NJ NYC


I finally have pictures up from our trip to NJ NYC.  I don’t have them labeled yet, but you can see them!  I am still trying to get a video disc uploaded somehow, but I can’t seem to figure out how to be smarter than the disc.  Someday soon, I hope to get ‘er done.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/singdenver/

Waking up at 5 am is NOT fun, especially when you’re me. Luckily, I had taken a shower the night before. I had to put my nice clothes on (just in case we were able to get First Class on the flight home), but I didn’t have time to eat breakfast or put on my makeup. No matter, I’d just do it on the train. (Yeah, right.) Since my mom was still sleeping, I hopped into her bed and gave her a hug and told her goodbye. D.P. had already said his goodbye the night before. We said goodbye to my dad when he dropped us off at the train station just after 530 am.

One of the ‘locals’ showed us how to use the machine to buy our tickets, and we had to wait just a few more minutes until the train arrived. I was so tired, all I could do was try my best not to doze off… but D.P. encouraged me to rest, so I did. About an hour later, we arrived at Penn Station.

[I have to halt the story for a moment and say we tried the night before to figure out a solid plan to get from Penn Station to LaGuardia airport. We went through a few different scenarios, and some with good outcomes. None were perfect – in fact, at least one plan would have gotten us to the airport ten minutes prior to the flight leaving (no good!) – but overall we had options. Instead of cementing what we would do, my mom offered the suggestion that once we arrived at Penn Station, we ask what the best way back to LaGuardia would be. It was my mistake thinking anyone would be willing to help us once we got there.]

This is where I get a little fuzzy about details traveling from Penn but, when we tried to hail a cab, the driver wouldn’t give me an estimate as to fare or drive time. Of course, I knew both topics depend on the meter, but MY GOODNESS! In the end, we decided to go back inside and check on getting to the airport by train. We walked over to the window where my mom had bought our train tickets on Friday, and I was told we would have to use the NJ Transit downstairs. Okay. We headed downstairs and I looked at the paper my mom had originally given us when we researched routes the night before. “N”. I looked for the N signs, but didn’t see any, so I asked a lady running a newspaper stand. All she knew was where to find A, B, C, 1, 2, and 3. Gah! We continued walking, looking all over the place for the stupid N train. Tempers began flaring, and D.P. and I started getting on each other’s last nerves. At one point, when he was being particularly poopy in attitude, I walked as fast as I could, assuming he would keep up with me. Of course, he probably wasn’t too fond of me at the time. LOL Eventually, we found ourselves at a NJ Transit help center.

I told the woman behind the counter what our problem was, and asked her if she had any idea on the best way to get where we were going. I believe she said NJ Transit wouldn’t get us there, that we would need to go upstairs. W-W-W-WHAT?! A colleague of the woman was in the office at the time, and offered to direct us to the place within Penn Station that we needed to be to buy a Metro card. Excellent! It was such a relief to finally know where to go.

We found our way to a Metro card machine, and I wondered how much a fare was. Should I put $10 on the card? $20? Good Lord. D.P. said we should go talk to the man in the booth behind us. Good idea. We waited patiently in line and, when it was just us and him, I told our problem to him, too. Not to worry, he said, all you have to do is take the “E” train to Roosevelt Avenue and then hop on the Q33 bus (Queens), which would take us straight to LaGuardia.

We found the E and decided the first one was too full. By this time, I was so hot and sweaty that I imagined my pores having a field day with building up all the oil they could and popping out dozens of zits all over my face. I hoped I didn’t smell bad (I put deodorant on, right?). As we stood on the next train, we became extremely squished with other passengers and I held on to the bar as tight as I could. I even prayed to God I wouldn’t fall over on top of two women who were sitting next to me. At one point, I was able to sit down and towards the end of the ride, D.P. was able to grab a seat, too.

When we arrived at the Roosevelt Avenue stop, we walked until we saw a sign for the Q33. Upon its arrival, we stepped up into the bus with our suitcases and sat down. We were almost to our final destination!

We arrived at LaGuardia at approximately ten minutes ’til 9 am, and proceeded through security. When we got down to the gate, I switched my shoes from tennies to dressy. We were so tired already, but waited patiently to hear if our names would be called for the 930 am flight back to Denver. A few minutes later, an airline employee announced there was a small mechanical issue that mechanics were working on. I told D.P. I was going to use the restroom. When I saw the line to the womens restroom was about 8 people long, I texted D.P. and told him to call me if our names were called to hop on the flight. When I got back to him, D.P. said nothing had changed, so he was going to go to the bathroom and asked if I was hungry. I told him I was, and he said he’d be right back.

A few minutes later, he came back to me with a small bag in his hand filled with a cinnamon roll and muffin and asked me if I had seen Matt Lauer ‘over there’. “No!” I said. He pointed to the area where Matt was standing, and I walked over to see if I could see him. I really hope Matt didn’t see me being a lookey-loo. We wondered where he was travelling to. Chicago, it looked like. I saw him on the Today show the next morning, so it must have been a quickie trip.

Finally, the rest of the passengers for our flight boarded the plane. Then, an employee started calling names for the stand-bys… I was one of the names. D.P. walked up with me, and told them he was an employee and I was his (flight) companion. The employee said that they only had one seat left. I told D.P. I didn’t want to go, and looked at him with scared puppy-dog eyes. He firmly told me I *had* to go, and he’d see me later. My heart sank. I didn’t like feeling the way I did when I had to leave him, especially after all the trouble we went through earlier in the day to even get to the airport. I was fortunate enough to have one of D.P.’s co-workers from Denver on the flight with me, so I felt a little better in the end. It was a long flight home, especially with Mr. I’m-gonna-spread-my-elbows-over-into-your-personal-space sitting on my right. Good thing the stand-bys and I were able to choose our own seats so I could have an aisle seat.

I called D.P. when I arrived in Denver, and he told me he hadn’t been able to catch a flight yet. He was NOT happy. I told him I would wait for him as long as I could, until the last flight if I needed to. At one point, when the situation wasn’t looking good at all, I asked him if it might be better for me to hop on the bus and head over to his house to at least rest for a while before I went home. He said he would leave the decision up to me, and that’s what I was going to do until I received a call from him while I was waiting for the bus. Poor D.P. had waited (semi)patiently all day, until the very. last. flight. He’d be home by about 8 pm Denver-time. I asked him if he wanted me to wait, and he said it was up to me. I told him: “f you are leaving it up to me, I’m going to your house to wait. If you want me to wait at the airport until you get here, then I’ll do that.” He asked me to wait and he’d see me soon. I was ecstatic that he was going to make it home that night! After all was said and done, I waited eight hours at the airport for D.P. to come home.

Once, while I was waiting, I wished he had given me his car keys so I could have driven myself home and then come back to pick him up instead of waiting. It was far too late at that point to be thinking of something like that, though, so I tried to keep myself busy: getting something to eat and drink, reading two magazines, checking e-mail, reading my book, and walking around.

As we were driving home, he told me he had one of the guys from work see what was going on that day, see why he wasn’t able to get out of NYC. Apparently, to keep the flights on-time, employees were sending planes out that had empty seats! I guess he said something to an employee there that was loud enough for another stand-by to hear, and she questioned what was going on. I’m pretty sure that’s why D.P. was on the next flight back to Denver. LOL When we arrived at D.P.’s house, I made him a sandwich for dinner while he quickly showered. We talked for a few minutes and then I left to go home and be with my kids.

It was a long trip home, but it was fun while we were there and I will never be the same.

I neglected to mention our stop at Bryant Park in my ‘Day 2 and a half‘ entry. Bad Dez! Bryant Park is located one block from Times Square in midtown Manhattan. According to the BP website, the park typically hosts over 5,000 business people during lunch hours in warm weather months, and counts 20,000 visitors by the end of the day. Check out the webcam now!

Walking around, we saw some really beautiful flowers and greenery. There were several tables dedicated to chess playing and, rumor is, there was a boule board (game: Petanque), too. At least a dozen people were taking advantage of the free wireless access. Interestingly, there were thousands of folding chairs all around the park, I’m guessing to encourage people to ‘take a load off’ and enjoy the scenery.

I noticed no one was sitting on the grass, and realized there was a sign posted that said the grass was being tended to. I assume the City was preparing for the HBO Summer Film Festival, which is opening today (6/30). That’s when we headed over to Times Square.

So, Day 3 rolls around. Sunday. Our day to sleep in. Dad made himself, D.P. and me eggs and potatoes for breakfast (Mom had her own breakfast). Dad and I showed D.P. how to eat eggs and potatoes the family way, which is to slather them with mustard. D.P. tried a little mustard, but I don’t think he was as convinced as Dad and I had hoped he’d be.

The four of us got ready to go, and headed out the door right before lunchtime. A short drive later, and we arrived at The Great Wazu in East Hanover, one of my dad’s favorite places to eat. They planned on just picking up the sandwiches and then taking D.P. and me to the Frelinghuysen Arboretum where the four of us would eat lunch, but the skies clouded over and rain began to fall lightly, so it was decided we would eat at the restaurant instead. Of course, as soon as we ordered and sat down, the rain had already stopped. The four of us ordered the same, based on the very strong recommendation of my dad: Number Three with proscutini, cheese and capacola. Each added our own ‘toppings’ to our individual sandwich (I had lettuce, tomato, black olive and basil mayo [I may be forgetting something]). I could easily see why my dad ate there often! The bread was fresh and not too crunchy. And, the meat! The meat itself was music for my tongue and tummy. I can still taste it.

After our very tasty lunch, we were treated to the sights of the Arboretum. D.P. and I took lots of pictures (and some video) of what’s in bloom there. Unfortunately, the rain came back (this time in full force) and we had to head back to the car. Earlier that morning, we had looked over the show times for a local movie theater and it was at this time we decided maybe we needed to go see a movie.

We chose Get Smart with Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway (as well as my favorite hotty of all time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). You can read the plot summary here. Steve Carrell’s character, Maxwell Smart, reminded me a lot like his character in the TV series The Office. You know, the office idiot who seems to be one sandwich short of a picnic. There were several incidents during the movie that had me cracking up so hard I thought I was going to run my mascara – thankfully, I didn’t lose too much eye makeup. All in all, it was a good movie, and definitely a good first date movie. Romance for the chicks, and action for the guys. Two thumbs up.

We drove back over to the Arboretum after the movie. This time, I was able to get some really good shots of the flowers, plants and trees and some of the buildings. The scenery was really amazing, and its history is rich!

“George G. Frelinghuysen, a patent attorney and son of Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, Secretary of State under president Chester A. Arthur, was married in 1881 to Sara Ballantine of Newark. She was the granddaughter of the founder of the P. Ballantine Brewing Company.

In 1891 the couple commissioned the Boston architectural firm of Rotch and Tilden to construct a summer home and carriage house on property they named Whippany Farm for the river nearby. The Colonial Revival style is evident in such details as the Federal urns and swags, Ionic columns on the porte-cochere and the large Palladian window on the second floor landing.

The family only lived here during the summer months. In the winter they resided at 1 Sutton Place in New York City. The property was a working farm. Vegetables and flowers were grown for the family’s consumption and sent to them in New York City via train. There were greenhouses, several barns and some smaller houses on the property. Some servants lived on the property year around.

George Frelinghuysen died in 1936 and Sara Frelinghuysen died in 1940. This property was left to their only daughter, Matilda (1887-1969). Miss Frelinghuysen had an interest in gardening and was a member of the Garden Club of Morristown. In 1964, she began plans for turning the estate into an arboretum. Upon her death the land and house was bequeathed to the people of Morris County for the use as a public arboretum. The Frelinghuysen Arboretum was dedicated in 1971.

The Haggerty Education Center was opened in 1989. It contains a multi-purpose auditorium and two classrooms. Its purpose is to provide continuing horticultural educational programs for the public. It is also home for various regional plant societies.” (Frelinghuysen Arboretum)

We stayed for quite some time, and then decided D.P. was getting hungry (okay, I was, too) so we headed home.

In my family, we have a few recipes that are cherished – special. Every so often, when we meet someone we really like and want to spend more time with, we lure them in with one of our family recipes. At the top of my family’s list is my dad’s canoli recipe. [Technically, it is a calzone/stromboli, but when it’s a family recipe, you call it whatever your little heart desires.] It was at my request that we were served canolis for dinner after the Arboretum, and my dad was nice enough to oblige. While D.P., my mom and I relaxed, Dad slaved over the stove making what I hyped up to be the best food known to man. Or, something like that. I told D.P. it was damn good, and I meant it. We enjoyed some wine with dinner and, later when no one was around but D.P. and I, he confessed his complete adoration for my father’s recipe. He followed that up with, “When you made it, it was good, too.” Nice save, buddy.

After dinner, we played games for a couple of hours. When we were deciding which games to play, D.P. said he didn’t really play board games, but I knew he would love it once he got started. I told him: “Tough! This is what my family likes to do.” Sure enough, we had a lot of laughs and it was a really good time!

D.P. and I had to check the flight load on the computer so, when we were done playing games, we headed upstairs to the den and got online. When I found out we’d have to wake up no later than 5 am, I about blew a gasket. I lamented how early it was, and how I understood the process of flying stand-by… but why did it have to be so damn early? Word around town is, people were rolling their eyes all around me. I’d like to take a moment to say that my PMS was acting up that day – that’s why I was being completely unreasonable. It couldn’t have been the fact that I am completely unreasonable most days, no way! Shoosh. Anyway, as I was getting ready for bed, D.P., who was in another room, texted me with “Sleep well.” I immediately felt bad about how I had acted, and promised myself I’d make it up to him soon.

Jump to Why I’ll never be the same: Day 4.

Part Two of Day Two

After a long (but very, very interesting!) morning at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, D.P. and I put our cowpoke outfits on and geared up for the City. Hitchin’ a ride on the PATH, Mom, Dad, D.P. and I arrived a short time later at the World Trade Center station. Walking up several flights of stairs, we made our way to the street. On the way, I snapped a photo of the WTC station sign. We continued on, walking over a bridge to get to the other side of the West Side highway (officially called the Joe DiMaggio Highway). Along the way, we saw dozens of street vendors, selling everything from bottled water to handbags.

I had hoped we’d get really close to the World Trade Center site, but with all of the construction materials and machines in the way, it wasn’t a perfect view. [It’s been almost 7 years now, I don’t know why I though the land would still look the same as it did right after the attacks.] The best look I got was when we crossed the bridge and were about to go down some stairs to get back to street-level. I snapped some pictures by aiming my camera’s lens between the metal and screening, zooming in as far as I could. I stood in that spot for a minute or two and remained quiet (still), taking it all in. All of my memories of watching the story of 9/11 unfold on television and imagining what it was like to see, hear, and feel the experience for those closest to the tragedy. Deep in my bones, I could feel the presence of terror. At one point, I spotted some graffiti on one of the barricades facing the highway: MURDER MURDER. Kinda creeped me out! I tried to forget about it, but it is ingrained on my mind forever now.

We continued down the stairs to the street and, along the way, saw a photocopied piece of paper on the makeshift construction wall with what looked like a layout of the buildings as they were prior to the attacks on 9/11. There were markings on some of the buildings, and my dad and I tried to decipher them. After discussing what we thought, we proceeded to the street where we discovered the FDNY Ten House (Ladder 10, Engine 10). I didn’t really get to look very closely, but a quick review of Ten’s website reveals:

“The Ten House patch, designed in 1984, shows a firefighter straddling the twin towers of the World Trade Center, each tower aflame. After 9-11, we considered changing the design but decided against it.

… On September 11, 2001, five members from the Ten House made the supreme sacrifice. Lieutenant Gregg Atlas, Firefighter Jeffrey Olsen, Firefighter Paul Pansini were from Engine 10, and Lieutenant Stephen Harrell and Firefighter Sean Tallon were from Ladder 10.

As the towers collapsed, tons of building debris fell onto the firehouse and forced its way into it, blowing out windows and doors and causing extensive damage to the facade, interior structures, utilities, lighting and the roof. Inside the firehouse, the apparatus floor was flooded with over three feet of debris and in some areas in and around the firehouse the debris from the collapse was nearly six feet deep. The building’s ventilation system, air conditioning units and Nederman exhaust system were completely destroyed.

Although it was unable to be used as a firehouse after the collapse of the towers, the quarters of Engine 10 and Ladder 10 nevertheless played a vital role in the daily operations at ground zero. During the early days of the rescue and recovery operations and even during the clean up of the site, the Ten House was used as a rest and recuperation station as well as a command post for fire department operations at the site. Since September 11, 2001 both Engine and Ladder 10 have been temporarily quartered in nearby firehouses. Engine 10 was stationed at the quarters of Engine 7 and Ladder 1 on Duane Street and Ladder 10 at the quarters of Engine 4 and Ladder 15 on South Street.

Both Engine 10 and Ladder 10 were organized from Volunteer Fire Companies in 1865 and each had several homes before being brought together at Liberty Street in 1984.”

Next to the Ten House was the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. The Visitor Center offers visitors to the World Trade Center site deeply moving gallery experiences and meaningful walking tours. It offers a place where visitors can connect with people from the September 11th community. Through the center’s programs, the Tribute WTC Visitor Center provides “Person to Person History,” linking visitors who want to understand and appreciate these historic events with those who experienced them.

Unfortunately for us, the last ticket was sold nearly 30 minutes prior to our arrival. We stopped in and looked at the gift shop, where my mom bought two bracelets for E and M, and I bought a magnet with a black and white picture of the NYC skyline that included the still-standing towers.

The four of us continued down the street, and stopped only for a brief moment when we realized we needed to rest. Our ‘dogs’ were barkin’ and the sun was blazing down on us. I was glad I opted for the “no-makeup” look that day. Man, was I sweaty!

A short ride on the 2 train next, and we were met by the sights and sounds of big, bad Times Square. We were starving by then, so we decided to find a decent place to eat and explore afterwards. We saw a few restaurants along the street, but decided against them as they were more what my dad calls “chain-y”, like Ruby Tuesday. When we came upon the next cross-street, I looked to the left and spied a sign/flag with the word ‘PASTA’ on it above a picture of a martini glass. Pasta it was! We approached the restaurant and looked at the menu, posted outside the front door. Plates were about $10-15 on average… very reasonable for the City, I thought. We headed inside, and waited to be seated. The restaurant was mostly dark, but still seemed friendly.

We were shown to our table and the four of us looked at the drink menu. I wanted to order a bottle of wine, and asked my dad for a recommendation. In the end, we decided to get a drink apiece (I had a Cosmopolitan) and forego the wine. We ordered our entrees and munched on bruschetta and rolls while we waited patiently for our food to arrive. I ordered Chicken Marsala – instead of pasta, mine was served with mashed potatoes and veggies on the side – and the dish was absolutely DELIGHTFUL. So much so, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s really changed my life, you know. After everyone was completely full and a little bit buzzed, we exited without pomp and, near the front door going out, I spotted a sign that stated the name of the establishment: Simply Pasta. Indeed. (By the way, if anyone has a link to a website for this restaurant, I’d be eternally grateful.)

D.P. wanted to go the The Hard Rock Cafe to pick up a hat/cap and shot glasses (he collects both items), so we headed back to where we first arrived and then walked a little further. The store was crazy-busy, and I was glad we knew what we were there for. My parents started out walking in with us, and then decided it would be better to stand near the front door. it appeared the restaurant itself was downstairs.

Next door, we discovered a tee-shirt shop. One of the gifts D.P. wanted to buy while we were visiting was a hoodie that said “I [heart] NY” for his daughter, Valerie, and a tee-shirt with a small logo for his son, D.Z. After searching high and low for that hoodie, and thinking that we wouldn’t find one, my mom spotted something! Woohoo! Next, D.P. decided on a dark blue FDNY (or was it NYPD?) tee-shirt with a small patch over the left breast of the shirt. As D.P. was paying, Dad and I went next door to Levi’s and looked around. Immediately after deciding I wasn’t going to pay $26 for a tee-shirt, I left the store, and we took off for the Toys ‘R’ Us across the street. I bought E a LEGO Bionicle (I think this is the one) and M a new Barbie doll.

By the end of my shopping trip at TRU, everyone was ready to head home. It was finally dark outside, and the lights illuminated the streets. At our final stop at Penn Station, we decided to take a moment to enjoy a cold drink and discovered ice cream. It’s no lie, I was craving ice cream all day so this was a nice end to the day. D.P. didn’t want any ice cream at first, but eventually came over while I was at the counter ordering and make his own selection. “I’m on vacation!” He said, emphatically. I acquiesced.

Once we arrived home, we cleaned ourselves up, and my parents went upstairs to bed. I stayed downstairs and waited for D.P to come down after his shower. His legs were hurting him very badly, and I had promised him earlier in the day that I would massage them, in the hopes of making him feel better. We talked for about a half-hour as I tried to work out his legs and by the time we laid our heads down on our pillows, it was one o’clock in the morning.

D.P. and I took in sights, smells and sounds that can only be experienced in a city like New York City. As I drifted off to Dreamland, I was very thankful the Naked Cowboy escaped our sights during our short visit to Times Square.

Jump to Why I’ll never be the same: Day 3.

Part One of Day Two

It was our intent to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn on Saturday in order to get to Ellis Island early enough to buy a special pass so that we would be able to go up further on the Statue of Liberty. I wasn’t so sure we’d (I mean, I would) be able to pull it off, but we did! After a quick breakfast of Shredded Wheat and grape juice, we headed out. Taking I-78 east, we arrived at our destination about an hour after we initially left my parents’ house.

Pulling up to the site, I didn’t know quite what to expect. As we walked toward the front door of the depot station, I snapped a picture of D.P. being silly, pretending to pick his nose, and I laughed out loud. I showed him the result and he insisted I delete it. No way, man, no freakin’ way. LOL Upon entering the depot, a HUGE flag made up of various flags sewn together caught my attention. It hung from what seemed to be the sky and, as I walked closer to it, I saw that it was a memorial flag for 9/11.

D.P. and I walked around outside and took some pictures of the water and the ferry we’d be riding on to reach the Island. The view was fantastic – we could see parts of NYC to one side and, on the other, we saw the Island and Statue of Liberty. My parents were still standing in line for the ‘special’ tickets as we came back inside, so D.P. and I walked around and took some pictures of the architecture. I imagined all the people immigrating to the USA – over 12 million, I’m told, passed through the “golden door of Ellis Island” – making the long journey to live what they thought would be a more prosperous life.

Shortly after we came back inside, my parents were ready to stand in line for the ferry. The four of us made our way through the metal detectors and proceeded to the ferry, where we each found a seat on the top level. My parents brought their video camera along, so I was able to capture some footage of the ferry toodling over to the Island. I tried my best to make it a worthwhile account, but I suck! All I could think about was how shaky my hand was, and “why can’t the zoom button be easier to handle?” We docked at Ellis Island and, when we were off the ferry, my mom took a picture of D.P. and me in front of the sign.

“Opened on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island became the nation’s premier federal immigration station. In operation until 1954, the station processed over 12 million immigrant steamship passengers. The main building was restored after 30 years of abandonment and opened as a museum on September 10, 1990.” (National Park Service)

Did you know that over 40 percent of America’s population today can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island?

The museum is located in the Main Building of the former immigration station complex, and (after we looked around on our own for a short time) that’s where we were treated to a free public tour by a Park Ranger. Part of the processing of immigrants meant there had to be a medical inspection of all people. The inspection lasted all of six seconds for each person and, in that time, doctors would watch immigrants walk up a long staircase and then ‘chalk‘ symbols on potentially sick people. For those marked, a second inspection was required, and then they were either sent to the hospital or sent packing. Some famous Ellis Island immigrants: Bob Hope, the Trapp family singers, Irving Berlin and Lucky Luciano. And, yes, there really is a Chef Boyardee – he came through Ellis Island as well!

Once we made it through all of the tour, we had a picnic at one of the tables outside. From there, we could see the ferries docking and bringing in more people. There were gobs of pigeons, some as big as a small dog – I found them to be quite interesting, now I wish I had taken a picture of one of them. The weather was quite comfortable and we chatted for awhile as we ate our lunch. Eventually, made it back on the ferry to toodle over to the next destination on our itinerary, the Statue of Liberty.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a long line of people who were standing under a white tent. We were going through another round of security, only this time (when we made it inside the building) we walked through the blowers (does anyone know what they are really called?). We made our way through a short exhibit. “The Statue of Liberty exhibit, which opened in July 1986 and is located on the second floor in the pedestal of the Statue, traces the history and symbolism of the Statue of Liberty through museum objects, photographs, prints, videos and oral histories. In addition to historical artifacts and descriptive text, full-scale replicas of the Statue’s face and foot are also on display.” (The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation) There are all kinds of fun facts about her that I wasn’t aware of until visiting. Did you know she has a 35-foot waistline? Yet another tidbit for the knowledge bank! As soon as we completed the walk-through of the exhibit, we ascended the hundreds of stairs to reach the highest point of the Statue open to visitors. I had to stop at least once along the way, even though I started out really well. There was one lady who became claustrophobic and came running down the stairs – I did my best to stay out of her way.

At the base of the Statue, I took several pictures. Some looking up, some looking out onto the water and New York City. Back down on the pedestal, one of my parents took a picture of D.P. and I with Jersey City in the background. I took a picture with the camera on my cell phone of the Statue, and sent it to Rob and the kids. We exited the area, and sat down to rest (and have a quick bite to eat) for a few moments before we planned on heading over to the City to see Ground Zero and Times Square.

Jump to Why I’ll never be the same: Day 2 and a half.

(This entry could also be entitled: Hold on tight: You’re about to experience a sensory overload.)

When I planned a trip with D.P. to visit my parents and tour the ‘sites’ of New Jersey and New York City, I knew it was going to be a big deal. I knew that it would be like nothing I had ever experienced, and I prepared myself as well as I could. I’ll tell you though, coming from straight-up suburbia and being thrust into the lion’s den of the City, I only know this now: there is no way in hell I could have ever been fully prepared for the sensory overload.

D.P. and I left his house very early on Friday, June 20 and made our way to the airport. Being that he’s an airline employee, we were flying ‘stand-by’ — we hoped, by being there early, we would secure a seat on one of the first few flights out to LaGuardia/NYC. [Originally, we wanted to fly in to Newark (it would have been about an hour closer to my parents, meaning no public transportation needed), but D.P. had taken a quick peek at the flight load the night before and it was a no-go.] Sure enough, we made it on a flight without any delay. I was a little disappointed that we weren’t able to sit together, but I’m a big girl and handled it just fine.

On the way out to NYC, I sat next to a business man and a man with very long legs who was wearing a yarmulke. It would have been a fairly uneventful trip if it hadn’t been for the business man needing to get up twice during the four-hour trek across the country. Remind me the next time I travel that I am supposed to put my ‘Mom-hat’ on and ask each person I sit next to if they’ve gone pee before we leave. Seriously, give that man an aisle seat! He was sweet though, ’cause when we were flying over the City he let me peek over his shoulder and really take a good look at everything. We made small talk, and said our goodbyes as we walked off the aircraft.

I called my mom on her cell phone to let her know that we had landed at LaGuardia, and she said she’d text me the information regarding where to meet her. The plan was for D.P. and I to take the bus shuttle to NYC’s Penn Station, so when we figured out where to catch the shuttle, we were off. The ten-mile jaunt started out decent but, when we transferred from the shuttle to a smaller van that was taking the two of us plus five more people to Penn Station, we very quickly realized where we were. The driver was reckless, weaving in and out of traffic, yelling at pedestrians and other drivers… I saw my life flash before my eyes. I laughed nervously and gripped the life out of one of D.P.’s knees until our terrifying journey came to an end, right outside a Sbarro restaurant. I tipped the driver $5 and ran away screaming.

D.P. and I were so hungry, we decided to stop in it at the Sbarro and grab a slice of pizza, hoping it would tide us over until dinner. The serving size was huge — almost like we were being served two pieces in one. The pizza was good, but we both decided that we were so hungry… anything would have tasted good at that point. When we were finished eating, we headed across the street (diagonally) to Penn Station. [Did you know that Penn Station is under Madison Square Garden? I did not know that, either!] We waited for my mom and, when she arrived, we bought tickets to ride the commuter train to my parents’ house in Morris Plains, NJ. The trip took us about an hour (maybe longer?) and during that time there was plenty of small talk. My mom and I shared cell phone photos, and I tried to include D.P. on as much of the conversation as possible.

Eventually, we made it to the Morris Plains station, where my dad picked us up in his brand-spanking new Prius hybrid. That car was so awesome, I have never seen anything like it! Everyone decided that we’d stop by the house before going on to dinner, so D.P. and I could freshen up, and I thought that was a brilliant idea. I’m telling you… I was (as D.P. calls it) pittin’ it out!

My parents treated us to sushi at a local restaurant called Minado. It’s been about 17 years since I last had sushi, and it was delightful. The atmosphere was laid-back, and the food was outstanding. If I could have stuffed my face more than I did, I totally would have as I won’t have that chance again for quite some time. We each drank Sapporo beer and I think D.P. was the only one who opted for silverware, rather than chopsticks. I tried so many different kinds of things, I can’t possibly remember all of them… too bad, because there’s a place by D.P.’s house that offers sushi. I don’t imagine the quality would be near the same, since we are nowhere near an ocean, but a girl can hope.

We went home stuffed and tired, and I wasn’t looking forward to waking up very early the next morning. I hoped the trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty would be worth only sleeping for a handful of hours. I wasn’t disappointed.

Jump to Why I’ll never be the same: Day 2.

I just got back from a weekend in New Jersey and New York.  I have some work to do right now; as soon as I’m finished, I’ll give everyone the low-down on what happened while I was there.