the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Cafe Sabarsky

Almost Like Vienna

I’m beginning to accept a philosophy of life that combines equal parts idealism and cynicism  — everything good has the seeds of something bad and everything bad contains the potential for something good.  There are some problems with this new theory, so I won’t expound on it too much, because I might decide by next week that it is total hooey.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about — coming to New York and separating from Sophia is bad (and sad), but it has also has created some good.  I have gained some independence.  I don’t worry as much.  A few weeks ago, there was a problem on the E train.  Everyone had to disembark and wait for another train.  It was late at night.  It was hot.  It was crowded.  The wait was an HOUR!  Sophia would have just fainted, or glared at me all night for living in Queens, not Manhattan.  If Sophia was there, I would have gotten eanxious worrying about her discomfort, making things worse.  But since I was there by myself, I didn’t fret. I amused myself by taking artsy, but poorly-exposed photographs of the subway signs.  I had FUN.  I could only have had that experience alone.

I hear about this good/bad dichotomy all the time.  Having kids is the greatest joy in a person’s life.  Having kids is the biggest pain in the ass.  Working hard means I get well paid.  Getting well paid means I have to work hard.

One of the best things that has happened to me by coming to New York is a surprise — my bonding with my mother.  It is a good in a bad situation.  She is without her husband.  I am without my wife.  And for once, we are both “adults,” — or at least I pretend to be.   During this visit, we have become friends.  We went to the movies together.  We went to the theater.  We went to City Bakery and made fun of the skinny girls sitting next to us, picking at their fifteen dollar salads while we were eating our huge muffins.

Today, during lunch, my mother and I met Suzanne, a former workmate of my mother, at the Neue Galerie at 86th and Fifth.  The Neue Galerie is located in a former mansion of the Vanderbilts, and the museum is dedicated to German and Austrian Art. 

I’ve always liked German Expressionist art.  I especially love the work of Gustav Klimt. 

Gustav Klimt

Neue Galerie has one of his most famous works, the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt

I’m not sure my mother was crazy about some of the paintings in the museum.  Much of the German work from 1900-1930 is shocking, seedy, even ugly — as if these artists could see the festering amoralism of German culture of the time period.

Girl with Doll by Erich Heckel

“That girl looks like she is eight years old.” said my mother.

“I think she is eight years old.”

“Why would you paint a nude eight year old?  It makes me uncomfortable.”

“I think that’s what he was trying to do.”

“Who would want that in their house?”

“It’s probably worth thirty million dollars.”

“I still wouldn’t put it in my house.  Yuch.”

“You’re in a museum.  You’re not supposed to say “Yuch.””

“What should I say?”

“You should say, “Interesting,” but with a lilt to your voice to show your uncertainty.”

My mother walked over to a wall of Klimt’s sketches.

“I like this one better.” she said,

“Which one?”

“The sleeping nude.”

“I don’t think she’s sleeping.”

“It looks like she’s sleeping.”

“I don’t think she’s sleeping.”


Reclining Nude Facing Right by Gustav Klimpt

After walking through the galleries, we went downstairs to have dessert at Cafe Sabarsky, a restaurant decorated to look like an authentic Viennese cafe.  At first, after seeing the menu, we almost left.  Desserts were eight dollars each and coffee (no refills) was six dollars.  We decided to splurge. 

Cafe Sabarsky

My mother and Suzanne

Cheesecake, Rum Cake, Apple Strudel

The desserts were pretty good (we shared a rum cake, cheesecake, and apple strudel), but not really worth the fifty bucks.  In fact, we were all a little disappointed that the food didn’t really live up to the high price. 

Suddenly, my mother noticed a Mr. Softee ice cream truck pull up on 86th Street, directly outside the cafe window.  Two museum employees ran outside to buy themselves ice cream cones for $1.50 each. 

“At least the people who work here are smart enough not to spend fifty dollars on dessert from the cafe!” said my mother.

We all laughed, because my mother, my new friend, is funny.

NY Bloggers


When you meet another blogger on his home turf, it is a good idea to meet him in a establishment that mirrors the blogger’s unique personality.

Sophia and I met the sophisticated Tatyana at the Cafe Sabarsky.   Housed within Museum Mile’s Neue Galerie, the restaurant is patterned after the old-style Viennese kaffeehaus. We talked about architecture, politics, and why Austrian cafes serve coffee with a glass of water and metal spoon on top of the glass. 

(The answer:  Viennese tradition bids to serve a glass of water together with the coffee, although this is coming out of use in our hectic days. Originally the water was served as an excuse for the customer to keep his seat even when he had finished his coffee, to be able to read the newspapers provided in the café, or to have lengthy discussions. The latter was important because the “Kaffeehaus” in Vienna was used as a meeting point for writers, artists, etc.)

The next night, we met the mysterious Retropolitan at the Cabana Cafe, a restaurant designed to look like a cafe in pre-Castro Havana.  We talked about 1940’s radio shows, Retropolitan’s perfect radio voice, and the hardships of breaking up with a significant other.

The next day, I met the very professional and talented Amanda at a hip business-lunch cafe near Union Square.   We talked about our blogging “styles,” writing, and relationships.  

One caveat:

1)  Tatyana gave her cellphone number to Sophia, but not to me.

2)  Retropolitan, on leaving us, said, “It was a nice to meet you, Neil.  It was ESPECIALLY wonderful to meet you, Sophia.”

3)  Amanda, on hearing that I alone was coming to see her, “What a disappointment!  I was hoping to meet Sophia.”

Do you see a trend here?   Next time, maybe I’ll just send Sophia with a cardboard cut-out of myself.


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