This weekend was our sometimes-annual tradition of a weekend alone in the city (see here and here; we went to Block Island in 2014)--what we have called a nano-honeymoon--perfectly timed with our actual 18th anniversary. And we had a wonderful time! While the kids stayed with their NYC grandparents eating their way across Queens and going to the beach (even boogie boarding on the waves! Think tummy surfing with a smaller board), Mama and I returned to our favorite hotel near Union Square and had a delightful three days.
We actually started our weekend, after dropping off the kids, in Midtown--at 61st near 1st, at the old Mount Vernon Hotel Museum. Built as a mansion with carriage house in the late 18th century, the carriage house became a "day hotel" (think 19th-century spa) with parlors for the ladies to sew, play music, visit, and take tea, and fishing and a horse-trotting track for the gentleman, with a big supper for all. Miraculously, the building survived (Thanks, Con Ed! They bought it way back when and didn't tear it down) and is now administer by the Colonial Dames. Gommie, you might remember this--it was known as the Abigail Adams Smith House when you went, I think. Well, like Gommie, I love a good house museum and this one had great fake food (that three-tiered gelatin dessert! those blackberries! even that oyster pie!), a remarkable parlor barrel organ, and a complete traveling whiskey case with gold-painted glass bottles in all sorts of odd shapes. We also liked the shop, where Mama picked up the little owl that features in most of our pictures instead of one of us (she did the same, with a different little owl that was mistakenly left at home, on her own trip into the city about a month ago.)
We headed to our hotel next, the indulgent Inn at Irving Place, where we've stayed the last two times, and were even able to get into our lovely room early. I always love the period kitsch, tastefully arranged without too much thought to historiocity; a little nicer than shabby chic, it is very comfortable and evokes a different time for me (but with air conditioning!) It's also very conveniently located right near Union Square, which affords us a great neighborhood to explore and dining options to try. Mama had assiduously researched special GF/DF/FODMAPS dining options for me and found several in the area. And not just meat and rice. We started with french fries from our favorite Maoz, which we ate while perusing the Union Square Green Market, on our way to the Lion Brand yarn shop.
|Loved these bags; wish they were t-shirts|
We started this day off, after "sleeping in" til 8:30 a.m., with a long-awaited trip to Friend of a Farmer, a restaurant I had seen advertised and had wanted to visit since my grad school days 20 years earlier! While I was sad to have to skip the renown pancakes, I did enjoy a skillet omelet and home fries. We also got a sampling of their homemade breads, of which I ate this incredible lemon one (half a slice, willing to take the consequences, which never materialized.) Mama enjoyed her crab cakes benedict and cheese grits. What a way to start the day!
You would think we don't get food in Connecticut because we stopped at the Bradford Cheese Shop next and had fun choosing delicacies to take home. Well, in truth, our little corner of CT has an overabundance of pizza, diners, and take-out Chinese, not much else (unless you look really hard, but we have found nearby enough Peruvian, Indian, vegetarian at Bloodroot); at least, we have both a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's. We got special Fentiman's soda, including my favorite Rose Lemonade and Mama's favorite Shandy (lemonade and beer, a British combo), some GF treats, lots of odd potato chip flavors for Bud, some caramels for Sis; more than half the fun was perusing the international variety on the neat shelves.
Later that day was the highlight of our trip, Fun Home, the musical. In case you don't know, Fun Home is based on the autobiographical, "tragicomedy" graphic novel by famed lesbian cartoonist, Alison Bechdel. She focuses on both her coming-out narrative and her closeted, gay father's suicide four months later, in a wonderful, richly-layered story of her life at different ages (mainly, elementary school, college, and adulthood.) We had known and enjoyed her nationally-syndicated Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip for 20 years and read the graphic novel when it came out. But we never knew it could be a musical!
And what a musical it was! I had seen "little Alison" actress Sydney Lucas perform "Ring of Keys" on the Tonys and instantly loved the song. It reminded me of Mama, when we first met (except she had jeans):
Your swagger and your bearing
And the just-right clothes you're wearing
Your short hair and your dungarees
and your lace-up boots
and your ring of keys.
It's only missing her flannel shirt, baseball cap, (SW 25, i.e. Stonewall Riots 25th anniversary), and her omnipresent, omnipotent Swiss Army knife.
We both loved the musical. First, the 1970s period details--the photo cube, the box tv on the floor which the kids sprawl in front of, the "Partridge Family," the clothes, even the exclamation "tough titties!" (where did we get that, anyway?) Though, I didn't grow up with a dad who ran a funeral home--a "fun home"--like she did, but I remembered many of the other bits. Mama recognized the old bags from Macy's, the Strand, and Li-Lac Chocolates.
The performance was unique, being played in the round at Circle in the Square, an intimate theater. It was also played straight through, with no intermission or late seating. In fact, we were in a section where we weren't allowed to get up and leave at all, behind the little orchestra, by a trap door! Big Alison sat at the base of our stairs a couple of times. You really felt like a ghost in Alison's life, experiencing its layers as she remembered it. And the actors were top-notch. So amazing. The actress playing Big Alison is a lesbian, too and makes the show. Middle Alison played it with no make up and is so believable as an awkward college dyke. And Little Alison, just 12 years old . . . wow, just wow.
But it really was the coming out story that resonated with us--from Little Alison's awareness of not fitting in sometimes (dresses, barrettes) to her crush in college and first forays into lesbian culture and sex (which elicited groans from Big Alison--"I didn't even know what Take Back the Night was!" and "I had a crush on my first grade teacher!" to being scared of hanging out with "real lesbians" and that first major romance "I'm majoring in Joan . . . ."--there were often two Alisons on the stage at once, drawing connections between different parts of her story) to the pain of coming out to parents, with silences and awkward conversations (I know what it's like to send that letter.) You could definitely tell where the lesbians in the audience were because we laughed loudly at the same parts (and there were so many more lesbian couples than I have ever seen at a Broadway show, ever.) It was so special and really resonated; we just never see lesbians in Broadway shows. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Especially for the 18th anniversary of our own little lesbian love story (20 if you count from the very beginning, but Aug 23 is the date we like to count best.)
Whew. We processed the entire experience over a late lunch at Otto, Mario Batali's pizza place. He is very GF friendly and so I got a GF spaghetti carbonara that was delicious. Mama had a seafood appetizer with little dishes of cuddlefish, cod, anchovy, mussels, calamari and the like treated in different cold, pickly salads. We also loved the spinach, ricotta insalata, salad with honeyed truffle oil! Decadent. And the desserts! Olive oil gelato with passion fruit granita and basil syrup with a sprinkle of salt--I got a big bite of salt and thought it was awful but second tastings, after Mama's reassurances, revealed it to be a marvelous concoction. I got the lemon meringata. YUM! We walked nearby Washington Square, where Mama spent summers as a child when her mom was finishing her Ph.D. at NYU, reminiscing about her childhood at Bobst library, our time in NYC together, that fateful day 18 years ago (after a fight of all things--just like in the movies when the sparring characters kiss!--but we were fighting long distance Chicago to NY over the plot of Bar Stories and its implications and then, well, we weren't fighting), September 11, and other times.
We sauntered home via the Strand bookstore, where we picked up some books for the kids, souvenirs for our cat sitters, and a couple of craft books. I came across a few reminders of dear Aunt Sis--an artsy epistolary book called Griffin and Sabine that she had given me decades ago and a pair of art socks (was it Van Gogh?) that I had taken her just last December. Bittersweet. We enjoyed a slow walk home; it was cooler on Saturday than Friday, remarking on the various buildings (we always realize anew that the house across the street was Washington Irving's)--and even the plantings! (Because if a plant can survive the sidewalks of NY, surely it will survive our yard) I think there are a few more caladium varietals we can try. We spent the rest of the night in our room, playing with art supplies and yarn, just talking and hanging out, like we did in NYC when we met in 1994.
We checked out around noon and grabbed lunch at British fish and chips shop, A Salt and Battery. Mmm, vinegar on chips, bangers with a curry sauce (Mama loves that curry sauce!), and another Shandy for Mama. We grabbed some last-minute treats from the British shop next door (more rose teas, various crisps flavors for Bud, some Crunchie bars for Sis, a TARDIS mug.) I would've loved to go to Tea and Sympathy, next door (all three are owned by the same couple), but would've been sad to forego my usual non-GF/DF favorite scone and clotted cream.
We drove out to get the kids, down the West Side, past the WTC and City Hall, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and through various neighborhoods til we reached the beach. The kids had a marvelous time as well and we were all sorry to see the weekend end.
Until next year . . . .