Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NYC Blog Lag

Only posting weekly, I’m a bit behind. Call it blog lag. Two weeks ago I traveled to NYC for Thanksgiving and to gather material for NOT CRICKET (A MATCH FOR EVE). My novel is set mostly in England, but the narrative starts in Manhattan where I grew up.

On Thanksgiving I met my old school friend in Central Park. Cathy and I chatted while my daughter snapped parade photos. We found the ideal spot, sitting on a hill in Central Park. Even the weather was perfectly warm.

Everyone agreed that Kermit was still the best balloon. Back in high school and over college vacations, my school friends and I would meet on the night before the parade to watch the balloons blown up near the Museum of Natural History. It was a teenaged party scene back then. It’s hard to believe that I am now the mother of a teenaged boy.

My son and I took a long walk through Central Park. For gym in high school I jogged around the reservoir twice a week.

The reservoir is a great place to spot migrating waterfowl, like these Northern Shovelers. Can you believe it? Wildlife in the middle of Manhattan!

When the leaves are down, you get a good view of the Guggenheim Museum. Autumn can bring bright blue skies even in the big city. Frank Lloyd’s architecture is as stunning as sculpture.

On another day I took the subway downtown to meet Elizabeth from About New York. We agreed that Tea and Sympathy was a perfect replica of an English teashop down to the waxed tablecloths in flowered chintz, the same pattern Elizabeth had in her home growing up.

We ordered a cream tea. Elizabeth told me about her new children’s book that is out now. It was fun to put a face and an English accent to this blogger. I’ve always enjoyed her take on NYC.

Tea was a warm break from my fieldwork. Since one of my characters lives in the Village, I’d spent the afternoon walking the streets. West Village has changed since my teenaged ramblings; it’s become rather posh.

East Village (above) was just as I remembered with its rent control walk-ups and funky shops. I enjoyed this urban garden on 9th Street:

Earlier I had met my brother for lunch at Basta Pasta off Union Square. I’d laughed when he’d said, “that’s a Japanese restaurant.” He wasn’t joking! Only in New York, or maybe Tokyo, would you find Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine. My tomato-mozzarella-shitake mushroom pasta was quite good. I always trust city restaurants with open kitchens. The servers and clients were mostly Japanese.

Sounds like a full day? It wasn’t over. I had one more friend to meet for drinks and dinner. Marika Josephson used to work for my agent; now she’s an assistant editor at a new kids magazine, KidSpirit. They publish articles and artwork submitted by children aged 11-15.

For NOT CRICKET I needed to check out the bar scene around Union Square. Marika, in her 20’s, is my drinking consultant. I loved how she suggested 4 bars and only one restaurant for our night out.

I chose The Beauty Bar because it sounded the most outrageous. A beauty salon turned into a bar? That sounded even stranger than Japanese Italian food. They serve a good pint, and the retro furnishing was a laugh. There are still old-fashioned hood hair dryers, and the back room becomes a disco late at night.

For dinner we had tasty Tex-Mex food at the Mesa Grill. We highly recommend the margaritas mixed with cactus flower juice. Better than the food was the company. Marika and I had been e-mailing each other for more than a year but had never met. It felt more like catching up with an old friend than meeting someone new.

I had a similar feeling meeting author/blogger Jane Green (above.) Jane and I met in cyberspace last summer when I reviewed her novel, The Beach House. She found my blog and then ended up buying one of my paintings. We became writing partners to urge each other through our next novels. I’m now about halfway through the first draft, and Jane’s in the home stretch. This productive partnership and similar US/UK backgrounds brought us closer together, but we had never met in person.

My 11-year-old daughter was worried that Jane could turn out to be a 40-year-old man. Have I raised her well or what?

Jane and I had planned to have dinner in NYC, but I ended up driving out to see her in Connecticut when childcare for her 4 kids fell apart. She often blogs about cooking, and her Coulibiac was delicious. Jane is a very involved mother, and her children were sweet.

We fell easily into chatting about books and life. I joked that this was the closest either of us would get to internet dating. We agreed that it was a great first date with an excellent future. Here’s her post on our fun time together.

The only sad part was heading home. If you haven’t met people, you can’t miss them. Leaving New York this time, I left more friends behind. I’m also nostalgic for the city, for the funny little bars and restaurants that could only exist in New York. I’ve left the city, but it never leaves me.

It’s still good to be back home in Maine. Clear blue skies made for a beautiful and fast flight (a record 3 hours door to door!) We circled over the islands of Casco Bay and Portland with the mountains on the horizon. The ocean stretched as far as the eye could see. I can’t believe I live in such a beautiful location.

My children were waiting for me in the driveway, and my dog was standing up in the mudroom to see out the window. My husband came home early. It had only been a few days apart, but I’d missed them so much.

Last weekend two of my artist friends threw a party. It was anything but quiet: rooms of artists, architects, craftsmen, authors and academics. Their 1920’s home is like a gallery with new artwork from many artists changing monthly.

We talked about art, books, travel and politics. Many had volunteered hours for the Obama campaign. Everyone was in high spirits. The economic woes haven’t spread north to Maine although our host noted that art is the canary in the coalmine. Art, like books, isn’t selling.

I walked home, just across the street, as snow was falling. The light frosting reminded me of the sweetness of winter, of time spent reading by the fire and skiing in the woods. Christmas trees glittered from the windows. My family will be coming here for the next holidays.

I’m back to work on my novel with Jane writing hers an e-mail away. Blogs keep us all connected too.

Blog Watch: Thanks to everyone who participated in last week's Blogger Book Boost. Great book recommendations in the comments! I've just added hotlinks to all the Book Boost posts at the end of mine. I can update it if you want to join. Congratulations to Willow Manor (in my sidebar) for being Blog of Note.


Gretel said...

Heavens, what a wonderfully jampacked tour! I have a feeling NY would be one place which would live up to it's reputation - you describe it just as I imagine it is.

Audrey said...

Lu-cky! I was born in New York, but we moved when I was small, eventually settling down in Baltimore where I grew up. We used to go back quite a bit for visits and I was living in Chelsea before agreeing to move to the UK. In my heart, I have been a life-long New Yorker. If a city could be a soul-mate, it would be New York for me. Thanks for the pictures and the descriptions. Only in New York!

Elizabeth said...

This makes NYC look such fun - which we all know it is.
You hit all the cool spots - The Beauty bar etc.
No wonder you are happy to be home to have time to digest it all.
Thank you so much for mentioning my little book.
It was such fun meeting you and I really look forward to reading NOT CRICKET
Of course I'm beyond late but did my book boost today.
Hope you are getting some peaceful writing time in.

LINDA from Each Little World said...

This is actually a Japanese restaurant in Chicago, but if you say the name you will get the joke: Shikago.

tina said...

Such a lovely trip and to meet other bloggers? The best! That Guggenheim Museum is very nice. And of course I like the urban garden too.

Sarah Laurence said...

ALL, I’ve just updated my Blogger Book Boost with hyperlinks to the other book boost posts – scroll to the bottom of the post. It’s not too late to join in.

PG, NYC defies imagination. I discover something new every time I return.

Audrey, New York gets into your blood either by birth or transfusion. London is fun too.

Elizabeth, I’ve added a link to your Blogger Book Boost post from mine. Late-comers are welcome. I’m looking forward to sharing JANE IN WINTER with my daughter. Today is my blog etc. catch up day. Tomorrow I’ll be back to work on NOT CRICKET.

Ms. Wis, that’s hilarious! That reminds me of the time I had to see a doctor in Tokyo. He had trained at an ER in Chicago and told me that “the meds will cost yuh about 60 bucks.” It was surreal hearing a polite Japanese doctor speak Chicago street talk.

Tina, I thought of you and the other garden bloggers when I spotted those metal junk flowers. New Yorkers adapt to their unnatural environment.

A Cuban In London said...

Lovely post. Yes, stunning architecture, but equally stunning images indeed! And your meeting with Jane sounded great. The fact that she turned out to be who she said she was and not some grey, old man in a mac as your daughter (quite rightly) suggested.

Thank you very much indeed.

Greetings from London.

Sarah Laurence said...

ACIL, thanks!

That was exactly what my daughter envisioned, but Jane was a delight. She’s not a stand-offish celebrity at all, but a very real and generous person. I made a new friend through the internet who in spirit and background is quite like my other friends.

Meeting Jane, Bee, Tina and Elizabeth has made me more comfortable. Blogging isn’t standing on a soapbox and expostulating to strangers and freaks; it’s a conversation with friends. Even those who can't meet.

Tessa said...

I agree! I love my 'conversations' with blogger friends and take great delight in sharing their worlds. And yours is no exception! Those New York photographs are simply stunning and bring back so many good memories of 2 weeks spent exloring that awesome city with My Liege last December. All the New York based books I'd ever read or movies I loved became so real, so tangible. The city lived up to every expectation...and more. Loved it!

(Like the White Rabbit, I'm late, I'm late....for the Blogger Book Boost list. (I'm trying to finish a commission and write about books all at the same time. Hope tomorrow is still okay! )

Sarah Laurence said...

Thanks, Tessa, and no problem posting your Blogger Book Boost tomorrow or later. Just be sure to leave a comment so I know it’s there. I’ll update the links on the weekend. Blogging is NOT about deadlines and pressure. Good luck with your work!

Bee said...

Do you have more energy when you are in NYC? I think that all of those electronic and human pulses must feed off of each other -- what an exciting, FULL day! It's a treat to have a look-in.

I was intrigued by your "canary in the coalmine" reference. The air does seem a bit poisonous now because of all of the worry and uncertainty. Still, I went to Reading today and the shoppers were out in force. Apparently Xmas will still happen. :)

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, I do get rather manic in NYC although I sleep well after all of the excitement. Plenty of Christmas spirit in Maine too. There was a line at the bookstore, and for once I didn’t mind it.

Alyson | New England Living said...

What an awesome post! I loved all the pictures sprinkled throughout. It was especially fun to see a view of Kermit from the park.

It was great to see the contrast between the city pictures and the one taken in Maine. Such different places, but wonderful in their own ways.

That is awesome that you met up with all those people! You were sure productive on your "vacation".

Dave King said...

You have a geat eye for an image. I greatly enjoyed my trawl through them

Mary Ellen said...

What a great description; I felt like I was along for a magical trip. I love NY - and I have the t-shirt to prove it! Usually, I skip the bar scene (too old) and hit more shows, but I enjoy just walking around.

The contrast between the bustling city and the little town I live in is huge, but I love them both.

TBM said...

Whew, what a post Sarah! You have been busy. I am amazed that you have enough energy to do all that you do! Gorgeous, stunning photos, every single one.

I love the idea of you hanging around while the parade balloons were being blown up. I used to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV every year when I was growing up and always thought those balloons were outrageous!

Donna said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I love your pictures of the city. The one of the Kermit balloon was especially noteworthy! I know what you mean about leaving the city, but it not leaving you. And I haven't even lived there, just near it. So I can't imagine what it's like for you!

I had read about Jane Green getting together with you on her blog. It's so great that you two are friends and help each other out with your writing. I can't wait to read your books when they come out!

Sarah Laurence said...

Alyson, the contrast between the two makes me appreciate both the more. It’s a welcome break to get away from the computer and to meet people in the flesh. I can become too much of a hermit. Even work in NYC feels like play.

Thanks, Dave! So many cool sites/sights in the city.

Mary, I revert to my 20’s in the city, especially without kids. I love these city visits, but quiet Maine is the best place to raise a family. Loving Maine a little less as the ice is falling.

JAPRA, the crazy thing is I only mentioned half of what I did and whom I saw. I should have mentioned seeing Chekhov’s The Seagull on Broadway. Kristin Scott Thomas was amazing in it. Earlier this year we tried to get tickets in London, and it was sold out. Did you see it?

Donna, you are lucky to live closer to the city for visiting. On the days that Jane and I are both writing simultaneously, we are always productive. I’m excited about her book too. It really is like going through a pregnancy with a friend. My estimated due date is later though!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such an enjoyable tour! Thank you! You and Elizabeth make me want to visit New York during the holiday season! And you are certainly a lucky girl to live in Maine. Beautiful place, especially at Christmastime!

Sarah Laurence said...

Pamela, NYC is a fun place to window shop over the holidays. Plus this year there are great sales. I’m not feeling so lucky about living in Maine today as the lights flicker. Ice storm – so I better post this quickly.

Rose said...

Sarah, I'm suffering blog lag, too, having been away for little over a week. But as you so aptly demonstrate, actually spending time with people, not just on-line, is the best of all.

I didn't get a chance to read your Book Booster post until now, but wanted to say what a wonderful idea. Fortunately, my children and grandchildren are all readers (did I raise them right, or what?), and books are always a part of our holiday gift-giving. I may not have time to devote a post to this, but I'll try to include a link to your site next week.

Sarah Laurence said...

Rose, I’m glad I’m not alone in being hopelessly behind in life. Sometimes you have to just live it. Today that’s all I did thanks to the ice storm. We just got our power back by sunset.

Cindy said...

Sarah - I love reading about your adventures in the city. It's great that you can have such fun while doing your research. Sorry to hear about your ice-storm though and I hope you didn't sustain much damage.

Sarah Laurence said...

Thanks, Cindy! I’ll be blogging about the ice storm tomorrow morning. I’ve set the blog to auto-publish at 7am because we might lose power again – a snow storm this time. The ice just melted.

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your blog, and I love it.

However, I just wish to add a little correction, as a fellow Mainer, to your comment that "the economic woes haven't reached Maine yet." I'm sure you know that the state budget is millions in the red, school, health and human resources, higher education, etc. are all being cut--after already having been cut last year. . . Yes, I would say that the economic downturn has *certainly* been felt in Maine.