Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Planes, Trains & Automobiles, 20th Anniversary Edition (My NY Trip, Part II)

So, I made the flight.

A five-hour direct shot from San Diego to New York. I finished a book, watched my Living Single DVDs (don't you judge me) and paid $3.00 for an oatmeal cookie. Singular.

Oh, and I also sat between an old married couple. Wife on the window, husband on the aisle. A brief summary of their non-stop five-hour conversation:

Her: "Do you want some more chips/candy/popcorn?"
Him: "What?"

Her: "Do YOU want some MORE chips/candy/popcorn?!"
Him: (Says nothing, just sticks his hand out across my lap.)

This went on for about 290 minutes and only ended upon our descent when the old lady spilled her club soda on my crotch. This happened right in front of a flight attendant and I'm still waiting for a napkin. I don't think it's coming. Ever.

Anyways, Aaron…Welcome to New York City.

4:00 PM - Upon deplaning, it's obvious that the emotions of the locals remain raw towards all things West Coast. Residual hatred from Hit 'Em Up, perhaps? In a belated Big Apple retaliation, it appears JFK Airport hasn't been cleaned since 1967. That'll teach us Californian fruits 'n nuts a lesson.

4:05 PM - It takes a few minutes to find the "facilities" and I can honestly say that the restrooms at JFK are giving those rancid public bathrooms at the beach a run for their money. Sorry, ladies, but you'd catch crabs from these cans even if you "hovered". And, I assume all of those little square holes in the wall are where the soap dispensers used to be.

4:15 PM - I've long since left the Petri dish of pee, when I finally realize that I have no earthly idea how to get to Connecticut from New York City. My CT connection is former Bootleg co-defendant, "That Nick'a Guy". He directs me to the Ground Transportation Desk, which, fortunately, is right behind the baggage claim. Finally, something goes right for me.

5:00 PM - The first batches of baggage finally make their way across the conveyor belt. 45 minutes?! Is this normal, New York? I wanted to get indignant but, no one else was complaining and besides, Mrs. Bootleg wasn't there to get indignant for me.

5:10 PM - The Ground Transportation clerk directs me outside to catch the bus to Grand Central. And, as I immediately pass through the double doors, I'm hit with the unmistakable olfactory cocktail of homelessness, humidity and tinkle. Did I land at the Section 8 Airport by mistake?

5:15 PM - The bus stop is under a freeway, er, "expressway" overpass. (Other NYC language differences I'll have to get used to over the weekend: people stand ON line, not "in" line and a "pie" is what they call pizza. Strangely though, their word for "pie"…is "pie". Pfft…and they wonder why they lost the Bi-Coastal Rap Civil War in 19 aught 97.)

5:35 PM - For the last 20 minutes, I've been choking down exhaust fumes, fending off the assault on my wallet from five or six homeless gents and silently marveling at the number of boob tattoos I've seen in such a short amount of time. Is that a requirement for all minority women out here?

5:40 PM - Fortunately, my bus arrives before the pimps and the C.H.U.D.s and the little Asian driver Frisbees my bags into the storage bins below as if they were some sort of, uh…novelty flying discs. He's also wearing a pin that says, "Tips appreciated for great service and good advice." We're not off to a great (or good) start, Driver-san.

5:41 PM - Nick'a has informed me that if I can hit Connecticut by 8:00 PM, I'm doing OK. With over two hours to go, there's no way I miss that deadline. After all, I've done Southern California rush hour and Rush Hours 1 & 2. I can't imagine anything worse than that. (OK, I liked both Rush Hour movies, but I needed the material.)

5:45 PM - We're at Terminal 8, which I assumed to be the end of the bus' "pick up passengers" process. Imagine my surprise when we exited the shuttle area only to double back and begin (again) at Terminal 1. For the record, San Diego is the eighth largest city in America and we have TWO airport terminals. Total. And, our airport bathrooms don't look like an inside-out ass.

6:00 PM - Finally, we're on the free…damn it, expressway to Grand Central. And, physics be damned, we appear to be doing negative miles per hour at this point.

6:10 PM - I make out what appears to be Shea Stadium's upper ring of lights and the abandoned exoskeleton of what was once their World's Fair. Quite the glistening landscape you have here, New York.

6:45 PM - We hit the surface streets, which leads me to believe that we're getting close. "Streets", of course, is a relative term here as these were built narrow enough to only accommodate turn-of-the-last-century rickshaws and horses.

6:55 PM - Without any announcement, the bus stops (in the middle of the street). The driver hops off his phone book and starts randomly unloading bags. Into the street. Is this my stop? Well, since that is my bag that he just slammed to the asphalt, I'm going to say "it is now".

6:56 PM - It starts raining.

6:57 PM - Here's another NY/CA difference: the women out here in New York wear skirts to work. In California, e-v-e-r-y woman wears slacks, pantsuits or slacksuits to work. At least, I'm assuming these NY women are coming from work. They could just be sharp-dressed street walkers.

7:01 PM - Grand Central is just down the street and Nick'a is effectively my cell phone compass as he leads me towards the ticket window. And, let me tell you, that Grand Central on a weekday at 7PM is like Grand Central. It's not just a tired cliché, my friends.

7:05 PM - Nick's still on the cell phone as I'm apparently wearing my "disoriented tourist" aura with oblivious pride. I find the "information" desk and (which I never do) asked for directions to the ticket window.

"You don't get tickets here! You get them over there! Like, right behind you! You had to walk past the ticket window to get over here!"

It was like a bad pro wrestling promo. I told that anecdote to a co-worker when I returned to California and she told me that she probably would've cried.

7:06 PM - With my own eyes watering (due to the dusty conditions within) I get in line for the train to New Haven.

7:11 PM - I ask for a one-way ticket (cost: $18.50) and make the mistake of also asking the guy when the next train leaves. Viscera points upwards (in his little booth) and rhetorically asks, "What's the sign say?" Of course, the sign seemed to have every city listed except New Haven, but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of saying that. Now, who's the fool?

7:15 PM - I find that the next train for New Haven is leaving on track 28 at 7:37 PM. With 22 minutes to kill, I figure I should find my track, make contact with the train and then go potty. Things seem to move in hypertime around these parts.

7:25 PM - You know what Grand Central needs? More stairs. This is the only place on earth where rolling luggage is a burden, not a blessing. Paraplegics, you've been warned.

7:26 PM - Track change! The 7:37 PM to New Haven is now leaving from track 108. I'm forced to throw my bags down the stairs to save time. And, up the stairs. And, back down the stairs.

7:37 PM - The train leaves right on time and, in a shocking development, I'm actually on it. And, it's the right one!

9:45 PM - Now in New Haven, That Nick'a Guy and his lovely Nick'a Wife are there to meet me. They pay for pizza and beer while politely ignoring that whole "I've been up since 4 AM" funk I'm giving off. They're good people.

And, I'm dead tired.


Tom said...

You know, when I read part 1 I was hoping this was going to involve a "Tourist has to find his way from JFK to Grand Central to New Haven."

eric said...

I flew into JFK (from Arizona) about a year ago for a user's conference, but with only some really bad mapquest directions to help me. It's like the city could smell my fear.

Anonymous said...

JFK is a goddam toilet of an airport. Places like Chicago and Denver are harder to get through, but JFK should be torn down. Even with all the post 9/11 security, I'm always on the lookout for shanks.

Anonymous said...

Don't leave us hanging, AJC. Is east coast pizza REALLY better than west coast pizza?

Did you and Nick throw a trash can through Sal's window afterwards?

Joe R. said...

Anonymous #2: Aaron was right to not dignify your first question with an answer. He knows.

That Bootleg Guy said...

I don't want to spoil anything with the ultimate pizza verdict, but I will say that the East Coast is NOT helped by their lack of traditional California pizza toppings, like cilantro, avocado, chicken, artichoke hearts and tasty pineapple.

More to come...

sherry said...

There's a place in La Jolla that has a sharp cheddar cheese pizza topped with smoked apple slices.

I don't mind saying it's fabulous. Great blog, btw!

That Bootleg Guy said...

"Sharp cheddar cheese and smoked apple pizza"?!

Girl, I'm THERE!

Greg said...

Yeah, I'm a week behind, but it always amazed me that JFK was allowed to be the first impression of American for about 95% of the people visiting this country from points East. Place is a hell hole. That said, there is a logic behind Grand Central. Look int eh direction you are going and people can get out of your way. They're expert. Look around like you're lost and it's like you're flipping your directional randomly while weaving across 4 lanes of traffic. Don't do that.