It turns out I did not get bumped. Oh well, maybe next time.
The plane was some model of Embraer Jet, N725AE. The flight took off at 11:05, reached a cabin altitude of 4880', flew for 1:05, and landed at 12:10. A little bumpy, but in a fun, rollercoaster-ish sort of way. Generally, I'm pretty comfortable on airplanes, since with my average height and weight, it's like the seats are designed for me. But this flight I was sitting next to a woman with "big hips" (which is really just a euphamism, admit it.) So between my wide shoulders and her wide "hips,", I had to scrunch pretty far against the window to avoid touching her. She was not as concerned with this.
Making my way to ground transportation, and consulting my Not For Tourists Guide to NYC (with thanks to Peony, who had one I got to consult a few weeks ago) I decided on the New York Airport Service Express Bus, $12 one-way from LaGuardia to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. It was fast and direct. From the train station, it was about seven quick blocks north and one block east to my hotel at 51st and Lexington, The Metropolitan Doubletree.
It was still a little early to check in, but they had a room ready, so I got my key and cookie, and headed up. The room is tiny, but clean. My room faces North, toward 51st street and a big office building. It's not spectacular, but it was the most reasonably priced place I could find within walking distance of the Oracle training center at 53rd and Madison.
I put away nearly everything, keeping my shoulder bag with my GoreTex jacket, and my film camera, and headed out. The first stop was Zam's Panini Tozt at 44 E 50th street. Panini is an Italian pressed sandwich. For lunch I got a Cuban sandwich made by an Arabic guy. Regardless, it was awesome. I went west to 5th avenue, then headed south to 38th street, then west again to the NY Waterway ferry terminal at Pier 78. I bought a one way fare to Hoboken North.
Why Hoboken North, you're wondering? Years ago, Truck and Jerry, two good friends of mine from college (and the Blue Band Drumline) moved to Hoboken, and since then had relayed to me on many occasions what an awesome town it is. I'd been meaning to check it out since the '90s, but never had. Now was my chance. I had Jerry's address, and Truck's phone number (coincidentally, Truck had just moved back to Hoboken after living in San Francisco for several years.) So armed with my trusty guidebook plus a tourist map, I headed into Hoboken.
It turns out those two were absolutey right about the city. It's very cool. Plenty of neat shops and ethnic food places, and parks, etc. Plus they have easy public transportation with two ferry stops, a PATH train, and buses that can take you right to the Port Authority station for less than $2. I found Jerry's house pretty easily, and rang the buzzer. No answer. Crap. I had his home phone number. No answer. I had Truck's cell phone number, so I called that. That's right, no answer. I left him a text message. They didn't know I was coming, as I wanted to surprise them. Figuring that a day exploring Hoboken would be a worthwhile pursuit in and of itself, I wasn't too terribly concerned that it wouldn't work out. I was having a good time anyway, but seeing those two would've been a bonus.
I picked up a cold drink at the bodega right below Jerry's apartment, and set out to do some more exploring. On the door of the place was a sign advertising the St. Ann's Italian Street Festival at 7th and Jefferson, so I walked that way.
The festival was awesome, and at this point I really wished that I hadn't already eaten. They had all the usuals; Italian sausage, Italian ice, plus a couple of less usuals; a creperie, a pulled pork bbq place (in New Jersey?), a place selling some kind of melted mozarella on a corn cake thing, and a tent selling zeppolis where the line was at least 100 feet long. There was a big stage, a beer tent, a couple of carnival games and some kiddy rides. The Traveling Roths would've totally dug it.
I went back to the south side of town and took a break at the beautiful Stevens Park right on the water, with tremendous views of Manhattan from downtown (where the WTC used to be) to Midtown. The weather completely cleared up, and it was comfortably cool and very dry. Like September weather. It could not have been nicer there.
I bought my return ticket to Manhattan from the South ferry terminal, and took a seat on the floating dock to wait. Just as the ferry was pulling up, Truck called, and instantly my plans changed. I got his address and started walking to the 1000 block of Garden street.
Truck and Debbie (his fiancee) had just bought this apartment. It was very cool, with excellent floors, front and back windows, and a couple of sweet brick fireplaces. They've been back from California for maybe a month and a half, plus they're getting married in Massachusettes in three weeks, so needless to say, they've been busy.
A few minutes later, Jerry, Mary (his wife) and Kate (his daughter, who is ~16 months old) arrived. This is the first time I'd met both Mary and Kate, and the first time they'd seen Truck and Debbie's apartment. So the coincidences were astounding. Mary's pregnant with deuce, and due in December.
We all went back to Jerry and Mary's apartment on Willow Avenue, and hung out there, and eventually got Thai food and enjoyed several fine selections from the Smith-Sullivan cellars. Ironically enough, the last time I'd hung out with both Truck and Jerry was back in September 1998 when Jennifer was pregnant with Tristan.
It got late, but Jerry hooked me up with a bus ticket, and Truck walked with me to the bus stop on Washington street where I took the bus directly to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan. From there it was an easy transfer to the subway, where I had a Metro card from three weeks ago with two trips on it, so I took the E train toward Queens, getting off a stop or two early, and having to walk a few blocks back to my apartment, around midnight. No problem whatsoever. I may be a little tired tomorrow (today) though.
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