I know I need to shut up about this stupid trip already, but aside from hardcore Rachel friendship time and regional realizations, I had some wonderful New York moments over New Years. I’ll share my top five favorites from this trip and you won’t hear about New York from me again.
1. A Brooklyn Bridge morning.
This was my first day and it was freakishly warm. We got to walk around the water with ice cream in December, which I am immensely glad we took advantage of, as the rest of my time there was covered in icicles. We got cones in a little shop on the Brooklyn side, walked around the park, walked over the bridge, and had some serious heart-to-hearts over a great lunch in Chinatown. Nothing better. Also, fun fact: the guy who designed Brooklyn Bridge designed Waco’s suspension bridge. With the weather and the architecture, it was like I never left home. JUST KIDDING.
2. The Russ and Daughters experience.
Russ and Daughter’s takes commitment. The day we decided to go we took forever getting out in the morning and after the whole hassle of getting there bailed at just the sight of the line. We were feeling hangry and it wasn’t worth it. But we went back prepared to wait it out. A friendly Russ and Daughters stranger gave us his more advanced ticket, so we waited at least an hour less than we would have. This allowed us to hand on our own ticket and spread the unexpected consolation around. There was a lot of crowd and frustration but also a lot of festivity and camaraderie in that narrow little shop.
We decided to take our spoils to Washington Square Park even though it was freezing. This was a good decision. We drank our tiny coffees on the way, met the classiest older woman European tourist imaginable, and were told to enjoy our lunch by a strange man immediately after sitting down.
And what to say about this? Perfection. Waiting in line forever, I memorized most of an Anthony Bourdain quote they had up: Russ and Daughter’s isn’t just “the oldest and the last, but the best.” Or something like that. The bagels are pretty good, but the homemade cream cheese and lox are perfect.
Traveling this summer, my friends came up with a term to describe how dishes in Italy and France are made better by being so simple—how you’ll eat the best pasta you’ve ever had in your whole life and realize that the only thing on it is butter and pepper, and how is it so good!? The best crêpe isn’t the one with several fillings and toppings, but just butter and sugar. They called it simplexity. An ideal complexity of flavor can come out of few, really good ingredients. My sister pointed out that this delicious food term invention sounds like herpes, which is not necessarily appetizing. But we stuck with it. So, I’ll say that Russ and Daughters is the simplex of New York food. No frills, no distracting and unnecessary additions. Just perfect cream cheese with perfect lox on a great bagel. Classic, simple, New York flavors. But you can’t go wrong with a slice of tomato and some capers either.
3. Statue of Liberty Hats
Guys. Sometimes you need to act a third of your own age. So we bought hats. And we rode the Staten Island Ferry. Wearing our hats. And they made us feel invincible and incredibly silly.
4. The Cloisters
I went up while Rachel was working and it was so worth the hike. It’s always weird to go to a museum that has altars and reliquaries and things; you want to genuflect but aren’t sure what’s in where, what’s happened to what, and realize how much of a freak you’d look like. But what a wonderful place. It is the perfect sized museum, a lovely place to spend a couple hours with your thoughts, and even has that ancient, sneezey cathedral smell going for it.
The publication I work for used some capitals from the Cloisters in an issue on monasticism, and I always love visiting artwork that I’ve ordered images of, placed into our layout, and edited articles about. I geeked out a little. I geeked out a lot.
Also, the grounds are fantastic. Even in the cold.
5. Brooklyn/Park Slope/Prospect Park
When visiting one of your dearest friends, New York can be a very cozy place. And even more so when that friend lives in Brooklyn. Here’s the thing about Brooklyn: everyone lives there. One afternoon while Rachel was working I went to a Gorilla Coffee location to get some work done. I was only there for ten minutes before a man approached my table saying “hello friend”—which turned out not to be creepy when it was just a couple friends from high school. Later in the week we went to a bar and walked right into two college friends I haven’t seen since 2007. We got dinner with a friend who just moved up there for grad school, and I got drinks with another I keep missing when she visits town. We spent a few nights hanging out with a bunch of people I knew from my high school youth group, who are now good friends with Rachel, who I met in college. It’s a small big place.
Hungry Ghost, Brooklyn Larder, Gorilla, Uncle Harry’s, Union Hall, those others I can’t remember the names of. I enjoyed wandering around Park Slope as much as I enjoyed spending time with Rachel’s friends (which was a lot). But my favorite thing was probably Prospect Park. We went for a run before the snow got serious, we went for a walk after. Watching dogs freak out about snowballs, kids throw themselves down sledding hills, happy idiots holding mittened hands was like some idealized cartoon winter in New York. I expected snowmen to come dancing to life any moment. But instead I just got really cold and we went back to Rachel’s for soup.