[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]
The World Trade Center Visitors Center offered more emotions to explore and lessons to impart, but we had to skip their basement displays because we had an appointment to keep. The walk down Liberty Street, as with numerous other neighboring streets, was made of claustrophobia. I can’t imagine Storm of the X-Men flying through some of those passages without hyperventilating.
We had an appointment for an 11:30 free tour of the Federal Reserve. I decided that a few short minutes before our arrival was the absolute perfect time to tell Anne that, while we were on the subway earlier that morning, I remembered that the “Bring a copy of this email with you for admission” email that she printed and entrusted in my care was perfectly safe and sound in my suitcase back in our New Jersey hotel. She demonstrated her unconditional love for me by keeping my vengeful grisly demise tucked away securely in her imagination rather than acting on that impulse in front of the nice Federal Reserve security guards.
I surmised that our names would be on an organized admission list anyway. To this day I’m grateful to God for allowing that feeling to be a correct hunch instead of a called bluff. They checked their clipboard, we showed our ID, and we were in.
The Federal Reserve is another hot spot that doesn’t permit photos for purposes of national security and effective hoarding. Average tourists like us were the minority of our group, which was more heavily peopled by men of multiple nationalities dressed to the nines in suits and accessories that likely cost more than our household’s monthly income. I think we were the only visitors who weren’t on the clock and slotting this tour into their virtual day planner as a business meeting.
The first several lengths of it are just coin-collecting displays, international and ancient alongside the new and homegrown. For the average numismatist, this would be Shangri-La. The real draw for the undiscerning Average Joe is the armored sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-subbasement, where we were escorted and privileged to lay eyes upon $335 billion in gold bars, a substantial collection of importance to numerous anonymous depositors of no small stature. We weren’t allowed to touch, only stare and stare and scheme. STARE. I meant stare. The gold bars were pretty and heavy (28 pounds each), but the steel bars were formidable and eminently surrounding. When we resurfaced after the tour, we were instead permitted to take all the free souvenir writing utensils and mimeographed coloring books that we cared to carry, which was almost none.
Several blocks due east from the Federal Reserve was the South Street Seaport, whose selling point was its competitive vantage point for gazing upon the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the nearby docks.
The South Street Seaport is otherwise any old mall. The midday sun and the cumulative walk from the 9/11 reconstruction to the Seaport had us drained enough that we were in no condition to turn up our noses at the third-floor food court. Anne had herself a genuine Nathan’s Hot Dog, while the boy and I settled for scoops-of-meat-on-rice joint #429, here named China Max, a Chinese phrase which means “exTREEEME Chinese” in some white marketing guy’s dream. He and I had dearly hoped to hold off on lunch till we were elsewhere, but by this time he was dehydrated and I wasn’t in a position to allow either of us to be picky.
From there we doubled back west to the nearest Subway stop…
…and accidentally took the J train one block south — not only the wrong direction, but to the end of the line. Neither we nor the blond iPod-grafted lady across from, the only other passenger aboard, were paying heed to much of anything around us till a burly MTA guard rapped a nightstick on the windows and shattered our obliviousness. We disembarked, walked up a flight, crossed over, walked down a flight, waited a couple more minutes, then took the next train heading the other way, north into the wonderful world of Chinatown.
To be continued!
1. Anne regrets we never stepped foot on the Brooklyn Bridge this trip. Hoping to rectify that oversight soon. In my defense, it was hot and the Bridge was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over there.
2. 8 Spruce Street, once named Beekman Tower, is currently named “New York by Gehry” after its imaginative architect. Seems like they could’ve named it better, but what do I know. Indy’s own Chase Tower is scheduled to be renamed “Salesforce Tower” in 2017, so perhaps I shouldn’t throw stones.]
* * * * *
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]