Touchdown New York

21 10 2009

Every visit to New York has come courtesy of the friendly skies. Always landing at La Guardia, the small airport in Queens.

And sometimes it can take longer to get from Queens to Manhattan than from Atlanta to New York. Nevertheless, there are plenty of people waiting outside the terminal gates willing to assist you.

If you can afford it, a cab is probably the way to go. Or if you really want to impress, there’s always the limo service.

I took the Super Shuttle and for 12 bucks was promptly deposited in front of Grand Central Station. Once inside, I made my next important purchase…the Metro Card. I was to rendezvous with my friend Barry later in the evening as his flight was arriving from the West Coast through JFK.

Barry and I met on the internet of all places, thanks to an obscure website called Couchsurfing. He had arranged for our accomodations for the first week and then he was scheduled to leave for France and a hike through the mountains near Toulouse.

“A left-wing radical from the 60s,” is how Barry referred to himself. He had been in the trenches during the Harvey Milk years and often spoke with distain about the country in which he lived.

He called Berkeley home and said, other than New York, he had no desire to visit any other part of America..much less Florida.

“My father lived in South Florida before he died,” he revealed.

Barry was many years my senior and I enjoyed his company. We spoke on the telephone several nights before scheduling this trip.

I looked forward to our chats, often taking place during my graveyard shift at the Bayside, when the fiddler crabs would crawl out of their holes and scurry toward the lights around the main office.

“You’re being exploited,” Barry declared when he found out how much I was being paid to stand guard through the night.

Apparantly, eight bucks an hour is well below the minimum wage in San Francisco.

We decided to meet in Union Square in the village, where at night, the kids from NYU would congregate. I arrived first and sat on the steps watching the skateboarders show off their moves.

Barry showed up about an hour later, wearing a professor-like blue blazer, plaid shirt and  jeans and carrying way too much luggage.

During our phone chats, Barry’s voice conjured images of Mel Brooks.

“You’re a deep one, John,” he told me.

This was flattering, coming from an academic from the Left Coast.

Barry asked why I remained in North Florida, where the obstacles were so great. He wanted to know why I remained in relationships that didn’t work and why I had left the security of a newspaper job with a recession taking hold.

All good questions.

During the course of our week together in New York, I think Barry got those answers and I too learned more about my long distance pen pal.

He asked if I could help him carry one of his bags and together we left Union Square for Gramercy Park.

“We have to feed the pussies when we get there,” Barry reminded me, referring to two cats inside the apartment that he had managed to secure through the same website where we had met.

“Can you help me feed the pussy cats, John?,” Barry asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

“They need lots of attention, those pussy cats,” he said.

And so did Barry.

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