Sunday, March 15, 2009

New York

I flew to Manhattan for a long weekend with my two sons for my grandmother's funeral. We saw her off in a fashion befitting her long, fruitful life, in which she made many friends and a lasting impression on the big family she raised and the bigger extended family they raised in turn. She was a talented painter as well as a wonderful mother to her six sons and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A certain Irish pub in Brooklyn saw a lot of extra business that weekend from our assembled family; we still love to see each other from our four compass points even in times of sorrow like this year, or tragedy like earlier this decade.

The day after our farewell to Gram, I took my sons and my sister's family over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan. We walked over the bridge, which was an adventure in itself, then took the subway to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, where we waited for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. The enormously long train came a few minutes later, and we dilly-dallied our way to the ferry terminal, then hustled to the ferry entrance roughly 15 seconds after it honked its horn and set sail. The next ferry would depart half an hour later, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the ferry we'd just missed was the last one of the day that would allow us to get to Liberty Island early enough to actually climb up into the statue.

Yes, the boys were disappointed, but it was still a fantastic day for all of us, including eating hot dogs from a street vendor who was wearing a grungy NY Yankees jacket and who looked just like anyone else's working class Italian-American father. My sons agreed that it was the best hot dog they'd ever eaten, and I thought it was mighty fine, too.

On our way back we took a much more direct subway , which dropped us off within a few blocks of our hotel, then we dashed upstairs for our luggage, caught a cab, and headed to JFK for the long, late flight home.

New York City subways are something to behold. The trains are huge and frequent, and they run practically everywhere in the city. Any place in the city is nominally just a transfer or two away, but in practice usually much less, since from my time in New York I remember that many New Yorkers generally don't have to travel far to get what they need, except perhaps in their commute.

With the freeways jammed on Sunday afternoon, our route back to the airport took us along Atlantic Avenue through Brooklyn, which closely paralleled a subway line that emerged to become an elevated train about halfway there. Under more normal circumstances we might have taken a train like this one, but the concierge at our hotel told us when I asked about it earlier that morning that the A-Train to JFK wasn't running at that time. He offered shuttle buses as an alternative to get halfway there, then a shorter version of the A-train which connected to an airport train, but our time was short and it looked like a cab to the terminal was going to be the only alternative that would get us where we needed to be in time to make our flight. We only arrived at the terminal an hour before flight time, which was cutting it a bit fine, but we didn't have any baggage to check, so except for an incident in the security line that could have been avoided with a little forethought, all was well.