(Read about Sunday and Monday and Tuesday if you want. Also, there’s video from the events up at BEA’s livestream site. The author breakfasts are under a separate tab, which is on top of the video player.)
Wednesday was our last full day in New York. I played hooky from BEA. As I mentioned before, my knee felt like a rusty hinge even before I left for NYC; also, Wednesday we had tickets to go to the Museum of Modern Art, for which we had already paid. (I think my husband sneakily pre-paid for these tickets so I couldn’t beg off. He really wanted to go to MOMA. It’s one of his favorite places ever.) I knew I only had enough walking left in me to do one thing, even though I totally wanted to go to BEA and get a book signed by Tim Gunn because I love him forever and I imagine that he smells like clean laundry and love. Also, I wanted to get David Thorne‘s new book, and now I’m going to have to buy it. Blerg.
Also, sadface, I missed meeting up with Kate from Candlemark and Gleam because I skipped Wednesday. I kind of failed at Wednesday. Well, half-failed, because we did end up having a great time.
First, we took the subway. I’d taken the subway the day before, but it was still new and exciting to me, and I wish we had one in Columbus. Because of my injury (can I call it an old reading injury?), we had not made it to Chinatown on Tuesday, which was the original plan. We’d picked out Chinatown specifically because hubs and I love xiaolongbao. What’s xiaolongbao? They’re steamed “buns” (although not buns like we think of in America–they’re more like dumpling wrappers than buns) filled with meat and soup broth. They’re also one of the more delicious things that I’ve ever put in my mouth.
One of my husband’s coworkers gave us the name of a place where we had to go for xiaolongbao–Joe’s Shanghai, if you’re ever in New York. What did we discover Wednesday, to our delight? There was a Joe’s Shanghai right near where we were going. We WOULD get our soup buns! We would!
Terrible instagram photo of our lunch.
Eating xiaolongbao is a process. You have to handle them quite gingerly, or you run the risk of puncturing the skin, which causes all of the yummy broth to run out. (Luckily? the meat inside these was also really, really good. Sometimes the meat part is kind of blah, so if you lose your soup–which is bound to happen once or twice, no matter how careful you are, because the dumplings will slump over and stick to the wooden steamer basket–it’s bland city.) Here, it was a lot better than the time we had them in Philadelphia, because we got little tongs, which helps the process of serving yourself immensely. In Philly, we had to use chopsticks, which is awkward, not to mention that chopsticks are pointy and puncturey. I use chopsticks pretty well, but even I had a hard time wrangling the soup dumpling to my plate with them.
The tongs helped: the knot on the top of the xiaolongbao is thicker, so you can grab them with the tongs by the knot and quickly move them into your soup spoon. The server demonstrated this to us by loading up our spoons with a dumpling each before leaving us to our meal.
The next step in eating the soup buns is to bite off the top or the side of the bun (after it’s securely in your spoon) and suck out the delicious soup broth inside. They’re always served with a vinegar concoction, which is used as a condiment. I like to attack the dumplings through the top to make sure they don’t burst all over me or leak everywhere, because you can kind of pinch the top with your chopsticks to keep the whole thing from falling over. Hubs is unable to use chopsticks? so he definitely spilled broth a couple of times.
(As we were finishing up, I saw a couple of guys sitting at the table next to us, one of whom had no idea how to eat the soup buns. His friend was trying to explain to him, but he made an impatient “Aw, fuck this” gesture–the kind only a true bro can make–and put the whole soup dumpling in his mouth. Soup buns are kind of big and they’re full of hot broth. I can only imagine that he probably either scalded his tongue or almost choked himself to death. Meanwhile, his friend sat and ate his xiaolongbao like a civilized person who doesn’t just cram ginormous food items he’s never eaten before into his mouth.)
When we were ready for soup buns round 2, my husband thought it would be sweet to serve me a soup bun. He grabbed the tongs and went in–sideways. On the side. Where the skin could be easily punctured by his metal tongs. I started panicking and quietly yelling. “Nonononononono don’t! Stop! Wait!”
I would think that most people, if their spouse was wide-eyed panicked at something they were doing, even if it didn’t immediately make sense, would stop whatever it was they were doing and wait for clarification–especially if someone is practically yelling “STOP” at you. Hubs just looked quizzically at me. “But, I’m serving you? See? I just wanted to serve you.” So he kept going, because hey, it’s okay, he just wanted to be romantic and serve me a dumpling. Unfortunately, that was the part that was not okay, because my soup bun was about to go from being a delicious, broth-filled dumpling to a flaccid wrapper with a wad of meat inside. When I finally was able to wrest the tongs away from him and demonstrate how to serve the xiaolongbao, since he apparently didn’t watch the server do it, my dumpling was all deflated. I gave him a sad face. He said, “Oh.”
Then I served him a dumpling. He offered to eat my sad dumpling, but I love him and all, so I let him have the good one. Even though we would both have had a good dumpling if he would have listened to the eight million times I told him to wait.
Am I not the best wife? I am the best wife.
After our lunch adventure, we headed over toward the MOMA. On the way there, we passed a public square where there appeared to be a GIANT Apple store. (I think it was a store? We didn’t go in, because we couldn’t afford anything in an Apple store. It had huge glass walls and a giant Apple logo hanging from the top, and then you go downstairs into the store proper. It looked neat.) Then, something caught my eye, and I squeed.
“LOOK! FAO Schwarz! We can go in and get presents for the girls!” We always buy presents for our nieces when we’re anywhere, but to be honest, I just wanted to go in the toy store. I don’t normally go to toy stores, but FAO Schwarz is iconic as far as toy stores go.
So, we went in. The first thing you see when you go in are the stuffed animals–AMAZING stuffed animals. I took a picture of hubs next to a giant elephant, but he won’t let me post it.
The back half of the downstairs area is a GIANT CANDY ROOM. Naturally, I had to go straight upstairs to keep from buying all the candy.
At the top of the escalator (which wasn’t working–none of the escalators work when I have a gimpy knee) was a Harry Potter section:
This doll was very, very pricey. Behind the doll, there's a lot more HP stuff. They had costumes, accessories, the Bernie Botts every-flavored beans, and probably some other stuff that I'm not even remembering. I think I see some LEGO back there?
Around the corner was a section just for playing dress-up. This section was very girl-centric, yet most of the people I saw browsing there were grown dudes:
Dudes. Well, okay, I think one of them might be a woman. It's hard to tell from that distance.
We also found a section of magic tricks. I thought this would interest my husband, who loves magic and apparently is magic, but he breezed on through. This caught my eye, though, and I gigglesnorted like a twelve-year-old:
Tricks that give you ASTOUNDING PENETRATIONS.
I geeked out a bit over some of the art, which was hanging in a a small gallery–mostly Disney stuff, although there was also enough to keep any respectable nerd entertained:
Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney movie. I honestly think a good part of the reason is that an opera singer did the voice of Aurora. I love opera.
VICTORIAN STAR WARS. There's a whole series of these on a website somewhere, including a little R2D2 in a suit. IN A SUIT.
Speaking of geeking out:
SCIENCE. Two huge etageres devoted to evolution. Including a really cool model of a pregnant woman that shows all of the internal bits and how the baby grows. We almost bought something from here for our nieces, but WOO pricey--plus I don't think they're quite old enough.
And continuing to geek out:
A workshop where you can build your own Muppet. This kicks Build-a-Bear's ASS.
Kissy kissy! Miss Piggy is my favorite.
We had a lot of fun in the toy store for two grown people without children.
Next stop: MOMA. Well, after I sat to rest. Wednesday’s activities took roughly twice as long as they might have taken if I didn’t have to keep sitting down.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures in the museum, because I hate it when people take photos in museums. During one of our sitting breaks, my husband and I went on a mutual rant about how much it sucks when people take photos in museums. My main beef with this practice is that you can’t get close to any of the art to look at it because you are forever getting in someone’s “shot.” I especially hated this about looking at The Starry Night. The painting isn’t massive, so you have to get really close to see the texture of the painting, the brush strokes and the swipes of the palette knife, which is about 93% of the fun of seeing it in person. To see The Starry Night, however, you have to stand back in a semi-circle out of the way because everyone is taking a freaking picture. Occasionally, someone wanders over to pose next to the picture and gets in everyone’s way. Do these people not understand that you can find roughly a zillion better-quality pictures of The Starry Night using Google?
Yes, I took a photo, too. I would gladly have traded my photo op for more time to look at the painting closely, though.
This is it. This is the shot we were blocking everyone from actually looking at the picture for. Isn't it an AMAZEBALLS AWESOME photo? It's not poorly-lit or at a bad angle or anything.
If I ran an art museum, I would set up an app so that anybody in the museum could find where they were and share the picture they were looking at on Twitter and Facebook directly from the app. I would have everything we owned available to look at on the website, too, because when I do take a photo, it’s because I want to remember the piece I was looking at later. Like this one by Max Ernst, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite all-time artists:
Look how crappy this photo is that I took. See? People don't need to take photos in art museums.
It always bugs me when I can’t access the art I saw on the museum site. What are people going to do, steal the photos and claim that they painted The Starry Night themselves? (It looks like MOMA is pretty good about having the art available on the site. Some other museums are not always so good at that, right, COLUMBUS MUSEUM OF ART?)
After I made all of the art accessible via the web and via mobile, I would ban all photography (well, obviously not banning photography on display, but taking photos). Any guards who saw someone whip out a camera would have permission to drag them out by the ear.
Despite being annoyed at a museum full of Ansel Adams wannabes, I saw some incredible art. Cézanne, van Gogh, Monet, Warhol, Seurat, Pollock, Ernst, Dali. I was surprised at how small The Persistence of Memory was. Very small and kind of dark, unlike the prints, which have been enhanced for color, I guess.
One of my favorite pieces of the day was Warhol’s Double Elvis:
I did not take this photo. This came from the MOMA site. Huzzah MOMA!
I love the expression on Elvis’s face. He looks like a charging bull. I also just kind of have a thing for Elvis, which I think has sprouted from my obsession with Quentin Tarantino, who clearly is an Elvis man:
Hubs also explains art to me when I don’t understand what the hell is so special about it. On this trip, he explained Mondrian:
Trafalgar Square by Piet Mondrian (from the MOMA site)
The conversation went something like this:
Me: I really don’t get this. It’s just lines and color blocks.
Hubs: Super intelligent explanation of how Mondrian was deconstructing art into basic colors and lines and light, and how it was representative of the basic elements of painting.
The one other work I wanted to share with you guys was one called Wasp and Pear by Gerald Murphy:
Not only do I think it’s a cool picture, but it was gifted to the museum by Archibald MacLeish. (If you’re not too familiar with him, he’s a poet–Amy shared one of his works in her Poetry 101 post awhile back.) Literature is everywhere!
At MOMA, we bought more gifts for our nieces, who love art and van Gogh; then we walked to Central Park. After getting accosted by a guy who accused my husband of not loving me because he wouldn’t buy me a carriage ride that I didn’t even want, we got just inside the park before I collapsed on a bench and decided I couldn’t walk any further without sustenance. Hubs couldn’t find a likely food vendor, so we ended up taking the subway home before I got too cranky. I got to see a tiny corner of the park, and it wasn’t a very impressive corner. Sorry, Central Park. Next time I will try not to be so gimpy so I can see the rest of you.
The upside is that we got to have dinner not from a Central Park vendor, but from a sandwich shop near Grand Central Station called Num Pang. The sandwiches were delicious. If you’re ever hanging out around Grand Central and you want a totally delicious sandwich, go to Num Pang. (I guess there’s also one around Union Square.)
I did not take this photo. I borrowed it from Yelp. Share W. took this photo. SO DELICIOUS.
Then, we capped off the evening with some gelato. You might know, if you follow me on Twitter, that hubs and I are ice cream fanatics. He had heard about this gelato place next to Grand Central. I had heard about a cool espresso bar from Lori that looked like it was sideways, with the wall decked out like a wooden floor, and the actual floor being a print of a bookshelf. It turned out that the gelato bar and the espresso bar were the same place.
Another borrowed photo!
It was crowded and kind of tiny–we were smushed in-between people on each side–but it was a cool experience. I felt like I was in a Stanley Kubrick film.
D’Espresso was, basically, the end of our New York adventure, minus my pastrami for lunch on Thursday. We went back to the hotel, I wallowed on the bed, and then I packed. I watched The Big Bang Theory and slept late the next day. Typical night, except I was a few hundred miles away from home.
I feel as though I should wrap up these posts with some kind of “New York City changed my life forever” kind of sentiment. It did, in a way–it made me mega-sad that I would probably never get to live in NYC, because I absolutely loved it. Hubs likes it, but wouldn’t want to live there. (I did sort of make him promise me that if we ever had enough money, we’d go live there for an extended period of time. Now the hard part will be making that much money, which will probably never, ever happen.) I can also now finally say that I’ve been to The City, something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little Susie reading my Baby-Sitters Club books. Still, I’m also glad to be home. As cool as New York City is, Columbus has a lot of nice things going for it, too.
But wait! The adventure isn’t over yet!
I still have swag to give away. Thought I’d forgotten about the giveaways, didja? Nope. I have it all organized (well, on paper), I just need to group things and take photos. So, stay tuned; those should be dropping in the not-too-distant future.
Thanks to everyone, again, for helping me have this experience of a lifetime. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures, and that I didn’t talk about food too much. We’ll be back to our regularly-scheduled book programming very soon.
(Also, I need to call my mom. I was supposed to call her like three days ago.)