Having grown up in Queens in the 1960s and 1970s, Manhattan … better known as "The City" was my playground and later on, my workplace. I've always loved New York for its pace, sounds, tastes, late night energy and diversity of cultures.
I've never quite found another city in the world that is quite like it (although London does come close). Due to a timely promotion, I had little choice but to leave NY once and for all in 1992, having already lived in several other states. But each time I return to spend time with my family and friends, it still feels so familiar, so comfortable, so much like home.
With my father's passing earlier in the year and my mother moving away next summer, it was to be our family's last Thanksgiving here, and more than likely the last time we'll be spending a full week in NYC. Before arriving I experienced this bittersweet and nostalgic déjà vu, which is really hard to put into words, as I knew that our "hometown" will no longer have the same essence after this trip. No parents and no "home" to return to in New York, it will never again be quite the same.
My wife and I had discussed this "last week in NYC" and decided to enjoy every moment (she's not from NY but loves this city too). My family arrived at the end of last week and have kept pace with the city that never sleeps. First, I had to make sure the new TNDB was launched and the 2007 Vintage Port Forecast was sent out before turning off my computer for the majority of the week (a rarity to say the least). I had one offline with a group of wine lovers in Park Slope, Brooklyn and enjoyed seeing these friends and sharing a great night of wine and dining activities. After dinner, a bottle of 1983 Graham's VP and a bottle of Fernandez Brothers Verdelho Madeira soothed the soul.
Then came the activities with Dorene and our daughter Taylor. We took pleasure in a bunch of art galleries in a gentrified area of Red Hook, which led to an impromptu water taxi ride across the path of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and finally … to Wall Street on the Manhattan side of the river. We walked past the NY Stock Exchange, Federal Reserve Bank and other once mighty investment banks that lined the passage way to the consecrated site (and enormous vacant airspace) formerly occupied by the Twin Towers. Ground Zero, is a must-visit for every American, and was something I wanted to ensure my 7 year old would remember visiting, before new construction grows up around this hallowed ground in years to come.
We spent some time at the Kandinsky exhibit at The Guggenheim which was nothing short of remarkable. Later that same day, my wife delivered on a promise to use her connections to get us in to watch the taping of the David Letterman show and we enjoyed the antics of Robin Williams up close and personal. The next day we visited an American treasure -- The Museum of Natural History, joined by my brother's family, his daughters bookending Taylor by 1 year on either side. It was a fun experience and one I have not taken part in since the late 1970's. The kids had another fantastic time the next day as my mother surprised them and took us all to The Big Apple Circus on Wednesday (certainly no Ringling Bros., but that mattered not when I learned my wife had NEVER been to any circus before!) and we visited a stellar restaurant that evening to close out another long day into night.
The following morning, we were up early to get a wonderful view of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and it was time for Taylor to finally see this in person. The weather was perfect and the atmosphere of being at the parade and part of the enthusiastic and friendly crowd, took on new meaning. We were very fortunate to be able to get a great vantage point at the juxtaposition of 7th Avenue and Times Square. I don't believe my daughter will enjoy watching it on TV ever again. Afterwards, we took a walk past the ice skating rink and massive Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the holiday-dressed windows at Saks and other renowned Fifth Ave. shops in full regalia and before we realized it was time for lunch. I knew my daughter would love seeing Chinatown and whisked her and Dorene downtown to eat at Wo Hop, where I spent many dozens of late-night-into-morning prandial excursions with high school and college friends. I've not been to this part of the city in seventeen years, yet Mott Street still remains the heart and soul of this shrinking historic area.
As turkey time was quickly approaching, now just five hours away, we needed to walk off our Chinese caloric intake … so next on our NY sojourn ... was an inspiring jaunt from lower Manhattan across the breadth of the Brooklyn Bridge. What an absolutely great view from up there and literally a photographer's dream, as my family filled our video cam, digi-cam and cell phone cams -- we certainly have the pictorial evidence. I can't believe it took me over 50 years to get around to making that infamous walk. It just goes to show how we take so many things for granted, especially the great areas in our own backyard. Finally, we arrived back to my mother's brownstone, and after relaxing for awhile, we all got gussied up for The Night of the Big Bird.
My mother never one to cook if she didn't have to, (the raison d'être for my obtaining a culinary arts degree before going on to university) had arranged a private room in her favorite local eatery for family members hailing from all corners of America. These fine restaurateurs put on quite an elaborate and festive meal in which we were able to bring in a slew of bottles, from German Rieslings and Champagne, to Mags of older CA Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to some fantastic Burgs. It was a fitting finale to a Thanksgiving tradition that I grew up with when my grandmothers were still alive and cooking intricate and long lasting meals served with great aplomb (never a wine bottle in sight). On this night, the after-party continued with a smaller group returning to my mom's place for a few rarities and a beautifully blended bottle of Madeira (TN to follow) that was a gift last summer from my friend Peter, visiting from Germany. What a great way to end our last supper!
Yesterday (Fri.) we had one more family get together (nary a bottle of wine in sight) and today our final cultural experience of the trip, a visit to the Vanderbilt's "modest" waterfront retreat in Centerport, LI. Our meal was held at my father's favorite restaurant nearby, a fitting conclusion to our NY adventure. Tomorrow it is time to head back home to Washington State with many great memories forged during our trip. If this was to be our last week long adventure in NYC, hopefully this will be one that none of us will ever forget.