Hang On

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It’s been an interesting couple of months, to put it mildly. Actually, life has been interesting for longer than that, but the past two months or so have been particularly momentous, seeing the culmination of a number of things long in the making.

Coming Out to My Daughters
About two and a half months ago, I guess, I came out to my two daughters and my wife, from whom I’d already been separated for four years. We were still legally married  because we were too broke to pay for the divorce, and mostly in order to facilitate our younger daughter staying within and graduating from her school district. I’d stressed terribly over how, and when, to come out to them. I’d already been out to a number of friends and colleagues, but coming out to family is a whole different thing. If a friend, even a good friend, doesn’t take the news well, and they cut ties with you, it’s a disappointment. Having that same kind of reaction and rejection from a family member is the great terror that robs gay men of cumulative months of sleep as they envision every possible coming-out scenario in their waking and sleeping hours.

Ultimately, the timing of my coming out was determined by unexpected events unfolding, and not by grand plan. My boyfriend had come for a visit, and we’d planned to drive down into southern Ohio and do some hiking and sightseeing in the beautiful Hocking Hills region. We had just left my place, and had set out on the 45-minute drive, when I received a text from younger daughter, asking to borrow my large suitcase for her imminent departure to Switzerland, where she’d soon be starting her undergraduate studies. Beyond the fact that I actually needed the suitcase for my own upcoming move, I realized that when she arrived at the house to “borrow” it, she’d be curious about the strange car parked in the driveway. But your kid is your kid and you’d do anything for them. I figured I’d just pick up a second-hand suitcase for myself in a thrift store, so I told her that it was OK for her to stop by and pick it up. A little while later, as I’m driving, I get a text:

“Dad, are you seeing someone?”

Wow, I hadn’t expected that – but I figured I could brush it aside easily enough.

“LOL! No, my friend George from Toronto came for a short visit and I decided to show him the Hocking Hills.”

“Yeah, are you seeing him?”

Wow. “Are you seeing him?”, not even stopping along the way at “Are you gay?” Had she had suspicions about me for some time? Had she put things together in her own mind before I could make my own announcement? I didn’t think so, but I also know that we human beings can often delude ourselves in the worst way. How am I supposed to say something, via text, while driving, that in even my best-case scenario would be a sit-down conversation of at least an hour? Try keeping the car on the road while processing that. Hell, try not wanting to deliberately drive off the road into a concrete abutment just to avoid the whole thing.

I realized two things. First, I was too big of a coward to actually tell the truth in that moment, in that way. Second, I had to text back quickly, because a long delay in answering the question would automatically give an answer I wasn’t prepared to give. So with a knot in my stomach and with my hands trembling, I typed as quickly as I could.

“Um, no. But in any case, the suitcase is in the downstairs hallway, make sure that you don’t…..”

I deflected. And then, for the next couple of days, I was sick to my stomach. I’d just lied to my daughter. I’d lied about something that was very important, and lying to her about anything just ran contrary to everything I believe about parent-child relationships. After a very stressful and not at all enjoyable day of hiking, I decided that I was going to have to come clean to my daughters, and quickly – which would also mean that I was going to have to come out to my soon-to-be-ex wife, and to my parents, and to the rest of my immediate family, in rapid succession.

I arranged to have dinner with the girls at a favorite local casual restaurant. We had a great time together. After we’d eaten, I started in with the younger, texting daughter.

“You know, you sent me some texts the other day that really took me by surprise. But I’m curious; I wanted to ask you: How would you feel if I were seeing someone?”

“Omigosh! Are you?”

“Well, just answer the question first. How would you feel?”

Slight pause…

“Well, I don’t know. Would it be a woman, or a man?”

Zing. She has to suspect. I actually feel encouraged by this. Maybe it isn’t going to be as  big a thing as I’d been fearing.

“Well, how would you feel if it were a woman?”

“It wouldn’t bother me. I’d be OK with it.” (Older daughter concurs at this point.)

Deep breath…

“OK… and how would you feel… if it were another man?”

Momentary awkward silence.

Older daughter chimes in: “Well, if that were the case, I just want to say I’d be OK with it. I mean, I’d have to get used to it, but we’re all who we are, and if you’re gay, that doesn’t change anything between us.”

Unfortunately, younger daughter, whose line of questioning had started this chain reaction to begin with, was not anywhere near as conciliatory. She was taking it hard.

“But you’re the one that asked if I were seeing a man!”

“I was kidding!”

No you weren’t, I thought to myself. But this wasn’t the time to argue about that.

“What about the church that you just took the new job at? Do they know? Are you going to have to quit your job?”

“No, the church knows; I told them the very first time we talked.”

“Oh… wait… so they knew before we did?!!”

This was not going well. The remainder of the meal was tense, on at least one front.

Coming Out to My Soon-to-be-Ex-Wife
Two days later, I came out to their mother over lunch. When I got to the big declaration, her response was to smile and say “I knew it! Honestly, I’d have never suspected it, but after you went up to Toronto to see your friend twice so soon, and then you said you wanted to see George Takei at the Pride Parade, I really started to suspect it.” Of course, she had a number of questions, and maybe she’ll have more as time unfolds, and I tried to answer them as best as I could, even while I try to work out the answers to some of them myself.

A major factor in deciding to come out when I did was that younger daughter was leaving the country for school – remember the suitcase? I knew that I’d be coming out once and for all in very short order, and I wanted to do so with her in person, rather than via phone, Skype, or blog post. I’d deferred the start of the new pastoral position so that I’d be able to see her off at the airport when she left. Unfortunately, that was not to be. After our dinner, she got word to me via her mother that she didn’t want to see me, or talk to me, or hear from me, or have any contact from me. This has been the single negative reaction that I’ve received over my coming out (at least the only one actually spoken). It hurt, and continues to hurt, in a way beyond description. Before, I’d been Pops. Now, I didn’t even exist.

But, she’s eighteen. I remember being eighteen, and so black-and-white certain that I knew how the world worked and that I had all the right answers, well past eighteen. Just as I’d hurt other people with my own actions, I’m getting some of it back now, and just as those people had been patient with me until I came around, I can only do the same in the hopes that she will. I think she will, but it’s going to take some time. So I wait.

Coming Out to My Parents
In the midst of all this, I was shuttling back and forth between Columbus and New York, making final arrangements for the new job. During one of those trips shortly after coming out to the girls and their mother, I doglegged through Pennsylvania and did the same with my mother, and my father and his wife. It was grueling. Telling them was difficult – not, as I explained then, because I’m ashamed of who I am, but rather, because I knew that this news had the potential to cause them pain, and that was the last thing I’d ever want to do. As it turned out, those conversations ended up going about as well as I could have ever hoped – and far better than they did in the nightmares that had awakened me in the middle of countless nights. After the initial awkwardness, Dad’s response was “Well it sure isn’t the kind of news I’d ever wanted to hear, or expected to hear. But as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t change anything. You’re my son, and I love you, and I’ll always love you, and nothing can ever change that.” He went on, “The only thing I worry about is that you’ve just had such a tough time of things for so long now, and I want things to be good and go easy for you for a change, and I just worry that this is going to continue to make things difficult for you.”

Telling Mom went differently, but ultimately just as well. After the initial shock, and running through the religious issues she had with the news, she thought very carefully about what I was saying. She ended up asking me some incredibly good questions, very thoughtful questions. I’d given Mom and Dad both copies of Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian, since I knew they’d both have reservations on religious grounds. At one point, Mom said “Well, I guess it’s just the way I’ve always said – hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Realizing that even that was a step in the right direction, I said, “Well, I hope that at some point, you get to the point where you don’t believe there’s any sin in this to hate.” She said, “I guess the first time I really saw this out of the abstract, as a real human issue, is when I saw the movie Philadelphia.”

“Well, if you’d like, I could recommend a few other movies that might help you as you think through all of this. Would you like me to send some to you?”

“Yes, I think I’d like that.”

In my nightmares, I’d envisioned having to dodge things being thrown at me, and being banished from the house. Don’t imagine that coming out to your parents is any less scary when you’re in your fifties than if you did it in your twenties. In reality, I was amazed at how accepting of this new reality they both were. I thought that the ability for me to be amazed by my parents had long passed. I was wrong. I’m sure that there will be bumps along the way, but my parents are amazing.

Coming Out to Everyone Else
With the immediate family now having been told, I was able to make the final, once-and-for-all coming out announcement, via a blog post,  to everyone else who hadn’t already been let into the circle of trust, to borrow a phrase from Meet the Parents. I did this the day after leaving the Columbus congregation – they’re dealing with a lot of other turmoil and transition at the moment; I didn’t want to add this drama onto them as well – and the day before starting in New York, so that I would be starting here completely out to everyone from the get-go. That single blog post had exponentially more hits than anything else I’ve ever posted here. Still, I’ve been encountering people who had missed the announcement, necessitating a series of re-coming outs. That will continue into the future, I suppose. Here again, the only comments I’ve gotten have been positive and very supportive. Of course, I’m not so naive as to think that the news was met with universal acceptance. I’m sure that there are a number of people who are not supportive; they’ve just chosen to say nothing rather than offer their thoughts openly. That’s more civil, I suppose, but I almost wish that I’d know if someone has written me out of their lives over this. Even worse is the scenario where a person says they’re OK with the news, but they really aren’t, and they gradually, quietly just disengage. There are a few people that I think may be doing this at the moment. I hope not.

Saying Goodbye
My last day of pastoring in Columbus was Sunday, August 17th, and I couldn’t have imagined a more wonderful and heartfelt sendoff from the congregation in my dreams. It was a great service, and a deeply emotional final sermon, followed by a touching reception. This congregation had meant so much to me, for so many years. I was so blessed to have been part of them all of that time.

(Not) Saying Goodbye
The very next day, my younger daughter left the country, without my being able to see her, much less talk with her, hug her. I actually considered hiding behind a column or a plant at the terminal, just to be able to at least see her before she left. As hard as it was, though, I respected her wishes that I not be there, no matter how much it hurt. And it hurt a lot.

Saying Hello
The day after daughter left for Switzerland, I left for Auburn, New York, and the day after that, I was already at work in the new position. A parishioner very graciously allowed me to stay in an unoccupied, but fully furnished home of theirs, enabling me to transition into the new surroundings quickly, and allowing me to make the full-scale transition more gradually. I’ve been living with limited stuff, out of suitcases (including the second-hand one I bought at the thrift store to replace the one that daughter took to Switzerland) and banana boxes. I can’t wait to get into my own place. The new congregation is also wonderful. I’ve spent the past month getting to know the people, the congregational culture, the city. I definitely like it here.

Back to Columbus – The Dissolution
My wife and I had finally gotten our dissolution paperwork filed, and of course, the hearing was set for three weeks after the new job started in New York. So last week, I had to drive a 14-hour round trip to appear in front of a judge for what couldn’t have been more than two minutes, answering Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes… to a handful of questions that we’d both already answered in the paperwork. Ah well. After being separated for four years, almost to the day, and with not even a wisp of fanfare, our marriage of 26 years (actually 22 together) was over. We joked in the elevator on the way out of the building. A few hours later, we met up again for a celebratory happy hour drink at the restaurant where older daughter worked. Then, back to Auburn the next morning, and back to work.

And Back to Columbus Again – the Real Move
Tomorrow morning, I drive back to Columbus again. This time, I finish up the last of the packing and start giving the house its final cleaning. The movers show up early Monday morning to pack everything up and, sometime a few days later, deliver it to my new permanent home in Auburn. There are a couple of things I need to drop off, a couple of goodbyes to share, and a set of keys to drop off at the landlord’s. And of course, older daughter and now ex-wife and I will go out for a nice dinner. Then early Tuesday morning, I leave the city I’ve called home since August of 1984.

This past week, a parishioner here commented that she was staggered, thinking of all of the upheaval and changes that I’d navigated in just the past couple of months. I thought a lot about that comment. The real truth is that – as my Dad had alluded to – there have been a near-continual string of major disasters and problems, which won’t be detailed here now,  that I’ve had to get through in my life, running back to probably about 2001. As much as I’d never wish any of those truly awful experiences on even my worst enemy, I really think that going through them taught me how to endure all these multiple, very stressful things in recent times. As difficult as so many of these things are, I’ve taught myself to compartmentalize them, and to be able to continue in a reasonably normal, sane, even good-natured way, even with things being very different while inside each of those various other “compartments.” I do also know this, and I know that there’s a risk of sounding superficial or corny, but I know that there’s no way that I could have gotten through all of this anywhere nearly as well, by simply relying on my own strength or smarts. The collective pressures and stresses that all of these things placed upon me could easily have crushed me like a Dixie Cup, and yet, somehow, I’m still here. Yes, I attribute that to God. Some people might think that clergy have a lot more about God figured out than the average person. I doubt that, actually; I think that we’re just taught a larger and better vocabulary to camouflage the gaps in our understanding. I think that the net result of my education has been that I’m less sure about what I think I know about God than when I began – and maybe that’s the whole point. But I do know that somehow, inextricably embedded within the deepest depths and the highest highs of our experience, there is an incredible, mysterious Something that is so real that you can feel the Something on your skin, hear the Something in your head, feel the Something in your heart, as real as anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. Others may call the Something something else; I call the Something God, and if the past two months, and the past decade, has taught me anything, it’s that I really can do all things through the Something that I also call Christ, who strengthens me.

So, I wonder what’s going to happen next month? I can only imagine. All I can do is just hang on, and enjoy the ride.

Goodbye, Sfoglia, Hello, World – A Late-Night Postcard from the NYC Daughter

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My daughter Erica called me last night, somewhere between It’s Really, Really Late and Are You Freaking Kidding Me? This is actually when she normally calls, as she’s walking home from the subway station after she’s gotten done with a long night’s work at Sfoglia, the restaurant where she’s been working. Yesterday was actually her last day working there. She’d been having some difficulties with a few of her co-workers, which had become emotionally draining and was causing her to doubt her own abilities and self-worth. Naturally, this affected her job performance, which only added to the stress. But yesterday – a double-shift for her – was, as she described it, her Best Day Ever there. Actually, most of it wasn’t really there at all; Sfoglia was one of a number of restaurants participating in a charity auction to benefit a private school somewhere in the city, and the Johnny, the Executive Chef, asked Erica to go along and be his assistant there. Apparently, Hugh Jackman’s kid attends this school, and he donated a set of those metal claw-like things that pop out of his hands in the X-Men movies to be auctioned off. Another item there was a Tom Hanks-autographed “Wilson” volleyball. Jackman was there himself, and although he didn’t eat any of their stuff, Erica says she got within a few feet of him. She also served up food to Edie Falco and several other Sopranos stars. More than the actors and actresses, though, she was most awestruck by being in the presence of food guru/chef/resauranteur David Burke, who owns several highly regarded restaurants, including Fishtail, where Erica and I ate last week while I was in town. He came up and tried some of their food, and he chit-chatted a bit with Johnny. For her part, Erica said she tried her best to busy herself with food prep, so she wouldn’t just stand there staring pie-eyed at him. In downtime during the event, Johnny let her go around to the various restaurants’ setups, and she got to sample tons of great food, and even got a little bit of indirect culinary networking in. She enjoyed watching the auction play out, and through the day, she and Johnny got to have a lot of very good, very constructive, very positive and supportive one-on-one conversation, with him telling her very good things about herself and her skills that she really needed to hear after these past several months. It’s just a shame that it took until her last day for her to hear them. Of course, she’s really just starting out in her career and still has much to learn, but he was complimentary and offered to help her in any way he could in the future, including offering a positive reference for her in future job searches. He also extended a complimentary specialty meal for her and a friend at the restaurant on a date of her choosing. They did eventually get back to the restaurant, where the primary trouble-making coworker skulked off into the shadows without saying anything to Erica on this last day, as ignorant, small-minded shit-stirrers so typically end up doing in these situations. In hindsight, Erica realized that was actually the very best thing that could have happened, considering how truly wonderful the whole day turned out for her. Good on ya, Erica; you have the whole world ahead of you. The old man loves you and is so proud of you.

New York, Day Two

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Some, well… stuff… for sale in an open-air market in Chinatown. I don’t have a clue what any of it is, but there you are anyway.

Day Two wasn’t quite as jam-packed as the first, but we still had a great time. Erica and I started out by walking through Chinatown. We didn’t eat there, since we already had lunch plans, but the food smelled great, the shops selling fresh vegetables, spices, seafood, meats, and so on were very cool, too. We were looking for a Buddhist Temple that Erica saw online, and we finally found it. It was very interesting, very impressive (except for the acoustical tile ceiling, which I was probably the only person there that day who’d notice it). We also stumbled across a beautiful old synagogue in Chinatown. We’d have toured it, but the ten dollar admission price seemed a bit steep, so we took a rain check. We were told that if we came back on a Monday, admission was free. Well, maybe next trip. After Chinatown, we walked through SoHo toward The Dutch, where we had an amazing lunch. While we were waiting for our table, someone called out “Hi, Erica!” It was Carlos, one of her coworkers at Sfoglia and who was one of the people who’d taken such great care of us the night before at dinner. She’d forgotten that he worked here also, and he ended up partially taking care of us there, too. The lunch was fantastic. Erica had a steak tartare appetizer, fried chicken with honey biscuits, and finished with a chocolate semifreddo for dessert. We’d just had the semifreddo the night before, but she wanted to see how this one compared with the one at her place. It was very good, but not as good as Sfoglia’s, in her opinion (plus, the one at Sfoglia was as big as my head; this one was a much more petite, Restaurant Week prix fixe size). I had an arugula/peach/gouda/pine nut salad; followed by rigatelli pasta with spicy duck sausage, fava beans and Parmesan cheese. For dessert, I had the cherry crisp, which would have been delicious if it were served hot, or even warm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t; it was barely room temperature, in fact. The cherry filling had thickened and hardened into a gel in places. Overall, it was better than a cherry Hostess lunch pie you’d impulse-buy when paying for your gas or lottery tickets, but the fact that the comparison even came to mind isn’t a good thing. That’s probably making it sound worse than it actually was. Hey, it’s Restaurant Week; the place was packed, the staff was slammed, these things happen. No big deal. The experience and meal here, overall, was still top-notch, and I’d definitely love to eat there again sometime.

After lunch – or maybe it was just before; I can’t remember – we bumped into the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua, the first Roman Catholic church built in the U.S. to serve Italian immigrants, according to a plaque outside. Erica and I figured we’d already wandered into a Buddhist temple and a synagogue, and the door was open, so we took a peek inside. The architecture was impressive. I have to admit, though – and this is equal parts of my Reformed theology and just my personal aesthetic – I’ve never been a huge fan of all the statues of saints and various people that are so common in Catholic churches. I am not trying to diss Catholics; far from it. It’s just a personal thing here. I think that most of the statues are not very tastefully executed, are garishly or tackily (is that a word?) painted – and when people put actual fabric clothing on them, that’s even more bizarre to me. I’m sorry. As I said, I’m not anti-Catholic. I just think that the statues end up detracting from the primary purpose of the church structure, contrary to their intention, and in some cases, aesthetically they’re just kind of creepy. Having said that, the building itself was exquisite, and provided a welcome sense of shelter where one could feel the presence of God. I wasn’t aware of it when we were there, but browsing their website, it appears that St. Anthony’s has been the backdrop in a number of movies.

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Tessio, Vito Corleone, and Clemenza in front of St. Anthony’s, The Godfather II

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The Feast of St. Rocco in front of St. Anthony’s, The Godfather II

After that, we trekked up to see The High Line, a really neat linear urban park that’s reclaimed a vacated elevated rail line; a great urban oasis.

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The High Line

I have to admit, though, that by this time I was starting to drag. I’m not an old geezer yet, but by this point, I was realizing that I’m 53, not 23, so we started our way home. We ended up shopping for shorts for Erica at the Queens Center Mall before we got home, though. After a nap back at her place, we were kind of domestic – doing some laundry and some grocery shopping; then, instead of going to Coppelia for dinner as originally planned, we just stayed in, ordered some Chinese delivery, and watched episodes of Parks & Recreation and Archer on Netflix. That was about all I was good for, and at about midnight, I called it a night.

New York, Day One

Just a quick shot of the Farmers’ Market at Union Square. That’s Erica in the shadows at the far left.

Erica and I had a great day yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot and no rain. Our first stop was to wander around the farmers’ market at Union Square for a short while. She’s been looking for an aloe plant to go along with the thyme, basil, and tarragon she’s growing. She’s a Game of Thrones fan, and she’s painted each of the pots with designs of the various family symbols or crests or whatever – forgive my ignorance; I’m not a GoT person, but her decorative artwork on the terracotta is really nice. We didn’t find her plant lady at the market, so that will be another day’s purchase. We walked a couple of blocks to the Sushi Samba, where we were planning to have lunch, but they didn’t open until noon and it was only about twenty till. Not wanting to stick around, we went over to Chelsea Market, wandered around the newer shops, and had some terrific gelati. We stopped in at Bowery Kitchen to look for her chef pants, but she was looking for pants that were specifically cut for women, and all they had were unisex ones that she has now and doesn’t like. After that, we went over to her old neighborhood in the West Village and had lunch at the Sushi Samba over there. The place is a blend of Asian, Peruvian, and Brazilian influences, which sounds kind of strange but actually works very well. After starting with some edamame, I had a Samba 7 and she had a Bobo Brazil. They were both very good. The atmosphere was nice and the staff was great. A very good start to our Restaurant Week ramblings.

After that, we walked around the corner and onto Christopher Street, going by her old apartment building and stopping right nextdoor at the Greenwich Letterpress, the cool little shop I mentioned earlier.

From there, we decided to go to the Guggenheim Museum. Probably not the best choice. I really wanted to give Erica the “real” Guggenheim experience: walk in, see the big skylight above with the main galleries spiraling down; take the odd little Frank Lloyd Wright elevator to the top and spiral your way down as you alternate looking at art and looking out into the open central space. That was the plan, anyway. Unfortunately, the main galleries are all empty right now, due to an installation by James Turrell. If you are among the unenlightened (there’s a pun there, actually), as I was, Turrell is an artist who “explores the perception and materiality of light.” In this case, what that means is that the open spirals of entire central atrium of the main museum are all sealed shut with some sort of fabric, which is then illuminated with a pinkish light. Visitors are invited to lie on their backs on large cushions and gaze up into the ethereal pink spiral, which is interesting, but in a fifteen-seconds kind of way, before you shrug your shoulders like Chevy Chase in Vacation and want to move on. Even at that, it’s only interesting if you can get a spot on the cushions to lie back and really enter into the experience, and from what saw, it looked like many of the back-liers had signed a long-term lease for their spots. I suppose that if I were feeling particularly meditative and contemplative, I might have appreciated the installation more. But I don’t tend to feel that way when I’m in the midst of several hundred people crammed into a relatively small spot, yammering at each other, moving through the space, and having staff people calling out instructions to them, since they all get dumped into the space immediately upon entering the space beyond the ticket counter. Feh.

All the main galleries, on the spiral, were completely empty. It was actually very depressing. I suppose there are any number of artists, living and dead, who are smirking at the idea that, after years of the building itself competing with the art for attention, finally an artist has turned the tables on the architect and gotten some kind of redress, at least until September.

Turrell also has a gallery of his work in one of the ancillary galleries – mostly photographs of his manipulating light to achieve various appearances, as well as two examples of live-projection of light onto wall surfaces in order to show how the light and actual hard surfaces interact and give the light itself “surface” and materiality. As we wandered through that exhibit, the look on Erica’s face was priceless – a combination of wise-to-the-world incredulity and humor; a silent “Really? You have got to be shitting me” that almost made me burst into laughter. Honestly, the experiments, photos, and projections of light manipulation reminded me very much of exercises we’d done way back in the day, in some of our earliest Visual Communications classes in architecture school. I said that to Erica and she replied “Yes, and that’s exactly where they should have stayed.” Smart one, she is.

In fairness, there were other galleries open showcasing great art. I was also pleased to see that there was an exhibition dedicated to the 1953 exhibit, which was built on the current site of the museum itself, of Wright’s work. Inside a temporary pavilion, they staged a retrospective of his architecture and built an example of one of his Usonian houses. The 1953 exhibit sounds like it was very interesting. The 2013 exhibit, however, was far less impressive. A handful of photographs, enlargements of a few documents, and a couple of storyboards, tucked into an awkward little space in the basement of the annex building. Really, I’ve seen local small-town libraries do a better job of putting together an exhibition. It was an embarrassment; if that were all they were going to do to recognize the anniversary of the event, they shouldn’t have bothered even the small amount they did. The Guggenheim excursion was a major disappointment; a not-insignificant cost for two admissions essentially flushed down the toilet.

But every day has its clouds, I suppose, and thankfully that was a minor one. After walking out of the Guggenheim and while still ridiculing and laughing at Turrell, we stuck our heads very briefly into Central Park, and also stepped into an adjacent Episcopal Church to just sit for a minute and soak in the experience and appreciate the beautiful stained glass, before heading back home. There, we hung out a bit, took a short nap, got changed and headed back out for dinner.

Sfoglia has a quiet, unimposing presence on the street, and inside it’s a small, intimate setting. Our experience there was incredible, from start to finish. All of the staff were very friendly and helpful, and the food was excellent.

I remember back in my business days how nice it felt, and how genuinely appreciative I was, when the occasional perk came my way. I was always especially appreciative when these perks extended to my family or the people I worked with. I’ve told people before that now, I enjoy even more when I’m the beneficiary of some special pampering, recognition, and treatment, and it isn’t because it’s *me,* but rather, because I happen to be with *my daughter.* And while the restaurant industry doesn’t always pay tremendously, they definitely take care of their own “family” when dining, hosting the table with any number of complimentary, specially-prepared dishes not on the menu and just being treated unbelievably warmly. The general manager spoke with us several times during the evening, and made an excellent wine suggestion for dinner. The executive chef was off last night, but Roger, the sous chef stopped by the table several times to check up on things and to chitchat. He told us to order lightly; that they had us covered for the evening. I wish that I knew just how lightly he’d meant. Starting with some very tasty cocktails, our appetizers were clams and affettati, a plate of three different and delicious cured meats.

It must have been about this time that a trio were seated at the table next to us – a large, middle-aged man with either a bad hair dye or a bad toupe, very nicely dressed, and his plain, similarly middle-aged and nicely dressed wife, along with a third man sitting opposite them. I wasn’t really trying to eavesdrop, but they were seated very close to us. I couldn’t quite determine the relationship between the couple and the individual man, but he went on and on about his various travels with his family, extended vacations in France, throughout Italy, and elsewhere on the continent. Through most of the meal, the large man seemed to almost be grilling the other, engaged in a kind of travel-based penis measuring comparing their various trips and what the individual man had, or had not, done when he’d visited various places. In the back and forth between the two men, the wife was almost forgotten in the conversation. I felt sorry for her, both for having been married to this pretentious guy with the bad hair, as well as for having been mostly shut out of the conversation while the two men vied for position like gladiators of globetrotting.

In any case, just after our appetizers arrived, Roger the sous chef sent out our first special dish – deep-fried lobster tail served over a mango/corn/wild parsley mixture, served on a wood plank. Wow, this dish was awesome; absolute perfection. At some point, they really should put it on the menu. Actually, when it came out, the woman at the next table asked their server, “Ooh, what is that; can we have that?” and she was told no ma’am, that’s a special presentation from the chef; that guest is one of our employees, along with her father, who’s visiting from out of town. From that point on, I notice the large man with bad hair glowering at me from time to time. Sweet.

After that came a risotto dish for Erica, and an order of pappardelle for me. Both were absolutely wonderful, and the conversation was equally enjoyable. Along with a dessert, this could have been a great night just as it was. But there was more to come. In addition to this, the kitchen sent out a perfectly prepared flatiron steak with a sechuan-peppercorn sauce, served over a bed of some unidentified greens; along with a half-chicken with lemon. The two of us managed to force down the medallions of steak, but we couldn’t even begin the chicken – we bagged it and took it home. Of course, stuffed or not, no meal is complete without dessert, and along it came – a chocolate semifreddo with hazelnuts, easily large enough for two; plus a large plate of various cookies made on-site. It was all amazing. Way more than any two people should eat, of course, but everything about the experience – the friendliness, the atmosphere, and especially the food – was world class. All during the meal, I’d been keeping a rough running tab in my head of the meal’s cost, and at one point gave up thinking, “Oh what the heck, you only live once, and you’re having a great time in Manhattan with your daughter. So you don’t eat anything but oatmeal for the rest of the month; big deal.” After the employee discount, and the large amount of food and drink that was comped us, the check was, in relative terms, embarrassingly low. Thank you, Sfoglia, for your part in giving me the gift of a wonderful evening of dining with my beautiful daughter.

And now, it’s a new day. On to the next thing.

Let’s Get On with the Day

Sitting here in daughter’s apartment, waiting for her to get up. She stayed up a good bit later than I did; with all the travel I wasn’t able to get my post-church nap yesterday and was really dragging by last night. We did get a snack last night – some yogurt from Red Mango in Rego Center, a short walk from her little place in LeFrak City. We managed to get in just before they closed, and ate it out at the open-air tables in the covered walkway just outside the shop. It was a perfect, beautiful evening to be out. Then we walked back to her place and shared some late-night delivery chicken while watching episodes of Archer on Netflix till I finally had to call it a night.

She needs to get some women’s chef pants and I told her I’d get her a pair. Unfortunately, it seems that many of the places that carry uniforms only sell men’s items. While she’s been sleeping, I’ve been looking around online and may have found a place – Bowery Kitchen located in the Chelsea Market Building, which we were planning to hit anyway. It looks like a neat place to wander around in regardless, but I’ll be disappointed if they don’t have what she needs. If they don’t, there are a few places further away and a couple of order-online opportunities, but I was surprised at how few options I could find. Sexism is alive and well, at least in the culinary world, apparently. OK, daughter, out of the rack. I didn’t come to town to sit here blogging. Tempis Fugit ‘n all that…