Tet is a wonderful holiday. Every year at Tet, which is the Vietnamese New Year, our sons get a trip sponsored by the company they both work for. V&D imports clothing from Viet Nam and essentially can do nothing during Tet, even if they were not celebrating themselves. Which they are. This year, it was a trip to New York City for a long weekend. We had been planning to spend a week in CA to visit them at Tet, but it was awesome to meet them in NYC instead. And this year, Tet coincided with the Super Bowl. And Eli Manning was leading the Giants. And we were in NYC. Woot woot.
Andrew and Simon were sharing a room. V&D was paying for a room for each employee and significant other, so Andrew had invited his lonnnng-time friend Theresa [and her cousin, who ultimately could not come] to share the other room. Theresa is Zoe’s mother, for those of you who have seen the quilt I am making for Zoe from her late daddy’s T-shirts and ties.
We all arrived at about the same time mid-morning, at the hotel right in the heart of the theater district. So my first sight in the hotel was dear Simon, whom I greeted with delight. We all checked in, greeted V&D’s owner and wife, and others we know from the company—whom we never saw again the whole weekend! Our room was spacious by Paris standards. Minton Plaza hotel is being renovated. The rooms are small but furnished with built in, sleek white furniture and bright red accents. Our room showed us a bright corner of Times Square and we were grateful for the “Goodnight” room darkening shade provided at the window. The others got rooms which had not been gussied up yet, alas.
We all went by subway to The Cloisters, wayyyy to the top of Manhattan, in Tryon Park. The Cloisters is the Met’s medieval art annex, where whole chapels have been transplanted from Europe and reassembled in a custom built museum [thanks, Mr. Rockefeller]. This time, we split up, as Simon and I are slow and deliberate, wanting to discuss history, religion, art, and tired feet as we view. This museum is a treasure trove, hard to get to but so worth it, imo. The views of the Palisades across the river are dramatic and the building itself surrounded by enough park that you can believe in time travel.
We took the city bus back to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we had a good supper in the cafeteria. We reviewed all our options and chose Arms & Armor and the Egyptian galleries, which we considered must see for everyone.
The next [mid-]morning saw us buying tickets for the ferry [w/o Simon, feeling ill and exhausted] to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. We just missed one boat, but cleverly used this time to determine where they actually sell tickets / not where we thought they did. We toured the tiny museum in Clinton Castle, showing its growth from fort in 1811 through concert hall to processing center for immigrants before the Feds took over in 1891 [moving facilities to Ellis Island in 1892.] Thus we learned that Federal control of immigration is a recent thing; I was especially surprised that ANY states rights had lasted past the “Civil War”. The interior of Liberty is closed and undergoing renovation; we learned that a very limited number of people are allowed per day anyway. I rode to the top and walked down with my family the summer I was 10 and will always remember looking out right under Liberty’s crown. I also sang “Carry me back to ol’ Virginny” all the way down, which must have really annoyed the other tourists, but no one shushed me. The acoustics inside are better than a shower for singing. But, entry barred altogether, we walked all around the statue, taking pictures, and watching a couple get mugged by seagulls [Doritos and cookies]. A brief tour of the gift shop and getting “National Park Passport” stamps, we embarked for Ellis.
Ellis Island’s processing building is quite new, replacing the older building in 1925, when fire destroyed it and all the records therein. There is a passing fair exhibit of why people left Europe, Africa and Asia to come here and what they encountered when they got here. This history predates the Federal
interference administration of immigration by 200 years, but I liked the thoroughness. Which is not to say that I read it all. I would have liked more artifacts and fewer words. In the large entry hall, however, I viewed a heap of trunks and bags which is most wonderful to study. I declined to visit upstairs with the others, but they said the large, empty hall is quite beautiful, especially the pale brick ceiling. I noted that the toilets were not 1925 vintage, but not much newer.
Returning to shore, we walked the short distance to Fraunces Tavern, the site of which saw George Washington bidding farewell to his officers at war’s end. That building burned, but a charming tavern has replaced it, done in Colonial style with delicious food and an Irish waitress. It was here I learned to add bacon bits to Brussels sprouts.
Full of stomach but lighter of $$, we split up, with Andrew, Theresa and I going on to the American Museum of Natural History via subway; Ron went to the hotel to get Simon and to meet us there. This museum was founded by Teddy Roosevelt and starred in the first “Night at the Museum” movie. Apparently, this boosted attendance there. I visited there the same trip as I did Liberty Island, and when 12 requested a meeting with the chief paleontologist there. [where did I get the nerve? At any rate, he told me the only way I could become a paleontologist was to marry one. Women were NEVER allowed to do field work.]. I believe I must have had new glasses at 10 because my memory if of everything being stupendous in detail.
But I digress. A, T and I went to see the dinosaurs. The museum fairly recently redid the entire dinosaur display, to include fewer statements and more questions; to list possibilities as well as downright errors of the past; to highlight the careers of great scientists—btw, my Andrew is named after Roy Chapman Andrews, the great hero of my childhood. I somehow got separated from A & T but soon saw Simon coming through the crowds like Moses parting the Red Sea. So I joined him and Ron.
Simon is self educated about paleontology, amazingly so. He had contemplated becoming a professional, but decided he was not enough of a scholar to get through the years of training required. He volunteered for years at the La Brea Tar Pits, specializing in extracting microfossils [e.g. mouse teeth and bug parts] from the matrix previously removed and examined by others. As we explored the displays he pointed to a Smilodon [saber-tooth cat] and said, “That’s from La Brea; I recognize the color of the bones.” He was correct. What a delight to visit my favorite museum in the company of such an expert.
When the museum closed, we made our way back to the hotel, where Ron selected a likely looking pub for dinner. The minute we stepped in, Simon and my ears began to bleed from the volume of the music, so we waved goodbye and ate at McDonald’s.
Theresa is a Catholic, so we combined our spiritual needs with our tourist instinct and attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Celebrating the Mass was Monsignor Ritchie, who gave a wonderful Homily about Prayer
Meanwhile, Ron and Simon were exploring the High Line, a former elevated railroad track which has been redesigned as a walkway and park. AKA, a public space and a greensward. The passed by a 1930s apartment complex, which was the largest in the world at it’s time, with 1600 apartments, swimming pools, playgrounds, all in brick. I would love a pied-a-terre there. The plucky pair then went back to the American Museum of Natural History. This time Pop got to enjoy Simon’s expertise and excitement.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is the famous Frank Lloyd Wright building which swirls in a huge spiral gallery. Sadly, the entire spiral was closed for installation of a new exhibit, but we went on in for photos and the Kandinsky gallery. I bought a couple of books on sale, which Andrew gallantly carried for the rest of the day, even though I quoted my Daddy saying, “If you buy it, you carry it.”
Andrew replied, “Well he’s not here, is he?” Andrew is a very fine man.
A, T & I walked back to the Met, where we ate a late lunch and then split up. Since I had been before, and could not keep up with them and still have a good time, they went off to finish looking at everything and I went to the Ancient Near East to sketch [poorly] and appreciate artifacts of the timeframes I’ve been studying in the Bible recently.
Sunday evening found us all 5 in our small hotel room, sprawled about, eating steaming hot pizzas that Ron had picked up around the corner. We had a special interest in the NY Giants since Eli Manning is the 25¢back. His brother, Peyton Manning was the 25¢back at UT. Usually, Ron and the sons watch the game together [last year, we flew to CA for that reason], but typically take opposing sides for the fun of it; I usually go shopping during the game.
But this year, we were all rooting for the Giants, so naturally they won. We had decided not to go out to eat in Times Square because we thought people might riot, win or lose, the way they do in LA. But after the game, there was quite a lull, before people hit the streets to cheer and whoop it up. Andrew said they were all paying their bar tabs politely first.
After the game, hugs, kisses and sniffles as we all said good-bye. Andrew, Simon and Theresa had to get up at 4 am for their trip to Kennedy; we got to slug abed til 6 am to make our way to LaGuardia. We took the subway to Queens, emerging from the tunnels to cross the river aboveground. The train stops short of the airport, but a city bus [same transit system] took us on in to the terminal. This bus driver was the ONLY surly New Yorker we met. The cab driver that cheated us was quite polite.
[Ron says this is not a good ending as you might think I would not recommend a trip to New York. Compared to the1960s, New York City is clean, friendly and full of families with small children. It is a delightful place to visit and I would go again in a heartbeat.]