Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This One Goes to New York

The bomb scare in New York City this week made me realize that is almost a year since my last trip to the Big Apple. New York is my favourite city. It is the only place I've ever been that lived up to what I thought it would be.

The number of New Yorkers who stopped to help whenever we looked the slightest bit baffled was unbelievable. Some people went out of their way to take us where we wanted to go. It is a wonderful place, friendly, clean and safe and I hate to think of all of those people living in fear again. If you can dedicate a simple blog to a city and its people, this one goes to New York.

I went with a bus load of teachers. The idea was that we would leave after the teachers finished work on the Friday before the 24th of May long weekend, drive all night, do the city all day, spend one night in a hotel and drive back on Sunday morning. It sounded like a good idea when I heard about it. I loved New York when I was there three decades ago. And this trip was cheap, cheap, cheap!

What didn't occur to me until I had committed myself and bought a ticket to see South Pacific on Broadway was that I was thirty years old the last time I was in New York City and I flew there in a nice comfortable airplane. This time I was...well, older than thirty and I was planning on sitting up all night on a crowded bus.

But an adventure is an adventure. We took off in a cloud of dust and merriment which ended abruptly at our first stop which was about three meters from our point of departure - the duty free shop in Niagara Falls. That was actually okay with me though. I had won the bus draw and was entitled to pick up a free bottle of wine.

Half an hour later we were off again. We were told that we would be stopping at a restaurant at 7 a.m. to eat and freshen up. The freshen up part became very clear when we found out that the bus wasn't going to take us to our hotel first, actually it wasn't even going to come to a complete stop when we arrived in downtown Manhattan. It was going to slowly roll by Macy's, as close to the curb as it could get and we were going to have to leap out, hopefully not into traffic. Sixty year old women don't leap all that well, but for the price we were paying I guess I was lucky the bus slowed down.

The Flying Wallendas didn't rush over and sign me up for their seniors acrobatic team but I survived.

We went right over to the World Trade Centre site. The site itself is a construction zone but we decided on the spur of the moment to take a tour offered by a group of volunteers. The World Trade Centre Volunteers are people who were either in one of the buildings or lost someone on Sept. 11th.

The guides that day were a woman who lost a cousin and a man who was high up in the second tower and got out. Their stories were very difficult to listen to, the family's last phone call from the cousin when he knew he wasn't going to get out, the man's trip down the stairs in the dark. Both of them told stories that were remarkable for the lack of hatred and because of their resolve that those lost will not be forgotten and that an amazing city will go on.

We managed to see South Pacific on Broadway and get back to Times Square in time for our prepaid tour of the city which ended after dark. We finally arrived back at the hotel at 11 p.m. The next morning our bus picked us up at the same spot outside Macys . It is much harder to leap onto a moving bus than it is to leap off one in case you are wondering.

When we arrived back in Canada later in the day the Canadian Customs Agent climbed on the bus and yelled, "Anybody bringing back anything they shouldn't be bringing back?"

"No!" we all shouted dishonestly in unison. He laughed and climbed back off the bus.

Ah, Canada! It was good to be back home, but you know if I couldn't be home and had to live somewhere else, I'd be proud to be a New Yorker.

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