We had a wonderful weekend. But right now I am sitting at the table in our godforsaken apartment as the ceiling fan shoves great glaciers of hot air around the room and as beads of sweat gather at my temples. It is so hot. The heat bundles itself in these rooms and starts weighing down. I expect the bed to buckle at any moment. And it's 11 o'clock at night.
Friday: We took the D and Q trains out to Brighton Beach and Coney Island. Brighton Beach is the home of a large Russian population, and we ate lunch at a boardwalk Russian cafe, where we tried borscht for the first time. Pretty darn good! Like a weird gazpacho! The quiet of Brighton Beach and the width of the boardwalk there reminded me of Rehoboth. We walked across the hot sand to the water -- the sand of course being riddled with broken glass, because since this is New York City every nice thing must have an edge to it, which means that your typical idyllic beach will be liberally sprinkled with shrapnel -- and found the ocean to be freezing cold. We continued up the way towards Coney Island, where we fought the urge to buy fried things and took in the spectacle. I appreciated the history -- the parachute tower from the 1939 World's Fair, the amusement park rides from the same era. Following our beach tradition, we had some photo booth pictures taken, and were happy to include Alice for the first time. Later we ventured out onto the pier, passing fishermen and families and men cat-calling the women. Looking back towards the beach, seeing the Wonder Wheel and the housing towers and the train snaking through it all, I was struck by the vastness of New York City. Here we could feel ocean breezes, hear the caw of seagulls, see the wide blue sky over the water. How many worlds, how many places this city contains. (Walking along the beach, I was also struck by the sheer brazenness of people -- the wildly inappropriate bathing suits, all those swathes of unrequested flesh -- that actually made me feel embarrassed for them, on their behalf, but I preferred to focus on the breadth of the City, thanks very much.)
Sunday: I started out Independence Day with a nice long run in the morning through Riverside Park. As the heat settled on our skin and in our clothes, we walked down to Lincoln Center to watch a movie, baby in tow. Here is our thinking: we did this last week with a matinee of "Toy Story 3," where the theater was empty and Alice was as well-behaved as one could reasonably expect. L would jump out of her seat as soon as the baby started to fuss, and there was no issue. Sunday we figured we would go see "Sex and the City 2: A Big Mistake" (see the pun there!) because (a) it's long, (b) it's playing in a place that's air-conditioned, and (c) everyone knows it's horrible, so no one will be there and it won't be a big deal with the baby.
Well, apparently the bitter old women of Manhattan did not get that memo, because they were out in full force. Why were they seeing this movie everyone hated, six weeks after it originally came out? Worst of all, the theater was configured in such a way that you entered by the movie screen, which means all the other patrons see you as you come in. I could feel a collective wave of feminine disdain overtake us as we entered with our stroller, so we hustled to the back row to suffer the withering gaze of some freedom-hating old hag. When I came back from getting popcorn, I actually took off the hat and sunglasses I had been wearing, so people wouldn't think I was the jerk who brought a baby to the movie.
But you know what, haters? We did bring a baby, and she did great. L had to take her out a couple times, and I had a few artificial coughing fits to camoflauge her gurgling, but she did great. No crying. (We did note the fact that under normal circumstances, we would be part of the disdain brigade, harrumphing about how a movie theater is a completely inappropriate place to bring a baby, but thanks to the challenges of parenting and perhaps even a slight mellowing of my temper, perhaps I am evolving.)
Unfortunately, the movie was horrific. It was really offensive against the middle east, and somehow the characters were even more insufferable than usual. Why does Charlotte have a full-time nanny? She doesn't have a job! All the characters who were mothers sucked at it. And their partners, the fathers, were simpering and spineless. And the karaoke scene made me want to gouge my eyes out. Other than that, two thumbs up!
We walked back to the piers on 125th Street and set up an impromptu picnic to see the fireworks. We made friends with the sweet family to our left and watched the sunset sink across the Hudson. The weather was perfect and the people were friendly, kids chasing each other and people eating sandwiches on their blankets. When the fireworks started we found that our view was blocked by a clump of trees -- and then hundreds of people were shifting and jostling for a better view -- but at that point it didn't matter.
125th Street piers
Monday: Today I took my first Manhattan bike ride, after a morning stop at the local bike shop to outfit the old bike I had as a teenager, which has been dormant for about 15 years. After pumping the tires, checking the brakes, and buying a helmet, this evening I rode down the Hudson to about 72nd Street and back. I know it's no excuse for an actual workout, but it felt great to move, to force some air around me in the illusion of coolness.
This afternoon, after lunch, I took Alice home alone so that L could enjoy a small piece of the day. The baby and I stayed in the cool oasis of her room. We read my favorite children's colonialist allegory, "The Story of Babar," as well as "Make Way for Ducklings," and a brief selection of "Moby-Dick," which she did not enjoy. Then I was holding her in my lap, and we were both sitting there rocking, me relaxing in the cool air and quiet moment, feeling her weight on me, and the baby with the pacifier in her mouth, restful in my arms. I looked at her and she was smiling sweetly, even with the pacifier, and then something happened and she was looking so clearly in my eyes, and smiling so broadly -- I started speaking to her and she would coo right in response, her mouth wide and open and happy, her eyes so intent on mine, laughing together. At that moment I expected her to speak, to say my name or her own, or to tell a joke, or to laugh like her mother. For a second she was not a baby, but my friend. A brief moment of such connection. During those moments I wouldn't have been surprised by anything. It was so lovely.
Eventually it passed, and her adorable haze returned, clouding her thoughts, her needs. But that moment! My mysterious daughter.
It's been a wonderful weekend. Now time for a last cold shower, and an escape into sleep, on top of the sheets, under the fans.