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The Only Living Boy in New York

September 19, 2013



I am by no means an expert on New York City, but here are some passing reflections on our recent trip there:

Transportation: Regularly using public transportation, particularly the subway is absolutely exhilarating. I felt like I got a flavor of Manhattan life simply by being on the subway. The lonely, the happy, the chatty, the coldness and distance, the surprising moments of warmth and kindness, the crowd, moving at a pace others have determined for you (this is important and palpable, given that in Southern California I go everywhere in a car, whenever I want, however I want, and exactly where I want). It struck me while on the subway one day how different the new heavens and earth will be; now you enter a crowded train and feel very powerfully, if unconsciously, a stranger and all its attendant anxieties, but then you will be in an environment filled with people you have never met and you will not feel like a stranger, rather you will feel and really be loved deeply and truly by those whom you have never met. Not to over-spiritualize the subway, but even so… come Lord Jesus!





Food: I had both my favorite and most disappointing experiences in restaurants. Ippudo. Ramen. Awe. I never knew what ramen actually was, a whole new culinary horizon was opened to me by Tonkotsu ramen. They also made incredible Hirata buns, we got the pork, go and do likewise. Also, chicken, no matter how well cooked is always just chicken. I should have known, but its never worth spending money on chicken as the main star in an entree. This is a reference to the famous Balthazar restaurant. It was a delightful bit of Ratatouille meets the hot chocolate scene in Polar Express. But $72 for roast chicken was a bad decision. I mean it was amazing chicken, don’t get me wrong. But it was still just chicken. I was deeply disappointed in all our Italian, from famous Sardi’s in Times Square to a recommend we took for a Bronx offering. Simply put, and I mean this in all sincerity. I can make better Italian than this “real” Italian food. Bleecker Street Pizza, really great pizza, Food Network rated it the best in NYC, but honestly it wasn’t categorically better than anything you can get out here. It was a great experience, a hole in the wall pizza place with tasty pizza, the crust was superb. But That Pizza Place in Carlsbad is a close second in my opinion. Crif Dog, super tasty cheap hot dogs in the East Village, loved the vibe too. Again a hot dog is a hot dog, meaning its hard to screw up, but also really hard to elevate. Crif Dog was just a tasty riff on an American classic.



Additionally I picked up a book by Father Capon called Food for Thought: Resurrecting the Art of Eating. For those of you unfamiliar with Robert Farrar Capon, he is a recently deceased Episcopal priest who wrote about theology and cooking, both of which would often occur in the same book. Food for Thought is more meditations on cooking seasoned with theological reflection, but is worth its weight in gold. It is out of print, but I was able to get it at the famous Strand Bookstore, an original pristine copy, luck of the draw I guess! I am about halfway through and here are a couple highlights, “Cooking is the expansion, by reason and skill, of flavor into art.” And in regards to the blue crab and hospitality,  “socially, man is very much like the crab. His relationships are like exoskeletons and, like the crab’s shell, they harden. If man is to continue to grow, he must continually break out of relational shells, discard them, and let new ones form.” If you hate to cook, or love to cook, if you are bad at cooking or great at it, this book is for you. Better yet, if you eat, this book is for you, i.e. it’s for everyone.





Arts & Entertainment: New York is pretentiously artsy fartsy, and of any city I have ever been to, it certainly has the credentials to be so pompous. The Met blew my mind, I will write more on that later, but there is no shortage of artistic ingenuity in NYC. We also saw Newsies, the Broadway musical. So good. I was never into musicals before I married Anjuli, but in many ways they far exceed movies in their entertainment value. There is something about a live performance involving dancing, singing, acting, orchestration, stage-craft, etc… which is far superior to anything CGI can cook up. It also struck me while there, that one of the most productive ways of processing our pain is to tell our story. Newsies processes the pain of the poor by telling its story, there is something healing about it (which more could be written on but I won’t for the sake of your boredom, go on about it now). Central Park I include here because it reminds a godless city that the greatest works of art weren’t made by human hands, and a city so intent on suppressing His presence, is never-the-less captive to its need for his handiwork right in its midst. The Chelsea high-line park is a must, a rare glimpse into what creation could have been under man’s tutelage… too bad we bailed on our birthright. We only get glimpses in this life of what could have been, and the high-line is one of those artistic elevations of what creation could’ve been under man’s watchful care.




Church: We attended Redeemer Presbyterian Church, of Timothy Keller (TKNY as Dr. Hart calls him) fame, in their new worship space of W 83rd St. The sanctuary is beautiful, a comforting modern subdued take on a worship space. The music and singing were, in my mind, a perfect combination, and by that I mean the music was in service to the voice. In too many worship services the instrumentation overwhelms the human voice, and I daresay that God is far more interested in our voices and words than he is in our instrumentation. Redeemer was a tasteful use of music to lead the congregation in worship. TKNY is preaching a series on Wisdom, I take it a rehash of his older series on Proverbs, but not disappointing in the least. If I had one series to take with me on a desert island, that would be it. It was the third service of the day, to be followed by a fourth, and I was disappointed that TKNY didn’t stay in the worship space to greet and talk with the congregation. Perhaps I missed something, but it felt impersonal, and if NYC needs anything, it needs personal. Last thought on this: Redeemer is sort of the darling of the resurgent conservative evangelicalism as represented by The Gospel Coalition, but I couldn’t help but notice how seemingly irrelevant it was to the city it was in. I mean the Gospel Co-Allies and its supporters are sort of in awe of Keller and Redeemer, but walking the streets of the city to the church I couldn’t help but notice how small a church of 5,000 members feels in a borough of over 3 million. I am grateful for Keller and Redeemer as a faithful presence, but it was a reality check, as the church, it seems to me, isn’t having the sort of impact that the evangelical world seems to think it is having. In other words, we are making a bigger deal of the church than the city is, and that should give us pause.






I think at this point I am over 1250 words in, and you have probably lost attention. Here’s one last passing thought on Shopping, then I should let you go if you haven’t already given up. We went to a shop called What Goes Around Comes Around in SoHo, it is a vintage (read thrift) store specializing in higher quality clothing. It was an insult to my intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the clothes, but you have to be a fool to pay $250 for a pair of noticeably worn wing-tips, or $125 for a well-worn flannel, or $300 for something you could find at AmVets for $15. How they get away with this stuff is incredible to me, seriously I walked out thinking to myself, “how stupid do they think I am?” All of this perfectly sums up New York, I loved it, but geez you have to be kidding me, its not as cool as it is costing me!


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