About a year ago our oldest son and his lovely bride moved to New York City. His move made the distance between my oldest two children into a sort of extended yoga pose with one long arm stretched from the Southeast United States to Pasadena, California, and the other lengthening just as hard to New York, New York. The third child lives about twenty minutes away from me , so I can just bend my knee behind me as I balance on one leg to symbolize his distance. Try that pose for a minute. Don’t forget to breathe!
It may sound silly to think of contorting one’s body to demonstrate the whereabouts of one’s children, but being a parent is nothing if not a contorting experience. As time goes by I adjust more to the idea that my children’s adult statuses are permanent, and no clever bargaining I do will ever change that. In the transition I have hopefully been able to form close adult relationships with them, and share in the joys and travails of their lives. I am enormously proud of all three of them, and of the new son and daughter I have acquired through marriage. And I’ve taken quite well to the empty nester experience. So all is well except that I can’t see them whenever I want to. And I do want to.
Therefore when my husband recently announced that he had a business trip to the Newark, New Jersey area, I immediately made plans to meet him there at the end of his business so that we could spend the weekend with our son and daughter in law in The Big Apple. We arranged to stay through the weekend so we could have all day Saturday and Sunday with the busy couple, and fly back Monday. I was thrilled to get to see my darlings, but also to see the city without having to make any of the plans. Past history has shown that when we visit our children they do all the leg work. It’s nice having them do some of the contorting. By the way, you can come out of that pose now.
We arrived Friday afternoon and checked into The MAve Hotel. We couldn’t both fit into our children’s postage stamp sized Manhattan digs, so I chose this hotel because of its proximity to my son’s home. In case anyone cares, I expect to stay there again. It is in a narrow building on Madison Avenue. The room size is reasonable by New York standards, the beds comfy, and the furnishings new and clean. Another plus was the good overhead light and bed side reading light, which one does not often find in hotels. The employees were polite and attentive. There is a free grab and go breakfast, but we didn’t need it.
After checking into the hotel we went to a neighborhood craft beer establishment , The Rattle and Hum to wait for our companions to arrive after work. We were happy to relax at the bar and sample new brews while reflecting that yes, once again we were the oldest people in the building. Then of course once our son arrived with his wife I had the chance to embarrass them both with my effusive welcome.Once we greeted one another we capped off the evening with dinner at Southern Spice Chettinad Indian restaurant. I was tired by then and didn’t get pictures but just trust me; it was all delicious.
In the morning our son took us to their new apartment, a four story walkup. While small in size it is large in character with an exposed brick wall, a fireplace and lovely wooden ceiling beams. So what if there is not much closet space? They always have the roof of the building to stretch out in. It didn’t seem too much smaller than their previous apartment in Brooklyn, plus it is much closer to all the things they want to do.
Our next stop was to Kalustayan’s, an enormous Indian and ethnic grocery store on Lexington, where I nosed around for as long a time as I thought my companions could wait for me. This store really requires its own separate blog post. Pictures and words simply cannot do it justice. There are rows and rows of spices, salts, teas, flours, cooking utensils and so many other goodies. Could I have stayed longer? Yes, but I also wanted to go to the The Tenement Museum.
We arrived at the Museum to learn that we would need to sign up for a tour which would not begin for over an hour. So we amused ourselves watching the neighborhood sights, sometimes from inside this establishment, Top Hops. From a sweet window seat we munched on a cheese plate and tasted beers.
Photography inside the Museum is prohibited, and they mean that. So I will just tell you that we took a tour called “Irish Outsiders”, which talked about the crowded and sordid living conditions of the area in the 1800s and the many trials the immigrants faced trying to succeed in their new land. We were able to see an unrestored and a restored tenement apartment, each containing 325 square feet. Walking through the apartments, viewing the stripped back layers of paint, it was evident that many many stories remain to be told of those who once lived there.
Our tour guide seemed to want us to discuss tolerance and bigotry in today’s world, but our group was not forthcoming. Speaking ,though, of how public perceptions have changed I did share that my grandmother used to sing, with no sense she was degrading anyone, a song with the following lyrics: “I come from Hong Hong China, Me workie for the Mellican (American) man, catch rats all day in the laundry, Me catch ’em just the best me can.” So I feel I added to the canon of information on the subject.
Following our leaders from the Museum, we hopped in a cab and headed for the open rooftop bar atop The Pod 39 Hotel. I had read about this ultramodern hotel/hostel and here I was, right on the cutting edge! Oh, if I could have stayed all night I would have! The patio bar gave no hint of the hipster haven below. Rather, the arched bricks, plantings and fountains evoked a scene from days gone by. I bobbed from one side of the patio to the other, madly taking pictures as the sun sunk lower in the sky. My companions eventually but gently nudged me toward the elevator after several hours. Really. I would have stayed there all night!
Our young guides had decided upon a sushi place for dinner, for the wait was too long at their first choice, so we went to another spot across the street. Like the night before, I was tired. I don’t remember what all this was, but it was the chef’s specialty that night. And it was absolutely fabulous.
Too soon it was Sunday. We met for brunch at Resto, a Belgian Restaurant. The place was hopping, with some soulful Al Green in the background. I had a frittata with ham, gruyere and avocado that filled me up for the REST of the day. So it was good that we did a lot of walking.
Our first stop after brunch was the Marianne Boesky Gallery where there was an ongoing exhibit by Lucie Fontaine and her employees. But if I have my facts straight, Lucie Fontaine herself is a creation of the three artists who work for her. During the exhibit, work by the “four” of them, plus other artists is on display in the space they have designed to be Lucie Fontaine’s home. The “employees” live there and play the parts of servants in the home.
When we arrived, no one answered the door for a long time. Just as we were about to leave, a young woman came to the door and said that the gallery was not really open, but that we could come in. Was this part of the original conceit? We didn’t know. She allowed us to see the first floor, Lucie’s living room, and the second floor with her office, bedroom and bath. We looked and puzzled around until we had seen it all. On our way out, we thanked the young lady for letting us in. I asked her to please tell Lucie Fontaine we were sorry to have missed her. On the stoop we asked ourselves again if the place had really been closed. Had we participated in a play within a play? We didn’t know. And in my opinion, leaving an art exhibit in a state of not knowing fulfills the purpose of an exhibit.
From there as it was a lovely day we went on to Central Park. My husband and I had only been to Central Park before in cold weather, so it was quite a treat to roam through parts of the park we hadn’t seen, with no particular destination in mind. There were lots of people in the park, but not so many that we felt crowded. It was after 5:00 by the time we emerged from the park. A confab on a concrete bench at the park’s gate resulted in the decision to eat that evening at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, one of Mario Batali’s restaurants.
Once again we hopped a cab to whatever the right neighborhood was. On our way to the restaurant I saw what looked like a tiny little lady pushing a shopping cart. But a closer inspection revealed her to be a sculpture. And beside her, in the stoop of a building. was a grouping a magazines and other items which apparently was part of the exhibit. After I started taking pictures the artist, a homeless woman, came out from somewhere demanding that I give a donation. I gave her one, but she discombobulated me so much that I didn’t stick around for more photos. At dinner we had an interesting conversation about the ways of big city life, and whether I should have donated. But as my son said, her work was intriguing. . So I didn’t mind the donation.
And what to say about Otto? Homey and welcoming, it is modeled after an Italian train station. I can guarantee that once you eat there you will beg to return. The wine list is three pages long. My husband had to seek the services of the sommolier who kindly helped him choose an appropriate wine for the evening. Why can’t I eat there for every meal? Do you see how I am already begging? I had a cucumber and watermelon salad with mint and shaved cheese that was so good it brought tears to me eyes. And I think I did cry when I tried my arugula and prosciutto pizza. I don’t have any Mario Batali cookbooks but it is clear that I need one. I love the simple dishes with big big flavors. May I please go back?
After dinner we took what was for me a sad taxi ride back to the hotel, where we would go our separate ways. My son and his wife were no doubt eager to return to their own apartment and prepare for their respective weeks ahead. After they left and while I packed my suitcase. I reflected on how not once did this young couple seem resentful to be giving up their whole weekend for us. Never once did they show impatience at my endless picture taking and dropping of my lens cap on the busy sidewalks. Never once did they show embarrassment at our touristy ways. In my youth, would I have behaved with such grace and maturity? I can’t say.
In stages I realize that my children are adults. In stages I realize I am no longer in charge of things. That’s just how life is right now. I can remember back to days when I never could have dreamed that my grown children would delight me so, or that they would be the most interesting people I know. Well, I’ve earned it, and so have they. And I’m going to enjoy things just the way they are.