I Like NY As A Friend - Part 4
April 21, 2011
And our trip more or less wraps up with Saturday April 16th...
We got up slightly later, closer to 7:00 AM, and Leanne and I did room checks to make sure the kids hadn't trashed their rooms or left anything in them (one of the guys almost walked out without his duffel bag). Then breakfast, then loading all our luggage onto the bus.
We got into NYC around 9:30 or so, landing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we stood around for a while before we could go wander. I was a little concerned about the Met with my group, given that they were a bunch of teenage boys whose interest in art was suspect. I'd talked to the tour provider about this earlier and he suggested we start with the Armory, which was a good call. The Armory is filled with suits of armor and samurai swords and weapons. We had to stay in our groups, more or less (Museum policy, actually, otherwise I would have let them go off on their own). My favorite thing was a room filled with maple inlay murals. Astonishing. Then into the American sculpture exhibit, which many of the boys seemed to like because there were a lot of nudes there, then into Egyptian art, walked through some Renaissance art, into the musical instrument section, the gift shop, then done.
Not nearly long enough. This is the day and the first location where the tiredness factor started to influence everyone. One of my group, who's a pretty good kid but a bit on the whiney side on a good day, got into it with me a bit because "I don't get to spend enough time on the cool stuff." I said, "You're just going to have to come back." He said, "We're not coming back." I said, "Not on this trip, but in your life. Trust me, I want to come back without 12 teenagers to follow around." In that you could probably spend 10 years in the Met and not see everything, I have some sympathy, but learning to compromise is part of what this trip is about.
We finally made it out of the Met and drove up (down?) to Harlem and had lunch at Sylvia's Soul Food. Our band directors had been raving about this restaurant. I think they oversold it, frankly. It's family style (for at least one of the band directors I'm sure that was the appeal - all you can eat!), and we had fried chicken, BBQ ribs, fried catfish, rice, corn bread, collard greens, potato salad and banana bread pudding. We all ate too much, which is easy to do there. I thought it was good, wish I'd eaten less, but didn't think it was the Second Coming of Southern Cooking like it was being sold to me as.
From Sylvia's we drove back down to 5th Avenue and unloaded at Rockefeller Center. This was also a part of the trip that I had some concerns with, because we were essentially spending the next 4 hours or so on 5th Avenue. 5th Avenue, for those who don't know, is home of a lot of high-end shops, most selling things none of us can afford. I was fairly ambivalent about how well a dozen teenagers (we picked up a girl in our group on this day) would do window shopping. Plus the weather sucked, cold and rainy. Had it been nicer I think we might have done a quick run up 5th Avenue, then rented bicycles in Central Park. I know at least one chaperone who had a smaller group took the subway over to Times Square.
We spent some time in St. Patrick's Cathedral. I lit a candle, figuring the world can use all the help it can get. I enjoyed St. Pat's a lot, then we headed out on 5th (getting more grumbles from my whiner who wanted to spend the rest of the day in the church, I guess). We stopped at Trump Tower to use the public bathrooms and to wander around for a while. There's a Nike store there and some other things. Then we headed further up to the Apple Store, which is just like every other Apple store, except bigger, more crowded, and hotter. As one of the kids said, "That was sort of anticlimactic." Yeah, I thought so, too. The Apple Store is next door to FAO Schwartz, and the kids all went in while Leanne and I stayed outside. Leanne was fielding calls from home about some band booster things and I and another chaperone were venting about how some of our kids were starting to annoy us (hey, I'd been good the whole trip, but I was tired, too, and 5th Avenue in the rain is hardly my idea of a good time). Determined to have a thorough New York City experience, I gave a homeless person my spare change (hey, I worked in Detroit for 18 years, this is not a new experience for me).
We then crossed the street, hit the Lindt chocolate store and bought chocolate. We forgot one of our kids when we left, but no panic this time. Her reaction was more like, "WTF?" and we caught up to her. We wandered back to Rockefeller Center and found out that this was where my whiner wanted to be because there was a Nintendo store there. We all split up and let them run amuck at Rockefeller Center, so Leanne and I and some of the chaperones and my kids basically got drinks and ate chocolate and found a place to sit and hang out.
[Just a story here. We found out that one of the chaperones took her group of girls to Tiffany's and asked the store person to see the most expensive ring there. It was $1.2 million. Each of the girls took a picture with the ring on their finger. I had to look at the male chaperone who told me that and said, "That should give every male hearing this chills." He said, "Yeah, early indoctrination."]
We loaded back on the bus and went to the jazz club Birdland and had an early dinner and listened to a jazz set provided by a trio. They were great and I liked Birdland a lot. (We'd had to pre-order food there. Unfortunately, we'd pre-ordered fried chicken for Sean, not knowing we'd have friend chicken for lunch).
By this time the rain had turned into a downpour with thunder and lightning. Our final event was going to the Top of the Rock (the observation deck on Rockefeller Center). Now, I must say, I've been to the top of the World Trade Towers (in 1987) and up in the CN Tower in Toronto and to the top of the Hancock Tower in Chicago. It's very cool. But there's something fairly unique about stepping out on the 67th floor of the Rockefeller and getting slammed with 40 mile per hour winds and rain and not being able to see a damned thing. Memorable, even if the experience isn't quite what you expected.
We finally got everybody together, back on the buses and headed home. Within about 30 minutes Sean said, "I think I'm going to throw up." Then he did. (Definitely too much fried food).
[Here's a little anecdote. One of the girls on the trip had accidentally left her camera in a store on Times Square earlier that day. The band director and her went back during the peak of the storm and actually found the camera, but he was totally soaking wet. He was trying to figure out how to change his clothes on the bus (the bathroom might have been tricky, in that he's about 6-foot-5 and god knows how much he weighs) and he was saying, "Would anybody mind if I took off my pants," which got a lot of responses from people around him like, "Oh my God, my eyes are burning!" And then Sean said, "I think I'm going to throw up" and did.]
We got that cleaned up. Luckily the bus driver (we were in the 2nd row) heard and flung a plastic bag at him, so we got most of it. Plus there was a lot of cleaning supplies, which is good. The school's Drama Club took a trip to NYC in the fall and several people had the stomach flu and apparently that was also a memorable trip with a dozen people vomiting on the bus for 12 or 14 hours. How much of that was psychosomatic (as my wife says, "see vomit, want to vomit."), I don't know, but I can't imagine a much worse trip. Sean immediately felt better and for the most part handled the teasing well.
We all settled in for a long drive. This, by the way, was during the weather system that slammed the country with all the storms and tornadoes. We were blown all over the road. For me this part of the trip was misery, simply because it's so damned hard to sleep on a bus. They also, after our first rest stop around midnight, split up the boys and girls (to a fair amount of complaining). I ended up sharing a seat with Ian and I sort of slept for a couple hours leaning my head against my bundled up coat against the window. But my legs were horribly cramped. Then we switched seats and I could stretch my legs into the aisle, but...
Anyway, we finally made it home around 10:00 AM (we stopped in Ohio for breakfast at a rest stop around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. Time was limited, as were food options, so I had a fruit pie from a vending machine). We unloaded, cleaned up the buses, returned the swords to the kids in our group who bought them, and went home.
I unpacked and around 11:00 AM said, "Gee, I'm tired, I'll lay down for a while." And woke up at 4:00 PM.
Overall, a great (although exhausting) trip.