During the last 35 of the 65 years Jean and I were married, we traveled to NYC several times. Four times were due to a Management Course I took from the American Management Association over a two year period (Jean went twice). At least four other times on a vacation. One to visit Dr. Bob Cook during his last days of Leukemia. And, two more for treatment for our daughter Martha‘s cancer.
The latter ones are what I want to discuss here. Not the cancer treatment, but rather, the “sightseeing” part of both trips.
Martha was diagnosed with cancer in the Spring of 1998.
Jean and I had been planning a vacation trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island that summer. Bangor and Bar Harbor, Maine were the farthest northeast we had been before. Except that one time, we journeyed to Montreal - merely driving around, then back west to Toronto.
Martha’s bad news, of course, stopped those plans permanently.
After her diagnosis, she got treatments from the Cleveland Clinic; the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis Cancer Clinic; as well as local Springfield Oncologists, and the Ohio State University Hospital clinic.
When there was a question about the efficacy of these clinics for Martha’s cancer, the doctor at Indianapolis suggested she try to get in to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute in New York City.
With that doctor’s help, she got an appointment at the Institute.
How to go? And, whom to go?
Since it was summer time, Jodi was out of school; I was retired; Rick hadn’t taken his vacation yet; and Kelly was in the very early days of her first pregnancy.
“Let’s all six of us go!”, I said.
We rented a large van here in Springfield, and we all took off for NYC!
We stopped at a restaurant east of Columbus for lunch, then on east into Pennsylvania, heading northeast to get to the Holland Tunnel into NYC; turned north to Midtown; parked in a hotel garage, and registered there. Can’t remember the name of the Hotel, but the garage cost us $35.00. This was about 10 years ago. Think what that cost would be today!
The room had two double beds, and we arranged for two cots, so we all slept in the same room.
One of the fascinating things was to look out our Hotel room window into the “constantly busy” Manhattan landscape.
The next morning, we went to the Hotel’s Restaurant for breakfast. Martha’s appointment at Sloan Kettering was late morning. Someone took a picture of us, all crowded into the same booth.
The visit to the Clinic was helpful, but not the most encouraging.
Our first sightseeing jaunt was to go down to the Subway. We didn’t know where we were going, but took a train that went to Times Square. That seemed natural.
As expected, I had my city map and camera handy, until a middle-aged lady on the Subway sidled over near me, and quietly said, “Get rid of your map and camera. Don’t look like tourists!” I looked around quickly to see if anyone was “eyeing” us, but everyone was looking the other way.
When we got off the train, we walked up the steps, and THERE WE WERE, in Times Square. Jean and I had been there a couple times to Broadway plays such as “The Magic Show” with Doug Henning, and “Irene” with Eleanor Powell. (Several years before that, a few blocks east, she and I had seen the classic movie “Gone With The Wind” at the Radio City Music Hall, including “The Rockettes” on stage.)
But, our past experiences in Times Square were nothing compared with this time, along with four others of our family.
It seems to me that fairly quickly, we got connected with a “double-decker” tour bus, taking a two hour ride south to Battery Park, then back north through Chinatown, the Lower East Side, The Bowery, Greenwich Village, Tribeca, then farther north back to Times Square. The four of them were able to get seats on the top of the bus, but Grandma (Jean) wasn’t able to climb the stairs, so she and I got a window seat down below. Very good view.
Double Decker Bus
The next day, we somehow ended up at Macy’s Department Store, on the corner of 5th avenue and 34th Street. Though Rick and I toured some of that store, we left the shopping to the women. They had a special place for “husbands of shoppers” to wait. I haven’t the sightest memory of what floor it was on.
Macy’s at Christmas
Martha was intent on buying her first “outfit” for her upcoming new granddaughter, as was Jean, Kelly and Jodi.
Though it’s difficult to picture from the sidewalk, The Empire State Building was just across the street from Macy’s - on the same corner. Though the door we exited from at Macy’s was nearly a block from the entrance to it.
We had been doing so much looking and shopping that we didn’t pay enough attention to meal time. Fortunately, there was a restaurant on the ground floor of “Empire”, so we had our meal, to the delight of all of us.
Empire State Building
Then, we entered the large doors on 5th Avenue that would take us to the elevator(s) going to the top of the Empire State Building. Not having been there before, we didn’t know what to expect, so we just “followed the crowd”. A large one at that.
That finally took us to one of the elevators that we assumed would take us to “the top”. Not so! Only to about the 80th floor. It took two different elevators to take us to the 102nd floor Observation Deck, nearly a quarter mile above 5th Avenue.
Needless to say, the view was breathtaking.
We walked around to all 4 sides of the building, looking over the city and surrounding areas. The protective barriers on all sides forbade any grandstanding person to leave the building. One of the buildings we saw that interested me, was the Chrysler Building. The reason: for years when I saw that “lit up” building, I somehow thought it was the Empire State Building. Not so!
About a year later, it seems like, Martha, Rick, Jean and I - just the 4 of us - went back to NYC and to Sloan Kettering.
The sight seeing we did then, I remember, differed from a year earlier, in that we took a Ferry from about 19th Street, or thereabouts on the Hudson River, went south and then east around Battery Park, north of Ellis Island, as well as the Statue of Liberty, and then toured Manhattan from the East River all the way north to the junction of the East River and the Hudson River - just north of 208th Street, and around Inwood Hill Park. We then took the Hudson south to our pier of departure.
An interesting thing happened on the Ferry. I had bought a white Tommy Hilfiger jacket in Manhattan, thinking that the Ferry ride might be a little cool. When we returned to the Hotel, I discovered that I had left the jacket on the boat. It was too expensive to lose, so we somehow found out the telephone number of the Tour, called them, told them about the jacket, and it so happened - as we say - someone had JUST taken it off the boat and had it in the office.
Rick and I took a Taxi to the pier, asked the driver to wait, and I went over and picked it up. I don’t remember the amount of the tip I left, but it was substantial - and worth it.
(Sometimes I STILL leave my jacket some place. In fact, I did so just recently at the Summer Arts Festival. Fortunately, our Activity Director went back and got it before we left. This time, my check book was in one of the pockets.)
In addition, this time in NYC, the four of us took the Subway all the way south as far as it would go, to Battery Park, and toured the park. We stayed there a couple of hours, looking out over the Upper New York Bay, during the early evening. There was another attraction there that I can’t remember the name of right now.
I just talked to Rick, and he said his most remembered fact was that while “downtown”, we stood in front of the World Trade Center, looking up, trying to see the top - unsuccessfully. This was a year before “9/11”.
World Trade Center
You can't see the top of either one!
Since we were so “New Yorkish” riding the Subway south, we took it back north to Times Square, then to the Hotel. It seems to me that we learned that Times Square is the “Hub” for nearly all of the Subway Lines in New York. Could be mistaken.