Yesterday I wrote a first draft of a short story, which was based on Alice, an agoraphobic character who will leave her apartment any day now. As I don’t often write short stories, it surprised me, and I’m fine to move on. Today, feeling slightly agoraphobic myself, with few daytime social or work intrusions, I went to the Neue Galerie, where Klimt’s painting “Woman in Gold” has gained popularity ever since the Helen Mirren movie of the same name came out. I won’t give a spoiler alert and say more about the film.

What do you do for a mental health break? What if “looking within” or the usual

Back to the Neue. Bags and cell phones were checked and water bottles confiscated, so entrance was staggered; by the time I got in, I felt I’d done something wrong. Neue is an artistic gem, with exhibits of German, Russian, and Austrian art of the early 20th century. Paintings once considered decadent were brightly refreshing. The poison of encroaching Nazism was not ignored. Curated writings explained the looting of art masterpieces owned by Jews, including those of Maria Altmann, heroine of the Woman in Gold story. It was unsettling, my grandparents (in the early 1900’s) came from the Austro-Hungarian empire.

After Klimt, the stars of the place were two cafes. I chose the more modest Café Fledermaus downstairs. It was less crowded, with black and white checked floors and a slightly pretentious Old World air. The staff and decor made it seem as if we were in Vienna. Servers were dressed in formal (b/w} attire, and mine was humorless. Still, the coffee and whipped cream were so real, they required the complement of a slice of hazelnut torte. Amazing how my mind will find a “mental health” excuse to eat cake, even at a total tab of $20.

Heading back home on the M86 crosstown bus, now a “Select,” I was jolted back to the present. Select means passengers now have to swipe their Metrocards in curbside machines before entering the bus, causing uniform sighs of complaint. The MTA would have us believe it’s to save time, but there’s a hefty fine attached for the non-compliant. New Yorkers always band together over something to be indignant about. I enjoyed the camaraderie, Adele’s golden portrait in my mind’s eye, and the taste of whipped cream lingering on my lips.

What’s your mental health break? What do you do when meditation or “looking within” doesn’t quite cut it?