I did something this afternoon that I don't generally do. I took the bus to meet a friend for lunch.
Usually, as New Yorkers, we are so terribly busy, or so profligate, that we jump on the train or take a cab. Today being a beautiful Spring day, I took the Second Avenue Select bus to the 34th Street crosstown.
Heading downtown I took a seat next to a woman of a certain age. I took my book out of my bag, but after a few blocks of traffic, I couldn't help but remarking about the book she was reading.
"You don't see many people reading "The Vicar of Wakefield," I said. "The Vicar of Wakefield," by Oliver Goldsmith was first published in 1766. As such it's regarded as one of our language's first novels.
She said, cautiously of course, "I haven't read it for years. I found it in a little used book store on the Upper West Side. It drives me crazy, though, that it's been underlined." She showed me the underlining and the 79-cent sticker on the beaten front cover.
She continued, "Do you know many used bookstores?"
"Well, the famous one, of course, is the Strand on 12th and Broadway. 18 miles of books is what they say and I believe them."
"Oh I never go down there," she pished.
"Well, there's something called abebooks which aggregates hundreds or thousands of used bookstores. I'm sure you could find a clean 'Vicar.'"
I showed her the book I was reading by a City University Sociology professor who decided to walk all 6,000 miles of streets in all five boroughs of New York. It's called "The New York Nobody Knows."
"Does it have a lot on Yorkville?" she asked.
I laughed. "I live there, too," I said. "I think the author, like me, thinks it's New York's most-boring neighborhood. He's barely mentioned it."
That set her off a bit. She was clearly a lover of the place. "Well there's Schaller and Weber, and Glasers, and the Old Hiedelburg," she said, thinking of an era when the term Yorkville was interchangeable with "Germantown."
"Remember 'Ideal Coffee Shop,'" I asked, my mouth watering at the thought of weisswurst and red cabbage.
"Oh, and Elk Candy Store and their marzipan." She had mentioned one of my daughter's favorite places. It too had closed.
"I had some goulash in the Old Hiedelburg the other day," she started, talking about one of Deutschland's last neighborhood stands.
"The last time I was there," I said "they had their Mexican waiters wearing Lederhosen."
At that she snorted. And we had both reached our stops. I crossed 34th Street, she continued walking west on the south side of the street. Uncharacteristically, I think, for someone in her 70s, she yelled at me from across the width of 34th.
"Mexicans in Lederhosen," she shouted. "You made my day."
Like I said, it was quite a day in New York.