from Sandy Needham

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Jersey / New York Dispatch

July 10, 2008

We had some very good luck on this trip winning low prices for hotels and rental cars on We actually got a very nice hotel on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge for less than the regular price of the truly seedy one next door! Trouble was, it was too nice! There was no mini-fridge for goat cheese and salami because they want guests to eat in their lovely, expensive restaurants; it was so near the bridge that one could not catch a bus to cross it; the expensive hotel van only dropped guests off in midtown, not right across the bridge where our daughter lives. I got dressed and went down to the lobby to find a pay phone to call Elise 10 minutes away, for fear the long distance call from the room would be outrageous and subject to the 18% tax. Alas, the credit card pay phone call cost $18 for five minutes! The windows didn’t open, of course…I had the strangest sensation of being imprisoned in this nice hotel while Newton had an all-day meeting with his partners. Truth is, the pricey lunch was good, even if I was the only person in the restaurant. Newton and I later went to use the hot tub, but it was tepid. Damn.

My timing turned out perfect this year to see my beloved Blue Rock School’s big outdoor spring play. On this perfect evening the entire school enacted the Chinese tale of “Monkey.” I can still feel the blessing of the group hug I received upon arrival from a gaggle of costumed merchants, carp, crabs and jelly fish. It is also hard to shake the impression of 20 kindergarten monkeys descending from the woods into the stage action! The word gets overused where Blue Rock School is concerned for lack of a synonym, but the event was, indeed, magic. I also got to spend a day at the school, taking the 5th grade for lunch duty, checking in with my admissions replacement about the state of 2008-2009, gabbing with my former co-office manager, seeing kids off for the day, going for coffee with the director of the school, who is also the director of all plays and the drama teacher (she used to work with Peter Brook), then to dinner with some of my staff buddies.

Elise, Newton and I had a Chipotle-to-go picnic up at Elise’s “private park,” the gated, manicured Conservancy Garden at the upper east corner of Central Park. This was a well-kept secret, at least to us, all the years we were in Manhattan.

Elise and I had a grand day shopping in Harlem and returning to Sylvia’s for one of my favorite lunches: grilled catfish with a double side of collards. This is the restaurant where Fox’s Bill O’Reilly was so impressed that Black people had cloth napkins. We also had a great time strolling around Soho downtown. We met up with our dear friend Desiree for dinner at a spectacular place, Il Buco, where we had wine from Cinque Terre with a definite lemon presence – must be those gigantic lemons they grow on the terraced strips there - squisito!

Newton and I had dinner in New Jersey with friends from his old company. This firm was so progressive and employee-oriented that the friendships made during all that fun have lasted for 25 years, so far! Too bad the company was bought out by a dud corporation way back and lost its appeal, as well as Newton's division.

We had an elegant paella lunch with our oldest friends in New York, Joe and Guadalupe and David and Helen, with daughter Amelia. Elise took the photo of these friends she has had since birth! Do we look like people who spent years wandering around Manhattan till all hours? Don’t answer that.

Newton rallied his longtime soccer buddies in New Jersey twice for games and dinner at their old hang-out. He met his college friend, Manu, for lunch, and I had lunch and a political gabfest - sans serious disillusion, hinting of hope – with my enduring friend Carolyn.

I read a really great volume of short stories on this trip, Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg. I recommend it. It is, in fact, the only book I have ever re-read immediately after the first reading! She presents the oddities of modern life that reverberate in us, yet defy definition.

On to Tulsa!


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