Unlike Santiago, where we spent a lot of time lolling around contemplating the end of the Big Trip and Life as We Know It, our final few days in NY have so far been so intense we haven’t given a moments thought to anything else; we’ve just been focused on the Now (very mindful, even if it means birthday wishes to Granny almost got forgotten..).
Mostly this is because of the prevailing weather, which the TV in the taxi on Saturday forecast as this:
It has been, basically, absolutely scorchio since our arrival, and I do slightly forgive the boys for moaning, as they climbed the steep wonky steps of our roasting Airbnb Brooklyn brownstone, for crying, “Why can’t we be in a hotel?!”
Thankfully the place has an air conditioning unit in the master bedroom, which meant that for the rest of Saturday, after travelling for 24 hours, 3 members of the family lay gasping on the bed…
… while Jonathan, in a fit of stir-craziness, prowled the streets for local food, like watermelon.
On Sunday, for some reason, I let him persuade us out of the aforementioned aircon room, and we took the metro down to Coney Island. It was a long, expensive and swelteringly hot day, including:
A) stomach churning roller coaster rides at Luna Park, most of which involved being upside down at some point. The boys loved them:
… Jonathan, less so.
(At least at this point I could, as Chief Financial Officer for the Big Trip, pull rank and avoid them on budgetary grounds, but really because I could not bear to spend a single second more than necessary in the sun.)
B) a swim in the sea. The beach was a hilarious kaleidoscope of coloured umbrellas as far as the eye could see, but we managed to snag a postcard-sized piece of beach.
(Reminiscent of the famous Weegee photo of Coney Island from the 1940’s – JR) The sand was too hot to walk on in bare feet and as Jam didn’t want hot sand on his sweaty feet I had to carry him down there, where we proceeded to spend twenty minutes arguing about who had brought his swimming trunks (it was Jonathan). However, once everyone finally got in the marginally-cooler-than-tepid sea, there was a brief time when we were all refreshed.
Only brief, mind you; by the time we’d dressed and staggered back to the boardwalk we were all melting again.
C) Chilli dogs (sans chilli for the kids) for lunch, with lots of that green relish that the boys thought looked like sick. At least no one tried an impromptu hot dog eating record breaking attempt (the record for men stands at around 74):
D) More rides (while I tried to find patches of shade to melt in).
This ride bonanza was assisted by someone giving us their day pass as they left (whoop).
E) Slushies, in bottles with free refills. This was not as good as it seemed, as if you drank them too fast you got a brain freeze, but left them a moment too long (ie to go on a ride) the ice and the foul-coloured chemicals that constituted ‘flavouring’ separated and defeated the object. Nevertheless the boys drank 3 flasks each (any surprise why they struggled to sleep?!)
F) The Great Shoe Incident. For one of our final rides, J wanted us all (ie inc me) to go on a ‘gentle’ flume ride. It’d be refreshing he said. Jam was balking at it, as despite his earlier moans about being crusty with sand and salt water, he didn’t want to get wet again. Still, in the spirit of creating happy family memories, he was frogmarched on with the rest of us.
Needless to say, we all got very wet, which did not go down v well. Unfortunately on exiting the ride, one of Jam’s wet sandals (replacing the green ones) flicked off his foot and down into the workings of the ride. We all gasped at one another, before he started bawling “I knew I shouldn’t have gone on this!” and I was left trying to persuade the ride workers to get it (frustratingly we could see the bloody shoe, alongside several other pieces of lost footwear). Unfortunately they refused to leave their designated stations, so, the floor being too hot to stand on, I had to carry Jam back up to the boardwalk where we’d seen a beach shop.
Twenty minutes later (and 100 dollars lighter (sun cream and a cap etc also needed)), we said goodbye to the remaining bereaved sandal (although not in the shop as ‘they only recycle’ so I was sent outside to find a bin.)
Things continued to get worse for Jam when he was deemed too short for one of the rides he’d been on earlier in the day (he’d probably shrunk in the heat); and then shortly after this photo was taken on the metro home…
… he hit his cheek doing some pole swinging and that, frankly, was that.
I felt the same when later yesterday evening Jonathan killed a massive cockroach running across the living room floor.
The urban wildlife count increased this morning when I noticed a packet of crisps on the kitchen worktop moving and rustling of its own accord. Jonathan was sitting next to me and the boys were in bed. I bravely sent J to investigate and the crisps had been nibbled into by a mouse.
The Airbnb hosts are apologetic. I just dread to think what’s next.
Anyway, after that minor excitement we took the (airconned) metro into Manhattan.
I spent six hours looking at documents about my namesake in the lovely NY Public Library.
[J to insert pics and info of what he did with the boys. Can’t have been anywhere as near exciting as my day!]:
J: First a walk by the Empire State Building which, along with the Statue of Liberty, the boys had been talking about visiting for weeks. Luckily they displayed no interest in going to the top, as this would have cost $100 for the three of us. In a tussle between spending 100 bucks on the ESB or on rides at Coney Island, there is no doubt which one would win.
Down 5th Avenue, next stop the Flatiron. This attracted even less interest than the Empire State, partly because they’d spotted some people walking by laden with Lego bags, so they knew a Lego shop was in the vicinity. (Jam confirmed this morning by checking on Google Maps.)
At this point I relented and we caught the Metro down to the Staten Island ferry, which astonishingly is FREE, and sails right by the Statue of Liberty (thereby saving another $100 or so).
In the terminal the boys glanced out of the window, glimpsed the Statue of Liberty in the distance and announced there was no need to go on the ferry as they’d seen it now.
I told them we were going anyway, so they struck various poses whilst we waited for the ferry to come in. We duly sailed right by, and the boys reluctantly popped outside into the admittedly blinding sunlight to have a quick look.
On the way back we had a great view of Lower Manhattan, with the storm clouds starting to build.
Next stop was the site of the Twin Towers. I was a bit worried about this one – it’s a tough subject for the boys to take in, but in fact it provoked some very good discussion. The boys were interested in how and why people became suicide bombers, why they chose the twin towers, how many there were and so on. The site of each tower is marked by a sunken water trough outlining the foundations, with a deep, apparently bottomless hole in the middle, into which the water flows.
Around the rim of the whole edifice, the names of those who died have been cut into the metal. It’s quietly moving.
Whilst the immediate site of 9/11 is respectful and dignified, the developments that have taken place since then are brash, hyper commercial and emotionally sterile.
A giant tower dominates the site – effectively the replacement for the twin towers. Nearby is a building called the Oculus that gives access to an enormous underground mall, full of expensive boutiques.
It looks sort of impressive, but it feels dirty – dedicated to the extraction of money from the wealthy. You get the feeling that once the dust had settled from 9/11 the developers rubbed their hands with glee at the massive redevelopment opportunity.
By now the clouds were really building.
We paid a brief visit to Central Park, and were all amazed to find ourselves under a thick green canopy of leaves – the first time since New Zealand. Something so simple made wondrous by our long time in the desert and desert cities.
Whilst there we saw a demonstration (something to do with Puerto Rico, but all the chants were in Spanish), and it was a timely reminder of just how diverse New York is. Even more than London, NY feels incredibly multi-racial and multi-cultural. And in the current climate, the very existence of such a vibrant, diverse city feels like a rebuke to Trump.
From Central Park we headed for our RV with Kate…
K: By the time they swung by to pick me up at 5.30ish, the skies were dark grey and it was thundering like mad. My phone kept vibrating with flash flood alerts. J had pronounced that morning that he couldn’t be bothered to bring the boys’ coats, they just have to get wet. Actually, as the torrential rain started, their complaints were more along the lines of ‘Why are we here at all? We’re going to get struck by lightning! I hate my life’.
Anyway, ignoring all of that we waited for the worst of the first deluge to pass,
put on our hats (embarrassingly the only one I had was my emergency sun hat from Macchu Picchu which made me look like Crocodile Dundee) and ran to a Chinese restaurant for Kung Phao Chicken, rice and cucumber (with plain rice on the side for Jam, which he supplemented with pellets from a Pez dispenser “for a little bit of flavour”).
And then we raced back out in the rain (the Empire State Building covered with cloud)…
… and past our local centre for the homeless (the dark building centre left) all the way home …