An old friend
came to visit the city over the weekend, with his young family in tow. Hadn't seen him and his wife in ages, and it was my first time meeting their five-year-old daughter. It was his birthday on Friday and I was almost going to get him "The Bitch Kit" as an inside-joke gift, but I ultimately decided that $20 was a *little* more than I was willing to pay for the humor-value.
(These letter pads ALMOST sold me, though...)
When I met up with them Friday afternoon, they'd already paid a visit to the Statue of Liberty and gone through MoMA. We lunched at Cafe Duke and as a reward for behaving at the museum, we escorted young Amelia to the American Girl store
; apparently, this is a known institution for little girls and confused little boys.
You can buy different outfits for your doll(s). You can buy a pet llama
. And if your little brother happens to smash your doll's face in, you can send it in to be repaired and they'll return your doll wearing a hospital gown. (As if your doll had gone to rehab.) There's a salon in the store where grown women are paid to tend to your doll's hair. And a 30-day clinic that assists dolls with eating disorders. I am not making any of this up.
Amelia was rewarded with a doll and an outfit for her troubles.
We settled down at a nearby Au Bon Pain
for a spell. Being familiar with the limits of Luc's... culinary adventurousness
... I made dinner reservations at the UWS comfort-food standby Good Enough to Eat
, for his birthday dinner.
Ann kept Amelia occupied, playing out little "scenes" with Amelia's new American Girl doll as Amelia both directed and performed.
From there, we headed up toward FAO Schwarz. Radio City was hosting some big 2009 NFL Draft thingamawhat
. Amelia discovered that she could make me laugh by spontaneously turning toward me and making faces.
"She's hamming it up because she knows she's got a fresh audience who doesn't know her material," replied Luc, who'd clearly seen this routine before. "She'll just keep doing that until she stops getting a reaction from you. Then she'll switch it up." But I gotta admit, the bit just kept getting funnier and funnier to me while mom and dad managed to tune it out completely.
As we approached FAO Schwarz, Luc told Amelia that she wasn't going to actually get anything at the iconic toy store. Her sunny demeanor immediately turned to storm clouds. Once inside, though, her troubles were forgotten for a while...
Luc promised that he and I would perform the scene from BIG on the piano...
... but in reality, there are so many kids running about that damn piano—which is entirely unsupervised by staff—that it would be impossible to attempt. With no encouragement needed, Amelia promptly kicked off her shoes and began running across the keys.
Luc remarked that the resulting discordant cacophony resembled a John Cage composition
. Somehow, the droll reference sailed straight over the heads of bouncing children.
Moving on through the store, Amelia found something she wanted to get, whereupon Luc had to remind her that she wasn't going to be getting anything here. The storm clouds returned with a vengeance. "YOU LIED TO ME!
" she wept.
. The sense of mortal betrayal palpable.
Luc picked her up and tried to console her next to a wall of classic Star Trek action figures. I admit, I remember being the kid in the toy store crying because I couldn't get some toy that really wouldn't have mattered much to me in the long run. I have no idea what that's about. Testing the boundaries of your parents? Being blissfully unaware of the value of a dollar, with a constant hunger for instant gratification?
"We've gotta be careful she doesn't turn into a B-R-A-T," offered Ann, using the age-old Enigma Code of spelling
to throw Amelia off the scent of criticism.
"It's getting harder to spell words she doesn't know," Ann added, with some worry.
After the FAO Schwarz incident, we took a little horse carriage ride to rest our feet and help cheer Amelia up. (To be fair, it didn't take much to cheer Amelia up; I don't know that I've met a more irrepressible child.)
I've walked past those horse carriages about a million times but haven't took a ride in one since I was a little kid. It's a really strange sensation. And a fairly short trip for a whopping 40 clams. (O!, but the timeless romance of it is priceless!)
It managed to pacify Amelia for a little while. At one point, she shushed her mom because she wanted to meditate amidst the peaceful clip-clopping of horse hooves.
The American Girl coolly appraised her surroundings and waited ever so patiently
for the right moment to come to life...
After the horses, I somehow managed to convince the family to walk from East 60th all the way up to West 83rd. I'm kind of a jerk like that. And it saved me a precious Metrocard swipe.
Amelia ran out of steam somewhere along the way, but gamely kept mugging for me from the perch of her father's back.
(Amelia and I took turns riding on the shoulders of Treebeard.)
When we arrived at Good Enough to Eat
, they were shooting a film called "Twelve"
right outside, starring Kiefer Sutherland and directed by Joel Schumacher. It was like dinner theater. I tried to plan it so that the hot cornbread was being served to us while the production readied their first shot.
Kiefer was nowhere in sight, but Luc was the first to spot Schumacher.
Ann ordered the shrimp pasta. Amelia had the mac & cheese from the kids menu. Luc got the chicken fingers and I had the fish & chips. Coconut cake and a lemon bar for dessert. (And two glasses of sangria for Uncle Malice.) They were gonna treat me, but I cut them off at the pass (aka, on the way to the bathroom) and covered it all. Nobody beats me on my own turf. Nobody.
After dinner, I walked them down the block and hailed a cab for them. Ann gave me a hug and Amelia wrapped her arms around my pants legs. "It's not the last time you're gonna see him," huffed Luc at the gaudy display. And off they went.
I'm not easily a fan of other people's children, but Amelia won me over. For some reason, made me think of this old movie I saw as a kid, Savannah Smiles
, where this little girl wins over the cold hearts of two grizzled old escaped convicts. Made me think, it'd be nice to be a dad one day.
My luck, though, I'd probably end up with some asshole kid...