What would you do if you only had 5 months left to live in New York? The US?
I think we spent a good part of this weekend saying good-bye to New York. We took my parents and sister’s family to eat a huge family meal at our favorite Thai restaurant, right here in Rockaway. It’s on the bay and as scenic as the food is delicious. We visited my husband’s office building in downtown Manhattan and admired the 360 views of NYC – The Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower and Brooklyn Bridge Park. If I worked in that building, I wouldn’t get any work done! I would sit staring out the windows and picking up games of ping-pong in the cafeteria!
I have been compiling a bucket list of things to do before we leave. It has made me realize that my New York centers around family, friends and food. I am making a list of things I must say good-bye to, places I must try before I go and who I need to spend time with before time is up. My New York has been all about the diverse culture. Cliche? Perhaps. But, I think what you allow on your plate says a lot about who you allow in your life. Some people are very bland, picky and fake eaters. What does that mean? You go out to eat and they order a burger and fries because they don’t like seafood or Mexican food or waffles are too fattening. Then they lament throughout the meal, “this is too much! I won’t be able to finish this!” Finally once their plate is clear they say, “I feel disgusting. I can’t believe I are that much.” I can’t eat with people like this.
Others have a colorful palate. They say things like, “Let’s try something new!” And “Try my dish!” Or “I can’t finish this but I’m taking it home for dinner!” I definitely lean toward those who have open minds, hearts and taste buds!
I’m sure I have left off plenty, but here’s the Sweet 16:
1 – Serendipity – another cliche New York, I know! But before that damn movie came out, my sisters and I would go here and indulge in the Forbidden Broadway and Frozen Hot Chocolate without a 3 hour wait! Their food is “Meh,” but I’ll make a reservation for a full meal just to bag the lunch and get to dessert!
2 – Max Brenner – my new chocolate indulgence spot. Their Italian hot chocolate is like pudding, another one of my favorite things. I enjoyed this with my Mom and sisters one afternoon and it was well worth the trip through the pouring rain! Oh, if only I were Oprah…I’d fly you all here and treat you to this liquid heaven! I also want to go here with my babies and all my nieces – it’s super kid friendly!
3 – Natsumi – anyone who knows me knows that sushi is the only thing I ever want to eat! I went here with one of my best friends, Maria, before a Janet Jackson concert and I remember it being one of the best served raw fish EVER! I cannot believe we haven’t been back! Probably because we have kids…It’s in Midtown Manhattan and pretty pricey! Well, a babysitter will be hired – we are going back!
4 – Sugarcane – bread pudding and rum punch led me to my husband! I just realized that if it weren’t for food, we would never have met! I love this place for its style, flavor and Brooklyn atmosphere. If it’s a girls night out, we’ll get the wings. If I can convince hubby to come back here, we’ll get the steak.
5 – Brooklyn Botanic Garden – one of my favorite places on earth! I love most botanic gardens, but this one I got to know in depth while taking a botany course one summer. There is nothing more soothing than admiring the beauty of plants, potting a seedling, or sketching exotic blooms with colored pencils. I spent a month getting know every exhibit and now I bring my students there twice per year to see the beauty of a sleepy winter and the vibrant life of spring! I’ll go here and New York’s many other gardens with my Mom – she has a knack for growing beautiful things herself!
6 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, and The Guggenheim. Art can heal a broken heart. I never appreciated art growing up, despite having two sisters who are extremely talented in visual art. I was actually bored at museums. It wasn’t until I felt at my lowest, that I began to understand and appreciate it. Once again, I took a course studying art in NYC and we spent Saturdays visiting different museums and analyzing different pieces. I started scheduling tours at The Met for my students and I was mortified and delighted that the tour guide started with the unclothed statues in the Greek and Roman Gallery! I don’t know if I’ll make it to all of them, Inshallah!
7 – Battery Park & Statue of Liberty – I’ve been so lucky to have been able to get to know this area of Manhattan. A number of my PD’s are held here and my little family and I have walked along the promenade a few times. One time in particular, we shared a bench with a family of readers. Mom, Dad, and two little girls were all into their books as they stretched out in front of the waterways. I promised that I would make sure my kids always carried a book. As soon as I get them to sit still…Aside from the promenade, I’d like to say good-bye to Lady Liberty and ride the brand new sea-glass carousel with my munchkins.
8 – Levain Bakery – Huge Cookies that have a crisp crust and gooey inside. I almost love them as much as Maison Kayser in Paris. If I could bake cookies like this, I would be the perfect Mom.
9 – Brooklyn Bridge Park – I’ve been to Brooklyn plenty of times, but never took the time to check out the park until recently. Playing tour guide to my cousin Erica from Texas, forced me to do some touristy things. But this was a side of New York everyone must see. With a view of skyscrapers across the river, Brooklyn Bridge looming above you, and one of the most spacious areas to stroll in NYC, Brooklyn Bridge Park has so much to offer! Trails, grassy areas, a pop-up pool and lemonade stands! Oh, and built-in exercise machines next to the kids playground? I could definitely squeeze in a work out everyday if this place weren’t 45 minutes from home. All outdoors and all free! Well, except the food. We discovered Luke’s Lobster in a tiny brick building by the bridge and while I thought I had had the best Lobster Roll in Montauk, this went far beyond my dreams! Luke’s Lobster. Go there.
10 – Montauk, The End – The end of Long Island, that is. Montauk Manor, Gurney’s Inn, The Lighthouse – I don’t know if I’m really going to make it out there, but every so often I need to drive out to Montauk and gain some sanity! This is where I spent my college years. Most people head to places with parties and action. I went to a place that is serene and quiet September -May. The beach takes over all your senses. You smell it, see it, taste it everyday. It’s the only place in New York that I get an idea of what it would be like to not have to rush anywhere – enjoy life at a slow pace. This is where we had our wedding, on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This is where I would buy a block of land, grow some veggies, ferment some grapes, raise some chickens and live my life in peace. If I could only afford it. Costa Rica weighs in as second place in Retirement Goals.
11 – Famous Familgia Pizza – Pizza in New York is a must. I loved hosting my cousin Erica last September because she was down with eating pizza everyday! While I love the thin crust pizza at New Park in Howard Beach, the eggplant slice at Classica, Glendale, and the huge slices at any Puerto Rican Pizzeria in The Bronx, Famiglia has amazing lasagna and baked ziti! Pizza is good too, but OMG with the cheesiness in their baked pasta!
12 – Thai Rock – I’m thinking of having our farewell party here. It’s a beautifully designed restaurant with a deck overlooking the bay and one of the prettiest sunset spots in Rockaway. The food is amazing and the owners are lovely! If you’re dining out on the deck, they come around with blankets should the weather get chilly! If we don’t have our farewell party here, we will definitely host a huge dinner for our closest friends and family.
13 –Bear Mountain – Hubby has been saying we should go hiking here forever! Well, now that both kids know how to walk, this may be possible. Hiking is an activity I would love to get into, but have never had the time nor the right companions!
14 – Long Beach, NY. Sorrento’s, Himawari, Chaba Thai – My old neighborhood of Long Beach still has the prettiest boardwalk and tastiest restaurants for after the beach. I’ll try to get to all these places after a nice day on the beach in June!
15 – One World Observatory and Top of the Rock – typical tourist places offering amazing views of this city. As we walked through downtown Manhattan Sunday to pick up cookies for Easter dessert, we talked about coming back here as tourists. How easy is it to love this place when you don’t have to live here! How truly we love it despite having to live here! These exhibits we might save for when we come home during the summer!
16 – Woodside, Queens – The Yellow House on a Hill. Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I must spend as much time as possible with my beautiful Grandmother, who turns 104 in a few days! She has already received a sweet happy birthday wish from The White House! They wrote,
March 15, 2016
Happy 104th Birthday! We are delighted to send our warmest wishes as you celebrate this milestone!
Your story is an integral part of the American Narrative and you have witnessed the best of what of what our nation can accomplish when we work together in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow.
Barrack Obama Michelle Obama
She still lives in the same yellow house in Woodside, Queens, that my Grandfather purchased as part of his American Dream. The house where she cooked the world’s most savory dishes and finished raising 6 Children, 11 Grandchildren, 12 Great Grandchildren and I’m really not sure how many great great grandchildren. This house that is both very large and very small, hosted parties for us all along with many more relatives, friends, and neighbors. The yellow house on a hill, that you’ll catch a glimpse of as you ride the LIRR into Manhattan.
Despite her eyes failing her, she still maintains the house with the help of her children. You will often find her by the window, catching a breeze or listening to the riff-raff going on in the street. She thinks about all who have passed before her and sometimes…she asks when her time will come. She says this all in Spanish, assuming I don’t understand anyway. But I do.
She truly is a beautiful part of the American story and the story of New York. Coming to this country with nothing and offering so much. I will visit her as often as possible before we leave.