After an hour and half wait to get through the tunnel, we were dumped out on the frenetic streets of New York. We’d gone that far so we decided to follow the directions to the little restaurant. We turned down a narrow street lined with brownstones and stoops. Sure enough half way down the street was the little German restaurant down the steps and into the basement. The neon lights flashed and it looked welcoming so we decided to stop. After our 3rd trip around the block were knew we weren’t going to get a parking space so we headed home.
Our next trip to New York we took the bus. They told us the buses were faster than the trains and they were right. We caught the bus here in New Jersey and rode to the Port Authority bus terminal in New York. It’s a massive building where buses drive in and out on multiple levels. Once we finally found our way out of the building, we walked right out on to Broadway. Giant marquees were everywhere, advertising shows and movies. The Victory Theatre was across from us and it was a marvelous old building with a double staircase leading up and unlike other old buildings, it was well preserved.
Times Square looked like it would be the place to be at New Year’s. The Empire State building is as impressive from beside it as it is from a distance. The Macy’s windows seemed a bit scaled down from what I’ve heard but inside, Wow! A shopping wonderland with Bling and Sparkles everywhere!
The Flat Iron building is a work of art and still beautiful. It was so interesting to see beautifull turn-of-the century buildings, sandwiched in between massive glass skyscrapers. We hopped on the subway and headed downtown to the financial district. We saw the Brooklyn Bridge, and city hall. All of the amazing architecture of early New York was so impressive. The closer we got to Wall Street, it seemed the bigger the buildings got. I know the sun was out because I could see it reflected on the tops of some of the buildings. But we never saw it, dwarfed as we were by all the structures packed so close together.
Then right there in the middle of all the massive buildings is Ground Zero. There’s just a great big hole in the skyline. An open space on the ground where our innocence and our sense of safety used to be.
They’re building a memorial park and someday it will be beautiful. Right now, it’s still a pile of rubble full of cranes and construction. I’m sure it will grow as we rebuild our sense of purpose and what we stand for. People were streaming toward the small museum … and not just Americans. We talked to a German couple who were braving the subway system to go there. They borrowed our map and together, we found our way.
We went to the very end of New York to Battery Park. We saw the round fortress first used by the Dutch and of course, looked out on Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. It was long after lunch and we needed a break so we pulled out the GPS and found the White Horse Tavern. Another little 3 story building surrounded by skyscrapers. Inside was a long bar that surely had been built before 1900, lots of little wobbly tables and 2 HD TV’s, playing college football. The bartender was Irish. He had his little, curly-headed boy, following him around as he gave us cheeseburgers and a wonderful beer we loved but can’t remember the name!
Back on the subway we headed uptown to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The outside is so detailed and ornate, it looks like something out of a fairy tale. It’s much bigger on the inside than it seems from the outside. It has huge vaulted ceilings and Gary said it reminded him of the cathedrals he’d seen in Europe. The altar is marble and in the center. On each side there are shrines to various saints done in marble with intricate carvings. There’s a small scale model of the Pieta, and an almost life size manger scene. At the back was a small chapel dedicated to our Lady. It was blocked off and they were baptizing an infant. There were almost as many people trying to crowd in to watch the baptism as there were at the shrines. I remembered what I had been told in RCIA that infant baptism had come about because most adults were baptized and baptisms were a much needed part of church life. So they began to baptize infants. If the crowd at the little chapel was an indication, they were right.
We stopped to ask one of the attendants when we should come to get a seat for mass. We knew we were in trouble when he said, “During the week day.” A little quiet prayer time would have been very nice but I’m not even sure how they can conduct mass with so many people! We decided to go to Rockefeller Center across the street and stepped outside to see 4 policemen complete with submachine guns and a bomb dog. The reality of our world.
I’m sure the tree and the lights and the ice skaters were beautiful at Rockefeller Center and I would have enjoyed them if I could have gotten close enough to see them. It was wall to wall people and I had to hang onto Gary so I wouldn’t lose him. He’s so tall, I can usually spot him in any crowd. It was worse than Disneyland on its worst day. I don’t do Disneyland on a bad day let alone its worst. As we tried to make our way away from the center, we stopped on a street corner. A lady next to me turned to her husband and said, “I guess you’re right. We won’t be back next year.” It made me sad to think they had to give up what was obviously a yearly tradition for them.
The crowds thinned a little but not enough to enjoy ourselves. We stopped in one little store and I expected to see boutique prices. I was pleasantly surprised by the normal price range and decided shopping on 5th Avenue would be scheduled for another day. In fact, there will be a lot of things we will do on another day. We headed back to the Port Authority building. All the Broadway show marquees were lit and there was a lovely kind of buzz … different people doing different things.
Los Angeles considers itself a melting pot but New York is the true melting pot. We stood at the bus stop and talked to a Russian woman whose family lives in Egypt. The maids in my building are from Haiti. We talked to the German couple and a young French couple on the subway. And of course, our red-headed, Irish tavern waiter with his Hispanic wife and dark-eyed, curly-topped boys. I stand in the grocery store and listen to conversations in Eastern European, Indian and Arabic. (I'd like to interrrupt them and ask them to teach me!)
Everywhere we have gone, people have been helpful. My brother who is traveling extensively on the East Coast has been as pleasantly surprised as I have. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, there’s a strong sense of community, much stronger than what I’ve found in LA. People in LA are friendly but they’re much too busy to slow down and really help.
A few weeks ago, Gary and I were driving through Passaic. Downtown has its share of skyscrapers and old buildings. We drove by 2 massive, stone, Catholic churches. They looked as if they’d been built a hundred years ago. But they were less than a mile apart. That’s because the Irish, Italians and Poles couldn’t go to church in the same building. They had to have their own churches. I’d say things have changed a lot since those days.
Merry Christmas! Peace and Goodwill to All Men!