Sunday, June 01, 2003


People often ask, "Piker, how is it that you seem to do an incredible amount of traveling despite the fact that you're such a piker?" To them I reply, "Whether you're the heaviest of hitters of the most pathetic of pikers, all you have to do is let go of convention and imagine that anything is possible." Well, several months ago, My Girl and I put our furry heads together and dreamed up a magical vacation to the East Coast. Two days in Durham, NC, followed by two weeks in New York, capped off by another week in Durham. To keep costs down, as pikers often must do, we flew for free using a couple of US Airways vouchers we got for being bumped off a flight last year. To further keep costs down, as true pikers are wont to do, I suggested we rent a car to drive from Durham to New York instead of purchasing an additional flight. Little did Piker know, My Girl's Mom would dig deep into her kind heart and allow us the use of her Honda CRV for the entire length of the New York leg of our journey. So, all told, our travel costs totaled $60 to fill the gas tank there and back. Not only did it cost us next to nothing to travel, but thanks to the boundless generosity of my second family -- The Schiffers -- we barely had to reach into our pockets for living accommodations while we stayed in the most expensive city in the universe. There were many people who were kind to us along the way, but this amazing sojourn would not have been possible without the goodness of My Girl's Mom and The Schiffers (including Leslie). To them, we are eternally grateful. Below you will find a day-by-day summary of our fantastic voyage.

Wednesday, May 14

Flew from LA to Charlotte, then Charlotte to Raleigh-Durham. My Girl's Mom picks us up at RDU when we arrived after 11 pm.

Thursday, May 15

Ran the Duke cross-country trail. I did four miles, My Girl did three. Hit the drive-thru at Chik-Fil-A and feasted back at My Girl's Mom's house. My Girl's Mom cooked turkey BBQ for dinner. My Girl's Sister and My Girl's Brother-in-Law ate with us. (Shh! Don't tell My Girl's Brother-in-Law it was turkey.)

Friday, May 16

Woke up early and used My Girl's Mom's Honda CRV to drive up to New York City. Wind and rain turned an 8 1/2 hour drive into a 10-hour one. Got to the city and stopped off at Jason and Jodie's apartment. My Girl finally got to meet J & J. Drove crosstown and unloaded our luggage at Mark and Leslie's luxurious apartment 5A on the Upper East Side, then went to a pub for drinks and dinner with Mark and Leslie.

Saturday, May 17

Walked around Soho with Jason. Met Jake in the East Village @ Telephone Bar to grab a beer and watch The Preakness. Delicious dinner and drinks at Ruby Foo's in Times Square with J & J. Burlesque show @ Fez with J & J and for Jodie's friend Liz's birthday.

Sunday, May 18

Brunch at Hot & Crusty with Mark, who detailed the Israel-Palestine conflict for us clearly and concisely. Subway to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a day with Andrea and Adam. Walked through some galleries, ate lunch on a patio outside at some hip place on a beautiful day, chilled in a park on the banks of Brooklyn. Italian dinner in Williamsburg with A & A, Kirchner, and Temma. Played "Celebrity" @ Andrea's until almost 2 am.

Monday, May 19

Went to the Salon office in the late afternoon to check out the space. Party @ Bowl-Mor in honor of My Girl and another visiting journalist. Hung out with Jake, Cynthia, Kerry, and others. Dinner at Coffee Shop with Kerry, Joan Walsh, and Lisa DiPaulo. Drinks with Kerry @ Luna Park in Union Square.

Tuesday, May 20

Walked through Central Park on 72nd Street to meet my college buddy Carey at a Starbucks on the Upper West Side. Chatted with Carey (who is now an Orthodox Jew) for a few hours, then stopped by to see Meg and The H-Bomb before going to Jason and Jodie's for dinner. After a delicious home-cooked, three-course meal, the four of us watched the penultimate episode of American Idol and the gut-wrenching finale of 24.


Braved the horrible Long Island Expressway traffic to meet Linnie and Artie for lunch in Great Neck. (We were an hour and a half late.) After lunch we browsed the store -- Linda Silver Designs -- before continuing on to Melville to settle in at Casa Schiffer. To celebrate My Godfather's birthday, we revived our Wednesday night tradition, eating good-quality half-priced sushi at Empire Szechuan and then 2 for 1 sundaes at Carvel. Unfortunately, Mark and David needed to go back to work to solve an urgent business problem, so My Girl and I rushed home to watch the American Idol finale with Linda. Happy to see Ruben win over the Off-Broadway-bound Clay.

Thursday, May 22

Drove to the South Shore of Long Island for a tour of my early childhood. Took the Meadowbrook Parkway to the Loop Parkway to Lido Beach Boulevard to Long Beach Road. Made the pilgrimmage to Harbor Isle and 236 Island Parkway, the residence in which my maternal grandparents raised my mother and aunt, and the house I am most nostalgiac for out of any from my past. Ate lunch at Easy Bay Diner, where my mother and father used to go for cheeseburgers when they were dating. Uncharacteristically, I ordered steak and eggs and was not disappointed. Using the Nassau County map, we tracked down 460 Bunker Drive in Oceanside, the house I lived in with my parents and brother until I was five years old and our family left Long Island for the sunshine and humidity of South Florida. Regrouped at Casa Schiffer before driving into The City for pizza and beer at David and Meg's and the draft lottery, which cast a palpable disappointment over the group when the Miami Heat landed in the number five slot instead of one of the top three coveted positions. Those in attendance included Craig and Michelle, Fuchs, J & J, and of course Dave and Meg. Drove back to Long Island to spend the night.

Friday, May 23

Woke up early and packed up for the weekend. Hit the ATM, drugstore, bagel place before heading to the Bayshore train station. Parked and took the shuttle van to the ferry, which we took to reach the Three Gables house on Fire Island at 1pm. Played a couple afternoon games of Scrabble with J-Rat, V-Rat, and Rotblut and ate bagel sandwiches cooked by New York fireman and all-around nice guy Joe. Shareowners trickled in until the bulk of The Core -- Missy, Michele, Sandra, Cassandra, and Amiel -- arrived around 8pm and the weekend began in earnest. Walked to town and hit the bars, drinking heavily and dancing wildly at The Albatross before taking over the pool table at Hauser's until closing. Walked back to the house as the sun was coming up.

Saturday, May 24

Jen and Jesse arrived to fill out The Core group. Played two-on-two football on the deserted beach with J-Rat, V-Rat, and Rotblut while My Girl and Michele sat on the beach and watched. On the last play, I layed out for a ball, going fully parallel, and had the ball in my hands until I landed and the ball punched me in the nose, drawing blood and ending the game without a single pass being completed. Being that the weather was overcast and dreary, we hung out in the house the rest of the day, playing more games of Scrabble and laughing about the silliest shit I couldn't possible begin to recount. Early evening ushered in the casual drinking. Joe and Sandra spearheaded a group effort to cook up a make-your-own-chicken burrito feast. Then the drinking got serious. Again, went into town to imbibe and girate at The Albatross, and once again, the sun started to rise as we stumbled back to the house.

Sunday, May 24

Huddled on the screened-in porch on another nasty, chilly day, The Core watched a double-fantastic double-feature of "Almost Famous" and "American Beauty", neither of which Rotblut had seen before. Half the group went out for dinner and half, including My Girl and I stayed in for a burgers and dogs BBQ. A fractured game of Pictionary fizzled out and gave way to a 12-player, 3-team game of Celebrity. After much coaxing and repeated explanation of the simple rules, the majority of the group takes to the game like an addict to methadone. The game actually had to be curtailed due to extremely loud laughter during the"acting out the celebrity name" round while some of the shareowners were trying to sleep. Milked a few more hours of laughs out of Rotblut as we walked into town at 4pm to track down a couple of slices and an ATM.


Braved a torrential downpour to run into town to solve the nagging ATM problem. Returned to the house thoroughly drenched from head to toe. Gathered our luggage, said our goodbyes, and braved the conditions yet again to make the 11:20am Seaview Ferry. My Girl and I talked to Jesse on the ferry ride and laughed as we immediately reminisced about the freshly-finished Fire Island weekend. I talked and laughed so hard the crusty old lady sitting in front of me had to cover her ears and switch seats with her undoubtedly miserable husband. Reached the mainland and took a crowded shuttle van back to the train station, where we parted ways with Jesse, found our car, and changed out of our soaked clothes. Drove out to the North Fork of Long Island (the antithesis of the much-ballyhooed South Fork known as The Hamptons) and arrived at the brand-new compound on the bay built from scratch by my cousins Arlene and Ed. Ate wraps for lunch with Arlene and Ed and my Aunt Ellen and her two boys, my two first cousins Seth and Eli, who were in from Amherst, Mass. Toured the state-of-the-art house, complete with digital weather station, surveillance equipment, a wine refrigerator, a poolhouse, a putting green and sand trap, among other amenities and modern conveniences. Watched the video of Eli's high school basketball state championship and chatted for a few hours before the time came for everyone to return to their normal lives. Ellen, Seth, and Eli left to catch the ferry back to Connecticut to retrieve their car to drive back to Massachusetts. Arlene and Ed packed up to head back to their apartment in The City. And My Girl and I cruised on the L.I.E. back to Exit 50 and Casa Schiffer, where we ate a take-out Chinese dinner with The Schiffers, then hung out and exchanged stories with Taryn, Linda, and David.

Tuesday, May 27

Joined David and Mark at Safe Banking Systems for a take-out lunch from Melville Deli. Said goodbye and went back to Casa Schiffer to pack up and head back to The City. Attended an informal screening of a short film our friend Kirchner is editing at the director's apartment. Also in attendance were our friend Andrea and Adam, Temma, and Kirchner. After watching the short, we gave the director the feedback he was seeking, then went out for Indian food in the East Village. Kirchner joined My Girl and I as we met Missy, Lisa, J-Rat, Cassandra, and Amiel for drinks at Bar Six. Spent the night in our guest room at 5A.

Wednesday, May 28

Ate crepes for brunch at Le Bonne Soupe on 55th and 5th. Met Jason and took the subway uptown to Spanish Harlem. Walked a few blocks to 105th and 5th, the entrance to the magnificent Conservatory Garden. Although, on the overcast day with nothing much in bloom, it wasn't quite as magnificent as I remembered. Despite the thunder and ominous clouds, we wandered through Central Park, coming across a waterfall and a cave before reaching the top of the park at 110th street. Raced the rain to 104th and Broadway to see The Building -- a three-story structure my grandfather bought way back when during his days in the supermarket business, which now houses a Rite Aid and Spanish gallery. Took the subway back downtown to J-Yoz's apartment and chilled until Jo-Yoz got home. Then the four of us met Dave and Meg for dinner at Isabella's. After a stop off at a decadent bakery called Crumbs, Jo-Yoz said goodnight and goodbye while the rest of us went back to Dave and Meg's to eat our cupcakes. Said goodbye to my lifelong friends and strolled crosstown to 5A to spend our last night in town.

Thursday, May 29

Up at 7am. Got the car from the parking garage as My Girl ran across the street to grab some coffee and crumb cake from Starbucks. Left NYC at around 8pm and started the drive back down to Durham. Stopped off in Washington D.C. around noon for a tour of the NPR studios, arranged and led by My Girl's editor at "All Things Considered." On his recommendation, we went for lunch at Eat First, a Chinese restaurant he claimed was the best in the city. Unimpressed but satiated, we continued our drive along the Eastern seaboard and arrived in Durham at 7:15pm. My Girl's Mother cooked up a lasagna for dinner and My Girl and I passed out from exhaustion shortly after. Breakfast in New York, Lunch in D.C., Dinner in Durham.

Friday, May 30

Lunch at Chick-Fil-A, the greatest fast food chicken place of all-time. Coffee at Mad Hatter's. Browsed the Regulator bookstore. Took Chloe, the family's highly intelligent and moody rough-cut Jack Russell terrier, for a walk on along the Hillandale Golf Course. For dinner, home-cooked lasagna leftovers with My Girl's Mom, My Girl's Sister, and My Girl's Brother-In-Law.

Saturday, May 31

Regulator bookstore for coffee. Hit the drive-thru at Biscuitville for breakfast with Chloe along for the ride. Ran 3 miles on the cross-country trail on the Duke campus, while My Girl's Mom, My Girl's Sister, and Chloe walked. Went with My Girl's Mom to Best Buy to purchase Heather's birthday present Visited My Girl's good friends Perri and Carter and ate dinner with them and their adorable two year-old girl Phereby. During dinner, Phereby turned to me and asked "How come you're so funny?" I responded that I come from a Jewish family in which my mother gave me her gregarious, fun-loving personality and my father passed on his dry, sarcastic wit. I'm not sure Phereby fully understood my answer to her question, but I'm confident someday she will.