Michael and I made our second trip to New York, September 24-26, 2009. We made our way from Kennedy Airport in Queens to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. We again ferried to the Statue of Liberty. The Statue is a National Monument. They were taking 200 people a day to the crown and were booked until January. We headed for Times Square and the Portland Square Hotel, where we checked into our room and prepared for "Kristina in Concert." The Portland Square Hotel is located at 132 West 47th Street and now called the Sanctuary Hotel. I used my AAA card.
"Kristina in Concert" was at Carnegie Hall, and we saw it on September 24. The characters lined up in front of the orchestra to sing their parts. It was nearly 3 hours, and the melodies were full of emotion. Even though it was in English, the lyrics were still difficult to understand. Of course, I knew the story. Leaving the theater, Michael asked me what I thought. I told him it was an accomplishment, and I saw it with my son! We sat high in the balcony, close to the edge. A dangerous spot! Benny and Bjorn were in the audience and came to the stage at the concert's end. The song getting the biggest ovation was "The Gold Turned To Sand." Carnegie Hall was built by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1891. It is located at 57th Street. After the show, Michael and I went to a karaoke bar at Times Square. I sang "Dancing Queen."
We walked from Times Square to the Financial District. We entered the New York Life Building. We were given a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and were taken to its Gold Vault underground. We saw $190 billion in gold. Michael remembered that one bar was worth $118,000. I was biting my nails, and he asked me if I was nervous. It was the gold! We returned to the charging bull and got pictures. Michael rubbed the bull's balls for good luck.
We took the subway to the Bronx, to 161st Street and the new Yankee Stadium. It was built beside the old one. It is Steinbrenner's legacy. The Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 9-5. The Stadium was the star, and we walked around it, viewing the game from every angle. There were huge posters of Yankee greats: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio & Mantle. I choked up as we entered the Cathedral. We were among friends.
Our last day, we found Rockefeller Center and the NBC Studios. We saw the statue of Prometheus, and I told Michael about the Greek myth, how Prometheus gave the gift of fire to mankind and was punished by Zeus until Hercules set him free.
Our trip ended with a ride through Central Park. We stopped at the John Lennon Imagine Mosaic, and Michael took my picture giving the peace sign. Everyone else was flashing the sign, so I did it. The Dakota was nearby, and I recalled how Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman in December, 1980, and how I called Karen after seeing the story on the front page of the Tennessean. Chapman made no attempt to escape. He sat on the steps and waited for the police. Our driver said Yoko still lives in the Dakota.
Flying back to Nashville, I told Michael how I fed him a bottle in the bedroom in Lebanon while reading about New York. I read that Central Park got its name from being at the center of Manhattan. Michael told me it was his dream to go to New York. He has been twice!
NEW YORK CITY 2005
Tuesday, August 9 (Day 1) - Michael and Karen came to my apartment at 4:30 in the morning. I met them in the garage, and Karen drove us to the airport. We left Nashville on Delta Flight 5405. It was Michael's first time on a plane, a good thing about the trip. We changed planes in Cincinnati and arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York. We took the airbus to Lower Manhattan. The first day was hard! We spotted the Empire State Building in the distance and kept walking. The Empire State Building is at 5th Avenue & 34th St. It was built 1930-31, and the architecture reflects the period. It is shaped like a pencil! There are 102 floors. The observatory is on the 86th. The line was long, and I told Michael the story of how I came here in the army. It was a cold, windy night. My hat blew off, and I had to chase it. We looked down on Manhattan as I had years ago. 20,000 buildings can be seen. Back on the street, we entered Central Park. Joggers ran past. I felt we were getting in deep, so we retraced our steps. We found Times Square! Michael was elated, and I realized what Times Square meant to him from seeing it on television. He took pictures from every angle. Night fell! We were turned away from hotels and went into TGI Friday's. The Yankees were playing the White Sox on the Yes Network. We watched the game and talked about staying up all night. We went looking one last time and found the Portland Square Hotel. A miracle! The room was small but clean and quiet. Best of all, it was right around the corner from Times Square and the Palace Theatre, where we had tickets for a Broadway show. Nothing was cheap, and I tried to keep the spending under control while doing what we came to do. Michael had his cell phone and stayed in touch with his mother. People were everywhere! We dodged them. Horns blew, and cabs whizzed! Michael and I stayed close. We had a flexible plan and adjusted it as we went along. We walked for long stretches, then sat and rested.
Wednesday, August 10 (Day 2) - We made our way to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx by subway. It is at 161st & River Ave. We were in the upper deck down the third base line. The game took up a good part of the day. I wanted a day game so there would be light when we hit the street. The Yankees played the Chicago White Sox. It was traditional American League baseball. The Yankees lost, but the main thing was that we experienced a game at Yankee Stadium. There were some leftovers from the great team of the 1990s: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada & manager Joe Torre. The Stadium itself was the attraction. I noted the big "NY" behind home plate and the facade in the outfield. I recalled how Mickey Mantle came within inches of hitting one out. The Yankees dugout was on the first base side.
Thursday, August 11 (Day 3) -
This was the day we cracked New York! We rode the subway to Lower Manhattan and Ground Zero. It was fenced in, and we walked around the perimeter. It was a solemn site, not unlike Pearl Harbor. It was not so emotional at this point, but we wondered what things were like on that day. Michael pointed to the cross. From Ground Zero, we hoofed it to Wall Street as I had done before. Wall Street is the country's financial center, and Michael wanted to see the New York Stock Exchange, where stocks are bought and sold. NYSE lists 2800 companies and has the largest trading volume of any stock exchange except NASDAQ. This was an education for Michael. Wall Street got its name from the wall built by the Dutch to keep the Indians out. The British took New Amsterdam and renamed it New York after the Duke of York. We moved toward Battery Park. A German girl took our picture as we ferried to the Statue of Liberty. She was from Hamburg, so we talked about The Beatles and the Star Club. Michael and I spent an hour on Liberty Island looking up at the green Statue. His Liberty pictures are like post cards. He was seeing New York for the first time! The Statue was a gift from France, done by sculptor Bartholdi to commemorate French support during the American Revolution. Lady Liberty holds a tablet reading July 4, 1776, in Roman numerals. Her official name is "Liberty Enlightening the World." Her arm is straight, and she holds a torch. 7 rays on her crown represent the 7 continents. Battery Park is so named because of the guns that defended Manhattan. We returned to our room to rest. It was a hot day! I was thirsty, and water fountains were not to be found. I secured our tickets for "All Shook Up." The show was at the Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway. I remembered the address because it was the year Shakespeare was born. We sat in the balcony. The theatre was ornate, and the usher said it was about a hundred years old. "All Shook Up" combined the music of Elvis Presley with the plot of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. We went to our room for our last night in New York.
Michael had to see Trump Tower, so we found it. It is residential, condominiums for the rich. Donald Trump is a real estate developer and Michael's hero. I took a picture of Michael against the backdrop of Trump and his wife, Melania. Michael bought shirts at Brooks Brothers, and the clerk told him Trump's assistant came in the day before. We passed Rockefeller Center and got pictures of Prometheus and Radio City Music Hall. We ate at ESPN Zone.
Friday, August 12 (Day 4) - On our way out of town, we stopped by New York University. Washington Square Park is on the edge of NYU, and we saw the Arch. We entered the book store. Michael compared its business books to MTSU's. We got to Kennedy Airport with time to spare and ate at Chili's Too. It was a straight flight to Nashville. Karen met us.
I had in mind to take Michael to 3 sections of the United States: up east, down south & out west. New York and Washington, D.C. were up east. Daytona Beach was down south. Las Vegas and California were out west. My earlier trips were preparation for these trips with Michael.
NEW YORK CITY 1984
I spent 2 days in Manhattan in October, 1984. My first stop was Dinosaur Hall in the American Museum of Natural History near Central Park. Dinosaur-mania was talking hold, and I saw tyrannosaurus, brontosaurus, triceratops & stegosaurus. Some fossilized eggs added credibility to the existence of these creatures. I attended a show at the Hayden Planetarium.
My second day began at the top of the World Trade Center (the one without the tower). I looked down on the Statue of Liberty. It was being renovated. From the Towers, I hoofed it to Wall Street. The street was short and nearly deserted. George Washington was inaugurated here in 1789. I rode a bus up the Avenue of the Americas to Midtown, where I saw the statue of Prometheus against the RCA Building. In Greek mythology, Prometheus taught man how to use fire. The statue shows him descending from Mount Olympus encircled by the Zodiac. I wanted to see the Rockettes, but they were not performing. In my room, I watched the presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. The morning before I left, I took a bus out 42nd Street to the United Nations. I entered the building but did not take the tour. I glimpsed Madison Square Garden.
NEW YORK STATE April & August, 1974
With Chester on the truck! We went to Erie, Pennsylvania, and across upstate New York: Rochester and Syracuse. We spent the night in Binghamton. We were in New York when the tornado hit Louisville on April 3. The closer we got to Louisville, the more we heard about it. It took the roof off Candy Heim's house.
PHILADELPHIA & NEW YORK CITY December, 1970
In Philadelphia, I saw the Liberty Bell through the window of Independence Hall. In New York, I ascended the Empire State Building and blitzed through Greenwich Village. I was in the army and made these trips with 2 guys from Valley Forge Hospital. It was cold and windy in New York, and my saucer cap blew off at the top of the Empire State Building. I caught it before it went over the edge.