July 05, 2003
We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident
Last night I sat high above the city, in a dark conference room with Jen and her colleagues, wondering when the fireworks were supposed to start. Someone called 311 to find out. At one point we heard him say to the operator, "Yes, that would be the 4th of July fireworks." Not long after, they did burst forth, and they were spectacular. It's the first year that the city also has set up fireworks at the tip of Manhattan, to drum up activity downtown, so we got to view both sets at once.
There are primal bits of happiness in life, and seeing big pretty colored lights crackle and pop in the sky is one of them. Last year I wasn't up to it, but I won't skip them again if I can help it.
It was a date-with-the-city kind of day. Jen and I checked out Cafe Topsy on Hudson Street for brunch, a comfortable, quietly stylish Brit restaurant, where our waiter was most lovely. A cheeseburger with caramelized onions and chips for me, a salad garnished with dried figs for Jen. We shared a chilled cucumber-yogurt-mint soup, and because it was so darn hot, an iced cappuccino for me as well; Jen had wine to please her palate.
Back on the subway, down to Battery Park, where we arrived in medias res for the free Ryan Adams concert. While I'd vaguely heard of this guy, I didn't know his music. Jen assured me that I would at least know his song "New York, New York" because it was all over the place after 9/11. And yet, I must be the last person on the planet to have heard it, because I swear, I've never ever heard it before. I even went out of my way to download a copy in order to find out if I just knew it without knowing whose song it was. Nope. How utterly bizarre. It wasn't like I kept my eyes and ears away from the media at the time.
Anyway, we sat on the grass, the subway rumbling beneath, and listened to the concert, which was pretty good. (Ryan even played "New York, New York" which I at least recognize now.) People were everywhere, sitting on blankets, on bits of cardboard or plastic bags or newspapers, standing or swaying, holding up their (damn) cellphones so friends could hear. Little kids were running around, and everybody yielded yo-yos given out by one of the concert sponsors.
We proceeded to stroll from Battery Park up along the west side, welcoming the breeze coming off the Hudson. The summer heat was no longer quite so overbearing, and it was great to be exploring, walking in the balmy air, the sound of the river in our ears. Little pockets of lawn abounded, people lounging or running around with their dogs or kids. Bicyclists and roller bladers shared the way with us pedestrians and runners. Boats passed by and we waved back to the passengers.
We encountered the World Financial Center and ducked in for some ice cream, walking amongst the young palm trees and up the marble steps, the Site there before us, a construction pit where twin monoliths used to be.
Back on the street we came across the Irish Hunger Memorial, further up we stopped to watch people taking lessons at the Trapeze School. We clapped for the woman who managed to swing off of her bar and catch the hands of the instructor hanging off another. I wished at that moment it could have been me, flying through the air.
At 14th Street, we opted for other transit, hopping on the subway to Jen's office to watch the fireworks. Afterwards, dinner at Rue 57 - blue cheeseburger and frites for Jen, a salad and mountain fig turnover for me. The turnover was presented on a bed of prosciutto, garnished around the edge with bits of gorgonzola, chives, and crushed pistachio. I figured out how to make little packets with my knife and fork so as to savor all the different flavors at once. The flaky, crispy phyllodough wrapping encased the intense, rich flavor of the fig - no mere Newton, this dish.
Back home on the train, with the families and the drunks, the imprint of flashing blooms of color and light still dancing behind my eyelids.