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In the last two weeks I have received a record number of emails. I have published some of them in the Reader Air-email section (I apologize for being unable to post them all). Thanks again for all the kind words and support. I really appreciate it.
As you probably guessed, last week was rough. I will try not to burden (or bore) you anymore with my relationship problems, but I had to get it off my chest. It was killing me -- yet I don’t feel much better. I haven’t seen Amber Airplane in over a week, but we’ll meet up next week on an exotic “work" trip we arranged long ago. That should be a lot of fun, and I look forward to it.
For now, sit back and relax because we’re off to the East Coast. I took an 11 a.m. flight to JFK from LAX. Mid-morning is a great time to travel, because congestion on the roads, in security lines and on runways is usually at a minimum. When l boarded the Boeing 767 I got talking to my seatmate. Within a minute I knew he was really cool. He turned out to be a Johnny Jet subscriber! It was pretty funny, because after our “small talk" introduction he said, “You’re not Johnny Jet, are you?" I was both surprised and flattered that he read my weekly newsletter. It turned out he was a pilot for a cargo airline, and we talked almost the whole flight. You can learn so much about travel from pilots -- or any airline employee, for that matter.
When we landed in NY at 7 p.m. I took the AirTrain (for the second time in a month) to Manhattan. This time it took exactly one hour to get from baggage claim to my apartment. It was much easier to navigate as a “veteran." In fact, I even showed first-time passengers how to make their way. Look at that -- I’m already an expert! It cost only $7 ($5 for AirTrain from JFK to Jamaica Station, $2 for the subway from Jamaica Station to midtown). A taxi would have cost $45, plus tip and toll. You can’t beat saving both time and money!
I love being in Manhattan this time of year. The warm weather brings so much excitement to the big city. Everyone is happy that winter is over.
After dropping off my bags I met my sister Carol and a bunch of friends from NY and LA at a hip club called Suede Lounge. You should have seen the crowd waiting to get in (and the tons of paparazzi). I was there to celebrate my movie star/cousin-in-law Jamie Lynn’s birthday. It was a fun night, because I caught up with a bunch of old friends and met some new ones. A couple of days later, though, the NY Post totally dissed my cousin AJ in this article. I was standing right next to him when he made his now-infamous gesture, and it was nothing like they portrayed. In fact, it was really funny, and everyone (including the photographers) laughed. Suede Lounge, 161 W. 23rd St.; tel: 212-633-6113.
The next day I went to Agata & Valentina -- one of my favorite grocery stores in the city -- and bought a tasty mozzarella, basil and tomato panini. Ummm – they’re delicious. I scarfed it down in Central Park, another of my favorite spots. Agata & Valentina, 1505 First Ave.; tel.: 212-452-0690.
What’s surprising to me is that there are sections of Central Park where you can literally -- I mean physically -- get lost in. I proved it. After seeing a sign for Belvedere Castle I thought to myself, Hmmm, I don’t remember there being a castle in the park. I took a short stroll, and soon found the castle perched up on Vista Rock. Did you know Belvedere Castle is the second highest natural elevation in the park? I didn’t either. There are some pretty nice views from up there. If you look straight across you can see the Public Theatre, where each summer Shakepearean plays are produced. Maybe I will catch one later this summer. Belvedere Castle, Mid-Park at 79th St.; tel: 212-772-0210.
I got lost when I left the castle. I wanted to explore some more, so I went down a quiet path which led to more paths. There were so many choices, I eventually forget which way I had come. It got kind of scary back there, because I felt like I was in the middle of the woods (which I was). The only difference is I could hear cars in the distance. It got more frightening when I ran into a few sketchy people hanging out on the benches. For a second there I thought, Holy cow, I’m all alone out here. These guys could shoot me and no one would ever know what happened. To make sure that didn’t happen I started walking around like I was Jackie Chan rehearsing a fight scene.
Later that day I took subway to Grand Central Station, then the train to Connecticut. NYC trains are pretty vulnerable to terrorists. Last week I traveled numerous times on the subway and trains carrying two big bags, and not once did anyone even look at me funny. In fact, I hardly saw any police officers. Those bags could’ve been filled with anything. The city needs the presence of police officers, who should quickly search people with large bags to make riding the subway and trains safer. I know I don’t fit the profile of a terrorist, but I saw many people who did and no action was taken about them either. I’m not trying to be a pessimist, because I feel we should continue doing our thing, but come on! With so many threats out there, trains are prime targets. It wouldn’t take much effort to make them more secure.
But back to the fun stuff. When I arrived in my home state of Connecticut, I was picked up by my sister Georgette. I stayed at her house. It’s fun sleeping there, because she lives near the beach and has a whole bunch of animals (including two cats that are not allowed out of the house). That’s because one of them is a big bully. Would you believe whenever the cat escapes it runs over to the neighbor’s house, walks through their cat’s pet door, beats the hell out the cat -- in its own house -- and then takes off? That cat has some serious issues.
I was in town to attend a wedding celebration for Matt and Todd (they are brothers, not lovers). I grew up next to them, and we used to be really close. We were fortunate to be raised on a cool private lane that was totally safe to play on (cars rarely drove by). In addition, almost every house had kids, so there was always someone to play with. We did every game and sport all day long, from kick the can to baseball.
Matt just got married and Todd was recently engaged, so their parents held a dual celebration. We lost touch after high school, and my first thought upon seeing them last week was, “Damn, what happened to your hair?!" I’m sure they wondered the same thing about me.
My dad and his fiancee Nancy also came into town for the party. I hadn’t seen them since Erie, PA a month or so ago. It was my dad’s first time in Connecticut in a couple months, and just before I headed out to the party Nancy called to say his car wouldn’t start and he needs help. My buddy Mike and I rushed over, and sure enough his car was flooded. While we (well, Mike – I’m not very mechanical) worked on his car my dad went into a Jamaican bakery across the street. When I went in to tell him we (Mike) got his car started the owners (who knew him too well) were yelling at him in a friendly way: “Frank, stop eating those pies!" Have you ever heard someone get yelled at by bakery owners for eating too many of their goods? Only my dad. Brown's Caribbean Bakery, 14 Belden Ave. Norwalk, CT; tel.: 203-866-9169.
The party was at the Stamford Yacht Club, which is right on Long Island Sound. It’s quite nice. It was cool for me to see a bunch of old friends and neighbors, most of whom I haven’t seen since high school. Before dinner they asked if anyone wanted to give a toast. Of course I had to stand up and roast my old friends -- especially since one of them scarred my chin during a rock fight many years ago. Stamford Yacht Club, 97 Ocean Dr. W., Stamford, CT; tel.: (203) 323-3161.
The following morning Matt and Todd’s parents had a brunch at their house for the out-of-town guests. It was my first time on the old lane in a long time. After breakfast Georgette dragged me across the street to see the house we grew up in. I didn't want to go for two reasons: I didn't want to disturb the people who live there now, and I thought seeing my old house would make me sad. I grew up there, but after my mom passed a few years ago my dad sold it.
Have you ever read the book “Fahrenheit 451"? I don’t remember much about it, except when the main character returns home after something major happened. Someone else lives at the house, and his family is gone. That thought always scared the hell out of me as I kid, and I thought that by walking over there I would feel the same way.
However, I didn’t get any of those feelings. The man who bought the house was working outside, and he was so nice. When Georgette asked for a tour of the backyard he said, “Of course. You can come see it anytime you want. This is more your house than mine." How awesome is he? Because of his friendly attitude, I had no pangs at all. It was actually cool walking around the yard. So many happy memories flooded back. I pictured my mom going outside to feed the birds (she loved cardinals). Walking on the patio reminded me of all the childhood birthday parties my parents threw for me. It was really comforting being back.
The only difficult part was that the new owners are making some drastic landscaping changes, and adding another level. When it’s done it might be hard to picture our old house. That’s okay, though, because they have young kids. Knowing the family will create magnificent memories, just like we did, made me feel great.
I guess I’m being so sentimental because it was my birthday over Memorial Day weekend. That’s the reason that weekend was my favorite growing up. Now it’s my favorite time of year to visit there (I grew up in South Norwalk, and hung out mostly in Rowayton) because it’s the first (unofficial) day of summer. The beaches open, boats go in the water, trees are full of leaves and everyone is happy. Not only that, but there are all kinds of parties and barbecues, and most of my friends I grew up with come out of the woodwork.
The Sunday before Memorial Day is always the highlight of the weekend. Around 11 a.m. the pre-parties begin; then at noon the parade starts. It’s actually a tiny parade (it lasts about 20 minutes), but it’s America at its best. The dedication to all the soldiers at the end of the parade, next to the cannon, is always very moving. I get goose bumps every time they play Taps, and raise the flag to half mast. This year there was even a fly-by by two military helicopters. That was a really nice touch.
After the dedication everyone runs over to the firehouse for free hot dogs. People go nuts over free dogs. After filling our bellies, my friends and I head to the field where we played stickball every day. Nowadays this is the only time we play all year: old-timers vs. the young guns. Of course, we’re not that young and the old-timers aren’t that old. Just a couple of years separate the teams. However, we young guns won bragging rights for the rest of the year. In fact, we always win.
After the parade I went to another fun annual party at my friends Sarah and Rebecca’s house. Not only do they have really good food, but they too have an annual baseball game. This one is not competitive. You don’t need a glove, and it doesn’t matter how young or old you are as long as you can swing a bat. They use a softball that normally doesn’t travel very far, but this year it did (at least for me). I forgot the rule that hitting the ball over the fence is an out, not a homerun. After belting the first one over the fence, I felt bad I made an out. But no one seemed to care, since each team gets six outs. It felt so good to see the ball sail over the fence that I went for the fences every time. Man, it feels so good to hit a homerun -- even in a short field.
On Monday, May 31 (my birthday) the weather turned cold and rainy. I went to a late breakfast at the Sherwood Diner in Westport with my dad, Nancy, Georgette, Cam (my brother-in-law), Frank (my bro) and cousin Marie (on my mom’s side). After our meal I heard Frank whisper something to Georgette, who then excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she returned I said, “Georgette, I saw you talking to the waiter. Please tell me you didn’t ask him to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, because I would be really embarrassed." Who sings “Happy Birthday" at 11 a.m. at a diner? Of course, when the cake came Frank, Georgette and Cam sang extra loudly. The packed diner looked at our table like we were freaks. But I got them back, because when they handed me the cake I held it out in front of Georgette, so everyone thought it was HER birthday. It was pretty funny. Sherwood Diner, 901 Post Rd E., Westport, CT; tel.: (203) 226-5535.
After the meal my cousin Marie wanted to show me the nearby Sherwood Island State Park, which was recently renovated. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid, so I thought it would be nice. In particular Marie wanted to show me the 9/11 memorial, honoring victims who were from Connecticut. It was a beautiful tribute to those innocent people. I was especially moved to see a plaque of my old pal Cesar Murillo, who I used to hang out with in high school. Sherwood Island State Park, $9 to park; tel.: (203) 226-6983.
I don’t get to see Marie very often, so it was nice spending time with her. She always tells me fun stories about growing up with my mom. It's important for people to connect with each other, and spending time with her reminded me of a valuable point Tony Robbins made at the seminar we attended a few weeks ago. He asked everyone in the audience of 3,500 to do him a favor. He said: “Go to an elderly folks’ home and ask the front desk if there is anyone there who is really lonely, with no one to talk to. Find that person, and spend one hour with him or her. Ask questions about what it was like growing up, or talk about whatever they want. They will be so happy -- and you will be too, for giving back. You will see life brought back into that person’s face." For a listing of assisted living places near you, click here.
Later that evening my dad invited everyone to his place to celebrate my b-day. It was fun, and we got to watch one of my favorite movies: “Old School."
Next week I will finish off my trip to the East Coast, and tell you about my travels to Boston. Getting there was half the fun. But before I go I gotta tell you something bizarre that happened to Frank and me. I was sitting in my brother’s house working on my laptop, when I heard a bird chirp. I figured it was outside. Then minutes later Frank came in and asked me to help him get a cardinal out of his house. It was the first time a bird had ever flown in -- and it was a cardinal.
Frank slowly walked up to the bird, and grabbed it with his bare hands. I never saw anything like that (except on Animal Planet). The bird never flinched. Frank walked outside with it and opened his palm, but the bird didn’t move. It just wanted to hang out. After five minutes it finally flew away. I immediately called Georgette to tell her what happened and she said, “Oh my gosh, I was just thinking about Mom and her feeding the cardinals. Maybe it was a message from Mom!" I like to think it was her way of wishing me Happy Birthday.
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Folk Remedy for hot-weather health challenges. They work wonders, even if we don't always know why. |
Always use sunscreen. But if you do get a sunburn...
Take a cool shower as soon as possible.
Steep six regular tea bags in one quart of hot water. When the tea is strong and cool, drench washcloths in it and apply them to the sunburned area. Repeat until you feel relief.
Burned your feet from walking on hot sand? Apply tomato slices to the soles of your feet, and secure them in place with ace bandages or handkerchiefs. Elevate your feet for 20 minutes.
Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen of New York City. The sisters are authors of Chicken Soup & Other Folk Remedies (Ballantine) and Folk Remedies That Work (Harper). They grew up in Brooklyn, where their mother and grandmother had folk remedies for almost everything.
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