Sunday, January 2, 2011

Glancing over my shoulder .... HO HO HO

As a child, he had experienced "very lean" Christmases in the gifting department. He wanted so many packages under the tree that his sons would actually tire of opening presents as he had received only one gift a year. The results were plies of wrapped boxes filled with silly or fun things and one major gift each [no clothes]. The stockings, on the other hand, became Mom's event to be enjoyed first. Along with the candies, she tried to find a special stuffer, which continues today.

So, off for a Currier and Ives holiday in Connecticut. Christmas morn [no snow], the stockings [for the pets as well] were filled and leaning by the fireplace. The family gathered with steaming cups and morning chatter. Finally, stocking time .... among the chocolates an envelope with a sheet of information: reservations at the Algonquin Hotel, tickets to WICKED and dinner reservations at THE ORIGINAL OLD HOMESTEAD. It was for her a special family overnight trip into New York that probably would not ever happen again. It was a stretch in the purse, but she wanted to do this for her family. Later that day, a visit to a neighboring town and the movie Tron. The show was good but the "popcorn", yes, the "popcorn" was the best ever and will be remembered long after the movie is forgotten. Later in the evening, a terrific steak dinner at home caused a hush to fall over the table. Ummmmm, oooooh, good food, good times and family .... is anything better???? Not for me.

Next day, a late breakfast at The Whistle Stop before an afternoon of Duck Pin Bowling. Little squatty pins and boccie size balls with no finger holes. What ever skill had existed in the distant past is completely gone ..... gutter ball, gutter ball, gutter ball ..... oh, please. Cajoling, laughing, resetting pins with the "pedal, pedal, pedal", we had fun! When the purchased hour was reached, departure was into a deepening snow. It's Connecticut for goodness sakes; a little snow doesn't stop the flow of life as it would cripple Tennessee. Apparently the car is not front wheel drive as expected; so once home, parked it for the duration. Looking back, it had been a good day all around, and, it's Italian tonight ..... perfect!

Snow and wind blew all night leaving various depths the next morning. Voila .... white Christmas ...... the blizzard clobbered New York leaving streets clogged and cars assaulted by clearing equipment. By the afternoon, the neighborhood snow blowers cranked up and life resumed. For us it was back to that same theater for True Grit and more importantly the popcorn. Actually, it has crept into dreams; yes, the popcorn. There will be no snickering; it's no joke.

Early morning, we are off to the city with a drive to New Haven, then the train into Grand Central Station. Yes, that sounds like such a tourist .... but you know what ..... tourist applies. My goodness, a cavernous hall lined with wreaths and the golden zodiac signs against a pale blue ceiling. And right there, getting our bearings an agent asked how long we'd had "that Georgia South Carolina accent". Actually, it's Tennessee; lawrd, hope I don't sound like a hick. Then, we're through the door and taa daa .... headlong into ridges of snow lining the sidewalks and streets. No cab necessary, it's "only" 3 blocks to 44th between 5th and 6th, so the walking began.

Finally through the etched glass doors into old oak and history. Hello Dorothy Parker .... and friends. Once checked in hunger pangs rage. How far to the Carnegie Deli? "Oh, it's only a few blocks". As we neared, other hungry folks had formed a line awaiting entry. Eventually seated, they had crammed as many table as possible between those resisting walls. Perusing the menu and eyeing delivered plates, there is no way on earth the mountain called a sandwich could be consumed by one person and then walk. With little deliberation, splitting one seemed acceptable. "And for you?" Well, what else, Pastrami on Rye and onion rings for the table. Right down to the last morsel of meat, it was the best and the rings weren't shabby either. The place was packed and probably 80% were tourist..... us too. The only thing needed now is a little exercise. Back to the snow ridged streets and F.A.O. Schwartz for the "Big" piano performance and a wander through the toys. The greeter, a gentleman dressed as a toy soldier, was a show stopper himself. Looking around, this really is real .... we are here. Time, temporarily, seemed suspended even though the day was moving right along. Where did all of these people come from.

Back on the street with the snow, slush, impatient drivers and cars blocking entire streets, headed for Top of the Roc and the Christmas tree. Four tickets and then up to the top for an astounding 360 degree view. Holyyy Cowww, Central Park is gorgeous under this blanket of snow. It would be hard pressed to be more beautiful. All the way to the Battery, then beyond to the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island was washed in the rose hues of the impending sunset. The air crisp and clear, one could see forever. Unfortunately, aging joints and legs were resulting in the sense of humor slipping. Thank goodness the hotel was "only" 3 blocks away ..... those were the short ones. Everyone took their own route; so with cane in hand, which turned out to be the measuring tool at curbs to determine the slush depth, felt the tenor of the city and the crush of the cattle herd. Actually, the snow ridges at crosswalks were either stomped down or a single tiny path and you are one small salmon swimming against the tide. And this is New York!

Ahh, success and through those wonderful doors. Have you ever been afraid of taking off your shoes, boots, whatever for fear of not being able to get them back on? Right with you!! Collapsed onto that magnificent bed and didn't move for an hour. It could have been longer, I wasn't counting. Dinner reservations were for 7:30, so 3 of us met for a drink while one of us managed to tear himself away from a camera store and race back across town in a timely fashion. As per instructed, ask the bellman for a cab. Some 30 minutes later, we walked to 5th Avenue and found a car. The Original Old Homestead Restaurant is way the heck down 1st Avenue in the meat packing district ..... just 10 tables in the oak and mirrored room. Truly a well preserved and loved place. The decision for which cut of beef took a bit of time. Can't speak for the others, however, the Signature Fillet was incredible.

After a considerable amount of time and finally finished, we were faced with finding a cab. Luckily, one appeared and we piled in. One of the things we had discussed was wouldn't it be great if we found "The Cash Cab". Well, so far, no luck; but he did have the advertisement on his roof. That would have been a perfect end to the day; but the cabbie was a hoot. Listening to our comments, he felt one of us watched entirely too much t.v. which resulted in the rest of us almost falling out of the cab laughing.

Bed and everywhere aches; but, Morpheus eventually arrived and was wrapped in those wings. And the new day all is functional. Needing coffee, stop by to check on their morning before going down stairs. They already had coffee and rolls which would cause a breakfast confusion for me. Finally joined by one, were ushered to a table near the famed "round table" where Dorothy Parker and friends held court every day for lunch. Seems the original table had mysteriously disappeared 20 years before. Well, that's slightly suspicious. Breakfast was fair and due to my misunderstanding they went elsewhere.

Now, the much anticipated Mafia Tour Day ..... think it was actually called a Wiseguy Tour .... set for 10:30 a.m. and that's when things began to unravel. No Patrick [tour guide] and no Limo/SUV. 40 minutes late Patrick arrives apologetic, "the snow, you know"; but he pitches right into history of the Mafia in Sicily right up to Prohibition. Where is the Limo? Wow, it has been canceled for the day. End of story ..... a lost morning, it's noon. Crap!!!! What to do for a couple of hours??? That sense of humor thing is slipping again. Let's walk to the Gershwin Theater for our 2 p.m. performance of WICKED. So, a wander through the theater district sounded about right. The 45 minute wait for curtain was just fine. Had time to read the Playbill for background information and cast members. The light dim, the dragon roars and the music swells!! As for the show, well let's see. The stage setting was workably simple in it's complexity. The casts' timing and execution was beautiful. The principals presented their character perfectly but "green" girl was amazing and deserved every minute of the recognition she received. WOW, what a portrayal. Won't go into the story line, but it certainly plays into the Wizard of Oz and actually fills out the idea of Oz. A standing ovation for a terrific production!!!!!!!!!! Am so very glad I did not look it up on You Tube or the Internet and went in totally uninformed.

To return to the hotel, we were thinking cab ...... lots of luck ..... well, it's only "a few" blocks. Collected our things and walked to Grand Central. Waiting for tickets, we had time to actually see the architecture and watch the people; then, suddenly we were hurrying to our train to find a car that wasn't crammed with travelers. One of us engaged into conversation with fellow travelers almost immediately and for the duration to the end of the line. But what was actually surprising were the two young women who tried to convince their companion to lick the hand pole as they had done. Guess something was missed in my formative years .... but why comes to mind. YUCK!!!! Apparently, this occurred while a crossword puzzle had my undivided attention. And then the conductor announces "New Haven, end of the line".

Hungry and we are introduced to Frank Pepe's Pizzeria and a coal oven pizza. Thinking this must be the best pizza in the world ...... it's cold and there is a line outside. So we wait. Seemed the chat had gone out of all of us; maybe, it was just me. However, with the first bite could actually feel life returning. There is a difference created by the coal .... not the taste but the crispness of the crust but not like a cracker. Eating and listening to the local chatter we seemed to devour our shares. Was surprised there were a few pieces left. Hummm, now the drive to Bloomfield. Sure am glad we were convinced to postpone our return home for a day of recovery. By afternoon, began to reorganize the car and thank goodness the fluids were checked and found terribly low or empty. A trip to the mechanic indicated a serious issue that could have been extremely unpleasant on the highway AND it will not be ready until late tomorrow afternoon. Ahhh, 2 day recovery. All things being equal, no point stressing out. So we will travel on New Years Day. Our last evening together; some t.v., chatting, packing and early to bed.

Eight a.m. rolling southwest for home. "If you turn left on the next exit, we can take 10 to Bridgeport and pick up I-95 through the City." As long as we are going south, that's fine. Just as we crossed a river directions went a rye; instead of going straight across and through town, we missed it completely ending up on the New Jersey Turnpike. Deep breathing, frustration and anger at the lose of film opportunities were replaced later with the anticipation of Philadelphia. Well, shoot, we can go to Pat's and then cross the street to Geno's for our own Philly Steak taste test .... O.K.? Sure, it will be a first for this sandwich which should result in a more honest test. After a bit of wandering and circling the area, we became aware that parking was an issue [bumper to bumper comes to mind] and creativity would be necessary. Do you feel lucky?? Creativity won out..... well, the bumper was just inside the corner curb; and, we shouldn't be gone that long. Famous last words. Lucky us, walked right up to the window, ordered and received. Walked across the street, ordered and received but not a table to be had. Not to be deterred, stood at the narrow counter and began the taste test.

Have you ever been on a maiden voyage ..... that was the experience. One bread had a nice crisp crust and the other had a more moist meat. Personally some sandwiches are better with other "stuff" on it, well, wasn't all that impressed. BUT HEY, it was the home of the Philly Steak Sandwich and we didn't leave hungry. The best part ..... the car hadn't been towed, nor were there any boots locked on the tires. Oh, please, just find the interstate, that is of course if we are finished here. Back on the road headed south. Caught I-495 west around Washington, then right on 66 to Roanoke, Virginia and left on I-81. Before your eyes glaze over, midnight plus 30 and home sweet home ..... 993.8 miles one way ...... yep, 1,987.6 miles round trip...... and it was a not to be forgotten fun adventure; it was Christmas with the family; it was Connecticut ...... Now here we are and it's snowing. Hot chocolate or mulled cider would be perfect about now with a fire don't you think? Join me .......


  1. Thanks for the experience! NYC never disappoints, even when blanketed in snow, slush, and ice and when a taxi can't be found. I'm so glad that you got a little taste of her charms before we moved away. I only wish I had known that your co-pilot would be diverting your travels via the city of brotherly love. I know some much better purveyors of cheesesteaks.

    Here's to next Christmas!

  2. Obviously, it was grand!!every minute sharing and being together [just silly me]. Am so grateful for your comments ... was beginning to think this box was broken.