I am taking a class this Summer in New York. My professor is the animated and very loving Dr. Scott Gratson. He adores this city; I feel comfortable speaking for him when I say that he believes everyone should have an adventure in New York at some point in their youth.
Well Dr. Gratson, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is… I have not yet done my homework.
The good news is… I’m about to.
And it’s going to be an adventure.
As of right now, it is 4:26pm on Friday, July 12th and I am sitting in my apartment at 10th and 5th. I am running on 4 hours of sleep; my friends’ band 20 Minute Tango was in town for one night (last night) and I couldn’t miss the show. I could go on with excuses about why I have yet to finish my homework, but instead I’m just going to start.
My mission: observe 20 different locations from a list predetermined by Dr. Gratson, record findings through pictures and notes.
Here’s the checklist I made for myself in my notebook. I swear there is a method to my madness.
Please come along with me as I explore the coffee shops and subway stations of NYC, as per Dr. Gratson’s request, along with a few odds and ends to round out the 20 entries necessary to ensure myself a passing grade.
4:30pm – My Apartment: Red Bull is done. I have 78% battery life on my phone, a notebook, a pen, a fresh pack of cigarettes, and This Side of Paradise to keep me company. Game time.
4:51pm – Caffe Reggio, Location #1: On my way to the first coffee shop on my list, I walk right past Caffe Reggio, which Dr. Gratson has told our class is the original New York cappuccino. Reggio’s is not on the list of designated coffee shops because we take a class trip there, but I was under the impression that I had missed said expedition and decide to use it as my one permitted “choose your own” coffee spot. I am taking this as a sign that my plan is a good one, although maybe the Red Bull was a bad idea. The cappuccino is delicious, and only sets me back $2.70.
4:55pm – Caffe Dante, Location #2: They have a full bar and gelato in addition to what apparently a killer espresso. They appear to be serving an older clientele than Reggio’s, but that could just be my timing. I am able to talk my way into a free espresso after explaining that I am a student assigned to sample many different coffees from the Village, and I will be writing about them. I shake hands with the owner, Anthony. His accent and attitude give me the distinct impression that this place is “legit”. I take a sip of the cup he gave me and it is the best espresso I have ever tasted. Rich flavor with an immediate caffeine rush. It is now apparent that the Red Bull was an awful idea. I regret that, but not the espresso. After a stop to write this down on a bench, a friendly stranger gives me directions to my next location.
5:15pm – Somewhere in the Village: Midwalk I realize that I left my assignment sheet at my apartment, meaning that I will have to stop back in between coffee breaks at some point during this excursion. I am disappointed in myself but not worried; I have faith that my skills as a journalist will suffice until then. Sorry Dr. Gratson, but I need you to trust me.
5:24pm – Harney and Sons Fine Teas, Location #3: The first thing that strikes you as you walk in is the smell. It is lovely. The place itself looks like it is out a movie. I am again able to talk my way into a free sample of two teas from baristas (tea-ristas?) Lizz and Sarah; White Peach tea and Lover’s Leap. The White Peach is light and flavorful, while Lover’s Leap tastes kind of bland to me, but I blame my limited palette more than anything else. In a semi-related note, Lizz is absolutely beautiful. I am going to come back here for tea again, but I don’t have time to put the moves on now. I must keep moving.
5:41pm – Somewhere in the Village: I pass some street art that compels me to take pictures. A light rain has started. It is cooling, but I fear for my notebook.
5:47pm – Think Coffee, Location #4: Very hip. Their trendy wooden countertops are lined with tons of outlets for your Macbook convenience. This is the kind of place that I would want to go to type all of the notes that I am currently writing by hand if they were open 24/7. The coffeehouse feel in the front of the shop gives way to a wider seating area in the back. They also have grilled cheese, which is a big plus in my book.
I explain my story to the barista and he gives me a small sample of black coffee. He does not seem thrilled about it, but appreciate that he has a full coffee shop on his hands and I am a freeloader. Examining the store a bit closer I find that all of the cups are compostable, something Mayor Bloomberg would appreciate. The coffee is solid. I tip a dollar out of guilt and the barista gives me the head nod so I know we’re cool.
6:00pm – Other Music: Turning the corner out of Think Cafe, I see Other Music in the distance and realize that I know where I am. Until this point I had just been working off of cross streets and my faith in the average New Yorker’s internal compass. I decide to stop in Other Music because this is my adventure and I am hyped on enough caffeine to kill a small to midsized raccoon. I wander a bit, ask if they have Yeezus or Magna Carta Holy Grail on vinyl. They do not. I leave before I get sucked into spending money I don’t have.
6:08pm – Still Other Music: Okay I lied. I totally intended on leaving wallet in tact, but I perused the hip hop section and found two gems that I couldn’t pass up. There goes $45. Sorry self. No drinking for two weeks. It’s worth it. Drunk is temporary, Big Boi is forever. I have learned my lesson: don’t go into a record store while high on caffeine. And to be fair, the guy at the register before me’s total came to $193.66. Things could’ve been worse.
6:14pm – Shakespeare Book Company, Location #5: I chance across Shakespeare book company, which despite my lack of assignment sheet I am pretty sure was one of my designated places to explore. I would not have found it if I hadn’t gone to Other Music. “GOD WANTED ME TO BUY THOSE RECORDS,” I think to myself hoping to rationalize my impulse purchases. Whatever. I am thrilled.
There is a section right inside the entrance entitled “Drinking, Smoking, and Screwing” which is surrounded by the works of Charles Bukowski. Seems about right.
This is one of those bookstores with ladders that roll across the wall. I have seen them before, but today would mark the first time that I saw a customer actually use one. I decide to try it out myself, simultaneously adding an item to my bucket list and crossing it off. Pleasant jazz music plays in the background. I force myself not to buy another Philip K. Dick novel having just finished A Scanner Darkly. I have other books to conquer first.
Walking out I see a section with books with titles such as:
- The Low Down on Going Down
- Blow Him Away
- The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to Sleeping With Three
- She Comes First
- The Little Book of Butts
- The Little Book of Big Breasts
- The Little Book of Legs
- Pocket Kama Sutra
- The Multi Orgasmic
- Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men
I leave before the synapses that fired in my brain causing me to buy records go off again. Also, aren’t we all tired of our threesomes being so impractical?
6:43pm – Home: I plug in my phone and chug some water to get over what is now a throbbing caffeine headache. I find my assignment sheet, listen to “Holy Grail” three times in a row, and head back out the door.
7:15pm – Barnes and Noble, Location #6: To its credit, it feels pretty non-corporate when you consider its a part of the biggest chain of bookstores on the planet. The selection is huge, with books rising up four floors. Stores like this intimidate me. There’s too much potential knowledge here that I won’t have time to acquire no matter how long I live.
7:29pm – 71 Irving Place, Location #7: I decide to order a Dirty Chai and bite the $5 bullet because Dr. Gratson recommended it and I feel like I have to start following directions a bit more given that I finally have my hands on the assignment sheet. The room is abuzz. In front of me a budding writer appears to be working on a novel or short story of some sort. The main character’s name is Liam but that’s all I can gather before I become aware of my own creep-itude. I am exhausted. While I don’t regret my decision to stop back at my apartment (I had to drop off my records), I am now recognizing it as a necessary evil. I have lost some momentum. Only one more coffee shop until I start exploring the subways. I can’t wait for the air conditioned comfort of a subway car and the opportunity to read. I am a fantastic procrastinator, but I am not immune to fatigue. My Dirty Chai tastes like gingerbread. It is nice to sip on.
7:41pm – Enjoying My Tea: I come to the realization that I am not tired, but instead simply crashing from all of the caffeine that I have forced into my body over the last three hours. I decide I need to keep moving.
8:14pm – Tea and Sympathy, Location #8: It is very British here and I feel like a fool. I am wet and my body is beaten. I attempt to explain my situation to the shop employee which leads to the following exchange:
“Hey, I’m a part of this class, and our professor asked us to explore different coffee and tea shops in the city. I was wondering if there was anyway I could get a sample of something, just a small bit.”
“What’s the class?”
“It’s all about experiencing New York City. We go to museums in the city, we did a scavenger hunt through Central Park.”
“Who is it accredited to?”
“Temple University, but we are operating out of Marymount Manhattan College.”
“You’re getting a degree in exploring New York?”
“Well, I’m getting a degree in Communications.”
“That’s slightly better.”
“I can give you some tea leaves, but for the tea I’d have to charge you.”
“The leaves would be fine.”
I thank him profusely and was relieved that I wouldn’t have to drink anymore tea or explain myself to anymore tea shop employees.
Close to four hours into this madness and I have crossed every coffee shop off my list. Now off to Part 2 (coming soon) to explore some subways.