New YorkIn early July, 2003 I took my six-year-old daughter Addie to New York city for the first time, on the occasion of Oliver Sacks' 70th birthday party. My present for the him was an aluminum bowl of copper nodules and nickel crystals, done up to look like a candy dish. Here it is sitting on his desk:
(Nickel + Copper + Aluminum = 28 + 29 + 13 = 70, you see, because it was his 70th birthday).
Now, I'm not in the habit of flying off just because someone's having a birthday, but Addie's old enough to see the world, and when the excuse came up, it seemed like the thing to do. We went for four days in different world, sans familia.
I've visited many cities, including New York a few times, so it's been a good long while since I have been able to see the lights of a great city for the first time. But bring a child and you see through their eyes, fresh and bright, everything for the first time. It's not a chance to do your childhood over again knowing everything you know now and with your own money. But it's close.
I have to admit, New York is a very nice place. Our first morning Addie awoke with a start and said "Daddy, I had a horrible dream! You took me back to Illinois!" I should explain, the night before we had seen Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and walked back from Times Square to Central Park South, on Broadway, at way past her bedtime: What's the poor child to think?
(If you last saw New York in the '80s, you may wonder what on earth I was thinking taking a child to Times Square in the middle of the night, but believe me, this place is nothing like what is used to be.)
Travelling with a creature as inscrutable as a six-year-old girl is quite an experience. We were almost late to the show because she had to get her hair just so. I didn't realize that was going to be an issue, and I blame the baby sitters. I also wasn't expecting the strange attraction of the subway: We had to go everywhere on it, despite the noise, the heat, and everything else. Here she is on the way to Oliver Sacks' birthday party, dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast:
When you go to New York, it's good to go in style, even if it is Disney style. (And isn't it great to be six, so you can get away with it?)
I must say, I find the New Yorker's attitude that their city is the be-all, end-all of the world to be quite charmingly naive. Their city may be bigger than most, but it's still a very small corner of the world, and a life lived in it a rather provincial one. The great advantage of living in a small town is that you are under no illusions, and are thus prompted to see the world: New York is worth maybe a couple of weeks a year. (Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful that there are enough people willing to live there to make the whole enterprise possible, because I sure wouldn't be. Thank you, teaming masses, for populating a great place to visit for the week.)
Anyway, back to the story. Addie is not particularly shy after the first few minutes in a new place. Here she is showing off her photographs to a distinguished neurologist in Sacks' office apartment:
And here is Addie, king of the Central Park Rocks:
I don't care how many guidebooks say they are overpriced, the horse and carriage rides through Central Park are worth every penny, if you have a six-year-old along to appreciate them. So what if we can get the same ride for 1/10th the price back home at Rockome Gardens? The drivers at Rockome Gardens don't talk on their cell phones:
And the rides don't take you here:
Yes, we had dinner at Tavern On The Green one evening: We were seated at Addie's bedtime, which pretty much sums up the level of magic the place held for her. Say what you will about the food, the lighting is unbelievable.
It's wonderful having an reason to do these things, and I have two more: In a couple of years Addie's younger twin siblings will have no idea what I am about to see for the first time.