Sunny and cool this morning as I wait for my train on the railroad platform. This is my 2nd unexpected trip to New York in recent times, with the promise of 50 degree temps today there was no way I was staying home. The chores can wait till tomorrow. The New Year hasn’t turned out too good so far but of course it could be much worse. My father has been sick with a cold and asked me on New Years Eve morning to lookup online the symptoms of swelling in the legs. I ask to see it and it looks like cellulitis, just like my mom had which I chronicled in my story Anya,Mosquito’s and Me a few years ago. I tell dad to call his doctor and he is told to go to the ER. So I leave for the store because dad insists on finishing his toast and tea, like a sort of last meal before the cigarette and blindfold I guess. When I come back mom is up and I tell my brother through his closed-door what is happening and leave for the ER. This has become all too familiar in recent years.
When I park the car after letting dad out at the door I find him in triage being evaluated. I help them fill in the blanks of my dads memory and then they take him to chest ER and we are seen soon enough. The same jackass who misdiagnosed my brother with a simple nosebleed is my dads doctor, but I hold my tongue pending any legal action my brother might take against the hospital. They immediately put him on oxygen with a nebulizer and a double antibiotic drip. He has congestive heart failure, edema, cellulitis, possible pneumonia and anemia. He will be admitted as soon as they do some tests and find a bed. I go down to find some breakfast but they don’t open till eleven for lunch, so I get some free utility coffee and graham crackers in the pantry and wait as more blood is drawn for a second round of tests.
When my mom and brother show up I say goodbye to dad and head home stopping first at the liquor store to see my friends and fill them in on what’s happening. They are shocked and sorry for us as another holiday is ruined. They don’t even know about the trouble with mom at Christmas which wasn’t medical but just as devastating. I go home and clean up a bit and pour myself a glass of wine and settle in to make a meat and vegetable lasagna, with no bake whole wheat pasta, skim milk cheese and ricotta with fresh tomato sauce. I’m so glad I can get healthy foods in under the radar like this and nobody is any the wiser. It’s getting dark and I really wish that mom and bro would get home before the crazies start driving around. They finally arrive and we sit down to eat the food which was awesome, later we toast the New Year with Negroni’s for me and beer for my brother and we watch the ball drop with mom. I note that Carson Daley has almost completed his transformation into Dick Clark. We are all mad at dad for refusing to go to the doctor until his scheduled visit in January and landing himself in the ER again. This is an exact repeat of Christmas 2010.
The next day I plan to try making French macaron’s for the first time followed by a small pork roast I got on sale as our holiday dinner. I visit dad in the morning and bring him the paper and he is looking better already, I try to make the best of it by making small talk and watching TV but he is mad. I take the opportunity to speak with the floor doctor to correct any false statements my dad made and fill in gaps about his last trip to the ER. Soon after I leave and wish him a happier New Year with assurances that mom and bro will be there later. Despite my efforts to make his tea and heat up his lunch and prep it for him he is miserable. There is nothing I can do. I go home to find the house empty and since I’ve again had nothing all day, I don’t know it yet. But I’m about to make the best Fritatta of my life! I combined chopped onions, ham, potato and goat cheddar cheese cooked on the stove top and then into the oven to broil the top and melt the cheese. It was a masterpiece, cooked to perfection! The flavor was out of this world and no one was there to see it. Someday I will make some lucky girl very happy, I cook well , don’t watch sports ( except the Olympics), I actually enjoy shopping and I’m an artist. But enough bragging about me…my euphoria was cut short as the unforgiving macarons would remind me just how much of an amateur baker I am. I set up my mise-en-place and have my instructions out and while the oven heats up I mix the almond meal with the egg whites and then pipe them on to the baking sheets, but my first batch doesn’t rise and spread the way it should, and despite lowering the heat and doubling up the pans my second or third don’t work either. I have succeeded in making crunchy buttons that’s all. So I clean up the Fritatta, storing it to take to work for the week and clean up my mess when I hear a strange noise in the house.
What sounds like the blinds on the back door being ruffled by someone brings me to full alert, I go into the dinning room expecting God only knows but there is nothing there. I’m alone in the house, it is then that I smell that ugly burning wire smell that sends me racing upstairs to check the rooms and then back down again to find the source. I finally call the fire dept who advise me to get out of the house but I stay. I move the furniture around to find the source looking for the problem when I look up and see the chandelier has one candle that is black and melted. I quickly turn off the light and call back the firehouse to cancel the call but as I can hear they are already on their way. I go out side to find they have brought every truck imagineable as well as the Chief dressed in his dress blues and the others in full battle gear. I shake hands with the Captain and explain that he didn’t have to get dressed up for the occasion but he laughs and tells me they just came from a swearing-in ceremony. I tell him what I found and they go in to check it out and we turn off all the breakers just to be sure. I sign some papers and they leave me to air out the house and I pour myself a large white wine and try to calm my jangled nerves. I thank God this didn’t happen when we were at my cousins for Christmas, we could have come home to a smoking ruin, especially when I think that dad wanted to leave the dinning rooms light on while we were away. Once again my instincts told me to shut it off after he went to the car, my guardian angel, sixth sense or whatever you believe in saved us again.
I come up from Penn Station and waste no time in getting over to 9th Ave , I’m glad I dressed warmly as it’s still cool and breezy. I head south and stop in a bodega for a coffee and a loo break and sit and write looking out the window, the sun is warm on my face as I sit and the promise of spring is on my mind as I watch the passers-by. But I move on passing thru Chelsea, a quieter section with Asian influences, stopping to take a photo a French cafe called Le Grannie. It looks inviting for lunch despite the ugly black door but they are full up. So I move on stopping to take pictures of the Maritime Building, built-in 1968 it features round port-hole windows which I love. I continue on down Greenwich St to Gansevoot where 9th Ave ends. A photographer is photo shooting a model in the cobblestone plaza across from another French place called Pastis. It’s relatively quiet here except for the street construction it’s like the suburbs. I continue on stopping to look at the menu of the Spotted Pig, an old gastropub that I’ve mentioned before, it’s a little expensive so I move on past the remnants of Christmas trees that have been picked up by NYC Sanitation, the needles litter the sidewalk and out into the street like green blood of a murder scene that has yet to be cleaned. I turn back and decide to try the Spotted Pig after all, I know it will be good here. The place is like a hunters tavern, old brick pillars, wood floors and artwork featuring pigs, ducks and game birds in all states of life and death. There’s an attractive hipster staff and good old standards and jazz playing at just the right volume. This is the kind of place I would love to have back home in boring Long Island. I like it here a whole lot, if I wasn’t watching my budget I’d have a drink or two but it’s not even noon yet. The menu is amazing and the bar specials too, they include rock shrimp over grits with poached egg, rabbit rillettes, sardines et toast but I decide on an Omelet Albert Bennet, an omelet covered in bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese. They bring you a small pot of coffee here God love em, I sip my coffee and write for a while till my food comes. The omelet is a little over browned but it’s rich and creamy, simple rustic food served with crusty Italian grain bread and olive oil. This is the kind of place I love, no TV, quiet music, great food and drinks and a lot of atmosphere. I pay my check and go out heading east to Hudson St, stopping to take pics and deciding to walk to the Bowery. I want to go to the kitchen supply store where Anthony Bourdain shot scenes for his show. I pass the familiar A.O.C. where a very naive me ate his first Cassoulet years ago, I didn’t even know it was an overcooked mess. But that was before I started teaching myself classic French cooking.
I walk down W.Houston street among the throngs of people, this for me is the non-Asian speaking equivalent of Canal St and I stop opposite The Angelika Film center to make a call and sit for a while. It’s a long walk but I love to walk far in the city. It’s what makes a stress test so difficult for me, they have to raise the incline and increase the speed far above many people to get my heart rate up to complete the test. The nurses always ask me “Do you do a lot of walking?” I had no choice today anyway, I heard that the subways are undergoing a makeover today and several lines are closed. So it’s walkies for me today for real. I find the Kitchen Supply Co easily and go inside to look around, they have got everything here. The next time you go to a eatery and look at the stainless steel counters and utensils, chances are it came from this place or one of the others that are in this area. I find the saute pans that Tony showed on his show and just like he said $18.95, I get a little chill to think that I’m standing where he stood. Especially when I realize I already have pans like these, so I am using the stuff that is recommended to Chefs all over New York. I leave without buying anything else, I’ve got all I need for now. It isn’t long before I’m walking down into Criff Dogs, a steamy small place serving the most unusual hot dogs and hiding a secret. This is also a Tony place and I order a BLT dog, a wiener wrapped in bacon and served with lettuce tomato and mayo. The phone booth is where the secret lies, it leads to a small bar that serves good drinks and dogs that you can only get in the bar called PDT. But it’s too early-not open for another two hours, so I eat my crunchy BLT dog and drink my Sprite and leave. I will make it a point to come back one night when I’m in town. I begin to head back to mid-town and start the long walk home, it’s a beautiful day filled with people moving around enjoying the sunshine and warmer temperatures.
In France people often wish each other to step in Merde, it’s like break a leg in theater… it’s for good luck. The dog poo laws being what they are there’s an excellent chance of stepping in some if you’re in Paris, as I can attest to. The New York version is getting pooped on by a pigeon or at least a sparrow, and for the first time in New York and the second time today I am hit by an incoming round! I hope it’s the bluebird of happiness, after the last few months I could well use some. I decide to stop at a pub on 33rd and 2nd called Jack Kavanaugh’s for a drink or two before the train. I sit at the end of the bar and the bartender comes over, mid fifties and Irish as they come. “What can I get yah?” I think for a moment and say “Ill have a Manhattan” and looks at me and says in a thick accent “Streyhtwup?” and I say “Excuse me?” and he says again leaning in a little. “StraightUP!” So I think for split second and say “Yes thanks.” Trying to appear deaf instead of naive. He tells me he was invited to a New Years party where he drank only Manhattans because he was given no choice in the matter. I laugh and tell him I decided to try all the old school drinks I’ve never had just for kicks to see what I’m missing. He seems pleased that someone ordered something other than beer and brings me my drink in a Martini glass with 2 cherries laying in the bottom. It is smoky and bitter, strong and smooth, just what the doctor ordered. I sit back and read the Village Voice in the fading light of afternoon and think this is about the happiest I’ve been in a long time. The stress of the past few weeks melts away with the second drink as I listen to the sounds of the city as I read. I start to think about getting home and after a trip to the loo I walk down 33rd St west toward the LIRR. Moving with the throngs of people I think how the family is changing, the old people are sickly and some will be gone soon. The forty somethings are turning fifty and the thirty somethings are turning forty. Then there is the young ones who are not so young anymore, they have become the twenty somethings pushing at thirty. The old guard is coming to a close and the rest of us single people will have to close ranks, find mates and form a new family bond in an ever uncertain world we are all we’ve got. It might be the booze but I start to feel a little blue at the thought of all who are passed. I start to feel a little sorry for myself. But the city always provides the answer in the form of a young Hispanic couple I pass on the street. She is taking a picture of her boyfriend and I pass them by-but then I stop. And turn back and say “Would you like me to take a picture of you together?” “Sure!” they say in unison and hand me their camera. They pose and I take a shot, but after giving it back they ask for another…she had her eyes closed. I take the second shot grinning now at them and they are pleased. They thank me and I walk away feeling better about things with a spring in my step now that I made a difference to someone today. I can only hope that their love lasts as long as my love for New York City. I ride the escalator down to the waiting trains below.