Tag Archives: NYC

When everything changed

In January 2002 I hosted a dinner party to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was a Monday night and we had a wonderful evening of laughter, food and wine.  As the night progressed, I began to anticipate how tired and cranky I would be the next morning when my alarm roused me for work. I hate being off my game because of lack of sleep.

As I moved between the dining room and my guests, and the kitchen with its dish filled sink, glancing at the ever later time on the clock, a thought occurred to me: September 11, 2001 had been a Tuesday. Something inside me clicked with such force that it seemed impossible for the internal noise to have gone unheard by those sharing my evening.

We never know when our last night on this earth will be.

I knew, without a shred of doubt, that if the next day was when I met my end, I would rather die with a bellyful of celebratory food and the echo of an evening’s laughter in my ears than 8 hours of sleep. No regrets.

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Trains, boats and buses

imageThose of you who have children know that a big part of parenting seems to revolve around  transportation. Like us, kids have places to be and must get to them. Whether it’s sports practice, school events or to social activities, we, as parents, are usually on the hook to drive them to where they need to be. At what age do we begin letting them get there on their own? What about when where they want to go is more distant than just a couple of miles away?

My oldest son has always had a remarkable sense of direction. When he was still preschool age I began to rely upon him for help while driving, asking him which way to turn. He’s always been obsessed with transportation, particularly trains, yet, as a city kid he has no interest in getting his driver’s license. I’m fine with that, trust me. Last year, on our first day in Amsterdam we bought 24 hour hop on/hop off passes for the canal boats. After we boarded the boat we consulted the map to determine which stops we should take and quickly determined we were interested in doing different things.

After a quick discussion, Liam and I decided to split up for a couple of hours. He would remain on the boat and loop back around to visit the Maritime Museum and I would get off at the next stop to troll through one of my favorite flea markets. We’d been in Amsterdam for less than 18 hours and were without cell phones, but I was confident that he could, in case of an emergency, find his way back to the hotel. I clambered off the boat and watched it depart, thinking that his Dad would be mighty pissed if this venture didn’t go well…

But, of course, it did go well. My 16 y/o and I met at the designated spot essentially on time and all was well. I was definitely a little apprehensive, but I knew I had to give him a little independence, even in the vice capital of Europe, and I didn’t regret it. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

There have been other occasions when I’ve trusted the boys to get somewhere on their own. When Griffin was 13, I put him on the bus at the Port Authority to ride out to the Meadowlands to meet friends for a Jets game – on Thanksgiving afternoon. The ride home caused me more anxiety, particularly after my son disregarded the instructions to wait inside for me and instead was walking around 8th Avenue. We figured it out.

Liam has taken the train solo to NYC, switching lines at Poughkeepsie to arrive at Grand Central Station. Griffin’s latest triumph was making his way from Albany to the ferry dock in Woods Hole, via Boston. These forays can definitely be a little anxiety-inducing, but I know that teenagers need to learn to navigate their way through the world and I’m much more comfortable giving my kid a ticket to ride than a license to drive.  You?

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Filed under aging, Boys, family, road trips, travel

Every boy an island

Yep, there were three boys and yes, we did visit three islands. Mission accomplished.  Here are some highlights.
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  • We actually got on the road precisely on time.  This is such a rare occurrence that I could not let it pass without acknowledgement.
  • The drive was uneventful and we encountered no traffic until we got to the Holland tunnel.  This was a different route for me, but it made sense to avoid the West Side Highway and enter Manhattan in TriBeCa.
  • We parked for free right in front of the hotel.  Really.
  • After leaving our luggage behind, we hopped a subway to Battery Park and  made our way to Staten Island, fortifying ourselves with some Sabrett’s along the way.  I eat a hotdog maybe once every few years.  This one was with onions and mustard.  It was divine.
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  • After docking, we jumped on a train for two stops and then walked the remainder of the way to Stapleton Pier where we got in line to tour the U.S.S. McFaul.  Also present was the U.S.S. Cole, but that line was even longer.
  • Our tour was informative and free and the perfect activity for Memorial Day Weekend.  Recommended.
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  • After docking again in Manhattan, we walked to Chinatown where we gorged on soup dumplings, crispy duck, Shanghai noodles, squid with salted vegetables and peppers and, my favorite, green beans with pork.
  • A leisurely walk back to our hotel followed dinner, with the boys remaining behind while I hoofed it up to Rocco’s for pastry.  It was a beautiful evening for a walk and I was thrilled with the patriotically lit Empire State Building and Freedom Tower.
  • Have I mentioned before how much I love the green spaces in lower Manhattan?  The west side, with its meandering paths which hug the Hudson is so lovely, particularly in the spring.  I couldn’t resist a quick run to start my day, while the boys slept in.
  • Our reservations for the Statue of Liberty (obtained online a couple of weeks prior) were for noon.  We again headed to Battery Park via the subway and were through security and waiting on the dock in little time.  But, then the waiting really began.  Waiting for the boat to arrive and unload.  Loading the boat.  Arriving on Liberty Island and unloading the boat.  Waiting to go through security again… The 196 steps which took us to the base of Lady Liberty were the least painful part of the entire process.  Unless the National Park Service figures out a more efficient way to get people on and off those boats, I don’t imagine myself ever returning to Liberty Island.  If you plan to go there, look into departing from the Jersey side.  I think it would be faster.
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  • The boat ride does provide a fantastic view of lower Manhattan and it is impossible to take in the sights without imagining what newcomers to America must have seen.  On a sunny day in May it must have been magnificent.
    DSC_0030We were in the car and driving north only 4 minutes beyond my target time.  There was a quick stop in Jersey for some diner chow and then it was back to Albany for the Head and the Heart show, courtesy of 97.7 WEXT, at the Upstate Concert Hall.  I had a great weekend – hope you did, too!

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Filed under Boys, Events, family, favorites, NYC, Recommendations, road trips

Making Memorial Day memories

Almost 6 months to the date exactly, the boys and I are getting ready to head back to NYC for another round of adventures.  Our plans for the weekend include taking in some of the Fleet Week events and a visit to Lady Liberty.   We’re staying in TriBeCa and once I park my car, hopefully on the street, I don’t intend to be north of Bleecker Street again until we head back to Albany.

Have you ever checked out Fleet Week?  Apparently there are ship tours both in Manhattan and Staten Island.  I’m kind of wondering if the Staten Island events might be more accessible, once we actually get to Staten Island, that is.  We’ve already toured the Intrepid and it would be cool to ride the ferry on a warm, sunny day.  Because it will be warm and sunny, damn it, since it is Memorial Day weekend and I said so.

From the little I’ve read, it seems that after we get off the ferry we’ll have to take a train to Sullivan’s Pier. I don’t really know Staten Island at all, but think it might be fun to expand our explorations beyond Manhattan’s shores.  There’s also an appeal to just driving south and parking the car without mucking around midtown.   Are there any Staten Island experts out there?  Fleet Week veterans, perhaps?

Lunch and dinner plans are pretty loose this time around.  I’m thinking about a meal in Chinatown and another in Little Italy.  We’ve been very happy at Joe’s Shanghai and their soup dumplings are a favorite item of the boys.  Maybe a stroll past Umberto’s Clam House so I can share some bonafide NYC mafia history with them,   but since the food reviews are less than stellar, we’re looking for other options.  Do you have any recommendations for us?

Of course, I’m hoping for an evening run down the west side, around the southern tip and then up the east side of Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge.  Maybe I can even make it to 3 boroughs in a single day!   Whatever we end up doing, wherever we end up eating, I’m certain it will be memorable.  Can’t wait!

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Filed under Boys, holidays, NYC, road trips

New York City, just like I’m picturing it

I’m getting kind of excited about spending some untethered time in NYC.  I feel like circumstances are aligning.  The sun is expected to shine in mild blue skies.  The moon will be nearly full and, I predict, spectacular.  I have a good idea about what I’m going to wear (cutoff shorts with footless tights, flat shoes for walking) and what I’ll need to pack (running gear, a cute dress for cocktails).

My plans are fluid but include a couple of stops on my way downtown – Macy’s, perhaps, Porto Rico Importers, definitely, Rocco’s more than likely.  I’ll be dressed casually so I’m going with a backpack instead of an overnight bag.  I like to have my hands free and travel light.

I’ll have a quality late lunch with at least one glass of wine, maybe my first rose of the season.  My plans include a nap followed by a run.  I want to head south down the lower west side to Battery Park through the Seaport and over the Brooklyn Bridge.  The “blood moon” will be rising and whatever music I choose I know will be perfect.

A quick shower off, a little makeup and then there will be cocktails at a swanky place down on lower Hudson where, I believe, Sundays are “pants optional.”  Fun will be had.  I know how to do this.   It’s going to be epic.

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Filed under favorites, NYC, running, Spring

September 12th, twelve years later

Waking up on this day a dozen years ago, I remember being happy that I could finally get out of bed and escape the image of those towers falling down behind my eyelids, over and over again. The sky was once again stunningly blue, but now it was silent with all commercial airline traffic grounded as the world focused their attentions on Ground Zero.

During my drive west on the thruway to work, I passed a convoy of trucks carrying generators and other equipment, their destination without question. There was still a sense of urgency and the hope for survivors yet to be found was a beacon, to which it seemed we all looked.

There was kindness present in unexpected places. Drivers waved to one another, inviting an easy merge into traffic or permitting a turn which would more typically be denied, as we are accustomed to all being in such a damn rush. The world slowed down.

It’s difficult to believe that twelve years have passed since that horrible and scary time, but what is more difficult to accept is that many of us have forgotten how a simple act of kindness can radiate with as much force as the collapse of a tower. Or two.

The world became a different place for millions of people on September 12, 2001. Husbands and wives woke up for the first time as widowers. Children opened their eyes and saw a world with a gaping hole where once their mother or father had been. Parents mourned the unimaginable loss of a child, which to me, is the ultimate affront to the way nature is supposed to function.

Today would be a great day to do something nice, to make a gesture which is unexpected and generous in spirit. While I hope to never again witness a horrible tragedy like the one which occurred in our country twelve years ago, each day provides us with an opportunity to erase even the tiniest amount of sorrow in the world by the smallest act of kindness. Wouldn’t that be a great 9/11 memorial?

PS – A childhood friend of mine, who lost her husband far too young to a different type of terrorist, cancer, began an organization called Gift it Forward. Check it out here.

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Filed under Events, ideas, musings, NYC, Observations

Tortilla Flats aka as the place with a waiter who must have flatlined

The best part of the experience, aside from the company.

The best part of the experience, aside from the company.

We stopped in at a little joint Sunday afternoon down in the West Village, Tortilla Flats, hereafter referred to as the place with the worst service.  Ever.

Our party of three arrived at what I think of as the “shoulder season” of dining hours, around 3:30 or so.  There was a distinct lack of greeting after we entered, but the bartender finally acknowledged us and directed us to the lone waiter, Mr Frazzled and Angry.  Just like his hair.  He agreed to seat us and selected the only unoccupied dirty table.  Naturally, it needs to be bussed and wiped, which he did in between other tasks.  His sense of prioritizing was poor.

We sat and perused the menu, giving the margarita list the bulk of our attention.  We selected a path to tequila awareness (Sauza Hornitos) and waited for the server’s return.  We waited a long ass time, actually.  We waited so long that we finally sent a representative to the bar to place the order directly with the bartender.  In a remarkably rapid fashion, the server brought us our pitcher, with the correct number of glasses salted (2 out of 3) and garnished with limes.  Drinking commenced.

About midway through our first drinks we again flagged the server down to place an order for nachos with sides of guacamole and salsa.  A short time later we received our nachos, which were unlike any nachos I’ve ever been served.  They were flat, looking more like a quesadilla than a pile of crispy chips topped with cheese and beans and whatnot.  For clarification we inquired if we had been served the correct item and to remind the server that we had also ordered a couple of sides and that utensils, plates and napkins would be helpful.  With a remarkable level of surliness for a human being over the age of 16 or so, he retrieved our guacamole and salsa, but no plates or napkins.

At this point we were drinking our second drinks on fairly empty stomachs.  You see, we didn’t have plates or napkins or utensils with which to eat our food.  Even though those are all obviously, to most, considered essential items when consuming food.  Eventually, once the ray of sunshine who was our “server” had cleared a neighboring table (which was unoccupied) and stood at the bar for a few minutes, we received plates and napkins.  Silverware never was provided.  The (finger)food was tasty.

My commitment at that particular moment in time was weighted heavily in favor of the tequila, so I elected to not sit that kid down to painstakingly itemize all of the lapses in service which he had committed.  Our interlude ended on a high note when the waiter inquired how everything was – a question he posed for the first and only time as we paid the check.  We were able to exit the restaurant laughing, a state I don’t imagine he was able to replicate with the paltry, yet still generous, 15% tip we left for him.  At least there’s always tequila, buddy.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, NYC, Restaurants, Summer, sunday