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It was a golden Friday evening in June and I arranged to visit a friend who lives in Tribeca. I wanted to take photos from the rooftop of her building. When I got there, she and another friend – they had met at a mixer – were commiserating about the lack of eligible men in New York. There was cheese but no wine because both were detoxing (it’s hard not having wine every night of the week). I have to admit, I was expecting a glass of Prosecco. I was also disappointed that my camera battery was dead but I am such a novice that I didn’t have a replacement with me. I resorted to iPhone photos. New York and Apple did not disappoint.

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The light was magnificent that evening, pale and warm, like a buttery finish on upper Manhattan.

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We were joined by other groups of tenants having takeaway dinner and drinks on the roof. Three women asked me to take their photo against the skyline.

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The shadows grew longer.

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And a boy played squash on a rooftop court below us.

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Just one week to go until I leave New York and still so much to do and see. The list of sites I have not seen is shamefully long. I missed Shakespeare in the Park, didn’t go skating on the rink at the Rockefeller Center, and never did get my eyebrows threaded. After nearly six months here, I have not visited any of the following:

  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Ellis Island
  • Empire State Building
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Carnegie Hall
  • Lincoln Center

Just one week to go and still on my list are:

All the while working fulltime. Most gifts are purchased. All I have to worry about is packing everything into three suitcases. This is a hard place to leave. But I am ready to go home and be a wife and mother again. It’s time.

I took a break in June for home leave to Germany. So this post will be less about New York and more about my husband, who has stayed at home with our 17-year-old son while I play the life of a single in the city. Not all husbands would be so generous and understanding and for that I am very, very grateful. He was so tanned and welcoming that the minute I arrived, I made a point of thanking him for allowing me this sojourn in New York. For the short time I was at home, I continued to praise him in a loud voice in his presence to our visitors. I could tell by the grave looks on the faces of my girlfriends that even their own husbands would not have indulged a wife’s wish to work abroad for half a year. For that I am very proud of him.

I see it as one of the benefits of being married for over 25 years. Distance does make the heart grow fonder.

Yet it’s such a quick hop from New York to Frankfurt that a person could actually commute. As I told my husband on my arrival. Only 6 1/2 hours. “Don’t even think about it,” he retorted.

He was so happy to announce how clean the house was, our cleaning lady had done such a great job. Then I opened the frig. And set to work. Then I opened the dishwasher, and set it on a hot rinse, empty. (He believes in washing dishes by hand when there are only two of them in the house). So whatever, right? They’re guys. And have been living in a Männer-WG for three months, my husband and son. Suffering on their own. Cooking for themselves. (“No potatoes,” Felix says, when I ask him what he wants to eat). Got it.

I find the potatoes, oddly, in the refrigerator, together with bananas, which have no right to be there either.

The night of my arrival, after taking a good long nap and hosting a family of four (strawberry cake from the bakery and coffee), I made risotto and salad of white asparagus served in a saffron, champagne and lemon sud. Both husband and son have been cooking since I’ve been gone but were grateful to see me in the kitchen again. Because despite his efforts to whip up healthy dinners, Peter’s shopping list typically has the same items: Bread, butter, jam, coffee, tea, and muesli. He honestly couldn’t tell Jamie Oliver from Laurence Olivier in a line-up. Once he called me at work, I kid you not, to ask how to tell when water is boiling. Asked to bring home balsamico, he brings basmati. Risotto and ricotta are tricky too.

Honestly? I think they miss me more than I miss them. But I’m the one who has gone away, the one who has taken a job in a not exactly hardship location. I haven’t cooked much or cleaned at all since I got to New York. A friend told me that New Yorkers don’t cook and I scoffed. But she was right. Food costs almost as much as dining out. I’m spoiled by a fortnightly service for my corporate housing on Park Row. (Was $20 enough of a tip for the cleaning lady? You can never overtip in New York. Sky’s the limit.)

In our garden in Heidelberg the roses were all dying, evenly, an entire garden of standards, trellis and bushes, their soft leaves carpeting the walkway. Desperately in need of clipping, trimming and sweeping. The whole business. I had forgotten how much the garden is my responsibility.

Much as I am looking forward to being at home again with my boys, I couldn’t wait to get back to Park Row. Now I’ve decided to make it my life goal to live in New York. I’ll have to see how my husband feels about that, and whether his generosity extends to lifetime relocation. For the two of us, of course!

 

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Before I moved to New York, a colleague asked me what I wanted to see or do first. Like a shot I said, “Visit the museums and see art.”

Above is the Rothko gallery at the MOMA. Alone with a friend on a Saturday afternoon at closing time, we meditated in silence on the strength and simplicity of the canvases. It is not unlike visiting a temple or cathedral. In fact, when I visited the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland, I had a near spiritual experience in the presence of an overwhelming Rothko. It vibrated with energy. I had the same experience in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, under that golden dome, a multiringed halo over me. I sometimes feel close to what must be God in the presence of art. More often I feel close to hordes of people with narcissticks who hardly even look at the works. Go ahead, call me a snob.

I bought a membership to the MET, knowing I would be back at least for the extensive selection of reproduction jewelry at their gift shop, some of the most exquisite in the world. (After three visits, I’m still not done). Once I went with a friend just to have a cocktail on the rooftop terrace, a place that offers fantastic views of Manhattan. The first museum I went to was the Frick. Although nothing stood out for me in the collection, the house itself was a delight, with its own theater and a legendary courtyard that brings fin de siecle spirit and light into the property.

Just eight blocks from my office in the West Village is the new Whitney, probably my favourite of all the art museums in the city. The sleek, oversized freight elevators mimic the block’s meatpacking history, while hidden from traffic long sofas face the Hudson, as if from an airport sized living room window, offering a tired museum-goer a moment to sit and chat with the locals. Or just gaze across to Jersey.

I like the results of the iPhone pano function on my camera, though as you’ll see below, the art looks better without people.

 

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I visited on a busy Sunday, starting my tour with breakfast on the top floor (28$ for a jumped up piece of toast and a coffee), before working my way down the floors. The collection feels fresh and very youthful, the generous proportions of the rooms so grand they allow the modern pieces to astonish us. Like the black and white room above, that felt like a big Marimekko cereal bowl.

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Uptown on the Museum Mile at the corner of Park Ave &  86th Street, stands the Neue Gallerie, a collection of German and Austrian art founded by the Lauder family. Something I love about American society: wealthy people donate their money. And wealthy New Yorkers donate their money to culture. My husband enjoyed the Viennese cafe where he was able to order Apfelschoerle without having to explain himself, and appreciated the wait staff in their starched whites and smart blacks. I have no pictures.

The Guggenheim – gives me the willies. I love the exterior and want a Calder mobile from the gift shop. They remind me of the 70s.

Yesterday I went back to the MOMA and bought prints at their gift shop, with the plan of wallpapering a room at home with modern art: Georgia O’Keeffe, Matisse, Cy Twombly, Stephen Frykholm, and of course, a Rothko.

Ten Things That Surprised Me About New York

  1. Cobblestone streets. Perry, Barrow, Morton – all in the West Village, where my office is located.
  2. The weather. From terrible to worse. Freezing winter followed by months of chill. To be replaced by a sweltering summer. The weather is not the best thing about New York.
  3. Being called “Miss” in shops. Often by young men. So adorably old-fashioned.
  4. The sheer illegal impossibility of buying a bottle of wine in the supermarket. Beer, yes. Wine, no. This I don’t get. This is not right.
  5. The number of meals served from disposable tableware. Paper plates, plastic forks and knives, aluminum trays. Caution: Soup from a styrofoam cup, eaten with a plastic spoon cannot taste reasonable.
  6. The number of meals I eat out or take away.
  7. Driving skills. Start, stop. Forwards yes, reverse, not so much.
  8. The gesture for over, no more, or closed: A quick horizontal chop at the neck.
  9. Single-ply toilet paper. Just wrong. Should be taken from the market.
  10. The unique stench of the subway. Piss overpowered by ineffective air freshener.

No account of New York City is complete without a mention of 9/11. I live very close to the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. Every morning on my way to work, I am greeted by the shiny new tower as I make my way to the subway at Chambers.

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Passing St. Paul’s Chapel, where George Washington worshipped, and which not only survived the attacks but also functioned as a retreat for volunteers and firefighters in the tragic days following 9/11, I am reminded every day of the hallowedness of this territory. By the incongruous colonial graveyard of St. Paul’s and Trinity Church so near to Wall Street. And by the many tourists.

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But it took a cabbie from India to underscore what being a volunteer after 9/11 could mean. I had to get to work early one day and jumped in a cab instead of taking the E train from Chambers. The cab driver started talking about 9/11 and said he was in lower Manhattan that September morning when he had to abandon his car and flee. (Those weren’t his words). His brother, a trucker, heard on the news that anyone with a refrigerated truck should show up at Ground Zero. He transported bodies away for days. The cabbie said, “It was hard work. He worked for days. But they paid him well. About 40,000 dollars.” When the brother applied for a green card, the judge didn’t ask any questions. His application was processed immediately. Which prompted his brother to tell me: “That’s what I love about America. When you give something, you get something.”

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