It wasn’t until our plane finally took off 20 minutes later than expected that I placed my Metro card in my book to mark the page and I started to pray. I always do this while taking off. It’s usually the Lord’s Prayer, which never fails to get me and my plane off the ground. It was dark and we were leaving LaGuardia, which is truly a pit of human misery.
My colleague, D, and I wound up our tasks for the day and dubiously hopped into a cab for the airport. We had designs on catching an earlier flight out. Yesterday, when catching a ride with a cabbie from the same company, we were subjected to a cab ride designed by Satan himself. First, we nearly had to tackle him in order to stop him from taking off without us. Our hosts had ordered this cab for us and rather than getting us promptly to the curb, they delayed us with shop talk. So, he was grumpy and expressed it through an obvious vehicle: his cab.
As we bounced along the streets of the Bronx and onto the highway, we were forced to endure talk radio and gale force winds. The driver, obviously deaf or full of hate and bile, kept cranking up the political talk and rock. Also, the window controls in the back seat were locked so I couldn’t roll mine up, causing me to absorb blasts of wind in my hair and face. While all of these assaults were taking place on our persons, this maniacal man alternatively pressed the gas pedal and the brake pedal in an erratic fashion; one would almost call it “maverick.” We were jostled enough that by the time we arrived at our hotel, we were both nauseous and suffering from the effects of inner ear disturbances.
Undaunted, we stashed our stuff in our rooms, changed clothes, and gamely hopped on a bus to take us to the subway to take us to Manhattan. It was a beautiful night and we both enjoyed the luxuriously smooth ride we experienced on both the bus and the subway. We arrived at Grand Central Station and made our way out onto 42nd Street…Avenue…I can’t remember which, but it took us right out to the Pershing Square Café, where I met Coaster Punchman, Poor George, and BeckEye one lovely night a month or two ago. I stood there for a moment, remembering. I was sad that I wasn’t going to meet them there again; it actually bummed me out a bit. Next time I’m here, I’ll make plans again. In know CP is gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t meet without him.
D and I pressed on. I think she was looking to me to lead a grand adventure in the City, having heard of my trip here and in St. Louis. But I was just not inspired. I was actually ashamed to admit that I was hoping to have dinner at our hotel and retire to an evening reading. It wasn’t the company; I just wasn’t feeling like seizing the day. But we wandered around, checking out the shops and gasping at the prices.
As we weaved our way around, we were drawn to a well lit set of windows on a mostly dark street. It contained the Mercantile Library. We moved closer and looked in. It was a marvelous little spot. Beyond the glass, we could see several modest book shelves full of library books. Toward the back of the main room, a young, willowy librarian stood reading behind a wooden counter top, which was home to several large pieces of parchment and oversized books. I was momentarily spellbound by the scene, which could have been captured Edward Hopper and displayed right next to "Nighthawks." I wanted to go in, but I didn't want to disturb the scene. I looked away and glanced at some smaller writing at the top of the windows. It read "Headquarters for the National Mystery Writers of America." It was really cool to be standing there. Someday, I'll be a member, I thought.
Satisfied at having Seen Something Special, we decided to move along. We came upon a road side vendor selling silk pashminas for five bucks. Ah ha! Something to bring home for the girls! I know they’d love to have long, beautiful scarves to drape around themselves. It sounded good to me too so I bought three.
Cheered a bit by this we tromped off to find someplace to eat. We were headed back to the Pershing Square Café, when we were seduced by the spells of Tequilaville. As we passed by the windows we saw heaping plates of “Mexican” food and endless bowls of chips and salsa. We diverted our trajectory towards the door and found a seat. The waiter brought us menus and I went to the bar to treat myself to a Dos Equis. I brought my beer back to the table and settled in.
Unfortunately, it was loud in there. The music was loud and there was bacchanalian cacophony pulsating from a group of about 15 people sitting in the back corner. They were yelling at each other, singing Mexican drinking songs, and doing body shots. At one point, they ordered another round of tequila. I mean, come on! It’s Tuesday night! It’s not even Tiki night! These fools are going to be sorry in the morning. That gave us some satisfaction, as we ate chips and cringed as the f-bombs dropped and some hyena-woman laughed her Wipe-Out laugh every 20 seconds or so.
By the time we left, my nerves were so rattled that I couldn’t bear the thought of using the taxi voucher I had, which would mean waiting for 30 minutes for our ride to arrive. So we decided to rely on public transportation. In Grand Central station, we found a quiet spot to examine the subway map and plot our route home. Nearly confident that we knew what we were doing, we spelunked our way to the right train and headed out.
Two trains later, we had to grab a bus to finish our journey. It was my first time using a Metro card on a bus, so, of course, I put it in the wrong way. When I tried again, the bus driver (I think his nametag read "Beelzebub") snatched the card out of my hand and said, "I ain't got time for this!" and jerked his thumb toward the back of the bus.
We took our seat and held on. At one point, near the airport, the bus was stopped at a light. It was also stopped at a bus stop, but the doors were closed. Some poor guy was standing on the sidewalk, signalling that he wanted to get on. The light changed to green and the bus driver looked at the guy, shook his head and took off, laughing maniacally. D and I looked at each other in fear as our bus ride turned into Space Mountain. We zoomed around the airport and I told D, "Let's get off at the next stop, shall we?"
We made it to the Northwest terminal and slipped through the back door, happy to be alive and to have escaped a fate of being fed ramen noodles in a bucket at the bottom of a well in this guy's back yard. We called for the hotel shuttle and called our families just to hear their voices again. The shuttle picked us up and we were greeted by a cheerful driver who seemed glad to see us. He made one more stop to pick up a gaggle of Air Canada flight staff. This cheered me a bit as the flight attendants had jaunty red bows tied at their throats and I love to listen to Canadians talk.
As I listened to the dulcet tones of the Air Canada Staff talking about how they felt sorry for the crews that have the "Sascatoon Duty," I was struck by the thought that I'm having an international experience that Disney tries to make me believe I'm having at places like Epcot Center. Here I was with Canadians, Carribeans, and a Conservative, having just gotten off an exciting ride. But it was for real. The hole time in NYC, I was working and sharing space with people from all over the world and none of us was wearing nametags. I recommend the experience.
The next day was pretty routine and we took another uncomfortable cab ride to the airport. We weren't able to get an earlier flight, so we had a pretty good meal at Fig's. We waited to board and finished up the books we were reading. I was really ready to be home. I thought back over the trip and some of the disappointments I experienced, mainly the missed opportunity to hook up with some of you folks. I must say, and I know others have said it too, it's really cool to meet fellow bloggers. There's none of the dread you experience when meeting strangers for the first time, because I'm pretty familiar with the quirks that I'm likely to face, like emptying an egg carton from the edges first and making sure the eggs balance before putting them back. I was kicking myself a little bit for not being brave enough to contact Beckeye and demanding another meeting.
We boarded the plane and got ourselves situated. I was feeling kind of blue because I'd finished a delightful book and starting a new one seemed kind of pointless. I wasn't really up for meeting new people. As we ascended into the night sky, I put my book down and looked out the window. We circled around New York City and I was suddenly struck by the fact that it was very familiar. It looked just like my map of Manhattan! Oblong and striped with different colors, glittering under the moonlight. My spirits lifted in time with our altitude and I decided to whip out my laptop and get crack-a-lackin' on this post. If I couldn't be with you while I was there, I sure as heck fire could try to make you feel like you were along for the ride.
See you next time I'm in town!