27 September 2008

Bagels, Budgeting and Bobby Redford

And so came the rain, although as the weather had been perfect until first thing this morning, I couldn't really complain, especially as I had planned to visit a couple of museums today. I decided to prevent future knee injuries by not going running this morning (long runs followed by a day of walking around pretty much constantly are not, I conclude, a good idea), instead nipping a few blocks up Broadway to Absolute Bagels, reputed to be in the running for the top bagel in the city, although it's a dingy little cafe, run by a very friendly Chinese family. I got a poppy bagel with jam and a coffee for grand total of $2.25--the coffee, naturally, tasted like shite but the bagel was really good. I also got a lesson in Upper West Side social mores from a regular, who was explaining to other patrons why they shouldn't give money or a bagel to the innocuous-looking homeless guy standing outside ("there are plenty of shelters for them to go to--shelters paid for by me, the tax payer--and I am a compassionate person; I was a social worker for 20 years and I know you just can't give them anything or it makes the problem worse").

My jeans were falling down without a belt (either it's my budget diet or the rain weighing down the trouser legs) and by the time I walked the 30 blocks to the American Museum of Natural History, my legs were soaked and my feet were killing, but I do like the AMNH. I've probably been about four or five times now, although on some of those visits, I only went to the space show. $18 admission for the museum and a space show was a little steep even though this was just the student rate but despite the fact that I have no penis and therefore don't have a secret goal of becoming the next Neil Armstrong, I sure do love planetariums and space shows. The AMNH always has high profile narrators--I've seen the ones narrated by Tom Hanks and Indiana Jones before and today it was the turn of Robert Redford. It was about "cosmic collisions" or some such but the topic is almost incidental for me--I just love sitting in that huge dome watching the images projected on the roof, while listening to the dulcet tones of the gravelly-voiced narrator du jour. Afterwards, I stopped by the hall of human evolution (they had a section on linguistics! And a special "recent news" exhibit on facial processing, although blatantly they picked the wrong group of researchers...).

Stop #2 on my bargainous food day was to the Au Bon Pain about two blocks from Lehman's--at least this time, I had tactfully switched my weighty tome from Wolfe to Pynchon--where I dined amid the unemployed and other bank workers on a very crispy bacon bagel for $2.29. This saving meant that I earned a trip to Grand Central to commuter watch and fantasise about maybe catching a train in or out of there one day (sadly, the destinations are as glamorous as Harlem, New Haven and upstate New York). My favourite NYC purveyor of coffee, Joe, has opened a concession in the terminal so I bought a delicious, artisanal coffee, which cost almost as much as breakfast and lunch combined and which I drank sitting on one of the grand staircases while I wondered whether Clive would show up this time. Sadly, I was stood up again.

The Museum of Modern Art charges the extortionate sum of $20 to get in (it's not even a "suggested admission $15," like the AMNH, although their idea of "suggested" is the same as the now seemingly ubiquitous "optional 12.5% service charge included" in that you don't have to pay but if you even remotely British, you will never go to the hassle of not paying) but on Friday evenings, it's free for three hours, courtesy of Target. I arrived at 4.05, not entirely unsurprised to see that the queue for the free tickets already scaled two and a half sides of the whole block. Luckily, it moved fairly quickly and I was inside in 20 minutes. I had got talking to a girl called Caitlyn, who was visiting from Ottawa with her mother and sister. Unfortunately, I had to give her the slip as she proved to be quite the art buff and was about 30 seconds from realising that I hadn't a clue what I was talking about. I did a 90 minute frog march around the museum, glancing at most things--I'm not a big art fan, although there were definitely some cool things there including some maps of New York-themed utopias.

Incidentally, my holiday budgeting is somewhat entertaining; I'm being careful to spend the minimum amount possible on food and subway so that I can buy more clothes. After all, I will only be hungry for a week but I will wear the clothes for years--months, at least. Anyway, I'm still eating three meals and in places where the food either has a good rep or is very good value--plenty of bagels, custom salads and fruit; I'll catch up on my protein at some other point. The subway is a dumber economy to make, given that each ride costs $2 and my clothes usually cost way more than that. Ah, to be young and contradictory in NYC!

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