When my nephew was born, I was not yet 19. Though it was a few months before I met him, I fell in love immediately. When my sister, Skye, decided to move to Florida, I came along and acted as Cameron’s nanny for a couple of months, while his mom started a new job.
We spent every day together, going to parks, the beach, strolling around the neighborhood where we lived with my grandmother that summer.
Though I wasn’t at all ready for a child, I would make believe that he was my little baby as I slathered him with sunscreen.
When I moved to New York, Cameron was only about seven years old. I used to talk to him about coming to visit me in the city and all the fun we would have. But he was too young to come alone, so I had to wait. Now he’s fourteen and old enough, but timing and money makes things difficult.
This June, at last, the planets aligned and Cam came to New York!
He arrived on a Tuesday and I drove out to LaGuardia to pick him up. I met him by the gate exit and we drove back to my neighborhood in Brooklyn, getting glimpses of the towers of Manhattan in the distance, beyond the sprawling cemetery that stretches serenely next to the BQE (that’s the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the non-New Yorker). Cemeteries in New York are pretty epic.
We wandered around my neighborhood that afternoon and found ourselves by the ferry on the East River, so we decided to take it to Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was a glorious, sunny afternoon and the buildings and bridges gleamed above and around us as we cruised down the sparkling waterway.
We disembarked and walked up the the pedestrian entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. Manhattan was so close, we could almost touch it, but we turned back for now and went for pizza at the famous Grimaldi’s. We ordered our pie – half vegetarian, half with sausage for Cam – and ate it at one of the tables by the water.
We met up with my cousin Kate and her little girl at the Brooklyn Promenade – another great view of Manhattan. Cam is great with younger kids and entertained his baby cousin, playing with her easily. We walked Kate back to her house and enjoyed their back patio for a minute before heading home.
The next day we headed to Manhattan and had a stroll up 5th Avenue, starting at Bryant Park and the main branch of the New York City Public Library and working our way up to FAO Schwartz and then to Central Park. We walked though the park, stopping by Bethesda Fountain on the way to the Museum of Natural History.
Though many of the best parts were closed for a private event, we saw what we could – at least we knew it was “pay what you wish” and we didn’t pay the full price. After the museum we went to Times Square for a quick peek at the mayhem.
Once we’d seen all we could handle, we caught a train for West 4th Street and went to one of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants in the city, Meskerem. It was Cam’s first time to try Ethiopian food, and he liked it, though he was initially skeptical about eating with his hands.
We stopped by the Beauty Bar on the way home and caught some comedy in the back room before calling it a night.
The next day, we started off with the Metropolitan Museum, which was a highlight of the trip, according to Cameron. We grabbed food from a street cart to tide us over as we walked through Central Park and peeked into the great front hall of the Museum of Natural History, which had been closed to the public when we came before. We caught the train downtown and had lunch at the famous Katz’s Delicatessen – at which Cam ate a massive pastrami reuben. We tried bubble tea in Chinatown and strolled through Little Italy.
I took him up Broadway to Pearl River Mart – one of my favorite stores in the city, soon to go out of business due to increased rent. We went to Evolution – another of my favorite places, full of taxidermied things and fossils. We wound up in the East Village, just in time to go to an open mic for standup at the Upright Citizens Brigade. The show was so much fun that we decided to check out the next one, too. Cam loves comedy and has a talent for mimicry.
We had dinner at L’il Frankie’s – an old favorite which was introduced to me by my friend, Nora. They make delicious Italian-style pizza and we ate with gusto, agreeing it was far better than Grimaldi’s.
Friday morning we went to the Financial District and explored the Wall Street area before getting lunch at the charming Stone Street, which is closed to traffic and is full of outdoor seating in the summer. We had Bavarian food (celebrating our German roots) and then joined a tour of Wall Street history that Cam had wanted to take.
After the tour, we visited the 9-11 memorial and some of the famous churches along Broadway.
It was still early, so we went to the Highline Park and wandered down its length, pausing to play with an interactive installation conceived by Olafur Eliasson.
We went through Chelsea Markets and then made our way home to get food and other provisions for a picnic in Prospect Park with my friends Clara and Silvia. Esperanza Spalding was performing a free concert, and we bought sandwiches and wine and fruit to share on our blanket.
The next day, we had tickets to go to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We took the audiotour at Ellis Island and it was very educational. We wandered up to the South Street Seaport and took the ferry home to Brooklyn. We planned to go to a baseball game, but we were both tired, so we hung out at the apartment for a while and then met up with friends of mine by the West Side Highway for sunset.
We went to dinner at an Indian place in Greenwich Village and then went to Battery Park City to watch the new Jurassic Park movie.
The next day, we met up with our cousins for lunch at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn Bridge Park. We spent way too much for food on paper plates, but I admit, I enjoyed my paratha – an Indian comfort food.
Cameron and I went back to our cousin, Laura’s apartment after lunch and enjoyed the respite from the extreme sun in Laura’s back yard. We sipped tea and chatted till it was time to go to Coney Island.
We drove down the edge of Brooklyn to Coney Island and found a good parking spot, luckily. We walked the boardwalk and had some food from Nathan’s before going to see one of my friends perform in the sideshow.
We saw sword swallowing and fire eating and all sorts of freakish things.
Monday we decided to try to go to Thomas Edison’s house and laboratory in New Jersey, as Cameron has been especially interested in the inventor lately. It wasn’t a bad drive and we stopped in Manhattan for bahn mi sandwiches – Vietnamese sandwiches on french baguette bread.
Unfortunately, the museum was closed that day and we seemed to be out of luck. I made a call to a local Edison organization, and they offered to give us a tour of their small museum in Newark.
We were lucky to meet the head of the foundation, who was kind and knowledgeable. He spent time telling Cameron about Edison and then gave us goodies – commemorative Edison coins and old recording cylinders from Edison’s time.
We got back to New York in time to go to Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, but the view was obscured that day by persistent rain and fog.
We still had fun and visited the lobby of the Empire State Building and the Flatiron before going back to Brooklyn.
We stopped for crepes at a wonderful authentic French restaurant and had a lovely final dinner together.
That night we stayed up late watching Terminator 2, a gem from my adolescence.
On Cam’s final day, we grabbed breakfast from a cafe in my neighborhood before driving to Corona Park, Flushing Meadows, where the remnants of the World’s fairs in ’39 and ’64 still exist.
We explored the park a while before heading to downtown Flushing for dumplings and then it was off to the airport.
They let me go to the gate with him, and it was nice to be together till he boarded the plane.
I feel like I have been given a gift to have this wonderful person in my life and so fortunate to have had this chance to spend time with him in the city I’ve called home for the better part of a decade.
I had to put my nose back to the grindstone once he left and work work work as I will soon be out of town again! This time, I’m going to Cyprus to work on an archeological dig. Afterwards, I hope to volunteer with some of the refugees fleeing Syria for Greece.
Exciting updates to come!
Love and miss,