this just in: i love new york city

I thought I'd blog while I was away, but never sat still long enough. I had a lovely visit with my mother, who is doing really well, and a terrific time with my sister, gabbing, drinking wine and touring her beautiful new home.

I spent one afternoon and evening in New York, a quick fix but a great one. The people, the noise, the grime, the energy, I was drinking it all in. It looks like much of the development that was driving me nuts in the late 90s and early 00s - the big box stores, the homogenization - has been halted, at least on the Upper West Side. Things looked as haphazard and disorganized as ever, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Taking the usual inventory of which restaurants and stores have disappeared and which ones have survived - this is not recession-related, just the normal flux of a constantly changing city - I thought my favourite diner had disappeared, but it turns out the owners renovated and changed the name. Whew.

I met NN at the Peacefood Cafe, a vegan cafe and bakery, then met AW1L and F at the Mermaid Inn, a terrific seafood joint. This was really my kind of place and I'd love to go back - excellent food in a relaxed, earthy atmosphere. It was so good to catch up with friends who I miss.

A, F and I were reminiscing about some of the bad good old days of New York. We all agreed we don't need to see any of that again, but we're glad we experienced it. We were laughing so hard at some of these stories. One of my favourites took place at the Jay Street-Boro Hall subway stop in Brooklyn. Both the F and the A trains stop on the same track; you have to check the train before you hop on. I was running down the steps to make a train, and there was one of those classic late 70s-early 80s creations: every car had a different letter. The first car was an F, behind that was an A, behind that an N or an R, then another F. A conductor was sticking his head out of the window, so I asked him, "What train is this?" He barked: "Can't you read??

At the table on Wednesday night, we all laughed so hard over this. Incidents like those were part of what forged your New Yorkerness, living in an environment where it was perfectly acceptable to speak and be spoken to this way. AW1L is originally from Iowa, and F is originally from Alabama. They have each traveled quite a bit and lived in many places, including London - not the one in Ontario - for several years. Talking about New York with New Yorkers who grew up elsewhere and know many other cities is great. They totally get it.

I was hoping - as I have been for the last six or seven visits - to check out The High Line, which was completed after I left. It was not to be. I did stay up on election news as much as possible. Things are exciting and so scary right now.

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