I’m back on the road again after enjoying three nights of sleep in my own home. Actually, that’s not quite true. I spent one of those night’s at Kathryn’s place. I’m aboard a flight to Portland, Oregon. I have about an hour until landing, so I thought I should take a few moments to catch up on my blog.
Kathryn and I decided to spend Memorial Day weekend in New York City. Some of you may remember the excitement we had on the first leg of our trip to Europe last fall — the leg that went from Phoenix to Phoenix because of a problem with the lavatory. Several weeks after the incident, we each received vouchers worth $400 on Continental Airlines. Continental doesn’t fly many places nonstop from Phoenix, but Newark is one of them. So we used the vouchers that had been burning holes in our pockets for so long.
We decided to stay in Lower Manhattan in order to save a little money on the hotel. We also decided to take public transportation from the airport to the hotel, rather than shelling out for a cab. The route from the airport to the city isn’t as straightforward as one would hope, but we planned ahead and it wasn’t so bad. We took the airport light rail to the airport’s train station, then NJ Transit to Newark Penn Station, and finally the PATH subway to the World Trade Center stop. Overall, it took less than an hour. The shocking part of the trip was when we arrived at the World Trade Center stop. The stop is quite literally inside the hole that used to be the World Trade Center. This was our first sight of New York — looking up at the city from inside the giant hole where the Twin Towers used to be. It felt a little weird. Since we were there, we spent a little time walking around the site, but the reality is there isn’t much to see yet, other than the subway stop. Our hotel was at the South Street Seaport, which was about a ten minute walk away.
We had a very pleasant time in New York. The weather was beautiful all weekend, with partly cloudy skies and highs in the 70s. We walked a lot, taking the subway to cover longer distances. We took two tours that were both enjoyable. The first tour was the Ground Zero Museum, which included artifacts from the World Trade Center site and the photographs of the Firefighters Union’s official photographer. The photographer was himself on hand to answer questions. The second tour was NBC Studios. Although the tour was in some sense an hour long advertisement for NBC, it was still fun to see the studios for Nightly News with Brian Williams, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Saturday Night Live. However, I do feel like some of the magic of television disappeared after seeing the studios. Much of what we see, even on live shows, is an optical illusion. Conan O’Brien’s studio, for example, is tiny, much smaller than it looks on television. We also enjoyed long strolls through Central Park and some of the shopping districts. Kathryn came home with a new wallet.
I was hoping for a really good dining experience in New York, but unfortunately I don’t really have anything to report. We should have planned ahead for at least one decent meal. Most of what we ate was on the go, so although we had some New York-style pizza and some semi-decent Chinese food, nothing was really memorable.
Since we were in New York over a Sunday, I was hoping that Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral would be one of the highlights of our visit. In the end, it was, but it took two tries. We attended the 10:15 Mass Sunday morning, which was celebrated by Cardinal Egan. Neither of us had never seen Mass celebrated by a cardinal before. He gave a beautiful homily about Pierre Toussaint and the strength he received from his devotion to the Eucharist, which was particularly fitting since we were celebrating the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ that Sunday. However, what bothered us both was the atmosphere of this particular Mass. The cathedral was jam-packed with thousands of people. Many were snapping photos, chatting with one another, and just generally inattentive. We would have appreciated a little more reverence and a lot more decorum. So, rather than staying angry, we decided to go back the next day for the 8:00 Mass. We were very glad we did. We were among only a couple dozen people there, and the atmosphere was serene. After the Mass ended, we stayed for a while to walk through the cathedral and its chapels in near solitude. It was a great way to end the trip.
Now, after a few days at home in Phoenix, I’m back on the road for a trip to a conference in Portland, Oregon. I’m flying Alaska Airlines for the first time. I chose Alaska for two reasons: price and schedule. It was nonstop, had a slightly better departure time than USAirways, and cost about the same. Alaska has a reputation for impeccable service, but so far I haven’t figured out why. I booked online, just like any other airline. I checked in online, just like any other airline. I dropped off my bag with an inattentive clerk standing behind an automated kiosk, just like any other airline. The aircraft is a very old 737. The beverage service doesn’t have Coke or Pepsi products, and the snack I forewent would have cost $5. I’m really not impressed.
For those of you who are familiar with the company I work for, I’ll post updates from the conference on its blog, rather than on this one. Nevertheless, I might have a musing or two here as well.