Monday, May 31, 2010

New Shoes and Dinner in New York

I packed a pair of black sandals only to discover that one went AWOL in Texas. There was no choice. This is New York. I had to have a pair of black shoes.  It's part of the official uniform.

I walked to Columbus Circle to the kind of store where they know how a shoe should fit a lady's foot. I am drawn to the flats, comfortable and conservative, although they accentuate my petite stature, and not in a good way.

The salesman suggests a pair of open-toed sling-back heels. What the heck...I'm having a "Pretty Woman" kind of day. I'll try them on.

I seldom wear open-toed shoes since I've only had two pedicures in my life and I don't feel as if I have anything to show off. But I had at least put polish on, so how bad could it be?

Eric - we are on a first name basis now - returned with the chocolate-brown box and unwrapped the ivory tissue paper as if a treasure awaited. I suppose shoes are a treasure to most women, but my half-German nature makes me too practical for my own good.

But I slip them on, and I am in love. I could be sixty pounds overweight with not a shred of makeup, and these heels would say, "I am sexy".

I deliver my credit card to Eric and wonder how many Marriott points I'll rack up after tax.

I tell him that I want to wear them out, and I hand him my old shoes. With the discretion of a priest, he does not turn his nose up at them, and places the impostors delicately in the designer box.

The shoes have the magic qualities of the ruby slippers that I just saw in "Wicked" the day before. I am taller. I have confidence. I am a New Yorker.

I walk twenty seven blocks without breaking a sweat or developing a blister.

But the real allure of the magic shoes comes later.

I decide to treat myself to a nice dinner after several nights of eating grocery store take-out to save money. I take the escalator to the fourth floor of the Time Warner Building. I have the sense, thankfully, to check out the menus first. $275 for a Pre Fixe meal. I look inside where tables are brimming with patrons, and have hope for the economy. I politely decline the maitre d's offer to sit down, thinking that I could buy nearly two pairs of shoes for that price.

I dine instead at A Voce - a swanky place one story down, which appears to specialize in modern Italian food. The entrees are reasonable, in their twenties.

I am seated next to several girls, also in their twenties. The tables are so close that I feel I am one of their party. They are excited about some "big event" tonight where there will be "lots of guys".

I smile at the thought of my husband and kids, glad that this scene is not my regular one. I have no aspirations to be Carrie Bradshaw, although I do want to see the movie. I am content with my cozy familial existence, punctuated with the staccato of urban travel.

I look at the menu and feel that there's room in the budget for an appetizer and a drink. I order an amaretto sour and peruse the menu. To start, I choose pancetta sprinkled with figs and pistachios. It's topped with a light drizzle of Balsamic vinegar. I follow with the mushroom ravioli.

But back to the shoes. I realize the full effect of their power after I've gotten up from my seat. The waiter, who was perfunctorily polite during dinner, looks at my feet. His eyes widen and his mouth opens with practiced discretion.

"I love your shoes," he says, and I wonder if it is just a line. But he's not done.

"They fit you perfectly. I've never seen feet that look so right in open-toed sling-back heels."

I am not kidding. This is a direct quote.

I think immediately of "Legally Blonde" where Elle encounters a star witness at a water fountain.

"Don't tap your last year's Prada shoes at me!" he says impatiently.

A light goes off in Elle's head, perhaps for the first time in the whole movie. "Straight men don't know shoes." He must be gay. Therefore, he was not cuckolding the owner of the house.  Case closed.

The waiter sends me off with my leftovers saying, "Come back and see me soon!"

I'm sure that he's talking to the shoes.

From the Ridiculous to the Resurrection - a Morning in New York

"A stimulus package for hard times!"

I hear these words in Times Square, but don't pay much attention.  Instead, I am distracted by the cacophony of humanity that surrounds me, framed by the neon assaults of the twenty-story high advertisements.

"Three for ten dollars!"

I turn this time to see why it is worth shouting above the fire engine sirens and impatient taxi cab horns, and don't believe my eyes.

They are selling Obama condoms.  I think I've seen it all now.  I can pack it up and go home.  I thought I'd seen it all when the Naked Cowboy paraded in his tighty-whities on 46nd Street, mauled by a mob of old ladies clamoring to take their pictures with him.

I've been here often enough to know that I shouldn't be shocked anymore.

I continue on my journey north, clutching my skirt as I step over the subway vents that blow vertical air with a vengeance.  I am trying to avoid a Marilyn Monroe impression, but I would be no competition for the ocean of oddities that surround me.

60th Street and Columbus.  St. Paul's.  I don't see it at first because it is shrouded in scaffolding.  I'm just in time for Sunday Mass, and I start to believe that I have gotten the time wrong.  Save for a few nuns, wearing white habits and black veils, I am alone.  I wander around the church, gazing at the side-altars of St. Patrick, St. Therese, and St. Anne.

Ah, tranquility.  The respite from the jolting images fourteen blocks south.

Or so I thought.  I turn the corner to see what looks like a decomposing body, laid out on cushions.  Shouldn't there be police tape surrounding it?  It looks like a crime scene.

But no, it is a sculpture.  If art is meant to take you by surprise, this has done it.

Upon closer inspection, it is the creation of Alan Dietrich, and represents the Resurrection of Jesus.  Ok.  I'm not sure I get it, but at least it's not what I thought it was.  Then, I see a sign with more information.

It is a sculpture made of - for real, here - the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, gold, jewels, and "other materials".  The collaboration looks like petrified wood.  The intent is to connect Jesus with the most ancient elements of the history of Earth here in modern day NYC.

I am duly impressed, not having ever considered a link between Jesus and T-Rex, but I walk away learning something, and the artist has done his job.

I am more drawn to the towering stained glass windows, the echo of the poised soprano as she practices a "Hosanna", the enormous organ pipes that breathe behind the altar.  Now THIS is a church.  None of the cozy community halls that fail to inspire but nonetheless have the presence of God in them.  You know here that there is something special, something sacred.

People file in, filling only a fifth of the church as the priest invites us to "raise the roof" in song.

So much for the ties to the ancient.  I'm in 2010, after all.