Something Special

Tom and Jan #5I remember the night I messaged her on jdate, The day before Memorial Day. May 30th, 2004.

I remember that first date at Henry’s on 105th and Broadway, in the city. June 5th, 2004. She told me she was a licensed massage therapist. I told her I was an institutional bond salesman. She thought I was a bail bondsman.

I remember when she told me that her birthday was 2 days before mine.

I remember when the waiters removed the metal fence surrounding our outside table at Deluxe, on the UWS, as we were eating dessert. They were closing up for the night. We laughed.

I remember the first kiss outside of the entrance to the apartment building.

I still remember the taxi ride down to Penn Station, and the LIRR ride home.

I remember calling my parents and telling them that I had finally found my soul mate, for real this time.

I remember when she called me to tell me she loved the flowers. Delivery wasn’t until the end of the day. The florist got lost. Thought the flowers were going to Johnny Brick on Carlisle St. We still get a good laugh from that one.

I remember that 2nd date in Central Park. It was on a Friday afternoon. I had brought a shopping bag filled with wine, cheese, and beer.

I remember that third date at the Heartland Brewery. I got to Times Square early and hung out at the Times Square Brewery which no longer exists.

I remember when I saw her apartment for the first time. I stayed until 2AM and then had to drive back to Long Island. There was no staying over.

I remember parking my car on Riverside Drive and walking to LaSalle St. It’s a wonder my car never got towed.

I remember calling my friends and my sister in NJ, “Listen can Marlee sleep at your house this weekend? I’ve got another date with Janice.” Tom and Jan #10After four weekends I had no one else to call.

I remember the July 4th BBQ at Robin & Steve Kushner’s house in Manalopin, NJ. That was the first night I stayed over at the now infamous Club 13E.

I remember the 5th date at the 79th St. Boat Basin. She handed me the key to the apartment.

I remember our first movie: The Notebook. She cried all the way through it.

I remember that trip to Fire Island on the 31st of July. We were much older than everyone else. I don’t think they knew.

I remember the day we drove to Rockaway, NJ to meet my parents.

I remember the day she met 9 year old Marlee. Marlee wanted to play hide and seek at the Harlem Street Festival.

I remember going back to Henry’s celebrating my 42nd birthday.

I remember when her friends Tamar & Lisa took us out for our birthdays. Uncontrollable laughs and a ton of inside jokes. I didn’t mind. They were her friends and I was glad she was having fun.

20130213_202042I remember canoeing in Central Park the week after Labor Day and listening to the Guitar Man.

I remember the day we agreed that I would move in to #13E. I was staying over at least 2-3 times a week by this point. We agreed on a trial run.

I remember our 2nd and 3rd movies: Sideways & Ray.

I remember our first Thanksgiving in NJ. Marlee was with us. When we got back to the apartment, she locked herself in the bathroom with the remote.

I remember that first Chanukah when I took Marlee to see “Christmas With the Cranks” during the day while she took a nap.

I remember driving to Roosevelt, NY to tell my friend Andrew, the guy that I was living with, that I’d be officially moving to NYC. We picked up the rest of my things.

I remember our 4th and 5th movie: Closer & Million Dollar Baby.

I remember our first New Year’s Eve in NJ, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, with my friends George & Alex and Robin & Steve.

I remember closing out the P.O. Box in the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City and letting everyone know that I was now a resident of NYC. That was January of ’05.

I remember our 1st trip to Florida to meet her family. January 13th to the 16th of ’05. We met her 11 year old nephew, Jeremy, for the first time. ItTom and Jan #1 was the first time I’d ever been to Boynton Beach.

I remember when my sister and brother-in-law Steve came into the city. We went for a memorable dinner of Japanese at Kinoko on 72nd and Broadway. It no longer exists.

I remember going away on business to Arizona the first week of April of ’05. It was the first time we’d been apart. It was difficult, but we made it through.

I remember telling her about Marlee’s first play. She couldn’t make it. The Who’s “Tommy.” Marlee was in 4th grade and was in the ensemble. What a production.

I remember our first Passover at my parent’s apartment in April of ’05.

I remember us swimming at Marlee’s 10th birthday party at the Best Western in Fairfield, NJ. It was a pool party.

I remember the Memorial Day parade in Wayne, NJ on Valley Road. We sat in the hot sun and reminisced about what had happened one year earlier.

It’s difficult to describe how much my life has changed over the past nine years. I’ve had to battle through the NJ nightclub scene, travel a few hundred miles to the Catskill Mountains and back, fight through traffic on the LIE and Northern State, only to find the love of my life right here in the Big Apple.                                                                                                Tom, Jan, and Marlee #1

In doing so, I’ve witnessed some very memorable moments:

Tomand Jan #11Like the time fearless Jan proceeded to argue with a very overweight woman on the #1 train downtown. The oversized buxom was peddling $ from men in order to feed her friend. Jan became outraged while I just sat and couldn’t care less. The brew ha-ha became heated but Jan won!

Then there was the time anxious Jan went to hail a cab on Lexington Avenue after my Christmas party in 2006. Unbeknownst to her I was right behind her and got a finger in the eye. The contact lens popped out. She felt so terrible she got down on the pavement in her dress and high heels and hunted til she found the lens. Simply incredible.

One of my favorite ones is the time Jan, Marlee, and I went to see The Incredibles on opening night. During the previews, Jan spilled an entire bag of popcorn on the floor. Til this day, Marlee still jokes about it.

And the other time on the number 1 train. This time it was around 1AM. A burly obnoxious guy was taunting a drunkard sitting next to him. The drunkard had been annoying two women a few minutes before, throwing things at them from where he was sitting. The burly man took out a $100 bill, waved it in front of the drunkard and yelled, “I bet you $100 dolla-s you can’t woop my ass!” Jan immediately stood up in front of a tired and non-caring crowd and said to me, “I’m going over to say something.” My response, “SIT DOWN before you get your ass kicked in!” You gotta love her heart.

Or the time when Jan and Marlee walked into the ladies room in a restaurant. Jan went into one stall, Marlee another. Marlee got done first and came out to where we were sitting. Thinking Marlee was still in the bathroom, after Jan finished up, she bent down and started making funny hand gestures underneath the door in the stall Marlee was in, only Marlee wasn’t in the stall. Pretty embarrassing to see the look on Jan’s face when she walked out into the restaurant and saw Marlee.

You may or may not remember the time Jan got stuck in an elevator on Park and 95th for 2 hours! I kept updating my status on Facebook as she texted me. She had been massaging a client and stepped into an empty elevator at around 11:15 pm. I got a text at 11:30 from her letting me know she was stuck. The texts came every 20 minutes. By 1:15AM she was out. I had almost left the apartment to assist the repairmen. She remained calm until they pulled her out.

Can’t forget the time that Marlee got sick on the NJ Transit going from Fairfield, NJ into the Port Authority. It was a tad repulsive to say the least. Courageous Jan ran Marlee into the ladies room when we arrived in the terminal and cleaned her up. She went beyond that extra mile.

Together we…                                                                                                 Tom and Jan #8

have experienced the Florida weather, enjoyed the Jersey Shore, stomped it up at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, dined at over 150 restaurants, seen over 100 movies in the theater, gave standing ovations at the conclusion of Billy Elliot, Hair, and Mary Poppins on Broadway, admired Joshua Bell at the NY Philharmonic, have not only cheered at many a Yankee game, but have gotten the tour of Yankee Stadium, went wild at our only Knick game with our friends Xiomara & Sergio, took Marlee to her very first acting class in early 2005 and stayed there while she cried the entire time, have been front row at Marlee’s 4th grade graduation, 8th grade graduation, and every play she’s ever been in, rejoiced in family bar-mitvah’s (4), Marlee’s Sweet 16, painted the town of Great Barrington, MA 5 summers in a row on Marlee’s visiting day at camp in upstate NY, met Goldie Hawn, watch our favorite sitcoms Seinfeld, Friends, and Two and a Half Men almost every night, actually gave up Christina Park on Fox 5, in favor of Kaity Tong and the crew on Pix 11, worship our favorite television series Parenthood, as well as Girls and Enlightened, have fallen asleep on the brown couch, have entertained friends and family in Club 13E, have been back to Henry’s…

On this Valentine’s Day in 2013 I’m wishing my best friend and beautiful partner the BEST day ever. Thank you for being there through the good and bad, happy and sad. Your support in everything I’ve done makes life so much better. I love you, always. I’ve had the time of my life………….

Now it’s time for Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, a Dylan song, a NY Times book review, and then… a nap 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StcykXKBHTs

 

                                                                                                                                 Heart #4

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Good Time

“Are you done?” I asked her from the kitchen.  “Marlee, answer me, are you done?”

Girl brushing hairMy daughter, Marlee stood in front of the full length mirror, brushing and flipping her hair from side to side, ignoring me.

“Let’s try this again,” I suggested. “How much longer do you need? We’re only going downtown. It looks fine.”

“You’re just saying that,” she answered.

I sighed and shook my head in disgust.

“I’m getting my shoes on because I need to go outside and get some air. It’s exhausting watching this.”

“No, don’t leave!” she exclaimed.

“You’ve been doodling with your hair for an hour,” I moaned. “It’s time to go.”

“What time does the boat leave?” she asked.Statue Cruises

“It’s not a boat, it’s a ferry, and it’s leaving any minute now.”

I looked at the clock.

“In fact, the last boat left five minutes ago. It looks like it’s another weekend with Hanna Montana.”

“Are you serious?” she asked.

“I’m kidding,” I told her.

“You’re strange,” she commented. “What if we miss the boat?”

“Then we’ll find something else to do,” I told her.

“You always say that and we end up doing nothing,” she whined, pinning her hair back into a ponytail.

September 2nd, 2007, the day before Labor Day. Marlee had returned from her first summer at sleepaway camp in upstate New York the previous week. I’d promised her we’d have fun this Labor Day weekend, her first full weekend back from the wilderness. Every other weekend during the year, we’d go through the same routine. On Friday afternoons, I’d fight the traffic to pick her up on Long Island and bring her to Manhattan. Then we’d have Chinese food delivered, and before long I’d be dozing off to Miley Cyrus singing “Best of Both Worlds,” and waking Hannah Montanaup to Kyle Massey belting out the “Cory in the House” theme song. The smell of lo mein and kung po chicken would reek so bad I’d have to open every window. She’d never notice that I’d cleaned up and aired out any residual odor. On Saturdays, she would sleep until 2 in the afternoon, get up and watch more Disney until it was time for me to take four aspirin with another take out order. Sundays were my opportunity to sneak in a Yankee game on the YES Network while she slept. Shortly after she’d wake up, I’d have to drive her home. Weekends with Marlee had turned into an endless sitcom marathon.

When she had told me that she wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty, I was surprised.

“Really?” I asked her that night on her cell phone.

110_F_35317477_rBXXvERFrfQoIylzsNOyuJaabv8S9WYq “My friend went with her Dad and she said it was really cool,” she answered.

“Which friend?” I remarked.

“You don’t know her,” she replied.

“Must you give me a difficult time?” I asked her. “Maybe I do know who she is. Did you ever think of that?”

“Not really,” she replied.

I told her that the journey would be quite far and she would need to wake up early and shower. We would have breakfast at a diner near the apartment, and then head off for Lady Liberty right after. It would be a full day of sightseeing and picture taking. We’d sniff in the salty air and wander in and out of souvenir shops.

Even though I’d been a resident of New York for years, I was determined to blend in as a tourist as though I’d never seen this Lady before. The last time I’d even had a glimpse of this landmark up close was on an elementary school field trip back in the 60’s. On the bus that day, my third grade friends kept calling her torch lady. I giggled with them and had no idea what was so great about a green lady with spikes in her hat. Four decades later, that green lady was still an American icon, a symbol of freedom, visited by millions of people from around the world. Some, like Marlee, would be seeing her in person for the first time.

12 O'clock noon  Marlee woke up at noon. I had tried ripping the covers off of her at ten. She rolled over. At 10:30, I hovered over her and sang “America the Beautiful.”  She whined and told me to “shut up.” At eleven, I poked her a few times. The end result was a slap on my leg. I shook my head and thought to myself in disappointment, “Another wasted sunny visitation weekend in New York.” At noon, from the kitchen, I had heard voices. Zach and Cody Martin and their Suite Life had entered our studio. Marlee was fixated. It was as if the remote had been under her pillow all night. She strolled into the kitchen at 12:30.

“Are we still going to the diner?” she asked.

“Diner?!” I yelled shaking my head. “Do you know what time it is?”

She sat down on our light purple suede kitchen chair and said nothing.

“If you’d still like to see the Statue, I suggest a shower, now!” I reprimanded.

She stared at me.

“Now!” I screamed.

“That’s not fair,” she groaned, slowly shuffling towards the bathroom.

“Sometimes, life isn’t fair,” I told her.

By 1:30, her light blue and green Junior Mints shirt had been pulled over her head. The hour long blow drying escapade was almost finished. The day’s itinerary was slowly drifting into another time zone.

“The last ferry leaves at 4:30,” I told her. “It’s 2 o’clock now. We may not make it.”

“How do you know?” she asked me.

“I just called and got a recording,” I told her.

“You promised Daddy,” she answered.

“If we leave now, we may have a chance, otherwise, we’ll have to do something else.” I explained.

She sighed and with reluctance said, “Fine.”

By the time we rode the elevator down to the lobby of the building it was 2:30. A warm breeze splashed our faces in the mid-day sun as we headed for the subway. I was wearing my cut-off New York Yankees t-shirt, jeans, and black Timberland Smart Comfort shoes. Marlee followed in her summer attire seeming anxious, yet annoyed that I’d quickly outpaced her.

Several hundred feet from the entrance to the escalator leading up to the subway platform at 125th St., I felt a rush of anxiety shoot through my system. What if we didn’t make it? What’s Marlee going to tell her friends? I could hear her on the phone. “Yeah, my Daddy really sucks. He said we would see the Statue of Liberty, but, I don’t know, we didn’t.”  Kids, especially girls, talk in code. They’ll know how to unravel that sentence. “Oh, Marlee, I feel so bad for you, poor girl.” The voices faded in and out of my subconscious.

I took a few deep breaths and turned around to see Marlee running towards me and yelling, “Daddy, why are you walking so fast?!”

“Do you want to see the Statue?!”  I snapped.

“Yeah,” she replied.

“Well, walking like a snail is not going to get us there,” I told her.

With an angry glare she blurted out, “You’re mean.”

“I’m mean. Who told you to get up at noon?” I barked.

We dashed up the escalator, through the turnstile, and hurried up the stairs hoping we’d see the next train barreling its way down the tracks #1 train pic #1into our station. The platform was empty. No sight or sound of a subway. I paced while Marlee sat on a wooden bench. Sweat dripped off my forehead and into my eyebrows. My eyelashes itched. The inside of my mouth was dry. I took off my sunglasses, wiped my eyelids and sunglass lenses with my t-shirt, and paced some more. I’d become edgy. My cell phone clock read 2:45.

“When is it coming?” she wanted to know.

“If I knew I would tell you,” I answered.

“How do you not know?” she asked.

Father and daughterI stood in silence for a few seconds shaking my head.

“How about if I jump onto the tracks right now and let you know if I see anything?”  I asked her.

“You’re so weird,” she responded.

“Do you realize I’m trying to get us there in time, so we can see the Statue?” I ranted throwing my arms up in the air.

She rolled her eyes, cleared her throat, and in a low voice uttered, “Whatever.”

The #1 train slowly made its way down the tracks, rolling into our station at 2:55. We’d take the subway four stops to 96th St., then grab the #2, or #3 express train across the platform and ride it downtown five stops to Chambers St. There, we would get off, cross the platform, and hop back onto the #1 again, taking it one stop to Rector St. From there we’d make a beeline for Battery Park. In my estimation, that was the most direct route. We’d have just enough time to buy the tickets, grab something to eat, and catch the ferry.

Marlee took out her ipod earphones the minute we entered the chilly subway car, stuck them into her ears, and dove into her musical abyss. I reached into my Met Food plastic bag, which housed my travel items, and pulled out Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a book I’d been reading for some time.

96th St At 96th St., an announcement came over the loudspeaker.

“Ladies and gentlemen, due to construction, the #2, and #3 trains will be making all local stops down to 14th St. There are no express trains running today.”

It was 3:10. We’d have to sit on this #1 train the entire time. I closed the book, never said a word, and hoped for the best. Marlee glanced at me mouthing the words to a song. At 42nd St., the same pre-recorded voice spoke again.

“Ladies and Gentleman, we are being held momentarily because of train traffic up ahead. Please be patient.”

We sat and waited. The subway doors remained open. We sat and waited some more. I put my hands in my face, slid my fingers through my hair, shook my head and thought, “C’mon subway, move, please. I’ve got a ferry to catch.”  Harry Potter slid back into its bag. The time, 3:30.

Marlee took out one earphone and asked, “How much longer?”

“A few more stops,” I said nodding.

When we finally hit the Rector St. station I was relieved. We darted up the stairs, crossed Trinity St. and headed over to Broadway. Marlee trailed behind.

“C’mon, let’s go!”  I hollered down to her.

“What’s wrong with you?!  Why are you hurrying like this?” she yelled out.

“It’s almost 4 o’clock!” I shouted.

“So,” she replied.

“So?” I hammered. “Maybe we should just go back home. I’ve had enough of this day,” I told her.

“No, I want the Statue,” she answered.

We entered Battery Park and in a somewhat calm disposition, I hunted for signs that read “Statue of Liberty.” Different crowds had gathered for certain events. It was all unknown territory for me. I had stopped and asked a few people where the ferry departed from. Some stared at me and shrugged. Others shook their heads. I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.  Where was the ticket booth and line for the Statue of Battery Park #2Liberty?”  My eyes began to water creating a film over my contact lenses and my vision became distorted. I had to blink a few times and calm my nerves. Deeper into the park I saw a sign that read, “Tickets for Statue of Liberty Cruises” with an arrow. We hurried to the ticket booth. The line was wrapped around the building several times. Hundreds of people were waiting for tickets. At 4:10 we quickly entered the line. The minutes ticked. We stood, stared ahead, and waited in the humidity. The line didn’t move. More time passed. Then a security guard dressed in a light blue button down shirt, black pants, and a hat addressed the crowd.

“The last ferry out leaves the dock in twenty minutes. Twenty minutes, folks, last ferry out. A few tickets remain. Those waiting will have to come back another day.”

I glanced over at Marlee. She had tears running down her face. Then she hiccupped.

“Marlee, what happened?!” I asked her.

“I wanted, (hiccup) to see (hiccup) the Statue. You promised, (hiccup)” she cried.

I squatted down and looked at her in the face and whispered, “Listen, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just a Statue. It’ll always be here. Let’s get up real early tomorrow and come back. We tried, Cookie. I did the best I could.”

I felt terrible. Her tears and hiccups were now uncontrollable.

“But, I wanted (hiccup) to see the Statue (hiccup) today, Daddy,” she wept.

“So did I, Cookie, so did I,” I said.

Battery Park #4 It was 4:15PM. The line hadn’t moved. Marlee was quietly hysterical. We would have to head for home shortly. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my left shoulder. I turned to see a young, middle-aged blonde woman standing next to me with her daughter.

In a southern accent she asked me, “Are you here with your daughter?”

“Yes, why?”

“We’ve got two tickets to see the Statue, but, unfortunately we can’t go. Would you like to buy mine?”

People on the line stared at us. I looked around and made sure this wasn’t some television stunt. “Are you serious?” I questioned.

“The tickets are good. We purchased them earlier today. We can’t go due to our schedule. You can just give me face value,” she said.

I gave her $40. She handed me the tickets. I thanked her. A sobbing Marlee tried to smile. In seconds, the woman and her daughter were gone. What had happened? It was surreal. The time, 4:20.  We dashed from the ticket line, hopped onto the ferry line, and looked behind us. No one. We were the last passengers to board. The ferry pulled out promptly at 4:30. We had managed the impossible. Marlee saw the Statue for the first time and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was a memorable day.

On the way to Long Island the following day, Marlee reached down from her passenger seat, unzipped her duffle bag, and pulled out the framed picture of her and me standing in front of a gray metal fence. Behind us, the Statue of Liberty, beneath a light blue clouded sky. We’re20130208_175856 both smiling for the camera. She clutched the picture.

“Daddy?” she asked.

“Yeah, Cookie?

“You did it. We saw the Statue. It was so great. I had so much fun,” she smiled.

“I did too,” I told her.

“I love you Daddy,” she said.

“Love you too, Cookie,” I mentioned.

With that, we cranked up our favorite Radio Disney song, and in unison we sang. “It’s the best of both worlds, chill it out take it slow, then you’ll rock out the show…”

After dropping Marlee off, I replayed that tap on my shoulder in my mind over and over. It occurred to me what an amazing daughter I have. Once we had entered the subway, she never complained, asked me about the time, or whether or not we’d make it on that ferry. Deep down she knew. She had absolute faith that dear ol’ Dad would come through. Whether it was by some twist of fate or an act of God, we were destined to get onto the ferry that day and I was the hero of a 12-year-old girl. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.