Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Battery Park

While my mom was here we got to know Battery Park quite well. Her hotel was about as far south as you can go on the island of Manhattan.

After her 2010 experience at the not-cheap Inn on 23rd - funky, noisy and rather rundown - I hoped that this would be green and quiet and hospitable. It was. It's always been a part of the city I liked very much. It is wrapped in parks and lapped by water: the Hudson River, New York Harbour. It is as far from Midtown as you can get. Just about.

Here at the tip the new buildings at Ground Zero soared silently, removed from the pressing energy of thousands of pilgrimming tourists.

 The view from her bedroom was mesmerizing. The first thing Vince and I did whenever we visited was to go straight to the glass to press our noses against it.

And the room was beautifully quiet. Down below, on the street, there was always a brisk wind off the water, and I learned not to wear flimsy skirts. Whee!

Remarkably, Bowling Green and Whitehall, the closest subways, were only one stop from ours. A 20 minute commute for us. Otherwise, the only downside of being at the end of the island was...cabs. Our nemesis. We rode in so many cabs. We hatesss cabssss.

One night my mother was actually rescued by a cab, after her limo driver from the hotel couldn't find BAM, as in Brooklyn Academy of Music, and had dropped her on Lafayette Street IN MANHATTAN. WTF!? It was an un-comedy of errors: we had kept my mom's cellphone to fix a technical glitch, so she was cellphoneless. She had forgotten to take the directions she'd written down with her.

Vince and I waited at Berlyn, a restaurant across from BAM where we'd arranged to have a pre-show dinner, becoming more and more worried. After half an hour he couldn't stand it any more and set off in search of her. I held our table and ate from four plates of food and did serious, nervous damage to a bottle Gruner Veltiner. It was an interesting evening. The maitre d', after a frosty start, felt sorry for me and let me keep the three empty seats beside me, despite the fact that the place was crushed by theatre patrons. I got a lot of funny looks. I didn't care. My mother had disappeared.

An hour after we'd arranged to rendevouz, my phone rang. My mom, back at the hotel, frazzled. She'd stood on Lafayette in Manhattan thinking, oh, perhaps she'd find us, otherwise not knowing where she was, until she realized that she needed to hail a cab to transport her to familiar territory. A very kind and sympathetic cab driver drove her home, no doubt muttering imprecations about undutiful children, and she arrived back in one piece, but in no mood to travel out to Brooklyn with Vince, who had by now arrived at her end. She sent him back to me, had a whiskey in her hotel and later ordered room service (a crab cake and split of champagne, she told us), while we went to the beautiful theatre and enjoyed an incredible, unforgettable performance of New Orleans funk.

Oh, the most important detail: It was Friday the thirteenth.

Cabs. Lots of cab stories.

One night, after seeing War Horse (the puppets, if you can call them that, are made in Cape Town), we drove back down the West Side Highway, and I snapped this picture in the fog, just settling. After the play I was withdrawn and inside myself,  unable to communicate about the horses, and the looming skyscraper lost in the clouds fit my mood perfectly. The cab driver refused to turn off his obnoxious right wing talk radio show. I felt murderous.

By the time my mother left the cherries in the park below had dropped their blossoms and the tulips were past. The trees on the street were fully leafed out.

Spring had sprung. In Cape Town, corgis were missing their chief human, in Brooklyn the cat was giving us reproachful looks and my mom's feet and back were tired. New York does not let you off easy. But she's one hell of a ride.
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