My sister's family returned to New Hampshire last night. A few moments ago my friend's family returned to Minnesota. Before sunrise, my friends moved with military precision and were off less than ten minutes after the alarm woke us. Their belongings packed neatly in the hallway the night before, car loaded, children bundled into the van seats, hugs, goodbye greetings, and on their way.
The apartment is silent already. My feet sore and swollen from our sight-seeing journey yesterday that included over five miles walked while I was in boat shoes. (I forgot my other shoes in New Hampshire.) The bathroom swelters with atmospheric humidity and the humidity of being well-used. The supply tank on the toilet sweats.
I'll return to sleep now with comforting memories of familiar laughter and energy as I slip back into solitude, immersed in Brooklyn.
I slept for several hours and before I wander to ArtToFrames.com, I'll describe yesterday's adventure.
My unrelenting pace started last week when I drove home on Wednesday, I think, and proceeded to take care of things in New Hampshire on Thursday, went on a date, climbed Mount Monadnock on Friday, went to a summer party (with my date) and played in a band concert on Saturday, church Sunday and then drove two families to NYC on Sunday night. Whoosh.
After arriving late Sunday night, we contemplated various activities for Monday and the consensus was to get on television by going to one of the network morning shows. I like the NBC Today Show the best, knew where Rockerfeller Center is, and I nudged the group towards going to the Today Show.
The problem is that our sleep would be brief and was eventually fitful as I and others woke on the hour until I finally rose at 4:40 to lay out food for breakfast, turn on lights, and make enough noise to rouse the parents who woke their kids.
We left the apartment around 5:45 or so after everyone ate, a few people bathed, and prepared for the day. We got off the subway in Rockerfeller Center just before 7:00 AM when the Today Show starts. Security checked our bags and interviewed us briefly and we shuttled into the fenced corral for the Today Show street studio and we joined other early-rising nuts like us.
NBC broadcast the show on flat-screen televisions displayed on rolling carts or on the studio building so we watched as the show started and we got a sense of when the cameras would film. The hosts broadcast the show from inside a ground-level, corner-office studio, behind a curved glass panel.
Suddenly, the glass panel dropped and we saw the hosts! Some of us ran to be seen through the window and we alternated from standing around the corral and the window. My brother in law stayed at the window and when he saw that the camera trained on him, he started signing a message in front of the camera.
Some of us at the corral started laughing hysterically to see him sign in real life and then glance up to the flat screen TVs to see his signing displayed on the TV! When he returned to us, we asked what he signed. 'I need help signing. My sister lives in Snellman, MN. My name is Erik.' We all hooted with laughter.
The people that we contacted to watch us didn't see him so we speculate that the editors cropped the shot tightly to keep him out of the broadcast. Enough people recorded the show for us to examine at a later date.
Despite that, a stranger in the crowd went to him and complimented his ability and wondered where Snellman was. After his crowning achievement of quick-thinking, the Today Show lost its luster and we decided against waiting for another hour and a half for the hosts to emerge into the corral. A few of us hopped up and down behind the crowd while the weatherman gave his report. But then we all left.
I approached a NYPD officer and I asked him, 'Excuse me sir. We have several children in the group here and we gave each one a piece of paper with our names and phone numbers, the address where we're staying, and the nearest subway station. If the children get lost, is it a good idea for them to show the paper to a police officer?' His stern demeanor melted into a smile and a nod, 'That's a very good idea.'
I communicated that to the group loudly so that the kids would listen and learn what to do if they got separated from the adults.
Our plan was to go to the Today Show, walk to Times Square, walk to Central Park and re-evaluate if we had the energy to go to the WTC site and Staten Island Ferry before returning to Brooklyn to rest and sing. Every so often, the adults were anxious and impatient, but that usually ended in laughter because just being together on the streets of NYC was really enough.
On the walk to Times Square, the group was fascinated by a street vendor so people ordered coffee, donuts, and other snacks. We rested and ate and continued walking. We approached Times Square and my nieces asked numerous times to go to the M&M store in Times Square, but it wasn't open yet. We saw through the ABC Studio windows where the Good Morning America show was being broadcast.
On each street corner in Times Square there were one or two people handing out a new flavor of Balance Bars. Often they handed them out two at a time. We had eleven people in our group and each time we passed these people, we acquired more and more Balance Bars! Soon our pockets and bags were weighted down and each time we laughed with delight at all the free food.
Finally we made our way to Central Park via Broadway to Columbus Circle. We wandered into Central Park and the kids were most enthralled with the rocks protruding from the ground. So we all scrambled up one and sat drinking water and counting our Balance Bars. The girls estimated that we collected more than 70 bars!
The younger kids saw a playground made of steel and concrete so I walked with a few of them so they could play. The playground was quite cool as it was designed to be like a castle and fortress. Spongy rubber mats cushioned the ground - a welcome relief to already tired and sore feet.
Eventually the majority of our group collected at a series of park benches near some porta potties that everyone said were totally gross. While we sat a honey-sucker, or in other words, a porta pottie cleaning truck, drove up and started emptying the johns. Soon I saw someone in our group cover her mouth and bolt from her bench, walking briskly away.
Then the stench hit me and we all moved quickly away so the porta potty smell didn't knock us all flat over. We were laughing and all agreed that was the worst smell that anyone had ever experienced.
We walked to the train and took a train just north of the World Trade Center site. By this time, the little and big legs in our group were feeling some fatigue and after we looked at the WTC site, our pace slowed. We sat overlooking the NYSE building and Wall Street, eating. We walked back to the WTC site for bathrooms at Burger King and we ordered pizza.
Afterwards, we went to the Staten Island ferry port and boarded the next ferry. The sight-seers watched the sights from the edge of the boat, but I propped my legs and feet up and closed my eyes. We arrived in Staten Island and sat in the port for the next boat. Again, I dozed. After we boarded, the sight-seers looked around and I fell into a deeper sleep. An announcer woke me up, and my sister was talking to me.
'Tim, do you think it's a good idea to go to the Empire State Building?' I bluntly said, 'No. Not really.' I smiled as I realized my bluntness and I went to talk with the larger group and agreed that a train ride to the Empire State Building wouldn't be such a bad idea. A few of us in the group were aware of the general fatigue, but it's the group consensus that wins over.
Instead of going to the Empire State Building, I walked to B&H Photo and bought a new lens hood to replace the one that had broken on our trip down to NYC. Then I bought a train ticket for Thursday and joined everyone near Macy's. Cost prohibited anyone from going up the Empire State building so they shopped for souvenirs instead.
By now the pace slowed to a halt, but the young girl's eyes glowed with hopeful excitement, 'Can we go to Macy's?' Of course we could. So the group split into four. Two anti-shoppers went to the street. One family went to the bathrooms downstairs. The remainder sans myself went up all the escalators to see the wooden escalators on the top floors of Macy's.
I stayed in the entry way and laughed by eye-contact with a man offering perfume samples at all the women who walked numbly past him.
Finally, we returned to Brooklyn and I gave a tour of the church and the garden in the back. We went to the 820 apartment and fixed up a hodge-podge supper for everyone and we sang church songs for a while. My friend started singing loudly and we all joined him, but I admit that I looked out the window to see if people were staring and wondering.
After we sang, my sister's family left and the remaining people planned a return to Times Square to see it at night. We returned and discussed numerous strategies for their return to Minnesota and eventually, the consensus was to leave before sunrise today. In Times Square the weariness of the group showed due to divergent goals. Some wanted to push relentlessly and go to one store after the next. Others showed restraint to the plan. We ate some over-priced (what else?) ice cream. Eventually we returned.
After arriving at 820, the family packed briskly and I discussed the route from here to Chicago with a focus on the simplest route out of NYC to avoid traffic. Their bags lined up in the hallway, we slept. At 4:45 my alarm rang. At 4:54 AM, the family left to start their return trip.
So I hear birds chirping from the trees and see the street in front of my writer's nook, empty of cars, as it waits for a new coat of tar. A woman walks up the street and another pushes a cart, drinking water. My asian neighbors pop in and out of their adjacent apartments. My swollen feet throb a little.
I have to shower and walk to ArtToFrames.com soon.
Before I close, I have reflected a bit about where my adventure led me. At the summer party on Saturday, I reunited with several former co-workers and I heard allusions of gossip and backbiting to get work. No specifics were offered, but our group was small enough that I could piece things together to suit my curiosity and imagination.
I sensed anxiety and lurking anger, but from an outsider's point of view. My free-spirited path is quite divergent and I am detached and I simply assess the character traits of my former co-workers and imagine how they manifest themselves in their current situations. Everyone gets their due in the end.
So here I spend the summer sleeping in a cot as I chose inner-city camping for the summer for the adventure and the solitude to practice my craft as seen in my blog and photo stream. I dated the woman local to NH and I feel a gentle tug to see her again. I enjoy the freedom of the free-spirited life. I learn more about myself. I'm poised in a thrilling position to help grow a business in Brooklyn.
My future is unknown, but as I always wanted, the wind is settling my future rather than my self-assured assertive ambition that caused such great pain during my twenties.