Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New York, New York

I have a long history with New York city, beginning with my mother who was born there. Even as a young child, we often went back to New York to visit relatives or just to play in the city. My parents both loved New York and leaped at any chance to revisit. Of course, they met there, so I suppose it was special to them for that reason, but also because they both loved musical theatre and New York was the center of that universe. Still is. 

Even as children, we were treated to dinner at Sardi's and a musical as far back as I can remember - always magical evenings when my Dad would stand us to anything on the menu, even shrimp cocktail, which represented the height of indulgence in my young life. Mom would dress up in her most sophisticated clothes, put on her grandmother's jewelry and some heady perfume, and we'd have an unforgettable experience. Sitting in the dark in my best clothes, surrounded by Mom's scent and Dad's rumble of laughter, caught up by the music, dancing, acting and sets on the stage - truly a heady mixture.

When I was 15, my Dad had orders to the Mediterranean, so we sailed by ocean liner from New York to Europe. Our New York family and our best friends from Michigan came to the city to see us off, and we had a lovely few days before the sailing, sharing the delights of the Big Apple. We drank champagne with them in our cabin before the steward came down the corridors ringing a small xylophone and calling, "All ashore that's going ashore!" The guests filed down the gangway to the dock, and we threw colorful paper streamers to them, linking the ship and the land for a few minutes, until the tugboats moved the ship out into the channel, breaking the last fragile links as we waved and waved and waved.

A few years later, I went to college in New York state. That was the year my Dad was sent on emergency orders to take over the Seventh Fleet during the Viet Nam war. Mom went with him, leaving me behind in my first year of college to spend Christmas in Westchester with relatives. 

My favorite cousin took me to New York on several occasions - to see "Funny Girl" with Barbara Streisand; to McSorley's famed bar where I managed to choose the wrong door and ended up in the Men's Room by mistake; to the Bowery to see the bums, an experience that still lives with me in tears; to a Horn&Hardart, my first automat experience; and to Times Square for New Year's Eve in the cold, cold winter night. I wore my brand new off-white coat, navy blue kid gloves, and new gold earrings that my cousin had given me. I believed I was the very picture of sophistication. We nearly froze to death, but we had a splendid time, ducking into a coffee shop to warm up after midnight.

As we watched the ball come down in Times Square this year on television, these memories and more came flooding back. And just after New Year's as I was making Reuben sandwiches for our lunch; if there is any sandwich more closely associated with New York, I don't know what it is. New York, despite all these memories, was never my favorite city - it's too big, too tough, and too crowded for me - but it is the backdrop for some of my best times and I remember it fondly.

Happy New Year, Big Apple!


Blogger Greg said...

I think I will be singing New York for the rest of the day. My senior trip was to NY and I have memories of being able to drink beer at 18. I was 17 but that did not matter. I wish the departure experience on cruise ships was like that now. Perhaps those were gentle times. No security or environmentalists watching.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, so funny to think of security measures in my memories - I think the worst they worried about was some kid stowing away to get to Europe for free. It was, indeed, a gentler age.

Thursday, January 09, 2014  

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