This weekend we had the most fabulous time trapped on Total Freedom Island with relatives. Well, I should say the Total Freedom Islands, because they are actually an archipelago of islands at the mouth of the Hudson River; which include Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, Roosevelt Island, Randal’s Island, and Riker’s Island (although there’s no freedom there at all). Also, let’s not forget the various smaller islands across the Buttermilk Channel; Governor’s Island, Liberty Island, Ellis Island and others. My husband has cousins from another funny little island called Rhode Island, which isn’t an island at all, a fact that makes complete sense if you know that Rhode Island is a place where milkshakes are called cabinets. So when we have visitors, we do all the things New Yorkers never do trapped on these islands with their total freedom.
We went to the freest of all the Total Freedom Islands; Liberty Island. That’s the island that I noticed even the statue is trying to get off of. She’s marching to Manhattan and so when you try to get a picture of your family in front of her, since you are facing Staten Island, you’ll get her backside. We didn’t do much with our freedom there because all the tours to the top of the crown were booked until October, but thankfully the boats kept coming and we escaped Liberty Island. The concessions are grim and you would truly perish and die on that that island if you were stuck.
Then we marched on to Total Freedom Island – Ellis Island. Ellis Island was truly fascinating, but you must get the audio tour to fully appreciate it. There are enlightening first-hand accounts from the very people who entered the country through it’s gates. One Italian recounted her impressions of the food on Ellis Island. She, as a child, was surprised by the state of bread in the U.S. and melancholy that she was leaving the crusty bread of Italy behind to live somewhere with mushy bread. I can attest that the concessions on Ellis Island are no better now. So we huddled in masses in the rain waiting to get back to Total Freedom Island Manhattan, where there are better bread options (but not as great as Brooklyn). While on Ellis Island, I did notice the variety of people from all over the world embracing Americanism in spite of the actions we engage in globally, in spite of all the ethnic and racial issues we are still battling internally, in spite of our economic inequality and especially in spite of our Donald Trumps. I know if I went to another country, I wouldn’t wrap myself in it’s flag or wear it’s national symbols, and yet I saw people from all over the world, Latin Americans in particular, wearing the flag with seemingly internalized pride. Perhaps the transformative potential that initially drew immigrants to the U.S. still remains and supersedes all present conditions. It did give me hope of that anyway.
The weekend continued on Total Freedom Island – Brooklyn, where the children were left with a sitter and the parents dined at a restaurant that perhaps embodies some of that American transformative spirit. Located in Clinton Hill, The Finch is a seasonal American restaurant in a newly-renovated brownstone, that at 120 years old is the same vintage as Ellis Island. The finch is named for a bird that changes it’s feathers with the season, just as the restaurant transforms it’s menu to adapt to seasonally available produce. Over succulent pork croquettes, that may or may not be currently on the menu, we ironically discussed our children’s total lack of freedom. Our cousin recounted how as a child she was permitted to freely wander in her neighborhood, something she doesn’t allow her own children to do today. Thirty years ago children would ride their bike or wander through neighborhoods, parks or along the side of roads, but today it could get a parent arrested for child neglect. We speculated that as a consequence of our hyper supervision, we were raising a generation of kids with no ability to make decisions without asking their parents first. It became obvious we might be raising generation that lacks autonomy, something American freedom demands.
Our cousin also reminisced about going through every drawer in her parents’ bedroom, discovering The Joy of Sex, a book so many parents of the time had hidden. They also picked through the attic, finding their father’s hidden box of magazines stowed. Parents used to hide this stuff and foolishly never suspected these items would ever be discovered. Parents still falsely believe that they can hide inappropriate or unsafe items from their children. Guns immediately come to mind. My children are just now getting to the age when nothing is safe from preying eyes, but now the hidden box is the internet and they don’t need my secret stash. They have access to the world’s secret stash. Holy Cr@p! We have created the Total Freedom Island Generation! This is a generation that has no physical freedom to roam, interact socially, make mistakes or choices that define who they believe themselves to be, and yet total freedom in terms of access to everything! Sit with that for a moment.
Well, we drank to much Cava at The Finch to solve that one, so we figured we’d view the Total Freedom Island generation in their native habitat at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. I’ve been before and had a great time playing a game that is usually associated with retirees from an entirely different generation. However, now shuffleboard is being thoroughly embraced by young whipper snappers and this time they snatched up all the lanes! We arrived to find The Royal Palms packed as usual with a two hour wait for a lane, but we did view an impressive game of Jenga. I’ve never seen a life-sized Jenga game or a team of real life HBO Girls beat it, but that’s just what these girls did! They stacked until there were none left to pull, accumulating a total height reaching a disco ball. I am in the generation of Jenga. I understand Jenga. I am an almost 40 year old woman who wears her signature 80’s jean jacket and I was ready to stack. Jenga is my kind of fun. Ah, maybe there’s hope for the Total Freedom Island Generation after all. If only they can beat the Jenga of life.
The next day was Sunday June 28, 2015 and we got trapped on an ecstatically blissful Total Freedom Island – Manhattan. Our child friendly plan included Eataly and the Museum of Math, but we forgot about the Gay Pride Parade, whose route cut us off at every turn. I hate a parade, but I love a good Supreme Court ruling. Just in case you live under a rock, Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade happened to coincide with Friday’s historic legalization of gay marriage. We did make it to Eataly and because there were so many parade distractions out on Broadway, we had the place virtually to ourselves! We had a great lunch in the Birreria of deep-fried sweetbreads and pigs’ ears, a tomato-almond based Trapanese Pesto Pasta dish, plates of salumi and cheeses, and roasted quail over polenta; all phenomenal with a fantastic rooftop view.
We gave up on the Museum of Math because we could not cross Broadway, but not before the kids got one final lesson in culture on our Total Freedom Islands. They noticed… BOOBS! In the spirit of Topfreedom female parade goers exercised their New York State right to go topless. If you recall from an earlier post, I went to Lalapalooza in 1992, which happens to be the year that toplessness was legalized for women in New York. Oh the freedom that summer! The truth is the children weren’t fazed at all by the prospect of men marrying men or women marrying women, but it seems there is lot’s of work left to change public opinion on Topfreedom. It really got the giggles going in any event. My son, however, looked away stating, “As someone who is just starting to go through puberty, I feel that’s something I shouldn’t be looking, at at this time.” I asked, “What do you think will happen if you look directly at a breast… actually never mind. Just keep that to yourself.” After all, autonomy is the freedom to privacy, and so I backed off from my line of questioning.
Forced to change course, we made our way west to the High Line, enjoyed the foliage, the art, and the architecture along the formerly-abandoned railway track turned park until we hit another police blockade and a detour. The day culminated with us unintentionally ending up in the West Village, the epicenter of the marriage equality festivities. With five kids among us and crowds growing, exhaustion set in along with a feeling that we couldn’t get off Total Freedom Island! Thanks to underground subway tunnels (built by immigrants) we did make it home. At that moment and many others, I really appreciated the freedom of public transit. Along with all our historic sights, unique parks, terrible concessions, terrific restaurants, beautiful old brownstones, shuffleboard, hyper-vigilant parents, boobs, gays, and immigrants; public transit is one more reason to love the Total Freedom Islands of New York. We hope our relatives enjoyed getting trapped on them as much as we did.