We arrived lost, remained so, didn’t care!
No suitcases, no responsibilities, no rules. We were off on a spree, unfettered, blissfully unprepared, bursting out of the front door, wiggling down the walk, sinuously twisting around the corner, skipping down the street. My quicktime double step whirling away to keep up with his laconic, leggy stride. Hand in hand, together. Just as before. Just as always.
The iced vodka chill of the MetroNorth cars gives way to the stultifying heat of the subways. Then up the stairs to the street. There is no cover. But there are waterfalls of rain sheeting from the sky.
The umbrellas are safely tucked away in the front hall closet. I tilt my face and feel the drops hit me fair and square like tiny bursts of joy. In moments, we are soaked through to the skin. I can’t remember the last time I stood in the rain, soaking wet, hair askew, completely and properly improper.
It is a double decker bus and we find seats on top. We dry in degrees as our clothes steam from the heaters, bumping along the highway.
A stars and stripes shawl is purchased with the dual purpose of celebrating our independence and for sheer warmth. And that is all.
The Reading Terminal Market
Our eyes devour everything from donuts to oysters, sandwiches to schnitzels, burgers to brisket, cheesesteaks and turkey and ribs and corn dogs.
But we choose exactly the same thing: sweet and delicate salmon curries, elegant and etherial, as our twin plastic forks dig like tiny steam shovels into mounds of rice.
A few twists and turns on the streets. Then through the doors to a treasure trove.
Cherished leather-bound jewels, missives from times past, bound together, standing proudly, spine to spine:
*A rare first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
* the earliest surviving work by the young Charles Dickens, a parody of Shakespeare’s Othello from 1832
*Two 15th century manuscripts of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales
*Lewis Carroll’s own first edition of Alice in Wonderland
*presentation copy of Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum from 1519 with woodcuts by Hans Holbein
When I encounter series of volumes printed on Gutenberg’s own press I begin to weep, an acolyte at the altar, a devoted scriblarian to my soul.
Each nibble tingles then rolls deliciously across our tongues like the unfurling of of banners on the Fourth of July. A bite of this and a bite of that. So much and yet never enough.
The Barnes Foundation
Like a bottomless tureen of caviar, like a never before discovered cache of Mozart Symphonies, like a whole wardrobe designed by Dior, we sat surrounded in long dreamed of splendor.
Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne, Seurat, Modigliani.
With only a slight tip one could be immersed, submerged, subsumed, each image a portal to distant universes that somehow still feel so close.
But then it’s time to go. Back to the bus to the subway to the train to the trudge to return home, wrinkled and rusticated and perhaps still slightly damp. But we will be back.
Up the stairs to the porch. A glimmer of light? A darting shadow? There they are! The cats are waiting to welcome us home!