Day Seven. Early morning. The Comfort Inn had already shut off our cable TV, in case we were entertaining any notions of dawdling. Morning news was far from our thoughts, with a noon flight ahead and without knowing whether or not LaGuardia was one of those airports where passengers should expect mile-long lines worse than what we’re used to comic conventions. Sightseeing was over; now was the time to escape from New York.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…
On the clerk’s recommendation, we walked further into Hell’s Kitchen and didn’t take long to catch a cab over on Ninth Avenue. Our driver this time was unimpressed by all the amateurs surrounding him on the road, all obeying speed limits and turning cautiously and staying in their lane and not treating every ticking second as live currency. Such casual roadway manners during Friday morning rush hour deeply offended him, all the way from Times Square to Queens.
I rode shotgun and responded to his bitter mutterings with occasional supportive grunts, a bit half-hearted because I’m not a morning person. Anne and my son remained silent in the back seat lest he brand them meek-driver sympathizers. LaGuardia couldn’t arrive quickly enough for any of us.
Not even other taxi drivers were immune to his castigation. If anything, they were the lowest of the low — rivals who competed for fares and who dared get in his way.
Once we reached Terminal C and paid the man, all communication ceased. He emptied our bags on the sidewalk and zoomed away without so much as a glance back at us, moving on to his next ineffective copilot.
Fearing the worst was yet to come, we approached the security area and steeled ourselves for a true TSA ordeal. Our previous airport security screening experiences — all three of them — had been benign and contrary to the common horror stories. Anne and I were ready. No convention or mundane function had ever topped the five-hour line she and I once withstood in 2005. They were welcome to do their worst.
We were in ‘n’ out in about five minutes. By this time it was shortly after 9 a.m. We had three hours to wander the place till takeoff.
We checked my son’s oversized bag and prayed we might see it again someday. Anne and I grabbed breakfast and fresh chewing gum for the flight. My son got finicky, so he had to wait for some charitable restaurant to sell him a burger around 10-ish. We sat, and sat, and sat and sat and sat. Sat sat sat, sat sat sat. We tried not to express our regretful boredom out loud. We had phones and reading matter, but it’s hard to settle in and concentrate when you’re antsy and homesick. A few businesses were keen to look at from a design standpoint, but they had no major bookshops, toy stores, or video arcades to suit our collective collectible fancies.
Years later, boarding began on time. Takeoff, on the other hand, didn’t. The minutes dragged as our plane idled, then rolled around, then idled more, then cruised a wee faster and got our hopes up, then turned around and did nothing. And so on. Out the window we couldn’t see much going on except other straggling planes sharing the tarmac. We assumed business as usual.
Then we looked more closely. We were wrong. This wasn’t normal. At least, not to us. I can’t speak for LaGuardia.
We found out later than local citizen Donald Trump had scheduled a press conference that day at the New York Hilton in Midtown Manhattan to announce our own Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate in the 2016 American Presidential election. Later that afternoon would see the great Chili’s incident play out and strike amusement into the hearts of New Yorkers all over town.
The sight of Donald Trump’s private plane threatened to be our parting impression of New York City, the final image that would remain burned into our memories and scrapbooks as the last thing we saw before saying goodbye to the Big Apple once more.
We couldn’t let our vacation end on that note. We turned our gaze inward and tried our hardest to focus on anything but the precarious future of our nation. Like, uh, THESE FREE COOKIES. YEAH, HEY, GUYS, LET’S REMEMBER THESE INSTEAD.
Or my seatmate, a guy larger than me, who thankfully wasn’t selfish with the elbow room and probably had the instincts to alternate his breathing pattern with mine. He kept silent most of the way, keeping his attention on his iPad while he watched Stephen Hopkins’ Race.
Or best yet, my wife Anne, all too glad when we finally flew up, up, and away.
We continued cherishing the mundane and disregarding all thoughts of politics for the short, otherwise uneventful ride home. Indianapolis International Airport welcomed us without fanfare, without crowds, and without any surprise Presidential candidates lurking in the shadows.
My son’s bag took its sweet time riding the conveyors to our rendezvous, but it was recovered without incident. As is the custom for our annual trips, we grabbed lunch at McDonald’s because it was time to readjust to everyday reality, no matter how misshapen it would turn in the months ahead.
Seven days and six nights. Two flights. Two cabbie road-warriors. Five bus rides. Several miles of subway rides. Two boroughs. One Broadway show. One TV show. Two parks. Five museums. At least half a dozen great meals. Two terrible meals. Four astounding donuts. One 24-pack of bottled water. Two incidents of very light rain. Countless PokeStops. Twenty-nine previous chapters from the most-Liked to the most-shunned. Four extra-large objects with the word “TRUMP” plastered on them. And another set of experiences to remember fondly anyway.
As a special bonus, here’s the official MCC soundtrack for this special travelogue series, curated almost entirely from my personal CD and cassette collections, which are woefully lacking in jazz. By all means, feel free to add some Billie Holliday in the mix:
* Taylor Swift, “Welcome to New York”
* Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind”
* They Might Be Giants, “New York City”
* Bruce Springsteen, “My City of Ruins”
* Ramones, “53rd and 3rd”
* Ramones, “Rockaway Beach”
* Ramones featuring Vernon Reid, “Cabbies on Crack”
* The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, “Fairytale of New York”
* R.E.M. “Leaving New York”
* Run-DMC, “Christmas in Hollis”
…and the hidden track at the end of the CD would be Anne’s playlist, by which I mean Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”.
The End. Thanks for reading and encouraging where applicable. Lord willing, see you next trip.
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[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous 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. Huzzah!]