Best of New York City

Dear Denver,

Thank you for rolling out the way-too-many-degrees-below-freezing welcome mat for my return last night. Since New York was also below freezing for the last day of my visit, I know you were only trying to prevent me from going into shock with a nice sunny day (even though you have nice sunny days every year, like 344 of them, according to the people who keep track of such things, but anyway).

I appreciate your efforts, but I’m afraid neither your balmy weather nor your restaurants that close at 8 PM can keep me in the Mile High City much longer. Not after my most recent trip to the homeland, featuring the following best of the best favorite things*, in order of appearance:

1. Brooklyn. Home to my brother-from-another-mother and the Total Wine Bar, my first ever book club from a way long time ago where I first read Jitterbug Perfume which became my favorite Tom Robbins book ever, my old friend Dennis, Firebrand Literary, and the people on my flight from Denver who made flying fun again with their clapping and whooping and declaration that, once they’re back in NY, they’ll never eat at another Chili’s again.

2. Pizza in a paper bag. I got to my BFFs on the UES well after 10PM, starving. Oh no! 10PM! Everything will be closed! Panic panic panic. But then… wait. It’s only 10. Nothing will be closed. And I can walk outside to hot, fresh, pizza in a paper bag in less than 10 steps. Foot steps – not, like, AA steps. I walked up to the glass counter. Picked out a beautiful slice with cheese and tomatoes. Watched the guy slide it into the giant oven, and then drop it on 2 paper plates, stuck backwards into a paper bag. Ohhhh. It wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever had in New York. Just the best pizza I’ve had in a very long time.

3. Zen Palate. How can you make something that tastes just like BBQ ham out of tofu? I don’t know and I don’t care. I only care that they did it, even though we had to switch tables part way through because the waiter needed ours for a bigger party, and there were only like 5 tables in the whole place, and we had to bring our own wine. But still. Tofu? Ham? Yay!

4. Sephora on Lex & 57th and Nikki, skin care consultant to the stars. Hello, Bare Minerals! Gone are the days of makeup paint by number! Nikki, I… I love you.

5. Coffee. Really, I forget what it’s supposed to taste like. Mmmmm… good morning! It’s midnight! I’m awake now!

6. The view out Jensiah’s window. All those people walking to the train. For work. And I’m in my PJs (*snicker*), drinking aforementioned coffee, pondering whether to go with the neutral brown or the sparkly eye shadow from Nikki. Probably the sparkly, because it’s called Hottie, so how can you go wrong? And there was this really cute little girl outside in a purple coat racing her mom to the train, only her sleeves were too long and she had to keep stopping to push them up. Uh-dorable.

7. The subway. Upon which one can never run out of character ideas for new books, especially if one’s special talent happens to be writing creepy novels about people who don’t shower rubbing up against people who do while someone in the background reads quotes from the bible over the sound of the accordion player keeping time with his foot at the other end of the car. And also, what is that smell?

8. The offices of Little, Brown. Not only does visiting here remind me that I’m officially a writer (sometimes I forget), but they also provided a sticky name tag with my name and my picture (very legitimate-looking), writing and career advice, revision notes (thank you for not making me cry!), a copy of The Kayla Chronicles, a copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society, and my official Sara Zarr Sweethearts candy available for a limited time only. Remember Mel Brooks in History of the World when he’d grab everyone’s boobs and say “It’s good to be the king?” That’s kind of how it feels. Well, except for the whole boob-grabbing part.

9. Six-pound bagels. Wider than my fist, dripping with cream cheese and fresh, bright red tomatoes, toasted and sliced only through the top for easier hand-to-mouth maneuverability, wrapped in paper and foil so that when you sit on it to flatten it to a normal mouth-sized width, you don’t get cream cheese on your ass. God I love this town!

10. Palace Diner in Queens. And all diners, really, with their 17-page menus of cross-regional cuisine, full bars, and pickles the size of my foot. Oh, how I miss thee, great great diner.

11. MUMMIES! *Heart heart heart.* Saving the best of the best of the best for last. I braved the hurts-to-even-breath cold just to gaze upon the painted-on eyes of the sarcophagi for the second time in two months. Mummies, which amaze me. Mummies, which I heart. But look, I’m not the only one:

Everybody Loves Mummies


Inner & Outer Coffins

Burial Statues


* Things, not people. I didn’t list any people (except for the mummies. Which I heart) because you’re all my favorite. You know that, right? Hey. Don’t be a mummy-hater, yo.