My Husband Vinny
Between you and me, I still find it hilarious that I ended up with a guy named Vinny from Queens. So does my family, who’ve lived in Texas for so many generations that some of their accents might actually require subtitles on national TV.
A lot of people who meet Vinny assume he’s Italian, because you know… his name is Vinny and he grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Queens. But Vinny’s not Italian, he’s Croatian. Which is, you know, not really that far from Italy.
Anyway, Vin’s accent is about the same as mine–subtle, with just a hint of local flavor. But on occasion, he likes to crank the Queens up a peg and go full Joe Pesci on us. There are no famous Croatians to imitate (are there?), so he tends to give the people what they want and pretend he just stepped off a Scorcese set. I find this to be the funniest thing in the world and will usually egg him on. I married a ham.
Saturday we went to the New York Botanical Gardens for the Holiday Train Show. I seem to have a knack for picking family-friendly activities, and sometimes it feels kind of awkward to be the only childless adults adrift in a sea of MacLaren strollers. However, I have to say, it’s nice to finally have a height advantage somewhere.
We roll into the parking lot at the gardens in the Bronx. We pull up to the first of two tollbooths, where we pay $15 for parking. There is a $2 discount if you pay with Mastercard, so I ask Vinny if he has one. “Fuck yeah, I do!” It’s amazing how exciting saving two bucks can be.
We pull up to the second booth. The guy tells us it’s $28 per person to come into the gardens. Damn! That’s steep. We ask if it’s worth it. The guy waits way too long to answer. We recognize the brilliance in placing the parking tollbooth before the ticket tollbooth. Clearly we’re not going to spend $13 to take a lap in their parking lot. We buy the tickets.
We tour the grounds before hitting the train show. We walk up a little hill to check out the rock garden, and are disappointed to find a big lock on the gate. The rock garden is closed for the season. Apparently the rocks will not bloom again until next April. Bummer.
We traipse across the grass. There’s a nice building on the other side of a big lawn. “Look at that,” Vinny from Queens says in his best Joe Pesci. I think he used the top of his hand to brush some invisible dirt from his chin. “Now that’s a beautiful building. I bet it was built by the Italians.”
“Why would you bet that?” I asked.
“Because the Italians…they’re an extraordinary race.” This reminded me of the time Vinny called me a racist for ordering white toast instead of wheat. I had to remind him that wheat is not a race, and my poor nutritional choices are my own damn business.
“Vinny, Italian is not a race.”
“No it’s not…but this is!” And then he ran away from me.
Finally, it’s our turn to go see the model trains. We’re not really here for the trains, but the artist renderings of 150 NYC landmark buildings, all constructed with natural materials like twigs, leaves and roots. It’s apparent that most of the kids are more interested in spotting Thomas the Train than the Flatiron Building carved out of tree bark.
When we get to the front of the line, the young female ticket taker asks Vinny: “Are you a model? For Abercrombie and Fitch?” That Vinny. The one person I know who doesn’t look chubby in layers.
Then she asks me: “Can I see your ticket?”
Well, then. Moving on. Time to see some bark buildings!
We take the tour amidst a million kids yelling “This is boring!”, completely underwhelmed by the fact that someone WHITTLED THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE OUT OF FREAKING MULCH. We thought it was amazing and felt like telling the guy at the tollbooth that it was definitely worth 28 bucks.
Since we were in the Bronx, we made one last stop before heading home– our favorite bakery on Arthur Avenue (the real Little Italy–not that overcrowded tourist trap in Manhattan) for some freshly filled cannolis. Vin double-parked the car and slipped back into Joe Pesci for this moment: “Be a good girl, and go grab me a cannol”.
I purchase two cannolis– one large, one small–from a delicate Italian woman with pillowy hair and beautiful hands. When I see the difference in their size I say, “Oh look, a mama cannoli and a baby cannoli”, and she repeats back to me in a lovely accent that is soft and slowly cadenced: “Yes, it is a mama cannoli and a baby cannoli, A-ha-ha-ha.” Vin could learn a thing or two about subtlety from this woman.
I run back to the car with the pastries, and Vin says, “Heyyyy, back to Queens. Our home away from home!”
“Vinny, Queens is our home.”
“Even bettah, even bettah.”