Thursday, October 05, 2006

New York - 1964

I've had an on-again/off-again relationship with New York City ever since I was a kid, growing up in Wilmington, Delaware at the other end of the New Jersey Turnpike.

To my family, New York was an exotic foreign country, inhabited by aliens, and it might as well have been a million miles away, instead of just 126.

I ran away to the New York World's Fair in 1964. I'd lobbied my mother for an entire year to go. She kept "yessing" me, just to shut me up about it. But when the time came, and no trip to New York was forthcoming, I realized that it was time to take matters into my own hands.

And so I did. I saved up my money and, one early morn in very early summer (I had just turned 15), I boarded a bus to downtown Wilmington, got to Penn Station and bought a round-trip ticket to New York. I think it was around 8 bucks. Without thinking twice, I boarded a train and two hours later I disembarked in the old Penn Station (it was demolished later that same year). Only an idiot could've gotten lost. There were huge temporary signs showing the way to go to catch the "Fair Train" (now the 7 train, I think) which headed out to Shea Stadium and the Fairgrounds in Queens.

I got there around the time that the Fair opened for the day. I think it was around 9:30 or 10.

It was a wonderful day. I had my first Belgian Waffle. I was amazed by the Dupont, NCR, Ford and GM pavilions. At the IBM pavilion they were showing the very first "Selectric" typewriters, with the floating ball replacing the separate letter bars.

Twelve hours later I came dragging in the back door of my house back in the 'burbs and my mom was standing there, absolutely livid.


It wasn't hard to guess. I was standing there festooned with Fair memorabilia. Buttons, pins, a Worlds Fair baseball cap, even a souvenir Kodak "World's Fair" camera, which I'd bought because I forgot to bring mine, was dangling from my neck.

"The Fair," I said, trying to sound sophisticated by calling it, simply, "the fair." "And I'm going back again next year... and there's nothing you can do to stop me."

A line was crossed. There was no going back. It was the first time I had overtly drawn a line regarding my own independence. I could tell from the look in her eyes that she understood. She couldn't get over the fact that I had brazened it out, on my own. She lived in fear. I was pretty fearless. All she said was, "You're just like me." In some ways, yes. In others, no.

I still have a few precious mementoes of that trip, including a guide book to the fair and a few pins ("I have seen the future", GM Futurama).

But the most precious memento of all is my memory of striking out on my own to do something daring and having a whale of a good time in the process.

p.s. I did go back to the Fair the following year. But it wasn't nearly as exciting as I remembered it being the first time. Which taught me another lesson. Very little in life is as wonderful the second time around.

1 comment:

Bev Sykes said...

Very little in life is as wonderful the second time around. Sigh--ain't it the truth.