Friday, January 13, 2012

New York State of Mind -- Don't Forget to Pack . . .

One of the two lions, Patience and Fortitude, that welcome you to the NY Public Library

If you get the chance to spend some time in this city it’s vital that you come prepared.  Walking shoes, small umbrella, black wardrobe (yes, seriously – you have no idea what it’s like to stick out like a sore thumb in taupe).  But it never occurred to me that I would have to stuff in my quart baggy of 3 oz. liquids several pack of French’s mustard.

“Mustard?” you ask in astonishment.  That condiment is as American as, well, the ballpark hotdog.  You would think, I say.  But picture this scenario:  I got a late start on my Thursday with my plans to work half the day in the New York Public Library.  After spending much too much time oo-ing and ah-ing over the lions, the drinking fountains, and the ceilings, I read and write until I am starved.  I trudge down 5th Ave. toward my hotel, looking for quick and easy nourishment.  Spying a well-known fast food joint I think, while unimaginative, it would fill the bill.

I step up to the counter and place my usual order.  Hamburger with mustard only.  “Uh, we don’t have any mustard,” the pointy-headed teenage cashier mumbles.  What, I ask, thinking I misheard.  This is an American hamburger joint.  How can they run out of mustard?  He asks another cashier who shakes her head, saying they have no packets of mustard.  Never mind, I say and walk out, starved, tired, and dejected. 
Library drinking fountain
Next day, same scenario.  Again a late start on the day.  Add to that the idiocy of WALKING 20 NY BLOCKS PAST MY DESTINATION.  And that’s twenty more blocks back, in case you were wondering (maybe someday I’ll tell you about adding 40 blocks to my little stroll).  The Museum of Modern Art was wonderful, although I will never claim to understand the artistic meaning behind an old wooden bar stool with a bicycle wheel attached to the top of it.  But all that walking made me hungry.  So I try a different hamburger joint.  National chain.  Have it your way.  Hamburger with mustard only, please.  The cashier stares for a beat.  “We don’t have mustard here,” he informs me.  What?  No mustard?  “The hamburgers only come with catsup, pickles, onions.  We don’t have any mustard in back.”

I now have a mission for my next trip to New York.  I will stop at every fast food joint in Manhattan to see if any of them have the most American of condiments.  This ain’t France, after all.  While I found one lone restaurant in that country that served good ol’ French’s, I didn’t even expect that.  You can read about that wonderful discovery here.  But these are national chains.  Each restaurant in a chain cooks its fries the exact same number of seconds.  Each serves absolutely identical buns.  How can one group of franchises get away with deciding whether or not I can have mustard?

I ate too much good food on this trip to let this little mustard mishap cast a shadow on my trip.  It probably is a message from the heavens that I shouldn’t have been eating at a chain in NYC anyway.  If anyone out there has any explanation for this mustard mystery, however, please let me in on what makes New York think it’s so special.

But you can bet that next time I head east, I’ll come prepared.  And consider yourself warned.  Now is the time to start collecting for yourself.

This trip gave me some time to catch up on missed blogs.  Here are a few posts that will give you some food for thought.  No mustard needed.

Dream Catcher -- Blogger
Kristen Lamb shared this post from Ingrid Schaffenburg.  Most of us want to follow our dreams.  But what, exactly, does that mean?  Her connection between “dreaming” and “learning” is a fresh perspective on an age-old problem.

Beat the post holiday (and beyond) blues – With cold weather finally settling in, we will really need these suggestions by Scrollwork.  I especially like #1 because I think it gives me permission to eat ice cream.

Friday Inspiration – Get Uncomfortable – Amber West never fails to amuse.  Mexican roosters and weak thighs make for a great travel adventure.  A must-read.

Dr. Seuss’s Creative Process – Annette Gendler frequently finds off-beat exhibits and places and shares generously.  Since Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite authors, I was eager to learn what she had soaked in about how his mind worked.  His first rule of creation was “see.”  We all could apply this in whatever we do.

Have you ever encountered such idiosyncrasies in fast food chains yourself?  Please share them or any travel food stories in the comments box.  And leave some comment love for some of these other bloggers on their sites.

Perhaps if we all had a room like the NYPL reading room, books would take more attention than video screens



Nancy said...

Really, Julie!? No mustard in NYC?? I'm going to have to check that out for myself on my next trip. I find it hard to believe in a city known for its great delicatessens, but then I've never asked for it :-).

Nadine Feldman said...

Hilarious! I'm not a mustard fan, so I had no idea! Our craziest NYC experience was the time hubby forgot his luggage. We had both kids with us, with Sarah going up for a summer school program and Joe heading off to Israel from NYC, so the car was loaded up with luggage to the brim. When we got to the airport and took all those suitcases out, we realized that hubby had left his at home. We ended up doing a power shop at Old Navy once we got there! Apparently it's much easier to find underwear than mustard!

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a fan of the mustard, so this is good information to have. I get the feeling that you would have found it by strolling into any number of delis in NYC. :)

Love the photos! I'm completely jealous of your trip. Glad you had a good time, even if you did get some unintended exercise. (and thanks for the blog love!)

Unknown said...

Loved these pics. I love the names of those lions. I would be standing there, staring at them all day! Your SheWrites Blogger friend.

Cara said...

Thanks for the warning. I'll pack my mustard stash next time I visit New York. I didn't notice this problem the first three times I was there, but then I tend to only put mustard on two items: hot dogs and hot pastrami sandwiches. Still, I believe those two items must have mustard!!!

Anonymous said...

I tried commenting this morning but it vanished into smoggy air! Hope this one has better luck. I'll try doing it as Anonymous— this is Scrollwork, by the way.

Delightfully startled to find a backlink to my blog—I hereby grant you permission to have all the ice cream you want! Thanks ever so much.

Will warn the hubby about the mysterious mustard famine in NY. Then I'll lie down on that pew and gaze up at the library ceiling. Ahhhh....

monicastangledweb said...

New York is ALL about walking and that's just one of the reasons I love my hometown. But you are so right about having to wear black so as not to stand out. A few summers ago, my daughter and I went and didn't take an umbrella. Then it started raining. A lot. So I bought a souvenir Big Apple umbrella. Well, we sure stood out, what with every single person carrying a black umbrella. Not one a shade of grey, let alone red!

Julie Farrar said...

Ah, so many wonderful comments as I traveled home yesterday and spending the evening unpacking and getting reacquainted with my dog. I have decided that next time I'm there, before ordering a hamburger in a real restaurant (not fast food), I'll be sure to check the mustard situation. And I definitely will spend more time at the library working. That's almost more enticing than the rest of the city for me. And, Scrollwork, I filled that dish of ice cream last night before climbing into bed.

Anonymous said...

I lived in New York for a few years and never noticed their mustard shortage. Weird! But makes for a funny story! Great read and thanks for the mention. :)

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