I’d been planning this trip since last July, when I learned that my cousin, Mark, had donated some of my father’s photos to the New York Historical Society Museum and Library. It seemed like a nice excuse to bop around my childhood stomping grounds.
Of course, I immediately turned to Bob for help booking flights and lodging, something he happily takes on any time we go anywhere. After landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport, we pulled our suitcases over to the side so Bob could decide how best to get into Manhattan.
Ultimately, we rode the AirTrain to the E Train, a frugal and adventurous choice that bolstered my New Yorker persona.
We stepped off at the Port Authority exit and after we dragged our suitcases past broken escalators and up to the gum-encrusted sidewalk, Bob asked me to pose beside Ralph Kramden, the fictional bus driver of fifties sitcom fame.
Remember The Honeymooners? It was one of a few shows that met my Mom and Dad’s approval. Back then, families watched television together and, at least in my family, kids were forbidden to turn on the TV at any other time.
It was a short walk to our hotel. The street smelled of diesel fuel and pot, with undertones of freshly-baked bread. Some corners reeked of cotton candy. Pizza smells wafted from open doorways and food carts. We put away our clothes and looked down at the city from our room on the 30th floor of the Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central.
It was still early, so we took our cameras down to Times Square.
The Lion King is still showing at the Minskoff, where cousin Frank recently retired as prop manager.
Manhattan’s streets are a cacophony of construction, traffic, flashing billboards, food trucks, and pedestrians.
Plenty of color, lots of ways for people to lighten our wallets.
We funneled into a crowd watching a man flip himself over backwards with a mere bend of his knee.
Sorry. Had to include this one.
NYPD was everywhere, and I must admit that at least once, I kept pace with them to make myself feel less vulnerable. I was hoping to see an officer on horseback, but so far have not run into any.
Finally, we arrive at my favorite photo from our first day in New York City: sunlit London Pales at Bryant Park. As always, it was Bob who thought to make this a destination.
Truth be told, he was interested in trying out what’s been touted as “the most luxurious public bathroom in all of New York City,” willing to stand in line until the plastic-gloved lady beckoned.
“How was it?” I asked when he emerged. “Gritty and smelled like piss,” Bob said, “A lot prettier on the outside.” And that’s what we came here for, to get the real flavor of New York City. Not what you see in the movies, nothing like little Pittsboro, New York is at once coarse and stinky and grand.