Sunday, August 9, 2009

Escape to New York

                                   With Serena (left) and Joanne
                                   at the Central Park reservoir.

At the last minute, I went to New York Friday on a quick trip that we scheduled for Katie to see NYU and Columbia. The plan was for Katie and Joe to drive down, pick up Ben and Meg uptown and then continue down to tour NYU on Friday. I bought tickets for them all to see "Hair" on Broadway that night along with our cousin, Serena, and  found a restaurant for their pre-show dinner  (where they ended up not going). They'd tour Columbia Saturday morning and return that day. I would stay home, my involvement finished with the planning stage. 

I had thought of going, but it felt too complicated: I couldn't go to the show, couldn't take public transportation, couldn't pop into a deli for a sandwich. I also wondered if I had enough energy. I would be glad they were having fun, but I would feel a little left out. I told Katie that I was the puppeteer pulling the strings but not participating in the action. (It was a joke, but you know what they say about there being some truth to this kind of comment.)

I told this to Melissa, and she asked why I didn't just go. When I told her my reservations, she had an answer for each one. Transportation? Take a cab. What to do when they go to the show? Visit with someone else. Food? Well, there's always pizza (safe because it's cooked in such a hot oven). So I ventured out, feeling both wary and excited. 

During part of the NYU tour on Friday, I sat on a bench in Washington Square Park, one of my old haunts in high school. I walked along with the tour a bit, but I had trouble keeping up, and each time they went into a building, I wasn't sure what to do with myself. At the dormitory stop I put on a mask and followed the group. We climbed three sets of stairs to see a dorm room. It was too much for me.                     

Friday  night, Joe, Katie and I stayed at 1200 Fifth Ave., the apartment building where I grew up. With my parents both gone, going there was strange but comforting. We stayed with my mother's friend Muriel, who is now sort of like an aunt to us. At 93, Muriel is elegant in an old New York style. She has a beautiful art- and book-filled apartment on the 15th floor, overlooking Central Park.

She bought us bagels and lots of fruit, just like my parents would have. She also set out a box of Lu biscuits – Petit Ecolier with dark chocolate. My mother loved those, and we'd often squeeze into our small kitchen and eat them after seeing a show. When I thanked Muriel, she said she had gotten them because she knew my mother liked them. 

Her apartment in the pre-war (WWII) building shares certain subtle characteristics with our old apartment, 4C. The wood floors creak just the same way. The older faucets make the same sound when turning on. The cabinets in the kitchen are the same, and even the sound of the front door opening and closing sounds like "home." To be honest, that part of it is a little odd. It's like you're home and you're not home. But I got used to it, and it was great spending some time with Muriel.

Things fell into place. When the kids went to the show, my cousin Jeanne and I found a good restaurant with tables outside, where I felt comfortable ordering dessert. We walked around a little and later I met up with the kids at Muriel's.
                                       With Jeanne in Westport, Conn.

I was a little embarrassed to wear my Red Sox hat after two (later to be three) losses to the Yankees, but nobody bothered me. I did stand for a long time trying to get a cab, with many empty ones passing me by. I thought it might be the hat, but when I took it off they still failed to stop. When I changed locations (hat off) a cab finally did stop. Odd.

One of the things that really makes me feel like my old New York self is parking the car. Finding the right space and following the regulations for that particular spot is an art that obsesses many New Yorkers. My father and I used to have long conversations that started the minute I entered the apartment when I visited from Massachusetts. His first question: "Did you get a spot?" (You hope to never have to give in and use the garage.)

The street cleaner comes by in the morning, and you have to either be in your car or move. First thing to take into consideration: If you park in front of the building, you need to be in your car from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Across the street along Central Park, you have to be in the car from 8:30-9 a.m. We parked across the street to get the extra half-hour sleep.

I went down at 8:25 with a book and got in the car. It was musical cars out there, with the 8:30-ers watching to see if the 8-o'clockers in front of the building would pull out so we could take their spot and not have to sit for the whole half hour.

The street cleaner came along a little after 8:30 and signaled some, but not all of us, to move out so he could clean along the curb. The idea is that you go back into your precious spot, but sometimes cars follow the street cleaner and dash into your spot before you can back in. That didn't happen on Friday. You can imagine the commotion when it does happen.

 Meanwhile the traffic police came along and ticketed cars in which nobody was sitting. I happened to be talking on my cell phone when the officer walked up the line of cars. I guess I was slouching and he didn't see me, because he walked over and took out his tickets. Yikes! I sat up straight and he walked away.

A car did pull out across the street, and I tried to make a go for the spot, but the car behind me was faster and got there first. You have to have your wits about you. Then all you have to do is feed the meter quarters every two hours. It worked out well, because when the kids went to Columbia Saturday morning I walked around the reservoir with Serena and our cousin Joanne. 

Hope you don't mind the parking story. The ritual is part of my heritage!

On the way home, we stopped in Westport, Conn., to visit my aunt Marge and her husband Bill. We stayed for a cookout and then headed home to South Hadley. 

I was pretty beat, but I'm glad that I did it.


susiegb said...

I loved that description of your 'aunt's apartment ... it was very evocative. I remember staying in an old family flat in London that hadn't been done up since the 40s ... kind of reminded me of those days!

Glad you're getting out and about - sounds like you're doing more than I am!!

SRS said...

Back in the real world, right down to NYC street parking. Congratulations, and I'm really proud of you! SRS

Susan C said...

Did Katie like NYU and Columbia?

hockeychic said...

That is so great that you ended up making the trip. I love your story about parking in New York. My grandfather used to own an apartment in the village and your story about Muriel's apartment brought back some memories for me of that old brownstone.

PJ said...

Oy, alternate side parking. It used to rule lives. I hear they've made in more streamlined.

Anonymous said...

While reading your blog, PJ's nurse Myra came in with Vytus, and wanted to know if my wife was the PJ that is Ronnie's friend. Okay, they both told me to tell you, "get your ass in here to visit when we're on!!!"

And, nice blog today. Evokes my own memories of growing up and living in NYC, though Brooklyn parking was a lot easier.

Stay healthy and strong!


Ronni Gordon said...

Susan: She liked them both, and she loves the idea of being in the city. I'm not sure she'd be so happy at NYU, because it doesn't have a campus...just buildings spread out on many blocks. Columbia has a green and all that plus the city.

Ann said...

I'm really glad you decided to go. The parking rituals sound exhausting and you did such a great job describing your visit.

Michele said...

What a fun trip - love th eparking story!

pam said...

Dearest Ronni-Friend, not just Runder-Woman,

Wonderfully Evocative,
as Susiegb noted,
-- bagels, brunch, broadway, parking,
-- 1200 Fifth Avenue....
-- Gordon hearth/home...
epitome of hospitality
-- embrace of Friends-Family...

any strange activity with the lights at Muriel's?

Runni, you are a super elixir --
felt refreshed after our conversation...
Afterward ran into Marge and Bill twice yesterday! i consider this a great omen...


Anonymous said...

Ronnie, I lost your blog for awhile but have loved catching up!!!!!!!! Great work on making the NYC work for you and what you COULD do which was quite a bit!

I miss east coast pizza- nothing beats it out here!

Diane said...

Love the pictures of you in NYC and CT. You look great. I've been to NYC a few times since we closed up the apartment, have walked by the building, but haven't yet had the nerve to go upstairs. I can visualize every aspect of the place, but somehow don't know if I can make it back in there, let alone stay there. Good for you for going and getting back out into the world. I hope you realize how strong you are and what an amazing process of recovery you have gone through. Keep it up!

home improvement - wood flooring said...

Nice post.I'm really glad you decided to go. The parking rituals sound exhausting and you did such a great job describing your visit.thanks for the posting.

home improvement - wood flooring said...

Nice post.I'm really glad you decided to go. The parking rituals sound exhausting and you did such a great job describing your visit.thanks for the posting.

Nelle said...

Oh how I loved sharing all this with you!