In New York, Dante greeted Grandma Bozena with some skepticism, but after a thrilling taxi ride which took him under the Lincoln Tunnel, new toys to play with, and many wonderful kisses and hugs, he was soon completely comfortable and had dubbed Grandma "Baba Yaga" (thanks to some earlier training from Daddy).
On Baba Yaga’s birthday, we walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center, where there was a pavilion set up to educate the masses about the history of elections in the US. The exhibit included a model of a section of Air Force One and a mock-up of the oval office. Dante, wearing a suit for Baba Yaga's birthday, sat in the president’s chair looking so presidential that everyone who had come to take pictures of their friends sitting in the chair started taking pictures of Dante instead and commented upon how well he fit in! The rest of the afternoon was spent with various friends popping in to eat the delicious cake which Baba Yaga had made with my “help” (I sat and dutifully held the mixer). Dante met two Ciocia Ewas, fell in love with yet another young teenage lady, Asia, and showed off his musical talent by insisting on “playing” on the piano for everyone. And somehow Dante seemed to end up with more presents than Baba Yaga did.
Later that week, we went to Channel Thirteen and Dante interviewed Baba Yaga during his screen test for Bill's replacement on the set of "Now With Bill Moyers". We also went to see the Rockettes in the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Surprisingly, Dante sat through the entire performance, mesmerized. Except during the skating part, when Dante suddenly stood up, pointed at one of the skaters and proudly announced to everyone in our nearby rows that that was "Daddy!" Then he realized the man was dancing with some strange woman. Highly disturbed, he proceeded to loudly inform me and the rest of the audience that “Daddy dance girl no Mommy!” Mortified and amused, I tried to explain that it was not in fact Daddy and that Daddy wouldn’t dance with anyone but Mommy. Thank goodness the act only lasted a few minutes and he calmed down afterwards. We stayed to pretty much the end when everything became very dark, serious and slow and they started telling the story of Jesus. Clearly not interested in hearing about the birth of an obscure leader of a minor cult, Dante informed me he was “All Done, Go Home” so we left. We watched the last two minutes of the show through the window while picking up our stroller and managed to just barely beat the hordes onto the street.
During the weekend we took an exciting train ride to Connecticut to visit Ciocia Mariola and her family. Dante talked throughout most of the two hour train ride and insisted on exercising his harness-snapping/unsnapping ability. Everything would have gone well if in the confusion we hadn’t gotten off at Stratford instead of Milford! Thankfully, after a few panicked phone calls, Ciocia Mariola drove the extra way to pick us up. Once there, Dante met another young lady (age 7) by the name of Samantha who quickly took him under her wing, as she herself had two younger brothers. We went to the beach, where Dante discovered the joy of throwing sand, climbing the lifeguard tower, finding shells, making sand angels, digging holes in the sand, and looking at sea gulls. We dragged him back to the car somewhat unwillingly and got a bit of a tour of the area, which included an ice cream place called Scoopy Doo, and a clothing store called “Play it again, Pam”. It was very New England quaint. Back at Ciocia Mariola’s home, the four munchkins, led by the fearless Samantha, wreaked havoc and made a great deal of noise. Samantha was enchanted by my camera, so I taught her how to take movies. She went around the house documenting the evening and “interviewing” people. I ran out of space, so had to delete her movies, though I somewhat regret it; perhaps she’ll be the next Polanski or the next Spielberg.
Back in NYC, Dante, Baba Yaga and I walked through most of Manhattan (probably about 3 miles a day), rode to Staten Island on the Ferry, visited the new Stuyvesant High School, ate dinner at Dante’s Trattoria in the Village, where for dessert we indulged in “Dante Cappucinos”, went to Central Park and the Central Park Zoo with Ciocia Ewa where Dante complained that the Poison Dart Frogs were NOT GREEN. Dante survived about 5 hours at the Museum of Natural History, which was longer than Daddy admits even he would have, where he was entranced by “b’byes” (butterflies), more non-green frogs, and a planetarium show in which he was thrilled by a simulation of a black hole. He came out of there requesting “more black hole woosh” with great enthusiasm.
Of course the glass elevators at the museum were also a main attraction, more so than many of the exhibits. As a matter of fact, all NYC elevators and escalators were a major attraction for Dante. Almost every evening we took a walk to Lincoln Center and entered the Metropolitan Opera in order to chase Baba Yaga down the stairs and up the escalator for a good hour, followed by several elevator rides up to Juilliard School, and then countless runs up the ramp and down the stairs at the entrance to Juilliard. The elevator at Baba Yaga’s house was also of interest, as it led to the mysterious basement in which Dante helped with the laundry several times.
The coolest elevators, however, were at the Marriott Hotel, where Baba Yaga was afraid we’d get thrown out and where Mommy calmly allowed Dante to go up and down in the glass elevators for as many floors as possible in the hopes that he’d “get it out of his system”. No such luck. We ended up going up to the View Restaurant with Ciocia Ewa one night. Dante was not excited at the prospect of sitting still for the buffet meal, so Baba Yaga took him for a walk all around the rotating restaurant. Then Dante insisted that Ciocia Ewa take him around (again). By the time it was my turn to take Dante for the same walk, everyone along the way was waving and saying “Hi Dante” from their tables. I believe we even interrupted a marriage proposal and received halfway amused scowls from the guy, and lots of smiles and peek-a-boos from the bride-to-be (we hope).
The day before we left, Baba Yaga took us to the Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center. I‘ve never seen Dante so engaged in a performance before, even more so than for the Christmas Spectacular, possibly because there were animals involved. When we left he decided to do some of his own acrobatics at Lincoln Center and persisted on spinning himself in his new Jester’s hat. He also taught himself to do somersaults on the floor in Baba Yaga's home that day. Later that evening we traveled far away and into the future at the Mars 2112 Restaurant. Dante thoroughly enjoyed the motion simulator ride before the dinner, and the meal was a big success in terms of food, ambiance, and entertainment provided by the alien Empress Glorianna.
Our trip home began unfavorably, as it took over half an hour to catch a cab and then over 45 minutes to traverse the 15 blocks to the Lincoln Tunnel. At the airport we didn’t have any difficulties this time, and much to our surprise, the lady from behind us on the way to NYC was flying back with us! Dante was exhausted so as soon as we got into the air he slept for 4 hours. I read an entire Grisham novel and just as I finished the last page, Dante woke up and requested dinner. Then he spent the rest of the flight playing peek-a-boo and talking with The Lady That No Longer Hates Flying.
Anyhow, enjoy the pictures from the Big Apple!