KEEPING IT REAL with FRIZZY LIZZY
Thinking back about living on the farm usually brings back bittersweet memories that are more bitter than sweet. Over the years since I have left there, my recall has become much more benign than it was right after I left. And that's how I feel about tonight's story. I prefer to share the sweetness of it and leave out the bitter as much as possible.
We had been married for about 4 years and 2 of them were lived on the farm, a 5-minute drive from his family. Hardly a day went by without visiting them. We had no real life of our own. We never had a night out together without a family member and their date coming with us, and if that family member had no date, we stayed at the family home, with everyone else, playing cards. It was not what I had expected by a long shot. That is the bitter part. I like to let that remembrance grow dusty and blurred in my mind's eye.
It was July 2, 1976. I have a way of remembering such dates. It was America's Bicentennial and I expected to observe it on the farm, or at his family's home. He knew that a lot was going wrong between us and I did not hesitate to show and tell it.
It was Friday morning while we were having coffee when he asked me if I would like to go to New York City to see the tall ships sail into New York Harbor. I was stunned! I asked him for more details and expected to hear who else he had asked to go with us and he confessed that he wanted to take time for just the two of us! He knew that things were getting rocky and that he had made many errors but that maybe a “summit meeting” over the Bicentennial weekend could help put things back in order.
After hearing what I took to be an earnest plea, I said, “Let's go!”
Before my words left the air, he was on the phone with directory assistance and then he placed a call to the Sheraton Times Square Hotel, 7th Avenue at 53rd Street in midtown Manhattan. The reservation was made for the night of July 3 and July 4 with check-out on July 5. I was thrilled!
We took our older car and all the cash we could get our hands on and got on the interstate highway to New York City.
The ride was pleasant and just the two of us made good conversation. We alternated radio stations between his country and western music and my oldies as we drove east. We arrived at the Sheraton Times Square at about 12:00 noon and had 3 hours to kill before check-in. I cannot recall what we did for that time, but it was in the days before cell phones. He could not call his mom to tell her we had arrived and we could not take a call from her. That was fine with me.
Supper was at some fast food place, but that I did not mind at all as it was a table for two. We slept well and got ready to go to the very southern tip of Manhattan, to Battery Park, to see tall ships from all over the world sail into New York Harbor, and the fireworks that night.
Now I knew a bit more about getting around New York City than Kevin did so he depended on me to take the lead, and I did. We left the hotel and went to the subway station at 7th Avenue and 53rd Street for a train going downtown. After changing trains at Times Square/42nd Street, we exited the 1Train at South Ferry.
The day was warm and humid, but it was the Fourth of July and we were right next on New York Harbor in Battery Park, so named because of the battery of cannons that was once there to protect Manhattan from invaders. The crowd was beyond my estimating, but it was huge. It was like the city emptied out and everyone went to the Battery to see the Tall Ships. After moving about, we settled for a position that was four deep from the rail where we stood and enjoyed all that we could of America's birthday party. We bought 2 buttons that said “I was there for July 4 in Old New York.” I still have mine.
The sailing vessels were a magnificent sight with the wind in their canvas and the flags of their home nations flying proudly. Live bands played music of every kind heard in New York City, from country to reggae. Food vendors were easy to find and we took many photos of the ships and the people there.
Perhaps the greatest thing about the celebration was the spirit of those who came to join it. For as warm and populated as it was at the Battery, I did not hear one cross word spoken nor did I see one fight. I found that remarkable because of the number of people in the same place on a hot day. Civility reigned that day.
At the conclusion of Operation Sail, Kevin asked me about having supper. I told him that my father had mentioned a restaurant at 110 E. 14th Street called Lüchow's. Kevin balked momentarily because the name sounded Chinese, but I assured him that it was a German restaurant. “Diamond Jim” Brady frequented the place. If my dad and Brady liked it, it was good enough for me.
The choice of Lüchow's was good, but my decision to walk there was not. I thought that it was within walking distance of the Battery, like 14 blocks away. I was off by about 18 blocks or more. I had forgotten all of the named streets in Lower Manhattan that come before the numbered streets. It felt like we would never arrive there at all, not to mention for supper! I began to wonder if 14th Street had not been moved to Boston!
But Kevin was good company and made the walk a lot easier than I thought it was. We made it in time for supper.
Lüchow's opened in 1882 and had its share of celebrity diners. The dining room was a sight to behold. It had a high ceiling of embossed tin with chandeliers to provide a pleasant light. The walls were solid, dark-stained wood with intricately carved scroll work and mirrors. The chairs were upholstered in supple red leather and made for comfort for as long as I would wish to sit and enjoy a meal. I was impressed by the ambiance and one thing more: the cleanliness. There was not a bit of dust on any of the scroll work; no dirt on the mirrors; the tables were immaculate, as were the chandeliers; and the only thing that I could smell was the sublime fragrance of German cooking.
I cannot remember what Kevin ordered but I had the Weiner schnitzel ala Holstein with lingon berries (berries flown daily from Germany to Lüchow's). The portion was just enough to fill me comfortably. A glass of Reisling (my choice) took the edge off the day.
We took a taxi back to the Battery and found a place on higher ground that was about 30 meters away from the water and there we watched a grand fireworks display. It was a fitting finale to what was a most pleasant day with Kevin.
The next day we left New York and talked all the way home. We talked a little about the past and a lot about the future; about forgiveness and forgetting; about endings and starting over, and I felt good when we got back.
So are the sweet moments... Thank you for sharing them with me.