Many folks still look back to The Great Gatsby idea of New York in the summer, everyone wants a Long Island escape, but there is no place I would rather be than sweating with the masses in the Big Apple.
On Wednesdays, the NY Botanical Garden is free, and it is well worth the hour long subway ride to the Bronx. The last Wednesday in July, exploring the massive garden grounds, I found myself nearly alone walking along the Bronx River, the only fresh water river in NYC. As I headed back to the entrance, a downpour began. Walking paths while walls of water fell through pine trees was magical.
After the rain cleared I went to visit a friend who lives nearby, and he took me to check out Bronx’s Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, which lacks the tourist kitsch of Mulberry Street. For dinner we found the very old school Dominick’s. Food is shared family style at long tables, and there are no menus; instead men in white aprons come by and tell you what’s available. We ordered stuffed artichokes and calamari linguini, which came with two glasses of the house merlot and a hunk of fresh hard crusted bread. When you finish, there’s no written check, the waiter just tells you the amount–60 dollars, cash only–and you slip him the bills plus tip.
The first Saturday in August, my friend and I decided to visit Manhattan Beach on Coney Island’s eastern end. On the way there, we picked up food at one of Brighton Beach’s fabulous delis, where everything from avocado salad to Russian pelmeni are on display. We feasted on the beach, then took a dunk in the mild Atlantic. On our way home, as we waited on the Q train platform, a brief shower brought out a rainbow.
The following weekend I made it to two of the dozens of outdoor free concerts happening around the city. First, Bomba Estéreo at the Prospect Park Bandshell: I arrived at about 8 pm, and the line to enter the seating area took twenty minutes. Once inside, I found the crowd of thousands overwhelming and remembered why I avoid big music concerts these days. I walked through the pack of youth drinking beer from plastic cups, the aroma of weed in the air, and exited the other side where the line now seemed nearly a quarter mile long.
Fortunately, it was quite easy to watch the concert from just outside the fence, without feeling so confined. Families and old folks like me were having a blast dancing to psychedelic cumbia tunes like my favorite Soy Yo!
On Sunday, a much older crowd of LES locals came for Eddie Palmieri at East River Park. The scene was truly beautiful as the pre-show DJ spun classic 70s salsa and neighbors greeted one another mid-dance. Unfortunately, the sound engineers felt the need to push the p.a. to harmful levels. Even with earplugs, the experience was painful, and my ears are still ringing. Ironically, one of the show sponsors was AARP, which has consistently warned about the permanent hearing damage caused by loud concerts.
The sound was great at Broadway in Bryant Park, where they had built a covered stage for the first time in its 20 year history. Its at least my 10th season, and I love seeing what new shows producers are able to finance. (An article from MarketWatch found 2/3 of shows lose money). Phantom is fun, but 31 years is a bit ridiculous–give someone else a chance at the Majestic. My favorite song this year was What’s Gonna Happen from Tootsie. Sara Stiles did not perform it, but her understudy Katerina Papacostas was fantastic. Studio 360 did a great piece on the “patter song“, where they interview Tootsie’s composer David Yazbek,
Each summer brings countless choices and at the end I wish I had done so much more–outdoor theatre, kayaking, birding, walking tours . . . Of course, just walking NYC streets is a treat, and this was literally true yesterday when just north of Washington Square on University Place The Economist was promoting itself by giving out free Beyond Meat Burgers. It did not quit match the taste of the Impossible Burger, which I’ve eaten at Bareburger and White Castle, but it was still very tasty, and deliciously free!