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New York Arrival

November 3, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

We flew overnight from Seattle to New York last night, arriving early this morning at JFK. We rarely take the redeye, but given my schedule and our desire to have the day here today, it was our only option.

We boarded around 10:40 PM, left the terminal around 11:20, took off 11:30, and were soon above the clouds. Good time to start sleeping, and I put on my eyeshades. But moments later, the flight attendant asked if I would be interested in the roast beef sandwich. I thought Gail said yes, so I said yes too, only to discover on being awakened 20 minutes later to eat a midnight meal I didn’t need that Gail had turned it down. Oh well. By 12:30 Seattle time, or 3:30 AM New York time, I was asleep.

It was a bumpy ride. Periodically there would be an announcement to fasten seat belts. A little after 6:15, I was awakened for good when we were told that we were 40 miles out and starting our descent. On pulling up the window shade, I found we were still in darkness with nothing to see. But a few minutes later, a sharp edge to the clouds was visible, with light to the south and east. Where were we? Normally we come into JFK on a track over the northern part of Manhattan or still farther north and I quickly orient myself. This time, on the right side of the plane looking south, I couldn’t make out any Manhattan shape or detail. There were lots of waterways and inlets, making me think we were over New Jersey. Newark maybe? Then a bridge. Then another bridge.

Suddenly I knew where we were. The second bridge crossed a narrow channel. It was still completely dark out, no dawn yet, just artificial light, but that had to be the Verrazano, from Staten Island to Brooklyn. There were ships in the harbor, north and south of the bridge. And that first bridge was the Bayonne Bridge, running from Bayonne, NJ south to Staten Island. Manhattan views were to the left side of the plane, and no one to the left had lifted their window shades.

Oriented at last, I wondered what storm damage I could see. Nothing really. We were headed over the ocean, with the Jersey shore running southward and the southwest corner of Brooklyn directly below. A bit of pink signaled the start of dawn. We continued to descend out over the Atlantic, made a 180 degree turn, and headed back to Long Island.

That was perhaps the eeriest part. There were lights ahead. Some lights. Along Long Island’s south shore. And the strangest formation of ships parallel to shore, running east to west. What were they? Ships bringing gas at last to New York. Garbage ships with nowhere to go? It was still too dark to make out details. Once past them, w rapeidly approached land. Up ahead, and soon straight below, was the western edge of Long Beach, the barrier beach just to the east of Rockaway. Some lights were visible. Cars, driving along the streets in darkness. Dawn light revealed the layout of houses and the street grid, but the only lights below were from the cars. Then we crossed over some more water and back to land, where Far Rockaway and Queens meet the southwest corner of Nassau County. A house here or there had light. Generators? Mostly it was darkness, except for the bright lights of JFK just ahead, then below us as we landed.

Terminal 3, the historic PanAm terminal that Delta took over years ago, looked like a wasteland. But it always looks like a wasteland. That’s not news. Down by baggage claim — the most forlorn baggage claim I know in the US — signs were on walls and doors saying to excuse the mess from the storm. Who would know the difference?

With all the warnings about gas shortages, I had called Mario the afternoon before to see if his car service could pick us up. He had no gas. He called back to say someone else would come. But someone else hadn’t come, and gas shortage or not, taxis were lined up. Another call to Mario and we learned that he was on the way himself, since the other person was out of gas, whereas Mario had driven to Connecticut the night before to fill up.

Twenty minutes later, we were headed up the Van Wyck, then the Long Island Expressway, then on local Queens roads toward the Queensborough bridge. The first gas station we passed had a line at least 5 blocks long, but it wasn’t clear that anyone was actually getting gas. They were just lined up in case the station got a delivery.

Over the bridge we went, up 3rd and Madison, and ultimately to our hotel, 8:15 AM arrival with our room not to be ready until 3:30 PM. At least my sister and brother-in-law were here, having arrived two nights ago, so we could crash with them.

I called my brother, learned that he was on a gas line at 4:30 this morning, only for the owner to tell everyone at 6:30 to forget it, no gas would be coming. He wasn’t sure he had enough gas for another gas line.

Here on the upper east side, the most visible clue that things aren’t normal is the piles of garbage. The power never went out. The hotel phone lines did. If you want to go to a restaurant, no easy matter. We stopped at Sant Ambroeus, one of our favorites (featured in previous posts), in the late morning to see about a reservation tonight. First opening: 10:30 PM. Here it is 10:50. I still wouldn’t have eaten dinner.

What I really need to do is go to sleep. I’ll save for another post news of our visit this afternoon to the International Fine Print Dealers Association Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. Not what we came here for, but coincidental good timing, allowing us to see the work at long last of the daughter of family friends, and much more.

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