25 November, 2010

Goodbye autumn.

The bleached light has distinctly sharpened in the face of winter.  The last of the clinging leaves are giving up their paper selves as the cold goes from being an incoming 'front' to something that settles in around the fields, the villages, the houses, our bodies.  You find yourself straining to find the last bits of color, natural or not.  You tell the children, you tell yourself: there is so much to love about winter--the snap of wind that pinks the cheek; the damp give of the browning leaves underfoot; the clear rush and babble of the full-again brook just beyond the green sway in the field; the Christmas lights twinkling in neighbor's windows; the glittering, shimmering frost in the early morning; the lacy trees stretched bowl-like in the empty sky; the embracing glow of the banked fire in the kitchen corner.  What's not to love?

Sometimes, it's a hard sell.  That's when you say to yourself: next year, I'm doing it differently.  At any rate, this is what I told myself last winter, when I was a.) snowed in with 40 cm of snow outside (with our steep driveway in the middle of unplowed nowhere, it might as well have been 40 meters), and b.) simultaneously bronchitis'ed in with a steadily 40C temperature.  Doing it differently

So now, just as a sleek new winter unsheathes her claws, I'm leaving, for more than a month.  Kids pulled out of school, dog at the neighbor's place, the whole kit and caboodle.  Between making lists of lists and de-virusing my computer (...) I've also been spending way too much mental energy trying to figure out how I could continue to blog while traveling.  I finally realized I can perhaps better spend that time with, y'know, my family, rather than scrambling to find a nearby internet cafe then sitting hunched and closed as a parenthesis, tapping out my missive while trying not to be distracted by the clackety fan.  (Oh, the notion of the fan's because we'll be in Vietnam...)

I really think of those extra few hours of non-blogging as a Christmas presents to yours truly. 

Because, man alive, these kids, I really have to enjoy them this very moment: they absolutely insist upon growing, and at a speed that leaves me slightly dazed.  The little one's plaid flannel pyjama sleeves?  Midway up his forearms.  My sweet eldest (her face lengthening into something frighteningly close to maturity)? She does things on a horse that make me blanch--circus tricks kind of stuff.  Sigh.  I'd just like for this time, during which their open faces are still small enough to cup in my hands, to last a wee bit extra.  Is asking for time to stretch asking for too much?

So yes, I'm off for a big long month with the family. Cross your fingers that we, all of us, are too thrilled to notice the slight time difference between Alpha and Golf

Please look for me again in the beginning of January, a few short days after the hangovers wane and the New Year's resolutions to lose weight are declared, after the friends and family have straggled home and you're just beginning to evaluate the possibility of maybe perhaps taking down the decorations.
In the meantime, I didn't want to leave you sitting there empty-handed, so I made you something.  Like all things handmade, if it's pretty, it's only the roughest kind of pretty, an assemblage of little moments that caught my eye while I was in New York.  The exact hue of a certain sort of daydream, it is the product of wanting something and being lucky enough for it to happen. 

I think of you in kind of this way, out there in the ether, my own New York--only in human form.

Maybe you are someone who smiles and laughs at some of the same things I do, and maybe, just maybe, you are also someone who wants to spend a little time with the ones they love, somewhere warm.   I wish you loads of smiles, laughs, warmth and more.  Happy Thanksgiving, if there's a turkey in your near future.  And Merry Christmas, too.  (Bet I'm the first this year to say that!)  I promise I'll bring along a little bit of Vietnam to show and tell in the new year.

22 November, 2010

In black and white.

It’s getting colder in fits and starts here and there's far too little daylight for my liking. What to do, when it's raining cats and dogs outside and your house is filled to the brim with children (five to be exact)?
If you live in the Cévennes you bundle them into the car to go take part in the 13th edition of the annual “Contes en Balades,” a regional festival built around story-telling and the arts going on now. The festival takes place over some ten days in far-flung villages all over the Cévennes/Gard.

Each event is highly original—and free. Talented performers receive funding from the region to put on high-quality performances centered around oral history-- for the very youngest to the oldest among us. This year, the theme is myth and mythology.

These black and white illustrations are all taken from the sumptuously designed program. I do wish I could take credit for any one of these; failing that, I wish I could properly give credit to the actual artists, but though I looked, I couldn’t find any information on their origins.  Aren't they marvelous though?
The shamanic owl man above, with the magical ray-book, illustrated the program page describing our afternoon of entertainment.  We saw a dance company that deeply and beautifully wove sign language into the story and choreography of their performance.  The lead was a young deaf person with a killer smile and stage presence. He played the role of a hermit sorcerer misunderstood and feared by the nearby village, and who, as it turns out, was deaf.    
The simple but surprisingly engaging piece was followed by some virtuoso break-dancing, again with lyrics about sign language and signs built into the performance.  It was so cheering to see how he embodied a positive, hip, and fun deaf role model for the kids, who were eating it up (we mothers weren't displeased either, for the record).  Because really, how many well-balanced positive role models for the deaf can you think of?  Perhaps a third of the children in the audience were deaf--and their excitement about understanding the show, about the performers--was moving to witness.

If you're in the area, the shows (each one quite different in their approach to myth) go on for another week or so.  You can find out more, although both the information and the performances themselves are in French. 

If you aren't in the Cevennes, you can do part of what I did, which was to bake an old-fashioned treat from up north, on the Moselle River, a feather-light crème fraîche-raised cake, flecked with grated chocolate, for the children's gouter (snack), using a recipe I'd plucked from a cookbook at the library, Le Grand Livre du Chocolat (the Big Book of Chocolat), by Bertrand Meyer and Sylvie Boizet.  What caught my eye? Chocolate.  And easy as all get out. I asked the children whether they liked it; as their mouths were full...but they signed their approval.

Gâteau de Metz (Metz Cake)
Serves 8-10.

4 eggs
1 heaped cup (or 225 g) fine granulated sugar
3/4 scant cup (or 125 g) dark chocolate
1 1/4 cup (or 125 g) flour
3/4 heaped cup (or 2 dl/200 g) crème fraîche
1/3 cup (or 50 g) confectioner's/powdered sugar

Preheat oven 190C.  Grease and flour a 9 inch (22 cm) round pan.  

Finely grate the dark chocolate (if the shavings aren't fine enough, they will settle to the bottom in a bit of a clump).  Beat the eggs and fine sugar for 10 minutes, using a wooden spoon, or use an electric mixer for 5 minutes,as I did.  Add the grated chocolate, flour and crème fraîche, beating well after each addition. 

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

20 November, 2010

Playing hookie, or l'ecole de buisson.

You might jump the gun and guess Paris, mais non, cheeky thing.  These are all images of Montpellier, right smack on the Mediterranean, and pretty citified compared to my normal haunts.  Even if it's no Paris.
It's where you can go to get all the necessary vaccinations before getting on a jet airplane to go to Vietnam.  For example.  Where you can walk into an in-the-flesh Habitat just to get that familiar low-voltage thrill of seeing some new and intriguing design pieces.  Where the palms nearly outnumber the plane trees, and the public transport's lately going all fab, with sleek, quiet trams in operation and more rail being laid by the minute (car traffic being rendered logically semi-hellish due to related construction in the historical center.)
With a student population of some 55,000, give or take, the people-watching involves the young and the plugged in.  I wanted to ask some of these youngsters how they thought human civilization had ever made it without tech gadgets, like those things in their ears, but I was too busy taking pictures.  You know, with my own tech-y gadget.
Montpellier's where you can go for a gestalt shift-inducing hair cut, should the need arise.  As in, go to the posh shop girl with the haircut you really like, and ask her where the best salon is.  This then entails heading off the beaten path and away from all the salons with the floor to ceiling display windows, down into side streets you didn't know were there to begin with, into a tiny, sort-of place.  Squeezed between two shops, a door with a most uninspiring buzzer.  You go in, through a courtyard, up a grand stair, to be fussed over and emerge, the weightless butterfly from the chrysalis, or something close to that anyway.
While you're tossing your styled mane jauntily right to left and back, you may be startled to notice the city's Christmas decorations are already going up.  It's only just mid-November, but they don't have the Thanksgiving buffer here to delay the mercantile inclinations of the shop-owners.  No carols yet, though.
It is a city for strollers (by this I mean the two heeled kind), with broad esplanades and parks, but lacking the Roman backwater feel of Nimes.  Between you and I, I still prefer Nimes' timelessness.  But this is a good quick taste of the city life for while your kids are at school, working far harder than you.  I'd definitely come meet you here for coffee. For example.

15 November, 2010


I’ve been tapped and presented with this,
my own little green square of recognition, by the endearingly funny fellow expat blogger Aidan at Conjugating Irregular Verbs. Thanks, Aidan!

The idea behind the award is to use it as a chance to divulge seven lesser-known facts about yourself, and to continue the anecdote-spinning by nominating fellow bloggers whom you’d love to get to know just a little bit better. Here are my seven choices, all of whom write evocatively and engagingly—and keep me coming back for more:

The lyrical Molly
at Remedial Eating
The anonymous, long-time Vietnamese American blogger
at Wandering Chopsticks
The crafty, sewing goddess that is Rose
at The Laughing Monkey
The haiku-writing design curator Cerré
at 2 or 3 Things I Know
The flammable Allie
at Hyperbole and a Half
The winsome, Finnish Tiina who cooks like a dream
at Sparkling Ink
The witty, south-of-France dweller
at The Duchess of Earl

1. I spent my early years in some places where air conditioning seemed fairly necessary to basic functioning, such as the west coast of Africa in Sierra Leone, and the equator, in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

2. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

3. I’ve visited a cave behind a waterfall, where Kenyan elephants still ritually gather; cradled a South African lion cub in my arms (Softest. Thing. Ever.); explored Elmina castle in Ghana, from which thousands of slaves were shipped to the United States; (disastrously) attempted to lead sled dogs in Sweden (don’t want to say much more on that brief but remarkably humiliating moment…); learned how to make fresh pasta in the campagna just outside Rome; took in Cambodia’s Angkor (mixed feelings there); went kayaking off the coast of Puerto Rico, and helped release baby sea turtles in Brazil. But I still haven’t been to the Grand Canyon—or Graceland.

4. I really like to paint, and haven’t been doing nearly enough of it. Here are portraits I made (in oil) of my parents, from photos taken of them back when they were about the age I am now.

5. I’ve had a whopping case of malaria and (unrelated) blood transfusions, which exclude me from donating blood to agencies with stringent donor requirements. If this isn’t enough to rule me out, our upcoming, month-long trip to Vietnam will make donating anywhere impossible for a good while. (Some regions in Vietnam have malaria and dengue fever transmitting mosquitoes.)

6. I used to go to a lot of live concerts and club shows BK (Before the Kids). Once, having gone alone to a Shirley Horn concert, long one of my very favoritest of jazz vocalists, I suddenly found myself alone in her dressing room, which was filled with red roses—and her. Overwhelmed by the magnificent charity concert she’d just given and her presence (and maybe all the cigarette smoke hanging in the air)--trembly as all get out--I blurted out my passion for her music and, rambling incoherently, found myself idiotically weepy with emotion. Again, the horror. She hugged me to calm my nerves, sat me down, made me laugh, and I was soon on my way. My nerves were still jangly, however: backing out of my spot in the underground parking lot, I reversed directly into a column. The column won.

7. My memory or lack thereof can be truly appalling. This is why, in certain photos that involve my children’s hands, you might be startled to find unsettlingly long fingernails. I can never remember to clip them (I know: out of the running for Mom of the Year). This is why I once completely forgot a planned airplane trip to attend a good friend’s wedding. I was having dinner when it dawned on me that I was supposed to have left--two hours earlier. Oh, the horror. This is also part of why I keep a blog: it doubles as a sort of diary. Only it’s the kind of diary I can’t misplace...

This is now my 183rd post, and very soon, on November 21, this little diary of tastes and places will celebrate its second birthday. Thank you so much for reading this far!

12 November, 2010

Autumn notes.

Sophie Hunger's Le Vent Nous Portera (The Wind Will Take Us), with thanks to Delphine; do give the video time to upload.

Apples and walnuts, and all things chestnut.  That's just some of what's in season now.
I've already made my first nut tart, and the thick apple compotes, simmering away on the stove, saturate the kitchen--the entire house--with the warm scent of clove and cardamom.
At the market, I came across artisanal chestnut blood sausage (my daughter took the photo with her new camera, as I chatted with the butcher).  Haven't yet tried this sausage...
I did buy some fougasse, which is to our region what the pretzel is to New York.  The savory version of the Provençal  fougasse can be studded with olives, cheese, onions, or--as here--with bacon.
There were lovely slabs of bread, but also loaves of home-made pâte de coing, or quince paste, which in my mind is best enjoyed as the Spanish do it, with a wedge of good Manchego cheese.  Spain is only a carefree three hour drive away, mind you... 
The jars of honey are out in full force, despite the growing prevalence of colony collapse disorder, with more varietals than you can shake a stick at. I remain loyal to my purveyor.
 At home, there's the return to comfort, in its many forms, a buffer from the highly variable weather.  For a good friend, there's lots of cheer and a mildly sweetened gâteau au fromage, far less dense in texture than a New York cheesecake, but with the similar mild tanginess and a satisfyingly spicy crumb crust.  This is easy to make, easier to eat, and may be just the thing to chase those moody blues brought on by the earlier nights of autumn.  And once she's blown out the (70) candles and we've savored her well-earned dessert, I'll add the photo.  In the meantime, here's how I made it, and how you can, too.

Gâteau au Fromage (My French Cheesecake)

Serves...a whole party.

300 g store-bought graham crackers, McVitie's original digestive biscuits, or Belgian speculoos
50 g ground hazelnuts, or toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoons organic butter, melted
1 1/4 kg (about 5 cups) organic fromage blanc (drained in a strainer for a couple of hours)
1/4 kg thick organic crème fraîche
400 g (2 cups) fine sugar
1 tablespoon organic cornstarch or arrowroot
4 organic eggs

Preheat oven 175C (340F). Grease a 26 cm (10.25 inch) springform pan.  Finely crumble and blend cookies and spices in a food processor.  Add melted butter and blend.  Pour into the prepared pan. Tamp the crumbs down evenly using a drinking glass, then place in refrigerator.  Add remaining ingredients in the (cleaned) food processor and blend until consistency is even.  Pour the liquid mixture onto the chilled, unbaked crust and place in oven.  Bake for at least an hour, or until the edges are a light golden brown and the cake is lightly set (the center should still jiggle).  If the edges start darkening too quickly, place a sheet of baking paper over the cake. The cake will rise puffily in the oven and deflate a bit once removed.  This is utterly normal. For best results, allow to cool completely on a rack, then chill cake overnight before serving.

08 November, 2010

In between again, still thinking about food.

There are the beginnings of things and then there are the ends. 
Somewhere between yesterday and today we passed the peak of the fall colors.  More leaves are now on the ground than on the trees.   
I've spent an inordinate amount of time planning, pulling together, and celebrating the birthday of my ten-year-old.  And that, too, as of this weekend, has come to a close. 
For the record, it involved sparklers, an excess of handmade signage and balloons, bowls of popcorn and a borrowed film projector (to show Le Petit Nicolas). Oh, and a sleepover that included fourteen spirited tireless best friends.
And yet, and yet, New York is still very much on my mind.  To be more accurate, NY food is on my mind, in all its variegated glory. 

Culinary possibilities in New York can seem nearly infinite. If you should find yourself in, say, SoHo, you can also easily find yourself in front of a thickly-sliced, well-pickled and delightfully basil-y Vietnamese papaya salad, simply by ducking into Bun (143 Grand at Lafayette).      
Then there are special Vietnamese banh mi (baguette sandwiches) sprinkled here and there across Manhattan.  While you won't find the selection or quality available in, say, Southern California (with its far larger Vietnamese population), my sandwich, crammed with pickled carrot and fresh herbs and greens, still pleased me.
Having gotten a bit of Vietnamese, it was time for some serious slurping.  Time for Japanese udon soup.  To explain my passion for Japanese--and other foods non-French: outside of Paris, Japanese restaurants are (still) relatively few and far between in France, especially, of course, in the countryside. 

New York's East Village, however, is filled with noodle shops and other Japanese restaurants.  In fact Japanese can be found in the financial district and any number of other areas, but the East Village seems to have far more than its fair share. With New York University right there, you'll find an awful lot of Japanese students wolfing down heart-warming soup goodness right beside you.
Now that I'm looking at this photo of udon soup bubbling away in a cast-iron bowl (taken at Udon West), I realize you can't even see the thick, chewy namesake noodles for all those toppings.  Sorry about that.  I was too focused on eating.  Other udon places you could try: simple but good at Onya, the first outpost of an Osaka udon chain, and upscale, wide-ranging Seo, which also offers soba (buckwheat) and ramen (thin wheat) noodles. (An authentic noodle bar is likely to have zero atmosphere, but it really doesn't matter, as the hearty soups are hot--and inexpensive--bliss.)  Please note that each of these photo collages can be clicked on, to be viewed in far greater detail.
After a good bowl of soup, you can walk all day.  Which I did, managing to take in a large chunk of Chinatown in the process.  There were all those intriguing ingredients to explore, like dried sea cucumber...but since sea cucumber takes a really long time to hydrate then prepare, etc., etc., I settled on a bit of dragon beard candy, made before my eyes by two neatly uniformed people beside a food cart.  If you haven't had it, here's more of a photo description
The snack essentially consists of very fine strands of cotton candy (far less sweet than the Western version) expertly spun by hand and wound around a crunchy, peanutty center.  You bite into one of these, there's a bit of give, and then they shatter in your mouth with a powdery pop.  As long as there's good weather, you should be able to find Yao, his food cart and his candy, which he sells 6 for $3.
While out wandering, there's that schizophrenic moment when you falsely imagine yourself deep in Chinatown, and all of a sudden you bump up against Little Italy.  In New York, the two countries are just a street-width apart.  But boy, does the scenery change.  Seeing all those top-shelf ingredients, the avid cook in me was desperately wishing for more lenient airline weight restrictions and a fatter pocketbook.  I got to do some more longing at the brand-new complex that is Eataly, on Fifth Avenue.  (4,600 square meters, or 50,000 square feet!  In Manhattan!)
Eataly features several restaurants, a year-round rooftop beer garden and microbrewery, a cooking school-- and you can buy all things good and Italian, from designer cookware to fresh crimini.  Expensive (quelle surprise), but pristine, authentic ingredients. It is built on the same premise as the slow-food promoting original in Torino...only it's in Manhattan, and backed by three high-profile Italian American restaurateurs.  When I went, it was chock-full of Italian Italians, as there was an Italian wine fair filling the space.  I stuck to my (very fine) espresso.
For the somewhat less well-heeled (or those allergic to chic-ish spots), there are always the ubiquitous food carts and trucks, which turn out often quite delicious fare, whether artisanal ice cream, or Malaysian, or Korean, or Latin.
For those who adore South American cuisines but would rather sit down, there's Empanada Mama, in Hell's Kitchen, just a block or two over from the Theater district.  So GOOD, I made a collage of their dishes (I'm still working on the empanada altar).   The empanadas are absolutely crammed with rich, flavorful fillings.  My favorites were the Reggaeton (Caribbean style roast pork with sofrito yellow rice and peas), Cuban (falling-apart tender slow-roasted pork) and Spicy Chicken, but as there are over forty different kinds of empanadas, plus a full menu including meal salads and family-style dishes, there's something for everyone.  I just never got past those fantastic fried empanadas (they have baked ones, and corn flour ones too, which I liked less), plaintain chips and tostones.  While the dumplings may look puny, after two or three of them and some plaintain chips, I promise you're stuffed.  Empanada Mama is also easy on the wallet: an empanada costs just $2.52.  They are open 24 hours a day, there's takeout and they deliver.  Plus they have loads of funky cocktails. 
I preferred to savor my Cosmopolitan at Birdland, an intimate (and famous) jazz club named after Charlie Parker. Relocated to Midtown Manhattan, on the edge of the Theater District, the club serves food and very fine musical fare.  The night we went, there was Afro-Latin jazz on offer, with a fun Calypso drum.  Very nice, very fusion.  And to my slightly cocktail-addled mind, so very New York.

03 November, 2010

The low and the High of it.

New York is the kind of place where people express themselves in superlatives. All or nothing. In Manhattan's Nolita neighborhood: “The Best Tiramisu In The World,” declares the sign. Tallest, biggest, best. You can be reborn. Shed your previous life, previous definitions, previous loan. It’s all about the here and now, and really making it. It’s the immigrant experience, writ large.

The sheer range of restaurants flabbergasts me each time I visit. The reinventing continues in many if not most of the city’s kitchens. Viagra empanadas, or smoked salmon roll with Idaho potato flakes, anyone? I actually tasted the former, which are, unsurprisingly, a lot tamer than they sound.

The urge to modify is not new. The (kosher) bagel dog which was developed (way back) in 1943 comes to mind. Still on the dog front, some claim Brooklyn's Coney Island to be the birthplace of the now-ubiquitous American hotdog, tucked in its white bread roll (and yes, frankfurters and wieners already had their homes in Frankfurt and Vienna).
Incidentally, "Coney Island dogs", with their beanfree, beef-heart chili topping, have nothing whatsoever to do with the original oceanfront Coney Island. They’re from Michigan.

As of this summer, you can once again have a hot dog at a newly opened Coney Island Luna Park. But it isn’t the Luna Park of 1903, which by 1907 had 1.3 million little electric lights, live elephant rides and a whole mess of other madcap, escapist possibilities. This was way back when it was feasible to be 22 acres in size in NYC, and this while cheek to jowl by two other pioneering parks, Dreamland and Steeplechase. Coney Island was quite simply the birthplace of the American amusement park, and as such an epicenter of a certain kind of pop culture.

Today, the blandification on offer by Mayor Bloomberg & co. translates (as of February) to the current Luna Park being owned by Central Amusement International (majority shareholder: Italian Zamperla which produced the brand-new rides and will manage the park). As of November 1st, the conglomerate has seen fit to evict 9 of the 11 long-standing, honky-tonk operations on the boardwalk. Every single one of the boardwalk places I saw and photographed last week (and which are shown here) will have to vacate their premises within the coming two weeks. They are yesterday.

The owners of Luna Park explained that it was looking to “extend its vision of a resurgent Coney Island.” It seems their vision involves a sports bar, sit-down restaurants, and retail.
Even the Cyclone is at risk. A legendary, clattery wood roller coaster inaugurated in 1927 and still in use today, its fate is also in the hands of Central Amusement International and Zamperla, who hold a ten-year lease on the land.
This process of cleaning up--and out--Coney Island reminded me uncomfortably of walking by the Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle Outfitter, Gap(s) et al. thronging the streets of SoHo. I was having trouble finding the galleries, as SoHo veers ever closer to being a tastefully sanitized outdoor mall. Ditto for Times Square, with its Ann Taylor Loft and Aeropostale clothing emporiums, Pop-Tarts World (where you can feast on Pop-Tarts sushi), the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and so on. I don’t want to become overly nostalgic about 1970s city grit and seediness, but man, I just wish they wouldn’t keep throwing out authenticity with the bathwater.

At least Times Square has its Naked Cowboy, who knows how to keep it real. He sued Mars Inc. in 2008 for trademark infringement (because yes, folks, he owns the “international” trademark to being kinda naked and playing a guitar). They’d had the gall to have the blue M&M play a guitar, similarly cowboy-hatted and kinda undressed. In a cartoon. Mars settled for undisclosed terms. Now the Naked Cowboy’s suing the Naked Cowgirl, a bawdy busker who refuses to become a paying franchisee of his, which would cost her $5k per annum. The Naked Cowboy claims that continuing as she does, she may bring about “a potentially permanent devaluation on a real American Brand and Icon.”
This latest lawsuit may not have his full attention though, since, on October 6, he officially declared--fully dressed-- that he would be running for President of the United States in 2012. On the Tea Party ticket. All the presidential merchandise you could wish for is already available for sale at his official website, where you can find his DVDs, i-Tunes downloads, his self-published book, and the Naked Cowboy Workout Method. That last one’s free, actually. Oh, and he’s an ordained minister, so he can marry you, if you swing that way. That’s a lot less free.  All of this with the aim of becoming "the most celebrated entertainer in the world."
Do I sound a touch bitter about all this? Can I legitimately be a critic? I did, after all, go home with a pair of Gap jeans, and maybe a t-shirt or two…But sometimes changes just feel wrong, sometimes people go too far.

Other times, changes feel very right. In the plus column goes New York City’s High Line, which I truly love.

I love the concept (old, unused raised railway turned aerial park), I love the wild grasses they’ve encouraged to grow, and the sense of immediate, pure escape that comes over me when I walk it. I love that the existing railway was integrated into the new structure, and that the neighborhood through which it runs is clearly reinvigorated by its presence. I love that lovers of astronomy set their telescopes up there on certain propitious nights. The High Line is a poem in mid-air, where children come for Halloween fun and the fabulous stroll come summertime.  

And they haven’t even finished building it. Gives me something to look forward to.
More thoughts, views and tips on New York:
- My Endless New York, by Tony Judt
- 36 Hours in NYC, from the Travel Section, NYT
- The Secret Subway Stop, from Yahoo News
- New York, I Love You, the film (Natalie Portman, Andy Garcia, et al.)
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