This week I returned from vacation to NYC and Washington DC. I'm always curious why people choose certain places for vacations; if it's a matter of convenience, accessibility, affordability, sentimentality, "I-have-to-get-out-of-here-now-and-I-don't-care-where-or-why..ly" and/or perhaps a combination of all of the above. I decided to visit NYC and DC for my Spring vacation for two big reasons...
1. I've been to Bangkok, London, Paris, Edinburgh, Phenom Phen, and Hanoi - all amazing capitol cities on this good earth, but I'd never visited my own countries great capitol. It just didn't make sense! In fact, other than my trip to Charleston, SC last Spring, I'd never been to the East Coast here in my own USofA. It seemed somehow... not right. There are so many amazing places right here in our own backyard... our very very very... large backyard.
2. Free places to stay... and that really is the crux of it, let's be honest. Last summer I also took an amazing week long road trip through Oregon and Washington, two rather accessible places I had never been and always had an interest in. The trip was awesome. The major expense, even with a hotel discount in a few cities, was naturally a bed to sleep in and once in awhile, a semi-stale bagel to consume. Painful I tell you. Painful. Thus, friends in cities I want to visit are the most obvious cities to visit. I also like most of those friends too; so that's a win win.
THEREFORE, I am happy to say that my trip to NYC and DC was a resounding success for many reasons; food, free accommodations, food, checking most things off the old "I-must-do-this-because-I've-never-been-here-before" list and of course, interacting with some of the most famously recognizable all-American sites and sounds... even one that swaggers around in tasteful blazers and aviator sunglasses (foreshadowing!).
But lets not get ahead of ourselves...
Because this trip started with a red eye flight. Which I hated.
Nothing particular happened that created such disdain for the red eye flight; it was merely the fact it was a red eye flight. Here's a little something about moi... I don't DO well without sleep. Sure, during the dark days of Masters degree acquisition, particularly during those horrendous two weeks known as "finals", my sleep was reduced. And by reduced I mean from 8 hours to 6 hours. That's about what I can muster and still maintain my cool, calm exterior. In fact, this "must get my sleeps" thang has always been. In high school, nay, even Jr. High, when groups of pubescent teens would exclaim "All nighter!!", my eye would start to twitch and I'd search the excuse catalogue of my mind for a way out of these peer pressured torturous situation. All nighters have never appealed to me and some years ago, I stopped going to movies past 9:00pm. My last midnight showing? Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Though, I will tell you I have planned a rebellious act of wakefulness come December when the Hobbit is released... which will be bookended with a great deal of Diet Coke and possibly a "sick day" for recovery. I have a few months to mentally prepare...
I hate red eye flights because I hate not sleeping and hate even more... restless sleeping. So when we left at midnight and arrived at 6:30am in NYC (note: 4:30am Utah time) I was surprised that my motor functions were happily intact as was... prepare for word play... my tact. I'm also a notorious grouch as a sleepy head and combine that with hunger, and full grown grizzly bears will cower before my wrath. Perhaps it was the thrill of NYC combating my grouchiness or the nausea I was soldiering through ALSO caused by my sleeplessness, but when we arrived at our gracious host's abode in Queens, my travel companion and I promptly passed out for 2 hours. We had to. We ain't what we was at 21... or like I was ever.
After a bit of a nap and some fluffing, we were ready to hit the streets of NYC! And here's how it went:
FOOD! Breakfast at this fabulous Ukrainian joint supplemented by a large Diet Coke. I should probably know the name of this place, but we all know my blogging is wanting when it comes to such useful and interesting information. So just know, Ukranian omelets in NYC are good... I"m sure it doesn't matter where you go to get one. I give you my stamp of approval for that one. Go forth.
We then proceeded to wind like rats in a maze through the World Trade Center Memorial line which was a very somber and worthwhile experience... the World Trade Center Memorial... not the feeling like a rat in a maze. Here are ma thoughts.
I loved that this was my first experience in NYC. As I wandered around the memorial site, I listened to the hushed conversations of fellow tourists and observers discussing "where were you when it happened?" We were all there as both Americans and other countrymen reminiscing with incredible clarity the emotions and thoughts being experienced by the world on September 11th, 2001. What we were wearing, what we had for breakfast, if we even had breakfast, who we were with, and always the question "how could this happen, here?"
As for myself, I remembered getting ready for school. I had just started my Senior year and as per usual, set my 9 inch TV/VCR to wake me up set to the morning news. When it clicked on, I didn't even notice the story on TV, rather, stumbled bleary eyed to my bathroom to shower and begin readying myself for presentation to the high school crowd that was my world... that was all our very small worlds... that seemed so extremely important at the time... and stopped being so important that very morning. When I went back to my room for my backpack and shoes, I noticed the burning building on TV... the fear in the persons voice being interviewed. Something caught in my heart and I sat down to try and understand the who, what, and where of what was going on. I gathered quickly that it was New York, that it was the World Trade Center... and as I watched wondering what went wrong with all the technology and abilities we have that a plane could crash into a building, I saw a second plane blast through the second building. I gasped audibly and a hand went to my mouth. Twice? What was happening? The woman being interviewed broke into gasps and tears. Something caught in my heart again... I went upstairs to the kitchen.
"Mom, are you watching what's on TV?" knowing that the news was on each morning at the breakfast table as well...but it wasn't on this morning.
"No..." she said absently..."Why?"
"I think something is happening in New York... I just saw a plane crash into a building..."
My mom turned on the TV as I stood nibbling a strawberry Pop Tart. We watched together in silence for 5 minutes and then I heard the honk of my best friends Acura. It was time to leave...
I left my mom sitting there with the remote in her hand..."bye Mom..."
"Hmmmm...buh..." she mumbled.
I got in the car, "Did you see what's happening?" I asked Ashlee.
"Yeah... I saw it this morning... I don't get what's happening. Was it on purpose?"
"I don't know. Why would that happen on purpose?"
Of course, when we arrived at school every TV was on and for the ensuing 2 days, every class, every conversation, every thought was consumed with the largest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. I remembered it all as clearly as ever standing there where the two towers had once stood, now over 10 years later. We were all collectively remembering. One day, my children will ask me, "Mom... where were you?" and I will be able to tell them... right down to the strawberry pop tart. Naturally, looking back on that moment also allowed me to look forward and create hope from the rubble. We remember so we can press forward. We remember to remind the world that we are not beaten... that we will carry on. We remember and we rebuild. We remember that time heals all wounds but it does not erase the memories.
Visiting this site began a rather surprisingly inspiring week in two of the greatest cities in America. I've always been proud to be an American, but after that week, I felt that pride more deeply. I felt an abiding gratitude for everyone who has faced such oppression and terror and found hope. I felt the spirit of my founding fathers speaking to me of dreams and freedom and principle and that American fervor I think we sometimes lose sight of in the clutter and chaos of modern day consumerism and political rhetoric.
Thus even after a sleepless night, my first day in NYC was more than a memorable experience, it was a change in perspective. It was a resurgence of my American dream... a dream that begins with hope.