Soooo, New York.
Huh. Where do I start?
We’re hoping third time is a charm. The first time we planned a trip back east was a couple of years after we were married. Ultimately, however, I couldn’t see blowing all our money and all my vacation time to pull it off.
Then some strange things happened. First, I turned 40. Then, before I knew it, I had turned 50. How many more chances would I have to do this?
When we lived out in the middle of the desert, we decided to try again. We hauled out the calendar and set a date, started to save money for the trip. Then we got word that my employer was failing and might actually close our small desert branch. Would I be out of a job? We’d better save our money. Trip cancelled.
It turned out to be a wise decision. Although the branch did not close, I was forced to lay off half my staff. Shortly after, I myself was laid off and we returned to northern California. I was out of work for a year and we pinched pennies like never before, particularly after my unemployment checks ran out (described in great detail in this space).
As they say, however, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. However, I would never have guessed that 2016 might be the year.
Then, one morning a couple of weeks ago, while sitting in freeway traffic on the way to work in downtown Sacramento, my wife casually mentioned that we should go on vacation. “Yes!” was my immediate response.
“We could just drive for three days and see where we end up. Where can we get in three days?” I suggested Chicago, if we pushed it. This would not be a problem, as we typically do “push it,” with my wife and I trading off four-hour shifts with one of us driving and the other sleeping. We’ve been to a lot of places this way, including Texas and Canada.
My wife said she’d never been to Chicago, and I admitted to only having seen the inside of O’Hare Airport. The wheels started turning in my pea brain. Art Institute of Chicago? Deep dish pizza? Watching the waves come in on Lake Michigan? The Sears Tower? Oh, they call it something else now, don’t they?
“Hey,” said my wife, her wheels turning as well. “How long would it take to drive to New York.”
That did it.
New York. No, New York, New York. Sounds so nice, they said it twice. It’s a hell of a town, the Bronx is up and the Battery down. Bite the Big Apple. (Don’t mind the maggots!) If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere . . . Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square. Maybe you know some little places to go to where they never close. New York City rhythm flowing through my life . . .
The thought of seeing New York again, probably one last time, turned my brain to mush and evoked every cliché song you can think of.
Maybe I’ll finally get to see the museums.
I spent more than 30 years residing less than half an hour from Midtown, but the only museum I ever visited was the Museum of Natural History, as a child.
I thought I had missed my chance. I knew I’d never get to see the Met, MOMA, the Guggenheim, the Jewish Museum. I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in so many movies that I have no desire to go in person.
But Times Square. Back in the day, I drove through the area many times and even walked there once. The place was loaded with triple-X movie theatres and was generally a filthy pit. Since I’ve been in California, however, Times Square has been renovated to encourage tourism. Now you can make a pilgrimage to the huge Disney Store past costumed Elmos and Mickeys trying to make a few bucks on the street from photos taken with gawking out-of-towners.
My wife said she wants to eat at Katz’s Delicatessen, so well represented on TV. I visited there once, with my father and Grandpa when I was about five or six years old. I still remember it. I refused to eat anything because it wasn’t kosher; they had to take me down the street to Henry’s. But now? I’m game. Even a vegan can enjoy some kugel and a kasha knish. And, if I’m to be perfectly honest with myself, I don’t know that I would be able to resist the lure of a bagel with cream cheese and lox.
There’s just too much to do, see and eat in New York. You really can’t hope to accomplish much in a few days. But at least I’d be able to show my wife the big town. This is where I’m from, this is who I am, this is the essence of my being.
A quick check at work revealed that I have several weeks of paid vacation on the books. But, man, this is going to be an expensive venture. Can we really pull it off? My wife says we can.
All that’s left is to make up an itinerary.