sambuca.  But ugly Americana excluded, he was nice enough and refilled my sambuca cup.

The night descended, and I headed out.  I stopped at a corner at a light.  As I was waiting, a woman and her child in stroller hailed down a passing cab.  She was having problems maneuvering her suitcases and stroller, so I helped her stuff her things in the trunk.

As luck would have it, she was French.  So I chatted with her briefly in French as  she tried to close the stroller but wasn't having any luck doing it while holding the two year-old child.  I tried to close the stroller but couldn't figure out how it worked.  So she handed me the baby, and went to play with the mechanisms.

And I tossed the baby up and down and babbled at the befuddled child in French.  Thankfully this Ugly American did not cause the child to cry too much and he giggled as I bounced him up and down.  The stroller got closed and put in the trunk, and I handed the semi-confused bouncing baby boy back to his mom, and headed on.

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