Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 25, 2014
A bite of the Big Apple
Minnie Mouse walked through the crowd, stopping every now and then to greet a wide-eyed youngster. But Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, the Hulk and Zorro moved through the sea of people as if they were in a world of their own. Most in demand for pictures was the "Naked Cowboy." He was wearing only his hat, boots, white briefs and a broad grin as mainly women in their 30s and 40s pressed a cheek to his while a companion snapped a photo. A "statue of liberty" cast a more dignified pose, standing at attention. A short distance away, a trombonist hoping for a handout played not too well, but not too badly, "When the Saints Go Marching In." Through it all, a police officer on horseback wove in and out of people and vehicles, stopping occasionally to write a ticket. His demeanor made it clear that this was all just another day for him.
My ears were assaulted by honking horns, screeching brakes, police and fire sirens, people shouting in different languages, and the whistles of bell captains calling for a taxi.
Yet even as my eyes and ears bombarded this introverted Kansas farm girl's brain with so much stimulation, there was more. My nose alerted me to the small stoves in the street stands cooking falafels, burgers and hot dogs. The fumes from trucks and busses were occasionally mixed with a whiff of sewer gas.
Husband Art, youngest daughter Katie and I were visiting the Big Apple from the Little Apple - our home town. Manhattan, Kan. had been named after her Eastern sister in the mid-nineteenth century because the settlers had been supported by some of the richer citizens of Manhattan, New York. Katie and a group of Kansas State University students were in the city to perform at Carnegie Hall. The few parents who accompanied them were supposedly there to support them, but I'm pretty sure most of us, choir members included, were there mainly to see our city's big sister. And while the students had rehearsals every day of the Saturday-through-Tuesday visit, there was time to sightsee.
We sampled Middle Eastern lamb over rice, hot dogs and ice cream from street vendors, ate at a pizza place, a diner and an Indian restaurant. On Easter morning, Art and I splurged on a $45-per-person breakfast buffet at our hotel.
Our principal mode of transportation was our feet. We walked through Times Square - where all those "characters" previously mentioned had assembled. We strolled through the southern edge of Central Park, where people were playing softball, reading, lounging on the grass and showing off their Easter bonnets and bunny ears.
The Ed Sullivan Theater was only two blocks from our hotel. It is home to CBS's "Late Night with David Letterman" show. We didn't see him, but found ourselves walking next to one of the crew who Dave occasionally has appear on the show. We also ate at Rupert Jee's Hello Deli that is in the same building. Sandwiches are named for Letterman, band leader Paul Shaffer, red-headed announcer Alan Kalter and other folks from the show. I had the "Alan," but Art opted for a Reuben. Katie had a burger and fries.
On Sunday, we rode the subway to the 9/11 Memorial, site of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. The North Pool and the South Pool marked the "footprints" where the Twin Towers stood. The bronze panels on the walls surrounding the pools were inscribed with the names of those killed in the two skyscrapers, along with those killed at the Pentagon, on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania and on the other ill-fated flights plus the six people who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Sylvia San Pio Resta and nine other pregnant women had "and unborn child" inscribed after their names. White roses had been placed on the names of those who would have had birthdays on the day we visited - April 20. The running water from the pools formed the largest man-made waterfalls in the U.S. It blocked out the noise of the city, creating a tranquil spot that honored those who died.
We also took a subway to the Staten Island Ferry and hopped aboard the free ferry for a 30-minute ride in New York Harbor past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The last time I was in New York was 30 years ago, when Lady Liberty was surrounded by scaffolding for cleaning and repairs. But this time she stood proudly alone on a glorious spring day - a day perfect for getting pictures of the statue and the city's skyline.
On our last night, we set aside our sight-seeing clothes in favor of something a bit more formal and walked the two blocks to Carnegie Hall. Katie and her fellow K-State choir members made us proud, acting as mentors for the students from five high schools.
With a few hours to spare before our flight on Tuesday, we walked Rockefeller Center to peruse the over-sized "eggs." Each was about a yard tall and had been decorated by artists and designers. They had then been hidden around NYC as part of "The Faberge Big Egg Hunt." With Easter having passed, those found and those that had eluded detection were gathered just outside the NBC network headquarters where they will be displayed until later this month. And as a bonus, on the way over we saw a street scene being videoed, perhaps for a TV show or commercial or some such.
Katie probably expressed our feelings best in a Wednesday text to Art: "I want to be back in NYC SOOOO much!!"
Certainly the trip had given us only a small taste of the Big Apple. But at least we took a little bite out of it - enough to create some special memories.
"Lady Liberty" is everywhere! left: Central Park; center: one of the Faberge eggs; right: the real deal!
Left: Art and I in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater; center: Rupert Jee in his Hello Deli; right: Katie with fellow choir member/boyfriend Matt in their Carnegie Hall attire.