By Phyllis J. Lubin

Where else can you find an outdoor pool set up on a major thoroughfare with people crowded around to watch a couple of people doing laps? Where else do they sell fresh fruit on the street, and have people on the street corners warning everyone about the end of days? Or how about people dressed up as characters from Toy Story just for the fun of it?

A couple of weeks ago, I made the trek into the city to meet up with my husband for dinner and a show. It is not often that I make my way to the “Big Apple.” I used to work in this place–in fact I went to school there too. But this doesn’t seem to be the city of my youth–it’s just so exciting!

I can’t believe what is going on there, only a 45-minute train ride away! People were actually swimming outside in October! Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, a 64-year-old New York City native, started the swim Tuesday morning in the 40-yard pool set up in Midtown Manhattan’s Herald Square, getting out only to use the restroom. Her aim was to raise money for people still struggling a year after Sandy. (She ended her 48-hour swim that Thursday, and raised more than $105,000 in donations.)

Why can’t I do something like that? I like swimming! I don’t even mind swimming in the cold so much, if the pool is heated. I have even been known to swim in the rain. But no one was inviting me to swim with Diana. She did have another swimmer alongside her, but I was told that she was another celebrity.

Since coming to the city is not an everyday occurrence for me, I did not want to be in the area and not touch base with Rivka, who is always eager for a visit. So we managed to fit in a quick visit between when my train arrived at 4:30 and her 5:00 class. She met me on 34th Street, and we bonded on our brisk walk back to Stern.

“Is this a library?” I asked my city resident.

“It’s actually a science library.”

“Wow–that looks interesting. This used to be B.Altman’s. What’s inside?”

“I don’t know . . . scientific stuff.”

Rivka has this amazing wonderland at her doorstep and she has actually never been inside these walls? Come to think of it, I went to school in the city for a few years (both high school and law school) and I don’t think I ever actually went into B.Altman’s myself . . .

After catching a quick glimpse of the swimmers at Herald Square, and noticing the site of the former B.Altman’s, I accompanied Rivka to the front of her school building and continued on my way toward the restaurant where I would meet my husband on 46th Street.

“Someone just gave me a scarf!” I said as I called my husband to update him of my whereabouts.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m walking past Grand Central Terminal, and someone is just giving out scarves for free!”

Somehow, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, some organization was handing out free mini cupcakes (they looked adorable, but I wasn’t sure of the kashrut, and being on a diet, it wasn’t even worth asking where they were from), and for some reason they were also handing out free scarves at the exact moment I walked by. I’m not sure why, because they didn’t have anything on it representing the cause, but who am I to turn down something free–especially something with no calories! I was on a strict schedule, and needed to get to my destination quickly, so I had no time to find out details, but I had enough time to accept my free scarf.

Dinner at Le Maraís was fantastic. Rivka clued us in to a $20 steak-dinner special, and it was delectable. The show (Soul Doctor) was fun–although I understand it just closed a few days later. It prompted a renewed interest to both of us to listen to Carlebach melodies, and brought back memories of the time when I was a college student and Reb Shlomo visited the Queens College Hillel. He told Chassidic tales and strummed on his guitar and connected with us all with his sparkling, piercing eyes . . .

Walking through the streets of Manhattan at 10:45 at night was certainly not lonely! The city is alive. As I paused to marvel at the Toy Story-costumed people, my husband called me a “hick.” I might be a country bumpkin (or a Five Towns bumpkin), but I had fun! I thoroughly enjoyed my all-too-brief visit to this wonderland. v

Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children–Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea–and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at

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