For over a decade my address ended with the words “New York, New York.” I lived in Manhattan longer than I have lived anywhere else in the world, and while I was happy and excited to take off for my extended adventure around the world last year I was equally happy and excited to go back.
I had a whirlwind of a “return tour” of New York and I’m still smiling from ear to ear just thinking about how much fun I had. I managed to meet up with most of my friends and actually do what I love to do in New York the most; walk the streets of Manhattan without a plan and roam wherever my two little feet took me. But for my first day in New York, I had a schedule to keep.
On my way up I once again experienced the consistent unreliability of New Jersey transit as my carefully calculated plans were thwarted by an unexplained 20 minute stop in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey. Surrounded by excited day trippers and first time Manhattan goers I felt a small pang in my heart for the fondness I have for the city I called home for so many years. But now I was just like everyone else on that train, just visiting the great city of New York for a little while. I wished and believed no amount of incompetence of NJ transit was going to stop me from seeing my friends and having a great time. Undeterred but late (I no longer stress over things that are beyond my control, thanks India) I got into Manhattan and hurried over to the east side to meet up with some of my old work friends.
While my chicken fajita salad at the Barking Dog was sub-par (I paid for deviating from my go-to salad there, the Grilled Gulf Shrimp and Lola Rosa Lettuce), the conversation was free flowing and I loved getting updates on everyone’s lives. Talks of engagements, new gigs and digs, and travel plans around the world were interspersed with our recollections of shared work stories, humorous or otherwise. It was an unbelievably gorgeous day and we left the sad or painful memories of the past behind and focused on the possibilities of what is to come. Two hours felt too short for us to part ways so we promised to meet up again later in the evening for drinks. As they walked back to their office I rushed across to the west side and up to the JCC to see Janice at her son Kai’s swim lesson.
I was right on time (yay!) to see Janice looking as pretty as ever and her little man, Kai, who was no longer so little. Kai just killed me with his long wavy hair, a miniature version of a sumo wrestler body (such a solid torso!), eyes that sparkle like polished onyx, his unusually crackly and husky voice, and to-die-for smile. Now nearly 5 years old and learning to swim, he looked almost brave and confident standing by the pool with his instructor towering over him. I loved seeing him trying to float and paddle his way back and forth like a little puppy. 30 minutes later he was exhausted and we were ready for a snack, in my case a glass of wine. We found our perfect outdoor afternoon break spot at Salumeria Rosi where we nibbled and gabbed. Our friends have been busy, New York has been busy; a friend has bought an apartment in the city (wow), another friend has moved to Hong Kong (great opportunity!), the Barnes and Noble by Lincoln Center is now Century 21 (what?), Fairway opened on the Upper East Side (hurrah!)
There will be more time to catch up with Janice later… I practically ran up to 82nd to see Leya for a brief face to face, and then I headed back down towards Hell’s Kitchen for dinner with Christiane and Jean Paul. As always Christiane was already at our meeting place, 9 Restaurant – why is it that I can never manage to be early when meeting her?! We, Americans, frequently marvel at how French women can look so good when they eat and drink whatever they want. Well, Christiane is my real life example of a gorgeous and elegant European woman who can do just that. She and JP spent July in Saint Raphael and she had just returned from the beach at the North Sea; she looked healthy and glowing. I love spending time with her and JP, and was ecstatic that I caught them while they were in NY. JP was running a bit late so we got comfortable on a banquette and split a bottle of albarino, trying to tell each other everything that happened in the past 10 months. By the time JP made his fashionable entrance I felt as if I had never left New York at all…
With JP coming to complete our happy party (looking svelte and handsome) we ordered another bottle of albarino along with some lobster rolls (little sliders of buttery deliciousness), grilled octopus salad (briny and well balanced with chunks of citrus fruits), and beef carpaccio. We capped it off with a selection of mini ice cream cones. The service was attentive and perhaps because the restaurant is relatively new or a tad bit early, it was never crowded while we were there. The food was good but I think with Christiane and JP, we could have been sitting on a floor somewhere eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we would have still had the best time. It was hard to tear myself away from the lovely couple but my night was about to kick into another gear. We promised to tour the Argentine wine country together next year (with future plans for Seoul in 2013, ha!) and I skipped over to 11th avenue to Ink 48.
I was definitely late to my own party at this point by almost an hour, but it was one of those perfect New York nights and I knew that my friends will be enjoying themselves with the view of Manhattan from the rooftop bar. I thanked the skies over the city for being clear and dry, and walked out to the large terrace to join my friends. Rita asked me to take a full turn around as I approached my group of friends and I happily obliged by raising my hands up in the air and twirling around. Twice. I was beyond thankful and touched that Rita, Angela, Anna, and Yamil, along with my lunch time companions Ray, Bryant, and Jerry, came out to meet me despite having to all go to work the next morning. We sat by the pool looking up at the skyline of New York, sipping cocktails and thinking it could not get better than this.
We stayed as long as we could and spent another half hour talking in front of the hotel, and finally called it a night as 3AM approached. I really packed a lot into just one day… but it was so ridiculously fun. Onto day 2!
Salumeria Rosi: worth making a trip up the west side of Manhattan for delectable selection of salumi, Italian produce and wine, otherwise check out their Paris location at Galeries Lafayette or in Parma, Italy. 283 Amsterdam Avenue (between 73rd and 74th) New York, NY Phone: 212.877.4800
Press Lounge at Ink 48: one of the best rooftop/outdoor hotel bars in Manhattan with unobstructed views of the city. 653 11th Avenue at 48th Street
New York, NY Phone: 212.757.2224
* photos courtesy of Raymond Lau