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Mixin' in the Village Gravy by Amy Magnusdestination unknown

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Astoria Blvd StationSunday 3pm – After a brief encounter with Santa Claus at the museum—always good to run into him—we retrieve our bags and head out in search of the subway. The gift shop staff—relaxed, generous people—point us in the direction of the N line. We get on at Broadway and off at Astoria Blvd Station where we reconnect with the M30 bus that takes us back to the airport.

Our trip to New York City has been a whirl wind tour. Bewildered and even apprehensive at the outset, I’m intensely grateful for the well executed, unforgettable expedition and to my resourceful husband for the cataclysmic bombshell he set off two days ago. Jeremy was stealthy in his planning and the only clue I had until Thursday was a recent reining in of the family spending. Motown and MoMath were exuberant and playful, the parks of Fort Greene and Madison Square inviting and intriguing. The hotel was splendor itself, light filled and spacious. We challenged ourselves with miles of walking and a free wheeling openness to explore. We were rewarded ten-fold.

Happy 10th Anniversary, baby. Thank you for the Big Adventure. You are the best and I adore you.

Sunday 2:30pm – Time is short so we start to think about heading to the airport. Our luggage is still secure at the MoMath so we head back through the park that sits opposite it. The name of the park makes us pause—Madison Square Park. That name sounds familiar. We take the long way around.

redyellowand blue

As we enter the park from the west side, we approach what appears to be a construction project and a large blue barrier. It is in fact an art installation of knotted and knitted blue ropes built up like a wall. We continue south in a counter clockwise circuit around the deceptively small-looking park, and soon find the red portion of Orly Genger’s Red, Yellow and Blue. It’s clear by now that we have found the most ambitious yarn bombing ever.

According to the New York Times, the installation is comprised of 1.4 million feet of hand-crocheted lobster-fishing rope…used lobster fishing rope to be exact which the artist and her crew of young women had to clean, paint, and hand crochet together. Representing two years of her life, Ms Genger’s piece has been up since May and will come down in just a few days on September 9th. I am both disappointed and grateful that the children aren’t here to experience it as their desire to climb onto its walls would be pretty keen. My own is.

Sunday 2:15pm – Eataly is part market, part restaurant. I decide to look for a few market items which will help me savor the trip’s memories. I select a thin spatula for icing cakes, a steel handled brush for marinading meat, a goblin-shaped church key, a sifting basket, and—ok, this was silly—a clear toothpick case with bright orange trim.

Sunday 1:30pm – Hunger hits, and we take Jon’s second piece of advise and search out Eataly for a late lunch. We drop our access badges off at the museum’s gift shop and walk the short distance to the eatery. Slightly north of the landmark Flatiron Building, Eataly looks unassuming as we approach. The black and gold awnings boast “Fine Italian Food” and “Gelato”. Tempting, sure, but what has our friend Jon in raptures?

meat and cheeseoysters and littlenecks

We expect a sit down restaurant but instead walk into a cafeteria/market with lots of prep tables and glass cases but few seats. Quickly we conclude that Eataly is indeed much like Disney…complete with long waiting lines for the major attractions. We press toward the back aiming for the long snake that is the queue for pasta. The line doesn’t budge so we keep moving. Eataly keeps going also. Past the football field of gelato, pastries, pasta, and sundries, the room opens up into another vaulted space; this one features an array of specialty bars. Some offer beef, some salad, some cheese, some fish; all offer wine by the glass. Every station is full of patrons. On a second pass, we find two open spots and a modest selection of shelf fish. I order littleneck steamer clams and oysters content with my choices. For Jeremy, we select a meat and cheese plate served with small splashes of fruit spiced with hot pepper flakes. We threaten each other–to each is own—but really we are going to share. It is a quick but deeply satisfying meal.

fine Italian Foodshucking clams

Sunday 12:45pm – I am enraptured with an exhibit of etched metal plates that look like three dimensional objects when a message comes in on my phone. “Are you in NYC?” Jon asks and quickly follows with a “We love it there. Don’t forget to ride the bike and do go to Eataly. It’s like the disney for food!!” The bikes he mentions are right before me. They’re hard to miss. The bikes have square wheels; their tracks run about a giant sunflower. I take Jon’s advise and join the young man making a clockwise circuit. “I’ll race you,” I say and take the wheel running counter clockwise knowing he’ll never catch me. Ha!

Sunday 12:35pm – We arrive at Broadway, the dividing line between East and West 26th Street, and I spot the first hint of our destination blue on white banners opposite a park of sycamores. The museum is still a street crossing away, but we indeed have it in sight.

Grabbing the pi shaped door handle, we enter. Jeremy pays for our admission. Sixteen dollars each gets us entry…not wristbands though…oh, no, we get lab badges.

Museum of Mathematicsride the square wheel bike

Sunday 12:05 – We walk to the Flatiron District. The way to MoMath takes us south past Madison Square Garden and the biggest post office I have ever seen. Eight blocks south and some five blocks east will get us to 11 East 26th Street. It is fortunate that we brought our umbrellas. They have ensured no rain for the duration of our visit.

Flatiron DistrictSomewhere around 29th Street, I feel a pressure drop. It’s so noticeable and sudden that I say something. Perhaps it’s the way the buildings cluster or the traffic runs, but the intensity of the skyscrapers, storefronts, and yellow taxicabs gives way to a calmer blend of businesses, residential row houses, and walkers. When we turn the corner at 8th Avenue and 26th Street, I’m not surprised to pass a series of businesses oriented to residents—a veterinary clinic, child care, a discrete access for Buy Buy Baby—mixed among apartment buildings. We have escaped tourist town and found the neighborhood of Chelsea. We start crossing paths with families and dog walkers, and I’m feeling a little self conscience for leaving the kiddos at home. I remember we are on a forced march with luggage and recover.

Sunday noon – Papers graded, blog updated, bags packed, we drop off our room keys in the lobby and briefly stand in an astonishingly long line to drop off luggage. The hotel is well run but huge, and we realize nothing will happen quickly at check out time. Jeremy calls MoMath. Yes, they have a coat room where we can store our bags. We pause to consider. It’s my call since I’m toting the computer. “Let’s go.”

Sunday 10:00am – Jeremy picks up a toy yellow school bus for our son in the gift shop. He toys with the idea of getting a Statue of Liberty figurine for our daughter but nothing strikes him. He walks around the immediate area hoping to trip over a farmers market for me but only finds Madison Square Garden.

Sunday 8:30am – Breakfast in bed is a splendid thing. The hotel room has a refrigerator which we stocked with Saturday’s provisions. The leftovers taste even better this morning. Between us, we pass a spinach salad—tossed with shaved pickle beet, shredded carrot, pistachios, chèvre, and a golden mustard dressing—and plan our day. Jeremy’s all for a trip to the Museum of Mathematics, a new museum in the Flatiron District of Lower Manhattan. Happy to explore, I concur. Perhaps there will be time for a nearby farmers market. 24 hours down. Our plane leaves in 10 hours.

Sunday 6:00am – My alarm clock of a sort goes off. The roar of garbage trucks wakes me. Even 24 stories above the street, you can hear the distinct groaning of their motors and the piercing signal cry of reversing vehicles. It is not an unpleasant way to wake up. I let Jeremy sleep in the very comfortable bed while I listen to the rumble downstairs as it grows and morphs with the morning traffic.

tired Lady

Sunday 12:00am – We are dancing in the street through the crowd still thick on Broadway. Many will be here for hours yet but we need to weigh anchor and rest. Shoulder to shoulder in a sea of souls for several blocks, we are a tired people as we reach our floor buoyed the last yards by the promise of pillows. I must sleep. It has been a full day…almost two days as sleep eluded me for much of last night. Still, I feel wonderful, well cared for, and loved.

Motown logo

Saturday 11:10pm – The second act hits close to home. The years and songs covered are the ones I grew up listening intently to on the radio. Motown found its full-bodied voice again and again throughout the 25 plus years of its triumphant arc.

MotownThe performances are magnetic, powerful and winning, not afraid to lose you for a challenging minute, sure to draw you back in the next. Performers reenact a Jackson Five television performance that I watched as a child complete with the psychedelic graphics used to frame the performers.

The stage sets are also amazing. Through the use of floating beams, architectural in their scale, the set evoked stage, television screen, and floating windows on a computer screen. At the end, we shoot to our feet at the ovation. Jeremy says, “We should do this every ten years.” I agree and lobby for every three.

Saturday 9:00pm – By intermission I have learned much. I learn of the family-centered business, its struggles to strike its stride against the backdrop of social change and intense competition. The story is complicated, rich, so intensely bitter-sweet; it voices in clear tones the reward and anguish of hard work, high standards, and ambition.

box Office Hit

Saturday 7:45pm – We have braved Times Square and arrive at our destination: the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre for a Saturday night performance of the Broadway musical Motown. The musical is a tribute to the great independent record label Motown from hit-revved rise in Detroit to a dazzling zenith in Los Angeles. The songs—Dancing in the Streets, My Girl, What’s Going On—are not only infectious but packed to the brim with emotion. You can hear the audience—many proud avid fans of every song—sing along and even choking up with great feeling as the performers on stage pour out their souls with gusto.

me in my dustersomething old, something new

Saturday 7:09pm – Getting ready, I feel very Downton Abbey in my gray duster…or rather I say “grey” in reference to the British hit. For jewelry, I have brought something old and something new. Two necklaces both from Sherryl Kostic’s selection of fine jewelry at Would You, Could You In a Frame, 113 Corry Street. The necklace of alternating dark and amber citrine I first wore for our wedding. I love its victorian simplicity. Today I match it with a new modern piece, its central disk decorated with crystals, pearls and part of a watch. Wonderfully lost in this adventure out of common place and time, I’ve given the last 10 years a wonderful stretch, feeling the length of the days and yet oddly immune. Instead we commune with past and present as one. Before we leave our room, Jeremy takes a stunning shot of the western view from our room catching a sparkling glimpse of the Hudson River.

west side stories

Saturday 6:10pm A full night of infectious tunes is in store for us and we pack up our picnic to head back to Broadway.

Brooklyn brownstones5:30pm – Jeremy picks out a dill potato salad and chicken brined and barbecued for his lunch. I choose a kale salad and a mixed medley of forest mushrooms for mine. We get a recommendation for a nearby park and are told to head two blocks north to Fort Greene Park. Lots of green space we are told.

We pass through a shady street of brownstone row houses. Several tall sycamores line the street and we even spy young saplings on a few garden rooftops. David Sedaris once said that if you want green in New York City, order salad. If so, the neighborhoods around Fort Greene have a great luxury in their community and their park. We find a space to picnic at the park’s towering spear overlooking a boisterous party with tables full of their own barbecue and a disc jockey blaring out infectious tunes. A new worm settles into my ear: Blurred Lines. It is a guilty pleasure of a song not unlike the homemade twinkie that Jeremy has for desert—lemon gold like his shirt and if possible more creamy than the original.

Fort Greene Monumentlast twinkie


Saturday 5:00pm – I strike up a conversation with one of the staff in The Greene Grape’s provision section. I’ve been wondering if cheese production was disrupted at all by last year’d drought. He tells me no and starts explaining what things are like at his upstate farm. I ask where he is from and he says “Near Ithaca”. Having used this phrase myself I smile and say, “I’m from Nichols.” He smiles back and admits, “Actually the dairy farm is in Owego, NY.” We were practically neighbors. Nichols and Owego are in the same county with Owego being the country seat. Tioga County used to be much bigger but neighboring Chemung and Broome County splintered off as their areas became more urban. Tioga still boasts agriculture as one of its top two industries with organic farming a very common practice.

cheese counter

butcherveggie Aisle

Saturday 4:00pm – The subway trains are air conditioned but the platforms are not. It’s pretty hot now at 34th and Penn Station. We’ve let a few trains go by—the E train and a C train—in hopes to catch an A train. We find a subway wall map and learn to regret missing that the C train. We are heading to Lafayette Ave and the Brooklyn delicatessen I discovered last year with good friend and Antioch College alum Corey Slavitt. The Greene Grape hosts marvelous glass counters filled with cheese, fragrant salads, and rare cuts of meat. There are more delicatessens like this in New York City, I’m sure, but this one is “Greene” like our county and I know how to find it. We hop the next C train and pop up kitty corner to our destination.

The Greene GrapeBrooklyn neighborhood

3:50pm – We are unpacked and recharged. It suddenly strikes me that Jeremy is color coordinated with the room. He did know where we were heading, of course, but it’s not like him to take note of such details.

the room

Saturday 2:55pm – Suddenly the hotel is a zoo as check in time arrives. We probably left it 5 minutes too late to get in line. Jeremy has our room keys after about 20 minutes. It’s worth the wait. We head up to the 24th floor to find a gold and cream colored room with views out onto the city on two walls. Jeremy has done well.

Saturday 2pm – After a long bus tour and short subway ride, we make the hotel. We are just outside of Penn Station in the Garment District. We are too early to check in so I get a wifi key and Jeremy sits down nearby to grade physics papers. The hotel lobby is very comfortable and art deco. We get good work done and, as soon as we settle into our room, I plan to drag him out again directly to a delicatessen in a Brooklyn neighborhood that I found on a prior visit.

prior Visit

Saturday 12:30pm – I have two programs on my phone to navigate from the airport to the hotel: Roadify and iTrans NYC. After using iTrans NYC for the first hour, I suddenly remember why I used it first and then switched quickly to Roadify last year. The interface in iTrans NYC is map oriented so it definitely helped us get our bearings. Roadify, however, helped us chose which train or bus to get on by letting us know station stops and an approximate time of arrival for each upcoming stops. I like route planning and the maps so I spend the two hours in transit immersed in them and constantly check the navigation program information against the terrain. Exiting the cocoon of the metro, I shake my head a little when I see our arrival time at the hotel.

Hotel NewYorkerour Hotel

Saturday 11:30am – The captain makes good and we arrive at Laguardia Airport at the appointed time. First things first, we check in back home and find the family at Young’s Dairy. They are taking advantage of the Labor Day Family Value Weekend and have wristbands purchased for a full day of miniature golf, batting cages, the corn maze, the bouncy house at the Kiddie Corral, and more.

A little envious, we stretch, find coffee, and after I write a little we turn about in search of the New York transit system. Metro cards are loaded with $10.50 in fares, and we plan our route. A Q33 bus is my preference as it takes the quickest route to a subway station, but the M60 Bus to Manhattan arrives first so we pile on.

Saturday 10:03am EST – The captain makes his announcements. He synchronizes his watch with ours back on Eastern Standard Time and promises an on-time arrival.

Jeremy during our first New York City Visittaking a turn in Central Park

Saturday 8:40am CDT – Have a good morning, Chicago. We are headed elsewhere. We are off to the Big Apple.

The last time Jeremy and I went to New York City together we were 10-months married. Jeremy was fresh back from a 3-month deployment and, to celebrate, we took a day trip to see Avenue Q on Broadway. It was a blur of a trip, a test run for our upcoming honeymoon once delayed by the deployment but all the better funded for it. The test ran smoothly. We unwittingly dressed ourselves in matching teal, a color that would later be our daughter’s favorite. The city itself made a fine impression and, both in planning and improvisation, we made the most of the 12 hours we spent within its boundaries. We felt—if you will—a special bond form with the puppets of Avenue Q—recent graduate Princeton and his love interest, the aspiring teacher Kate Monster—leaving behind our younger selves, striving forward into uncertainty, to find a better place together.

Central Park bearsdinner After Avenue Q

This morning—9 years later—we appear not so well in tune. Jeremy is more color coordinated with his book than with me and that he is reading with a critical eye. About us, though, I’m not worried. This week we are celebrating our 10 years anniversary, and the future still looks intriguing and bright.

Saturday 6:10am CDT – We land. In Chicago. It’s still dark…though, from the many bright lights, much of the city is awake. The sky is clear but for a few low lying clouds eclipsing the neighborhoods as we glide into the airport. Jeremy ponders the city again, lingers with little regret, and turns us toward breakfast and a cup of coffee as we wait for our next flight.

Saturday 6am – We take off.

Saturday 5:15am – We arrive at the airport later than planned but no drama awaits here. We get through security quickly and without incident. As we walk to our gate, I can distinctly hear an old familiar song over the airport sound system. Missing Persons is singing their 1982 earworm Destination Unknown. Knocked back by the amusing coincidence, I experience a flashback to the ernest under-lit video: a picture of the lead singer warbling into a mirror arranging her screaming blond hair to strange effect. I suddenly feel at peace with the mad volume of my own bed head.

matchingRollerBagsA purpose driven life

Saturday 4:45am – We load the car with our luggage, matching Swiss Army roller bags that we bought for our honeymoon, once delayed but all the better funded by a deployment. Finally packed and ready, we pull out of the driveway and drive to the airport. The rain has graciously stopped. The witching hour has passed.

Saturday 4am – Jeremy is up. I’d like to catch a couple more winks, but there are nagging items to attend. The kitchen calls, and I answer clearing the dishes from the evening visit. The soap water soothes my sleep-deprived bones; the bubbles snap like excitement. I take my turn in the shower, gather the last elusive items, and kiss my children on the cheek as they sleep.

Saturday 3am – I’m up listening to the sounds of a distant storm. Lord knows if it’s excitement or nerves but I can’t sleep. A mere 33 hours earlier, my husband Jeremy revealed tantalizing details of a romantic weekend for the two of us. I know only the basics; the cousins are coming, and we are leaving early Saturday morning on a 36 hour trip. We are to pack light: two outfits each, one of them formal. It’s his idea that I blog the unfolding events. Listening to the approaching thunder, my mind is rolling over the final to-dos before we depart. Pills, toothbrush, chargers, computer, iPad, cell. A hard rain starts to fall outside, and I add another item to the list. An umbrella.

front window at Julia Etta's Trunkclothes racks at Julia Etta's Trunk

Friday night, I was grateful to find Julane Chaney open late at her dress shop Julia Etta’s Trunk, 100 Corry Street. “I am in search of something elegant”, I tell her, “to wear out for an evening in the big city.” We find a beautiful duster. Its gray linen fabric hints of lavender and has silver threads running through it. The shimmering fabric appears woven for a night of mystery.

gray duster among other items at Julia Etta's Trunk

As I make my purchase, Julane and I talk at length about the trouble in Syria and the great unknowns there. It is a time of difficult choices complicated by the mistakes of the past. I return home in time to thwart an immediate invasion. Jeremy’s brother and his family are sneaking up to our front door, the children particularly low to the ground. The cousins have come to spend the weekend with our children. I counter the surprise attack with my own approach from the rear. I exit my car laughing and meet the incoming force with an embrace. My good people, welcome!


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