I love summer, a time when I forcibly inject hedonism into my hectic life. I desert John Stuart Mill and even Woody Allen, who believe pleasure is merely the absence of pain.
Afternoons I enter Central Park at Sixth Avenue and start breathing pure air deeply. A cardinal and his red-crested wife fly by. A chubby raccoon lolls, his flesh hanging over a tree branch, high above the soothing waterfall.
Besides Central Park, shopping in the marketplace city can be free. Once a year I take 300 steps from the waterfall and courageously push open the door of La Vielle Russie at 59th and Fifth. I peek at myself in the mirror, bedecked in museum-quality antique jewels, fantasizing about always looking so fascinating. Three years ago I tried on an apron of gems said to have been worn by Josephine Baker (over her otherwise naked body) during her Parisian cabaret act.
This summer’s new street game is admiring girls’ beautiful bright scarlet or pink toenails gripping flip-flops or ersatz S&M sandals.
My shortcut to Madison Avenue, my most beloved walking street, is through Crate and Barrel at 59th where I scoop up utterly simple white chili bowls ($4 each) for cereal, stews, soup or dessert.
Over the years I’ve scored six black label Armani jackets (for under $200 each and one couture Issaye Miyake for $85) at Encore and Bis, two second-floor resale stores on Madison at 84th.
I love visiting Marjorie Warren’s cool, relaxed and exotic clothing store at 88th. Although Marjorie disagrees, I think her East Side location is anomalous with its sales rack of $25 treasures. Marjorie may be the only person in Manhattan with a stash of divine Flax clothes. (I hear you can buy Flax linen and cotton skirts with elastic waistbands in Woodstock.) Easy wearing, yet office friendly, they are my uniform.
Saturdays I rush downtown where I grin, almost turning in circles, at the cornucopia of wholesale-priced plants and organic vegetables in the Union Square farmers’ market. Bright butterscotch yellow black-eyed susans, blue hydrangeas and red daisies, as well as yellow, orange and white carrots. It’s a lot easier than commuting two hours upstate and sleeping on a friend’s mildewy mattress to eat just-picked country produce.
I admire organic farmer John Adams, who’s been driving here (his truck license plate reads ORGANIC) from Wawarsing, N.Y. for 23 years. He sells peppy organic microgreens to hundreds of us city slickers. Today’s mix of tiny leaves has lots of mustard greens, arugula, mizuna and amarinth—for only five bucks. He arrives here at 6 in the morning; by mid-afternoon he’s virtually sold out.
I didn’t need Zagat to tell me that Westerly Health Food on Eighth Avenue and 54th is a “best destination,” with its Japanese sea vegetable crackers (gluten free) and delicious white bean soup. Check out the raw bar for milk and sugar-free blueberry cheesecake concocted with pecans. The Westerly tickles the palette in startling new ways—and more important than hedonism, it keeps us in great health.
It doesn’t have to be summer to love Groucho Marx. Before going to sleep, I play and re-play an immortal three minutes of great Groucho recorded from PBS. Flirty gleeful, he enjoys himself a lot as he chases a nonplussed Dinah Shore: they sing an outrageous duet ending “…Peezie Weezie was a bad bad man.”
Gentle readers, I beg you, make a plan to enjoy yourself East Side, West Side and all around the town this summer!
Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.
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