This week in NYC: Slavic poetry and a diner

Bryant Park at dusk, with NYPL in background

Once again, I flew up to LaGuardia on Wednesday this past week. I won’t complain about the travails of travel this week. Well maybe just a little.

I got to my midtown hotel around 5pm and met nephew Tyler for dinner at the Malibu Diner on W 23rd Street. I’d never eaten at a NY diner, so I thought I should have the experience. Given my intransigent GI issues, I figured I could at least eat brinner there. They serve breakfast 24 hours a day, and their full menu dwarfs unabridged dictionaries. I had challah French toast and two eggs. Good. Then I tried their lemon meringue pie. Not so good. Tyler ingested an astonishing corned beef reuben sandwich flanked by a mound of fries. Hungry fellow.

After dinner, we walked a block west where I pointed out the apartment building my grandparents lived in when I was young. The air is cleaner now. In the 1960s it was easy to get cinders in your eyes. But the garbage trucks are just as noisy as I remember them being.

The evening was warm and lovely. I walked through Bryant Park on my way home. The park was filled with people, some of whom were being instructed in square dancing to music that seemed anything but square dance music. What square dance band has a clarinet?

Thursday, I packed up, had my bland breakfast (roll and yogurt), and subwayed up to my 9am checkup at Weill Cornell. The appointment was unremarkable. Yes, my platelet count was low, but that was expected, and it wasn’t low enough for concern yet. It may drop more over the next few weeks. But if I run low, hey, they are available at Amazon.

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I did ask the doctor whether he’d seen a lung nodule the Axumin PET radiologist had identified. He looked at the Gallium PET scan but couldn’t find a nodule. “It must be very small,” he said. I prefer my nodules small. Nodules small, morsels large. One of my life principles.

I asked him to inspect me for thrush, which I’ve had often since my diagnosis. In recent weeks, my mouth has been so dry and food tastes weird. No thrush in evidence. He blames dehydration, but I’m skeptical. Whatever it is, it’s annoying.

For my continuing GI issues, a nurse recommended fermented foods such as pickles and kombucha. Good thing our son Brian has recently started making his own kombucha in his crawl space. I haven’t tried his, sticking to commercial-grade kombucha so far. I’ll wait to see whether he ends up in the ER first. But his pickles have been good, so I’m hopeful.

I was spewn forth into the streets again shortly after 10am. My flight home was in the evening so I had hours to kill. I went back to midtown, intending to spend my hours at the New York Public Library, writing. But first I needed coffee and a bagel. I spent way too much time deciding where to buy these. Finally, I settled on a street vendor. The coffee was good and cheap. The bagel was bad and cheap. I ate in front of the NYPL and then went in to explore.

The midtown NYPL is a research library, so their holdings aren’t available for checkout. No big deal, since who goes to libraries for books anymore besides children? I asked about a quiet place to write and was sent down to room 60 in the basement. En route, I picked up a brochure about a meeting at 1pm that day for people who wanted to read and discuss Slavic poetry in English translation. That got my attention. So after getting some work done for an hour in room 60, I went to the poetry meeting. There were eight of us, including our leader. I was the only one of the group who had actually read a bit of Slavic poetry in a Slavic language (Russian, in college). Most of them hadn’t read Slavic poetry in English either. But there we were.

Explicating poems with a group of strangers of different ages and educational backgrounds doesn’t yield much convergence. “I think he’s writing about challenges of living and writing under Soviet rule,” says one woman. “I think it might just be about unrequited love,” say I. And so it went. I enjoyed it enough to at least consider going back in two weeks when they will read French poetry, again in English translation. I was incognito. They all assumed I was also a New Yorker. I returned to room 60 and wrote a bad first draft of a poem about the Slavic poetry group.

I’m not sure why reading Slavic poetry in translation attracts far fewer people than the square dance lessons in the park. Someone help me out here.

By mid afternoon I packed up and more deliberately searched for real bagels before leaving for the airport. I found them at Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish on Lexington. Then off to LaGuardia, herky-jerky style. I had trouble finding my subway station, but eventually I got there, not very efficiently. I unintentionally rode a local rather than express train to Queens, so the trip was a bit longer than it should have been. Still, subway riding is far more pleasant for me than the buses. When I arrived in Queens, I followed the crowds out to the bus area. I slipped on a dark, slimy subway station step but didn’t hurt myself. In the future I will have to use my cane for my subway travel. The bus ride to LaGuardia left me feeling like a Boggle (or Yahtzee) cube. Shaken, not stirred. I may have to rethink my commitment to using cheap public transportation between LaGuardia and the city. It’s exhausting.

My flight home was delayed less than last week’s, but the gate changed twice instead of once. I luxuriated in one of those expensive airplane seats where they hire a talented toddler to kick the back of the seat throughout the flight so I couldn’t fall asleep and miss the soda and pretzel service or fail to deplane in Knoxville. I was home before 10.

Next week, I get to stay here in Knoxville and visit my local oncologist, not returning to New York until the following week. I will enjoy the break.




12 Replies to “This week in NYC: Slavic poetry and a diner”

  1. I love dropping in on local events when I’m traveling! Good for you to slip into the poetry group at the NYPL.
    My local event for the day is sunrise at the beach. Then we drive home.

  2. Take.A.Cab. While it can be harrowing, depending on the driver, at least you go from A to B with minimal effort- and sometimes you can get into a great conversation. A worthwhile splurge, in my opinion.
    Love the Slavic poetry detour! And love your writing. ❤️

  3. Brother Mark, I enjoyed your recounting of your stay in NYC but hate it for you n Liz! Your up beat-ness amazes me! Keep writing n going forth w courage.

  4. Here I am! But my lips are sealed. 🤐🤐 🙃. Glad you get a week off from traveling!! You can think about it for while. I do love your little “adventures” when you are in the city and I always look forward to hearing what you have discovered this week in The City!!

  5. You are amazing, Mark, and your writing demonstrates that! I love the humorous anecdotes and feel your discomfort at the slippery subway station. Wish I could help. I’d have loved to have gone to the library with you and to have sampled the “real” bagels! It’s quite a journey you’re on and so kind if you to share it. Peace, Mark.

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