I made a few phone calls and I was able to find some accommodations in Queens with Pat and Christa. There was only two catches. We had to hit some clubs at night with Shirley and Christa and Joel and I unfortunately had to share a couch bed. But the less said about that, the better!
So Joel and I planned what we wanted to do and saved some money so we could go in the summer. My mom took Joel and I down to the airport (stopping first to grab some Stewart's sodas for the ride) and Kristy was to pick us up from the airport when we returned. Kristy and I were not married at the time, we were still dating and much to my surprise she met Joel and I at the airport before we took off. Right before I hopped the plane to New York, I stopped and turned back to Kristy and dropped to one knee and proposed.
Yes, this is how I proposed. Well, at least this is the official story we tell people. Kristy said "Yes" and I grabbed my bag and headed back down the terminal to catch my plane. I was excited to get back to the city and do some stuff that I couldn't as a missionary. I was also looking forward to seeing people I have not seen and spoken to for a long time. The plane lifted in the air and we were off.
We had a brief funny stopover in Dallas. Now I am not an avid flyer. I don't know how things go, I am not familiar with transferring and stuff like that. All I know is that we only had a brief window to get off our first plane and to grab our second flight. As Joel and I were speed walking to our second flight we came to the realization that we do not have our bags! So we ran back to the terminal baggage claim and waited and waited. But our bags did not show up! So we panicked and contacted the airport lost and found. And they were of absolute NO help. Little did we know that our bags are automatically sent to the new plane. Quit giggling folks. We had no clue how things went! So we ran back to our second flight and headed to New York.
We flew into LaGuardia airport in Queens and waited for Christa to come and pick us up. It was so good to see her. Christa and I really bonded when I served in the Jamaica area of Queens on my mission. We became fast friends and we always kept in touch when I served in other areas, in fact she probably knows more about my mission than anyone else. She was the first one to call me when I arrived home from my mission. So it was good to be around her again. We had a nice dinner with them that first night and it was a lot of fun to share my mission with my friend and to catch up.
The next few days were super busy. I do not remember how they all flowed together so here are some highlights of the trip.
- Most of the nights/early mornings were spent going to dance clubs. Now I am not a big dancer but I did want to experience some of the nightlife that New York has to offer. We stayed up way late, most
nightsmornings coming in around 4 or so. Usually we would grab some breakfast before going home to catch some sleep. We went to this four story dance house called Webster Hall and it was pretty amazing. Each floor had different music to it and it was packed. One of the floors which played a lot of metal had this one old grey-bearded gentleman wearing all leather on stilts dancing away. I had a good time but I think the club life is just not for me. One night is one thing, three nights in a row is another! The last night we were there I did have a girl come on to me which made everyone in our party laugh. I thought for sure that what I had felt was just incidental bumping. But when it happened again and again and I turned around to see the girl looking right at me, I knew there was more to this story!
Joel and I didn't have cool enough clothes to go so we had to borrow these very tight shirts to go. That is Shirley, Christa and me and Joel.
- Wednesdays are a great day to see a Broadway play. They have cheaper matinees on Wednesday and I wanted to see Rent. I ordered my ticket before I got to New York. Joel wanted to see something else so he went and saw Beauty and the Beast. I have to admit that it was fun to sit with a bunch of strangers and see a musical. The musical was fantastic, almost all of the original players were still there. So all of the voices I knew from the CD recording were live to see. It was great, there is nothing like seeing a Broadway play live and in person. It was well worth the money.
- Joel got addicted to eating the nuts that vendors sell right on the street. He must have bought 3-4 of them on one Manhattan trip alone!
- Since we were poor we didn't eat out a lot at expensive places. We did eat at the restaurant right next to David Letterman's. We decided that we should eat out at a fancy known place at least once so we chose this spot. But boy was it expensive. We only ate (and could afford) the appetizers and they were not happy about it. As soon as we were done they asked us to leave. We thought about ordering one dish and sharing it but I am sure they would have physically thrown us out if we did.
- Since Joel and I are comic book geeks, we had to go see the offices of Marvel and DC. Marvel was a big disappointment aside from seeing Stan Lee's office. But DC really treated us well. They took us on an impromptu tour and let us take pictures. And of course we picked up some applications. And then we went to a few of the large comic shops and picked up some loot.
Joel and Batman. And this was one of the actual costumes worn in the movie. DC had the coolest things to see.
- We also went to the top of the World Trade Centers. This is the second time I have been there and it still took my breath away. You really felt like you were at the top of the world there. You could see forever being up so high. And I warned Joel that the elevator took you up at an unbelievable pace. Seriously, in seconds you were up like fifty floors.
You can see the tall shadows the WTC's leave.
- One evening Joel and I went out at about midnight or so it take Christa's dog out for a walk. As we were walking around the block we passed this guy in this dark hoodie. The dog about took his head off barking and growling at him. I yanked the dog back and walked past thinking about it. But then I got this funny feeling in my gut. I turned around and saw this guy coming back towards us. I grabbed Joel and we got back in the building and the dog went nuts again. I honestly think that this guy was coming back to mug us.
- I also had to stop at a sports shop to look for some Jets gear. I found an old shirt and a Keyshawn Johnson jersey so I snagged them both.
- Christa allowed me to take her car and go visit people. So Joel and I spent Sunday going to see people. We first went to Rego Park and go to church there in my old branch. I recognized a few of the people and I was surprised when someone came in and sat beside me. The member had fallen away from the church and he had a bit of a falling out with me and my companion too. I didn't think I would see him again and in church no less. But it was great to see Auggie and catch up with him. After church we walked down to see John Libretto. I pressed the buzzer and told him that the missionaries were here and he told us to come up. He about died when he saw that it was me coming up. We had a great visit (and lunch of course) and then he gave us a ride down to Jamaica so I could see my old Richmond Hills branch. The Branch President recognized me in the audience and had me stand up. He said that I was a a missionary that would not give up on me and that is true. Kevin was very interested in joining the church but we could never get together although I called him at least every week or so. Now he is the Branch President of that branch. Afterwards we went into Brooklyn and saw Rose and then went to Jackson Heights and saw Ingrid, people I spent a lot of time with while on my mission. And it was great catching up with them. That evening Joel and I took the car and went to Staten Island and saw the Bowman's. They are a wonderful family that I absolutely loved. They treated us to one of Staten Island's famous pizza pies and we spent the evening with them. It made me miss my mission quite a bit. What I won't miss is the driving. It sure gets crazy there.
Me, Linda and Steve with Tina and Jonathon Bowman
- I was going to show Joel some of the areas that I used to serve in. We stopped at a subway stop and we almost got out. But I have to admit that I didn't feel quite right, I didn't feel totally safe just walking in that area. So we stayed on the subway and headed into Manhattan. Funny how things can change when you are not protected as a missionary anymore.
- Speaking of riding the subway, one of the funnest things that I like to do while in New York was taking the subway. I could spend hours just people watching. There are so many colorful characters that you will never get to see again anywhere that ride the trains. Joel had an experience that I don't think he will forget anytime soon. He was standing in the subway car when suddenly the car jerked a bit (which it does often) and Joel accidentally stepped on this guy's foot. The guy yelled at him and Joel said he was sorry but then it happened again and the Middle Eastern guy really let Joel have it. He was yelling at him to not stand so close to him and stuff like that. The look on Joel's face was priceless. Oh the joys of riding the subway.
- Christa gave us a ride to the airport and it was sad to go. We only spent a few days in New York and barely was able to do what we wanted. There was just not enough time to do it all. But we had a fantastic time there. The plane ride home was something to remember as well. LaGuardia Airport has the shortest runway in the whole United States. During takeoff you would look down and see runway and then you would liftoff and suddenly you would see ocean! It was that quick and a bit nerve racking. But it was neat to see the city as you lift off from Queens. During the plane ride home we chatted and did some doodling. A stewardess noticed our artwork and asked if she could take them to the pilot so he could see them. She talked with us for quite a while on the plane ride home. It was on this plane trip that I first formed my ideas for my first novel, The Vessel.
New York will always be a special place for me. It was a good experience while on my mission and it was a good experience going back with Joel. I wish I could go back again.