Stomping Grounds

After eight months of highways and high country, I took a deep breath and returned to the nest. Leah and I had already flown to Philadelphia from Charlotte–where the Airstream was idling in storage until our travels resumed–and continued by car to Northern New Jersey where we planned to reunite with our families for Thanksgiving dinner and my 65th birthday celebration.

While commuting to New York City to attend a union-sponsored luncheon of like-minded teachers and retirees was never part of my original plan, it seemed difficult turning down a free lunch after receiving the invitation a month earlier, and realizing that the event would be a pleasant diversion from all the doctor visits Leah had scheduled months ago.

Although the trip by bus from Willowbrook Park and Ride to Port Authority was uneventful, memories of tidal traffic flooded my mind as the bus crept at a snail’s pace until we entered the Lincoln Tunnel.

Port Authority was as grimy as ever. No one dared to linger longer than necessary, so travelers were quick about their business, and goodbye exchanges tended to be short and sweet before people parted ways for different places. Only the homeless and drunks cared to share the surroundings, as they dutifully sifted through trash cans in search of redeemable bottles and discarded deli.

Walking out onto 8th Avenue and looking beyond 42nd Street, a familiar game of human pinball was playing out across over-crowded sidewalks, with pedestrians weaving through imaginary obstacle courses, unable to avoid each other.

Times Square1

Also familiar were the cacophonous sirens of emergency vehicles frozen in gridlock, and the scent of the big city.

TSQ Asserie

I routed through Times Square for an essential rush of nostalgia,

TSQ traffic

as this was my traditional walk to work for the better part of a school year when I taught World History and Chemistry at JKO (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) High School, renown for once housing the school characterized in the movie Fame.

Subway

Times Square2

SWAT

Winding my way to 6th Avenue,

Torsos

camera towers were rising between decorated office buildings in preparation for Thursday’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Xmas lights

Ornaments

Arriving at my destination, I joined a reception in the ballroom lobby of the New York Hilton that soon transitioned to an open call for lunch, as the doors to the ballroom parted and 800 attendees scrambled to locate their seating assignments.

After customary introductions and rousing speeches from union officials,

Ballroom luncheon

we settled on servings of institutional indigestion masked as fish or fowl, while catching up with complete strangers around our table.

Table 60

Entertainment was provided by retirees with a passion for colorful clothes and random gyrating.

tiny dancers

Belly dancers

fan dance

By two o’clock, it was all an afterthought, and the crowd slowly dissembled…in search of what’s next after retirement.

Upon my return to Port Authority, I re-routed through Rockefeller Center–ahead of Thursday’s masses–to sneak a peak at Christmas future…

Rockefellar Center Promenade

Angels with Trumpets

…but alas, the Northern Spruce–like so much of New York City–was still a work in progress.

Scaffolded tree

Ironically, I felt myself immediately transported back to the classroom for one brief moment, reflecting on one of my earliest teaching revelations: that instruction, much like construction, is best achieved with proper scaffolding. For without it, most students would be skating on thin ice.

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