Picture Don Draper’s New York.
That’s how it was the first time I went in 1955.
Awe-inspiring. That’s the term I would use.
For a little 6 year old girl, living in Pennsylvania, it was magic!
Having breakfast on the train ,
watching the skyline appear as we approached the city.
There was so much awe and excitement about making those special trips.
My grandfather was my tour guide.
He owned a Textile Mill in Pennsylvania ,but did a lot of business in the city.
He had an office in the Empire State Building on the 80th or 88th floor.
I can’t remember anymore.
He liked showing me his New York,
which also became my New York.
He was a self -made man, a self- educated man and
Experiences were valued, above all else.
He lived in an unassuming home in a very modest neighborhood,
but had a room devoted just to his books that would have rivaled the local library-
Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, Socrates,
all the great philosophers & classic writers.
He didn’t want to just buy me things.
He wanted me to see things and learn .
We had inexplicable bond.
He loved spending time with me as I did with him.
These were our special trips- every month- just the two of us.
I remember going to a movie called ” Windjammer”, around 42nd St in some big theater.
There was new technology called “cinemiracle”- which simulated a large Windjammer cutting through the rough sea..
It was so realistic- I actually got sea sick. He felt really badly about that!
I was fascinated by the silliest things.
One of my favorite places was a Horn & Hardart Cafeteria.
Where else could you put coins in a slot and have a piece of pie magically appear.
It was thrilling.
Of course, I was only 8!
There were trips to The Rodeo and the Circus, boating in Central Park, exploring the museums, skating at Rockefeller Center,
Window shopping on Fifth Avenue at Christmas.
Poppop was a die- hard Phillies fan- but I was absolutely devoted to Mickey Mantle and the Yankees, so
every season, we would go to a Yankees game, if I agreed to go to a Phillies game too.
He taught me so much, and showed me such wonderful things.
On the train ride home he would ask me questions
and we would talk about all we had seen during the day and what I had learned
And then he always asked me the same question….
“What is the most important lesson of all, Janice?”
“That life is a great adventure, Poppop.”
He died very suddenly at 65 years old.
I was 10 and it shattered me in ways no one ever understood.
To this day- he is the person I miss the most .
That wonderful, exciting part of my life with him was over.
But, time passed and I grew and
I went on to create my own relationship with New York in my teens.
This New York included my parents and it was fun.
I started going to Broadway Plays and Restaurants
Everything seemed possible in New York in the 50’s and 60’s.
It was so glamorous!
I felt different just being in the city.
When I was about 12 years old-
I remember eating at Danny’s Hideaway with my Mom & Dad.
Danny Stradella, the owner,was my Dad’s friend.
Apparently, it was a very “hot spot” for Celebrities- which I knew nothing about.
One night, Danny brought a gentlemen over to our table and introduced him to my Dad and Mom.
It was Frank Sinatra..
There was a short conversation: polite chit- chat.
Frank’s parting words to my father were were :
” Love the wife”
My Dad responded : ” Me too”.
That was it.
I didn’t even really know who he was and didn’t care much.
But my mother was all atwitter.
Frank Sinatra thought she was a “babe”!
I’ve had a long and very satisfying love affair with New York.
From going there so many years, I know the city like the back of my hand.
Except for Soho. I always get confused in Soho!
Of course, when I was growing up,
Greenwich Village was where civilization ended!
It’s changed so much.
I was there this past weekend and it’s clear to me
the New York of my childhood is long gone.
The only thing that remains
is the magic I feel every time I’m there.
That will never leave me.
Now, I seem to wander down memory lane quite a bit.
I like it there.
It’s comforting, quiet and golden- hued.
All those events and experiences are etched into my memory
and I can travel there any time I want.
Frequently, I do.