Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trains, cabs, and hoofing it in NYC

I wrote an article on our trip to NYC for our church newsletter and thought I would share: 

At our fave diner Orion
Sometimes in the dead of winter you need to get away – even if just for a few days. Hunter had been after us to visit him on spring break and I mean really pestering us. He’s doing well attending School of Visual Arts in New York City, and wanted us to come spend a few days with him. We both are very busy here at home and kept putting off deciding. George looked at me one morning and said, “Surprise! Let’s go!” Ever adventurous, we looked around for the best way to get there because neither one of us had the desire to drive. The weather, with the way it’s been, didn’t sound promising. I checked around and found a steal on getting there by train. We’ve never traveled by train, or at least I haven’t. When George was a young lad, train travel was what you used in Mexico.
George watching the landscape fly by
 Excited by the prospect, we booked it with two days to spare. Waiting for a train at 3 A.M. - with the temps hovering near ten degrees – in the sketchy section of Alliance was quite the experience. The train ran forty minutes late and we were frozen popsicles by the time we climbed on. Trains don’t wait, either you’re there or you’re not! We had a layover in Pittsburgh and boarded the train to New York, which took us about nine hours – thirteen hours total with all the stops. We found that the trains were roomy, had decent food to buy, and lull you to sleep. They are also conducive to catching up on reading! We loved watching the scenery go by and got to see lots of towns we’ve never been through. It’s a different experience seeing the back side of businesses and homes as you chug by. I’m pondering a blog on what you see hidden behind what the world sees and what we deem backyard-worthy.

Fun things are around every corner!

We chugged into Penn Station by late afternoon Thursday and it was like coming into a dungeon where the where night creatures lived. The train tracks take you through a tunnel under the river and gently rise into the station. Debarking, up, up, up we climbed until we reached the daylight and hopped into a taxi that sped us to Hunter’s dorm which is housed in the George Washington Residency. This building is an old hotel turned into apartments, and later into dorms. The first several floors actually house many elderly people who had lived there for years. When the college bought it for dorms, they promised these people they could always live there. Hunter is on the eleventh floor, but he greeted us in the foyer and there were hugs all around.

We buzzed up the elevator to his dorm room – which would be our accommodations for the next three nights. I believe it was the best digs in all of New York. If you can spend three nights on a XL twin bed (he had bunk beds) TOGETHER, your marriage will definitely last another twenty-five years. Another reason for him wanting us to come was for us to meet his girlfriend of nearly seven months. They met back in the first week there and hit it off. Her name is Danielle, she’s from Batavia, NY, and we really like her.

Hunter and Danielle <3 td="">

After we had freshened up a bit, we hit the sidewalk to find some food. If you haven’t been to the city then you don’t know how much walking you do. You walk everywhere, and I’m telling you that these people are serious about their shoes and their walking. We huffed it a couple of blocks to their favorite place called Schnipper’s, where I fell in love hard and fast with the best burger I ever had. Poblano peppers and gruyere cheese? Yes please. We stopped for coffee afterward and chatted for a long time, catching up on things. I observed my son to be growing and maturing in ways we never quite think they can. He loves school, is astute and on time with his projects, and is excelling in every way…and I could see this all over a cup of coffee. Beware, though, if you’re in a snooty coffee shop in the city. There ARE NO REFILLS. We found out the hard way.

George and Hunter...my favorite pic.

The next day (Friday) George and I got up early and went out for breakfast while Hunter caught up on some sleep. He had been up for twenty-four hours finishing a project with a deadline. We went to the Orion diner and had a stack of pancakes and endless cups of Joe (Yes, they refill in diners). We browsed all four of the thrift stores that are on his street, losing ourselves in the vast array and quality of items. I could’ve been there for hours. We came back to the room, fetched Hunter and Danielle, and went for lunch. Unfortunately, Hunter realized he was coming down with something and decided to rest for the afternoon. George and I meandered down to two of our favorite stores that were close by – ABC Carpet & Home and Fishs Eddy. Fabulous, marvelous home décor and design in a vast old building held up by massive columns was ABC. Anne and Bruce had taken us here on our Menno House/mission trip/paint project several years ago. They also introduced us to Fishs Eddy which focuses on kitchenware like mugs, plates, and silverware. What a fun environment. When we arrived back at the dorm Hunter felt better so we moseyed down close to Union Square to a fun eatery called Big Daddy’s. We pretty much let them take us where they wanted us to visit, and it turned into some very fun eating sessions. Funky and bright, my Au Jus sandwich, tots, and chocolate malt went down just right.

Outside Search & Destroy which was fascinating

Saturday morning was sunny and beautiful, so once again George and I went solo looking for a diner to dine in. They are on every corner and we slipped in and sipped coffee and ate scrambled eggs. Back to the dorm for the kids we went, and it was decided to try Pizza Pub for lunch. We were the first customers of the day and had the very first pizza out of the oven. The pizza was so delicious, those New York­-style pies, and even better when eaten inside a cool building with authentic exposed brick.

Hunter took us, after lunch, to a funky section of the city called St. Mark’s Place. Never decide you won’t try new places and things, because life becomes stagnant that way. We took the subway and emerged in a world of little shops filled with vintage rock band clothing and kiosks that sold Indian jewelry. What fun and out of the norm each little gem of a store was. After browsing there for a while, we headed uptown on the subway to a place I’ve always wanted to go –  
Girl with the pearl earring/Vermeer
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked quite a distance and finally it came into view. The museum fees are by donation only, so don’t let that ever stop you from visiting. I really have no words to describe the place other than wow. There are so many sections to it that you can’t see it all in one visit. The highlights, for me, were seeing the many famous paintings housed there. Until you see true art in a painting, you haven’t really seen art. We saw Picasso, pondered Rembrandt, and my very favorite was standing and staring at Vermeer – The Girl with the Pearl Earring. I’m hard-pressed to remember it all, but we have lots of pictures to remind me. Just remember not to TOUCH any statues in the museum or you will be yelled at like a three-year old. Tsk, tsk Missy. (Honestly, I haven’t been to a museum in years!) Dead tired from hours taking in art, we left the Met and hopped in a taxi. We were on our way to a place I had seen on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives called The Trailer Park Lounge. Frantic and full of kitsch, our meal was great. We tucked into a tiny bakery afterward and nabbed some treats to take back to the dorm. Once there, tired yet satisfied, we devoured the delights like we had never seen a cupcake before.

Us outside The Met!

Sunday morning dawned cold and bleary with snow on the immediate horizon. Back home we read was getting pounded by a massive winter storm, and we were on schedule to hop on a train and glide back into it. We rounded up Hunter and Danielle and went for several more stacks of pancakes, coffee, and conversation on life. Life can be found in these tiny moments over morsels of food and hot coffee that steams down your throat. You can see and find your kids’ futures in those moments, if you look hard enough. We packed up our things from the tiny dorm room, hugged our son goodbye (each goodbye gets easier), and hopped into a taxi that took us through sedate Sunday morning streets to our waiting train. The ride home on the train was snowy, yet gentle and mesmerizingly soothing. We slept, read, and contemplated our kids and their futures. We glided into the Alliance station around 2:00 A.M., after a four hour layover (!) in Pittsburgh, found our parked car and head home to crash. Sweet dreams were had in the best way. We had a fun several days – days that sometimes you must decide to step out of your life and take.

It's like the rooftops hold another story