Katie and I had a successful whirlwind trip for Rosh Hashanah to what my friend Danny calls "the old country," i.e. New York City.
A month ago, I couldn't have contemplated such a trip. But this time I felt I had the endurance and strength to do it. So off we went. We started by taking the same Amtrak train to Penn Station, but from different starting points. Katie got on near Brandeis (outside of Boston) and I got the same train in New Haven. I found her easily and we rode together to the city.
Unfortunately, she had forgotten her sneakers and dress shoes and was wearing only dog-chewed flip flops. Cousin Serena, who is about Katie's size and lives two subway stops from Penn Station, came to the rescue. I called her as we approached the station at 8:30 p.m. and she met us at a nearby restaurant with a bag containing the appropriate shoes. We had a quick dinner and a nice visit and then headed up to 1200 Fifth Ave., where we were staying at a friend of our mother's. We've done this periodically since my mother's death in 2006. It's been great to go home again, but complicated because my parents are no longer there.
The next day, in keeping with tradition, we attended services at the 92nd Street Y, where we met up with Ben. When my parents were alive, we crowded around a back table at a Greek coffee shop down the street along with our cousin Joanne, her husband Alan and whomever else had come to services.
But it was out of business, so we walked uptown to the Three Guys coffee shop. Tradition modified but continued. My mother loved Three Guys. She joked that while some customers are known at fancy restaurants, she liked being a regular at Three Guys, where they always knew her name (and her order).
I talked to Diane, David and Joe and wished them a Happy New Year – and Joe a happy 21st birthday. (Joe's school, Bates, is in Maine, too far for him to make the trip. Diane, meanwhile, spent the day with David's side of the family.)
We used to have dinner with my father's side of the family at my cousin Betsy and Michael's house. I don't see them that much, but I like seeing them and maintaining family ties, so this year we had dinner with them at their apartment in Queens, where we had a good time catching up...and eating a delicious meal complete with my grandmother's honey cake (made by Betsy).
We said the prayers over the round challah (no sharp edges, for a smooth New Year), which we ate with honey (more sweetness), and of course we drank that good Jewish red wine.
Friday was for free time; Katie jogged, and I trotted, around the reservoir in Central Park, another of my haunts when growing up and when we visit. In the afternoon we headed down to the Museum of Modern Art, where we were unnerved by the sound of shouting coming from the atrium. It stopped and started, sounding like people taking turns being flogged or killed.
As you headed upstairs, you could look down below and see what was happening: People took turns walking up to a microphone and screaming. The main exhibit on Matisse was sold out for the day, so we wandered around and then watched the people screaming. We discovered that it was the conception of Yoko Ono, who wrote that she wanted people to scream into the wind in honor of the oppressed who had no voice. We preferred another Yoko Ono project, a "wish tree" in the courtyard. People wrote wishes on tags provided by the museum and then tied them on the nearly-bare tree where the white tags waved in the breeze like leaves.
Many were in other languages. Most of those we could read were for peace, health and happiness. Some were cute ones from kids: I hope fifth grade will be good, etc. I attached my own wish, and then off we went, heading across town to meet relatives from my mother's side of the family.
We ate at one of our favorite French restaurants, where we sat outside in the balmy evening. We see them frequently and always enjoy the time. We fell into an easy conversation, providing each other with updates and just talking about this and that.
Next day (Saturday) we met my high school friend, Margie, for a quick breakfast, then went down to Penn Station and got a train to New Haven, where Jim picked us up. Went home for the rest of that day and evening, and then today, Katie and I drove to Brandeis. I dropped her off and came to Newton, where I am now. Tomorrow I have a check-up at Dana-Farber.
Diane and I watched some of the U.S. Open; they showed a replay of a semifinal from yesterday because the men's final was rained out today. I kept falling asleep. A thought flashed through my head: Maybe the reason I'm sleepy is that something is terribly wrong. Quick correction: I spent three days going up stairs, down stairs, up streets, down streets, going to services (standing up, sitting down), going to restaurants, catching trains, going to a museum, around the reservoir...and even into another borough!
Sorry if this reads like a shallow travelogue. I have skimmed over the history, emotion and meaning of the Rosh Hashanah service and over the wonders of the treasures we saw at the MOMA: works by Seurat, Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Monet and others.
Obviously there is more to say about each stop, but I mainly wanted to give a picture of the ground covered, the importance of continuing traditions even as they evolve, and the sustenance provided by family and friends who are just like family.
I'm glad I did it, but I'm pretty beat.
My appointment tomorrow is noon. You never know what that means. Could be 1 or later. Could also make me fall off my seat by actually being noon. My wishes for the day are to get a good report and to get in and out on time to get home (two-hour drive) to watch the men's final, scheduled for 4.