Now don't be getting your expectations up--try to remember that I'm ridiculously easy to entertain, and lazy, on top of that.
The votes were cast; the readers' consensus was clear. I was Gotham-bound. The fateful day broke with unhelpful climatic conditions: dim, overcast and slightly rainy. However I do possess an umbrella about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and my purse has approximately the capacity of a lawn-and-garden size trash bag--amply accommodating both the Dining Out and the Sports Wednesday sections of the New York Times, the umbrella, and breakfast pastry--so I felt equipped to proceed, and gamely took my place on the commuter rail, off-peak, for my four precious hours of freedom.
In honor of this momentous occasion, a number of my personality defects merged together for a symphonic celebration entitled, 'Après-midi d'un imbecile.' The first defect section, Reckless Planning, played an undercurrent of Refused To Look At An Online Subway Map Yesterday. Deep in the orchestra pit, the Rash Assumptions section played a light motif of You Know The Approximate Location Of The Train Station And Your Destination, So Really All You Need Is To Take A Couple Of Penciled Notes On Data Derived From This Vague Subway Finder And Surely You Will Be Effortlessly Whisked Onto The Correct Subway Train Upon Your Arrival.. And finally, the Murky Paranoia section played a solo: The Appearance Of Uncertainty Or Disorientation Will Surely Result In Your Speedy Demise.
In my defense, I'd like you to compare these two subway maps so that you can get an idea of I learned to think of mass transit during my crucial formative years. Here is a map of the MBTA, lovingly referred to as the T, serving the Boston metro area:
This was the subway service during the only period of my life when I lived in an area served by subways, from 1986 to 1993. Note that there are not a hell of a lot of lines in this map. I'm not naive. I realize that Boston and environs compares to New York City, in size and complexity, much as a blueberry to a durian. Still, what can I do? When I think 'Subway,' this is what I think.
Whereas this thing here, to my mind, really looks more like what you give a high-ranking air commando officer to study for 48 hours before an important mission. My mission being somewhat less compelling (though in its small way important to me), and my preparation being minimal to nonexistent, small wonder that I was seen squatting, transfixed by this image, for an indefinite period of time, wondering if just squinting at the damn thing long enough would bring the desired result.
After briefly enduring the creepy efforts of a helpful person (see Murky Paranoia, above), I finally came up with a hopeful strategy, boarding a train that deposited me somewhat north and west of SoHo; and I even showed myself capable of figuring out how to proceed on foot south and east. Improbably, I ended up where I had planned.
Then, I did almost nothing, in the most recreational way. I just wandered, looking briefly into shops, mostly impossibly expensive. For example looking for an adorable, colorful gift for the Jellybean, I found a tiny, unprepossessing shop staffed by a well-scrubbed and t-shirted young lady of approximately the age of fifteen; browsed merchandise; saw something like this, found it charming, looked at price tag, discovered it was priced at $65, pretended not to be dismayed, looked around shop for another fifteen seconds, departed. I repeated this process about a dozen times, growing neither bored nor discouraged. I stopped and bought a piece of this overpriced but tasty chocolate. Found my way to Handloom Batik, the store that had been my rationale for the trip, at about exactly noon. Store was closed; telephoned on my cellphone to ask why they weren't open just as the owner approached bearing bundles. She told me that she still had an errand or two to do--could I come back in one hour?
So, it was lunch time. And instead of my planned frugal and tasty $2.50 banh mi, a purveyor of which I had exhaustively researched prior to my visit, on a whim I went here, and the fact that this New York Times review of the restaurant appeared in the same newspaper I had been reading on the train trip up is purely coincidental. No, I am unmoved by a restaurant critic's claim that the french fries served in a pricey establishment are 'the best in the city,' even when that same restaurant is, I note, right in the neighborhood I'd planned to be anyway, and even if I pass by that restaurant about half a dozen times in the course of my wandering.
Were the french fries as good as they were hyped to be? Imagine McDonald's french fries, only they actually taste like potatoes, are verrrry slightly thicker, slightly curled, and absolutely fresh. Yes, silly, of course they were amazing. Especially with a $10 glass of Chablis and a lamb sandwich. Chablis with lamb? Yes--this was a day about breaking all rules. I prefer white wine, dammit, and no one was there to say me nay.
I finally got back to Handloom Batik, and puttered about without any self-consciousness of the impatience or boredom of any other person for awhile, until finally buying one yard of batik fabric.
And I found, to my surprise, that it was time to head back to the train station.
At this point I made an interesting choice. Since I'd found my way from the subway station to this neighborhood by a rather haphazard process of walking south and east, I thought I could repeat the process by wandering generally north and west. But the problem with this strategy is that you could miss your subway station by a block or two, and in this part of the city, the grid-like placement of the streets is a little more haphazard ...
Suffice to say that I missed my train.
But I caught the next one. And, having only missed the train by a matter of 60 seconds or so, I had enough time to get the Jellybean a chocolate-frosted Krispy Kreme donut with multicolored sprinkles and a purple I♥NY keychain; and an hour or so later, I found myself once again in the suburbs, intact, and wondering if my mundane little voyage had been but a dream.