OK, this isn’t a nature trip – but New York is a sort of wild environment, isn’t it?
Thursday evening: After a largely uneventful drive I arrive at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. It is jammed. In keeping with the season I feel like Moses, able to see the promised land (the skyline is clearly visible from here) but unable to enter it. I am behind a limo with the license plate “CSS INC” which I take as a good sign as just this morning I interviewed with a company by the name of “CSSI, Inc.” I am also left to sit and stare at a billboard for ICantUrinate.com. In another Moses reference, I think “Let My People Go!”
I arrive at a family member’s apartment, which is temporarily unoccupied. There’s no food. I go out and hit the local market, a typically cramped little Manhattan market. Still, it has a Passover section easily twice the size of the one in my neighborhood supermarket. I grin so widely at this site that a woman standing next to me picking out matzoh gives me an odd look. She doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a Jew outside of New York. They have pre-made haroseth (a ritual Passover food): $12 for a small container. It’s my responsibility to bring the haroseth for tomorrow’s seder, but since I’ve already bought the ingredients, which consist solely of apples, walnuts and a splash of wine, I decide to stick with the do-it-yourself approach.
Friday Morning: I start my day with a run in Central Park – a few laps around the reservoir, then down past the Metropolitan Museum. I think my favorite NYC run is still the path alongside the Belt Parkway near the Verrazano Bridge, but this one is second. Well, maybe tied for second with the Coney Island boardwalk. I admit I am projecting, but people here don’t seem to run with the grim earnestness of Washington runners.
After a quick shower and preparing some items for tonight’s seder (including the aforementioned haroseth), I head out for Brooklyn. On the way to the car I pop into the bagel place on 2nd and E77th to indulge in a bagel before Passover sets in. It’s 11 AM on a Friday – not exactly a meal time. Still, there are about 20 people on line ahead of me. Fortunately, the line moves with New York efficiency (impatience?). To pass the time I count the number of people whose jackets aren’t black or very dark blue (one) and before long I’m out the door holding a delicious sesame bagel with sweet butter and a black cawwwfee. I devour the bagel as I drive downtown – it’s gone long before I hit the Brooklyn Bridge, where I look up to my left to see a guy on the pedestrian walkway walking along holding aloft a giant cross. He’s followed by at least five hundred people, including everyday folk, nuns, police and press. I look it up later online and find it’s the Way of The Cross March from Brooklyn to Ground Zero. Oh yeah – it’s Good Friday.
I get to Brooklyn and hang out with my dad. My brother arrives soon thereafter. We do a fairly low key seder; my brother has purchased something called the “30 Minute Haggadah” – a version of the Passover ritual which “mixes tradition with brevity”. Indeed, it turns out to be a pretty good condensation. My dad has trouble reading even the large print version and so we help him stay on the right page. Our seder meal is largely pre-fab: matzoh ball soup from a jar, takeout chicken, latkes from a mix, and salad, and kosher for Passover chocolates. The sentiments are real, though. It’s been a long time since we’ve done a seder together as a family and it feels really nice.
After my brother and I clean up we take our leave. For me this means a 40 minute drive back up to the apartment followed by twenty minutes of looking for a parking space. I feel lucky when I finally find a space a mere four blocks from the apartment. Just so I don’t forget: I’m on 76th St., just east of Lexington Ave. Now I’m in a Starbucks on 2nd Avenue, since I wasn’t quite ready to head back up to the eerie solitude of the apartment.