In a previous story (Always In The Small Hours) I told the tale of my brothers trips to the ER. He had come home after being diagnosed the first ER trip with a nosebleed, then he went back 24 hours later and was re-diagnosed with possible pneumonia and given a z-pac and told to follow-up with his own doctor in a week. He tried hard to get better but he was not feeling well, he seemed to rally and then his coughing would start again and so did the bleeding. This time it was no joke, we took him back to the ER and he was admitted. Now they are checking him for Tuberculosis and after a cat scan, bronchioscapy and more blood tests than you can imagine. My parents and I run back and forth to the hospital to see him donning masks every time. We brought his laptop day two so he could alert his online teachers of his predicament. The four of us waited out the test results and prayed that all that blood my brother coughed up was just a Pneumonia and not TB. It was a scary time for all of us, I tried not to think about the unhappy possibilities of losing my brother. He made the best of it by the second day of strong meds and fluids and was up and around, working on his online degree with renewed energy. I called all the relatives and cancelled hosting Thanksgiving for the family, I was too tired and my brothers favorite holiday was ruined, I just couldn’t go on without my brother and sit and eat turkey while he was in isolation eating hospital food.
Thanksgiving Day we got a nice surprise at the hospital, the downstairs cafeteria for the employees; which also serves the public, was putting up a free holiday dinner for the employees and the families of the patients! This is something they do every holiday apparently, and since my mom had been making an issue out of having turkey on Thanksgiving to the point of being willing to spend $25 each on the privilege of eating it in a diner. It was indeed a happy accident that she found out we could eat for free. Only after I suggested she call and see if the hospital had any special food for the holiday on the menu. So I was glad I stuck to my guns and refused to spend upwards of 75 bucks on dinner. The hospital dinner was really good, I was shocked. We had turkey of course and cornbread stuffing, asparagus, and candied yams with loads of gravy and coffee,tea and your choice of dessert for free! I shook hands with the manager a told him and the head of the kitchen how much we appreciated the food and the gesture of feeding the families for free.
But the next day (Friday) I got an unusual call in the morning from the hospital, they wanted to know how my brother was doing at home, I told the woman on the phone that he was still in the hospital and she needed to check her records. Yet I was puzzled, so I called my brother only to find out his tests came back negative and he was free to go home. So as soon as his doctor signed his release he was sprung. I got into his car and bolted to the hospital to grease the wheels any way I could. I arrived to find him getting dressed with laptop open on the bed, towels on the floor and suitcase being packed like he was leaving a hotel. There was nothing to do now but get the IV line out of his hand and sign the paperwork. He goes home with no restrictions on anything except to stay away from tobacco and to see his doctor in two weeks. I hand him his keys as we walk out of the hospital and we get into his car and immediately drive to 7-11 for soda and beer for him. He has had nothing but ginger ale and water for days and days. We come home to the relief of my folks, this was really hard for them. This year there is much to be thankful for at this time of celebration.
So I’ve just finished my meager breakfast as we hurtle to New York City on an express train. There are dozens of people heading in to the city today, mostly to shop I imagine. This is Black Friday weekend and I’m taking a trip in today to do a photo-shoot and enjoy the unusual 60 degree plus weather before the rain comes in on Monday. This is totally unexpected as I figured this little mini vacation was going to be a bust. The fact is that for once we got really lucky. I come up from the tracks and head out of the station into the street, throngs of people are about moving in all directions. I head to Macy’s Herald Square for a loo and also I’d like to see it again in full Christmas regalia. I haven’t been here since 2008 and its in full bloom. This place is packed with a choking crowd of people already and it’s not even eleven yet. It takes me twenty minutes to find the loo and twenty minutes to get back out onto the street. I look around a little feeling bad that mom, dad, and brother man never get to see NYC. The fact is that dad has no interest, bro has school and mom is not in good enough shape to travel to the big apple. I wish we were all twenty-five years younger.
I begin to wander in the general direction of The Meatball Shop on 11th between Greenwich and Perry. This is my new obsession after seeing it on the cooking channel, this place serves up six different kinds of meatballs daily. It’s the go to place for lunch and late night college snacks, and families with a kid friendly menu too. I stop and take pictures of the New Yorker Hotel and wander in the general direction of the lower west side. By roundabout ways I come to that section of Greenwich St that’s fighting to be chic while still retaining it’s village feel. The cobblestone streets surrounded by new trendy clothing shops and restaurants thinly veil the general feel of decay that lies just beyond the reach of the storefronts and al-fresco dinning. The ongoing construction seems to do little to change the landscape. It appears the same as the first time I came here years ago before I had my blog. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t got promise, in a few years this could be a go to area for the city’s trendy.
You find little gems when you peek under the city’s petticoats, and this time I find a little gem called The Spotted Pig, an old Irish pub that looks inviting and cheery outside with potted plants that even in death of winter seem ripe with promise. Further down hidden under scaffolding is the equally amazing Kaas Glass Works, a place where hand-made glass trays and plates meet a kind of esoteric zeal for the old and new. The place is small and a big man like myself treads carefully in the shop. The plate designs feature old botanical illustrations, advertisements, scenes of New York and Paris, and even a series of plates featuring a skeleton from Grays Anatomy split into four parts and displayed inside a presentation wall frame with museum glass. This is the kind of thing that I love about my travels. Sadly I cannot afford these beauties and would not buy them until I have my own place. I’m getting hungry now It’s been hours of wandering looking for just the right shot, so I move on to find The Meatball Shop on Greenwich Ave between 11th and Perry St. It’s a little place with charming white wainscot and a checkered black and white tile floor, old photographs decorate the walls and give the space an old world feel. The pretty blonde waitress explains the menu which is made of plastic and requires a little study. Basically there are five kinds of meatballs,beef, chicken, pork, spicy beef, vegetable and a wild card which changes daily. There are also five kinds of sauces classic tomato, Parmesan cream, spicy meat, pesto, and sweet teryaki. You can get you meatballs in a myriad of ways. Just plain in a bowl, on a hero or smashed on Brioche, over salad,pasta,risotto, or polenta. Even the simple slider is served here! The possibilities are endless and they also boast an impressive list of regional Italian and French wines. I mark my choices with a dry erase marker and go off to the loo for a washup.
When I come back I find my Pabst Blue Ribbon has been poured and I settle down to write a little , observing the people around me and listening to their stories. I hardly have time to do so before my food arrives hot and fresh. I got the classic beef balls with creamy Parmesan sauce over soft polenta. These are perhaps the best meatballs ever! The flavor of the sauce is savory and the sweet corn taste of the polenta combines with the strong meaty flavor of the meat making this qualify as one of the best things I ever ate. This is the thing I miss when I’m back home, no one is doing anything this remarkable in Nassau, not even close. After I finish my meal I look over the book they published about The Meatball Shop history, which can be signed by the chef/authors of the three locations they have. It’s a nice book packed with color photos and recipes so you can try it at home. I pay my bill and venture out again and growing tired I decide to begin to head uptown and see what develops-get it …develops, no oh well. I stop to take pictures, check out menus in windows and take a walk through Union Square market which has been set up like a Christmas village with each vendor next to the other in a long row. The tents are decorated and the whole atmosphere is very cheery if not very crowded, there is occasional breaks to allow people to escape and get some air. I come out the other side of the square and I’m stopped by a young guy hawking a CD, he has pigtail’s and looks a little more mixed race than American Indian but he explains its virtues and I give him my last three bucks for it. He said it was a donation and any amount would do so I gave what I had and continued heading home. In the warm sunshine of a perfect day I make my way uptown admiring the window displays of the stores, the lights are just beginning to come on as the shadows grow longer and longer. It was as good a day especially for a trip that was not originally going to happen. We got really lucky this time and I’m lucky to be alive in the city I love, doing my thing. It may never make me any money or any notoriety in artistic or literary circles, but damn I love what I do.