I don’t eat eel regularly, but when it’s recommended I sure as hell want to try it rather than going to the fast food place nearby.
That’s always been my attitude when I travel, and when we took the boys to New York I didn’t intend for them to interfere with my enjoyment of any adventures, culinary or otherwise, that came our way. Although the boys didn’t know it, they were facing a test: could they vacation with Bill and me without forcing us to change our ways to accomodate them?
Bill and I like to eat our way through a city, tucking activities between meals, and this trip was no exception. When all was done, we hoped the guys would have seen a decent part of the Big Apple and tasted even more.
One day we lured the boys across across the Brooklyn Bridge with the promise of Grimaldi’s Pizza on the other side.
Porter also used his camera to take some shots. Four foot tall second graders have a totally different perspective on the same attraction:
The pizza was divine– a thick, charred crust, loads of fresh mozzarella, beautiful red peppers. It was definitely worth the wait in line. Drew quietly picked off the melted hunks of mozzarella and stacked them on the side of his plate, then ate the crust and tomato sauce. While this struck me as verging on sacrilegious, I didn’t say anything, but reached across Finn, nabbed the cheesy bits and stuffed them in my own mouth.
I’d concealed our real reason for coming to Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Museum was showing photos by Annie Leibovitz. Bill and the boys wouldn’t be interested, but the museum had exhibits to entertain them, stuff like mummies and African art.
The museum trip was a huge success, and the mummies had nothing to do with it. It was my dumb luck that the museum was also showing some extremely large, lifelike sculptures by Ron Mueck. One was on the first floor as we entered.
It was a newborn baby, with the umbilical cord still attached. Most interestingly, the baby was a girl, and thus, had no penis. While other museum visitors remarked on the newborn’s hair and the traces of blood on its skin, my boys stood transfixed at the spot between the baby’s legs, staring at the depressing vacancy.
The boys had to see more. So while I looked at Annie Leibovitz’s pictures, the boys saw these:
The one that impressed them most was Wild Man:
The Leibovitz exhibit was much larger than the Mueck one, so Bill and the boys wandered around it with me a little. I heard Finn take a deep breath, and glanced behind me to see him staring in rapture at this piece of art:
I’m afraid of snakes, and my breasts are nowhere near as perky as Cindy Crawford’s, so I know Finn had never seen anything like this.
“Look at that foxy lady,” I heard him whisper to Drew.
“I think that’s an emerald tree boa,” Drew said.
I pretended not to notice their fixation and moved on.
As we left the museum and headed for the subway, Finn sidled up to me.
“You know, I thought the museum was going to be really boring. But I saw a whole lot of bosoms and penises and I didn’t expect that at all. It was kinda inappropriate, I guess, but it was really interesting.”
“Yeah, we saw tons of naked people there!” Porter yelled. “Are we going to any more museums?”
“If you’re really good,” I promised.
“Woo-hoo!” they shouted, no doubt with visions of naked supermodels posing with all sorts of wild animals dancing through their heads.
But our vacation wasn’t all tits and ass. Bill took Drew and Porter to Central Park to visit the zoo and go ice skating. Meanwhile, Finn and I wandered down Broadway towards Soho and bought him some jeans, a couple of shirts, and a jacket. He preened in front of the mirrors like a beauty pageant contestant, much to my surprise and delight.
One night I let Porter take me on a date for sushi. He gobbled up the Dragon Roll and yellowtail so quickly that I hardly had time to drink my wine before all the food was gone, approximately 24 minutes after we’d arrived at the restaurant. He got points for enthusiasm and efficiency. We all cuddled in bed in the apartment and read and played Uno that night.
The trip wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. The boys pushed and shoved, and grumbled when they got tired and hungry. More than once the purchase of some street pretzels acted like a shot of adrenaline for our flagging troops. Nasty words were exchanged, and Porter called Finn an ass and was punished. Thereafter the boys employed their New York City geography and the biggest threat we heard was, “I’m gonna kick you in the Ass-tor Place if you don’t shut your mouth!”
Our fancy dinner took place at Do Hwa, where the guys discovered that they liked plain nori dipped in soy sauce, tofu dipped in soy sauce, and pretty much anything dipped in soy sauce. We feasted on pork and kimchi dumplings, bulgogi, and jalapeno chicken. We had to drag the boys from the restaurant, as they were begging for more bulgogi, which we simply could not afford at the rate they were packing it in.
I had expected the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show to be cheesy, but the Rockettes, well, rocked, and I envied their velvety costumes and tap shoes. The boys were entranced, even Finn.
We weren’t going anywhere near Times Square on New Year’s Eve, so instead we went to Aunt Lulu’s and cooked dinner. Lulu had thoughtfully provided accessories for my boys and they donned them all. I’ll let you readers come up for a caption for this picture. It’s too much for me to contemplate:
After a couple of days the boys were becoming naturals at the bus and subway.
Porter bought a contraption off the street that fits in your mouth like a retainer, and blinks a red light on and off behind your teeth when you flick a switch with your tongue. We were riding the bus down Fifth Avenue one evening when he discovered that he could press his face against the window at the crowds outside and make zany faces while his mouth lit up. He attracted lots of attention– people began to point and laugh and wave, and soon Porter began crowing, “Look at all those people! They really love me!”
Bill and I were afraid his ego was being adversely affected and Bill confiscated the mouth grill until the ride was over, to Finn’s relief (“Porter is acting like an idiot”) and Porter’s great disappointment (“But I was making people happy. Everyone needs to be happy.”)
Our trip to Chinatown enthralled the guys as well. We went inside Kam Man to purchase Drew a chef’s knife (that was our special time together) and while there, the boys ogled dried fish, dried shrimp, sharks’ fins, and ducks hanging in the window, complete with beaks. On our way to eat at Joe’s Shanghai, we stopped to watch eels swimming in tanks at several establishments, which gave me the shivers.
Unsurprisingly, I had researched what to order at Joe’s, and we ate pork and seafood dumplings, sesame chicken, and braised pork. I also ordered a dish that Bill and I referred to only as “#41” (its number on the menu) because we feared Finn and Drew would jump ship if they knew that the waiter was bringing the special Eel with Yellow Chives to our table.
When the #41 arrived I approached it with great anticipation, and I was crestfallen to see that the eels were not minced or ground, but at most had been halved or quartered, and thus were in a fairly realistic eel-like state. Having just seen their brethren swimming down the street made me feel vaguely sadistic as I scooped up a forkful. In short, while the dish smelled good, the eely texture and visibility put me off like few foods have before. Thankfully, I’d tanked up on dumplings and scallion pancakes and wasn’t relying on the eels to fill me up.
Things were dramatic until the very end. The boys were bewildered by the long line to check bags at Newark, as we don’t see that type of crowd in Alabama, except maybe waiting for tickets to the gun show.*
We confused Drew and Porter further when we made it through security and commanded them to grab their belongings and run, sock footed, after Finn. We’d told Finn to pretend it was the New York Marathon and to run like the Kenyan until he reached Gate 115 and then yell to anyone wearing a uniform, “Hold the plane! The Glamores are here!” He performed his job admirably, and we tumbled onto the plane, bobbling coats and shoes.
The true test of a family’s fortitude is on the road, when the day’s normal pace is accelerated, meal times and ingredients are wildly unpredictable, and sleeping arrangements are unfamiliar. Our boys did well, I reflected, as the plane pushed back and I settled into my seat, happy to be sitting on my Ass-tor Place and headed toward home.
* I kid! I mean, the line is probably twice that long for the gun show, but we don’t attend that or the monster truck rally.