Short Stories - non fiction, Travel Adventures

New York City 2014

For years, every time summer was approaching, I’d ask James (my son) where he’d like to go for summer vacation. We never had loads of money, so the trips would be within driving distance, but we’d always make the most out of it. James would always try his luck out by boldly asking to go to New York City to see the Yankees play baseball. It was somewhat of a ritual, he’d ask to go to NYC, I’d tell him to set his sights lower, and we’d end up going somewhere closer that didn’t involve flights and expensive hotels.

In March of 2014, we had the vacation talk. James asked if he could go to NYC to see the Yankees play. He followed it up with a compelling argument that this was Derek Jeter’s last year as a Yankee (he was retiring) and that he was one of baseball’s all time greats. I am not sure what got into me, perhaps it was the Sauvignon Blanc, but this time I didn’t flat out turn him down. I decided to look into flights and hotels to see if somehow I could take him.

I did a lot of research, looking at flights, hotels, baseball games etc. When all was said and done I booked us a cheap flight out of Montreal, and I found some sort of a deal at a hotel near Time Square, and I ordered tickets to a baseball game for the long weekend in May, the Yankees vs the Pirates. As luck would have it, The Pirates were James’ second favourite team. Bonus!

We were beyond excited. We drove to Montreal to a hotel near the airport and we stayed overnight. I had found a super good deal. The bed that James slept in actually had broken springs, and we had to prop up part of the mattress with pillows because he was sleeping in a hole. It didn’t really matter though, nothing was going to take away from our big trip.

The next morning we took the shuttle to the airport and we boarded the plane. “It’s smaller than an OC Transpo Bus” James observed. He was right, it was a really small commuter plane, with two seats on one side, and one seat on the other. The steward had his work cut out for him trying to serve drinks and snacks with a cart that filled the aisle, passengers such as myself had to wiggle our way past him to get to the loo, it was tricky. We experienced turbulence on the flight, and the plane bounced around violently. James had never flown before, and we were glad that it was a short flight as he was experiencing motion sickness. I handed him my suit jacket “just in case” he needed to woof his cookies as there did not appear to be any air sickness bags for the taking. We were both relieved when the plane touched down. Thankfully he kept it together and didn’t need my jacket!

As we walked through the Laguardia Airport, I noticed heavy security. All I could think about was the nuts that I had in my suitcase. I was actually concerned that the drug sniffing dogs would follow the scent of the contraband nuts that I had accidentally brought with me over the boarder. Inside I was trembling. It turned out the dogs didn’t sniff me out, and I was relieved to make it out of the airport without a shake down. 

We got into a Yellow Cab and headed to our hotel. The driver was quite interesting, and the drive to the hotel was memorable. For one thing, I was shocked that the highway was littered with trash. I guess I take the clean roads we have in Canada for granted. We were quite excited and we asked the typical tourist questions to our cab driver, he simply replied “Google it”….I guess he wasn’t planning on being information central. As he drove, he frequently hit the horn. In fact, the horn was a basic tool of the trade. There is a lot of horn honking in the Big Apple, and much of it is from the cabbies. “You must have nerves of steel” I said. “Nerves? I ain’t got no nerves!” he replied. In any event, he got us to our destination, and I gave him an overly generous tip. I am pretty sure I made his day, this was our big adventure and I was feeling generous, and therefore our nerveless cabbie reaped the benefit of the moment.

Our hotel, The Hyatt, was magnificent. We had a room on the 48th floor. The elevator was super quick, and we were very pleased that our room couldn’t have been nicer. The view was great, the beds were amazing, the bathroom was wonderful. It was the best hotel room I have ever been in. A far cry from the mattress sagging room in Montreal. I was glad that I had done so much homework to seek out such a great hotel, and at a reduced rate to boot. (Mind you, still stupidly expensive by Ottawa standards.)

James was chomping at the bit to get out and see the city, so we ventured out to shop at Times Square. It was pretty amazing. It truly is the city of lights. We walked around until my feet were about to fall off. Believe it or not, we got lost, and I had to pee, so we walked into a random building and asked the doorman if there was a washroom we could use. I am sure he thought that we were joking, or crazy, because as we entered the building we realized that we were in Grand Central Station. 

The next day (Saturday) we decided to go for a bus tour of the city. We made our way over to the building where the bus was to pick us up, and I decided to make one last run to the ladies room before boarding the bus. When I was heading back out of the building I witnessed something terrifying. A very tall, very big, and very angry African American woman shouted “I saw what you did back there” and she gave James a big shove. According to James, he had not done anything, and was just minding his own business when she assaulted him. In any event, he wasn’t hurt, but we were both quite shocked by the random encounter.

The bus tour was amazing. We sat up on top of the open air bus, and it was a beautiful bright and sunny day. The tour guide was amazing, and we learned so much about the history of New York and it’s magnificent architecture. Well worth the price of admission. So much so that we decided to take the nighttime tour that same evening. The nighttime tour guide was not as polished, but she was certainly interesting and entertaining. “Sit down when we cross the bridge, I don’t want anyone to be blown overboard” she cautioned. The bus took us to a location where we could see the city skyline in all of its glory, it was simply amazing. James and I were wearing the plastic rain ponchos that they distributed, as the night air was cold, and the bus tour was breezy, but nevertheless we were really happy that we had ventured out for the second leg of the tour.

Sunday was the main event, and we were extremely excited to be going to Yankee Stadium to see Derek Jeter. We got into a cab and told the driver where we were going. He didn’t know where Yankee Stadium was, so I made a snap decision to hop out of that cab and find another cab driver who didn’t need a GPS to take us to our destination. 

When we got to the stadium we were delighted to find out that the game was a double header. Since it had rained on Friday, they moved the game to Sunday, so we were able to see Derek Jeter play two games that day. What a wonderful experience it was to spend the day (we were there for 8 hours) at this historic building. We were there so long that we actually had lunch, dinner and several snacks to tide us over. 

Sitting a few rows in front of us were several big guys from the Bronx. These guys drank beer after beer, and they amused themselves by chirping some Pirates fans who had the misfortune of sitting within shouting distance. We were glad to be cheering on the Yankees. After the game we took the subway back to Manhattan. The return trip went off without a hitch.  

On Monday morning we packed up and prepared for our return trip home. We were sad to be leaving New York City, it had been all that it was cracked up to be. Before we headed to the airport, we found time to venture to Central Park for a quick walk, and then we grabbed a bite at the pub located beside our hotel. The pub was fantastic, and we ate most of our meals there, each time we were so pleased that the food and service was spectacular. The pub combined with our wonderful hotel room provided us with a home base that we looked forward to returning to after each outing.

Before we boarded the plane back to Montreal, I gave James a Gravol to settle his stomach. I also made sure that I had a plastic bag in my pocket “just in case”. Thankfully though we didn’t have such a rough trip home.

After we picked up the car, we made a pitstop at Lafleur’s for some steamies and fries. (A steamy is a hotdog….Lafleur’s makes the best steamies in the world). After our Lafleur’s meal we headed down the highway towards Ottawa. James was the DJ and he played some great tunes, while I did the driving. We chatted about our great adventure, and enjoyed each other’s company on the drive home, neither of us wanted the trip to come to an end.

Our trip to New York was indeed the trip of a lifetime. Just yesterday, we were watching a Yankees game on TV and James pointed out where we sat for 8 straight hours back in May of 2014. Yup, it was really something.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Dr. Seuss

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