The big apple: beyond the bridge

We left Manhattan!

This is the third time in three years we’ve hired a car to take our weekend excursions beyond the bridges. That’s a pretty poor record and one we only think of remedying in spring and autumn – those very short windows between long, extreme seasons. Before you know it, it’s too hot to bother or too cold to contemplate.

Exit over the Hudson. The GW Bridge

So, in 10am Saturday-of-a-long-weekend traffic, our rental car crawled up the Henry Hudson Parkway before crossing the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey and the other, non-Manhattan New York. We were headed upstate to New Paltz, a quaint town at the foot of the Catskills, full of olde worlde charm but kept vibrant by the State University of NY campus. In October it’s full of students and day-trippers, up for all the pick-your-own orchards.

The 1.5 hour drive to the well-named Apple Hill Farm took us nearly three, thanks to the long weekend traffic and a misunderstanding about which town we were in when we rang to ask for directions…

“The Shop-Rite’s on your left? McDonalds up ahead on your right? Just keep heading south for around 15 minutes and turn left off Route 32.”

We were pulled up across from a Shop-Rite, with McDonald’s just up ahead on our right. In a completely different town (Newburgh). What are the odds? It took another 40 minutes or so of back-tracking up and down Route 32, with a few accusations of “bad googling” from the driver to the navigator and lunch time came and went. But leftover birthday cake made a good enough lunch and when we finally found the farm, the rest of it grew on trees.

Apple Hill is a no-frills operation on the side of the road. Just turn up and pay $10 for a peck, $20 for a bushel and fill them up. Its concession to city-tourists is the hay-rides between the roadside and the orchard at the top of the hill. As far as the kids were concerned, a peck-bag each and a hay-ride was all you need for an “awesome” day out.

A race up the hill, past the Macoun, Jonagold and Crispin, which had all been picked early due to the unseasonably slow onset of a cold snap, and everyone disappeared into the trees to find the perfect apple.

Pre-picked. Thanks to an early season

The early apples go into big crates, lined up along the crest of the hill. It can make picking feel a bit like shopping, except that everyone’s so helpful. And so diligent with quality control!

We finished just as the weather turned, and autumn officially set in for the year. Then drove the ridiculously short and simple four minutes into New Paltz and sat, somewhat stubbornly given the brisk change, outside at the Harvest Cafe. There we had the best burger this side of the Minetta Tavern. Lunch at 4:30pm after running around an orchard all afternoon is bound to be good.

Eating apples straight from trees was good. Just getting out of town was good and our timing was perfect. With Halloween looming, the apples will be gone when the leaves peak in a couple of weeks.

Even getting lost on the way there wasn’t so  bad – it meant we were outside during the hour in which the season, quite literally, snapped after that final little warm spell flickered out on Friday. The sky darkened and the wind whipped up as our beautiful apples bounced around the boot on the way back through the Hudson Valley.

Within reach. Red Delicious

Ruby dragging her half-peck of perfect apples.

Great and small distractions: The Foo Fighters, E.B. Wight and Staying In

One of my favourite things about living in Manhattan, apart from reading what EB White wrote about it, is that it all happens with or without me. This weekend we stayed in, but the city followed us to our doorstep. The noise, the traffic, the closed playgrounds, the stressed out techies yelling into cell-phones. It could have been annoying. Instead, it felt like we were just here for the big party across the road too.

To coincide with the UN General Assembly, the Global Citizen Fund held this year’s free concert on the great lawn on Saturday night. All week we’d watched the equipment, barricades, recording trucks and trailers – full of sound-guys with headphones and lanyards – being parked along Central Park West. My Saturday morning exercise/ mothers’ group in the pine-tum was interrupted, mid-lunge, by a City Parks security officer hurrying us along so they could finish closing off the park.

By noon, some of the 60,000 people who earned tickets in the lottery were filtering out of the subway at 81st Street and heading into the park. By 5pm, when I went out foraging for wine and take-away, an intrepid school boy had set up a cake-table by the barricade that funneled crowds onto the Great Lawn.

The traffic has been chaotic, car-horns have been working double time and our lovely work out got cut short. But in return, I felt involved. Just by being affected by it, I’ve contributed to this great free event. The Foo Fighters, Neil Young, The Black Keys and K’NAAN should thank me, because I made way!

Like most of my feelings about this city, White has already put it so beautifully in his wonderful essay, Here is New York.

“New York blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation; and better than most dense communities it succeeds in insulating the individual (if he wants it, and almost everybody wants it or needs it) against all the enormous and violent and wonderful events that are taking place every minute. Since I have been sitting in this miasmic air-shaft, a good many rather splashy events have occurred in town… I didn’t attend and neither did most of the the eight million other inhabitants, although they say there was quite a crowd…. I mention these merely to show that New York is peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along… without inflicting the event on its inhabitants, so that every event is, in a sense, optional, and the inhabitant is in the happy position of being able to choose his spectacle and so conserve his soul.”

BAKE SALE! a young entrepreneur sells cupcakes in the concert queue.

Aside from my missed squat-jumps, the show passed us by. Like last year’s Black-eyed-peas concert, we heard it second hand as neighbours in near-by brownstone buildings barbecued and sang along on their roof-top decks. We switched on the children’s air-conditioner to drown out the base and drums reverberating down our street and finished watching Homeland with our Mexican take-away.

The spectacle may be optional, but it’s nice when it happens on your doorstep. We can be participants by association.

“… The gift of privacy and the excitement of participation.” I always suspected it, but never thought of it in just nine words. This is what I love about New York!

Back-to-school, backdated

School started two weeks ago and I find myself overwhelmed by all the things I’ve been wanting to do for the last three years. There’s so much to do I don’t know where to start. So, in the interest of starting somewhere, I’ll start here.

Because this is me, I’m starting in the middle. I don’t read instructions before putting things together, hence my inability to backdate these two back-to-school articles. This should be the first post, and you’re supposed to be able to click over to “writing” and then click back into this main blog page again. I’ll figure it out. In the mean time, as much as I hate technology, I’ve discovered that I like linking things!

While I work on increasing my attention span, I’ll use this space as a warm up. And to release some of the mental clutter I’ve accrued over the last three years – living in New York, living in New York with children, running, writing and holding onto those delicious first impressions before they become too familiar. Once the clutter’s out, I’m hoping I can write short, snappy sentences and salable articles…

… Sound like therapy?

That’s so New York!

8am to 3pm. Let this be the Year of Getting Things Done!

MTA ad-space

During the summer, or maybe earlier, in the spring just after graduation, a poster on the C train proudly announced to commuters that “Poetry in Motion is back”. And what a lovely use of unused advertising space it is. Certainly a welcome change from the compensation firms suggesting we might be entitled to $$$ if our children suffer birth defects; the ads announcing that there are alternatives to abortion out there if we call this free and confidential number; and the ads asking, is cocaine affecting your lifestyle? Call this number.

I’d prefer Ruby and Henry to be sounding out these words:

(Un-blurred, it reads

Graduation

He told us, with the years, you will come

to love the world

And we sat there with our souls in our laps,

and comforted them.

Dorothea Tanning)

DUMBO

Brooklyn Bridge walk turns into a DUMBO feast. Sunday 16/9

Smorgasburg!

What a find!! Just stumbled upon a Mindil beach markets under the Brooklyn bridge. Tucked between the brick arches of the historic tobacco warehouse just behind Jane’s Carousel, and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – the neighbourhood’s official name!). If only we could photograph smells. Columbian arapa, filipino spring rolls, watermelon limeade to start.

We were aiming for a non-food centred weekend but this wholesome Sunday walk across the bridge is about to turn into a very long progressive lunch. It’s nearly always about the food. “Smorgasburg”, the offshoot of Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Flea, runs every Sunday until November 18. They could have stretched it one more weekend for a Thanksgiving leftovers barbecue. Pulled turkey rolls anyone?