New York City – Day 3 (Monday, October 12, 2015)

A solid night’s rest behind us, today was promising to be just as beautiful as yesterday. Waking up was a careful exercise of getting out of bed and tiptoeing past Laura (who graciously slept in the office/dining room, giving us the bed for one more night) to get cleaned up.

You Know…Maybe Next Time…

Two things I’ve always wanted to see, but never had the chance are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. As the grandson of immigrants on my Mom’s side,(1) the history there has always been of interest to me. Given no other agenda for the day except catching our bus later in the afternoon, we hopped on the subway over to Lower Manhattan to see about going over to Liberty Island. When we arrived, it was clear that 1) we probably should’ve pre-ordered tickets, and 2) to step foot on the island meant going through a security screening after a 90 minute wait in a very long line. The options were to either wait in line if we went on the island, or try for a ticket on a boat tour IF we could get one early enough in the afternoon before we had to leave.(2) After a fair amount of stewing over our limited options, we decided that the statue wasn’t going anywhere, and chances are we’ll visit New York again (in fact, we may do so as early as June 2016) – so best save that for a later time.

Since we were in the neighborhood (quite literally next door), we opted for an early lunch at the Pier A Harbor House, for raw oysters (good, but we’ve had better) and one of the best Dark and Stormy’s EVER. We made one more trip to midtown to visit one more store Misha used to haunt back in the day, then made our way back to Brooklyn.

(1) To be fair, my grandfather was born in Brooklyn, but my grandmother was a toddler when she came to the U.S.
(2) And though visitors are allowed on Liberty Island again, they’re still not allowed to get close to or go inside the statue.

A Loaded Passenger on a Loaded Bus

After saying our goodbyes to Matt and Laura and collecting our things, we treated ourselves to getting over to Penn Station via a car service, driven by a man with such a thick, presumably Russian accent, that I almost mistook him for speaking something other than English. The bus heading home wasn’t quite as nice as the one we rode up to New York, but we didn’t mind.

In my modest amount of travel experience, I’ve had the opportunity of sitting next to my fair share of farting, snoring, nosey, pleasant, talkative, irritable and cooperative fellow travelers. Most have been decent enough, and if you don’t remember who you were sitting next to, then the journey couldn’t have been all that bad with them, right? However, a young woman sitting behind us made a serious mistake – she sat in a window seat. The old rule of unassigned seating is if you sit in a window seat, then you’re inviting any and everyone coming on board to sit next to you. Not that claiming an aisle seat is a guarantee of keeping away possible riff-raff, but it’s a bit more of a defensive way of saying “Move along, freak…I prefer sitting alone.”

As other passengers boarded and claimed their seats, a disshelved, not-quite-himself type of man stumbled on, looking as if he got dressed in the dark and smelled like he shampooed in Grey Goose and conditioned with Bacardi – almost enough to make him a walking fire hazard. He was the type of passenger you do your best not to make eye contact with – not out of fear, but to avoid the “Why yes, I would enjoy the pleasure of your awkward company on this long trip” said-no-one-ever connection. Whether because he saw a seat next to a pretty girl or just didn’t care where he sat, our drunken fellow passenger decided to avail the young woman behind us to his charming demeanor.

Not being 100% sure of what tipped him off, but whatever otherwise “peaceful conversation” he was having with the young woman quickly went south. Her voice had taken on a harder, more direct tone as his slurred slurred speech was thick with an underlying anger and abusive tendancies, as well as more colorful language and name calling. Needless to say, the young woman was no longer happy about who was sitting next to her (to say nothing of Misha and I as we got more than alarmed about him). The woman even had to force him to let her out of her window seat just so she could move to another part of the bus, but not before she had a word with the bus driver, who promptly engaged in a brief conversation with the drunk. He insisted he didn’t have any alcohol on his person, though the driver let him be without much confidence in his assurances. Fortunately, the woman found a better seat and the drunk spent most of the ride out cold behind us. The only exceptions were taking a nip from a bottle of something he obviously hid in his bag and mumbling slurred explicatives about DC area traffic.

Arriving back in Rosslyn, we kept a close eye on the drunk who seemed to be heading in our same direction toward the local Metro station, but kept on walking once we met our Uber driver at the rendezvous spot (who was a much more positive experience than our previous Uber experience).

Farewell, Old Friends…

After unpacking and getting back into the routine of work and everyday life again, it was time to bid a fond farewell.

It’s fair to say that I’m a sentimental type, and my most prized possessions may not be worth much on a monetary scale, but priceless when it comes to memories. My condo is decorated with all kinds of keepsakes and knick knacks from childhood, college and all through my adult life – marking the passage of things gone by, experiences to share stories about, and offer proof that I had been somewhere or done something. And that even includes certain articles of clothing. For example, one of the last things my grandmother (Dad’s side) gave me was a pair of cowboy boots that I faithfully wore for years, even resoling a couple times despite protests from the cobbler to let them go, before storing them in their place of glory in the back of my closet. I haven’t worn them in over a decade, but grandma gave to them to me (went out of her way to take me to the store to get them – including her attempt to play cupid between me and the chashier, whom she ended up not liking after all due to her then going through a divorce/having an array of less-than-artistic tattoos) and I won’t get rid of those boots for anything.

But, at long last, the moment had arrived to retire my tried and true traveling partners, my old Timberland hikers. They’ve tracked their fair share of miles across mainland Europe and the U.S. – enjoyed the tropical embrace of Hawaii, endured the streets of New York twice, the twists and turns of Bordeaux and Paris, the elemental beauty of Iceland, the rolling hills of San Francisco and endless blocks of downtown DC. They’ve been through enough airport security screenings to practically glow in the dark from x-ray exposure, and been through mud, grime and all things unspeakable – both rural and urban. Sadly, their finer days now behind them, they go on to that great hiking trail in the sky as they’re replaced with a new pair, surely bound for more adventures and memories to come.

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