Day 4: I am officially being spoiled. My cohort knows the city inside and out and isn’t missing a beat. We’re out of the tourist stream during high peak hours but everywhere we’re suppose to be and right on time. We are managing the perfect balance between tourist check boxes and life fulfilling exploration. This trip sets a new precedent for me.
This morning we are hopping the L train. Yes, the very long L train. Why? Because somewhere on the other end of this is a Coffee convention! I am indeed a whisky girl but coffee, coffee has my heart! Just the idea of a coffee convention has me bouncing on my toes all the way onto the dreaded L train.
Very poorly advertised as being “at the park” we eventually wander the city long enough to find the convention in Industrial Square, multiple city blocks to the west of the park. The doors open and the heavenly roast wafts out enveloping us and welcoming us with open arms. The question isn’t whether or not we will enjoy ourselves rather where do we begin? Sheepish and child-like smiles slowly creep across our mutually pleased faces.
To our left are live demonstrations and labs. To our right there are more than twenty tables of fresh brewed coffee, espresso and fresh baked treats to accompany the brilliantly brewed beverages. And straight ahead is a conference hall full of demos and lectures. This is my heaven on earth. We spent the morning sipping and listening. Taking in as much information as we could tolerate and even more caffeine. I am known for consuming an unequivocal amount of coffee every day but at the end of this convention even I had met my tolerance for caffeinated volume level. This may very well be the first and last time I ever use the words, “I cannot drink another cup of coffee.”
Knowing that I had finally met my match my friend and I trailed out to find some actual food. Somewhere down the line we hopped off the subway for some random exploration and shopping. Just outside the subway we stop briefly to enjoy the impromptu music being played on the saw and then up the stairs and onto the street where we stumble across a live street game and we are both enamored. We spend about half an hour watching the street game go down. The passion and joy that was within was a privilege to watch. The team played ferociously. The coaches un-containable energy was contagious and added to the excitement an element that lacks most street games. And the community that was both wrapped around the fence and parked inside the court made the game feel intimate but bold.
The heat was becoming stifling and the lack of water and high amounts of caffeine were definitely becoming noticeable. He and I both needed food without question. Luckily for us, not too far down the road, we would find the best Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant I have had the privilege of eating out at since I was in the Middle East.
The food was fresh and prepared just right. The ambience was relaxed and breezy. The flowing curtains, umbrellas and tents made it feel that much more authentic. The bloody Mary that we ordered was superb and prepared expressly with our pallet in mind. It was unrivaled!
Feeling 100% rejuvenated it was time to shop! Off we went into Little Italy. The colors are so vibrant! The artwork was incredible! The live eels and specialty food shops were both exciting and compelling. The hidden dynamics of the knock off bags were entertaining. There were few things as fun as the vendors trying to smuggle their goods on to the street, hushing you back into hidden rooms and tying your products into concealed bags. I may not have accomplished much shopping but I could have people watched all day long. There is something to be said about the thrill and excitement of hustle.
With the weather turning we decided to head over to The Rock. The lines were short because the weather was soon to change and the view was breathtaking. I am always inspired by how tiny I am in regards to this vast world. But on the top of The Rock it was easy to be devoured by the scope and humbled by my inferiority. The sheer reality of the blood, sweat, tears and lives that fueled this project is daunting and encompassing. The views where captivating. Photographs could never do it justice. A light drizzle came and the crowds thinned. Leaving us to experience this majesty, in what felt like, complete solitude. I am always so consumed with photographing the collaboration and diligence of the work that I see in these architectural marvels that I almost forgot to grab a picture of myself way up there. Thank God my company was paying attention. I got lucky and he snapped a quick shot of me before we really were swallowed by the rain.
Coming off the building the rain picked up in a way only New York can. It drove down in sheets without much warning. Had it not been for the internal barometer of my partner in crime I would have rarely known that it was coming. We were umbrella-less and it was perfect! Although my friend wasn’t as amused as I was the act of running through the rain, jumping puddles and hustling from awning to awning couldn’t have felt more genuine to me. We dove into the first pub we saw and grabbed a pint while we tried to wait out the torrential downpour just outside the window. The water was pounding against the asphalt as though it was angry yet somehow managed to retain an authentic romantic feeling. The beer was crisp, the bar was fine, but the view out the window of the city on the run was superb.
As the rain let up we flurried out into the wet street once more hoping to get to our hotel before the weather picked up to drastically again. Not surprisingly, we made it just fine. That was basically the standard of our trip. One step ahead of the chaos at all times.
Back at the hotel we dried off, changed shoes and headed back out, this time in a taxi, for dinner at my friend’s favorite pizza parlor.
Maybe it was his nostalgia, but the parlor felt like home. The comfort of a diner that you’ve dined in time and time again. The waitstaff was fantastic, the couple behind us was kind enough to return my iPhone that I dropped and the pizza was a meal to die for! After some amazing conversation and even better food there was just enough time and room for one last stop. The bakery and cafe!
This place was adorable! Definitely quaint. With even less real estate than the majority of the restaurants we had frequented there was an employee designated solely for traffic direction. It was her job to guide us from the front door to our seat. With exception of Japan I have never seen a bakery and Café open so late in the evening/morning. Even if I had I’m not sure I would’ve stopped. But this café! We shared a slice of cake and we each had some milk. Espresso would definitely have complemented the cake much more appropriately but we were both still on coffee overload from the convention in the morning.
The cake was remarkable! But even more considerable were the conversations around me. It’s inspiring to me how live out loud New Yorkers can be. The conversations all around us were so personal and casual. In a city this size you can say whatever you’d like in whatever volume you would like and the likelihood that you will see these people again is nominal. It all felt so free. So complete. So real.
Whole, rewarded, warm and dry we slipped out into the dark and damp New York streets to head back to the hotel for the evening. Today was colorful. Today was a delicacy. And today solidified a new friendship for me. Truly it is remarkable what you can learn about people while traveling.
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