Wednesday, August 13, 2008

He ain't heavy

My brother came to town last weekend with his wife and nine year-old daughter. A good time was had by all. My son was so excited to see them, he couldn't sleep the first night, much to everyone's chagrin. But we all had plenty in the tank for the rest of the visit.

First stop, Cheryl's Global Soul on Underhill for brunch and then the Q train to Coney Island where those of us who were tall enough rode the Cyclone (still my favorite roller coaster on earth). Lunch at Nathan's. And lots of rides at Deno's and Astroland. My brother hadn't been to Brooklyn in four years, and he was glad to see that Shoot the Freak is still going strong on the boardwalk. My son had to have an annoying plastic disco scepter thing that plays about five notes of an indecipherable song while flashing rainbow strobe lights. The repeated lines are something like 'Rhythm in the dark,' or 'Children of the corn,' or 'Don't you touch my dog.'

On the way home, the Q was running over the N line. We were waiting on the platform in the big, open-air, Euro-style train station, and there was a train on track 3 whose doors were closed. A voice over the loudspeaker kept asking crew 317 to open the doors on track 3, but nothing was happening. It started calm and then worked itself into a fever, until you thought the guy was going to go apoplectic. Like the old 'It's the plumber, I've come to fix the sink' gag on the Electric Company.

--Crew 317, will you please open the doors to the train on track 3.
--Crew 317, we need the doors open on track 3.
--Crew 317, open the doors on track 3. Open the doors on track 3!
--Crew 317, will you open the doors on track 3????
--Crew 317, am I talking to myself, here? Where are you? Open the doors on track 3!!

We see an MTA guy with a key and he enters the train. Soon enough, the doors open and we take our seats. Ding dong, and the doors close. But we don't move. After about a minute the doors open again, and immediately the voice is back on the loudspeaker: 'TRACK 3!!! NOW you open the doors???? What are you opening the doors for??? WILL YOU GET YOUR TRAIN OUT OF THE STATION ALREADY????'

My 17 years in New York, I've never heard this kind of exchange before. And to be fair, maybe I exaggerate a little for comic effect.

Later that night, we hit the next item on my brother's agenda: Pizza at
Grimaldi's, the venerable brick oven joint under the Brooklyn Bridge. My brother, sister-in-law, and niece are a little surprised to see the length of the line to go in , but they're game, and we wait about an hour and a quarter, listening to the Met game on my transistor radio. And we're glad we got on line, because that is some truly delicious pizza. I haven't been there in several years, and had forgotten how good it is.

The next morning my brother and I have a relaxing run in Prospect Park. When we get back I scramble a dozen eggs, cook some turkey bacon, toast, and oatmeal, and we all load up for that day's big activity: final game of the Mets/Marlins series at Shea.

It is Billy Wagner Bobblehead Day at Shea, and we all get one. It's a pretty good likeness. Captures Billy's sleepy-eyed alpaca farmer look. It was an awful game. The Mets could do nothing, the Marlins continued their dominance of Mike Pelfrey, and they cancelled the Dyna Mets Dash. Booooooo. Still, for my brother, I hope, it was worth it (a day in the ballpark is always worth it, if you ask me). I have two older brothers, and even though we grew up in the midwest, one was always a Met fan, the other a Yankee fan. The Yankee fan, to his credit, has followed them through good and bad for forty years. The Met fan, the brother who visited, had never been to Shea, so at least we were able to do that, but I wish I could have taken him down on the field for the dash. He left with his bobbleheads, a couple souvenir ice cream cup batting helmets, and a few more commemorative, deluxe, plastic soda cups. My son annoyed his cousin by taking up the 'En-dy Cha-vez' chant and continuing it long after Chavez's at-bat was over. Long after the Mets' at-bat was over.

We rounded out the weekend with dinner at Teddy's, where the borough president also happened to be dining. Teddy and his staff are always kind to my son, and it was nice to introduce them to my brother and his family, too.

Goodbyes are tough the next morning, especially for my son and my niece, but hopefully they'll make it back soon, and we'll see their new place in Cleveland soon, too. Thanks, bro.

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