Climbing in New York

Sometimes I wonder about people who live in the New York area.

I’m not just talking about the social moron I met at a party recently, who told me he could never live anywhere in Texas.   He and I went on to have quite a spirited conversation after that salvo, with me calling him a pompous twit and noting what did he know, since he lived in New Jersey, for Chrissakes?  As usual, the insulting and confrontational remarks were all in my mind, where they continue to replay even now and are really quite devastating.

Anyway, other New Yorkers.  Sunday, a gorgeous day, we climbed the Brooklyn Bridge with our friends Mary Jo and Bill.  They’re the New York experts, since they’ve lived here forever, and I thought they were doing us a big favor by climbing the bridge for the umpteenth time just to keep us company.  Exactly how many times had they already climbed the bridge? I asked them.

Oh, none, as it turned out.

In spite of our New York friends’ lack of leadership, we managed to find our way to Brooklyn just fine, where Mary Jo and Bill had promised us the best pizza on earth.  Unfortunately, Grimaldi’s was closed on Easter Sunday, which left the two of them so crestfallen that Bill immediately came down with a cold.  Luckily, my husband — a Texan with an iPhone — scoured the Yelp reviews for a nearby restaurant that was superb.  Noodle Pudding, the restaurant, was Italian and filled with big families who looked as if they’d just gotten out of church.

The olive oil and bread were wonderful and my lasagna bolognese so good I found myself guarding it with sharp elbows, since it was only big enough to serve five people.  (Bridge-climbing builds up an appetite, it seems.)  We ate and ate and ate, watched the other people (a different, homier crowd than you’d see in Manhattan); Tony and Carmela would have fit in there just fine.

What a wonderful spring day and what an incredible bridge, with heart-stopping views of Manhattan.  I thought of our dinner earlier in the week with the son of a friend who asked us why we’d chosen New York for the year when we could have gone anywhere, really.

“Like where?” I asked him.  “What would have been better?”

“Colorado,” he said, finally.  “Or somewhere out in the country.  You could have gotten a lot of writing done there.”

“I would have also lost my mind and died of boredom,” I said.

So I spent the rest of the evening pointing out this and that — the restaurants, the theater, the vibrancy, the cultural mix! — you could only find in a great city.  Which may have sounded as swinish as the creep trashing Texas, but hey, we were paying for dinner.  You get defensive about a place, even when you’re only there temporarily.

“What did you do over the weekend?” my New York dermatologist asked Monday.

I told her we’d climbed the Brooklyn Bridge.

“You can climb it?” she asked doubtfully.  “I’ve never heard of that.”

There you go.  Maybe that’s why we’re spending the year in the city: To help New Yorkers get to know it a little better.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my very favorite posts about driving through emptiness

10 comments… add one
  • I want to climb the bridge and go to Garibaldis. We didn’t get to it on our last NY trip, but it’s definitely on the list for the next one.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Turns out, it’s Grimaldi’s, not Garibaldi’s, that was closed.

  • Great post!  I was right there, with you, climbing that bridge.  I think you made the right choice, with New York.  The city does offer so many cultural opportunities that one misses in a beautiful rural setting like Cape Cod.

  • Winston Link

    Did you feel a bond with Lady Liberty out there in the harbor, with torch in hand, enlightening the world, as you stood on the Brooklyn Bridge, with iPhoniest in hand, enlightening New Yorkers?

  • I always wanted to climb the Brooklyn Bridge — and walk across it. Glad you got to do it.

    BTW, you can now get Grimaldi’s pizza right here in Dallas, in West Village!

  • Funny how the locals sometimes need an out-of-towner to help them experience their own city. Last summer we took a friend out to Great Barrier Island off the coast of Auckland where we live. He’s live in Auckland his whole life and somehow didn’t know that this decent-sized island, which is accessible by ferry from the downtown wharf and has its own small airline, even EXISTED. Amazing.

  • Emina Link

    It is so nice to look at your photo on Brooklybridge. Is Professor Pennebaker with you? How amazing! When did you climb the bridge? I just asked Prof. a question and he replied me in several minutes! Are you in New York now? I am studying in the Graduate Center of CUNY now. 

  • Born and bred in NY – but have never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge – or the GW, for that matter. Must do!

  • Just this week I happened to pass Carfax Tower in Oxford.  It’s the official centre of the city and I have been subject to its influence (one is not allowed to take a degree from the University unless one has resided so many days – depending on the degree – within 6 miles of Carfax).

    I usually slink by.  In 30 + years I have never answered the invitation to climb the 13th century tower.

    (But I have often visited the Shelley Memorial — Oxford’s best kept secret, barely on offer to visitors, but really the most extraordinary monument.  I take all my tourists there.  )

    If you will come to Oxford I will take you to see Shelley in all his drowned glory.  Well, not quite all his glory.  Undergraduates for a hundred years or so have enjoyed painting parts of the statue. Since paint remover turns out to be even worse than middle age for taking its toll, the Oxford Shelley is these days remarkable for discretion.  Maybe that is why they don’t advertise it as a tourist site (sight).

    When you visit, after we have gawked at Shelley , and if you still think we should, we can go up the Tower.

    Otherwise, we’ll hit the pub and drink to faded glory – and erosion.

  • It’s peculiar, but I never go to the tourist attractions in the town I live in unless I have…tourists visiting. I lived in NYC for 4 years and never went to the Empire State Bldg or the WTC, for that matter. Still haven’t gone to the Empire State Bldg.
    I live in LA and haven’t been to Universal Studios and venture to Hollywood Blvd only rarely.
    Lived in Seattle and hardly ever went to the Space Needle.
    I am visiting NYC in May, and maybe I’ll give climbing the Brooklyn Bridge a try, though!

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