Saturday, October 20, 2007

Miscellaneous: Look Homeward, Mets Fan

The hiatus is over. Time to document the trip home. And this time I’m serious.

I visit New York at least once a year. I see friends and family, take in shows, absorb all that the city of my birth has to offer. But there’s one thing I hadn’t done, and that’s return to the Queens neighborhood where I grew up. This time, I made it a point to do so.

Here I am in front of the apartment building I lived in when I was a kid. The building looked the same, although it seemed larger in my memories. The pavement leading to the front door used to be bright pink, like the slab of gum that comes with baseball cards.

A cemetery dating back to the colonial era is around the corner. Naturally, it haunted me. I still on occasion see this headstone in my dreams. To this day I have no idea who A.M. is.

Next stop, the church where I was an altar boy. I knew it was small at the time. We always heard that the diocese ran out of money during construction, so what was intended to be the basement ended up being the whole shebang. I don’t believe it, but it’s a good story.

The corner pharmacy where I bought my first paperback is still there, as is the local pizza parlor. The movie theater where I squandered my youth is now a health club, but there’s a much nicer multiplex just down the street.

I used the Museum of the Moving Image, located blocks from my old home, as an excuse to visit the neighborhood. Truth is, the museum would have been worth the trip by itself. It includes some terrific interactive exhibits. I went into a looping booth and rerecorded Humphrey Bogart’s dialogue from To Have and Have Not. His readings were better.

Rosemarie and I are both unafraid to do touristy things in our native town. We rode the Staten Island ferry for the first time, a feat that now means I have set foot in all five boroughs. We also ventured to Top of the Rock, the new observation deck in Rockefeller Center, which may offer the best views - and elevators - in the city.

As always, I went to the movies at every opportunity. I jumped at the chance to see what’s being billed as the definitive cut of Blade Runner on the big screen. I stepped out of the theater directly into Times Square, and for a moment I wasn’t sure the movie had ended.

We also caught We Own The Night, an old-fashioned New York crime thriller that takes full advantage of the city’s locations. There are several terrific set pieces: a fraught sequence in a stash house, a car chase in rain-soaked Queens that’s as good as action scenes get, a final exchange between two brothers that damn near killed me.

The main point of our trips is to see people. We added some new ones on this go-round. Our nephew and his charming new bride relocated to the city recently and are throwing themselves into life there with an enthusiasm that’s a joy to behold. Even better, another nephew was there visiting for the first time as an adult. It was a treat to spend time with people experiencing New York with fresh eyes and boundless hunger.

My friend Mike – he of Mets Fan Club and proud member of the Islanders Blog Box – came into town for dinner. The plan was to have a beer while coming up with a place to eat. We didn’t know the bar was having trivia night. By round three, The Sinatra Group had earned a comfortable lead and dirty looks from the regular competitors. We stayed to the bitter end and emerged victorious, thus fulfilling another of my lifelong dreams: to hold an oversized novelty check.

The regulars expect us back next Tuesday. They’re in for a long wait. They will look for us at the quiz night ... but we will not be coming.

Celebrity sightings were sparse, but the one we had was a good ‘un. We were leaving a restaurant as John Slattery, who’s been dazzling as louche agency head Roger Sterling on Mad Men, came in. Rosemarie said, “He gets the same billing at lunch that he gets on the show. ‘Special Guest Appearance by John Slattery.’”

I have a few more photos up at my Flickr page. And I’ll leave you with one more, of me recreating a scene from David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner at the actual location in Central Park.

Zoom in on my eyes. You can see the panic, can’t you? Oh, I’m bringing it, baby. Next trip I’m going up for a role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. And another dream will be fulfilled.