The train station in Baltimore is a step back in time with its Beaux-Arts classicism style. The building has a retro look of times past, when rail travel was king. Beautiful wood benches, curve and continue to provide seating against the walls. Wide, arched, latched windows whisper of days long before central air conditioning. When you enter the building, gaze upwards at the beautiful yellow, green and clear glass shallow 25 foot diameter domes. The sound of smooth jazz echos throughout the building with a occassional break in sound during announcements to board the trains on the tracks below. Today is my birthday, a morning of brisk winds with pale skies. As the minutes tick away, the sky changes to a jubilant celebration of life. First red-orange progressing to bolder and brighter colors each minute. While the train picks up speed, I view the row houses in the distance noticing their demise. Feelings of sadness are felt for the neighborhoods that have gone to waste. A bulldozer awaits commands to complete the partially destroyed neighborhood. A mother and child just one street over, are walking in the early dawn, possibly to school through the lonely streets.
The train continues to rock as we travel over water, maybe a lake, then wooded areas. The sun continues to play hide and seek between branches and buildings. I love riding Amtrak and had forgotten how much over the past two or three years. So many places that I travel do not have rail service or a consistent one as is found in larger cities, especially the upper portion of the east coast. First stop, Aberdeen station. The sun is in its full zenith and I begin to tire as the train rocks me into a drowsy state like a mother holding her child in her lap. Wilmington station, second stop. Along the rails, you view the towns that are available for exploring. Delaware, Pennsylvania are the next stops. I’m tempted to jump off but I’m to go on to New York to celebrate my birthday alone. Trenton, NJ, at 9:00, Metropark, 9:30. Newark, NJ. graffiti laden buildings, elementary school windows decorated with paper snowflakes and mittens. The conductor announces, “New York City in 12 minutes.”
I checked into the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers mentioning to the desk clerk that it’s my birthday. Claudia and her co-worker, Debbie, sing and do a jig to celebrate while announcing to other customers of my special day. They make me laugh and I don’t feel so lonely anymore. I check into my room, dropping off my suitcase and tote bag and head downstairs. Outside, I hail for a cab and head to the Guggenheim museum. This is my treat, a day to explore. The surprise is that for a Friday, it’s a busy day due to the school children, and many visitors from different countries and statuses. A special exhibit, Maurizio Cattelan: All, is on display and this is the last weekend. So much for a quite birthday. A brochure states that throughout Cattelans career,”he has used the exhibition format as a mode of artistic expression.” To some the display would seem crude, rude and disturbing. And yet others would cheer his boldness. I stand in the middle, finding appeal in some things and cruelty in others. As I travel up the famous ramps of the museum, they remind me of a ribbon coming undone, having viewed the interior of the building in several movies and marvel that I am here at last. Occasionally I leave the Cattelan display and peer into other rooms that contain art. Cezanne, Pizarro, Monet and Seurat settle my wandering spirit. A room of pop objects and icons change my perspective of art. It is a time of learning and I am open to it.
As the night moves in, I dress for dinner and decide to try the restaurant Rosie O’ Grady, 800 7th Ave (corner of 52nd). I inform a well dressed maitre d’ that it’s my birthday and asked if it were possible to receive a great meal to celebrate. He assured me that I could and sat me promptly. A corner booth gave view to the wet New York streets through large glass doors. This is a day of trying new things, so I ordered the onion soup as an appetizer. I savor it’s warmth on this cool, 28 degree night, a delicious start to my birthday meal. Then I raise my glass of Hogue Washington, a 2008 Riesling, to another year of life and relish the peace around me. Jim, my waiter, provided every courtesy and assured that my evening went well. After the main course of a pasta dish, a celebratory slice of cake from Paul arrived at my table. Not once did I feel rushed during my meal, being allowed to sit back and enjoy. After almost two hours I decide to leave. It’s a Friday evening and the tables began to fill.
The night ended sweetly as I entered my hotel room to find five decorated petite cakes on a platter and a card from the desk clerks, all wishing me a Happy Birthday. A view of the neon lights, cupcakes and a full stomach, yes it was a happy one indeed.