The buds are out again on the sugar maple out my front window. It’s a stunning fall production that I love for about two weeks and then hate for two hours as I clean up the leaves.
My parakeets, Jawnie, the typical pretty blue and white, and Frankie, a unique combination of canary yellow, green, blue, and grey sit perched on the interior window sill with the tree buds and a red brick house below a cloudless spring sky as the backdrop.
It got me energized to write.
Sometimes it’s nothing more than a moment or a memory that makes me want to saddle up to a TV tray with my Macbook and a cup of coffee. Usually the big screen is going as background noise to the chirping and squawking of the budgies. It’s not lost on me that they too respond to the moment.
I had many moments over the past week. And memories.
I spent about four days in New York City and came home before another random act of violence shook the country. New Yorkers just get back to their business, but to the rest of the country, those moments are jaw-dropping.
Prior to Tuesday’s chaos, and aside from the metal tube with jet engines at 38,000 feet for two hours, it was the perfect trip.
It started with my daughter, who was supposed to have worked Thursday night, meeting us at baggage claim in La Guardia. I thought we were on our own to the hotel, but there she was waving when we arrived. I smiled and grabbed her up. I’m getting so easy to fool.
We headed to our hotel on a cold, rainy, and windy evening- much the eastern seaboard weather we hear about. We brought my mother, 75 and energetic, to see things she’d only heard about or seen on television in the back drop of Blue Bloods. We also took my niece who’s probably just as adventurous as our daughter, and a little more wild, not yet 20.
We headed out into the rain through the canopies of buildings and banks near the Battery Park district. We had about an hour before our dinner reservation at Fraunces Tavern, so we darted through an alleyway that had businesses up and down the sides. I couldn’t help but think of Diagon-Alley from Harry Potter fiction. I had a Jameson and a beer at a place called the Dubliner, to take the chill out of my bones. Funny how Irish Whiskey can do just that.
After about 30 minutes of people watching and guessing who did what and how long they’ve done it, we headed to dinner.
Fraunces Tavern is remarkable, and when you’re in NYC next you must put it on your itinerary to stop here for the chicken pot pie. Lore has it it was George Washington’s favorite dish in the city.
It’s now one of mine. It came out like a souffle with a crust so flaky I swear the overhead fans were causing it to flutter. My niece had oysters (and liked them). She made me eat one, but it had to have horseradish, lemon, and a couple drops of hot sauce to slide it down. The red in the billowed wine glass didn’t hurt either.
She had pesto papperdelle. Mom had shrimp linguini and Lee had salmon with arugula. Taylor had a pot pie, too – a history buff like her old man.
We hit a place called The Cauldron after for a couple drinks and then back to the hotel. The Cauldron was hosting a Drag Queen Bingo. Mom’s open-minded and all, but that may have been a bit more than she was looking for.
We did the regular tourism things over the next several days… Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial, and yeah, the subways. We Ubered and cabbed around the city, but took the subway several times. Mom was impressed with the room and character of the mode of transportation of millions of people of which she had preconceived notions. A gentleman in an fairly open car got up to allow mom to sit down. Her eyebrows went up.
When we came off the plane at La Guardia a sign said the population of NYC composite was over 18 million people. My eyebrows went up. Whoa.
On Sunday we visited the east side where the Flat Iron building is getting a facelift. We stopped at an Italian Eatery called Eataly. It’s an Italian market where I would probably spend most of my disposable income if I lived in the area. It had all the smells and feels of what I can only assume is what it’s like in the boot.
Freshly piped cannolis to order, coffees, gelato, nut oils, breads, wine… all the things I read about in books or see on the big screen – right in front of me. We stopped for lunch at the cafe behind the market for risotto and pasta. The warm bread and olive oil was odd to my niece, but a little pepper added and it went down just fine for me.
We went up in the Empire State Building to the 86th floor and out onto the gated balcony for some pictures. Our daughter, as adventurous as she is, literally crept onto the balcony with her head down, as if dodging fate. She laughed out of fear, as my wife stuck her face through the fence to get a better look of the city below.
Heights are not my thing, but I had a camera, so….
We had tickets to the upper glass observatory on the 102nd floor. I hesitated then took a breath and said “Okay”. Mom stayed back, and up we went through the blue neon elevator that opened to a small round of polished chrome and glass. Taylor walked gingerly (as did I) around and then we got to taking pictures again. Natalie and Lee went right to the glass for a closer look.
Fearless and beautiful – all three of them.
The 9/11 memorial was sobering. We didn’t do the interior tour but stayed at ground zero and walked around the fountains. Flowers dotted the stone foundations where etched names represented those who’d lost their lives. I learned the flowers signified those with birthdays that day. That was somebody’s job – to put flowers in the names of those with birthdays each day.
I think it’s things like that that give God faith in his creation – despite our failings.
We flew back Monday morning at 7 a.m. We got to La Guardia at about 5 a.m. and curbside checked our bags. Then we went to security and the line was so long we literally could not see the end of it. Mom was just about done after four days of walking in the big city, so I grabbed one of the blue chairs with wheels on it and had her sit as I began to push to the end of the line.
A nice man came up and asked why she was in the chair and I told him she was having trouble walking due to the extended weekend. He got out a handheld tablet, punched in our ticket number and escorted the whole family around the line that was for sure going to be at least an hour, assisted mom and the rest of us through security, pushed her through two sets of elevators and all the way to our gate – all in about 15 minutes.
He got a nice tip in the last elevator.
The flight home was smooth, thank the Lord, and we headed to Denny’s in Troy for a late breakfast and got home at about 2 p.m. If you’ve seen the Facebook photo dump on my wife’s page you’ll see I didn’t even get my mouth closed before I fell asleep for about 3 hours.
It’s these moments and memories that pop light into a life darkened by so much – that we treasure now. Spending time with our daughter is priceless, Natalie provided much comic relief, and Kelsey was with us the whole time. You just feel those things.
Like the friend of mine who celebrated his 40th birthday Friday night in Fort Madison. We hadn’t really sat down since my daughter died. He hugged me and a single tear streamed down his face. That’s just not the him I know. He said he was proud of me and his heart broke for me.
Moments and memories.
I thought I’d share some of the art I captured. My family will just have to forgive a bit, but as an Easter gift to you all, here’s some free art from the Big Apple. My family said I should put together a gallery. These are not that great from a news guy – but that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.