Thursday, June 17, 2010

There are no coney islands on Coney Island

My nephew Joe holding Oliver
Coffee house in 'downtown' Plainsboro. Most of the buildings are made from limestone

Art along the boardwalk outside of the aquarium

My brother's house

Oliver and his cream cheese art creation. On his legs are the socks handed out to everyone so they can wear these instead of heels while dancing

The siblings including the groom

Daniel at lunch

Naomi and Don'tae in front of Nathan's

Josh, Ramy, and David are in the last 2 cars on the infamous Cyclone

French toast tower that my niece Thea ordered at the diner

Here in Michigan, we have numerous small restaurants called coney islands usually run by Greeks that serve hotdogs covered with chili. They don't serve those at all on Coney Island, Steve's neighborhood growing up (his apartment was on the border of Coney Island and Brighton Beach). Sunday morning we headed into Brooklyn to rescue Josh, who was left in Maddy's friend's house. We then took a walk along the boardwalk along Coney Island near where Steve grew up. In Annie Hall, the main character grew up in a house under the Cyclone. Well Steve grew up right on top of it. A very noisy place with several train lines coming together. The noise when the F train rounded a steep curve was incredible with lots of sparks flying. Conversation in their apartment had to stop until the trains passed. Some of the rides have loud music and sirens. Then there are the constant car alarms going off too and the the garbage trucks that come at 6 am slamming metal containers down. Steve's mom finally moved out of there in 2004 but we were there several times a year.
Naomi walked around a mile. I was nervous that excessive exercise might start labor. Fortunately it was cool. We went out on the pier where people were fishing for crabs and fluke.
That day they had a Puerto Rican Pride parade in Manhattan that day attracting 2 million people. Plenty were on Coney Island with their flags and t-shirts and later on in Sunset Park where they live along side the Chinese (where our hotel was).While Steve, Dontae and Naomi ate at Nathan's, Josh and I walked along the tawdry but interesting Surf Avenue to fetch the car going by the Freak show. Still the area has been cleaned up alot since I used to go down there.
We then went to check-in at our hotel where we met up with Shanna and her family. It was decided that Steve should spend time with his brother, the groom, only noone told the groom that. We battled unbelievable traffic to get down there only to stand on the porch a half hour in the rain. Josh and I ate cherry cheese knishes as we waited as we had passed on Nathan's. Phone calls were ignored. The groom was getting ready and couldn't hear anything or chose to ignore it. Finally he did come to the door, puzzled that we were there. Oh well. By the time we got back, it was almost time for the wedding.
The wedding was in a very old synagogue. Male guests were given mini yarmulkes left over from a bar mitzvah the day before. These were very hard to keep on. Most of the guests were Jewish (excepting Dontae, me, Ramy and Maddy's husband and step-son). So the vows were in Hebrew and English. The glass was successfully broken on the first try. A string duo played soulful music and there were few dry eyes. So they are finally, finally married! Mazel tov!!!!
The reception was held in the basement, conveniently. Steve and I were asked to accompany the bride and groom on the dance floor. Now Naomi asked in advance that I NOT dance as I must had made a spectacle of myself at Shanna's wedding (Shanna said that I reminded her of that one Seinfeld episode of Elaine thinking she could dance). She didn't want Don'tae to see me. She has since made another request that I probably won't honor when they move in but that's neither here or there. She's still stuck in that middle school mode in which everything your parent does is intensely embarrassing. So aside from that very first, very awkward dance (Steve was still angry at me for something and wasn't in the mood to hold me much less speak to me), I didn't dance. They did the circles dance hoisting the bride and groom high above them in their chairs. Josh was in a quiet, reflective mood and I sat with him most of the night. He felt bad that Julia wasn't with him. Naomi didn't feel like dancing either. Looking at the dance floor, Don'tae must have been thinking-yep it's true, white people really can't dance. Who was having the most fun dancing? Oliver. We took movies of him trying to imitate everyone. Also a low point, Steve refused to give a toast to his brother. He really, really hates to speak in public but still he should have overcome that. Everyone nagging him did not help. Again, he certainly didn't want any advice from me as he was still angry. Now he since has come up with plenty of things to say but too late!!! Shanna ended up giving a toast instead representing 'our side' as everyone in Diane's family was able to come up with something. A fellow teacher composed a song in their name and had people sing it. But it was fun since all of us were together and when will that happen again?
Josh's plane was to leave early in the morning. We dropped him off at the airport close to midnight where he spent a restless night on the floor learning what it's like to be homeless. He flew through Atlanta again. Good thing he didn't use the usual cheapie airline whose pilots had walked off that day. He would have had to sit in our crowded back seat but the trip would not have been much longer.
In the morning, we walked around our strange neighborhood to see the sights. Brooklyn is so much a foreign country in spots. In other spots, it is a time warp with stores from the 40s and 50s unchanged. Our hotel was run by the Chinese. Signs on the wall were in Chinese. They seemed to put the English speaking guests on one floor, Chinese on another and Puerto Ricans on yet another. We were provided with disposable slippers to pad around our 10 foot square room in. Walking inside a house with barefeet is a big no-no in most Asian cultures. A neighbor of mine was complaining about some nasty tenants of hers recently. Among their many crimes was walking around the house barefoot. To her this seemed on par as using the carpet as a bathroom. I kept quiet about my habit of being barefoot as much as possible especially when I am in my own house. Once I showed up at my sister-in-laws friend's house clad in sandals (it was warm outside!!!). I didn't know the rules. I was provided with some 'indoor' sandals that ended up exactly in the middle of my in-step. Even the husband's indoor sandals barely reached my heel. Apparently I would have been euthanized for my big feet or at least not allowed to reproduce. My nephew will go on a class trip to Japan soon which includes a homestay. They were drilled about not letting the bare feet show. There are even separate sandals for the bathroom.
But we found a bun shop and ate 80 cent yeasty, fresh pork and coconut buns and I drank mango bubble tea-a good breakfast. Then on to brunch with the newly-weds and most of the families that were left where presents were opened including our "lovopoly".
Don'tae most wanted to see Manhattan. A boatride around it would have been nice but lengthy (and expensive). Steve dropped us off in Times Square for them to take in all the lights and moving billboards. We went into several touristy shops. Fortunately the weather was pleasant or it would have been impossible for Naomi to walk around. It would have been nice to walk in Central Park too but time was running out so we drove through it. Over the weekend, Don'tae had plenty of exposure to various ethnic groups. He wondered how to tell the difference between the Hasidim and the Amish (well first of all, not very many Amish ever come to NYC-maybe Philly where they have a huge market in the old Reading Railroad). Depending on where we were signs were in Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish or Russian (that would be in Brighton Beach-Little Odessa). Out of the Lincoln tunnel, back on to the NJ Turnpike where our E-Z pass made things much easier (and considerably cheaper) Coming into the city, we'd have to wait in a huge toll line otherwise and pay $11 vs $6. We went back to my brother's eating in one of NJ and NY's cultural institutions-the Diner, though we do have our coney islands with their limited menus. Diners out East have huge menus. The one we went to was an upscale one-a fancy diner. The food was actually good. My brother made crepes for us in the morning and off we went on our mind-numbing ride home. we now know which shortcuts NOT to take.
So all in all, an excellent weekend. A few bumps (and our car took the majority of them) but we were all together.

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