Date of Trip: January 2011
Yep, another crazy one-day NYC trip from and back to South Florida on “el cheapo” Spirit Airlines. I didn’t need to use their e mail sales this time because I had a $100 credit from Feb. 2010 and it was close to expiring. So I was able to pick my own travel date – Saturday, January 8th, 2011.
I got there about a week after a huge blizzard, which was so badly handled by the city that the NY Times actually ran pieces critical of their hero, Mayor Michael Bloomberg – wow, I never thought I’d see the day! His “Marie Antoinette/Let them eat cake” response to criticism had been to say that the theaters were stil operating and people should stop complaining and go see a Broadway show (um – most Broadway tickets these days are up in three figures)
As I usually do, I bought a bagel and coffee to go from Au Bon Pain in LaGuardia and caught the M60 bus to 125th street and then the 5th Avenue M1 bus down to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. where I met an old friend, a young former teacher who was a city native and, amazingly, had never been in the Met. As always, you pay what you wish – I paid $5 for each of us, which is what I usually pay when I know I’ll only be there for a couple of hours. There was only one special exhibit that attracted me this time – an incredible mosaic brought in from Lod, Israel, about 1700 years old, mounted on the floor. The design consists almost entirely of animals – mammals, birds and fish – dozens of different kinds. But you don’t need a special exhibit to enjoy the Met. My own favorites are the huge collection of ancient Greek vases, the finely-detailed Chinese art, the old master and renaissance paintings, and the walls of renaissance drawings. I always stop and pay my respects to the ancient Roman “stele” (grave headstone). On it is engraved a beautiful drawing of a lovely young girl, full length, standing, and holding a pet bird in her hand. Sad to know that she passed on so young, albeit so long ago.
My friend and I parted ways – she hadn’t been feeling well and wanted to get home, and it was freezing cold – high 20s. I caught another M1, enjoying the sights and hustle-bustle of midtown. My destination was Greenwich Village, specifically the area around Washington Square Park. I’d just finished writing a novel set almost entirely in that neighborhod, and have walked through it several times to “soak it in.” I already knew it well from the late 90s, when one of my daughters lived there for two years.
Washington Square, which had been a hive of activity the last time I’d been there – in warm weather – was frozen and almost deserted. A few men half-heartedly asked for money. But the one part that looms large in my story – and which I knew well from when my daughter lived close by on West 8th – was the dog park, and it was busy. I love taking dog photos, and one young couple obligingly got their adorable bulldog, Libby, to pose for me. This off-leash park within a park has a double gate, and three large trees with benches built around them. It’s proudly maintained and policed by its users.
Walking up peaceful West 9th, between 5th and 6th avenues – which is where my fictional family lives – I realized that there was a small entrance right there leading to the PATH subway line, which is fully back in business after being knocked out on 9/11 and then rebuilt in that area. I decided to walk down and take a look. The first thing you see is a colorful moon-like mural; the entry and station itself are neat and spotless – so unlike the city’s subway system. PATH is best known for running trains between Manhattan and New Jersey, but also has several Manhattan stations, from lower east Manhattan up to 33d street, and a small number of people actually use it for Manhattan-only transport. It’s clean, and has kept its single-ride fare at $1.75, while the city’s subways are now $2.20.
I wanted to get to the NY Historical Society at Central Park West (8th Avenue) and 80th, so I asked a young cop which subway to take. “I’ll put you on a train,” he said, and, to my surprise, walked me down into a station, swiped a card through the turnstile, and told me to take the B uptown – not knowing, as I soon discovered, that the B doesn’t run on weekends. I sat there in my ignorance watching three D trains stop and go. One of them stopped with its door opening right in front of me, and, to my astonishment, there were two young mn in the car playing bongo drums. No, not the small lap top size, but the big on-the-floor size! Before I could grab my camera, the door closed and the train left.
A local finally set me straight – take the D to Rockefeller Center and then change to the C. There was a young man on the D with a boom box – remember those? – and he kept turning t off and on, playing hip-hop. Suddenly, another young man – a tall fellow – jumped out of his seat and began dancing wildly to the music, throwing his arms and legs into the air. Then the train pulled into Rockefeller Center and I had to get off. Only in New York!
Unfortunately, the entire NYHS was closed for renovation except for the “insulin exhibit” and I wasn’t going to pay just to see that – I had a diabetic grandfather and a diabetic friend and knew enough about it already. So I walked acrosss the street to the American Museum of Natural History – another pay-as-you-wish establishment, where I paid another $5, knowing I’d have to leave in less than 2 hours. I skipped the dioramas and dinosaurs, which I’d seen dozens of times, and walked through the origin oflife exhibit – a good one – then through the hall of meteorites and around the minerals and gems exhibit. Their collections of this stuff are extraordinary, and arranged to be as educational as possible. There are giant meteorites and crystals that you can touch, and some specimens you can actually sit on. One star of the collection is the famed “Star of India” sapphire, which was stolen years ago, at night, by two thieves who got in through the roof – it was later recovered, after much investigation and hush-hush negotiation – in a locker in Miami’s old Trailways bus station.
Finally, back to LaGuardia on the M60. Now, it seems I’ve been flying forever and never had a problem with airport security – but sooner or later, everyone does, and my time had come. I was tired (after all, my flight to NY had left Ft. Lauderdale at 5:10 AM) and had forgoten to drain the water from the water bottle in my carryon. When I noticed they were holding up my bag I remembered and apologized. The TSA rep, whose command of the English language (to to mention of common sense) left a lot to be desired not only refusedto believe that the bottle held only water, but also insisted that my minibottles of liquor in my TSA-mandated quart-size baggie weren’t allowed, even though I had been told directly by TSA that they were and had never had a problem. Liquor, he said, is FUEL, and if you lightit, you can BURN it. Meanwhile, he was fussing about the bottle of water not being water. Smell it, I suggested. No, no, I will not smell it. Fine, I said, let me empty it out. No, no, you must take it out of security. Okay, I said, just take the bottle and throw it away! (Something TSA does constantly with un-allowsed objects) No, no, you must take it out with you!
Exasperated, I asked “who is your supervisor?” “That is ME!” he declared. Oh, jeez, I thought. I needed a drink! I gathered up my stuff, left the security area, went downstairs, emptied out the water, bought a large diet pepsi, emptied the minibottles into it, drank it all, and went back up. This time, Mister Supervisor stayed in the background. Okay, I declared, everything is empty now and I am legal! I was waved through, slept through the whole return light, and filed my TSA complaint the next day. I’m still waiting for a reply!