I LOVE working a guide dog. Even though I am a good cane traveler, my worst day with a guide dog is exponentially better than my best days with my cane, especially in unfamiliar places. I need to remind myself of this, even as I realize that we are all – dog, husband, myself – slightly overwhelmed by all the sights, smells, people, and new experiences. We will get into a groove, and it WILL get better… and it did… culminating in what might be a legendary story for the trip.
One thing that I have noticed while I have been here – and the couple of other American cities that I have been in – is that people will not necessarily reach out and pet Jenny (though I have gotten that), but they will stare at her. This does freak her out, and ultimately puts me on edge. It’s just a weird quirk that I have noticed here.
We purchased the New York Pass at a discount months ago, because almost everything we wanted to do was included in the pass, and it would save us a ton of money while letting us do things we might not otherwise wish to fork over admission fees for. Since Ben and I both love boats, we decided to take advantage of the All-day Access Pass for the New York Water Taxi, but since it was running on a 90-minute schedule we decided not to get off the boat, but just take pictures from the windows and the decks. We got pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, and learned a lot of cool facts about new York City – like if Brooklyn were to break away and become its own city, it would be the 4th largest city in the world.
Jenny didn’t like the boat much, which ultimately culminated in our disembarking, going down the dock, and her leading me smack into a door frame. We had a little “chat” about this, the Halti went on her nose, and on we went to the Intrepid.
The Intrepid was a cool experience, not only because it was, well, the Intrepid, but because they had a completely accessible guidebook. If I had gone completely by myself, I had tactile maps that would have enabled me to both navigate the museum and learn about the exhibits. In addition to the tactile maps, there was a pen that I assume read bar-codes in the book, which would let you trace the map and find out where you are, and read you the signs by the exhibits as well. I have never seen anything so instantly accessible to me in my life, and I didn’t have to even ask for it! The admissions crew mentioned it to us… I wish more museums had such awesome services!
After the Intrepid and lunch, we had some time to kill, so we went down Broadway and did some souvenir shopping. We talked to one shopkeeper who told me the rent for the Subway sandwich shop around the corner – half his store’s size – was $28,000 a month. Our mouths just fell open! We couldn’t imagine such high rents for anything!
Since we still had time, we went to Discovery Times Square, where we took a quick look at the Body Worlds exhibit. I remember when it came to Edmonton, and there were protests and boycots… I can’t remember why, and now that I have gone to the exhibit myself, I don’t understand the major protest fuss… it’s bodies; we all have them, we all should learn about them and what we do to them and how they break down.
Then we got insanely lost trying to find our tour guide for Inside Broadway tours (we did find him). Tom, our guide, was terrific! He laughed with us, at us, cracked jokes, did some awesome singing, and even got to say hi to Jenny, who I took off harness at the end of the tour… she went NUTS playing “Doggie for Mayor”.
I think here might be a good time to explain about the traffic here… IT IS NUTS! At some spots – both before and on our tour – we had to jaywalk, squeeze between cars, or do other insanely crazy things that go against all instincts for self-preservation. Jenny was NOT comfortable with this, even at one point trying seriously hard to pull me down the street and over to the corner.
Even before the Broadway tour, our feet started to HURT! We decided to be lazy, went back to our B&B, and ordered Chinese food while Jenny passed out on the floor… but the day wasn’t done!
I am either brave, foolish, or some combination thereof, but I purchased a ticket for Jazz at Kitano for the Friday night show. Ben is not a jazz fan, so I decided to go alone. I looked up the train route on the MTA web site, and hoped and prayed I wouldn’t get too lost walking from 42 St to Park Avenue… my friends have told me that I am brave, so I’ll go with brave… but I didn’t feel brave at all!
That walk started off badly. Jenny seems to struggle finding the corner near our B&B, so I walked several blocks while listening (and doubting) my GPS tell me that I was on the wrong street, so we went back and had to find the corner, which we ultimately did. The rest of the trip to the Subway went off without a hitch; Jenny even took me directly to a box where I could swipe my card, and we JUST made it on the train.
I started to get nervous once I got off the train at 42nd street, but Jenny got me to the steps. We got a bit disoriented, but I heard someone use the door to get toward street-level, so I directed her that way. We made it up to W 40 St entrance, and we were off and walking. The crowds, even at 9:30 at night, were HUGE – partygoers, tourists, even young kids. Jenny nearly effortlessly guided me through them, around them, beside them. I kept on walking until I got to W 38 St, which is where I thought I needed to be… and we walked, and walked, and walked. I started to get nervous when we passed where I thought we should be, because my GPS kept on telling me we were going to go to E 38 St… but I decided, trust the dog, trust the GPS, ASK PEOPLE!
I did end up making it without incident, and squeezed in to the show just before it started. The staff at the Kitano was incredibly attentive without being invasive, asking how they could assist… it was a wonderful experience!
I ended up sitting with a friend of Scott albertson, leader of the band. The club was VERY anti-talking during performance, so we chatted a bit between songs. The jazz was blues-influenced, with old standards and new interpretations. As a special guest, a young girl played the piano on one song, and the saxophonist came back from the first set to stick around and play with her on the second one – she is 12 years old and plays the piano wonderfully! The whole show was a great experience, including birthdays and that Robbie Burns song that you sing every New Years Eve and can’t get out of your head.
Turned out that all the people sitting at the table beside me were either band members or friends and family related to them. They heard my story about walking from Times Square, thought I was sooooooo brave, and said that Scott would give me a ride back to the hotel. I SO accepted, and wound up riding back with half the band! Jenny was a big hit at well, staying calmly (asleep?) during the whole performance, but she did say hi when we got to the hotel.
We all fell into bed, exhausted after a day that didn’t start out so great (I have a massive bump on my forehead to prove that), that ended up terrific. And now… for tomorrow!