Saturday, May 7, 2011
Holidays and Curiosity
One of the gifts of holidays is that one's curiosity is on full throttle. You notice the smell of the subway and of the spirea blooming in Union Square. You shamelessly eavesdrop as two fervent young men in yarmulkes talk about abortion and penalties for killing pregnant women as they carry a long table down Fifth Avenue toward Washington Square. "It all depends on what you mean by...." one of them says, as they realize that ethics almost always come down to definitions. It is noon on a blustery sunny New York spring day and two different bands gust music through the park. A man with sandwich boards on a jerry-rigged cart dances to the beat of one of the bands until he is in the circumferance of the second, when he must force his hips and knees and feet into another rhythm. In a quieter corner of Washington Square, a man in fatigues teaches a couple how to play chess.
Greenwich Village is full of colour and stories. Beautiful Tibet has shawls in every gradation of every colour, making me want to go home and make an Amish quilt. At Mood, three floors of fabric, we are greeted first by a young man who calls me "young lady" and wants me to check my parcels. Then the store's black and white boston terrier snuffles at my feet. Every colour is celebrated in silk georgette, in shantung silk, in jersey, brocade and tulle. There is a quieter palette in men's suitings. The store bustles with people's visions as twenty-somethings with fat design notebooks and either tattoos or very creatively coloured hair and a playful sense of style troll the aisles of industrial shelving looking for inspiration. A grandmother buys lime-green netting for her granddaughter's dance recital tutu. A young man with an understated shirt of black Egyptian hieroglyphs on a cream background and one turquoise earring explains to a svelte young woman whose lining he's cutting "I love to sew. It's so satisfying."
McNulty's tea, established in 1895, has a smell of tea and coffee so thick I can almost chew it. Hundreds of glass jars can be opened and inhaled. When I have made my choice, an elderly Chinese man (who knew intuitively or by long experience that the customer ahead of me wanted his coffee ground coarsely for a coffee press) finds the right rubber stamp to label my small but heavy white bag before he weighed out my choices. His partner, also an elderly oriental man (named Mc Nulty?) charged me very little for the hundreds of cups of tea I was carrying away.
In spite of its bustle and crowds, New York City takes time to delight.
at 9:06 AM