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THE CULTURE HOUND

The City In the Spotlight

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

11:54 a.m. So many museums, so little time. Should I head downtown to the Rubin and its collection of Himalayan art, or uptown to the Asia Society? The Rubin is near my favorite department store in the world, ABC Carpet and Home. That clinches it. But first I stop at the Pod Hotel to dump my stuff. It's far too hip for the likes of me, but the location, near the Museum of Modern Art, is perfect.

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1:30 p.m. The Rubin Museum of Art is a haven of serenity, with polished wood floors, a spare design and blessedly uncrowded exhibit halls. I have tea in the cool little cafe, then wander happily amid the Buddhas. "From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley" is a stunning collection of Nepalese art, with statues, paintings and textiles that practically glow. Striking black-and-white photographs of Nepal add a touch of reality.

3 p.m. Docent Katarina Wong, leading a free tour, adds a new dimension to my visit, pointing out details I never would have noticed. We study Nepalese scroll paintings, lovely little statues of the gods Shiva and Ganesh, and an 18th-century painting from eastern Tibet that tells the story of the first Buddha, his noble deeds appearing as five vignettes. The best: when Buddha, in his life as an elephant, saves a group of pilgrims by hurling himself off a cliff.

In addition to a newfound appreciation of Himalayan art and history, I come away with something more tangible: three beaded necklaces from the museum's gift shop (not all for me!), plus a hand-woven scarf that I actually need: It's about to rain.

4:10 p.m. A vintage Missoni scarf in a display window on West 17th Street lures me into the Angel Street Thrift Shop, a Grandma's-attic kind of place with lots of treasures: candlesticks, paintings, books, old LPs and furniture, including a walnut pedestal table for $250 that would look smashing in my dining room, if only I could figure out how to get it home on the bus. Great prices, and for a good cause, with proceeds going to help New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.

4:45 p.m. Who knew there were such affordable antiques in Manhattan? Pippin Home, a.k.a. Old House Vintage Goods, is a little hard to find, tucked down an alley between two office buildings in Chelsea. But the little 19th-century house, once a blacksmith shop, is worth seeking out, with a nice selection of old furniture, silver, jewelry, rugs, china and artwork. "Our average turnover for items is one to three weeks," says manager Jack Tobin, who scours New England auctions each week to stock the store. I can't resist a little prayer rug, a steal at $40.

6 p.m. New York = Italian comfort food. I find it at Cascina, an old-fashioned place on Ninth Avenue recommended by my son the New Yorker. He joins me for dinner, and we catch up over arugula salad with bacon and parmesan, pasta orecchiette with sausage and broccoli, a nice bottle of chianti and tiramisu to die for.


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