A Canadian Thanksgiving in the Big Apple

Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
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Flag of United States  , New York
Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The restaurants of Manhattan serve the finest cuisine south of Montreal. I've never actually visited any restaurants located between those two cities, but I believe this statement to be true and I'll stand by it. Last evening, Ellen and I dined at a little Turkish restaurant called Uskudar on the Upper East Side. I ordered ground lamb, wrapped tightly in grape leaves with yogourt on the side. Ellen ordered a mashed eggplant concoction that was covered with lamb stew. The eggplant had a smoky flavour. The lamb was pure melt in your mouth. It was one of the tastiest food combinations I'd ever eaten. We shared, I more of Ellen's, than Ellen of mine. I pondered the restaurant quality question for a time. There are a great many people living on this not so large island of Manhattan. The average living space is considerably smaller than what we are generally accustomed to in Toronto. The answer was clear. Eating in Manhattan is a way of getting out of the house. All you have to do is look at the disproportionate number of restaurants versus grocery stores. The restaurateur in Manhattan must serve good meals. If he doesn't, as the New York saying goes "he'll be gone in New York minute".

When we were in Guatemala this past winter, Ellen and I got hooked on a Mexican band called Mana. Playing almost exclusively in Spanish speaking Latin America, Mana had arrived in the United States. Mana is why we found ourselves in New York City this Thanksgiving weekend. We got to our seats in Madison Square Garden last night at around 8:00PM. A subdued crowd I thought. Waiters were serving champagne in the stands. There wasn't the slightest scent of marijuana in the air. Then it happened. Mana came on stage and the crowd erupted - in a very different kind of way. It was right out of "Sing Along with Mitch". The crowd sang every word to every song. Just like in church, when the congregation prays in unison with the priest. Fine for a Mass, but for a rock concert? I didn't know, but I wanted to find out. Since our Spanish isn't quite up to snuff Ellen and I could only hum. As the Latinos sang, we hummed - every bar to every song. A young woman with a horrible voice kept bumping into me and apologizing in Spanish. Not wanting to show that I wasn't one of them I would simply smile and say "no problemo chica". As I sat there I couldn't help but compare this concert with similar events in Toronto. A couple of months ago we went to a Bruce Springsteen concert at Skydome. The concert was great - it was after all, The Boss. The audience though, sat in the stands like funeral mourners. The opposite end of the polar divide you might say. Or maybe Bruce's fans have just grown old with him. Who knows? Maybe it's just the polite Canadian way.

Ellen and I were surely the oldest non-Spanish speaking couple in the crowd. More likely, Ellen and I were the oldest and only non-Spanish speaking couple in the crowd. For almost three hours we swayed back and forth, waved our hands over our heads and hummed and hummed and hummed.

As a lad I never cared much for Mitch Miller. If I was to pay good money to hear a rock band play in Toronto and they decided to have a sing-a-long, I'd be incensed. I'd demand a refund. But somehow this five-man band, Mana and the 25,000 or so Latinos in the stands made it work. When it was over I was happy. However, having been relegated to the humming section and feeling somewhat excluded none-the-less; I asked Ellen "What's the name of that Spanish language school in Ecuador?"
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