Monthly Archives: March 2014


February 25, 2014


My Walkabout—Part III

Somehow I seem to have passed through a portal to another planet—perhaps another dimension entirely.  I stand in the middle of Times Square, slowly turning in circles, gazing up as thin, sexy models 8 stories tall walk toward me purposefully and all manner of goods are paraded around the square from screen to screen, building to building.  On the ground there are hawkers of wares and beggars and food vendors and painted people; even the Smithsonian is running a game show.  Traffic rushes by on all sides of this little plaza I wandered onto.  Horns honk, police whistles shriek, an ambulance roars by siren screaming.  People are laughing and shouting and talking and walking; high heeled boots clip clopping like the horses on the cobblestones 20 blocks north.  Two men spray painted like twin Statues of Liberty, one green the other silver, are passing out advertisements.  I watch another 8-story model parading her bajillion dollar ensemble for us all to marvel at and think of Lindsey and her thin, shabby coat and her dirty duffle bag and her tired face.

I try to play the Smithsonian game show and might have won except no one told me to tap the green key on the pad after selecting my answer so all my answers come up wrong.  The woman smiles and tells me to try again, but I decide I’ve had enough.  Dizzy from the giants on the buildings I head down 42nd Street for the Library.  There’s still time to wander through before it closes.

Next to the Library is Bryant Park and another skating rink filled with hundreds of people, all of them skating clockwise, around and around.  What would happen if someone fell?  Pile-up!

The Library reminds me a little of the St. Paul Library across from Rice Park back home.  Just bigger.  I wander in and find the children’s section immediately.  It is large; about the size of the entire main floor of my library in Duluth.  But I am surprised that it is not more colorful and inviting.  There are some posters, a lot of books, little tables and chairs.  That’s it.  Nothing about it makes me want to stay and get cozy in the corner with a stack of picture books or a new YA novel.

The hallways are spacious, the stairways grand.  I get lost and find myself returning to the same spot from 5 different directions and as many staircases.  I finally settle down in a little coffee shop to eat my dinner.  It’s still hot and delicious—something with rice and kale and mushrooms and other vegetables and a sweet and spicy chili sauce.  After I am sated I go in search, once again, for the famous reading room.  I pass a display about how the library was built.  Other displays tell about all the magnificent treasures stored there.  I pass incredible paintings and murals and finally see the reading room.  It is all very grand and old and antique.  Like a museum.

The library is about to close.  It is dark outside now.  I walk the two blocks to my hotel, stopping along the way to investigate Grand Central Terminal (Station).  The  last thrill of my walkabout:  standing in the great, cavernous main concourse, imagining what it might have been like 100 years ago when the current building was only a year old.

Finally, nearly five hours from when I left, I am in my hotel room.  It is quiet, warm, cozy.  I look down at the street still funneling cabs and cars and buses and people between the towering stone and brick and glass and steel buildings.  Tomorrow morning my conference begins.  I have the feeling I have entered a world from which there is no return.  My feet may walk again the snowy, frozen paths of the Northland next week–but they won’t be the same feet that walked there this morning.


February 25, 2014


My Walkabout—Part II

Panic gradually subsides and I continue up boring 5thAvenue.  I need to see some trees and dirt and 0526f-img_1135flowing water.  I finally come to the edge of Central Park. There are about two dozen horse-drawn carriages parked along the streets.

I see a number of them clopping through the park—a nice way to explore the park if you want to spare your feet the trek.


There isn’t any dirt because the park is blanketed in snow.  I climb up a hill and enjoy a bit of a view into the park.

72abb-img_1128The “flowing water” is of course, frozen.  There is a flock of ducks skating on it.

I spot the zoo.  I think that would be a nice place to visit.  It will cost me $12 and they are only open for another hour.  Do they have large cats or apes?  No?!  Oh, they have a snow leopard…and a petting zoo…a few monkeys…never mind—I’ll visit Como Zoo in St. Paul when I get home.  Como has apes and lions and tigers and bears…even zebras and giraffes!

I wander along the path to a large skating rink.  It’s difficult to see the ice under all the skaters.  I wander out of the park, back into the hub-bub.  I head down 7thAvenue—David said it will hook up with Broadway and take me to Times Square.  “You’ve GOT to see Times Square,” he said.

It’s nearly 4:00 and I’m hungry.  I finally spot a restaurant advertising healthy, organic food.  A young woman is sitting on the sidewalk reading a book with a sign on the ground next to her: “Stranded Need Help Any kindness is appreciated”.  I walk halfway down the block to an art shop where I wander around for about 10 minutes, wondering about the girl.  I walk back to the corner.  I’m nervous.

“Hello,” I say, and she looks up, surprised.  She smiles.  She has a tooth missing.  She looks tired.

“Have you eaten?” I ask.  She says she had some breakfast at the mission.

“What time was that?” I ask her.  She says 7:00.

“I’m going inside.  Would you like to join me?  I’ll buy you some lunch,” I say.

“Well, that’s okay,” she says.  “But…well…I AM really thirsty…if you wouldn’t mind…ahhh…”

“Come on,” I say.  “What’s your name?”

“Lindsey,” she says.  I shake her cold hand and tell her, “I’m Mary.”  We go inside.

She chooses a vitamin water as I start quizzing the counter boy whether the soup has gluten in it.  Lindsey asks me if I’d mind if she also got a yogurt granola parfait from the cooler.  I say that’s fine.  The boy doesn’t know if the soups have gluten in them, so I begin asking about the rice bowl salad.  Finally I am satisfied it is probably safe and I order.  Lindsey brings me napkins and a fork and then points out to me that up on the soup menu board there is a code system indicating whether they are GF or not.

I ask her why she is stranded and she tells me about her old grandmother who lives upstate.

“I have to go see her as often as I can, you know–to help her out.  But I can’t stay there.  She lives in the country and has no plumbing and it’s really hard,” she says.  She looks wistful.  I can see she loves her grandmother.

I ask her about work.

“I get work where I can.  It’s hard in this city, you know?  It’s easier further south, but I’m trying to get back to my grandmother—you know, with this hard winter and all.  Sometimes I get jobs handing out pamphlets but you have to be there by 5:00 in the morning so I miss breakfast and it’s really hard to stand out in the cold all day and bother people.  Sometimes I get jobs in a kitchen.  Doing this, (she shakes her money cup) is a last resort.”

“How do you eat?  Where do you sleep?” I ask.

“Oh, there’s a church over there where I can go and eat and sleep.  It’s warm there.”

My food is ready and I pay for it and hand her the bag with her water and yogurt parfait.  She thanks me and shakes my hand and wishes me well.  By the time I reach the door, she has disappeared into the crowd.

I don’t feel like eating in the cramped deli.  I carry my bag down the street.  I notice several theaters, and pass Carnegie Hall.  There is construction happening in front of it—something with the sidewalk?  It doesn’t look particularly grand.  I wonder where people park.  Or do they all take subways except for the rich who take taxi’s?

The sun has disappeared now…setting somewhere behind the skyline.  It is colder.  Ahead I see lights, huge lighted advertisements—most of them videos.  Times Square.


February 25, 2014


My Walkabout—Part I

Headed for my first conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) I have arrived in New York City.  On our descent into the city I spot The Stature of Liberty, so I know this is it.  So much water.  So many buildings.  So many BIG buildings!  It is like taking the entire city of Minnepolis/St. Paul and turning it into one big downtown filled with IDS buildings!  I suppose that is slightly exaggerated, but only slightly.  There are a lot of freakin’ big buildings every way I twist about to look!

We land and an hour later I’m bumping along in a crowded shuttle van headed for various hotels in Manhattan.  It is lunch hour in New York, but it looks like rush hour in Minneapolis coinciding with a Vikings home game.  I wonder what “rush hour” looks like here?

Finally, downtown Manhattan.  Except, from what I can see, it’s ALL downtown.  They divide it up by calling it Lower, Mid, and Upper.  My hotel is on 42ndStreet, part of the Grand Central Terminal.  I walk in and know my credit card is in trouble.  It is a beautiful hotel.  My room on the 27th floor is sleek and modern with the most comfortable king sized bed I’ve ever slept on!  My window looks up 42ndStreet.  I can barely see the sidewalk for the people.

Unpacked and settled; time to head out for a walkabout.  It’s 2:00; the sun is shining and it’s 40 some degrees…ABOVE zero.  What a change from Duluth!  I head down 42ndStreet to 5th Avenue and per the suggestion of the concierge, turn north on 5th  heading for Rockefeller Center and then Central Park.  But, oh…there on the corner of 42nd and 5th is the famous New York City Public Library!  Oh my…I’m all about books…but, if I go in there, I won’t make it to Central Park which is 20 blocks away.

I head for Central Park.  I don’t know if I’ve ever walked on a street amongst so many people.  I’ve been at events where there were hundreds of people all crowding to get in or out but the event was never just about walking down the street, and up the street, and across the street…block after block.

There is a very tall, very thin woman ahead of me wearing a black floppy hat, an ankle length black coat of some material that allows it to billow a bit in the breeze—and red high-heeled platform shoes!  Her naked foot must be nearly a foot off the ground!  Maybe she isn’t really as tall as she seems.

I pass an old woman in a ragged coat and dirty tennis shoes hunched on the sill of a storefront step.  Yes, I noticed the plastic cup of coins she was shaking.  I keep dodging the oncoming human traffic.  My heart is suddenly as heavy as a stone and demands to know why I’m not keeping my promise.  Sighing, I steer toward the wall and stop.  After watching Change for a Dollar and helping my husband with his film, Sawubona, I promised myself I would never ignore the homeless and the beggars.  I turn back.  I drop some coins in her cup and look into her eyes as she smiles up at me.  She has two teeth missing.  I pat her shoulder and hurry on my way wondering why I get so nervous—what is so difficult about taking time to acknowledge someone who struggles?

There are a cluster of tourists on one corner all pointing their iPhones and cameras upwards at a building.  I look.  It is old stone with carvings and statues.  The building is surrounded by taller buildings of glass and steel.

By the time I get near the Rockefeller Center I am bored.  Being bored in New York City 45 minutes into my first walkabout triggers an anxiety attack.  Surely I must have made an unfortunate decision to come this way.  Surely I am missing out on something far more interesting!  I don’t have my map.  I call my husband.

“Honey, all there are are stores and more stores and tall buildings and lots and lots of people and I still have 12 blocks to go before Central Park so should I have gone a different route and am I missing anything because this is my only chance and I’m f’ing hungry and there’s only stores and…what?  I’m on 49th.  And 5th.  NO, the Rockefeller Center isn’t kitty-corner from me.  There’s just another big building.  The sign says…NO, I told you, there’s no Rockefeller Center…What?  Yeah, there’s some trees half-way down the block…OKAY, I crossed the street already, I’m over there—here…okay, walk down this plaza between the buildings?  A skating rink?  The one in the movies?  Oh…yeah, here’s the skating rink.  THAT’S the one in the movies?  Nah…it’s small and surrounded completely by walls and buildings…I don’t even know how to get down there.  And there’s like a couple hundred people skating.  Oh, what?  This is the Rockefeller Center?  What’s the big deal?  It’s boring…the skating rink looks pretty different in the photos and the movies…geesh!  So now what?  …okay… Do I keep going up to Central Park?  I know…I KNOW…I won’t have much time…but, oh hell.  I’ll figure it out.  Thanks…Bye.”