Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Champagne Wishes... New York? Can I ask you something? Um... what the HECK is your problem?

Let me explain.

For Father's Day, I sent my Dad a gift certificate to a caviar place in New York. I was coming out for his birthday a few weeks later, and when I got to the city, he suggested we do a little picnic out on Governor's Island.

"Fantastic," I said, "I'll get some champagne for it."

"Great -- I'll meet you this afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum and we can walk through the new galleries."

I guess I didn't get the memo that said that you can't bring anything in a glass bottle into the museum.

"Pardon me?"

"You can't take that in there."

"Can I check it at the coat check?"

"They won't take it."

"Well, what am I supposed to do with it? I have to meet someone in here in ten minutes. Isn't there any place I can leave it?"

Elaborate shrug, "You can try to ask at the security desk, they probably won't let you though."

Five minutes of me begging a nice man at the desk to just hold it, just hold it while I run through the Metropolitan Museum of Art looking for my Dad.

Okay. Okay... so.. okay. I'm over it now. Really, I get it, if we take champagne into the museum, the terrorists win.

Okay, flash forward. Day of picnic. We've happily packed up the lunch and plates, cups, etc. and head down to the ferry. Search and seizure has become a shocking fact of life in New York. I suppose it's the most surprising to me because I wasn't in the city when 9/11 happened, but I am somewhat aghast at the civil liberties that New Yorkers seem to have happily surrendered. Bags are searched, property is confiscated, all without a whimper.

At the ferry slip -- the old building for the Staten Island Ferry, everyone passes through a gate and bags are searched.

"Oh, no, can't take that," says the security guy.

"Beg pardon?"

"That's wine?" he indicates behind him to the line on the sign that says "No controlled substances."

I, who cannot imagine offering anyone a place to picnic and then telling they may not have wine, am floored.

"You can leave it here," he says helpfully.

"Oh really?" I say somewhat peevishly.

"Yeah,," he assures me, "It'll be here when you get back," and he begins to cart it off to a non-descript cardboard box behind him.

"Uh, should I put my name on it it or something??"

This seems to confuse him, and he hunts fruitlessly for something to write on. apparently I am the first person EVER to have requested this.

To his credit, the wine was still there in the box when I returned at the end of the day. He was at the other end of the gate when I traipsed back to reclaim it, and all my waving didn't attract his attention a bit. I reached into the box which was now filled with contraband from other lushes like myself, grabbed my bottle and skulked off.

The city has been pushing tourism to Governor's Island hard. There are subway advertisements and radio ads -- Come picnic, spend the day, bring the family. Just no wine.

It reminded me, in a reverse sort of way, of the time my Omnivore and my Dad and I decided to picnic at the Schonbrunn outside of Vienna in Austria. We bought a bottle of wine, but had no corkscrew, so we asked to borrow one at the hotel desk. Another guest offered hers, and stood expectantly waiting for us to open the bottle. My Omnivore hesitated. Could we actually open the wine? Yes, that's what the corkscrew is for. (Stupid Americans!) But can we walk around with the bottle open? Well, how else would you get the wine out of the bottle? (These American's really are dim.) But are you allowed to have an open bottle of alcohol -- I mean where we live there are open bottle laws -- you can't walk around with open bottles of wine. General looks of disbelief. (What kind of idiots are they over there?) We never felt so much like backwards, backwater idiots.

But back to Governor's Island. This beautiful little enclave is certainly worth a trip and the ferry ride over there is free, after all. All my life it's been inaccessible, a Coast Guard Station -- an Army base before that. But now that we're allowed to walk around I expect that hordes will descend on the lovely grassy fields -- and wander its tree-lined paths.

You could almost imagine that you were far from the city.

Our lunch, little blinis with smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche and some osetra caviar from Caviar Russe. If you're thinking of ordering the picnic pack, I can recommend it -- It comes with a mother of pearl spoon, a nice little insulated bag and a cold pack. They also supplied us with a nice big hunk of foie gras. Oh it's such a weakness of mine.

Happy birthday, Dad! Here's a glass of our finest 2007 New York Aqua to many more.

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