Sunday, June 08, 2014

Times Square As A Gateway To Pleasant Things

In New York City, the mundane has a habit of turning into the exceptional, often with no planning at all. Perfunctory first dates turn into all-day affairs or a work event turns into the best time you've had all week.

My little guy Andre has been talking about Ferris wheels ever since he didn't get to go on one at Playland a few weeks ago. At the time it was getting late and no one wants to deal with a four-year-old's meltdown at the top of a ten-story high amusement park ride. So I did what all great parents do: deflect and promise vaguely to do it again in the future.

In the grand tradition of small children, Andre did not forget about my promise to take him to a Ferris wheel. Initially I thought hauling down to Coney Island was the only way to get him on one, but then I remembered Times Square. The Toys R Us in Time Square has a giant Ferris wheel, and for $11 it can quell the savage entertainment needs of any kid.

No self-respecting New Yorker ever goes near Times Square and so I had to get into the right frame of mind just to even deal with the place on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Once there, it turned out to be an oddly pleasant experience. The Ferris wheel was a hit, and the Toys R Us is more theme park than toy store. (They totally get you on the professional photographs with super heroes and dinosaurs -- which are actually reasonably priced and high quality.) The greatest accomplishment was that we left with zero new toys and zero tantrums. Praise be.

On the way home Andre and I popped into Bryant Park to take a spin on the carousel. An afternoon that I thought would be the mental equivalent of an unmedicated root canal (Times Square on a summer weekend) ended in two gentle spins on a carousel while Edith Piaf music played in the background. And 56 photos of Andre lit up with pure joy. Who knew canned entertainment could be so fulfilling?

It was while I was on the carousel that I realized that the earliest memories I have of listening to recorded music are those of Edith Piaf. My parents are giant Francophiles and traveled to France regularly, so the Piaf records were always spinning at Chez Millard.

Milord, below, is one I remember hearing for the first time when I was about Andre's age. It's still one of my all-time favorite songs. Gotta get 'em hooked when they're young.

Years ago, when I finally got to go to the Pere Lachaise, Edith Piaf's grave was the first one I made it my business to find. Always the fan girl.