New York Day Four

Tired girl checking in with you all. Just uploaded the pics from today and thought I would take a few minutes to share with you the fun that we had on this picture perfect Sunday afternoon. 

We got a late start as we finally allowed ourselves a little time to sleep in and once we were up and about and as I was writing my morning post, Susan went across the street and bought us two extra large coffees. In New York, you don’t even have to own a coffee pot, because there’s always a place right next door or across the street that will have fresh brewed java at any time of day. Yeah, one of the perks. 

We walked from the apartment to a completely new to me, subway station and boarded for what turned out to be my longest subway ride to date. I think we were on for just about an hour or so and it was a great ride. We talked and chatted and laughed out loud for most of the ride and then it happened. We came up out of the subterranean and rode the rails in the daylight. We were above ground for a couple of stops and then we descended once again. A couple more stops and we finally came topside for the rest of the ride to Coney Island. 

We had just passed the Avenue I station when we saw something so unique to New York, I immediately told Susan that we had to get off at this stop on our return ride so that I could explore. If you’ve already looked at today’s pictures, you know what made me want to see this up close. It’s a Jewish cemetery that is the largest, most crowded, most New Yorkish cemetery I have ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it, even on television or in the movies. I had never laid eyes on a sight so bizarre in all my life. The pictures can’t possibly capture the enormity of this place, but from the train platform, it almost appears to disappear in the far distance as if it goes on forever. So we vowed to stop on the way back. 

Another twenty minutes or so and I can see the rides from Luna Park as the train makes it’s way to the crowded station at Coney Island. When we disembarked, It felt a lot like a crowded train station as opposed to a subway station because everything is above ground and there are numerous tracks to choose from. We get to ground level and exit and that’s also kind of backwards because we normally go up to get out. The first thing I see is the world famous Nathan’s hot dogs. I’ve heard about them all my life and since it was already lunch time, Susan and I headed there first to get some hot dogs and cheese fries. I also got a frozen lemonade which was perfect on this warm day. It’s all outside seating of course and while I ordered, Susan went to fetch us a table. I see her seated with an older couple and I bring our food to the table at which point Susan introduces me to our new friends from Oakland, California; which is almost home for the both of us. How ironic to meet this very nice couple that are from our hometown area and have lunch with them. He’s from Southern California and was born in Los Angeles proper. She’s originally from Rockaway Beach which is just up the coastline from where we were sitting. They’ve been married forever and we talked about neighborhoods and Brighton Beach and Russians and Jews and how wonderful New York is to have every nationality from almost every country. Then the husband pulled out his phone and showed a picture he had taken from the train on their way in to Coney Island and of all things, he had taken a picture of Washington cemetery that had so caught my attention. He thought it bizarre enough as well to have captured the image on his phone and we talked about how cemeteries in California don’t look like that. 

We enjoyed our chili cheese dogs and went in search of a photo booth because we wanted to create a photo booth moment to compare to the ones we always did when we were kids. As soon as we dumped our tray from lunch, there was a booth immediately in front of us and we both scrambled to get inside and close that little curtain. These days, it’s all digital and you have choices of sizes and borders and funny captions or goofy designs. All fine and good, but the old way was definitely a lot easier. Put your money in and out drops a strip with four black and white pictures. Today, we weren’t entirely sure what we were doing but it was funny and it probably cost me 20.00 as compared to 1.00 back in the day, but we laughed and it was worth it. Susan is going to take a picture of the photo and also some we had done at Top of the Rock yesterday with her I Pad and get them uploaded for me as I’m not familiar with I anything. 

After the picture taking, we strolled through Luna Park and made our way out on the boardwalk. There were a lot of rides not running at all including the Cyclone which is the only thing I really wanted to ride. The Wonder Wheel was operating, but at almost 15.00 for the two of to ride one time, it didn’t really seem worth it. The park is old and dilapidated and I know that all of it was almost destroyed by hurricane Sandy back in 2012, but it was kind of sad to see it in this condition. Especially when seeing postcards of when this park was the glamorous, seaside amusement park and beach that it once was. Back in the day, it looked beautiful and romantic and exciting. Today it looks like an old woman that is just about ready to move on to the next world. Another thing that struck me immediately was how empty Luna Park was on a Sunday afternoon in June. There wasn’t a person at the carnival games and there were no lines for any of the rides that were open. The bumper cars sat silent even though they were open for riding and even the Wonder Wheel had almost no one in it’s swinging cars.

You exit Luna Park right onto the boardwalk and from there it is quite a stunning sight of the Atlantic Ocean. Susan and I quickly crossed the boardwalk and made our way down the sandy beach full of people and kids and we stuck our feet in the cold Atlantic Ocean and wondered how anyone could do more than ankle deep because it was chilly water for sure. Not Pacific Ocean chilly. But, still pretty cold. We took a couple pictures and headed to the gift shops where I seem to always end one excursion or the other. 

After shopping for a bit we headed back to the station to start our journey home with a couple of planned stops. The first of course was Washington cemetery. We disembarked and probably spent an hour walking through two sections and marvelled at how peculiar this place really was. One thing that struck us was the fact that each plot of earth between the markers was usually less than four or five feet in length. It doesn’t seem possible to fit a full sized casket into a space that small. I understand the graves touching side by side, but end to end just doesn’t seem to be big enough to accommodate a normal sized adult. Another thing that was interesting and that I want to know more about is that many headstones had rocks placed upon them. Some had many rocks, some had a couple of rocks. Some would have a single rock on one side and then multiple rocks on the other. I don’t know the significance and I know have some Jewish friends. So please, if you are reading this and know the meaning and the symbolism of these rocks, please let me know. Overall this place was amazing and like so many other things I’ve seen in New York, I wished I had a whole day to explore and see every section instead of just a fraction of two. 

From the cemetery we boarded another train to the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. Susan wanted me to see the classic brownstones that you see so often and so defines how people think of Brooklyn and I’m glad we went. As soon as we popped up from the subway station we saw a donut shop/diner directly across the street and went in search of caffeine fortification. This place is classic New York and it looked exactly like you think a New York diner should look. We ordered donuts and ice cream and strong, wonderful coffee. They serve the coffee in these heavy, old-fashioned mugs that have the name of the local coffee company they get their beans from and Susan was so impressed with the mug that she asked the manager if she could buy one. This is New York where everything is expensive, right? Well, he gave her a mug for free and our entire little snack and coffee came to under 8.00! Yep, just like a good old fashioned, Brooklyn diner should be. We left the diner and walked around the neighborhood for a few blocks and even spotted the Statue of Liberty way out in the harbor which seemed almost impossible to me. No other part of the harbor is visible, but if you’re on the right street corner and you look the right way, Miss Liberty is holding high her torch in the direction of the sunset. 

That’s it for today. We’re back at the apartment and we’re making it an early night. We are doing our posters for the Today show after dinner and of course Susan bought glitter and letters and markers for us to use to create posters that will stand out so brightly that all of you will be able to see us. Yes, please tune in to the Today show tomorrow morning or do what my husband will be doing, which is using the DVR so that he scan the audience shots for us. Our signs will be telling all the world that we are celebrating 40 years of friendship in NYC! And then, that will be about all she wrote and we will be out of the city by noon tomorrow to begin our drive back to Nashville. I then have to say goodbye to her on Tuesday and complete the rest of the trip to Memphis by myself. 

It’s been the trip of a lifetime. One that I will cherish forever and will always hold the memories close to my heart. I’ve been so blessed to have a friend like Susan for all these years and I couldn’t imagine having a better vacation than the one that’s just about to end. I’ve had a blast. We’ve done just about everything you could possibly do in the amount of time that we’ve had and though I’m about to drop from exhaustion and I have blisters and a sore hip and back, I wouldn’t trade this life affirming, life changing experience for anything. It’s been priceless. And, I’m so glad all of you have been here to share the journey. 

Okay, time to close for the day. I will probably not post again until we get to the hotel tomorrow night which we’ve planned to help break up the long ride home. But not to worry, I will post pics tomorrow night and give you a recap of my last morning spent in New York. I have absolutely loved sharing my trip with all of you.

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New York Day Three

Good Morning, my friends!

Waking up to a warm 72 degrees this morning in Brooklyn, NY. Beautiful blue sky out there and it promises to be another picture perfect day. It’s our last full day in New York and we plan on going out to Coney Island today. I’m going to catch you up on all our fun from yesterday and hopefully will be able to get a post in this evening when we get back sharing with you the pictures and the fun we’re going to have today. 

Yesterday started with finding out that the subway train that we normally take doesn’t run on weekends, so we scrambled first thing to find a bus that would take us to a transfer station that would then get us down to Rockefeller Center. Between the two of us and a grumpy, Polish lady, we managed to get on the right bus and get to the right subway station. Once again we managed to get to where we needed to be with not a minute to spare. The nice thing about that is we didn’t have to stand in line.

We entered Rockefeller Plaza off of 50th St. and we’re immediately ushered to the elevators that would take us to the top. Elevator capacity is only 15 people and once inside you can look through the plexiglass roof and see all the way up to the top of the shaft. The elevator rose quickly and while I didn’t watch the ascent it still gave me that fluttery feeling in my stomach and when I wondered why we feel these things, I read that just like your ears are a barometer and your skin is a thermometer, well, your stomach is an accelerometer. See what you learn while on vacation in New York?

The elevator lets you off on the 67th floor and you exit out onto patios that have plexi-glass partitions guarding the ledges of the building so that no one jumps. You’re able to see the city from all four sides of the building and it’s a panoramic view that is simply amazing. On one side you see Central Park in the middle of all the skyscrapers and you look off into New York Harbor and can see the Hudson and the East River. On the other side is a perfect photo op for the Empire State Building and of course you can see pieces of Times Square and the Broadway section. I would love to spend a few hours on the rooftop with a native New Yorker and have them point out all the different buildings and tell me their names and their histories. The different styles of architecture fascinates me and intrigues me. I live in the 21st century and it’s still a marvel to me how they built these graceful buildings that reach so far into the sky. We made our way up eventually all the way to the 70th floor which is literally the top of the Rock and on this level most of the plexi-glass partitions are absent as there are natural barriers to keep you from leaning over or falling off. To see the views again without any obstruction or barrier was a little bit like flying to have that bird’s eyeview. Seeing the city from that vantage point also allowed me to get more familiar with the lay out of this huge metropolis.

We descended as quickly as we went up and this time I was able to look up and watch us fall from the 70th floor. Pretty cool. Susan and I took a break, found a Starbucks (I’ve only seen maybe 50 of them so far) and got some pastry and an Americano and sat in the garden cafe that looks out onto the famous Rockefeller plaza. It was fun sitting in 30 Rock and imagining all the people that go up the twin escalators every day. 

After a short break we went in search of Broadway as I wanted to see every theater and look at every playbill. It’s just a short walk from Rockefeller Center and within minutes I was standing on Broadway. I had never been to a Broadway show until my friend, Lee began taking me last year to the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. I’ve fallen in love with everything Broadway starting with my first one, Mary Poppins. To see the “real” Broadway and to stand in front of the famed doors of these historic theatres made me feel so complete. To read the play bills from Wicked and Once and Kinky Boots made it seem so real. Some of the theatres took me back in time with their bright lights and flashing marquees. I’m not sure I found every theatre on Broadway, but I did my best. The only thing that could have made this part of the trip any better, any more special, would be getting to see it with the man that introduced me to the theatre. One day, my friend, I promise I will take YOU to your first New York Broadway show!

We had planned on eating at the Stardust Diner and we did find the restaurant in fairly short order. There’s some renovation under way and it was a little hard to see the name under the scaffolding. We crossed the street and realized as we got to the diner that there was a line of people waiting to be seated for lunch. Not a little line, either, but one that stretched around the corner and half way down the block. I settled for taking some pictures and we reluctantly moved on to other sights and picture opportunities.

We finally took time out for lunch and found an adorable Mexican restaurant that had outside dining right on the sidewalk in front of the building. We were on 48th St. in the heart of the theatre district and I couldn’t help but wonder how many performers and Tony award winning stars had eaten here or passed by here everyday on their way to perform. Tonight is the 68th annual Tony awards live from Radio City Music Hall and to think I’m walking the same sidewalk that these stars have walked made me feel pretty special. Can you tell that I just love this town? You might even say, it’s my kind of town.

Broadway melds right into Times Square and before long I found myself standing in front of the place where the ball drops on New Year’s eve and the funny thing was that it was much smaller than I had imagined. Really, when I think of it, New York is a juxtaposition with everything being both larger and smaller than what I thought it would be. Hard to explain, but when you’re standing there, you’re overwhelmed with the enormity of the huge buildings and the dazzling lights, but at the same time, it’s a city block and while impressive and of course quite famous, it’s not as big as it seems on television. Susan just helped me with the word I was looking for: intimate. It’s an intimate setting blaring with bright neon lights and video billboards, but it’s personal and intimate. Thanks, Sue! 

We reluctantly left the bright lights and descended into the Times Square subway station to catch a train downtown. We popped up in China Town and we were taken back a century or so. Seriously. This is not the China Town of San Francisco which I’ve been to many times since I grew up not far from there. This is New York’s China Town and it’s hard to describe the sights and the sounds and the smells. It’s crowded with both locals and with tourists and the locals have to sort of hate the intrusion into their world that all us out of towners bring. We saw jewelry stores galore, restaurants and markets selling things that were unfamiliar to me. I recognized ducks hanging in windows and some of the veggies sold out of baskets, but there were a lot of Chinese items that I couldn’t even guess as to what they might be. There’s lots of street vendors hawking to the tourists, but you also see old grandmothers in traditional garb being helped to the market by their sons and daughters. The buildings are old and dilapidated with rickety fire escapes running up the sides of the apartment houses. It’s dirty with trash in the streets and grime on the hand rails leading to the shops and eating establishments. Once you get onto the side streets most of the signs are all in Chinese and I got the feeling that we weren’t particularly welcomed or wanted there. It smelled. It smelled of foreign spices and literally decades of sweat and tears. Chinatown seemed to be the hardest place I’ve seen in New York and it’s one place I didn’t dreamily think about living in. 

The highlight of China Town for me was finding a park to use the restroom and seeing two elderly chinese men playing a game of checkers in the park. Classic New York scene and Susan snapped a picture to capture that sweet moment. The bathroom was horribly dirty and very unsanitary and it was a side of New York that I had not seen up until then. 

We walked a few short blocks over and looked at City Hall and the Supreme Court building. Magnificent. Overwhelming. Huge. Grandiose. Old architecture that is monumental in size and adornment. We continued hoofing our way across city blocks and took a small left turn to get onto the Brooklyn Bridge. We then proceeded to cross the Hudson River on foot and of course I had the opportunity to snap another hundred pictures. At this point in the day, I think Susan and I both had the beginnings of blisters and the sun was hot and beating down. We took a few breaks along the way, and though the views were well worth that walk, we were getting pretty weary. I have to say that I love the fact that from now on when I see the Brooklyn Bridge, I will know what it felt like to walk a little over a mile on that historic piece of history and to see Manhattan behind me glistening in all it’s wonder and glory. 

What a wonderful day full of so many sights and sounds. Susan is such an absolute joy with her bubbly personality and the patience of a saint. We have always gotten along and this trip is no exception. We were laughing about it the other night as we realized that in forty years of friendship we have never had such much as one cross word with one another. Not one. Now that’s simply amazing and so unique and special. How blessed am I? You know my heart is full to bursting with gratitude and gratefulness for this trip and for this friendship. If I’m never successful at any other thing in life, I take great satisfaction in knowing that I was one half of one of the best and closest friendships ever and for that I’m eternally thankful.

Okay, peeps of mine, it’s time to get in the shower and get our day started. We have trains to catch and a roller coaster to ride. You know I’m gonna be taking a couple of pictures and checking in with all of you sometime this evening.

Whatever all of you are doing today, I thank you for going on this wonderful journey with me.Image

New York….Day Two Continued

Hello friends!

Susan and I put in another very full day, but finally came back to the apartment for a rest and to upload the pictures from today. She’s resting and I’m doing what I love and that is sharing my day with all of you. It’s better than a nap, and besides, who needs to sleep when they’re in New York? As promised, I am going to start right where I left off last night before I had to shut my eyes for a few hours.

When I last left you, I believe we were getting on the ferry to Ellis Island. It’s a very short four or five minute ride and the dock is unique in that it sits in the middle of the buildings. The ferry pulls right up to the concrete wall and is tied off and we disembark with a gentle sea breeze blowing across the island. The building that houses the museum is old but regal, large but not overwhelming and I had the impression that it was military or institution style architecture. Nothing fancy, very practical and built to accommodate large numbers of people. 

We ascended a wide platform of steps and entered into Immigration hall. The outside might have felt utilitarian but the minute you enter into the hall that 12 million people passed through on their first day in America, the building becomes sacred. This is history. This is how many of our ancestors came to America. This was how America was built. As you walk through the exhibits and you hear their stories, you definitely have a sense of pride for the strength and courage it took to cross those oceans and enter a world totally different from the one they left behind. 

For me it helped me to understand more about how New York developed as a city. The area we are staying in is predominantly Polish, and today I went to China Town and of course there’s Little Italy and the Jewish section. There are many more ethnically based neighborhoods and one of the surprising things for me has been that as isolated as some of these neighborhoods seem, from what I’ve seen, there is very little racism today in New York city as a whole. This place is such a melting pot and when you stand on the subway platform you hear conversations in at least five different languages. Everyone here manages today to live and work and play together and New York should be applauded for that. Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, that was not the case. Some of the immigrants came as indentured servants and were considered below 2nd class citizens. No wonder that after being processed through Ellis Island they gravitated towards anything that could bring a sense of home and of who they were as a people. Neighborhoods formed where your neighbors spoke your language and the markets carried the foods you were used to. Churches were built that allowed you to pray as you did in the old country and customs were carried from the old world to the new. 

After we toured the exhibit we were able to look for records of my husband’s relatives as I knew that he had some uncles and maybe even his father come through at some point. I found his surname and it made me feel connected to know someone whose family name is in the book. It was a nice history lesson and it was one that made you realize how little differences there really is between us as humans no matter where you come from or no matter what country or year your own ancestors might have been processed through Ellis Island. 

We went out to catch the ferry and there was already a throng of people waiting to go back to the city. We went and stood in line and a ferry came along quickly but very few people actually departed to tour Ellis Island. They were staying on the boat for the return trip to New York. So, we had to wait for another one. The line moved just a couple inches. We waited for another one and once again the line moved barely at all with everyone at that point starting to jostle and push to try to go forward. Again, no room on the ferry. I have to say that while the National Park Service does a good job with many things, crowd control and getting people to and from this particular park is not one of them. It was pretty warm, there were at least a 1000 people in line, which wasn’t really a line, just more of a throng and we waited about two hours before we were finally able to board. To confess, I did have a bit of a melt down and had to apologize to Susan for getting grumpy and impatient. At that point, my hip was already hurting and standing for two hours just about did me in. I thought I was just going to finally have to fight my way out of the crowd and just go lay on the grass until the Park Service physically removed me. It was bad. I could have fought to hold my tongue with the young lady who felt she needed to be in front of me in line. I was fairly rude and to the point of tears when we finally made our way onto something like the fifth ferry to see dock beside us. Finally, relief and a return to my senses.

We disembarked back at Battery Park and had to quickly hoof it over to the 911 Memorial and Museum because we had tickets for 4:00pm and by the time we exited Battery Park it was about 3:45pm. The jogging actually felt pretty good after standing for so long and we arrived out of breath just as the 4:00 people were being admitted. It was 4:02. Whew! We made it, but barely. 

Now, I’m gonna stop here for just a second and forewarn everyone who might me sensitive or emotional, because the next few paragraphs are heart wrenching. I hope I bring the emotion and the respect that it deserves, but I was very emotional during my three hours in the museum and I’m probably going to make you shed some tears if you do continue reading from this point. 

As soon as you enter through the glass doors, there is a security checkpoint. It’s very orderly and everything is so new, it even smells new. New paint, new carpet, new security screeners. Once you clear security you descend down an escalator and you see twisted rusty beams at the bottom. Sitting at the bottom of the escalator are two of the tridents that were both support and decoration for the two towers. If you will look at a picture of the towers you will see beams that split into three prongs as they go upward in the building structure. To stand there and see those two symbols of the tragedy that day, made it real for me in a way that seeing it all on television could never do. I saw those tridents and knew that I had to go forward and witness first hand the history of the evil that was perpetrated on New York on that September morning. Directly behind the tridents, through the glass is the tallest building in the United States, One World Trade Center. What a perfect framing of the old and of the rebuilding of the new. Just like the human spirit. 

From there we moved into the actual start of the museum with a huge map showing the hijacked planes routes and at what time impact occurred. When I looked at the map and thought back to that day, I remembered of course, exactly where I was and what I was doing minutes after the first plane flew into the building. At that moment an audio recording was played recounting details of where from various people about what they were doing when they heard the awful news. The first man said: ” I was sitting in a coffee shop in Knoxville, Tennessee.” That gave me goose bumps when I I heard what the man had just said, as he had interrupted my memory of exactly where I was that day. I was just waking up and turning on my t.v. in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

You then walk through panels displaying the many photographs that were captured early that day after the first and then the second jet exploded through the towers. Hundreds of photos of people staring skyward, shock and disbelief showing in their expressions and the horror showing in their eyes. Many had their hands over their mouths in what appeared to be an effort to hold in the terror that New Yorker’s had to feel after the second plane flew through the South Tower. Once through the panels you come to another escalator and a large area that overlooks the floor below. On the immediate left side is the actual slurry wall that held back the Hudson river the day of the attack. Also along this wall is the section of twisted iron that the nose of the hijacked plane sliced through. It’s sheared at the top and horribly twisted the entire length of the massive, steel beams. It’s the closest you have to seeing the impact of the jets as you are presented with a real life piece of evidence of the horrific act that was committed against not just New York and America, but the entire human race. It just makes your heart race with the knowledge that there is that kind of evil in the world. 

To the right and not in direct line of sight, you see a wall covered in blue tiles. Blues of every hue from light to dark and every shade in between. There are almost 3000 tiles along this wall along with the inscription: “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time”. Behind and below this wall is a repository for many of the unidentified remains that were recovered. The artist wanted to capture the exact shade of blue that was the New York sky that morning before the smoke and ash obscured the sky. No two hues are repeated and it’s peaceful and soothing and somber. It’s appropriate and serene and necessary and painful. 

The museum has a very hushed quality and you see many walking around with tears tracking down their face without a moment of embarrassment. What you see and hear and feel as you walk through exhibit after exhibit cannot be contained and in the more emotional rooms there are pedestals with Kleenix for your use. And, they get used. Other than a docent and some guides, I never heard a voice above a whisper. There’s reverence here from everyone including children that had not been born when the attacks occurred. The little ones were on their best behavior and I applaud the parents who brought them to learn what happened and understand the greatest attack on American soil in the history of our country. 

Each exhibit told a different story of all the horrors of that day. North tower, South tower, Pentagon, Pennsylvania. Timelines and news clips and first hand accounts from survivors and families that lost a loved one. There was an exhibit explaining who attacked us and why they attacked us and I couldn’t stomach it at all. I quickly moved through glancing only briefly at the facts and at the faces of these madmen. I left the room and honestly feel like they were given too much space. I understand that they are a part of the story, but their faces are not something that I ever want to look upon again. 

The toughest room of all for me was one that had entire walls covered with the missing posters that loved ones tearfully made that day. I could feel the terror and the hope in these hastily made posters with phone numbers and messages begging for any information on their loved one. Then there were door sized cards in memoriam for husbands and fathers and wives and mothers. Memorials that had sprung up close to ground zero and at fire houses and in neighborhoods. Teddy bears, flowers, cards, messages of love and balloons all reminding us of the pain and the grief that so many people suffered through because of a radical religious group that thought that killing thousands would change something. It did change something. It changed the lives of thousands and it changed our nation forever. It also changed our world forever. 

Near the end of the tour there is an exhibit where no photographs are allowed and it’s called the Memorial Room. Adorned on all four outside walls are photos depicting all to die in the attacks not only from 911 but also the people that lost their lives to this same group of terrorists at the same building in 1993. There’s a smaller chamber that has benches and a recitation of each name of those who died and a tribute from someone they knew. Bag pipes play Amazing Grace softly in the background. 

We left with a feeling of gratefulness and hope in the human race. Not only did the museum hold nothing back and told the story in a sometimes, in your face, brutal manner but it also reminds of the the great resilience that we’re capable of. It’s important that we all remember those who lost their lives that day, but we should also honor all the survivors that have had to be brave and have the courage to go on. What happened on that beautiful September morning should never happen again. To anyone. Anywhere. For ANY reason. 

This was one of the most powerful and moving things I have ever experienced and I would go back again, but not for a long time. It’s that strong. It’s that painful. It’s that important. I’m honored to have walked in history and to be able to respect all the good that was shown when evil showed her ugly face. The people of this city are to be praised and applauded for the bravery that was shown not only by the New York Fire Department and the New York Police Department, but by the every day people, the people of New York, that stood up to be heroes when heroes were needed.

We met up with a friend of Susan’s and after the long and emotional day, I excused myself fairly quickly and after much reassurances to Susan, I made my way from Manhattan to the apartment by myself. Yep, you read that right, I rode the subway home by myself last night and almost felt like it was the most natural thing in the world. Pretty liberating, I can tell you that. 

Well, dear ones, it’s about time for dinner and I’ve been on here sharing with you for over two hours. I know Susan’s hungry and my stomach is starting to rumble so today’s tale of our adventures will just have to wait until either later tonight or sometime tomorrow. I hate getting behind once again, but you know a girls gotta have her New York pizza which I think we are just about to order. 

Yay! Pizza!Image

New York, Day Two

Good Evening, Lovely People!

Just uploaded a new round of pictures from our adventure in New York. We had another very full day and I’m currently so tired that I’m not sure I can give this post what it deserves, but here goes.

Started off very early this morning and once again got to ride the subway. It’s amazing to me that you go in an underground tunnel, get on a speeding train and literally minutes later you are across town and when you come up the stairs, it’s like you’ve been transported to another world. I know it’s because it’s still a novelty to me, but I really think the whole concept is pure genius. There’s so many people that I can’t imagine you could get around at all on surface streets if all those riders had to navigate the city in an automobile. We got off the train at Battery Park and it was a short walk over to Castle Clinton which is where we caught the ferry out to Liberty Island. 

It was chilly out in the New York Harbor today with a stiff breeze that gave us goosebumps and chased us below deck for the ride over to tour the Statue of Liberty. It’s not a long ride and of course I could see Miss Liberty before we ever boarded the ferry, but as you get closer and closer and you realize the size and stature she brings, you understand just a little how many people have gazed upon her and opened their hearts to freedom and a new world. She’s grand and majestic and the setting is what you can’t appreciate in photos and videos. She sits in the harbor facing outward and I could easily imagine being an immigrant over a century ago and seeing her for the first time and what they must have thought and felt. 

We purchased tickets for the Crown tour and the National Park Service only allows a certain amount of people to make that last climb into the statue. We went to the right side of the roped off lines and a park ranger stopped us and looked at our tickets and told us we had to go to the end of the very long left side. We trooped all the way to the back and slowly made our way to the entrance. Once there we saw a sign that said Crown ticket holders are to be in the right hand line and Susan and I crossed over to that side. The park ranger that had sent us to the back of the line then yelled at us that we are to stay in the left hand line. I felt like I had been yelled at by the principal and we went back to the left line. We get up to the ticket taking area and are told that we are in the wrong line and to please go to the right hand side. Really? I expect better from the National Park Service and I did make a complaint about the first ranger that had continually forced us to be in a line we were never supposed to be in. And, that was after he had looked at our tickets that clearly said, Crown tour. We had to rent a locker to store everything but our water bottles and my camera as the stairs that we were going to climb are too narrow to have anything with you. 

We finally get to the zenith of this famous statue and she did not disappoint. It was smaller inside her crown than I had imagined, but it gave it a cozy feeling and looking out those windows at the New York city skyline and knowing that I was standing in THE Statue of Liberty, once again made me feel so humble and so thankful. It’s quite a feeling to be standing there in that tiny space knowing what this statue symbolizes and feeling connected to everyone who ever gazed upon her for the first time. There was also a park ranger standing on a narrow ledge and I worried what would happen if he ever lost his footing or ever slipped, but he seemed sure footed and he regaled us with facts and interacted with knowledge and enthusiasm. That went a long way towards making up for that first idiotic park ranger and this is one destination that I would highly recommend to anyone that ever comes to New York. Go see her, she does not disappoint. 

Well, my lovelies, my eyes are literally crossing and my fingers don’t seem to want to type the letters in the right order anymore. This will have to do for tonight as I can’t think straight anymore. I’m sorry to give this out in installments and I beg forgiveness and promise to give you all the highlights of Ellis Island and the 911 Memorial. 

Good night…sweet soulsImage

New York….End of Day One

Headed to bed, but wanted to post the rest of the pictures for all of you to enjoy. There’s so much more to tell you and to show you and to share with you, but my eyes are closing and we’ve got a busy, busy day planned tomorrow that starts with the Statue of Liberty at 8am and finishing the afternoon with the 911 Memorial and Museum. Tomorrow night is Keene’s Steakhouse and Whiskey Bar for dinner with friends and then Times Square and Broadway.

Before I say goodnight, I have to tell you just a little about dinner and our night. We walked through the neighborhood and it soon became apparent that we are in an authentic Polish neighborhood. Lots of bilingual signs and it seemed that every store, every business was all owned by or catered to the Polish immigrants. We walked by a medical clinic and every doctor listed had a Polish name. We had a delicious and traditional Polish meal that included pyrogies and blood sausage along with an array of meats and fish and even red potatoes cooked in a spice I had never tasted before in my life. Delicious!

After dinner we walked three blocks down to Transmitter’s Park and the India Street Pier. The park was so named for the building that still stands that apparently housed shortwave radio operators back in the days of the World Wars. We walked out onto the pier and immediately had a stiff wind blowing across the waters of the East River. I recognized the Empire State Building, the Chrysler building and the new World Trade Tower was pointed out to me. It was like I had been transported to another planet, another place as I stood there and took in the electrified skyline.

Can you tell I’m just blown away? This place is more than I could have ever imagined, bigger than I could have ever realized. But more than the size, more than the dazzle of the lights is the pure energy that is palpable and alive. You get the distinct impression that the city is truly alive.

Until tomorrow…..

New York Day One

Wow!
What a day! We started early this morning and waited in a light, misty rain for our bus. We bought Metro passes that are good for a week and with the passes we can literally get anywhere we want to go, be it by bus, train or subway.  A short bus ride over the Pulaski Bridge and we descended into the Vernon St. subway station. The smell was the first thing I noticed. A combination of oil and tracks and decaying old wood, but it wasn’t an unpleasant smell. It smelled of trains and people and subterranean dampness. The train arrived within a minute and I was shocked at how fast it blew into the station. We boarded and I really felt like I was finally in New York.

We rode to the 42nd St and Bryant Park station disembarking in front of the tallest buildings I’ve ever seen. We walked a short couple of blocks and found ourselves at Rockefeller Center where we had tickets to go to the Top of the Rock and view the city from that vantage point. However, once inside we were informed that the viewing platform was closed because of the inclement weather. We rescheduled our tour for Saturday morning and according to the Weather Channel, it is supposed to be sunny and beautiful that day. Just wait for the pictures!

Since our tour had been cancelled we decided to make it a museum day and found our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As we turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue, the museum came into view and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Huge doesn’t begin to describe the building and I truly wish I knew more about different architectural styles, but it’s the first building of that size I’ve ever seen that I would call beautiful. The rain finally relented and Susan and I grabbed some street vendor food and after chowing down, headed into the museum. I honestly think I could spend days inside those walls walking through the exhibits and marveling at what wonders we are capable of producing. There were rooms that made me stand in awe and there were rooms that the tears flowed down my face. You know my favorites because I post them often here, but to see Pissaro, Renoir and Monet hanging on those walls filled my heart with a deep satisfaction and appreciation. I actually stood in front of canvases that the greatest artists of all times had put their brushes to. The actual canvas!

We tried to see as much as possible but there’s so much to see that I can’t allow myself to get mesmerized and spend all of one day at one particular sight, so reluctantly we left to go explore another museum. The Museum of Natural History is directly across Central Park from the Met and we entered the lush, green refuge of what is probably the most famous park in all the world. It did not disappoint. There are natural rock formations throughout the park that I had never noticed when seeing it on television or in the movies. There are different sections and dozens of walking paths. The views at any given time are breath stealing as we strolled through this beautiful and serene hide-a-way in the midst of this busy city.

We exited on the West side of the park and crossed over to see the dinosaurs and fossils. We even got to rub the the skull cap of a creature that walked our earth millions of years ago. For me, history is the only proof I need that we have a creator and I when I get to touch and feel and see something so tangible as these dinosaur bones, I feel a sacred connection that of course had me feeling so small and so a part of everything that has ever happened.

We took a short break so that I could download the pictures from today and clear my camera for tonight. We are headed out shortly for dinner with Susan’s son and his girlfriend’s family. We are dining in a Polish neighborhood and eating at Karczma. We’ve already started on the Polish vodka and I think there’s going to be lots of laughs and memories made tonight.

Thank you all for sharing my vacation with me. As I see the sights and hear the sounds, my mind is always racing with the words I want to use to describe it all for all of you.

Arriving in New York

It’s very late but we are in New York city! Arrived via the Lincoln Tunnel through New Jersey and oh, what a sight. Even with low clouds and some fog, the skyline was spectacular with all the lights twinkling gold and silver. I immediately was able to recognize the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

The Lincoln Tunnel was exactly as I had imagined it to be with old cracking tiles and a cat walk so narrow you have to wonder if a person could really fit inside the rail. We arrived at 1am local time and the streets were teeming with taxis and garbage trucks and people everywhere. Walking, sitting on their Brownstone stoops, walking to the local coffee shop or weaving their bikes in and out of traffic. We travelled up 36th Avenue and crossed over Sixth Street which is also known as the Avenue of the Americas. We stopped in traffic in the garment district and I even saw a uniformed bellman step from his glassed in hotel lobby to open the door of a taxi of one of his guests.

We’re staying with Susan’s son while in the city and I do believe we are in Brooklyn, but I definitely could be wrong. Everyone else is asleep and the windows to the apartment are open letting in the sounds of a really big city. I see taxis and trucks and fire trucks and I can hear the horns blaring, and sirens wailing. Susan wanted to know if I need earplugs and I declined knowing that it’s not often I go to sleep with the sounds of tanker trucks and diesel busses as the city hustles and bustles in the street down below. I’m amazed. I’m awestruck and I can’t wait to explore this exciting city for the next five days! There will be a morning post and I’ll see if I can download some pictures from the drive here. It rained for more than half our journey and that kind of put a damper on the picture taking but not on our spirits.

Until tomorrow morning……