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New York Minutes

We had good extended weekend with the in-laws. We got an early start to beat the impending snow of Thursday night, but first O had to tend to her cells at work. While she did that, the kids and I had a muffin, hot cocoa, and coffee at Toscanini's, which is also a popular morning stop for Cambridge's finest. While we were driving down, I arranged that interview that turned out so well on Monday. The drive itself was pretty zippy and we didn't get snow until we hit New Brunswick.

On Friday, we headed to the big city to see Christo's Gates (and, like zillions of other people, I took photos.) There are probably going to be as many opinions of the worth of this thing as there are pictures of it, but as just something to walk through and enjoy, it was worthwhile. Judging by the smiles on the people who were walking by, some pulling kids on sleds, we were in like-minded company. By the day we visited, it had snowed, which probably made for a starker and more effective backdrop for the structures and their drapings, which were quietly snapping on the gentle breeze. I like to think of the effect as a orange tracing that pays homage to the designers of Central Park, Frederick Lewis Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. Oh yeah, and as an added bonus, they were handing out squares of the fabric, so S0 is going to have something special for show-and-tell at school next time !

For lunch at the Second Avenue Deli, the grown-ups shared a big assorted sandwich plate, while the kids got chicken noodle soup gratis, along with the usual chicken fingers we ordered for them. I loved the pickles there, but are pickled tomatoes really supposed to have the surface tension of tennis balls ? I'm more of a half-sour man myself. The pastrami was amazing. The new thing for me was beef tongue, which to me was “nature's own lunchmeat” – at least the way it was sliced at 2nd Ave., it had a marbled look, like it was made of out of different things. Chalk up another one to experience.

After that, we went shopping at the cavernously large Jersey Gardens mall. I think you could fit an airliner or two in there !

On Saturday, while the other folks went shopping in Flemington, the kids and I went to Northlandz, which boasts the largest model railroad setup in the world. They probably weren't kidding – even at our accelerated tour pace inspired by S1's sudden need to go potty about halfway through the tour, it still took about us about an hour to see it all. What makes a bit, erm, disturbing, is the scale of the thing, combined with the obsessive detail and almost surreal composition of many of the landscapes with dramatic vertical drops, chasms, and structures hanging on their edges. It's as if Bosch or Borges commanded an army of old railroad modelers in their basements to create an unending panorama of obsession. Yes, it was that fun !

Every so often, along the tour, there was smaller display areas with dollhouses (ah, a women's touch) and art from local galleries. Such as fine painting on the left – but why Rod Stewart ? Is it just to honor his time in the Faces, the classic Every Picture Tells A Story, or his recent incarnation as an interpreter of the American songbook ? Well, perhaps, but as it turns out, Mr. Stewart has actually been to Northland. And so has Joe Piscopo, Pee Wee Herman (there's a doll with his likeness on the premises) and, perhaps, in disguise, Neil Young. How fortunate we were to follow in their footsteps !

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