Right now in my backpack I have many things, including, but not limited to, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, two books I had loaned to a friend, a DVD another friend had loaned to that first friend, and an ice cube tray.
I wanted this ice cube tray since I spotted it at the Whole Foods on Bowery six months ago. The tray is made of a silicone-like, hopefully non-cancerous material, and can hold six three-inch ice cubes. Though I rarely drink liquor, it was easy to image how beautiful one of those large ice cubes would look dissolving into an amber liquid. But when I first saw this ice cube tray, I was already living in Denver, and naturally thought it was absurd to travel home with kitchenware. I would soon find out that no Whole Foods in Colorado carries these ice cube trays. And now, back in New York for two weeks, this ice cube tray was one of my first purchases. It was $8.
Eight dollars might seem like a lot for ice, but what is $8 in the face of perfection? That was the question I often asked myself while living in New York, in reference to a bowl of Udon soup or an artisan sandwich. While much of New York is out of reach, small, perfect things are easily acquired. It was those small, perfect things that made New York livable for me. Even if I could not afford good light, which a woman who had recently purchased a classic-six on the Upper West Side told me is the most expensive thing in the city, I could afford the very best meatball sub in maybe the whole world.
There are many things I still love about New York. I love that there is a web site devoted to what people are reading on the train, the way the east coast smells during the spring and the fall, that the Met is free, and that the subway goes all the way to the beach. But it wasn’t until I left that I realized that small, perfect things are just that: small. I’m happy to visit, to read on the train, to make plans to swim in the ocean, to see Juan de Pareja, and to walk my parents’ dog. But I’ll also be happy to go back to a life of imperfect sandwiches and light from the mountains.