The Brooklyn Pilgrimages, Day 1


Something told me I should go to this book show. I had only gone to the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Show once before. It was in 2015. That was a magical trip and a magical time.

Magic…I suppose one should be grateful when you are graced with it and not be too disappointed when it goes away even if it is unlikely to ever happen again.

Now in early September 2018, I’m bumping along the train tracks aboard Amtrak’s Northeast Regional. Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Trenton, Newark to Penn Station Manhattan.

The train frequently sways left and right. I sit upon a thick cushioned seat that still transmits the rumbling of the carriage up my spine. The steel wheels occasionally squeal or screech when they rub the tracks the wrong way. There’s always noise and motion. It is hard to type upon the laptop with all the extra and unpredictable moving. My body goes up, down, left, right, forward, backward—while my hands attempt to stay upon the keyboard or journal page.

This is only my second train trip to Manhattan in this Millennium. I’ve been to the City dozens of times since 2000. I always felt driving was preferable. I liked the control and the ability to stop at interesting places on the way there or back. The train is like being on a string or a leash. It is a one-dimensional journey. But I can rest, keep up with emails, daydream and write. I’ll be deposited in the heart of Manhattan in 3 1/2 hours.

I arrived at the track at the BWI station with a minute to spare. Really! Some misadventure, a near disastrous stop for quick carryout coffee and surprising early morning traffic caused me to nearly miss the train. I’m not sure what Amtrak does when this happens, but I wasn’t in the mood to find out. Plus the waiting room there is reminiscent of the worst bus station you could think of.

So, as the train rolled in I walked onto the platform. I picked the Quiet Car. I don’t want to talk or be spoken to. I don’t want to overhear other passengers’ phone conversations or listen to their music.

I wrote a bit in my journal and scratched out some verse on a yellow legal pad. But because of all the train’s motions, I mostly messed around with my phone and Instagram and the internet. I do that too much. It is so often just wasted time.

When I heard Newark announced, I began to prepare for the day ahead. The train soon dipped under the Hudson River. It emerged from that dark tunnel into the black-sooted walls below Penn Station. Light from above seeps down here and there, and the apocalyptic underground space is faintly illuminated. It is NOT a place one would want to tour. We ground to a halt next to Platform 12 South. Most of the passengers clambered out and jostled for position to get funneled on to the escalator. The escalator takes you up into the bright light of the station. Unlike Grand Central, Penn Station has no personality. When its grand Beaux Art predecessor was demolished in the 1960s, the space given to the passengers is a “low-ceilinged ‘catacomb’ lacking charm.” (Wikipedia) It’s a shame because supposedly 650,000 people a day pass through that space. It could be inspiring rather than depressing.

Penn Station

A second escalator took me up to the sidewalk and daylight. My senses were immediately bombarded with smells and early September heat and the cacophony of late morning on a Friday in Manhattan.

I always wondered about those people rolling suitcases up and down the streets and avenues in the City. Now I was one of them. I’d read books about the Algonquin Hotel. I love places that have literary tie-ins. I had made a reservation for two nights. So, I rattled up 7th Avenue with my suitcase bumping behind me like Pooh behind Christopher Robin. My progress was met with many sensory assaults. A couple times or more each block, I passed through an invisible cloud of putridity or delightful culinary. Voices, cars, buses, construction machinery all played their own tunes. Faces exotic, delightful, dread, stunning, sad, elated, in love, beyond hope or despair all streamed past me right and left. Pedestrians on the busy sidewalks flowed like fish on a two-dimensional plane. Somehow we all kept moving, and with occasional zigs and zags, we somehow never careened into one another. From 33rd up to 41st. At 41st I crossed 7th over to 6th where Bryant Park begins on the northeast corner. I continued on 41st half a block and jaywalked to the walkway directly behind the New York Public Library’s backside. I passed the roundish statue of Gertrude.

Stein Statue

Whenever I pass by her, I whisper: “A rose is a rose is a rose…” And I continue, “…is a rose is a rose…” until I’m out of her reach and something else captures my attention.

Passing the statue of William Cullen Bryant, I nod to him and commiserate that although his writings are largely forgotten, he did get a cool park named for him.

At 42nd I turned right and proceeded to the side entrance of the NYPL.


Well, speaking of Pooh—the original stuffed toys are on display there. I hadn’t seen them since their repair a few years back. Pooh needed to have his butt stuffing firmed up and resewn. Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga also required some restoration. It is only a couple minute side trip. So I bumped up the stone steps and got my bag inspected and checked by the guard inside the door. The iconic toys are in a large plexiglass box in an open children’s reading room lined with modern kids books wrapped in shiny clear plastic Brodarts dust jacket protectors. Sadly each beautiful children’s’ book is defaced with library stickers on their spines. Can’t be helped I suppose.

I stepped into the little temple created for them and moved toward their display. There’s a large mural of the “100 Aker Wood” as a backdrop to the tableau. I sighed at the evocation of the books read to me by my parents and the thousands of copies that have passed through my hands over the years. Objects into books into magic into icons into timelessness, and here I am only a couple feet away from the “caged” wild animals that inspired all those things.


My pilgrimage was over in a few minutes. I’d spent time here plenty often.

Back out to 42nd, I turned right and was soon facing 5th Avenue’s southbound bustle. I headed north two blocks to 44th and turned left. The Algonquin rose on the north side of the street 3/4 of a block away.


Then I was inside the quaint slightly cramped lobby. It is lovely and lovingly maintained. I stepped to the check-in desk, and there was the legendary Hamlet the VIII (a.k.a. The Algonquin Cat) with his paws crossed lying atop it. His station is often atop the raised front end of the check-in counter where the surface is nearly at eye level.

Algonquin Cat

He glanced at me with a casual air, rose and hopped down to the floor behind the counter.

Biblioicon after icon after icon… and I’d only been in the city for minutes.

It was just past 11 am, and I doubted there’d be a room ready. But it doesn’t hurt to ask, and I was certain they could at least check my baggage, so I’d be free to begin my next mission.

“Let me check.” The receptionist leaned forward a bit, and I could hear his fingers rattling numbers and letters on a keyboard. He straightened and smiled. He leaned forward again and quickly scribbled something, then straightened and laid a 2×3 inch paperboard folder before me. I signed a receipt while he explained the amenities.

Hamlet had reappeared on the counter, and I gave the back of his head and neck a gentle stroke. He pushed back against my hand and gave a look not of gratification but of royal expectation fulfilled.

“Yes. You may adore me.”

The elevators were only a couple paces away, and as I stepped to them, I looked toward the big room. The front was a lobby. The back was the dining room. Showcased by a spotlight was the actual Algonquin Round Table. The worn wood glowed angelically upon it. Behind and looking down on it was a bright painting of the Vicious Circle itself. I smiled at the thought of all the literary banter, carping, snarking and wit that took place around that large disk. It must be about 10 feet in diameter. All the more difficult to get at one another’s throats. The elevator arrived with a little chime. The old oak door slid opened, and I stepped in. The little box rattled a bit as it ascended. It stopped at the 10th floor, and I stepped out into a narrow hallway. There was lots of near black oak wood trim on the walls and around the room doors. The walls and doors were adorned with reproductions of New Yorker cartoons (the concept of the New Yorker magazine was founded by the literary group in this hotel) and iconic scenes of the hotel or NYC scenes and personages. Everything about the hotel was old school. It was like being in a time capsule. I expected big old fat Alexander Woollcott to waddle out from a room in a pin stripe suit and head down for lunch…or to the bar.

My room was 1008. One touch of modern technology was the plastic key card which when placed next to a black plastic disk below the door knob, caused a little green light to flash and the locking mechanism to disengage with a “click.”

I stepped inside and was…disappointed. The room felt like a closet. It was dominated by a big bed. To get anywhere, you had to sidle around it. Then I laughed. Only in Manhattan would a tiny odd shaped box of a roomlet cost hundreds of dollars a night. But I was here for the history and books and maybe, I thought, something else. I am looking for something. This is my fourth trip to the city in 2018. My first, to the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair in February resulted in some mysterious book happenings. There is something I need to find here. Maybe multiple things that will lead to…something important, I believe.

I flopped onto the bed with its tight expanse of white linen. I looked up at the ceiling and wondered how many other eyes had gazed upon it since 1902. I tried some mental math. I used to be good at that before calculators became common.

“Let’s see,” I thought. “100 years with a conservative occupancy of 300 nights per year. 30,000. Often with more than one guest in the room. 45,000? Add 16 years more to get to 2018. 7000? Wow. Over 50,000 guests have shared this room?”

It seemed even smaller now!

I interrupted my brief reverie. I had places to go. Things to see.

Back out into the hall and down. Hamlet was atop the counter. When he saw me, he cocked his head, stretched and jumped to the floor behind. It was as if he felt he had done his duty with this particular guest. Today there’d be others he would greet and perhaps permit to touch him.

I rarely use the subway. I’d much rather walk and walk…and walk. Manhattan’s energy seems to rise from the sidewalks. It invigorates me. Am I walking on an endless human energy battery? 50 blocks is nothing. There’s always something to see—up, down, left, right, before and behind. A building that is nondescript at street level (because the current storefront is modern, utilitarian and glitzy) may have glorious shapes and adornments above. If it is a very long distance or it’s raining or I’m in a hurry, I may flag down a cab. But this journey called me to Brooklyn. Walking to Brooklyn from Midtown would a bit much according to the map I had studied. It’s about 11 miles to my first destination. This was a Friday nearing noon. A cab ride would take forever and cost a fortune.

Let me interject here, Thursday had been a monster workday. First of all, it was a getaway day. My Amtrak reservation was for 7:30 am Friday. The BWI station is about an hour from the warehouse. Also, I was bringing Merry & Pippin (my 2 Jack Russells) in to let the “warehouse” babysit them for the weekend. The building is about 3 acres and I feel better letting them have the run of it than a pen in a dog kennel. (Humans would be involved in their care there each day as well.) But I was all set. It would just be a matter of waking at 4 am, making sure I had everything I needed for the trip, loading M&P into the car, bumping down the mountain to Tilco, opening up the warehouse early, catching up on some business, making assignments for people in my absence…and then leaving Frederick with enough time to get to Amtrak in Linthicum Maryland, park in the parking deck, walk to the station and meet the train. No problem. I could tie up any loose ends necessary on Thursday.

“Clif’s not in today,” was my greeting when I arrived first thing Thursday morning.

Clif has been warehouse manager here forever. Did he start in 1990? I think so. He gets things done in an automatic way. He tends to know what needs to be done before anyone has to ask. His longtime assistant Steve had left in the summer. Steve’s replacement had just started back to school. He was now only available Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So this particular Thursday, the warehouse help replacements would be rookies pulled from other duties in the warehouse—like shipping, pulling or data entry…and I would need to be Clif-for-a-Day.

Ok. I can do this. I’ve done it plenty of times before. Hell, we moved this entire warehouse just a few years ago.

Then I worried: “What if he is still out tomorrow? Friday.”

Fridays are monster days here. We make visits to all 3 brick and mortar stores. We place fresh empty vans at Gaithersburg and Hagerstown. We take the big 24-foot box truck to the Frederick store. We do this to deliver weekend supplies and fresh stock to each store and also so they have an empty vehicle to load all the books we buy from people over the weekend. Clif and I are currently the only ones here qualified to drive the box truck. No Clif Friday = no truck Friday.

Ok. I can do this.

So after Thursday morning’s surprise absence, I hit the ground running—well, walking fast. I’ve always enjoyed the physical aspects of warehouse bookselling. Unloading vehicles, moving pallets, keeping book sorters and data entry stations supplied, pulling full Gaylords of paper or plastic recycling and coordinating the untrained warehouse helpers that would be delegated to me.

This in addition to my regular duties as well as my “getaway” plans.

Ok. I can do this.

And I did. But by the end of the day my thighs were burning from pulling dozens of thousand pound pallets here and there around the massive warehouse with a manual pallet jack.

Pallet Jack

I had also driven the big truck to the Frederick store and helped unload the weekend’s supplies and 75 or so boxes of books and stuff to be priced and stocked. The level of the truck’s tailgate is about 5 feet high, so there was plenty of climbing involved.

So the day finally ended.

“Are ye returning to New York City anytime soon?”

Ah, my Book Muse. Am I rambling a bit?

“I am able to keep track—thus far—I think.”

I’ll get back to the Big Apple quickly. I just want to set…

“Set the stage to be sure. So you had a busy Thursday, I gather?”

I did. It was not at all what I…

“And you went home when day was done, correct?”

Ummm, yes…

“And you had to prepare for a very early morning and a busy weekend?”


“So what did you do when you got home? Wine or whine?”

Well, a bit. Wait! How are you spelling that? With an “h”?


So the day ended. I was tired sore frazzled and a little wired from all the sensory overload. I tried to go to bed early, but my nerves kept me awake. I don’t recall sleeping at all. I certainly noted the hours 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, 4.

But I made it to the train and to the City.

So, back to the desk at the Algonquin. Walking to Brooklyn was out of the question. It would take a couple hours. The noonday traffic would make a taxi ride almost as slow, and the cost would be astronomical. I asked the concierge to find and explain the best route to the Brooklyn Art Museum via the subway. I’d always wanted to go there. And this visit there seemed to be a reason drawing me there. The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair didn’t start until Saturday, so I could devote the entire day to the mysteries of Brooklyn.

I’d rarely taken the subway, so I had the concierge explain the printout to me twice. There were combinations of letters and numbers and directions I needed follow. I knew if I went the wrong direction, I could end up in the Bronx or out on Long Island.

Back out onto 44th. I headed west until I found the green globe atop the short poles that marked where the subway steps descend under the street. It was another bumpy swaying rattly trip. But I was able to decipher the hieroglyphs and squint at the map on the wall of the train behind a fellow passenger’s head. When we crossed the East River, the tracks were especially rough, but I soon emerged from underground into the sun of Brooklyn. The nearest stop on this line was still about a mile away from the museum, so I set up the iPhone to get me there “Walking.” The woman in the phone guided me well. I was the little blue dot moving down the road following the blue line she had created for me. I passed a rich array of ethnic shops and restaurants. There were some interesting niche stores. I recall a chess store and a unicorn shop. It was relatively cool, so the walk was doubly pleasant.

Soon I saw the Soldiers and Sailors Arch with its bronze tableau atop it, and I knew I was close. It a massive thing, and I guess perhaps the United States’ Arc de Triomphe. It is situated in a large grassy oval park named the Grand Army Plaza. Traffic whizzes all about and through it.

Grand Army Plaza

Why did the bookseller cross that road? To get to the broad facade of the Brooklyn Library.

I dodged traffic, and when I was able to look up, I was rewarded with the inscription engraved upon its wall.

Brooklyn Library Inscription
“Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts and noble things that tower above the tide, the magic word that winged wonder starts, the garnered wisdom that never dies.” (Roscoe C. Brown)

Ah, Wonder…I am always pleased when “wonder” and “books” are put together.

Above the entrance are gilded embossed images from famous books. I was able to recognize many, but a few have me puzzled. How many can you identify?

Brooklyn Library Door

I made a brisk walk through inside, but there was nothing for me. Just lots of library books and lots of readers and librarians. (Nothing wrong with that though—just not my “book thing.”)

Back outside, I followed the Eastern Parkway along Prospect Park until I arrived at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I’d always wanted to visit the Egyptian galleries there. My departed friend Barbara Mertz (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels) had told how wonderful it was. Why had I not gone before? Brooklyn just seems so far.

The Egyptian galleries were stunning. It is always fun to see things you’ve never seen before. How the Egyptians were able to capture so much for so many generations, I don’t know. Alien involvement? There were a number of interesting parchments including this fragment form the Book of the Dead.

Book of the Dead

But as stunning as everything was, I didn’t see whatever it was I was looking for. Or if I did, maybe it was planted in my subconscious. Something told me it was important that I go there and look at everything. And I did. It is a sprawling multistory building. It is the equal in many ways of other great city art and history museums.

The afternoon was aging, but I felt I needed to race through the adjacent Botanic Gardens. Early September is often a sad season for gardens. They are spent, and their flaming fall death has not yet begun its color palette. I walked past a long row of trees, stopped and reversed direction. I was standing before a beautiful European Beech. I greeted it, but it did not reply. I did step to it and gently lay my hand on its smooth gray trunk.


I hurried to the greenhouses. I knew I had missed the blooming of the rare giant Corpse Flower by a couple months but I still wanted to see what the multistage plant was up to. According to the instruction placard before it, its current incarnation is botanically a single “leaf.” On a green fleshy stalk about 6 feet tall are some leaflets—it is one giant “leaf.”

Nature is infinitely amazing.

I had one more stop planned for my Friday in Brooklyn. Since I was in the neighborhood, I felt I should make a pilgrimage to Talas—a Mecca of sorts for bookbinding supplies. I had an hour plus to get there before its closing time at 5:30.

I walked back to the Plaza figuring it was the busiest intersection and the most likely place to catch a cab. I stationed myself at an intersection. I wonder if I was close to where the Death-O-Meter once stood.*

* “The area around the Arch forms the largest and busiest traffic circle in Brooklyn, being the convergence of Flatbush Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Eastern Parkway, Prospect Park West, and Union Street. In 1927, Brooklyn’s ‘Death-O-Meter,’ a sign admonishing drivers to ‘Slow Up’ and displaying a continually updated tally of traffic accident deaths in the borough, was installed.” — Wikipedia

There is a quite famous book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A signed first edition is currently offered by a rare book dealer for $12,000.00. I knew about a good deal about that once very popular novel.

What I didn’t know was You Can’t Get a Cab in Brooklyn. At least around 4pm on a Friday. I stood on the street near the Grand Army Plaza. Cars and trucks would whiz around the oval and past me. When a stoplight changed further down, everything stopped before me. The occasional cab amongst the thousands of vehicles flowing past me uniformly ignored my right arm gently circling above my head. Some had passengers. Many were empty. Was 4 pm when the taxis’ shift changed; when all cabbies went back to their station to pass of their vehicle to next driver?

I don’t know. I never got a cab. I checked my phone. Talas was a very long complex route away.

If I walked, I would not get there before it closed.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I was going to give up on this. The narrative didn’t excite me. There’s still a lot left to the Brooklyn weekend. A couple things took my spirit away last night. The weekly blogs have had a good run. Perhaps it is time to let them lapse.

But I awoke at 4 am Friday—the due day for the story. My mind was full of unhappy things. I could not go back to sleep. I turned on the outside light. The switch I can reach from my bed. I looked out the window. Wisps of fog wafted up the mountainside. They reflected in the light just outside. Patches floated by like specters. So odd. I turned off the light. It was black outside. No stars above. No lights twinkled out in the valley below. My world was blanketed in blackness. I turned on the bedside lamp and could sense as much as see the transparent shrouds float along my windows—illuminated from within. I can see some nearby objects through the spirits—branches and tree trunks—within the weak scope of the lamplight cast out my bedroom windows. I presume these things were crawling on every side and over the roof of the house. Could they come down the chimney? The dampers were shut. No wood fires yet this season. Are they simply migrating up along the mountainside staying low to the ground until they run into an obstacle they must rise above or go around? When they reach the mountaintop, will they continue down the other side or will they rise into the sky? Dawn would come in an hour or so. But there would be no sun. The next few days will only become gray for the day and then become black again the dimmed sun sets.

There is nothing to do but write.

No day is completely bad if I have written something.

Well, I’ll see if I can finish this off. “Once more into the breech.”

I had once been taught how to summon an Uber car. I tried it a few times. One trip was a little creepy, and I’d decided my feet or cabs were better alternatives. But this was becoming desperate. If I didn’t finish my day’s mission to get to maybe the biggest bookbinding enterprise in the world, would I ever get back to it? Plus I “needed” to go there. Like a Station of the Cross in my lifelong book journey, Talas was a necessary stop to pay obeisance.

I looked on my iPhone, and the Uber app was still there. I clicked on it and found the procedure to summon a ride. When I got to the final step, it rejected my request with no explanation. I did this several times while cars flowed past or came to stop in fresh different tableaux from the one created by the distant traffic light downstream a few moments before. I would also look up frequently to see if there was a yellow or green cab coming my way. I finally figured out my credit card info had an old expiration date. I changed that and tried again. There appeared to be only one Uber trolling about within the borders of the map on my screen. I clicked on that, and my ride lit up. “Jong” was on his way! But then he wasn’t. His silver Honda Odyssey wasn’t moving. Was he stuck in traffic? He was only 4 or 5 blocks away. Should I walk to him? Meanwhile I kept looking for a cab. My right arm rising and falling in infrequent but total failure. Would Uber blackball me if I got a cab and stood Jong up? The glowing dot on my phone that was Jong did not move. Neither did the dot that was me. Eventually he slowly turned a corner and then … went in the wrong direction! He made turn after turn. His dot barely creeping closer to mine. Then another dot appeared on the screen “Kate.” “Kate” was a few blocks away from me. Jong started heading for her! What was going on? Had I been stood up? I saw Jong’s dot intersect with Kate’s, and then her dot disappeared. But Jong then turned toward me and moved like molasses in my direction.

Well, eventually he got to my corner. A woman was in the back seat. I presume it was Kate. We didn’t speak. Jong repeated my destination address in a very thick accent. I affirmed it. He put it onto the iPad with a Brooklyn map on its screen propped on his dashboard. And then we took off—for about 25 feet until all the traffic stopped again.

What is the kid’s game where everybody moves about the room and then freezes in place when the music stops?

I politely quipped to Jong: “Not many Ubers around today, eh?”

He stared forward and said not a word. Nor did he ever speak except to say “Thank you” when I got out. He had driven us through Williamsburg—a section of Brooklyn that has a large Hasidic Jewish population. Men and boys were everywhere. All wore black hats and black coats and white shirts. Many had long ringlets twirling down their cheeks in front of each ear. The bright yellow school buses were all lettered in Hebrew.

Jong stopped in front of a series of somewhat decrepit warehouses and motioned with his arm that I should get out. Could this be it? Or had some miscommunication made him dump me out in an industrial wasteland? I exited the Honda and thanked him. I don’t know what ever became of Kate.

I stepped to the sidewalk and looked for street numbers. I found one that was the next number away from the one I wanted. One of the warehouse fronts on either side must be it. I looked at both, and then I saw high up on the wall the large but subtle toned letters Talas.

Talas Sign

I stepped to the door and read the instructions. I typed three numbers on to a keypad which I guess rang something inside. A domed glass fixture 10 feet above indicated I was on camera. It took a couple tries, but I heard a clunk on the front door, and I was able to pull it open. Directions in the bare concrete entry way told me I should go upstairs to the “Showroom.” I trudged up the metal and concrete stairs and then pulled on the massive door on the second floor. Warm light poured out, and I entered into a magical world. Like the land of Lothlorien in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, this space was vastly different from its depressing surroundings. I wandered through and saw displays of tools and papers and binding cloth. It was all overwhelming and perhaps deserves a story unto itself.

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It has been many, many years since I was taught bookbinding. I knew the meaning and use of much of what they offered. Other exotic items I inquired about.

“What kind of leather is that?”

“Stingray hide.”

Who knew?

While I doubt I’ll ever bind book a book again, I thought it important to my book life’s narrative (and some other niggling narrative brewing inside me) to visit and remind myself how fine books are put together. It was getting close to their closing time. I decided to buy a souvenir and to contribute a little to this worthy cause. They had a display of engraved brass finishing tools behind glass in a cabinet. They are created for adding gilt decorations to leather or cloth bindings. I chose an insect design—reminiscent of a Saturniidae moth in fond memory of an old friend whose symbol that is.

Binding Tools

Time to go.

“What’s the best way to get back to Manhattan?” I asked the young man who had been helping me.

“Take the L Train East.” The bookbinder then gave me directions to the nearest station. “Look for green ball and make sure you go down the steps for the eastbound train.”

I bid a fond adieu to Talas, and its hive of craftsmen and women. Though we were all book people, they didn’t know me from Adam. My questions were amateurish, but they were patient and congenial.

Down the steps and out into the near slummy streets littered with broken things and trash. I stepped around a little group of busted fans. Had someone tossed them out of a window from above? I followed the directions, and in a half-mile or so, I saw the two green globes atop short pillars guiding me to the underground train.

I boarded the train and got the “L” out of Brooklyn.

I wonder how many “steps” I’d done that day. I should be totally burnt out—toast. But, like I said, the energy of the “City” seems to add charge to my body, mind and spirit with each step.

Under the East River and then up into Manhattan. I got off on 8th Avenue. I switched to the “A” train and got off on 42nd Street. Soon I was reentering the Algonquin. Hamlet was not to be seen.

I was ready for a drink. I went to the famous Blue Bar. It is aptly named. The place adorned with blue light. I ordered a Gin Gibson—Up—Very Dry. The brand of gin offered was Dorothy Parker Gin. How appropriate.

Blue Bar Gin Gibson

The potion flowed though my veins, and the edge came off. I enjoyed the heritage and the professionalism and the spirit (and spirits) of the iconic lounge adjacent and connected to the lobby and dining room. I wondered how many famous, infamous and anonymous people like me had been in that room sipping drinks and chatting and being part of the scene.

Then I felt I should get something to eat. I carried my second Gibson through the portal and into the dining room. I was greeted and shown a table. The place was virtually empty. I’m pretty shy, but I figured why not ask?

“Could I possibly dine at the Round Table? If a large group comes in, I’ll be glad to move.”

Algonquin Round Table

The waiter in his white linen jacket smiled knowingly and led me there. He pulled out a chair and seated me directly below the painting. I had a delightful meal surrounded by the ghosts of the Vicious Circle. In my reverie colored by gin and thousands of “steps” and all the amazing sensory impressions I’d had, I wished I could be witty and a writer and a member of a literary club (even a snarky back-biting egotistical cheapskate group like the Algonquin Round Table.)

Pan Seared Salmon
This is Pan Seared Salmon with cannellini beans, wild mushroom ragu, English pea coulis, black beans, roasted tomatoes, baby vegetables, house-made pico de gallo.

I lingered quite a while. No one needed the Round Table. I eschewed dessert. Ordered a third Gibson. When I’d finished that, I settled up and made my way up to my lonely quirky little room. I’m pretty sure I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I wish I could remember the dreams I had. If the day’s events influenced them at all, they were likely magically.

I’d had a pretty intense bookish day and tomorrow would be a “book day” as well.

End Day 1. Day 2 to be continued next week.

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