Pardon the radio silence around these parts. I got real busy hustling around the city showing my dad, his wife Angie and my aunt Renee a good time. My feet are still recovering and I’m patiently waiting for my shoe leather to magically regenerate. We hit the city hard Wednesday through Sunday, but Saturday was the New Yorkiest day of them all. Here’s the breakdown of what happens when three Texans visit their New York kids.
9:30 AM: Our group enters Balthazar, the Taj Mahal of weekend brunching. This is where Leonardo Dicaprio used to dine with his posse back in the late 90s. Where the beautiful people pay $22 for a bread basket and ten bucks for half a grapefruit, thus making it a New York institution (and a place you wait to visit until the folks are in town). But really, it’s just so pretty in there and the food is UNBELIEVABLE. I don’t take photos of meals in restaurants, but my poached eggs florentine with spinach and artichokes and buuuuttttter and so much creeeeeeam was pure, opulent, thigh-swelling MAGIC. Whew, I just got a flashback and it smelled delicious.
10:40 AM: We hit the subway uptown to scope out some stores on 5th Avenue. The Apple Store is actually navigable this early in the morning, so I pick up a new cell phone case. I buy a customizable one, which means I pick out any photo I’ve taken, send it to the company and they’ll print it on a case for me. I’m thinking about this one from a graffiti wall:
But Vin continues to push for this:
Interesting choices, both. However I am also considering this guy:
11:15 AM: We go to an uber-fancy store to have a watch battery replaced. It is empty except for the five of us (who plan on buying nothing) and a staff of at least 15 people looking well-heeled and extremely bored. Vin and I amble over to the engagement ring case, just to gawk and watch pretty things sparkle under the spotlights. A very well-dressed gentleman approaches us and coos, “Ahhh, looking for an engagement ring?”.
Vin wastes no time replying, “No, thank you. We’re already married.”
“Congratulations,” he says flatly, and scurries away. There are no other customers in the store, which means he has no other trees to bark up. He huddles in the corner with a coworker, mentally willing some rich people to go shopping today.
Suddenly a scent not befitting such a fine establishment permeates the air around us, and I have finally found the title to my first book. I shall call it “Who Farted in Cartier?”. Works for both humor or mystery.
11:25 AM: Sensing a good time to exit, I grab dad and Vin and we stand outside the store while the ladies finish business. There is a man with a sandwich board standing on the corner, trying to direct traffic to a cafe down the street.
“Lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch.”
Dad delights in this very much. I think he giggles a few times.
“Lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch…chicken on riiiiiiice!, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch…chicken on riiiiiiiiice!”
12 noon: Since we’re still full from our French breakfast, we pass on the lunch lunch lunch and journey to Top of the Rock to catch some spectacular city views. Dad jokes that it’s like paying $25 for an elevator ride, but even a jaded New Yorker like me is pretty impressed by this.
2:00 PM: It’s one of the first truly beautiful spring days of the season, so we keep the tourist-vibe going by moving up to Central Park. We bring some sandwiches with us, and have a picnic on benches. As far as family activities go, I think this one’s pretty damn cute.
2:20: Two teenage boys on skateboards spend at least 15 minutes within two feet of us. Their conversation makes my fallopian tubes want to tie themselves into a sailor’s knot.
2:40: We finish up lunch, then head through the pretty tunnel that leads to Bethesda Fountain. At the base of the stairs is an opera singer who I posit is using her $100,000 Juilliard education to busk for loose change at the park. I give her two bucks and pray she pays off her student debt by the time she has her first grandchild.
2:50-4:00: The park is bursting with action, and the people-watching is grade-A, top-notch and included the following: A man on an antique typewriter selling custom poems, two separate acrobatic troupes, a model doing a photoshoot wearing a sari, a model doing a photoshoot in a Marilyn Monroe-inspired outfit, a thousand dogs, a million toddlers and a woman playing violin while swinging a hula hoop around her hips like a ring orbiting Saturn.
4:01 PM: A girl walks by with a cell phone case that looks like a pack of McDonald’s french fries.
4:03 PM: A guy walks by with French fries on his t-shirt.
4:04 PM: I decide the universe is trying to tell us something.
(Clearly this is an old picture…water in the fountain + green trees= wishful thinking)
4:10 PM: Walk back to dad and Angie’s midtown hotel to rest for a few hours. On the way, we pass a group of Amish teenagers. I’m pretty sure they’re in the big city while on rumspringa, and are spending a potentially debaucherous year enjoying “English” life before deciding if they’d like to join the Amish church. “Amish teenager on Rumspringa deciding whether to go English or go home” has been my dream client since the minute I finished grad school. I am SO tempted to hand them business cards, but I don’t think they’re allowed to have pockets or handbags.
4:15: I imagine what an Amish teenager would put on her cell phone case if she had one. Maybe a shoo-fly pie, or something really risque like a cartoon drawing of a pointy heel or a red lace bra.
4:20: We are trapped in a crowd (typical) next to a guy who speaks curtly to his girlfriend who is trying to move to the less crowded side of the sidewalk. His preference is to walk right on the edge of the sidewalk so that he’s one step away from falling off the curb. He brusquely snaps at her: “This is how I like to walk. I want to be able to see stuff. Don’t walk away from me.”
4:22: About 20 feet later he plows into a row of newspaper kiosks and almost causes a 10-person pile-up on the sidewalk. “Hey”, I think to myself. “That’s how he likes to walk”. I don’t care for this fellow. I’m blaming him for the fart in Cartier. He wasn’t there, but whatever.
4:30-7:00: We lay around in the hotel, watching The Man in the Iron Mask. I find myself wishing I looked as pretty as young, long-haired Leo Dicaprio and wondering if he still frequents Balthazar. I bet he doesn’t freak out over $10 half-grapefruits.
7:05: We rally and head to dinner. It’s in the theater district at a family-style Italian restaurant called Carmine’s. A few sidewalks are roped off for construction, so the crowds are thicker than an average Saturday in Times Square. And by thicker than average, I really mean we are casually strolling through the 5th circle of hell.
(this is an old picture. Thin crowd + short-sleeves= wishful thinking)
7:10 PM: A woman still holding a sign from 2010 warns us about the upcoming rapture. Right next to her is a guy covered in banana leaves promoting marijuana legalization.
7:11: “This is a big hot mess,” my dad says in his thick Texas accent.
At this point, I’m sure he thinks his firstborn child is crazy for living amidst such insanity and is aching for a commute in his car along a road that looks more like this:
8:00 PM: We meet up with Vin’s parents and siblings for a big family-style dinner, eating from enormous platters. There’s calamari and lasagna and tiramisu and a huge prime rib served over broccoli rabe and surrounded by a delicious moat of thick, starchy french fries. The universe has spoken. (I don’t have any stock photos of french fries so you’ll have to settle for calamari…).
10:15 PM: Dinner ends at the exact moment all the theaters let out. I have lived in New York City for 15 years, and I have actually never been caught in foot traffic that thick. It wasn’t a record I was trying to break and it was exactly like wading through molasses. I keep looking back at the Texans, expecting them to have all broken out in rashes or at least have passed out in a gutter or something.
10:40 PM: We finally make our way over to 8th Avenue as we try to avoid the bedlam on Broadway. Halfway down the street we are trapped at a crosswalk as an enormous charter bus has tried to go left, but is unable to complete the turn due to a huge dumpster parked on the street. It’s annoying, but I’m willing to wait.
10:42: Vin and my dad begin gesturing to the bus driver to help him back out of the street without hitting 5-10 vehicles.
10:45: Pedestrians are getting pissed. They’re crossing in front and in back of the bus, as the driver tries to right his wrong. He’s having a hard time.
10:48: Vin and dad step into three lanes of traffic, using their hands as stop signs to passing cars. My father is standing in the middle of 8th avenue with both arms in a V like he’s conducting the New York City Philharmonic. I do some quick mental math, trying to remember how many free shots of Sambuca he had after dinner. It was at least three.
10:49: My dad is grinning from ear to ear. He looks like he is having the funnest night of his entire life. I hope he doesn’t die this way.
10:53: The bus driver has finally backed that thing up. I breathe a sigh of relief, and begin to reflect on our big New Yorky day. I got a cool cell phone case and ate brunch at Balthazar. I saw the city from way up high and felt the sun on my face in Central Park. I spent time with several of my favorite people on the planet. Our families shared dinner around a big round table, and clinked glasses as we toasted to all the good things. The universe is looking out for us. My husband and father are still alive.
10:55: I gotta say, today was a good day.