Off Campus With Connie: Art + Food = Friendship
[Well, except for that one year she didn’t talk to me after I invited a guy to a swim party in eighth grade because she had a crush on him, then proceeded to date him for the next four years.]
Before Steve, before the girls, it was Connie and I. When we were 21, we drove from Atlanta to California and back over the course of five weeks in my1976 maroon BMW 2002. We took Road Food by Jane and Michael Stern — I have the first edition; Mary Mac’s was in it — our paper map and plotted our journey with our minds and mouths.
We discovered blue corn on a Hopi indian reservation in New Mexico. We had a Southern feast at Mrs. Bromley’s in Clarendon, Texas. This is before roadside coffee, so we took a percolator in the car and brewed coffee in our hotel rooms. We made cassette tapes for the road. I still have them somewhere.
We loved California so much that we waited until the very last minute and drove from San Diego, where we were visiting my sister, to Atlanta in 2 days. We only stopped once for an hour in Texas. And why? Because we were determined to get back in time to watch the wedding of Charles and Diana.
Speaking of weddings, Connie got married in my backyard. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding. I’m godmother to her daughter, Charlotte, and she’s godmother to Quinn.
Connie and I have a mutual Belgian friend who told me about the tradition of getting a piece of silver for your godchild every year as a birthday and Christmas gift to build a collection for their wedding. I called Connie 13 years ago and said, Let’s do this for Charlotte and Quinn.
If you’re going to do silver, you have to go to Tiffany’s. And if you’re going to go to Tiffany’s, why not make a weekend out of it in New York City?
Quinn and I flew up, Connie and Charlotte took the bus up from Bethesda, Maryland, and each girl picked out a silver pattern. Just so happened that there was a Diane Arbusexhibit in town that weekend. Connie and I share a mutual love of her bizarre photographs, so we headed to Washington Square Park after having dim sum in Chinatown.
Connie had worked at a law firm in NYC and knew it well, but we walked all around Washington Square Park and couldn’t find the show. We finally gave up and went on, then later realized we’d missed it by 2 or 3 storefronts.
Me: Diane’s back. Want to go?
Connie: Oh yes.
Me: Guess what?
Me: Double whammy. Brontë at the Morgan.
Besides road food and road trips, Connie and I are very much on the same page when it comes to art. In 1981, when we did the cross-country trip, the Phillips Collection was touring America and we saw it at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco. She and I are the same type of museum go-er: We read everything on the wall. I’ll call across the hall to her, she’ll come over and we’ll discuss shading and symbolism. We lose all track of time.
We got to the hotel at the same time on Thursday, threw our bags in the room, bought some Belgian fries from a street vendor and ate them as we walked to the Morgan. Phenomenal exhibit. Charlotte’s original handwriting. The whole story of the sisters and their brother. Afterwards, we recharged with a latte then saw an exhibit of Jean Dubuffet’s drawings. I had no idea the guts of that man’s artistry.
We had an amazing dinner at Estela, one of New York City’s best restaurants. Still thinking about that salad of celery, meyer lemon and mint. The next morning we slept in a bit and lounged around the hotel room, watching Michael Moore talking about the election on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Neither of us ever get to lie around, so we reveled in it a bit.
After grabbing a slice of pizza in Times Square at Patzeria Pizza, one of Connie’s favorite places, we got on a bus — I’d never ridden a bus in NYC before — and headed to the Met Breuer. Thirteen years after just missing a Diane Arbus show, we finally made it to another. We took our time, got lattes, a cookie and sticky bun right out of the oven at a place called Flora. At the counter, I saw a business card for Estela and asked the barista about it. She said they’re Estela’s sister restaurant. Small, delicious world.
Having been re-caffeinated, we went upstairs to the Arbus exhibit. It focused on her earlier works, which weren’t our favorite. As we headed up to the Klee exhibit, we decided to pop our heads into the Kerry James Marshall exhibit. Whoa. I don’t know how I’ve missed any information about his man, but I’m going to get books and drink him in. I was so blown away, I’m headed straight back there when I’m in NYC next month. With a stop at Flora, of course.
We saw the Klee as well, and there were some pieces we loved, but we were cooked. Done. It was like having the best meal of your life and there weren’t enough superlatives to describe it.
So we window shopped down Madison Avenue and caught a bus downtown to Italienne, a new restaurant I’d just read about in Time Out New York. It’s from two alum of Frasca, a Boulder restaurant we visited the week it opened when we dropped Kara off at college.
[Technically we walked into a restaurant, ordered a drink and didn’t realize we were in the wrong place until the bartender handed us an Indian menu.
The next morning, we hit the Union Square Greenmarket, bought apples and cheese, then went downtown and had dim sum in one of those massive halls which seats 1,000 people. It was good, not great.
We walked back up Broadway and over to Washington Square Park, where we’d first tried to see the Arbus exhibit 13 years ago. Full circle.
My return flight touched down at 5:30 p.m. and by 6:15 I was eating wood-fired pizza out of a food truck at the first ever in-person meeting of the AIR Serenbe advisory board.
But that is a story for another day. Circle back next week for it and my mother’s sweet roll recipe.