The Other New Yorker


It was galling to confess to a New Yorker that we had trailed all round Central Park but somehow mislaid the zoo.

“You couldn’t  find the zoo?” our friend gazed, baffled, at the two adults in charge. She assessed the situation efficiently in a few Manhattan seconds and turned in a businesslike fashion to Maddie and Felix.

“You know, I’m not going to tell your Mom and Dad the directions, I’m going to tell you. Felix, Listen up. This is what you do to get to Central Park Zoo….”

Felix listened solemnly, as he was bequeathed the way to the zoo. Solemnly, he assumed the aspect of one of Arthur’s knights listening to directions to the Holy Grail. We leaned across and tried very hard to pay attention. It takes a few days for the grid that is New York to slip into place in one’s mind, but Central Park’s a great place to start.

We sat in a little restaurant on 71st Street, out in the garden, with a beautiful roof made almost entirely of vines. The evening light gleamed palely through the leaves as we all sat round, appraising a proper restaurant menu for the first time since we arrived on the island.

And we were not alone.

We would never have found this little place without a friend we had never met before this evening, though I ‘talk’ to her often. Virginia Antonelli has just published her first book: Lame Adventures: Unglamorous Tales From Manhattanbut she started out just blogging New York from her perspective. Her blog is addictive; so much so that when Sandy struck last year and Virginia went quiet I worried.

Thank goodness for Twitter and e-mail. She didn’t blog for a while but kept us in the picture. And ever since, we hear from her once in a while; so that when I got to New York I dropped her an e-mail and she suggested Bello Giardino, the place with the best meatballs in Manhattan.

It was the nicest meal I had in the city by a New York mile. But the conversation was way better than the food. Virginia was like Macaulay;  not the fangs , I mean, or the long hairy ears; but when that dog set paws over our threshold it was as if he had never not been there, as if we had never not known him. And as we all settled down to put the world to rights in the little garden restaurant in 71st Street, everyone felt right at home.

Time for pudding; and Virginia had plans. We settled the bill and headed for the Magnolia Bakery: the people who started the cupcake craze in New York.

We went via the Dakota, of which more another day; the place John Lennon lived and died. A neo-North German Renaissance fortress for the elite, and the only place I spotted fan vaulting in the city. We oooh-ed and ahh-ed at the great power-sconces outside and took pictures and milled happily around.

And then we skirted three sides of the building to check out the back door, before heading cupcake-wards.

Oh, the cupcakes. Feather-light, pretty pastel shades and chocolate misdemeanours, comfits which went down without us even noticing them. Maddie’s eyes were shining. Later, she asked us: could she have a cupcake icing set for her imminent birthday, please?

And we pottered out, replete and high on icing sugar, and Virginia walked us back to the Met and that iconic fountain where Nicholas Cage met Cher in Moonstruck,, and where, tonight, Phil and Kate and Virginia and Maddie and Felix schlepped contentedly about making silhouettes against the lights.

Too soon, it was time to mill home and we said our goodbyes. But as we sat at JFK, days later, and asked everyone: what were your favourite moments in New York? Every member of the family said: the evening with Virginia.

And thanks to her: Felix got us all to Central Park Zoo without a hitch.

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35 thoughts on “The Other New Yorker

  1. More on the 2003 Marathon. Finished at the Inn on the Green, picked up my belongings, and since my runner number gave me a free pass for the day I headed for the subway. Except I couldn’t find it! I found big fat black policeman masticating slowly on a jam doughnut, and asked directions. Without a word he simply pointed with his thumb downwards. There, right in front of my was the stairs down to the tube…..

      1. You can visit one here in Los Angeles as well (and Chicago) – but may I suggest the cupcakes are nothing at all compared to their banana pudding. I don’t know what in the world they put in it. Well, bananas, obv, but there’s something else that takes it over the edge. Angel kisses, maybe.

  2. There are the New York Yankees baseball team, then there is chocolate and then there is God. One must have priorities in order. Carl D’Agostino, b 1949, Staten Island, New York.

  3. Kate, I’m so glad that I got to meet almost all the Shrewsdays! I hope to one day meet the one with the long hairy ears (dragging the dead thing). It was a pleasure hanging out with you in my neighborhood, so you could see for yourselves that Manhattan is only 90 percent hustle and bustle. You and Phil have spawned two terrific kids. Here’s the link to Magnolia’s vanilla cupcake and icing to go with Maddie’s birthday cupcake set:

  4. Dear Kate, a wonderful posting that has so captured my attention that I realize tomorrow–Saturday–I’ll need to go back and read the postings before this about your taking this trip. Peace.

  5. Dear Kate, while I was posting the above comment, my computer dinged announcing a new e-mail and there! Viola! was the notification that you’d commented on my most recent posting. Serendipity! Peace.

  6. I love the pic of you and Maddie staring up at the Dakota.

    It is always a treat to meet these connections in person and to realize that the people we talk to online really are real. 🙂

  7. What a FANTASTIC outing you enjoyed with your seasoned guide! No wonder it was a highlight of the trip ~ I’m glad that she got your all sorted out so you could find the Zoo . . . and the cupcakes . . . via the Dakota.

  8. Beautiful sights. I’m not sure how I’d handle the Dakota. I’m a huge John Lennon and Beatles fan.

    Glad you got to meet up with Virginia who showed you around to some of the best spots in NYC. Your mention of “Moonstruck” … takes me back. Wonderful memories, for sure.

  9. Isn’t it wonderful that you had such a lovely visit with Virginia! That must have been a nice treat for both of you, Kate. I love the “Moonstruck” fountain–that’s one of my favorite movies. Glad you’re home safely, but I’m sure your mind is going to be in NY for a little bit longer. 🙂

  10. I second all the comments about how wonderful it is to meet a fellow blogger. How special to meet someone who only knows you from your mind, from your writing. Even our best friends have all sorts of different perceptions of us from long and close acquaintance but to be known only by one’s writing, that’s a real treat to be savored.

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