Most people travel to New York City to stroll in Central Park, visit Wall Street, glimpse the Statue of Liberty, gawk at the Empire State Building, admire paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, catch a Broadway play near Times Square.
If you were reading my blog hoping to visit these tourist spots, I deeply apologize. Two years ago, on a similar trip to NYC, Kiah treated me to a more traditional tour. You can click here and scroll through the following days in 2009 to enjoy more usual Manhattan sights.
Or you can continue reading this blog to witness a more untraditional day in the City.
Kiah’s latest job has been managing a coffee shop in Manhattan called Birch Coffee. Yesterday was her last day. She’s headed for Europe with her boyfriend in July, followed by a few weeks back home in the Upper Peninsula. She’s off to experience many new adventures.
I’ve heard lots about the coffee shop in the last couple of years. I wanted to visit; sip a latte made with love by my daughter.
Unfortunately, she needed to arrive at the shop by 7 a.m. Unfortunately, Mama didn’t feel confident navigating the subway between Queens and Manhattan without getting lost later in the day. (Also Mama wanted to experience the feeling of her whole shift. Mama didn’t want to just be a coffee-taster-passing-through. She wanted to experience a slice of her daughter’s life.)
Therefore, we rose at 5:15 a.m. Walked semi-deserted streets toward the subway. Zoomed overground and underground toward 5 East 27th Street.
Kiah explained that she would be busy and couldn’t entertain me. That was fine & dandy. I didn’t need entertaining. The coffee shop features a “Library” upstairs where patrons can sip their cappuccinos and lattes and espressos while reading or talking on cell phones or hangin’ out with their computers.
It took Kiah over an hour to set up the shop. I helped a tiny bit. You know, took chairs off the tables and measured some coffee beans. She told me I couldn’t have my first cuppa java until after 8 a.m. Fine.
And–happily–just after 8 a.m.–my barrista delivered a lovely cup complete with a rosetta. (I didn’t know it was called a rosetta until this morning. I thought it was a leaf. But now I’m savvy.)
Fortunately, I had a good book to read. It was called “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami. The book belongs to said barrista, the daughter. It is a fascinating book. You can’t even begin to describe it to anyone. Yet, it’s strangely fascinating. As the back cover elaborates: “…which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.”
You are continually being amazed by the turns and twists of Murakami’s writing. The book could keep you occupied for three days in a coffee shop.
My blogging and Facebook friend, Jeff, had offered to drive into the City to meet me–imagine! I suggested the Coffee Shop between 10 and 11 a.m. (We had never met one another in person.)
And soon–my cell rang. He was in the Gershwin Hotel–in the lobby. That is only sixteen steps away! I scurry downstairs. And there he is! I recognize his face from his Facebook picture. And he must recognize me because suddenly we are hugging and hello, hello, would you like to come upstairs and have some coffee? But first, over here, come meet my daughter! And then Hello Kiah, Hello Jeff, what would you like to drink?
Jeff and I became better acquainted in the next three hours, learning bits and pieces about one another’s lives. Have you ever met an Internet friend in person? I am always amazed to discover that Internet friends have physical bodies. It is a little disconcerting for the first few minutes. (I feel this way upon seeing my children again, too. Bodies! They have bodies! They are not all spirit and feelings and words. They have faces and hands and feet.)
We took a stroll down to the park where a HUGE NEW YORK BARBECUE was taking place in sprinkling rain showers. The smell of roasting beasts permeated the park, but we lunched on salads from a cafeteria-style restaurant around the counter. Although we could have eaten at Birch Coffee. We talked a lot about our common interest–photography. Although he likes photography for its own sake. I like photography for how it illustrates stories.
Too soon Jeff said goodbye. Goodbye, Kathy. Goodbye, Jeff. Until we meet again! It’s been nice getting to know you. Travel safely back home.
Kiah said, “I’m not ready to go yet” even though it was 45 minutes after her shift ended (she is one of the most conscientious workers I know, no kidding, and I’m not just saying that as her mom) so upstairs I traipsed again. By then my legs were starting to ache fiercely from the Power Yoga session the previous night and I was silently cursing the millions of steps in NYC and wondering how to garner the strength to walk one single more step, let alone ten minutes to the subway and then twenty minutes “home” to Queens.
And finally, after I had two more chats with an Alabama doctoral student originally from Taiwan and a girl from Manhattan who had never left home because she loves her family so much–Kiah appeared perhaps a bit misty-eyed from her last shift at the coffee shop–and we said goodbye to her replacement, a smiling Sam whose mother and sister were also visiting the City–and off we trotted toward the subway with aching yoga-muscles, dreaming of the Greek Pizza we would eat many hours later after a refreshing nap.