Start spreading the views – Part Two
I thought I would get back to this set much earlier, but honestly the last few months have been frantic. Just being away during the summer for two weeks made everything else late and I was squeezed for time. I apologize!
Where were we? Ah, at Breads, snagging pastries and sandwiches to go on what was probably the most hectic day of the whole trip. We had planned a series of stops to visit old haunts and eat, of course. After Breads, we were headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, right around the corner from where Deanna and I went to school decades ago. Anna wanted to see the Egyptian exhibit. I was anxious to fit in a stop at Zabars, but Breads essentially took the oxygen out of that idea (though they are very, very different).
We snaked through Central Park, trying to eat as we drove (always a bad idea). Whenever I was at a stop sign, I whipped out the cell cameras to take whatever shots I could. For us, it was all very familiar and I am happy to say, little has changed on either the Upper West or East Sides.
Deanna estimated they would be at the Met for about 45 minutes. Hah! It turned into almost two hours, because there were long lines for everything. But, to avoid having to pay $25 for the privilege of one-hour parking up there, I thought I would just double park on 81st Street and eat my sandwich in peace while they whipped around the Museum.
Double parking is not for the faint hearted. You should have obscure license plates (check! New Jersey plates on my chariot) and a small, non-descript, nimble little car. Uh. Not so much. The black Murano looked like a Mafia limo. Wherever I tried to put it, it stuck out into the old, small, patrician street like a German tank. I kept moving it around, trying to be unobtrusive and finally found what I thought was the perfect camouflage by a hydrant, in front of a large “cleaning” company van at the front door of an exquisitely appointed greystone manse.
It would have been perfect, had it not been for a diplomatic skirmish that brought a fleet of black-and-whites to that very spot, not fifteen minutes after I had spread my lunch out daintily all over my very upscale travelling duds — all in black and white silk and linen which enjoyed a suction action for crumbs like I have never known before. I was not only in a darkly tinted suspect-looking armorium, but I was covered in detritus and looking rather wild to boot. For almost 40 minutes, I was hemmed in by police, while trying to crane my neck non-chalantly to see what the fuss was about. I detail it on my Flickr pages for this same series, if you are interested.
Since I had nothing to do but wait for all this to subside, I tried to entertain myself by listening to talk radio. Always a mistake. By the end of it, my blood pressure was circling the cloud-cover over the city, I had mild indigestion for wolfing down a complex combo of Maghrebi delicacies, and I was teetering at all times on the brink of a $300 ticket for doubling parking in a foreign mission zone.
By the time Deanna and Anna came bubbling and bouncing down 81st, brimming with extolations for the exhibit, I was a virtual rag. No time for Serendipity and that vaunted ice cream sundae I had been bribing Anna with all week. We had to hit the road for the 50 drive north to the next hotel and be crisp, rested, and festive for that night’s party. Yes, 50 miles/50 minutes give or take. What could go wrong, right? It was only 2 pm when we hit the FDR Drive for what I assured Anna would be a scenic drive up into New England.
Never promise anything, especially to a precocious and high-demand 7 year old!
The drive had to be diverted off the river-hugging FDR and rerouted up through Harlem. Oh. Dear. No.
Now, I have no real problem driving through Harlem from time to time. But, it can be a bit dicey. Three small women in an enormously obtrusive black monster stopped at lights and trying not to stare nor avert a stare is a challenge. Just saying. We made it through, but my nails were digging into the pillows on the steering wheel.
That was the least of our problems. The I-95 is one of the oldest, narrowest, most residential, and least vehicle-friendly roads on earth. There are no shoulders, no extra lanes, no meridien, nothing. Just two skinny asphalt ribbons (for most of it) in each direction for miles and miles and miles out of NYC, to the Canadian border. Add to this any accident and all vehicles come to a complete stop. There is no place to push the car off to. If there are two cars or hades forbid, a truck, and they stop in both lanes — well, you get the picture.
That’s what happened on this particular Friday at what was now the middle of Manhattan exodus hour. Our GPS stewardess took us off the freeway and onto local roads. That was a double-edged sword. It was the only way around what was apparently a five-vehicle pile-up on the northbound side (ours) that had happened a full two hours before we approached the spot itself. That is apparently how long it takes for emergency vehicles to access and clear the problem. We got to see the breathtakingly beautiful residential neighborhoods that flank the freeway north of the City and into Connecticut. Many of them had names with which I was endearingly familiar from my days headed up to school in Upstate New York. On any other day, I would have relished seeing these places again. But, the 50 minute trip took 3 hours.
We dragged ourselves to the hotel at the last minute and of course, the sky opened up in the process, as we took all our “fancy” bags, one by one, from the very distant spot where we had to park, up the perilously steep stone steps of the historic Inn where we were staying that night. Checking in, we had exactly 30 minutes to transform ourselves into New England socialites and get to the party venue on the water, on the other side of town.
That’s when Anna announced that she could not wear the shoes her mother chose for her dress. Just absolutely could not be caught dead in them. So, on the way, we had to find a store with children’s party shoes that would go with her outfit, fit, and satisfy her princessian tastes.
Are you nervous yet?