Derek Jeter, the now immortal New York Yankee. I add in New York because that's where I grew up, a blue blooded, pinstriped Yankee fan. But fear not, I've lived a longer life here in Northern California so it's now all our San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's all the time and in that order.
But Derek Jeter. His last season as a Yankee. 20 years with the same club. Never again. And all the accolades and accomplishments (having Mario Rivera saving every game and the Yankee bank roll around didn't hurt Jeter's chances) that he's piled up and his attitude and his behavior on and off the field, so admirable to the point of almost being strange.
I wasn't going to give Jeter a farewell shout out in the dump that is the Oakland ballpark, or whatever it's being called now. So it was on to New York and Yankee Stadium in July to see him one last time on his home turf. And we will be sitting in some fine seats behind the Yankee dugout courtesy of a friend of a friend.
I'm with my Yankee friends on Long Island. But for one day after arrival it's in the YMCA on West 63rd Street up against Central Park. I have an itinerary: another Manhattan I haven't touched.
First off, you'll love this, Tom's Restaurant, Upper West side, the marquee for Seinfeld's coffee shop.
But first the shuttle in from JFK with a family of Turkish Cypriots by way of Toronto. They are here for just two days, primarily for the Kardashian's store. Beautiful! Even they goof on it. "At least do the Statue of Liberty in Central Park," I beg of them. Another lady in the van has never been in the Big Apple before. The traffic has her going mad. Poor thing.
Beautiful, almost springlike weather, walking up Broadway from West 63rd to about 113th, so much to see, meaning the populace, with little pocket parks down the center of Broadway to sit and soak in a neighborhood setting unlike downtown, more markets and shops, Columbia University close by so a coed vibe, Riverside Park and the Hudson River nearby with its Washington Irving vibe, and whaddya know, Tom's Restaurant marquee.
It even glows in the daylight. If I have to describe it to you then where in the hell have you been? Funny-fulfilling to see it real, Seinfeld all in Los Angeles of course, but "not that there's anything wrong with borrowing some NY."
I got a camera so click click, a hick with a local accent, customers at the sidewalk tables, a name of each one of the Seinfeld characters on each canvas fence panel. Click click.
Inside is coffee shop official, not the shows of course, but the same sort of setup, booths, tables, counter.
Its visitors and locals, jewishy with an all Latin staff of course.
It's lunchtime. Pastrami on rye like ordering wine in France.
I'm seated near the kitchen, all the staff yelling at each other, almost scripted. The sandwich and potato salad stinks so I only eat the whole thing.
Got to have a photo of myself pointing up at the marquee. So do a lot of other folks so we all help each other out.
My knees saying no way to walking back. Taking a bench in Riverside Park, bursting green from the recent rains, Rip Van's river sending out its Dutch treats.
Going to take the bus back. Maybe my first bus ever in Manhattan. If you're not in a hurry the bus is like an unguided tour of the neighborhood, super motels and pizza shops, baby carriages, mom and pops.
His pop, his dad, Robert DeNiro Sr. Yes, that Robert DeNiro, his father. An artist, a painter of real renown. I knew of him but not the particulars of his work until a recent documentary of him by his famous son.
His famous son owns the Tribeca Grill in the former meatpacking Tribeca neighborhood. Tribeca Film Festival by way of Robert DeNiro, his father's paintings by way of hanging with Jackson Pollock et al, and his living and painting in Paris. It's my time to see his work.
The number one subway runs straight up and straight downtown. Easy on, easy off. Every living soul on board is on some iPad device. "So put in your earplugs, put on your eyeshades, you know where to put the cork" — as "The Who" sang of deaf, dumb and blind "Tommy." I guess it's come to that. But I've come to my subway stop.
Red brick neighborhood, upper Chelsea-Greenwich Village I guess, and right around the corner of the former meatpacking plant, red brick Tribeca Grill, somewhat unassuming, the interior the same, sumptuous in a red brick, tall ship, white linen tablecloth way. I'm not even going to look at the menu, the uptown ladies making a reservation at the front desk are pricey enough.
And Robert DeNiro Sr.'s work is all throughout the restaurant, large pieces, smaller pieces, colors and black and white.
His colors are funked up Matisse, dreamy, childlike, seriously fine figures, coastal cool, comfort food for the soul.
His black and whites are plumped up Picasso prints, again, almost dreamy, childlike. I'm loving them. I'll leave the history of him, Robert DeNiro Sr., to you.
You tube, my tube, your tube, everybody's tube, sun-setting evening at Columbus Circle, the world's entrance to Central Park, Columbus Circle, the world's carousel. Pick an ethnic group, a lovely lady, pick a bouquet of us at play, two hotdogs and a lemonade from a sidewalk cart and all the world's a stage performance.
The performance encore is in the morning down in Pennsylvania Station, waiting on the Long Island Railroad to take me home again.
It's Saturday morning on a beach weekend in Penn Station. "The" beaches are on Long Island. And even as a non-native I think you could recognize the different tribes: a circle of noticeably gay men headed for either the Hamptons or Fire Island. Surfboards headed to Long Beach. Coeds headed to Jones Beach. Surf-casters headed to Montauk. Golfers headed to Bethpage. As the trains arrive the station empties out group by group.
Not so many with me for Rockville Center. No beaches. But memories of youth like beach sand.
A friend from youth for the Jeter, driving in, more convenient than you might think, both of us proud that we could arrange all this. You know, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Maris to Jeter. Proud.
Yankee Stadium looms. Not red brick friendly. That's its intention, to loom over baseball. Too bad. It's dull, dead, but there is beer and hot dogs in the MVP club courtesy of our tickets with Yankee history all around us, so we'll have to endure our good fortune.
Good seats. You got that right, sun shining on the green field, Captain Jeter within "Hey, Derek" distance, warming up, getting a so long gift from today's opponents, the Cincinnati Reds.
The game stinks. It's always obvious that today's baseball lacks a lot of professional fundamentals. But Jeter gets a hit, steals a base, drives in a run, still trim in his Yankee pinstripes, gets a cycle of standing Os and the Yanks win. And we get served our beers and peanuts at our seats. Take me out to this ballgame.
Next day's home game is at Jones Beach, one of the great public places in all the world. The infamous Robert Moses made it so. Six to eight miles of uninterrupted sand and surf. Remind me again, who's this Derek Jeter guy? No, no, of course, but six to eight miles of untouched beachfront. I wish I could take you out to all of this.