My daughter and I enjoyed Boston during our college visits, so we left with some sadness. But then we sat on the airport tarmac for an hour due to snow and the de-icing process. That meant we missed our connection in Philly by mere minutes. Six of us could see the plane sitting at the gate but could do nothing. However, while the main cabin door was locked, the luggage compartment was not. Our luggage made the connecting flight to Pittsburgh. Ya gotta’ laugh.
We were surprised to learn that Pittsburgh boasts 10 universities and about 90,000 students – a college town, and a fun one at that. Where else are you going to find a Zombie Disposal Department? This patrol car (see picture) had nabbed eight zombies. Still, my daughter couldn’t see herself at the school we toured, so one more bit the dust. That left New York and New Jersey.
I have to admit: just the idea of New York scared me. As it turned out, it was all in my head.
The subway is a regular entertainment center. On the way in from the airport, two guys got onto our car with a beat box yelling “Showtime!” When the doors closed, their acrobatic performance incorporated all the subway equipment: center pole, overhead bars and side bars. They flipped around as if they were on the monkey bars at a playground, and suspended themselves from the ceiling using only their feet, all to the beat of their music. I was jaw-on-the-floor amazed – such a rube visiting the big city. By the time the train got to the next stop, they had collected their equipment and a few dollars, and exited to find another car.
That was quite an introduction to the New York Subway. But we comfortably and easily used it for five days. Even when we weren’t on it, we could feel it beneath us and hear it around us. At street level, the ground shook like a tiny earthquake when a train passed below. And every few minutes at night, I could hear the sound of the 4, 5, and 6 line trains as they passed under the hotel, vibrating through my pillow. After a while, it was comforting to hear that regular heartbeat of the city
On our first afternoon we hit Central Park (the horse poop smell overwhelmed my daughter; she was not amused), Rockefeller Center (the ice rink was still in business), Carnegie Hall (“How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.” She didn’t see the point of the joke), and Times Square. The more she saw, the more excited she was. The best was seeing our faces on a huge electronic billboard.
Even the subway stations in Time Square had flashing lights – they had to compete with every other sign there. The streets were full until late (well as late as we stayed out anyway). My daughter was falling in love with the city, even before seeing the school.
The next day we took the subway to the college. We tried to get into the Visitor Center but it was totally packed – maybe 200 students and parents. My daughter snaked her way to sign in and she returned quickly – without the brochures everyone else was carrying. “Honey, go back in and get them.”
“No Mom, there’s a feeling of desperation in there.”
“What do you mean?”
“Really, it’s like a thick miasma. There’s angst in the air — parents desperately wanting their kids to succeed by coming here. I had to get out.”
Miasma; angst. I can tell she’s studying for the SAT.
We sat in a large packed auditorium for the info session. This college has lots of required courses – more than the other universities we visited, and a swim test. Really. In order to graduate, every student has to swim three laps! My daughter had been leaning toward the colleges with more open curricula. So at the end of the tour, I was surprised to find she really liked this school. I guess there’s no accounting for the chemistry of love. This school is in her top five, which includes two universities we visited last year and two others from this trip.
The next day (cold and rainy) we enjoyed free time to see the city starting with Wall Street where we ate a gyro from a street vendor and watched garbage being removed from the stock exchange. I appreciated the imagery. Then on to the 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park (a failed attempt to see the Statue of Liberty), Chinatown where we ate at a packed diner, Little Italy, and Greenwich Village. My urban-loving daughter was in her element.
The next morning we saw our last school on a day-trip to New Jersey. Taking the 6:10 am Amtrak train, we arrived in the rain and dark. Nothing was open this early, so we snuck into the lobby of a dorm building to wait for daylight. So much for the dorm security they praised so highly during the tour.
Again, after the info session and tour, my daughter could not see herself here, so we took an earlier train back to New York to spend a few more hours with her new favorite city and a good-bye to Times Square. Our trip was almost over and both of us were looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again. Over supper she described my six types of snores. “I’ve been listening to this for three weeks and become an expert on it!” I had no idea I was that musical. My own bed was looking better and better.
On Saturday, we took the subway for the last time back to the airport. After three solid weeks of wearing winter boots, I changed into my sandals at Ticketing. I was headin’ home.
This morning I sit on my back lanai sipping coffee. I’m listening to a multitude of birds, the cow down the street, the wind in the palm trees, and the chickens across the street. I look back and acknowledge that the trip was exciting and fun. But this is where my heart is. I am content.
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