I can't believe it's been a month since Mali & I laid waste to the Big Apple. And I really can't believe so much of Manhattan has turned into a shiny happy kid-friendly place since Seymour's and my early '90s Empire State residence. Where was all the urban shitty-gritty I'd planned on using to terrify my offspring into suburbanite complacency, I ask you? Look at our girl -- she's not recoiling in coddled horror; she's frolicking! With abandon! In Central Park! Which she chose over the giant piano and toy extravaganza of FAO Schwartz!
Mali now considers Manhattan an alternate universe wonderland. She's certainly never randomly happened upon a flea market featuring the perfect unicorn in California, or even in San Francisco. And any hopes I had about Manhattanites teaching our cheeky girl a social lesson or two were quickly dashed -- New Amsterdam's residents didn't just recognize their own moxie in our girl, they encouraged it. Lord.
San Francisco may have its share of playgrounds fabulous and new, but they don't hum and vibrate quite like the packed-to-the-gills play place in Union Square. Mali got as much peer play time as she could handle. Though I must say the parents I observed generally had bigger helicopters up their butts than West Coasters -- lighten up, folks. I realize some kids do require a personal playground coordinator (e.g., Mali's older brother), but not every single one!
I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of that frolicking we fit in for so little dosh. There is so much free fun in Manhattan! Everywhere we wandered, up popped a street fair or flea market or another fabulous playground or the High Line (pictured) or the Staten Island Ferry or a dog show and festival or rocks to climb or fascinating shop windows to look in. It's also a good place to eat on the cheap -- we were quite content with bagel breakfasts, and slices for other meals. (Getting to and staying in NYC is of course not cheap at all -- but we stayed with friends and flew for free thanks to last summer's cancelled BlogHer NYC flight.)
Here are other things we liked:
Guerilla gardening with our friend Luis. Both times we helped him water and tend his gorgeous mid-boulevard garden strips (note cars around Mali -- they're waiting for a stoplight, not parked), neighborhood folks fell over themselves, wanting to thank him for beautifying their world. I think his would make a fantastic story for a local news magazine or TV show -- it embodies the fresh, new, but still scrappy Manhattan we got to know.
If you were given the opportunity to take your Eloise-like, Eloise-loving six year old to tea at The Plaza, I rawther think you would, yes? We loved loved loved The Plaza -- especially as we got to share that tea with our aforementioned beloved Luis and our also much-loved Carol.
Here is what is also free and fun: The Staten Island Ferry. Where you get really great views of the Statue of Liberty without having to actually go visit her or stand in line for more than ten minutes!
There was of course also the iPad Workshop I gave at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art (which put TPGA and other iPad/autism pix on display for the event), and that workshop was a success. The participants were a good balance of parents, professionals, educators, and adults with autism, and I came away feeling like I'd both shared information with folks who could use it, and learned a lot myself -- an ideal mix. (Plus I got to meet Beth Arky and have a slice with her, so, more excellence.)
It's hard to capture everything we did in those action-packed three days -- meeting all of AMNH's dinosaurs and most of Manhattan's dogs, for instance -- but there's a big ol' Flickr photo set, if you're up for more serious fun. What really struck me is how family-friendly Manhattan is. That's not an adjective I ever imagined pairing with New York City's hub. I'd like to bring my family back. I'd like to bring Leo back. I'm sold. I get it.
New York City, we love you.