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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ah Been Ta New Yawk, Hunnie

Back in the olden days I lived in a first floor apartment with BD on Floyd Avenue in the Fan. Our neighbors 3 doors down were the Corkers - mountain people who'd move into the city to work on the railroads. They had one son who was famous in the city as a flamboyant transvestite - back in the days when that would excite comment, stares and laughter. He and his mother were about the same size and one day she would appear in her polyester pantsuit and the next day Donnie might. He'd been on the scene for quite some time before I moved into the neighborhood and later on he became even more known, under the degrading nickname of Dirt Woman - but I always called him Donnie and we chatted whenever our paths crossed.

One day I was in the laundromat across the street and he joined me. I noted that I hadn't seen him in a while and he tossed his head and said, "Ah been ta New Yawk, Hunnie".

Well Hunnies, that is where I have been too.

At the last minute I was able to squeeze out a few vacation days to slip away with BD to visit beloved friends who live in Westchester. They are opera lovers - and fabulous cooks - and true new yawkers. They love their city and are perfect hosts for sharing surprises, little hide-away nooks, secret fun parts of the city as well as all the famous landmarks. We are tourists, opera lovers and fabulous eaters!

So on Friday I packed while BD took Jack to the Cathy's Skyview Kennels. Then we hopped in the car and tooled on up 301 to Baltimore where we picked up the the wide roads to York PA. BD wanted to see just how much longer it was to drive into NYC via a western route. He hates the NJ Turnpike and the tolls are high enough that the extra miles might not cost as much. We drove 40 extra miles and at 34 miles per gallon .... you can do the math - it costs $3 just to get back into Virginia on 301. Of course the extra miles add time to the drive and we had a 1 hour stop in Kutstown PA where mysterious invisible highway maintenance men had set up invisible machinery working silently on invisible highway repairs. We never saw hide nor hair of any work or anyone ... only signs. Fortunately I had knitting in my lap.

But it put us behind to the point that we crossed the GW bridge in the dusk of an urban evening, on a Friday night, in a strange (and enormous) city. We missed our turn, ended up on another north/south artery and arived at our destination about 8 o'clock. And for one of the few times in my life - I needed a drink!

Happily, one was provided, as well as all sorts of warm welcomes and a delicious supper, excited happy conversation and a big fluffy soft bed. The next morning all memories of nasty traffic were erased and my hostess and I headed off to the Scarsdale Woman's Club fall book sale where I picked up my own copy of Camellia Panjabi's Great Curries of India. I am absolutely going to make that curry with pistachios in it - I will I will I will!

A weekend with B&M is going to be filled with delicious food and it's very likely to include a trip to the Arthur Street Market. This is Italian NYC in a microcosm and it's thrilling, fun, and delicious.  And they don't just sell food, though that's the main focus. There was a demonstration of mozzarella making. There was a cigar rolling vendor! You can see someone is thinking hard about a purchase but ... his will was strong!

Of course - the market isn't the only place to get great food - here's the sausage shop! Yes. You can certainly pick a favorite from this place. I got one last time we were here and the smell alone is worth the stop.

There are pretty things to buy everywhere - in fact I was amazed at how many neighborhoods were flooded with street vendors. Neighborhoods that, in my experience, would be too staid and banker-like to tolerate such clutter. But there you have it. It's New Yawk, hunnie.

Of course - the big event of the trip was our night at the opera - Don Giovanni, performed at Lincoln Center. I had imagined one ought to dress for the opera - that we should all look like the little man from the Monopoly game - but dress is varied. Yes. There were diamonds and pearls and stiletto heels that promised to topple the wearer - but there were also jeans and sweaters. We were somewhere in the middle. And boy was I glad I took my light coat because it was cooooold that night.

Here we are, BD and TheQueen, in all the glitter of a city with night life. And don't you doubt it - it was fun! The singing was outstanding - so good it almost seems insulting to admit I had a favorite, but Barbara Frittoli, who sang the part of Donna Elvira, absolutely took my breath away. It's a silly opera but fun to watch, with dances and a spectacular death scene complete with flames and a hellish descent for Don Giovanni. It was the complete opera experience and our seats, "in the clouds" as our host described them, were actually very good, smack in the middle of the row and the acoustics at Lincoln Center guarantee that you'll hear everything. 
The next day we toured Manhattan by car. The thinking was that since it was Sunday we'd find it easier to park. That never happened but we got to see so many New Yawk landmarks we didn't mind spending a bit of time here or there hunting a place to stop. This is The Cloisters (yes. I have their herb gardening book). The view of the Hudson was spectacular..

There was even a sailboat (motoring upriver) to give us the hint of by-gone days.
Here is St. John the Divine - with all it's fabulous stonework - still being built - purportedly one day to be the largest cathedral in the world.

Lunch was real bagels and lox at Steve Greenspring's deli. And BD had the most delicious borscht I've ever tasted! But then - every where we went was toomuchsogoodunbelieveable food.

We had to stop in Greenwich Village - though it didn't really look any different from Arthur Avenue except there were more restaurants and fewer grocers. And a hat shop!

Everywhere in NYC there is beautiful brickwork and lovely ironwork, and cars and people and well. I really don't need to say more, do I?

I wanted to go across the Brookyn Bridge. In fact I am determined to re-read Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - a book that had a pivotal impact on me as a young reader. I would have asked to walk across it but the day was waning and we had an appointment for cocktails to keep.

 Our last day included visits with friends and an afternoon at the Bronx Zoo - a beautiful spot even if it didn't have exotic animals. 

It was a chilly day - with hints of winter in the air - the sort of day that stirs up an appetite - a good thing since dinner was going to be delectable h'ors d'oeuvres and standing rib roast with baked potatoes, broccoli and the best snaps I've had in a month of Sundays.

Suddenly it was Tuesday - and time to pack up and head home. We left around 8:30 and this time took the expensive toll roads home. The comparison ended up being either 40 extra miles and an hour + of driving vs. $29 in tolls one way. But the time saved going home was worth the price of the tolls because by 3:15 we were back at the kennels and just look who was so glad to see his mama!

I realio trulio love NY - but east or west - home is best.


  1. What a lovely trip -- and one down Memory Lane for me, as I spent the summer of '69 in White Plains, working as a nanny for a generous neurosurgeon and his wife. I went into The City every day off and saw so much...even if some of it has changed and re-arranged, it's still wonderful to see. (I commend to you the books of Helene Hanff, she of "84 Charing Cross Road". There's a fabulous one that's essays of her walking tours of NYC that she did for the BBC, and another about her early days as a script reader/'ll bring the Theatah and New Yawk alive all over again.)


  2. I'm finally getting caught up with your posts. What a lovely trip away you had. My grandmother was named after an opera character - I wonder if it was Donna Elvira? (her name was Elvira, called Vera for short)
    You certainly can't beat the welcome home a dog gives! Makes coming home even better.