Marilynn’s neighbour and fellow Big Apple Greeter, Dana, joined us on Sunday. She is a native New Yorker so there was considerable banter between our two guides about which were the best subway stops and sights. The first stop of the day was to Junior’s in Brooklyn for coffee and genuine New York cheesecake even though Marilynn insisted that it should be enjoyed in the evening as dessert. Several families and a school basketball team were out for Sunday brunch.
Dana persuaded us to visit Ground Zero where the Twin Towers had been attacked. Marilyn works for NYFD but she had not visited “The Pits” since the tragic events of September 11th unfolded. She has watched in disbelief from her office building as the planes hit the skyscrapers and people jumped from the upper storeys. It was a powerfully emotional experience to stand in the Visitor Centre and St. Paul’s Chapel where rescuers slept and ate in shifts for almost a year. The site is vast and the feeling of atrocity was incomprehendible. There was an inspiring quilt that had been left deliberately unfinished to symbolise the loss of so many unfinished lives.
After our sobering experience in the Wall Street area we headed for Macy’s where there was a magnificent flower show throughout the world’s largest department store. There were beautiful displays of flowers, floral sculptures and even caged finches in every department. Hordes of bargain hunters were sifting through the sale rails. Beautifully groomed assistants hustled for customers from their perfume and cosmetic counters. It was a high-end version of the sales pitch normally experienced in markets or bazaars. I was encouraged to have my eyes made up by a girl who admired my gold boots. She covered my eyelids in black eyeliner, sparkly powder and some “badass” mascara. It was not my usual unstructured look!
We booked tickets for the journey to Providence RI at Pennsylvania Street Station in Madison Square Gardens then set off on a mission to find a Chinatown street vendor selling serving noodles in a cardboard bento box. We actually ended up in a very nice Chinese restaurant and shared 4 delicious dishes between us. The subway back to Brooklyn travelled overland briefly and gave us a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
We poured large G&T’s when we got back to Marilynn’s house and chatted late into the night. I have left her the rest of bottle of Gordon’s gin and Schweppes tonic to share with Dana as she acquired a taste for it! As it was so late and I have not had time to practice with the tape recorder, I never got around to Marilynn’s interview. I have warned her that I will send her some questions by email as her stories are so fascinating. She was always happy answer my questions about her childhood on a farm in Georgia and what life in New York is really like. She showed us antique quilts made by her great grandmothers from Feedsacks and Indian Head cotton. We talked about Southern recipes, quilt patterns and Marilynn’s travels around the USA and Africa.
Marilynn was the most warm and generous host with a soft accent that is a mixture of The South and more than 40 years in New York City. She must be one of the modest people I have ever met – she offers classes to new quilters, cooks traditional African American food for her family after Church on Sundays and says very little about her long service at the New York Fire Department. Early on Monday she wanted to cook us up a “heavy” breakfast of eggs, bacon and grits to set us up for the train trip to Rhode Island. She accompanied us to Penn St. Station. We were very sorry to say “Goodbye” to Marilynn and very much hope to meet up with her again on a future trip to New York – we would love her to visit us in Scotland. We really have appreciated the unique opportunity to stay in a New Yorker’s home and be guided around the city by someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of trains, fabric shops and the best traditional restaurants – THANK YOU, Marilynn!!