New York – Beginning June 9 2011 – Part 2

My second installment on my New York trip (Monday – Wednesday)

            On Monday, Jessica and I took the downtown tour, which included a visit to the Empire State Building, downtown Manhattan and a trip out to Brooklyn. It was my second trip to the top of the ESB and Jessica’s first. I am always surprised that the Statue of Liberty seems so small. For some reason, I was expecting it to loom over the horizon, and while it is huge, it is not the towering inferno I thought it to be. I have also become convinced that there is NOT a tour guide that is NOT sassy. Some have truly gotten on my nerves and I have to admit taking a tour with someone that speaks with a foreign accent (literally from another country) is a little disconcerting (to us from the south, everyone else has a strange accent.) Case in point, I called several places that my daughter enjoys frequenting to surprise her with gift certificates for her birthday, and although I speak perfect English, for some reason a northerner could not understand a southerner over the phone (and visa versa.) Another tour guide thought he was the next Robin Williams.

            Getting back to our tour guides, we had a Broadway wanna be as our guide to Brooklyn. He actually acted with Hugh Brenner on Broadway. He was also hoping to get more work on Broadway. He treated us to many songs along the way, making our bus the spectacle at many stoplights. It was interesting. For any of you who live in New York, if you have never taken the Brooklyn tour, you must. There is so much history and it is very intriguing.
Picnicking by the Hudson River.

Tuesday afternoon, we again explored New York via the tour bus, this time, uptown. It was partly cloudy and threatening rain when we boarded. Jessica was murmuring about it raining on us and I was ever the optimist claiming it was going to wait until the end of the tour. About half way through the tour, we felt drops of rain, but still the weather held. The rain held off through the tour of Harlem. As we began our trek around Central Park on the way back to Times Square, the rain came down in earnest (the one day I left the umbrella home.)
Central Park
Church at Ground Zero

The people who were boarding the tour bus about this time were given rain ponchos (or Garbage Bag Couture as I refer to them.) Jessica and I actually had to ask for them. Before we garnered up enough courage to ask for the “Garbage Couture”, an elderly gentlemen (and there are some left in this world, and this was one of them) turned around and offered us his poncho. Who says chivalry is dead? It may be in New York, but this gentleman was from Arizona. Not only did this kind gentleman give us his rain poncho (and proceeded to get drenched himself) but when we acquired an additional poncho, he opened them up and guided us into them. He made sure our heads found the hoods and our arms found the armholes (such as they were.) He then tied the little drawstring under our chins so our hoods would not blow off.

            This was not an easily accomplished task. I was definitely having a “Lucy” moment and had tears streaming down my face along with the rain because I was laughing so hard. Jessica was not pleased about this adventure and attempted to disappear completely into the poncho. She just needs to loosen up a bit and enjoy the childish moments when they come our way.
            This trip I got to see the Manhattan School of Music where my son-in-law, Jude, graduated from last year. That’s Jude!
Manhattan School of Music
             This adventure was only the icing on the cake, the finish to an odd day for us. Earlier in the day, we made a trip out to the Statue of Liberty. We boarded the downtown subway and made our way to our exchange station. This is where we caught the “express train” as my daughter keeps correcting me. I seem determined to remember it as the “fast train” and she is mortified when I voice this term in public. By the end of this trip, I was remembering to call it the express train and she was happy about that (I’ll probably forget by the next trip. It goes super duper fast. It’s a fast train.)
Lady Liberty
Battery Park
Liberty Park

            Anyway, we made our way to Battery Park to catch the ferry out to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty. In October, my husband and I stood in line for the longest, but this time, Jessica and I breezed right through security and onto the boat in no time. We were on the wharf at Liberty Island waiting on the ferry to take us to Ellis Island when the security guards started evacuating the wharf. We had to walk to the flagpole in the park, which is quite a distance away from the wharf. We then saw the Harbor Police and their German shepherd (yeah Shepherds!) board the ferry. After a thorough search, we were ushered back onto the wharf and onto the ferry. Talk was that there was a package left unattended.

            Wednesday, we headed for home. Even the trip to the airport was not without its drama. I am thankful just to be alive after the cab ride. Has anyone ever ridden in a New York City cab? I have one thing to say, at least on a roller coaster (no matter how thrilling the ride) you know the cars have a high probability of remaining on the track and not sideswiping or rear-ending each other. After a tour of Harlem (been there, done that on the tour) we finally made our way to the Robert F. Kennedy bridge and headed towards the airport. We were in the lane that would eventually take us to our drop-off point when someone cut in front of our cab driver. I was astounded as he began fussing the other driver for doing what he had been doing since we climbed into his cab and put our lives in his hands (no wonder there are seatbelts in cabs.) The thoughts were whirling through my head and I had a hard time wiping the grin off my face at the audacity of this driver. We finally made it to our terminal and exited what felt like a 45 minutes bumper car ride. I also did not know if the car or the road was falling apart. I was constantly looking for anything I could grab onto to hold on!

            Bags that weighed in at 32 and 35 pounds on check in at the New Orleans airport now weighed in at 49 and 47. I still haven’t figured out how that happened (yeah, right!) Next, on the agenda was security; off with the shoes, off with the jewelry, everything into the bin. Smooth sailing or so you would think. The man examining the bags as they went through the x-ray machine had this very intense look on his face. I looked at the front bins and the back bins and it suddenly dawned on me that he was deciphering the contents of my bag (not always a good thing.)

            As I was emptying my bag (purse) last night, I had to laugh. I kept thinking of that poor man looking at the x-ray of my bag. I pulled out memory sticks, fruit rollups, peanut butter and crackers, maps, coin purse, little black jewelry pouches, Kindle, container of plain crackers (I get motion sickness), flosser, my Princess thermos (water bottle) (which of course, I forgot to empty) various pens, various sized Band aids and wipes (Shout, Wet Ones), glass case, vitamins, medicines, nail emery board, phone, hand lotion, Dramamine, and zip locks for ice (I get motion sickness and need an ice bag on my neck.) (I confess that I no longer wonder why it was so heavy.) It must have been fascinating to try to figure how the eclectic mix made its way into my bag. My carry-on was just as fascinating (and heavy.)

            So, that gets us through security. We boarded the plane, taxied off and were on our way home. Jessica and I both had aisle seats, which meant, we both had two companions. While she was kept busy with a mom and daughter coming to New Orleans for orientation at Tulane University, I had my hands full with two young gentlemen coming to New Orleans for a bachelor’s weekend. Oh, but what a tangled web we weave! They were busy making a list of all the great Cajun dishes they wanted to try while they were visiting the city. What can I say? I am a Southerner and Southerners help. I helped them discover that Jumbalaya did not exist, but Jambalaya does. I told they needed to eat Gumbo, not Jumbo. I recommended Etoufee (crawfish) and alligator. I made sure to mention that a visit to New Orleans would not be complete with a trip to Café du Monde for beignets and coffee. Then, they asked me about “that other dish we eat. The one that we catch in the swamp and eat.” I finally realized they were speaking of Andouille (a sausage in Gumbo.) Believe me when I say that it does NOT swim in the swamp, it swims in Gumbo! How I managed to keep a straight face is beyond me.

            You might think that was the end of the conversation, but I assure you, it wasn’t. It was only the beginning of a memorable conversation. They asked if there were any restaurants that became famous because they survived Hurricane Katrina. I smiled gently and said no. I then gave him the names of a number of well-known restaurants that are well worth the visit. I also told him that the little mom and pop groceries on the corners were excellent establishments at which to find our “local” flavors.

            The conversation went on and as he quickly input all of the information I was imparting into his little gadget, he mentioned that they were going to take a swamp tour. Imagine my delight at hearing that comment (I am sooooooooo devious.) I asked him if they were taking a flat-bottom boat or an airboat tour. He answered that he didn’t know. He then inquired as to what they might expect to see. (It was too easy!) I smiled and told him probably the same things I see on my wharf each day. I told him I lived along a bayou and it was not uncommon to find an alligator sunning itself on the wharf. I just sort of dropped that in. For a moment, I thought he had swallowed his tongue! (Now, I must confess, I am not usually that bad.)

            Obviously, he had not had his fill of conversation, because he continued. He asked where the levees were and if they could see them. (I promise that I did NOT laugh at loud! This poor boy was from the north!) I explained that the levees ran along the Mississippi River and that if he told his cab driver to take them to River Road for their trip into the city, they could ride alongside the levees. I also told him to have his driver take them down St. Charles Avenue so they could see the Garden District. I recommended that they ride the streetcars before they left as well.

            Oh Chere’, the story ain’t over yet! They asked about the French Quarter. I told them they should see Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral and the River Walk. I told them that would be where they found Café Du Monde. Being a Southerner, I warned them against straying too far into some of the less desirable areas. They asked why and I told them they might find trouble. Their eyes got really big and they asked what kind of trouble (they were intrigued.) I looked them straight in the eye and told them the “same kind you have in New York”. They just made it too easy! I did tell them, however, that they should ask their consigner for a map once they were safely ensconced at the hotel.

            I know what all of you are thinking – and I am NOT a bad person! It fell into my lap. What was I supposed to do? Oh! One more thing. I told them they needed to go on a Cemetery Tour (with a guide, of course.) I have only one excuse for my behavior. I get motion sickness and I rode the entire trip back high on Dramamine and with an ice pack on my neck. The plane landed and we parted. I wished the guy well on his wedding and told them I hoped they enjoyed their visit to the great city of New Orleans.

            Next stop was the conveyor belt for luggage. Jessica’s luggage came through on the conveyor belt first and it was evident that the bag had been searched. I found the same evidence when I picked up my bag. Last night as I began to empty out my bag and began the process of organizing the different piles of laundry, I found some interesting things. I always pack my clothing in two gallon freezer Ziploc bags with dryer sheets to keep the clothes fresh smelling and I press the air out to compress the bags for neatness and organization (and to fit more of course. Knowing people are not touching my clothes is a bonus.) I was impressed with the lack of topsy-turvy in my bag. Books that I had packed between the bags to keep nice were carefully placed in a tote I packed in the bag and two little statues I purchased were inserted into one of the Ziploc bags.

            Other than the extremely warm (lots of licks) reception I received from Ryka and Calypso when I got home, that is the end of my story. Hope you enjoyed it.

“Ya’ll come back now!”