Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Sidewalks of New York

"East side, west side, all around the town . . . ." I couldn't help but think of this song as we made our way around the city. When my brother and I were growing up, my Mother entertained us with stories of her childhood, growing up in NLR in the 20's and 30's. One of the stories that made an impression on me was of how she and her sister, Ordell, took dance lessons when they were little girls. "East side, west side, all around the town," she would sing. "The tots sang ring-a-rosy, London Bridge is falling down. Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O'Rourke, tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York." Then to illustrate how she and Ordell tap-danced to the song, she would execute a few steps right there on the hardwood floor of our living room. My brother and I were delighted! The thought of our mother ever tap-dancing sent us into fits of giggles.

Well, we certainly pounded the sidewalks of New York. Thank goodness for my Propet walking sandals! I was able to keep up with the best of them.

Eating, shopping, seeing the sights, and people-watching. That about sums up our time in the city. We didn't make a lot of pictures. Here's a few.
Times Square

Below is a picture of the exterior of the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. On this visit to the city, I wanted to see something we had not seen before. I learned about the Tenement Museum online, and we were not disappointed. In fact, we would probably go back again. This museum picks up where Ellis Island leaves off. If you loved the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you would enjoy this museum. As we climbed the staircase in the tenement we toured, I could just imagine Francie's mother, Kitty Nolan, on her knees, scrubbing the stairs.
There were several tours available. The one we took followed a German immigrant family who lived in the building beginning in 1863 and an Italian family who lived there in the early 20th century. Our guide showed us photos of the original families and their descendants today, copies of original lease records, and all manner of drawings and other material that helped us to imagine life in those tenements where we were standing.
The apartments were tiny: 325 square feet that included a kitchen, a bedroom, and a room overlooking the street that was used for living during the day and sleeping at night.
Our guide, a twenty-something young lady told us that she lives in a tenement apartment that has been updated. There was an building next door to the museum that had an apartment for rent. The floor plan was identical to the building we toured. The rental for 325 square feet? $2200/month!
The museum also had a great gift shop with lots of books. I came away with a couple of good ones.
Go here if you want to learn more about the Tenement Museum and the immigrant experience. (Hmm. The link does not appear to be working. Not sure what's up. The url is :

We really wanted to go back to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; it has been years since we've been there. We enjoyed it so much before; I think we could stay for a week. But, we simply could not do everything we had planned.

My favorite meal was at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Times Square. The sea bass just about melted in my mouth. John, a Sean Hannity fan (okay, we're all Sean Hannity fans), hoped to see Sean at Ruth's Chris. Our waitress assured us that yes, he does indeed dine there.

My favorite shopping? Actually it was for Tim. We came upon a 50% off sale at Jos. A. Banks. And we stocked up. Poor Tim. Between working most of the time, taking little time to shop for himself and John invading his closet, his wardrobe gets pretty raggedy. He came away with some great shirts, pants, ties, and shoes. Although last Sunday, John flipped his tie at me, smiled, and said, "How do you like this tie?" He had already been in his dad's closet, carting away who knows what all!

By the afternoon of the third day, we were all ready to go. Even John, who on the first day declared that he would love to live in NYC, had had enough of the noise and rush in the city that never sleeps. So, we got in our car and headed out through the busy streets for Pequannock, NJ, where Tim's sister and her family live. Tim's dad and stepmom were already there, in anticipation of Scott's graduation. It would be good to see Tim's family again.

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