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.