Friday, January 7, 2022

Secret New Year's Getaway (part one)

It all started early this November when my wife read something somewhere about the play The Lehman Trilogy, written by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power. She has been researching the subprime mortgage crisis and the financial collapse of the late aughts, and thought this was a play we should see. I spotted an ad in the Times that said it closes January 2 and we both decided that’s that. There were no weekends we could pop off to New York to see a play between then and when we were planning to visit London in mid-December. 

“What if we went for New Year’s Eve?” she suggested. Now that was an idea. New Year’s is our special night, we met on a New Year's Eve and have spent every NYE together since. Even if we have nothing special planned, it is special for us. We’d never spent one in New York City, though, and why not? After all of this not going anywhere. We’d come home from England after seeing my brother and his family, and a few days later jet off to New York, all on our own.

We got tickets; to a show, on a plane, she found a hotel. And then Omicron arrived.

Library Walk in the rain.
England was a non-starter, and most of those arrangements we were not penalized for. That was before our son contracted a pre-Christmas Covid. But what about New York? Would it be foolish to go? Maybe our fate would be decided for us, but our flight was not canceled, and this show, which used only three actors, had not yet been suspended due to an outbreak.

Surely we had a responsibility to go to the city and spend ridiculous amounts of money. Not because we “deserved it” or anything as immature as that. Just because … well … I have no idea. Because we’d made plans. Because we wanted to. Because no one stopped us. Still, we decided not to tell anyone until it was over, and we were home safe and well. And so we are.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Though we have visited New York several times with the children, and other times on our own, my wife and I had not visited the city together alone for almost twenty years. In May 2002 we visited, specifically to see Urinetown, but also just to go. Since she moved to Cleveland in 1995 we’d always made a trip more or less once a year. We drove that year, and it was the first time she had taken in the skyline without the Twin Towers. She's the one of us who lived in NYC, in the late 80s and early 90s, but hadn't been back now for over five years.

This weekend, she’d booked us a room at the Library Hotel, up the street from the main public library, and it is a hoot. Our room, 500.001, was of course the Mathematics room (look it up, as they say) and there were shelves stacked with a variety of books on the subject.

For your information, room 800.001 is the Erotic Fiction room but I imagine that is a suite.

Having several hours to kill before an 8 PM dinner reservation on the LES, we walked forty blocks up to the Met. This is where things began to feel weird. We would go maskless when space permitted, but Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, these streets are crowded with tourists (of whom, yes, we were two) probably biding their time before heading to Times Square by midnight. When we were among the throng, we would put the masks back on.

So strange, people queuing along the avenue to enter the Lego Store, the Nike NYC, two at a time. They were waiting in line to shop. For Legos.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly
Desiring a light lunch before we reached the Met, we dunked into Viand, an old school New York diner. At first the wife did not wish to enter, thinking it would be too close, but there were few occupied tables and we were very pleased with the uncomplicated surroundings. We knew we would get fancy later.

It reminded me of my several visits before she moved to Cleveland, this cozy, claustrophobic basic joint. In those days everyone would be smoking. We’d be smoking, too.

At the Met we got our bearings as we usually do, at the Temple of Dendur, before seeking new sights. The heart of the museum includes a new Afrofuturist exhibit, and I wanted to see that.

In the mid 19th century, the African American community Seneca Village was seized by the city to make way for the proposed Central Park, it’s citizens forced to relocate. The Met acknowledges those who previously occupied land (these people, and the Lenape before them) where the museum now rests in the exhibit Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room. It is a collection of wild and colorful beaded items, photographs, prints, ceramics, a video installation.

A narrow walkway surrounds the collection, another opportunity to be a little too close to others. I found it jarringly symbolic when a gang of young, white dopes entered the space, spreading out to occupy as much of the available room as possible. One of them, either their leader or that guy who thinks he is, mocking announced, “This is not art.”

Where do these people come from, and why are they in an art museum on New Year’s Eve?

Back at the hotel we dressed all fancy, and headed to the Lower East Side for dinner at Ladybird. So queer as in strange, a block or so from where our son and I spent an extended weekend only a couple months before. Like, we spent most of our time downtown for four days and it was odd to just pop back in for a few hours. Because this was such an LES joint, tiny and close, appointed with mirrors and murals to provide the illusion of space.

The wife is vegetarian, and this place is a highly esteemed vegan restaurant, serving a five-course, prix fixe meal for the holiday. I chose an odd cocktail to begin, they offered something called a Smoking Lady Bishop. A traditional Smoking Bishop is referenced in A Christmas Carol, and for several years I concocted the Victorian era beverage for the staff holiday party. I’ve never had anyone serve one to me before.

My beautiful date.
The regular is basically a wine mulled with citrus, cloves and sugar. In this case, spices included cardamom, peppercorn, cinnamon and allspice. It was rich and warm and I took my time with it. We took our time with everything.

One of the standouts of the meal were the vegan “escargot” which were morels that had been steeped in seaweed brine, providing the rich, musky flavor you would expect from snails.

Our dinner reservation included an invitation to a masquerade ball, somewhere close by, but having spent several hours maskless in an intimate setting with dozens of other diners, we decided not to press our luck, and headed instead to the rooftop bar at our hotel.

We arrived shortly before midnight, had a glass of Veuve Clicquot, and toasted the new year the same way we had met seconds before January 1, 1990 – out of doors, in the cold, with a light rain.

To be continued.

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