Anthrocide is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

Archive for October, 2010

Four ‘Seeds in the Big Apple (Part 3)

Before I continue my narrative, a few words about New York City drivers. First there is the rumor that they drive less with turn signals than with their horns. This is true. Most vehicles in downtown (or even uptown—there is a distinction) Manhattan are taxis. They honk their horns frequently for two basic reasons which I observed first hand. The first reason is illustrated by the following. Our tour bus was at a stoplight on a 4-lane one-way street. In the lane beside us was a row of taxicabs. Exactly one nanosecond after the light turned green, the cab that was fourth in line honked for the line to get moving. I have no explanation for that behavior except that it is New York. To describe the second reason for honking horns I must provide what I observed to be the philosophy of driving in Manhattan, which is: If I am directly beside you in my lane and wish to be in front of you in your lane, I simply go there. It is your problem whether there is room for me to do so or whether you run into me or not. With that said I provide the next illustration. Again, our tour bus was at a stoplight on a 4-lane one-way street. At the instant the light turned green, a cab in the second lane from the left turned left in front of the cab in the first lane. Not to be outdone, a cab in the far right lane also then turned left across in front of all the other lanes, giving a little thank-you wave as he did so. In return there was a cacophony of honking horns and, I would have to admit, justifiably so. Cars, cabs, and buses zip and slither in front of each other willy-nilly in a random pattern of turns and lane changes. Do accidents occur? Certainly. In fact, our tour bus bumped into the back of an SUV at one point, to the surprise of no one. What was a tad surprising was that a cop who happened to be near by took a quick look at the situation, told the SUV the damage was insignificant, and then told both SUV and bus to move on. Read more

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Four ‘Seeds in the Big Apple (Part 2)

On Saturday we headed to New Jersey which would be our home base for our excursions in NYC. Although it was too early for check-in at the hotel in Edison, New Jersey, we wanted to go there first to sort of get our bearings and take whatever transportation to NYC was nearby. The hotel was a Comfort Inn that we could see on the left side as we drove down the multi-lane street past it but since the street had a tall cement divider and allowed no left or U-turns we could not get there. Matilda would tell us to turn right now and again but that made little sense (rather like Columbus sailing west to get to the east). After a mile or two we took her advice at a street with a sign pointing right that read “All Turns.” What one did was turn right and immediately swing around an island to the left, went over an overpass and then navigate onto the desired road going the desired direction. This did not bode well for us finding our way around.

Rick had heard somewhere that one could take a subway into New York City from nearby locations in New Jersey but if that is true we never found it. One thing we were sure of is that we did not want to drive in New York. Now that we’ve been there that was truly one of the most intelligent decisions of the whole trip. The hotel clerk told Rick he could go two stoplights down, turn right and take a commuter train into NYC (this was on Saturday). Despite Matilda’s protests Rick followed the clerk’s directions and we wandered around in a residential area for a while before realizing that he should have said three stoplights down. Anyway we parked at the New Jersey Transit station in a numbered place. A sign saying “Pay for Parking” pointed to a machine that had Rick put in our space number and $4. The question was, did we need to put a receipt or something in our car window since we were warned that unpaid parkers would be towed? Inside the station the person running the little snack kiosk, when Rick asked that question, curtly replied that she had no answers. Period. We shrugged and set about buying tickets for the trip into NYC. Penn Station, New York City, was the final stop, so we had the right train. But unlike some low-cost subway ride, the fare was $12.50. Each. One-way. If you do the math that means $50 per couple round trip. Oh well, this was a once in a lifetime event, so we bought the tickets. A train arrived promptly and the ride in was quite comfortable. In about 50 minutes we arrived at Penn Station beneath the streets of New York City. Read more


Four ‘Seeds in the Big Apple (Part 1)

“I don’t like it that there’s nobody else down here.” In a city of over 8,000,000 people, for there to be just the four of us Missouri hayseeds alone on an underground commuter train platform—which supposedly in a few minutes would have a train bound for New Jersey—I agreed with Glenda. I didn’t like it either. Apparently we were, once again, lost beneath Manhattan (sounds like a movie title, huh?).

But that was near the end of our journey. Let me go back to the beginning. For their 35th wedding anniversary, Rick (Becki’s brother) and Glenda decided to go to Philadelphia and New York City and invited Becki and I along. The trip started well as we got to the St. Louis airport in plenty of time to go through the madness of TSA security screening. Just a quick side note: I not only understand that people need to be screened before they fly, I actually endorse it. I feel much more comfortable knowing that at least some effort has been made to avoid my flight being involved in some terrorist activity. However, I imagine that for every person who has even a remote possibility of doing something dastardly, there are probably 10 million who simply want to travel to their destination safely and peacefully. Hence, I believe that airports should do everything they can to make the whole necessary security screening thing as hassle-free as possible. St. Louis airport apparently missed the memo. It’s bad enough that one has to practically undress (belts, shoes, jackets, hats, etc.) but in St. Louis, once you’re through, there is not even the convenience of a set of seats to sit down and re-collect oneself. So I found myself groveling on the open floor trying to get my shoes back on. I could go on but I’ll let that suffice.

Becki doesn’t like heights. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing can come of the story I am going to relate. When we first met 40+ years ago heights were something she neither relished nor avoided. I am told that as most people reach their mid-30s they begin to experience trepidation about heights and that is certainly true of me. Where I used to casually walk around on rooftops helping my dad install TV antennas years ago, nowadays putting the Christmas lights along the eaves each year finds me inching along on my belly trying to install them by Braille so I won’t have to look over the edge. But Becki’s dislike of heights has begun to approach the phobia stage and it includes everything from standing on a ladder to flying in an airplane. That said, she deserves a medal for being such an awesome little trooper throughout the trip. Since I have arachnophobia myself I truly appreciate her bravery.

The flight was packed and, as happens so often, a small man (shorter than me, even, I think) was trying to put a huge carry-on that apparently contained an anvil and three bowling balls into a too-small space in the overhead bin above Becki’s head. He got overbalanced and several passengers had to catch him in the aisle. Mercifully he managed to get the bag stowed on the third try without conking Becki on the head. The flight started fine with the pilot bragging about the beautiful clear evening, but the weather reports we had seen said it was raining in Philadelphia. Halfway through the flight we reached the bad weather and the plane turned into a roller coaster, much to Becki’s dismay. The fingernail prints in my arm are starting to recede now, so I think I’ll be okay.

The hotel in Philly was fine and we started out early the next morning in a drizzle on the Philadelphia phase of our adventure. We ate at a Denny’s and were reminded why we no longer have one in Jeff. Our waitress went out of her way to ignore us throughout the meal but the food was okay so off we went. We first visited the Liberty Bell which had a team of some half-dozen security screeners inspecting bags and having us open our jackets. I had seen the bell once before many years ago but the others hadn’t and the girls both said they had expected it to be larger. To which I had to add, “Not quite what it’s cracked-up to be, eh?” Next we took a tour of Independence Hall by a middle-aged male tour guide with a long pony tail who spoke loudly enough to be heard in Pittsburgh. Since I like history I found it quite interesting and can relate to how the colonists resented being taxed when they had no representation in Parliament. Of course, as one wag has put it, if they thought taxation without representation was bad, they should see how it is with it!

For lunch we, of course, had to eat an authentic Philly cheese steak sandwich. After about a ten-block walk we found a cheese steak place with free fries and ate there. In so doing Glenda was able to find (and have preserved pictorially on Facebook) the “perfect French fry.” I’m not totally clear on what qualifies a fry as perfect but they were quite good. When we finished, Rick and I walked back to where the car was parked so we could pick up the girls. On our way we spotted three people, two guys and one obviously a girl, walking down the street in Spiderman costumes. And, no, I have no explanation.

One of the main reasons for the trip was that the Sight and Sound Theater in Strasburg, PA (this is the original; the one in Branson came along later) was doing a play based on the life of Joseph. No, not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, although I like it very much, this was an original musical. We needed to be at the theater by 6:30 p.m. and would be staying in King of Prussia, PA (next to Valley Forge). We shopped (if you can call what I do shopping) at a huge mall there and the only one to buy anything was Rick (chef items). At 5 p.m. we needed to get dinner so we could head to Strasburg. Glenda spotted a fondue restaurant called The Melting Pot and thought it would be fun. Though none of us had eaten at a fondue restaurant, we all agreed and went in. (Note: When the four of us are together, whenever anyone can come up with an idea of what to do next it is immediately considered a good idea insofar as it is better than having no idea which is true of the other three.) Mind you, we’re all wearing jeans, and Rick and I are in baseball caps. Our first clue was when the hostess looked surprised and asked cautiously if we had reservations. Her next question was, “Where are you from?” After we told her another woman, presumably her boss, said sort of under her breath, “Um, let’s seat them at table 41.” We were led to a back area and handed menus. The first item was: Four Course Fondue for Two – $86.00. After we gulped, a lovely, friendly, helpful young waitress came and said, “So I hear you’re from Missouri.” Apparently the Hayseed Alert had already circulated throughout the establishment. We admitted that we had never eaten at a fondue restaurant before. “Have you eaten at a hibachi restaurant?” she asked. For some reason an image of those tiny Japanese charcoal grills came into my mind and Rick and I both said, “No.” Then, in classic hillbilly-hick style I said, “We do have a Japanese Steakhouse, though.” The waitress, sweet as she was, said nothing but just shook her head slightly and suppressed a grin. (Note: Ironically, we had eaten at the new Japanese steakhouse for lunch the day we left, and the menu had referred to the items we had ordered that day cooked in front of us as “from the hibachi grill.”) We told her we only had maybe 45 minutes before we had to get going so she went on to explain how things worked. Normally one orders not only cheese fondue but steak, shrimp, chicken or other items that are cooked at the table to accompany it. But in the interests of time, she suggested two cheese fondues with various breads, veggies, and even apples to dip into it. One was spinach and artichoke in Swiss and the other was a Mexican cheddar. She suggested also salads for us. She prepared the fondues at our table and we dug-in. It was delightful but when she came back by to see how we were doing Rick asked what about our salads. She politely notified us that they come afterward and somewhere back in the kitchen another Nerd-alert siren probably went off. The salads were great (I had no idea how good glazed pine nuts were) and she asked if we’d like chocolate-peanut-butter fondue for dessert. Glenda’s a chocoholic so it took no effort at all to decide we’d go for it; our waitress assured us she could get us on our way quickly. It really was excellent, with strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, marshmallows, brownies, and mini-krispy-treats to dip with. Though our waitress had done her best to help us feel at ease, I can’t help but wonder how hard everyone laughed when we left.

We had taken our GPS with us who, having an Australian female voice we have dubbed Matilda, proved pretty valuable at various times. For whatever reason, she took us a rather circuitous route to the theater. When we were less than a mile from it we were still out in the middle of Amish farm country with no lights to be seen. Then suddenly, there was the theater and a long line of traffic. As is true of Noah at Branson, the theater and the play were spectacular. Rick had done an excellent job getting us tickets in an ideal location. I recall that Noah took considerably more liberties with the story than I was completely comfortable with (although I enjoyed it). They had a disclaimer at the beginning of Joseph that some of it was fictionalized but I actually thought the disclaimer unnecessary; it followed the Biblical narrative quite closely. Pleased with how well the trip had gone so far, we headed back to the hotel for a night’s sleep before our next adventure: New York City.