Tuesday, July 5, 2016

New York Day Three - Sunday continued

Sunday July 3. Walked across the beautiful park, with its old trees, hills and winding paths, always a surprise around the corner – including a vista that looks like the middle of the country – 
to the west side. My whole New York life was lived on the west side until my uncle died and I had to move to the east. I still consider myself a west side person in NYC. In Toronto, I am a rabid eastsider.

There’s a farmer’s market now on Columbus, stretching for blocks, many artisanal delights. I went to the Green Flea market, held on Sunday mornings, to look for my friend Jay Kavi, an elderly man from India who had a jewellery booth stuffed with sparkly goodies. I bought many little things from Jay Kavi through the years. On my last visit, he wasn’t there, so I was concerned, and this time I found out that Jay died. New York shrinks for me, yearly, but I guess everywhere does. Cousin Lola told me she has no friends left. They’re all gone.

More memory lane – I walked to the Clifton House on W. 79th, where my grandparents lived till they moved to Sarasota in 1963. I told the doorman they used to live there, he asked their names and when I told him, he exclaimed, oh yes, I know that name, there’s still junk mail sometimes. I find that hard to believe more than 50 years after they moved away, but why not?

And then I walked up to W. 94th to look at #39, my uncle’s house, sold in 1998. He would hate it now, with cutesie decorations and a forest of little American flags all over the steps. 

But I’m sure it’s in better shape than it was when he lived there and the place was crumbling. He ran Bridge World magazine out of the third floor and didn’t care the paint was flaking from the walls. The wine and food, on the other hand, were treated with scrupulous care.

Back across town to eat the last of my fish from Eli’s with a bit more Pinot, then down the street to Lola. We got an Uber to the matinee, there almost an hour early, but that’s a good idea when you’re with a 94-year old. Lola is marvellously feisty, though sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing  – she comments loudly on everyone around her. “Look at him, so fat!” she exclaimed about a man sitting almost right in front of us. “The poor person who has to sit next to him!” “Shhh!” I said.

The Humans is a family drama, parents drive in to NYC from Scranton, Pennsylvania with his mother who has Alzheimer’s to have Thanksgiving dinner with their two daughters, one who has just moved in with her boyfriend on the Lower East Side and the other, a lesbian lawyer who has come in from Philadelphia. The dialogue is note-perfect, funny and very real; we see unfold over and over the tensions beneath every family, the way parents nag out of love, how disappointed they are in their kids’ choices despite that love, how predictable their comments are, the way kids roll their eyes about their parents yet need them deeply. It hit uncomfortably close to home; I resolved to try to stop sending messages about health to my offspring. There’s a haunting sense of menace; 9/11 lurks in the background, and the new apartment has unexplained noises and lights going off, as if poltergeists live there too. And again, a secret must be revealed. Terrific acting and direction. Not my favourite kind of theatre, realistic family drama, but terrific nonetheless.

Lola and I got the 8th Avenue bus uptown to get out of the Times Square area as quickly as possible; she knows all the bus routes so we headed for the crosstown bus at Lincoln Centre. I offered to take her for dinner, and as we approached the bus stop, there across the street was a Chinese restaurant called Shun Lee. It was one of my uncle’s favourite places; I ate there several times with him, the last time when he was suffering the effects of chemo and in rough shape. Lola and I had a delicious dinner there and toasted him. What a pleasure that was. She said, “He loved you very much, you know, your uncle.” And I, him.

Got Lola home. It was such a beautiful night that I went for a stroll around the streets – the sidewalk tables of the restaurants packed – and then went up to the roof garden here to watch the sunset. Sublime. 

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