In our last chapter, we established that Manhattan hadn’t really been the same since the Indians sold it. In summer, it can be especially challenging: the heat, the crowds, the angst in the morning, which is different from the angst at night. Amid the jitters and humidity, Posh had melted off several pounds. To stay hydrated, she was threatening to drink my blood.
“Take it,” I said. “Take it all — my mind, my marrow.”
So she did.
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Across from our Midtown hotel is an office high-rise that’s better than a zoo, the workers entering their glass cages in the morning for all the world to see. I don’t know if the Hilton’s other guests also gaze across at these office workers in fascination. I’m a bit of a voyeur to begin with, so maybe I’m the only one captivated by their daily grind.
I watch in little increments, in the morning, then in midafternoon, whenever we stop by our hotel room for a few minutes. “What do they all do?” I wonder. “Is this the job they always dreamed of? Who’s stealing office staples, or canoodling with the boss? Does that necktie pinch?”
On vacation, we all become philosophers. And social critics too.
Here’s what being with my family for four days in Manhattan has taught me: I’m the only sane one; the rest are a little off. Love ‘em — every morsel, every freckle, every flaw — yet they are not passive travel mates. Like Manhattan itself, they are a little on fire.
When they get me one-on-one, they will whisper about the others, about how they dawdle at store windows or can’t take their face out of the cellphone, or how often they need to use the loo. If one of the others hasn’t seen a doctor in more than a year, they will note that. Or when they’re wearing outdated and unflattering shoes.
Yet you sense in our family’s little criticisms of each other a certain devotion. To me, that shows that their love for each other is unquenchable, that they can’t get enough.
Look, never trust human opinion on anything. The little Italian joint I found was so right out of “The Godfather” that there was a handgun taped to the back of the toilet. To me, the pasta was pure poetry; to Posh, it seemed a little dry.
The lovely and patient older daughter thought the mozzarella was routine, and my wife was pretty sure the salad tomatoes — pale as the passing stockbrokers — came directly from the supermarket, though I assured her that Midtown Manhattan is pretty short of supermarkets — that it’s a miracle they manage to get food onto this dysfunctional island at all.
As Anaïs Nin once put it, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
That existentialist fragment can probably be applied to New York City in general.
Here’s the takeaway, the thing I will always remember from our trip: In a dull and predictable world, New York City is perpetual, seething, alive. And nothing represents this city’s moxie and heart like the museum at ground zero.
If you go to only one more museum in your life — and I hope that’s not the case, but if you do — be sure it is this moving and amazing place.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is worth a trip to Manhattan all by itself, justifies the expense, the hassle, the crud.
Reams have been written about this memorial — some good, some bad — but let me assure you that if you witnessed that tragic day from afar, this will bring you within inches of it. For my 12-year-old, who wasn’t born when it happened, the exhibits brought home for him why that day has become the running political and moral theme in our lives.
“How many died?” I asked him later, to see if it had sunk in.
“Three thousand,” he said.
“How many planes?”
“Four,” he said.
The museum makes you more American in every sense of the word. To hear the accounts, see the rubble and the mangled firetrucks ... the heart swells, the heart sinks, the heart seethes.
This crazy city still seethes, all right, as does this amazing nation. But it moves forward in some artful and wondrous ways.
This is one of them. I’m glad we saw it together.