Saturday, December 30, 2006

"It Costs A Lot of Money to Ride This Train."

After holding one massive "I have no friends, I'm bored, I have nothing to do" pity party for myself on Wednesday and spending 100% of my day in my house, mostly in my bedroom, Billy insisted that, on Thursday, I get the eff out of my house. "Do something," he said, as he buttoned up his shirt for work.

"Like WHAT?" I whined from my spot in the bed. The same spot, incidentally, that I'd been in since the day prior. "There's nothing to do."

"We're an hour away from New York City," he insisted. "Go to the city for the day. Have lunch in some hole-in-the-wall cafe. Or walk around. But you have to get out of this house today."

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "I don't know my way around the City. I'm not going there."

And as soon as I uttered that sentence, my little brother's car pulled up in our driveway. Having the week off of school and days of nothing to do, too, he'd come to see if I'd like to go with him to get his oil changed. I told him no, but that if he gave me an hour to get ready, we'd go get lunch or something. As he drove back down our driveway, Billy looked at me with a face that had inspiration all over it.

"Take your brother," he instructed. "Go to the city with your brother; you'll get to spend time with him and you'll get out of the house and actually do something."

"He doesn't know his way around the city either," I protested.

"It's a grid pattern. You guys will figure it out."

"I don't think so," I said. "But I'll go to Middletown with him and get some lunch or something."

"Fine," he replied, tightening his tie, figuring the battle was lost.

But as soon as he left the house, I called Chase. "We're going on an adventure," said into the receiver.

"To where?"

"I'll tell you later," I said.

And two hours later, we were at Garrison Train Station, waiting for the New York City bound Metro North train.

That's Chase at Garrison's platform, captured via my camera phone; because, in all of my excitement to go on an "adventure," I forgot my camera. Brilliant. I didn't think of it until we were sitting there, listening to the sizzle of the tracks that preceded the train's arrival. So, quickly, I cleaned out all of the random shots I've captured on my phone in the past few months so that I'd have enough space to catch the city in the tiny memory my phone affords.

I was excited. And not just because Chase was tickling my chin like a little puppy. But because it did feel kind of adventurous for me. Being on a train on a random Thursday, speeding toward one of the biggest cities in the world. I mean, sure, we had no plan, no directions, no specific landmarks to visit; Sure, we were totally flying by the seat of our pants, unsure of what we would do once we came to Grand Central...But, still. That was the very definition of adventurous. Right?

It was Chase's first time on the train, and also his first time going to the City on a trip that wasn't a field trip for high school or on an outing with my mom's coworkers. I've been on the train many times before, but always going to meet someone who knew where they were going. So it was a big deal for the both of us. But, he was pretty unsure of what to do with himself and the tickets and so forth. So I bought his ticket and handed it to him, told him not to lose it, and to give it to the ticket guy when he came around. "That's it?" he said after it'd been punched and given back to him. "Well, yeah. Because that's your return ticket, too. So don't lose it."

We were talking about how they must change hole-punches every day to make sure people don't get all sneaky and try reusing their tickets. We concluded that that particular day must've been "Cock and Balls" Hole Punch Day:

See that? Right under the "O" for "Off-peak?" Totally inappropriate, if you ask us.

Before we got on the train, Chase bought some Cheez-Its. He LOVES Cheez-Its.

But they don't love him. They get stuck in his teeth. So he takes the classy route and digs all the way into his mouth to retrieve those stubborn bits. He makes me so proud.

Excitement was mounting as we got closer to the city. I took this picture through the window. Chase insisted it wouldn't come out. This proves him wrong and, thus, pleases me greatly.

An hour after boarding the train, the train whined to a stop, we stood up, minded the gap, and exited the train. We walked through Grand Central and walked outside to this view.

"We're in the city!" I said to Chase, just as geeky and overly-exuberant as that exclamation point implies.

"Uh, yeah. We are," he replied, totally not as excited as I was. He just didn't get my excitement.

Maybe because he somehow knew this was what awaited us. People on top of people on top of people, all moving in different directions, stuffed into sidewalks meant for half of the tourists currently stomping along. Oh yeah, and that pesky bit about having no idea of what we wanted to do or how we were going to get there. Let's not forget that part.

When faced with indecision, my first and best reaction is to drink. "Let's find a bar," I said.

Two glasses of wine (me), a round of soda and hiccups (Chase), and an bitchy remark made (by me, to the table of two touristy girls right next to us. Whoops.) later, I had an idea.

"What do you think about going to see the tree at Rockefeller Center?" I asked Chase.

"Sure," he said. "But how do we get there???" He was irritated by the fact that I was distracted by every makeup and shoe store on every street.

"I have no idea," I admitted. So we just walked. Down this street, up that one, over here, across there. And, there in the distance, I saw a beacon of hope:

"OH!" I cried. "LOOK! MACY'S!" So we headed in the direction of the glowing snowflakes that stretched all the way up and down the facade of the building. "We can look at the windows, too!" I said, dragging Chase in the direction of the lights, drawn to them like every girl is drawn to big, sparkly things.

On the way, I made Chase stop into Sephora with me. An experience that he claims was boring, but I think he secretly enjoyed. I mean, c'mon, what twenty-year-old guy doesn't love being in a huge room, positively packed with people, with nothing to see but makeup! Seriously.

After my purchase, we got back onto the street at continued toward the department store I kept referring to as "Macy's."

At this point, anyone who knows the city, or at least the landmark/holiday decoration part of the city knows that the building that caught my eye was not, in fact, Macy's, but Sak's Fifth Avenue. The classy, high-end store that decorates its windows every holiday season. It's famous for its window decoration, and, being directly across the street from the tree, draws thousands of people daily to look at it. And I thought it was Macy's. Because when Chase said he wanted to buy a coat, I suggested that we could "go to Macy's" to get one for him. I still thought it was Macy's as we fought through a pulsating crowd to get to the door. I thought it was Macy's even as we entered, failing to pay attention to the BIG SIGN on the door I was opening that claimed "Saks Fifth Avenue." I thought it was Macy's as we walked through the clogged store, Gucci and Prada and Fendi name brands jumping off of the walls at me. I still thought it was Macy's as my eyes glowed with excitement over the fancy name brands I love so much but cannot afford. I thought it was Macy's as I looked at $400 sunglasses. I thought it was Macy's even as we made our way past all of the shoppers carrying Saks Fifth Avenue bags. I thought it was Macy's even as we made our way to the back of the first floor to the elevators.

All of these people knew they were in Saks. I did not.

Chase knew we were in Saks, too. Even though I continued to refer to it as Macy's. See that smug look on his face? I think he was enjoying my ingnorance. He's very mean-spirited sometimes. Jerk.

Even as I took this picture for Billy, to show him that they carried one of his favorite tie-designers - ties that cost well over one hundred dollars each - it still did not occur to me that they do not carry Ike Behar ties in Macy's. I know this because I buy ties for Billy all the time in Macy's, and Ike has never been one of them. I just figured, "Hey, we're in the city. Everything's a little bit more expensive, a little bit more name brand driven here. That's all." Also, I'm pretty dense.

It was only after we were out of the building that I realized that - aha! - we were in Saks not Macy's!

"Uuuhh, yeeeeah," Chase said, drawing his words out, the emphasis on my stupidity. "What was your first clue? Maybe the sign on the door that said Saks?"

See? Mean.

So we watched the snowflakes dance around on the building, to the tune of "Carol of the Bells," and then turned around to see The Tree.

Even from across the street, it looked huge and gorgeous. The picture doesn't do it justice, but it was spectacular. I've only seen the tree once before, on a trek into the city about three years ago that found me so drunk that I don't remember half of the evening. Apparently, I embarrassed myself, my boyfriend, and his aunt and uncle, and spent the better part of the next day apologizing to my boyfriend for it. But that's another story for another time.

We wanted to get closer to the tree, but the crowd was just too much to bear. There were, oh, about nine gajillion people all clamoring for an up-close look at the tree. So we decided, in unison, "Fuck it," and just continued walking. Before we knew it, we were actually right next to the tree.
But there was no time to linger, as we were being pushed by a throbbing mass of people, all fighting to either get closer to or away from the very tree whose presence we were admiring.
Chase was adorable, constantly apologizing to each person he brushed or bumped into. He kept saying "Excuse me," and "I'm sorry," making a point to let each person know he didn't mean to hit them.

"You don't have to do that," I said as I plowed over a small child. "We're in the city. People are expected to be rude here."

"I can't do that," he said. "I'm too polite."

Indeed he is. He gives me hope for the future generations.

And after taking in Saks Fifth Avenue (Not Macy's) and the tree, eating a hot dog from a street vendor, and stopping in about a million shoe stores, we decided to head home.

That's me, walking through Grand Central, toward the track that would take us home. I was ready to go, but a little sad that our day was coming to an end.

We said goodbye to Grand Central in stereotypical geeky tourist fashion: Taking a picture. But I did it quickly in hopes no one would see the Girl from Pennsylvania doing what every other non-New Yorker does, taking that damn picture. But I'm sure someone saw it. I'm still a little embarrassed.

But I was tired, too. See it in my eye?

See how exhausted it looks?

My extreme fatigue was also due, in part, to my poor choice of footwear.

For me, for some reason, the desire to look fashionable/classy/sexy always - and I do mean always - wins out over comfort and sensibility. And intelligence, for that matter. Because, let's face it, it's not particularly smart to wear three-and-a-half inch heels to a destination that is no doubt going to entail no less than two hours of walking. But I was a trooper, if I do say so myself. Sure, I did make Chase sit in an Aerosoles store - a store that I've never ever gone into before, but whose name at that point sang to me like a chorus of a thousand angels, the foot-comfort implied in its very name - so that I could perhaps buy a pair of less painful shoes. It was a labor that yielded no fruit for either of us. They didn't have my size in the one pair of reasonably attractive shoes I could find (though, Lord, those were like walking on air!), and so I left empty handed, while Chase was just traumatized over being so bored that he actually gave in to my pleas for him to tell me what he thought of each shoe I tried on. And he even held my purse. He was that bored.
That's normally his reaction to shoe shopping.

Not only was he polite enough to apologize to the strangers whose sides he swiped, but he did NOT lose his return ticket.

As we waited for our 7:51 train to take off, we watched other passengers pile on, and listened to the conductor as he made announcements over the in-train speakers:

"Attention: This is the 7:51, Poughkeepsie-bound train, with stops at Croton-Harmon, Peekskill and Garrison. It does not stop at Yonkers. THIS IS A PEAK HOUR TRAIN. If you have an off-peak ticket, you will be required to pay the difference between peak and off-peak fares. It is more money to ride this train. All transactions are CASH ONLY. Tickets purchased on the train are a lot more expensive than tickets purchased at the station. It costs a lot of money to ride this train."

How right you are, Mr. Conductor. In the five hours from purchasing the tickets to sitting on that train, I'd spent over a hundred dollars. Between the tickets and the wine and the appetizer we ordered, and the makeup, and the snacks, and lunch, I'd racked up a pretty hefty debt. Thank God, though, I'd had enough foresight to purchase an off-peak/peak ticket. At least I'd be saving the three dollars or whatever it would've cost to upgrade.

But, hey, thanks for reminding me about all the money I did spend, Conductor Man.

And we were on our way home. We were really starting to get tired. Luckily, we had the foresight to stop by Starbuck's in Grand Central.

Chase enjoyed his drink.

But his strange way of drinking it made me think he'd never had one before.

Either that or it was so delicious he wanted each and every morsel he could get out of that damn cup.

That being our last treat for the day, we settled in to say goodbye to the city.

Clearly, I'm exhausted. You can tell by both my heavy hand (as evidenced by the lazy waving), and the quite shocking bags beneath my eyes. There just is not a flattering picture to be taken when you've been walking around New York City, for even a couple of hours.

So, yes, I was tired. And broke. And ready to go home. But I was just so happy, too. Not because I got out of Milford and into the city. And not because I'd gone on an adventure. But because I was with my little brother, who managed to make me laugh more in one afternoon than I laugh in an average week. Because he's just so polite and wonderful and so much fun to be around. Because I just love that boy so damn much that it hurts sometimes. Because, ten years ago, this sort of thing - an afternoon we voluntarily shared with just one another - would never have happened. Because we've come a long way from name-calling and physical fights. Because I had such a good time. Not because we did anything amazing - just because it was us. What we did was little more than we would've done had we gone to the shopping mall half an hour away from our house. It was different and it was nice, but the incredible feeling I had about the day had nothing to do with the location, it was all Chase.

I didn't want it to end. But, as the train pulled into Garrison, it did.

"Bye-bye, New York City," Chase said, in the weepy and childish voice he usually reserves for getting me to do something I don't want to do. And then the threw a rolled up gum wrapper at me and hit me right between the eyes. Thereby sucking all of the adorableness out of the moment. Typical.

We spent the whole ride home making each other laugh and, like two eight-year-olds, throwing things at one another in true brother-and-sister fashion.

It would be cheesy to say it was a wonderful day, so I won't say that. But I will say that I can't remember the last time I had that much fun doing nothing.


Sarah said...

Damn, Shaniqua, I miss city so bad it kills me.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God!!!! I laughed so two are funny!!! Thanks for making my day!

dmmgmfm said...

I loved the tour of NYC. Thanks for taking us along.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. When I write happy? Boring. When you write it? Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

hey sis, i had a great time too!!!!! but you forgot to mention that as you were telling me not to be polite you actually impailed that small child on your heels
love you

Anonymous said...

What a hysterical story! Love the Saks/Macy's bit!

Hey, don't feel embarrassed about taking pictures. Now that I'm not living in NYC anymore, I regret not going around the city and taking pictures.

Now constantly referring to Saks as Macy's? Well, that's a different story. ;)

Elizabeth said...

Ok to start with I am jealous that you live an hour away from NYC. I live an house away from SF, but I tell ya it isn't the same :D

It does sound like a wonderful day- minus the gum wrapper between the eyes and the gabillion people.

I wish I had thought of something like that on my few days off.

Elizabeth said...

P.S. its me Liz above, I can't figure out the new blogger yet.

Tiffany said...

AW! I love this story! I now am trying to figure out if I can squeeze an extra "New York" day into my trip to DC in the spring! I've never been!

Michele said...

What a fabulously fun day! I am so jealous I was hoping to make it to NY to see all the xmas decorations too. There is always next year!

And Tiff, we should totally go to NY when you come out to visit!