Friday, December 31, 2010

New York, New York ~ Day 4, July 12

The last days of a vacation like this always do seem to be like a test of will between me and my feet. My feet have hurt so much, but I’ve still walked as much as I’ve subwayed. There’s just too much to see to spend all my time underground. But I really appreciate the subway. I navigated it more today than any of the days before.

First, I took it down to Rector Street stop to see Trinity Church. I’ve been reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and I believe it appears in the fifth book, which I finished last night. I’ve always enjoyed it when my travels interweave themselves with literature. I read The Da Vinci Code on the way to Paris and Angels and Demons on the way to Rome. I hadn’t known that Memnoch the Devil was set partly in New York, but it’s an apt coincidence, and since the church was said to be at the foot of Wall Street, and I wanted to look around down there anyhow, Trinity made a nice focal point for that wandering. When I got there, it was additionally AWESOME to find out that it was the resting place of Alexander Hamilton. How cool is that? I did not know!

It was a beautiful, ornate Episcopal church, and it seemed fitting to offer a prayer there for the souls that passed and the families bereft through the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, which was where I was headed next.

There’s not a lot to see at the site of the towers themselves right now. It’s off behind fencing and banners because of the extensive ongoing construction, but it does make an impression to see nothing but cranes rising into the sky, so empty compared to the rest of the city. There’s a memorial and a preview for the planned rebuilding set up in nearby offices. The weeping of people around me in these rooms as much as the exhibits themselves were sobering and moving. There are things I will always remember, as those before me remember hearing about the death of John F. Kennedy. I will always remember the Challenger and the shuttle Columbia, and I will always remember watching the towers fall. I couldn’t stay for long. I didn’t want to cry. I cry enough as it is. But it was important to me to go, and I’m glad I went. I will come back when the permanent memorial is finished, and pay my tribute there.

After that I had just enough time to catch the subway back up to Times Square and meet some friends at a really great little Italian restaurant called Sofia’s, a block off of Broadway. The food was wonderful, the restaurant virtually empty, and it was great to catch up with Jeremy and Cindy. (They’re doing well and staying busy and return the hellos everyone sent through me.) After lunch, they joined me in my wanderings to FAO Schwarz, Max Brenner’s for chocolate, eaten on a park bench in Union Square, the Strand bookshop, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and finally Lombardi’s and Ferrara’s in Little Italy for pizza and cannoli, respectively. They walked me to the Bowery subway stop before heading back to their car after a very fun and busy day.

But it wasn’t over yet. My friend Jayna, from New Orleans, was singing at a bar in Brooklyn, at the foot of the Bridge, so I took the subway over to see her. I’d hoped to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, but my feet were just too sore. The 68 Jay Street bar is a wonderful little community place. The bar tenders knew everyone there, and everyone there knew each other. One patron’s dog wandered from person to person for attention, and the little toddler daughter of another climbed in and out of laps and arms all around.

And they all LOVED Jayna and her band. One bartender, who seemed like he might also be the owner, took a break during one song to dance with a lady there, another man began singing along and was cheered up to the microphone when Jayna invited him to join her. It was pretty much the ideal Monday happy hour. I could feel the hurry and go of the city draining from me in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, even before I started my slow way through a glass of sangria. I headed back to Manhattan early so I could get most of my packing out of the way, but it was really the perfect end to my trip, quiet and relaxing. Tomorrow is all about the journey home. Tonight, with my packing done, I will rest.

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