So we just killed some time hanging around Columbus Circle and then met our friend at Prune Restaurant for lunch at 1st and 1st. Scott had the sweetbreads with capers and bacon.
I had the burger on an English muffin with Cabot cheddar cheese, and our friend had the skate with a lemon caper sauce. Hers also came with a potato slaw with some sesame sort of dressing with it. It was all amazing.
A side view of the burger:
We also had desserts: churros and a poached pear with brandy and creme fraiche.
We also had coffees which were great. This place is really fabulous. It is small and the menu is not huge, but everything was great. It wasn't too expensive for all that we got either (they brought us a free dish of kale with pine nuts, lemon and parmesan to share and didn't charge me for my beer, although that could have been a mistake). Man, what a find. I'm sure it is even better for dinner.
Then we did some shopping. I checked out the holiday baking specials at Balthazar (I'm sure their fruitcake is better than mine), and walked around the MoMA Design Store. We made our way up to the Morgan where I used to work. What a classy, classy, classy place. Ah, just walking in the door I missed it so much. A couple of my friends from the shop were on break, so we sat in the cafe and had a couple cocktails. I had the English Cucumber Gimlet and Scott had the classic Rob Roy.
They had Christmas carolers and a huge amount of visitors. I thought of how much the Brooklyn Museum can also get huge turnouts of people in more party atmosphere type of events at the museum, and how no museum in the Albany area seems able to integrate itself into the social/community life as effectively. The music, the cocktails, the architecture, the huge turnout, all together made it a magical moment on a Friday night in what I think of as the stuffiest place in all of New York. It made me think of the time I worked there when LL Cool J showed up when we were having a high level donors-only party. The security guards wouldn't let him in. He didn't take it personally and just kept talking about how much he loved the Morgan - "This is old New York, man! Old New York! I'll be back for sure!". Love it.
Then we went to Astoria, Queens. The Cup Diner (where we met) is now 5 Napkin Burger. It seemed really busy on a Friday night, and it looked very similar to when I worked there except they added doors on the kitchen. A guy walked by on the side walk who I served breakfast every day for a year and a half (who I stole some of the iconic coffee cups for as the place was shutting down), but he didn't notice me. We walked by Sunswick, where we actually went the first time we hung out. It isn't that great, but if it wasn't there we'd probably start to feel like some really old married couple whose dating history is ancient history.
Then we made it to the Rest-au-rant. I could write a book about how much I love this place. Perhaps I will have to revisit the topic. I guess I might just say I pretty much took everyone I knew here in the years 2007-2009 including lots of people from out of town. Our friend started this place who was a waitress at the Brick Cafe, and one cold autumn night in 2007 we were walking by a previously empty storefront when we saw her jumping up and down waving at us. We went in, she told us she had just opened the place and served us some wine. She gradually added food items and cocktails, and eventually brunch. This place was integral to our time dating. I did my grad school assignments here. It is a quiet place you can easily meet friends and have long, wine-fueled conversations. Scott told her I work in an art museum now, and I realized how much things have changed. When we used to go there I read books about how to one day work in an museum, and was researching grad schools. She was so happy we got married, considering when we first started going there we had just met. This time we had some Belgian beers, and some of our friends were able to come out and meet us. We had some fondue with bread, broccoli, and smoked sausage which was really fun. I took some awful, bleary photos that give a sense of the atmosphere.
Overall, it was a great day that turned out to be pretty epic. I guess seeing all these places I used to work really made me think. When we first arrived in Grand Central station I thought that it is coming on 7 years that I worked at a coffee shop in that spot. It has been 7 years since I lived in my home state. I thought about how it is so hard for me to experience NYC like a tourist because I think "In this spot something awful happened", or "in this spot was something funny or nice". I cannot separate my own experience from the place. It is filled with ghosts of myself everywhere. It seems like at some point I should be able to let go and enjoy it like a tourist. But of course, I don't want to think of myself like a tourist. I want to think of myself as a person who had years of experiences there that meant something to me in becoming who I am. Like my coworker talks about visiting New York on vacation (knowing barely anything about the place) and taking the F train to some shopping or something, and I tell her about a time when the F train stopped for half an hour for no reason and I was very frustrated and bored. Am I really not able to see the good past all the annoying stuff, or does remembering feeling frustrated and bored make me feel like someone who lives there? Do I remember the annoying stuff most of all in order to feel better about having left? Or, maybe it is actually a more stressful place to live than most other places?
Sometimes you experience a place a certain way and then you leave. Sometimes you make new friends who live there, or your friends from somewhere else move there. Restaurants close and new ones open. The place continues to change, you continue to change, and your relationship with it continues to change. I guess I should not think NYC is stressful because my life there was stressful. I am far from actually acting like a tourist and doing things they would be interested in, but I just may be one more step closer to actually being able to enjoy what the city has to offer and not just focusing on difficult aspects of my own life experiences there.
I guess seeing all those places made me appreciate how hard it can be for young people to find stable footing as individuals and their own path in the world. I believe that you don't find yourself as much as create yourself like a work of art, and when you are making many different decisions you don't know how they will all turn out. When they all actually do turn out well, and you look back and visit the specific places you made all these decisions, well it all seems like a bit much - like a museum of one's life. It is not New York City's fault I used it to figure out who I am in the world or what I should do in life - and whether that was difficult or not, it's restaurants and museums can still be pretty spectacular.