I took license in writing this story to make it read as if I’ve been to New York City only these two times. There were two one-day visits in between that barely count as real visits to the Big Apple.
In the summer of 1982, following our first year of college, Lloyd spent six weeks in boot camp in Quantico, Virginia. He enlisted in the Marines and was in their Officer Candidates School. His older brother Larry and I took Lloyd’s car down to Virginia to pick Lloyd up at the end of his first six weeks of training. The three of us then drove up to New Jersey to spend a couple of nights at the home of Phil from the PBS Family Business documentary.
We drove into Manhattan for a Saturday full of fun and adventure. The highlights of the day included: driving through Harlem and being told by an elderly gentleman that we needed to get the hell out as quick as possible; going to the roof of the World Trade Center; parking near the Trade Center and riding the subway to Times Square; and being wished good luck by one of New York’s Finest when we asked for directions to get back to the pier where we parked.
Our first order of business when we reached Times Square was to get dinner at the Beefsteak & Brew. Lloyd and I had regaled Larry with tales of the all-you-can-drink Brewburger Special so many times that he was drooling like Pavlov’s dog when we entered the establishment. Imagine our chagrin when we were told that the special now had a two drink limit. The three of us were pissed beyond imagination. Lloyd and I took solace in the possibility that it was our night of mild bacchanalia one year prior that signaled the end of the old Brewburger Special.
My second trip to New York was with Maggie and Abby’s dad, Mitch, and brother, Sean, our buddy Joe, and another friend and his son. We went on a baseball weekend to Boston for a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, a day game at Yankee Stadium, and the Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown.
The night game at Fenway was one of the greatest baseball experiences of my life. Yankee Stadium was easily the worst.
We had to park our rented van several blocks away from the stadium in the parking lot of a grocery store in a seedy-looking Bronx neighborhood. We were not spending the night anywhere nearby so all of our stuff was in the van ripe for the stealing. I spent the entire game envisioning the van being on blocks with all of our stuff gone.
The staff of Yankee Stadium was the rudest I have ever encountered. The seat rows and numbers weren’t set up like any other venue and when I asked an usher for an explanation she treated me like I was an idiot.
A big attraction at the ballpark was Monument Park, an area behind the leftfield wall where monuments to the Yankees greats were on display. Fans were allowed to visit the park up to ninety minutes before game time. Our seats were right at the entrance to the park. We tried to get in line but an asshole usher had just cut the line off. Mitch used all of his attorney skills to argue why the guy should let us in line, but he wouldn’t budge. The end of the line entered the park with more than ninety minutes before the game started. Mitch tried again. Again, the guy wouldn’t budge.
From that point we were all pissed off and miserable. The overriding opinion of the four adults was that they could bomb Yankee Stadium and we wouldn’t bat an eyelash.
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Four months after the horrible events of September 11, 2001, I felt drawn to the city to witness firsthand the cleanup of the destruction. My birthday gift to myself was a four-day trip to New York City with a hotel stay on the city’s west side.
A winter storm moved through the Midwest the day before my departure. The storm hit Fort Wayne with a nice coat of freezing rain. An agent from the Fort Wayne airport called to tell me my flight the next morning was already delayed.
The next day my flight was delayed two more times because the airplane that would be taking us to our connection in Detroit was delayed due to the weather. The plane finally arrived and an announcement to prepare for boarding was made. A few minutes later it was announced that we were being delayed again for mechanical issues. The airport offered refunds for the inconvenience.
It seemed to me that God didn’t want me to make the trip. Silly, I know, but I didn’t want to tempt Fate. I got the refund. A minute later the announcement to board the plane was made. Ten minutes later the flight was airborne and on its way to Detroit. All I could do was laugh.
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Part of my preparations for the trip with the girls was searching the Internet to see which of the establishments I visited in 1981 were still open. I was hugely disappointed.
The places that were long gone included:
- Beefsteak & Brew– There is virtually nothing on the ‘Net about this restaurant. It made a background appearance in the 1984 movie Splash! My friend Joe went on a family trip to NYC after the movie was released and told me he saw the joint. When it closed is unknown to me. I’ve also seen pictures where the name appears to be Steak & Brewburger. Further research showed that my description of the location was a block off. Images from the early ’80s show the restaurant at the corner of 7th Avenue and 46th Street, not 47th as I “remembered.”
- Ye Olde Tripple Inn– This closure I knew about long before the trip. The bar was closed in 2005 to make way for a new building that no doubt has less character than the dart board at The Tripp. There used to be a really cool website called “Tripple Inn Refugee Internet Portal” that was run by a regular of the bar. It has since gone the way of The Tripp.
- Mama Leone’s– Rent and the high cost of doing business closed this Manhattan staple in 1994.
- Disc-O-Mat– The record store where I developed the crush on Carole Bayer Sager is gone. I tracked down the address in an old ad, did a search on it, and came up with nothing. According to streetview images I’ve found, the block is now home to Swatch, Foot Locker, and Toy R Us. Lots of local New York flavor there, eh?
- Sullivan Street Playhouse– The Fantasticks ended its 42-year run on January 13, 2002. Sadly, it also marked the end of the playhouse. The historic Greenwich Village playhouse was later converted into a luxury condo.
- The Shopkeeper’s Store– I can’t remember the name of this store. Nor can I remember its exact nature as a store. I do recall the albums and the movie memorabilia. I seem to remember that comic books were also in stock, but that may be my imagination. The guy there did say that he knew Mark Hamill and I did just miss out on meeting him. I’m sure that with the way things have changed in NYC that this store is no longer there. I Tweeted Mr. Hamill to see if he could remember the name and nature of this store. I’m still waiting on his response.