After playing the slots in Atlantic City, the second phase of my January off-the-farm getaway was a three-day writers' workshop at a hotel near Atlantic City. Then on to New York City.
Besides sightseeing, I was in the city to meet my friend Susan Kristoferson whose artwork was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Paper Legacy" collection and at the Grolier Club exhibit "Pattern and Flow."
Susan, her husband, and I hired a horse and carriage for a tour of Central Park. Our driver, Sully, told us that Sugar, the tall black mare pulling the carriage, lives in a barn a 15-minute walk from the park. "I feed, groom, and talk to Sugar. I treat her like a loved family member," he said.
Sugar and I have something in common. We both need a change of scene once in a while. Sully also told us that Sugar and other NYC carriage horses are periodically sent to a farm upstate, where they romp, graze, and get to express their horseyness. Sugar, plump and well-groomed, stood still as I buried my nose into her neck and breathed in her sweet horse scent, reminding me of my horses back home in New Hampshire.
"That's Sheep Meadow," Sully said as the carriage passed a 15-acre field. I was excited that sheep might be near, especially when there was so much lawn to munch. But there were no sheep. There used to be, but during the hungry days of the Great Depression, they were sent to a farm upstate so they wouldn't become lamb kabobs. In 1934 their barn was converted into a restaurant called Tavern on the Green.
Friends had warned me that the "New York dress code" was black with more black. That was true for most except for the dazzling 20-something woman wearing a fluffy, waist-length Ritz fur coat, M. M. LaFleur tights, and knee-high Louis Vuitton boots. As she passed me, I did a double take and thought those boots would last about two minutes slogging through a paddock of ankle-deep mud in the rain, and her jacket would flatten out like wet hair on a cow. My turquoise L.L. Bean hoodie shouted "Tourist!" and my Tractor Supply boots shouted "Hick!" but I was not there to be seen; I was there to see.
There are a lot of well-behaved dogs in NYC. One impressive sight was six little fluffball dogs walking behind their handler (a professional dog walker, I assumed). The dogs stood quietly behind him while he chatted on his phone at a crosswalk. Farmworker Craig told me later, "Those dogs have to be well-behaved. If they're not, the landlord will evict the owner and the pup."
No one wants to be homeless in NYC, but I did pass one or two bodies (alive, I hope) huddled in sleeping bags on the sidewalk. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I dropped in money whenever there was an open cup. Sleeping on the street is brutal even though NYC is warmer than New Hampshire, but still, my cattle live better than that.
If you're a multi-millionaire, there is plenty of housing. Central Park Tower, the tallest residential building in the world, has apartments selling for up to $250 million. Every apartment has its own floor with a panoramic view of Central Park, including Sheep-less Meadow. Jeeze, I have panoramic views of my farm, including live sheep, for a lot less.
I attended a taping of the "Stephen Colbert Report" at the Ed Sullivan Theater near Times Square. After waiting almost two hours, I saw the innards of the theater I had only seen on T.V. During the taping, a scary-looking man in a dark suit, white shirt, and tie scanned the audience for, I assume, potential evildoers. All he saw and heard that night was laughter and cheers as we enjoyed interviews with Trevor Noah and Stephanie Hsu, star of the movie "Everything Everywhere All at Once," and music by Louis Cato and his band. Time flew by, and I wanted to go again.
On the last day, I took a train to Boston from Penn Station. The train was spacious, and the ride smooth. Who doesn't love a train ride with its dining car, plentiful bathrooms, and Wi-Fi?
After 11 days of vacation, I was anxious to return to my farm. I didn't know that a disaster awaited me. I'll tell you all about it next week.
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com) in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef and other local products. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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