Monday, November 23, 2009

New York! New York!

Now remember, all afternoon my daughter and I (and 100 others) are watching three ways to fix turkey, while experiencing the enticing aromas of pasta and sauces, all the while anticipating a snack! After about three hours, the promised snack is circulated. Not turkey, not greens with nutmeg … but individually wrapped Sarah Lee pound cake slices. Yeah. Maybe she’s Rachael’s cousin or something. So, the show wraps; we’ve had a good time. Rachel stands center aisle with her signature wave, and we head for the doors and some quality calories, please. Jennifer and I were hungry and dinner is on me. It’s said you can stand on any street corner in NYC and see a restaurant to die for, right? Now what was the name of that incredible place Miss America 1990, Debbye Turner, took me after our interview at CBS last year for Woman to Woman®? I texted her and later that night she got back to me from D.C. Too late!

With no plan, other than childcare for the evening, we head into the streets of NYC, expecting something grand. Oops! Pelting rain, umbrellas up. The temperature had dropped to 35 degrees, so the elements were taking their toll on us after the first uphill block. We passed two ordinary looking restaurants, not at all what I’d imagined. Finally, we get to the corner, with traffic honking and splashing and racing home from work. We look both ways and nothing but Internet cafes, laundromats, liquor and flower stores. Suddenly, the goal became fill the tummy and head home to a nice warm fire!

How hard can it be to get a decent meal in the last block? We head back and I hear myself saying how many times over the years, in how many cities, have I walked in and known instantly if it’s going to be good or not. Down some steps we go -- lots of steps -- into a restaurant that claims to be “Italian.” A good salad, a hot cup of tea, some nice bread, and some comfort pasta sound just fine. Upon entering the restaurant, apparently the image in my head of home and fireplace obliterated my keen sense of is this going to be good or not? I saw linens, silverware, waiters who looked like waiters, and candles on the tables. As we shivered coming in out of the cold, we noticed the sound of shrill sawing somewhere in the back. The other diners didn’t seem fazed, so we ignored it. It never did stop. A gentleman dressed in a tux was playing an upright piano as we gazed at the menu. I think it was when he played the same seven measures for the fifth time that we felt annoyed. Mid-piece, he stopped and stood up, leaned over to remove an empty three-foot tall glass vase and placed it on the floor and opened the top of the upright. He peered in, tinkered around, and seemed satisfied. Down goes the lid. Back goes the tall empty vase and the man sits down to play, looking as relieved as we felt. By this time we’d decided to order two items and see if it was going to be any better than the saw sound and the piano sound and then leave if we must.

After we ordered a salad and a starter with water and a soft drink, we relaxed and started writing down some of Rachael’s tips before we forgot them. Nothing was permitted on the laps of the audience, so no notes on the spot! I guess that left more room for her cousin’s snack. And there it was -- the same maddening seven measures on the piano, this time with a trill or two and the pianist looking around smiling as he made up a melody, or tried to. This time he kept at it for about four minutes, going nowhere with the tune. It was driving me crazy, to the point of barely being able to eat my half of the starter.

But alas, the man stops playing (what a relief!), stands up, removes the tall empty glass vase, opens the lid, tinkers with something inside, closes the lid, replaces the vase, and sits down looking quite pleased with himself. And still the same melody continues, embellished with a few variations, including wrong notes, from this pianist in his upright -- or was that up-wrong -- position? Every time he took the vase in hand I would think, Dear Sir, you are empty handed in more ways than one, puh-leeze take lessons or take up another hobby! This up and down routine was repeated two more times, with a great deal of discordant sound in between, before we could summon our check and exit.

One of the great gifts in life is to be able to laugh at oneself. And so I will every time I remember this dreadful dining opportunity with my eldest daughter. I think we’ll always laugh about it because it was so improbable, so unexpected an ending to this special day together! Some may say, “Expect nothing and everything you get is gravy!” Frankly, I would have enjoyed some good gravy that night! But instead, Jennifer and I made a memory we won’t forget, even if we want to. We also learned a lesson about lightening up in the face of seeming failure. A great TV shoot experience, followed by mundane food and music, and lousy weather, did not dampen our spirits in the long run. Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…. And be thankful.” I’m thankful for His peace that passes understanding in every situation He allows in my life. And the next time I’m in NYC, I’ll thankfully plan ahead for a more successful finish to the day!

No comments: