The day after my birthday – Sunday, June 8th – my sister Haley had a wonderful idea and texted me about it the day before – on my actual birthday. Instead of taking the family out to a mediocre restaurant and racking up a huge bill and dispersing after an hour to go to our respective homes, she came up with the idea to hang out at a park and they would bring really good sandwiches. There is a really nice park about a 15-minute walk from my house. It's called Yellowstone Park [not after the national park, but after the street it's on – Yellowstone Blvd.]. When my niece Rianna and nephew Tyler used to sleep over my apartment during a warm weekend, I would take them to one end of the park, which had swings, monkey bars and seesaws. But at the other end of the park, there is a collection of grassy hills where people spread out blankets to take in sun, and where there is a constant progression of people walking dogs, and sometimes even letting the more well-behaved ones play off-leash. At present, my friend Judy and I like to go there; however, lately Judy can no longer do the 15-minute walk. There is no bus-route from my house to get there either. The aide that I have on Sundays also cannot walk the long way to that park.
So I suggested we go to McDonald Park in Forest Hills, which is along the route of the Q60 bus which runs along Queens Boulevard. I remembered that there is a city Greenmarket right across the street on Sundays, which I hadn't been to, since last summer. The only caveat was that I hadn't been to McDonald Park in years and couldn't vouch for its cleanliness and whether we would have to grapple with homeless people on a Sunday early afternoon. And I didn't remember whether there were sufficient tables and whether we would we strong-armed by chess regulars who would claim their regular tables. We confirmed to meet there at 12:30 and my sister said she and her family would bring really good wraps from Farmer Joel near her house, which has turned from a fruit stand when I lived in Oceanside, to a since-expanded very upscale and hip store full of artisanal sandwiches and healthy foods. In fact, my widowed father relies on them [and the local Trader Joe] to eat healthy meals – “Meals on Wheels” is not his style – “I don't need that”, he says.
So I told my sister to bring me something vegetarian, and we were set. She also said she would bring Dasani cans of sparkling water and juice. Just my style, and I was more than satisfied. She also brought me an awesome eggplant sandwich, which I loved. So I told my aide Gulshan that we didn't have to walk all the way there because we could take the public bus. I had no money on my reduced-fare handicapped city Metrocard, so on the way to Queen Boulevard, Gulshan would go down into the subway station and refill my card in the machine. So, I waited upstairs on the street, because my subway station at 63rd Drive isn't accessible. She was taking an awfully long time, and I began to worry. Finally, Gulshan came up and said the machine was sucking in everybody's card and said they would send it back to me in the mail. WHAT???? Typical New York City bullshit. By the way, as of this writing, I still haven't gotten it back. So we then bought a full-fare card and away we went. Gulshan was amazed at how efficient and respectful the bus-drivers are to wheelchair passengers. I think now she will be more amenable to taking bus rides with me on Sunday – maybe to Trader Joe? I hope so.
Everything went well after that. I texted my sister that we were coming and she texted that they were already in the park. We found each other and it was a great afternoon. They gave me a much-needed shawl and a Teavana gift of an infuser mug and a tin of summer strawberry tea. You cannot go wrong giving me red wine or tea. Unbeknownst to me, there was also a street fair happening on Austin Street, so that and the Greenmarket kept us busy after lunch. My nieces had a great time at the street fair and bought muffins at the market.
It was a great afternoon. Something so simple as a park and sandwiches gave me such pleasure and, for the first time, I didn't see looks on my nieces' faces which said they would rather be anywhere else but where they were. And my nephew actually hooked up with one of his college buddies [he just graduated from Binghamton University] and he left to meet him and catch a movie. We hung out at the park until after three o'clock, whereas if we went to a restaurant, we would have had to vacate when we finished eating. I have learned to love people-watching and people-listening and there was so much opportunity there to keep us all entertained. My dad looked calm and I actually believe he was having a nice time. Since my disability, I have learned to appreciate simple things, like watching people and listening to their conversations. I also watch the animals, which in New York City means squirrels, starlings, pigeons and sparrows. Imagine if I were in a place with more exotic wildlife? I often think that if I were able to go back to the Cayman Islands, I would stay far away from Seven Mile Beach and avail myself of “Air BnB” [which I have already browsed through] and stay in a real village in the interior with the locals.