The red eye flight to JFK airport in New York was pleasantly uneventful. I opened sticky sleepy eyes to a dusky pink horizon out my window. Bodies bobbed into upright under rumpled blankets. The smell of fresh brewed coffee permeated tourist class.
We deplaned, and foolishly left our luggage in the outrageously expensive luggage storage conveniently located in the Kennedy International airport terminal where unsuspecting foreign visitors can be fleeced of their newly acquired US$. We sleuthed out a place for Tracy to cash a $50 traveler's check. The TWA terminal cafeteria obliged, as we bought New York bagels with cream cheese for our breakfast snack.
With an eight hour layover, we investigated the most inexpensive method to get to Manhattan -- ever mindful of Tracy's student budget.
The bus service at $22 round trip seemed pricey but the best of the alternatives. Limo service is quick but expensive -- $44 per person round trip. The woman at the transportation information booth explained the subway possibilities. One hour of transit time plus $1.25. Definitely a price and time expenditure we can afford. We had 13 hours to kill, and money to save.
The weather was "iffy," but if we couldn't walk around Manhattan in the drizzle, we certainly weren't ready to pedal around Ireland in the mist.
Subways are for people watching. And I watched the Alec Guiness look-alike across from me. A two day growth of white stubble poked forth on his chin, missing teeth gave his mouth a tight look, and his alert eyes smiled too brightly at all glances coming his direction. Suddenly he was eating a small pot-pie which appeared from nowhere. When he left the train, the food wrapping lay where his feet had been.
Walking to Times Square, up 6th Avenue and 5th Avenue. Everything that implicated Ireland caught our eyes: the Blarney Stone Pub on 5th Avenue, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the Bank of Ireland across the street.
The 10 a.m. mass at St. Patrick's began as we entered to look about. Many stood in the rear with us, admiring the ornate walls and vaulted ceiling, the stunning stained glass windows with their predominantly blue hues. Ceremonial bells rang and incense smoke hung in a smoggy pall over the altar area.
Trump Tower -- a pink-marbled and bronzed-lobbied building complete with a two story waterfall and tuxedo-ed information guard. A building exceeded in questionable taste only by Donald Trump's ego. But it was fun to see. The "trees" in the entry lobby looked real, but closer inspection revealed fake branches inserted into drilled holes in the trunks.
5th Avenue. 6th Avenue. The location of the flagship stores for many upscale retail companies pandering to the excessive spending habits of over-indulged Americans. Corporate headquarters abound.
Destinations: Central Park and eventually the MOMA. A humid gray day. It reminded me of unpleasant summer weather in "Chicago, my home town." Walking briskly, I longed for shorts rather than my L.L. Bean royal blue gusseted climber pants. I'm sure by the end of this trip I will be more than willing to rip them to shreds and consign them to the garbage can. I didn't last year, and I won't this year. But I will be good and sick of them, in spite of their comfort and versatility. I should look into the all purpose pants/shorts that Tracy wears. The lower legs zip off to create a credible pair of shorts.
The three of us have never traveled together, but at first glance it looked as if it would work out well. Jack is so easy going, very little seems to affect him .
The New York Deli caught our eye as we entered Central Park. We looked at each other and said, "New York Cheesecake!" The seed had been planted.
On the return trip, the menu looked too pricey, even though we planned to split food. Just down the street at 6th and 57th Sts. we investigated the Stardust Diner, decorated in traditional diner decor. The hamburger was good and the cheesecake excellent.
We checked into our Aer Lingus flight by Sean Reily. He said he is Irish. He looked "black Irish" with dark hair, blue eyes and fair skin, but said he had never left the East Coast.
Ready for an 8:30 p.m. takeoff, we settled into our bulkhead seats, enviously eyed by nearby passengers in the jam-packed 747. The expected take-off announcement from the cockpit began, with an unexpected twist.
"Ladies and gentlemen, due to storms moving through from the Boston area, we have been delayed by air traffic control and can expect takeoff clearance in 2 3/4 HOURS. Forty to fifty planes are ahead of us."
Seat belts snapped open and restless passengers strolled the narrow aisles. Dinner service began, tray and beverage carts rolling tightly between the seats, cutting by half the aisle pacing space.
We all wrote quickly in our journals, capturing our frustration. Some passengers snoozed. It was 9:30 p.m. local time, 2:30 a.m. Irish time. 2:30 a.m.
Another announcement from the flight crew, one-half hour later. "Ladies and gentlemen, ATC has cleared us to leave. Please stow your tray tables and bring your seat backs to their full and upright positions. Cabin crew, collect the dinner service and prepare for departure."
With a rattle and clatter of silverware, plastic plates, cups and 2 oz. drink bottles, the cabin was hurriedly tidied for takeoff.
A sputtering takeoff and we were airborne. Horn noises come from somewhere, giving Tracy a terrible adrenaline rush as he thought the stall horn was screaming.
I tried to sleep, somewhat successfully, but morning arrived too soon. Red eye flights are a mixed blessing. I arrive early in the day, ready to dash into activity, but with eyes crying for more sleep.