I think of myself as a New Yorker, having lived or worked and lived nearby since I was 13 years old. I walked the streets, explored neighborhoods, traveled the subways, buses and even trolley cars and explored the suburbs. For many years, I, and my family, chose to live in New Jersey because it seemed like a better place to raise a family, but even then, the workday was spent in New York. It was worth the traveling each morning and again in the evening, to have the space, the garden and the trees surrounding our family of six and that’s how we lived until August of 2000, when we retired and moved to Andes.
Recently, however, I had occasion for one of my rare visits to the city. Usually, that would mean driving to Kingston, where there are frequent buses to New York and easy parking. This time, I was lucky. Two of my friends were driving into the city on the day that I had planned to go and I was able to travel with them. They were headed to the Upper East Side and I to Twentieth Street and Seventh Avenue, so, when we approached Ninety-sixth Street and Broadway, I said, “This is perfect. The subway is right here and I can easily get downtown,” and they left me in front of the subway entrance. Inside, there were machines all around me, where a MetroCard which was needed to get on the train could be obtained. There was no agent. Lots of people, looking as bewildered as I, were moving from one machine to the other, looking for clues about cost and which train went where. A large map on the wall showed where we were and what seemed like hundreds of lines, in many colors, converging on this spot to show how to get to different destinations. I studied it carefully, wondering how much money to put in the machine to buy a trip. Failing to find a person to help me and learning that to speak to an agent, one had to go around the corner to a different entrance, I decide instead to cross the street, where I noticed a Bus Stop sign.
A nice woman, seeing my luggage and my questioning look, asked where I wanted to go. When I told her she said, “Oh, this bus only goes to Forty-first Street; you’ll have to ask the driver for a transfer for another bus that goes further downtown. And, you need to have a MetroCard or exact change.”
It was raining and blustery and a taxi pulled up in front of me. “I think I’ll take a taxi,” I told the woman in utter despair. How much could a taxi cost? Five dollars? Ten? It would be worth it. Before I settled myself and my luggage comfortably, the meter had already flipped to $5. Traffic was terrible. Nothing was moving except the meter! Finally, after a nerve-wracking ride, with the meter constantly flipping more dollars, we arrived at Twentieth Street. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that the taxi took credit cards. However, the credit card machine did not seem to be working and the driver, noticing my problem, apologetically announced that, “Yes, it doesn’t work in this area!” I managed to scrape $35 together (including his tip) and left.
Later in the day, Lori, my daughter, and I would be traveling uptown again, to see my niece Ronnie Cohen’s play, “Witnessed by The World” at a theater on Fifty-third and Park Avenue. Lori maneuvered us through the subway system, buying a Senior MetroCard (which entitled me to two rides for the price of one.) She knew which train to take, where to change trains, whether to be in the front of the train or the back, and after we trudged what seemed like hundreds of steps up to the street and walked several blocks in the cold, blustery night, we arrived at the theater.
It was wonderful, to see so many members of our family meeting for this proud occasion. Many of us had traveled much farther than I had and all looked a little harried. But it’s not everyday that one’s niece has her play performed not too far from Broadway!
The weather had gotten much worse. An icy rain was falling and my excitement was waning. (There’s something to be said for Netflix!) But the play, as well as seeing family that came from San Diego, New Jersey and the Catskills had been wonderful
Now it was time to retrace our steps to the subway, the ride downtown, and the walk to Lori’s apartment building, while the icy rain blew our umbrellas in and out. We were tired. The blow-up mattress had to be inflated and the bedding put on to turn Lori’s studio apartment into a space for two. It didn’t take long before we were both asleep.
The next morning, I wanted to take Lori out for a special breakfast. We walked around the neighborhood looking for just the right place. The French name, the crusty breads piled high in the window… this was perfect! We went in, sat down and looked at our menus. After studying them for some time, we decided that we’d eliminate the orange juice and we would have coffee and tea at home, but the scrambled eggs with asparagus, smothered in Mornay sauce did sound wonderful! It was served on a slice of toast… not very exciting; not even a basket of those beautiful breads! Scrambled eggs for two at an unbelievable $33! The asparagus turned out to be just little flecks and the sauce was no more than a spoonful, but the description on the menu had been so enticing!
I had to run to make the bus from the Port Authority (after another subway ride), but managed to buy a container of tea to drink on the bus. I had forgotten my book at Lori’s apartment, so looked forward to the four-hour trip with nothing to do but gaze out the window. I never get a chance to watch the towns come and go when I’m driving so I enjoyed every minute and felt excited as the mountains rose up before me and I knew I was almost home! Where else in the world, but here in Andes, would the bus driver let me off right in front of my house with a cheerful, “Good-night. Be careful crossing the street!” ~