A Trip to New York - July 1999
Note: This page is specifically meant for people in my family, including those who feature in it. I make no attempts to explain family relations, and who is who. If you still want to read it, you're most welcome.
Laxmi mausi and Mani arrived from London on June 28th. Ashi had called me up before that and said that they would be planning a trip up north from North Carolina when they came. And the 4th of July weekend was right there, so they started travel on July 1st.
I got a call from Ashi on Monday, July 5th, saying that they were in Washington DC, and were heading up to New Jersey. They were going to stay with their cousin; Ashi also has several friends there.
In those days, I'd been working a late schedule, coming in at around 2pm in the afternoon and going back around midnight. So Ashi would leave a message on my answering machine, and I would get it at night, when it would be too late to call him anywhere. And I couldn't call him the next morning, because by the time I would wake up he would have left wherever he was. Convenience defined.
On Tuesday night, the medical school campus of Columbia, and, indeed, the whole Washington Heights area had a blackout. I was in lab at 10pm, when the power went out. I came down the stairs from my lab on the 9th floor (emergency lights in our building were still on, so there was lights in the hallway and stairs), and found many many people on the street. Most of these were students who lived around campus, and didn't have power at home. Thankfully, I stay near the main campus, so I just took a bus home.
Ashi called up on Wednesday morning saying that while Laxmi mausi was too tired, but He, Mani and Smitha bhabhi (hereafter referred to as Smitha for brevity) were going to catch a train to New York. They were staying near Edison, and the train would bring them into Penn Station. I would meet them there at noon.
When I got to Penn Station (about 10 minutes late), they were already there. Their first reaction on seeing me was the same as everyone else who sees me after a few months: "You've lost weight!". I don't know how this happens. I have consistently weighed between 145 and 150 pounds (66-70 kgs) for the past four years. But people's ideas about how much I weigh seem to change over time. Oh well.
I was hungry. So were they. So we decided to go to the big Macy's on 34th St. to shop. When hungry, shop. That seemed to be the motto.
We started by spending a long time in the perfume department, with the theory that every perfume there had to be smelled before a well-informed decision could be made as to which perfume to buy. This theory didn't quite work, because both Smitha and Mani ended up buying perfumes which they had originally planned.
It was Macy's special One Day Sale Event TM, which meant that everything was the same price as always, but there were many more people in the store than are otherwise found on a weekday afternoon. This caused long lines at the approximately 3 checkout counters in the entire store, because about 800 people wanted to buy things. Smitha and Ashi took turns standing in line at the checkout counter. I sat on the floor and tried to sleep.
We spent about one and a half hours in Macy's, purchasing, including the two perfumes, a grand total of three things.
While the girls were shopping, Ashi and I spent our time productively, taking pictures of one another.
After shopping, we decided to eat (at last!). There is a nice Korean neighborhood right around the corner, where they have excellent Korean food. When we got there, Ashi proposed the theory that Korean cuisine is not too kind to vegetarian people, so we should eat Chinese food instead. (I have a sneaking suspicion that the real reason was that Ashi didn't want to risk trying a new kind of cuisine. One of these days, I shall spring it upon him.) As it turned out, the restaurant we walked into was pretty good, and the hot and sour soup in particular was outstanding. I should remember that restaurant. Although come to think of it, I would rather eat barbecue at the neighboring Korean joint.
Post-lunch, we took a subway to Lexington and 51st St, and started on our walking tour. Walking west, we first came upon Park Avenue.
And what caught everyone's attention was not the view or the buildings, but an old, frail lady in a bright yellow and black dress walking down the street. Ashi instantly became obsessed with this lady, and proceeded to use his fancy video-camera to film her. She crossed the street, and he kept filming her from across the street, following her for two blocks. I couldn't quite see what was so special about a old frail lady in a bright dress walking down the street, but then, I live in New York.
We walked further west, to Fifth Avenue, where we walked a little north and came upon Bergdorf Goodman, that New York landmark. Then we started walking south, and made stops in the Trump Tower and the Disney Store, where Smitha and Ashi bought something for their niece.
We continued our tour walking south and west, past the designer showrooms, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Saks Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, and finally headed to Times Square.
By that time, it was getting to be about 6pm, and we walked back to Penn Station, and they got on a train and went back to New Jersey. For a trip that lasted about five hours, we had covered pretty good ground.
The next day, I also asked Nanhi Mausi and Vimal Mausaji, who were staying at Mausi's place in New Jersey, to come to New York. Mausi would put them on a Path train that would bring them to the World Trade Center.
Ashi said that he would try a different means of getting to New York---he would drive from Edison to a place called Newport, and also take the Path train from there. So it would work out very well for me. All I had to do was go to the Path train station at the World Trade Center, everyone would arrive there, and we would go. Textbook travel co-ordination. And everything was going according to plan, until we hit one snag: Ashi never came.
Before I go on, I should point out that Ashi has an amazing ability to get lost. I have seen him successfully get lost even with the best instructions. To better describe his remarkable abilities, I made a map of New Jersey with the roughly marked with the places involved. They were starting from Edison, and were supposed to go to Newport. There is a more-or-less straight road from Edison to Newport. And from what I learned later, on their way, they passed through Morristown TWICE. In the same direction. I never cease to be impressed with Ashi's incredible talent for getting lost.
But back to the story---after I got to the World Trade Center (WTC), Nanhi Mausi arrived shortly afterwards, but there was no sign of Ashi and party. So after waiting for one hour, I called up Smitha's cell phone, and I was told that they were horribly lost, and had just gone past Morristown for the first time. It would take them at least another our to get here. So we decided to go up the World Trade Center without them. When we came back down around 3pm, I called them again, and this time found that they had actually made it to a Path train station (although not the one they had originally set out to go to, and were in the WTC already.
So all of us met, and by this time it was 3:30pm. The next thing on the agenda was a trip to Statue of Liberty. So we took a subway and proceeded right on there.
Luckily, we had no wait to get on the ferry. I've been to Statue of Liberty five or six times, and this was the first time this kind of thing had happened. Usually, there is a wait, often upto an hour. We lucked out. And once on the ferry, one of the nice things is the view of downtown on the way.
We finally got to Statue of Liberty at about 4:15pm. Ashi, Smitha, Mani and Laxmi mausi decided that they were going to climb up to the top. (Actually, not really to the top, but just to the foot of the statue. You could go all the way to the head of the statue at one time--- they've closed that now.) So they went ahead. Nanhi mausi, Mausaji and I remained behind, hungry, so we decided to get something to eat.
Meanwhile, we had planned to meet Sanju bhaiya at a restaurant in midtown at 4:30pm. Because there was no hope of our being able to get there in time, I called him and we canceled that plan.
We started back from the statue at about 5:45pm, and got a somewhat interesting view of downtown.
After we got back, Nanhi mausi and Mausaji took the Path train back to New Jersey, and I called up Mausi and told them what time they would get there, so she would come to the train station and pick them up. And Smitha, Mani, Ashi, and Laxmi mausi wanted to go on top of the world trade center, so we went up -- for me, the second trip of the day. And we spent quite a while up there, talking, snacking, etc. We came down at about 7:30pm, and they took the Path train back to their car, and drove back to Edison.
If I were describing their trip, the title of this document would be "A Trip to New Jersey"--- of the three days they were in this area, they spent a sum total of about nine hours in New York. But I have only described the things we did in the Big Apple, so there you go.