Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Making Memories

From James Grippando

You Want to Make a Memory?

In case you don’t recognize it, that’s the title of Bon Jovi’s latest hit song, The Grippandos were watching American Idol as a family when it debuted on national television. My wife is younger than I am, and Bon Jovi is straight from her era (I’m somewhere between The Who and U2). My daughter is only eleven, but she digs Bon Jovi too, and that song is on her iPod.

I have a couple of things to say about this Bon Jovi resurgence. One, while watching the major league baseball playoffs this autumn, I was surprised to see that John Bon Jovi looks as goofy as I do in a Yankee's cap. Two, I have to confess that the Bon Jovi song has been in my head over the past few days, triggered mostly by all our preparations for our family trip to NYC. Because all romantic and sexual innuendo aside, that’s exactly what we’re doing . . . making memories.

Neither my wife nor I are New Yorkers, but this marks our fifth consecutive Thanksgiving in NewYork City. We go each year with another family, whose last name is Strump, but if you say it real fast it sounds like Trump, which doesn’t hurt for dinner reservations. We do all kinds of fun things, but mostly what I love about this trip is that we are making some really great memories for our kids.

My first trip to New York City wasn’t until I was in college. Back then, New York was on the verge of bankruptcy and wasn’t exactly the safest city. I have to say that I was intimidated. Now, I love it that my two older kids (11 and 9) act like the own the most amazing city in the world. They know the difference between long blocks and short blocks. They hale cabs. They have their favorite rock to climb in central park, and they’ve named the polar bears in the Central Park Zoo. They can point out the relative advantages and disadvantages of skating at Woman Rink versus Rockefeller Center, they know exactly where the American Girl store is, and they know how to get there from the NBA Store.

Thanksgiving in New York takes some practice to perfect. Our first year, I have to admit, was not so good. We watched the parade from a terrace about 30 stores above Broadway. It was cold and windy, and my wife’s a good sport, but I could tell that she wished we were back in Miami complaining about how hot it always is on Thanksgiving Day. That first year, we also did Thanksgiving dinner at the Plaza, which was mediocre. Now however, we have it nailed. I won’t bore you with every little detail, but if you’ve ever thought about doing New York and the Macy’s Parade, here are four “Thanksgiving in New York” tips that might make your trip a little more special.

First, where do you watch the parade from? We’ve tried various places, but the last three years we’ve done breakfast at Jean George at Columbus circle. I think it’s perfect. It’s at ground level, and the restaurant has two-story walls of glass that face Central Park West. If it’s bad weather, you can stay inside, drink hot chocolate, and see everything from your table. If you want to go outside, you can stand on the sidewalk by the heaters, and the only people who can stand out there with you are guests at the hotel or customers of the restaurant. In other words, unlike the W in Time Square or other places we’ve tried, you can actually see the parade without standing on someone else’s shoulders.

Thanksgiving Day can be tough and very boring for the kids, because many of the typical New York destinations are closed. We make this our day to skate at Rockefeller Center. No line. If you go the next day, be prepared to wait two or three hours.

Thanksgiving dinner in New York has become one of my favorite new family traditions. My pick is the King’s Carriage House. It’s a small restaurant (it was once an actual carriage house) that serves up traditional Thanksgiving fare by candlelight. It feels more like a New England Inn than the Upper East side.

This is a family trip for the most part, but we do one grown up dinner without kids. One of my personal favorites is Grammercy Tavern. Last time Tiffany and I went there I happily discovered that the general manager was once a lawyer at my old law firm—in fact, I was the hiring partner who gave him his job. It’s fun to see lawyers with the guts to move on to another career and do what they really love to do. Grammercy is now the #1 rated restaurant in New York, according to Zagat’s. Not to be missed, and there is something about the décor that feels very Thanksgiving to me. Try it.

So, here’s hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know we will!

Paul will be back (a couple pounds heavier) with his regular slot next Tuesday.


  1. Great post, Jim. It was early December the first time I was in New York, which was only a few years ago. In addition to visiting friends, I did all the touristy things: tea at the Plaza, the Statue of Liberty, Bloomingdales. When you're from a warm climate, it's a treat to be in cold weather, especially for the holidays. Here's wishing you another wonderful T-giving.

  2. I think you may be getting snow for T-givng, which is the best.

    If so, make snow angels with your kids, but not in the middle of Fifth Avenue.

    Have a great time.