Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The grapes of ... New York

My first order of business was getting a New York Public Library card. Now, after two days, I realize I’d better leave some time for reading or else my feet are going to break. I have covered ground! One block of interesting things leads to another block of interesting things. By the end of the day, my feet are screaming.

So my second order of business was getting my Metro Card. But that was also because of the grapes.

I love my grapes. I can go through a Costco 4-pounder in two days. So here I am in Midtown Manhattan. I stopped a man with a dog and asked where a grocery store was: “Right on the corner.” It was a little fancy, but it wasn’t till the checkout line that I realized how fancy: $11.62 for two pounds of grapes!

So the next day, I Googled “Costco.” There was one in Manhattan, in East Harlem. I could take the #6 subway to 116th Street (where I could also visit the Hot Bread Kitchen, one of the sites for New York’s best challah and a women’s employment bakery to boot). I’d load up at Costco with my daypack and big cloth bag and take the M-15 bus back. Too exciting for words!

I got off in East Harlem and realized this is the New York I love: ethnic, “un-sanitized,” full of nooks and crannies that aren’t designer clothing shops. There are real things, like real grocery stores. And even the Costco was a little different: it has Jewish food. I stocked up on Gabila’s potato knishes. The food ladies had samples of … Marinated Wild Alaskan Salmon, 6 pouches! I realize that I’m going to be cooking in servings rather than meals; I think that’s how New Yorkers eat, or at least how they shop. I don’t have all my ingredients, and though the kitchen is well-equipped, it wouldn’t even be able to hold my spice rack from home.

Four pounds of grapes = $9.99

Back at the apartment, I decided I’d look for the East River for a running route. So instead of turning left out the front door, I turned right. I was in Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Plaza, where on Wednesdays, there’s a Greenmarket … with the Hot Bread Kitchen! I looked around the corner, and it was the United Nations! I am right on the corner of the U.N.! No wonder it’s Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Plaza! I looked back, and there was The Trump World Tower. And condos starting at $2.1 million. Oh, yikes.

Still in search of the river, I turned left and the street sign said “Beekman Place.” No, NOT Beekman Place! In The Way We Were (the only movie I have seen four times), glorious, brash, Jewish lefty Barbra Streisand discovers that husband Robert Redford has had an affair with a wealthy, WASPy woman whom she calls “Beekman Place.” I am living right off Beekman Place! Horrors! No wonder their grapes are so expensive.

So I have to neutralize my proximity and head downtown, towards the Lower East Side. I made it to Kalyustan’s acres and acres of spice store. I just needed oil and vinegar but that took hours of browsing hundreds of bottles, types, and ooh, that looks interesting over there. Then I had to hustle to the library for my first author program.

As I walked back to the apartment – feet just screaming yet again – I noticed a crowd on the sidewalk. A fruit vendor was doing a fiery business. Of course, he had grapes for $1 a pound ... and they looked just like my Costco grapes, in the same packaging.

I have a month to learn how New Yorkers do things.


  1. This story makes me very happy!
    Get some Epsom salts to soak your feet in at night and you'll be raring to go in the morn.

    1. Argh, my giant Costco bags of Epsom salts are still home, and I am NOT buying any more here!

    2. Go to a drug store and get a bag. Use it nightly. Your feet will thank you!

  2. I think you'll need more than a month to take it all in. And now I want you to take me on a tour of New York. Have fun. -Lisa V.


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