My friend, Beth, returned to Lords Valley this week and we decided to drive into New York to go to The Strand Bookstore which boasts 18 miles of books and doesn’t disappoint. It is always a nostalgic trip when I go to The Strand — I remember my father’s friend, Marty, who spent hours browsing the shelves. Sometimes Marty and my father would meet up and inevitably ended up buying something from a street corner vendor or off the back of a truck that never quite lived up to expectations. One such time I remember vividly. They walked into the court (now referred to as a cul-de-sac) in Deepdale (Queens) where our apartment was above the one that Marty shared with Eleanor and their two children, Michael and Michelle. There was a small stoop and, on summer evenings, everyone was outside the apartments either on the stoops or sitting on the benches. The benches were reserved for the adults and the kids generally sat on the stoops when not playing. My father and Marty proudly displayed the first ever transistor radio (at least the first that we had ever seen). However, to get any sound from the radio, there was a series of contortionist-like moves that had to be completed while antenna wire was wrapped around the iron of the stoop railing. I suppose at some point the radios worked, but after a while kids lost interest and we went off to play somewhere, leaving the men to their technological work. What an odd memory because of a visit to a bookstore.
After the bookstore, Rachel, Beth and I went to Pete’s Tavern for lunch. Pete’s is the oldest continuously operating bar and restaurant in New York City. It is the place at which O. Henry was a regular and supposedly wrote some of his best short stories. Maybe even in the booth in which we sat yesterday. The booths are spartan to say the least, very small, wooden pew-like benches, and to say you are close to your food is an understatement. However, the food is outstanding and it is an iconic New York saloon. On occasion I met my father at Pete’s for a drink after work if he was in “the city.” We’d sit at the bar and have a drink and possibly a snack, once in a while having dinner together. Later, after marrying, Adrian, my father and I would occasionally meet at Pete’s. More recently, we were there with Rachel and Michael for a beer before having sushi at the trendy Yama which is nearby and for which you have to wait whether you have a reservation or not!! Pete’s holds a place in my heart as somewhere that has seen generations of my family come and go even if for a moment in its long history. Lunch, by the way, was delicious!
To walk off the wonderful lunch, we went to Barnes and Noble which, in spite of its four floors of terrific choices, doesn’t hold a candle to The Strand in my opinion. Then across the street to the Union Square Market which, in spite of the very cold temperatures, had a nice selection of vendors of organic breads, vegetables, condiments, and plants, not to mention ostrich jerky! All from regional organic farms. Then back to Lords Valley and the snow. What a wonderful way to spend a day for so many reasons. Each time I go into New York City my experience is different for just the reasons I described here. Sometimes it’s bittersweet, sometimes bringing up memories of the past that hadn’t surfaced for a long time, and sometimes to make new memories.