A tale from the Lower West Side

Paul Hopkins – Talking the Talk

SO, we three, my grown sons and I, are heading down to the Village on the Lower West Side on a dry but crisp Sunday afternoon. They are ahead of me, engrossed in eager and animated conversation and, when every so often I increase my stride to keep up with them, they are otherwise engaged, their fingers dancing digitally across their mobile devices, texting and twittering to their new-found New York circle of friends or merely catching up on the latest football feats of the Giants or the markets on Nasdaq.

“Where are we heading,” I enquire as their pace quickens as we come up for air from the city’s sprawling subway network.

“Dunno,” they grunt collectively. “Keep up will you.”

I pull back from them, to gather my thoughts. I am in NYC visiting them the past four days and no one has yet asked me how I am, how I am getting on, how things are in this diminishing world of what was traditional newspapers. How I really, really am.

And I think they don’t listen to me any more, not like when younger and the hung on my every word.

All smoke and smouldering souls with their ears to a very fine sextet …’

Good God, I am beginning to sound like my own Father, all that self-pity palaver about his kids no longer needing him, no longer hanging on his every word.

I give myself a quick talking to. Cop on, quit the crap, I say, and hasten to catch up.

We are turning into Christopher Street, in the West Village between 9th and 6th Avenue, the light of day fading against the dry, crisp chill.

A street of zany eateries, dive bars and the ubiquitous liquor stores, and once notable for the Stonewall Inn, famous for the Stonewall riots of 1969 when the street became the centre of New York States’ gay rights movement and which to this day still stands as an international symbol of gay pride.

“We’re heading for Fat Cat,” says my youngest, “so we can play pool.”

Pool? I don’t play pool, I say to myself. We are supposed to be doing something together, Father and sons time.

Stop that malarkey, I say, pulling myself up again, as we  descend dark and dodgy stairs into a barely-lit basement littered with pool tables and hipsters and goths shooting pool to their heart’s content. But, ye gods, it is also a jazz club, all smoke and smouldering souls with their ears to a very fine sextet playing Cole Porter and Artie Shaw standards.

I am in heaven,

“Jazz was on your wish-list,” smiles my eldest son.

“Enjoy.” And he places a beer at my table in this dingy den of decadence and good grooves.

“Go show your brother who’s the pool king,” I say and note to myself that, perhaps, they are listening to their Old Man after all.

Next day my two sons have taken a day off work and we team up again, and take in a good chunk of Central Park crossing from the Upper West side to the Upper East and end up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To ramble languidly in Central Park in the glorious sunshine and to take in the Michelangelo exhibition at the Met, along with Rodin and Andy Warhol, are two more checked off my bucket list.

See stupid, I say to myself, they do listen to you – in between texting and tweeting.

And I think: I may have instilled a love of Art into the pair of them, but their prowess at the pool table is another matter…