Ok so New York wasn’t just like I pictured it. Arriving around lunchtime at LaGuardia, the taxi line was short and I should have taken that as an omen. The taxi driver clocked us as tourists instantly, something that has never happened to me at LaGuardia. But apparently, when I gave the address of the Airbnb apartment that Left Bank Books Events Coordinator Hannah Nutt and I would be staying in, an address smack dab in the middle of the theater district, that marked us as tourists and he decided to take us on the longest, most congested route to our abode, adding at least $10 to the bill.
Then there was the not so small matter of our abode. Nice location on West 49th Street but the dude who let us in and gave us the 411 was as alarming as the apartment: him–rasta hat white guy, big black I’m-totally-chill-hip glasses, brown plaid blazer paired with cargo shorts and Converse All-stars, drinking the last of a 12-pack of something like Corona or Stella Artois. The apartment: a grody blend of early teenage boy, complete with hockey helmit beer bong, numerous anachronistic surf boards, guitars, crumpled receipts, sports posters, and just plain clutter. Dust. Pillows I wouldn’t put on a dog bed. Yikes. The good news: not only is there wifi, there is an actual printer that works!
Making the best of it, Hannah took off to see a play: Unbroken Circle. I sat around mapping out the many receptions I intend to attend in the next two days on Google Maps with the help of the outstanding NYC mta website. And then I got hungry and with a little research, found a Lidia Bastianich restaurant just around the corner. I would have to wait until 8:30 to eat but at least they took a reservation for one. Left Bank Books hosted Lidia about a year or two ago at the Sheldon, along with Sauce Magazine. Alyson Mace sat on stage and talked to her. She was promoting her new cookbook Lidia’s Italy in America. I liked her. Down to earth with high food standards.
This past January, in the middle of an epic snow storm that assaulted Missouri,my partner Jarek Steele, and Left Bankers extraordinaire Jonesy and Lauren took the train to Kansas City for an indie bookseller confab appropriately called Winter Institute. One of the perqs of this event was the opportunity to have dinner or a cocktail with an author or two. I was thrilled to be invited to a Graywolf Press dinner at Lidia Bastianich’s KC restaurant, Lidia’s Italy, where I was introduced to her outstanding tableside service and delicious fresh pastas. I was also fortunate to be seated next to author Ru Freeman, whose extraordinary novel, On Sal Mal Lane, was just published this month. But I had read an advanced copy in anticipation of the dinner and I must say that I loved it. A lot. Like Cutting for Stone a lot. Mixed with not a little To Kill a Mockingbird. Really, you have to read it. It is wonderful. ’nuff said.
Thus I was positively disposed to eating at Lidia’s NYC. Having just spent the last 3 hours mapping out my every move from Book Expo America at the Jacob Javits Convention Center to a cocktail reception with Malcom Gladwell, a cocktail reception with the president and ceo of HarperCollins, and a dinner in the home of Granta magazine editor John Freeman co-sponsored by Grove Atlantic, I was ready to carbo load on great Italian food.
Gladwell’s new book comes out this September and promises to be his typically brilliant take, this time on why David is more powerful than Goliath. He shared some of his ideas at Winter Institute and I look forward to the continued build up over cocktails on the rooftop of Hotel Gansevoort tomorrow. I am very curious what the reception with the President and CEO of HarperCollns Publishers Worldwide, an entity owned by Rupert Murdoch will be like. I am thinking it will be the sort of event where men sport navy blue suits as a defensive measure and mostly I will be ignored. In short, a sweaty armpit affair. But I have many many many favorite Harper collins authors, not the least of which is Barbara Kingsolver, so away I shall go!
Oh, about the Italian dinner: great service, even if I was installed in a far back corner where eventually the same sex couples were also installed. Food, uneven. Great bread. Great caesar salad. Gnochhi out of this world. Spaghetti with tomato and basil, too chef boyardee. And the lesbian couple seated next to me were disappointed in the mushy meatballs. But I did enjoy that I could have my pick of more than 3 dozen Italian wines for a flat $25 a bottle and take the unfinished bottle home.
Off to bed, hopefully without bedbugs. We will be doing with air conditioning tonight. #sweatysleeplessnight.