Monday, July 23, 2012

This is Thrillerfest - Day 4

Before reading on, if you haven't already, first read
This is Thrillerfest - Day 3:  All you need to know about publishing a novel

Now for the (sort of) gripping conclusion of Mother-Daughter Trip 6 . . .

For our final day in the city, which happened to be Bastille Day, I was anxious to cross "Walk the Chelsea High Line" off my list of Things I've Never Done Before in New York. My three glorious days with my knee scooter were up, so I did walk--not scoot--the High Line, and I highly recommend you do it too. The Chelsea High Line is representative of everything that is great about New York City:  it is about reinvention, it's full of unexpected surprises and pops of color, it's creative, it is a gorgeous amalgamation of both old and new, industry and nature, and it's open to the public. Here is the High Line through my eyes . . .
Someone's apartment rooftop "zoo"
An interracial gay couple taking engagement photos

As we walked the High Line my mother and I didn't talk much except when we'd pass the odd art installation (like the one pictured above) about which she would say, "I just don't get it, I'm sorry. That does nothing for me." Her exclamation reminded me of Bastille Day 2011 when my husband, children and I visited my mother in London for two weeks. (She stayed in a flat there for the entire summer to research the book she is writing about Wimbledon). We rode the London Eye together (read about that here) and then walked to the Tate Modern museum. After viewing one installation of what appeared to be a female Roman statue standing in front of a pile of laundry (see photo below) Mom said, "This is just stupid. Do you mind if I head home?" And she did.
Years before, on Bastille Day 1997, Mom and I vacationed in Tahiti, French Polynesia, where we viewed the more traditional art of Paul Gauguin. She did enjoy his works, but mostly because "it's nice to see someone appreciate full-figured women."

Bastille Day celebrates the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress and the beginning of the French Revolution. It is a symbol of the uprising of a modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French in the constitutional monarchy. Kind of funny that historically, my mother and I have so often vacationed together on Bastille Day, examining art, declaring our opposing opinions and enacting our own uprisings and reconciliations, as they were (which are inevitable because as everyone knows, fish and family go bad after three vacation days).

From the High Line we walked to the Chelsea Market where my mother enjoyed a caramel eclair from Ruthy's, and I enjoyed a cheddar and fig ciabatta sandwich from Lucy's Whey. Our bellies (mostly) full, we walked only a block or so more before we spotted the gorgeous outdoor seating at the Standard Grill. Tres chic.
More specifically, we spotted the GIANT punch bowl from which these two girls where drinking.
We somehow got a table right next to those girls (here's our view)
and watched every tourist stop to take pictures and ask about their $55 gin "punch bowl" cocktail. The Standard should always offer a free gin punch bowl to someone at those front tables to draw a crowd. It's brilliant marketing. When people stepped close enough to ask the girls about the drink, they would then spot the English bulldog puppy sleeping under the table and ask to pet or hold her. Simply precious.

*  *  *

We had tickets to see War Horse that evening (No, really! Mom had triple-checked the date this time), so after eating (again), we caught a cab back to the hotel and went our separate ways to nap/read/relax/pack/whatever. It's nice to travel with someone who doesn't have to talk to you nonstop or spend every second with you. I like to take a dose of perspective when I travel, and it's easier to swallow alone.

I threw back my perspective two blocks up from our hotel at the New York Public Library, yet another place to cross off my list of Things I've Never Done Before in New York. There I found the most gorgeous public bathroom door I've ever seen, aged and patina'd to perfection:

On the way back from the restroom I passed a woman manning an information booth who looked like New York personified. I asked her, "Do you mind if I take your photo?" and she answered with thick sarcasm and a New York smoker's accent, just as her character should, "I don't know why you'd want to." Then she struck this million dollar smile:
I loved how the wave in her jacket mimicked the wave in her Conan-inspired updo, and I applauded her for snubbing her occupational environment and wearing the Boca Raton sunglasses--even indoors--for the sake of fashion. WORK, cover girl!  I thanked her and she said, "I wanted to tell you that your necklace is very pretty too. I noticed it when you walked by a minute ago." I wished I could invite her to (a third) lunch just so I could hear her back story.
People always ask my mom, "Where do you get ideas for your characters?" Just open your eyes, people! They are EVERYWHERE. These are the moments and images that excite me. A casual exchange between two people who will likely never meet again. How we are all so different and all so the same, all putting on smiles for each other or calling each other liars or getting engagement photos taken or apologizing for something.
Thank you, New York, for inspiring me as you always do. Thank you, Mom, for surprising me as you always do. I'm re-energized now, and ready to FINISH THE BOOK.


  1. "this is just stupid" Hahahahahah hilarious.

  2. Heather, I could read your stories all day long. You made me want to go to New York and follow your itinerary. Thanks for telling us about the knee-scooter...although I hope never to need one.

  3. Dear Heather,
    Loved, loved, loved your blog. It made me laugh . . . and cry. These trips (and your blogs!) are teaching me as much about myself as they are about how to be a better mother to you. Can't wait to see what we're doing next year!

  4. Thanks, Mom! I'm sharing the email you also sent me that said:

    Read them all and posted a comment. Loved seeing your pix of NY. Did anyone ever tell you, "You should be a writer?" Love, Mom

    To which I replied:

    Thanks--glad you enjoyed it! Yes, I SHOULD be a writer. Well, I'm already a writer, but I should be a PAID writer. :)

  5. love the picture of the librarian. so classic. you could invent a character without ever talking to her based on that image. glad you had fun and even got along so well with your mom.