Tuesday, January 23rd: Our odyssey to New York to meet my literary agent and publishing editor began early when the airport service picked us up at (yawn, yawn). We made it to the San Francisco airport without a hitch.....the San Francisco commute traffic was early-morning light and there were no traffic jams. The flight was also flawless. We landed at JFK on time, retrieved our checked luggage and climbed into a yellow cab for our half-hour ride through Queens into Midtown Manhattan. My husband and I instantly became typical tourists with eyes diverting every which way to absorb firsthand what we had seen so many times on television or in movies. Our cab driver provided the narrative and also a very good restaurant recommendation near our hotel....Rue 57 at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 57th Street, a French bistro serving delicious food. We quickly settled into our suite at the Salisbury Hotel, an older establishment sans the glass and brass of more expensive hotels, and were glad we had booked through the Entertainment Card to get a fantastic rate for Midtown, right across the street from Carnegie Hall. Later we took the cabby’s expert advice and enjoyed our first dinner in New York at Rue 57. The waiter was friendly, as were Joyce and Rosanne, the two women who sat at the table next to us. They shared suggestions for things to do during our visit, and I shared the news about my book. After dinner Rex and I bundled up and took a brisk walk down Sixth Avenue where many of the trees and bushes were decorated in twinkling white lights. Very magical.
Wednesday, January 24th: After breakfast we walked fourteen blocks down Seventh Avenue to the half-price ticket booth on 44th Street where we were fortunate to snag two good seats for the matinee performance of “The Producers” at the St.JamesTheater. Mission accomplished, we gawked at the lights and sounds of a busy Times Square as we made our way to the subway station to go uptown to the AAA office. We had inadvertently left our New York AAA book on the airplane. I like to be prepared so I had previously checked the New York Transit Authority web site and knew about the seven day Metro Card, and the senior fare. We entered the Times Square underground station, approached the man in the ticket booth and quickly became frustrated as we tried to understand what he was saying through the heavy glass partition and his thick accent as he spoke into a muffled microphone. What the web page didn’t tell me was that in order to get the senior fare, you have to fill in a form and submit it for approval long before you need it. The agent couldn’t sell us the one ticket we wanted on the senior fare. Then he couldn’t sell us the regular tickets because we wanted to use a credit card. As we tackled the ticket machine one frustrated man through his hands up in the air and stomped off because we were taking too long. Oh well.......
After we figured out we were on the wrong side of the tracks, we went back up the stairs, crossed Broadway, and descended down the stairs on the opposite side. We were learning fast. We successfully found the AAA office and with our tourist book in hand, we caught the Red Line #1 downtown and rode it to the last stop. We walked through Battery Park, past the green human statues posing for a photo opportunity, and found a vantage point for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. As we huddled against the chilly air and exhaled foggy breath, we watched the ferry heave to-and-fro and we decided that we would save the harbor trip for our next visit....in more favorable weather. As we left the park we paused near the entrance for our first encounter with a 9/11 artifact....the twisted artwork ”The Sphere” that once sat in the WorldTradeCenter plaza. It was conceived by the artist as a symbol of world peace and still endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country. Tears trickled down the cheeks of many as we silently stood and watched the eternal flame burn in honor of all those who were lost.
We consulted our map and decided to walk to Ground Zero. When we were almost there, we were startled by four fire engines, sirens blaring and lights flashing, as they tried to get through the snarled traffic. A lump filled my throat. In desperation, five firemen with air tanks mounted on their backs jumped off one of the trucks and walked in front of us to a building in the middle of the block. It could have been a scene out of 9/11 as it turned out two of the trucks came from the station house directly next to Ground Zero. We didn’t see any smoke and quickly walked on.
Ground Zero is bustling with activity. It’s fenced off and the few vantage points provided do not give an unobstructed view. It looks like a common construction job in a city that constantly rebuilds itself. But looks can be deceiving. One can only imagine the horror of that terrible day as screams, smoke and debris filled the air. And as we looked closer, we stumbled across tell tale signs, like the makeshift memorial near the job office that honors the responders who lost their lives trying to help others and the marble relief on the side of the firehouse with burning and exploding twin towers. The taxi driver who brought us into the city the day before had told us that on 9/11 he had just dropped off a fare at the WorldTradeCenter five minutes before the first airplane crashed. He said he had to leave his cab when traffic came to a stand still. Thinking back, I wonder if this is a story all cab drivers now tell or if he in fact was near the scene. We didn’t have time to go through the special exhibit set up in a building on the south side of the site; it will wait for our next visit.
Now one thing we learned quickly about the subway....we still had a lot to learn. This time we got on a train heading in the right direction, uptown towards Times Square, but it wasn’t the red line train. Our instant panic quickly subsided when a fellow passenger pointed out that we were on the yellow line and that we would, indeed, be able to get off at Times Square. Whew! And who said New Yorkers are unfriendly? We made our way to the St.JamesTheater and popped into a nearby pizza restaurant for some soup and roasted vegetables (yum, yum) before the show.
If you need a good laugh and like fantastic acting and singing, then go see “The Producers” starring Tony Danza. We needed something uplifting after Ground Zero and this fit the bill. Afterwards, we walked into Sardi’s for dinner and I immediately asked if we could be seated in the upstairs dining room. The host waved us to the stairs. Inexperienced us could have used the special entrance on the street but what did we know? Anyway, the staff seated us at a nice table, near the drawing of Carl Reiner. The whole room is filled with drawings of famous people but there were many that we didn’t know, even when we read their names. Halfway through dinner we noticed that there was someone famous in the room and he was not a drawing on the wall. Tony Danza was having dinner with two older couples only a couple of tables away. Wow! Fortunately no one bothered him asking for autographs or photographs. We all respected his privacy. After a delicious dinner and a bottle of white wine, we walked back into Times Square and took lots of pictures of the bright flashing neon signs and the five-story Ferris wheel in the Toys R Us store. The evening air was fresh and crisp. We decided to walk back to the hotel and absorb the sights, sounds, and smells of New York. Then we crashed for the night.
...Thanks for reading. I meet my literary agent and publishing editor in the next blog.