By BRUCE DENNILL
We were on a mission. Final day in New York. Final day in the US. Final day of a long-planned trip abroad. Who knew when or if another one would be possible?
We had to get to the Met. The Beautiful Wife and I had missed an opportunity to see its treasures on a previous visit because, through foolish ignorance, we’d arrived on the only day of the week it was closed and there was no chance for us to get back there before the end of our time in town.
That couldn’t happen again. So we were power-walking through Central Park, having come in somewhere near Columbus Circle and meandered, at first, pausing to let Daughter The Elder scuttle up Umpire Rock for a picture before joining Center Drive and feeling compelled to speed up a bit as trim, fit sorts gambolled past us in DayGlo pink yoga pants, pushing designer three-wheeler prams. And that was just the men.
We nimbly sidestepped the trendy tandems sharing the pedestrian lane with us, occasionally stepping into the path of a slow-moving park maintenance vehicle as we did so. Keen to avoid death by rake-carrying truck, we branched off onto East Drive, which was less congested, and also where Daughters both Younger and Elder started to flag in the muggy, 30-something-Celsius heat.
To be fair, they’re children, and city kids at that, unused to walking as much as we’d expected them to as short-term tourists wanting to see as much as possible. But it is fascinating, in scientific terms, to note that as a child’s energy starts to fail, so its mouth becomes somehow more animated.
“How far do we still have to go?”
“It’s just there, on the other side of those trees. You can sort of see part of the building there.”
“Is it worth it?”
“Yes.” A permanent collection of around two million objects from the last 320,000 years, some of the world’s most loved paintings and…ah, forget it.
Something looms in the trees on our left. It’s the SummerStage in Central Park stage, currently empty, though a schedule informs us that will miss Kurt Vile and the Violators and Dinosaur Jr by a couple of weeks, which is disappointing.
We loop off towards one of the park exits to join 5th Avenue where it meets East 72nd Street, reasoning that it might be quicker, if not quite as interesting, to walk along the pavement up to the Met and so cut both our time exposed to the sun and the opportunity for detailed commentary on the hardships of like, having to, uh, walk.
Just then, though, there is a flash of water in the direction of the museum – the near end of the oval-shaped Conservatory Water. Water is always – whether you wade into it or throw buckets of it over your head or not – an antidote to heat-related gripes, so the sidewalk stroll idea is swiftly abandoned as we unanimously agree to a short detour to the lake and one of the benches available at regular intervals along its shoreside path.
We find an unoccupied one and plonk ourselves down. Snacks. Water. An army marches on its stomach, and this army not only has to get to the Met, but then navigate its cavernous halls for whatever length of time we are able to eke out before beginning our journey back to the equally vast Penn Station parking lot and the car of the friend selflessly working late so that he can give us a lift back to his place somewhere on the opposite side of the Hudson River.
Right. We’re fed. We’ve regained our breath. We’re close to our destination. Completing this mission is possible if we can all pull together for a few minutes more, until we reach the air-conditioned Nirvana of the museum. I take a deep breath and motion to my family to stand and follow me towards the next park exit, which they do, some of them grudgingly.
Just then, one of the many radio-controlled sailboats that are cruising the Conservatory Water passes close by where we are standing. I see the number on its sail – “007”, the code number for perhaps the most famous spy in literary history. I nod, understanding that important missions are often complicated affairs and feeling glad that mine will involve gawping at multiple suits of armour, classical Greek sculpture and bewildering cubist perspectives rather than having to descend into an active volcano to diffuse an unstable nuclear warhead.
The kids would never let me hear the end of that…