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©May 2004

Carol Jane Remsburg




A Hick Goes To NYC





So like the 17-year cicada event, timely since they come back this year to enhance our annual cicadas, the 8th graders annual field trip to New York City was held on May 7th.  I heard all about it from my daughter the previous year and heard more and more about it as time went on.  There was only one question—could I get that day off from work to be one of the chaperones for this trip.  There wasn't any real question other than obtaining that day off—my kid wasn't going to New York without me. 


My daughter planned this trip for months, sold about $200 in chocolate to ensure that we didn't have to pay extra for the trip.  Erin and her cohorts plotted and planned out everything.  They had an agenda for a very long day.  Meanwhile, as the Mom, I only had three major worries, one—I'd oversleep the 4:30AM wakeup alarm, two—we'd get lost, three—we'd get mugged or something equally not nice. 


First hurdle over, we were up at the allotted time, but neither did any of us go to sleep early like we'd hoped.  None of us could sleep, my daughter's excitement was simply too much to deal with.  Once she finally went to sleep, then I couldn't.  But we were UP on time.  Everything had been packed and readied the evening before—from drinks in the cooler, enough hard candy to supply ALL THREE busloads of kids, peanuts, Cheezits®, and chips, and pretzels.  Plus, we had books to read (which we never did), a portable CD-player for the kid with music, a cool wet washrag in a sandwich baggy—just in case, and a couple sweatshirts in case the weather turned cold.  There might have been other stuff in the duffle-bag we brought, who knows but it weighed a ton.  I was just glad to stow it beneath the seat, with the cooler.  The heavy camera bag went into the storage compartment up top and the heavy purse between my feet.


Now I have to tell you I strongly considered about carrying not only the camera case but my pocketbook as well.  I thought about stuffing my keys, license, and some cash in my pockets and being done with it.  But then, if we got lost or stranded in NYC and had to have a way home, I'd need a credit card.  If either of us got hurt, we'd need the insurance cards.  If somebody started their period, we'd need the stashed protection I carry.  If somebody got a hang-nail, I had the clippers….and so it goes.  Besides, I had to stow the Nextel somewhere.


Once on the bus I was somewhat relieved but still not ready for this adventure.  Oh, the kids were excited to say the least, but everyone was still kinda cranky and tired.  That wore off before we hit Dover.  However, the bus was a good one—movies were played to soothe the restless—good comedies. 


By 11 AM we were nearly there.  The Empire State building stood in sharp relief upon the skyline amid the smog.  The kids just thought it was still 'foggy' in NY, they didn't know that smog was a permanent fixture there.  The level of excitement on the bus grew with each turn of the bus wheels.  What grumbling had been heard in the back of the bus, where the "ultra-cool" kids had staked their claim had died out.  They too were eager to explore the city.


I only had one definite stop for my kids…we were going up the Empire State building to see the sights.  As hubby put it, if you never go again, you can be one of those who can say they had that experience.  But by then, all of us had a need for the 'facilities' and no one wanted to use the one on the bus.  However, we got in line, waited and waded through the masses for over an hour to get our tickets, then ducked out and into the bathrooms. 


Then, it was nearly another hour through two sets of security, stairs, and lines to get to the elevators to go up.  I thought this had to be pretty fantastic for what we'd been through to just GET there.


Once on the observation deck, the crowds were elbow-to-elbow, just HOW they got so many people up there was beyond me.  Finding a space at the edge to peer through the .50 cent binoculars took some doing, and then getting the kids to the edge for a photo-op ended up a bust—they weren't happy.  One of our crew was terrified of heights and let us KNOW that in no uncertain terms.  However once up there, the crowds kept her from worrying about it too much.  (Remember we love you Elly)  We snapped a couple of shots.  The heat was stifling up there and the smog made it worse.  Into the gift shop we went for small items to take home.  Funny thing, they had LOTS of miniatures of the Statue of Liberty, but NONE of the Empire State building (go figure).  Some $$ later, every one of our party—all five of us just wanted to get OUT of the heat.


We had three teen girls, all friends, and two adults.  The other adult in our party was "Miss Sue" was one of the girl's grandmother (step-grandmother?)—either way, she was a totally dear woman with a sense of adventure better than mine.  Miss Sue also had a better sense of direction than I did to.  I was SO relieved to have her with us as I kept a constant head-count rolling.  Miss Sue's relaxed demeanor in the face of this enormous city was heartening to say the least, and I told her so.  The kids, Elly, Missy, and my Erin were glad to get out of the building.  We even had to wait in line to do that.


Once outside we held a little meeting on what we wanted to do next.  Sue and I decided it would be whatever the kids wanted to do, but mostly we wanted, all of us, to EAT first. 


After all the episodes of "Law & Order" I dearly wanted to eat from a street-side vendor.  I thought they'd have something wonderful—like the BEST hotdogs in the world.  So, of course I pushed for that and shushed away thoughts of McDonald's or Burger King or Wendy's.  Silly me, we ate at the hotdog stand and it BLEW.  We were hungry, so we ate anyway, but those dogs were barkin' because they were some sad puppies.  Even BOILED Ball Parks at home on STALE buns were better than these.  (This was my second big disappointment already.)  The Empire State building had been a bust and now the food. 


The kids decided we were going to Ground Zero and I was impressed by their choice.  When 9/11 happened they were much younger and for most of us that particular day will live in our memories forever and we still get goosebumps and get teary-eyed just thinking about it.  So, with the handy-dandy pop-up map, a dear friend gave me before the trip, we looked it up and hit the subway.


Now Elly had been afraid of heights—Empire State Building, and now Missy was afraid of the subway.  (I wasn't so in love with the idea either, but it was the cheapest way to get us there.)  We bought our tickets, $2 apiece for the ride—they don't do tokens anymore.  We found the right train, asked the right questions and voila!  There we were. 


Oh, and I found out that once you get on a subway you'd better sit your butt down quick because they don't tell you when it's pulling out.  Guess what?  You can fall on your ass in front of God and everyone else too.  I was lucky, I fell in my seat.  Didn't have to teach me that little lesson twice.


Missy survived the trip to Courtland Ave. which is the jumping off point to Ground Zero.  Guess what?  I expected tears, overwhelming emotions, and a silenced awe---that didn't happen at all.  Granted it didn't rain in NYC nor was it cold.  It was HOT, STEAMY, LOUD, CONGESTED, and really BUSY.  There I said it. 


When we got to Ground Zero it was nothing more than a huge construction site with fencing around it.  The surrounding buildings that were damaged also were being restored.  But that was it.  I didn't think it would "move" the kids and it didn't, worse, it didn't move either adult in the group either.


I was so hot I felt like I could melt into a puddle on the pavement—that's when I saw the ice cream truck………time for relief, or so I thought.  After snapping a couple of pix, I dragged our group over to the ice cream vendor.  I was thinking a couple cool cones, find some shade and then we'd figure out where else we were headed. 


There were exactly 3 people in line ahead of us---it took him 40 minutes to reach us.  Wanna guess WHY?  It wasn't about complicated orders for sundaes or shakes—it was because he was struggling with the English language.  By the time he got to us, I just handed him money—I had NO IDEA how much soft-serve ice cream cost and by that time I didn't really care.  We adults got cones—the old stalwart, reliable stuff, Elly got a watery Strawberry shake, Missy a strawberry sundae, and Erin a vanilla sundae with sprinkles….you'd have thought this was tantamount to a Geneva summit for the time it took.  And was it a "cooling" encounter…..err, no.  Just a respite.


Then we found the subway again and learned a valuable lesson.  That $2 per person ride was much more expensive than the $7 all day ticket ride.  We grabbed for that this time around because the kids were headed to Battery Park—the jumping off point to the Statue of Liberty.  Okay, we didn't hit the ferry for THAT trip, BUT…this was an experience.  The subway ride from Courtland Avenue to Whitehall---END OF THE LINE was an experience.  Poor Missy held up but was still scared of the grinding and shifting every time the cars took an abrupt turn.  Once there, we strolled about a ˝ a block and then Battery park lay before us.  It was a lovely green place as the trees were just coming into full bloom.  The shade of the trees cut most of the heat.  It was the vendors that brought the comic side to it all.


Most of the vendors were from the "islands" like Jamaica.  They were selling "real" Rolexes—(even a hick from the Shore knows better than that), and pocketbooks, knock-offs.  Funny thing, at first we couldn't figure out why they had these roller-carts with big filled blankets on them.  Their speech was garbled and all we kept saying was "No, thank you" and kept walking.  About half-way through the park we did figure it out that they had pocketbooks in there and wanted us to buy them.  It was cute, but we weren't buying.  There were many other vendors there from the hotdog stands to roasted peanuts to t-shirts; the t-shirts we had already bought on the way to Battery Park, to your-name-printed-on-rice-suspended-in-water (we can get that in OC) to 10-minute portraits to 9/11 pix to your name written in design pictures. 


We went down to the ferry, which appeared to be so overloaded that if the inspectors came, they'd have a heart attack on the spot.  When strolled over to the WWII memorial and snapped a few photos there and then walked back.  Towards the front we stopped.  Elly and Missy needed something affordable to take home to their families as gifts.  We stopped at a vendor who, for $5 would write a name in pictures for you or $1 a bookmark with a name.  Erin got three bookmarks for her father, herself, and for me.  Elly and Missy got busy with the Chinese lady who was not just talented but deft in her design.  It was also 30 minutes that Miss Sue and I could get off our dogs and rest.


It was a lovely respite.  The best part of the day.


Then we took the subway back to 34th Street near the pickup location—searching for something cool, anything COOL—I was overheated to the max and melting.  We hit Macy's right across from the Empire State building.  Aahhh….air conditioning.  The only drawback was they had so much perfume squirted on that department area it was difficult to draw a decent breath.  Plus, I had sworn to Elly, that Macy's would DEFINITELY have the souvenir shot glass of the NY Yankees.  Geez, stupid store made me lie.  After three different levels, I was stumped.  No NY Yankees shot glass here.  Worse, the only place she KNEW it would be was 59th street.  Not ONE of us wanted to face the subway again and it was only an hour an a half before we were to leave and we hadn't had dinner yet.


Besides, Macy's was the only place we'd encountered with AIR CONDITIONING the entire day thus far.  So, I struck a deal with Elly, I promised her the very next day I would go 'on line' and order it and have it to her well before Father's Day when she needed it—actually I had it delivered before 7 days—feel the RELIEF!.


So, after that confab, we turned right around and went back into Macy's, we'd already picked up a couple more cheap souvenirs, but we went to eat this time.  I wanted to hit the 'sit-down-and-serve-me' restaurant in the basement, but they were closed that day due to some issue—right beside it was a cafeteria style –fresh hot pasta with your choice of sauce, grilled chicken, pizza, salad bar or boxed salads, or vege bar.


We grabbed, paid, and gratefully sat down to eat nothing that was anything extraordinary.  It was food.  Mostly we were more interested in the cold drinks.  We were parched and hot and very tired.  The crush of the crowds, the noise was so loud, and the simple pressure that belied little respect for personal space was now removed.  We had another hour to kill.  However the all-important potty stop was required before leaving.


We opted back to the pick-up point and to check the little shops lining the block while we waited.  It was there in Strawberries that I finally found a miniature of the Empire State building to take home to hubby.  Others found hats and such.  Erin hit the Hallmark store and 'had-to-have' a new journal.


Finally our bus arrived and we boarded.  The other two buses were late.


We didn't care, we were just SO glad to sit down—and this included the kids.  The bad part was Miss Sue and Elly didn't ride our bus so we said our goodbyes and boarded.


Missy, Erin, and I sat down and were ready to go….but sqwawks were readily heard from the back of the bus.  It was evident that someone had had bowel issues that day.  Thus, the coolest, of the cool who had opted to sit in the rear of the bus had to endure the pervading stench of an explosive elimination—about ˝ UP the bus….good thing we sat 3/4 the way up front.  That crew—and their 'cool' parents got to enjoy that fragrance until about 12:48 AM when we pulled into the school parking lot.  Somehow, being cool didn't quite measure up to the choking I heard in the back on the way home.  I guess it sorta countered the cat-calls from the back on the way up.


Finally one of the 'cool moms' told them to shut up about midnight, then had to tell them twice with a threat of the principle AND telling THEIR mothers….


Meanwhile, the movie played on---the latest "3 Musketeers" while most of the bus slept.  Erin had put me at the window seat for the last 100 miles and I was fidgety, she wasn't sleeping either.  About all I wanted was to get home—stretch and sleep for about 24 hours—like that would EVER happen.


It was raining when we pulled in and the truck was parked far away.  I ended up hauling nearly everything, the 40 pounds of dufflebag, the camera bag, my purse---but Erin brought the drink cooler—it holds a six pack…….


Home we came—hubby was awake.  When we hit the door, HE hit the bed.  He had waited up and HE had to work the next day.  I was up when he left before 8 AM the next day.


Now you have it all, spelled out THE TRIP.  Let me tell you something, no matter how I sugarcoat it, NYC it a huge place.  If we'd opted for Times Square or 42nd Street, I might be telling you something different.  Unfortunately we didn't go there.  We hit what the kids wanted after the Empire State building.  All were tourist spots and all should have been nice or moving.  Yeah, the KIDS had fun, but for me—NYC was LOUD, it was DIRTY, it was too BUSY, too CROWDED and too HOT—and it was only May 7th.


Yeah, let me live the rural life I grew up with—chicken manure and all.  NYC holds little allure for me and any repeat trip will require glowing red tongs of torture to get me there. 


You cannot take the hick out of a Shore Girl you just can't.  However, if you dropped me into the Barnes and Noble and didn't make me run everywhere…I might have liked that.


But I could have done that right here at home.


The world is a small place, just know that bigger doesn't necessarily mean better—at least in my view.


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