My wife and I decided to spend our anniversary in New York City. It would be our first time there and we prepared heavy jackets and boots as our friends told us it would be quite chilly this time of the year. We had a vision of strolling through Central Park when the leaves would be in their autumn colors. We would sit on a bench munching our New York bagels while sipping hot coffee, enjoying the fresh cool air.
I knew something was wrong when I stepped out of the John F. Kennedy airport at midnight and the air was only mildly cool, like a rainy night in Davao City.
It turned out that we were experiencing what our host, Erik, explained as an “Indian Summer” which is a period of uncharacteristically warm weather during the fall season.
We had a number of unusual experiences, the first of which occurred even when we were still in the air and the flight attendant made a call for any doctor or medical practitioner on board that they needed assistance. We would later learn during our stopover in Vancouver that someone had passed away on board, and that someone turned out to be Filipino-Chinese business icon Washington Sycip.
Another unusual but very welcome and pleasant experience was being greeted by a familiar face as we were in the airport walkway going towards immigration. Charles and I were neighbors and best friends when we were 10. We would walk home from school together and explore abandoned or burned down houses in our neighborhood. He was now working as a supervisor in another airline but he knew we were flying in so he waited for us, then escorted us past the long lines and instead of waiting for what would have been an hour or more, we spent only around 15 minutes in immigration. I don’t get to experience VIP treatment often, but this was a welcome respite after a long and arduous flight.
Walking around the streets of Manhattan was an overload for the senses. We could smell hotdogs and chicken over rice cooking from the many hotdog and halal food stands in many street corners. Just like in the movies, people talked loudly on their cellphones with animated faces and expressions.
On Wall Street, amidst men in their business suits and women with fine jewelry and wide-eyed tourists like us, there were crazy people muttering to themselves or talking to their imaginary friends. There were beggars with cardboard signs saying, “Need help. Any amount will do,” or “Just diagnosed with lupus. Please help.” A more creative one lay on the sidewalk with a suit and a Donald Trump mask, and a sign that said “Mexican Wall Fund.” I donated to his fund and took a photo.
While we were riding the subway, an old man burst in and started talking in a loud voice, about how the Trump administration didn’t support veterans like him and then he walked through the train car with his hat held out asking for any amount. When he walked over to the next car, Charles remarked, “That guy has been here for 5 years. He was blaming Obama before.”
We had time to see a few sights — the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center Memorial, the Metropolitan Museum, the Statue of Liberty — and meet with friends and family we haven’t seen in years, re-establishing bonds and friendships, and making new ones as well. We were able to watch some Broadway shows, which we both loved, and were absolutely amazed at the skill, dedication and talent of the performers.
We visited Central Park again, on the day we were leaving, but the leaves were still green and hadn’t been convinced to grace us with their majestic autumn colors. Never mind, my wife had a crepe and coffee while sitting on a bench, and I had a classic New York hotdog. It was a lovely time, made more pleasant by the warmth of friends and family.
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