Downtown NYC

The trip to NYC wasn’t our first one but it was our second one. I can’t remember precisely when but we visited the city one autumn about 17 years ago.

17 years is a long time and a city like New York (or Tokyo or even London), the period is long enough to transform parts of the city beyond recognition. And that was exactly what happened when I visited Chelsea Market.

I was very lost on W12th Street…

‘Chelsea Market? No, this is West Village!’ Oh dear,  I thought I was walking northward from the subway but I was in fact heading southward. A woman with her dog kindly offered to walk with me so I wouldn’t get lost again. As we strolled down leafy side streets, we talked how the Big Apple had changed over the years.  She was especially weary of all the developments – commercial and residential – around Downtown Manhattan. ‘My mother’s apartment in which I was born and raised, is rent-controlled. Otherwise, I have no idea how we can continue to live in the area’. The story sounded very familiar across the pond.

I wasn’t 100% sure which part of Chelsea we visited 17 years ago but the area appeared to be a lot smarter than the one in my memory. The streets were lined with well known international brands, such as Apple, Kooples and Boss alike, and the sight gave me a sinking feeling. Oh god, another aftermath of gentrification.

A view northward from High Line…

Lush vegetation on the walkway was a welcome change to the otherwise very urban area…

A view around Meatpacking District…

The view from High Line was amazing. I could see warehouses for meat as well as boutiques / headquarters of famous fashion designers. It was a little like my neighbourhood Shoreditch in London.

After leaving High Line, I revisited West Village. The main street, Bleecker Street was pretty. However, the shops which lined the street were not particularly unique. Why do I have to see the same names everywhere nowadays? Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors,  Comptoir des Cotonnier, A.P.C, Lulu Guinness, and Sandro and so on. They are so ubiquitous, aren’t they? I sighed.

Let’s find something more original and also some gelato. I headed towards Lower Manhattan…

At NoHo, I came across a car park resembling a bicycle storage…

Also the film “Tarzan” was just released in NYC then so the posters were all over the place.

When I reached to East Village, I became so desparately hot and thirsty. Out of desparation, I walked into a vintage fashion shop and asked the shop owner if she knew any gelato place in the vicinity. Unfortunately, there weren’t nothing alike in the neighbourhood but she googled it for me and found one in Lower East Side.

A poster on the wall in East Village…

Over the car park, I could see the sign of the famous Katz’s Delicatessen glowing in the mid afternoon sunshine…

The gelato bar I was recommended was brilliant. I had black sesami and green tea. It tasted so good after 3 hours of trekking through the Big Apple. I was so dog-tired by then. My calves as well as shins were overworked by the long walk and started to protest with pain and ache.

New York subway was a little grubby…

However, a huge brownie point for me was they were air-conditioned!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Mr.Sponge’s Sporting Tour

Last Saturday, I stumbled onto rather a serendipitous discovery in Chelsea.

Our Saturday morning ritual of breakfasting at the Shepherdess…

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Mmmm… the kitchen could put a bit more effort into their presentation skill. Oh well, never mind.

Then, we were off to Michael Hoppen Gallery on Jubilee Place.
The nearest tube station was Sloane Square and we strode down Kings Road, weaving our way through the milling weekend shoppers. Hubbie and I agreed with a tinge of sadness that Kings Road was getting more banal every time we visited the street. The invasion of big brands and chain stores steadily eroded the charm and character and now the stretch was sporting a generic high street which could be found in any well-off parts of the UK.
However, all was not lost (thank god) because John Sandoe (Books) Ltd on Blacklands Terrace was one place which emanated certain old charm of Chelsea’s artistic and intellectual communities…

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While Hubbie stuck his nose between piles of coffee table books, my attention was drawn straight to one particular book in the middle of the shelves…

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The appearance of the book was inconspicuous to say the least. It had no paper cover and the title “Young Tom Hall” was inscribed in gold on the spine. That was it.
But something intrigued me and before I knew it, the book was in my hand and my fingers were leafing through the content. My eyes were soon glued to the pages because the style of writing rang a bell loudly. It reminded the book I lost more than a decade ago. What was the title of the book? During my nomadic flat-share years, I lost more than a few possessions which had certain sentimental value and the book in question, was one of them. It was a secondhand paperback I picked up at one of the used bookshops on Charing Cross Road. It wasn’t even on the shelf but being piled up on the floor amongst other paperbacks in had-seen-better-days condition. Damn, I wished if I remembered that title…, the thought raced through my mind as my index finger traced old-fashioned typefaces on the crisp white page. Still, I decided to make a note of the name of the author because my sixth sense somehow nagged me to do so.
In the mean time, Hubbie had a better luck. He found a copy of Irving Penn’s book he was looking for for years and it made him one very happy chap…

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After John Sandoe, we hurried to our another favourite haunt, Michael Hoppen Gallery on Jubilee Place…

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On the ground floor, “Frontcountry” by Lucas Foglia was on…

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However, our main aim was to see the Sarah Moon exhibition on the first floor…

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Oh how much I loved her work! Her method, hand made pigment transfer print, was breathtakingly beautiful…

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During our journey home, I checked the name, R.S.Surtees, in Wikipedia with my iPhone and can you guess what the search threw at me?
Robert Smith Surtees turned out to be the author who penned the book I was chasing!! When I saw the titles of his work, I remembered that it was “Mr.Sponge’s Sporting Tour” …

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How could this have happened? Why did I beeline to that book in the first place? The book was definitely calling me. It wanted to be found by me.
After all these years of on/off search, I was reunited (not physically yet, however) with the book under the most serendipitous circumstance. Isn’t life so mysterious and wonderful?…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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