The day didn’t start off with a bang

Literary Tourist in New York: 

The day didn’t start off with a bang. Quite the contrary. The early morning meeting I’d set up had been cancelled. I was stranded down at 5th and 14th with several empty hours yawning in front of me. I decided to stroll up 5th Avenue towards Times Square to see what I could see.

This was a good start

After passing a sign of the times,

I hit Broadway where I re-encountered Rizzoli Bookstore at it’s newish location. It was for years on 57th Street in an elegant six story townhouse, here it continues to specialize in illustrated books on architecture, interior design, fashion, photography, cookery, and the fine and applied arts, as well as literature, and foreign language books; the store also carries European magazines and newspapers and a delightful selection of note cards and stationery.

Further along Broadway I came across this appealing combination: free books and free music

This walk along Broadway reminded me of my first visit to NYC back in the eighties with my friends Pat Grew and Ann Stoner. It was late at night. We had the street to ourselves. Starting right at the bottom of Manhattan we walked all the way up to and past The Lincoln Center. It was hot and Ann’s shoes were bothering her, so she took them off and went barefoot. You should have seen the colour of the soles of her feet by the time we got to our destination. Soot black they were. No idea how long it took to get them back to normal. Months I’m sure.

It began to rain, so I decided to hop on the subway (I’m likin’ some of the art

that decorates the walls) with my convenient three-day pass, and check out one of the places where writers must hang out in New York: the lobby of the Ace Hotel at 20W 29th Street, just off Broadway.

All the seats in the pit were

taken so I pulled up part of a sofa near the bar ordered a beer and nursed it for about an hour as I observed the scene, surfed the Net and jotted down some notes. Pretty well everyone wore ear-buds. The music (techno-ish) was fairly loud. Not sure I’d be able to write much here. But, certainly, there were lots of writer types present, and one definitely needs to get out of the garret now and again.

Next stop, further up Broadway at 12th street, was Strand Bookstore – one of the greatest, most iconic stores in the world. Here I searched for Jonathan Galassi’s (more on him later) first book of poetry. Had to settle for the second, signed “with best wishes to Debbie.” The main floor was packed with people buying books and cool, useful accessories, such as these

Trump Hands, so I escaped up to the Third, where you’ll find the rare book room, one of my favourite places in the world. I once pulled an American First of Mordecai Richler’s Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz out of here for U.S. $40. I like to think that it’s worth way more than I paid. The cover is by Leonard Baskin. Some years ago I interviewed current owner Nancy Bass Wyden about the store and secrets to its longevity. Listen here

Next it was back down to The Housing Works, where you’ll find lots of used books and a generous-sized cafe.

Since it was just around the corner and I’d heard a lot about it, I dropped in to McNally Jackson. Can’t say I saw anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps they have a good reading series. Perhaps it’s the cool surrounding neighbourhood. Lots of small boutique shops and trendy ethnic restaurants.

The weather had cleared, thankfully, and it was time to head over to Times Square.

I arrived in time to meet up with my loved ones, and catch the evening bus tour to Brooklyn. What a magnificent view of the Manhattan skyline.

For information on planning a trip to New York City, click here.

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Times Square photo by Caroline Liguori

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