Day 08 – A picture that makes you laugh
Last night I had the pleasure of babysitting my niece, the world-famous Valencia Placencia. We had a blast. She’s four years old and an amazingly well-behaved kid. Or at least she was last night. Before my brother left for his football game he got down on one knee and looked Valencia in the eye and said “You listen to Uncle Eddie and do what he says, OK?”* I was glad Ray gave her that instruction as I intended to make her vacuum out my car and fix me waffles.
I had just come from work and was still speckled with paint but our adventures began nonetheless. We ran down to the outskirts of Ft Wayne to go to the paint store and pick up some wallpaper. Whilst there we looked at a wallpaper book featuring Disney characters. From there we zipped back down to Auburn so I could swing by the house and get a change of clothes and then stop by the bank so I could get some money for the night’s festivities. We saw my Aunt Mary, who works at the bank, and Valencia became a little shy as she talked to her on the bank’s drive-thru intercom.
We then went back to V’s home so she could get in a nap and I could get cleaned up while she snoozed. We got home about 4:30 and Ray had instructed me not to let her sleep past 5:30. V woke up a little after 5 and we were soon on our way to the mall in Ft Wayne.
We went in the entrance near the Red Robin restuarant and they had a costumed character of, well, a red robin hanging around inside so we went in so V could shake his hand. We then made our way into the main mall, where V advised me not to walk on the diamond-shaped pieces of tile on the floor. Just because.
We stopped at a bookstore so she could look at the Clifford books that were on display and then made our way to the Disney store where I was informed what Santa needed to get her and also what I needed to get her.
The next stop was Toys R Us and while there the store clerk told me how well-behaved V was. Since Ray and Piper weren’t there to accept the compliment I took it for them. A Spongebob Squarepants costumed character showed up after a bit and I felt bad for the person inside the costume. V was the only kid in the store and she was more preoccupied with the Mr Microphone and the battery-operated stuffed pig that walks around on its own. I cheered for V to myself.
After 20 minutes we moved on to the huge two-story carousel in the mall where V was happy to ride the giraffe, even though it didn’t go up and down. The carousel is in the middle of the food court and the Chick-Fil-A cow character was walking around. It was definitely the Night Of The Living Costume Characters.
Our next stop was Claire’s, where I let V buy anything of her choosing. She opted for a keyring that had a little plastic bird on it. And when you squeezed the bird, sticky brown poop came out (although we aren’t allowed to say “poop.” You call them “stinkies’).
Next up was The Princess Store which we kind of sped through. It was pink and fluffy and a little too gay for me.
As we left the mall we stopped in to grab a bite to eat at the Red Robin. The Bird Guy was gone but V at least got a balloon. We bundled back up and raced out to the car and from there we went to V’s favorite store: Wal-Mart.
We looked at all the toys and walked through the Halloween aisle where she nervously laughed at all of the motion-activated talking skulls. As we left the aisle she confessed she was a little scared in the Halloween aisle. I told her it was just plastic with batteries that was acting silly and she agreed that the plastic was indeed silly.
We got her home at 9:00 on the dot. As we pulled in to her house she said, “I had fun today, Eddie” and it gave me the proverbial warm fuzzy feeling.
“I did too, V,” I told her and then followed up with, “What was your favorite thing you did?”
She thought about it for no more than 2 seconds and said simply, “My nap.”
*(Yes, for those of you who didn’t know, back home in Indiana I am known as “Eddie.” So shut up.)
My sister Jaime was in town this weekend and we had a great time hanging out. I told her to bring her walking shoes, and it’s a good thing I did as we covered a lot of ground. When I showed her a map of how far we actually walked, she couldn’t believe it.
I picked her up Saturday morning around 10:30. Her bus arrived at the Port Authority bus terminal which is only about 3 blocks from my place. We dropped off her stuff and began our journey.
We took off for Times Square and from there headed north. We did a quick walkthrough of Toys R Us and went by the Letterman theater. We walked all the way up Broadway and into Central Park. We only got about a third of the way into the park and then turned around (I’m not extremely familiar with the rest of the park and didn’t want to get turned around). We headed back south and stopped for lunch at the Jekyll & Hyde Club near 57th. It was a good time, the characters were amusing (almost to the point of being annoying) but all in all it was a lot of fun.
We continued to head south, this time via 5th Avenue so we could pass Trump Plaza, 30 Rock, and get a good view of the Chrysler Building. We zigged to go by Radio City Music Hall on 6th and made our way to Bryant Park. We circled around the park so we could go by the Historic Library and also the home of the original Soup Nazi place.
We continued south and soon made our way to 34th street. We got a great view of the Empire State Building and also went by Madison Square Gardens. We hopped on the subway at Penn Station and made our way south to go to Ground Zero, the former home of the World Trade Center/Twin Towers.
And this is where things may get controversial, depending on who’s reading this. Just a disclaimer to let you know I’m not being funny or sarcastic or trying to be controversial. This is just the way I (and it turns out Jaime) felt.
I’d never been to Ground Zero before. A lot of people from out of town ask me if I’d been to see it and to be honest I never had an inclination to go. I’m not a native New Yorker, I’d only visited the city a couple of times briefly before, and prior to my move here in July really felt no connection to the city. Yes, September 11 was a tragedy, but it didn’t affect me the same way that it would have had I lived here at the time or if I knew someone who was directly involved.
When Jaime and I arrived at Ground Zero it…well…it just looked like one of a zillion construction projects going on in the city. Had I not known where we were, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed. Needless to say, it wasn’t an incredibly moving experience. It was just a bunch of bulldozers and cranes and without trying to be crass, I see that on my walks in the city every day.
Is that cold to say? Maybe it would have been different had I been there right after it happened and the rubble and debris was still there but as it was, I just felt guilty. When people would ask if I’ve been to Ground Zero it would make me feel guilty that I hadn’t. And now I feel guilty that I have and, for lack of a better phrase, it didn’t do anything for me.
I can’t help but feel it will be different after they have finished completing the memorial buildings and structures. I’d like to go back after it’s finished where I can learn a little more about the history, read stories, and feel like I experience it a little more.
Jaime (who was in Iraq in the Army just a couple of months ago) and I talked about this and we talked about the fact although it was a terrible day, things like this happen all over the world every day of the year and we (Americans) could care less. But when it happens to us, then it’s important. We weren’t belittling people whose lives were lost on 9/11 but found it a little dreary that most Americans only seem to care about it when that happens in the US. I don’t know. I would probably have to babble on for much longer than this to really express everything, but I’m already bored, I can’t imagine how you, Dear Reader, must feel.
After that we walked South to get a look at the Statue of Liberty and then returned back to the apartment, eager to get out of the rain for an hour or so. That night Jaime went to the theater with me to watch the improv show and she had a great time. She said during the intermission of the first show the guys in the seats next to her were talking and were convinced that we were performing memorized scenes, so I guess that’s a pretty good compliment.
All in all, a fun weekend with Jaime. It was her first time in NYC and I asked her what the biggest surprise was about the city. She said it was a lot cleaner than she expected. I don’t know if she meant the city or my apartment.
Even though it rained pretty much the whole time she was here, it didn’t dampen our spirits or keep us from cracking each other up the entire time. Today she and her family are moving to Seattle so I am glad she was able to visit before they end up on the Left Coast. Good times.