Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dispatches from DC #11

02 July 2011

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Extended Posting Alert

It's been an exciting week, as we had the great pleasure of hosting not one, but two Italian teenagers (aka "boychiks"), the sons of friends in northern Italy whom we are fortunate enough to visit every so often. (Our next trip is scheduled for the last two weeks of Agosto.) Naturally, we were delighted to have the boyz stay with us and, I think it fair to say, we made the most of their visit.

Several days were consumed burning up the road from DC to Baltimore (and back) in order to attend ROOTS Fest 2011, the 35th anniversary celebration of Alternate ROOTS ( I had official bidness as musical director for one event and the three of us participated in other activities, so it was a very busy time. I'm pleased to report that the Fest was a great success and we were all covered, nay, drenched in glory.

Downside? The. Heinous. Commute. Getting out of DC was (is) so fraught with obstacles and delays that we took to placing bets on where the inevitable daily clusterf**k would occur. Driving home from Baltimore late at night was less stressful, fueled as it was by the music of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band played at a robust volume. (Riposa In Pace, Clarence Clemmons and Danny Federici.)

We did manage to spend one full day taking in some sights in Washington, DC: The National Building Museum (including a LEGO® Architecture Exhibition), the National Mall (including massive reconstruction of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool), and, the tour's crown jewel, Ben's Chili Bowl (including having our table bussed by Virginia, Ben's widow and family matriarch). Suitably touristed, the ladz were now ready for the Big Time: New York City.

[We had secured lodgings with our super-accommodating friends in Weehawken, NJ, 1/2 block from "The View," the world-famous-super-awesome panorama of the Hudson River and Manhattan. This being the boyz' first visit to NYC, we had a lot to work in. Pronto?]

Primo Giorno

- Arrived via Bolt Bus (I dislike buses, but the train was considerably more expensive); lunch at Ben's Delicatessen (37th St. & 7th Ave.), where your goyim correspondent endeavored to properly introduce clueless Italian boychiks to the wonders of deli and Yiddish; a mitsve, in my opinion.

- Taxi to Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, 53rd St. & 6th Ave.), the one place they specifically wanted to see. That's pretty cool.

- Strolled downtown past Rockefeller Plaza, through Times Square. [Tourist Tip #Uno: Monday is an excellent day for this. Theatres are dark and the number of tourists significantly diminished.] Dinner at the (funky as usual) Westway Diner (44th St. & 9th Ave.).

- Caught a (funkier than usual) jitney on 42nd St.; traversed the Lincoln Tunnel to Boulevard East, "The View" (the boyz were suitably impressed), and our lodgings in scenic Weehawken. Later, gelato piĆ¹ eccellente with our hosts at La Cremas (Park Ave. & 43rd St. in Union City, NJ)

Secondo Giorno

- Up and off via jitney and Subway to meet eight other Italian friends at the Silver Moon Bakery (105th St. & Broadway) for breakfast. Whereupon your ever-amenable tour guide picked up two more Italian teenagers for the day.

- Subway to 42nd St. and walked west to Pier 83, home of "The Beast," a Circle Line sightseeing speedboat (top speed: 45 mph): Part tour, part thrill ride, and very fun. I even have a souvenir photo.

- Subway to Chelsea Market (15th St. & 9th Ave.), where we were to rendezvous with the rest of the Italian cohort. Buona fortuna with that. Finally caught up with them at Dos Caminos (14th St. & Hudson St.) where they chowed down on Mexican. (Since we had dinner plans in, like, two hours, I ordered a nice jicama salad.) [Tourist Tip #Due: Teenage boyz are like sharks: If they don't eat more or less constantly, they will die. Luckily, in NYC, nessun problema; I recommend street vendor hot dogs every thirty minutes.]

- Bade arrivederci to the group (off to see "Mamma Mia"), walked to 23rd St., and caught the Subway uptown for dinner with our host famiglia at Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant (46th St. & 10th Ave.). Outstanding food and another exotic culinary experience for the boychiks. To their credit, they went for it, although the spicier food (which I love) was a bit much for their palates.

- In lieu of catching the jitney home, our hosts drove us downtown to take a look at the ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site. I hadn't been there since 1991, so it was a somewhat intense and interesting experience. The "Freedom Tower" is rising and the 9/11 Memorial is due to be dedicated on 09/11/11.

- Home to Weehawken, "The View," and an encore visit to La Cremas. [Tourist Tip #Tre: Order the "Purple Corn" gelato. It is sublime.]

Terzo Giorno

- Breakfast and goodbyes, then a jitney to 42nd St. Our bus was leaving from 33rd St. & 7th Ave., so we decided to walk, with frequent stops, but of course, for snacks and quality souvenir purchases. Made the bus on time, bid a fond "Ciao" to NYC, and arrived at Union Station in DC in good order. Then it was home via Metro.

Back at the ranch, the boychiks finished packing their stuff, and, after a light dinner and more goodbyes, I took them to National Airport where they caught a flight back to the (by-comparison-now-very-boring) ATL, where they'll stay until they head back to Italia. It was a great visit. They are very considerate and entertaining young men and it'll be good to see them and their families again.

But for now, I intend to lay low this July 4th weekend and recover. After all, a boychik's got to know his limitations.