Wednesday, November 12, 2008
New York Surprise
Last weekend I did something crazy: I flew to NYC for one night. It was my brother’s surprise 40th birthday party. He had no time to plan anything because he was on charrette. That’s when an architect works around the clock to make a deadline. Was he ever surprised to see us all!
I had to come because I remembered how hard it can be turning forty. It’s the first birthday that you stop and take stock of your life to see where you’ve been and where you’re going. It’s midlife after all.
Forty is a good excuse to celebrate. I got together with my school friends on Nantucket Island, and we had the best time ever. I also had dinner with my family and snuck off for a romantic weekend with my husband in Kennebunkport.
If I thought I was turning forty quietly, I was mistaken. I blogged about it, and that post has become very popular in Google searches. I’m the poster child of “turning forty” in images. It’s not so bad. I’m now forty forever, never aging.
I have to say a year past forty, I’m having fun. It’s been time to explore my creativity in writing and in art, to enjoy my friends and family and to make new friends through blogging. I think my brother will love his 40’s too.
My brother and I grew up in a quiet neighborhood in Manhattan with more brownstones than apartment buildings. We used to hang out with the other kids on the block without supervision. Things are different now. I don’t think NYC has gotten less safe, only that parents worry more.
I loved the freedom I had to explore the city, especially as a teenager. Plus there was no danger of drunk driving since we walked or took public transportation. We went out dancing in clubs but couldn’t afford to get drunk. We knew enough not to let any guy buy us a drink. We also went to experimental theater, sampled ethnic restaurants and explored the Village shops.
There’s so much culture and good food on your doorstep in NYC. I managed a quick visit to MoMA to see Van Gogh (crowded!) and Miro (just opened). Both shows I’d recommend although keep in mind that viewing art in NYC is a contact sport, especially on a rainy Saturday. We were luckier with the weather on Sunday.
Everyone has heard of Central Park in NYC, but Carl Schurz Park is another gem. It was my neighborhood playground. There’s a sunny boardwalk by the East River, looking out on Hell’s Gate. I love to watch the boats go by.
Space is a premium in Manhattan. The boardwalk was constructed over the FDR drive.
You wouldn’t guess this leaning on the railing.
The flowers were still blooming, looking gorgeous against the ornamental grasses. The sky can turn pure blue in autumn. The park is close to empty Sunday mornings.
Dog walkers are out early.
What I love about this park is there’s a big dog run . . .
. . . and a little dog run! Dogs otherwise must be kept leashed.
You won’t see exotic birds, but there are plenty of fat pigeons and sparrows. Yes, I’m really standing that close. I’ve seen cormorants fishing in the river.
Another park denizen is the mayor of NYC. Gracie Mansion is like a southern plantation home dropped into the city. There aren’t many wood-frame buildings left in Manhattan. I remember how sad we were to see one of the last ones torn down on our block and replaced by an ugly apartment building.
Isn’t the mayor lucky to have this as his backyard?
That footbridge spans a hidden garden.
Our leaves have fallen to the ground in Maine, but they are still golden in New York.
There are rows of benches to sit and read a book.
I needed a good travel book as a big chunk of the weekend was spent waiting in airports. My writing partner, Jane Green, had written a novel that I was longing to read. I’m writing a novel, NOT CRICKET (A MATCH FOR EVE), about Americans in England, and Jane’s Swapping Lives is about a desperate housewife in Connecticut who trades places with a hip London magazine editor. I wasn’t even tempted to pick up my usual travel staple of People Magazine; I was having that much fun. I’m 3/4 through and totally enjoying it.
Jane moved from North London to a Connecticut suburb eight years ago so she knows her turf. She parodies the language and cultural differences, but she does it in good spirit. It’s like having a chatty girlfriend entertain you. My favorite anecdote, based on a real experience, was of a suburban mom buying a nice birthday gift and discovering the same gift being passed out as a party favor to all the children!
Jane’s novel reminds me David Lodge’s Changing Places where an American and an English academic do a sabbatical year swap. Both are laugh-out-loud funny. I’ve been that fish out of water in England myself and love these stories. Do you know of any other good US/UK novels?
After doing a major restructuring of my novel last week, I’m back to writing new chapters. I’m a writer that needs to get it on paper to see it. After about 100 pages I take an appraisal. By that point, I have a good sense of where the novel is going. I don’t plan it all out ahead of time or that would spoil the suspense. I need to surprise myself as well as the reader. Writing is an exploration into possibilities.
Jane and I are into the fourth week of our writing partnership, and it’s working really well for both of us. Working in solitude, it helps to have a buddy there for encouragement. Real life can too easily take precedence over fiction. Writing a novel with Jane is like going through a pregnancy with a friend. We share the stress and the joy. It helps to know I’m not alone.
Blogging helps in that way too. Thanks to all!
This post will be part of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.