Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Last Week's Top 3

New York, New York. So nice, they named it twice. Bronx is up, Battery's down. East Side, West Side. We pretty much covered it all last week when the girlfriends were in town. But there are three stand-outs for me.

1. Ellis Island and the American Family Immigration History Center. Unfortunately (or, fortunately), three of us didn't have ancestors who came through Ellis Island - we're strictly Virginia-landing types. But Linda's grandfather did come through Ellis during the early years of the 20th century, so we took the opportunity to try to find out a little about the specifics of his arrival. Linda had the grandfather's name (Israel Feldman), country of origin (Odessa, Ukraine), ethnicity (Hebrew/Russian) and a few other specifics to help begin the search.

On the ferry from Liberty Island to Ellis Island, our group horned into seats with a wonderful man who worked at the Immigration History Center. He and Linda spent the brief trip going over her grandfather's information. The man explained how the tracking system worked and promised to show us the ropes once we got there. He was an enormous help and saved us lots of time at the Center.

We paid our $5 and were assigned a computer. You're limited to something like 25 minutes to locate your information (the computer keeps a timer for you), but the system walks you through step by step. We narrowed down the years (1892-1906) and typed in the name "Israel Feldman." All sorts of iterations came up, but we could eliminate most since we were looking for someone from Odessa. The only one that came up spelled his name "Feldmann" with two n's, but everything else seemed to check out.

Though we were pretty confident we'd found Linda's grandfather, we couldn't locate her grandmother who came over a couple of years later. Time ran out, so we printed the ship's manifest and picture of the ship and other details. We weren't completely sure we'd found the right guy (the two n's threw us off). Once everything was printed out, a wonderful woman at the center took the time to explain the ship's manifest. Linda's grandfather was listed as a "clerk" but he was actually a musician. Upon closer inspection of the manifest, it appeared that the word "clerk" was written over the word "musician" (clerk was a better wage-earning profession than musician). As for the two n's? The ship was German, sailing from Bremen. Since Germans would have filled out the manifest, it was very probable that they added the extra "n" to Feldman's name.

Well, who knows? Whether we found the right guy or not (but we really believe we did find him), the whole exercise had us all in tears. Definitely a memorable New York experience.

2. Gramercy Tavern. We wanted to splurge at a notable New York restaurant one night, so we chose Gramercy Tavern for that experience. We were not disappointed. Yes, it's expensive: $82 prix fixe 3-course menu, but, boy, those three courses were special. I had a wonderful duck terrine, an absolutely perfect smoked lobster, and a definitely-off-Weight-Watchers-list warm chocolate bread pudding with cocoa bean ice cream. Others chose offerings like halibut and sirloin. In between courses we were brought little specialty tidbits, and the olive bread was to die for. The service was magnificent - attentive, but not intrusively so. Water glasses were always full. We were in a lovely room that leant itself to conversation. The restroom was fabulous. What can I say. We loved it. I'd definitely go back if I ever win the lottery.

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Super Summer Sale. Well, the Met is always spectacular, and the girls found more to hold their interest than I would've ever expected. I think we were there 4-5 hours, everyone going off in different directions to explore on their own with certain meet-up times and places. But when I found the super summer sale on the the 2nd floor, I was in hog-heaven. I was handed a large Met shopping bag and told "$5 for whatever you can fit in the bag." I wasted a little time saying, "No? Really? Honest? $5 to fill this thing up? Really?" Once I accepted the fact that, yes, I could fill up the bag and only pay $5, I was off and running.

Most of what I grabbed was Christmas stuff - a pop-up Christmas in New York book, boxes of Christmas cards, 6 gold cloisonne ornaments. But I also got a fabulous photography book, several art books and a couple of New York trinkets. Let's just say, I over-filled the bag. When I got to check-out, it didn't cost me $5 - I'm a Met member so it cost me $4.80. Woo-hoo! I was one happy camper, I tell you. I just wish I'd gotten in there earlier. Next year, my friends. Next year!

So there you have it. Don't you wish you'd been there? At Ellis Island? At Gramercy Tavern? At the Met filling your shopping bag for $4.80? New York, New York. So nice, they named it twice.


Anonymous said...

Wow!! I vote for your place for the family Christmas party this year!!


MaryB said...

C'mon up, Cuz. My apartment will sleep 6, if one person is willing to sleep in the tub. So, you're thinkin' Gramercy Tavern for the family Christmas party this year? (You do the math . . . )

Liz said...

I wish I'd been everywhere! $5 for a bagful. I want it and I want it now!

Husband has done a lot of genealogy and names, particularly the farther back you go, changed a lot, as there often wasn't a 'right' spelling or the person himself couldn't spell, or the form-filler couldn't. I think your assessment of the German variation makes perfect sense. I'd say Linda found her forefather. How exciting.