Monday, June 4, 2018

RETROSPECTIVE: New York City (Spring Break 2005)

As this happened a decade prior to this writing, details are fuzzy.

During spring break of 2005, a few of my friends wanted to do a road trip to New York City. I’m not sure how we decided that a cold, windy city would make for a good spring break, but we saddled up nonetheless.

The crew consisted of TC, JF, NM, and myself. We would be using NM’s car. We set out and zipped across I-80/90 to our first destination: my parent’s house. A visit, a refresh, and a refuel later and we were back on the road. We made good time to NYC itself, though our first destination was a little beyond. Our lodgings were with NM’s relatives on Long Island. I think it was somewhere in here we got in a minor fender-bender in New Jersey - I remember it being a big deal and little deal, as the car we hit didn’t care and, driving in NM’s beater, we didn’t either.

After staying the night, we headed into the city. My timeline is a bit fuzzy here, but the following things certainly happened: lots of wandering around; I bought a pipe and others bought cigars; I couldn’t go into a shop because I was trying to smoke my pipe, so I stood on a corner where one street was all delis and the other was all jewelry shops and I saw a lot of orthodox Jews; we met with my cousin PS who took us up to some snazzy art event at the W hotel on Times Square; we had drinks with PS (ugh, I wasn’t drinking any beer that wasn’t Guinness at that point, so I insisted on a White Russian. What an ass I was.); he let us stay in his friend’s tiny apartment; we wandered some more; instead of even more wandering, I insisted we see a broadway play (Fiddler on the Roof - we were one week too early for the opening of Spamalot, much to our disappointment); we hung out with NM’s family and I got tobacco/nicotine sick for the first time; we got deli food at some point; JF was disappointed by the lack of taxis; TC did this thing where he pretended to be British for a bit to try and impress some girls; at some point I stopped in the Waldorf-Astoria to see how much my parents’ honeymoon suite would cost at the current rates.

Eventually it was time to leave. Instead of heading directly back, I suggested hitting Niagara Falls - being full of energy, everyone agreed. We drove up and got stopped at the border. It was around the time that the border was tightening and driver’s licenses were not 100% acceptable. NM had his passport on him, TC and JF had military IDs (both were in ROTC), so I was the odd man out. The border agent gave us one hell of a lecture and promised it’d be worse getting back into the US. We crossed undaunted.

While in Canada we saw the falls, obviously. We looked for the Tesla statue and the hydroelectric dam, but were not successful (oh, life before smart phones). Our final act before returning to the Land of the Free™ was to go to Hooters - after all, three of us could legally drink in Canada (again, I was the odd one out). We had a nice time - I abstained from libations despite no one caring - and we were cajoled into casting ballots for our server to be Miss Hooters Canada. After voting, we received our only Canadian souvenir - four Hooters posters depicting all of the contestants.

We headed for home, the border agent’s words in our heads. As we pulled up to the gate, IDs in hand, we were all super spooked about getting back to the US. The agent looked us over - four white male college kids - and dutifully asked if we had anything to declare. Somehow unprepared for this question, we all looked around and mutually decided (correctly) that we had nothing to declare.

“But wait!” I thought, “the posters!” In the brief silence after our “no”, I piped up from the back seat informing the agent of the afternoon’s acquisitions. The man gave out a great laugh, looked at us again, and waved us through - no hassle, no problems, nothing the Canadian agent had warned us of.

The rest of the journey was smooth sailing. A quick stop in Youngstown to see my parents again (and get Wedgewood pizza, I’m sure) and we were back at Notre Dame, ready for classes to start.

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