This is my third post in my series on city living. For earlier posts see
It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just one Sunday living in the City.
We headed out early in the morning to a party celebrating the birth of a girl to some friends living in Riverdale. We headed out on the subway. Although the 45-minute trip took considerably longer than it would by car (20 minutes max), it did not feel as long since we were able to eat breakfast on the train and play with and talk to the girls throughout the ride. My older daughter especially enjoyed being able to stand up and walk around the subway car, peering out the windows. For me, too, it felt good to be able to watch her as we went and not have to pay attention to the road ahead.
Being back in Riverdale for the first time after we left, just about a month and a half later, felt very strange for all of us. On the one hand, my daughter commented that she likes our new neighborhood better since there is no constant loud highway noise. On the other hand, approaching our old synagogue, she remarked how much she liked it and misses it. Upon stepping inside the synagogue for the event, and seeing literally dozens of young children playing all around me, I was reminded of how few children we see in the city. I felt a twinge of sadness at denying my daughters the delight of finding friends to play with practically everywhere they go. The synagogues in Manhattan are split rather definitively along child-friendly and non-child-friendly lines, and even the child-friendly ones often have no more than a dozen or so children in attendance on a typical Shabbat morning.
We spent the early afternoon on a play date in one of Riverdale’s smaller playgrounds with old friends. Yet it was only a few minutes before my daughter quickly tired of the small playground and declared she wanted to go to a bigger playground. It’s amazing how quickly her impressions of what constitutes an acceptably large playground have shifted, though I’ll admit this was actually a pretty small playground, and much larger ones were around nearby. In any case, the other family’s children were getting tired, and Ayelet also wanted to go bike riding in Central Park, so off we went.
Re-emerging from the subway at 96th Street, our first clue that something was amiss was the strong smell of Japanese food. [I also noticed an odd group of young adults dressed as various insects, but in New York City you quickly get used to seeing such strange sights.] As we reached the surface, though, we saw that half of Broadway had been converted to a street fair, and immediately outside the subway station was a Japanese theater show surrounded by stalls selling Japanese food.
We continued further on our path home, past stalls of Mexican food, barbecue, artwork for sale, and all manner of street vendors until we reached the children’s games, and then there was no continuing until my daughter had her turn. As we patiently waited for her turn down the blow-up slide and in the bouncy castle, I was informed that the rates being charged today are much better than the street fairs on the East Side. After taking this picture by the slide, my wife managed to also get in some grocery shopping while we moved on to the bouncy castle.
After a quick trip upstairs to pick up the bike, we were off to Central Park. On our way we continued through the street fair for a few blocks, and were surprised to find a kosher BBQ stand! This was not an opportunity to be missed, and so I grabbed some despite not feeling hungry at all. Turns out there was even a second kosher BBQ down the block! Perhaps they heard about the success of the pop-up kosher BBQ in Riverdale last year.
Earlier in the year we happened to catch a street fair on the Upper East Side on a day trip into the city. Despite being organized by the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish organization, there was sadly no kosher food to be had at that fair. The fact that there were 2 kosher stands at this fair, as well as multiple other Jewish-themed stalls and many Jewish attendees, reaffirmed our decision to live in this neighborhood in Manhattan.
We didn’t even make it to the end of the fair before my daughter insisted we start making our way to the Central Park Loop, or as she calls it, the Central Park Bike Race. After about 10 blocks running together, my wife broke off to do some shoe shopping while we continued.
As we continued, my daughter’s confidence improved as she navigated the Loop’s twists and turns. After a few other children passed her, some of whom looked to be no older than she, she asked how they were going faster. When I remarked that her training wheels might be a factor, she insisted we remove them. We pulled off to the side and I tried to pry them off with my hands, but with no tools available it just wasn’t happening. I tried to convince her we would try it without training wheels another day, but she just wasn’t having it. We decided we would try to head home to get the tools.
After a few blocks pedaling back uptown, it hit me. We live in the city now, we don’t need to go home! We can go to a bike shop. Indeed, just a few blocks away, a bike shop was still open at 5:30 on a Sunday afternoon. We took the training wheels off in a jiffy and headed back to the park.
In the event, it was not so easy to get my daughter to remain upright without training wheels, but I wasn’t expecting any miracles. Even so, she was doing dramatically better by the end of the day, and it made for the perfect ending to a remarkably eventful and fun-filled day of living in the city.