Yesterday was a perfect New York day. In the morning, I took the 3 train down to 51st street, where I met my father and his wife, who are not only family but two of my favorite people. We had brunch at Rockefeller Center: yes, right in front of that big gold statue. And then we walked up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we saw a new permanent exhibit called Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia.
It was gorgeous. If you’re in New York, you should absolutely go see it: for a writer, in particular, it’s a treasure-trove of history, ideas, images. What I remember best are the carpets, plush and richly colored, with dark reds and indigoes; the ceremonial daggers, deadly and intricately carved; the astrolabe that was a thing of beauty; the delicate nephrite bowls. And the sense of history, of armies sweeping across the land, taking important cities like Baghdad, founding new dynasties and artistic movements. Of how the ancient world was stitched together by trade routs.
After the lovely dream of that exhibit, we wandered through late nineteenth-century European Art, through rooms of Cezannes and Monets and Van Goghs. Which were as rich, although in a completely different way, and I thought of the different ways the human spirit had expressed itself, and how important they all were. And how I wanted to contribute to that history.
Then we met up with my sister Johanna, another one of my favorite people, and went to the Café Sabarsky, which is located in the Neue Galerie. I had a slice of marzipan chocolate cake and quite a lot of orange tea.
And then we walked across Central Park, back to the West Side. All the azaleas were in bloom, and people were wandering everywhere, sitting by the pond where children were playing with sailboats, standing on bridges across the lake. Walking their dogs, confirming what I have often thought about New York: that no matter how the people look, the dogs are always impeccably groomed. I thought of Frederick Law Olmstead and the art he had created, the series of scenes we could see as we walked along the twisting paths.
And then it was time to say goodbye, which was sad, but I’ll be seeing them again soon. I took the subway back uptown, and on the way I stopped at a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant I had discovered the night before. I bought a thick stew with tomatoes, other vegetables, and goat cheeses in it, with pita, and a dessert I can’t quite describe that had yogurt and almonds and honey. Two deserts in one day: a bit much, I know. But I’d walked all over the city, and anyway it was delicious.
There is no particular point to this post, except that it was a wonderful day, and that I hope to have many such wonderful days this summer. When I got back to the apartment, I booked my flight from Debrecen to London and back, so my summer itinerary is now complete. I think I’ll be having many more days like that, days of exploring and learning and seeing beautiful things, in the near future.
You description of the exhibit is tantalizing. One of the most romantic proper nouns in any language is, I believe, Damascus.
To me this post does have a point, of documenting and sharing the things that inspire art. Thank you for that. I, too, hope that you continue to have wonderful days full of inspiration and beauty and good food.
Evelyn, I think you’re right. All the things I do and see make what I write richer. At least, I hope so. If I’m doing it right . . . So in a way, this blog really does document the life of a writer.
This is a lovely account of things to do when I come to New York for a very special event in August. I have been to NYC only once and this time I get to go to Queens, too. My hotel will be right in the middle of the theatre district.. For a girl who lived in rural woodsy Central Oregon and sometimes Idaho it is a strange thing to feel so at home in New York. Some from movies, All About Eve and Portrait of Jennie, but in a deep personal sense of belonging there.
Phyllis, definitely go to the Met! And if you only have a couple of hours to spend there, honestly, I would go to the American Wing, which is one of my favorite places in the whole world . . .
Mmmmmm. Will try. The closest I got last time was the Met shop at Rockefeller Center. Bought pretty things.