Wednesday, November 19, 2008

For Those Who Have Not Lost Interest in Yet Another Remake of the Bloggers Take Manhattan

I’m pretty sure I spotted a few mad dogs and Burberry-coated Englishmen as I pulled out onto the Lincoln Highway early Saturday morning, heading east. But, of course. I’ve been to NYC three times this year, and the forecast all three times has been “100% chance of rain” (despite the fact that here in the Northeast we tend to teeter on the brink of drought most of the time). It’s a 2 ½ hour drive from my house to Manhattan. During that time, I went through monsoon-worthy downpours, fog to make the aforementioned Englishman proud, lightning (yes. In November!), and a brief period of clearing with patches of blue sky.

However, once I arrived in Manhattan, the actual rain had stopped. Someone of our group must have favor with the gods. I’m guessing Charlotte, who was the first to arrive at The Hungarian Pastry Shop. I recognized her immediately from photos on her blog, glowing and happy, despite her horrible jet lag. You could tell she was being infected by the city (I know very few other places where it’s so easy to find so many people who are both radiant and exhausted).

We stood outside, chatting for a while, and then I spotted Becky and ZM, turning the corner the wrong way on Amsterdam, and called out to them. Miraculously, Becky heard me. We stood outside a while longer and then headed in to find a table. This was when I began to kick myself for not remembering, when I suggested we all meet here, that The Hungarian Pastry Shop isn’t the best place for a large-group meeting, being a typical NYC establishment (i.e. very small and narrow). But just as Dorr and Hobs arrived, the friendliness of the city made itself known, as people got up and told us we could have their tables, so we pushed tables together and waited for Cam.

Cam was also the only one I’d never met nor seen photos of, so I really had no idea what she looked like. She was easy enough to spot as she walked in, though, obviously looking for us (and I waved to her, hoping she didn’t turn out not to be Cam). One cherry cheese strudel, a cup of coffee, and lots of “getting to know you” conversation later, I decided this had been the perfect place to meet after all.

From there, it was down to The Strand (because, of course, we were determined to take poor jet-lagged Charlotte from one end of Broadway to the other. For those of you who don’t know, the pastry shop is at 111th St., a block over from Broadway, and The Strand is 99 blocks down at 12th St. Oh well, at least we didn’t take her cross-town as well). We decided to walk part of the way, since it had turned into a nice, warm day and then to catch 2 cabs. ZM, Charlotte, Cam, and I went in one cab. We got to The Strand well before the others, at which point Charlotte was beginning to look like she needed a bed much more than books. She gamely followed us all in but eventually had to seek out a café across the street to renew herself.

We all went our separate ways in the bookstore, occasionally crossing paths, as we browsed the “18 miles of books.” I was busy consulting with Bob by cell phone every other minute. I wanted to get him a treat (since he hadn’t been able to come along), and I can’t keep track of which thrillers he has and hasn’t got/read.

A word of warning: don’t go to The Strand with the likes of Hobs. While I was busy looking through Harlan Coben and John Sandford, I bumped into him to discover he had the likes of a huge James Fenimore Cooper biography, Victor Hugo, and The World without Us in his hands. I immediately began to feel I should stop filling up on candy floss and sit down to a good, long meal of duck a l’orange, roast potatoes, and spinach soufflé with a fancy side salad and chocolate mousse for dessert (in fairness to me, I did look for a copy of The Faerie Queene, but I couldn’t find the Penguin edition I want to read).

Eventually, we all met back on the street, signature bright-yellow bags in hands, sharing the contents of said bags like children on Halloween night. At this point, we all realized that all this book shopping had made us very hungry. Macaroni and cheese at Chat ‘n’ Chew sounded like an excellent idea. Make that macaroni and cheese and mimosas. Ahhh! New York! 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday, and they still have their brunch special: $5.00 mimosas. In Lancaster, 4:00 would be cocktail hour, for those who drink, what with dinner typically being served at 5:00.

After food and drink, Charlotte really did need a good nap. ZM was getting tired, too, and decided to head back to CT. That left only Cam, Becky, Dorr, Hobs, and me to head off in the direction of Ground Zero to explore The Mysterious Bookshop (which made perfect sense, since four out of five of us are members of the detective book discussion group). What a wonderful gem of a place this turned out to be.

We were greeted by a little skeleton as we walked in the door, who, apparently, stands patiently there all day, dressed in his oversized shop t-shirt (wonder what he does at night, when no one’s around). It’s a small shop, but it’s floor to ceiling books, all of a mysterious nature (although I’d quibble a bit with that, as my fellow browsers did. I don’t remember a Mr. Body in either Twilight or Harry Potter). One side houses new books, one old, and the back wall is dedicated to all things Sherlock Holmes. I had a great time browsing the shelves and, of course, feeding my candy floss book addiction some more.

After that, it was time to call it a day. Hobs and Dorr needed to get home to Muttboy. I still had a long drive ahead of me (for which the skies did a very nice job of opening up, yet again), and I’m sure Becky and Cam were eager to start reading their books. Next time, I think I’ll take the train, so I can have some uninterrupted reading time, too (that is, if bookstores are in the offering again). Cam was staying where we’d met and I’d parked, so we said “goodbye” to the other three at the Times Square subway stop and took the #1 train back up to Cathedral Station, which is a ride I’ve taken many, many times (only one stop short of the Columbia stop, where I used to disembark). It makes me kind of sad, so it was nice to have my new friend for company.

All-in-all, a wonderful day. Wish you’d been there, too. Oh, and for those of you dying to know, my booty for the day:


The Haunted Looking Glass: Ghost Stories Chosen by Edward Gorey. Do I really need to explain this one? Ghost stories by the likes of Algernon Blackwood, L.P. Hartley, and M.R. James? Illustrated by Edward Gorey? How could I go wrong?

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichel, because I’ve been looking for some good food writing, wasn’t impressed with the one M.F.K. Fisher I found in the cookbook and food section, forgot that The Strand files her under literature as well (until we'd left and Becky informed me she’d found quite a few, but didn’t know which one to get), and I’ve been meaning to read this one for some time.

Secret Prey by John Sandford, for Bob, who discovered Sandford a couple of years ago and loves him (and probably for me one day, too, if I ever get around to discovering him myself).


Hag’s Nook by John Dickson Carr, whom I haven’t read in a very long time, but who is a master with puzzles of the “door locked from the inside” sort. This is the first Gideon Fell novel, which I’ve never read.

The Fiend by Margaret Millar, who was Ross Macdonald’s wife. I’ve never read any of her stuff, and this musty old copy (written the year I was born) seemed like a good place to start.

A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin, because I’ve just met Rebus through the detective book discussion group, love him, and want to read more (also want Bob to read him, so I got this one “for him”). This is an author-signed copy in which he scribbled a dead man’s face, so I couldn’t resist.

And that puts me in something like 72-book deficit for 2008 (the year I was supposed to read 3 books I already owned for each one book I bought). Better start reading all those picture books up in the attic before the year ends.


Anonymous said...

Oh, it sounds magnificent! I can't BELIEVE I missed it. But I am thrilled it was such a lovely day!

Emily Barton said...

Court, next time, you will come spend the night with me, and we will drive (or take the train) up to Manhattan together.

Anonymous said...

Very jealous I am, but thanks for such a great description. I feel like I was there with you guys, soaking up all the delights of the big city. I can just see the group of you striding down the streets of Manhattan with book-bags in hand. And the food sounds divine too. *sigh*

Emily Barton said...

Pete, well, you just need to plan a trip to New York a la Charlotte, so we all have an excuse to go back and meet you.

Anonymous said...

Tender At The Bone is a great book! Enjoy!

Rebecca H. said...

Very nice write-up! I usually drive to the city because of the convenience, but taking the train and being able to read is so nice. Hobgoblin and I read our respective Rankin novels on the way home and had a very nice time (until we got off the train and had to face the rain ...)

Anne Camille said...

I'm kinda glad my husband doesn't read blogs (except mine) or he would tease me about being the last one there -- seeing how I had only a few yards to walk to get there! I didn't realize that your old subway ride saddened you. Glad I was there to offer some conversation. I'm thankful to you for arranging this and for thinking of including me. I had been planning to make a quick trip to NYC this fall, so it worked out great! I should write a post about the things I love --and miss -- about NYC.

litlove said...

I could read about this meet-up endlessly. If only I could have been there! Ah well, one day, I hope. I feel for Charlotte with her jet lag, though. I always get it really badly, being able to tell to the quarter hour what time it is without looking at my watch. But I'd do just about anything for 18 miles of books and my favourite bloggers.

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, thank you. Yes, nothing beats the convenience factor of driving... except maybe uninterrupted reading time on the train.

Cam, it makes perfect sense you were the last one there. The rest of us were all dependent on things like train schedules, or worry that we'd get stuck in traffic and giving ourselves plenty of time to get there. I'd love to read your post on things you love and miss about NY.

Litlove, you were missing and missed! Please come next time.