9.06.2008

IN A NEW YORK MINUTE

Juggling a hard job and two kids, you have to take every chance you can to get away. So a few weeks back, I schemed up a day off in New York City. Amy was kind enough to release me from my evening duties, and because I worked a work meeting into the mix, I only had to take a half-day instead of a full day of vacation. Of course, being the Type-A workaholic that I am, I packed my itinerary more tightly than my regular schedule. But trust me when I saw it was really restful.

6:45am - Me and the kids are out the door, an hour earlier than usual. I love that our day care can flex for us, as every once in a while I need the kids to be there from 7 to 5 instead of 8 to 6.

6:45am-7:15am - After a 15-minute walk to day care and a 15-minute walk home to drop off the stroller, I pick up my shoulder bag and am off to the subway.

7:15am-7:45am - Ten minutes to the station, five minutes to wait, ten minutes to 11th Street, and five minutes from the station to the bus stop in Chinatown.

7:45am-8:00am - The bus pulls out, actually a couple minutes early. I sink into this week's issue of the Economist. Let my day off officially begin.

8:00am-9:45am - I was bracing myself for 2 1/2 hours on account of getting stuck heading into Manhattan, but instead we make it in less than two hours, just enough time for me to finish my Economist and take a cat nap.

9:45am-10:00am - I get off right at a 1 stop, buy my pass, and the train pulls up within minutes. I emerge at Wall Street and stumble right into my first stop right outside the subway station, the Museum of American Finance. I'm literally the first visitor.

10:00am-11:30am - That was thoroughly enjoyable. Did you know the Secret Service was actually first created not to protect presidents but to protect money? Counterfeiting was such a problem back then that Abraham Lincoln created the agency out of the US Treasury. In fact, this was his last act as president before he was assassinated. Irony! I'm off to my second museum, Federal Hall National Memorial, 150 feet away from the first museum.

11:30am-12:30pm - I'm two for two on museums worth visiting. Federal Hall was the nation's first capital, and because it's part of the National Park Service, admission was free. I exit the museum and walk right into a New York Giants tailgate party.

12:30pm-2:15pm - I meet my colleague, who has an office on Wall Street. We talk in his office for 45 minutes and adjourn for lunch nearby. The restaurant we choose has all its seating in the middle of a cobblestone street. A lot of streets around here are blocked off to car traffic. Pedestrians rule!

2:15pm-3:15pm - I hoof it through Battery Park to the Skyscraper Museum. Another winner. Loved the exhibit on Hong Kong high rises. Saw just how big Burj Dubai is going to get. Laughed out loud at the critic's column on the World Trade Center from back in the 1970's, and the architect's gracious though pointed response.

3:15pm-3:45pm - Gotta jet up to Grand Central part of town, so now I'm in hyperdrive mode: five minutes of gazing out at Lady Liberty at the tip of the island, haggling with a street vendor for a T-shirt for my daughter, and speed-walking through the National Museum of the American Indian.

3:45pm-4:00pm - I'm in luck: the 4 Express from Bowling Green arrives just as I do. I'm 3 miles north within minutes. I emerge from Grand Central and head to my friend's office at Pfizer's headquarters.

4:00pm-5:30pm - We catch up in his office and then power walk to Penn Station, where he'll take a train back to his suburban home. We part ways at Herald Square, where I get lucky again: the Q arrives right as I get there. I'm in Chinatown within minutes.

5:30pm-7:00pm - I hoof it to Jing Fong, which I've been to before but didn't remember until I got there. I meet my friend and his fiancee, and we chat over dim sum. I bolt from there to the Chinatown bus pickup zone, which is about as chaotic as I can take, although for twenty bucks round-trip, I suck it up and deal.

7:00pm-9:00pm - We hit traffic heading out of Manhattan but then ease into a nice pace on the Turnpike. There's even a working overhead light so I can read; I had brought a mini-flashlight just in case. I finish the book I had started while I was in Manhattan and make it halfway through a second book.

9:00pm-9:30pm - We pull into Chinatown, I catch the subway back to West Philly, and walk home from the station, less than 15 hours after I first left that morning. Including transportation, I've spent 68 dollars on my day off. A small price to pay for a fun day and a recharged spirit.
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