An ode to New York

This post has for long been overdue. I am sure people who know me well also know how insanely obsessed I am with New York City. For starters, I do not live in NYC but in Troy, a small college-town 2 hrs north. Yet, whenever the grip of gradschool work loosens even a slight bit, I relocate myself to the Big Apple for a short while. Infact I would like to believe that I am not a tourist anymore thanks to my countless visits here. But despite that, the City has always unfailingly had something new to offer everytime I return.

A picture of Downtown Manhattan & the Brooklyn Bridge taken from the Brooklyn Pier

 There is something in the air here I suppose. There are very few places in the world where the ‘Brownian motion’ of humanity can be perfectly seen and this is definitely one of them. Every person here is a ‘type’ and the city is like one big theater where everyone is on display. Personally for me, this is the closest I feel to home i.e. Bombay in its myriad aspects with the risk of using the cliched statement of Bombay being India’s NYC to justify the same. The subway, the swarms of people moving briskly on the streets, their indifference to their neighbours, a melting pot of virtually every known race in the world along with their culture, cuisine and lastly the grandiose skyline all truly project what I would consider the ‘Capital of the World’ . Merely walking on the street for 5 mins here will be the biggest learning experience any man can have.

With all this eulogizing, I agree that the City has it’s share of problems too. Infact, someone rightly said ” New York has always been going to hell but somehow never gets there ” . The light from Times Square doesn’t exactly glow throughout the city and I have been to places which are ‘dirty’  or rather unfortunate by American standards. But despite that, the City continues to amaze me just like a child fascinated by a new fairytale everytime. I sign off from this post after wrapping up yet another jaunt to NYC hoping I will be back sooner or later.

Cheers,

Nikhil

P.S. These tunes always help me get in the perfect NYC groove 🙂

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Tom’s Diner

I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner

There’s a woman on the outside looking inside, does she see me?

No she does not really see me cause she sees her own reflection

Once upon a time before the rain began…I finish up my coffee. It’s time to catch the train.

Incase you didn’t figure this out already, these are the lyrics of the famous song ‘Tom’s Diner’ by Suzanne Vega , one of the greatest songwriters & singers alive today. This song is undoubtedly her best work till date; originally released as an acapella but later remixed to gain widespread commercial success (was infact featured innumerable times on MTV in the ’90s ).

This song basically is an account of a person who stops at a place called Tom’s diner for a cup of coffee. This place is very much real and is on the corner of 112th St-Broadway in New York City now as Tom’s Restaurant. It is very famous as the exterior of the Monk’s Cafe in the long running sitcom Seinfeld. Now, what is the reason I am writing a post on this place or song ? Two big reasons actually !!

It is an amazing coincidence that I got to watch Suzanne Vega perform yesterday just a week after I had stopped at Tom’s Diner for pancakes & a pistachio shake at 4 AM on a very rainy morning (just like the song except for the coffee instead of the shake 🙂 ). Tom’s Diner is 3 streets away from my friend’s apartment in Manhattan and in all my three trips previously to the city, I have always walked past it but this time my curiosity got the better of me & I finally visited this place. Not once but twice. And needless to say,both the times were amazing.Infact here is a picture I took of this place in September ’10.

People generally have to say this about Tom’s Diner- a warm and pleasant ambience which not only makes you feel very comfortable and settled-in but gets your mind thinking about distant, profound subjects while sipping over a coffee or relishing a good bagel. I couldn’t agree more when I walked in the first time one chilly winter evening all alone tired from a walk with my camera in Central Park. There was definitely something about this place. Something I could not describe in words justifiably.

Whatever the reason was, it certainly was not because it was the subject of Suzanne Vega’s hit song or because of Seinfeld.  I only regret not having heard Vega’s song then because when I finally did hear her sing the same song yesterday, it eerily felt awesome that I had literally ‘lived’ the song. Besides this song, she performed a musical play she composed with Kay Matschullat for Broadway this coming April named ‘Carson McCullers talks about love’. The setting was perfect for such a performance. In a small, ‘intimate’ theater in Troy where she enraptured the audience with a story of love, hatred and deceit magically expressed in the form of a conversation between a couple with interjecting musical layers. This was my first experience of musical theater and the fact that I was on a seat 3 rows away from Suzanne Vega, the pianist and the guitarist only made it better.

With a voice like raw honey and beauty which was supremely graceful, she absolutely swept me off my feet. For an hour when she sang, I could feel an inner silence overwhelm my mind and I forgot every worry, every sorrow  instead to absorb the music and the feelings wrapped within it streaming outward from a radiant Suzanne onstage. In my own words she has both Audrey Hepburn’s grace & Regina Spektor’s eclectic ‘folksy’ music going for her 🙂 . If my post even got you slightly curious about Vega check her out on Youtube on the following links.

“Caramel” : Vega’s sensuous best & my fav. of the lot  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-1mIOBbKi0

“Tom’s Diner” original version : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z66rDVkaK4w&feature=related

As for a Suzanne-smitten me, I shall try my best to catch her next in April on Broadway.

Cheers

Nikhil B.