Goodbye, Big Apple

The New York City skyline as seen from the Hudson River. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

(Editor’s Note: This is part three of a multi-part travel series on New York. The previous entry can be found in the April 19 edition of the Register-Pajaronian, and the first entry can be found in the April 12 edition.)

When I met my wife, Sarah, she had a 10-year-old daughter, Ann, and a 13-year-old boy, Stuart. That was 31 years ago. At the start of April, Sarah and I flew to New York to be a part of Stuart’s marriage to Lori, his girlfriend for the past 17 years.

As I explored in the first two parts of this series, we wandered around Manhattan, Staten Island, Harlem, Soho, China Town and Central Park in the days leading up to the April 9 wedding.

On one of the pre-wedding days, our gathering of about 30 people met in the South Street Seaport area and walked out onto the Brooklyn Bridge. There were so many people doing the same thing, people from countries all over the world, that I felt I could have picked my feet off the ground and would have just kept moving right along with the river of people.

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Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge offers a dramatic view of Brooklyn. Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

The 1,595-foot-long bridge, which crosses the East River, is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge that was completed in 1883 and took 14 years to build. One of the oldest roadway bridges in the U.S., the bridge accommodates six traffic lanes and pedestrian and bicycle lanes. Dramatic views open up both on the NYC side of things and the Brooklyn side. Scores of ferries, tugboats and sailboats laced the water as we cross over into Brooklyn. We decided to wander into Brooklyn while the rest of the party headed back into Manhattan.

The streets proved to be filled with lovely homes, some wooden, some brick, others brownstone. We noticed several pizza places that boasted “coal-fired pizzas.” We stumbled upon the famous Damascus Bread and Bakery on Atlantic Avenue and marveled at their wealth of incredible spreads, including various yogurts, pitas, Lavash roll-ups and wraps, Panini, cheeses, meats and on and on. We bought their hummus and a few pieces of baklava, both incredibly delicious. They’ve been there since 1930.

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A stretch of homes in Brooklyn. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

As we started to run out of steam and energy we got directions from some friendly locals to the ferry back to Manhattan. The electronic ticket machine was next to impossible to figure out. After trying several credit cards, we managed to get tickets for the 10-minute jaunt across the East River back to the Wall Street area.

After recovering in our room for a few hours, Sarah and I went out for an Asian fusion dinner just a few doors from our hotel.

April 9 was the big day — wedding day. In our fancy clothes, we strolled to the nearby historic Pier A where the reception was planned. A huge bus picked up us and hauled our crowd uptown to a pier where we boarded a large boat and cruised across the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty. There in the waters beneath the famed statue we witnessed their wedding as we bobbed up and down in the water. A live bagpipe and drum band then struck up a list tunes as we chugged back to Pier A. There, another 10 piece bagpipe and drum band greeted us with more live music. The reception, filled with gallant speeches, promises and words of brotherhood and sisterhood echoed through the hall. Dancing, dinner and cake and more speeches filled out the rest of the evening before we walked home for the night. Both Sarah and I were truly stunned by the magnitude and splendor of the wedding out there on the water.

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Stuart and Lori share a close moment moments after being married aboard a boat on the East River in Manhattan. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

On the morning of our last day in NYC, we checked out of our room, stowed our bags at the front desk and caught the subway north to the Art Gallery District near West 24th Street. After viewing a few galleries that offered little that caught our interest, we spotted the High Line, a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan. After climbing a flight of steel stairs, we were able to stroll along the High Line and take in the sights of new and old buildings, glimpses of the Hudson River, gardens, gallery fronts and the buzz of traffic below. We treasured the option of getting away from the sea of cars and high pace of the streets as we threaded our way between the tall buildings. Now we were in the Meat Packing District and noticed the scores of loading docks at the rear of older brick buildings. We zigzagged our way over to Washington Square and relaxed on a bench in the sun for a bit.

Though our flight was set for 6:30 p.m. that didn’t really mean much in reality: Airports now run on their own timing and it means nothing to delay or cancel a flight to these folks. Ours was only delayed two hours going home and just over an hour when we left San Jose. This is the new norm. Security check at Newark was awful and took forever. My advice is to bring a good book, a couple magazines, newspapers, food, water, a tent, sleeping bags and a calendar — you’ll need it.

Aside from that nightmare we felt we chalked up a rich and varied journey, all packed into six days.

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Editor's Note: This article will publish in the April 26 edition of the Register-Pajaronian. 

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