I have written before that teaching my course has allowed me many, many visits to some really cool cities—San Francisco being one in particular. And it has been nice that some of my kids have lived in these cities so my teaching trips could become family visits as well. But just like when that Tony Bennett song, “I Left my Heart in San Francisco”, starts playing in my mind as I take off from SFO leaving family members behind, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” served as background music for a recent excursion of mine to the East coast.
For a time, my oldest son and his wife lived in New York so often my wife and I would combine a trip there with me teaching in New Jersey. And even before they lived there, my wife and I would travel by train from our hotel in New Jersey into New York to spend the day.
In addition to taking in many Broadway plays, one of my wife’s favorite activities, we visited the Empire State Building…
…the 9/11 Memorial…
…the Brooklyn Bridge and park (under construction)…
…and sometimes we’d just sit in the rotating restaurant atop the Marriott hotel at Times Square, enjoying a beer while we watched the city go by as dusk fell upon our day.
Now that I am teaching a second course, I have even more opportunities to travel to these cool cities. So in the spring when my second course got finalized for New Jersey, I found out I could travel a day early to save on airfare and spend the day in New York. But all my thoughts of what I could do in the Big Apple changed when I found out that I would not be teaching at the usual hotel that is easily reached by train straight from the Newark airport—the same train that also goes straight into New York. Instead, it would be necessary for me to rent a car on my own if I wanted to take a side trip into the city. Fortunately, I had just earned a free one-day rental from my business travels so this little snafu wouldn’t even cost me the car rental. With access to a rental, I broadened my horizons of what to do.
In spite of going to New York over two dozen times, a couple of possibilities immediately popped in my mind.
First, although seen from the air as I landed in Newark many times, I had never actually been to the Statue of Liberty. But since one of my favorite things to do is to read a book about the building of something and then go visit it, Lady Liberty was added to that list of mine after reading a book about the construction of the Statue and the man behind it, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.
Second, in spite of visiting numerous museums in New York over the years, one I had never been to before was MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). With my choices made, I just needed to figure out the logistics.
When I went to purchase my online ticket for the Statue of Liberty, I was saddened to learn that tickets to go up to the crown had to be booked at least six months in advance. I could still get a ticket to go up into the pedestal and it also included admission to Ellis Island. But since I didn’t know if the course would actually occur until just three weeks before the scheduled date, there was no way for me to plan the required six months in advance. I did figure out that with a car, it would be easier to catch the ferry from the New Jersey side rather than taking mass transit to Battery Park and catching the ferry there (I was not going to drive in New York). After seeing these two parks, I would drive to a train station, take the train to New York, and then walk to the MOMA.
With plans all made, I looked forward to my trip. But as the English translation of the Yiddish saying goes, “Man plans, and God laughs.”
First I got sick just days before my scheduled flight. A quick trip to one of those drug store clinics ruled out strep and a sinus infection but a raw throat from drainage, congestion, and fluid in my ears at least earned me some meds. I left optimistic for a quick recovery but with the caveat that if I couldn’t pop my ears before getting on the plane, that my eardrums might burst due to the pressure change which she said would be very painful (fortunately that didn’t happen).
Second, the weather took a turn for the worse. What had originally been forecast as a nice sunny day in the 60s, the closer to the trip I got, it turned to rain and then cold was added to the forecast. On the Sunday morning when I left my hotel at 7:30 AM, it was raining and 48 degrees. When I arrived at the wharf, there was also about a 40 mile an hour wind. Reading online that you have to go through airport-like security before boarding the ferry (thanks to the world we live in today) I arrived early and was just able to catch the first ferry of the day.
As we approached the Statue, I felt excitement at being closer to her than I ever had before. But I had to dampen this excitement with the knowledge I had just learned upon boarding that from the New Jersey side; the first stop is Ellis Island (that probably was explained in some small footnote on the website I overlooked). As I exited the ferry, rain was coming down but fortunately everything to see on Ellis Island was indoors.
To be continued…