This has been the perfect New York summer and it's not over yet. Every time I think about going away, I don't. The temperature has stayed in the low- to mid- 80's with many rainy days I know that sounds like a bummer, but it's really not. The streets are fresher than usual and you don't feel guilty taking a nap: it's an in-town vacation and I am living it up.
The recently open High Line has really been the jewel in my summer crown. I'm driving my girlfriend crazy with it -- I mention it to practically everyone I pass on street: "Have you walked on the High Line yet? It's a must see. It will far exceed your wildest expectations, it is transcendent, you feel like you are out in the middle of a field of wild flowers, the vistas redefine New York, look out across the Hudson, I love the Lackawanna sign." On and on I go... We like to enter on 20th street, four no-nonsense flights of stairs and a little bridge over a parking lot (even that view becomes like some abstract photo) to the end of the High Line (for now) turn left and start walking. I like to move along -- many don't -- so I cut in front of them (without making a scene, of course). Observing a large, fuzzy bumblebee doing its rounds on the lavender and sunflower, I take my daughter's hand, pausing by the mini-amphitheater where people sit to watch the cars heading up 10th Ave. On we go, past the rolling lounge chairs (on wheels of abandoned trains and the tracks they ran on). People are happy up on the High Line: they bring their snacks, set up their paints and brushes. Conversations in many languages; visitors have returned to a more welcoming New York. We head past birch trees to the entrance and walk down.
I never want to leave the High Line, but the best reason to do it is to have dinner at the new Standard Grill, the flagship restaurant of the new hotel above it, which seems like a tribute to a design aesthetic of the Eastern bloc era -- imposing, yet pleasing. The grill is perfect really: the staff is fun, but professional, you can get a nice booth or table inside or, on a nice night, you can sit out in the freshness of the former (well, mostly former) Meat Packing district. The menu is perfect. We love the trout baked in the wood oven and the Million Dollar chicken for two (always enough left for a snack tomorrow). The sides are delish: beets and asparagus and nice potatoes. You can enjoy a tasty assortment of desserts or go to the corner to the organic ice cream truck and have an Earl Grey cone while you walk back down the High Line. Maybe you'll get lucky like we did one night and run into Diane von Furstenberg, in a cloud of gorgeous perfume. She and Barry Diller made the whole thing come to life, after all, so I thank her for the High Line and all the beauty and fun she brings to our city.
The city has been transformed and become more user friendly in so many ways. Take your bike and ride along the river on the beautiful path running from below Battery Park City to up town.
This summer, I took my darling daughter, Cicely, to Shakespeare in the Park. There's nothing else like it, to sit under the stars with planes occasionally flying over listening to the old Bard in the midst of our beloved Central Park. She really got it and it did my heart good, of course, when she wanted to head up to the castle to watch the kids disco dance the night away. We only headed home because I was beat, not her. The highlight of the night is when we ran into Liz Smith who said to Cicely, "How did something so sweet come from someone so mean?" That really made the night for me.
Thursday nights, it's all about the Sugar Bar -- and I promise to get there this summer, I really do. It's one of those just-under-the-radar haunts owned by R&B legends Ashford and Simpson, where the talented people go to unwind on open mic night. Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Queen Latifah all step up to the mic and sing the great classics of the soul canon. Ashford's African art collection brings the exotic world to the Upper West Side where you can hang out 'til the wee hours of the night, grooving, listening, getting real on 72nd and West End Ave.
I head to Lifethyme Market on 6th Ave. for a juice from the healing hands of Melvin -- everyone in New York knows he's the shaman of vegetable and fruit, a Rasta master who can tell what you need to get you back on your feet. If I want to make fish for dinner Citarella has the best in town, really fresh and the guys know how to filet it like nobody's business. Integral Yoga Foods is my other source of organic produce, one of the small indie stores I like to make sure stay open.
Lunch at La Taza De Oro (The Cup of Gold) on 8th Ave between 14th and 15th, is essential. Genuine Puerto Rican cuisine: black beans, white rice, yellow rice, red beans, sweet plantains, baked chicken, a little avocado salad -- and you can walk out for 20 bucks for two. It's only a counter and a few tables, but it is for sure the real deal.
Nighttime is filled with endless options for eating.
We love Matsuri in the Maritime Hotel for Japanese. Cookshop, on 10th Ave., which revolutionized eating in West Chelsea, serves local produce, perfect for seasonal eating. BLT Fish on 17th St. is good for a glamorous assortment of gorgeous seafood served by the nicest people. The new Locanda Verde in the Greenwich Hotel does not need anymore publicity, but I can't help but rave about it. It's always full inside, so they put us out in the courtyard--you would think it was going to be like banishment to Siberia, only to find it quiet, fresh and private. The sheeps' milk ricotta is enough for me to make a whole meal, but there is much more to choose from. Il Buco, on Bond Street, is another funky, cool Italian place with tapas-like selections you share.
On Friday nights Elizabeth Negrotto, formerly of New Orleans, takes us salsa dancing -- well, she goes, and tries to take us -- at SOB'S. On a hot summer night you can lose it on the dance floor and no one will tell you no, wear little or next to nothing and let the night air dry you off on your way home.
What is any summer without friends? People come in and out: Chrissie Hynde, who will perform on the Summer Stage on August 10th; Jhoni Marchinko, my funniest writer friend, will be in soon from L.A. to write some special material for me because she makes people laugh, and we need that.
There are our New York friends, too. Elyse and Mike, or as we refer to them, the "Buzzies." They are the quintessential New York couple, out walking Chet, their Border Collie, or schmoozing around the West Village. She's a producer, and we have a standing Tuesday lunch at the Little Owl, where we tear apart the headlines. To quote Elyse, "I can see the ills of the world, but I can't necessarily change them."
This summer I come home in the afternoons or late at night and Twitter about it all, the little aftershocks of a New York day captured for a brief moment or two before slipping away into memory banks of thought and emotion.