Tuesday, September 29, 2015

COLUMN: East Coast, Pt. 3

How do you know that a road trip has officially become awesome?

When it takes three columns to recap, that's how. If you're just joining us, our heroes (being me and my friend Jason) have survived the boredom of Indiana and Ohio, the mountains of New York, the forests of Vermont, the coasts of Maine, and have just escaped the rather unfriendly confines of the greater Boston metropolitan area, all of which brings us to our final destination...

Thursday, 2 p.m.: Hey, look, it's a concrete jungle where dreams are made of. My mom has instilled in me everything I need to know about New York City: Danger lurks everywhere, pickpockets run rampant, and everyone will be mean to you. Paralyzed by fear, I task Jason with city driving while Siri and I work on locating our hotel.

Thursday, 2:30 p.m.: We have found our hotel, checked in, and have yet to be mugged. So far, so good. Based on the price, we are staying in a palace. Based on the cost of valet, apparently so is my car.

Thursday, 3:15 p.m.: Somewhere there is a list of My Favorite Bands of All Time. Actually, it's in the top left drawer of my basement desk because I'm honestly nerdy enough to have written it. High atop that list is the 90's British rock band Ride, a group I discovered in college who would shape my taste in music for years to come. We always said that if Ride ever reunited, we'd travel to the ends of the earth to catch the gig. 22 years later, that gig is tonight and the end of the earth is just over yonder past the Statue of Liberty. We head for the show, meeting up with our friend Stuart (who flew in rather than drove.)

Thursday, 4:00 p.m.: Once upon a time, I was one of those loser weirdos who would go to a concert hours early in order to stalk the back door like a sad puppy in a desperate attempt to meet my musical heroes and brag about it incessantly for weeks to come. That was a long time ago and I've matured a lot since then. I no longer feel the shallow need to flaunt my super-fandom in order to feed my pathetic ego. The fact that we got to the show four hours early was a mere coincidence. That we just happened to bump into the band members on the street was pure happenchance. And the fact that we got invited in to watch my favorite band of all time play a 90-minute soundcheck -- including a spontaneous cover of "Billie Jean" -- to an audience of only the three of us should be considered totally inconsequential. Except that it was the greatest night of my life and I rule SO hard.

Thursday, 6:00 p.m.: Nothing stinks more than waiting in line for a concert. Except at Terminal Five in New York City, where that line occurs on the ROOF of the venue with seats and a wait staff.

Thursday, 9:00 p.m.: The show is, as the kids say, amazeballs. The band roll through a greatest hits set that wrecks my soul. Too bad all I can focus on are my feet. It turns out my notoriously fragile hooves are no match for the mean streets of Manhattan, and they're throbbing. The good news is that I get distracted soon after by the arrival of a pack of Jersey Shore rejects, who crowd around us with high-fives and liberal use of the word "bro." As you'd expect, within minutes they start fighting one another and yours truly ends up with a beer down his front. Strangely, this seems to happen to me at every concert ever.

Thursday, 11:00 p.m.: We have been invited to the VIP afterhours, where I get to take pictures with my favorite band of all time. In all of them, I look like a soggy aching shell of a human being. But because of my shallow need to flaunt my super-fandom in order to feed my pathetic ego, I'm going to guess they'll be framed and on my wall by week's end.

Friday, 8 a.m.: We have ONE day to see everything there is to see of the largest city in America. No problem. My feet feel much better... for exactly 3 blocks, before they start aching again. Also, it is pouring down rain. We stop for a bagel at a deli wide enough to fit approximately 0.8 Shanes. There are 32 people in here. I could never live in this city, no matter how tasty their bagels are.

Friday, 8:05 a.m.: They're pretty tasty.

Friday, 10:00 a.m.: Times Square. 30 Rock. Radio City. We're soaking it all in while the rain soaks us. We get to see Billy Bush filming "Access Hollywood," then I get to explain to Jason who Billy Bush is.

Friday, 1:00 p.m.: My feet are bloody stumps, I'm sure of it, but our friends Chris and Erin have taken us to this amazing foodie paradise, where umpteen organic restaurants share the same warehouse space and every smell is to die for.

Friday, 3:00 p.m.: Did you know you can ride the Staten Island Ferry for free? I don't know what's more exciting: Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, or the seats.

Friday, 9:00 p.m.: After waiting 90 minutes for the valets to fetch my car, we are at Hamilton Park in Weehawken, New Jersey, which offers such an amazing view of the NYC skyline that we stay for over an hour. I have no idea how you could live nearby and get ANYTHING done. Later I find out it's called Hamilton Park because this is where Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr had their fatal duel. My guess is that Hamilton missed because he was too busy staring at the city.

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.: Our lofty goal today is to drive all the way home stopping only for gas. But when we see the signs pointing us to "Roadside America," we decide to pull over. It is the greatest decision we will ever make in our lives. Roadside America is a massive building wherein three generations of the Gieringer family have worked to create an 8000 square foot miniature village. There are over 4000 tiny people, 18 model trains, 10,000 handmade trees, and a limitless amount of kitsch. A feisty old lady runs the show from a control room that looks to be from the Mesozoic Era, while visitors can push buttons that operate trains, fire up saw mills, and, yes, make wee robot donkeys move their heads. I took 364 photos on this trip, and my favorite might just be the one that says "Press here to operate donkeys." The only other visitors are an Amish family, and I worry this is the only "modern" technology they will ever experience.

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.: As if it can't get any cheesier, a voice crackles, "Please move to the back of the building so that night may fall." Before we know it, the lights go down and a projection of the moon comes up. Superimposed on the moon is the face of Jesus and the Statue of Liberty while a scratchy recording of Kate Smith's "God Bless America" fires up. It is inexplicably perfect, the dictionary definition of Americana, and the very thing we needed to survive the long trip...

Sunday, 2:00 a.m. ...home.

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