Monday, December 03, 2012


One of my favorite things about travel is people. Well, of course, you say. Who would want to arrive in New York or Paris and find lonely, empty streets with a few pieces of trash wafting in the wind?

So, yes, glad to see the cab drivers, bellmen, deliverymen, sales people, waiters, chefs, desk clerks, etc.

But I like meeting up with friends in a place I don't live. And I like meeting new people, travelers or strangers.

When we arrived in New York a little after noon last Tuesday, we had no plans or reservations until the next day. After getting checked into the hotel we got a table at Ai Fiori in our hotel and had a leisurely lunch with a glass of wine. We heard the people next to us talking about Austin. The guy left first and as the woman gathered her things and paid the bill FFP told her he couldn't help but overhear the conversation about our hometown. We knew several of the same people because she'd studied and worked in Austin. She lives in the residences above our hotel. We immediately became friends (FFP said he had seven or eight mutual Facebook friends with her when he connected later) and that evening she joined us, with her partner briefly, for drinks in the bar of the hotel. Also joining us was an artist friend who lives in Austin and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. We'd bumped into her and several other people we knew on the plane. So impromptu drinks, introducing a brand new friend to an old friend. Heaven to me.

We arranged meet-ups with other people this last week. Drinks with a couple who lived in our building but moved and now live in Phoenix and San Diego. They were just in New York to see lights and some shows. We had lunch, visited the Whitney and shopped the Upper East Side with another friend who lives in the Village and the Hamptons. We were joined by friends we've known for three decades who live in a suburb and some young Upper West Siders for brunch. We met up with Austin friends at a cabaret show at 54 Below. We dined twice with friends who live in New Jersey and were in the city. We had a nice talk with a friend who is a manager at a fine dining restaurant and she got us a peek at the kitchen. Tonight is her night off and we may meet for drinks.

And then there are the people you don't know. And never will. Yesterday we had brunch with friends in SoHo and saw a dance performance at the Joyce and dined at a favorite haunt in the Village and saw a jazz show at the Village Vanguard. It was all great fun, but I also enjoyed the time we spent having a drink perched in the window of a tiny Mexican restaurant watching people walk down 7th in the Village. What are they wearing? What are the carrying? Young? Old? Who might they be? Endless walk-on actors in life's movie.

Great shows and food. No excursion buses or trips to the top of the Empire State building. But the people!

The picture was shot by FFP on his iPhone. It is Dot, a lovely woman selling books at Crawford-Doyle Booksellers on the Upper East Side. Each trip we trek to this tiny, iconic store and, if we are lucky, Dot is working and contributes to the selection of a couple of books that we buy.

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