Back to Basics, Shirley Style

It’s weird. I don’t think of myself as all that high maintenance, but when I break it down, I have some pretty high class tastes. Guess that’s why I’m a diehard New Yorker.

That said, I can be happy with very simple things too. Today was a perfect mixture of the two.

I spent the sunny, unseasonably warm day traipsing around Madison Square Park. Squirrels kept running really close to me, like they were challenging me to a race. Or maybe they were chipmunks. What’s the difference again?

After nature scared me back indoors, I spent hours writing at Birch Coffee inside the Gershwin Hotel. I’ve loved the place for years, and keep rediscovering it under different circumstances. About 5 or 6 years ago, I was walking by the hotel and heard strains of jazz and light laughter pouring out its doors. As I peeped in a window, a doorman came out. I thought he was going to scold me for smudging up the window, but he just wanted to encourage me to go inside to enjoy the show up close. “What, free?” said the country-bumpkin Shirley. It was, indeed. I stepped into the warmly lit lobby, settled into a spaceship shaped mod red couch, and soaked up the live jazz trio. I’d somehow wandered into a Fitzgerald novel with an updated design scheme.

Years later, when I was working in Union Square, my friend told me he was leading a meditation class in the newly opened Birch Coffee. “What, free?” I asked in my usual tactful manner. He nodded yes in a non-judgmental namaste kinda way. As I bought my gigantic cup of caffeine for meditation (yup), memories of that hazy jazz night came back to me. I had tried to find my way back but could never find the mysterious hotel again, so it was an electric thrill when I realized I was finally back.

Since then, I’ve sought out both the hotel and cafe when I’ve needed safe haven for reading, writing, and caffeine replenishment.

After a solid writing day there, a wonderfully talented friend whisked me away for wine and tapas at Pipa. We shared a bottle of yummy dry white (it’s called Whatever the Waiter Said, I highly recommend it), albondigas, pulpo gallego, and bolas de queso. Poor waiter. I insisted on ordering in my horrible Spanish accent, but the food itself was amazing and so was the company.

Here’s to a day of creature comforts, both humble and high!

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