Monday, February 02, 2009

New York, New York, it's a hellava town

A month ago, I went on a little adventure.

It has taken a month to reflect on this adventure (well, let's face it, I've been busy trying to oust Governor Blowdryavich from office, and now that I've accomplished that, I can actually post something a little more self-involved).

I flew to Austin on Jan 2 to help our friends, the Plakovic's, move to New York City. Please visit for all the whys and wherefores (which is a redundant turn of phrase, as wherefore means why). Someone refered to this trip as a Mancation, but, then again, they've never taken a cross country trip with James and me.

I arrived in Austin on Friday afternoon, and the Plakovic's treated me to dinner at Chuy's. This is the same Chuy's that the Plakovic's first dined when they picked up stakes some 15 years ago to seek their fame and fortune. We enjoyed dinner very much. James and I then went on a last "Austin" excursion, very brief, which included a visit to a GuitarCenter and a bar.

Here's some advice when shopping for guitars or other musical instruments in Austin. First of all, you must be a professional musician to even pick up an instrument in Austin. If not, then you must at least have a few well-rehearsed licks ready so there is no doubt that you know your way around the instrument you are touching. Anyway we ended up putting a Fender Precision Bass in the car. The car was a Prius, so yes, the bass was paid for.

We then went to some popular restaurant bar, and discovered that, at the ages of 46 and 45, we are getting too damn old. Or cheap. Not sure which.

We were up and at 'em by 6am the next day, and after loading up the truck with a few last items, were lit out for Memphis, the first stop on the magical history tour. Yes, Texas is a large state, but who da thunk Arkansas would be so wide? We hit a minor traffic back-up outside of Memphis, and my handy-dandy GPS unit insisted we take an odd detour just to stay on I-40. It was dark when we reached our hotel, and we're disappointed to find that the nearest chain restaurant (sure we would have loved to eat something indiginous, but one musn't take gastro-chances on the road) was not within walking distance. So we got back in the truck and drove to Ruby Tuesdays. This absolutely guaranteed that there would be no "What happens in Memphis, stays in Memphis" stories.

After dinner, we (I) turned on an NFL playoff game, and we both fell asleep before it was over. Did I mention our mean age is 45.5?

The next day, we were up and at'em around 6am, off to our next stop, Roanoke, VA. It is a good thing that we didn't sample any local cuisine, because James was having a terrible time processing the 'quick service' food we had last night. Thankfully, the monster was defeated by the time we got back into the moving van.

Yes, Arkansas is a wide state. Tennessee, however, is a wide-ass state. I don't mean wide-asses live there, it is a long drive from Memphis to where we turned north to head into Virginia. We stopped for gas, we stopped to pee, gas, pee, gas, pee, for goodness sakes, you'd think I would have wised up and stopped drinking Diet Coke, but damnit, I live life on my own twisted terms.

We crossed into Virginia, and started thinking about the dinner and beer we were going to enjoy in Roanoke. What we did not foresee was that for every mile we drove north, Roanoke would move about 2 miles farther away. Chasing daylight, we didn't stand a chance. But the time we got to Roanoke, the interstate seemed to be 5 feet wide and my field of distance was about 35 feet. Our hotel was new, and located north of Roanoke proper, which meant that for Sunday dinner, we had to climb back into the van and drive a few miles to the TGI Fridays. James was gracious enough to allow me to pick the restaurant, and I hadn't been to a TGI Friday's in a while. There's no doubt in my mind that we were asleep before 10pm, our bellies full and dreaming for the (relatively) short drive to Jersey City the following day.

The next day was full of promise as we breakfasted on 'deluxe continental' fare. We again were on the road early, and we're excited of the prospect of a 6 state day: Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and (by train) New York. All was right with the world, the GPS, the rest areas on the way. We stopped for gas west of Allentown, looking at less than 3 hours to go. As we approached Allentown, however, we encounted a huge back-up (construction related) that lasted about 45 minutes. Undaunted, we got clear of that jam, only to be stuck in hell 10 minutes later. An unknown 'traffic event' had forced the closing for the interstate, and we were stuck for over an hour trying to exit with what seemed to be an endless line of vehicles.

Yes, this was annoying, inasmuch we were hoping for a short, leisurely last day of driving. So I didn't think much of that huge Diet Coke (with two squirts of vanilla flavoring in it) when we stopped to get gas. But that was around 11:30am, and now it was 2:45 pm. I couldn't get off the freeway fast enough, and then try to find someplace, a gas station, a mini-mart, a fast food restaurant, a ditch with a steep slope, anyplace where I could relieve myself. We finally made it to a Wendy's, where, although there wasn't really a space to accomodate the moving van, I overcame adversity and skidded to a halt, running in a limping manner to the washroom.

A quick note about physiology. I've seen Olympic weightlifters, shot-putters, and hammer throwers. They must have the strongest muscles in the world...with the exception of the muscle that holds my urethra closed. When that muscle is forced to stay closed, clamped shut, for an excessively long period of time, one must enter into negotiations in order for it to open. The pain of these negotiations is intense. It just will not open, and open it must. And when it grudgingly opens, only a small amount of urine is allowed to exit. The fire-house intensity that one expects is in reality only a trickle, a painful trickle. When the bladder finally seems empty, you really can't be sure. All sensation is gone, you just don't know if you are empty or not. Maybe I should have turned on a faucet or something to force the issue.

(The cause of the accident, I later learned, was a rolled-over semi. No one was killed in the accident. James and I will be going to hell together due to our constant plea to the lord that someone should have died as a result of our inconvenience)

Back on the road, I was ready to make up for lost time. This would be a good time to discuss the different driving styles that James and I have. James is a safe driver, a good driver, a law-abiding driver. He follows the speed limit, going perhaps a little over if traffic allows. Our safe arrival to NYC is a result, in large part, to his driving skills. My driving skill follows my love of the free market. If a lane is more open than the one I am in, I use it. Speed limits are 'really good suggestions', but lets face it, if there is open road, I'm driving on it. The moving van had a governor that allowed a maximum speed of 75 mph. I know that for a fact. The truck would NOT go any faster. Our safe arrival in NYC was made despite my driving skills. I am proud to say that James wife, Kathy, and I are alike in this regard.

We bounced into New Jersey. Literally bounced. The roads, under construction, were wavy. Thankfully we had our Frosty cups to spit our dental fillings into so they could be re-installed at a later date. We rushed across the Jersey prairie (bet you don't get too many hits Googling "Jersey prairie") and finally made it to Jersey City, our landing point for the day. We checked into a nice hotel, and then ran onto a train to the heart of Manhattan.

This was my first trip to New York City. Sure, I can get around cities like Chicago, Houston, and San Antonio. They are all nice little towns compared to midtown Manhattan. As we walked towards Time Square, early evening turned into noonday sun with the glow of the lights. I'm not sure I can explain the vitality of that area. To this Nebraska son of a son of a farmer, it was one of the most amazing things I've seen. That's not to say I didn't see the bums, the rats, the whores, etc. I saw them, too. Everyone spoke a different language. I saw the famed 'Naked Cowboy'. I walked past the Ed Sullivan Theater. I saw lot of things, including the line of tourists going into Olive Garden for dinner.

We dined at Angelos on 57th Street. Real Italian food. Really good Italian food. I bought a couple of T Shirts for the kids, and we headed back to the hotel in Jersey, knowing we had just one more day of moving ahead of us.

We left the hotel before 5:30 am,, hoping to beat traffic across Manhattan. Driving down Main Street Hoboken, I was magically transformed into Johnny Nyack. Downtown Hoboken is darn quaint, with lots of neat shops, including Sleepy's, where (of course) you would go to buy a mattress. I became Johnny Nyack, seasoned delivery van driver. My language became infected with F-bombs. I used that word as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, command, suggestion, implication, you name it and I found a use for it. James and I were giddy, and we hadn't even made it to the effin' Lincoln Tunnel yet.

Coming out of the tunnel, we drove across Manhattan, miraculously getting to the Midtown Tunnel without any harm to us, others, or the contents of the truck. Yes, a few wrong turns occurred. Hey, it was dark. We drove under the East River, arriving in Queens. I hummed 'Those Were the Days' (the All in the Family theme) as we headed north, trying to find the bridge that would get us onto Roosevelt Island. Hey, it was dark! Anyway, by 6:30am, we were there. A Starbucks breakfast, a quick tour of the apartment, a stroll down the the grocery store so I could purchase a house-warming gift (a 4-pack of toilet paper - I'm so effin' thoughtful), and before you know it, it was 9 in the morning and we began the task of unloading the truck and moving the Plakovic's belongings into the apartment.

Being experts in ergonomics, James and I quickly divided up the tasks. I would take the items from the truck and cart them to an open hallway area, where James would take them to the elevator and up to the apartment. I think we worked smoothly, glad that it was not raining or snowing or excessively windy. By noon, all that was left to move were the boxes of IKEA furniture. We could see the light at the end of the nicely tiled tunnel. Kathy, Emma and the dog arrived around that time, and spirits were high.

Boxed IKEA furniture is some of the heaviest stuff known to man. That's all I'll say.

By 1:30, we were done. We enjoyed some pizza for lunch around the corner, I especially enjoyed 2 liters of water. We did not take any breaks while unloading, and both James and I were beginning to feel our age (Mean age 45.5, did I mention that?) With the truck empty, we began the 6 mile journey to return it, to the far west side of Manhattan. A little gas, a little more Johnny Nyack, a few more wrong turns (no, it wasn't dark) and ta-effin'-daa, we had the truck to the Penske return lot.

The Penske lot was not located in the most posh of areas. We walked confidently and forthrightly 8 blocks east to a more 'comfortable' neighborhood. We boarded the subway and before you could say "The Effin' King of Prussia", we were back on Roosevelt island.

Although my original flight was cancelled, Kathy (Miss Traveler) made sure I got out of LaGuardia that night. I know we had dinner, but I think I was too exhausted to to notice. Before I knew it, my car had arrived to take me to the airport, and away I went. I was home, in my own bed, by midnight Central Time. Whew!

For James and Kathy (and Emma and Murphy) this is the start of not only a year-long adventure, but also sort of a new life as well. They have no idea where they will be in a year. I find that to be very exciting. I'm even more excited that it is them, not me. Adventure is thrilling, but it is also scary (especially when your Mean age in 45.5) In any event, I was thrilled to be a part of the first stage of the adventure. In a year, I may be back on the road, helping James move the rest of their belongings to a new city.

1 comment:

KP in NYC said...

Fear not, my dear friend...I will hire professional movers next time. Don't get me wrong, you and James did a fabulous job! However, as your mean age increase to >45.5 I fear another cross country move may leave a permanent disability.