Every morning, I walk from 31st street and 8th avenue to 26th street and Park Avenue South. This is almost the same trip my dad took when he lived in Mount Airy, and commuted daily from the North Philadelphia train station to 23rd street, just west of the Flatiron building.
I have my choice of going mostly east and walking through the north end of the fashion district, which in the morning is full of shuttered doors and orange “this premises closed for copyright violation” notices. Or I can go a few blocks south, then east and walk through the flower district. In the flower district, the sidewalks are choked to a narrow path lined with stacked boxes of moss and wheatgrass and waxy cardboard containers of exotic stems just off the airplane, getting trimmed with razors and placed into store windows.
If I go a little further south on eighth before turning, I can walk past the sex-shop district bordering the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I can entertain myself separating the sex-workers just ending their shifts (baggy sweatshirts, ripped fishnet stockings, newsboy caps, jewel-y cellphone, cigarette) from FIT students just beginning their day of classes (tight tank tops, ripped fishnet stockings, newsboy caps, portfolio case, cigarette)
Any further than that, and it’s Chelsea, and I can see the fellows going to and from the small, private gyms set in brownstone fronts. These guys look like they were constructed out of spring steel; you can hear their joints operating smoothly as they walk. And all the ads plastered on the wall are for yoga classes. The trees are surrounded with flowers, and dogs are carefully curbed. BO-ring.
My favorite walk lately has been down 29th street, because I can walk past Blade Fencing, which looks for all the world like what Ollivander’s wand shop would actually look like if it were in NYC: dim light, concrete floor, fifteen-foot-tall steel shelves and lots of bizarre and interesting stuff — carefully made in exotic parts of the world — precisely stacked all the way to the ceiling. While cleaning the basement last week, I re-discovered my fencing mask that I got at Blade, which made me nostalgic for when I took lessons.
But mostly my favorite is one store window on 29th street, which has a rack full of little jars that totally makes me stop in my tracks every time. Here’s a cameraphone picture through the front window:
A small sign says that it’s Kremer Pigments. I assume that it’s where you go when you are mixing your own paint(?) or dye(?), or are generally an utter badass when it comes to color. I am not an utter badass when it comes to color, but I have been repeatedly frustrated by the limitations of gamut. (“Gamut” is the range of colors that it’s actually possible to create on a printed page, using commercially-available ink. Monitor gamut is wider than print gamut, but it’s still very easy to make an eye-popping green in Photoshop that won’t survive conversion to a JPEG.) The oranges and blues in the bottles look magical and pure and visceral. It makes me want to lick the window.
I’m sure that most of those pigments are made of incredibly toxic minerals, so that would probably result in a very swift, unpleasant death.