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Published: November 5th 2006
Yeahh, somewhere around 1990. Got a call from my travel buddy Steve. Low fares to NYNY from LAX. Let's go for a week, fly into Newark, spend a few days in the City, then rent a car and drive to DC, then up to Boston, and who knows what else.
So I takes the Greyhound down to LA. Mistake. Greyhound is slower than frozen molassas. And, hate to say it, but if you want to feel like a LOSER with a capitol L take Greyhound. Never again.
But I finally get to San Fernando, dropped off in the middle of the night an a NON station. This means it's a non manned station, just a drop off point. Seedy area. Where was Steve? These were the days before cell phones. So I use a pay phone to call him. Nasty place, thankfully these were the days before AIDS, that phone booth was so filthy.
No answer. So I wait, and wait. Sheeze. Loser with CAPITOL L. FINALLY, Steve arrives. Backpack tossed in back, and we're off like a herd of turtles. Too soon to pack it in for the night. So we checked out Sunset, Hollywood Blvd, went to a deli... can't remember if it was Jerry's, or Carnagie West, or some place in Century City. Been to so many of 'em down there they all run together.
We finally head to Steve's home in Chatsworth. Tri-level home he bought for pennies on the dollar on Trigger St. overlooking the San Fernando Valley.
Next morning we head to LAX, and vrooooooom, we're off to NYC. Hey, Continental is having a promo.... every time we DEPART Newark, we'll get a SCRATCH OFF ticket that has a destination, a FREE TICKET to the destination that is scratched off!!! COOL!
So we decide, it's better to FLY to Boston and to DC rather than drive, because each time we DEPART Newark, we'll get a scratch off ticket. So we buy our tickets to DC and to Boston, both departing from Newark.
But first, we spend a few days in the City. We stayed at the McBurney YMCA. No, we don't need the Ritz. As it was, we did some serious crashing at the Y between about 3:00am to maybe 9:00am, the rest of the time we were wearing out shoe leather on the streets of Manhattan.
Matsa Ball soup, giant oysters, Spanish Restaurant, trip up to the Twin Towers, Statue of Liberty, etc. Those are my memories. What is it about Jewish delis that attract me? And those oysters were nasty looking. Steve horsed them down, but I percieved they were tossers. Some seedy joint near Times Square. But that Spanish restaurant... now that was something. It must have been 2am. We were just about to get our money's worth at the McBurney when we turned into this Spanish place no wider than 15'... but it had to have been 200' long. Sat somwhere in the front next to a small stage with a small piano and a miserable lonely looking snare drum and single symbol. Pitiful.
I ordered Enchelada. Now Spanish enchelada is a lot different than Mexican enchelada. It is more like Mexican chicken mole. Anyway, it was awesome.
And then while eating this incredible dish, they came. No. Not prepared in my wildest imagination. The piano player, the drummer, and the dancer. At that moment, my heart lept out of me. Fandango! What music from the simplicity of the piano and single drum and symbol. Wow.... An unforgettable experience.
I also remember a few other things... yeah, we took the bus up to the George Washington Bridge. Wow, what a structure.
We walked underneath it as far as we dared, and just awed over it. But it was getting dark, and it was time to head back to the bright lights and the busy streets. We walk back to the bus stop and wait, and wait for a bus. Finally one came.... hmmm but it wasn't going where we want it to go. Up into Harlem it went. Aaaa... no, wrong way. Finally, we were the only ones on the bus. Two white guys in a lit up bus going down dark seedy streets. The only ones on the streets were shadows standing in the doorways of the vacant buildings. No street lights at all. In the darkest, loneliest part of this 'hood, the driver said, 'End of the line, everyone out'... Yeah. We're getting out. Not on your life, driver. Take us some where where there's at least a bus transfer place. Well, we had to talk him into it, at first, he said it was against policy. We just told him 'policy nothing, we're not getting off here.' So he takes us to Martain Luther King Blvd. From there, we boarded another bus that took us downtown. Close call, but safe at last!
Went to Liberty Island and climbed the statue. Awesome. But what I loved the best was waiting back at Battery Park. Sitting there in full regalia was the Original One Man Band. I don't remember how many instruments he played at once, something like nine or twelve. I don't know. But he was great.
And we walked, and walked all over Manhattan. A gang of guys that looked like they were up to no good passed us. A minute later, Steve and I spied something on the sidewalk that one of the guys evidently dropped. Steve reacted to it faster than I did. He scooped it up, it was a pair of leather gloves lined with rabbit fur!! Bummer. Why wasn't I faster? They could have been mine. But I am not going to let that happen again. So I am on the lookout! Ha... Ready Freddie was my name. Steve got his prize, it's MY turn!
But nothing turned up that night. Not until the next day. We took a trip up to the top of the World Trade Center. While walking around on the top on the observation deck, I spied a paper bag someone left on a bench. HAA... MY prize. And with that, I rushed over there and grabbed it. I held it to my breast knowing it was mine, all mine, whatever the treasure was. Steve watched as I took my treasure out of the bag. It was a book.... 'The Addenum to the Satanic Bible'. No kidding. I took it, and tore it up, and tossed it in a trash can. So much for my 'prize'.
And so it's time to head to DC. We're given our SCRATCH OFF TICKETS!! Herrrrrre we go..... I scratch mine off... Sarasota Florida!!! Steve scratches his off, Auckland, NZ... I kid you not! Sheeze. Bummer.
All I remember is I was so rumdum from no sleep I could hardly think. I think we rented a car. Yes, while we were at Arlington Cemetery I took a snooze in the back seat. I was zonked. Saw the other sites. I remember being smitten by the Vietnam Memorial. Looked up two names: Charles Purcell
and Tom Briggs
. Friends of mine who were killed in 'Nam. Very sobering moment for me.
I can't remember much else about the DC trip. Don't even know if we spent the night or what. But we did fly back to Newark and directly boarded a flight to Boston. Got our second scratch off ticket. Mine was Ft. Myers Florida. Steve's was Sydney Australia. No kidding.
On the way to Boston our friendship began to be strained. It was time for a break from one another. Maybe I'd be luckier if I were on my own !!?? At any rate, I was feeling it, but kept it to myself. Steve was laying back in his seat with his shades on, eyes no doubt closed. He calmly said, 'Hey John. When we get to Boston, let's divorce'. I calmly said, 'Sounds good to me.' So another word was not passed between us for the duration of the flight. We landed in Boston. I know we stayed at the YMCA there... I THINK we checked in first, in order to dump our packs, and from there, he was one way, and I went another way. First we agreed that at such and such a time, we'd meet at Legal Seafood
near the Commons. And for the day, he tripped his way and I tripped mine. That evening, I had Oysters Rockefeller at Legal. Awesome. It was good to take a break from my travel buddy. All things were refreshed. No problemo.
We took a bus back to New York. Departing Newark for home, again we got our last scratch off ticket. Actually, Steve said he was going to ask for two. I didn't believe him, but as we boarded, and they passed out the scratch off tickets, he just calmly said, 'Two please', and the stewardess handed him two. No fuss no muss. Duhh, here I come behind him and get my 'one'. I don't remember where the destinations were on my 'one', or Steve's 'two'.
I remember we had to keep them for several years. That was one catch to it, they wern't good for at least a whole year. But I did use them... took my whole family to Orlando Florida for a vacation for next to nothing. Was great. And Steve, he went to Auckland and Sydney. Bummer.
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