Sunday, April 22, 2007

An historian in the big city.

My most memorable days in the cities I've visited on research trips this year are the days I spent walking around. I am a fan of art galleries and museums, but they just can't beat people- and place-watching. And so that's what I did yesterday with DN and JA in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

But first, let me back up. On Friday I finished up my research at the library. I didn't get to see everything and may have to come back, but I'm happy with what I got accomplished. For lunch I met up with a Columbia grad student who is writing her dissertation on the American Red Cross. (She's good friends with the woman with whom I stayed Sunday-Thursday.) We ate Middle Eastern sandwiches in a park near the university. It was great to talk with someone who knows about the organization.

At the end of the day I started chatting with another of the researchers as we both left the library. Turns out he's also friends with the woman I was staying with! Small world.

I then headed north to Washington Heights to pack up my stuff, snap a few pics of the local cats, and then head over to the Prospect Park area of Brooklyn to move in with DN for the last few nights of my trip. The subway ride across town took a long, long time, but it was easy to do. Once I got there dinner was almost ready, so he and his gorgeous g/f JA and I ate a yummy vegan dinner. After eating our fill we watched "Donnie Darko"---good!---and ate vegan chocolate cake. SO GOOD.

Saturday afternoon after breakfast/lunch the three of us walked to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. After a week of rain and cold, it seemed like everyone else in the city was glad for spring too---it was crowded everywhere outside! We spent a couple hours in the gardens, strolling around and generally having a good time. JA taught me how to do a cartwheel. Once we'd had our fill of nature it was time to go into town and see the East Village. We crammed into a busy subway car and endured the long ride in. A TV actress walked passed us on St. Mark's Place, a street with a bunch of counter-culture (or whatever) shops on it. We waited while JA picked out a stud for her ear hole.

A bit later we walked by an enormous used book store that my former NY host/housemate had told me about, and so of course I made us go in. I quickly found the Russian history section, and came away with 3 books to add to my dissertation collection. Yay! We tried to take a peek into some churches on Fifth Ave., but there were too many weddings happening so we only got a quick look at one once the ceremony ended and the bagpiper left. The afternoon ended with us sitting on a bench in the dog park at Washington Square Park at the end of Fifth Avenue. Dogs are awesome. This was definitely the best part of the day!

JA cooked us a great meal for dinner back in Brooklyn and she and DN marvelled at my appetite. Those of us in our late twenties were totally wiped out by now and had no intention of heading back into the city to party with DN's friends. So the three of us watched "Velvet Goldmine" instead. Much better, I say.

It is now late Sunday morning. I was woken up again this morning by music coming from upstairs. It should seriously be illegal to play loud music at 9am on a weekend. Geez. That, and one of DN's roommates got up early and made a bunch of noise in the kitchen. Did the dishwasher really have to be emptied at 8am? Annoying.

This city is cool (obviously), but it's crowded and polluted. I'm having a good time, but it will be good to go home tomorrow. I'll have to come back and do more touristy things. The city's not going anywhere, though, so there's no rush. My next trip will take me to Israel!

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