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South Ferry

Started: 2013-06-23 20:36:38

Submitted: 2013-06-23 23:06:04

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator bids farewell to New York City and unlocks a major parenting achievement

Wednesday, 29 May was Calvin's and my last day in New York City. I ended up with an evening flight out of LaGuardia, so Calvin and I had most of the day for last-minute sight-seeing. Bethany headed back to work, and bid us farewell while I was feeding breakfast to Calvin. (He feeds himself, but it's difficult to convince him to eat on any sort of schedule.)

I had two things I wanted to see on our last day in New York: the Staten Island Ferry, which was the closest we could reasonably get to the Statue of Liberty before it reopened later in the summer after damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy; and the USS Intrepid museum. These sites were not especially close to each other, and both were in the opposite direction from LaGuardia, but I was fairly confident we could see both and still catch our flight home.

We walked a few blocks to the nearest subway stop, and took an express 4/5 train downtown to Bowling Green. I carried Calvin through the crowd of tourists to see the Charging Bull statue, even as I wondered if we were on the cusp of a bear market. (I was disappointed there was not a matching bear statue.) We headed a few blocks to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. After queueing for a few minutes the ferry arrived, and Calvin picked an interior window seat on the main deck on the wrong side of the ferry to see Liberty Island. It was foggy on the harbor; Governor's Island and Brooklyn were cloaked in a haze that restricted visibility (and photo opportunities) but gave the experience and ethereal feel.

Calvin watches the harbor recede from the stern of the Staten Island Ferry
Calvin watches the harbor recede from the stern of the Staten Island Ferry

We disembarked in Staten Island and walked around the ferry terminal. We found an overlook to watch some of the shipping in the harbor, then headed back for coffee and a snack at the local instance of the French bakery café whose name I can't pronounce, Au Bon Pain. Calvin asked for a large chocolate muffin, and I decided that we were on vacation and Mommy could resume worrying about proper nutrition tomorrow.

Calvin watches shipping from Staten Island
Calvin watches shipping from Staten Island
Calvin snacks while waiting for the Staten Island Ferry
Calvin snacks while waiting for the Staten Island Ferry

We caught the ferry back to Manhattan and I picked an open-air seat on the upper deck on the left side of the ship, where we'd be able to see the Statue of Liberty. I was not the only person to have that bright idea; the railing was crowded with other families with small children, so I had to jostle a bit to get a spot. Calvin liked watching the boats and ships on the harbor, though he seemed a little underwhelmed when the Statue of Liberty finally came into view. We didn't get close enough to get the full effect of the towering statue.

Calvin watches the Statue of Liberty
Calvin watches the Statue of Liberty

We disembarked at the very southern tip of Manhattan and caught an uptown 1 train from the South Ferry stop to Times Square, then took a taxi cross-town to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. (Most subway lines run uptown/downtown, along the long axis of Manhattan; it's far more difficult to get cross-town, on the narrow streets, than it is to get uptown or downtown on the broad avenues (many of which have subway lines below them).)

The museum is based around the retired USS Intrepid (CV-11), an aircraft carrier built for the Second World War, modernized during the Cold War, and finally retired in 1974. We began our tour on the flight deck, where a variety of aircraft were displayed to Calvin's (and my) amusement.

Calvin with two helicoptors on the deck of the USS Intrepid
Calvin with two helicoptors on the deck of the USS Intrepid

At the aircraft restoration tent we could see a Cold War fighter jet being prepared to be repainted, and one of the museum staff asked Calvin what color he thought they should paint it. Calvin replied that they should paint it exactly the way it was.

I saw the pavilion where the space shuttle Enterprise is housed, but it too was damaged by Hurricane Sandy and won't reopen until later this summer. (I saw the Enterprise on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport in 2007.) We climbed up to the twin bridges, stacked on top of each other in the tower on the deck: the flag bridge and the ship's bridge. I was fascinated by the navigational equipment, and the several-inch-thick armored plates that could be bolted over the portholes during battle. Calvin was not nearly as interested in this part as I was.

Calvin climbs to the bridge of the USS Intrepid
Calvin climbs to the bridge of the USS Intrepid

We went below the flight deck to the mess halls, most of which had been preserved behind plexiglass for tourists, but down the hall an Au Bon Pain franchise had been installed, and I decided it was time for lunch. Calvin decided he wanted an ice cream sandwich, and I told him that he needed to eat something less unhealthy and came up with macaroni and cheese, and I couldn't quite believe that I was promoting macaroni and cheese as a legitimate main dish. I had a spinach-and-barley soup that was clearly not aimed at the child demographic. Calvin ate his lunch and was quite happy to eat his ice cream sandwich.

We headed up to the hangar deck and I tried to explain to Calvin exactly how the whole thing worked, but I'm not sure how much he got. We found a Lego model of the entire ship, then looked through the forecastle, where Calvin tried to turn the anchor chain to limited effect.

Calvin tries to turn the anchor chain on the USS Intrepid
Calvin tries to turn the anchor chain on the USS Intrepid

By this point, we were running into my safety margin for our trip cross-town and ultimately to the airport. We departed the Intrepid and walked to the end of the pier to look at the Concorde parked there, then turned around to head to the airport. I picked up Calvin to carry him on my shoulders, giving him a commanding view of the pier and giving me a less-awkward position to carry him than trying to carry him off-center under one arm. This incited the ire of a security guard on the pier; she asked me to put Calvin down, apparently because it was dangerous to carry him so high. (If, hypothetically, we were to fall I suppose he'd have further to fall but apparently she didn't think I was a sufficiently-responsible adult to make that decision for myself and my kid -- at least in hyper-litigious America.) I was incredulous, and tried to figure out exactly why she was complaining. She was not able to articulate any coherent reason and succeeded mostly in making Calvin cry and pissing me off. I was not impressed.

Calvin runs across the pier at the USS Intrepid
Calvin runs across the pier at the USS Intrepid

I carried Calvin to the end of the pier in the apparently-approved off-center position under my arm and hailed a cab to head across town to Bethany's apartment. I got a cab immediately, but the two-mile trip across Manhattan took nearly half an hour, in heavy afternoon traffic. (It was not quite slow enough that I could have walked faster, especially with Calvin.) When we eventually reached Bethany's apartment, I repacked my baggage for our flight, shuffling the accoutrements of the modern preschooler into my carry-on luggage.

We headed down to the street, with our luggage, and hailed a cab to go to LaGuardia. (The cabbie asked if it was ok to take the Triborough Bridge, and I said "Sure", having no real idea what he was asking.) Since we were traveling on actual freeways, at speeds above twenty-five miles per hour (or, cross-town, about four miles per hour), I put Calvin in the booster seat. He was not impressed, having gotten used to riding without one. We reached LaGuardia in less time than it took us to cross Manhattan and breezed through check-in and security with more than enough time to sit at the gate waiting for our slightly-delayed plane. Calvin watched the flight operations out the window. I backtracked down the concourse to get supper at yet another Au Bon Pain.

We boarded our plane at the appointed time and I immediately enjoyed our upgraded Economy Plus seats. (The extra leg-room wasn't quite as valuable for Calvin; he's short enough that he can stick his legs out straight regardless of the seat pitch.) He wanted to draw, so I gave him the clipboard and crayons, and promptly asked for inspiration. I suggested he draw a plane, and he wanted a model, so I pulled out Hemispheres from the seat pocket and found a plane for him to draw there. He drew one with a T-tail and told me that was what he had drawn, and I tried to remember exactly when I'd told him about the T-tail configuration (was it weeks ago?) and pointed out the various regional jets visible out the window with T-tails.

Our itinerary involved a plane change in Chicago. I put Calvin the Beco carrier for the hike from Concourse B to Concourse C, through the creatively-lit pedestrian tunnel under the tarmac. (I was slightly worried about missing our connection due to our delayed flight into Chicago, but we ended up at the gate with time to spare.) Calvin wanted to draw again once we got on board, and I suggested looking out the window for inspiration from the baggage-handling equipment on the tarmac.

Jaeger and Calvin wait to leave Chicago-O'Hare
Jaeger and Calvin wait to leave Chicago-O'Hare

Calvin fell asleep as soon as we took off. He looked a little awkward sleeping in the adult-sized seat; he didn't have the side pillows of the car seat to lean on. I gave him some of his spare clothing to use as a makeshift pillow, which seemed to work ok.

Thunderstorms over Iowa and Nebraska kept our flight bumpy, but Calvin didn't stir. When we landed in Denver, just after 23:00 MDT, I discovered that I can carry Calvin down the plane aisle if I did a sideways waddle up the aisle, carrying Calvin on my right side, ahead of me, and pulling our hand luggage behind us. Once we got into the concourse I put him in the Beco carrier to head to baggage claim and the shuttle to our car. We finally made it to the car, just after midnight Mountain time, I tried not to do the time-zone calculation from Eastern time, and got Calvin into his car seat with only minor stirring on his part. We arrived home just before 01:00 MDT and went to bed. Calvin barely noticed.

After six days in New York, I'd successfully unlocked the "major solo trip with Calvin" achievement. That counts as a major accomplishment.

For more photos, see Photos on 2013-05-29.
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