Day 261

SheIsTooFondofBooks blogger Dawn came to NYC last month for Book Expo 2010, and tried to take a short walk across Central Park. Here’s her story:

I roomed with Candace from Beth Fish Reads; she and I hoped to visit a few bookstores on Tuesday morning, before heading to an early afternoon meeting.  I planned the itinerary to start at Kitchen Arts & Letters, a specialty cookbook store on the upper east side.  You’ll never believe it when you read this post, but I used to work in the travel industry (and this tale may be reflect why I no longer do!)

We were to take the subway to 86th street on the west side of Central Park, cross over to the east side, and walk a few blocks up and over to Lexington and 93rd.  Piece of cake, right?

Well, we managed to purchase metro cards at the kiosk (bonus! $23 value on the card, for only $20 … you know how I love those ‘gifts with purchase!’), to get on the correct subway line, and exit at 86thStreet.  So far, so good.

We dutifully got in line behind a school group crossing the street, headed into the park, followed a path that seemed to cross from West to East, walked a few blocks and realized we weren’t on Lexington.

IPhone maps to the rescue!  Kind of.  According to the GPS in the phone, we werestill on the west side of the park!  This sad fact was easily confirmed by a glance at the street signs.  West 86th should have been our first clue.

No problem, we thought.  We’d just grab a bottle of cold water at the local deli, and traverse the park again, it was a nice morning for a walk we told each other.  After strolling for a while (and chatting, and stopping for photo ops), Candace said “I don’t want to be alarmist, but isn’t it taking us longer to walk across the park than it did the first time?”  She had a point, so we agreed to follow the signs to the nearest exit.

Have you ever been trapped in Central Park?  It would have been easier to find our way out of a hedge maze at Hogwarts!  As we rounded the top of the rise near the park exit, we joked “if we’re on the west side again, we’ll just take a cab.”  No joke – we were still on the west side, we had walked down 17 blocks from 86th to 69th Streets, but hadn’t managed to cross the park!

Feeling a bit red-faced about my apparently nonexistent sense of direction, I tried to make up for it by confidently hailing a cab.  So, after what should have been a $2.50 subway ride and a short (15 minute?) walk, we paid another $12 for a cab to take us up and around the park to our destination.  That hour-long walk in the park was an added urban adventure.

Now, you’re expecting me to tell you all about the bookstore we visited, Kitchen Arts & Letters, but I’m going to hold that for a separate Spotlight on Bookstores post (such a tease!).  Suffice it to say that I think they carry every current cooking title, and that the owner/manager Nach Waxman is incredibly helpful and gave us step-by-step directions to get back downtown.

Here’s a great tip Nach shared that may save your sanity one day – there’s a subway shuttle that runs between Grand Central (west side) to Times Square (east side).  It just goes back and forth all day long, allowing harried people like me to get from one side oftown to another, and to transfer from one subway line to another.  The only trick is that you have to follow the gray circles with an S in them; it’s not as easy as it sounds, the trail led up and down staircases, around corners, and through a tunnel.  I half expected Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street to pop out and start singing a song about S as we searched for the signs!

And that, my friends, is why the idiom “a walk in the park” no longer means something that’s easy and predictable.  Instead, when I hear that phrase, I’ll think of walking in circles with Beth Fish, trapped forever on the west side of Central Park.  Maybe I should adopt a bench to commemorate the hilarity.