austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Christmas Eve will find me

For Sunday we hoped to go up to Manhattan, take in a carousel, enjoy the store windows, and meet up with the hippest guy in Brooklyn, bunny_hugger's brother, whom we hadn't seen since the day after Christmas. We slept in a little, trusting we could get a late lunch with him, and I overspent on the park-and-ride. I thought I'd entered the wrong code because the receipt was for a different parking space, but that was a previous person's uncollected receipt. They weren't printing new ones. On the way up her brother called and suggested we have dinner instead, which was fine by us, particularly since it was the windiest day in the history of ever and our bus, struggling against the wind, was actually making about twelve miles per hour in the direction of Philadelphia. It took us to about Thursday to actually arrive at the Port Authority.

To find a light lunch we set out for Bryant Park, where there's the adorable tiny carousel and, in the winter, a complex of little shops. The one at the northeast corner of all this, as last year, was selling Turkish teas and this sort of pastry-ish bread with. We'd been there last year; bunny_hugger was talked out of getting the same fillings as last time --- I want to say of spinach and feta --- to some vegan option. We sat down and ate really warm food and had hot tea in a cold, cold day, which is a really wonderful feeling that evokes thoughts of Peter Falk in a movie I haven't yet seen.

We got a ride on the carousel, on a rather packed day --- often we're alone or nearly alone on these things --- so neither of us could get the rabbit, but we did note the carousel's sign dating it to ``Circa 2002'' is either an affectation or evidence that people don't know what the word ``circa'' means. Also that I'm the last person on earth to recall Lasnerian dating.

We were chilly and a bit tired after this so took one of my father's suggestions (``how is it you've never taken her to the Public Library?'') to go to the New York Public Library. We figured we'd at least look at the books, which are harder to get to than you might imagine; there's about fourteen lobbies to go through, all of them grand of course but also a bit distracting if all you're looking for is shelves. We got distracted first with the gift shop and then with one of the rotating exhibits.

Its subject was lunch in New York, with the faint (although as I understand it not unjustified) emphasis on the idea of Lunch as we know it being a New York City creation. It noted, for example, the original meaning of ``lunch'' was any food (eaten any time, though often on the run) which could be fit in the hand, something which made me realize there isn't really a punchy word for ``a handful of food to be eaten at once''. (A ``handful'' by itself can be anything.) But as the city grew bigger and people couldn't get home to dine they'd grab a quick-lunch for the noontime meal and there you go. They had exhibits of various things New Yorkers have eaten from, including wooden oyster carts, dirty-water hot dog carts, pizza-by-the-slice, and even a sushi menu from the 1930s.

Startling about the 1930s sushi menu was not just that it was a sushi menu from the 1930s, nor that quite a bit of it could still be gotten from a sushi place today, but that the name of the place was Yoshino Ya. I quite enjoyed the Yoshinoya restaurants in Singapore, and knew they were an old Japanese restaurant chain even then. They'd had a Manhattan presence up to a couple years ago --- they seem to be missing now --- but ... well, either they had a 1930s presence and retreated and re-emerged, or else the term ``Yoshino Ya'' means something that makes sense for a Japanese restaurant to give itself. bunny_hugger's brother would speculate later in the day that it could easily be the same restaurant, since if they got some land in Manhattan, and were able to hold onto it a few years, they'd be locked into the self-sustaining cycle of being able to stick around because either nobody could afford to buy them out or because when they did get bought out it'd be just enough to buy someplace in a less expensive part of town, in an endless repeating cycle. The last place I saw Yoshinoya was in the Times Square area, so ... maybe.

But the centerpiece of the attraction, from our perspective, was the Automat: several displays and even two walls showing off the little doors. One you could even go around back to see the kitchen side of things. They were soaked in nostalgic commentary in posters and from elder New Yorkers looking at the stuff and remarking how only in New York would you get (some really very New York Jewish dish) from a slot like that. They probably could have done nothing but an Automat re-creation and people would have been satisfied. They had cards with a couple of the Horn and Hardart recipes, which I grabbed for my father, although they were dull recipes, stuff like peas and carrots. He was delighted by them anyway.

The exhibition mentioned that Automats found that having a back, and rotating a column of dispensers to put food in, served several useful features. For one, it helped preserve the illusion that the food had been created without any intrusion from any human bodies whatsoever. For another, it allowed the company to employ non-white-males to do the cooking and food deliveries without the customers getting worried that someone was going to black menstruate all over their steamed carrots. (I don't mean to mock the Automat people for using an aluminum shield to employ undesirables; I mean to mock the social attitudes that leave people marked undesirable.)

We did finally finish the exhibit, and went upstairs where we indeed found a reading room and verified the New York Public Library has got some books in there, somewhere.

From there we ventured north, to Rockefeller Center, where we were able to see not just the tree but every person in the world in the plaza there. We haven't seen it that packed before. We realized this was our first time visiting on a Sunday, and we think our first time visiting the tree before New Year's, so maybe those were contributing factors. Somehow we managed to get through the mob, and a lot of roped-off areas with signs and guards that allow ``Exit Only'', leaving me unsure where all these people were coming from. Possibly there's a cloning machine somewhere near the statue of Prometheus.

Faced with that madness we ducked into the NBC Store, where no, you can't buy the cute little set of chimes to do your own network tones anymore. But you can buy merchandised license for Friends, which NBC last aired in 2004; Seinfeld (1998), Star Trek (1974), and Doctor Who (never). They do also sell stuff for some of their current programming, like Revolution and some nicely understated things for Community (I do have a Greendale Community College coffee mug, which meets my need for being something useful, although I haven't actually used it for want of places to travel with such a drink). Also, they sell peacock slippers, which are just … oh, I don't know whether I want them ironically or not, but they probably don't come in sizes big enough for me.

(How is it the other networks did not hit on the idea of a mascot character who could be licensed? Is Disney somehow unaware of the potential of licensed merchandise for one of its corporate subsidiaries?)

We thought to get something to drink but realized it was awfully close to our rendezvous time with bunny_hugger's brother, so we hurried off in search of a B train instead.

Trivia: New York City's tallest office tower in 1890 was eleven storeys tall. Source: Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, And New York's Trial Of the Century, Mike Dash.

Currently Reading: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Richard Wrangham. Very interesting anthropological book, though I did not realize when I set it on my wish list that it was advancing a novel theory rather than passing on the present generally accepted ideas. So I'm not sure how much of it is interesting because it's stuff I didn't know but would if I were an anthropology fan and how much is interesting because if you held the book up at an anthropology convention you could get into an exciting fistfight.

PS: 2012 in Review, just the statistics WordPress was happy to give about my writings of 2012.


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