My Reverse New York City Birthday Adventure

12:30am We finally arrive home. Mary El falls asleep so quickly I can put on the Springsteen channel almost immediately. That’s Defcon 5 sleeping for Mary El.  What a day.

10:45pm We are on the shoulder of 287 with the passenger door open. Somehow the GPS passed up two opportunities to get on the Thruway to take us the scenic route through Jersey’s Siberia. I was too timid to argue with the GPS’s assured female voice. Mary El is sitting sideways on the passenger seat, heaving fish and chips, two Blue Moons and a White Castle burger she just had to have when we passed it on 8th Avenue. She’s been on a semi-liquid diet for the past month. In retrospect it was not a good idea. I rub her back.

9:45pm We’re on 8th Avenue. Mary El thinks it would be a great idea to have a White Castle hamburger after eating a full dinner. She hasn’t eaten real food in a month. I wonder if this will work out well.

8:35pm After passing up four nearly identical Irish pubs, we drag our weary butts into the Pig & Whistle. It’s worth the wait. I have sliders and Mary El has fish and chips. The fries are very good. The place is loud and has eleven televisions (we counted). But we manage to talk about the highlights of my birthday event. Mostly I talk, since Mary El never quite made it. But I enjoyed it immensely. I’m very lucky to have a wife who thinks about me and wants to surprise me on my birthday. At least Mary El bought a good Edie dress for “Grey Gardens”, and was told “For you, twenty dollar. You’re beautiful! Don’t tell my wife” by the Indian shop owner.

8:22pm We’ve passed up four Irish pubs because they were too loud or too expensive. Mary El wants an unattended hole in wall, which is very hard to find immediately surrounding Times Square. I know how important the right place and the right food is to Mary El. If she walks into a place she has doubts about, the meal will never be a success. We get an opportunity to do this without the kids two or three times a year. My Achilles are akillin’ me (sorry—wordplay is in the air) from walking in boots, but the least I can do is let her pick the restaurant after all the nice things she did for me today.

7:45pm I am shaking hands with one of my personal heroes. I say to him, “Mr. Stoppard, you’re work has meant so much to me. I’m a playwright, and when I first saw ‘Arcadia’ I thought I should stop writing. But I didn’t.” Not very eloquent in retrospect, but I think I got to point across. He leaned back and said back to me, quite graciously, “I am very complimented.” He always picks the right words. I was standing next to another gushing Stoppardite who bought a new copy of “Arcadia” although she really wanted him to sign her old, careworn copy. The books ran out so I didn’t get one, but I tell her I just want to shake his hand. However, they are shooing people off the line who don’t have books, so she lends me her extra. It’s a win-win—I get to meet him and she gets an extra signed book. God we’re geeks. I end up getting my playbill signed and find Mary El. I’m beaming.

6:30pm Mary El is outside in the car. We’re a half hour late. I ask the usher if I can still get in for the lecture. He says, “Tom Stoppard?” So that’s who it is. I can get in. I run back to the car and give Mary El the OK sign so she can find someplace to park, then follow the whispering house manager as she shows me where the seats are. We’re in the third row, all the way to the right. Tom Stoppard is in mid-sentence, being interviewed by a young NY Times reporter. He’s asking him about his days as a reviewer. This is very cool. He names “Arcadia” and “The Invention of Love” as two of the plays he got the closest to making what he wanted them to be, my two favorites of his. He also talks about whittling his writing down to its “elegant minimum”. I freaking love that. I’m standing on line to ask him a question when they end the session. Mary El never made it inside. She’s probably someplace buying an Edie dress and getting hit on by an Indian shop owner. Just a wild guess.

6:00pm The lecture by the unknown person is starting, and we’re creeping into the Lincoln Tunnel at 3 to 4 miles per hour. The GPS keeps telling us we’re just a few miles from our destination, but these are New York City miles, not real miles. Mary El is disconsolate. She’s saying this isn’t fair, and why can’t I even be allowed to do something nice for you. I’m downplaying the whole thing—so what if we get there a little late? If they don’t let us in we’ll just go to dinner. Hey, we don’t have the kids with us, I don’t care if we sleep in the car. Nothing is working. If only I hadn’t swerved into the wrong lane and missed the GW exit. But the damn GPS was telling me to!

5:30pm I swerve into the left lane, avoiding the exit. It didn’t seem to be matching the green arrow on the GPS. Damn, I think we missed the GW. Well, the GPS will just turn us around and get us back on the bridge—I mean, it’s not going to do something crazy like make us take the Tunnel in the middle of rush hour, right? The GPS is our friend. We’ll just let it do its job. Look, it says we’ll be there in 15 minutes. Nothing to worry about.

3:30pm Tovah (James’ girlfriend) has the kids and we’re off on our New York birthday adventure. We’ve got plenty of time to get there from New Paltz. No kids, no flooded basement, no troubles. I wonder who I’m going to see lecture…

  1. Great descriptive writing… sounds like you had a lotta fun!

  2. Thank you Captain. The trip had its moments.

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