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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pilgrim's progress through Carnegie Hill

Today was filled with happy surprises -- but as is most often the case, I earn these surprises as little rewards for venturing out of my every-day routine. This is why we live in New York City.

I'd been wanting to see the Table exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt for weeks and thought today would be the perfect day, since last night's weather report predicted rain all day. As it turns out, it was sunny and warm. But no matter, I pulled us into respectable enough order and got us onto the train to the Upper East Side.

The Cooper Hewitt is a grand old house across from Central Park. The Table exhibit was interesting enough, but what I loved more was how child-friendly the museum is. In the basement there is a fun installation by Matali Crasset featuring a sound-filled igloo and a lime-green and yellow sofa with funky hanging ball speakers. Jasper loved this. Most of the exhibits are in glass cabinets, so I did not have to spend the entire time saying "don't touch." There is a lovely sun room with big, cushioned window seats next to cacti and a fun interactive exhibit (children's chop sticks!) and in the museum shop one fireplace holds a pair of legs and feet, as if someone is actually standing inside the chimney.

But the best surprise, and my favorite part of the museum, was the garden filled with flowers and funky furniture. We had our lunch and Jasper met another two year old and had a jolly time running around, climbing, screaming and yelling -- thanks to the wide spaces and the traffic outside I don't think anyone even noticed him. Why can't every museum have a let-your-kid-run-around-and-get-his-ya-ya's-out section?

There was also an interesting show curated by a British-Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare, culled from the permanent collection and based on the theme of travel. It actually makes an interesting companion to Kara Walker's brilliantly curated show at the Met, which we just saw Sunday. (As a brief aside, next to Lane, of course, she is probably my favorite contemporary artist. You have to see her show! She's so smart, damnit.)

Just around the corner from the Cooper Hewitt, on Madison between 91st and 92nd, is Blue Tree. I keep reading about this store, legendary as a magical children's store with a women's boutique upstairs, and why wouldn't it be magical with a name like Blue Tree. And, oh all right, it's also owned by Phoebe Cates Kline. So seconds after I struggle through the door (steps in on either side of the door -- why?!?) there she is, smiling pleasantly like a regular person and not a former movie star married to a movie star. She was sweet and gracious, too, taking a robot down from a shelf for Jasper to see while I babbled on some story about how great Schylling is and Jasper explained to her that he is not a robot, he is a little boy.

I tried really hard not to act goofy and star-struck, even though I wanted to say "Wow Phoebe Cates that cameo in Anniversary Party was so cool your son was great in The Squid and the Whale did you know one of the scenes was filmed on my street your store is amazing why do you look only 30 how did you do that?" I think I held it together pretty well while she was there -- she left for an appointment a few minutes afterwards. And the store is a lot of fun. They have a miniature barbecue grill, an Andy Warhol doll, Jasper's current favorite book, Frida, expensive but wonderful kids' clothes, and all sorts of other toys for kids and adults. I peeked upstairs but kept having to avert my eyes because everything was calling out my name -- and don't get me started on the shoes. Sigh. I'm sure the staff could tell from our battered Maclaren and my home-sewn skirt that we were just outer-borough lookey-loos, but they were still sweet.

We overstayed our welcome and I finally bought Jasper a nifty little 50's-style, wood-paneled car and left before my mooning became more conspicuous. Phoebe, can I work for you? Can Jasper and I just hang out in the store all day, every day? We promise not to break anything -- not in the first week, anyway.

Jasper fell asleep almost immediately so I decided to walk all the way to Fauchon for the legendary kouing aman. This post is already too long so I'll let Lindsey tell you all about the pastry. All I'll add is that by the time I made it the 35 or so blocks down there I was so hot and weary I didn't even bother to look at the chocolate anything. I just bought my KA, found an air-conditioned atrium next to one of those Trump mausoleums, and enjoyed it with a bottle of water. I don't know -- it was good, but honestly I think I would need to eat four or five in a row in order to have a thorough appreciation for the pastry.

From there we took the train home, I wandered my own neighborhood for a store that no longer exists, realized I was too tired to cook dinner, and so got our usual stand-by of rotisserie chicken from the local taqueria to eat on the roof. And that was Wednesday. This is why we live in New York City, by the way. The real estate is insane, but it's a pretty good life.


Adriana Velez said...

people bitch and moan that they live in a time without any great artists. They also say that the seventies were a time of nothingness and then they remember well Nauman was working back then, so it goes.

I'm glad to be living in a time when Kara Walker is working. There is at least one really really good artist out there.


liz said...

I love it- I totally read that comment and had the hardest time hearing Adriana's voice, then saw Lane signed his name. ah.

I am missing NY already!!!! I wish I could have joined you on your trek to the city. Days like those are such great memories.

Anonymous said...

Oh, her son was very good in The Squid and the Whale, which I just saw. Which part was filmed on your street?

And can you imagine if you'd walked into the store with a (gasp) GRACO stroller?!?!? ;)

Adriana Velez said...

I can't remember which part of Squid was filmed on my street -- it was a scene in which the two sons are talking about the divorce while walking, I think.

Ha ha. Someday I'll have to write about stroller culture in New York City. It's up there with handbags, I'm telling you!

Lindsey said...

I loved this post. NY is such a fabulous place to live. Only when I go into the city, do I not hate the heat and humidity of summer. Somehow walking the length of the city doesn't seem so awful. What a great day. So, were you disappointed with the KA? Jenni and I gave some to a few people that weren't as overjoyed and impressed as we were. But then I get excited at just about any kind of pastry. My husband has been trying to lure me out of the house with promise of getting KA from Fauchon. (There's an fancy English shirtmaker--also on Jermyn Street in London--just around the corner, you see.)

I'd love to see a post about the stroller culture. I'm wondering if it's the same as here in Westchesta.

Adriana Velez said...

No no, I liked it! I was just too hot and bothered to enjoy it. Sometime in the autumn I'll have to make another sojurn to Fauchon -- save my pennies and have a real gluttonous pastry feast.

Writermama said...

Thanks for this! Maybe we'll duplicate the day. We won't count on Phoebe being in her store, though.

Swizzies said...

Is this Fauchon the same as the one in Paris? The chocolatier/fancy foods maker? If so, the last time I was in Paris (okay, no, it was the time before last, but it was only about a month ago I think), I bought some extremely yummy confiture there - it was rose petals and passion fruit, called confiture d'amour...preserves of love. I love it. :-) No clue what KA is though. But also had a utterly delish lavendar/honey truffle. Divine. Always makes me think of JaneAnne (and we walked past Leonidas as well, so natch I thought of her then), but now I'll have to add A to my 'loves exotic chocolate' mental list. My other fave chocolate place in Paris is Michel Cluizel (sp?) - do they have that in NYC? Soooo good.