In the bright sun of a new day I find myself walking from my car to Hicksville station to catch the next train west. Even with sunglasses on I’m getting blinded by the light coming right at my eyes. I found a legal parking space easily this time but I literally have 3 minutes to get my ticket from the machine, grab a coffee and run up the escalator to get the train I hear pulling in as I approach the station building.
But somehow I manage to accomplish all and find a window seat, I see the clouds are rolling in and it’s supposed to rain today and tomorrow too, I feel bad for my relatives from England, Mark and Sharon had only one nice day yesterday when I wasn’t with them, on their own to explore the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Central Park. They asked me the other day (see The British Invasion story) to come in today to help them navigate around midtown, they want to see Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the Plaza. I also thought St Patricks Cathedral would be nice but England is loaded with those so maybe not. The thing is their hotel on 44Th St is close to all of these places so they don’t really need me, they just want to share my company and I’m flattered by that. It would have been a boring vacation if they didn’t come to New York, I actually took this week off to be available to do whatever I could for them and to get my parents in to see them before they go back. I get on and again find myself in packed rush hour trains but this time I get a seat and this is an express train so only two stops before Penn Station is just what I need.
I get out at the station and immediately head for Duane Reed to get a gift bag for the knit cap and tweed hat I bought then last night at Sears, these are from the hipster section in the young men’s and girls dept’s and are “Right out of the fridge”- that’s Village talk for cool for all you squares out there. I walk down to 44TH St in the fading sunlight hoping for no rain today. I pass by Macy’s Herald Square, they are having a show today, flowers decorate the famous windows outside and I look through the door to see thousands of flowers decorating the store which is not open yet. I know they want to see Macy’s and this will be perfect! I already feel great about today, I feel like one of those people that are contacted by the Travel Channel when Anthony Bourdain needs to be shown around somewhere for his No Reservation’s series on cable TV. I feel like I’m a “contact” even though it’s my first time doing this I’m growing more confident about my ability to do this for a living and I’m starting to wonder if this is my true calling. I arrive at 9:00 AM and go inside to have the concierge phone up to Mark and Sharon’s to tell them I’m here. They come down after a while smiling and ready but first I present them with their gifts which are appreciated and the first thing they want to do is go to Central Park because they didn’t make it there yesterday so we pile into a cab and off we go to the top of 6TH Ave. During the ride they tell me that I would have been proud of them, they made their way by subway all the way to Battery Park and took the boat to Lady Liberty and Ellis Island and navigated themselves to Ground Zero and Chinatown and made it back by subway without getting lost or missing a stop. We are dropped off at the base of the park and walk towards the entrance where the horse drawn carriages park. Which is good because they want to have a carriage ride around Central Park so I say OK I’ll find a shop or a coffee while your gone but they insist that I come too! I tell them it’s a couples thing but Mark says that they’re not going to make out in the back of the carriage and I must come too. The only problem is…there isn’t a horse in sight and it’s ten o’clock, so are we in the right place? maybe they don’t start up till noon because of some law we don’t know about. I can’t answer the speculations but just then I see a groundskeeper down below so I dash down the stairs into the park itself and ask when the carriages come, the man looks at his watch and says “soon, very soon .” So I run back up to my friends and tell them it’s OK we’ll be riding shortly and just then Mark say “Here we go then” and I turn around to see them across the traffic circle cuing up and taking passengers already. We cross the street and miss the first coach and wait just a minute to get the second one and then we are off on a pleasant ride around the park, stopping at key points for the horse to drink water and to take pictures of certain views that our driver points out to us along the route. It’s a nice ride I recommend to anyone visiting New York and not expensive at all, about $34 plus tip for a thirty minute ride. We stop where we started from and the driver takes our picture in the carriage together and then gives Sharon a carrot to feed to the horse who swallows it whole and we pet the horse and move off to find a loo for Sharon and myself. We go down the stairs of the Apple store right across from The Plaza Hotel and use the bathrooms, the store is amazingly arrayed with all manner of IPOD products and computers. People are running about like ants in a nest chattering like monkeys about the products and God only knows. It’s making me wish for fresh air however so I take them down the street to a hot/cold buffet deli and grocery store for some coffee and muffins. They are amazed to see all the different kinds of food here, deli sandwiches, burgers, wraps, burritos all made to order and the hot table with Chinese, Italian, American, Soup, Salad, Chilli’s and more than I can remember now. There is nothing like this in England they tell me and I suggest they should open one and start a new craze, but we get our coffee and sit down at a table in front of the store to talk about all the family history some more. This is real nice time for me but unfortunately they are asking me questions I cannot answer such as the time-line of the passing of several relatives that I miss, I guess my memory for much is shot, too many things running round my head for too long or maybe it’s just that I block out the unhappy memories. But I find Sharon’s talk of her medium like experiences fascinating as she has a connection with the other side like my mother but way stronger, it’s the same intuition that has saved me from a few near accidents when the little voice tells me to keep away from that car next to me and I back off just in time to not be hit by a wreck-less driver who’s cut me off.
We leave now and it’s incredible how the weather changes in New York so rapidly, one moment we are warm and opening coats and the next a damp breeze blows and reminds us that April is a wet and muddy month. We walk down from Central Park area to Herald Square so they can see the city, it’s people and places, stopping to look at huge diamonds in a store window, taking some video or pictures and generally sharing tales and laughs over this and that. The streets are alive, tourists and stressed out workers, students and lovers all moving toward something unknown by you until you see what they are after. You hear family disputes one minute then raucous laughter the next depending on where you look and listen, always changing the city reminds us of how big it’s pull is for the people of the world and we finally arrive at Macy’s Herald Square to see the flower show. It’s a mob scene that would make old Mr. Macy happy, we look at the window display and see the fictitious flight of a huge pink flamingo being depicted going to various countries, some window panels show only his long legs and others part of his body in flight and his huge head is shown in yet another. You have to go to the Macy’s web site to see it for yourself it’s unbelievable! We go inside and it’s a zoo, people crowd every inch of space and it’s just beautiful, there are pink flowering plants that have been grown into flamingo topiary surrounded by all manner of flowering trees, plants and bulbs. There are over 1 million bulbs and 30,000 plants and trees. We walk through dazed crowds to get to the old wooden escalators to go down for a loo stop again, after we men talk over the mystery of handbags and shoes while Sharon shops till she’s had enough and slowly make our way back to the exit. They are hungry for a little lunch and so am I, last night I took the time to research a few meal suggestions for their dinner tonight so I pull out a short list and suggest maybe Brazilian, Tapas, and Greek. But they love curry so I ask if they like Thai and bingo! the magic word so it’s off to find Thai, only problem is I don’t have any written down, so as we move back up towards restaurant row I suddenly duck into a shop or two and come back almost before they realize I’m gone, I ask store employees for a good Thai place and finally I hit on a guy who knows. We have to head over to 46Th between 8Th & 9TH Ave so we march along not caring for the time just enjoying the easy camaraderie of the three musketeers we have become.