excerpts from a travel journal: we’re burning up the bowery;

“So… when are we moving here?”

It’s funny. No, it’s not funny at all. But in recent years I have let myself become distracted from my original goal of moving to the City. I can’t bear to live another four years without this place. Yeah, sure it’s ridiculously hot in the summer and I’ll do unclassy things like flash my knickers like Marilyn Monroe walking over a subway grate; and I know it’s not as simple as I spend every day here and I’ll never be miserable and I’ll always be inspired; but I don’t need to look any further to find that place Jesse Malin sings about where you’re safe to be more yourself than anywhere. I’ve found it.

And Jay gets it too. His legendary sense of direction has already memorised the grid, even as I want to turn in the wrong direction with a head full of certainties. Sure, he’s still got some things to learn, like the skeezy-looking guy is saying hi to the cute girl in the yellow dress and not you (maybe because she was flashing her knickers on a subway grate), but he’ll get there.

I brought four pairs of shoes for a five-night stay, which I was initially annoyed at myself for – this determination, you see, to never be one of those “shoe” girls – but something which has proven itself to be a blessing. Flat feet and a tendency to overheat make footwear a nightmare in the summer, particularly when walking the distances we have done, but this way I can trade off between cracked heels and aching knees. I kicked my sandals off at one point on the Brooklyn Bridge because I just couldn’t take anymore and my toes were raw and bleeding. In these temperatures, though, the pavements are more hospitable than the subway platforms.

that first new york cupcake

Our first full day we have lunch with my husband’s literary agent, which is the sort of statement Facebook was invented for, at a barbecue place called Hill Country. Texan barbecue is not real barbecue, my Southern friend Lilit reminds us later, but the place plays Ryan Adams and serves imported Coca-Cola with the real sugar we are used to and the food is mighty fine. We then sneak Lilit out of the office for a coffee at a little place two doors down from the Museum of Sex’s pretty window display of a basket of colourful dildos: we’re upstairs in a library with huge, comfy chairs and they’re advertising daily meditation sessions and a crossword club. There’s a Chinese girl with the latest issue of Cosmo, and Lilit borrows it to gleefully show me her article (she’s got a book coming out, you know, and it will be reviewed here about as soon as I can import a copy).

girl with a peach

The walking takes it out of us though. With our friend Josh we tramp around the East Village and then down into Williamsburg: a comic shop, frozen yoghurt, a slice of pizza, the Joe Strummer mural outside Jesse’s Niagara bar, a record shop full of dusty 7″s with a gorgeous cat sprawled lazily on the counter. I buy Best Coast and the reissued Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers record, something on Kill Rock Stars and a bowl made from a warped vinyl copy of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Then there’s the Cake Shop: venue, record store, server of bacon-topped Elvis-themed cupcakes. It’s like somebody invaded my brain and live-streamed my vision of heaven.

a pilgrimage

burning on the bowery

It’s the hottest day so far and even though some brief, spitting rain provides temporary respite it only makes us feel stickier as our clothes dry into our skin. It means for the second night in a row we miss out on evening plans, preferring instead to hole up in our hotel room with the A/C up high, trying to figure out what it is about the only-very-intermittently funny 30 Rock that people keep raving about. Last night we ended up in the Hard Rock Cafe of all places before a midnight showing of Toy Story 3 because I slept through the gig we’d planned, drinking overpriced but oversized cocktails in souvenir glasses served by a waitress called Amber whose chest tattoos barely peeked through her shirt’s buttons; feeling for all the world like being married is the coolest thing in the world.



  1. Lola
    August 3, 2010 / 11:11 pm

    I don’t think you can live in New York if you don’t get Tina Fey humour. I’m pretty sure that’s some sort of bylaw.