Rand McSteffie

Steffie’s college roommate is back at school for some summer classes. Steffie thought it might be nice to bring her their shared television and some other things we’d stored here in Connecticut. So yesterday afternoon, with her friend Sam in tow, Steffie set out for Long Island.

It’s really not a difficult trip and before long they were there.

Flash forward to departure time. By this time Sam, suffering from a headache, dozes off in the front seat. Steffie hops onto the Meadowbrook and heads home.

Everything was going so well, so smoothly until she got to the Cross Island Parkway. That’s how Helaine and I get to the Throgs Neck Bridge. The problem is, just at the point you exit to the Cross Island there’s a sign beckoning you to a different exit for the Throgs Neck!

Confused, Steffie followed the sign… and so began her great adventure through the boroughs!

Instead of heading north, into the Bronx, she was heading west toward Manhattan. Somehow she got on the Long Island Expressway, driving past the apartment where I grew up, past Queens College and the New York World’s Fair site.

Her exact route isn’t certain. She doesn’t totally remember and probably had no way of knowing anyway. I am reconstructing it from a conversation we had a little after 1:00 AM.

“You know that tunnel,” Steffie asked?

“Did you go up on a very high section of roadway with a great view of Manhattan?”

Holy crap! Steffie had made her way to Long Island City and was heading into the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

“It went on forever and was really narrow,” she said.

She’s right. The twin tubes of the Midtown Tunnel run around 1¼ miles. The lanes are narrow and the tunnel does curve. Even worse, as you leave you’re faced with three choices, “Uptown, Midtown and Downtown,” none of which would make any sense to Steffie!

She remembers Lexington Avenue and seeing Times Square on her right. She was totally lost.

“You know the glass building?”

Glass building? I looked at my toes – where all answers emanate. Glass building… uh… “You mean the Javits Center?”

It was around this time in the conversation that Steffie admitted that she knew she’d drive in Manhattan at some point, but had hope she’d wait until she was around 40.

Back in the car she pulled into a parking lot, hoping to find an attendant. No dice there. She yelled across at a taxicab stopped at a light. As he explained, the light turned green.

The time between a green light and horn honk in Manhattan is measured in milliseconds.

The were signs for the Holland Tunnel. She knew she didn’t want to be there. There were also signs pointing toward the George Washington Bridge. That sounded more familiar.

She didn’t know it at the time, but she was now heading north on the West Side Highway.

On family trips, we often make a decision as we approach the George Washington Bridge. If there’s heavy traffic on the bridge heading into the Bronx, we continue north and wind our way through the Bronx and Westchester. If the coast’s clear, we take the easy way – I-95, the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Steffie looked at the bridge and decided to continue. It’s lucky for her she did, because as it turns out, she would have taken the GWB. She would have headed across the Hudson into New Jersey!

Heading north, the West Side Highway becomes the Henry Hudson Parkway. She drove through the toll, over the Henry Hudson Bridge and into the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Now nothing looked familiar! Exits came and went, but no names she recognized… until Mosholu Parkway.

Unfortunately for Steffie, she knew the name because we’d had brunch at the Mosholu, a boat moored on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. She took the Mosholu anyway.

Even with a map, it’s tough to reconstruct her trip from here. She did panic a little when she saw signs pointing to Albany. A little after that, a sign for the Hutchinson River Parkway.

Steffie headed north on the “Hutch,” finally breathing a sigh of relief as she passed the “Entering Greenwich” sign. She was back in Connecticut.

The 100 minute trip had taken her four hours. She had visited Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and was within a few hundred yards of Brooklyn.

Steffie probably expected Helaine or me to get angry. We didn’t.

Do I wish she would have called me at some point? Of course.

It’s a great story we’ll have forever… one of those family fables grandparents will someday tell grandchildren about their mother.

Ashlee Simpson – No Show

“Ashlee Simpson Is Dead To Me.” Those were Steffie’s words tonight. Ashlee was scheduled to appear at Foxwoods’, Fox Theater.

Why Steffie would want to see Ashlee is a totally unanswerable question. But she did, and she couldn’t have picked a better venue to see her than the Fox. It’s beautiful, comfortable, has great sight lines and acoustics.

Helaine and I planned on taking Steffie and a friend to dinner, then dropping them at the theater while we pursued more adult pastimes. We left the house about 3:10 PM.

At 3:21 PM an email came for Helaine.

Hello Ms. Fox,

Just wanted to inform you the Ashlee Simpson Show in the Fox Theater has canceled for this Monday, July 3, 2006.

OK, we were already gone, but it’s the thought that counts. Can someone tell the airlines how to do that?

As I pulled the car in, the valet asked if I was going to see Ashlee? No, but my daughter was. “Canceled,” he said. We headed to the box office to confirm what we had been told.

Well, at least dinner was good. We ate at Al Dente, the nice Italian restaurant. I had linguine with clams, which was great. Desert was the real killer – Sicilian Taco.

Almond Nougat Shells Filled with White Chocolate Mousse, Mixed Berries and Shaved Chocolate

Somewhere in the world there is a richer, more tasty dessert… but it has to be against the law.

With no show, Stef and her friend Sam decided to walk and people watch. Helaine headed for parts unknown, while I went downstairs to the poker room.

This is now the third or fourth poker room location since Foxwoods opened. It’s in the basement! That being said, it’s pretty airy and thankfully smoke free. It very well may be the largest poker room in the world.

Instead of sitting at a ‘ring’ game, I bought into a ‘sit and go’ tournament, like I play online. I like the idea that my monetary commitment is fixed at the beginning. Unlike the games I play at home, pajamas are not allowed.

The games are played with 10 at a table. I came in tenth! It took a few minutes – poof I was gone.

A fluke, I figured. So I bought in for another. This time it went much better.

I hit a lucky hand early, but the rest was just good playing. I’m not always happy with how I play, but I was tonight. When the smoke cleared, I was the last man standing. I had doubled my investment for the two tournaments.

Before the game was over, while it was just me and a nice guy from Wolcott playing, Helaine came by. I like that. All the guys in the poker room look jealously at me, because Helaine is quite the babe.

While she was sitting, and as the game was in its final throes, a buzz came through the casino. James Woods, big time actor and big time poker player was there!

They even made an announcement on the PA that James was entered in a ‘sit and go’ (much higher buy-in than my game) and they were looking for more folks to play.

I asked nicely and then took his photo. He seemed pretty unassuming and was quite gracious when I asked.

We met up with Stef and Sam. They had spent much of the evening sitting near the box office. People with young kids would walk up, hear the news… and then you’d hear the kids cry. It happened more than once.

I often wonder if that enters performers minds before they cancel?