Monday, September 1, 2008

The Road Well Travelled Pt. 4 - The Food's The Thing. (En Fin)

So when we last left your intrepid traveler, he was just leaving his old place of residence, feeling both mentally exhausted, but better for the experience. Of course, it was not quite as adventurous as Quarsan, Zoe's favorite twat, (see his recent post on her blog regarding Tanzanian butchers for further details) but the one thing we had in common was the search for food.

However, continuing my walk back to my mom's building, I came across a sight that pushed my spirits up. You will recall that I found the site of my old "thinking tree," the enormous willow that stood in the empty field across the street from my building. Apparently, there was more than one willow that suffered the same fate. I came across one such willow, right next to the former baseball field where I played Little League baseball as a kid. It is now paved over, the big field known as "the Greenway" being used as a parking lot while all the parking garages were being rehabbed. The word is that since the garages are all opened again, that the Greenway will be returned to its former state at some point. One can only hope.

This tree however did not suffer quite the same fate as my willow. It was still intact, rooted in the ground, but only a small fraction of its former grandeur. That said, looking at I had a sense of hope. It was coming back from the near-death experience it seemed to have suffered. There was life sprining forth from it, and the branches that came out of it formed a small canopy that maybe, with time and caring, will envelope another kid, and let him or her think underneath it.

A small explanation is in order. (Claudia, you may wish to take your anti-emetic before reading further.) White Castle. Home of the "murder burger," the "belly bomber," or my personal fav, the "rectum rocket." All misnomers. A storied hamburger. One only need rent "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" in order to understand its appeal. Before McDonald's, Before Burger King, before Wendy's, there was White Castle. Small burger, you can eat 2 or 3 at a shot. Some of the best onion rings around, and their vanilla thick shakes are heaven. I don't eat a lot of junk food. If I go every 2-3 months, that is a lot. This however, was a trip down memory lane, at least those that involved copious amounts of recreational pharmaceuticals. My personal best is 8 cheeseburgers at one sitting. Ah, those were the days.

Food is an important part of any New Yorker's upbringing, that is to say, knowing where the best places are to eat out. There are so many eateries, restaurants, etc. in a city of almost 9 million, that one needs to be choosy. Growing up in the Bronx however, one has an extra added benefit.

Off the mainland of the Bronx is City Island. Originally a small fishing village, it is now a mecca for seafood lovers all over NYC. The only section that rivals it, IMHO, is Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. The island is crammed with seafood places up and down, from begining to end. My personal fav, and known to all in the Bronx, is Sammy's, a City Island institution. We took my mom there last year for her 75th birthday, and it had been a number of years since I was there. The food was as delicious as ever. However, as Sammy's is on the expensive side, and I was treating my brother to lunch, another place two doors down filled the bill.

Tony's is the last restaurant on the island, and was one of the more inexpensive places. Still, it was cheaper than Sammy's and the food was good, though not as good as I remember it. Back in the day, the boats use to pull up to Tony's and dump their catch right on the dock next to the restaurant. Talk about fresh catch of the day! My brother and I dined on some excellent New England chowder, frogs legs and clams.
City Island also does not feel like NYC. It provides a bit of a respite from the high energy that one usually finds in other places in the city. From the gulls that amasse on the pier, to the sailboats that lazily make their way to the mouth of Long Island Sound, this is a quiet place in a very noisy city. I do miss it.

And that, as they say is that. All-in-all, a good trip, mixed with good and bad, joy and sorrow. Let the next time be all joy.


buffalodickdy said...

As I still live in the area I was born in, I still boggle at what survives and what is gone...

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Thanks so much for sharing the last part of your trip with us, the photos make it so much more real and easier to imagine.

Peter said...

Thanks for sharing your trip down memory lane. You showed me a part of New York City very few European visitors ever visit - you know how it goes: 'only the highlights".

As we're bombarded with US TV channels on digital cable in Belgium, New York feels like that "place we know inside out", but in the end, most of us don't have a clue.

If I can convince my SO to join me, I'd love to re-visit the USA (I last visited before 9/11) and see more than an arrogant Homeland Security/ Immigration officer trying to confiscate my laptop and a rush-visit taking 8h.

Jay said...

Willows are remarkable for their survival powers. There are three in a field near us that are completely hollow, and what's more, they aren't even complete trucks, they're so old and worn out that they're open to the sky in several places. You can walk into them and sit on the earth. And yet, there are still branches and leaves every spring. These are Cricket Bat willows though, not weepers.

There is a Weeping willow in our town park. A magnificent thing, huge and graceful. The worms in the Town Hall decided to replace it with a bandstand. WHAT??? The park is big and there are plenty of other places for it but they wanted to take the willow down to put in in the centre. There was such an outcry that they relented... but they've given it a haircut. It is no longer graceful - though it will grow back. It now looks as if it's sporting the traditional 'pudding basin' cut.


VioletSky said...

Whew, finally read the whole trip! It is always bittersweet to revisit old haunts.

And I'm with you on the willow trees - always a favourite quiet place for me.

zoe said...

There are so many places in the US that I'd like to visit, NY being one of them. I stayed in Wisconsin for a month, have visited Washington DC and San Francisco - but your story around NY really makes me want to go there too.

Thanks so much for sharing such a lovely story.

Mr. Nighttime said...

buffalo - Yeah, it is a totally different experience watching where you live morph over time.

Bendy - You are most welcome.

Peter - Would love to have you here. It is not just a different slice of NYC, but the rest of the state is worth the visit as well. You could go to NYC, then come to Rochester for a few days, would love to show you around.

Jay. Wow. They say you can't fight city hall, but you proved them wrong. As Mr. Burns would say, "ehhhxcellent!"

Zoe - If you ever make it to NYC, you must let me know, I'll make the trip down and show you the city my way. Manhattan is great, but it's the places in the other boroughs that make it what it is.