Miles & Hyde: Time Travel and Mustard Messes
Day four of Lizzie's stay: Life in color and the ubiquitous presence of mustard.
When I was a little girl, you could find me at recess propped up against a tree with my nose in a book.
That was, until my teachers took my books away and told me I wasn’t allowed to read at recess because I had to “be social” or something like that.
After that, you could find me in the girls bathroom with my feet off the floor and my nose in a book.
I liked to read.
I didn’t like recess. And there were three of them. Every single day.
I liked to read books about traveling through time, to other places. I loved escaping through wardrobes to lands with snow queens and beavers, through the attic to medieval kingdoms with dragons and princesses, and through a wooden cupboard to a toy indian’s camp with tiny horses and arrows.
The thought of stepping from one, ordinary world, into another, extraordinary world, excited me.
I don’t have recess anymore, and am now free to step from one world to another at my own whim.
Now I take the Subway.
For example, at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, you can step on the subway at Chambers Street, and at 9:57 a.m. on the same Tuesday morning, you can get off at the beach. On the subway in the grey, chaotic buzz of the Financial District, and off again at the carnival-lit, laid back land of Nathan’s Hotdogs and rock and roll.
Then with a swipe of the metro card, and another dive down the subway, you can pop back up in another world all together.
It’s better than books.
On the fourth day of my friend's visit to New York, Lizzie and I did a lot of walking through wardrobes in just that way.
We’d packed our bags with necessary time-travel items and boarded the subway at nine, sharp. We had books for the subway ride, emergency snacks (eaten at 9:08 a.m.), and a 64-pack of crayons.
We climbed through the wardrobe, past aisles of cotton candy, through swarms of seagulls, into the saturated, snow-kissed Coney glow.
The Cyclone was closed, so we swept crumbs from our hotdog wrappers and put our crayons to work decorating around smudges of mustard.
One thing I’ve learned about the Subway; no matter which world you dive into, there’s a constant stream of yellow mustard that follows wherever you go.
The natives took us in, and were certain we needed to document it.
“Take our picture!” One burley man motioned to the camera hanging around my neck. Another struck a pose and I shoved Lizzie into the camera frame.
Satisfied with our exploration of that world, we swiped our metro card, letting the turnstile fold like closed pages behind us, ready to take on the next world.
We tumbled from the pages of a 1920’s Coney Island tale of bright lights and freak-shows into the world of 1960’s Brooklyn.
“Are you girls here to work?” Antonio, our second-generation-Italian friend asked us over the bar of his Pizzeria counter. We were met at the door of DaVinci's Pizzeria with a twinkling hello from the bell and a face full warm, fragrant air. Fresh dough browned to gold in the massive pizza ovens before us.
“Na, you gotta eat first!” Antonio ushered us to a table in the back where he brought out a half dozen courses of his different pizzas.
When folks with Italian heritage are involved, you’re going to be well fed. Like way well fed.
First came the traditional “pie” with fresh mozzarella.
We observed from natives that the proper way to attack a “pie” is by sticking your thumb in the gooey middle of the slice and then using your ring and index fingers to fold it in half. It’s a science.
We worked at our “pies” and “squares,” while Antonio greeted customers by name. “Aye, Tony! How ya doin?” There were a lot of hand gestures involved and the syllables rolled off their lips like jet skis on a current.
Staccato rolls of Italian song.
We also came to the conclusion that the name “Antonio” is way underused in Oregon.
Antonio sat down with us long enough to fill us in on the history of the place. “My dad’s partner, Antonio, worked here for a while after my parents bought the place in ’68.” He dove in for a square.
“Oh were you named after that guy?” Lizzie asked.
“No way!” He gave us a questioning look. “We were all named after our grandparents.”
When Antonio was satisfied that we were, in fact, full, he let us loose--after two more rounds, “Just to be sure.”
“Now you can work it off.” Antonio collect our trays and pointed toward the kitchen.
Before we knew it we were standing next to crates of Italian tomatoes for tomorrow’s sauce, watching 100 pounds of flour turn into dough. Antonio rolled it out onto a table. He hacked off sections of dough, weighed it and passed it to the two of us to knead into round loaves which were then left to rise. As our hands worked the dough he gave us more tales from Italy and filled us in on mob-history from a Brooklyn perspective.
Antonio’s friends popped their heads back in the kitchen every so often, provoking more “Aye! How ya doin?”s and handshakes.
One of Antonio’s friends told us he owned the bakery down the street.
“I’ll bring ‘em by,” Antonio said, hacking off another chunk of dough. “We’re about through here.”
After consuming an ungodly amount of pizza, Antonio took us over for pastries and espresso, telling us about how his mother would hand make the same pastries every Christmas. The pastry shop took on all the colors from Coney Island and folded them into buttery layers of pastry in every shape and size, stuffing them to bursting with whipped ricotta or marscapone.
“You have to try this one, and this one,” Antonio’s fingers darted about the massive display case, his eyes alight. “And definitely one of those!”
We rolled out of Antonio’s pizzeria an hour later with powdered sugar on our faces and flour in our hair. We were SO full.
I checked my phone to find we were running late to our next “rabbit hole.” We ran nearly two miles to the Subway station, clutching our stomachs and cursing the carb-coma that chased after us, slowing us down.
We dove into another “rabbit hole” with the wind shuffling intersecting subways in a mirrored bridge of papers strewn and clattering windows, a deck of orange seats, grey walls, and yellow mustard.
We slipped our way through another magical wardrobe, squeezing past pea-coats and fur collars that hung on the audience members in Manhattan’s theatre district.
Lizzie’s grandmother had sent us Broadway tickets for Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale.
We hadn’t the time to change clothes between Antonio’s and the show. Bursting we sat, with salty Coney-Island-blown hair and mustard on our jeans, but the story that unfolded before us took our breath away.
“We’re still in the same world as before,” Lizzie cheered, sitting up in her seat.
While the story was set in the 1960’s Bronx, it was wildly reminiscent of the Italian world celebrating “mama” and “mama’s red sauce” that we’d heard about earlier in the day.
After the show, it was back on the subway and out into the real world. Or rather a world that doesn’t always come with free pizza and broadway tickets.
I’m glad my teachers never found me hiding in the stalls when I was little girl. Those hours immersed in feathery worlds featuring emerald-scaled mermaids and sweet turkish delight, sparked a wanderlust in my heart that has only spread.
It’s still a new world every day, and I don’t have to walk through any wardrobes or fall down any rabbit holes to find it. I don’t have to hide in the girls bathroom with my feet off the floor, and I don’t even have to take the subway.
Every morning we wake up with a handwritten invitation to explore — to live in color.
We’re invited to “do.”
We can’t always spend the day coloring hotdog wrappers at the beach or stuffing our faces with pizza, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the time to slide down rabbit holes that show up in the most ordinary places.
Do you always take the same route to work? Leave a little earlier and find a back road. Bonus points for stopping to check out that weird shed on the left.
Always buy the same brand of toothpaste? Have an adventure. Ask the lady behind the counter what her favorite kind is.
When Jesus asked his friends to come with him on an adventure, they didn’t tell him to ask again when it was sunny out or when they’d finished binge-watching their latest show. They just put down their nets to go “do.”
And oh, the adventures they had.
So let’s do. Down the rabbit hole, up off the pillow, let’s do. Maybe the worst thing that can happen is having a really funny story to tell about it later and a mustard stain on your jeans. Or maybe your toothpaste will end up tasting like strawberries.
There are worse things.