Day 1 was a travel day from California to Europe with a deliberately scheduled 13 hour layover in Newark airport. The great thing about these long layovers is that they often result in very cheap air fares, after all, what reasonable and rational person wants to spend 13 hours in Newark airport?
I slept about 3 hours total on the plane and soon as we landed I rushed to catch the train into New York. The morning was cold as day-old snow from the Polar Vortex covered the ground. As I boarded the train at the airport, the conductor welcomed me back. It was a kindness that brought a smile to my face.
My dad didn’t get to the City until about 8am, which gave me plenty of alone time to walk around Penn Station and watch the city wake up. Much like Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, early morning is my favorite time of the day in New York City. The City may not sleep, but it does make transitions, the most obvious and beautiful transition comes between 5am and 6:30am.
My Dad and I had breakfast at the Tick Tock Diner on 8th Avenue. Last time my dad and I were at the Tick Tock was July 26, 2003 at about 5am. We ate a delicious breakfast while waiting for the 6:30am train to Long Island. My Dad and I saw the Yankees beat the Red Sox the night before in Boston and we had to take an 11:30pm bus back to New York. I would have preferred to fly or take a train back, but only the bus would afford me the time to see the 7:05pm game through to completion and get me back to JFK for my 9am flight back to California the next day.
I walked my dad all over the Boston Back Bay that Summer day. We sat in the Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden and watched children, grown ups and dogs play in the fountains. We visited the BU bookstore and we walked around admiring the reflections of the old churches in the modern glass buildings. The baseball game was a classic, but I digress. Over the years my Dad has accepted the fact that when I show up in town, to just go with the flow. There will be some excitement and by the time I leave, exhaustion.
Eleven years later, my dad doesn’t walk as well as he did when he was a spry 74. Today’s visit involved more taxis and trains than walking. Dad was in great spirits and he did well.
After breakfast, we took a train downtown to meet the Freedom Tower and visit the 9-11 Memorial. The Freedom Tower is one sexy 1,776ft tall sexy glass of water. The 9-11 Memorial was powerful with its fountains running into the ground where the towers once stood. My father and I each to a turn at touching the “Survivor tree”, the only tree in proximity to the falling towers which survived the day. It is now thriving in the 9-11 Memorial.
After we left the memorial we took a cab to a little Tribecca bar for a mini tweet up which involved friends I’ve never met, fun, laughter, cheesecake and my dad consuming his first two Long Island Ice Teas ever. More laughter ensued.
As the time started to run short, we took the train back to Penn Station; however there was an extra 45 minutes. Chaos junkie that I am, I decided to keep going all the way up to Central Park. We walked through beautiful snow-covered park and sat on a bench for a while. We sat and talked and laughed. We also talked to a lot of people going by. Dad pointed out all the people that were purportedly part of the Russian mafia. One of the park foundation emissaries chatted with us and he thought me might be locals by the way we were dressed, but he couldn’t quite tell. He admitted that the only way you can really tell the locals is when they bring their dogs. I laughed.
As time genuinely grew short, we made our way back to Penn Station and parted company. It was good to spend a day with my dad with no other dynamics going on. He was more carefree than I had seen him in a while. It was good to see him moving well too. It’s adventures like this that will sit in my heart all my days, like our 20 hour run to Boston.
I jumped the 3:40pm train back to the airport. I thought about this visit with my dad and realized how the first 25 years of my life were really spent building memories with my mom and how the second half of my life has really been spent building memories with my dad.
When I arrived back at Newark, I slammed some sushi and used my AARP card to get a free Dunkin’ Donuts treat. There are no unmixed blessing, but free donuts do make the whole turning 50 thing easier. The flight boarded and I settled in for a nap. I wondered if my bag had made it on board and I was prepared in case it hadn’t.
It had been a good travel day. I couldn’t expect the next 13 days to go as well, but I hoped they would.
Trip Talley at the End of Day 1