Turning the big 4-0 (Part I)

OK, let’s just get this right out of the way: I turned 40 this year. 40. (Forty!) So I’m old. I get it, OK? Can we just move on now?

Which gets us to this: My wife—pretty much since we first got together, I gather—had been planning (threatening?) some big event to commemorate the occasion. She never gave any hints as to what she had in mind (and in all fairness, I never asked—I like a good surprise as much as the next guy), but every year, it was “just you wait… hee hee hee…”. Well, this was The Year, and here’s how it all went down…

My actual birthday was on a Saturday this year, but the “event” started early Thursday morning at the bus station in Manchester, NH. I was under the impression that we were taking a shuttle to Logan (in Boston), though once I look back on it, it should have signaled something in that we’ve never done that before (when we fly out of Logan, we tend to park in one of the off-airport long-term lots… but anyhoo…). However, it finally came to the point when she had to hand me the actual ticket, and as soon as I saw the destination, I at least knew where we were eventually going: The ticket said we were going to Boston’s South Station terminal, and that meant only one thing to me—we were bound for New York City via our friends at Amtrak.

[Aside: Chatting with one of my best friends in the days leading up to the event, I told him I figured we were heading to one of two places: San Francisco, or New York City. (I did know we were going somewhere; that much, and only that much, I had been told.) And the only reason I picked those two is that she knows that those are two of my favorite places to be for any reason.]

Personally, I love taking the train when time isn’t an issue. Granted, we could have flown to NYC and been there in a little over an hour, but the four-hour train ride down there was delightfully relaxed and largely free of all the security theater B.S. that you have to deal with when flying these days. (By the way, Amtrak business class is the way to go: comfy seats, lots of room. The only downside, one of taking the train in general: People still have cell phone reception, so you still have to deal with the occasional loudmouth yammering away with their “personal” discussions for all to hear. Such is life.) The most important thing is that we were going to New York City, and I will never complain about that, birthday or no birthday.

Upon our arrival at Penn Station, we decided to enjoy the nice weather and just walk the few blocks to our hotel. So it was over to 6th Ave, north up to 44th St, a quick turn, and we were there: Hotel Mela, a boutique hotel just a couple of blocks from the heart of Times Square. And that’s when her cell phone started going off like every 5, 10, 15 minutes, it seemed. Text message after text message from her sister, she told me, wondering how things were going. And damn she was curious. I mean, it was *beep!*, answer, wait, *beep!*, answer again, wait, *beep!*… you get the picture. She’d never texted my wife this much (hmmmmm…), but boy, once she got started…

By now, it was mid-afternoon, and I was told that the rest of the day was a free day with no specific plans. We ended up taking the relatively short walk uptown to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which I’d at some point mentioned that I’d been itching to go to. Now don’t get me wrong, it was worth the price of admission, and there were some admittedly cool exhibits. But for at least the second time in my life, I was made aware of the fact that I, as a whole, just don’t “get” modern art; the other time was our visit to the Tate Modern in London while on our honeymoon (now there was a confusing experience… the Tate, not the honeymoon… never mind).

The funkadelic floor in the lobby of MoMA.

After a bit of a break following the museum, we were famished. And as luck would have it, we knew of just the place in this neck of the woods for what we were in the mood for, and that would be Ruby Foo’s for sushi. Perhaps the sushi purist would complain, what with the assortment of cooked rolls they serve there, but frankly, I couldn’t care less—that was some damn yummy stuff (call it whatever you want if it’ll make you feel better) yet again. A nice leisurely walk in Times Square, a quick stop for some cheesecake along the way (I think the name of the place was Maxie’s—their “world-famous” cheesecake, well, wasn’t, but it wasn’t bad), then back to the hotel to crash after another night back in my favorite city. A long weekend to come with my sweetie in this city—this was going to be a great birthday. If only I knew…

Times Square (duh).

Continue to Part II