I’m back home safe and sound. Here’s a blog post I wrote on Monday afternoon:
I’m writing this on the Neo (to post later) while sitting in my second-favourite bookstore anywhere. Yeah, I know I’m supposed to love quirky independent bookstores and hate the big chain stores, but sue me. My favourite bookstore is Chapters in St. John’s, and my second-favourite is the Barnes and Noble in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I’m sure Starbucks has something to do with this — sue me again.
Yesterday (Sunday) Jason and I did the touristy thing. We went with the intention of seeing the Statue of Liberty, a New York landmark I’d never seen on my previous visits to the city. When we got to Battery Park, it was too late in the day (12:30 p.m.) to get tickets to actually go up the Statue, and while you could get tickets to get onto Liberty Island and Ellis Island, there was a 1.5 hour line-up for that boat. So we opted for a harbour tour instead, which gave us a good view of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge, without ever getting off the boat.
Then we went back up to Broadway and saw Spamalot, which was every bit as silly and funny as it ought to be. I don’t know how well it translates for people who haven’t seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail a million times and memorized all the lines like Jason and I have, but there are obviously enough of our kind of people out there to keep it running successfully year after year. For People Like Us, you have to put aside your memories and expectations of hearing the comic timing and delivery of the original Pythons, and accept those immortal lines being spoken by (gasp!) other actors. You also have to accept the additions to the plot, which are in the same ridiculously random vein as the original — Lancelot coming out of the closet and hooking up with Prince Herbert, Sir Robin the Not-So-Brave embracing a career in musical theatre, and the Lady of the Lake not only appearing in the show, but muscling her way into the leading lady role. (Well, there was a gap there). Most of the great classic scenes made it in, including the Black Knight, which you’d think would be really hard to stage live, but which is brilliantly done. “Knights of the Round Table” is the big Broadway production number it always wanted to be, and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” is shamelessly ripped from “Life of Brian” to become not only a key song in this musical, but an audience sing-a-long at the end. What more could you ask for?
Today, Jason’s gone off to do that work thing that brought him here, and I had plans to meander back to Brooklyn, check out the B&N bookstore in Park Slope where I hung out while researching and writing here five years ago, the bookstore I liked so much I set one of the book’s last scenes here. Then I planned to go back to Manhattan to maybe do some shopping or something. Only now that I’m here, I don’t want to leave, and I think I’m staying in Brooklyn till it’s time to meet Jason off the ferry after work.
I really, really love Brooklyn, by which I mainly mean that I love Park Slope. I love 7th Avenue, which the bookstore windows look out on, and I love the cool shaded streets lined with brownstones. I love to travel but there are very, very few places outside of St. John’s that ever make me feel, “I could live here!” Park Slope makes me feel that way. I don’t know why. I guess it has something to do with my book, By The Rivers of Brooklyn, and with the fact that some of my family lived here once, long ago, and maybe with other people’s books too, like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
I love bookstores and coffee shops and the strange slices of life you encounter when you mix the two together. Downstairs, three teenage girls of various races hovered over a table of books. “Whatever you do, DON’T read Anna Karenina,” one warns the others. At the table next to me, two young women who must be medical students quiz each other using a computer quiz program. They’re speaking English, yet it’s a foreign language, Doctorese.
Whatever the deep-seated reason, Park Slope is a favourite place of mine. I left the bookstore awhile ago, went out and walked through the streets, stopped into stores, picked up a couple of souvenirs. Then I came back here to read and write and have a brownie (brilliantly and horrifically, cafes and restaurants here in the US seem to be starting to put the number of calories next to the price on menu items. It’s a smart idea, but sometimes you’d rather not know). Outisde, the first sunshine I’ve seen since we landed in New York spills down on cars and pedestrians and pigeons and more strollers, it seems, than anything else.
Park Slope, Brooklyn. It’s a good place to spend my day before meeting up with Jason to go see Les Paul, living guitar legend (at 93!!) performing live tonight.
(Of course, since then we’ve actually seen Les Paul, but that will have to wait for another post!)