We waited until Maya finished her dance performance last night and drove directly from Baltimore to New York. Thankfully Maya fell asleep in the car and almost slept through the transfer to our hotel room. We stayed right on Time Square, but just for seven hours. We met Alejandra at the Border's Bookstore at Penn Station. Alejandra is from Quito, and has spent the last two months at the Smithsonian in Washington DC taking a course at the Natural History Museum on curating. Her fiance is Santiago, and he is a biologist at PUCE, the university where Eric will be working in Ecuador. Santiago was collaborating with some scientists at CUNY and was working with them for a week. We coordinated our schedules to meet in New York for a few hours.
Our whirlwind tour of New York with Alejandra started with a walk to Time Square, a visit to ToysRUs and the M and M store (at Maya's insistence), watching the filming of a commercial for HP touchscreen laptop computers on Time Square, and a drive up past Central Park through Harlem and onward to meet Santiago near CUNY. We were on our way to one of my favourite bistro restaurants near Columbia University, when I received a phonecall from Maya's violin teacher to meet her and the accompanist at the latter's apartment in Fort Lee (across the river on the George Washington Bridge). So Maya had a piece of chocolate cake for lunch in the car and off we sped. Thankfully for GPS, I arrived early for our meeting. There was little time for practice, and off we sped again to South Orange and Seton Hall University where Maya had her ten minute audition/competition, an hour lesson and we were back speeding through the Lincoln Tunnel to meet Eric, Alejandra and Santiago, who had been wandering through Manhattan for the afternoon, visiting the Empire State Building and the Time Warner Center. We met for a carriage ride through Central Park and dinner at the Carnegie Diner, a drive to 177th street to pick up Santiago's suitcase, and a dash to West Orange to drop Alejandra and Santiago off, and more driving back to Baltimore. Eric and I shared the drive home, both of us far too exhausted to drive in a straight line. We missed Tara who flew back from Canada and arrived after we left for home.
The best part of the day was Alejandra's wide open eyes and exclamations of awe as we wandered through the city. It felt as if she was breathing in each moment, committing every experience to memory, appreciating every morsel that New York had to offer. I am charged every time I visit New York City, and the excitement does not diminish with familiarity. What a joy it is to share this incredible city with someone who is so impressed! I feel so lucky to have this city as a part of my regular existence. Having Tara at NYU has brought New York City to me in a new way. I realize I have been visiting Manhattan since 1982. I was doing my internship in Montreal at the time, and it was possible to drive to Burlington, Vermont and take 'People's Express', the first discount airline, for $29 each way to New York. I have explored the city almost yearly until Tara started at NYU two years ago, and now I visit at least once monthly. There is always more to explore, new corners to exclaim at, more activities to participate in. Maya will be performing at Merkin Hall in three weeks, her first concert debut in New York, so I am looking forward to another exciting visit a few weeks hence!
Whew! Eric just mentioned that our 24 hour mad rush through New York is not a new experience for us. When we returned from the Galapagos, we drove to Ahuano and back in 24 hours to check out the Casa del Suizo, and that drive was five to six hours each way!