They got me dancing on the rooftop last night, believe it or not! It was Ettice’s ambition: we’ll get Maria dancing tonight. I don’t like dancing so why should I dance? Because it makes you happy. She seemed to be seriously concerned that I was not happy. Because I was not dancing? I don’t know. Maryline joined in on her. We’ll get Maria dancing. I was sitting in my deckchair, sipping my rum cocktail, smiling. Of course they would not get me dancing. I have two left feet.
But what started as a get together on cocktails became a party because other people were having a party on the same rooftop and we were drawn into it. We left our deckchairs and mingled with the crowd. They had music. Ettice and Maryline and some others started dancing. They prompted me to join them. I refused. Ernesto from Puerto Rico gave a dance show on a table. I don’t know how it happened then. They somehow grabbed my hands and pulled me. And then I was dancing.
I started my day on a completely different plan. The Museo del Barrio on 5th Avenue in Spanish Harlem offers a walking tour around the neighborhood and I joined it. It was a small group of just three people. A young couple from Puerto Rico and me. Our tour guide was Maya who introduce herself as a third generation American with Mexican origin. She also said she didn’t speak proper Spanish. She gave us a feeling for what the neighborhood is like, how architecture changes from avenue to avenue, showed us community gardens and explained street art, recommended restaurants and took us in to business – a botanica place and a very active little bookshop. In the latter one a reading for kids was just going on.
I learned that Spanish Harlem has long been strictly Puerto Rican, not Hispanic in general.
More and more Mexicans were moving in later, bringing a different culture and lifestyle. I had not known or not thought about different cultures and lifestyles in the Hispanic world. But it makes sense. Mexico is a big country having different landscape and cultures in its own, Puerto Rico a small Caribbean Island.
After the tour I visited the museum because it was free with my ticket. It is a collection of contemporary art by artist from all over Latin America. The staff there is not just standing around making sure that visitors don’t do anything they should not do but is eager to get visitors involved. So one guy gave me explanations about a piece, another one asked me what I see in one. With him I got into a brief conversation about languages and cultures.
After that I walked back to Lexington and got a Taco from the Mexican takeaway there. I took it to Central Park where I found a bench in beautiful Conservatory Garden. It was difficult to eat but tasty. My phone rang. It was Ettice, telling me that we were invited to a barbecue and I could either meet them at Maryline’s house in about half an hour or she would leave me directions and I could come later.
I had planned to sit in the garden for a while to get my remaining critiques done and then go to Jazz on the Hill, a free Jazz concert on the Great Hill in Central Park. But should I miss a barbecue? I told her I would take the train right now and meet them. The barbecue was taking place in Riverbank State Park facing Hudson River in Hamilton Heights. Directions said to take the 1 train to 145th Street and walk down to the river. The five of us, Ettice, Maryline, Ian, his teenage daughter Francis visiting from England and I walked all the way over to Broadway on 125th Street to catch the train there. A wide bridge overpassed the West Side Highway and leads to the park. It is one of just a few parks in NY were barbecues are allowed. A lot of families were having kids’ birthday parties or just something. The thing was that we did not find our barbecue. It was not a private party but a big thing. They were talking about several hundred people and red balls. I didn’t exactly get it what connected us to it. I guessed Ian and Maryline know somebody who knows somebody. It was not quite what I expected when I was asked to come along. But it was funny. We walked to the end of the park, came across a lot of parties, just not ours. Finally we bought some food from a Dominican food vendor. They were selling fried meat with plantains that looked extremely greasy. I just had two empanadas, one with cheese and one with beef. I managed to order them in Spanish and the woman was pleased. We ate our food on a bench looking onto Hudson River – alternative version of a barbecue.
When we walked back we spotted a group that might be the one we were looking for. Not really some hundred people though and the barbecue seemed to be over.
Everybody wanted a drink. We discussed Margaritas or rum cocktails and decided for rum cocktails. We took two buses back to Central Harlem where we went into the liquor store to buy wine and rum. We passed the Frozen Yogurt place on Lenox and had some. Good I had not come across it earlier. I might have become a regular. In the West African Restaurant we got ginger and sorrel juices for the cocktails. Having everything we needed we went back to Maryline’s and Ian’s place and up to the rooftop. As we just had arranged our deckchairs the other people came along to have a party.
That’s how it goes.