Late November 2010… In Phoenix, Arizona… At Westcon, the big regional competition for Pop Warner cheer… The Child’s Cheer Team won a bid to Nationals… In Disneyworld… We had to be there in 16 days…
One of the few untaxed benefits of my job is frequent flyer miles. I first charted the vanilla ways for getting to and from Orlando with air-miles, no problem.
Then my adventurer came out…
In my mind, any trip to the East Coast is an opportunity to go to New York and to see my dad. I started to play around with the side-trip options. Should we go to New York before the competition or after? I explored all the travel permutations of LAX to MCO to or via JFK/EWR/LGA. The two stop trip for three was going to use more miles than I really wanted to spend. Regardless, I was really leaning towards going after the competition; thenl I struck GOLD!
Jetblue was offering $75 one-way flights from JFK to Orlando, but only on Tuesday, the day we had to be there. Choirs of angels sang and the plan was locked, loaded and the trigger pulled:
- Sunday fly from LAX to Newark on Continental.
- Tuesday fly from JFK to Orlando on Jet Blue
- Saturday fly Orlando to LAX on Continental.
This plan afforded us 37 precious hours in New York. We arrived late on Sunday night in Newark. As the plane touched down, I started the countdown timer on my watch.
We took a bus from the Airport to the Port Authority. There are better ways to get to The City from the Newark Airport, but I take the bus. It’s what I do. I like making the trip and seeing The City come into view. I like coming out of the Lincoln tunnel and within minutes being in front of the New York Times building. I wanted to share that experience with my ladies.
The bus dropped us around the corner from my favorite hotel in The City. It’s not the best hotel but it’s one that I know and enjoy being in. Certain floors have wonderful views of the Empire State Building, which is a requirement of any good New York City Hotel room. The Child has been to The City probably a half-dozen times, but she has always known it via the Long Island Rail Road or Amtrak. This was the first time she would sleep in The City and see it late at night.
We dropped our bags, bundled up (this was December) and headed out at 12:30am for 2 Brothers Pizza. I think we ordered five slices of cheese among the three of us. The eyes of the hungry ladies rolled with delight and I enjoyed watching them enjoy.
We reached Times Square about 1am and noticed the American Eagle store was open. It was fun to see the girls walking around the multi-level store and be served by the very helpul and youthful staff. After shopping, we meandered back to our hotel and went to bed about 2am. Thirty-four hours left.
I woke up about 5:30am to have run through Central Park. I took off through the streets of The City with my music playing in my ears, but not too loud. As I approached Columbus Circle, I felt like I was running on air. It was one of those perfect running experiences.
As I entered the park snow flurries started to fall and a smile came to my face. I was running, with no GPS and the only timer was back in the hotel room counting down our remaining hours. I had run the park just 4 months before for a Susan G. Komen run, but that was with 18,000 people and a flight due to take off 6 hours later (do you see a pattern in my behavior). This was me alone on a Monday morning with this wave of early risers.
I stayed on the trail around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and just savored the moments. I enjoyed the trail under my feet. I enjoyed the runners going the other way, the ones who get to do this every day and didn’t know how special it was for me. On the occasions that I walked, I sucked in the air in hopes it would be stored in my cells as memories. There was this very rare feeling of “not-rushed”, to which I am completely unaccustomed.
After breakfast we walked to Penn Station to meet Dr. Grandpa. I see my dad at least once a year. I forget just how long it is between The Child and my dad spending time together. We found him in the waiting room of the Long Island Rail Road. He doesn’t live there, he just took an earlier train than we were expecting.
As we emerged from Penn Station I had the awareness that this is my family, all together in New York City. This was my only living parent, my wife and my daughter. We were together at the start of what was going to be a memorable day together. I was grateful for the day as well as the awareness that might never have a day like this again.
Our first stop was Macy’s. The girls wanted to see the windows and we ducked into the store. The Smurf movie was being promoted and the next thing I knew, Dr. Grandpa was buying The Child a 2ft. tall Smurf doll. That Smurf to this day, is still on The Child’s bed, day and night. We continued on towards the Empire State Building. The Child had never been there and it was my obligation as her parent to ensure that she saw it. The girls were taken with the style of the building. It had been upgraded since Laura and I were last there probably 17 years ago.
As we were waiting for the elevators we noticed the glass mail shoots that travel down the inside of the building. I remembered that we had our Christmas cards with us. We had worked them during the flight to New York and the Empire State Building seemed the perfect place to mail them. I gave the cards to The Child and she deposited them in the mail slots one by one and they fell 30 floors to mail room.
The wind was howling on the top of the Empire State Building on that cold day. Part of the City was clear, but clouds were moving very quickly and Ellis Island could not been seen.
After the obligatory tourist pictures in the lobby of the ESB, we took a cab to Serendipity. It was important for the The Child to experience frozen hot chocolate. The wait at Serendipity was already at 90 minutes by 11am. Some say Serendipity isn’t worth the long wait. Those people are so very wrong. The trick is not to wait in line, but to plan on going down the street Dylan’s Candy Store while you’re waiting. The Child had never been in any store like Dylan’s with its three floors of candy. She delighted in the chocolate fountains for dipping the candy. Ninety minutes passed quite quickly.
Serendipity is a beautiful restaurant, especially at Christmas. You will notice in the picture below, that each frozen hot chocolate came with four straws, leaving one to speculate that the beverage was for sharing. Let’s just say that one of the two people in that picture was not willing to share HER frozen hot chocolate. Laura and I enjoyed the marvellous cakes as appetizers, she enjoyed the chocolate and I, the carrot. For our main course we had the amazing pan-fried meatloaf. Laura copied the recipe and it is in the A-rotation on our dinner table.
After a wonderful lunch, our party split apart. I took my dad pack to Penn Station via the subway and the girls proceeded on foot towards Rockefeller Center with a number of planned stops along the way. It was nice to have some time alone with my dad. I am always at home and at peace with him, even when I am running around and even when he makes me nuts.
After I saw my dad off, I double-timed it up to Rockefeller Center. Yes, I know I could have taken a train, but why? So I could miss 7th Avenue at Christmas? I don’t think so. Nobody goes to New York at Christmas to ride the subways.
When I caught up to the girls, they were taking pictures with the angels. There were ice skaters in the rink and I remembered bringing The Child here when she was 5. She wanted to skate in Rockefeller Center and she made us wait for hours to get on the ice. She wouldn’t skate anywhere else in The City. She barely knew how to skate back then and I had to pull her all around the rink and avoid the hundreds of other people. Now she was taking pictures of those skaters with her cellphone 8 years later. The time just goes so quickly, just like the 37 hours were.
From there we made our way back to Times Square for more photos, why, because we were tourists on a mission. Then we went back to our hotel room for a nap. Why a nap? Because we had dinner plans with friends from Twitter. In case you didn’t know John De Guzman is the best photographer of New York in the world. One corner of our house has nothing but his work (check out his website). I also have one of John’s photographs in the very front of my daytime, but that’s a different story. We had dinner plans with John his then girlfriend who was a background extra in the soon be seen in the upcoming Men In Black III. His lovely girlfriend and I shared a deep love of the Yankees and became acquainted on Twitter. We had a fun dinner with some wonderful people. Then the family went back to our hotel room and went to bed.
The last 8 hours in New York found us up early and making our way from the City to Long Island. The Child had point that early morning. She walked a few steps ahead of us as we made our way, for the second day in a row toward Penn Station.
At one point, she took a few steps into the street against the traffic light. A cab coming her way started to slow down and she gestured by circling her right hand clockwise, telling the guy to keep going. Laura and I both laughed. She seems comfortable here.
The Long Island Railroad dropped us off across the street from the preselected Nassau County diner just as other members of our party converged. For breakfast that morning, my dad dove in, and we met with twitter friends (and loved ones) Dee Karl and the one and only Ms. Coffee O’Clock herself, Dani3boyz. The two ladies that joined us share my love of New York Islander hockey. Twitter brought us together and they have become important people for me to make time for when I visit the Island.
I don’t recall what anyone had to eat that morning, other than the fact that The Child decided that the Oreo-cookie pancakes were to her liking. You ever have one of those meals where there is just laughing and fun and the next thing you know you have to go? It was one of those.
As much as I wanted to visit my home town of Long Beach, there wasn’t enough time left. We had to get to JFK, park and check in. My Dad had me behind the wheel driving down the Sunrise Highway towards JFK. We made it to the airport in plenty of time.
I don’t think I have ever flown out of Terminal 2 before. As we walked from the parking lot to the terminal, I saw the old TWA terminal. That was probably the terminal I flew out of when my mom took me to England when I was 5 months old. I spent so many hours in that terminal as a child, always with my mom. I remember playing behind those windows and running around the red carpet inside. I remember running up the hump we used to have to walk over to get to the airplanes.
For a moment it felt like my mom was there with me. As we checked in, I felt sad to be leaving my dad. The agent at the gate must have picked up on this and she gave him a pass to go through security. This touched my heart. It meant another 45 minutes with him. The area behind Terminal 2 was very nice, much better than every LAX terminal I have ever been to. It was large and spacious with a full service Dunkin’ Donuts. We sat and drank coffee and prepared ourselves for our flight to Orlando.
We lined up at our gate and finally, the countdown timer signalled that our time was up. I hugged my father at the gate, just like in the old days. You remember, those days when we used to be able to see people off at the gate. The way my mom used to when I was little and getting on-board a TWA flight to England. There was that experience of saying goodbye to someone and then walking down the jetway then before making the turn, looking back and seeing them standing there, looking at you and seeing how deeply they care. We’ve been deprived of those moments. They just aren’t the same when we say good-bye at security.
We settled in as a family unit in our three-across seating. The Child broke out her books and started studying. The benefit of being away for a full week, rather than just 4 days, is that the Child was able to do independent study. I was very proud of how much time she put in studying that week.
When we arrived at Orlando, we were greeted by the Disney people and put on a Disney bus. We were in Disney’s care all week. We had itinerary telling us where to be and when. We travelled on Disney vehicles and ate nothing but Disney food. When we left, we were dropped at the airport again by a Disney bus. It was the complete opposite of our experience in New York.
Thirty-Seven hours may not seem like a lot of time. Heck, 37 years may not seem like a lot of time to some. I guess it comes down to how well that time is used. Our 37 hours were richly spent; we saw friends, built new memories, exercised, laughed, and we shared meals with special people. There was family time, one-on-one time and even some time alone. Would we have done more with 40 hours, definitely; and life only give us so much time, how we spend it, who we spend it with, and what memories we choose to create is up to us. How we use our time is the measure of our priorities.