Hannah Orenstein’s navy pleated skirt swings as we walk down Avenue A in the East Village. She eases a pair of circular tortoiseshell sunglasses onto her face then gestures toward a curio shop with a red leather -sleeved arm. “Have you ever been to Obscura? I love it here!”
Today, the Assistant Features Editor at Seventeen is taking me on a tour of some of her favorite spots in the neighborhood, the quirky and unusual places she has been known to frequent since moving to New York in 2011.
Hannah knows who she is down to the velour Juicy Couture sweatsuits I loathe but she loves without even the smallest trace of irony. Even if I hated her guts I would tell you she’s a great writer and a rising star in magazine publishing, with eloquence, elegance, and panache beyond her years. But I don’t, so I’ll also tell you she recently sold her debut novel, Playing With Matches, to Touchstone Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint. I’m delighted to be able to call her a friend, one with whom I continue to bond over a shared, undying love of New York, 1950s style, and good magazine writing.
We walk into antiquities and oddities store Obscura and my eyes dart from torn-apart baby dolls to vintage postcards to human skulls that may or may not have once been real. While my brain shivers at the thought of the latter, Hannah seems at home.
Traveling south, we go first to Enchantments, New York City’s oldest occult store, to peruse various candles and herbs and pet their pair of black cats. People ask sincere questions about the correct ingredients to use in spells and receive sincere answers.
Next we enter to Flower Power, a healing herbs store run by women who identify as Green Witches, to sniff more concoctions. Hannah picks up a jar of their Love Potion No. 9 mixture and inhales.
“Would you ever use a love potion?” I ask. She laughs, then considers. “Would I?”
We leave for coffee at The Bean on 1st Avenue. Her red lipstick sticks to the drink’s white lid between sips as we head down East 9th Street to Dusty Buttons, a vintage clothing store that has since closed. Hannah purrs with delight as she runs her hands over the cinched 1950s waists of sequined and plaid dresses while urging me to get a vintage Black Sabbath t-shirt. I chuckle. Hannah knows who we both are.
Peckish, we avoid the looming rain and duck into Cozy Soup N’ Burger, one of Hannah’s favorite haunts from her NYU days. In the unadorned diner, there since the 1970s, we order omelets—hers her usual Ranchero, mine mushroom—and chit chat, trying to avoid the going back into the rain. We do have to leave eventually, and as the downpour continues we jump into a cab, where she checks email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat as we motor across the East Village. An umbrella just doesn't go with this outfit.
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