Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Blackout of 2019

Blackout sunset down West 47th Street
Just returned from “vacation” which I state in ironic quotes because it was all too brief, arriving and departing on subsequent Sundays, a good thirty-six hours spent fretting about whether and in what shape my wife, daughter and mother-in-law would arrive in the cove. Their Monday night flight our of LaGuardia had been cancelled and they spent the evening in a hotel room in Queens.

I drove to Maine with my son (my daughter had obligations at home until Monday, hence the flight) and then drove her home by way of Providence, Rhode Island. My wife is currently still on vacation with our son. I do not mind having driven both ways, as plane travel is something I have (like my father, like my father-in-law) grown to absolutely despise.

We were visiting colleges; Brown, then RISD. I have now visited five schools with the girl, feeling more like a responsible, attentive parent than I have in years. Last month we toured schools in New York City.

For her sixteenth birthday I promised her a father/daughter visit to Manhattan. Originally I was thinking maybe we would camp out all night to get tickets to SNL, which she is devoted to, but summer, the off-season, seemed much more practical. And, anyway. Schools.

Times Square
Friday, July 11

We arrived at LGA early on a week day, the flight delayed just enough that we would be unable to stop at the Airbnb to drop off our bags first. Fortunately, and by design, we each had only one bag, backpacks, which we carried for most of the day.

NYU was the first stop, which impressed her especially with each of its satellite campuses. We had not signed up to tour the studio art school, unfortunately. We did, however, have a moment to slip into Caffè Reggio on MacDougal Street for coffee and salads. I asked if it were possible to charge my phone and was politely informed that the place was so old there were no outlets except behind the bar.

I have fond memories of relaxing here during the NY Fringe in 2004, where I would run lines for I Hate This. My performance venue at that time was a walk-down, way over by 11th Avenue. There was no modern development there at the time, the forty-seat site is gone, now part of the mammoth Hudson Yards development.

We then visited Parsons School of Design. I’m such a dork my only knowledge of the place is Project Runway. At the conclusion of our tours we jumped the C train to Morningside Heights. Our host was a lovely, accommodating woman named Ruth, whose apartment was decked with independent movie posters from the 70s, and for Broadway shows starring the young Al Pacino and signed by the entire company. She is a classic New York gal.

My wife and I would no doubt have headed out for some night life, but my date was a teenager and it had been a long day, so the plan was dinner and an early start on Saturday. The sun was not yet about to set and it was hot, but hit the patio at Harlem Tavern and it was refreshing and delightful.

Mount Rushmore of Art, Eduardo Kobra
Saturday, July 12

I rose early that morning, around six, and set out to get coffee, which was surprisingly difficult. All the cafes were closed and the bodegas I checked out were not accommodating. I had to settle for Dunkin’, a street person reclining out front asked for a Boston Cream, so I got him that and also a banana for which he was much appreciative.

The girl and I then set out on a three-mile run. We were just a few blocks from Central Park, and I’d never been to the Northwest quadrant. Even when I ran the marathon in 2006 we passed the statue of Duke Ellington on the east side. Here we entered the park by the statue of Frederick Douglass and did a couple laps before heading back, freshening up and stopping by Caféine for caffeine and sandwiches.

We headed downtown to attend the Whitney Biennial. I let my daughter set the pace, and we took our time on every floor. Three hours in one art museum, viewing, taking time for coffee and water, all dictated by her interest. It was amazing. We had some fascinating conversations about the work, and about art in general. She is such an insightful young woman.

The High Line, 2012
By the time we exited it was very hot, as we mounted the steps to the High Line. The family had last visited this place in 2012, when we were attending a cousin’s Central Park wedding, so the children were much younger but she had happy memories of the place. It was much more crowded on this day, and sunny and warm.

She and I are alike in our physiology, our endurance, but I still needed to check in, make sure it wasn’t all too exhausting. We came down off the trestle to find some lunch and the folks at Don Giovanni were a joy. We had a relaxing meal, checked out a gallery, and then walked to Times Square to attend a reading at the New York Musical Festival.

Not just any reading, mind you. We were there to catch a 6 PM performance of Everything is Okay (And Other Helpful Lies) written by Melissa T. Crum and Caitlin Lewins. The first thing the girl noticed was that she recognized one of the actors from The Bold Type.

“How can she be doing that, and also doing this?” she wanted to know. I told her that’s what New York actors do.

This was the final of three shows for Everything is Okay, and it was as though the entire administrative staff from Cleveland Public Theatre was there, which was pretty cool.

"I have no mind, I'm the village idiot."
During the performance the lights dimmed dramatically, but just as swiftly came back up. Following the performance we learned the power was out on the west side. The elevators were no working and the lights were out in the stairwell. It wasn’t until we made our way to the street and we passed the enormous crowd out in front of Aladdin that I realized what this all meant -- Broadway shows were being cancelled for the evening.

The girl had wanted to do some shopping around the square, but the stores were now closed and the sidewalks were crammed with tourists and New Yorkers going, where exactly?

The trains on the west side were down, so we walked across town. I tried hailing a cab, but they were all full. We finally made it to the 6 express train, which was packed, and took us past our stop all the way to 125th Street. So, more walking, just my daughter and I strolling through Harlem on a hot Saturday night.

We weren’t sure if restaurants in the neighborhood would be open by the time we got there, and besides, she was exhausted (her FitBit reported we walked twelve miles that day) and just wanted to collapse in our room, so she picked up carry-out at the Whole Foods at West 125th and Malcolm X Boulevard.

My wife took classes at CCNY in the early 1990s and just the phrase “the Whole Foods at 125th and Malcolm X Boulevard” made her laugh. It is a different city.

It took over two hours to get to where we were staying. A real New York experience. The kitchen was in fact closed at Silvana, a Middle Eastern place I was really hoping to try -- but the folks there did serve me dolmathes to go, for which I was especially grateful. I really love New Yorkers.

Central Park Carousel, 2004
Sunday, July 13

I’m training for a marathon, and my schedule dictated a ten mile run, which I took. All through Central Park, as far south as Bethesda Terrace and including several laps around the reservoir.

The girl slept until eight, which was only proper. We had a leisurely breakfast as Les Ambassades before heading back up the the train at 125th. On our way we noticed a film shoot between Manhattan and St. Nicholas Avenues. It appeared to be a period shoot, and by the cars and costumes, I guessed it took place in the late 50s.

Later we learned it was for the new West Side Story.

Anyway, the plan was to see a Broadway show, whatever was available at TKTS. I described each show as fairly as possible, only vetoing one or two I had absolutely no interest in. I assumed she would choose a musical, but once I had described The Play That Goes Wrong as Noises Off on steroids (I had no idea if this was true, but that’s pretty much accurate) that was at the top of her list. She played Poppy in a high school production of Noises Off her freshman year.

While we waited for the matinee, we did some shopping, and took a walk through Central Park. We took a ride on the carousel … which we had last done together in 2004. Can you imagine?

Fort Tryon Park
Also, The Play That Goes Wrong is fucking hilarious.

After the show, we took the train all the way uptown, had noodles at Tampopo, and took a stroll Fort Tryon Park, just before dusk. It’s a very special place for my wife, and now it is for me, as well. Someday I look forward to taking the girl to the Cloisters. Both of the kids, actually.

Monday, July 14

We packed up to go, having one last coffee at Caféine and taking our things into a cab for Brooklyn and a tour of the Pratt Institute before flying home.

It was a delightful journey, I hope to take my son on a similar one in two years. Maybe to NYC, maybe Chicago. He really likes Chicago. I'm not trying to sell the kids on cities other than Cleveland as a place to go to school or to live and work. I just want them to know there are other cities, and that they can go where they choose.

Tomorrow, the first of August, my daughter begins soccer practice for the new school year. While the summer isn’t exactly over, it has begun to end. And we’re ready for that, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment