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

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.

Anyway, on with the story. On Sunday we once again headed to the NJ Transit station and parked. After giving it some thought I realized that we didn’t have to put a tag or receipt in the windshield. Since we recorded our parking slot number when buying the ticket, they would know we had paid by checking the machine. I volunteered to pay for it this time and just as it was printing my receipt a woman with a pronounced New York accent said, “Oh, are those the new ticket machines?” I told her yes and that I was just waiting for my receipt. “Well, don’t pay,” she said. “You don’t have to pay on weekends.” Thus, Rick and I had ponied-up eight bucks for nothing. I don’t think it would have been too much to ask for them to have a sign or something telling a person that. We rode the train in to Penn Station and, for once, flawlessly found the correct subway to take us to where Rick had seen on the internet was a church that, presumably, did Communion. We wandered the streets for a bit looking for the address but eventually did so in plenty of time for their 11 a.m. service start-up time. They were meeting in what was called a Masonic hall but it looked like a theater. While we waited in the lobby I looked at their “What we believe” statement on the internet and saw a reference to a “special prayer language” the Spirit bestowed on Christians—which suggested a charismatic church. I’ve never been at a tongues-speaking church service and was a bit intimidated but there we were. We sat as far back as possible in this large auditorium where less than 50 people were seated, all of whom were significantly younger than us. Oddly, a tall, lean black woman in full police gear patrolled the aisles a couple of times which didn’t put us at ease. A middle-aged woman (a rare exception) with a delightful British accent then stopped and greeted us warmly asking where we were from. The worship band started up and we sang a few songs, none of which we knew but all of which were good, scriptural, and easy to learn but took a good 20 minutes. There was prayer and then a greeting time during which a number of people welcomed us cordially. Next the preacher—also British and husband to the woman we’d met earlier—got up and recounted various meetings and events of the past week. He went on at length and then invited a woman who had spoken at a women’s event to recap some of her material. He then reminded people of other upcoming events and they took up the offering. When I looked at my watch, it was nearly noon and, as far as I could tell, the service really hadn’t started yet. I was on the aisle and my traveling companions whispered that this could likely go on another hour, hinting that we might want to think about slipping out. Since the preacher had made a passing reference to Communion I decided to hold out a bit longer. The worship band played some more and then the preacher began his message. It was a good one regarding every Christian’s call from God and punctuated with British-isms like his “mum and dad” and him looking under his car’s “bonnet.” As we neared the two-hour mark he wound down but I saw no evidence of Communion. I also was bursting to go to the restroom. He then announced he was going to pray and I signaled my companions and we zipped out the back. After answering nature’s call the Police Woman, who I think was actually building security, informed Becki in a heavy Jamaican accent that the service had two more hours to go. Now I know why there were no people our age there. Their bladders would not allow it.

Next we had lunch at the logical equivalent of a Chipotle restaurant and then headed to the Empire State Building. We went through several roped-in Disneyland-type lines and another airport-style shakedown before getting to the elevators. They took us to the 80th floor ten at a time, with Becki looking paler each floor. We got off at 80 only to discover more rope lines to get to the 86th floor where the observation deck was. Fortunately, the observation area is indoors with windows and exit doors if you want to go out to the observation deck itself. Becki stayed indoors while Glenda, Rick, and I went out to take pictures. The deck has a concrete wall around it about chest high on me topped by a chain-link fence but with large openings forming each link, large enough to stick her new mini-camera through. I’m not much of a photographer but I managed to get some pretty good ones including some where I reached through the opening and pointed it straight at the ground. Becki later told me that as she watched me from inside she was sure I was going to drop the camera and kill someone. But then, she also swore she felt the building sway in the wind but though it was breezy I’m certain that was her imagination running amok a bit.

We came back down and Glenda wanted to be able to purchase something on Broadway. So we went into a tiny hat-and-scarf shop where she and Becki found some scarves they liked. The price, the store clerk said, was $8 each or four for $20. Or, she said, if they bought six the total price would be $18. Let that soak in a minute. Stranger still, the girls ended up buying five for $18 but couldn’t figure out who actually bought the fifth one. At this point we walked to a tour bus pickup point for the “uptown” tour intending to see Central Park. The weather, which up to then had been very nice in New York, turned cloudy, cool and windy. In fact as I zipped-up my Mizzou sweatshirt my In-N-Out Burger cap blew off but a guy 8 rows back on the bus caught it and passed it back up to me. We only spent a few minutes at Central Park and then realized that 6:30, the start of our Broadway show, The Lion King was approaching. Rick expertly navigated us to the subway except when we came out we found ourselves not at Times Square but in Madison Square Garden. Confused but undaunted we made our way to Times Square where we needed to (a) eat and (b) go to the restroom (of course). Rick asked a cop about where to find the latter and was told to go to the Hard Rock Café. We did and decided to eat there while we were at it. We explained to our waitress that we needed to make the 6:30 showing of Lion King and she made sure we did so. The food was good but more than most of us could finish. True to her word she had us on our way with plenty of time to spare. The play was at the Minskoff Theater on 45th Street a half block from Broadway. (Educational note: Of the roughly 30 shows “On Broadway,” as opposed to the less prestigious off-Broadway shows, only 4 are actually on Broadway Street itself. See, now you can fascinate your friends with your sophisticated knowledge of things New York.) The theater was beautiful and we rode three escalators to get to our mezzanine seats. A large window allowed us to look down on Times Square at dusk—a pretty amazing sight. Our seats were up high but gave us a magnificent view. I had heard so many raves about the play that I was fully expecting that it would not live up to the hype. I was mistaken. It was absolutely spectacular from the instant the curtain went up. I’ve never heard an audience applaud a play within the first minute like that before. Even Rick, who dislikes musicals, cheered and clapped and dubbed it “very impressive.” It’s too hard to explain; just suffice it to say that if you ever have a chance to see it you absolutely must do so.

When the play ended we headed confidently to the subway like old New York veterans. So much so that while we waited on the platform an older woman approached me and asked if this train would get her to such-and-such street. I pointed the M on my sweatshirt and said, “See this? It stands for Missouri!” (Or, as Glenda put it, I could have said it stands for “Morons.”) However we told her that we believed she was headed the right way. She and her husband were from Texas. We felt proud that we could help out a poor confused tourist. We arrived at Penn Station, certain that we were home free. We headed past a mob of waiting, milling people to Track 10 just as we had done the night before expecting that (as Becki’s NJ Transit schedule she had picked up in the Edison station indicated) a train would be along at 9:57. Instead, we found ourselves alone on a platform without a clue as to why. That is when the conversation I opened Part 1 of this narrative with took place. Rick had headed off to see what we had done wrong. As time went by it finally dawned on me that those hieroglyphics on those monitors might actually have meant something. I started up the stairs to have a quick look when suddenly all those milling passengers started down, leaving me a salmon swimming upstream. Meanwhile I got a cell phone call to join the others back down at the platform and we took an elevator up. “Track 4!” said Rick, “but I’m not sure we can make it.” We headed down the stairs to the Track 4 platform just in time to see our train leave. The next one, according to Becki, was at 10:14. Back up the stairs we went (note: all this stair stuff was very difficult for Glenda) and suddenly I found the Rosetta Stone to the monitors. First, all these tracks were NJ Transit; none were Amtrak, that was a completely different area. Second, the monitors were telling us where each trains terminus was. For us, that was Trenton. Track 9 had a 10:14 train for Trenton. When we looked at the destination list displaying next to the Track 9 door, sure enough Edison was on it. We headed down, boarded the train (which, ironically, had been sitting there throughout our lonely vigil across the platform at Track 10), and headed “home.” For once we got back to the hotel without mishap, and collapsed in bed exhausted but happy.

On our trip back to the Philadelphia airport we went to the Museum of Art where Rocky (the boxer, not the squirrel) ran up the steps. This, of course took several U-turns and when we finally got there, since it took $10 just to park and none of us was planning on running up them, we were satisfied just to drive by. Before dropping the rental off Rick wanted to top off the tank but we got in the wrong lane and circled the rental car area several times before finally getting gas and dropping it off. We got in the airport in plenty of time only to discover the flight was delayed by a couple of hours. But this flight was much smoother and Becki was far less white-knuckled. After landing and getting our luggage Rick assured us that we needed to cross the street and go down a ramp to get to the off-airport parking shuttle. That turned out not to be the case so we, for one last time, did another U-turn and got to the shuttle.

I tease Rick but in truth he was the bastion of sanity during the entire trip. As I recounted the trip to some co-workers they asked if all these mishaps had led to anger and bickering. Ha, they don’t know us at all. What they led to was hilarity and laughter, time after time. For all the craziness it was a wonderful, memorable trip with some very special people. God bless you both, my dear brother and sister. You are awesome friends!

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