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2005-02-19 - 12:30 p.m.

another 10 km wandered

Yesterday was a fantastic day. Apart from one email to a student, I did not do any work - the first day in sooo long, it is unbelievable.

Lia and I spent another glorious day in the City. We took a taxi to Brooklyn Heights - we considered going by subway, but decided that a cab would be quicker allow us to see the above-ground sights. The kind taxi driver took it fully upon himself to participate in the activity, giving us a guided tour while I translated into German for Lia. It was the first of many friendly incidents, showing once again that Lia is blessed with that innate aura that charms strangers.

It was a rather brisk -10C, and there were tiny flakes of snow through the patchy clouds when we arrived on the promenade, but we were not deterred. We photographed and wandered, and enjoyed a bagel on Montague street - the young clerk practiced her school German with Lia, as did a neighboring customer. The clerk was so very sweet – she is currently learning Spanish and so her German came out with a few Spanish words jumbled into the middle. Lia took her picture before we left.

We then set out across the Brooklyn Bridge, the patchy clouds turning into patchy sun. It felt even colder atop the bridge, over the river in the icy wind - cold but also brilliant. My favorite part of this bridge is the view of the Chrysler Building glistening brilliantly in the sunlight. I’ve walked this bridge three times in the last year and it remains a favorite event for me. It’s absolutely free and affords you the thrill of seeing the skyline at the perfect distance, large enough to for you to spot the details and yet far enough away for you to capture the City’s immensity. What’s more, apart from the warm cup of tea required to sustain you through the cold, the trip is entirely free.

We arrived at City Hall and managed to get ourselves thrown out of the Woolworth Building – which is apparently no longer open to tourists (I guess the cameras around our necks gave us away). Lia is nearly-deaf and barely speaks English – plus she is superb at looking innocent. I on the other hand understand the phrase ‘Get Out’ perfectly an excel at looking guilty. As a result we had to leave before I had a good glimpse at the gold ceilings. We were also asked to leave City Hall… this time the guard at the door was much more friendly – explaining with a smile that we could call ‘this number’ if we wished for a tour. Alas, there is always Starbucks for warmth. (in fact, I think that there must be over 100 warmed Starbucks in Manhattan – it’s truly the McDonalds of coffee, and, ahem, of comparable quality.)

Our next several hours were spent roaming up through Chinatown, the Bowery, and Little Italy, where we finally ate lunch at a little bit after 3pm. It’s amazing how good food can taste when you are cold and hungry! We walked further up through SoHo, where we did quite a bit of window-shopping, and finally wound up in Greenwich Village – home of the best coffee shop in NYC. In this store, once again, Lia was impressed with the sense of community that develops in this big city. We stood in a long line to get my coffee, but we passed jokes and stories between the handful of clerks and customers while they worked and we waited. It was a community of only a few minutes, but I’ve found that it only takes a moment to pass on a positive feeling, and this lasted for several.

After our coffee purchase we walked back down the street to an extremely strange bar that was holding happy hour. The bar was full of youngsters, with five televisions sets between animal heads on the walls, and music playing at top volume. We each had our one drink and then were joined by an older Lithuanian gentleman. (we were speaking German which did draw some attention to anyone paying attention). He turned out to be an extremely pleasant and intelligent man – a solid-state physicist trained in Vilnius who started as a professor in New York and then went on to become an electrical engineer for NY City subway. And he was so clearly charmed by Lia. I translated between them for the duration of our drinks, and he invited us to a concert in Manhattan next weekend – alas, Lia leaves on Monday. Anyway, I was very pleased to watch Lia get this attention. She is a tremendously strong, dynamic, intelligent, and attractive woman, but her husband is currently having an affair with another woman (someone I know – she’s an irritating twit, no less.) Anyway, I was pleased to see her attract this very nice man’s attention. Lia is strong but her pride is currently damaged – this will not cure it but maybe it is a small boost.

Anyway, we continued on our journey and managed to find a beautiful coral and onyx ring for Lia – a wonderful little souvenir for her trip to the big city. Today Lia has returned to Manhattan, and I am unfortunately at home nursing the beginnings of a cold with lots of tea, Echinacea, and vitamins.

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