I probably should have kept an app running to show how much I walked on this trip. It must have been at least ten miles a day. So, my body was quite distressed when I limped to the shower. I soon forgot about my pain, though, I only had a half a day left before returning to reality, which I am never fond of — then again, I don’t really live in reality when I’m home, so it’s no big deal.
After taking forty-five minutes to get all dressed up. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, get off my website. I’m serious this time! Okay, let me educate you:
I headed out onto the street, delighted by the sunshine, the warmth, and the way the city felt at peace. Walking along Bleecker Street and looking in on the various shops wasn’t exactly thrilling, but it will always be a fond memory of mine. I fell rather in love with this area, especially the buildings. This trio captivated me.
It was flawless. Before I get me a sugar daddy on Fifth Avenue, I wouldn’t mind living here at all.
I was going down to Balthazar’s for breakfast, where Martha gets all her bread. Along the way, though, I saw that bakery where they sell cronuts. There was no line and they were all sold out. I don’t think I’d like one anyway — a cream filled and fried croissant? Not really that appetizing. I would have tried one, of course. I loved the walk and was jealous of all the people that get to wander the city every day. Walking around is my favorite part of any new city — when I lived in Paris, I don’t know if there’s a street I didn’t explore.
Balthazar’s wasn’t far away and it was absolutely lovely inside, like an old Parisian bistro, really. But, sadly, like many famous establishments, it was absolutely overrated. I ordered the scrambled eggs in puff pastry, which sounds excellent, and was quite visually appealing, with fluffy eggs and asparagus and mushrooms cascading out of a puff pastry shell. But, the flavor was next to nothing. It needed a strong cheese or a sauce or something. I had a charming waitress, though, so that made it a bit better.
From here, I thought I should walk up and down the Brooklyn Bridge, mainly so I could listen to “Partition” and sing along as Bey says, “Posted in the back with my things on my grill, Brooklyn brim with my eyes sittin’ low.” Look, I’m easily amused. It was a great idea, too.
The bridge was packed, but after getting about halfway, there was an exceptional view of the city and of the Statue of Liberty and of Brooklyn and I was just so happy.
It was kind of silly, really, but I felt like I had all the world ahead of me and I could do whatever I wanted with life and find success. And I thought about all my recent travels. I’ve ridden across the country from the gorgeous bay of San Francisco all the way to Atlantic coast of New York. I’ve seen so much and learned so much and explored the three biggest cities in our nation. I’ve climbed mountains, met celebrities, heard wonderful stories from the people I’ve met, been on television, done a million things I won’t tell until my memoirs come out, and had a fabulous time doing it. I’m terribly lucky to have done this and to have an expanded view of what America is. So many people never get away from where they’re born. They never understand all that they could have had. They just get along and then die. I find that tragic because there’s so much to see and do and find.
All my life, I’ve thought that I would have to live in Europe to find contentment, and I still have every expectation to live great chunks of my life in London and Paris, but over these months, I’ve learned that America still has great things to offer. There is so much more to it than Iowa. Iowa is lovely and all, but it’s just not for me. I don’t mean that derogatorily or with any intent of demeaning the people that call it home, but I’ve learned that one of the most important things you can do in life is to find the place that you can call home and mean it. I haven’t ever been at home in Iowa. Iowa has never been anything but a comfortable dwelling. I don’t get any sensation of contentment there like I do in San Francisco or Paris. New York didn’t strike me immediately as my future home, but I can see it happening. (San Francisco, though, I know I’ll live there someday.)
With a contented sigh, I left the Brooklyn Bridge and took myself through Chinatown, where I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t offered a designer bag for sale. I would have absolutely purchased a well-made faux Louis Vuitton — it was the reason I went that way! Oh well. I always love Chinatown, no matter what Chinatown I’m in — there’s something wonderfully exotic about them and I like to tower over everybody.
There was a shop near there called MUJI that I had scribbled down in my Moleskine a while back, so I scurried over there for a quick shopping trip — the only real shopping I did. I’m more into restaurants, photographs, and experiences than trinkets — I’m a minimalist at heart. I loved this shop tremendously and if I lived here in New York, I’d surely spend every dollar furnishing my apartment with their simplistic Japanese decor. You know I love antiquity and loathe modernity, but there’s something about Japanese style that makes me swoon in appreciation. I didn’t want to carry home a lovely dining set, so I settled for the world’s tiniest mechanical pencil, another mechanical pencil that uses .3mm lead, and some kind of traveling face mask. I don’t really know what that is, but it’s cute.
From here, I made my way to Washington Square Park — not for the view of the 20,000 unmarked graves beneath the park, but just so that I could play a scene from The Heiress that I dearly love:
It’s kind of hard to turn a three person piece into a monologue, but I did try, and I did enjoy myself thoroughly. I just adore that film, it’s absolute perfection. Once, in Paris, I stood outside Olivia’s townhouse and loudly whispered the line, “I HAVE BEEN TAUGHT BY MASTERS!” It was a glorious afternoon.
Sadly, I had run out of time and needed to head back to my beloved Jane hotel to collect my bags and head toward Penn Station. Of course, I couldn’t go directly to the station — I didn’t want to waste a moment of my time, especially on such a beautiful day. So, I wound through some streets I hadn’t had a chance to explore yet. I stopped by the Warby Parker store to get my glasses detailed — you remember that great company, don’t you? I did a whole series of posts on their business. They were awfully kind.
Then, I was on my way again, but I saw a French bakery, so I had to stop for a leek quiche and an opera cake. I love a good opera cake, and this one was absolutely exceptional.
I stopped in at a gloriously beautiful post office to send some postcards. Then, with tremendous reluctance, I bid New York goodbye for a spell and went into the station.
I have always enjoyed Amtrak before, but this train to Chicago was the absolute epitome of a bad time. Every single passenger was a bitch. Every single staff member, aside from the café attendant, was a bitch. I hated it. I was seated next to a mountain of a man who was listening to loud gangster rap and reeked of the marijuana. I have no issue with smoking marijuana. I have no issue with the morbidly obese. I don’t judge people for their musical tastes. But, when I was already depressed to be going back home to the cultural hinterlands, the trio was too much for me to stand.
I would have taken immediate refuge in the Café, but the damn car wasn’t even attached to our train, yet, it was still in Albany! The train had innumerable delays and it took until the middle of the night to get to New York’s capital. With great joy, I left my seat with my laptop clutched to my breast, and escaped to the café car. I had a cheese tray and gin and almonds and cranberry juice and had the best time ever. I’m not kidding.
There was no Internet, and as I had nothing to distract me, I finally had the chance to catch up on my favorite podcast, hosted by my beloved Joan Rivers, In Bed With Joan. If you don’t subscribe to this genius bit of comedy, we can’t be friends. Correct yourself here! I love Joan so much that it’s unreasonable and she brings out such interesting stories when she interviews her guests. Sitting there for hours, my desire to be a stand up comedian was born again. It had never really died, but I’ve always pushed it to the side. I don’t know how to be a stand up comedian, but a few years ago, I didn’t know how to bake bread or wire electricity — now I do — why not learn about comedy? My dear friend, Alison, and I have talked rather extensively about attending classes at Second City in Chicago. We have to do that.
I laughed so much that everybody in the car finally left. Either that or they were people who retire at a normal hour. Not I. I don’t ever go to bed before the wee hours of the morning. I was glad to do this, when I woke up, we’d be near Chicago!
The train was delayed an unknown number of times throughout the day and then through the night while I had been asleep. When I finally woke and checked the Amtrak app’s schedule, we were two and a half hours behind schedule. This was messing with my vacation and I was not at all amused.
I had planned to go get some traditional deep dish pizza, get my mother some of that dumb popcorn she likes so much, visit Toni Pâtisserie, which I rather like, and roam about a bit. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case.
When the train finally pulled into Union Station, I leapt out onto the streets and straight to Giordano’s, where there was thankfully room at the bar. I was so glad to take a seat and order my pizza and soup. The pizza was rather tasty, but I wouldn’t say it was the most delicious pizza I’ve ever had in my life. That distinction goes to a pizza I made myself last summer using yellow tomatoes from my garden and smoked fresh mozzarella. It was absolutely perfect. But, the pizza was tasty and the soup was wonderful and I was glad to have eaten there. I’ve been meaning to do that since last December when I was in Chicago to see my friend, Beyoncé.
I had next to no time, so I hurried down Jackson Avenue to Garrett Popcorn and waited in an endless line. When each customer made their way to the counter, they would proceed to ask no less than three samples. Then they would moan over the price. Then they would think about it. Then they would ask for another sample. Then they’d finally place their order, the one ahead of me actually said, “THIRTEEN DOLLARS? Oh well, YOLO!” I couldn’t deal. Each customer easily took five minutes and I was UNBELIEVABLY PISSED. I wanted pastries and I really didn’t want to miss my train.
I got my order and realized I couldn’t get pastries, and that made me deeply sad. I barely had time to make it back to the train station. They were boarding as I hurried to my gate.
This train is much nicer. The ones that are bound for California are nothing but class. The clientele is nice, the staff is nice, they know how to make a good gin & tonic. It’s just perfect. I’ve spent much of my time in the lounge waiting to get to Osceola. Only a few more hours now.
I spent the majority of my time in the café, as is my wont — I don’t want to sit amongst the peasants and the riffraff. They aren’t to my taste at all. So, I had several coffees and worked on writing and felt effortlessly cultured. But then, reality tried to crash in on me as we pulled into the station at Osceola.
I was glad to see my mother waiting for me at the station and I had a lovely time going out for a late breakfast. I’ll only eat breakfast in the nighttime, mind you, never in the actual morning. But, the crushing boredom of Iowa fell back down upon my shoulders like heavy chain mail. It’s oppressive. I looked down the road and surveyed the endless fields and just felt such an alarming desperation and emptiness that it nearly consumed me. I had to wonder — what is the point in all of this? Is it worth it? Is my comfortable financial situation that I maintain here worth only ever feeling alive for the few months I spend away each year? I suppose I’ll have to think deeply on that.