March 9th, 2005


Bagels Are Carbs

So read a piece of graffiti at 190th St subway station. I'd been looking around The Cloisters, a curious reconstruction of various medieval pieces from western Europe that was built in Manhattan at the very north of the island. It wasn't bad but it didn't quite feel right, but I'm saving my full concentration for the Roerich House this afternoon. I feel a certain affinity with him, although I'm fairly ignorant about his work. There was a heavy burst of snow yesterday and the walk through the almost untouched white of Fort Tryon Park was rather satisfying, since London snowfall has been zilch whilst I've been around.

Currently I'm on the north-west corner of Central Park and sokaing up free bandwidth at a cafe here. It's called Saurin Parke, but I keep thinking it reads Sauron or Sarin. There's not enough time to write everything out. But I feel I should write a little about food. Maybe the most satisfying meal I've had since my arrival was here:

Woochon - 10W 36th St (between 5th and 6th Avenues)

Here I was able to completely indulge my desire for a pre-Lenten meat feast. I was here with Handy, an friend from university way back when. We had drank a fair bit by this point as he dragged me around various Village, Soho, Chelsea bars and I can admit we were most certainly a little emotional and hungry. Things not to forget in America at such times are:

1. Single portions can feed three people. Even in Korean restaurants. So don't get overeager just because you've been downing beer and cocktails in the joy of reunion banter. However...

2. With the current exchange rate, it's like visiting a third-world economy. So, it can't go that wrong.

For this preposterous spread of plates that awaited their complimenting meats and a fair amount of soju. I paid, err, £55. That's just not right. The food was excellent.

Yet, however good that meal, the most memorable eating experience was here:

Queen of Sheba - 650 10th Avenue (between 45 & 46)

I'd never eaten Ethiopian food before, but had heard many things about it. It was something quite unique in taste and I suspect that it might take a few visits to various establishments before I quite know what it is I like and don't. I was slightly disappointed that the coffee came to the table in a cup, since, however nice a cup it was, the preparation and serving of coffee in Ethiopia has its own distinct etiquette and I had heard a radio item about the coffee ceremony shortly before my arrival. Oh well...

No disappointments, however, with Mlle H., who was a delightful companion and I was very glad to meet her after a lengthy correspondence. I would not dare to describe her as delicate (for one, we are due to dine again tomorrow and I fear - or perhaps I wish - that if I was to describe her thus, a stilletto knife might be plunged into my chest as we negotiated a Chinatown alleyway. La petite mort...) but I shall most certainly describe her as a delicacy and hope she takes no offence in that. I sighed rather upon the taxi ride home. Mlle. H. lives in area entirely populated by ravenous wolves, abandoned horses and feral children. She commands all before her on the path.

I've been doing my share of sighing elswhere, especially in the American Museum of Natural History where I found myself repeatedly weeping with jet-lag and honest sadness before aged dioramas of lost civilisations:

The Dune Dwellers of Mongolia
The Natufians of the Levant
The Halat of Mesopotamia
Achaemenid Persia...

As I gazed into each of these cabinets, feeling that we had lost our balance with the world we inhabit, I could hear a couple following a similar route. They would pause before them and say:

"This is Japan."

I'd continue my walk and encounter them again:

"This is Japan, I think."

It was never Japan. Aged photograph of the kumiss ceremony, hundreds of people standing arm-in-arm upon the plain, the vast circle slowly spinning, a ladle thrown to the sky...

Some of my photos can be seen at the Sarmoung page at flickr.