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Friday, July 9, 2010

The Odyssey: Part 1

It was early morning when the band of adventurers set out. The morning air left beads of dew on everything. The leader, a swarthy man of middle years rounded his group prior to taking passage on the magic transport. "Is everyone ready? Does everyone have their buddy?," Tonamok peered at the eager group. With a cheer the fellowship climbed aboard the train to the city and the adventure began!

It was a rare opportunity for us to go to the city. I had been many times before, as the company that I work for used to have an office in Long Island. My children had only been there once before, when they were first toddling and have little to no memory of the experience. How cool for them to be able to visit the big city with all of its sights and sounds.

I planned our trip to be a walking trip. I asked them what they would like to see and I filled in the lack of cultural locations to round out the trip. I had gotten them souvenirs from the World of M&M's a few years ago and that was tops on their list. I asked them all what they were most excited to see and my youngest replied, "Nintendo World". ??

"That's not on the list," I replied. "Are you sure that is there?"

"Oh yes, my friend went there, it is just around the corner from M&M World!" I looked it up on Google and viola, 3 blocks away.

"Ok, I've added it to the itinerary."

As you know, I was born and raised in the South. My family has always looked upon large northern cities with a lot of skepticism and superstitiously with a lot of fear. IF I had listened to everything my family had to say on the subject, I should have been mugged, shot, stabbed, killed, etc., upon getting off of the plane. In fact, just thinking about going to New York would bring bad karma too me and I would likely get killed even before I left for the airport. I WAS nervous the first time I went to the Big Apple. But to the surprise of my family, I returned unscathed. Not only that, I fell in love with the city and have been back many times. Of course it helps that my wife and extended family are all from there as well. Yankees, my immediate family calls them. My wife for the record is a DAMN Yankee (because she never went home). Regardless, I feel at home in the city.

Having said that, taking 2 adolescents, and 3 teens to the city will cause a little bit of worry to any parent. Your worst fear is that you lose someone. It is a big and busy place and very easy to get separated. Or something happens and a child gets hurt. There is a lot to cause any parent fear.

My troop was well prepared though. My boys are Scouts and all of the things that we teach them about survival in the woods applies to the concrete jungle (always have a buddy; know all phone numbers that you'll need; if lost find a mother or authority figure, but NEVER leave the location that you were lost at; drink plenty of water, etc.) My daughter learned those same lessons and everyone was ready. In fact, they were fearless. The big city was in no way something to fear. Everyone paired up, water in their hand. CHARGE!

We started our day on the train from Jersey to Penn Station. Nothing eventful about that, only that you could see the anticipation in their eyes. Once in the city, we were to hit the Empire State Building first. Honestly, there isn't anything there worth the hassle and expense, but you have to say you have done it at least once. My sister in law was with us (also a southerner married to a damn Yankee). We had left our spouses behind to deal with a family situation. She had never been there as had none of my kids, so it was first on the list. However, we picked the one cool day during this heatwave and that unfortunately meant clouds (and future rain).

There are parts of the city that turn into tourist central. It is the most annoying thing about any visit there. Although I understand that a lot of people who visit know nothing about what they are doing (and conversely seem unable to look it up online), there is nothing that irritates me more than some jackass trying to sell me something I don't need, even after I've told him I don't need it. Here is the conversation:

"Yo, yo, yo, you guys going up to see the top?"

"Yeah, we want to see the observation deck."

"Ah. It's overcast now, you won't be able to see anything. So what you need to do is take the Skyride and then you can avoid the lines to the top."

"Um, Ok. So how does that make easier to see?"

"No, but while you are on the Skyride, that will give the clouds time to clear."

"So how long is the Skyride?"

"It will take you 15-30 minutes to get through the Skyride and then you'll be able to go straight to the top to see the view at the observation deck."

"So you think the clouds will clear in 15-30 minutes? They aren't going to clear in that time. It will still be clouding and now I've wasted 30 minutes when I could just go see the view now, that I will see then."

"No no no. You won't have to wait in line to get to the top if you take the Skyride."

"You just told me that it would take 15-30 minutes to get through the Skyride. How long is the wait to get to the observation deck?"

"But you won't have to wait...."

"No thanks, I'll come back later when it's clear!"

"But you won't have to wait...."

What a moron. The other tourist spots were about the same. That's it for now, I'll hit part two by tomorrow. It was a grand experience. Those who know me personally got to follow the trek via Facebook. Those who don't know me personally will just have to read the abstraction here.

Let me just leave you with the fact that I'm so proud of my children and my nephews who took the blistering pace I set and had a blast while doing it. This morning the only people who hurt were all over 40. Just seeing their joy was worth every ache and pain I feel today. See you soon for Part II.

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