Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Staying Awake in the City That Never Sleeps

The Empire (State) Strikes Back

"Do you realize that we are paying almost as much for the pet motel as we are for our own?” Mrs. Hall pretended not to hear him. “And that fellow had the nerve to ask if I wanted to go ahead and get the spa package for the dog, as well.” Mrs. Hall had other concerns. Her appointment as Associate Grand Marshal required her to purchase several gowns in patriotic colors, none of which seemed (in her opinion) to flatter either her figure or her complexion. Nevertheless, there they were, taking up valuable real estate in her luggage. By four o’clock a.m. the big black car rolled out of the hanger. Mr. Hall had filed a flight plan for Westchester County, and around late morning they joined the rest of the Grand Matron’s entourage. Thirty or so other officers banded together to commandeer a tour bus, whose driver seemed hell-bent on destroying their spines in the process of ferrying them into Midtown Manhattan, and their center of operations for the next week.
Almost as soon as they arrived, they suited up and the tour bus whisked them off again to the Nassau district for their first official meeting. As they sat in that perpetual parking lot known as the Long Island Expressway, Mrs. Hall had plenty of time to reminisce. The last time she had been to NYC was when she attended the 1965 World’s Fair. Waiting out the traffic in Flushing Meadows that evening, she noticed a few things had changed since then.
Sitting on the sidelines for a couple of hours holding Mrs. H.’s purse did not really qualify as Mr. Hall’s idea of a large evening, but he was glad to see her honored and besides, the food was halfway decent. The bus ride back to the hotel lulled the weary travelers to sleep and it was all they could do to rouse themselves and trudge back upstairs to their room.

Gin is not your friend, though it keeps some lovely company

Saturday’s meeting was a luncheon, held in Grand Lodge at 71 W. 23rd St., only about six or seven blocks away from the hotel. A number of their merry band, decked to the teeth in chiffon and taffeta, were attempting to hail a fleet of cabs, but the Halls, the game sports that they are, donned their formals and their sneakers, and walked the short sprint to the lodge. The Halls had often been to meetings such as this; exhausting affairs that proved to be mainly endurance contests. But Grand Lodge turned out to be grand indeed, and the afternoon passed by quickly. By the time they had returned to their room to change, the sky was taking on that lovely glow that signaled an effervescent twilight and an evening of pleasures to come. A gentle breeze beckoned them to walk to the most romantic point on the planet. “I give you- the top of the world!” said Mr. Hall as they stepped out on to the observation level of the Empire State Building, and Mrs. Hall caught her breath. The view could not have been lovelier, and for quite some time they just stood there together, taking it all in.
Exhilarating sights, said Mrs. Hall, tend to make one long for a little something, so gliding over to the Setai Hotel, they slid into the Bar on Fifth Avenue and ordered some smart cocktails and a light repast. The bartender whipped up a batch of Bombay Sapphire martinis with a splash of grapefruit bitters and a twist. A happy glow washed over Mrs. Hall, and as they walked on to Rockefeller Center, she explained how she truly believed that was the only civilized drink in the city. Though it’s true the gin may have been well-bred, the lemon was decidedly twisted. It spoke to her in dulcet tones that somehow rose above Mr. Hall’s gentle admonitions that perhaps skating in Rockefeller Center that night might be ill advised. The multicolored flags skipped brightly over the freshly zambonied ice. As Mrs. Hall slid into the fray of skaters, Mr. Hall moved to a prime viewing location. He thought to himself, now would be a good time to acquaint himself with the “video” application on the camera.

However, after a half an hour or so of uneventful laps, his attention waned a bit, and he became distracted by the presence of a well known character actor from a television series getting a snack. It was unfortunate decision; when his eyes returned to the ice, they centered on a crowd of skaters closing ranks on a fellow reveler who appeared to be attempting to finish the lap squarely on her pants.

She pulled herself up to standing on the rail and waving jauntily, skated in.
“That’s a quite a shiner you have there,” remarked Mr. Hall as seriously as he could manage while suppressing an urge to laugh. He helped her pull off her skates. “Who taught you to skate on your face?” As they walked up the stairs Mrs. Hall took a long last look at the happy skaters and twinkling lights and smiled. “Thank you for a glorious evening!” she said, but Mr. Hall just shook his head as he flagged a cabbie to the curb.

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