Our hotel (daysinn) was close to the Newark international airport, New Jersey (NJ). We checked in somewhere around nine in the evening. Next morning we headed for the statue of liberty. Let me pause here to tell you something about New York. It is a big mean city, I mean the biggest there is. So getting around was gonna be a big headache. Or so I thought.
We had to take the ‘mono rail’ or the ‘air train’ (it goes on a flyover brother) from the airport station to the rail-link station in NJ. From NJ we had to go to NY penn station. It appeared as a truly daunting endeavor. It was not to be. My apprehensions were quelled by the magic of the metro. Yet again. Coming back to the mono-rail; it is a marvel. It is unmanned and it serves as a link shuttle between the airport and rail link station. If Atlanta amazed me, mono rail had my jaw open through the journey. Hey come on, I could have acted like ‘mono rail? Yea man it is nothing, it is computer driven…’ You know? And act as if nothing can amaze me because I am the cool dude. But hey, as Albert said “you can live life two ways. One: as if nothing is a miracle. Two: As if everything is a miracle.” I chose the latter. Thanks Albert! [Albert is Albert Einstein].
Metro Travel: NY
Now as my jaw was coming back to its normal position, we reached the NY penn. It took us some 20 minutes to make it from NJ airport station. And we had to find a train to go to the liberty statue. After much apprehension I stopped a cop and asked him to guide us and he gave us the directions. So, do not hesitate to ask a policeman for directions. They are there to help you and they will not ask you unnecessary questions or your passport. It is a myth. But please carry your passport just in case; it acts as your identification. And I had to show it to use my card a coupla times.
The NY Penn station was swarming with people. Holiday crowd I guess. We had to buy this metro pass that allows you to use the metro rail all day, anywhere to anywhere, any number of times. All this for $4. Don’t go stand in the queue; you can buy this card from the newspaper stalls too.
The rail took us to the liberty statue station.
“Located in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty was a gift of international friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is one of the most universal symbols of political freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886 and was designated a National Monument on October 15, 1924. The Statue was extensively restored in time for her spectacular centennial on July 4, 1986.
Only the grounds of Liberty Island are open for visitation. The Monument, museum, crown, and all outdoor observation decks are closed indefinitely to visitation for security reasons.”
We emerged out of the station and headed for the ferry infront of the clinton castle (you have to get your ferry tickets from here; $10 for a round trip). If you’re visiting during winter make sure you are clad in winter clothes and mind you, gloves are essential. I couldn’t keep my hands out without gloves. You get nice gloves for $8 at Walmart. The statue is a high-security area and you have to wait in a long queue for about an hour to get on the ferry. You have to undergo security checks before that. Do not carry pocket knives or any such objects. The cops’d not fancy it.
While I was waiting in the queue something fascinating happened.
There are quite a few people who make a living out of entertaining the people in the crowd; well it’s become some kinda tradition I guess. First to entertain was a guitar player. He was strumming away and singing some holiday songs and once in a while he’d strike up a conversation with someone and sing a song on them!
“Hey beautiful, what’s your name?” he asked a lady in the queue. “Susan.” She replied. “Looking for a good husband susan?” He went. She blushed and told him her husband was standing right infront of her. And our guitar man did an impromptu song on susan. And then came ‘Sugar Daddy’, the best performer of them all. He is an acrobat I think, a short, well built man without a shirt (did I tell you the wind made it cold like hell?), he had the entire queue responding to him, applauding him before and after a performance… he jumped over some 5 people he had selected from the audience. He walked on his hands and climbed a flight of stairs. All this in the open! And then he came asking for money, well, it is not mandatory, but I gave him a dollar. I think in America you needn’t be a software guy to make money 😉 We were approaching the security check tents when my attention was drawn to this old man playing fiddle. The minute he saw some Indians, he started playing ‘jana gana mana’! Now, how does the American national anthem go any of you recollect? I think it is ‘God bless america’ but I dont know the tune. The security check was done and I was on the boat.
The Statue Island
In a few minutes the ferry left for the island. And couple of minutes later the lady liberty came into view. It was breathtaking; the sea gulls shrieking across the gray sky and the statue stood tall, telling the world, that this was the land where the spirit of independence was considered more than one’s life; this was the land that threw its arms open to all the people of the world: Irish, Italian, German, Chinese, south-american, and if you will, Indian (the migration took place in the 20th century and is still continuing). We got on the island and I was lost in the beauty of the statue. It was awfully cold, with the windchill, bone-munching cold! but it didn’t deter me from taking a walk around. Somehow I liked looking at lady liberty from a distance. She seemed to be more graceful, and peaceful from a distance. I walked into the gift store… and I had it on my mind to buy something there as a token of my visit. But can you believe it, I forgot. I will regret it for the rest of my life. So you don’t make the same mistake. You get good gifts like a statuette or a t-shirt but the prices are higher, but what the heck it is worth it.
The next stop was the times square. The world famous street that hosts the world famous new year party. Well, it was grand. The neon lights and shops and the people… took a walk down the times square and told myself ‘you’re walking on the world’s most famous road.’ FYI: Times square is a road and not a square or something. Like I thought 😀 and Madison square garden has no garden too!
We headed to the hotel after times square. Next day I went to Jakson heights with Rajaram. He wanted to shop. The place was a complete incongruity. With litter strewn all over and pan stains and what not. Yea, I think it is the Indian-paki-bangladeshi settlement. My sincere advice. DO NOT SHOP there. They are disrespectful. They cheat you. And the shopkeeper at the electronics shop-and indian- said ‘you want to pay with a card? that’d be 10% extra. There’s an ATM round the corner why dont you get cash?’ That sounded familiar to me. You know?
I was hoping that it would snow. I had never seen snow in my life. But it looked like it wont. I was sad as we were leaving New york, that I couldn’t stay for x-mas. Santa heard it i guess and he sent some snow along. Later, I was thrilled to find DC (we stopped over) carpeted in snow. Oaklahoma snowed after 2 decades! The weather man on TV was gushing about how America was having a ‘white’ x-mas. We checked in to the hotel in DC as we were staying the night and leaving next morning to Columbia. As I slid into sleep a voice in my head kept saying ‘today is an important day in your life and you’ll see the world in a different light when you wake up tomorrow.’ And I did.
I’ll add the pics later. Happy new year people! 🙂 And please add your thoughts through the comments. I’d be grateful. Peace. –Suman