Wednesday, February 8, 2012
A mysterious note is delivered:
Dear Mrs. McBride,
Congratulations! You have been awarded a free Escort Upgrade on your upcoming romantic getaway weekend. Here at Stepford Dream Escorts, we pride ourselves on providing realistic replacement companions programmed for a full weekend of client-directed fun. You, Mrs. McBride, are the client; you direct the activities of the ‘surrogate’. Whether it is dinner, a show, shopping, museums, or whatever comes to mind – this is your weekend.
The only difference you are likely to detect between the surrogate and your husband is a minor alteration to his brain; ALL EXPECTATIONS have been removed. He has been wired for your pleasure only. He is guaranteed to respond favorably to each and every request….
Your Friends at Stepford
Friday, February 10, 2012
We depart at 1:00 PM, boarding the train for New York City. We don’t normally use Amtrak when heading to The Big Apple, but, literally, with the luck of the draw at an IBC Holdings marketing event, the transportation and accommodations have been arranged. We have been teeming with childlike anticipation leading up to our Valentine’s Day escape, the new mode of travel just adding to the excitement.
Packing for the weekend was easy; for me, jeans, three shirts/sweaters, douche kit, C-PAP machine; everything a man needs for a romantic weekend. For Leigh, Leather pants, leather boots, sweater, silky top and scarf; that was for ‘dinner’ Friday. Separate outfits required for Saturday/Sunday. The good news is everything fit into two carry-on size bags and sits comfortably in the overhead compartment. Travelling by train is a lot easier than travelling by plane. Period.
There is an inherent level of awkwardness I feel when I’m in the big city. I’m used to driving everywhere I need to go. Now I find myself on a Friday afternoon during peak rush hour managing the unfamiliar logistics of public transportation. Even though I, mysteriously, have no expectations, I do want everything to go as smoothly as possible. My lack of experience in ‘hailing’ a cab weighs on my mind. After a few futile minutes, I’m secretly relieved and delighted with triumph as a cab pulls up to the curb right in front of us. I make eye contact with the cabbie, he nods, and pops the trunk open. This is easy. My delight is short-lived, and the awkwardness returns, only compounded as “MY Taxi” is being stolen from me right before my eyes! While waiting (politely, I might add) for the departing fare to exit the cab, an offending local entered from the opposite side. I was flabbergasted!
“Am I on Candid Camera? Am I getting Punk’d? What is this?” Not only was I somewhat surprised – so was the cabbie. In fact it was after 20 seconds of a seemingly harsh exchange between the driver and the offender that the cabbie steps out of the vehicle to close the trunk .
“Sorry – what can I say? It’s New York!” I bet it’s not every tourist who starts off their romantic weekend with an apology from a New York City Cabbie!
A few minutes later we succesfully landed a cab: $11.00 later we checked into the Hyatt at Grand Central Station. Everything was smooth as silk.
Our Friday night plan is to have dinner with Navy classmate Noreen Leahy and her husband Jim. From the looks of the map on my iPhone, everything looks pretty close. This will be a breeze. We decide to walk, cruising up 42nd Street, crossing Madison and Fifth Avenues heading towards Bryant Park. The vibe of the city is unmistaken; pure energy.
It was about 20 yards into the walk when I realized those sexy black leather boots with the spiked heels Leigh was wearing aren’t necessarily made for walking. Don’t get me wrong – they look really, REALLY good, but…
The map on my phone shows everything is in walking distance. What it doesn’t show is the vast amount of metal grating along New York City’s sidewalks. Spiked heels and metal grates don’t work well together; particularly on a romantic getaway weekend (expectations or not!). We manuever accordingly. I estimate we triple the actual distance flats would need to cover the same territory.
We get to Bryant Park which is packed with ice-skaters and on-lookers taking advantage of the mild February temps. It’s a very cool place to hang out and people-watch. We then head down to Times Square with the bright lights and really big screen TV’s. After seing the ball and the “2012” we recounted Dick Clark’s countdown to the New Year. We then headed back up 45th Street to The Avenue of the Americas and around the corner to meet Noreen and Jim for dinner at Aureolas.
Some reunions are just telling the same old stories. Some are really sharing lives. With Jim and Noreen, it has always been the latter. Our lives are so intertwined. Noreen recounts the day she and I first met Plebe Summer in July 1977. Her memory is kind to me. Jim and I serve together on USS Independence in the early 1980’s. I succeeded him as the General Quarters Officer of the Deck. We reminisce about the leadership lessons we learned and challenges we endured. We catch each other up on what former shipmates are doing, and how our early experiences formed the basis of our lives. Noreen has just come back from a Tiger cruise with their son Joe on USS Bataan. We talk about Caity’s wedding and Chris’s new career. After a magnificent feast, Jim leads us on a tour of his offices on the 38th floor of the Bank of America building. Snow begins to fall as we are taking in the 360 degree view of the New York night skyline. It is unforgettably breathtaking.
Our tour ended, we say our goodbyes and part ways. Assuring Jim and Noreen we know precisely where we are – and exactly which way we are heading; we promptly head in a wrong direction. The softly falling snow accentuates the distraction of the big city lights. We have no idea where we are, and the little map on my phone says we’re just over ‘there’. It is about this time Leigh mentions that her choice of foot apparel may not have been appropriate; her feet hurt. Oh my….
I’m not sure if it was her fatigue of my navigating eyes-down on the snowflake covered phone, or the pain in her toes, but Leigh had enough and asked a passerby for help. We got pointed in the right direction. About 4 blocks from the hotel, she had enough. I finally convinced her to let me carry her piggy-back style. I did. Trudging up 42nd Street in the driving snow, her pointed boots wrapped around my waist – we made our way. At nearly 53 years of age, with one knee already replaced, and a second knee ready to be replaced, I have never been more grateful my bride feels like she weighs exactly the same as she did when we crossed the threshold on our wedding day in 1981.
“Me Caveman. Me take girl back to cave.”
On Saturday, we start a little late. First we wander into a small diner on 45th for breakfast, and then spend the morning walking and shopping in midtown. In the afternoon we took in “Wicked” – it was truly a phenomenal show; far exceeding both of our expectations. We then took the subway down to Soho for more shopping and dinner at Lure Fishbar; great atmosphere, great food.
Sunday morning we headed down to the financial district for breakfast and a tour of the 9/11 Tribute Memorial. I felt every emotion I felt on that perfect blue-skied day in 2001. We then took a guided tour led by two survivors, each of them sharing their up close and personal stories. It was heart wrenching and heartwarming in the same suspended moment. As if somehow that day long ago could not already be forgotten, the words “We will never forget.” are now etched in an entirely different, and more profound, way than ever before. I highly recommend you make the visit and the guided tour a priority in your planning.
Prior to heading back to Harrisburg on the train, we capped off Sunday afternoon with a little more walking and a little more shopping. It was a great trip.
I can’t quite explain how this works. If I were inclined to have expectations about a romantic getaway weekend (which, of course, I did not) those expectations would have been generously exceeded .
Happy Valentine’s Day Love!