A day that felt like Spring

I moved to Manhattan from Norfolk, Virgina. From a spacious two bedroom condo into a tiny one bedroom 11th floor apartment on West 110th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. On my first full day in NYC I walked around the corner and found The Hungarian Pastry Shop. It was quiet and comfortable, unpretentious, casual. The staff were relaxed and friendly. I felt immediately at home.

I probably went there once a week for as long as I lived in Manhattan. Not for the pastries, though they were amazing–the eclairs, the hamentaschen, the tortes, the cheesecakes, all so good they’d make angels weep. I went there for the sense of community. The tables were (and I’d wager still are) rather close together, so you often ended up talking to strangers. The patrons were a mix of students and faculty from nearby Columbia and Barnard, writers (and a fair number of wanna-be writers), a few staff from Mount Sanai St. Lukes, tourists who’d visited the Cathedral of St John the Divine, and ordinary folks. Sometimes in the mornings you’d find a guy–not homeless, but emotionally damaged somehow–setting up the tables outside. He wasn’t on the staff; he just helped out. And the staff would give him a coffee and a pastry. It’s that sort of place.

New York City has a reputation for being a cold, heartless, commercial monster–and it surely is that. But the Hungarian Pastry Shop alway made me feel like I belonged there. Not just belonged, but actually welcomed.

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