I love traveling but I love getting home just as much. Just as there is a strangeness to the travel destination, there is a pleasant newness to your own place when you first walk inside and settle back in. To me, it’s just as nice. I got back Saturday night. I wanted to talk about it with what was left of my weekend but I was just too tired and also had plenty of catching up to do with the girls. One item is that apparentely one of my daughter’s stupid cats somehow landed on top of one of the aquariums and cracked it which of course caused it to leak. That is the only explanation I can come up with.
This wasn’t the funnest work trip I’ve made (that crown will alway belong to Key West) but it was certainly the most interesting. This is why: Although our initial jobsite was Parsippany, NJ, we were flying in and out of JFK instead of Newark, NJ like the last time we were there. That meant that we had to drive through New York in a rental to get there.
All my adult life I’ve always declared that the one place I never wanted drive in was New York City and now I had no choice but to do just that. There were two of us and in a moment of reckless abandon (and gallantry) I offered to do it. (Drumroll . . . cymball crash) I’m glad I did it. I can now say with confidence that I can drive anywhere on the planet.
We always get a GPS with the car. Our boss never told us that we could, we just do it. Either he’s ok with it or he hasn’t noticed it on the bills. He’s never asked us about that extra charge. Normally, it’s major time-saver. That wasn’t the case getting out of JFK and into NJ. When we left the car rental place we simply followed the directions and everything was going smoothly. We were easily making our way through Queens. The rows of houses along the way were exactly what you see at the very end of “All In The Family” and that song started playing in my head.
The fact that we were relying on a GPS to get us to our destination meant that we were taking the most direct, not the easiest, route to NJ. At the edge of Queens I came upon a massive bridge which I now think was the Brooklyn bridge. When I got to the top of it I saw the center of the universe below in all it’s nightime glory. I turned to my work partner and said something like “Holy shit!!! we’re about to drive into Manhatten!!!” I’m thinking: “Oh, my God, this can’t be happening to me!!!” There was absolutely no turning back. No turning around. I was about to drive straight through the middle of Manhatten at 6:30 PM in a rented car.
I have always had a fascination with NYC but had never, ever been there before. Seeing this city from the top of that bridge was jarring. Leaving that bridge and rolling into Manhatten was just surreal. I was now doing what I vowed never to do and I was doing it well. I learned that it’s not a stereotype that New Yorkers lay on their horns the whole time they’re driving. It’s true. I got honked at more times than I remember but never got the finger. Too bad. I was counting on it.
It was great to be there and we were feeling good about it until we got into the middle of all those 100+ story buildings that completely line all the streets I was driving. The buildings blocked our GPS signal. We were now on our own in Manhatten without a clue about how to get out. I drove for about an hour (mostly in circles because of the one-way streets) before we got a signal again. During this time I had to awaken the “asshole” Greg to make my way through this fucking nightmare. It only took me about ten blocks of this chaos to have me hitting my horn and cutting other vehicles off. We were totally winging it. Anytime I needed to make a left, I was in the far right lane and anytime I needed to make a right I was in the extreme left lane. I cut my way through that traffic like a typical New York asshole. I didn’t wreck the rental either, which was such a huge relief and believe me, it was nothing short of a miracle that prevented that from happening.
As we were cruising down 6th avenue asking each other “where the fuck are we?” or “what the fuck should we do?” we inadvertantly drove by some very serious NYC landmarks. Two things stand out; fighting traffic and then seeing the giant verticle neon Radio City Music Hall sign ahead, then driving by it and then at a stop light, looking to my left and realizing that I’m sitting in front of Carnegie Hall. I saw that Lyle Lovette was scheduled to play there in a few weeks. The asshole next to me wouldn’t know who he is so I didn’t bother mentioning it. We cruised many famous streets that night, completely lost, but it was so worth it. Before all this we went through the Queens tunnel and in Manhatten finally found our way to the Lincoln Tunnel which took us to the Jersey Turnpike which took us in to Newark, NJ. I think. Now we were in semi familiar territory. Once I got to my hotel room, I ca-rashed!
We spent two days in New Jersey and then made our way back to New York to drop off the car. This time I handed the keys over to Carlos and said “you’re driving back in”. I wasn’t going to argue about it. It was an order. This time our GPS took us around Manhatten. This time I got to look at the city with both eyeballs and in daylight. We took a different route and that allowed a better overall view of the city. This is the reason I offered to drive on the way in. I planned it this way. On the way back to Queens, I got to see Yankee stadium and Shea without the worry of rear-ending someone. Sucker. He should at least once offer to drive on these trips.
After this, we landed in Jacksonville,Florida. It was bone rattling cold in NY and NJ and the wind was blowing about 30 MPH. It snowed the whole time we were there too. He’s from LA and I’m from Houston. We both arrived back in our native climate and frantically fought our way out of our winter wear. It was hot there. We were finally back in our environment. What a difference. What a relief. We finished our work there and then went our own ways. I am so glad to be back home.