Entry for July 03, 2007: New York visit, Part 2

Now, after discussing comic books, back to my regularly scheduled blog. See my earlier postings for Part 1 of the report on our New York trip (see also the "Spamalot" photo above).

On Wednesday, 20 June 2007, Janice and I had lunch at "Burger Heaven" before meeting my family at our hotel in Manhattan. I miss the diners, delicatessens, and pizzerias of my hometown. My younger brother Peter had rented a van to drive his wife Kelly, their young daughters Ava and Lili, and our parents from Virginia to New York. We stayed at the Belvedere Hotel, and my parents were at Essex House.

After getting settled, we walked around a bit before settling on "Serafina," an Italian restaurant, for dinner. My nieces were still adorable, and the weather cooled down from the previous days, but was still pleasant. At the moment, Lili is a better eater than her sister.

On Thursday, June 21, we spent the first official day of summer in Central Park. Toddler Ava enjoyed the Central Park Zoo (but Lili spent most of the time in her stroller/baby carriage), and we walked to the Gapstow Bridge, where my father proposed to my mother. Peter had proposed to Kelly elsewhere in Central Park.

My parents went to a fancy French restaurant for dinner, while Peter, Kelly, the girls, Janice, and I walked around the West Side before eating at "Ariba, Ariba," an upscale Mexican-American eatery. Crossing busy streets with two strollers was a challenge, but we managed.

The next morning, we met at the Essex House for a nice brunch in a back area of the Art Deco dining room. Peter and Ava presented my parents with an engraved plate to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. We then walked through Columbus Circle to the Upper West Side, where my parents and I had lived in the late 1960s and very early 1970s.

We walked past Roosevelt Hospital, where Peter and I were born; St. Paul's Church, where my late great-uncle Albert baptized me; and to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. My parents barely recognized their old neighborhood, which has grown vertically and in population in the past four decades! The blocks north of what used to be known as Hell's Kitchen have also gentrified, so it's unlikely that a nurse and a graduate student of history, recent immigrants to the U.S. both, would be able to afford even a small apartment in that area anymore.

Peter had originally suggested driving down to the Village, Chinatown, and Little Italy, but rush hour traffic and fatigue changed everyone's minds. Janice and I stopped by a store called "The Amish Market," hoping to find Pennsylvania Dutch specialties from Janice's home state, but we instead found a nice gourmet grocer. We returned to our hotel to find that the rest of my family had taken naps.

Peter & Kelly and Janice and I took Ava and Lili to the FAO Schwartz and Disney Store near Pete's old Godiva workplaces in Rockerfeller Center. Ava, who is already a little princess, had fun with all the stuffed animals. We then met my parents for dinner at "La Bonne Soup," another nice French restaurant. On Saturday morning, Janice and I took Amtrak from New York back to Massachusetts, and I plan to see my family again in Virginia in early August.

Work was busy the following week, as CW prepared to shift from tabloid newspaper format to magazine size. In truth, the copy desk is reading more stories for our Web site than for print, and a productive staff meeting discussed this shift and other editorial issues. CW is proud to celebrate its own 40th anniversary this year.

My D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains," "Holy Steel," and role-play by e-mail teams all resumed, as did the "City of Heroes" online game. On Friday, June 29, Janice and I tried the "Rice Barn," a new local Thai restaurant. I also had follow-up phone calls with the metropolitan New York crews and watched some BBC America, which Janice and I now get thanks to our Verizon FiOS and DVR.

The latest television iteration of "Robin Hood" was decent, taking as much inspiration from the campy "Hercules: the Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" as from the 1980s neoPagan "Robin of Sherwood" or Kevin Costner's execrable "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." "Hex" was a soapy supernatural "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" ripoff, in the style of "Charmed."

On the SciFi Channel, "Stargate SG1's" 10th season finale was bittersweet and was clearly not intended to be a series finale, which it was. Let's hope that Amanda Tapping/"Col. Sam Carter's" move to "Stargate: Atlantis" will strengthen that space opera spin-off.

Speaking of space operas, while I believe that the subgenre is in hibernation at the moment, I'll be curious to see what "Wizard of Oz" riff "Tin Man" and the latest "Flash Gordon" are like. On the one hand, the SciFi Channel has cut budgetary and creative corners lately with schlock horror and even professional wrestling (don't get me started about live-action movies on Cartoon Network or Animal Planet).

On the other hand, that cable channel's adaptations of "Dune" and even the revisionist "Battlestar Galactica" demonstrate a devotion to production value. In many ways, Ben Browder's marooned astronaut "John Crighton" was a modern-day Flash Gordon on "Farscape," so reusing those themes might be entertaining if done well. Of course, that leads this veteran speculative fiction fan to ask, "Where's the updated Buck Rogers?"

The postapocalyptic, swashbuckling, planet-hopping romance, best remembered with stars Buster Crabbe or Gil Gerard, could be fascinating if set in a 25th century solar system that has been colonized without the benefit of "Star Trek"-level technology. Like the newer "Galactica," it could also provide allegories for commenting on modern international politics and popular culture. Anyway, I'm off to prepare for Needham's annual Independence Day celebrations, so have a safe and happy holiday!