Day 4 – New York City

Today was very special because we (Diane, me, and Ruth) rode a train from New Haven, CT all the way to Grand Central Station in New York City. The purpose was to visit the 911 Memorial in Manhattan. To make it more special, Ruth came with us because she’s never seen it in person, either. And, because she came with us, we had a scape goat in case we got totally lost because she lives on this side of the world and we’re just visiting. But, we didn’t get lost.

The first left started at 0740 when we bundled into our rental car and drove to New Haven so we could catch the Metro North line.img_8748

Going from Windsor Locks is possible but that would require a trip on Amtrak which is vasty more expensive. It’s like $66 for 3 round trip tickets on Metro North vs. $300 for Amtrak. No contest, really. The drive to New Haven took about an hour then we walked for about 20 minutes to the train station, got our tickets, grabbed our seats, and stayed in them for the next two hours. It was a nice ride and we met some nice folks, James & Millette, who were on their way to The City to celebrate their 27th anniversary. As we talked we learned more about each other and they learned that we were on our way visit the 911 Memorial. Turns out they’ve never visited it, either. For good reason. James works for the city of Darien, CT in public works. On 9/11 he was on an Amtrak with his 3-year-old son traveling to North Carolina to visit his parents. When the 1st tower was hit his train stopped in the middle of the bridge to Manhattan prior moving on to Penn Station. He was provided an unobstructed view of the towers when they collapsed and was stunned the same as every one else that day. He described how scary it was to not be able to contact his wife to let her know he and their son were OK, and that it was 8 hours before he was able to reach a pay phone and call her office. Because of that trial neither of them have found the courage to make a visit down town Manhattan and end their trip to The City in East Harlem. We felt that we had bonded with these folks and gained some good friends during that short ride. Sadly, I did not get a photo of them, but I have these:

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When we got to Grand Central, Ruth led us to one of the exits then began walking along 42nd Street. Just before we got to 5th Avenue hunger pangs attacked us causing us to seek someplace different for lunch. We looked around and immediately spied some Golden Arches which seem to be everywhere. Like Starbucks. But, fast food isn’t what we wanted. Ruth spoke to a street person for suggestions about good places to eat and was directed to a place called HTH which happened to be right next to The Arches.img_8783

So, off we went.

Inside HTH we were greeted by some very friendly folks who advised us to look around before making a choice. Actually, they didn’t suggest that. We just did it. They didn’t care. The front counter was the source of some incredible looking sandwiches, pre-made and ordered, and the back area was a walk-around counter containing yakisoba, fried rice, shrimp wrapped in bacon, coconut shrimp, lots of other meat choices (but I only focus on shrimp), broccoli chicken, and many other things. Just take what you want then get it weighed at the cash register and pay $8.95 a pound. Sounds expensive but Diane and I ate hearty for less than $20 and I had milk! It was all very good and we highly recommend HTH. I tried to find a web site for them but can’t. We were told it’s a new venue. Awesome!

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Once we were all fed and watered, we ventured out, once again, into the New York heat (pushing 90) thinking we’d walk to Ground Zero. But, according to our handy-dandy GPS systems on our phones we learned it was 3.5 miles away. Didn’t look that far on the map, but blocks in NYC are longer than even Las Vegas. So, we began the arduous process of flagging down a taxi so we could experience that aspect of the city. I did it once before, when I as 16, but I can’t remember back that far any longer. So, I needed a refresh.

We flagged and flagged and flagged but the drivers weren’t interested. Then a guy in a Lincoln town car pulled over and offered us a ride. One of those guys who cruise around looking for tourists so they can over charge them. He remained true to that belief by stating a trip to Ground Zero would cost us $45. I scoffed and he asked what I’d be willing to pay him. I said $10. He scoffed back, pulled over to the curb and popped the locks to let us out which I took to mean it wasn’t a valid offer.

Finally, a taxi pulled over to let someone out and Ruth inquired, politely, if he could possible consider allowing us to insert ourselves into the back of his bright yellow Prius for a ride to the memorial. He nodded yes so we got in. It was cozy with me in the middle, and away we went.

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The driver, sensing that we were new to The City tested us by heading for the FDR which is on the East Side of Manhattan. We knew, however, that our destination was on the West Side. I called him on his choice so he changed his mind and decided to punish us by driving down every street in NYC where construction seems to be a never-ending evolution. Construction, vehicles triple parked, people walking all over the streets … it was pretty amazing. The result, of course, was that the meter clicked merrily away while we spent a great deal of time just sitting, waiting through each traffic light 2-3 times. That 3.5 mile trip took about an hour and cost $20.80. That $45 offer in a comfortable vehicle began to look pretty good. But, we made it.

The first thing we saw was the new $4 Billion, 350,00 square foot Oculus Shopping Mall. I know those numbers are true because I had to do a web search to find out what the heck it was called. There were no signs – just doors to get in.

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Behind me, in the second photo, is the largest Apple Store I’ve ever seen. I suspect I should have taken a picture of it. It’s absolutely ginormous.

We wandered through this incredible structure and were kind of oblivious to our surrounding with the exception of being on constant alert for directions to the nearest restroom. Being old, that’s always our first priority after a long ride, find a toilet. You will be happy to learn that the Oculus has very nice toilets that flush and everything.

The views outside the Oculus are stunning. Words aren’t enough so I’ll just do this:

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The memorial pools are located just outside the Oculus and are easy to find. Just follow the crowds, then look for a place where everyone is just kinda standing still. Quite impressive, and far more impressive in person. A very solemn place.img_8807

We visited both pools the left Diane in the shade as Ruth and I went on a quest to find a map so we could discover a cheaper way back to Grand Central, like the subway.img_8815

Turns out that nowhere in the vast array of information available at Ground Zero is there information about public transportation. So, I asked a couple of NYPD Officers who happened to be handy. They were very helpful, directing us through a maze of construction scaffolding to the nearest subway station. I must make a note here that we all had smart phones on which we could have easily found directions had all three of them not been stone cold dead. We started out the day with them all charged up but taking photos and running Google Maps, we just flittered all that energy away. I actually had a little power remaining, like 7%, but I wanted to keep it in reserve for possible Kodak moments on our return trip. It was distressing, to say the least. I hate being powerless.

This is Ruth pointing out the seat she was going to grab when the subway doors opened up. I believe, however, that no one got off the #4 Train which required us all to stand for the beginning of the trip. I had to stand the entire way, but it was OK. I didn’t fall down. I had an opportunity to get a seat at one stop because I was standing right by one that was vacated. I young man standing in front of it made a move for it, then looked up and offered it to me. I gave it to Diane. Chivalry is not dead in NYC. I was pleased and let him know how grateful I was.

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We made it back to Grand Central with no problems or wrong turns and made it to Track 17 about 3 minutes  before our train pulled out. It was pretty amazing because getting to METRO North from the #4 Train isn’t a leisurely hike.

We found three seats together and plopped ourselves down, and prepared for takeoff. I opened a souvenir magazine of the 911 Disaster and started thumbing through it when I heard a voice asking if I was prepared to give a detailed dissertation on all the information to which I had so recently been exposed. I looked up and discovered my new friend, Tiffany, who has never seen “Short Circuit”. I explained that she really needs to see it because it was filmed in Astoria, Oregon and the main character’s name is Tiffany. I’m not sure she was suitably impressed with this bit of trivia, but she was willing to continue visiting with me which was excellent.

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I learned that Tiffany was in her second year at St. Johns University, in Queens, on her quest to become a Pharmacist. It’s a 6-year program at the end of which she will be christened as a bona fide Doctor. She spends most of Tuesday thru Friday at school then heads home for the weekends Friday afternoon. In high school she was a 4-year Varsity starter soccer player.

I was very happy to have her to visit with and regretted my loss when we arrived at the Fairfield stop where she deserted me. My life was improved by her presence and I have no doubt she’s going to be a huge success in whatever she chooses to do. For some reason she wanted my blog address, so I gave it to her. Therein lies a tenuous thread of contact.

This is the last photo I took before my phone permanently died. It’s looking up the aisle of our train.

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On the way home from the train station we stopped to visit Susan & Jay and to pick up Julia who gave us a tour of their home and introduced us to her newly acquired base Fiddle, Jerrie. I was honored that she named it Jerrie, but not sure that she named it specifically after me. That’s OK. I’m still honored. This is Jerrie:

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We took her back to Ruth’s where we played Polish Rummy until her father arrived from Boston to pick up at 2300. Then I fiddled with my computer trying to get photos off my phone until I was totally frustrated and went to bed. The hard bed. Where I slept like a baby until 0730 this morning.

There. I’m done.

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