New York City
Finding myself with a week of vacation that had to be used before the end of March, I debated where to go for several months. After the 911 terrorist attacks just months earlier, there were many incentives to jump start the tourism industry, especially flights to Europe. While I know that Ground Zero is not a tourist attraction, my thoughts kept returning to the fact that this was a once in a lifetime journey that might help to put some perspective on the terrible tragedy.
Although I have been to New York City a few times, I have said more than once that I really have little love for this city that seemed filled with angry, unfriendly people and filth everywhere. My first trip ever to the city was over spring break in 1988. I drove up by myself and stayed with my Aunt Janet, Uncle Larry and my cousin Mary on Long Island. During that week, we mostly toured around Long Island, but one day we took the train into the city and did several touristy things like the Statue of Liberty, walking the Brookland Bridge and seeing a Broadway show. Since then, the city had been through some radical changes. I have returned a few times while working for Musiker Tours and have seen vast improvements in the friendliness and cleanliness of the city.
While I have no problems traveling alone, having someone along certainly makes any trip more enjoyable and more cost effective. Over the years, several students of mine have always jokingly asked when I was going to take them on one of my adventures. I approached a former student who is now inbetween highschool and college to see if he'd be interested in making the trip to New York City. This turned out to be a good destination because Dustin had never been to New York. This gave me an excuse to plan more touristy activities and see some things that I probably would not have if I was on my own.
Although Dustin was a student of mine at Smith MS, I recall that he was often absent and it wasn't until high school that we actually became friends while I helped out with the Chillicothe High School band. When another student left Chillicothe in 1998 and went to Piketon HS, I took Dustin and another teacher to see the halftime show at a Waverly v. Piketon game. We were very impressed with the Piketon Marching Band. After the game, we all went to Pizza Hut and had a good laugh when the waitress mistakenly addressed the other teacher as "mom". So, we played along as a joke and it's been a good source of many jokes throughout the years. Dustin often jokingly refers to me as his "old man".
Our adventure began with the drive to New Jersey. My cousins' Chris and Mary graciously offered to allow us to leave my car in NJ and take the train into the city. We recovered from the long drive by camping out on the living room floor of their apartment for 2 nights. I also got to spend some quality time with their two children, Margaret and Lawrence (who are very early risers!). We attended Palm Sunday services at a very small and friendly Methodist church that was set in a very New England looking neighborhood. After church, we went out to eat with an old college friend of Mary and Chris and watched the Academy Awards late into the evening. Mary dropped Dustin and me off at the NJ Transit station and we took the train into Penn Central Station.
The Roosevelt Hotel
Wanting to get the full New York City experience, I found a highly rated hotel that had been discounted heavily due to the lack of tourism. It was in an ideal location, on 45th street and within walking distance of the theater district. We checked in and then went directly to the bottom of Mahattan to get tickets for the Ground Zero viewing area at the South Street Seaport. Then it was back to the Empire State Building for a view of the city from above.
Empire State Building
Looking North from the Empire Observation Deck
Standing on top of the Empire State Building was a very eerie feeling in the wake of the 9-11 terrorism attack on the World Trade Center. You couldn't help but look down and imagine how terrifying it would have been to watch an airplane fly into the very structure that was beneath your feet.
Looking South towards Ground Zero
From the Empire State Building, Dustin and I ventured over to Times Square. We had tickets to see the Broadway show Urinetown, which was very well acted and entertaining. Afterwards, we wandered around Times Square and ended up at Planet Hollywood for a late night dinner.
Appropriately, it was raining the next morning as we made our way to Ground Zero. The rain reflected the dismal mood of those that were gathered around the small church that had the items sent from around the world draped over it's iron fence in memorial to those that perished and in support of those involved in the rescue efforts.
Standing in line for the viewing platform
Looking towards Ground Zero, the ramp to the viewing platform
The ramp and viewing platform were covered with handwritten prayers and signatures
Dustin signing the flag on the viewing platform ramp
View from the ramp of the cleanup efforts
China Town and Little Italy
The rain didn't dampen our spirits as we made our way into China Town for lunch. This part of town reminded me of my visits to Korea and Hong Kong.
Then it was on to Little Italy for dessert...some gelato!
The Late Show with David Letterman
Dustin had filled out a request for Letterman tickets on the web. We got the phone call a few weeks before leaving and were to report to the Sullivan Theater in the afternoon to pick up our tickets. After getting our tickets, we wandered around and saw them setting up for a remote inside the Hello Deli.
We gathered in a dance club around the corner from the Late Show and they placed us into long lines and gave us a pep talk for the show. Then we were marched across the street and into the theater. Dustin and I ended up sitting over near Alan Kalter on the right side of the theater. Dave came out and "chatted" with the audience for a bit and made fun of a few audience members. Then it was show time and it was as if the show was live...real time taping with no retakes. The audience was treated to "the best of Letterman" video clips that were extremely funny during the "commercial" breaks.
Afterwards we went to check out the half-price tickets for shows, but decided to just wander around New York. We returned to Ground Zero to see the "lights" memorial that represented the twin towers.
The Statue of Liberty
Our last day in the city, Dustin and I took the Battery Park ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Then we walked through Central Park and saw the building where John Lennon lived and was later assasinated. Back on the subway and down to Grenich Village and dinner at Chat 'n Chew just west of Union Square. The fun was almost over and we headed back on the train to NJ and then the next day drove back to Ohio.
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