I woke up this morning on the Upper East Side.
This room is bright with the flashes of Times Square's non-stop glitter and glare. I am starting to feel like the most chic of vagabonds. This afternoon, my waiter at Firenze (a lovely Tuscan restaurant on 2nd Ave. between 82nd and 83rd, for those of you in the city) asked me whether I live in New York. I told him that I'm from Ohio. He asked if I were a tourist. I didn't know how to answer. As soon as I came out of the subway into Midtown, only a couple of hours later, I felt a belated response resound through me: Just. No. Though I'm not claiming to be a New Yorker, by any stretch.
Lunch was one of the highlights of my day, in fact. Firenze has a tiny outdoor seating area looking out to 2nd Ave., and somehow it manages to be fairly refreshing and charming, even though it's on a city sidewalk. The olives were perfectly seasoned; the chianti was smooth and complex; the linguini with garlic, porcini mushrooms, shrimps, and tomatoes was delicious and portioned just right; the tiramisu was possibly the best I've ever had. Plus, everything was slow and patient, leaving me long stretches of time to enjoy my food and then read a few more pages of my book. At the end of the meal, the waiter asked whether I wanted some complimentary grappa. Who am I to turn down a proffered grappa? I drank it; it was searing and brilliant. I talked to my waiter long enough that I made up a name for him, then laughed at myself for feeling embarrassed about just asking him his real name. I also taught him the word calamity.
My day stops here, in fatigue born of schlepping things all over Manhattan on the subway, of breakfasting with one former student and eating dinner with another, of trying to stride through Union Square with one of my sandals (new sandals, to boot) ripped up, of appreciating all over again the peculiarities of seeing movies in Manhattan, of riding the subway alone after dark (perhaps a first for me).
Tomorrow, even more adventures, none of which (unless something goes awry) will involve Times Square, weirdly lovely though it is from a distance.