The Mountain Houghtons

2001 December 22, Saturday

The line on the LAX airport kept us busy for a few hours, thank to the security measures due to 9/11, three months prior to our trip.

The travel to NYC was very long.

We waited for our luggage for an hour before we found out that they were in a different location.

After that, we took a bus to Penn Station. Nobody told us there were two of them, one in NYC and the other in Newark, NJ so we ended up in the later instead of in the city.

Took the Path train to Port Authority, by that time we were tired of the transport systems and decided to take a cab to Brooklyn.

We stayed in Park Slope. My friend, Virginia, lined us up with her friend Skyler to let us stay in his apartment while he was visiting his parents out of state. We dropped off the suitcases in Skyler’s apartment, and walked down to Café Steinhof for a bite before bed. The Café was a few steps from the walk-up brownstone where we stayed on the fourth floor.

December 23, Sunday

Getting up late.

We took the Subway into the city and ended up battling the Christmas crowd through Rockefeller Center because I had to find a bathroom.



It was fun to see the big tree and Fifth Ave. After taking some pictures,

we walked up to Carnegie on 57th and purchased  

tickets for Christmas Eve; all Mozart program by the New York String Orchestra.

At The box Office

Then we walked through the south side of Central Park.

Mark had to climb the only big rock there.



We walked to Lincoln Center to visit the Walter Reade Theatre for my favorite bathroom.

Continuing a couple blocks out west, to West End Avenue and 72nd Street, we walked by my old apartment in Lincoln Towers and checked out the park behind the building with the disrupted view by the Trump construction.

From my 4th floor apt, I had a beautiful view of the Hudson River and the Jersey skyline with the sunset every evening.



View from my West End Avenue Apartment

Picture from 1995

Donald decided to build a few towers to block the view of all Lincoln Towers residence. The property values increased as a result, so I’m sure the people that stayed there do not complain. We went back to Columbus Ave. and ate a big sandwich from the Korean deli before we met our friends, Virginia and Isaac, at the Lincoln Center fountain. They had to pick up their tickets for New Years Eve to see “Contact” at the Vivian Boumant Theatre also at Lincoln Center.

While we were there, Mark and I got tickets for the New York City Ballet to see The Nutcracker on Christmas Day.

After that we took the train to City Hall and walked around there looking at the Court House, the Woolworth Building, and walked over to the site of the Twin Towers.

It was very depressing. The smoke is still coming out of the center and the place is barricaded with billions and billions of people walking around praying, bringing flowers, and crying.

The following pictures were taken by a firefighter friend.





 I really miss the towers.  I will always remember them this way.



We had dinner in an Indian restaurant close by and paid hundreds of dollars. The food was pretty good and we got to listen to Ginga’s and Isaac’s loooong speeches about the rise and fall of the Twin Towers. They both worked for an investment banking firm on Wall Street before they moved to Chester, Connecticut 5 years ago. I visited their office once and I can testify that it is no longer exists. It was interesting to hear their stories. After dinner we walked through Tribecca to the Village to have a Chocolate Macaroon from the little café on West 4th and 11th, where I always had the same dessert when in the area.

Ginga was very tired from walking miles after miles, so we got a cab. Mark and I got out in the East Village by Ginga and Isaac’s old apt. on East 10th and walked back to Washington Square Park, Bleecker Street, all the way to Soho looking for the Red Stripe, a Jamaican night club. It wasn’t there any more.


We took a cab back to Park Slope and ended the evening with a bite at Café Steinhof.



We got to like the place a lot. We made friends with Callie, the queen of Williamsburg. He is a nice fellow, looks just like a woman. We got to bed on time at 3am.


December 24, Monday

Getting up late. We are not trying to adopt the local time. I like our schedule, because keeping the late night hours in Manhattan, helps us to stay away from the tourist herds. We were supposed to meet Virginia at noon in front of the Metropolitan Museum. I called her to change the time to 3pm. When we got there she was not present yet, but we also realized that the museums are closed on Mondays. We had a hot dog and tried to call her again. Then walked over to Madison Avenue and ate at a Greek Diner before we went back to look for Ginga again. She is still not there. We walked into the park.





 We walked by the Great Lawn. Someone fixed it. Now nobody can step on it.


 Mark by the Great Lawn



We visited my bench, the Delacort Theatre, and looked at the view from the lookout house. My bench is on the north side of the great lawn and overlooks the skyline of the city. I read the NY Times on that bench every Sunday afternoon and watched the families playing and having pick-nick on the lawn.


 View from my bench on the north side of the lawn.

Picture taken in 1996



 The Great Lawn before the fixing.

Picture from 1996


On the way to the Delacort Theatre, where we see

"Shakespeare in the Park" every summer.



Bea at the lookout tower


 Mark at the lookout tower


We walked around The Lake.







  Walked out to Central Park West.





and back through the park to the south side into Carnegie Hall. The concert was not only all Mozart they added the Beethoven’s Piano 5th at the last minute. What a nice surprise. It was a terrific performance.

After that we had a soda with Ginga and Isaac on 7th Ave between 57th and Central Park South and we discussed our trip to Connecticut. Before we got on the Subway, we picked up a few things for a stay-in dinner from the deli. We went up to the roof to look at the city and froze to death. About 2am we went to bed.

December 25, Tuesday

We woke up, not even looking at the time any more. Back to the city for a church hopping day to honor Christmas.


St. Patrick's Cathedral is the first stop.



Atlas was there shrugging 


They had a mass as we arrived, so we stayed for a little while and lit some candles. It was very pretty in there.


Walked over to Park Avenue and visited St. Barts church. I always thought, that was a Synagogue, but it is a Christian church. It is very nice. We hung out in the Waldorf for a while, checking out the lobbies, the ballrooms, and of course the bathrooms.



Mark at the Waldorf Astoria



Bea is there too




 The Ballrooms floor with the nicest bathrooms



I wanted to go into St. Vincent Ferrell church on 66th  and Lexington Avenue, but they were just closing. This is one of the nicest neighborhood churches in my opinion.


Annie Chang, an old friend, wanted us to go to the movies, to see Amelie, with her today and have dinner after that. Movie? We could think a thousand better things to do instead of a movie. You don't go to NYC to see a movie! We took the bus further uptown and had a bite at Mocca, a Hungarian Restaurant. That place is not all that great. The butcher two blocks down from Mocca, where I always bought my Hungarian goodies, was closed. Out of business. Bummer!

Took the cross-town bus to 86th and stopped at Merchant’s for lemonade. Ismael Merchant, movie producer and director has 3 awesome restaurants on the Island. Mark had to see at least one. They all look alike. Great food and great crowd.


Next stop was St. John the Divine Cathedral.



Had we read the Times we would have known the Cathedral was closed because the gift shop had an electrical fire a week before. They usually have a big symphony in the main Cathedral, but they had a concert tonight in the side chapel. A Medieval Christmas celebration. We talked Annie into coming to hear that and forget about Amelie. As we were waiting for the concert, we got a tour from a local bum, homeboy about the architecture of the Cathedral. He was very creative and made up all kinds of stories. We gave him a good tip for the show. We had Chinese soup in a place close to Columbia with Annie. It was pretty good with huge portions. Annie is the soup queen. On the way back to the cathedral we looked at the Columbia University campus. It is very nice. It is beautiful inside, but we didn’t get to go inside. They also have rats. Must be intelligent ones.

We all loved the medieval music. After the concert, we jumped on the train and took another tour in downtown in search of the Red Stripe. No luck. Must be out of business. If you can’t count on the Jamaicans who can you count on? Rode a cab back to Park Slope. It was so late, even our hometown Café Steinhof was closed. After 2:00am.

December 26, Wednesday

Relaxing morning. Never have to rush in the City that never sleeps. We have the matinee at the City Ballet today.

Got across the Brooklyn Bridge early today.


 Old picture of the Bridge with the Twin Towers behind it

 Start the day with shopping at Tower Records by Lincoln Center. I just love that store! After that, The Nutcracker in City Ballet. It was very beautiful. Ballanchine choreographed it. The customs were exquisite and the sets were great. Marvelous dancing! After the ballet I had an appointment with François, my old hair stylist, to give me a haircut that will last for 3-4 years before we come back again. He did it. Not much hair left, but it is cute. Mark says I look like a little boy. I guess I just have to grow it out then. We walked through Time Square, visited a music store on 44th and got tickets for “I Love You, You Are Perfect, Now Change” musical on Broadway for the next day. Took the bus to Chelsea, train to the Village and ended up in Comedy Cellar. Had dinner there and laughed a lot. Café Reggio for dessert is a must! Back to the Brooklyn home late as always.

December 27, Thursday

A Brooklyn day.


 Looking out of the apartment on 7th Avenue in Park Slope


Rooftop view from the apartment building


We walked over to Church Avenue, the hearth of the Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn. We did not take the camera. White folks are not welcome in this neighborhood and the last thing you want to do is taking pictures. JW Records on Church Avenue is the only store to purchase Caribbean music outside of Port of Spain, Trinidad.  So we loaded up on Soca CDs there, and bought some African zouk and socus CDs from an African Import place on Nostrand Ave. Stopped in a Jamaican place to have lunch but it was so smelly in there, our clothes smelled like that after 2 seconds. Fried fish in grease. The food was so bad, after a bite we decided it is going to be a take out. So we took it out of the place and threw it into the trash can on the nearest corner. Still hungry, but afraid to eat anything.


Took the train out to Coney Island.

Mark is checking out the tractors at the construction site.


Who goes to the beach in the winter? Bea does. The best time to go.

 Watching the sunset from the Coney Island boardwalk.

 We had Nathan Dogs from the Nathan Dog place. That was good. Came back to the apt. grabbed the tickets and went to Broadway. It was a very funny show. The actors were wonderful, great singers, and the script was witty. We loved it. Came back home, but not before visiting Tom, Collie, and Larry our new friends at the hometown Cafe.

December 28, Friday

I slept in, Mark did laundry. I woke up looking for him and looked everywhere. He was standing across the street waving as I looked out the window. He forgot to take the key to the front door, so he was standing there until I woke up. Poor man! Out in the cold. How sad. He brought me juice and croissants from the French bakery across the street. He is the greatest. He started every morning in the French bakery to bring us fresh, warm, delicious cheese danishes and other awesome pasteries.We went into the city late again. Had very nice lunch on Greenwich Ave. in a deli. Visited Central Carpet, where I used to work. 14th Street and 8th Avenue.


 Picture was taken for the grand opening of the store in 1994.

From the left: Itzhak Timianko (owner), Jeanette, John, myself, Reagan and Katie


My friends from the old days, Mark, Judy and Larry were there, but Ike, the owner, my favorite boss of all times was on vacation in Florida. He called the store while we were there so I got to talk to him a little bit. He asked if I would like to stay for awhile and sell some rugs for him. :)

We got on the bus to get up to the MET. It was a mistake. The bus, not the Opera House. We hardly moved, so we got off on 31st and had delicious cheesecakes. We walked all the way to the MET, because it was the fastest way to get there. We sat through La Boheme. Mimi was singing way too much. The sets were outstanding, the opera was wonderful, the MET is always fun and we did not fall asleep even though the first act took forever.

December 29, Saturday

We left very late for Connecticut. I felt really sick. We were on the 11:07 train to New Haven. Ginga was waiting for us at the station and since we were starving, we ate a sandwich there before she took us site seeing. She showed us some of the little towns out there, drove us out to the beach, and through the charming little downtown of Chester. Their house is awesome.



It is a Victorian home built in 1825, about 5ooo sqft; it has 7 fireplaces, they closed off one.


 Isaac, Bea and Virginia

The barn/garage

They were working on it like crazy, restoring it to its original condition except the extra plumbing and bathrooms. The original hardwood floor is spectacular. One bedroom is complete, that’s where we slept.



The hallway and the stairs from the entrance, the dining room, the living room, and the kitchen are also complete. It is very charming, cozy, and comfortable. The fireplaces in every room are so neat. After they complete the renovation they are planning to landmark the building.

Isaac was cooking lamb shanks for dinner with mashed potato and asparagus. Ginga made a chocolate cake for dessert, and everything was very-very good. They were telling us stories about the bedroom, where we will sleep, being hunted. Ginga could not sleep there at all. We went to bed early for the first time. Well…at midnight. Ghosts or no ghosts, I did not sleep at all either. I was too ill to sleep. I waited for the ghosts to come so I can have somebody to talk to, but they did not come. I got sicker by the minute.

December 30, Sunday

Got up late. What’s new? We all snacked for breakfast, and Ginga fixed clam chowder soup, chicken broth soup for me, and home made bread for lunch. We went for a walk by the Connecticut River.


 Isaac, Ginga and Mark bundled up at the river front


It was cold but very pretty down there. Walked around the neighborhood a little then took the Jeep out for a ride. I felt really sick. We drove to Essex for site seeing, but I fell asleep on the way. Mark got me pills from the grocery store to knock me out and we went back to the house. I took a nap on his lap and he also fell asleep with his book in hand. I felt much better after the nap. We talked a lot while Isaac fixed Indian chicken dinner. It was absolutely delicious. Isaac is a great cook. We had more chocolate cake after that. We watched Seven Years in Tibet, that put me asleep and I was out cold for that night.

December 31, Monday

Getting up, packing to travel back to the city. We left around noon. Ginga and Isaac were driving back with us. They took us to see the beautiful country Inn in Chester, where they got married. We drove by the nice buildings of Yale in New Haven, and stopped to pick up lunch from a grocery store.

The Jeep did not start. Now what? They called a cab for us, so Mark and I left to the train station, and they called AAA to take the Jeep to a shop and to go back to the house to drive their other car into the city.

We had to wait for the train for almost an hour. It was too late to go back to Brooklyn before the New York Phil’s New Years Eve concert. We went to O’Neal’s, accross the street from Lincoln Center, to have dinner and showed up at Avery Fisher Hall dressed in Levi’s and hiking boots, with suitcases. Typical tourists. 

Changed our clothes in the bathroom and checked in the suit cases to the coatcheck. But that was not the worst part of the evening.


Before the concert, the manager of the house came out to tell us about Kurt Masur’s operation, and he will not be conducting tonight, nevertheless he is alive and well. He will be replaced by Sir Elliot Gardener to conduct the Beethoven’s 9th.


My favorite mayor, Rudy Giuliani, came to talk to us and told us that to conclude this “adventurous” year NYC had experienced we will hear appropriately the greatest symphony ever composed, performed by one of the greatest orchestra, in the greatest city in the world. Amen!!!

It is always nice to see Rudy, but I was sad because he was out of work that same night. They should have kept him in office forever.


After all the speeches we heard a short Bach Cantata. There was no time allowed to applaud, because after 2 seconds pause we dived into Ludwig, and rapidly got through it in less than 50 minutes. The NY Phil took this challenge rather well. Miraculously we heard every note Ludwig put on paper. The chorus engaged in a page turning competition. The solo singers had their work cut out for them. Schiller did not write “Ode to Joy” in Spanish, and it is hard to spit out 250 German words per minute.

I had to step out of the hall for a minute and missed the 3rd movement. Luckily, they have speakers in the bathrooms. Kurt Masur was sitting across from us in the NY Phil’s box and he was trying to figure out if he were attending a rock concert or a symphony. We were out of the hall by 9:15pm. Record time!

I am not complaining, but the Beethoven 9th is about 84 minutes long if conducted by people that like music.

Ginga and Isaac were waiting for us down in the lobby. They finished with their show early also. Everyone was in a rush tonight. They did not like Contact at all. The only reason they did not attend the New Years Eve Concert with us, because it was sold out. I ordered our tickets months ahead.

Lincoln Center on New Years Eve

When I lived in the city, I walked by this fountain every day after work on the way home. This picture was taken in 1998.

We jumped on the Subway and went to Brooklyn to celebrate the New Year. In Café Steinhof, we had Soca, other Caribbean, and African music. The DJ had a pretty good selection. I was happy. Ginga and Isaac ate chicken paprikas, Mark and I ate bean soup. The Café was crowded and it was a lot of fun to be there. At midnight we went up to the roof to see the fireworks over the Statue of Liberty. It was 20 degrees and very windy, so we did not last very long up there. Ginga and Isaac got tired shortly after midnight and they took the train back to NYC to stay with Isaac’s mom. We stayed for a long time and watched the people getting silly at the Café, listened to the Caribbean tunes.

Happy New Year!!!

2002 January 1, Tuesday

Left Brooklyn after 3pm. Record timing for tardiness! We got to the city at 4pm. Ate pizza at Sobarro’s. Mistake. Horrible food by the tourist traps. Stood in the longest line for the Empire State. The view was fantastic. The night view is even better than the day view. The city looks unreal to me from up there. We bought lots of tchatchkee from the gift shops and walked to the Library. Looked at the windows of Lords and Tailors. Walked to Radio City.




On 6th Avenue in the 50's Not year 50's, but street 50's .


Ice skating at Rockefellers



Picture in two parts. Bottom and top.

The Rockefellers are so big, they don't even fit in our camera. 


Visiting St Patrick's one more time,



then walked on 50th to the west side. We had dinner at Gallagher’s Steak House. It was lots of delicious steak for lots of money. Went back to Brooklyn and did not go to the Café. What’s the matter with us?

January 2, Wednesday

Called my friend, Mark Rosenstein, and made arrangement for the afternoon. We went to Barnes & Nobles, got city books and other books. From the Julliard Bookstore we got T-shirts and cups, from the Met Gift Shop we got a bag and cards of Lincoln Center.

We met Mark Rosenstein at 2:30 on the Time Square ticket line. He wanted to see the Producers, but I insisted on Les Miserables. He complained like he always does, but I know he loves Les Mis. It was very cold out there.

We grabbed a pizza and read the Times review of the New Years Eve Beethoven 9th. They said it was supposed to be fast. Beethoven would have wanted it that way too. Surely……the Times must know. 

We went up to the Museum of Natural History. They threw us out before 6pm, so we did not spend much time there. Fine with me, I can only last 5 minutes in a museum.

We had Italian dinner at Assagio’s on Columbus Ave. then went to see Les Mis. It was longer than the Ludwig 9th. Mark Rosenstein said if I did not pick the longest show on Broadway, we would have time to go to Café Mozart. That is a wonderful pastry shop on 75th, where I was a regular. The show was terrific. I loved it! We all loved it! We hung out with Tom and Larry at the Café Steinhof before closing the evening. It was our last night on the town. So sad! Tom called us a cab for the next morning. We went to bed at 2am. Mark says he would rather not go back home. J Yeah. NYC is too much fun. Expensive, but fun!

January 3, Thursday

Got up, packed up, cleaned up.

We left the apt. cleaner than it was before.

The driver came on time at 11:45am. Took the Verazzano Bridge to Staten Island, then another bridge to NJ, and we got to the airport in 30 minutes.


The Verazzano Bridge 

Lots of time left. Cab took us to the wrong terminal. A homeboy walked us to the right terminal for $20.

We ate a Nathan dog and our leftover steak with a city view. Manhattan sure looks different without the Twin Towers. 

It took forever to fly home.

LA is very clean. It was a long drive home and everything is so clean. 


The Beat of New York

by Red Plastic Bag