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Day Three: A Walk in the Park

17 Jun

If you are a mother, especially if you have several children, you may or may not have at some point when you needed to assure a restful night (or plane trip, etc) given your children some “unnecessary” Benadryl. Maybe you are shocked and appalled that I would even suggest such a thing. But if you are still reading at this point, likely you are simply nodding your head in affirmation that, indeed, you have used exactly that move. Well, this is not a story about how I guaranteed drowsy compliance and/or sleep from my children by dosing them with Benadryl. This is how I guaranteed drowsy compliance and/or sleep from my DOG by dosing him with Benadryl. It was even the vet’s idea!! And I’m not sure if it was even necessary, because he’s been such a gem of a dog thus far, but we were in a hotel room, and frankly I wasn’t sure how he was going to react to the strange environment, the multitude of noises in the parking lot, etc. So, he may have had a bedtime pill. And whether or not it was the Benadryl, or just the exhaustion of traveling and missing out on his typical daily naps, Remy was good as gold in the hotel room last night. To be frank I am kind of wishing I had taken some Benadryl myself. Because I woke up early, too early, earlier than I needed. But at least that wasn’t the fault of the dog as it so often is.

I took advantage of this early rising to take a shower, and then demand it of all three kids. We run fairly fast & loose on the hygiene over the summer, but prior to heading in to stay at my friend’s apartment in Manhattan, I felt it important to arrive as clean as possible, because there was no way I wanted to get involved in ending up with wet towels in the car (and I sure as heck wasn’t going to ask my exceedingly generous friend to deal with 4 wet towels in her apartment! Nor assume she even had 4 extra towels to begin with!) So once we got all that accomplished, we rolled out a little before 9:00am. A suggestion had been made that when in Harrisburg, one really ought to at least take a look at their gorgeous state capitol building, so we left the hotel and made a drive-by, through downtown Harrisburg. I have to say, I was duly impressed. They did a really nice job planning the approach to the building – a long avenue opens up the view to the capitol, and it feels a bit like a red carpet approach. You are forced to go right or left around a park, but then are able to drive right in front of the fountain plaza in front of the building. It is an impressive structure, and quite beautiful, especially its green tiled dome. Though I did have trouble deciding how I felt about a Commonwealth having a “State” Capitol building. Shouldn’t it instead be a Commonwealth Capitol Complex? Either way, I was glad I took the few extra minutes to drive by and snap some pictures. Don’t know how much the kids really appreciated it, but I thought it was lovely.

Then we were off for a short 177 mile hop to the site of an infamous duel, and 5 previous years worth of photo shoots for the Willim 3. I am referring to Hamilton Park in lovely Weehawken, New Jersey. (Though, I must say, it seems a shame it’s not Burr Park; after all,  he’s the one who won the duel. Killing the other guy and not dying yourself is considered winning a duel, isn’t it?) Anyway, it’s been fun taking the same picture in the same place for several years in a row (excepting last year when CMRT was on hiatus). There is a handy white iron fence that the kids stand in front of, cleverly marking their height increases in relation to the top cross bar of the fence. It’s amazing how much they’ve grown. (Pause for nostalgic sniffle.) After taking some pictures with Manhattan laid out in the background, and letting the kids run around a bit, it was time to grab a bite to eat before heading into the city. Now, having children who are extremely picky eaters is frustrating, to say the least. On many levels. But I needed to make sure I got a full meal into the children before force-marching them, with the dog, all over the upper westside. So I used my handy smartphone’s map function to locate a reasonably close fast food restaurant. Of course in this environment, there is no handy drive-through, or even a parking lot. As I’m discovering exactly how urban this Union City, NJ, Burger King is going to be, and wondering exactly how I’m going to pull this off, I realize there is an on-street parking space directly across from the BK. Inconceivable. But, still shouldering the issue of traveling with a large dog (no hiding Remy the Wonder Poodle in a handbag), I decide to give the kids a little taste of responsibility, and send them into the restaurant with an appropriate amount of cash, and expect them to order, and pay for, the food. It seemed to take an awfully long time, but I was mostly content just standing on the sidewalk with the dog while they transacted food procurement business. However, if you are ever curious about how I got some of the nastiest looks ever glared my way in my life, it was by having an exceedingly well-behaved dog sitting quietly on the sidewalk taking up less space than most humans. I get that he’s a large dog, and that many people are scared of dogs in general, and large dogs especially, but Remy hardly looks like a menacing monster. And judging by some of the looks fired my way, you would have thought I was standing on the sidewalk juggling toxic waste and biological weapons. Finally, the kids emerged, and we all hopped back into the car to make our way into the city.

The parking karma held, and we managed to find a parking space very near to Robyn’s apartment on 92nd, between Riverside and West End. The tail end of the van was a little too much in front of a fire hydrant for my taste, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I just couldn’t let this spot go. There were other open areas on the street, but they were prohibited during school hours – until 4pm. So, rather uncharacteristically, I decide that despite being slightly illegally parked, it was good enough, and we headed off to walk our dog in Central Park. Walked into the park on the westside at 90th, where one of the children promptly asked if we could find a bathroom. Sigh. Thankfully there was a large map on a kiosk to get us started in the right direction to find a public restroom. There are not a ton of them in Central Park, but still better odds than out in the city. We meandered down the bridle path towards the Shakespeare Garden, using the bathrooms in front of the Delacorte Theatre. Then walked back up past The Great Lawn, and stopped to let the kids play for awhile in Spector Playground. Then walked more along the shore of the Reservoir, and after a brief time playing in Safari Playground, back out of the park at 91st. I was eager to go back and move my car into a better, less potentially illegal spot on her street. However, we had two things to take care of first. Beau was adamant that when in NYC, one must eat at least one slice of that delicious, authentic NYC pizza. (Someone is raising him right! In danger of breaking arm patting self on back.) So on Robyn’s suggestion we grabbed a few slices at a place on the corner of 92nd & Broadway, as a late afternoon snack. And while the dog was not welcomed on the playgrounds of Central Park, there is at least one place in the city that I knew we could take him – Petco! What better place to waste time in a busy city, than a field trip to enjoy some nice a/c in a place where the sign on the door reads: ” Leashed pets always welcome.” Once we procured a bag of treats, and a new bag holder to clip to said leash of leashed dog, we headed up to move our car. Which took all of about 30 seconds. And since it still wasn’t the end of the work day, we grabbed a beach towel and a deck of cards out of the car, and headed over to Riverside Park.The kids started off by exploring yet another NYC playground – the Hippo Playground. It’s really quite astounding the number and diversity of the playgrounds throughout the parks of Manhattan.

To further kill time, and properly enjoy one of the most magnificent days, weather-wise, that I’ve ever experienced in New York, we spread out our towel on the grass near the 91st Street Flower Garden, and proceeded to play this new card game that we are totally addicted to called “Three Cards Down.” Beau brought it home to us from some friend at school, and it is a perfect road trip game because all you need to play is a deck of cards, plus it is fun and challenging for all the ages of my children. (Not to mention me!) Robyn found us in the park when she was finished with work. We picked up and walked down closer to the river, to her spot, and roped her into learning/playing our favorite new game. The girls started to crawl all over her like cats, and Harper proclaimed that she liked Ms. Warr, “because she strokes my hair.” As if I never do. Sigh. After a reasonable amount of time lounging in the sun, we packed up and went to Big Daddy’s Diner for dinner. Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned taking the dog back to her apartment? That’s right, he was wish us the entire time. The cool part about having outdoor, sidewalk seating, is that your dog can join you. At least they can be attached to you via leash sitting outside of the barricade. Remy wasn’t quite sure what to make of that arrangement. Though he was plenty comfortable, as the hostess brought him out a bowl of water, and I may or may not have snuck him a few tater tots to tide him over.

Finally back to the apartment it was time to ready the space for the Willim crew to crash. Robyn has a really nice-sized apartment, and while she graciously offered an air mattress, it wasn’t even necessary, because she has a rug on her hardwood floors. We pulled apart her cool papasan chair, turning the mattress into a super snuggly nest for Avery, then Beau & Harper just had sleeping bags/blanket right on the floor. While they were getting settled I walked Remy back down to Riverside Park, where flaunting the posted sign of “No Pets Allowed”, I joined some other less than law-abiding citizens in letting our dogs run off-leash. He was super excited to run, and it had the benefit of encouraging him to quickly do what I needed him to do. Gathered him back up after a few minutes and tromped the two short blocks back to the apartment. Did I mention yet that it really is a great apartment? And the location? Heaven, especially for a dog owner! We all snuggled in to watch the movie “Zootopia”, and started falling like dominos. First Harper, then Avery, then Beau, then me, until Robyn was the only one who managed to stay awake to watch to the very end. But after my little catnap I managed to rouse enough to appreciate a little adult conversation – seeing as though it was our only opportunity to speak sans children hanging on our every word, and literally hanging on us!

As for whether or not I’m making it to Maine with the entire prescription of Xanax intact? Seems likely. Remy, while being born on a farm and raised in suburbia, is clearly a big city dog. (Well, to truly be a big city dog, he’d have to learn to be curbed, but I’m confident if I tried to teach him, he’d pick it up quickly.) He was completely unbothered by all the noise, the bustle, the people, walking leashed on the sidewalk, etc, etc. He even adapted very quickly to having to be near, but physically separated from us on the sidewalk during dinner. He is a freakin’ ROCK STAR in NYC. A man riding his bike in Riverside Park stopped, came over, and asked if he could pet Remy, then proceeded to love on him and talk about what a great dog he was for several minutes. People on the street were stopping and asking if they could pet him – kids, old people, other dog owners. People were asking me questions about his breed, intelligence, training, etc. Seriously. He was getting a ton of attention. A rock star. And he took it all like a champ. Not wary or standoffish (in fact, he leaned rather hard into the guy who was scratching him in the park; I might need to have a stranger danger discussion with him.) And then, the thing that really induced my own anxiety, worrying about how his anxiety might manifest being in the apartment with the noise of the buzzers and entry door at all hours of the night, really turned out to be a minuscule issue. He did react to the door maybe two or three times, one of which was probably about 2am, but it was simply a low throaty growl, and I was able to swiftly shush him. So I was the only person he woke. It never escalated to barking. In fact, he did not bark a single time in NYC. Not when an ambulance went screaming by as we walked on the sidewalk (at that he didn’t even drop his tail and watched it go by), not when a little yippy dog randomly lunged and tried to bite his leg as we walked by in the park (then he simply danced sideways and looked at the rat on a leash with disdain.) And more importantly, not when he was in a strange place, hearing strange noises, when he is definitely a protect the castle kind of dog. No Xanax required. Not even any Benadryl. He was likely so bone-weary exhausted that he couldn’t muster the energy. But whatever the reason, I nominate Remy for Best Dog Ever. And I nominate this day, as one of the best NYC days I’ve ever had.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim