More come off list

By on March 26, 2014

One of the promises I made myself upon hitting the half-century mark last fall was to make a serious attempt to hack away at the infamous “bucket list.”

Funny thing though about my bucket list is that I don’t actually have one. Oh sure, there are definitely things I would like to do in my lifetime but overall my list is really just made up of things I realize, as I am about to do them, I’ve never done before.

This weekend was a literal bucket list bonanza.

The first of these came Saturday when Ethan’s voice teacher Mike Truitt organized a bus trip to see “Les Miserables” in New York City. Though I have only been to a Broadway show one other time, I’ve been a fan of the theater for most of my adult life –  but somehow had never seen a performance of the legendary musical. In fact, my only exposure to the story at all, was from seeing the movie in 2013. That’s just not right and in reality, quite backward. I did indeed love the Hollywood production but realized I needed, at some time, to catch the musical at the place which made it famous. Being a fan of theater and not seeing “Les Mis,” I guess, would be similar to being a fan of golf and never watching The Masters.

So Saturday morning Donna and her daughters, along with me and my kiddos, were off to the Big Apple for a day of sight-seeing and an evening of theater. Little did I know that the afternoon free time would allow me the opportunity to scratch yet another item off the list. Though I have ridden the subways in Philadelphia and Washington and used the Baltimore light rail countless times going to Orioles and Ravens games –  I had yet in my lifetime to experience the legendary New York subway.

I don’t believe I will need to ever again.

Yes, I think there are some things on that bucket list which definitely deserve a special asterisk next to them, indicating something which does not need repeating.

Hey, I am a social guy and enjoy being around others –  no problem there. In fact, I enjoy talking with anyone at any time and love meeting new people. I don’t even mind being jammed into a car where I try my best to not make it obvious that I’m taking up the space of three. The ride itself was fine, saved tons of time and wear and tear on the big dogs that were barking fiercely from all the walking that day … no problems there either.

My issue is quite simple –  there are just way too many options and entry points along the vast maze which is the New York subway system. In fact, looking at those maps is so confusing and overwhelming that I did everything in my power to avoid staring at it for longer than a second or two. In fact, I feared staring at it the way ancient Greeks avoided looking directly at Medusa –  even if getting an instant headache trumps being turned into stone. But seriously, this is not something to be attempted without the help of a veteran rider, preferably a native New Yorker or resident. First mistake you can make is going down the wrong entrance to the platform. To a rookie, this just seems to be a matter of luck or getting food advice. On our attempt to get back to the Times Square area before the show, we went down what we were told was the right entry point. Of course we also thought the clerk at a previous stop had put the right amount of fare on our cards as well. The resulting situation was that Donna and I got our kids through the turnstiles at this location but the two swipe cards needed about 10 cents more for the two of us. Naturally, there was no one there to help us and no machines to buy additional fare. Luckily with children aged 15-20, we felt pretty good about having to go back to street level to figure out which other “basement” we would have to jump into to get what we needed. I never thought for a second that the kids were in any kind of danger but the possibility that our reunion may be in Queens or The Bronx did cross my mind. Of course, I never told Donna that. To her credit, she was actually cool as a cucumber and got us quickly to a fare clerk at another entry point. And though the communication through the six inches of glass which separates you and the clerk is always tricky, we eventually were told we could board right there in front of her to get back to Times Square. But wait, what about the kids? Remarkably, as I looked through the wire to the track –  there they were on the other side! We started yelling… but they didn’t know where it was coming from. It was infuriating and hilarious all at the same time. Eventually we told them to go back up to street level and we’d meet them. The clerk said she would then let them through the pass gate and all would be OK. Well, that was until we boarded and started moving and hearing stops with Brooklyn in them. At this moment, I was certain I actually wouldn’t be crossing “Les Miserables” off the bucket list but perhaps instead the one about walking past the site of the former Ebbett’s Field. Fortunately, a veteran rider told us we were fine and soon would be in uptown at our destination (silly me, I thought Times Square was downtown…the square of Ephrata is downtown, right?)

We did indeed make it back to Times Square and eventually to 45th Street where the Imperial Theater is located. Unfortunately, like the subway, you still have to make that big decision of whether to go left or right when you get to the street you’re seeking. We avoided the temptation to send the kids one way and go the other but instead quickly found our destination. The show was amazing and definitely worth the adventure.

I can’t forget to mention that we also made a trip to the 9-11 Memorial and the new towers under construction. The wait to get in was only about 20 minutes and we were so glad we went. The feeling and mood of the crowd at the two large pools and park area created around them is really hard to explain but unlike, understandably, anything I’ve ever experienced. The organizers did an amazing job of paying tribute to all the lives lost in a beautiful and respectful way, while also creating a huge area for visitors to mull about and soak in the gravity of it all. It is really well done.

The weekend then concluded on a much more trivial note, as I (we) experienced two more things for the first time.

First, remarkably, to me anyway, I had never been to the much-talked about and beautiful Bryce Jordan Center in State College. I had also never experienced an NCAA Division One college basketball championship –  mens or womens. A buddy of ours hooked us with tickets for opening round womens games Sunday at BJC. I can’t tell you how much we (Donna, Caroline and Morgan were along) enjoyed both the facility and the tournament games. Actually, I enjoy every trip I take to State College. For me it truly is HappyValley and from breakfast with a sticky at the Diner, to a short walk around downtown, and through all the basketball action with plenty of Nittany Lion pride and pageantry, it was a wonderful time.

So while some may take great satisfaction in a weekend spent fixing up the house and making their way through a “honey-do” list, I found crossing off a few items from that bucket list –  which doesn’t actually exist –  very gratifying and enjoyable.

Even with the asterisk.

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