Monday, September 14, 2015

Sprint Road Trip to New York: Part I

We arrived at Bushwood during the early evening on 4 September, 2015.  As I walked in, cooler sloshing against my hair pale leg with mostly melted ice, sunglasses propped up on my greasy head, yanking the sodden material of my workout shorts from my rear, wrinkled t-shirt clinging to my flabulous body, I couldn't help but smirk at the other guests.  Snooki and her entourage scowled.  Well, it probably wasn't that Snookums.
Did I say Bushwood?  It was actually the Doral Arrowood in Rye Brook, New York.  It seemed a bit Bushwood as we ambled in.  It seemed less so when we woke up Saturday morning to find there was no hot water in the shower.  My, how the other half lives!
We were in New York for a mini-vacation attached to some family business.  I don't mean to make it sound so cold, but we made the trip to gather with Mandy's family and scatter her grandfather's ashes.  George DeFilippo passed from this life earlier in the year.  He lost a battle with multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer).
I had the privilege of meeting George twice.  I regret that I didn't get to know him better.  I am sad that my children only got to meet their great-grandfather once.  I have a great deal of respect for the man.  I've heard many stories from his family, and I know he was a good man and well-respected by all who knew him.  I have a great deal of respect for his firstborn son, who happens to be my father-in-law.  The one, the only...Tomahawk.
Mandy kept thanking me for being willing to put up with her family through all of the hoopla that went with the trip.  But I assured her that I was happy to be along for the trip.  I love her family.  They truly are a second family to me.  Her parents are like second parents.  I love them like my own.  I was honored to be a part of George's last memorial.
But before we got to the more somber (maybe) portion of the trip (see the previous post) there was a lot of traveling and touristing to get through.  To spoil the was an emotionally draining trip.  But I'll get to that.
We left early in the AM on Friday of the Labor Day weekend.  In the new Swag Wagon (we now have borrowed from the bank for a van of mini proportions) we carried accoutrements for the trip and four minors.  I know, I know, we only have two kids.  At times its felt like there were six in the Chainring household, but in fact two of the interlopers are DeFlips.  We took Ty and Alison along with us.  The niece and nephew. 
It was a good ride up.  Basically uneventful.  Mandy and I took turns driving through seven states.  When we arrived at Bushwood I had not a care in the world how the other guests perceived this Appalachian renaissance man; I simply wanted to eat mass quantities and crash into a hotel bed and oblivion.  From the looks we got I figured they could smell the hillbilly on us. Meh.
We got real New York style pizza that night.  While it is requisite to eat New York style pizza when you're in state, I have to say that the absolute best NY style I ever ate was in Denver, Cee Oh.  A little place called Famous Pizza.
Anyway, that pie was just the beginning of a series of good/bad food choices.  To give away the ending I gained a full seven pounds on the trip.  Ugh.
The whole gang included me, Mandy, Boone, Lily Bean, Alison, Ty, Mandy's sister Holly, and her boyfriend/fiancee Willie Dear.  Tomahawk and Laur came along on Saturday.  They flew up in the morning and met us in the Empire State.
Early in the AM on Saturday we were headed to THE City.  Tom had arranged for us to park at the Rye Police Station which was immediately adjacent to the Rye Station Amtrak stop.  After we parked Mandy went to check and make sure we were good.  The officers she spoke to said we were good to park there over the weekend for free, but since she was George DeFilippo's granddaughter she could park for free all week.

We made the 7:50 train south to Grand Central and were off to adventure.
I had only been to Grand Central once.  But it’s really cool to step out from the underground platform and walk into that big, well-lighted bustling space.  I don't like crowds.  I enjoy living in a rural area with close proximity to the non-human wooded spaces, but there's just something about a city—and a train station—that gets me all fired up.  I love visiting cities, and abiding in them for a week or two, but after a while I have to get away and find some quiet and stillness in which to throw myself.  It was good to be back in NYC.
Mandy and I visited in the summer of 2002.  It was only a few months after the world I knew as a child had ended.  I was no longer a political ostrich.  I had decided after 9/11 that I had to educate myself and keep abreast of current events.  I couldn't afford to ignore the wide world.  So when we made our solemn pilgrimage to Ground Zero in the July after 9/11 I was shaken.  The stillness and quietness within the greatest city in the world stirred my soul.  It reverberated within me.
One of the things we wanted to do was visit the 9/11 Memorial while we were in THE City.  We had tickets for 1:00, and that was our only constraint for the day.  As we exited Grand Central onto the street we went into full hillbilly tourist mode.  But I figured we earned it after the twelve hour drive we had endured the day before.  We started walking toward Central Park, making a quick breakfast stop along the way at the Oxford Cafe as we walked up Lexington Avenue.
Mandy made the offhand comment that we would walk the length of Central Park.  I was a bit skeptical but bit my tongue.  On the way to Strawberry Fields we passed by the boulder that I scampered on back when I was more of a rock climber.  I had Boone recreate a pose and snapped a photo.  Thirteen years later my son was ironically dressed almost exactly as I had been.  We continued up a little ways and visited the Lennon mandala.  There was a small crowd gathered and a gentleman was playing an acoustic guitar and singing Imagine with impromptu tourist accompaniment.  We had only traversed a small bit of the park, but later Holly would be shocked to discover that we had not walked the entire length of the greenspace.

Strawberry Fields Memorial

After a brief turnabout we found ourselves descending below street level to get on the subway.  We went to Ground Zero (mediocrely chronicled in my last post) and afterward headed back north up Manhattan Island.
We stopped at the Amish Market long enough to eat lunch.  It was fun to sit out on the sidewalk and commiserate over our lunch orders.  The surly deli jockeys gave Mandy a run for her gyro.  She finally exited into the sunlight with her hard won meal and refueled for the push home.
Times Square was on the agenda.  I wanted to see it since it has been closed to vehicular traffic.  It is an amazing pedestrian space and kudos to the city for giving Times Square back to human beings.  And speaking of human beings…
Right out of the subway we were surrounded by people in costumes posing with our children for photos.  One man was dressed as Captain America.  Another (or two) was dressed as the Hulk.  There were Power Rangers, Minions, Thor, and all kinds of other iconic comic book and movie characters.
They mobbed us.  I took Boone’s photo with Captain American and a Power Ranger.  I thanked them, but the good captain moved in close, and in a thick accent told me he worked for tips.  Almost guiltily I gave the guy five and said to split it with the Pink Power Ranger.  Before I could usher my son on down the sidewalk we were flanked by Spider Man and the Hulk.  I ended up giving them another five because I didn’t want to take out my bigger bills on the street.  Again, I almost felt guilty because I didn’t want to give them a dime.
When we had a moment to look back I watched what was going on.  The characters looked shabby from a distance.  Some pulled up their masks to wipe away sweat and to get a breath of fresh air.  Many were dark skinned.  All had accents.
Then it hit me…the characters who worked for tips could probably get no other work.  They were likely immigrants working on the street outside of the system to get by.  I wondered if they owned their costumes or if there was some boss somewhere doling out assignments and identities and taking a huge cut of the “tips.”
A little further down the way we noticed a nearly nude woman having body paint applied all over.  She was wearing little more than a thong and her breasts were painted in patriotic colors.  I didn’t realize she was in the same boat—so to speak—as the super hero characters.
Again, we ushered the kids on down the sidewalk.  Boone had wanted to check out FAO Schwarz.  He was disappointed to learn that the store had closed.  But there, on the Square, was a ginormous Toys ‘R Us.  Mandy and Lily went off to the American Girl store and I took Boone into the toy store.  It was pretty amazing.  Four levels.  Lots of cool vintage Star Wars toy displays.  Lots of Lego sculptures.  An animatronic T-rex.  It brought out the toy-loving little boy in me.  Boone was beside himself, but he behaved admirably while we were in the store.

After we had met up with the rest of the family I regretted that I didn’t even offer to get him anything.  But I was proud of him for not begging me to buy him everything.  I think we were both just having a good time looking at all the cool stuff.  It was less like a store and more like a museum of toys.  And I thought again about the characters on the street in Times Square.  The regret didn't linger.
Mandy and Lily had already headed toward Grand Central Station and we followed.  When we found them near our train platform Mandy had a huge grin on her face.  She had found and purchased a Junior’s Cheesecake.  Happy dance!
When we visited in 2002 we bought a cheesecake at Grand Central before jumping on the train back to Rye.  It sat between us and our hungry stares.  We walked footsore back to her grandfather’s house to discover he had gone out.  The doors were all locked.  So we sat on his back porch eating the cheesecake with our bare hands.  When he returned home he was somewhat disgusted by our behavior.  I don’t think either one of us cared.
We shared the cheesecake with everyone.  That was nice.  It was a good way to finish off our trip into THE City.
I've got at least one more post to make.  Stay tuned for the conclusion...

Ground Zero


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