- Take the "A" Train
What am I doing on New York City's "A" train at eleven o'clock on a Tuesday night, once again making the hour-long journey back from her place to mine at my age? Which is sixty. I feel homeless, disheveled, half-asleep, depleted, and grungy. I'm well on my way to having to shave. I've gotten undressed at her place, and dressed again, and soon I'll get undressed at my place again. With so much undressing and dressing, I feel like a runway model—if a runway model could weigh 180 pounds, have a thirty-five-inch waist and a receding hairline. She gave me a great dinner, as she always does. She's a fantastic cook, superb, really. She has the touch, the skill. She knows food, understands it, and eating her dinners is sublime.
God knows, I can stand a good meal. I manage to do well enough by my fourteen-year-old daughter when she stays with me. But the kitchen in my apartment is small, nearly as small as the kitchen of my first New York apartment thirty years ago—or maybe it's smaller. Yes, it's smaller. When I was in my twenties during those early Manhattan years, cooking in a small kitchen was an adventure, and I rose to the challenge. I didn't mind the half-oven above the burners or the gymnast-like maneuvers I had to make to reach a pot if there were two of us in the kitchen. I remember making meals my girlfriend loved and that guests loved: cassoulet, soul food from [End Page 136] my Virginia roots, coq au vin, and the tarte au pomme I learned to make at a French restaurant where I'd worked once.
But the kitchen I now possess at age sixty I do not consider an adventure. I just consider it small. So, when my daughter is not here, I tend not to cook much of anything. I'm not at the Dinty Moore stew stage yet, but I'm probably closer than I would like to think. This is one reason why I love eating at her place in Tribeca. Oh, the things she makes! The most unusual and scintillating soups, for example.
"What's that taste?" I ask her, my mouth loving it, but curious. This is a cold, complex soup.
"Guess," she says.
It's a puree, so no help from the texture. All vegetables, I'm pretty sure. Color: some subtle, pale hue of green. It's more than three ingredients, I suspect.
"No. Guess again."
I thought I was pretty good at this.
"I … can't. I give up."
"Oh—brilliant!" I find it there on my tongue: watercress, of course.
She has some artisan bread and a fine white wine, cool, and exuding character. Her table is long and wooden, and she has several candles that flicker in the summer twilight. It's simple, and it's grand. We're eating in her small but light-filled apartment in Tribeca, one of the neighborhoods of New York I love the most. It's an old part of the city, with massive brick warehouses upon which light plays in so many delicious ways. And there are still cobblestoned streets! You feel the human hand in this neighborhood. One of her walls is covered in books, mostly art books, because she works as an art critic for a very good magazine. She's about my age, from another country, has been here for years, speaks idiomatic English at this point, but still has the hauteur of being European. There is a sense she gives off that Europeans are better than Americans. I don't try to dissuade her of that notion since it obviously helps to sustain her, like being born in Connecticut still sustains some Americans. [End Page 137]
She's a very lively, funny, smart woman. I feel lucky to have found her. Yes, it was on the Internet. We bantered back and forth and finally arranged to meet. That first time was a Saturday afternoon, and it...