Returning to Times Square from Little Italy caused a bit of turmoil. Actually, the day caused quite a bit of emotional riptides for me. I can’t stand crowds and I seemed to find them everywhere on this afternoon/evening. Honestly, I have an intense fear of crowds. Every person I travel with is warned of this particular trait of mine and, thankfully, the people I travel with are always my bestest friends in the world. In Chicago, it was Kay protecting me from the masses. In New York, it was firstly Jay (who was my hero once again protecting me from insane people that seem attracted to me like moths on flame) and then Loren (whom I had never ever met but was the best wall ever when I flipped out at the Ferry).
The first bad thing was Chinatown. Now, seeing Chinatown was on my list of things to do. I’ve been to Chinatown in San Fran and while it was an experience, it wasn’t something I hated.
I HATED New York’s Chinatown. With a burning fiery, passion. I hated the smell, the people, the language barrier, the people screaming at me in some foreign language to try and get me to buy ginseng and gingerroot. It was terrifying. And a terrible start to an afternoon after having such an amazing time in Little Italy. To help ease the stress (or just because of Lily & Dash) we made a stop at the Strand bookstore.
The place is huge and after a quick tour of the classics area where Dickens was the search of the evening (found a first edition for around $300 if anyone is interested I’d imagine it’s still there). Then I turned a corner, got distracted for all of two seconds and then was promptly lost.
I decided to hit the rare book room which, sadly, was closed. But, being the adventurous sort I wasn’t about to let some pesky store hours dissuade me on my one trip to NY. So…off on the elevator I went up to the rare floor and smiled and spoke some southern niceties so the unhappy little doorman would let me in. Thankfully, it worked and I was able to peruse the area until the last patron (whose checkout total exceeded $4,000) was being rung up. Then lights were turned off and we were promptly escorted down the elevator back to the realm of normal people.
The stress of the day required a few drinks and the hotel bar called. Actually, it called for another, more important reason as well: the rooftop bar was one of the most famous locations to view the tribute lights. As it was to be the last night the tribute lights were viewable, it was definitely a must do on my weekend list. A hefty price tag became worth the cost when we were able to stand at the edge of the balcony (hardly anyone was there at the time) with a somber view of the lights. From so high up, the lights were a striking blue and it was almost impossible to tell there were two lights. They started out low as two and then joined as one as they stretched into the night sky. Fog and clouds had rolled in, softening the lights to an almost surreal glow. The effect took my breath away.
Next up was a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. The idea behind the trip was to see the lights but that sadly didn’t pan out. The view from the ferry wasn’t nearly as good as the one from the hotel. I did get a chance to see Lady Liberty all lit up, though, so that was nice. As I mentioned, though, the crowds at the ferry terminals set me off again and I wasn’t even sure I would make it onto the ferry. Luckily, once onboard, I was able to find a quiet little spot in a corner to feel safe and secure away from all the people. About the time I’d calmed down, though, it was time to disembark and do the standing in line, crowd pushing thing all over again.
I know I’m giving more of a play by play of my trip rather than any great emotional insight but there was something that happened near the end of our ferry trip that made everything really hit home. I’m not sure my traveling companions understood or even really noticed the way my stomach clenched and I gripped the railing or the way my breath caught in my throat. It was instant and passed soon enough but the lingering effects remained long after as I tried to head back to the hotel through the night.
Near us, a small boy was riding the ferry with his family. It was pretty late but I’d seen lots of children on the ferry so I really didn’t give it much attention. Until the noises started. Loud, booming, noises that broke through the quiet night and across the moonless sky as we cut through the still water. Everyone near us paused, stopping in confusion and…admittedly, fear. But it was the little boy who ran to the railing and asked in this deafening but completely calm voice: “Is it a bomb?”
The silence that followed was heartbreaking because the honest truth was: no one knew. From where we were, we were so disconnected from the world that anything could (and possibly was) happening just a few miles away. The looks on the faces around were clear: his one comment had sent us all into a tailspin of “what if it was happening again?” Terrifying, heartbreaking, a constant reminder of the world in which we now live. A world in which even the youngest child’s first thought is of bombs and devastation. Slowly, the word filtered through from the other side of the boat that it was fireworks…a celebration. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at fireworks without thinking of that singular moment again in my life.